Three Lessons

Yesterday marked five months since the boys came back to live with us. I think I can officially say we are out of the weeds. (Or maybe you prefer “woods” but for those of us that worked in the restaurant industry, it’s “weeds.”) We still face our challenges. There are still hard days, many behavioral and trauma related issues, and plenty of legal annoyances to settle (the boys are still not officially adopted) BUT we are eating less corn dogs, our home is a little less dirty, we are getting a lot more sleep, and I’m not crying nearly as much from exhaustion and being overwhelmed. Yay for progress!

I’d like to share three things the Lord is teaching me.

1.) Appreciate each little step.

I find myself more and more in these moments where I can look at the boys and really FEEL in my bones they are mine. I smile and giggle over their little personalities and the unique ways God has created them. I can envision the ways He might use them in the future. The frustration of their negative behaviors lingers less and has been replaced with a passion to equip them however I can for life. I appreciate little things like leaving undergarments ON and making it to the potty. Snuggling up for a book and going to sleep without tears. Learning to like tilapia and other healthy foods. And being the one that can fix their boo-boos. For the first four months I was not the one who could fix a boo-boo, it was “mawmaw will fix it.” And one day K got his fingers caught in a door at school and it was pretty bad. He only wanted ME. “Mommy will fix it. Mommy will make it better.” I never realized how something that simple really signifies me being the mommy.

2.) Be content when there is no progress.

This is a hard one. There are definitely days when you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. When the tears never end, and the kicking and screaming is volatile, when the aggressive behavior continues, when all you here is “NO!” or “I don’t want to!”, when you look at your children and just wonder, “Are they happy here?” “How can I help them?” “What’s happening in their little minds?” We all want for our children to be peaceful and happy. No one wants to see their child in turmoil and chaos all the time. As a foster/adoptive mother I also want to be confident that I am actually helping my child move forward in healing. So a lack of progress can make you feel like a failure in that. But instead of focusing on progress God is calling us to have patience, trust Him and love unconditionally. Love when there is no progress.

3.) How much are you willing to give?

Being called to foster/adopt you know it will involve sacrifice. But you can never know what little daily things God will ask you to give or give up for these children. I have a tendency to think that “I’m sacrificing this so I deserve this.” That’s just not a Biblical way to view sacrifice. There are so many moments in my day where I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me, asking me “Can you stop that for now?” “Can you put your phone down?” “Can you let the laundry pile up a little bit more?” “Those dishes can wait.” “Will you read a few more books?” I know its opportunity to serve my children better and to be more intentional and present in my parenting but many times I respond, “No, I can’t do that.” or “I deserve this bit of down time.” I’m praying for growth and maturity in this area. That I would see the immense value in all those little mothering opportunities and that my heart would desire pleasing the Lord over what I think will make me feel better in the moment.

Yesterday I went to the library and checked out a stack of books in an effort to continue my education on the layers of adoption, trauma, attachment, sibling rivalry, and developmental delays. I’d like to ask you to pray that I would be able to become well informed on how to meet the various needs of our children. I’d also like to continue asking for prayer that we would not run into any more delays or hang ups with the TPR hearing. It’s so important for these boys to have stability and with rights still in place it puts them at risk for unnecessary interference’s. Thank you for all the ways you continue to encourage and support our family. We are blessed beyond measure.

~Katie

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Ryann is 10

Dear sweet smiley Ryann,

You are 10 years old today. I remember bringing you home from the hospital. I remember sitting on our living room couch in Brooksville and having this overwhelming sense of protectiveness over you. You weighed a pound less than your big sister (only because she stayed in an extra 2 weeks!!) but you seemed so tiny. You were such an easy going baby. You slept great, you cried very little, you just were happy and you loved your big sister and she loved you. There was never any sibling rivalry and I can say that is true even now. You look up to Micaila and recognize that y’all are both different and God has made you both unique with varying strengths and weaknesses and you are totally comfortable with how God has made you.

People come up to me often and tell me how beautiful my girls are and of course I 100% agree but the thing that I am most proud to tell them is that my girls are sweet. You are kind, thoughtful, and generous. When Caleb came along you were 4 years old and you just loved him so much. You wanted to read to him and hold him and take care of him. Now we have two more little guys and all through out fostering you have been such a tremendous help to me. And growing more helpful every day, taking more and more initiative.

Ryann you are artistic, silly, fun, happy, thoughtful and tender hearted. I love how God has wired you and look forward to all the ways he wants to use your gifts to further his kingdom.

