Welcome to my circus.

January 28, 2015
by Maralee
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The first six years of Danny

My Dear Danny,

You entered the world with a bang. Not breathing and hardly alive, you gave the team in that delivery room quite a shock as you came to life and immediately peed on the doctor that revived you. Typical Danny. You love creating a scene and if it has to do with bodily fluids, all the better.

It’s hard for me to imagine that on the day you entered the world, I was totally unaware of the major change about to happen to my life and my heart. It wasn’t until you were a few days old that we got the call that you needed a family–maybe for a little while, maybe forever. By the time we met you, you had already managed to charm a slew of nurses and doctors that were tending to your daily needs. As I have told you a thousand times, I loved you the minute I saw you. I didn’t know how long I’d be able to be a mother to you, but I knew that if you needed me, I would love you and be your mother forever.

 

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Photo by Rebecca Tredway Photography

Because I loved you so much, so fully and totally, I loved your first mother, too. How could I not? She gave you life. You have her eyes, her tan skin, her jet-black straight hair. She wanted you to have a good life, she just needed some time to figure out if she’d be able to provide that for you. I admire her for the way she’s been able to support what was best for you, even if it’s painful for her to watch you grow up in a different family. I hope when there are questions you need answers to, she is there to talk to you about those things. I promise to do what I can to keep that door open for you. And I do it not out of duty or obligation, but out of love for you and her.

I didn’t know I could love your family and care about your story and become passionate about your people the way I have. There was a lot I didn’t know before I became your mom. There was a lot no one could teach me. No one but you.

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January 27, 2015
by Maralee
1 Comment

To the Mom Doubting her Vaccine Doubts

There are a lot of loud, angry voices in the vaccine debate. If you are fully convinced that vaccines do more harm than good, this post isn’t for you (and I have zero desire to engage in a debate on this issue). This is for the parent out there who is struggling with a little shadow of doubt. I have chosen to share my perspective on the issue and my story is one of a changed mind. I had concerns and fears and delayed vaccinations for one of my kids, but eventually my concerns were answered thoroughly enough that I have become an advocate for vaccinations. I know what it’s like to be a skeptic, to doubt my doctor and worry about what would happen to my child if I followed the conventional recommendations. And I know what it’s like to sheepishly come to the conclusion that I was listening to the wrong voices and that it was time to do what was best not only for my kids, but for the many kids who didn’t have the ability to make a vaccination decision.

In light of the Disneyland measles situation, I just want to say that it’s okay to change your mind.

I want to be a quiet voice that says it’s okay to rethink your original conclusions when you see the reality of measles in your town (like it is in mine). It doesn’t mean you have to turn in your Natural Mom card if you decide to take your kids in for their shots. You can still eat organic, be vegetarians, cloth diaper, baby wear, and shun the microwave and dishwasher for your plastics, but get your children fully vaccinated. Don’t let shame or embarrassment keep you from taking in your older kids to get the MMR shot you originally feared would give them autism. You waited, you weighed the risks and now you see that a long dead disease actually isn’t dead. The information has changed. It is okay for you to respond differently now than you did before.

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January 25, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- November #2, 2014

Come join the fun (and the occasional controversy) over on Facebook or Twitter.

It’s a marshmallows in your coffee kind of morning.
‪#‎snowday‬

I’m not sure if each baby has actually been easier than the last or if I’m just getting more chill about this whole raising a baby thing.

We were guest speakers about foster care at a church this morning. So obviously yesterday was the perfect time for one of our children to eat gum he found outside, then get it in his hair, then cut it out of his hair with the craft scissors. . .
‪#‎firstimpressions‬

You know the scene from “I Love Lucy” where Lucy and Ethel are packaging chocolate from a conveyor belt? That’s exactly how I feel cleaning my house. And when I’ve finally got a handle on things some unknown force yells, “Speed it up a little!” and it looks like a tornado hit whatever room I swear I JUST had clean and by the end I’m stuffing chocolate in my face. . . I guess the analogy breaks down at some point and just becomes literal.

Burp rags for catching spit up are nice and all, but I think I’d be better served by some sort of burp poncho situation.

My five week-old baby belly laughs in his sleep. He’s clearly in the right family.
‪#‎classclowns‬

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January 21, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

The struggle of moms and community

Being a mom can be a terribly isolating experience. It seems counterintuitive on some level— you now have a person (or two or six) around you all the time, so how can you feel isolated? But moms know that devoting yourself to your children can make it incredibly difficult to get your relational needs met by peers or to have accountability from other women or to invest in your marriage or or or or. . . You get the idea. That was the subject of my radio interview this month. As always, you can listen to it at the link below and also read some additional thoughts that we may not have covered during the interview. Readers, thanks for being part of my community. Some of my desire to write was born out of that loneliness. It was a reaching out to see if there was anyone else like me out there. I’m glad you’ve joined me for the ride.

