Welcome to my circus.

September 1, 2014
by Maralee

No Labor Day for Moms (The Coffee/Dog Puke Fiasco of 2014)

This was my actual morning. Hope yours was slightly less exciting.

Cast of Characters

Brian: The Husband

Me: Mother of 5 and currently 7 months pregnant

Josh: Age 7. Blessedly playing at the neighbor’s house and not part of this fiasco. We love you, Neighbors.

Danny: Age 5. The dog’s best friend.

Bethany: Age 4. Resident drama queen.

Joel: Age 2. Enough said.

Baby: 10 months. No babies were injured in the making of our morning drama.


This picture is not from today. I was not in a laughing mood this morning.

Brian: (finishing his coffee) Hey, I’m going to go upstairs and get ready for the day. Have you got this?

Me: Have I got this? Taking care of the children? You do know this is what I do every day when you’re not home, right? I think I’ve got this.

Brian: Great. I’ll go get ready.

(While folding laundry I hear what sounds like a small waterfall happening behind the couch.)

Me: NO! No no no no no no no! ARGH! Nooooooooo.

(Baby has dumped my full mug of cold coffee on top of her head and is now standing in a pool of coffee. She seems entirely pleased with herself. Yet another life saved by the fact that it’s impossible for a mother to drink a cup of coffee while it’s still warm.)

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August 31, 2014
by Maralee

A Life in Status- July #2, 2014

Come join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

If you had told me on our wedding day that by our 12th anniversary we’d be preparing to add a sixth child to our family, I might not have been totally shocked. But if you’d told me all those kids would be added in about a 7 year time frame, I might have passed out.
‪#‎betternottoknowaheadoftime‬ ‪#‎thankful‬ ‪#‎infertilityperspective‬

Only yell, “Hey! That’s not your cup!” at a child if you are okay with them spitting a mouth full of water back into said cup.

Kids fall asleep in the car while waiting on food in the drive-thru lane = impromptu date night.

It makes me laugh when people say, “You’ve sure got your hands full” and I only have half my kids with me.

Josh: What candy is this?
Me: They’re chewy Sprees.
Josh: Is that like the evolve of Nerds?
Me: Um. . . sure.

Asked the kids to put away the silverware. They start stomping around the kitchen singing “Where does the fork go” (to the tune of “What does the Fox say”). Ask a simple request, get a musical production. Story of my life.

Some days I fantasize about having an hour to myself just to clean and organize my bedroom.

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August 25, 2014
by Maralee

Care for orphans AND. . .

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple days talking about the word “orphan.” I wrote about it recently— about how particular I am when it comes to how we use it. Turns out, not everybody agrees with everything I write (Which I already knew, thanks to my posts about breastfeeding. I’m still flabbergasted that those posts are the ones that get me in trouble the most, but that’s a thought for another day.). I’ve talked about it with fellow adoptive moms, my husband, my dad, my brother-in-law, and my former pastor/current mentor. Thankfully, I love good conversation and follow-up debate, so it has been a great experience for me to hear the thoughts of other people as we try to analyze who the orphans in our community are and what language we use to describe kids who come from crisis situations. This debate became serious enough last night that my dad went and got his computer so we could do some looking at the original Greek and really try to understand God’s intentions in asking us to look after orphans (turns out “fatherless” may be slightly more accurate). I’m telling you— in my family, things haven’t gotten serious until somebody is looking up the original Greek.

All that conversation really boiled down to these couple thoughts:

-Some kids who need help are literal orphans.

-Some kids who need help are not literal orphans.

-We need to help kids who need help regardless of their orphan status.

-Helping kids often means helping families, even (especially!) families who are difficult to help.


IMG_1816In my years working with kids through foster care, adoption, and group home work, I have become sensitized to the fact that sometimes people want to help kids, but don’t want to work with challenging families. This has likely made me more bothered by language that seems to separate children from their families. I am also not a very emotional person and resist anything that feels like emotional pressure or hype. I know there are people who are moved to do something for orphans, but struggle with what that actually requires once they get involved.

