When Little is Good Enough

Last week my family and I celebrated one awesome girl. One of our foster girls turned the big 1-6. A big milestone for her no doubt. For months we’ve been planning on what party she wanted. We budgeted out what we were going to do. Sadly, the original plan didn’t happen because of the weather. But we still found a way to throw a party.

The day before the party I sent her and my husband out to get party snacks and decorations. Here I was expecting a huge bag of party decor because that’s her personality. But when they came back, all they bought was food and a birthday banner. I was shocked. Didn’t she want more?

The day of the party comes around and we got our girl two cakes. One was an ice cream cake and one a regular. Her guest list was about 20 so we wanted to be prepared. Hours begin to approach the party and I felt unprepared. If it was up to me I would have covered our whole downstairs in sweet 16 decor. But she wanted simple.

The time of the party came and only 2 people showed up other than us. I was so sad for her. How could this sweet 16 not be amazing?! My perfectionist side was coming out. I started to feel like a failure. Why didn’t I just decorate the party my way? I started focussing on the expectations of the world. I felt like I could have done so much more. While in the middle of my thoughts our girl came up to my husband and I. She threw herself on both of us for a group hug. With a huge smile she said, “Thank you for my party and presents. It’s the best birthday I’ve ever had.”

What?! How could it be? There are little decorations, few guests and you’re still having a great time? I realized in that moment she was just happy to be celebrated even if it was a simple Sweet 16 Birthday party.

Later that night she told us why she thought this birthday was the best. She explained that being surrounded by people who cared about her made it the best.  To the world and to me, this party was basic. But to her…it was a party to remember.

Our 16-year-old reminded me the meaning of being grateful for what we have. She reminded me that a party with decor, party favors, matching cups and plates doesn’t equal a perfect party. It’s about those who are around us. It’s about those who show up to celebrate with us throughout life. It’s about finding the joy in daily life.

To Foster Parents Who Take it Personal

Exhausted Children: Why Your Kids May Not Be Getting Enough Sleep

5 Ways to Introduce God to Foster Kids Without Being Pushy

Fostering Teens Who Are Surrounded By Weeds

Exhausted Children: Why Your Kids May Not Be Getting Enough Sleep

Good parents know what makes their kids happy, sad, laugh and angry. But often times there are other needs that can easily be overlooked despite our best efforts. One of the big ones is sleep. We need it to survive, but our kiddo’s schedules can make it hard to make sure they are getting enough sleep every night.

Tuck Sleep has done studies that teach parents about their children’s needs for sleep. Follow the link below to find out if your child is getting the proper amount of sleep.

https://www.tuck.com/parents-guide-healthy-sleep/ 

Pregnant? You May Need A New Mattress

Ladies, we know pregnancy comes with many aches and pains. The closer you get to your due date the more things hurt. For me a lot of my problems came from my mattress. It was over 15 years-old and had no support. I remember how much my body hurt when. I was pregnant with my daughter. I had terrible back problems up to a 2-years after I had my her. Now, I am pregnant with my second baby and those aches and pains are minimum.

Before you get too far along — check out these mattresses that are great for your pregnancy. Remember, you’re sleeping for two so you’ll need all the help you can get. Tuck Sleep has some top choices you can choose from.

5 Mattresses that will help you through pregnancy

To Foster Parents Who Take it Personal

“Don’t take it personal.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard more than a dozen times in the last few months. I hear it when I call my agency for advice. I hear it when I cry about the recent attitude my foster kiddo got with me. It’s a phrase I grew to hate. How could I NOT take it personal?

To me, fostering and raising kids is one of the most personal things I will ever do. I pour my heart into these kids daily. I wake up and immediately hit the ground running. I go to bed after everyone else. I make the meals, clean the home, haul kids where they need to go. I sacrifice my own wants and needs for others. How could I NOT take it personal?

Foster parents, this job is personal. Loving these kids is personal. But there is a difference between taking the attitudes to heart and the job to heart. This is something that has taken me several months to realize. The actions of these kids have nothing to do with us. They’re just being kids. But it doesn’t mean it won’t hurt along the way.

I finally see that the outbursts and yelling has nothing to do with me. Like any family or close friend, foster kids will let out their frustrations towards you.  Why? Because we are the closest people to them. It also means that they are comfortable enough to be vulnerable. They may not scream their actual struggles but they are telling you in their own way that they are hurting.  Consider it an honor that these kids feel like they can say what they feel.

Now I’m not saying yelling and cussing is tolerated. You do need to let them know they need to be respectful. But remember it has nothing to do with you. I wish I had understood that sooner.

