July 28, 2016
I love my community over on Facebook and Twitter. Come join the fun.
My exercise routine consists mostly of holding a 30 pound baby while picking up legos with my toes and carrying an angry toddler out of Target.
I lived in the south for nearly a decade (Georgia and Tennessee) and I can’t figure out if it’s more hilarious or insulting how often people with southern accents get subtitles in documentaries.
This morning the 7 year-old stood outside the bathroom door while I got ready and yelled questions to me about placentas and umbilical cords. There was nothing about this kid in the parenting handbooks.
Joel (4): MOM. It’s one hundred o’clock.
Million Dollar Idea: create Play-Doh that tastes terrible.
Josh (9): Guys! Stop saying “butt.” It isn’t even funny. . . Uh-oh. I think I’m becoming an adult.
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July 26, 2016
When you become a foster family, it is fantastic to have a community that supports you. I’ve written posts before on the physical ways you can support a foster family, but there’s another aspect of all this I want to address. When you have a foster family in your church, extended family, neighborhood, etc. there is a little bit of education that may be helpful. You may not have time to make a meal or the money to run out and buy diapers as a welcome gift for this new child, but if you’ve got a few minutes I’m going to help you do something that may be even more appreciated– learn about how to respond to this new child and their foster family in helpful, respectful and supportive ways. So here are 7 things you need to know so you can be on the same team as your favorite fostering family:
Value this child’s privacy. The stories of foster children do not belong to the general public. It hurts me when foster parents are casual about the stories of their children instead of guarding them the way they should (especially when it comes to social media! shudder). Whether the foster parent in your community is appropriately vague or tends to overshare, you can help the situation by not pushing for details you don’t need to know. I realize there are times where you MAY need to know things because your children play together or you’re providing some kind of care for this child, but make an effort to keep your questions open ended and don’t make hurtful assumptions. You can ask, “Are there any behavioral issues we should be watching for? Any medical concerns we need to know about while he’s with us? Anything that might be triggering for her?” without saying, “I can’t believe there are monsters out there that would treat their own child like garbage!” There is a moment for righteous anger, but there are often systemic issues that create these problems. These kids are almost always the victims of people who were victimized themselves. If we can withhold judgement especially because we don’t have all the information, that is helpful. When we value this child’s privacy, we become part of the team that is protecting them and their story.
Ask the foster parents what the child is calling them. Sometimes you find yourself in the awkward moment of saying, “Do you want a snack? Why don’t you go ask. . . your. . . ummmm. . . HER if that’s okay.” Some kids want to call their foster parents “Mom” and “Dad” (at least in group settings) so they aren’t outed as foster children in public. Some call them by their first names. I was Miss Maralee during our group home years. If you aren’t sure, just ask and don’t assume that it’s always handled the same way in each situation.
Be mindful of boundary issues. When dropping a child off in the church nursery, I have always made it clear that I am to the be only one that changes that child’s diaper. I want this child to know that people who are strangers are not allowed near their private areas (even if I know and fully trust those people). I also want to eliminate the possibility someone not involved in the case could get accused of inappropriate behavior by the biological family. This is an example of the boundaries we create around our foster child for their safety and to protect others. There are lots of ways this may play out for foster families. The foster parents may want to be the only ones that offer food to the child (this is part of creating a healthy attachment and can protect against issues that could come up if you offer them food they shouldn’t have for reasons you may not be aware of). The foster parents may not want anyone else to offer physical affection to the child because of abuse issues in their past and their need to learn appropriate boundaries with strangers. The foster mom may not pass around the infant the way a biological mother would because she’s working to create trust with the child through the consistency of her presence. These things are done intentionally and need to be supported, understood, and respected.
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July 15, 2016
Here’s to you, Unofficial Therapy Dogs. To the dogs who endure toddler kisses and are willing to be used as a pillow by sleepy preschoolers. To the dogs who have been dressed up in baby clothes and carried around in strollers and never held a grudge. To the dogs who don’t know the words “sensory processing disorder” but have a special tolerance for the kids who are extra grabby or loud or rough or nervous. To the dogs who sense when somebody is scared or lonely or feeling shame and know just how to wordlessly offer support.
Sometimes I look at you, snoozing in the sun, recovering from being used as part of a Hot Wheels obstacle course and I envy your patience. You don’t run from these kids, even when common sense would say you should. You CHOOSE them and the adventures they take you on even when hiding under the bed might be the safer option.
