Welcome to my circus.

August 28, 2015
by Maralee
1 Comment

To my dad, on his birthday

Dear Dad,

Well, we both know that “on his birthday” part was kind of pushing the definition of “on” and “birthday.” Sorry this is late, but I feel like a large chunk of my brain was held captive for those couple months the kids were out of school and I’m just now getting it back. Or maybe, I just wanted to stretch out your birthday celebration as long as possible! Yes! That’s it.

It has come to my attention that I am bad at gifts. This was made especially obvious on Mother’s Day when my sisters gave Mom sweet, thoughtful gifts and I gave her a pack of gum because I was feeling sentimental about how she used to buy us that giant bubble gum at the grocery store if we were good. In my mind it seemed like a sweet gift and a reminder of the lessons Mom taught me about self-care (we all knew the bubble gum was secretly for her, just like the ice-cream cones she would buy us and then say, “It tastes better when you share.” until we gave her some.), but in the end, it was just a pack of gum. I say all this as a warning. Don’t get your hopes up.

I got you a sign. I know what you’re thinking– A sign! I always wanted a sign! Okay, probably not what you were thinking. But I wanted to get something that embodied a lesson I’ve learned from you and this seemed like the best way to do it. (I’m putting a picture of it here so I don’t forget what it looked like.)

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Sign created by Here with Us

Have you ever mentioned wanting to go to Australia? No. So maybe this is a weird gift. But follow me here. I pulled the quote from “Support Your Local Sheriff” since it’s a family favorite and the idea here seems to embody part of how I think about you. (I also considered going with an alternate “Support Your Local Sheriff” quote but “Pooberty hit her hard” didn’t look as nice.)

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August 27, 2015
by Maralee
6 Comments

“If my husband ever. . . “

I can go ahead and admit it was a mistake to stumble down the blackhole of comments left on an article about a man who very publicly betrayed his wife. Turns out everybody on the planet knows exactly what they would do if their husband did that to them. Except that they don’t.

I have gotten pretty tired of the phrase “If my husband ever. . .” This goes equally (or maybe double) for the phrase “If my child ever.” Do you know who says that stuff? People who have never actually experienced facing that situation. So you know how much their opinion should count? Not much.

Here’s the thing– I am the type of person who would typically say such a phrase. I have thought through a thousand worst case scenarios. I have read all the articles and a couple books about what to do and not to do in situation XYZ. Such situations could never possibly happen to me because I know all the right things to do, so I’m happy to tell you exactly how I would handle it if the worst thing happened. And it’s so EASY for me to tell you because I am 100% confident that thing will never happen to me because of how awesomely I will prevent it. (can you sense my sarcasm?)

But here’s the thing– in spite of all the books I’ve read, the prayers I prayed, and my personal awesomeness (again with the sarcasm), I have experienced some pretty dark times. I have had to look full in the face my own ideas about what I would do if a terrible thing happened. And you know what? I didn’t do what I thought I might.

My first experience with this was our infertility diagnosis. I had wanted to be a mother my entire life (and while I always had a heart for foster care and adoption, I also had a STRONG desire to experience pregnancy). I watched my older sister walk through infertility and I remember thinking “If I can’t get pregnant I will just die.” But you know what, when you’re sitting there in the doctor’s office and he reads off the results of your expensive testing, he doesn’t then say, “So, would you like to proceed with infertility treatments, would you like to pursue adoption, or would you like to just die?” The reality is that my “I will just die” philosophy about how to handle infertility kept me from actually having to have compassion for someone dealing with infertility. I would just die, but YOU have to handle it because you are some other kind of person than me– the kind of person who wouldn’t just die. That way of thinking eliminates any empathy response.

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August 23, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- May #1, 2015

The party is always happening on the A Musing Maralee Facebook and Twitter pages.

