Welcome to my circus.

November 22, 2015
by Maralee

A Life in Status- August #2, 2015

If you want to feel better about your life, come observe mine on Facebook or Twitter.

“We don’t wipe our boogers on Mommy.”

I thought we bought a kingsized bed so all the kids could pile in on a Saturday morning. Turns out we actually bought a kingsized bed so all the laundry could fit piled up on a Monday morning.

He was a little confused when I started crying looking over his homework. But sometimes when he does things like take his homework up to his room without being asked, do it on his own, and do it all correctly, all I can think about is the doctor saying they had no idea about his longterm outlook, if he’d even be able to walk and talk like his peers. Sometimes it’s the simple things that remind me to be grateful. And proud. SO SO proud of this kid.

(Trying to help a frustrated Joel learn to zip up his jacket.)
Me: Remember the Daniel Tiger song? “Keep trying, you’ll get better! Keep trying you’ll get. . . ”
Joel (3): TIRED.

Can’t figure out what’s more frustrating- the almost four year-old who insists he can’t dress himself (but he totally can) or the almost two year-old who insists she CAN dress herself (but she totally can’t).

Grape rolls down into toddler’s shirt. She can’t figure out how to get the grape out of her shirt. She proceeds to chew the grape through the shirt.

Joel (3): Can I turn on the water, Mom? Since I’m an excellent water manager guy?
Who can say no to that?

3 year-old just tried to blame his older sibling for something. He forgot the older sibling has been at school all day.

(Joel was looking for the peanut butter and saw we had a big jar and small jar.)
“Do you want the lowercase peanut butter, Mom?”

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November 19, 2015
by Maralee

I Don’t Care About Report Cards

My kids brought home report cards a couple weeks ago. My daughter (a Kindergartener) mistakenly thought they were called “reward cards” and was kind of bummed when we didn’t actually reward her for her grades. I know as parents, many of us want to find ways to reward our kids for academic performance in ways that will encourage them to do their best. If what works for your family is to reward grades, go for it. But for us, we’ve gone a different route.

I was a high-achieving kid who was internally motivated towards academic success. There wasn’t a reward my parents could offer me that would have made a difference in my performance because I was pretty terrified of failure. I did well because I had the ability to do well and was motivated to do well. Not every kid is wired that way and I’m learning to work with the strengths of my kids.


We could reward them for good grades, but what I’ve learned from looking at their report cards is that they are all working hard and doing their best. Depending on their intellectual abilities, their hardest work is going to result in different grades for each child. It doesn’t seem right to me to provide a reward based on a blanket standard applied to kids who have different kinds of intelligence and abilities. What I really want to reward are character and effort. There’s a better way to figure that out than via their report cards, especially in the early elementary school years.

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November 15, 2015
by Maralee

A Life in Status- August #1, 2015

Come be part of the fun on Facebook or Twitter.

My kids are watching “Reading Rainbow.”

Josh (8): Oh, I’ve watched “Reading Rainbow” before! At school! It’s that show with the black guy who has all the stories.
‪#‎nailedit‬ ‪#‎LeVarfanclub‬

I want the kids’ first day of school outfits to (figuratively) say, “I have parents that love me, I am well behaved and ready to learn.” My children want them to say, “EVERYBODY! OVER HERE! THE CLASS CLOWN HAS ARRIVED!”

Scold a child for trying to bother you while you’re in the bathroom. Come out of the bathroom to find a pile of wildflowers he picked for you on the floor.

My kids think corndogs are called Slushiedogs.

(came around the corner and saw three kids sitting in a circle)
Josh (8):. . . He was an adult, but he had REALLY SMALL FEET.
Me: What are you guys doing?
Josh: Just telling scary stories.

Let’s do this. ‪#‎awkwardquestiontime‬

A Musing Maralee's photo.


There are cupcakes in the oven. The 21 month-old is sitting in front of it crying, “Me! Cuh-cake! Want SOME!” I may not have birthed her, but she is definitely my daughter.

