Welcome to my circus.

July 29, 2015
by Maralee
14 Comments

Outraged at Planned Parenthood? Support foster kids.

I’m going to be honest– I read a transcript of one of the Planned Parenthood videos, but I can’t bring myself to watch it. I just can’t. There are some things I have a very tender heart about and to listen to a woman talk about dismembering babies while she eats lunch. . . it’s too much for me.

It all feels very personal when you realize the babies they’re talking about could very well have been your children. I have 6 kids and to the best of my knowledge ALL of them were unplanned pregnancies– 4 were other women’s and 2 were my own. My four adopted kids were born into less than ideal circumstances. All of them had mothers who attempted to parent for some amount of time, but were not able. These are difficult stories both for the women who lived them and for the children who carry them. But my beautiful sons and daughters have LIFE. They were wanted and chosen and loved. And for that, I am forever grateful to the women who gave them life when they had every legal option to go visit a Planned Parenthood clinic and have those children torn limb from limb for the crime of being inconvenient.

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There are people who would have cheered that decision– one less foster child, one less burden on the taxpayers, one less kid in need of services, one less single mother. I have had someone ask about my foster child’s story, look into his beautiful brown eyes, and then tell me if her daughter ever came to her pregnant, she would tell her to abort. It was the most angry and dumbfounded I think I’ve ever been towards a stranger in a grocery store.

I know many of us feel upset and revolted at the recent revelations about Planned Parenthood. It is also tempting to think the solutions are over our heads and out of reach. What can we do? Picket? Write letters to our representatives in DC? Boycott companies that support Planned Parenthood? It all feels. . . toothless. It feels ineffective. There are good things to do to support alternatives, to encourage a culture of life, to make a financial impact where we can. I also want to encourage you to consider a way I’ve found to make a real, meaningful difference– become a foster parent.

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July 24, 2015
by Maralee
6 Comments

My son and His Brother

My family had an amazing experience this summer. Our son was able to meet his biological brother. In the foster care world, this isn’t anything so spectacular. Our kids adopted from foster care have biological siblings and we keep in touch with them. But this is the biological sibling of my son adopted from Liberia. It is a rarity for kids who are internationally adopted to have this kind of information about their birth family and be able to establish a connection, so I wanted to share their story.

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While we were in Liberia picking up Josh (2007), we were told that his birthmother was pregnant. This information did not come through any official channel, but there was someone involved with the orphanage who personally knew Josh’s birthmother and casually mentioned to us that he thought she was having another baby. We knew nothing other than that little bit of information, but we knew if there was any way we could keep these siblings together, we wanted to do it. This was in September. Josh’s brother was born in January.

During the first year after we brought Josh home I wrote several times to our adoption agency about the possibility of a birth sibling coming into the orphanage. I told them that we wanted to keep these children together and that we would do whatever was necessary. In the back of my mind there was always a possibility that we could get a call and we’d need to start pulling together documents and finances to go get Josh’s sibling. But the call never came.

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July 15, 2015
by Maralee
1 Comment

A Life in Status- April #1, 2015

Find me on Facebook and Twitter.

My three year-old decided he didn’t have time to run to the bathroom during the Easter egg hunt, so he just pulled down his pants in my parents’ front lawn and peed directly into his basket full of Easter eggs.
I love my life.

Bethany (5): Mom, I made a picture of you!
Me: Yes. Yes you did.
‪#‎bighairdontcare‬ ‪#‎shelovesme‬

A Musing Maralee's photo.

Joel (3): I love you all the times, Mom.
Me: Awww. I love you every second of every day.
J: I love YOU every second day, too!
‪#‎soclose‬

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July 12, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- March #2, 2015

Be my friend! Find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Sign of Spring: All the bags of hand-me-down purged clothes being exchanged at church.

Turns out half the Sara Bareilles songs I liked were actually Ingrid Michelson songs and I couldn’t tell they were two different people.
‪#‎toooldforpopmusic‬

Josh (8): I need a band-aid.
Me: Are you bleeding? That doesn’t look like it’s bleeding to me.
J: But Mom, Grandma would give me a band-aid and you’re her daughter, so I’d think YOU would know to give me a band-aid, too.
Mom Guilt. The gift that keeps on giving.

When we named the baby Theodore, I knew he’d get called “Teddy Bear.” But I didn’t anticipate how often we’d call Carolina “Care Bear.”
‪#‎mybabybears‬

Me: Why are you doing that weird bounce? If you have to go to the potty, then you need to go.
Joel (3): I’m just dancing, Mom.
Me: Oh. . . right. . . sorry
Apparently, he got my dancing skills. Poor little fella.

