Welcome to my circus.

October 17, 2014
by Maralee
2 Comments

Down Syndrome Awareness: Embracing Life

*I’m honored to have a guest post from my friend Michelle for Down Syndrome Awareness Month.*

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”   Genesis 1:27

“For you formed my inward parts
you knitted me together in my
mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and
wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Psalm 139:13-15

October is Down Syndrome Awareness month. It’s a month where parents and friends of children and adults with DS want to let everyone know that a person with DS can have a great life. They also want to push for awareness at schools, work places, public nuances and let everyone know that a person with Down Syndrome is a person and should be treated like everyone else, and raising the awareness that no one should ever use the “R” word. Ever. (The “R” word is retarded, if you didn’t already know. You can read my thoughts on the “R” word here.)

I struggle with this month, because I think the people who care about awareness are the ones who have the kids, relatives or friends who have or know people with Down Syndrome. I think awareness has been wonderful for schools and therapy and it has helped people with Down Syndrome to be welcomed and loved in society. Especially back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s (even as early as the 80’s), when Down Syndrome was viewed as a disease and parents were told to put their kids in homes, rather than keep them as a part of their family. It’s encouraging what awareness has done for families who have members with Down Syndrome. It HAS given people more of an understanding of what Down Syndrome is. It’s given kids with DS an opportunity to be educated, to get jobs, and to let the public know that people with DS are an asset to society.

There’s a missing piece though when it comes to awareness.  This is the piece that I struggle with.  This is the part where my heart hurts and it’s hard to breathe.

Continue Reading →

October 15, 2014
by Maralee
2 Comments

Ask Maralee: Foster care and your sensitive child

*Have a question for me? There’s an email address listed on the “Contact” page here or you can fill out this form.*

Hi Maralee,
My husband and I have one daughter who is almost three. We’ve had multiple miscarriages, and aren’t sure if/when we will have more biological children. We are both interested in foster care, but the thing that is holding us back is our daughter. She’s incredibly social and sensitive, and we fear that if we bring another child into our home who later has to return to his/her parents, our daughter will grieve that loss deeply. If we had another “forever child” in our family, we wouldn’t hesitate, but since she’s an only child, we hate the idea of her getting used to having a sibling and then going back to being an only child. I can only imagine how hard that would be for her.
I know that you had only Josh when you became foster parents. I was just wondering how you made the decision to pursue fostering rather than another adoption, if his grief over possibly losing a foster sibling was something you considered and worked through, and if you have any advice for us.
In Christ,
Aubrie

Hi Aubrie,
I’m excited that you guys are considering foster care, but I can totally understand your concerns, especially after the losses you’ve been through.
Josh was a very sensitive three year-old, too. I know there are some unique concerns in those situations. We chose to handle it by talking really openly with him about the goals of foster care. That’s the benefit of the sensitive kid— they intuitively get that kids should be with parents and that they need a safe place to be during that transition time. We never talked about adoption until it was a certainty, so he always understood that we were just helping out while it was needed. I think if you can keep your own emotions and expectations in check, then they will feel okay with the situation. I know Josh would have been really sad if Danny had gone back to his bio family, but I also think he would have wanted to do it again with more kids.

Continue Reading →

October 13, 2014
by Maralee
2 Comments

Adoption Photography. This is a thing.

There are a lot of multitalented people in this world. Sometimes I find myself getting irritated when I read through somebody’s beautiful blog and then realize they ALSO took the beautiful pictures. I am not that girl. I know my gifts and any kind of visual art falls well outside that scope. Painting, drawing, photography— no, no, and no. Brian and I had to do this personality assessment test when we were applying to work at the group home and part of it was drawing three things:  a person, a tree, and a house. We were sitting across the table from each other while completing this process. After I drew my person I knew it was bad, but I was hoping maybe Brian’s was bad, too. I showed him my pathetic attempt that was kind of like if you put boxy clothes on a stick figure (hands in the pockets of course because there was no way I was attempting to draw proportional fingers) and he held up a beautiful picture that I could easily identify was me sitting at the table drawing a picture. Stupid Brian.

IMG_6967

What’s an adoption party without cake?
Photo by Rebecca Tredway Photography

So what’s a girl to do if she knows she isn’t good at something, but that something is important to her? Delegate! This is why I love adoption photography. There are many ways in which adoptions are like weddings. It’s the uniting of people who aren’t blood related. It’s the creation of a family. It’s a legal ceremony. It’s a party! And you want this all documented. Can you imagine if the bride was responsible for photographically documenting her own wedding? That’s a lot of extra stress and you probably wouldn’t get many pictures that included the bride at all. In this analogy the new family is that bride and they really should be able to just experience their beautiful day without worrying about being sure they captured every moment.  Continue Reading →

October 12, 2014
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- August #2, 2014

Come get the latest updates via Facebook and Twitter.

Sometimes you get halfway through lunch before realizing there’s a bag of dead bugs on the table beside you.

