John tree

John tree

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Peace Without The Perfect Moment

“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.” 

~ John F. Kennedy

I woke at 4 am because the baby is in a growth spurt and wanted to eat. I find as a mother the middle of the night is when my worry is sharpened into blades that cut through other thoughts. I thought about tests to be re-done, playground fears that I couldn't help with and team dynamics. I went child by child landing especially on our foster daughter. 

After baby boy was back in his crib I stayed awake to watch the sun rise. I thought about peace, feeling grateful for the sun bringing a wash of relief over me. A reminder that simply, the night ends and sun shines

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

~ Colossians 3:15 

Fresh air and sharing a swing. Thankful for siblings.

We said good bye yesterday to our foster daughter and know it was what was best. We loved her for almost a year. Letting God take the reins as we pray for health, healing and a bright future. 

Today I imagined living on a farm, I used to have that as a goal growing up. Many cosmopolitan adventures left me daydreaming about wide open spaces. That daydream is about peace. The idea of SPACE being air, being refreshing for the soul and being a tangible way to desire less worry.

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” ~ Pericles

Sunrise nursing baby Lu in the tent, a moment of peace in the
midst of a busy campground. All of us  in the 10 person tent.

As this day that started very early winds to a close I am heartened by the encounters I have had, time to pray with other women, time for tea, time for work and chores. Peace I am seeking requires some work. Sometimes in a big family rooms need to be shifted, the barriers and structures can be physical walls or mental blocks. As we move forward into days of less sunshine I am committed to seeking peace. I am committed to finding wide open space in my day, moments that allow me to have quiet in my heart to hear what my children tell me, to listen to the way I am being lead and to be rejuvenated right where I am.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Here Comes Fall With Ten Kids, Watch Out! ~ A Day Of Photos ~

We all stumble in many ways.  Anyone who is never at fault in what they say, is a perfect individual, able to control the entire body as well James 3:2

Fall came in like waterfall after a dry spell in August. Done with siblings, car trip joys waning in the heat, itchy mosquito bites and too many hot dogs. The lament of the midwestern kid. Ready for school. The water starts pouring, new football schedules, permission slips, syllabi to sign for credit, new locker combinations, High school and being marked off for run on sentences...

Ten children all marching to their own tune. Those marches all require sustenance, clean clothes and rides. Meeting everyone's needs, feeling like an individual in the mass, and maintaining positive energy for our kids, foster kids and the community. For a bit of perspective a friend recommended a snap shot diary of a day in the life as a mom of 10, here goes...

Day starts with a very full mudroom. This week we have picture day, the Kindergarden student wearing colors specific to the day and birth family visits for the toddler. Clothes to find, and choose. Bows to match.

She does not walk to the bus with these guys, but glad kids walk in pairs. No time for breakfast today.  Most don't use alarms so it is everyone waking up together. Then finding socks, if mom is frying eggs standing as close as possible to get the egg, finding bread that shouldn't be where it is. We ran out of jam, JalapeƱo jelly was not a hit. Left over Lasagna was the majority choice. 

One missed bus, 3 schools, 8 students it happens often. Mama and baby caught in the rain. He loved the sound on the van. It made me smile. Baby girl had part of a lemon bar in the car and was silent, knowing Mama made a mistake with this amazing treat before protein. 

NAP ONE! Quick time for Doctor scheduling, made the new wave of dental appointments the 10 of us over three days.  Clinic was accommodating. I took notes and pushed the Little People school bus button with my toe for baby girl. I think I pushed in 2 million times on hold and scheduling. Then on to calling if weighted blankets are covered by insurance. Baby girl managed to get in the vase cabinet, crash, she was fine but clean up and yup, crash woke baby up to get him!

I barter with myself for downtime, unload and load, four loads washed, dried and folded (not sorted) then sit for some reading or Bible time if babies are amenable. At Church we are studying James, I choose this chapter of James and this verse stood out for me. The humility of imperfection gives breath to try harder each day. I need to find more pockets of down time. Many days I meet a friend, or friends, to walk. 3 miles of movement a day is typical, it is a way to schedule mental health and makes me connect, always a highlight in my day. 
NAP TWO! Both babies nap, I package up some eBay sales and respond to questions. I try to sell last season's basketball shoes in great shape, things I am done using and sometimes a great thrift store find. I have not had anytime over the summer but the tradition in the last ten years is the sales from eBay or consignment go into Pay-pall and fund the kids sports programs. Having a big family can make it hard for kids to do camps, sports and so on. We feel like it was a choice to have these kids, anything we can do to give them every opportunity, we will! Finding thrifty deals or selling what we are not using is green, and helps keep these kids on the courts and fields!

