Sleep, Sweet Babies, Sleep

It’s nearly proverbial, you know. That resistance to sleep that is wholly ingrained in the youngest of people, the ones who always need that nap the most. My gentle reminders for a short restful nap are met with shrieks, and tears, and running, and bargaining, and just about any other tactic or obstacle that my busy toddlers can create to delay the inevitable nap. A little rest. Just rest. It must be ingrained in the mind of a toddler to fend off sleep with the fury of an angry rooster. Some days it seems easier to skip the afternoon siesta, but in reality, it isn’t. Rest, naps, and sweet slumber are critical to the emotional well-being of my toddlers. And of course, to their mom.

But in all honesty, I am no better. At 10:30 pm my fitbit reminds me that it is time to unwind for bed. And yet, at 10:30 pm I am still going strong. Finishing a load of laundry, folding a few towels, setting out the outfits for the following day. Clearing the days clutter so that I can start fresh in the morning. Jotting down thoughts for one more blog, one more article, another piece of music, then scrambling to pay a bill, tuck in the baby chicks for the night, and turning off all the lights. It’s more than an hour later that I finally crash, and yet my mind keeps racing as I try to get my body to sleep. When we are too busy to rest, we are simply too busy.

There is a hush that falls across the homestead in the middle of the day. Funny how it coincides with my own wee ones nap times. The activity in the chicken yard comes to a halt, and I see little groups of hens, snuggled up beneath the goat shed, or huddled under the belly of the van. The goats cease their playful antics, and cuddle up in a mash of straw and bits of left over hay. The silkie chicks pile up in the corner where the sunlight plays across their pen, a heap of fuzz and feathers being warmed in the sun.  My elderly kitty leaves her post on the bed, only to find just the right spot where she can snooze away the afternoon, relaxed in the sun. How is it that these animals know better than I? I, who try to cram every last bit of work and hustle into the hour and a half that my little ones are tucked away in their rooms, racing to accomplish just one more task, while the rest of the world that is my little homestead peacefully rests? The soft chirping of the brand new buff orpingtons tucked beneath their Ecoglow is soothing as I struggle to finish up one more thing before my gaggle of toddlers is jumping for joy to climb out of their beds again.

We are all in dire need of rest. We are all in desperate need of a break from the busy lives of parenthood, where the chauffering of children to their activities is draining on parent and child alike. We are in need of a break from the hectic rhythms of the work day, to slow our pace, and spend time together. We are in need of a break from the onslaught of information that we constantly crave, the status updates, the tweets, and the wealth of Google’s knowledge at our fingertips. We need to let our bodies, our minds, and our souls, find their rest.

I know what it is I need.

I need to still my body from the work, close my eyes, and allow my body it’s sweet slumber so I have the strength to face another task, another day.

I need to still my mind, to shut down the tech, to breathe in the fresh air of the country and breathe out all the cares of my day, and just be, alive, and refreshed, in the sunshine of the day or the stillness of the evening.

And I need to still my soul, to place it’s care into the hands of the ever-loving Jesus, to accept His rest, and allow myself to receive His peace. But I won’t find it if I’m running, I won’t hear the quiet of His voice if I am scrolling and surfing and tuning the world out with my iPad or my phone. If I truly want to find His rest, I need to make some time to be at rest.

It’s hard to shut it down. It’s hard to disconnect from the technology that I enjoy. It’s hard to refrain from googling the answer to every question my children pose. It’s hard to cut myself off form the workload, and lay my weary body down to sleep. But I am no longer a toddler who does not understand the things his little body needs.

I know my little ones need their slumber, so I’ll do the work of calming their little bodies down for sleep, no matter what antics they throw my way in order to thwart their own rest. And if I am going to care for myself so that I can be strong, and kind, and joyful, and accomplished, I need to stop the antics, and cease thwarting my own desperately needed rest.

Turn if off and shut it down. Close it up and pull the plug. Turn off the lights. It’s time to sleep. Sleep, sweet babies. Sleep, sweet mama. Just sleep.

 

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Two of the most dreaded words in parenting vocabulary.

Parent pickup. Two of the most dreaded words in the parenting vocabulary. The angst multiples with each additional child in the vehicle. So do the number of earned timeouts, the level of odiferousness, and the depth of the scum in the bottom of the van. We won’t discuss the backpacks, water bottles, and dirty shoes. Oh the dirty shoes.

