Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Fashioning Arrows


The call came, it is time for goodbye...again. We have been the place he calls home for over a year, this is our second goodbye. The moments where our story changes and we go in different directions. His time with us is finished, healing has happened and know we must send him forth. His mom has done the hard work of rebuilding and this time, she has the support she needs to keep him and his siblings all together.

I am up early today, my Mama heart is achy, he doesn’t know that we are counting down the days yet, but I do. One more hug, kiss, giggle and bedtime snuggle, I peeked into his room for one more glimpse. Seeing just how much he has grown and changed this past year. The Crew doesn’t know either, I am living in the limbo of when, how much time is the right amount of time, is it days? Hours? The goodbyes never get easier.

The last time he left, I talked about sending him forth that it was time, his biological family needed him. This past year+ was getting him ready to go back to them. I am sending him forth like an arrow of hope.

The hardest part for me sending “forth my little arrows” is all the unknowns, the what ifs and the hope that this time it will work. Those first nights back, when his four year old brain must be so confused and his heart divided. The first nights back when the routine has changed. The sounds have changed. The foods, details and rhythms have changed. The desperate Mama heart prayers that this time his family found all the healing they needed. The plea that his time with us was fashioning him into the arrow he needs to be, that he is ready. These are the thoughts that keep me awake at night, consuming all my thoughts, the places in my soul where the ache radiates from.

One of the most common comments I get in regards to fostering, is that people don’t know how I can do it, how I can give them back. Well, in four+ years that never has gotten easier, the ache feels just as overwhelming as the first time. Each situation is different and sometimes parents are more ready than others. In some situations I can see the “why” more clearly and that gives me a clearer target, of where we are going. Other times, I am just sending them forth with a prayer they get where they need to be.

In the days to come, I am packing bags and collecting memories for the goodbye that is coming. I am savoring the giggles and soaking in the hugs, living in the paradox that each one confronts me with our reality. I am reminded yet again that time is a gift. The time has come for this Little Guy to be sent forth from my quiver to another.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Parenting Philosophies

Parenting advice, the onslaught is never ending, everyone has some to share it seems. You can google or crowd source any parenting topic and you will get about 100 differing views. The reality is raising our kids is not easy, what works for one household doesn’t work for another. My parenting goal is raising my kids to be kind, compassionate, aware, healthy, strong individuals who leave the world a little better than they found it.

One of the perks of being a single parent home is that I set all the rules. What I say goes there is no disagreeing over tactics. The flipside is that there are times (don’t tell my kids) that I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what to do or how to handle a situation. Times where I feel hopeless and without a single idea of what to do, moments I wish there was someone to at least nod to. Maybe that is just the reality of parenting, we are all just making it up as we go, like our parents did.

Here is a list of a few things, that we use in our home, my personal parenting philosophies. The culture of my home is kind, free and safe, so all that I do and institute aligns with those non-negotiables.

Fostering Imagination: when I moved out on my own, I chose to not get a tv. I once had a friend ask me, if you don’t have a tv what do your couches look at?” My quick response, “umm, EACH OTHER!” Our home is designed for talking (or sharing hearts, as I like to put it), we have four toys in our home that make any kind of noise. Our toys are completely silent, until they are picked up and held in chubby little hands, where they come alive. Wooden blocks, play food, legos, play doh and baby dolls are selected, where they are part of a picnic, a classroom, or they become a shark, a baby or a meal. The background silence has developed in my kids, some of the most beautiful and free imaginations, I have encountered. My kids are not completely deprived of television but we are thoughtful about when and what we watch, our home has pizza and movie nights with a projector and Saturday morning cartoons, watched as they huddle around a laptop screen. The nice thing about not having a tv is that the kids don’t ask to watch it, it is not in the background of our life, speaking things into our home that we are unaware of. When they do watch it, I have a moment or two to myself.