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November 12, 2015
by Maralee

Foster Parenting with Compassionate Curiosity

The first children who depended on me to care for them were teenage boys. As a housemom to 6 boys ages 12-18 at a group home when I was in my early twenties, I started this whole parenting thing in an odd position. I was barely older than the kids we were working with and I can only imagine how those parents felt entrusting me with their care. But I came to love those boys, to feel motherly feelings of protection for them, and I became passionate about their families. Over the next decade I watched them grow and become independent men. Some of the choices they made were amazing illustrations of how resilient kids can be as they struggled to break the cycles of abuse and addiction they were born into. Some of the choices they made were heartbreaking as they fathered children they couldn’t care for and did time in prison for crimes that continued the patterns they experienced as little children. But whatever choices they have made, I have loved them. I remember what they were like in their younger years. How they rested their heads on my shoulder when I read to them. How they’d laugh at the dinner table. How they’d sing and dance while doing chores in the kitchen. To me, they are not their mugshots or rap sheets. They are people I love.

After five years of working with those teens, we adopted our first child and transitioned to fostering infants. Many infants in the foster care system don’t have an identified father involved, but we had one that did. When I met him for the first time, he had just gotten out of prison and was the same age as many of the boys we had worked with during our years at the group home. Looking into his eyes felt very familiar to me and my heart broke for what he had been through up to this point in his life and what he was currently going through with the removal of his child. Instead of just feeling sadness  for the ways this baby had been mistreated, I felt that sadness for this young man, too.

I find it’s easy for people to have compassion for the infant born exposed to drugs. As that infant ages they may become the toddler in the church nursery with sensory issues who bites other kids, or has trouble with impulse control so he throws things when he’s upset. It may be harder to have compassion on the child that seems aggressive. That toddler may become the school-aged child who curses at the teacher when things aren’t going his way because these are normal parts of speech he’s heard at home. He may be the kid who picks on other children at school because he’s learned that being in control, being the biggest and strongest is the only way to stay safe. It’s tough to have compassion on that child when he’s making conscious choices to be disrespectful to authority and makes other kids feel unsafe. And what about the teenager who starts stealing because in his home that’s no big deal? As long as you can get away with it, it may even earn you respect. We are all outraged at that out of control teen and see his prison sentence as justice being served. And then one day that man fathers a child who ends up in foster care. We are heartbroken all over again at the innocent baby who is suffering for the sins of his father, but we’ve lost the ability to extend our compassion to the father who was once a wounded child himself.

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November 4, 2015
by Maralee

Why Moms should talk to their sons about porn

I was not aware when I wrote to my sons about porn there would be people out there (mostly men, from what I can tell) who think that as a woman, that isn’t my job. They believe it’s a conversation for fathers and sons. While I absolutely agree that fathers and sons can and should be having these talks many times over the years, I also believe a mother’s perspective is important. If you are a mother who has shied away from this conversation because you believe it isn’t your place to talk to your boys about these things, let me tell you why I think it’s not just okay for you to talk about it, I think it’s imperative.

Mothers are the practical educators of the home. In our home conversations about sex, boundaries, and bodies happen early. When we start potty-training right around age 2, we talk about the correct names of their body parts and we start emphasizing privacy. You know who has most of those conversations? Moms do. I’m not saying dads can’t or won’t be part of it, but for many children their mother is going to be the person who starts the dialogue about the specialness of their body and God’s design for it. My husband is equally capable of addressing these issues, but is often less available than I am. When my kids have questions about something inappropriate they heard in school, they come to me. When a friend says or does something that makes them feel uncomfortable, they come to me. If they have a question about personal hygiene or a health concern, they come to me. If my kids see porn, I want them to COME TO ME. We let them know they should talk to us by initiating the conversation (in our house we use the book “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures” as part of that process). If I’m the one talking to them about boundaries and sex the majority of the time, but expect my husband to be the ONLY one to talk to them about porn, that doesn’t sit well with me. Porn is not some man secret that I’m unaware of or too scary for me to address.