It’s not my fault; I happen to have a fairly large family with 6 children. All under the age of 10. In order to accommodate the massive number of car seats and boosters as required by law, and as necessitated by my insanely-high level of passion for the safety and security of my gaggle of mini-me’s, I’ve had to give up all hope of driving a remotely cool car. Scratch that. I can’t even drive a cool mini-van. Nope. Not even a Honda Odyssey can accommodate this level of crazy large fam. I practically drive a bus.

It’s hard enough to maneuver my bumbling 12 passenger van through the serpentine of school safeties, orange cones, and actual school busses without running over dropped backpacks and forgotten hockey equipment. But my sense of repose is instantly repressed by those parents that presume my oversized family wagon is a dusty work van awaiting its occupant. It isn’t that dirty, is it? They zip by me in their pretty little Mustangs and Blue-tooth connected Honda Accords, and yeah, even that cool mom with the Odyssey manages to whip her way around my bus-like self as she rushes in to swoop up her singleton. Singleton. One. One child. I can barely even remember what that was like. Seems like a relaxed and easy life-time ago, as I sit exhausted from convincing 3 strong-willed toddlers to get in the van for parent pickup.

The three screaming banshees – I mean, the bored and rather vocal toddlers in their rear facing car seats complete with cups and snacks have already pushed my patience beyond it’s limitless nature when another precious parent swoops around for their duo. Clearly, there is no rush to get in position as school is not out for another 15 or 20 minutes. Clearly, my giant van is invisible. Hello…. I am parent pickup here. Don’t you see me? As I cautiously maneuver into position behind the Odysseys and the Mustangs, a pungent shoe whizzes by my head, courtesy of the adorable cutie-pie who dropped their sippy and ran out of granola bar snack. I cower from the angry shrieks and wait for the other shoe to fly.

Wincing, I wait for it….. andddddd there it is. At least that one is predictable. Finally, there is a lull in the triple threat toddler storm as I begin to ponder….. what is that smell? No, I don’t mean the diaper odor coming from the second row. The other smell. That smell that’s like rotten bananas that have been coated in sauerkraut and sautéed in pork livers. It’s hard to tell where it’s coming from, considering the left-behind, dirty clothes, extra sweatshirts, and at least 20 socks coating the floor amidst lollipop sticks and stale Chik-fil-a waffle fries that have been there since, oh at least last week. It was last week that we took the epic trip to Chik-fil-a, right?

I begin to pray. I close my eyes, head in my hands, dear God please don’t let anyone look in this disgusting filthy bio-hazard of a van. I think I’m having a vision, some kind of thundering, pounding in the cloudy sky. I must have fallen asleep and I am clearly and awkwardly confused as I realize the thundering is really the principal knocking on the window. I secretly wipe away the drool, hoping I didn’t smear my mascara while I was deep in ‘prayer.’

I roll down the passenger window, and as the well-dressed principal leans in I die a little bit on the inside. Maybe a lot a bit. He is, of course, dressed to the nines, complete with suit jacket and bow tie. I panic, wondering if I missed parent-teacher conferences, again. I secretly pray he has the worst cold of his life so he cannot smell that UFO – that unidentified freakish odor. “Your son was in my office today,” he states flatly, leaning in further. I die a little more, hoping he forgot his contacts, too, so he can’t see the filth on the carpet. “We had to discuss his behavior in gym.” Did I mention I have a phobia about school authorities? The quesadilla I had for lunch threatens to join the UFO and the plethora of trash that I hope is hidden on the floor. Swallowing hard, I eke out a faint “Oh?” “We worked it out. He went back to class.”

The quesadilla breathes a sigh of relief as he starts to turn away. The banshees start to yell again and I think I am out of the woods and off of the administrator’s radar. Until he spies my 3 trying to escape their teachers watchful eyes. Their ninja skills have reached expert level, I think proudly. Everyone needs to have a skill, right? Always the gentleman, Mr. Principal opens the passenger door and beckons for the little ninjas to come ahead. Quesadilla rising. Anxiety escaping. UFO intensifying. I am mortified as some of our rubbish spills out and into the car line. Inwardly, I beg Jesus to return. The rapture would really help me out right now, God. The three climb in the van and instantly fight with toddlers over snacks and seats and spilled sippies. Mr. Principal calmly shuts the door, closing the kids – and the smell – inside. I can feel the stares of the parents stuck behind me in the car line as I wrangle kids into car seats, kicking rogue sippies out from under me as I go. A shiny blue sedan zips around, and a perfectly coiffed little girl gingerly steps inside and buckles herself in her unbelievably clean seat while I give a few hairy eyeballs to my crew, muttering about the smell, and desperately trying to fade into the upholstery of my bus-van. Hiding is pointless, no one else here drives this bus. After what feels like an eternity of warding off stinky kicking feet, admiring sticky art projects and passing out wipes for smudgy faces, we are buckled and ready to drive the grand 4 minutes home.