‪#‎motherhood‬ ‪#‎raisingfutureentomologists‬

About the same time you can’t see anything below your bellybutton, your doctor hands you a tiny cup and asks you to start bringing in a urine sample every two weeks. . .
‪#‎thirdtrimesterproblems‬

It’s always nice when your daughter bursts into tears at the sight of you when you come to pick her up from her first day of preschool because, “I was having so much fun I didn’t want to leeeeeeeeeave!”

Sometimes I miss being the mom who was judging the mom feeding her ten month-old a french fry instead of BEING the mom who is feeding her ten month-old a french fry. But then I remember how hard is it to try and be the perfect mom all the time and I just hand that baby another one.
‪#‎momconfession‬

Continue Reading →

October 9, 2014
by Maralee
3 Comments

The Conflicted Heart of a Foster Mom

When you first get into this fostering thing, it’s easy to just be focused on the kids. That’s how they sell you on foster care, right? Poor needy children have no place to sleep tonight unless you let them in your home. It’s true and we do this because we love kids, but there comes a moment when you realize it isn’t just about the children.

We have worked with kids ages birth to eighteen and while the kids have had struggles, the hardest part of this process has never been the children. The hardest part has been dealing with a system that moves slowly and learning how to build relationships with people who have hurt the very children you’re trying to help. It feels counterintuitive to want to see them get help and make changes when you love their child and are worried about them going home, but when you see how much these kids love their parents, you can’t help but root for them.

10717720_10152843962852784_1281858870_n

I had an idyllic childhood. I came from a middle-class family where parents stayed married and extended family was supportive and available. My mom stayed home to invest in her kids, my dad worked a good job to provide for us. While we may have had clothes from Goodwill (before it was cool to have clothes from Goodwill) and we didn’t go out to eat much, I don’t remember being hungry or wanting for any of the necessities. My parents taught me the value of education and that to succeed you need to work hard. They told me to trust the police, obey my teachers, follow the rules. But what if that hadn’t been the case?

. . . To finish reading, click over to Her View From Home. . .

October 6, 2014
by Maralee
10 Comments

I don’t regret my c-section. I regret my expectations.

I am 39 weeks pregnant today, so you’ll have to excuse me if I get a little passionate about this topic. I am hoping for a successful VBAC this time around, but I’m also reliving the traumatic birth of my son as we get closer each day to labor and delivery. It’s made me think about the factors that led to not just the c-section itself, but my struggle to come to terms with it. I read an article about VBAC recently that started with some quote about how the most important factor in having a successful VBAC is believing you will have a successful VBAC. If that’s true, then my chances at success are pretty slim.

I’ve spent way too many hours going over and over the difficult birth I went through and trying to analyze where we went wrong. I feel like I’m watching a movie I’ve seen before where you keep wanting to yell at the screen, “No! Don’t go alone with that guy into the abandoned building!” but you already know how the ending happens. I can’t change history and the more I think through how things happen, the more I can see how hard everyone in that room worked to avoid the c-section outcome. Frankly, they may have worked too hard since I ended up with a difficult physical recovery because of what my body went through during labor on top of recovering from surgery. In retrospect, I truly don’t believe the c-section was avoidable.

But I think the difficult emotional aspect of my recovery might have been.

I drank the natural childbirth Kool-aid. And I loved it. I read an insane amount of books on pregnancy and childbirth. I watched “The Business of Being Born”. I wasn’t going to let anyone push me into any unnecessary interventions and I certainly wasn’t going to be one of those wimps who had to have a c-section when clearly my body was capable of doing what it needed to do if I just believed in it enough and knew all the right techniques. I was judgey about anyone who opted for an epidural, allowed the use of forceps during delivery (good gravy, I don’t think I even KNEW a vacuum was a possible tool doctors used but I was going to become all too familiar with it soon), and especially those women who just didn’t try hard enough and ended up with c-sections— things I would eventually come to experience in my own labor. In short, I was a naive jerk. The worst kind of jerk there is because they have no clue the extent of their jerkiness.

Continue Reading →

October 5, 2014
by Maralee
0 comments

Holding Up My Arms

We have recently been studying Moses at church. I love his adoption story, how God uses his weaknesses, and how honest Moses is with God. But it’s been a different part of his story that has seemed to come alive to me recently.

Moses said to Joshua,“Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”

So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Exodus 17: 9-13

Okay, so maybe it seems weird that a passage basically about war has been feeling relevant to me recently. But each morning I feel like I crawl of out bed and up go my arms. There’s a battle going on in this house and I’m overseeing it. A battle to make order out of chaos. A battle to create joy and peace and harmony with a houseful of uncivilized heathens. A battle for the hearts and souls of my precious kids and in so many ways it feels out of my control. There’s a lot I can do to impose external regulations on them and create an environment where success and performance are rewarded, but the actual work of heart change is something I can’t do. It’s in those moments that I feel the ache of my arms, raised in the hope that my impact is making a difference.