I wasn’t especially surprised when Carrie (16 months) panicked and cried when the doctor looked in her ears and eyes and listened to her lungs. I was surprised when she cried just as hard watching the doctor do those same things to her baby brother.
‪#‎bigsister‬ ‪#‎bigheart‬

Josh: I got Harry Potter from the library today.
Me: Hmmmmm. I’m not sure you’re ready for that.
Danny: I can look at it as much as I want. Because, you know, I can’t read and there aren’t any pictures.
‪#‎brutalhonestyDan‬

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July 10, 2015
by Maralee
2 Comments

Why I feel self-conscious when these brothers act like brothers

I want to share with you a moment of realness about being a transracial family. And it involves the grocery store, as most moments of realness seem to do in my life.

This last week I took my two oldest boys (ages 8 and 6) with me on our grocery trip. I am white. They are Liberian and Sioux. Neither of them look a thing like me or like each other. Most of the time I don’t even think about it. They have been my boys since they were babies and brothers since before they can remember. We are very used to this reality and it doesn’t cross my mind how obviously we are not your typical family until we’re out in public. Sometimes I realize that people don’t even assume we are family until one of my kids yells, “MOM!” and then I see them starting to put the pieces together.

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I love talking about adoption. I am a vocal advocate for kids who need families and I don’t mind having those conversations (when they are appropriate and respect my kids’ privacy) in public. I am not embarrassed to be a multiracial family, but it can make me a little hyper aware of the behavior of our family. Which is just what happened the other night at the grocery store.

My boys are. . . exuberant. They are loud, rambunctious and fun. They squeal and scream when they are excited and they seem to pretty much always be excited. This is exactly how they were behaving at the grocery store. A couple times I had to deal with one of them good-naturedly pushing the grocery cart into the other one. Then there were the times one was grabbing the other around the shoulders and trying to lift him off the ground while the other one protested (again, all in good fun). In the freezer section they decided to do some sprints up and down the aisle. And always they are narrating their thoughts, loudly enough for anybody to hear (to the embarrassment of their self-conscious mother).

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July 9, 2015
by Maralee
1 Comment

Tell Your Foster Child You Love Them (even if you aren’t sure)

As a culture, we place an almost magical value on the words “I love you.” They are words that should not be said until you REALLY mean them. . . whatever that means to you. They are words that cement a relationship and imply commitment. But we also use those words incredibly flippantly. I love that hamburger. I love this show. I’m in love with my new sandals. The words “I love you” can mean everything and nothing depending on the context. We feel free to express our love for things or celebrities we’ll never meet or vacation locations, but when it comes to people in our lives we can be much more cautious.

Because we place so much value on saying “I love you” only when we mean it and at the right time, it can feel tricky to decide when to tell your foster child you love them. I think the concerns about doing it break down into three categories:  concern for the child’s heart, respect for the biological family, and self-protection.

This child is likely a temporary addition to your family. It can feel unkind to tell a child we love them if they are just going to be with us for a short time. We don’t want them to think people who love them will always leave them. We’re worried about the message that sends. Is telling them we love them a promise we’re making that we know we can’t keep? Will we break their hearts when it’s time for them to go? Will the pain be harder and deeper because we told them we loved them and now we’re abandoning them?

And what about the family they came from? Do we put the child in an awkward position when we tell them we love them? We don’t want them to feel pressured into responding that they love us too if that makes them feel disloyal to their family. We worry that if the parents knew we loved their child, they might feel hurt. This is an awkward dance of wanting to support the family, but also connecting with their child and loving them as our own.

But I think the biggest concern is really for ourselves. If I say out loud that I love this child, I’m admitting this situation has the power to break my heart. If my friends and family know I love this child, they’ll begin to fear for me and the heartache that’s coming and they may say unkind things about a biological family they know little about. If I love this child, I may move from being an unbiased participant in the process to a passionate advocate. Love always brings with it the potential for pain and in foster care it doesn’t just feel like potential, it feels like a foregone conclusion.

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July 6, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

The God of Thunder

Sometimes I get a little panicked that it will never rain again. I grew up in California– a land of drought and water use awareness. As a kid I remember going to school assemblies devoted to talking about turning off the water while you brushed your teeth and not running the shower too long. Water was a limited resource and you never knew when it was going to run out.

That idea makes a big impact on a kid. I always had a fear about droughts the way other people might fear tornadoes or hurricane season. It also made rain feel like a precious gift. When it would rain, I would spend the day soaking it up. My favorite thing to do was put an umbrella down in the front yard and curl up underneath it just to hear the rain over my head and feel protected from it. Rain was a gift from God and only he could give it. While I could try and ration it and protect it and store it away, I couldn’t make it come no matter how hard I tried.

I never remember thunderstorms in California. My first real experience watching a storm roll across the sky came our first summer in Nebraska when I was 11. It was beautiful and terrifying all at once. Here it was again– a gift from God, but now I heard his booming voice and saw his finger etching light across the sky. And now I learned about flooding– when this gift overwhelms creeks and rivers and wipes out crops.