 

I never realized that relief is spelled “driveway” and “home” cools the raging heartburn of principal-induced anxiety. The kids begin to shout “MOM! What’s wrong?” When they hear my giant sigh of relief. Perhaps I am a little too happy to be home.

But wait. 47 minutes of torturous parent pickup is not quite complete. I still have to unload….

Feeling dried up, worn out, deadened? We have hope.

Feeling dried up, worn out, deadened? We have hope.
“Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
Ezekiel 37:12-14, NIV

 

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The Rose of Jericho, the Resurrection Fern, has an amazing capacity for survival. In times of drought, it dries out and shrivels up, looking dead, but hides a surprising secret. When given a long slow drink, that dead-looking fern resurrects and becomes lush and green and full of life again. If you’re a special needs parent, I bet you’ve got that same capacity for survival. We go through periods that are so hard, so exhausting, physically and emotionally taxing, that we feel pretty dead and dried up inside. I have days when I feel that way, don’t you? Worn out until there really isn’t much left. Just like that fern can live again, there is hope for you, and there is hope for me, too!

There is a pretty special prophet named Ezekiel who we read about in the Old Testament. I love the story of Ezekiel because he never intended to become a prophet. Ezekiel trained his entire life to be a priest. A priest had social standing, was respected, and admired. It was an honor to be a priest! But just as he was about to step into his role as priest and fulfill his duties, God called him to something entirely different – to be a prophet. Nobody really likes a prophet. They were looked down upon, disliked, and viewed with suspicion. But God used prophets to bring his stubborn people back to Him, so a prophet’s job was just as important as a priest’s. Few people desire to be a special needs parent, it’s something that often is thrust upon us, and leaves us feeling kind of isolated and at odds with the world, but it’s just as important and rewarding, isn’t it?

Well, God’s people seemed a lot like that dried up old fern – they were hurting, feeling alone, abandoned because they had rejected God. Have you ever felt alone and hurting? Isolated? It was Ezekiel’s job to bring them back to God. And God gave him an incredible vision, the Valley of the Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14.

In the passage, God takes Ezekiel to this valley of bones, old, dead bones. Because that’s how Israel felt, like wasted old bones. And Ezekiel was probably pretty horrified by those bones – because a priest would never touch a dead body! But God told Ezekiel to speak to the bones, and he obeyed. And the bones grew flesh, and became bodies. And God told Ezekiel to speak to those bones again, and he obeyed. And those bones were given the breath of life and became a vast army of living breathing people. This vision sounds more like something from the Walking Dead rather than a Bible story, so what does that mean for us?

It means that God sees us and hears us when we feel like we are dried up, wasting away, cut off, and abandoned. And it means that God wants to breathe new life in us! He wants to restore our weary souls, energize our lifeless bodies, and help us stand to our feet, ready to face another day. Just like that Resurrection Fern comes back to life with just a bit of water, God wants to breathe new life into our hurting, dead places.

Maybe you never planned on being a special needs parent, but now, somehow, you are. And it’s hard, and it can be isolating. It’s exhausting. And just as you are breathing life and love into your special needs child or children, God wants to breathe life and love into you. Breathe in, my friend, breathe in God’s Spirit and let God give you new life.

Dear God,

We cry out to You with our hurts, our loneliness, our isolation.
We cry out to You in our deadness, our dryness, our weariness.

We give you the dry places,
the hidden places,
the hurting places
so You can resurrect them.

Fill us, Lord, with Your Breath,
fill us with Your Spirit,
and give us strength to stand,
strength to fight, and
strength to thrive.

Give us Your infinite love
so we have love to give to those around us.

In the name of Jesus,

Amen

-Amanda Furbeck

This post originally published at Comfort in the Midst of Chaos on August 4, 2016.

You might have multiple toddlers if…

Your fish tank is decorated in little stickers that come off of bananas, oranges, imageand apples.

Your ability to hurdle baby gates has reached Olympic Gold Status.

You can’t find your refrigerator under all those handmade pictures.

You find unidentifiable science experiments growing under your sofa. You’re not sure, but one might be an old hotdog.

You are keenly aware that epic destruction can occur in less than a minute, about the time it takes to change the baby’s diaper or take your own bathroom break.

You live for naptime, bedtime, and gynecological appointments because you finally get a break from the screeching, screaming, and Barney songs.