Having promised to bake I had things set to go when kids got off the school bus, we made two blueberry pies with crumb crust.  I use tapioca for fruit pies and butter. For the crust I use apple juice 1/3 part of the water. I always have a snack out for the kids and we try to dive right into homework. This is a difficult time of the day getting to everyone and then the 5 older kids start coming home after 5, hungry and with their own homework. I find I am ON non-stop from 3 to 9 pm, usually not sitting down.
Getting football gear ready, 3 high school kids play sports right after school, 2 Jr high as well then the three younger all on teams. Keeping sports gear relatively clean and sorted is a big job. We use garage hooks. We also hang a built an board for each child IN THE GARAGE on the wall for individual sports schedules. Sports are 6 days a week on average 6 kids in activities per day with older kids being in daily programming. Upside, the older they get the more transportation seems to be available. Ride help is always such a gift for the family.  DOORBELL! It's Mr R to pick up for football! The player ate early because he was picked up at 5 and dinner will not be on the table until 6.
As kids focus on homework and some practice, I sorted our upper red bins for season, I keep football, soccer and baseball socks sorted as well as rain gear and string bags in these bins. Things when you need them you need them ASAP, but are not underfoot.
Dinner! I made a bunch of lasagna's, Chili, cakes, baked chicken and tater tot casserole (an odd but family favorite)Lasagna served as breakfast for many so I pulled out a shrimp/broccoli cream base and added it to cooked rice. 80% of the kids really liked it, the others had buttered noodles and apple squeezes. 
What good sisters! The rain did not keep away the cheering section. Cold, not their sport, but they did it, we laughed about it and got home drenched.
After dinner and game, mom and dad snuck out for a 3 mile walk. We actually got turned around and did a jog through the very dark woods. 6miles later we came home, self sufficiency had waned and kids needed focus to get ready for bed. 
Time for bed, melting down. Mama up rocking babies checking in with older boys. Difficulty with the oldest boys clashing,fighting and needed mom to be a sounding board. Praying for discernment and guidance to help them. Younger ones watching the faith and family show about the Bates Family, sweet show, funny moments. Perfect timing for some blueberry pie, milk, tea, prayers and BED. In the summer we read Proverbs or Psalms for the day of the month, searching for new habits to weave scripture into daily life. I'd love ideas. Mom and Dad catch up on chores, work and talking to the older kids, bedtimes roll from 8pm to 9pm to 11pm to and Dad midnight.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Importance of Making Space for Quiet

I always bristle when someone comments my life, or our home must be chaotic. I think they are saying it will be messy, unruly or somehow lacking peace.

I think the intent is amazement and tiny bit dis belief. The idea of putting yourself with 10 kids who are not your own is not a calm image, I get that!

I have worked very hard to create space, create chore expectations, create rhythms that allow for calm. The nights that are explosive with events, energy and need throw off the balance for sure. But overall this house of 12 does make room for the quiet.

It took me a long time to understand I am an extroverted introvert. I love my kids around me, but I desperately need everyone to be quiet and read a book, immediately! My favorite days are when everyone is engaged in a project, a book or coloring but silently sharing space. It does happen!

We use "active breaks" for L. Rather than sitting for a time out, she is a high spirited child! We have her do something genuinely useful but that uses her body, or run the stairs on a timer. It allows for her brain to clear, get some breath and re start calmly.
Less stuff overall helps with creating a sense of calm. Clutter stresses me out, sunshine, open floor space is always soothing. My kids complain we have less toys than other families (it is true) and that their friends have bedrooms that are FUN. We have bedrooms that are usually pretty tidy, quilts, stacks of books and coloring things, some stuffed animals and a bin of toys, that is it. And of course a sibling or three to share your room. We play outside, every day. We use the big kitchen space together for homework, for prayer, for spending time together. We don't encourage endless hours in bedrooms, doesn't seem to lead to calm energy, it leads to angst and anxiety.

Being introverted together, being stubborn about wanting things clean and having less things, insisting on regular chores and individual responsibility creates a peaceful atmosphere. Of course there are nights, like last night, that remind me why we try to take on less! Remind me I need to make peace and down time together a priority even if it means swimming against the tide.

For now I am going to read my devotional, put some laundry on the line and wash my floors. A precious moment with 8 at school and two sleeping is very rare...and peaceful!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Weeping, Laughter and Grace

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
Ecclesiastes 3 1-8

What a beautiful verse this is. Although I know we cannot choose our moments I have spent countless hours trying to! It is impossible to know when healing comes as much as you wish for it. The times I fall apart as a mother are not when I expect. Those small tipping points that in retrospect seem vivid, are in the moment painful and unexpected. This verse is a reminder of the importance to be holistic, the importance to allow for the dark and the light to be included in our walk with prayer and life.

I weep not knowing if this sweet foster baby will stay in my arms, not because he is mine or because I am a better mother, but because I love him. I weep because limbo for babies is life changing and it is my job to advocate without knowing all the facts. I weep because some days I am bone tired and need to make sure ten children feel loved wholly and completely. I weep because I want to do things perfectly and somedays I don't get even close. 

I laugh at those hilarious first steps a toddler takes. I laugh at those first crooked smiles. I laugh at my husband in his tough work clothes accepting a tiny cup of imaginary tea. I laugh at my teenagers ribbing each other in a way that only siblings can; the sweetness of family. 

