Welcome to my circus.

March 31, 2015
by Maralee

Foster Family Size and a DHHS Response

Thank you to everyone who read and shared my post on the new Nebraska foster family size regulations. An especially big thanks to those of you who have contacted somebody you thought could do something about it. Your voice was heard. I got a call from someone at DHHS on Friday to discuss the letter and the concerns they were hearing expressed. I want to share with you the gist of that conversation, and what action steps you can take to be sure your voice is heard on this issue.

The DHHS response:

There are many reasons to complain about a “broken system” when it comes to child welfare, but the conversation I had with the DHHS employee (who is on the committee charged with rewriting this law) reaffirmed what we have learned over our years of involvement with foster care– while the system may be broken, it is largely full of people who really do care. I think we have to remind ourselves of that when we get frustrated. Our frustration may be with bad laws that have tied the hands of people who are equally frustrated with the bad laws. That helps me be graceful and tactful even when I’m a little worked up.

Here’s what I learned from that conversation (please know this is all my layperson interpretation):

-This is not just a policy or regulation change, this is a law. Because it is a law, there may be some benefit to contacting your state senator to apply pressure. Let them know how this impacts your family or the families of people you know.

-DHHS was taken by surprise by the implementation of the law (it had originally been suggested a couple years ago, pretty much forgotten about, then the governor signed it right before leaving office) and is scrambling to figure out what this means for families and especially sibling groups. This explains why we didn’t have advance notice and why agencies were caught off guard as well.

-There is already a rewrite in progress. DHHS realizes this is going to have a negative impact, particularly on sibling groups and that needs to be addressed. I did not sense that there was a lot of openness to reconsidering the family size limits outside of the sibling issue, so we still need to make our concerns known on that point.

While the conversation I had was clarifying, it did not answer my biggest question— Why? Why now? Why these numbers?

Continue Reading →

March 29, 2015
by Maralee

A Life in Status- December #2, 2014

Watch it all for yourself on Facebook or Twitter.

Ever have the nagging feeling that you’re forgetting something? I just realized the something I forgot to do was make dinner.
‪#‎whatsfordinnermom‬ ‪#‎ummmmmmmm‬

Just when I think I can’t possibly love my 13 month-old daughter more than I already do, she breaks out her best dance moves during Handel’s “Messiah”

Feeling overwhelmed? I recommend jumping in the clean pile of laundry on your bed and making snow angels.
‪#‎protip‬ ‪#‎laundryangels‬ ‪#‎hopethatwasCLEANlandry‬

Getting ready to indulge in an olive oil and sea salt hand scrub. . . otherwise known as- getting potatoes ready for the oven.

When I talk about adoption lots of people tell me they aren’t sure they could love someone they aren’t blood related to. This makes me wonder if more people are married to their blood relatives than I previously realized.

Continue Reading →

March 23, 2015
by Maralee

An Open Letter to The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

(*Please read the follow-up post with additional information and ways to get your voice heard on this issue.)

I have recently been made aware of a change in the family size regulations for foster parents in Nebraska. Previously, it was acceptable to have up to six children under age 12. Now a foster family may only have four children under age 12. Previously, you could have 9 children under age 18 in a foster home. Now you may only have a total of 6 children. (These numbers include biological, adopted or foster children in the total number.)

This change in regulations is very upsetting to me. I know it is upsetting to many other foster parents, too. It keeps families who have four little kids from getting involved in foster care. It keeps families with three little kids from even being able to take a sibling group. Families with six kids are out of the game for good or at least until their children start leaving home. It makes placing siblings together that much harder and it makes it impossible for families like mine (we have 6 kids under age 12- three of them adopted from foster care) to foster any additional siblings of our children that may come into care.

I know many foster families will feel nervous expressing their frustration with these regulations. As foster parents, we understand that for the most part our voice doesn’t matter. The state makes the rules and our job is just to follow them. To express frustration is to risk losing a placement or falling out of favor with the people who license you. Those of us who love fostering and care about the children in our home may find that risk is too great. We choose silence in the hope that we can continue to care for the kids we love.