We have made a lot of sacrifices lately as a family. Sometimes it’s hard and uncomfortable. You and Micaila are old enough to understand that following Jesus is more than just saying you believe He exists but actually surrendering all to Him, whatever He asks, whatever the cost. But when we understand what He did for us, the sacrifice seems so very small. God created us for himself and he sacrificed his Son to secure our eternity with him if we choose Him. I pray you will choose Him. That every day of your life you will fight hard to choose Jesus. The world can be captivating. Satan is constantly out to deceive us and our flesh is naturally inclined to pursue selfish desires and selfish gain. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs‬ ‭14:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬ Ryann, it’s always been my prayer that my children would grasp early on the depths of the gospel and passionately pursue Jesus.

We love you Ryann. Oh how I love you and can’t imagine our family with out your precious spirit. You are a gift. Happy 10th Birthday.

Thankful for bedtime

So I’m laying in my bed…. Jason had to work late, the girls are still in Florida and I got my buddy Caleb next to me watching Team Umizoomi way to late. I’m reading my new book Confessions of an Adoptive Parent by Mike Berry. I just started it and already feel so encouraged and hopeful.

I don’t know why this struck me just now, maybe it’s the book, “Confessions….” and I felt compelled to write about it but I am SO THANKFUL for bedtime. With our two little guys that is. And let me tell you why.

I love bedtime because on most days it’s the only thing I feel confident I have done right and well.

We have our routine. We get jammie’s on, we read books, we rock a little. For the most part they go to bed well and happy now, maybe a few tears from J but all in all, bedtime is an easy and happy experience. This is a huge deal. We have had bed time issues and I know a lot of children who have experienced trauma deal with on going night time issues.

Our days lately have been hard. The honeymoon is over and we are realizing just exactly what all the trauma and disruption has done to these two little guys. I remember telling Jason one of the “positives” of adopting these boys was that we “know” them. Because we had had them in our home and maintained contact with them…. I naively thought I knew what we were getting into. But I realize now you can’t know or anticipate what you will encounter with children from hard places. There are just so many layers. So much has occurred in their short lives. And it’s all compounding and here we are.

But bedtime is sweet and not just because they are going to bed. Although, that is a wonderful victory for me if I’m being honest. We made it through another day, yay us!! Bedtime is sweet because I enjoy reading to them and they love being read to. And I love reading Pete the Cat and Little Bear and Poems and Prayers. And I know that the simple fact that I get this one moment every night that affirms my soul “This is right”, is not to be taken for granted.

For all the thousand times I doubt myself during the day, I am so grateful to end most nights knowing I did at least one thing well.

The Journey Continues

Well happy July everyone! It’s been several weeks since I’ve written here and boy is there a lot I’d like to share. Today was one of those days that I wasn’t sure I would make it through. For starters we are in the throws of potty training and all in all K is doing GREAT but on the days that he poops his pants and decides to finger paint his crib…. Oh and bonus, the power went out as I discovered the mess and I got to learn how to clean and disinfect in the dark. Yay! But I’ve got the little ones safely in bed and currently can hear my big kids above me having a blast jumping off furniture. Sounds like someone might fall through the ceiling or possibly a baby elephant. (Two story home owners feel me?) I don’t know what it is about tough days that bring me to write….. although it IS one of the healthier options to decompress. I guess I fear you will think we only ever have tough days and that’s not true at all.

In fact, we’ve had some very good days. In the middle of June we spent a glorious week at the beach. It was the boys first trip and our first trip as a new family. The boys absolutely loved the water and sand. Our extended family loved them. And it was a very needed time of bonding for us all. We had each other day in and day out and I didn’t realize how much we needed that week together. In fact I would strongly encourage families who are adopting to consider planning a vacation specifically for a special time of bonding. I wish I could share pictures but since they are not legally ours yet I still am not allowed to do that. I also am out of storage on my blog here. :bummer:

I wish we were still at the beach. But alas, we are home and reality is in full swing. Upon returning I was made aware that our boys biological mother requested visitation. Since DFCS has yet to terminate parental rights, (they have filed three times and keep messing up paperwork) she can not be denied this privilege. We went a few weeks with no action and then I received a phone call from a transporter who would pick the boys up and supervise the visits. My heart sank. It feels so wrong and unfair. All because of “policies” the system allows these children to be yanked around and thrown into confusing situations that will only deepen their trauma. While I’m trying to build and strengthen the boys trust in me as their mother, caregiver and protector now I’m having to put them in a car with a stranger, to go have play time with another stranger, who will claim to be their “mommy”. I don’t mean to come off harsh but I struggle to call her their mother when she hasn’t been a mother to them for two years. Their great grandmother was their “mother” for the last year and a half. (which is another story) This is all just hard and I’m human and oh so fallible. I did the best I could to explain to K that he was having a visit with someone he may remember and that a helper would come to take him and brother. I told him they would play with toys and then the helper would bring them home. And then I cried in private and called out to my Helper. I know God is sovereign in all this and it’s another opportunity for us to rely on and trust in Him. Thankfully, the boys did well and it sounds like the visit went something like when they get dropped off at the church nursery. They played and were pleasant and excited to come home to me, mommy. Please pray that the TPR hearing would be expedited quickly. These children need normalcy and stability and consistency. And as long as we are waiting for rights to be terminated all of that is very difficult to have.