You’re thinking about buying a coffee farm in Brazil. Because that much coffee is critical to your – and your toddlers’- survival.

imageYour backyard looks like a combination parking lot- playground- junk yard.

You can’t remember the last time their wasn’t a pile of laundry the size of Mt. Vesuvius with a stench like something you’ve never smelled before and hope to never smell again.

Your windows have a pretty, stained glass effect. At least that’s what you tell yourself when you don’t have time to wash off the ketchup, chocolate, and pudding smears that have been accumulating for weeks.

Your poor kitty is always running out of food and water because her bowls are easily accessible and most frequently used for dumping, pouring, and scattering.

Your essential oil diffuser lives on the kitchen counter to counteract that diaper smell.

You have as many sippy cups as coffee mugs.

You have a secret stash of chocolate.

You have a backup supply of coffee.IMG_1785

You keep a special, secret stash of wine for those days which are extra hard – you know, all of the ones that end with the letters d.a.y.

You buy baby wipes by the case.

You change clothes more frequently than a toddler because, well, there is ketchup. And spit-up. And fingerpainting. And, well, diapers. And that’s all before 9am.

You decide that keeping them in diapers a little longer is much easier and better for your sanity than attempting potty training. It’s ok, the kindergarten teacher can handle it.

Your mini-van has a special smell all its own.

You’re not sure if there is a floor under all those toys in the playroom.

Your bathroom only gets cleaned on bath night, and only with the shampoo and water that was supposed to stay in the tub.

image1 (2)Your idea of date night is to get in bed with a glass of wine and play dice on your cell phone while your other half watches ridiculously dumb Youtube videos but you don’t really care because you just want everyone to stop touching your body parts.

You can’t remember the last time you read a book with more than 35 words.

You daydream about what it’s like to go to the bathroom all by yourself.

You’re completely relieved when the tamper tantrum happening at the grocery store isn’t from one of yours.

You wouldn’t change it for the world.

 

 

10 Tips for surviving sleepless nights and tired days

IMG_1655Sleep. I love sleep. And I know I need more, consistent nights of sleep. Even my dear sweet Dad lectured me the other day on the amount of sleep I get, but I’m pretty sure I learned my sleep habits from him! I guess you’re never too old to hear the wisdom of your parents, and he is right – we all need to sleep. Studies have shown how poorly people perform on tests, decision making, and driving when they are sleep deprived. In fact, driving on little sleep can be just as dangerous as drunk driving because sleep helps us make the right choices, think quickly, and react appropriately. But if you’re a parent, a student, or you work nights, you are probably going to suffer more than a couple of sleepless nights. Worries, busyness, and sick and teething babies, toddler nightmares, and thirsty little throats are great interruptions to our sleep. And it happens… so how do we function on little sleep? Here’s a few tricks I’ve learned from 6 kids, 3 years of seminary, and far too many sleepless nights…

10. Drink a little extra coffee.  I mean, a little. It’s ok to indulge in a little extra caffeine to keep you going, but too much coffee will give you the jitters and upset your stomach. Plus, it’ll keep you awake that night.

9. Drink water. Our body functions slow down while we are sleeping, so we need less water and calories. However, when we don’t sleep enough, we’ll be using up those resources more quickly without giving our bodies a chance to recharge. Add that to the diuretic effects of coffee, and we are quickly dehydrated. Make sure you keep a glass of water handy and drink up!

8. Eat well. Sleep helps us regulate the hormones that tell us we’re hungry. When we don’t sleep enough, our bodies get confused and we think we are REALLY hungry, when we’re probably just thirsty and tired. But when we’re tired, we are more likely to make poor food choices, and this is a time when we need extra nutrition to help us cope with too little sleep. So eat healthy – and if you’re extra hungry, it’s ok, just make sure you’re noshing on the good stuff – apples, carrots, lean protein, and any kind of fruit and vegetable will give you vitamins and minerals without destroying your diet.

7. Watch out for your emotions. When we’re tired, we’re much more emotional. When you feel yourself getting agitated or weepy, take a big breath and relax before you react. If you feel like you’re flying off the handle, it’s probably just the tiredness talking. Make an extra effort to let it go! And give yourself some grace for a bad mood. This day will pass and you will be ok!

6. Turn the lights on. When you start feeling sleepy, turn up the lights. Brighter lights will help you stay more alert.

5. Take a quick walk. If you have to get some work done and feel yourself dozing off, take a brisk walk to the water cooler, bathroom, or jog around your living room to get your heart rate up and rejuvenate quickly.

4. Get a little sun. Fresh air and sunshine helps your mood and your energy level. A quick burst of sunlight will give you a little extra Vitamin D and it will help you sleep better that night.

