Welcome to my circus.

September 27, 2016
by Maralee
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Foster Thoughts: Raising the Victims of Victims

This month I am partnering with Christian Heritage and My Bridge Radio to encourage families in Nebraska to consider foster care as a way to love families in crisis. If you’re curious about foster parenting, now is the time to get your questions answered! Check out Christian Heritage for more details about informational events happening across Nebraska in September.

When we first began caring for other people’s children through foster care and group home work, we were motivated by a desire to love and serve these children. In our minds, they were the helpless victims of their parents bad choices and deserved our compassion. But the funny thing was, the more we learned about their parents, the more we were able to see that they too had been victims in their own lives. They were often acting out patterns and cycles of abuse and disfunction that were so ingrained that it was difficult for them to know how much they were wounding their children. They genuinely loved their kids, but they lacked the parenting skills to know how to care for them. As we watched them grieve the loss of their children and realized they were not the enemy, our motivation in foster care started to shift.

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September 22, 2016
by Maralee
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Lowering our Friendspectations

I think it started the moment I read the 547th post about how I could be a good friend to a certain type of person. It just reached critical mass in my brain and I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t possibly get it right all the time. I don’t have the ability to make all the meals, listen to all the problems, answer all the 2 a.m. phone calls, do all the hospital visits, provide all the respite care that would make me The World’s Best Friend. And I think I need to be okay with that.

I am definitely responsible for some of the “How to be a Friend to (fill in the blank kind of person)” posts that exist in the world. As a foster parent, adoptive parent, intermittently infertile woman, I have seen how friends can be a major source of healing or a major source of pain. I intentionally educate myself about what is going on in the lives of my friends and how I can be an active source of support to them. I love it that my friends want to know how to love me well. But at some point it can feel kind of overwhelming.

I don’t like that I’ve started to think about my friends as their category. The friend that struggles with depression, the friend with a health problem, the friend with a special needs child, the infertile friend, the working mom friend, the divorced friend, and on and on and on. I internally start to go through the lists of what to say, what not to say, how to help and then I settle on some kind of distinctly UNHELPFUL inertia because it’s just too much. Are you with me, Friends?

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September 20, 2016
by Maralee
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Foster Thoughts: Because we Believe in Redemption

This month I am partnering with Christian Heritage and My Bridge Radio to encourage families in Nebraska to consider foster care as a way to love families in crisis. If you’re curious about foster parenting, now is the time to get your questions answered! Check out Christian Heritage for more details about informational events happening across Nebraska in September.

There are many reasons not to get involved in foster care. I can tell you about our own struggles through our years of loving kids and families in crisis, but there was a thought that kept us going: What if something terrible happened and we weren’t able to raise our own kids? Who would we want raising them and how would we want those people to treat us?

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September 19, 2016
by Maralee
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A Life in Status- May #1, 2016

Come join my little community on Facebook or Twitter. It’s pretty great.

Okay, personal question: Anybody else talk out what they’re typing? When I write a note to somebody or even a whole post, I’m mouthing the words and sometimes audibly speaking the words while I write. WHAT IS THIS ABOUT?

Me: Whoa! Did you get to pet that hedgehog? How did he feel?
Carrie (2): Spicy!
#toddlerlinguistics

If an introvert tells you that being with you is almost like being alone, that’s a compliment no matter how it may sound. Trust me.

The good news is the four year old DOESN’T have a concussion.
#accidentprone #brothers #piggybackridegonewrong #gooseegg#justanotherTuesdaynight

I recently became aware that some of you may not know how to pronounce my name. So for the record- if you and I were being introduced, I would shake your hand and say, “Hi! I’m Maralee. As in ‘row row row your boat.'” And then if you looked at me weird I would say, “I didn’t pick it. Blame my mom.”

Midnight Snacks with Maralee
Apple Plate: apple slices, spoonful of peanut butter, some chocolate chips, cheese slices- the flavor combinations are endless (I mean, mathematically speaking, not “endless” per se, but you get my drift)
Cracker Plate: crackers (flavored Triscuits are my favorite), olives, pepperoni (or other sliced meat), pickles (bread and butter slices are my favorite), cheese slices. Combine as desired.
#yourewelcome #foodtastesbetterwhenkidsareasleep

I’m going to get my hair done tomorrow- two hours with one of my favorite people in a peaceful environment with adult conversation, nobody asks me to help them in the bathroom, and somebody washes MY hair. I think this must be how kids feel on the night before a Disney trip.
#adulting

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September 16, 2016
by Maralee
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For All the Worship Widows

This one goes out to all the mamas making breakfast alone on Sunday mornings. All the women up before dawn so they can get ready before waking up their Little Blessings and starting the chaos that is preparing for church. All you mothers breastfeeding while buttoning wiggly toddlers into tiny polo shirts. The ones driving vans full of whining kids who stomp into church, knock over your coffee, and scribble in the pew Bible all before the first song has started.