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August 24, 2014
by Maralee

A Life in Status- July #1, 2014

It’s a magical life I lead. Come check it out on Facebook or Twitter and interact as it happens. I can use all the help I can get.

Danny: This isn’t the way to Target.
Me: What I need isn’t at the regular Target. We’re going to Super Target.
D: Super Target. . . does it fight crime?

Joel (playing pretend in the kitchen): I making cookies. Oh no! They burned!

We had hot dogs because we’re Americans. I had sauerkraut on top because my tastebuds still know I’m German.
‪#‎familyofimmigrants‬ ‪#‎exceptourNativeAmerican‬ ‪#‎Happy4th‬

I’m getting ready to make a jell-o flag. Because nothing says “Happy birthday, America” like sugar and red dye #40.

Dear Ergo Carrier,
You need to make some kind of maternity extension belt for those of us who make babies while we still have other babies that want to be carried.
A Mother who is running out of arms

I am 90% certain the baby food people are in cahoots with the baby clothes people and the baby wash people. NOTHING stains or sticks to skin like commercially prepared baby food. I don’t make my own baby food because I’m granola, just because I’m too cheap to buy new clothes and too lazy to pretreat stains or do a bath after every meal.

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August 18, 2014
by Maralee

Don’t Have The Gift of Foster Parent? Me neither.

My church recently did a women’s event where we talked through the different kinds of spiritual gifts people may have. We took a test (an imperfect but useful tool) to help us identify our own giftedness and then worked through how we can use that within our church and to do ministry outside our church. It has been interesting to me to see how God has used the way he made me in the realm of foster care. At first glance, it wouldn’t seem to be a natural fit.

I’ve written before about my rather emotionless personality and about how I struggle with issues of control when it comes to foster parenting. I remember when we were doing group home work one of the ladies we worked with was taking a class where one of the requirements was that you study the particular gifts of a certain population. She gave all of the employees of the children’s home a spiritual gifts inventory to take and then scored and analyzed the results. I remember her coming to me later and saying, “Out of the 30 or so people who work here, you are just about the only one who doesn’t test highly in having compassion or mercy gifts. What are you doing here?” She was a person I loved and respected and the question wasn’t offensive at all to me, only humorous. It was a question I had asked myself many times. What is a pretty compassionless person doing working in a ministry that seems to be so compassion based?

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August 14, 2014
by Maralee

School choice and the role of parents (radio interview)

When deciding what to talk about for the month of August, I knew I wanted to address school choice. I have found this to be a potentially divisive issue in the Christian community and that bothers me. I have written previously about our decision to send our kids to public school, (you can read my thoughts on it here, here, here, and here) but this was a topic I also wanted to address with the radio listeners. If you live in a community where this isn’t an issue, be thankful. But for some of us, the guilt feelings that come with making this decision can be intense. If you have spent time in the homeschooling world either because you were home schooled yourself or because you previously home schooled your children, it is possible to feel like sending your child to a public school is an act of abandonment.  In some ways I can totally understand the level of passion homeschooling parents feel for their choice. Who would choose to do this if they didn’t feel like it was absolutely the best option? It’s costly, it’s time consuming, it eliminates a parent’s ability to have much free time (at least in the early years), so if you’re going to go through all that you better be sure this is worth it. But I think in that desire to justify such a big decision it can be unintentionally (or intentionally) communicated to families who don’t make the homeschooling choice that they don’t really love their children or value their education. It is for the mother who is struggling with that message that I wanted to address our decision to send our kids to public school and how it has worked for us. (*I have friends and family members who have home schooled their children for long periods of time or just for a season who have been totally supportive of our choice to send our kids to public school. I don’t want to paint the homeschooling community with too broad a brush as far as attitudes towards public school go. And there are public schooling parents who can be hostile towards home schooling families, so I know it goes both ways.)