3. Skip the workout if you’re really exhausted. If you’re just a little tired, that workout might help you have more energy for your day. But if you are exhausted to the point that your muscles ache, you might want to give it a break and spend that time taking a snooze.

2. Reward yourself. Give yourself something good to look forward to at the end of the day. Maybe a small delicious treat, take out so you don’t have to cook, a little time to relax by the fire, or a favorite tv show you’ve been wanting to watch. Giving yourself a nice reward will make your day go faster and better.

1.Take a nap! Never underestimate the power of a cat nap to help you feel refreshed. I like to drink a cup of coffee and set a 20 minute alarm right before I lay down. If I’m really tired, I’ll be fast asleep before the coffee kicks in. The alarm will wake me up just as the caffeine starts to work and I can better face the rest of my day.

What are your tricks for surviving too short nights?

Leap of Faith

 

 

Instant death. Game over. End of movie. End of my hero. End of my world.

I sat there, completely transfixed, eyes unblinking, frozen, sweating, shaking, knot in my stomach worried for my favorite hero as he deciphered the scribbles in his little notebook. No wonder it’s called the last crusade – he’s going to be dead. He’s going to jump from the head of the lion and fall down and be dead. And that would be it. There’s no other way, no hope for survival, he’s just going to be dead and how am I going to get out of bed tomorrow when my hero didn’t survive his own movie? Life cannot possibly go on without Indiana Jones. It just can’t.

At a sheltered age of 13, what did I know about taking a leap of faith?

I followed the rules. I did my chores. I was pleasant and polite at all times (or so I thought, at least). I played it safe. I did everything that was expected of me. And as an adult, for the most part, I still play it safe. I make my bed. I do my chores. I’m pretty sure that I don’t break any laws. I try to to meet other people’s expectations of me. I even get my taxes done on time. I’m pleasant and polite (or so I think, anyway). I’m on time, even with 6 kids in tow. And yet, I am not wholly satisfied with life as it is. I have played it safe. I have played it too safe, I think.  I will not cannot and am not even designed to be content until I am exactly in that spot where God would have me to be. The best choice, the right choice, the choice that God has designed for me to make, may not be the one that seems safe to my finite mind. Sometimes, God would have us take a leap of faith.

A couple of friends reminded me of that recently (one of which habitually jumps out of airplanes for fun and is quite familiar with that terrifying leap of faith). They reminded me that God does His most amazing work when we trust Him. And sometimes, that trust requires a leap of faith. I am more like Jonah, who ran from God’s plan than I am like Daniel, who had stories to tell his grandkids after he had to face a den full of hungry lions for his faith. I dot my i’s and cross my t’s.  I play it safe. I count heads, I double check car seats. I eliminate choking hazards, mini blinds, and electrical cords. A dear sweet relative thinks I over-cook all of our foods in order to stay safe from food poisoning, but I am determined to keep things safe. Maybe I can keep my kids protected from random Legos and salmonella, and rightly so, but not everything in this world needs to be so “safe.”

I’m going to screw this up, aren’t I? When I finally convince myself that it’s ok to take that leap of faith, when I get my courage and my stuff together and I am finally ready to jump, I’m going to mess up and fall on my face and it’s going to be the end of the world because how am I supposed to get out of bed in the morning when I fall down and there’s no hope to get back up? I’m pretty sure Abraham screwed things up a bit, too. He lied about his wife, not just once, but twice, by telling a wealthy, lusty man that his wife was his sister. But he also took that leap of faith, and listened to God, time and time again, and now we know him not because he played it safe but because he had faith.  Faith in God to stand up and make the right choice even when he was afraid.  (See Hewbrews 11 for how to please God by having faith).

I’m not quite sure how God is going to amend my safety first ways. Oh, I’m sure He’s not going to ask me to give up my habitual child-proofing or ask me to go jump off of a cliff or two. But I’m pretty sure He doesn’t want me to sit around and play it safe, either, living life with a dull sense of dissatisfaction and incompletion, mildly bored and annoyed and boring and safe.

I love that Indiana Jones movie, and surely it wasn’t his last crusade because another movie is finally in the works. And it wasn’t that my hero didn’t have fear – it was that in the face of fear, and unknown, and the unsafe, that he had courage. He had faith. He leapt. And lived to tell about it. Sometimes, we just need to make that leap of faith.

What leap of faith is God calling you to make?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 Life lessons as a foster parent

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11 things I’ve learned as a foster parent…

Don’t worry about the things that are out of your control. Like hair cuts. Because those are still controlled by birth parents. And if anything can possibly go wrong, it will happen in the five minutes before the social worker knocks on your door.