In those tough moments I want you to remember that you are probably one of the few people fighting for them. Even if they feel like you’re against them. Remember, on top of all of that trauma — they’re just kids. It’s normal to get eye rolls and whining. I know I did it when I was young.

Most importantly, be kind to yourselves. If your foster kid calls you names or says you suck as a parent — know that it doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job. The fact that you opened your home to love someone else’s child is reason enough to know that’s not true.

Don’t take the behavior issues personally. Instead, take the job personally. Keeping loving them. Show them you’re not giving up.

5 Ways to Introduce God to Foster Kids Without Being Pushy

Fostering Teens Who Are Surrounded By Weeds

Looking Beyond the Mess

What Foster Training Taught Me About My Own Trauma

5 Ways to Introduce God to Foster Kids Without Being Pushy

fullsizeoutput_417eIt’s no surprise that my husband and I are followers of Christ. Each day we try to put God the center of our marriage, home and lives. But when you have new people coming into your home to live… it can get difficult.

During our foster training we were told that some kids will reject the idea of church and God. As foster parents we cannot force them to go to church. We were warned that we may have some kids who come into our home that have had bad experiences with religion. Here are some ways we’ve talked to our teens about God.

  1. Be open. We had the privilege of meeting all of our girls before they came to stay with us. During our meetings we talked to them about how we do go to church and that we are a Christian home. We talk a little bit about our values and let them know what that means. This was really helpful because they can know what to expect. Especially if God is a sore subject.
  2. Practice what you preach. If you are a follower of Christ then you know the Bible talks a lot about grace, mercy and forgiveness. You may even have your kiddos ask you questions about what they mean and maybe even giving examples of it. But when they get in trouble or talk back you cannot waver from what you’ve talked about. Meaning, you can’t talk about forgiveness and grace and then not show it in the midst of struggles. That will not only destroy your relationship but it will create a bad experience for these kids.
  3. Don’t push. My husband and I are strong believers that we show God’s love through our day-to-day actions. We talk about God but we don’t pressure our foster kids to read their Bible daily or force them to do things that are uncomfortable. You have to remember, these kids probably never grew up in that type of home. So you can’t expect them to adopt your habits over night. You have to slowly introduce them. A great way is taking them to church if they want to go. Let them get involved in youth group. Maybe have family discussions about stories and meanings of scriptures from the Bible. Find a way to educate and teach but don’t push. Let them make their own choice to follow Christ.
  4. Have the tough conversations. Many foster kids that come in your home have different beliefs. Even if they are accepting of this relationship with God they still struggle understanding what God says about things like sin, being gay, cussing and divorce. Many foster kids have seen more than we will ever see or know about. You may have to have a deep conversation about topics most christians fear to have. Like explaining why a loved one died. Or talking about what God considers a sin. Sin is a big topic because you don’t know what these kids have done. So telling them they sinned and they’re going to hell — may not go over too well. These kiddos have enough guilt so you will have to be careful with how you word certain things. Most importantly you need to remind them that no matter what we as humans have done, Jesus paid the ultimate price for us to be free. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing that we should be teaching and demonstrating in our homes everyday.
  5. Share your testimony. The best way for your kids to see how God can work in their lives is by sharing your own experiences. I talk to them about having an abusive father. I talk them about mistakes with guys I’ve dated. I talk about my personal struggles and what brought me to where I am today. I am very open about my life and what I have been through. I even talk about my daily struggles with faith, stress and fears. This is probably the best way to share your love for God without being pushy.

These are just a few ways you can share and discuss God with your foster kids. It may vary depending on the child and how they take up. Be open and transparent about your walk with God. Let them see christianity is not about perfection. It’s about having a deep relationship with God.

Fostering Teens Who Are Surrounded By Weeds

When I Doubt, God Sends a Sweet Reminder

Preparing a Place for Our First Foster Child

Fostering Teens Who Are Surrounded By Weeds

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“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” — Audrey Hepburn

I love gardens. There is something about walking around and taking in the beauty of the flowers and plants. Seeing butterflies and bugs use the plants to meet their needs as well. But one thing I always think about, is how much work went into making these gardens beautiful.

My husband, 2-year-old and I went to a botanical gardens this morning. Our foster teens were at school so we took a family trip just the 3 of us. It was so needed. I kept thinking how much I wish I had gardens that looked like this. Just with my small garden I know the amount of work that must go into it. I thought how amazing it was see other people’s hard work pay off so I can enjoy something beautiful.