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July 5, 2016
The best math teacher I ever had was Mrs. Vercellino my junior year of high school. I always wanted to do well in math, but every year was a struggle because it just didn’t come naturally to me. Mrs. Vercellino saw my desire to figure this stuff out and opened up her classroom to me an hour before school started so I could ask her my questions and finally Algebra 2 started making sense. When I was thanking her for her help she told me that she had struggled with math in school, which is why she wanted to become a math teacher. That was a lightbulb moment for me. She was able to speak my language and teach me the way I needed to be taught because it had been a struggle for her, too.
I tell you that story to explain why I wanted to talk about how we walk with our friends in crisis. Being a good friend does not really come naturally to me. I am not a feelings person, so friendship in general can feel complicated to me and then you add in the big feelings of a crisis moment and I’m lost. I have had to do a lot of reading and talking to other people to try and get a handle on how to do this without being an insensitive jerk and I still definitely have my insensitive jerk days. I am sharing what I’ve learned not out of a place of having this all figured out or because it just comes so easily to me, but because it has been a hard learning curve, I’ve done it wrong plenty of times, and I’ve had it done wrong to me and learned from the pain I experienced. So hear all this coming from a heart of humility and I hope it will be helpful to you, especially if you’re someone that needs their own Mrs. Vercellino of friendship.
Here is the link to my radio interview and below it I will add some additional thoughts and resources.
-People have said dumb stuff to me in the face of really painful times. I KNOW I have said dumb stuff to my friends in an attempt to identify with them or give some nugget of “wisdom.” I have been thankful to find that when someone loves you, it’s okay when they say dumb stuff because you know their heart. And I’m pretty sure dumb comments accompanied by food can’t stick in your memory. Anything said while handing off a casserole gets handled with a lot of grace. Don’t be too afraid of saying the wrong thing that you end up saying nothing, unless you actually don’t know and love the person, then don’t risk stepping in it just to try and interact with their trauma.
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July 1, 2016
Dear New York Times,
Thank you so much for caring enough about me to weigh in with your opinion about my hair. It is just SO HARD to find a publication willing to tackle the tough issues, like making women feel like garbage about their hair choices. Without your insightful article I would have had no idea how ashamed women should feel of their postpartum bodies and changing hair because we live in a culture that is so supportive of new moms with no pressure on them to instantly return to their pre pregnancy selves. Without your help, I wouldn’t have known how important it is for moms to leave their hair long so we wouldn’t find ourselves “exposed” while in the repulsive state of recovering from pregnancy.
When I first ran across your article, I thought maybe you had suggestions about what kind of hair might look chic, but still be practical to maintain. Help a sister out, New York Times. But no. This was a piece designed to shame women with newborns who decide to get a haircut you’ve universally decided “falls short of flattering.” Because there just isn’t enough mom judgement flying around the internet.
I feel as though you may not have breastfed, New York Times. Maybe I’m wrong, but I imagine that if you had ever gone through the Herculean effort of making milk from your body and then attempting to deliver that milk to a screaming, grabby child, then you might understand why a woman would be tempted to not also have to deal with hair hanging in that child’s face during the process. Have you ever had partially digested baby formula spit into your hair, New York Times? It doesn’t smell great, especially when your ability to drop everything and take a shower may be slightly impaired by the human you recently created. Has an infant ever grabbed your hair with the tenacity of a crocodile going into the death spiral? No? That’s so weird, because you gave wisdom to moms with such certainty that you knew exactly what was best for us when it seems you may not have considered A SINGLE PRACTICAL CONSIDERATION OF ACTUAL HUMAN MOMS.
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June 29, 2016
I have a lot of little kids and I’m still struggling with figuring out my own boundaries and limitations. I feel like this has been the case for roughly the last decade of my life. While that has been frustrating at times, here’s the nice thing about having a LOT of little kids– I’ve had lots of opportunities to see the same dynamics play out over and over again. Namely, my own desire to appear totally competent at all times, even when surrounded by the bodily fluids of little people who are crying out for my attention while slightly bigger little people are asking for homework help and the dog is eating someone’s beloved cheese stick.
There was a time when I didn’t see how my own ego was driving the process of trying to do it all and not accept help. There was a time when I thought I was just doing what all moms do and all moms must be this frustrated. Then there was the day a foster baby was placed in our home and that SAME WEEKEND I was making a meal for a friend who had a new baby. Why did I do that? I’ve asked myself this question a thousand times because I think that moment speaks to the heart of the matter in my life more than any other:
I wanted to appear competent. I wanted to be the kind of mom who can take a new child into her family and STILL have it together enough to make a meal for a family who welcomed their own new baby. I wanted to be able to tell that story for the rest of my life because it made me look like Super Mom.