Better together:
as a family we eat dinner together just about every night, around our table. It’s our special time where we talk about our days, projects, field trips and where babies come from. We delight in eating together and often have other loved ones join our tables. In our dining room, hangs three signs that speak of the philosophy of our table, Jesus ate with everyone, GATHER, They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Our family has been built at that table, we celebrate another chair filled and grieve when a chair is suddenly empty. Our first night together began at the table, over pizza and carrots, we started to fall in love. That table has been the centerpiece of deep discussion of politics, social justice, bravery and Jesus. A table where hearts are shared and bread is broken.


Happy, Crappy and Sappy:
Each night at the dinner table, we go around sharing about our day. We have to share, a Happy, Crappy, a fun game we learned from Dear Friends of ours. We recently added Sappy. Happy is something that happened that day that brought you laughter, joy or just plain made you happy. Crappy is something that happened that day that made you sad, mad, angry or frustrated. Sappy is someone who showed you love that day, we then talk about which of the 5 Love Languages that act falls under. Helping my kids understand what shows love and how they best receive love. I started doing this little game in a effort to help my traumatized children regain a grasp of emotions. This has quickly become one of my most favorite family traditions.

Redo/Try again: A grace motivated redirection tool ( I picked up from the book, The No Drama Discipline), how often do we say something we wish we could say again, upon realizing how it was received. After an action or word is spoken that doesn’t align with our family rules, I will utter a would you like to try that again? Most of the time, it is amazing to see how quickly my kids can say or do the thing they know they are supposed to do. Discipline exists that we may teach our kids the way they should go. This is an easy tool that helps my kids know that wasn’t okay and give them a chance to do better.

No negative talk: we don’t do negative self talk or put downs of anyone, EVER, in our house. My kids are all really kind to one another, rarely do we have an issue with someone saying something hurtful to another. I worked really hard to nip that in the bud early on in our life together, you also won’t hear me setting the tone of self disrespect, I love my body and celebrate it, our bodies are amazing resources to change the world. If you get caught saying something unkind about yourself, you have to give yourself 5 compliments, 4 have to be non-physical. If you get caught saying something unkind to another person you have say 10 compliments to that person, 8 which have to be non-physical. I am equipping them to be Kindness Warriors and that is a much harder thing to do in this culture.

Truth talk: if you ask a question, I will give the age appropriate, honest answer. We talk about real things in our home, we talk about body parts, sex, puberty, people that are different from us, things we hear at school, things we saw in our past. I have worked hard to create a culture of freedom in our home. Raising kids who have been traumatized means, we do a lot of extracting of information and packing in as much innocence or age appropriate knowledge we can.

Setting the benchmark: I heard this parenting advice a few years ago and it was the best advice I have ever received was that each time your child learns information on a new topic, they allow that information to set the benchmark for anything they receive on that topic. Meaning if you wait to tell your kids about a certain topic, like sex, until they (YOU) are ready. It is quite possible you are letting their peers set the benchmark and then everything you say about that topic, will be weighed against the first wave of information they received about it. I work hard to set the benchmark on as many topics as I can.

Power Poses (follow link for more information): we begin our days with these, they are fantastic. We stand strong and grounded, declaring just the kind of day we are going to have. We tell our days how they will unfold, instead of just letting it all happen, consuming us.

I work hard to ensure that our home is a come as you are kind of home. We will feed you, serve you and love on you. One of the best feelings is watching your kiddos do something kind for another soul. I love watching my crew, love the world around them.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Growing into Mama

My story into Motherhood has been one of the most refining and defining things of my life. I reflect on my life and find myself nearly speechless, at what a gift it is. A life built because 4 ½ years ago, because I followed a call towards foster care. Upon seeing the need I said, “yes.” Today I realize just how much I underestimated what that “yes” would mean for my life. Motherhood is uprooting.

All I ever wanted to be was a Mom, at 27 my life plan wasn’t shaping up like I had planned, so I begin to shift my perspective and look through a different lens. What did being a Mother actually mean? Motherhood is diverse.

When I started foster care, I actually didn’t intend to build a family. I intended to open my home to some of our most vulnerable little souls. What time has done with that “yes,” while my family is still ever changing. My world has changed, colliding with these little people, whether for a moment or forever. Each one of them changing me. Motherhood is refining.