After we taped this interview I read a post by a mom who hit on an important point that had been in the back of my mind, but not often verbalized. She addressed how homeschooling had made her see her baby as a burden to be scheduled around. I know there are lots of moms that would never feel this way even in that same situation, but I knew exactly what she was talking about. When we first brought Josh home we were still working in the group home and homeschooling those kids. I remember scheduling Josh’s naps around the reading groups I needed to teach and making him spend big chunks of time in a highchair with toys because I was grading papers or doing a discussion group. I would get really frustrated if he was “bothering” me by having a need during those times I was trying to get something done with the older kids. While I don’t think Josh was damaged by those experiences, I’m also not sure it was best for him. Those memories stuck with me when it came time to make the schooling decision for my own kids. I knew in order to homeschool Josh, I would end up missing valuable time with my most vulnerable kids. I have often heard it said that we need to make schooling decisions based on what’s best for each individual child each year, but I think there’s also a family component that needs to be acknowledged. I think the choice to send my kids to school has been best not only for them, but for the little people who very much still need my attention at home. Those dynamics are going to be different for each family, which is why I think it’s important that we don’t put ourselves in the position of trying to judge another family’s choices.

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August 13, 2014
by Maralee
1 Comment

Why I don’t say my kids were “orphans”

A child I love became a legal orphan today. That is a fact and it brings me great pain. There is now no mother or father responsible for this child and they essentially belong to the state until the legal responsibility for this child is transferred to an adoptive parent. It is a moment that in an ideal world would never happen, although hopefully it is just a step on a path to great beauty in this child’s life.

The word “orphan” is tossed around a lot these days. Sometimes it is romanticized or used to justify a rescue mentality towards children. Who doesn’t want to help an orphan? There are debates about how best to do orphan care and about the church’s response to the orphan crisis. But it all makes me a little uncomfortable when I hear that word applied to my children or to the adopted children of others.

Josh and me in Liberia September, 2007

Josh and me in Liberia
September, 2007

First of all, many adopted children were never actually “orphans”. Most had a living parent or two who intentionally made an adoption plan for their child. This was an act of love, not an act of abandonment. When we use a broad label like “orphan” to apply to any adopted child, we are minimizing the difficult decision these birthparents made and acting as though they never existed. Domestic infant adoption is not part of “orphan” care. On behalf of the loving, invested, intentional birthparents I know, it bothers me when I hear these two things discussed in the same context. If you want to do something to help actual orphans, domestic infant adoption isn’t the route you want to take. I am absolutely not saying that domestic infant adoption isn’t a beautiful and valid way to grow a family. I fully believe it is, it just doesn’t involve an orphan except in unusual circumstances. If a mother choose you to be the mother of her child, then it was a transferring of rights and not you stepping in to care for a child who otherwise would have been without parents. The birthmothers I know would have parented their children if there wouldn’t have been adoptive parents available. They were not choosing between adoption and abandonment, just trying to choose the best home possible for their child.

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August 11, 2014
by Maralee

Summer Sex Education

It’s almost time for the kids to head back to school. Around this house, that means it’s time for a refresher course in sex education. I’m a person who benefits from the routine of doing things seasonally, so we’ve settled into a habit of addressing these issues each summer right before school starts along with conversations during the rest of the year as the topic comes up. My goal is to be sure we’ve covered some of the important basics they need reminding about as far as good boundaries and what kind of behavior is acceptable along with covering anything they might be learning about in school this year related to sex ed. I want them to know that Mom already knows these things and isn’t scandalized by them. My hope is that it will be easier for them to come to me with questions if they feel confident that I won’t be shocked and they won’t get in trouble for asking. This is a way to open up the door for those questions and conversations. And if you’re homeschooling your kids or sending them to private school, PLEASE don’t assume this conversation isn’t necessary.

