Saturday, December 31, 2016

Out of the Box, Haiku and Family Meeting for Fresh Takes

Moving moon through months 
 Memories thaw hearts until
new year light shines bright

Foster care gives breath
Pain longing sweet moments wait
Serving as one now

New days await with
promise full of simple joy
Giving faith a chance

3 haikus by Deirdre, be gentle with me this is my first shot at Haiku poetry!

Family meeting last night we spoke together of how to celebrate New Year's Eve as a family, what we wished for in the new year. One thing that came up from our teens was brainstorming how to re create patterns of behavior, for example how to make Saturday mornings more peaceful. M1 suggested a big breakfast where we all gathered. Today Sheff made blueberry pancakes, and fried up turkey bacon (give it a chance nitrate free and very good from Costco;) we felt connected and ready for the day. Our teen daughter suggested we all come up with three goals for the new year and have family partners to check in with throughout the year for support. Our middle daughter said we needed more family game nights, and we should tell pop corn stories. J-L thought of ways to diffuse situations when people felt angry or sad, really great NEW and out of the box ideas for us. 

Writing some poetry is out of the norm for me. Looking for ways to be creative with road blocks that come our way in 2017, and hope to give breath to fresh ways to look at the world. As a family we want to serve, pray and create together in ways that feel both comforting and challenging. 

The haiku is a Japanese verse in three lines. Line one has 5 syllables, line 2 has 7 syllables and line three has 5 syllables. Haiku is a mood poem and it doesn't use any metaphors or similes. Usually when Haiku is taught the students are only given the restriction of the number of lines and syllables. More found here

Thursday, December 8, 2016

How to Get Involved with Foster Care, And Support Those Who Serve in This Way

The hope in Foster Care is to heal families, to give birth families a chance to get back on their feet. In the very first training every educator cannot stress this enough. At times it can feel as if potential families are being pushed away! That is not the intent, the intent is to teach and inform.

If that primary goal cannot be accomplished, the hope is to find families with open hearts willing to take a chance on a child, willing to re create their family and make room for a child who deserves the chance to grow with stability and unconditional love. 

Loose statistics in our area say about 60% of kids will not reunify with birth families. It is painful to live in limbo and not know if a child you are loving might leave! Having spoken to many Foster families I am finding that everyone agrees that pouring love into a child helps them no matter what. If a family is placed with a scared and traumatized 3 year old, creating stability for that little person will change them forever. If the child stays, they will have healed and grown in a place that becomes home. If the child goes, they feel open and able to create new patterns with a primary care giver who may have gotten sober, gotten a better living situation or a grandmother who can better bond with the child. It is never wasted energy.

It is not easy to be part of the system, but the best way to create change is to work hard from the center. One difficulty is the impulse to expect gratitude from the child in need. It can be paradoxical that a community response might be "way to go you!" vs a child might be angry and act out. A Foster child's lifes has been turned upside down! Our advice is to use the community support to find energy. Energy for compassion working with the birth family, energy for late nights and new routines. This is truly a way to serve, the rewards from doing Foster Care might take a long time to be clear, be patient and humble on the walk. I have to remind myself of this advice often!

Supporting those who provide Foster Care is a great thing to do if it isn't a good fit to be providers yourselves! We have had friends offer hand me downs, this is a real need especially for younger children. Families get a clothing allowance but even with a thrifty mind set, kids need a lot of stuff! When a Foster child leaves the hope is to set them up well for the next placement or for going home. I was able to send clothing in the next two sizes, winter gear, favorite toys and more, tubs of things! So please don't expect things back if you give to a family serving in this way. Also somethings might end up in a garage sale or given to another family, it is a quilt to make finances work providing for extra kids. 

A new placement can happen in hours, if a police removal happens or a last minute call, families have very little time to be ready. Meals are heavenly and such a kind way to support a busy family. We had one of our Grandmas run out for formula and diapers as well, a grocery run for basics is a fabulous way to help.

Your time is such a gift. We had a friend go get finger printed so she could be a child care option. The state needs to have clearance for those helping with Foster Kids for more than a set amount of time. Another mom helped for a few hours here and there, giving us time to run an errand or tidy up. As we talk more to Foster Care providers it is clear, the support these families receive from their neighborhood, church and family keeps their engines running even on steep climbs and tricky turns.

Prayers and basic kindness, are such a support to Foster families. Sending notes, checking in, praying for the kids in our care, our other children, these are such supports. I spoke with one family who said a Sunday school class prayed for Foster Children for an entire month, the kids really focused on the prayer, that family felt like others in their community were aware and supportive. 