Tried my first exercise class last night. Pretty sure I burned more calories laughing than exercising.
#‎mennonitesdontdance‬

(meeting someone at exercise class)
Her: Maralee? Oh, I know your mom!
Me: Please don’t tell my mom you saw me here.
Mom Guilt- the gift that keeps on giving.
‪#‎mennonitesdontdance‬

Josh (8): Mom, I have a crush on a Catholic girl. Is that okay?
‪#‎ProtestantProblems‬ ‪#‎TOOSOON‬

Child stopped in the middle of the street to brag about how she looked both ways.
‪#‎missedthepoint‬

Josh (8): Can we go on a vacation this summer?
Me: We were thinking maybe next year you older kids would like to go to Washington D.C.
J: Do they have roller coasters?
Me: No, but you could see the White House and all kinds of awesome museums and national monuments and stuff.
J: I’d rather stay here with my cousins. Uncle Mark takes us to the dog park and there’s a big dirt hill you can climb.
‪#‎priorities‬

Josh (8): How come it seems like there’s always one parent who is more soft and one parent who is more tough? Why can’t you both be soft?
Me: If we were both soft, who would be the tough one to defend you or handle things like if somebody tried to break in the house?
Josh: DANNY!
‪#‎truth‬ ‪#‎littlebrothertoughbrother‬

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August 20, 2015
by Maralee
1 Comment

Let Your Kids See You Fail

A couple months ago I started attending a Refit class. It’s similar to Zumba or Jazzersice and I am awful at it. Truly awful. I go because I know it’s good for my body and I like the camaraderie of a bunch of moms (and sometimes a couple kids) doing dance moves we’d N-E-V-E-R do in public. I like to be exhausted and sweaty and feel like I really worked hard. Because I am a terrible dancer, it’s also a fun challenge for me and I feel like I’m using parts of my brain that don’t otherwise get involved in my daily routine. It’s been a really good thing for me.

A couple weeks ago we heard a song on the radio and I said to my kids, “Hey! That’s one of the songs from my dance class!” My six year-old said, “Are you bad at dancing to that song, Mom?” and I told him, “Oh, I am REALLY bad at dancing to that song! But it’s so much fun.” We went on to talk about how I grew up in a home where people didn’t dance so I never used those muscles or developed those skills. We laughed about the idea of Grandma and Grandpa dancing. We talked about how other cultures use dance to express themselves and how people use dance to worship God.

I guess I could have been offended that he asked me if I was bad at dancing, but the idea that I’m bad at dancing has been a well documented fact for so much of my life that at this point it has ceased to be hurtful. The whole conversation underscored something that’s important to me in my parenting:  I want my kids to be okay with being bad at something.

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It’s been fascinating to me to read the research out there about how we best encourage kids if we want to enable them to be successful. It is not about praising their innate gifts (“You’re so smart! You’re so athletic!”) it’s about praising their work ethic (“I can see how hard you worked to figure that out!”). Kids who are praised for being innately good take less risks because they don’t want to jeopardize that perception. Kids who are praised for working hard are willing to work harder even if they risk being wrong. They learn to trust their ability to try.

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August 16, 2015
by Maralee
1 Comment

A Life in Status- April #2, 2015

Be part of the conversation as it happens on Facebook or Twitter.

If you are trying to eat a sneaky treat without your kids catching you, a powdered sugar donut may not be a good idea.
‪#‎protip‬ ‪#‎whatsonyourfaceMom‬

I’m watching Daniel Tiger sing “Grownups Come Back” with a kid who knows that sometimes they don’t. This adoption stuff can be heavy, but building trust with my kids and being loved by and loving them has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Bethany (5): Joel, did you know Jesus is God? He IS! And there is only one God and Jesus came down to earth. Like a ghost! But he is NOT a ghost. Did you know that, Joel? Jesus is NOT A GHOST.
‪#‎preschooltheologian‬

(We have had a digestive illness over here)
Child: I pooped, Mom.
Me: You did? How was it?
Child: . . . Brown?
‪#‎askasillyquestion‬ ‪#‎tmi‬

Me: I’d like to go back to Niagara Falls some day.
Josh (8): You want to go to Canada?
Me: How did you know Niagara Falls is in Canada?
Josh: Your man is smart.
‪#‎lovehim‬

(Watching the new Star Wars Trailer)
Han Solo: Chewie, we’re home.
Josh (8): Did he just say “Chewie, we’re old?”
‪#‎letthewookiewin‬

Child: Mom, the bathroom smells really bad.
Me: Oh yeah? Did you flush?
Child: Oh. . .