Last night, one of our girls reacted to a situation, that caused several foster agency workers to show up. Nothing violent, but let’s just say it was stressful. I cried most of the night. Thankfully, we got it resolved and I think everyone is calm. So this morning’s garden retreat was much needed for my soul.

As my husband and I were driving home, we were talking about how much we would love to have property with a large garden. Then we can use it to maybe even teach foster kids how to grow and nurture plants. I began to tell Steven how I would compare that to them working on their own struggles. That’s when he stopped and said, “this is what you need to hear.” He was right.

Last night, I found myself feeling responsible for my foster teen’s actions. I felt like a failure. I felt like all the hard work I’ve been putting into their lives has fallen by the wayside. But as I listened to my own advice, I realized I needed to hear that. Especially from myself. Here is what I was telling myself.

When we get to the point where we realize we need to start over with a new attitude, lifestyle, and friends we get excited and plant the seed. We add new dirt and water it. We even can see it start to grow in our lives. But once we start seeing the weeds we get frustrated. Once we start seeing the bugs attacking we want to give up. That’s the same way I felt last night. I felt like I had watered the plant, added new soil, gave it plenty of sunlight and STILL it was struggling. I put so much hard work into growing this beautiful flower. But I forgot that no matter what I do there will always be weeds.

These 3 foster teen girls have grown since they’ve been in our home. I’ve seen their smiles get bigger each day. I see them thriving and working through issues. I see them embracing a loving home. But throughout the growth I understand that there will be outbursts. I forgot that growing 3 teen girls will take a lot of hard work. A lot of repetitive weed pulling before I see the fruits of my labor.

I have to constantly tell these girls I love them. I have to constantly sit down with them and help them work through their emotions. I have to constantly referee fights because of how much they argue. It is an endless and tiring process. So when I see outbursts or major shifts I get frustrated.

After today, I reminded myself that I have to expect a lot more weeds. I have to be prepared to pull them as needed. Help them recover when they feel others eating away at their leaves and blossoms. Why? Because this is what I signed up for. This is what it’s like to be a foster parent. I pray one day I will see them bloom to their full potential. But for now, you’ll find me on my knees. Pulling the weeds and praying over their lives.

***I want to thank my amazing husband for all he does for us. I know I write most of my blogs from my perspective. But he is a major part in making these girls grow as well. So please, don’t think I am doing it all. I could not do this without him. ***

Attention Shoppers, Please Be Patient With My Screaming Kid

For many, the grocery store is a place where people go for a peaceful stroll while they shop for food. That is until my daughter walks through the doors.

My 2-year-old is pushing the buggy fast through crowds of people, nearly running over several toes along the way. Once she spots the crackers she grabs them off the shelf and throws them in the buggy. A snack I don’t mind giving her later but my daughter wants to eat them now. I tell her not until we check out, which causes a huge dramatic reaction. I look around at fellow shoppers as she screams “crackers.”

I bend down to calm my daughter but it only makes it worse. It takes about 5 minutes to explain she can have crackers once we get back to the car. Once that issue is resolved we continue to shop for the handful of items I came for. The next isle, the process starts over again. By the time she gets to the checkout I’m straining to hear the cashier reveal the total. My child is out of control because all she wants is “crackers” and of course it continues on the way to car.Before I can put her in the car seat – I spend another 5 minutes explaining what needs to happen before she gets a cracker. She finally calms down, I get her strapped in her seat and she enjoys her cracker.

This happens a lot. I see those looks from fellow shoppers who cringe when my child screams. I see the people who try to calm my child down but are rudely rejected by my 2-year-old’s, “No”. I see frustrated shoppers trying to grab items off the shelf where my child is throwing a tantrum. Please, just be patient.

It’s not because I won’t discipline my child. It’s because I am trying to teach her patience without whipping her into submission. Yes, she does receive spankings on occasion but as parents we also learned that the more she gets spankings the more she hits. My child responds to timeouts, not hitting.Shoppers please don’t get frustrated, I know my kid is acting like a wild animal. I know she needs to calm down but sadly, 2-year-olds don’t listen to reason. They react based on emotions.

I want my child to learn she can’t get what she wants when she screams for it. I want her to learn the meaning of patience. I want her to be okay waiting for something even if she wants it REALLY bad. Why? Because those teachings start now.

One day I want her to be a great person who impacts others, to be faithful to God and trust him even when she doesn’t get her way. I want her to be able to calm down without always spanking her. I also want her to have a calming spirit towards her children one day. So shoppers, I thank you for being patient. I thank you for giving me the space to discipline my child. I thank you for understanding that I am trying as a mom.