But I’m not in that position anymore. We have adopted all our foster children and now with these new regulations we will not likely be fostering again. Ever. This feels like a great loss for our family and for kids who need loving, stable homes. Silence is no longer an option.

Continue Reading →

March 20, 2015
by Maralee

Sometimes Moms Don’t Care (and it’s okay)

There is a lot of parenting advice floating out there in Internet Land. Some of it is really helpful, some of it is garbage, and sometimes it’s hard to know the difference. I struggle with some of the beautiful quotes plastered over pictures of mothers rocking sleeping babies that somehow manage to both inspire and make me feel incredibly guilty. This is one of those quotes:

“Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

― Catherine M. Wallace

For some moms, maybe this is a really helpful truth that keeps you focused on the main thing. If that’s you, then bless you and just skip this post. But that is not how this quote strikes me. This quote makes me crazy. It is this little nugget that lodges in the back of my brain and makes me feel like a failure every single day when I choose not to listen earnestly and eagerly to the five year-old’s lengthy thoughts on if Power Rangers are real. Just incase there are other moms like me who need to extract that guilt-inducing brain nugget so they can get on with being the best moms they can be, I want to share why I’m not buying this particular parenting philosophy.

Continue Reading →

March 12, 2015
by Maralee
1 Comment

When Trust Must be Taught

I remember the wonder I felt when my son Joel was a tiny newborn and I realized just my presence could comfort him. He would cry. I would pick him up. He would stop crying. It seemed like a miracle to me. I hadn’t done anything special, hadn’t started singing a soothing lullaby or offered him a bottle, I had just picked him up and he was at peace. I felt just as startled when my son Teddy was a week old and was crying while I put him down for a minute so I could get dressed. I called out to him, “It’s okay! Mommy is here!” and he stopped crying. It was so odd to me that just the sound of my voice could reassure him he was safe.

I imagine other mothers may not be as surprised to find they are capable of comforting their children. Other mothers may even expect their babies will quiet when they are picked up or will be soothed by hearing their mother’s voice. Probably because other mothers weren’t initiated into this whole parenting gig via adoption and foster care.

Joel and Teddy are the sons I grew in my body. They heard my voice for 40 weeks. They know my heartbeat, the way I pace the floor when I’m on the phone, the arguing voices of their siblings, the way the dog barks when someone knocks at the door. These boys know my smell, my sounds, my rhythm. They are hardwired to trust me and in some ways it takes minimal effort to establish that I am trustworthy.

This is not the case when you are a stranger to the child you love. I have spent long hours bouncing a baby who was terrified of me– a white face when he had only known brown. I have fed a baby who only felt safe enough to eat when she was turned away from me because she wasn’t used to being held while she ate. I have loved children who spent their prenatal lives being subjected to toxic substances, listening to the sounds of domestic violence happening around them, or the cold sterile noises of prison life. They have been programed to love and trust someone who ended up being untrustworthy and they fear the love of the stranger doing the midnight feedings and changing their diapers. When they cry and you pick them up, they are not comforted.

Continue Reading →

March 8, 2015
by Maralee

A Life in Status- December #1, 2014

Come join the fun on Facebook and Twitter

Parenting Challenge of the Day: Not laughing while disciplining a child for writing “butt fase” on a piece of paper.

Nothing makes you appreciate your child’s teacher like a 6 day break.

Told my oldest child if they want Elf on the Shelf stuff to happen, he’s responsible for it.
‪#‎delegating‬ ‪#‎protip‬

Bethany (age 5) “The bus driver said he believes in Santa Claus. Is it okay that I told him the truth? I did NOT tell any kids! They need to ask their moms.”

Any other parent say something like, “Crying won’t fix it” or am I the only one potentially setting their kids up for needing counseling in the future?

Dear Josh’s Future Mother-in-Law,
I heard Josh singing “Rude” today, so we had a nice long chat about what kind of man he needs to become so no nice girl’s parents would feel compelled to deny him her hand in marriage. We talked about having a job, treating people with respect (especially your in-laws), and what it means to really love someone by putting their needs first.
You’re welcome.