-Churches and Pastors— Do you want to grow community in your church? Facilitate support meetings for women. Be vocal about the importance of people meeting in small groups. Don’t underestimate the value of women meeting to deal with the struggles of their lives. Even if that isn’t your scene or your passion, know that it can have incredible value especially for women who are hurting from the pain of loss or who are looking for support during a difficult time. We attend the church we do specifically because it was a place where women with infertility and pregnancy loss were openly sharing about their struggles and the church was actively supporting them.

-There is a long “um” in my response to the question about when a mom pursued me for spiritual growth. For the record, that is my real “um”, not a radio friendly noise and I kind of hoped it would be edited out. It is the thinking sound you’d hear me make when I’m kind of stumped, which is not something I like doing in a radio interview. The reality is that it wasn’t hard for me to think of a time a mom had reached out to me, it was just hard for me to think of a time when that was related to some kind of spiritual growth focus. That long pause (and they did edit out about half of the long pause. . . it was really long) haunted me a bit after we finished our interview because I think it exposed a problem in my compartmentalizing of relationships. Spiritual community is what happens at Bible study. A mom telling me she’s exhausted and needs some help or wants to get together for a playdate— I don’t see that as “spiritual” but I think I’m wrong. The opportunity for spiritual interactions, accountability, encouragement, fellowship, and community are always present when we are together. I need to think more about that reality and stop compartmentalizing the spiritual away from the emotional and relational.

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January 19, 2015
by Maralee
11 Comments

Spite Brownies and Parenting Philosophies

I made Spite Brownies the other day. Apparently, this was horrifying to some people. They were aghast at the fact that I made brownies with the sole intention of denying them to a child. This child had previously eaten a donut that belonged to another child so this consequence made sense to me as a way to be sure that he didn’t have more sugar than he needed and as a way to communicate to his sibling that he wasn’t allowed to eat her food without some kind of response from me. But this strategy (passed around via Facebook) was deemed “wildly inappropriate.” Sigh. . . Public parenting is an unwinnable game. No wonder people are so gun-shy about expressing any picture other than total rosiness when it comes to how parenting is going.

I probably should make some clarifications. I like the word “spite” as an adjective. Sometimes when things are frustrating, funny language choices make me a little less frustrated. Have you ever had a child pee their pants because they were mad at you? Yes, this really does happen. And when it does, I call it a Spite Pee. Have you ever done a really awesome job at cleaning the living room because your husband made some smart remark about how you can’t even walk through there anymore? That is called a Spite Cleaning. And so I make Spite Brownies because sometimes you want to give a child a consequence by taking away dessert except you weren’t planning on making dessert, so now you have to make it just for the sake of taking it away.

This has been a discipline tactic of mine for years, since we were dealing with teenagers in a group home environment. When you’ve worked with kids from difficult homes there are a lot of discipline options that aren’t available to you— no physical punishment (no spanking for obvious reasons), no denying them necessities (can’t send them to bed without supper or something), no using physical labor as punishment (don’t want them to have a negative correlation with chores), no time-out (abandonment issues), no school work type punishments (no negative associations with writing or reading), and no yelling (very triggering for kids from abusive homes). One of the few options we had left was to take away privileges. You could lose TV or video game time or be denied sweets. Now, we are a pretty health conscious family when it comes to the diets of our kids, so there were many times when we didn’t have sweets available and I would have to purposefully get them or make them just so we would have a consequence.

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January 15, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

The Unseen Child

Sometimes those commercials are just too much for me. You know the ones— maybe they’re trying to motivate you to give money for starving children or shelter for homeless animals. Whatever the end result, they try to get you there by showing you pictures that are guaranteed to break your heart. And they do it because it works! We are visual people and it helps us to see the need and visualize the difference we could make. When we sponsor a child overseas, we want to see their face. When we reunite with an old friend online, the first thing we want to do is virtually flip through their photo album. Seeing the face connects us with the heart.

But foster children often go unseen.

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January 13, 2015
by Maralee
26 Comments

GIVEAWAY from The Family Box *CLOSED*

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Are there things you know as a parent you should be doing, but it’s just kind of tough? Family devotions often fall in that category for me. As much as I want to spend intentional time with my kids talking about God, sometimes it falls through the cracks of trying to just keep everybody fed and in clean clothes. This is where The Family Box comes in. I know this product is called “The Family Box”, but after a month of using it, I think it could more accurately be called “Good Parenting in a Box” because whenever we got done I had that great feeling like we’re doing the things we’re supposed to be doing. We’re sitting down, looking in each other’s eyes and talking about the things of God.

Now I am not a Pinterest parent. I do not like crafts. I am bad at art, I am not detail oriented, and I’m not very creative. Those are just the facts. They are true enough about me that I even put the “I don’t like crafts” thing in the About Me section of this blog when I started it a couple years ago. So it made me laugh when the people over at The Family Box approached me about doing a giveaway and said, “We know you don’t like crafts, but. . .”

