Welcome to my circus.

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.

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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.

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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

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September 24, 2014
by Maralee
1 Comment

Foster Care. Take the first step.

As you may or may not know, we are a foster family. Okay, you probably did know that. If you’ve ever met me, saw me at the grocery store, stumbled upon one of my posts or seen our family picture somewhere, you may have guessed that we are a foster family. Foster care has been part of our world for the last six years (and group home work for five years before that) and it’s a decision I’m very thankful we made. God has used foster care to bless us with some amazing kids, some humbling life experiences, and a perspective adjustment about our ability to control our lives (Spoiler alert— we can’t. Foster care is a pretty great daily reminder of that reality.)

I know great families who have not felt like foster care is right for them. And it isn’t right for lots of people, but I think there are many families that don’t pursue it when they should. It’s scary, right? Scary to think about letting a child into your life that might leave you, or getting involved with some shady biological families, or letting “the state” into your home. There are lots of reasons to be intimidated about foster care, but just one big reason to do it.

Because there are kids who need homes. Tonight. In your city.

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Who could say no to this face? Not us.
Photo by Rebecca Tredway Photography

Are you prepared to take on that challenge right now? Probably not. There’s a training process that exists for a reason. There’s a lot to learn about the system, the players, the kids and their needs. Nobody gets into this (or SHOULD get into this) thinking, “We are going to be awesome at this and we are totally prepared for whatever comes our way.” Everybody does it with some healthy fear and trembling. But we do it because the needs are real and it’s a small way to make a difference in the life of a child and their family.

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September 22, 2014
by Maralee
24 Comments

A Giveaway! Her Design, Her Dress with SewGoodToBeHome *CLOSED*

I love doing giveaways! My friend Katrina of In Katrina’s Kitchen was telling me recently about a lady who wrote her a vaguely threatening message about never winning a giveaway and ended it with MAKE ME HAPPY! That keeps cracking me up and now I kind of think I want it on a t-shirt or something. I’m thankful none of you have responded that way to the giveaways we’ve done here, but to keep you extra happy we’re actually doing two of them over the next couple weeks. Hooray!

For the giveaway this week we have something super special. My friend Melinda of SewGoodToBeHome is no stranger to this blog or the giveaway scene. Last year she did a giveaway here and my kids are both now using her sandwich wraps to take lunches to school every day. We love them. As a thrifty mom, I especially like that as handmade things go, Melinda’s stuff is really affordable and she does great quality work.

So I was thrilled when she was up for doing another giveaway, this time of something really unique that she’s been doing. To see how it works, I borrowed a friend’s 8 year-old and her artistic abilities. (I tried doing this with my own four year-old daughter and she didn’t quite get it.  I’m sure some four year-olds would have the designer vision, but that was not my girl at this point.) Elsie designed an outfit, sent the picture to Mindy and Mindy made it. I am thoroughly impressed. Check it out!

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September 20, 2014
by Maralee
1 Comment

Loving your (Infertile) Body

I remember in the early days of our infertility diagnosis I really struggled with my body. I felt trapped in this broken, empty shell that seemed so vibrant and full of life on the outside. In a moment of crazy despair I remember thinking that I just wanted the outside to match the inside. I thought about getting a big black Sharpie marker and just coloring blackness where I felt so empty— right where that baby should grow. I wanted the outside to match how I felt on the inside.

We women have a complicated relationship with our bodies. Somehow they encompass so much more than just flesh and blood. For better or worse, they are how we see ourselves and the face we present to the world. For those reasons, I love the recent movement to help women embrace their bodies. Whatever flaws they may have or beauty they may possesses, it is hard to find joy in life if you don’t make some kind of peace with your body.

I do have one little issue with how this has manifested itself among mothers. I see lots of posts and pictures that glorify the female body precisely because it can reproduce. Women write about the toll pregnancy and birth have taken on their once glorious bodies and how they are learning to love their stretch marks and c-section scars because they are reminders of how amazing and functional their bodies are. But what if your body isn’t so amazing when it comes to reproduction? Can infertile women love their bodies, too?