Ladies, I am your sister and I see you sitting there, exhausted and frustrated. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably shooting daggers at your husband who is up there playing guitar, collecting the offering, giving the morning announcements, teaching Sunday school, running the sound system, or maybe even preaching. You are mouthing things like, “THERE IS PEE ON MY SHIRT” to him and hoping he gives you a sympathetic glance because Mama has HAD IT. While somebody might tell him he did an excellent job today and thank him for his service to the church, they aren’t likely to notice YOUR service that allows him to do his. But I notice you. And I thank you.

Thank you for not taking the easy way out and just skipping church altogether. Thank you for single parenting it in the pew so your kids can still be part of church community. The hope is that you just might hear something meaningful and be encouraged too, but even if that doesn’t happen IT MATTERS that you and your children are present. I know because I was one of those kids.

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September 14, 2016
by Maralee
1 Comment

Foster Thoughts: When Biological Families aren’t What You Imagined

This month I am partnering with Christian Heritage and My Bridge Radio to encourage families in Nebraska to consider foster care as a way to love families in crisis. If you’re curious about foster parenting, now is the time to get your questions answered! Check out Christian Heritage for more details about informational events happening across Nebraska in September.

 

Before you actually experience the world of foster care, it is easy to believe the version of families in crisis that the overdramatic Movie of The Week tries to sell you. There is a picture painted of these families that generally involves horrific abuse and evil parents. While I won’t tell you that those families don’t exist in the world, I will tell you that they are not the people I have generally run across in my years of caring for children through foster care. The vast majority of kids who become state wards have entered the system because of neglect rather than abuse. This is important because unlike abuse, neglect may simply be a sign of parents who love their kids and want to care for them well, but just don’t know how or are struggling through their own problems that prevent them from giving the right kind of attention to their children.  These families don’t need our condemnation. They need our help.

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September 12, 2016
by Maralee
21 Comments

*CLOSED* GIVEAWAY! Necklace from Trades of Hope

It’s time for a giveaway! And this one is a beauty. It also manages to combine two of my favorite things– jewelry and helping women. I’m going to tell you about my friend Stephanie and her work with Trades of Hope, but if you’re the type that wants to just go ahead and get shopping, here’s what you need to know about the three ways to enter the giveaway to get your own beautiful necklace:

1) Comment on this post with the name of your favorite necklace from Trades of Hope. (The necklace I picked is called Silver Lining and it’s pretty perfect.)

2) Go to the Stephanie Taylor- Trades of Hope Facebook page and “like” it, then post on it that you were sent by A Musing Maralee.

3) Come join Stephanie’s current Trades of Hope Party (which ends Thursday) on Facebook to not only be entered in the giveaway, but to also have access to other prizes and information on the work of Trades of Hope.

Three ways to enter with a possibility of entering the drawing three times! Tuesday (9/13/16) at noon (CST) we’ll close the giveaway and put your names in a hat. I’ll email the winner and get you connected so you can arrange shipping and any other details.

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Silver Linings Necklace photographed by Rebecca Tredway Photography

So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me tell you why I’m excited to partner with Stephanie and Trades of Hope. This kind of all started with my addiction to documentary films. I love watching them and having my eyes opened to different perspectives on the world. Over the last few months I’ve watched a couple different documentaries that got me asking how I could better use the dollars I spend to have an impact on helping families in poverty and women trapped in sex trafficking. (If you love documentaries the way I do, here’s my list to get you thinking about this stuff: Poverty Inc, Tricked, The True Cost.)

Right after I finished watching “Poverty Inc”, my college friend Stephanie announced that she was starting to work with an organization that helped women support their families by creating beautiful jewelry and accessories. These products were then sold through women in my community to help support their families, too. This seems like such a win/win for everyone involved. I looked through the catalogue and saw such beautiful products (. . . Confession– I regularly look through the catalogue for fun. . . ) and I loved that by purchasing from Stephanie I could both help her pay off some medical expenses and I could help a woman on the other side of the world better her life, too. Especially as a mother through international adoption, those women feel like family to me and if I can help preserve a family and help a mother, that’s something I want to do.

Stephanie and I decided to partner up for a giveaway so I could help introduce you to this great organization, my lovely friend, and these beautiful products. I love my Silver Linings necklace and use it to dress up t-shirts and cardigans and to add that perfect finishing touch to a date night dress. It’s just really versatile! If that one doesn’t seem like your style, Stephanie is happy to give you an equal credit towards whatever necklace catches your eye.

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So now let me introduce you to Stephanie and let her tell you about why this business appealed to her! Continue Reading →

September 9, 2016
by Maralee
1 Comment

5 Deescalation Tips for Moms of Kids who Rage

The other night I got to speak to a group of potential foster parents who were just about to finish their training classes. They had really great questions about the realities of foster care and a realistic understanding that training classes are just not able to address all the potential scenarios you’ll run into as a foster parent.