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It’s precisely because I don’t like crafts that having a month of The Family Box was fantastic. I am not crafty, but my kids are! Here’s how The Family Box works:  Each month a box comes in the mail (there are options for how you buy the boxes- per month, per quarter, per year) with four object lessons/crafts in it. You pick a day of the week that you’re going to have your family time (we have Sunday evening church, so we picked Sunday morning), then open up the section for that week. In it is everything you need. I mean EVERYTHING. Each week there was a little lesson guide, a verse, and all the supplies you needed for the activity that went along with the lesson. You don’t have to run around gathering supplies or trying to track down a verse to go with the activity-it’s all there for you. Continue Reading →

January 11, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- November #1, 2014

Come join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Nursing the baby in the bed with you in the middle of the night is a really sweet and precious time. . .unless your baby is a projectile vomiter.
‪#‎everydayislaundryday‬

Sign you are sleep deprived: When sending your child out to the bus, you blow a kiss to your child and then accidentally blow a kiss to the bus driver instead of your usual wave.

I’m finally figuring out how to do life with six little kids. . . as long as the phone doesn’t ring, nobody comes over, and I don’t have to leave the house. So basically, I’m living in an introvert paradise if the introvert really likes changing diapers, opening fruit snack packets, and being cried at.
‪#‎livingthedream‬

It’s not that I like doing laundry, it’s just that I prefer it to replicating the Island of Sodor out of train tracks for the 15th time.
‪#‎mommysbusy‬ ‪#‎momconfession‬

So now TWO of my kids have shaved patches into their head with my leg razor. I don’t recall any wisdom about this in the parenting books.
‪#‎needtowritemyown‬

If I were writing a piece for The Onion it would be titled, “Woman Breastfeeds in Local McDonald’s, Nobody Cares.” It would include insightful quotes like, “I was sure I would be ostracized or asked to leave, but pretty much nobody noticed and they left me in peace. It was a major disappointment. It’s hard to be a lactivist when people don’t acknowledge what you’re doing.”
‪#‎yourewelcomeOnion‬

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January 9, 2015
by Maralee
1 Comment

Thinking about having another baby? Don’t.

Sometimes I think our word choices reveal more of our hearts than we intend. And then sometimes they’re just word choices with no particular deep meaning. Only the person speaking knows their real intention, but there’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot that I keep ruminating on:

“We’re thinking of having another baby.”

I understand the desire for more babies. I have had six babies and each experience has been uniquely wonderful and terribly challenging. Babies are dependent, helpless, loud and messy. Their smells are addictive, their coos are adorable, and those big eyes in tiny faces just melt your heart. The reason that phrase bothers me isn’t because I don’t understand the desire for more babies or because I don’t think people should have large families. It’s because babies grow up.

If you want to have a baby, there are some ways you can be involved in loving a never ending supply of babies. Do orphanage work. Become a foster parent. Do cradle care for an adoption agency (where you can care for children during their transition from biological family to adoptive family). Work in the church nursery. Provide childcare in your home. All of these are great options with pros and cons, but the big pro is that you can love a baby and when they are no longer a baby, you can hand them back.

We have had six children not just because we really love babies, but because we wanted to raise people into adulthood. We wanted to instill our values and provide a safe and loving home for children who would use the foundation we’ve given them to become productive adults. Obviously, who they become as adults is their choice, but we want to give them the best springboard we can. We don’t want to make the decision about who to add to our family based on our desire for a baby, but on our ability to devote ourselves to the lifelong care and nurture of another person. This is a perspective we have to remind ourselves of when (as foster parents) we get the call about a baby needing a home.

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January 4, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

Calculating Your Worth

2015. A number that brings with it a lot of focus on other numbers that are important to us. This is a time we make resolutions to change the math of our lives. We use many numbers to determine how we feel about ourselves. How fast we run a mile (or 5), the amount in our bank account, how many ounces of breast milk we produce, how many hours we work in a week, our GPA (or the GPAs of our kids), the square footage of our house, our volunteer hours, the number of events we’re invited to, or the number of Bible verses we memorize can all be numbers we use to evaluate how much our lives matter. In a season of resolutions it can be easy to focus on changing our numbers with the conscious or subconscious belief that those numbers are what’s really important— that we ARE our numbers.

As a mom with a new baby, that number on the scale has become pretty important to me. It’s a temptation for me to see the numbers not as just an indicator of my current weight, but as a judgement on my work ethic or my discipline or my beauty. And then there’s the other scale. The scale at my pediatrician’s office that seems to indicate if I’m a good mom. Is my baby gaining weight like the doctor thinks he should? Am I somehow failing at motherhood if he doesn’t conform to the growth curve?

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