Welcome to my circus.

October 21, 2016
by Maralee

A Life in Status- May #2, 2016

Be my friend! Find me on Facebook and Twitter.

The four year-old just yelled, “BOOYAH, Suckers!” during his imaginative play.

When I take out my toddler’s pigtails from the day she ends up having essentially the same hairdo as Larry from the Three Stooges. And I love it.
#momconfession #curlygirl

Joel (4): When I’m bigger, can I have a bonk bed?
#bunkbed #soclose #makessense

When my toddler daughter senses I’m trying to decide if I should get her in trouble for some minor misbehavior or just let it go, she starts dancing. This usually works in her favor.
#smartgirl #cantdisciplinewhenImlaughing

It’s the last day of school for my kids. Raising kids is a team effort and I’m so thankful for the people who are part of that team in the school setting. I’ll miss the contributions of our teachers, cafeteria workers and school nurse. But I just might miss the custodial staff most of all. . .
#youknowwhatyoudid #Imsosorry #wereworkingonit

The kids have less than an hour until they’re out of school for the summer and I think I’m experiencing nearly every emotion a human is capable of having.
#ALLTHEFEELS #slowdowntime #whyissummersolong

Nothing says welcome to summer break quite like 8 a.m. dentist appointments.

Can we all just agree that if Trump wins we’re going to refer to him as President Business?

Sometimes I give my kids the pizza crust I don’t want and tell them it’s a breadstick.

When you have a really large baby you become familiar with all the nice euphemisms for “chubby” that people like to use.
#sturdy #meaty #solid #substantial #linebacker #beefy #rotund #wegetit#hesbig

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October 20, 2016
by Maralee

Your Kids Aren’t “Yours”

So I read something the other day that bothered me. It bothered me a lot. This woman was describing how tough infertility was and how people kept telling her she could “just adopt” and she was offended by that. She didn’t want to adopt because she wanted to have kids that were HERS and nobody else’s. She wanted kids that wouldn’t reject her or trade her in some day for their REAL parents.

People, we have got some work to do in understanding how parenthood works.

Yes, adoption makes people uncomfortable because you didn’t make this kid and theoretically the child could reject you in favor of their biological parents someday. You know who else could reject you? YOUR OWN BIOLOGICAL KIDS. Shocking, I know. Adopted kids ARE curious about their biological families and may have relationships with them in ways that remind their adoptive parents that we are not the only adults that matter in their lives, BUT THIS CAN BE A GOOD THING. It is a reflection of the reality that is true for all children and families– that kids get to choose who they love. Families that aren’t formed by adoption may try to ignore that reality, but it is no less true for them. Adoptive families just have to make peace with it a little sooner in the parenting process.

Parents, you did not birth tiny Love Robots who must adore you and never reject you and want only you. That is not how this works. And seriously, if you bring a child into the world because you want to own them and not risk them loving someone else, there’s a pretty decent chance you’re going to inject some unhealthiness into your relationship with that child. Just because you created life in your body, you are not somehow magically promised that your child will like you regardless of what you do in your relationship with them. Relationships are built and created, not just genetically determined.

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October 18, 2016
by Maralee

Guest Post: “I’m not a mother. . . and that’s okay.”

Today I gladly yield the floor to my longtime friend Lauren Esparza. After reading my piece last week about what I learned through infertility, she wanted to respond with her own piece about how God has used her childlessness to make her into the woman he intended her to be. It’s a beautiful and needed perspective and I’m glad to help her share it. So here’s Lauren in her own words:


I love kids. I think they are fantastic little humans who are honest and experience life with a freeness that we don’t really embrace as adults. Sure, sometimes they throw tantrums or their version of having fun gets out of hand, but in general I think they are pretty darn great. My life’s work has been built around studying children, being a voice and advocate for them, and teaching them to communicate. I know a lot about what makes kids laugh and cry, how they like to play, and how they respond to their environment. I have kissed skinned knees, wipes tears (and noses), and given about a million hugs over the years. I have loved deeply, nurtured their little hearts, and listened to their hurts and fears.

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October 14, 2016
by Maralee
1 Comment

What if The Point of Infertility Wasn’t a Child?