Mother’s Day, a day just 4 years ago made my heart ache (all of you who are aching on this day, we see you). This year I laid in bed, as I was told, waiting for my breakfast, I was overwhelmed by this beautiful life that has unfolded before me. My oldest organized and worked out with my mom a plan. My mom would come over early to wrangle babies, so I could sleep in, while my oldest made coffee and pancakes. Motherhood is beautiful.

On Mother’s Day, I met up with Bio- Mom to exchange Little One, we had gotten her Friday and Saturday nights so I met up with Mom so she could have her for Mother’s Day. She got out of her car, with a bouquet of flowers, along with a gift and card. At the sight of that, my heart broke. Motherhood is uniting.

When I could have been the enemy of her happiness she chose to let me have this day dedicating it to me The gift was a mug, the kind a child would give to a mother. I realized in these past 4 years I wasn’t just loving and raising her children but her as well. I reflect back on all the texts she has sent me about her success, victories, celebrations and hard days. The mug reads, “you are the kind of mom every person wishes they had.” This woman I judged, questioned and rolled my eyes at. This woman who I didn’t care to know four years ago, has radically changed my life. Our relationship started off tense, territorial, and hard. She accused me of everything and I thought nothing of her. Then one day, I had all her kids, she had messed up and I won. For 8 months I raised her 4 children as my own. The ruling came and termination occurred and the older 3 were set to be mine, forever. The weight of that hit me hard and changed my heart, she was not the enemy her addiction was. The day I adopted the older 3 kiddos I got the call that Little One had to go back, and we were crushed, in the midst of celebrating it all, we said goodbye to our baby. During the following months of grieving, Bio Mom sent letters, asking to see the kids, I saved them never responding, we needed time to heal and grow as a family of 4. A year went by and I reached out and her and I began building a new relationship. A relationship born out of the reality that she had what I wanted and I had what she wanted. We found ourselves loving the same 4 kids and we decided to build our story there. Motherhood is humbling.

Days before his recent adoption, Baby Boy, squealed out a “Mama.” That one word takes my breath away, I pause, not wanting to move, just wanting to soak it in. Finally, how true that statement is. It’s almost like I don’t believe it is true, like I am living a dream. The title of Mama is hands down the greatest hat I have gotten to wear, being their Mama, don’t even get me started on how I feel about that reality. Motherhood is amazing.

Loving them is the riskiest thing I have ever done. Having borrowed babies, with Bio-parents is painful and at times exhausting. Having the honor of raising these Kindness Warriors is a gift. Loving them well for a moment or a lifetime, is changing me. The lessons I have learned these past 4 years are changing me, allowing me the opportunity to live an audacious life. Motherhood makes me brave.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

11.



My oldest will wake up this morning 11. As I write this I find myself in a posture of humility, being her Mama is one of the greatest things I will accomplish in this short life. Loving her but a moment is a gift. This girl is fierce, joy, kind, strong, forgiving, brave and a giver. She has experienced more loss, hurt, trauma, and wounds than I have in my adult life, yet her life reeks of grace.

I have watched her forgive the world around her for not keeping her safe, while standing strong as the waves of reality crashed over her. She raised her younger siblings for several years and so graciously gave me the reigns when she felt I was safe. This sweet girl loves me whole heartedly, my shortcomings are met with her forgiveness.

I have watched her time and time again as she has loved and embraced each Little Soul we have welcomed into our home. Her heart is open and her posture is welcoming. She embraces the world around her. 

Mother's Day morning she set up a plan with Grandma to come over early and watch the babies so I could get a few more moments of sleep, while she made breakfast. She also spent her hard earned money on gifts for her Grandma and me, picking out the things that would bring us joy with such thought. 

Four years ago, I had the honor of becoming her Mom. Two years ago I had the privilege of becoming her forever Mama. Today I find myself wondering just where time has gone. It feels like a moment and forever at the same time. Preparing this arrow for the world is an honor, this one is going to be fierce. 

Happy Birthday, my Beautiful Charly, you are going to move mountains.