So if you’re wanting to start that talk with your kids (or hopefully, continue that talk), here are some guidelines:

Answer the questions they’re asking. Kids become curious about these things at different rates. Some kids won’t have any interest in this conversation while others will make you blush long before you thought you were ready. Be attuned to where your kids are at. If they ask you a question that makes you concerned or uncomfortable, ask them to clarify. Answer what they are actually asking, not the adult version of what you think they may be asking. If they ask, “Where do babies come from?” the simple answer would be, “It takes a part from a man and a part from a woman to make a baby.” (*For families formed by adoption, I prefer to say “man” and “woman” rather than “dad” and “mom” because those parental terms can confuse the process when you aren’t raised by the people who made you*) For some kids, that will be satisfactory, but others are going to have follow-up questions. Let them ask the follow-up questions and see at what point they’re satisfied.

Find a resource you like that’s age-appropriate. There are lots of great books out there. Check some out from the library or borrow from friends and see what feels right for your kids before reading them to your children. Sometimes a book is an easier way to introduce these concepts if you feel a little uncomfortable about just bringing them up.

Go over appropriate vs. inappropriate. Even if your kids don’t seem the least bit curious about sex (although I think most kids are more curious than we think they are, they can just tell if we’re uncomfortable and don’t push it), this is an important conversation to have starting from the time they are very young. They should always understand what is private and that those areas are special (not dirty, gross, etc.). I’ve found that a helpful way to talk about this is to use the example of Grandma, who is somebody we all trust implicitly in our family. We talk about why Grandma might need to see a private area (if she’s helping with baths or doing a diaper change on a baby) and that under any other circumstances, she doesn’t need to. It’s not because we don’t trust her, it’s because those areas are private. There are boundaries even for Grandma. When it comes to people who aren’t your parents, aren’t providing care for you, or the doctor (with parents present) there really isn’t any reason they should see your private areas. We reinforce that if anybody asks to see or touch those areas or if they show their own private parts to our kids, they are to come to us IMMEDIATELY and we will deal with it.

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August 6, 2014
by Maralee

There’s no such thing as Balance (radio interview)

Each month at the end of the radio interview I do with Gordon and Stan I ask what topic they want to cover for the following month. Sometimes Stan has ideas, sometimes we base it around something seasonal, and sometimes in a moment of desperation I tell Stan I need some help thinking through something. This topic was definitely one of those desperation moments.

I’ve been struggling with trying to find the ever illusive “balance” in my life and realizing maybe it’s never going to happen. And maybe that’s okay. Have you ever seen somebody spinning plates on poles? It’s a crazy thing to watch as they run from one pole to the next to keep everything at this perfect rotational speed so nothing drops. That’s what my life feels like. Sometimes I feel like I’m just barely keeping everything going and sometimes the plates just start dropping. Have my week perfectly planned out and then a child gets sick and I have to cancel plans. Plate dropped. I buy enough cereal to last until the next grocery trip and then the two year-old dumps a box out on the floor. Plate dropped. I forget my mother-in-law’s birthday. BIG plate dropped. You get the idea. I’m tired of living in the chaos of spinning plates, but it’s hard to know how to prioritize when every day feels like a gameshow I’m on called, “What Crisis Will Befall Us Today?” It’s an interesting game show, but I rarely feel like I win.

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August 3, 2014
by Maralee

Living as Job’s Daughters

During some of the darkest moments of my life, I have found comfort in reading through the book of Job. I love his honesty with God in the midst of deep struggles and heartache. Reading about the terrible things Job went through is always a helpful perspective adjustment when I’m feeling like things couldn’t possibly get any worse. And in many of my most trying circumstances I have been reminded of Job’s words:  ”The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

So what about when after the Lord gives and the Lord takes, the Lord gives back again?

I remember in high school hearing about a community group called “Job’s Daughters”. To this day I’m not sure where the name came from (somebody feel free to enlighten me), but it always struck me as a little odd. In the story of Job we know he had two sets of children. There was a group of children that were killed as part of Job’s testing. While I have experienced heartache, nothing quite like this jumps to mind:

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