Don’t worry about what other people think. As a foster mom, I’ve been accused of a lot. Like that time when the perfect stranger  was convinced I had an affair and asked me. In front of my husband. Or the random church member who called me a bad parent for reasons I am totally unaware of. Or the acquaintance who was pretty sure I was getting a substantial and undeserved payload for these children. And I had to learn to let it go, let it go, and stop worrying about what others think. Except your social worker. You should probably always worry about what she thinks.

Ride the rails.  It didn’t take long to learn what an emotional roller coaster the foster care journey is. And while training helps you prepare for the worst and the best, there really is nothing quite like going through it for real. So you learn to ride the rails, hang on tight, scream a little bit here and there when you get scared, and laugh when it’s fun, and dig your very fingernails into the arms of the person next to you as you cling to them for your ever loving life, but just know that no matter what happens in the ups and downs, it’s not over until it’s over and anything can happen at anytime.

Take it one day at a time.  As a foster parent, you become acutely aware that you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. So you take it just one day at a time, one hour at a time, or a minute at a time if need be. Enjoy each moment while you can because you just don’t know what’s coming next. And sometimes, that’s a good thing.

Get help when you need it. It’s not always all roses, all the time being a foster parent, and sometimes, you just need help. Maybe you need to hire someone to help with the laundry or the cleaning. Or maybe your child needs some help from a therapist. You social worker is always there to assist and will point you in the right direction (and will make sure you get the court’s permission when you need it).

Laugh. “They” say that laughter is the best medicine. I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but experts do agree that laughter increases feel good endorphins and other hormones that help your children feel better, cope better, grow better. So get out those corny jokes, ridiculous charades, and pillow fights and tickle fests and just laugh long and hard.

Rest. When my oldest was born, everyone told me to sleep when the baby slept. The joke was on me because he barely slept! Take it from me, if you get an opportunity for a nap, take it! While you’re at it, eat right, exercise, spend time with your spouse, and do something fun for you. Go ahead. You’ll thank me.

Give grace. And give it freely. To your biological children. To your adopted children. To your children in care. To the birth parents. To your spouse. And especially, to yourself.

Let it go. Make it your mantra. When the potted plant gets dumped for the 3rd time in the last five minutes, let it go. When the window gets broken, let it go. When your child writes his name for the very first time on your favorite Bible in sharpie, just let it go. You’ll be happier for it. And if you need help remembering to let it go, just watch, “Frozen.” It doesn’t disappoint and you’ll never forget to Let it go again.

Pray hard. Prayer works. Prayer is powerful. Stop reading this and go do it.

Love hard. ‘Nough said.

 

16 things I’ve heard as a foster mom.

Most folks are well-intentioned, merely curious, really good , kind people who simply don’t know all of the foster care lingo that we, on the parenting side, have become quite comfortable with. And after being a foster mom for several years, I think I’ve heard it all from complete strangers, from very sweet, kind comments about my darling babies, to funny, witty, and sometimes even dirty looks and down-right rude remarks that secretly make my blood boil. Usually, though, I’m too busy tending to my bustling brood to actually care what other people think, but sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I had a snappy comeback to pass along with an impish grin and a sticky hug from a quite thoughtful child. So here’s a quick list of some of the funny things I’ve heard – and what I wish I had said in the moment. Enjoy!

  1. You’re a saint for taking in those children.  ME? A saint? You must have me confused with someone else, because I’m just a normal, boring, imageregular, non-perfect, plain old, run-of-mill human being with normal, boring, regular, non-perfect, plain, old, run-of-the-mill problems who happens to be a mom. I’m taking life one day at a time just like everybody else. I make messy mistakes, sneak chocolates when the kids aren’t looking, beg God to let me sleep a little longer each morning, and I long for the peace and quiet of bed time every night. I’d say those children are saints for not complaining when all of the yummy dark chocolate has completely disappeared from their Easter baskets after I accidentally ate it all.  Shhhh don’t tell them I told you…

2. Are you a daycare? Not since the last time I checked.IMG_3428

3. Which one is yours? All of them. They are all mine. Every single one. Some people collect shot glasses, I collect children. Hoard them, as a matter of fact. And no, I won’t trade, sell, or barter any of my precious collection, they are worth far too much, but I’ll gladly help you start your own collection of highly adorable, completely priceless miniature human beings.

4. Is the mom in jail?  Well, I’m the mom and I am definitely NOT in jail. But thanks for asking about how I’m doing… as a matter of fact, I do feel a little trapped by the all the laundry I have to do each week…. How about I bring over a couple of loads of wash for you to fold?