Over the last 10 years I have been pregnant four times and have given birth to two biological children. The label “infertile” doesn’t seem to fit me the way it once did. I like to jokingly refer to myself as “intermittently fertile” because apparently that is how things work for us. But there was a time when a doctor looked over lab results and told me pregnancy would be difficult if not impossible without major medical intervention– interventions we couldn’t afford and didn’t feel ethically comfortable with.

I remember in the early days of our infertility diagnosis just wanting to know what the point of this whole infertility thing was. I knew God loved me and I knew suffering was to be endured like discipline- for my good and with a purpose- but this felt like some kind of massive and cruel time-out for a crime I didn’t remember committing. I wanted to fast forward to the end where God could tell me what I did wrong and this would all make sense to me.

And I wanted a happy ending, too. I wanted a story that in hindsight would make all the hold-ups make sense. I would sit in my infertility time-out, I would learn my lesson, then God would give me what I wanted– pregnancy and a baby. And everyone would see exactly why it happened the way it did. But that just wasn’t the way it worked.

There are amazing kids that have been added to my family through adoption because of our years of infertility. There are my precious biological boys who came at just the right, God-ordained time. It would be easy to think that the point of my infertility journey was so that we would someday arrive at this family– the family that infertility created. And that isn’t entirely untrue! I am thankful for what infertility did in my life so that we were in the right place at the right time for each of our children, but I have also seen a bigger picture– a picture that has nothing to do with children.

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October 11, 2016
by Maralee

Mike Pence and What Happened to My Baby’s Body

This election cycle is ridiculous. The silver lining of it all seems to be that almost everyone I know is equally frustrated with the choices. However polarized these terrible options were supposed to make us, I think they may have actually drawn us closer together as Republicans and Democrats look across the aisle and say, “Yeah, I don’t like our candidate either.”

So I am no apologist for anybody’s campaign at this point, but I’m also not a fan of misinformation. I have been seeing some disturbing things said about Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence and his attempt to force women to have “funerals” for the babies they miscarried or aborted.


This issue is not just political talk to me. I have two children I’m waiting to meet in heaven. My grief for these babies was intensely private, just like their lives were intensely private– my body was the only body they ever touched and the only world they ever knew. As much as I love them, I had no desire to have a public funeral for them and can only imagine the pain of being forced to do such a thing against my will.

When I initially saw reports that Mike Pence had pushed for such a thing, I had to dig deeper to understand why someone would want to force women into that uncomfortable position. Was this really about women being forced to face their failure (by choice or by chance) to carry life to term? As I read the actual language of the bill, instead of feeling disgust, I felt thankful. The words I read were not about forcing women to have funerals, but were about asking hospitals and healthcare facilities to offer dignity to women who have suffered the prenatal death of their children by honoring the bodies of those babies.

This is something I could only wish for when my first baby died.

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October 10, 2016
by Maralee

Book Review: “Give Your Child The World”

Want your kids to be educated citizens of the world, but feeling overwhelmed about where to start? This is the book.

I just finished Jamie C. Martin’s “Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time” and it was a fun and helpful read. She starts off by talking about her global family. She walks you through what she’s learned about the world through her marriage, her international adoption experiences and missionary journeys. It’s all really inspiring, but can also feel overwhelming if you’re primarily homebound with your little ones and wanting to still give them a feel for what the big world is like. But she moves from describing her travels to her tips for developing that kind of global mindset in your kids, no matter what location you currently inhabit. I thought she had some great (and guilt-free!) ideas about how to create a culture of reading and interest in the world within your home. These tips are simple things to incorporate in my home and can be a fun way to talk about your own ancestries and stories.

The second portion of her book is devoted to book recommendations. The recommendations are broken down by sections of the world with a short summary about the book and an indication of what country it came from. (As the adoptive parent to a Liberian, I was especially glad to see a book representing Liberia on the list.) I like that these books do not shy away from the topics of religion and culture, but allow for parents to discuss differences with openness and respect. Sometimes I get nervous about just grabbing random books at the library to try and introduce different aspects of a culture to my kids. I’m not afraid that the books will be controversial as much as I am bothered that they might just be boring or inaccurate. I don’t want to be giving my kids wrong information or boring them when what I want to be doing is piquing their interest in a new area of the world and the people who live there. The author does a great job of doing the heavy-lifting for you of prescreening these books and recommending ones she thinks are quality (she goes through her criteria for deciding what books to recommend at the beginning of the section on books from around the world).