Continue Reading →

March 1, 2015
by Maralee

When You Hate Hope

When we lived in Tennessee the winters were much milder than the midwestern ones I grew up with. Sometimes this felt like a strange gift to live in a place where the wind didn’t bite your cheeks the moment you stepped outside. And sometimes it felt kind of disorienting for this Nebraska girl. The seasons were missing some of their punch.

Each year I would be surprised the first time I saw the tips of daffodils poking out of the ground. The start of spring happened earlier in Tennessee than I was used to and even with the mild winters, it always seemed like the daffodils came up before the last snow of the year had fallen. It makes for a beautiful picture to see the green tips of new life bursting through the hard dirt and cold snow. I probably should have been more excited about the promise of warmer weather and the mountains in bloom.

But I wasn’t.

I was mad.

I wasn’t ready to have hope that winter was over. Every year I would see those plants poking up through the ground and I would yell at them. “You dumb plants! What is the matter with you? Don’t you know it’s still winter? Don’t you know you’re going to freeze to death? Stay in the ground where you belong until it’s warm enough!”

Turns out, I hate hope.

 But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

-Micah 7:7 

I had a beautiful childhood where hopes were often fulfilled. God smiled on us because we did what he wanted (or so I thought). My life was mostly painless. Adulthood has not been so kind to me.

Continue Reading →

February 24, 2015
by Maralee

I have 6 kids. You do what works.

I have six children.

Parenting Large Families

Photo by Love Equals

2 are biologically related to me. 4 were adopted.

2 were c-sections. 2 were vaginal births. 2 I don’t know how they were born.

2 were breastfed. 1 was breastfed and bottle-fed. 3 were bottle-fed.

2 co slept with me until they learned to sleep through the night. 2 naturally slept through the night on their own by 6 weeks. 2 needed some degree of sleep training.

2 had great prenatal care. 1 had some prenatal care. 2 had no prenatal care. 1 I don’t know how much prenatal care happened.

Continue Reading →

February 17, 2015
by Maralee

Talk to Your Young Kids about Porn

Hey Parents,

Have you talked to your kids about porn yet? I know that’s awkward and uncomfortable. Maybe we even have junk in our own history that makes it hard for us to have that talk. We just want to hope maybe we can shelter them enough that they won’t ever come across it. But statistics say that they will. And it will happen much earlier than the age we may think they’re ready to have a conversation about it. I have a parenting mentor who said, “When I was young, you had to go looking for that kind of stuff. Now it comes looking for you.” It will come looking for our kids and how do we want them to respond when it finds them? How will they know what to do?

I read this article today and it was really encouraging to me. It sounds like the talks we’re having with our kids may actually be helpful. Having had a lot of chances to perfect this talk through our group home work with boys (ages 6-18) and now our own kids, I thought I’d share with you how I handle it and give you a bit of a script in case it feels overwhelming. Please remember— YOU know your kids best. If something about what I’m saying doesn’t sound like it would work for your kids, tweak it. Just don’t talk yourself out of talking about it. (There are also some great resources out there. Do some homework. Find what works for you.)

The first time I introduce the topic of pornography (without using the word “pornography”) is when I am teaching kids about modesty and privacy. I start this around the time I potty-train my kids at age 2. Spending that much time with your naked child discussing their bathroom habits gives you a great opportunity to talk about privacy. We talk about who is allowed to see them naked. We talk about what they should do if someone asks to see them naked or touches them somewhere they shouldn’t. We also talk about what they should do if they see someone naked. I say, “You aren’t allowed to see anyone else’s private parts. If someone tries to show you their private parts, you need to run and tell Mom or another safe adult. If someone tries to show you a picture of private parts, you need to tell Mom. If you accidentally see someone’s private parts or a picture of someone’s private parts, you need to tell Mom. Those parts of our body aren’t bad, they’re special and we need to treat them with special care. They aren’t for just anybody to see.” So by 2 years old we have already started the beginnings of an ongoing conversation about porn. I like doing it when they are this young because if you totally mess up, you have lots of years to figure out how to talk about these things and it won’t ever come as a shock to your child.

Continue Reading →