I have so much more to write about. I am learning SO MUCH in this foster to adopt journey. Like boundaries you must set, conversations you can’t avoid, things you just have to say no to, and so much more. I also have some fun stuff to write about like how we acquired a puppy, a pig, and two bunnies in one month. And tomorrow is Calebs 6th Birthday! I hope I can get a birthday letter in for that boy. Heck I hope I can get his birthday in period! This momma is off her game lol. Lesson number 465 in the adoption journey…… Grace. Grace. Give yourself lots of grace.

When you feel at wits end…..

I’ve been really overwhelmed. The last couple weeks I felt I was floundering in all this parenting stuff. I’m not saying I have it figured out now.

But I can breathe again.

Fostering and adoption in some ways is like having a baby. In the way that you have no idea what exactly is going to change when this new life (or lives) makes their entrance into your world. You can’t predict the amount of sleep you may or may not get, how long the adrenaline of the newness will last, and what you just wont be able to handle. You try to prepare and plan but it’s life. The thing that tends to be different though with fostering and adoption is typically the onlookers do not view it like giving birth to a new baby. It’s not their fault. I think it’s a lack of awareness. But it’s awkward asking for baby showers and meal trains, ya know what I mean? (But now you know so it’s on you :-/ 😉 ) So I reckon a lot of foster/adoptive families just hunker down and push through it but some times you just need to ask for help.

I didn’t actually have to ask for help (I should have asked) but I was crying out enough to my parents that the Holy Spirit prompted them to come. Praise the Lord! My mom came one week, with her little foster baby in tow. They used frequent flyer miles and jumped through DFCS travel request hoops, navigated airports and plane rides and baggage claims, all for me and my family. And it was good. I still cried almost every day as my mom and I processed everything that was going on from schedules, sleep issues, behaviors, healthy ways to approach everything and additionally wondering where the loss of our baby played into all this. It was wonderful having a listening, intuitive, compassionate ear, another set of eyes around, not to mention the helping hands. And Jason kept all the children, all 6!, so we could have a Barnes and Noble date to pick up some new parenting material. I was bawling my eyes out on the way to the airport as that Reckless Love song played because I felt “God has shown me his reckless love time and again through my parents.” What a blessing. I want to be this for my children.

And then the next week my dad came. And that was fantastic. I was able to get some appointments in, child free, including getting my hair done. My dad’s company is so comforting. He is great at running errands and taking the kids to places like the animal shelter and coming home with a free bunny. I love having him here. He is a constant source of affirmation and encouragement and sometimes that’s exactly what a mom needs.

I was uplifted though and I can tell that there has been a shift in the overall tone in our home. It went from chaotic and stressful and everyone was feeling it to now there is peace and joy and truly I can tell the kids sense this as well. Everyone’s behavior and moods are better. Whoever said the mother sets the tone of the home was right! And that’s no easy feat. Please continue to pray for me!

But my main point is, if you need help, ask someone! It’s hard, I get it. I tend to think in my mind “We chose to have all these kids we should be able to handle this transition ourselves.” But when the Bible instructs us to “bear each other’s burdens” I believe this would be an example of just that. God didn’t mean for us to do this alone. And I know they are my parents but they are Christians, too, responding to the Holy Spirit. As Christians this is what we are called to do for our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10 NIV

I also wanted to share some of the helpful reading material that I’ve utilized with our little guys and combined with a peaceful mother these books and “tactics” have been tremendously helpful. I think we are beginning to break through with some behaviors which is immensely encouraging because at first I was like “is this even helping?!?” You guys I am SO impatient. Another thing the Lord has been impressing on me but I don’t want to get side tracked.

For the parent:

The Connected Child (a must read!)

For the children:

Hands are not for Hitting

Sharing Time

(Lots of books similar to these, I want them all!!!)

I read these books to the boys daily and quote phrases from them during the day. They are so good. Very simple and direct but the boys totally get it.