My parents were both children of farmers and this always informed their view of the weather. I remember praying once that it would stop raining because I wanted to go to the pool. My dad gently reminded me that God also must consider the needs of farmers desperately waiting for the rain to water their crops so they could provide for their families and keep food on the table for all of us, too. Rain was never just rain, never just an annoyance, never just a weather event.

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June 28, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- March #1, 2015

Join the fun on Facebook or Twitter

Watching a movie about dolphins with a three year-old = saying 1,000 times “No, that’s not a shark.”

I have yet to understand why it is so much easier to put dirty clothes NEXT TO the hamper rather than IN the hamper. I’m contemplating putting a decoy hamper next to the actual hamper in the boys’ room to see if that solves the problem.

So maybe social desserting is fine, but when you find yourself eating a couple pieces of cake alone in a dark room, you know you have a problem?
‪#‎clearlyihaveaproblem‬ ‪#‎momsurvivalskills‬

I was about to scold the kids about sending another crayon through the wash and then I realized it was actually an eyeliner pencil and there’s only one person in the house that wears that. . .

Josh: Mom, you picked the right husband. Have you SEEN what he can make out of Legos?!
‪#‎priorities‬

Josh (8): Mom, I got The Hobbit book from the library! All three movies are in here!

Daughter thinks my name is “Say Mama”. I may have been over prompting her. . .

Bethany (5): Mom, I want to hear my favorite story. The one about Jesus. When he had the horns.
Me: The horns? I don’t remember that one.
B: You KNOW, Mom. When he had the CROWN of HORNS!
‪#‎soclose‬

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June 25, 2015
by Maralee
3 Comments

Book Report: “Good Pictures Bad Pictures”

I am passionate about parents speaking honestly with their children about sex. I have written about that a bunch (here, here, here and here for starters). I am also passionate about helping prevent the sexual abuse of children. I think these two issues are closely related. When we teach our kids about their bodies and how important they are, we empower them. We want to teach them in ways that aren’t shaming, but give them permission to talk to us if something questionable happens. As part of that educational process, it is important to me to talk to my kids about pornography.

You don’t have to be a researcher to know that porn is a MAJOR problem today. It is harming everybody involved. The porn that existed when I was a kid has been replaced by something much darker and much more accessible. It is available anytime for free via devices that are all over my home, the neighbor’s house, the library, the school computer lab, etc. The latest research I read indicates the average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is  between 8-12 years old. Let that sink in for a minute.

We cannot passively sit back and think if we don’t talk to our kids about porn, then they won’t encounter it. All we’re insuring is that they WILL encounter it, but they won’t know what to do about it. They will feel guilty and shameful and they won’t want to talk to us about it because we have not established that we are safe people to talk to about this topic.

On the recommendation of a friend (she’s a Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health Service Provider), I bought “Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids”.  My friend and I have a shared passion for educating kids and protecting them when it comes to issues of sex and sexual abuse. I’ve done it as a mother/foster mother/group home mother and she’s done it in the professional realm through her work with kids. She said this has been a helpful tool in her work and I also found it to be a great resource with my kids, so I wanted to share it with you.

(Full disclosure- If you click on this picture, it will take you directly to Amazon. If you buy the book while you’re there, that benefits me. If you decide to go that route, thank you!)

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June 18, 2015
by Maralee
1 Comment

(Foster) Father’s Day

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Love Equals Photography

Dear Foster Dads,

I can’t tell you how many women I talk to who tell me some variation of “I would love to take a foster child into our home, but my husband. . . he’s just not behind the idea.” I know men have legitimate reasons for not feeling like foster care is right for their family. I respect that. But the frequency with which I hear that expressed makes me all the more thankful for YOU.

You said “yes” when so many men say “no”. You have chosen compassion for the weak and defenseless instead of deciding those kids aren’t your responsibility. You have shared your home, your wife, your time, your resources with little people who through no fault of their own have a desperate need. You have taken that protective boundary you set up around your family and you’ve cracked open a door to let in another little person (or two, or three, or MORE) who needs your protection. You have taken the value system of the world and turned it on its head.

Foster Dads, you bring a unique perspective to the table. I have sat at that table and in my experience, it is often a table surrounded by women– female caseworkers, lady lawyers, biological moms, foster moms, female visitation workers. You may have been a part of meetings where you were the only man in the room advocating for the needs of that child. Your voice was needed. A father’s voice was needed. You tend to see things in more black and white terms, which can be good for everybody involved. This doesn’t mean you always see biological family as bad and your family as good. In fact, I think you are often able to see the progress the biological family is making and affirm the goodness of that while others of us (me!) on the team are struggling with the implications for our own lives. You want to see justice prevail and you are often able to be less biased about what “justice” actually means.

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