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September 16, 2014
by Maralee
10 Comments

A word to some members of the breastfeeding community

For the last couple years it has been my joy to write about my life experiences and my parenting journey and to share those writings here. I am by nature a right fighter, so I haven’t shied away from expressing what may even be controversial opinions on topics that pertain to parenting. I have written about why as a fairly crunchy/granola mama I feel vaccinations are important. I have written about our decision to send our child to public school and some of the concerns I have from my previous experience homeschooling. I have written about our open adoption experiences, my c-section, my concerns with the current international adoption climate, the struggles and beauty of transracial adoption, and I’ve written about why foster parents should be fairly compensated. While some of these conversations have resulted in a spirited debate, by and large they have been civil and respectful. But there is one topic I have written about that gets me a steady stream of. . . I don’t even know what to call it. “Hate mail” seems like too loaded of a term, but I’m not sure how else to phrase it. People write to tell me I’m heartless, I’m an idiot, and (bafflingly enough) a racist. What topic is this, you ask?

Breastfeeding.

I’m not joking.

I’m not sure how it happens, but a post of mine regularly gets passed around a group of people who “hate-read” it and then leave comments. I had to make a decision about how to handle those comments because generally I will post everything without much moderating. I decided that if someone is talking to me in a way that if we were talking face to face I would end the conversation, then I’m not posting that comment.

So that’s the context for why I have pretty strong feelings about some elements of the breastfeeding community. I have not breastfed a child in nearly two years, nor have I written about breastfeeding in a year or more, but once a week somebody writes to me to tell me I’ve got it all wrong. And they’re generally not too gentle about it.

Because I have just started deleting the rude comments that come (initially I had tried to respond via email to the commenters to have an honest discussion, but it turns out most of them entered fake email addresses), I would like to give a response here. I want to admit up front that I’m a little cranky about all this, especially with the impending birth of my second child. I am fully intending to breastfeed, but if I get all this heat for the mere suggestion that women should be able to choose what works for them and their family, what will happen if my plan isn’t what ends up being best in this situation? So let me get a few things off my chest (sorry for the bad pun. Sometimes I can’t help myself.)

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September 12, 2014
by Maralee
0 comments

Eulogy for a Man’s Best Friend

I don’t know if dogs go to heaven. I don’t think they have souls, but I’m really not sure how God works out what ends up in a place that was created for our joy. I did have a cat in my youth that I’m pretty sure came from hell and to hell I imagine it did return, which makes me a little more sure that there must be a place in heaven for the animals who brought a special joy to people during their lives. I don’t believe the animals have earned heaven, but maybe they will end up there because their very existence would contribute to the beauty there. Which is why I think we may see Butter again some day.

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Josh and Butter

A dog died today. I haven’t seen this dog in about six years, but during our five years of houseparenting, she was a constant presence. She was a yellow lab who belonged to a couple that worked on campus with us. Mr. Pat was responsible for a lot of the maintenance and grounds care of the Ranch (and he taught math to some of the older students) and Mrs. Beth was responsible for my sanity. . . or something like that. They had been houseparents at the girls home and were now spending their retirement years continuing to invest both through Mr. Pat’s physical work and Mrs. Beth’s relational work and spiritual mentoring of the staff and students. I’m not sure what their exact job descriptions were because what they did was so much more than what anyone could put on paper. I remember the first week we were in our giant new house I was cleaning it from top to bottom before the kids got back from a break. Mrs. Beth came in and said, “You’re exhausted aren’t you? You know, most people with a house this size would also have a maid.” It was incredibly validating and I knew from that moment on I would love her. And I did.

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September 12, 2014
by Maralee
0 comments

Radio Interview on Foster Care

I have been partnering with My Bridge Radio for a couple years now to talk about issues impacting moms and families. And it all started with an interview about foster care. After that experience, I started doing 90 second spots (speaking of which, I need to get back to doing those!) and now for the last two years I’ve been doing monthly conversations on a range of topics. But in my heart, this is all still a conversation about loving kids who need love. I look forward to the month every year when instead of just implying those things or bringing them into unrelated conversations, I get to talk openly about my heart for foster care and foster kids. So here it is! September is the month My Bridge Radio sets aside to talk about foster care (they are interviewing several foster families and providing an opportunity for people to thank a foster mom, which I think is such a great idea) and it is also the month where the foster care agency we work with holds its informational meetings. I’d encourage you to check out our agency and feel free to come to a training in your area. No pressure, I promise! And free dinner!

So here’s my interview below along with some additional thoughts. There’s always stuff I think about later that I forgot to cover. I’d also love to have you come check out my current post on Her View From Home that opens the door to specific questions about foster care. If you have thoughts or questions, I’m all ears!

 

-My story of a calling to foster care and adoption started when I was really young. I remember playing “orphanage” with my dolls all the time. God used infertility to move that along, but even before we knew we had infertility issues we were pursuing kids in crisis. The way God first brings the needs of foster kids to your awareness may be different, but it’s a whisper worth hearing.