I am finding I need to make time to laugh, set work down to embrace the biggest and the littlest children, make time to be ok with some weeping and amen to casting away stones. The beauty of living knee deep in imperfection is Grace with a capital G. Thank you God for mess, truly it is in the clean up I see the details. Imperfection that leads to laughter, the beauty of a full, well loved life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

And that Makes a Dozen!

This morning we picked a new baby up from the hospital. I had to wait in a side office while birth mom said goodbye to the little man. He weighs 7 pounds 2oz and carried such a heavy load of sorrow and love in his tiny life span.

After I received the call, I finished walking home with a friend. Of the 4 possible placement calls we have received, Sheff has gotten the call first on the two that have come to our home. And all four calls I have received have been while walking with the same friend at almost the same rotation on a loop in the woods. Perhaps God's sense of humor? The cocoon of the woods, a womb separating me from other needs of the world, and of the other children perhaps.

So yesterday we had court for our foster baby girl who is almost 14 months and we accepted a new born boy. We do not know his full story yet, his mother is young, another child already placed in an adoptive home--we would be open to him being forever one of our gang, but we start with loving him fully while we wait. His mother's pain is not to be discounted or washed away.

As I think of the quietness of the woods, of choices people make when they are lonely or scared, I think of how I can be a source of healing. His mother has made his start difficult in some ways, and the state had no choice but to get him somewhere safe. Our job is to be respectful but also to celebrate. It is OK to rejoice that he is with us. It is OK for the children to run home off the bus excited to meet this little roommate. It is OK to say he is lucky, he is! He is here, he made it out of his own woods. He will be loved and cherished as we are his family......for now.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The First Three Months as a Foster Family

Some things are very similar, the way I cook, the days I clean and how I respond to stress. When things get overwhelming I clean, I cook and I pray. I would like to work on reversing that order:)

Some things have changed. We have a lot more laundry, it is just a fact with eleven people I need to wash clothes and rags daily. One trick we have for health is we have a drawer of washcloths next to the sink and small towels in baskets in our bathrooms. Those are washed daily so any germs do not have a chance to live on with sponges or towels used by so many hands. This trick has worked for years but requires being on top of the laundry.

I also have found I have had to cut back on any commitments that require me to be solo. If mom is gone for a few hours it's hard on everyone. Dad is 100% capable but needed specifically for patching drywall (this has been a skill used far to often lately, little boys who love sports get bigger! Our basement should be a full on gym) math help and one on one time after busy days.

Above main photo is Mom holding baby Mick after geting home from adopting A and J, this photo is of Jr giving our sweet Foster Baby his rose from the Highschool Basketball ceremony. It was a great moment. 
I find that I have to rethink things I could have said yes to before in order to be present for the kids and keep up with food, laundry, homework and just plain time to talk.

The kids are thriving having a baby join us. It is wonderful perspective to put someone else first, to focus on the baby rather than friendship dynamics at school. They all
love seeing her firsts, smiles, shaking her head no to make them laugh, standing on her own and EVERYONE clapping. She is soaking up the love like a Minnesotan on spring break.

The logistics, the sense of respect for difficulty between birth family and foster family and time to fit in meetings and visits are very real. Foster Care requires being open to the unknown while responding with love and a gentle spirit. It has been a challenge to not be able to "power through" and just "get 'er done" that is often the way my personality leans.
The little girls now means three! D, L and Baby Girl

Many people have asked "how can you do this without knowing the outcome?" I think the honest response is, because it is good work, important work. Birth families need help sometimes, we ALL need support and prayer. Sheff and I have been blessed with 8 amazing kids, kids who WANT to give back and help out. Loving a baby, or kids, who come in our door will need to be one decision at a time. But it is worth it, that is why we can do it!

For now I need lots of Auidible/Overdrive and Netflix show recommendations to make the laundry go by faster, humor for the crazy days I share with friends and prayers for all the children we can't help in our home but who I wish we could!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Pre-Teens, Teens and Communication

Communicating with teens can be frustrating because their own ideas and needs are so paramount. Having six from 10 to 15 in the house right now, we are loving the new personalities forming and finding new struggles. The glasses of self, filter out others more often then we would like. What I have seen lately with our teens is they often WANT to do better but do not have the tools. The first response might be frustration, but if we meet them with patience the outcome is so much better. 

If the teen is feeling like something is not fair, figuring out why he feels that way is step one rather than telling him our totally reasonable request. Logic, does not calm a teen down. Listening often does. We like the below re phrasing, found from a foster care resource "Teach Love" gives specific ideas. Times we try to think outside the box and look for new ways to communicate we are usually met with MORE respect and understanding from our teens. 

Lastly, humor is the best diffuser out there! Laughing about how poorly we as parents or they as kids, handled something leads to great conversations. Having our faith as our family rock allows for common ground, the fact that God is much bigger than our current struggle puts perspective front and center, always a good thing.