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October 4, 2016
by Maralee

A Trauma Mama Watches “Stranger Things”

I don’t watch scary movies. Ever. At all. I’m not interested in being scared for fun. The daily diaper changes and the ever-present laundry question “what is in that pocket” are about all the suspense my body can handle. So I was not that interested in watching “Stranger Things” in spite of all the positive reviews. I am a married woman, so I am not the sole possessor of the remote control and one night found my husband fully engaged in the first episode. He continued to watch through the series and I joined him for bits and pieces as I could tolerate it, which eventually lead to me half hiding under a blanket watching the last two episodes in their entirety. And I cried.

I had recently been talking to a fellow Trauma Mama (someone raising a child who has been through really difficult life circumstances before joining their family) and working to encourage her in the struggle. My heart had been overwhelmed for her and for our kids as we work to create safe, trusting relationships with children who have had that trust broken in the past. It is hard, delicate work. Often we see the symptoms of the problem as “bad choices” our kids are making and struggle to correctly identify that they are dealing with their own safety issues and need both our calm nurturing presence, and to know we will provide structure that gives them boundaries and keeps them safe.

I know. These two topics (trauma informed parenting and “Stranger Things”) do not seem related.

But as I watched Joyce (a mother) talk quietly, calmly, with such total peace to Eleven- a thoroughly traumatized child without the ability to trust anyone- I saw that familiar spark. That passion of a mother who is going to do whatever it takes to prove she is trustworthy. Several scenes later, Eleven is asked to face her greatest fear– a fear that involves returning to an environment that has been unsafe for her in the past– but this time she’s doing it with the loving support of a mother and a team of friends.

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September 27, 2016
by Maralee

Foster Thoughts: Raising the Victims of Victims

This month I am partnering with Christian Heritage and My Bridge Radio to encourage families in Nebraska to consider foster care as a way to love families in crisis. If you’re curious about foster parenting, now is the time to get your questions answered! Check out Christian Heritage for more details about informational events happening across Nebraska in September.

When we first began caring for other people’s children through foster care and group home work, we were motivated by a desire to love and serve these children. In our minds, they were the helpless victims of their parents bad choices and deserved our compassion. But the funny thing was, the more we learned about their parents, the more we were able to see that they too had been victims in their own lives. They were often acting out patterns and cycles of abuse and disfunction that were so ingrained that it was difficult for them to know how much they were wounding their children. They genuinely loved their kids, but they lacked the parenting skills to know how to care for them. As we watched them grieve the loss of their children and realized they were not the enemy, our motivation in foster care started to shift.

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September 22, 2016
by Maralee

Lowering our Friendspectations

I think it started the moment I read the 547th post about how I could be a good friend to a certain type of person. It just reached critical mass in my brain and I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t possibly get it right all the time. I don’t have the ability to make all the meals, listen to all the problems, answer all the 2 a.m. phone calls, do all the hospital visits, provide all the respite care that would make me The World’s Best Friend. And I think I need to be okay with that.

I am definitely responsible for some of the “How to be a Friend to (fill in the blank kind of person)” posts that exist in the world. As a foster parent, adoptive parent, intermittently infertile woman, I have seen how friends can be a major source of healing or a major source of pain. I intentionally educate myself about what is going on in the lives of my friends and how I can be an active source of support to them. I love it that my friends want to know how to love me well. But at some point it can feel kind of overwhelming.

I don’t like that I’ve started to think about my friends as their category. The friend that struggles with depression, the friend with a health problem, the friend with a special needs child, the infertile friend, the working mom friend, the divorced friend, and on and on and on. I internally start to go through the lists of what to say, what not to say, how to help and then I settle on some kind of distinctly UNHELPFUL inertia because it’s just too much. Are you with me, Friends?

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September 20, 2016
by Maralee

Foster Thoughts: Because we Believe in Redemption

This month I am partnering with Christian Heritage and My Bridge Radio to encourage families in Nebraska to consider foster care as a way to love families in crisis. If you’re curious about foster parenting, now is the time to get your questions answered! Check out Christian Heritage for more details about informational events happening across Nebraska in September.

There are many reasons not to get involved in foster care. I can tell you about our own struggles through our years of loving kids and families in crisis, but there was a thought that kept us going: What if something terrible happened and we weren’t able to raise our own kids? Who would we want raising them and how would we want those people to treat us?


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