1) Find ants in the house
2) Read about how to get rid of ants
3)”First, get rid of all crumbs in the house.”
4) Decide it may be easier to just move

I was at Target trying to find something to hang on the wall and all I could find were signs that said, “Love is happiness”, “Follow your dream”, “Dream until your dream comes true” and “Do what makes you happy.” Not my life philosophy. I’m thinking of having the inspirational quote from The Princess Bride painted on the wall: “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
‪#‎realist‬ ‪#‎diapersdontmakemehappy‬ ‪#‎stillhavetochangethem‬ ‪#‎lovemylife‬

If the teacher doesn’t write something nice on your paper, just write it yourself.
‪#‎Joshphilosophy‬

A Musing Maralee's photo.

 

(Josh was doing a magic act for his siblings. Danny got bored and left.)
Me: It’s time to go to bed, guys.
Josh (8): But Mom, Danny hasn’t even done his part of the show yet!
Me: Josh, Danny disappeared like five minutes ago and you didn’t even notice.
Bethany (5): (GASP!) MAGIC!
‪#‎loveher‬

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August 14, 2015
by Maralee
1 Comment

“The system is too broken” is not a good excuse

When I talk to people about foster care I get a lot of responses. People are always telling me why they could never invest themselves in these kids. There is the standard “I’d get too attached” response that while it frustrates me (Of course you would! That’s the point. These kids need people to attach to them.), I think I get most baffled by people who shrug and say they’d love to do something but “the system is just too broken.” Maybe they follow this up with an anecdotal story about a friend’s cousin who had a foster child that went back to an unsafe biological family member or they speak disparagingly of caseworkers and judges who are overburdened and just don’t care. So why get involved if the system is so broken kids aren’t getting the help they need?

Here’s my easy answer:  BECAUSE THE SYSTEM IS SO BROKEN THAT KIDS AREN’T GETTING THE HELP THEY NEED.

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I have seen unmotivated caseworkers who don’t seem to understand that a year in the life of an infant is their actual whole life. We can’t just ask these little ones to wait to attach and love and have stability until we decide on their permanency path. I’ve seen cases that defy all logic and reason– children who haven’t seen their biological parents in years, but the court still holds out hope that they will reappear so they are stuck in legal limbo. I’ve known about visits where domestic violence is actually happening during the supervised visitation the parents have with the child. Parents who test positive for meth are allowed to continue that day’s visit with their child. Being in jail is considered an adequate excuse for missing visits and may not be held against the parent. A child’s attorney never actually attempts to meet with the child. Laws are enacted that keep kids stuck in a system that doesn’t value their need for permanency in a timely fashion. Foster parents see their kids as a good deed to perform or as an annoyance or a paycheck.

Yes. The system can be broken. But why is that an excuse to not do something about it?

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August 11, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

The Gospel According to YOLO

If you have any familiarity with pop culture over the last five years, you’ve run across the acronym YOLO– You Only Live Once. The first time I heard it, I had no idea what it meant or even what exactly I was hearing. Yo-yo? Is that a new, hip thing? Rolo? The delicious chocolatey caramel candy? Seriously, I am out of the loop when it comes to current slang (don’t get me started about my irritation with people who write words with numbers in them), but I’m fascinated by the etymology of new words and phrases. YOLO seems to have started as a way to justify risky behavior by people a generation younger than me and now I (and the rest of my minivan moms) might use it somewhat ironically (“In the drive-thru getting a Big Mac at 3 pm because #YOLO.”) Like carpe diem before it, it reminds us that life is short and the things we put off doing we may never get around to experiencing at all.

Now that’s a life philosophy I can get behind.