5. What’s wrong with that one? What’s wrong with you?IMG_1655

6. I could never love another person’s child. Wrong. Just wrong. If you’re saying that (out loud even), you’re just trying to convince yourself not to get involved. Here’s how I see it. Any child under my roof is MY CHILD. And I will love him or her for the rest of my life and well into the next. Because that child is lovable and worthy of love. Love is a choice, an action, and I double dog dare you to choose it. You haven’t learned what love can be until you hear that child call you “Mommy” and I promise it will make your little heart burst with joy.

7. They’re lucky to have you.  I don’t believe in luck. I believe in Jesus.IMG_1628

8. Don’t you have enough kids? Nah. There’s always room for one more.

9. Are you going to adopt that one? Which one?

10. Doesn’t the mom want them?  Of course I want them!

11. Did the real mom do drugs? I’m the real mom.

12. You look great for just having a baby, I didn’t even know you were pregnant. Gee, thanks, at least someone thinks I look good!

13. Is the kid safe? Does he ‘have something?”  Well, the last time I checked, IMG_1528there were a couple of rocks in his pocket and he had just picked up a frog, but I’m pretty sure they don’t bite because frogs don’t have any teeth.

14. You must be in it for the money.  Hahahahahahaha.

15. Your husband must make a lot of money. Again. Hahahahahahaha.

16. Is that a drug baby? Nope. “That” is a child. A tiny soul, created by God, to grow and love and live and spend eternity worshipping Him. Why do you ask?

Hope for the weary parent: 10 tips to make sure naptime is your time

In my little world, with a homestead to build and music to schedule and blogs to write and an overwhelming amount of laundry to wash and fold shove into dressers that are way too small, nap time is seriously critical. I’m talking my life revolves around nap time, critical. I mean, I’m pretty sure I might actually expire from the overwhelming level of insanity if my children don’t take their naps level of critical. And with 6 kids under the age of 9, it feels like an assault on my personhood when they decide they would rather eat, play, yell, scream, jump on my head, make a mess, or be silly instead of taking their nap. If I don’t get a little break in the action so that I can eat, sleep, read, write, plan, have a coffee, schedule, think, drink a glass of water or take pictures of my chickens, then I’m probably not going to make it to parent pickup with my pleasant mama attitude intact. In fact, it could get downright ugly in that oversized van of mine if I haven’t had a little bit of quiet time to get recharged. I love my children more than life itself, but I honestly NEED to catch a breather from the ADHD of it all. Really.

Since no one wants to see me when my babies haven’t had their slumber, and begging, pleading, scolding, and sobbing doesn’t really at all, help I’ve learned to be very creative and consistent in dealing with naptime struggles. Here are just 10 of my favorite ways to deal with nap time when it’s not going well.

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10. Know the signs. Once my kiddos get wound up, there is no hope of a nap. The more tired they are, the more hyper they become. So the instant I sense a spike in hyperactivity, no matter how slight, it’s off to bed. Even before lunch. Ok, I can’t usually make it to lunch. It’s now.  Nap time is now.

9. Initiate quiet time. We don’t really have a television, so if they kids won’t nap, I can’t just plunk them down in front of a tv show while I get some work done (although it’s not a bad option if your littles will sit still for an episode or two of Blue’s Clues or Barney). So I tell them if they can’t sleep then they must relax in their beds with a book, a stuffed animal, a cozy blanket, and, when absolutely necessary, a sippy cup of milk (please don’t yell at me for ruining their teeth, thank you very much, not napping is an emergency in this house). Once in a while, forced quiet time has the desired effect and these always-on-the-go busy kids slow down and somehow fall asleep. To which I silently shout, “HALLELUJAH!”

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8. Get them outside. Nothing tires kids out better than playing outside. Whenever possible, out they go. See kids. See kids run. See kids run some more. See kids take a nice, long nap! See mommy turn into a normal human being again.


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7. Go with the flow. If the little minions have slept later than usual (And by the way, sleeping in is 6:00 in this house), I know they won’t be ready for a nap at noon so I can push it off a little bit, schedule permitting. But whenever possible, I like to keep them busy until the baby falls asleep. As soon as she is blissfully snoozing away, I race (on the inside anyway) to get them all in their beds so I can enjoy them all sleeping at the same time. The peace is indescribable. [Insert fist bump here for the awesomeness of 4 simultaneous nappers].