10715973_10152838320437784_1781898999_n

But I keep coming face to face with the realization that I can’t do it alone. This idea and imagery of the support Moses provided and the support he NEEDED just keeps coming to my mind. While Joshua is doing the actual fighting, Moses is standing there overseeing and participating in the only way he can, but he can’t do it alone. He needs the physical help of Aaron and Hur to keep him going. I thought about that imagery a couple months ago when a crew of women from church came and spent hours painting and deep cleaning our home as we prepared to sell it and my pregnant body wouldn’t let me do much to contribute. And then again a month later when friends and family showed up to help us move, even assembling beds and deep cleaning kitchen cabinets, arranging furniture and unpacking boxes so we could quickly get our five kids settled in. And then just a few weeks ago when my mom and my sister came and made freezer meals for me to use after the baby shows up. And again as within the last week my mom came to deep clean the corners of the bathroom I can no longer reach, a friend dropped off lunch, two friends offered to bring meals, and a host of our family and friends came out to support us in the adoption of our foster daughter. This has been a season of seeing the value and beauty of community. And the necessity.

10711231_10152838320452784_1513872079_n

. . . To finish reading, click over to Her View From Home. . .

 

October 2, 2014
by Maralee
31 Comments

GIVEAWAY from Bunnies By the Bay *CLOSED*

It’s been such a great week at our house! We adopted our foster daughter on Monday and now I feel totally free to have this baby whenever he decides he’s ready. We’re so excited to meet him and start our new life as a family of 8. EIGHT? Whew. I guess I’ll get used to that at some point. As part of embracing this new little life and sharing our joy with you, we’re doing an awesome giveaway! I’m a little extra excited about our giveaway today, and I promise you’re going to be too! Imagine this arriving at your door:

Seriously, you haven’t even gotten out the actual item and it’s already the cutest thing that’s ever been delivered to your door. As a woman with introvert tendencies and five kids, I do a fair bit of online ordering and I can tell you the cuteness of this package is something special. I almost hate ruining the surprise of it for you because when you’re expecting the usual (something sliding around in a too big box with some bubble wrap crammed in the end) this is even more of a treat.

So then you open up the adorable wrapping and see this little bit of cocoa fur.

10298662_10152832643972784_3778207827364381312_n

 

Can’t you feel how soft it is through your computer? So so soft. And when you think it can’t get any cuter, you see this little fella looking up at you.

1907856_10152832644927784_2894015268068315418_nThe tag on his back says “Together at Last” which is when the pregnancy hormones overwhelmed me and I got a little misty-eyed thinking about the journey we’ve had to this miracle baby. We can’t wait to be together with him and to give him this special bear.

Continue Reading →

September 29, 2014
by Maralee
9 Comments

To Carolina On Your Adoption Day

Dear Carolina,

We’re so excited that the big day is finally here! The day we make you part of our family forever. This journey has seemed so long and short, simple and complicated all at once. In the foster care world, going from placement to adoption before your first birthday is an incredibly fast process. There have been some legal hang-ups that made the process take longer than anybody initially expected, but thankfully we had been through this before and knew to add months to any projected timeline. We had no idea when we said yes to you that you would be forever part of our family or that your adoption would happen just two weeks before the due date of our (surprise!) biological baby. This has felt like a time of incredible unexpected blessings.

IMG_3122

Carolina and Danny. Siblings of the heart from the very start.

It’s hard for me to think that you may never remember a time when you were the baby of the family. But you were! And what a great baby you have been. We’ve had a long time to think about a new name for you and your Daddy picked Carolina because it means “song of happiness”. We can’t imagine a better phrase to describe you. You have brought so much happiness to this family (not to mention how responsive you are to music!) and your happiness is pretty constant and contagious. You love to smile and dance and want to be in the middle of everything. I’m guessing this is why you started walking at just ten months— you wanted to keep up with these big siblings you love so much. It’s so funny to see you walk because you’re so tiny! We call you the smart car of babies— such a bright girl in such a teeny package. At just 18 pounds at 11 months, you look like a little baby just toddling all over the house.

Continue Reading →

September 28, 2014
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- August #1, 2014

Come follow along on Facebook or Twitter. I can use all the support I can get.

Sometimes you can substitute something else for an ingredient you forgot to buy. And sometimes you make 90% of a tater tot casserole before you realize you forgot to buy tater tots.
‪#‎nailedit‬

My mom brings over raw milk. My husband brings home Taco Bell. I figure it all evens out.
‪#‎confessionsofasometimesgranolamom‬

My baggy maternity pants have become my skinny jeans.
‪#‎thirdtrimesterproblems‬

I got out of breath today. From eating.
‪#‎thirdtrimesterproblems‬

5 year-old ate a hamburger, went to the fair, rode rides, went to the petting zoo, walked around in the heat looking at farm animals, ate a snow cone, refused to nap, got a headache, and then threw up. So I guess my dad was right. There is such a thing as “too much fun.”

Josh: Why do my new teeth keep coming up behind my old teeth and not pushing them out?
Me: The dentist thinks it might be genetic.
Josh: Well, we should probably tell my birth brother’s adoptive mom about that.
‪#‎thingsadoptedkidssay‬

Continue Reading →