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June 27, 2016
I took a ten hour car trip with two other women last week. For any of you who have been on a long car ride with other women, you can just imagine how many conversations we got into over the course of that journey. I’m trying to think of a topic we didn’t touch on at some point. About six hours into this trip we started discussing our college experiences.
It was fun to think through my years at college, especially the year I spent as a Resident Assistant on a hall of primarily Sophomore girls. Look back at the influential experiences of my life, I can see how this one had a unique influence on the direction I was headed. While I was barely a year older than those girls, they let me love them and help create a “family culture” in our little corner of the college. To this day I love those girls and feel so blessed to be loved by them.
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June 24, 2016
Want more information on the chaos of my life? Want to see links to articles I’m reading? Want to join the discussion? Come on over and find me on Facebook and Twitter.
We had a 70 degree day last week so I put the spring clothes in the drawers. So obviously today it would be 30 degrees.
The Baby is pretending a calculator is a phone. Which makes sense, since these days calculators and phones look almost identical. . . although that doesn’t explain why he also pretends a shoe is a phone.
#everythingisaphone #hello #BabyMaxwellSmart
Bethany (6): Was that song Toby Mac? Oh no! I know who it is! That was Beethoven.
I’m pretty sure if it weren’t for grandparents, hand-me-downs and the Target clearance aisle, my kids would be naked.
A couple years ago I was at a coffee shop with some friends and a group of people playing board games sat down next to us. They were the kind of people who are very enthusiastic about their board games and were oblivious to me and my ladies having intense conversations next to them. At one point the guy who is sitting next to me rolls the dice and one of them falls off the table, rolls under my chair, does this weird bounce and rolls right back to the guy’s leg. He looks at it and just says (mostly to himself), “I must have truly loved it. And now it’s mine forever.” THIS IS ONE OF THE FUNNIEST THINGS THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED IN MY LIFE. No one else heard him say this and it took me a full minute to understand he had just referenced the “If you love something, let it go.” quote. So thank you, Board Game Enthusiast, wherever you are, for giving me a go-to funny moment whenever life seems stressful. I apologize for not laughing in the moment, but I promise I have been randomly laughing about that incident ever since.
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June 22, 2016
I remember the emotional gut-punch I felt the first time I heard someone refer to adoption as “Plan B” when it came to God’s perfect will for their child’s life. I didn’t feel like a second rate parent. I didn’t think of myself as “worst case scenario” but that’s what this kind of adoption language felt like to me in the moment. Like my child’s life would have been better without me.
Photo by Renae Morehead
It seems ridiculous to me that this language bothered me so much when I’d been using a variation of it with our group home kids for years. When they were grieving the choices their parents had made that had negatively impacted their ability to be safely raised at home I would validate that pain. I would talk to them about how in the Garden God didn’t create Adam and Eve and two houseparents to raise their children. God’s design for families was for moms and dads to care for their kids in a healthy and loving way. When that breaks down, other people may step in but that is sad and it’s okay to grieve it.
I understood all that and could articulate it for my group home kids, but my heart longed for my adopted children to not feel that same grief. I was giving them permanency. I was going to love them and they’d never have to leave me. Surely their grief wouldn’t be the same.
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June 20, 2016
It was so fun to be able to talk to Jami from The Forgotten Initiative face-to-face (via technology) for the first time through this interview. Our families have lots in common (large multiracial families through biology, international adoption, and foster care) and we share a heart for kids and families in crisis. Below I have the link to our conversation and beneath that are some written thoughts that came to me after our talk.
-I talk about “God’s plan” a lot. I have read that for some adoptees, that’s really frustrating– to feel like “God’s plan” was for them to be separated from their biological family. I want to think about this more and I know it deserves a post all it’s own, but ultimately I feel like the Garden of Eden was God’s Plan A and everything since then has been God using pain and suffering to create beauty. Infertility wasn’t beautiful. My kids having to lose their birth families wasn’t beautiful. I have a hard time knowing what kind of a role God played in all of that, but I do believe he was active in creating beauty from the hard. I am NOT implying that God took delight in this pain, but in the same way Jesus wept at the death of his friend even though he knew he could and would raise him from the dead, I think Jesus weeps at this pain even though there is a plan to make something beautiful out of it.
-I advise that people don’t look at adoption as a band-aid for infertility. I want to acknowledge that there likely won’t come a day where you wipe your tears and say, “There. All better now.” and feel totally healed. Infertility grief comes in waves and it’s okay to still have it during the adoption process or post adoption. I think the important step is to be okay with grieving what you lose through infertility (the ability to carry a child, your specific genetic traits, breastfeeding, being able to protect your child in the womb, etc.) so that adoption doesn’t have to try and fix problems it was never intended to fix.
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