Boys need to understand the impact of porn on women. I am fully in support of my husband having conversations with our sons about porn. He is going address them from a different perspective and with a different level of understanding about how boys are wired. But here’s my issue– I think for FAR too long porn has been portrayed as some kind of victimless crime or a harmless guilty pleasure for men. I know my husband wouldn’t minimize it that way, but I think it takes a woman to emphasize the damage porn is doing TO WOMEN. We are suffering for this cultural acceptance of how sex and women are portrayed in porn. My boys need to hear from a woman what is sold to you in porn is not what women are like and it is not what they want. We are being bullied by porn into a caricature of womanhood that bares little resemblance to the reality. I highly recommend this piece about the research and advocacy of Gail Dines. She is quoted as saying:

“We are now bringing up a generation of boys on cruel, violent porn,” she says, “and given what we know about how images affect people, this is going to have a profound influence on their sexuality, behaviour and attitudes towards women.” 

I am happy for my husband to talk to my sons about porn and how it will impact them if they engage with it, but my message for them will be about how it impacts women. I will not sit silently by and watch this generation of boys be socialized and educated about women by porn. In defense of their sisters, their friends, their future wives, I will speak openly with them about the lies of porn when it comes to how it depicts women. I hope the mothers raising the future husbands of my daughters are doing the same.

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November 2, 2015
by Maralee
1 Comment

Empathy in the Age of Google

A friend from college unexpectedly lost her four year-old son in a heartbreaking accident. A close friend was recently diagnosed with another health problem on top of the others she already wrestles with. Painful struggles in my own family have humbled and exhausted me. Suffering has seemed to be all around me in big and small ways.

We live in such a fix-it culture, I think it has become difficult to know how to be okay with suffering. Our first thoughts are about figuring out solutions rather than acknowledging the difficulty that person is facing. You’re feeling lonely because you’re single? There’s an app for that. You’ve got a medical diagnosis that has left you confused and frustrated? There’s an essential oil for that. You lost your job? There’s a website for that. You’re depressed and struggling? There’s a therapist for that. You’re facing homelessness? There’s a government program for that. You’re infertile? There’s a book, a doctor, a diet, and an herbal supplement for that.

We are quick to Google our problems and the problems of our friends rather than taking a minute to sit in the difficult feelings. We want to see this problem solved because we like being part of a solution and we don’t want to see our friend suffering. But sometimes I’m afraid it’s more that we don’t want to SEE our friend suffering, not that we’re really all that passionate about their healing. If we can give a solution, then we won’t have to suffer alongside as you walk a difficult road. If you don’t take our solution, we’re absolved of having to care about your problem.

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October 29, 2015
by Maralee

A word to my sons about porn

You are just little boys. You play with action figures and Legos. The highlight of your week is when we have Lucky Charms for breakfast. You ask me if Transformers really exist. You are a long way from having to shave. But if the statistics can be believed, it probably won’t be long until you have your first exposure to pornography.

I can’t tell you how this breaks my heart. I don’t know how it will happen, but I imagine you will be confused. You will enjoy something that you also know you shouldn’t be enjoying. You will feel shame and you’ll have to decide if you’re going to talk to me about it or not. Please talk to me.


I know you see me as your mom, but I am also a woman. I want to speak to you on behalf of the woman who will someday be your wife, the little girls who will be your daughters, the sisters of yours who are growing into women before our eyes.

For all the hype around porn, it really isn’t that complicated. Porn is marketing. Porn is trying to sell you something. It’s trying to sell you an idea of who women are. Porn is lying. The more you believe the lie it sells to you, the less you will be able to enjoy the truth. (And there’s so much more I want to tell you about the lies porn is telling you about YOU and your worth and your value as a man. A conversation for another time. Along with the conversation I need to have with your sisters about what porn will mean to them.)

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October 25, 2015
by Maralee

A Life in Status- July #2, 2015

Come be part of the community on Facebook or Twitter.

Joel: Can I go to camp?
Me: Nope. They don’t have camp for three year-olds.
Joel: Just for big year-olds?
Me:. . . yes.

Bethany (5): Mom, I made a friend at camp and she’s Mexican.
Me: That’s great! How do you know she’s Mexican?
B: On the first day I yelled, “I’m a Mexican” and she said she was, too.

Bethany (5): Mom, can we watch MacGyver today? Remember? MacGyver? You wanted to MARRY him?
We all did, Honey. We all did. . .