-Lots of people in lots of different life circumstances can be called into foster care. It doesn’t always make sense, so you can expect people to be surprised or even discouraging when they find out you’re pursuing this. You can be a foster parent with an “empty nest”, with a full house, with young kids, with teenagers in your home, whatever.

-Families have different giftings. I like to think of each family as having their own niche in the foster care world. While we have done older kids in the past, we feel strongly that right now we are best able to serve babies. Hopefully as our kids get older, we will be able to serve older kids again. When we understand and respect our limits, it keeps us from burning out. We want to see foster parents do this for the long haul (there is a great benefit in understanding the system through years of involvement and the connections you create with caseworkers, visitation workers, lawyers, judges, etc.) and not feel pressured into taking placements that aren’t right for their family. This does mean you have to fight the guilt of saying “no” to a child, but this is easier to do when you’re looking at this from a longterm perspective.

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September 10, 2014
by Maralee
0 comments

Seven lessons from Seven years of parenting

Today is the day we celebrate the anniversary of Josh’s adoption day. It’s a day we spend focused on Josh and what makes him feel loved and appreciated. We do this with each of our adopted children on their Adoption Day, but I’ll admit that Josh’s adoption anniversary is something a little different for me. It’s not just the day he joined our family, it’s the anniversary of the day I became a mom.

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We had been houseparents caring for kids for years before that moment, but for the first time I was The Mom. Everything now rested on my shoulders. I have been a mother now for seven years. To celebrate that fact, I want to distill what I’ve learned over the last seven years into seven bits of wisdom.

-I am not in control. When I was handed a tiny, sickly, opinionated ten month-old, my life became something other than MY life. It became our life. Josh cried for hours nonstop on the plane ride home and in those hours it became clear to me that all the books I’d read didn’t prepare me for this. I didn’t know what he needed and I couldn’t fix what was so wrong. This lesson has been reinforced to me over and over again during the past seven years. I can’t always make them happy, make them sleep, make them eat what I think they should eat, make them behave the way the books say they should behave, make them learn the way I learned. When I can let go of trying to be in control, I can actually enjoy who they are and what we have as a family instead of longing for some perfection ideal that we’ll never achieve.

-People are more important than things. This little gem actually came from my dad when I was a teenager and busted the side mirror off of our van while backing out of the garage. He knew how bad I felt and in that moment he climbed in the car, put his arm around me and told me where I ranked. People are more important than things. I have heard his words over and over as mud has been tracked in on the carpet, dishes have been broken, jewelry has been lost, and (just recently) our new van got a large scratch down the side where a certain little boy got too close when learning to ride his bike without training wheels. Of course we work to teach our kids the value of taking care of their things and they often have to pay us back with extra help around the house when something does get broken, but I remind myself about the value of these little lives when I’m tempted to focus on the “this is why we can’t have nice things” lecture.

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September 9, 2014
by Maralee
5 Comments

Secret thoughts from a Large Family

I am currently pregnant with our sixth child (3 adopted, 1 bio, 1 foster, 1 yet to be born). I am finally coming to terms with the fact that we have a large family. I know for each family that moment comes at a different number. To many, we probably seemed like a large family at four kids and to some of you who have a dozen or more kids we may still seem pretty meager, but in my heart and life and home, this feels like a lot of kids. As the mom in a large family I feel like I have entered an exclusive club open only to other parents of large families. There is a lot of beauty in knowing other people who understand the unique dynamics that exist in large families, but I also see some things that make me squeamish.

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“There are HOW MANY kids in this family?!”

We didn’t set out to have a large family. Having a large family just kind of happened to us as we continued to say “yes” to kids in need and “yes” to however God might use our fertility. While we’ve always known becoming a large family was an option and we’ve felt comfortable with that idea, it wasn’t necessarily the goal for us. So sometimes I feel like an outsider in situations where large families are held up as the ideal. Large families are great, but only inasmuch as there are parents capable of handling them.

So I wanted to dispel some myths I hear repeated about large families and let you in on some secrets.

I am not a saint. Having lots of kids is refining, but so are many challenging circumstances. I am not some earth goddess who never gets frustrated by her arguing children. I don’t get up 30 minutes before the children do to sip my coffee and read my Bible. Having lots of kids doesn’t mean much about me except that I have lots of kids. It hasn’t made me less sinful or more patient. Although, I think it has made me more humble. The more kids I have, the more I know how much I don’t know and how different each child is. What worked for children 1, 2 and 4 may be a total failure for children 3 and 5.

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