It may seem a little odd for a churchgoing mom of 6 in her mid thirties to be all onboard the YOLO bandwagon, but here I am. I just think the application is slightly different in my life. I happen to believe Jesus was all about YOLO.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:27-28

The basic message isn’t really that deep, just factual. We get one shot with this life. We can use it however we choose. For some people that idea may make them feel like they need to squeeze all the enjoyment they can out of life. They should blow their money on what makes them happy in the moment. If this relationship isn’t fun anymore, it’s time to opt out. If the responsibility of this job seems too heavy, walk away. If your extended family drives you crazy, cut them out. Have all the fun you want regardless of the cost.

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July 29, 2015
by Maralee
23 Comments

Outraged at Planned Parenthood? Support foster kids.

I’m going to be honest– I read a transcript of one of the Planned Parenthood videos, but I can’t bring myself to watch it. I just can’t. There are some things I have a very tender heart about and to listen to a woman talk about dismembering babies while she eats lunch. . . it’s too much for me.

It all feels very personal when you realize the babies they’re talking about could very well have been your children. I have 6 kids and to the best of my knowledge ALL of them were unplanned pregnancies– 4 were other women’s and 2 were my own. My four adopted kids were born into less than ideal circumstances. All of them had mothers who attempted to parent for some amount of time, but were not able. These are difficult stories both for the women who lived them and for the children who carry them. But my beautiful sons and daughters have LIFE. They were wanted and chosen and loved. And for that, I am forever grateful to the women who gave them life when they had every legal option to go visit a Planned Parenthood clinic and have those children torn limb from limb for the crime of being inconvenient.

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There are people who would have cheered that decision– one less foster child, one less burden on the taxpayers, one less kid in need of services, one less single mother. I have had someone ask about my foster child’s story, look into his beautiful brown eyes, and then tell me if her daughter ever came to her pregnant, she would tell her to abort. It was the most angry and dumbfounded I think I’ve ever been towards a stranger in a grocery store.

I know many of us feel upset and revolted at the recent revelations about Planned Parenthood. It is also tempting to think the solutions are over our heads and out of reach. What can we do? Picket? Write letters to our representatives in DC? Boycott companies that support Planned Parenthood? It all feels. . . toothless. It feels ineffective. There are good things to do to support alternatives, to encourage a culture of life, to make a financial impact where we can. I also want to encourage you to consider a way I’ve found to make a real, meaningful difference– become a foster parent.

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July 24, 2015
by Maralee
6 Comments

My son and His Brother

My family had an amazing experience this summer. Our son was able to meet his biological brother. In the foster care world, this isn’t anything so spectacular. Our kids adopted from foster care have biological siblings and we keep in touch with them. But this is the biological sibling of my son adopted from Liberia. It is a rarity for kids who are internationally adopted to have this kind of information about their birth family and be able to establish a connection, so I wanted to share their story.

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While we were in Liberia picking up Josh (2007), we were told that his birthmother was pregnant. This information did not come through any official channel, but there was someone involved with the orphanage who personally knew Josh’s birthmother and casually mentioned to us that he thought she was having another baby. We knew nothing other than that little bit of information, but we knew if there was any way we could keep these siblings together, we wanted to do it. This was in September. Josh’s brother was born in January.

During the first year after we brought Josh home I wrote several times to our adoption agency about the possibility of a birth sibling coming into the orphanage. I told them that we wanted to keep these children together and that we would do whatever was necessary. In the back of my mind there was always a possibility that we could get a call and we’d need to start pulling together documents and finances to go get Josh’s sibling. But the call never came.

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July 15, 2015
by Maralee
1 Comment

A Life in Status- April #1, 2015

Find me on Facebook and Twitter.

My three year-old decided he didn’t have time to run to the bathroom during the Easter egg hunt, so he just pulled down his pants in my parents’ front lawn and peed directly into his basket full of Easter eggs.
I love my life.

Bethany (5): Mom, I made a picture of you!
Me: Yes. Yes you did.
‪#‎bighairdontcare‬ ‪#‎shelovesme‬

A Musing Maralee's photo.

Joel (3): I love you all the times, Mom.
Me: Awww. I love you every second of every day.
J: I love YOU every second day, too!
‪#‎soclose‬

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