One woman asked a great question about how you deescalate kids who are really angry. Over our years working with kids from toddlers to teens we have found what works and what doesn’t when dealing with angry children. I want to share with you our 5 step process for working through the rage with your child.

(*I need to acknowledge the reality that these tips do not work for every child. We had one kid in particular who didn’t respond to any of our attempts to deescalate him. It was a heartbreaking situation, but he couldn’t live safely in your average home environment. I offer these tips with a great humility about my own inability to make them be successful for every kid in every situation. If your child needs more help dealing with his anger, please get him the help he needs.*)

Tip #1: It’s hard to rage at someone who is agreeing with you.

When you’re faced with an angry child, look for common ground and try to be empathetic. It is not you against this child, it is you and this child against the problem. So if a child is raging because he can’t get his shoes on, you get to say, “Oh it is SO FRUSTRATING when you can’t get your shoes on! I can see you’re trying REALLY HARD! What can I do to help you?” I have found that sometimes I can even diffuse the situation by getting ridiculously more upset than they are about it and making them laugh. So in the shoe situation I might say, “Oh no! ARE YOU KIDDING ME, SHOES! HELP A SISTER OUT!” When they see me being super dramatic (which is NOT my norm) it can help them snap out of it. With teenagers it might be something like, “I know it’s frustrating to have a curfew. Do you feel like you don’t get to do the fun things your friends are doing? Can you think of a way we could have your friends over here so the curfew isn’t an issue? Help me figure out how we can make this work.”

Tip #2: Ask them how you can help.

Often our kids rage because they feel powerless. We can help empower them by asking them how we can help. Would a drink of water right now be helpful? Do you need a strong hug? Would a story or snack be helpful? Do you need a few minutes alone in your room to help you calm down? Give them several options and see if they can think of something that might help them. It is good in this moment to help them be aware of their bodies and what their body might need– deep breathing is almost always a good option.  Continue Reading →

September 6, 2016
by Maralee
0 comments

Foster Thoughts: Reunification or Adoption, Families still matter

This month I am partnering with Christian Heritage and My Bridge Radio to encourage families in Nebraska to consider foster care as a way to love families in crisis. If you’re curious about foster parenting, now is the time to get your questions answered! Check out Christian Heritage for more details about informational events happening across Nebraska in September.

When people think about adoption they often assume that means one family has ended and a new family has begun. While there’s an element of truth in that, over the years of being an adoptive family we have learned that our kids will forever care about their biological parents. And so will we! These people matter to us and we see their faces when we look at the deep brown eyes of our son and the curly hair of our daughter.

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When we first got involved in foster care we didn’t know adoption was in our future. We had to learn how to interact with the parents of our foster children in ways that were kind and honored them for the important role they played in their children’s lives. It wasn’t always easy, but now that those children are permanent members of our family, we’re thankful that we persevered. We can tell our children about the positive interactions we had with their first parents. We hope by being loving we have been able to keep the door open for relationships in the future that are beneficial for our kids and their biological families.

We have seen that whether kids are reunified with their parents or end up being adopted, the respect and dignity with which we treat these families should be the same. They are worthy of love simply because they are made in the image of God. And one of the greatest gifts we have been given is to have that love and compassion expressed back to us and our family by the biological parents of our children. When we treat each other as family, as equal in the eyes of our creator, that’s how we create a circle of love and stability around the children we all care so deeply for.

September 2, 2016
by Maralee
0 comments

In Defense of Bathroom Boundaries

Bless my mom’s heart, every time I write something about what she might daintily refer to as “bathroom issues” I imagine a little piece of her soul dies. My mom is super classy. I am not. So I feel free to talk to you about what you’re doing in the bathroom and how I think you might be doing it wrong. You’re welcome. (And I think my super classy mom would agree with me, although she’d never say it out loud.)

Ladies, stop taking your kids in the bathroom with you. And for goodness sake, stop feeling guilty about locking them out. You are a human being. It is okay for you to have three minutes of alone time to do your human business. And even if you weren’t a human, even if you were the neighbor’s dog I see from my kitchen window, even HE is trying to do his business in private.

How are we going to tell our kids that their private parts are private and then we allow them to interrupt us in the bathroom? How are we telling them that boundaries and personal space are important and then when it comes to the most basic human function we appear to have no boundaries of our own?

When we act like it’s not possible for our kids to handle their own lives for the five minutes it takes us to handle our bathroom needs, we are disempowering them. We are teaching them impatience by acting like it isn’t possible for them to wait while someone else is busy. We are telling them we don’t have needs and aren’t actual people when we fail to teach them to respect our private bathroom time.

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