I am working daily with my child’s reactions to her world around her. For both of our peace, I pray one day I can walk in a store with my toddler and not fight a battle. I pray she will help me grab items off of the shelf and place them in the buggy but for now she needs to learn how to act.

So until then shoppers, please be patient, offer me a smile instead of a grimaced look. Try not to be quick to judge the situation and my lack of parenting skills. For now, try to shop around me when I am in the middle of the isle dealing with a toddler’s attitude. I promise one day, I will offer the same grace when you find yourself handling a toddler of your own.

***DISCLAIMER: This article represents my views on tasing my child. This article is not meant to criticize or point fingers at parents that choose other ways to discipline their children.****

Looking Beyond the Mess

Parenting Through Grace

Why I Don’t Want My Children To Say Yes, Ma’am

An Afternoon With My Grandma

As a little girl I remember my mom taking my sister and I to Mississippi to see her mom. AKA my Grandma Billie. I loved hanging out with her. She was the fun Grandma. She would take us to yard sales, let us watch the movie “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and even go visit her friends. My favorite memory was when she would take us on her newspaper route. As a 7-year-old, I would be in the backseat of her little red truck, rolling up newspapers and wrapping them with rubber bands. My Grandma would then throw the papers onto porches. She could land them in the exact spot every time. But I had to get out often to put them on porches. Mostly because when I threw the papers they would land next to the truck or bounce off a random object. I thought she had the coolest job in the world. She was so interesting to spend time with. Now I’m 28 and my Grandma is no longer like that because she has dementia. During our visit to Mississippi this week, I went to see my Grandma twice. She is now in an assistant living facility. A nice place with sweet people, but to my Grandma it’s a prison. Her own mind is a prison. I sat there looking at the woman with a great arm, struggle to chew her food. The Grandma who used to dance with me, slowly walk across a room with a lack purpose. During our visit we went outside in the courtyard. There was a water fountain my nieces were playing in. My Grandma walked over there and started playing with the girls. I snapped a few pictures because for just a few moments she forgot where she was and smiled. That was the face I remembered. When she was heading back to her chair I grabbed her hand to help her walk around some rose bushes. She stood there a few minutes just holding my hand like a little girl. I didn’t want her to let go. Because I didn’t know if she would even know me the next time I saw her. Side note: At this point my grandma has mini emotional seizures. The doctor calls them that because they’re not real seizures. But when she gets overwhelmed or upset she starts moving like she’s having one. At this point we don’t know if she is doing it on purpose or if it’s emotionally driven. At the end of our visit I walked her back to her room. She opened the door and started crying. She had an emotional seizure earlier and was trying to explain to me what happened. She couldn’t tell me. All she could do was cry. That’s when she said it was all the physical abuse from her second husband that causes her to be like this. She felt hopeless and confused. In that moment I wrapped her in my arms. My grandma stood there crying on my shoulder like a child. A scared child who wanted to understand. To be loved and comforted. I sat next to her on the couch and she had another emotional seizure. I slowly talked her through it. I stroked her softly and offered support. Sadly, I had to leave after that. I sat there a few more minutes before I left. Trying to distract her from the overwhelming emotions. All the while trying to hold back tears of my own. I gave her one last hug and walked out of her room. Closing her door was one of the hardest things for me. As I walked down the hall to the lobby…I started wondering if that would be the last time I would see her? Will she know me when I come back for another visit in a few months? My emotions flooded my mind and I began weeping. Thinking how unfair this was. How I just wanted to rescue her in some way. But I knew this was the safest place for her to be. That visit was a reminder of how precious family and people are. It’s not about things, it’s not about big houses and fancy cars. It’s about the legacy you leave behind. The love you give to others. The small moments that can leave a lasting memory for everyone involved. I’m scared that maybe one day my mom will have dementia. Or even I will. It really opens your eyes to what really matters. It opens your eyes to how hard it is on them. I couldn’t imagine what she is going through. Soon, I will be making some big changes in my life. I will reveal them in the upcoming weeks. But seeing my grandmother like that makes me so thankful that I’m taking more time with family. That I’m pouring love into others instead of worrying about what item I can buy for my home. My heart goes out to those who have parents, grandparents or other family members with Dementia or Alzheimer. It’s a cruel way to end life. It’s tough on everyone. I pray for joyful moments for you guys in the midst of heartache. Celebrate the good days. Don’t focus on the bad days. Most importantly, love them the best you can. Visit them often and never forget that you may be them in the future. Be respectful and ask God to help you show grace.