To get involved each county (if you google the county you live in) has a home page, from the county homepage search for Foster Care Training. This will get you to step one, an info session. It might take me a few days but I will respond to questions, and yes you can share my info with those discerning this calling. I can't promise you will end up with a new born, or a sibling group that fits into your family, but I do know the need is always there. If you jump in and start serving in this way, what is meant to be will find a way to reach you. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Marriage Kids Tell All

As part of a group from our church I am part of leading a discussion on marriage. Trying to get ideas I decided to interview the kids. It was interesting, and sometimes funny, to hear their take on Dad and Mom. The baby did not participate, but everyone else got in on giving their thoughts. 

L~ Age 5 
Dad and Mom tell us to be aware of our decisions. They are aware of their decisions. Sometimes they kiss on the lips, thats a marriage thing, their decision people!

D ~ Age 9 
When things get hard you guys take a deep breath and turn to Faith. Dad and Mom put God first and it is bigger than any hard things. Hard things happen and I think Mom wants to talk, and Dad wants to do things. Lots of times they make a plan together, I think that is part of marriage.

M ~Age 11
If we get in trouble Dad and Mom always talk first, then they are on the same side. It can be frustrating, but it is better. Whatever one decides is the right consequence the other one supports them. They never argue about how to handle things.

N ~ Age 12
Church comes first, Sundays always are a restart day. They taught us when we were little it is the day to check in with God and let worries go. In their marriage, they let Sunday be a fresh start. I want to do that too. They do not have the same sense of humor, but some of us kids are like mom, and some of us kids are like Dad, so maybe all of us help them have a good marriage. 

M~ Age 13
Dad compliments mom, a lot. Like a lot. He never goes a day with out saying she is pretty or a meal was awesome. Sometimes it seems silly even like he will make us all stop and notice her, but I can tell it makes her feel good. Mom will remind us when Dad is not around how much he does for the family, like a sales pitch for Dad. But its important, I think, to support each other in front of the kids.

J-L Age 14 
Dad and Mom give each other really specific compliments, checking in with text, calling each other stuff like that. They communicate well. Mom also makes really good food, does that count? 

A ~ Age 14 
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 
She just wanted to use a quote but I love the simplicity of the one she chose.

J ~Age 16 
On a basic level you guys have annoyingly big hearts, you always take things on but I think it makes you guys closer. You laugh about stuff that might make other people cry. One thing you guys do is take a lot of walks. Talk things out and walk so you don't talk about all the worry things in front of us kids. Sometimes Mom prays outloud. We do a lot as a family, but it seems to work. Me personally, I'll leave my kids at home and go on a cruise, but not you guys!

A Rare Date night! Not a cruise, we have only been aways for a
day or two in 15 years of marriage, but the times we slip out we DO enjoy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Short Break from Social Media, Reality and Distraction.

Social media is an amazing tool, but it's really the face-to-face interaction that makes a long-term impact ~ Felicia Day

To be real from the get go, I lasted 9 days.

That is not very long to deem experiment worthy.

I found in those 9 days I missed having the virtual connection, but I did much better with my real life connections.

The first two days I filled the void with similar things, I used Pinterest online. I read blogs about foster care and adoption, and I browsed online. Day three I skipped my online time in the morning and had coffee at the table with the kids as they filtered down. News flash time, it was a less stressful and a better morning.

Needing to get all the kids out the door, checking for clashing outfits (a real thing) asking about studying for tests and if homework was submitted, negotiating snack choices and last minute checks for fields trips can be exhausting. Hiding in social media while the kids swirl around me is not healthy, but it makes mornings seem less intense.

I would guess Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more, are used by others, like me, to escape or coast. I found taking time to use social media was not all terrible, but overall it took away from my ability to be PRESENT with loved ones and friends.

Social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends when in reality, if we have one or two really good friends, we are lucky ~Brene Brown

That said, Facebook specifically can be a quilt of things, not just online gossip. I book marked BBC news, my local area page, garage sale sites, School pages and cooking ideas. I check in on a foster care and child welfare site I really enjoy. I find social media can be a fast way to get news and local information. The trick is to use social media and not let it drain and deplete me.

Seeing parties, dinners or events can be painful. I realized much more often the reality is even if I were invited, something with one of the 9 children would likely come up. Unless things happen after bedtime and physically close by for a limited time, I am out, by choice and necessity.

Seeing celebrations makes me happy, and yet there is a disconnect. I feel no substance behind the image. Seeing a first birthday party photo, we do not see the funny moment the cake fell into the pasta salad or smell the amazing baklava someone made, we do not participate in any senses other than sight.

The experiment made me want to be better about seeing people, and accepting the reality of only being able to authentically grow so many friendships and connections. I feel badly for not seeing or liking people's moments. How many photos did I simply miss because they did not hit my news feed? How can I be more present in reality for those friends or family members?

