Welcome to my circus.

August 26, 2016
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- April #2, 2016

Read along and add your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.

Dear TOMS,
Thanks for essentially being slippers it is socially acceptable to wear in public.

When I get to heaven there are a lot of important, deep things I want to ask God about. But when we’re done with that, I’d like to ask him if he kept track of how many fingernails and toenails I’ve clipped over the years. I think it’s a lot. Anybody else have random questions they’re saving up for heaven?
#23kids1dog #SOMANYNAILS

If the kids get ready for bed with minimal drama, they get to pick the bedtime story (The BFG). If they are ridiculous, I get to pick the bedtime story (Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Peacock Feather).
#protip

“Lord of all pots and pans and things. . . Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates!” -Brother Lawrence

Nurse: And you have kids?
Me: Yes. I have six.
Nurse: SIX? You do know what causes that, right?
Me: Yep. Foster care, adoption and miracle pregnancies.
Nurse:. . . Well, okay then.
#askanawkwardquestion #getanawkwardanswer

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August 24, 2016
by Maralee
0 comments

How to be Friends with a Foster Mom

So your friend has become a foster mom or maybe you just met a new friend and it turns out she’s a foster mom. You like this woman. You want to be close and be a support. You want to understand what this whole “foster mom” business means. But where to start? How can you be a good friend to a foster mom?

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Recognize that Foster Moms are mostly just moms. She’s not a saint, she’s not a monster. She’s a mom to kids who need her right now. She isn’t made of different stuff than you, able to turn off her emotions when she needs to or with an unending supply of patience. She’s just passionate about these kids and families and she wants to help, but many of her motherhood struggles are exactly like yours. The fostering part is a unique aspect of her motherhood, but dirty diapers and making dinner and school drop-off lines are all the same no matter how you got into this gig. Building a relationship with a foster mom can begin with focusing on what you have in common as women, as parents. Affirming that she is a mother and that you are doing the same motherhood work is important. She wants her kids to be invited to VBS and she wants to come to your MOPS group and your zoo playdates. Let her know that you see her unique family as just that– a family.

Give her room to talk, but don’t push for details. We know foster care brings out everybody’s curiosity. Is this that toddler we heard about on the news? Are the parents in jail? Does she call you Mommy? Does he have behavioral problems? There are some questions we can answer and some we just can’t. Or at least, we shouldn’t. We are the guardians of these kids’ stories and we need to protect them. As much as we’d like to explain to you why this child is acting like he is or why reunification isn’t happening or why none of us are getting much sleep at night, we may not be able to without compromising this child’s privacy. We don’t want him to become the subject of gossip in the neighborhood or at church or school. We may desperately need to talk to someone about our own struggles, so please don’t feel like you can’t talk to us about foster care or how things are going, just know that when it comes to the stories of these children, we may be guarded or vague. Continue Reading →

August 22, 2016
by Maralee
8 Comments

My New Marriage

My marriage has gone through a bit of a revolution in the last few years. Brian and I have been married for fourteen years and like your average teenager, our marriage was pushing the boundaries, becoming irritable and needing a change. The changes we’ve gone though haven’t been easy. It has been a challenging time of looking at each other all over again and asking the big questions:  Is this working? Are you in this for the long-haul with me? What does love look like in this new stage?

I have seen marriages at this point begin to crumble. We realize we are different people than we were when we first said, “I do.” And obviously so. We have grown and matured. Our priorities are different. Some of our long pushed down pain has spilled out. We have become bitter about some things and wise about others. We are not the same people we were at 18 and 19 years-old, when we first met. And while it is good that we have matured over the years, that same process can make us question this till death do us part marriage arrangement.

The logic goes that if we are different, then maybe we aren’t right for each other the way we were when we first decided to get married. Maybe the best thing is to go our separate ways since now things have become uncomfortable, unromantic, and unhappy. Maybe we would be better off with new lives, new loves. Maybe we need to listen to our inner voice about how hard this is and follow our peace and our bliss out the front door.

I’d like to present you with a different option.

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August 16, 2016
by Maralee
1 Comment

Potty-Training Survival Strategies for Moms

I have officially begun potty-training my sixth child. I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry about that, but it is my life so I’ll probably do a little of both. I have done all of this potty-training over the course of just about eight years, so I’ve had lots of chances to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t. I’m not interested in telling you how to potty-train your child right now. There are lots of other places to go for that info (including my thoughts here and here) and the more kids I have worked with, the more I realize we all tend to define potty-training “success” differently and have different priorities. So I’m not going to tell you HOW to potty-train, just how to SURVIVE potty-training. These are survival strategies for moms.

When you decide the time is right to start potty-training, clear your calendar. Just decide that for the next week you are going to get nothing accomplished. Having low expectations makes life easier on you (in case you were wondering, this is my life mantra). Pull out the frozen pizzas, skip out on that volunteering you had planned, cancel your lunch plans, shower after the kids are in bed. If you have NOTHING planned, you are going to be less frustrated than if you’re trying to multitask and end up with wet carpet. I mean, you’re going to have wet carpet no matter what, but if you’re ALSO trying to get stuff done, you’re going to be more mad about it. Today’s major failure (I mean, “learning experience”) came when I foolishly tried to put a load of wash in the dryer. Silly me.