Josh (8): Mom, my LIT at camp was black like me! And he was adopted, too. He had that hair like I want. You know- an alfredo.
‪#‎afro‬ ‪#‎soclose‬

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who leave perfect parallel vacuum marks in the carpet and uncivilized heathens.
‪#‎vacuumguilt‬ ‪#‎mennoniteproblems‬

Bethany (5): Mom, this looked totally disgusting, but it tasteses wonderful! You’re a great cooker, Mom.
‪#‎kidcompliments‬ ‪#‎takewhatyoucanget‬

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October 22, 2015
by Maralee

To Future Me In Shorts

Dear Beginning of Summer Maralee,

Hey! It’s me– Fall Maralee. Remember me? I was so excited to pull out sweaters and cardigans and to pack away these shorts that served us well all summer long. When I was folding them up, I thought I’d just including this note to you in the pocket to help you adjust to the shocking transition that is Shorts Season. There are a few things I would like to remind you of to help make this start to summer a little more enjoyable and less traumatic than previous summers.

First of all, let’s just remember that the weight you gain over the winter doesn’t count. It just doesn’t. It was survival weight. It kept you warm during the below zero months, so that’s a good thing. I think that’s science, right? And also, you have a lot of children and they were stuck inside all winter, so you did things that maybe in retrospect you regret, but helped maintain your sanity (I’m looking at you, Delicious Pan of Brownies). I’m not mad. You did what you had to do. And if there’s one thing I WOULD regret, it would be if we didn’t eat the wonderful Thanksgiving bounty and enjoy the Christmas goodies because we were all worried about Shorts Season. No thank you. No pair of shorts are worth that.

Now before you panic about it, let me gently remind you that you are a white woman. A very white woman. Like, so white all the purply leg veins are visible this time of year. That’s okay. No going into shock about the sight of your legs and don’t freak out about other people seeing them in this state. Maybe this is the year you will get slightly sun kissed! But probably this is yet another year where you’ll burn your knees while sitting on a bench some afternoon at the park and the rest of your legs will magically stay white. Whatever. You tell your beautiful kids in all shades of white and brown how perfectly God made their skin, so just start giving that lecture to yourself now, too. We are in our 30s– orange fake tans and skin cancer do not become us. Embrace the white side.

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October 19, 2015
by Maralee

Nebraska Foster Family Size Regulations and Public Hearing Details

I know there are many foster families that have been anxiously awaiting the proposed family size changes from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. And there are former foster families (like mine) that will be looking very closely at these changes to figure out if we can start fostering again. It’s sad to me how many great, experienced foster families have been lost to the system during the months where the current regulations have been in place. But I’m relieved to tell you that change is on the way.

(Here are my previous posts about our concerns with the current regulations and the response I initially received.)


Here are the details:

The hearing is scheduled for October 29th, 2015 at 1:00 p.m.

If you go over to the Nebraska Secretary of State’s site, you can read the proposed changes for yourself (http://www.sos.ne.gov/rules-and-regs/regtrack/details.cgi?proposal_id=0000000000001547). I have copied the ones related to family size below:

3-001.10  Maximum Number of Persons for Whom Care Can Be Provided:  A foster parent may provide care for adults and children, including foster children and children related by blood, marriage or adoption, according to the following maximum placement limits. 

The applicable maximum placement limit for children will be reduced in an amount equal to the number of adults in the home for whom the foster parent(s) provide(s) 24 hour care and supervision.

Care provided at any time is limited to no more than six (6) children under the age of majority, including children related to the foster parent(s) by blood, marriage, or adoption, and any other child(ren) who may be living in the home.  No more than four (4) of these children may be age 12 or younger.  When the licensee is also providing care for adults requiring 24 hour supervision, the total number of children and adults for whom  care is provided cannot exceed a total of six (6). 

3-001.10A  Homes with Two Licensed Foster ParentsRatio:  No more than six children may reside in a home with two licensed foster parents.  No more than four children under age six may reside with two licensed foster parents.For every four (4) children residing in the home, at least one adult responsible for their care and supervision must reside in the home.

3-001.10B  Homes with One Licensed Foster Parent:  No more than four children may reside in a home with one licensed foster parent.  No more than two children under age six may reside with one licensed foster parent.  

3-001.10CA1  Exception:  The Department in its discretion may grant an exemption to allow a home to exceed the maximum placement limit when doing so is in the best interest of each child in the home. for the continued placement of children when five (5) or more children are receiving care in a licensed foster home and:

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