Looking Beyond the Mess

In less than two weeks I went from being a mom of a 2-year-old to being a mom of two elementary school girls and pre teen. It’s been interesting for sure. Among the many changes is dealing with the extra mess.

I’m used to my toddler leaving a mess of toys but glitter, paint and glue is a whole other animal.

I came home last night after work and saw that the girls did some art work. I briefly glanced at their masterpieces because I was too focused on the glitter covering my dining room floor. Honestly, I was mad. Frustrated because I did not want to see the mess. Why didn’t they pick it up?

This morning I woke up and saw the mess again. I was still frustrated because I knew I would be the person to clean it up. I started complaining to myself about the extra work. But then I realized I’m overlooking something. I’m forgetting what this mess represents.

The mess is more than spilled glitter and dry paint. It’s a beautiful, messy picture of kids being kids. Kids that come from a home where they’re used to being the adult. It’s proof that they were having fun in our home.

I started to feel guilty about my attitude towards the mess. Especially knowing that these two little girls will be heading to another foster home tomorrow.

You may not be a foster parent but all parents get frustrated with their kids. With the mess they make while having fun. Even though kids should clean up after themselves…we as parents should not look at it as a negative. But a positive that they are experiencing joy, happiness and love.

If you find yourself frustrated just take a step back and find a positive. Be thankful for those messes. Remember they are temporary. There’s plenty of time to have a clean house when you’re older.

Making Dinner Chores Fun For Kids

A Cup of Tea and a Whole Lot of Grace

When I Doubt God Sends a Sweet Reminder

Preparing a Place for Our First Foster Child

Making Dinner Chores Fun For Kids

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As  parents it’s our job to teach kids to learn life skills. Yes, even boring chores. That’s also one thing as foster parents we are called to do. These kids either came from a home where they had to take care of themselves, were never taught how, or maybe they came from a home where their parents did everything for them. But here are some ways we are teaching our 3 foster daughter how to do everyday chores with a twist of fun.

*Side note: When I was a Girl Scout Camp Counselor we had our girls do the same tip of chores after every meal. I would love to say I am smart enough to create these ideas on my own. But it’s all thanks to the Girl Scouts.

“What’s for dinner?” A phrase that parents hear daily from their kids. Instead of letting them watch TV or play have them get involved in the process. This can also help with picky eaters.

(I’m terrible at drawing straight lines on a board.)

I created this chart and assigned each child a different task each night of the week. Once again life skills that everyone needs to know. This way there is no arguing about who does what. They know every night around dinner time this is their job. Kids take these seriously. They get a feeling of satisfaction too when they help out with these chores.

Setting the table: This chore includes setting the table with plates, utensils, napkins, glasses and anything else needs for dinner. For example, if you’re having bakes potatoes for dinner and need butter or other toppings. Then they put that on the table too.

Helping with Dinner: Depending on the child’s age you may want to pick an easy job where they are not chopping veggies or cooking over a hot stove. But if they are old enough you can teach them. If they are a little younger then help them mix, pour or shake. Don’t be afraid to teach them how to prep the meal. Even talking about what foods they are eating, where they came from or how they help our bodies grow. Don’t forget to have them wash their hands before helping. You can also give them a cool apron they get to wear.

Getting Drinks: I was struggling with a third chore but I thought this would be a good one. This person is responsible for making sure everyone has a full glass. So when you sit down at the table everything is ready to go.

Cleaning up after dinner

When I was at Girl Scout camp we had this plastic cup with popsicle sticks inside. So after every meal we would all draw a stick that would list our chore. Everyone would work together to clean up and in about 5 minutes the tables were clean and we were outside singing songs.

Make sure to put these in a plastic cup not a clear one. Otherwise the kids will try to pick their favorite chore. Another tip is to only let the parents hold the cup. So you let them pick but you still have control. That way there are no arguments on who gets to hold the cup. (Yes, that happens a lot.)

Every person has to do their job. If someone gets done early — instead of letting them go off and play — ask them to help the others finish their chores. Adults you should draw a chore too. This helps you guys all work together as a team. You can teach along the way and lead by example. That way you aren’t making them clean everything but you’re also not the only one picking up after everyone else.

Other things you can do is turn on some music. Don’t be afraid to dance or sing into a broom. Have fun and use this time to grow closer as a family.

A Cup of Tea and a Whole Lot of Grace

Preparing a Place for Our First Foster Child

Parenting Through Grace