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August 12, 2016
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- April #1, 2016

Be part of the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m writing about hospitality for a post up tomorrow and remembering when my friend Kerri wrote “Welcome” with her finger in the dust on her entryway table before having all the church ladies over for a book club meeting. I think that about sums up my feelings on hostessing at this point in my life.

“Sometimes we get mad at each other, but then after five minutes we’re playing together again. That’s a good thing about this family.”
‪#‎realfamily‬

The two year-old accidentally knocked her box of hair things over and half of them went in the toilet. So she flushed them.
‪#‎problemsolved‬ ‪#‎toddlerlogic‬

Something to remember if you want to be a good Mom Friend:
“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”
‪#‎theologyformoms‬

At some point will I stop occasionally hearing a Phantom Baby cry or is this just the new normal once you’re a mom?
‪#‎THEBABYNEEDSME‬ ‪#‎thereisnobaby‬

The youngest child will never fully grasp the fun of a “lift the flap” book since by the time he got them, all the flaps have been dismembered.

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August 11, 2016
by Maralee
0 comments

Why My Daughters Need Simone Biles

Dear Simone,

My family is rooting for you. And not just because you represent our country, but because you represent us. My two little daughters sit next to me and cheer for you because just like you, they spent part of their young lives in foster care.

My girls know that you are not just physically strong, you are mentally and emotionally tough. You have been through one of the hardest experiences life can throw at you, and you have been resilient. You have also found a way to stay tender, to be open to loving and trusting the family (your biological grandparents) that adopted you and gave you the stability you needed to pursue your dreams. You have proven that with hard work, determination and support, former foster kids can be anything they want to be. They can even win gold at the Olympics.

You have not let foster care define you. When you talk about it, it is clear that it is something that happened to you, but it is not who you are. The choices of adults didn’t determine your value. You have always had the potential for greatness, even as a child in “the system.” Just like my girls. Their worth was not diminished by spending time as wards of the state. All the days they spent in foster care, they were still important, still becoming young women of substance, of value. Their lives were not on pause while caseworkers figured out what to do with them. Their story was always developing, always pushing them towards love and family. Just like your story.

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August 8, 2016
by Maralee
3 Comments

What if Your Feelings are Just Your Feelings

I had a minor health issue a couple weeks ago. I went to the doctor and explained how these things seem to go from nothing to terrible really quickly for me. The doctor said, “Maybe. Or maybe you just ignore them for a long time until they’re so bad that you can’t ignore them anymore.” Shut up, Doctor! You don’t know me!

Okay, so yes, that is how I tend to handle things like minor health issues. And also feelings. That is how I handle my feelings.

I stink at feelings. Personality wise, I don’t have to deal with them much, so when they happen I feel confused and overwhelmed and frustrated. And usually they’ve been happening for awhile, but at some kind of low-grade fever level where I’ve been able to ignore them or pretend they were something other than feelings. . . like hungry or shopping. Lots of times my low-grade feelings seem like things that could be cured by nachos.

So about a year ago I was struggling with lots of feelings. BIG FEELINGS and they felt like those waves that smack you down when you’re at the beach and you know if you went a little more shallow in the water, you’d be fine and if you went a little deeper in the water, you’d be fine, but instead you stand at this spot where the waves drag you down, knock the air out of you and you wonder if you’re going to make it. Yeah. Those kinds of feelings. It was in that moment that a friend said to me, “What if your feelings are just your feelings. You don’t have to obey them and you don’t have to ignore them. Just acknowledge them.”

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August 1, 2016
by Maralee
0 comments

Foster Parent as Hostage Negotiator

I remember watching a TV show that involved a hostage situation. They put this trained hostage negotiator on the phone with the man in the bank who had the hostages. The negotiator was kind, was accommodating when he could be, and he was firm. His ultimate goal was to get the people in that bank out as safety and quickly as possible. Something about this scenario seemed incredibly familiar to me.

When we originally got into foster care we were motivated by a desire to be the loving, nurturing caregivers for a child who needed safety and stability. Over the years we began to see our role differently as we realized our involvement with the child was only a small piece in the puzzle of what it means to be involved in foster care. We have had our share of challenging children, but for the most part it hasn’t been the kids that have caused us to question our ability to keep going. Our real struggles have been in navigating a system that doesn’t always seem to prioritize their needs.

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July 28, 2016
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- March #2, 2016

I love my community over on Facebook and Twitter. Come join the fun.

 

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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.
‪#‎momskills‬

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.
‪#‎itsstillEnglishpeople‬

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.
‪#‎morningswithDanny‬ ‪#‎futurescientist‬

Joel (4): MOM. It’s one hundred o’clock.
‪#‎soclose‬ ‪#‎tenoclock‬

Million Dollar Idea: create Play-Doh that tastes terrible.
‪#‎STOPEATINGTHEPLAYDOH‬

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
by Maralee
2 Comments

7 Things Foster Parents Need You to Know

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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