It also created great conversations with the kids, about how social media can effect us, how shutting off our phones for family time is a necessity. We talked about the ease of both complimenting and insulting someone online, and how nerve racking a real conversation can be.

Back to using social media, appreciating the ability to get information and news both global and personal. I feel a new mindfulness about the effect of online connection and want to find more and more ways to be present in community in real space and time.

I have warm coffee in my hands, the smell of waffles mixed with oatmeal in the kitchen, noise machine purring on the stairs as the baby takes his morning nap. The sunlight is bright on a post election day morning, nation and world scrambling to find a type of unity and healing. Counters to clean, mountains of laundry to fold. I have a walk scheduled for later on, a playdate after school, church dinner tonight. I am worried about a list of things, it is real worry not to be pushed to the side.
This moment is very quiet, no pop of noise or color, no commentary or reaction. It is where I am present, feeling the day without filter or distraction.

Senses ~ 3 years ago running into the freezing lake after a late fall Sauna in Ely
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer ~ Psalms 19:14

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Workers! Then and Now

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” 
―Samuel Goldwyn 

Where do you put the toddler when doing yard work? Dad thinks in a bucket!
Brothers who work all day together..get along.
Skilled work force.

M is not sure of A's ability to wield the wheelbarrow.

Working on a roof last week.

J's moves from a house away

Being called on to work takes many forms.

Planting trees and bushes in our yard. 

Flooring crew

N scraping up a tile, long and messy job

Our Kitchen chores start at age 7 or 8, sometimes some reaching help happens,
but we have step ladders to make independent workers.

Washing walls! Lots of hands, kids do a rotation in each house we have been in or warm water with
Vinegar, drop of dish soap  and wash clothes to wash.

Mopping is a great job for littles.

Helping cook, working on doing more of this. 

Leaves! Fun work.

Short crew.

Starting when it's an honor and big deal makes older kids great at jobs.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Vulnerability and Educational Moments...In the Grocery Store!

I had an aquatience last week remind me I had a lot of children, and said she was hesitant to celebrate our family because it seemed like too much.  This was a chance run in on friday. For those of you who know me, know how much I struggle with that assessment. Girls with eating disorders often say: "I feel like too much" kids who have behavioral problems know people say they are "too much" and big families are often seen as really neat from a distance but too much. First, everyone has their own too much threshold. It is ok that my passion is not yours! Spending all day making Kombucha like one of my fiends is too much for me, or singing in a show, but I am able to celebrate this difference without judging this difference.  Welcoming children into our home with a 100% chance of heartbreak (sadness over them leaving or sadness someone I love is loosing a birth parent) is not for everyone! My response to negativity is very often to retreat, get off social media, try to make myself and our mission somehow quiet, or smaller. 

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of othersPhilippians 2:3-4

Retreating and feeling hurt does nothing to promote foster care, or explain why it is worth it to be "too much" in this way. Feeling sorry for myself is selfish, it really is. It reminded me how often I wish I had a rewind button to call on humor when I am offended. A friend has adopted two beautiful girls from China, she told us of being stopped in the grocery store and being asked if they were REAL siblings. Her response was "Well they fight in the back seat of the car, does that count?" 

I loved her spunk and humor, especially because the girls were watching her respond. Watching her deflect and claim them at the same time. Often an adoption or foster care question is not ill intentioned! And with age and experience my ability to lean into Grace has evolved tremendously. When I was asked at the wading pool years ago why "that one" pointing at one of my sons, looked middle eastern, my response was "Oh my handsome son right here?" He was listening, big beautiful brown eyes wide with confusion. I lost all other ability to respond and have been coming up with zingers I've never used, ever since! That said, anger does not serve me as a mother, or serve my children to witness as a response. 

I had a chance to talk this latest encounter over with the three oldest boys, man they are pretty neat guys! One of them reminded me our family had weekly prayer and meeting, we were connected and running more smoothly than ever. Another mentioned that our "too much" creates more time for us together and is a way we can serve in our home not being able to take a service trip or do things we might be able to as a smaller family. The last son asked why on earth I cared what anyone else thought? And it's not the son you would expect! 

In conclusion, keep talking, keep modeling love and humility. When I turn to quiet contemplation, this weekend time by the fire at the cabin, time in prayer and time talking to my husband and children, I find my self calm and gracious. If I respond without taking time for these things I am a hot head and not my best self. Humility can be painful! If hard things come up use humor, use Grace and forgiveness. What is your "too much" and how have you found ways to share your passion? I hope we can guide and nurture our children so they never, ever despair that they are too much, but rather fearfully and wonderfully made. 

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 12 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.