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6. Behold the sugar rush. Nothing destroys nap time quicker than a cat nap on the way home from preschool pickup. So I’ve recently resorted to passing out lollipops for the 12 minute ride home in order to keep their eyelids wide open until I can tuck them in their little beds.  I guess desperate times call for desperate measures. Does it make the van sticky? Yes. Do I care? Not if it means I get to eat my chocolate chip cookie at the kitchen table all by myself instead of hiding in my bathroom with the lights off…

5. Give them carbs. Yes carbs, the dreaded substance that stays on a mamas hips forever creates sleepiness in little tykes. I like to give them a nice carbohydrate type snack right before their nap- a banana, some pretzels, even some goldfish crackers – to help their little tummies feel full and happy for a nice long snooze. If that’s not ‘clean eating’ enough for you, oatmeal has the same effect, it just causes a lot more mess.

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4. Try alternate activities. If the nap just doesn’t happen, and quiet time is a total bust, you might have to try some other plan.  Just remember the rule: the messier it is, the more enraptured they will be. But hey, I’m not at all confessing or admitting to the time I  let the bambinos play in a bin full of whole wheat flour, brown sugar, and miniature diggers, or have play dough at the coffee table, or spend 3 hours in a bathtub just so that I could sit down with an actual hot cup of coffee (I was pretty convinced they were extinct.)

3. Make it routine. I don’t stick to a strict time schedule unless a particular day demands it, but I do try to stick to a routine. Free play, then snack, then nap, so the tiny tykes know just what to expect next and their little bodies follow suit.

2. Take a long drive. When I’m totally desperate? This is the way to go. I buckle them in, give them a some water in a sippy cup, and we’re motoring. Just remember to hit the bathroom first, and bring snacks. Lots of snacks. Snacks for you. Because you might be parked in that van with those sleepers for a very, very long time. Do not forget. There is a direct, causal relationship between how hungry you are and how badly you have to pee with how much longer they will sleep while you are doing the potty dance in the driver’s seat of your vehicle. Take my word for it.

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1. Sleep it off. I’m not usually one for napping myself, but for everyone who says “sleep when the baby sleeps,” this one’s for you! Snuggle up with a wayward napper and catch up on your zzzzz’s. Your sleepiness will probably rub off on them, and you’ll get a good nap in as well. It’ll make you prettier inside and out!

Ok, maybe not you, you don’t need to be prettier. But I need that nap to happen.

My attitude needs that nap to happen.

Parent pickup depends on it.

Foster care: it’s not what you think

I didn’t set out to become a foster mom. It simply wasn’t on my radar for a very long time. It was only after our Chinese adoption agency closed mid-adoption and our biological son was born extremely premature that we considered Foster to adopt for our family. And we’ve never looked back. It was – and is- the right choice.

But Foster care is not what you think.

I’ve heard a lot of difficult comments and been asked a plethora of personal, uncomfortable questions, which tells me that most people don’t really understand what Foster care is all about. I’ve been stigmatized and judged. And so have my children and other children who were unlucky enough to find themselves in ‘the system.’ My children and others who are completely innocent of what their biological parents have or haven’t done. Children who deserve the same respect and love and fair chances that any other child receives. Children who deserve to have privacy about their situation because some day they will be an adult who has no option but to grapple with the choices that their birth parents made or didn’t make. Children whose health and hurts and abilities are not for public inspection, just like your own children. Children who are not bad because of where they come from. Children who are definitely not unwanted or unloved.

Foster care is NOT loving someone else’s child. Foster care is welcoming a child into your family and making them your own, for as little or as long as they are a part of your household. Foster care is not all runaways and shoplifting and lost kids and police reports and bad news from teachers. Foster care is offering a safe place to grow and learn through the day to day workings of a family who isn’t perfect. Foster care is being to willing to love no matter what the cost. It is being willing to accept the grief of a child who has lost their home, their belongings, their family, their parents, their everything they have ever known or loved. It is advocating for someone who can’t do it themselves, filling out a few papers, following a few rules, and giving a few reports. But that’s not all.

Foster care is joy and triumph over a tiny human learning how to love and trust and become everything they were meant to be. It is picking up the broken pieces and putting them back together again. It is offering grace and hope and kindness to birth parents who perhaps made bad choices and mistakes and who still love their child very very much. It is offering grace and hope and kindness to children who didn’t have everything they needed and don’t know any other way to act.

Foster care is being the hands and feet of Jesus in a very broken world. Foster care is showing the world just how much Jesus loves children, even the children that the world might see as less than, because God sees them as worth dying for.

Foster care is your responsibility and it is mine.

Foster care is changing the world. One child at a time.