Thank you for your prayers. In the last week we have had some wonderful times of bonding and joy (and full nights sleep for J). We celebrated they’re 2nd and 3rd birthdays this week which was such a treat and milestone for us as a family. God is with us.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

an honest update

I really shouldn’t be blogging right now. So many other things I should probably be doing. But when the Lord leads….. I came to my computer to print off a “sleeping log” because our two year old is not sleeping through the night. I have been aware of this sleep issue. Every time we’ve kept K and J we would experience night time waking. Grandma would even share with me that they would get up and “play” in the middle of the night, have a 3 am snack, whatever. I thought it was a product of bad habits and we could quickly correct it with a few nights of letting him cry, self soothe, get himself back to sleep. You know, instead of intervening with gold fish and mickey mouse clubhouse. It’s been a month and I realize once again how ignorant I am. This is a much deeper and bigger problem than I thought. We’re not only experiencing sleepless nights with J but he’s also exhibiting behavioral issues, aggression and anger. I mean can you blame him? I just got off the phone with my parents (in tears) having an “I don’t know what to do!” moment. I’m discouraged. I’m tired. I know the parenting tools I’ve utilized for 11 years aren’t completely useless but in this moment I feel like I have no tools and no clue what I’m doing. And it’s different with K and J now because they are here to stay and I want to give them the very best and what they need to benefit them for their whole life.

You know how it is when you bring home a newborn baby and you’re figuring everything out. You’re unsure, you’re trying new things, trial and error,… I look back and think how sweet it was to bring home this blank canvas of a newborn that I carried safely in my womb with no trauma. It was hard and we made some mistakes but they weren’t devastating. I feel like I did then, a new parent we’ve brought home a 2 year who’s canvas is not blank, in fact at conception someone took a bunch of black paint and dumped it all over and for the last 2 years people have been putting their brush strokes on it trying to “fix” it. He’s not this clean, white canvas. He’s been hurt, neglected, yanked around, has trust issues. He doesn’t know how to sleep or self soothe or deal with his big emotions. Just because J has lived in two “good homes” (ours and great grandparents) doesn’t mean that he’s unaffected by every move, every visit, every strange face waltzing in and out of his life.

My heart has so much compassion for him.

But I’m human and we’ve had some hard days with this little guy. I’ve felt defeated and insecure, I’ve been impatient (with everyone), I’ve been waking up bewildered on how to go about my day. Some days I have felt like we’ve been in time out all.day.long. and I go to bed thinking “What a waste of a day? Did I accomplish anything?” I have felt like a tyrant raising a tyrant. And then of course there are the other four imperfect children to shepherd as well. So yeah, I guess you could say, one month in we are DEFINITELY still adjusting, to say the least.

In the weariness, hopelessness, defeat and exhaustion I finally made myself get out of bed early enough to cry out to Jesus. Psalm 62:5 “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” I picked up Paul David Tripp’s book “Parenting”. In it he writes a sweet reminder, “Here is the single redemptive reality, right here, right now, that makes parenting possible: God in you……This means that God is with you in the morning when you dread getting out of bed and facing another hard parenting day. He is with you when you have to break up the seventeenth squabble of the morning. He is with you when you have an opening for a very important talk. He is with you when your children are in your face and disrespectful. He is with you when you fall into bed with a combination of exhaustion and regret. He gifts you with His presence. He really does live inside you. You aren’t left to yourself. And he will not turn his back on you until what he has called you to do is complete.”

Today I checked out from our library the No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and have already dove in. Apparently sleeplessness can make for one difficult toddler! No kidding!! I know we have a long road ahead, with lots more to learn. I don’t have a neat little bow to wrap this blog up with. But I am printing out some sleep logs and taking the next step and God is in me. I do want to leave you with this song though, because it’s a new favorite of mine and a reminder of how I should love others, as Christ loves me, but it’s been a really timely reminder in my parenting and love for little J. Oh I pray that God would continue to strengthen me with his Spirit and his reckless love.

The Truth and the lie of “Not good enough”

I don’t know if this is common for all women but every couple of months I will have a freak out moment. It typically involves me taking a survey of every area of my life and coming to the conclusion that I’m failing miserably at it all.

I’m a horrible mom, I’m a horrible wife, and I’m a horrible Christian. (Yes, I’m very dramatic.)

I’m not doing enough of this or that.

I don’t spend as much time in the Word, at the feet of Jesus, as I should.

I’m not engaging my kids enough in discipleship and spiritual disciplines.

I’m not doing enough projects, crafts, book reports, salt dough maps.

Usually on this day my house is a mess so obviously that means I NEVER keep a clean house.

Am I spending enough quality time with my kids? What about one on one time? Are Jason and I having enough intentional moments together?

I start going through a list of everything we don’t consistently do. This list I keep but apparently only for the purposes of pulling out during this time to depress myself with. It also includes how,….

We rarely have the opportunity to sit down altogether for family meals.

We don’t do family devotionals.

My girls have never made a miniature solar system with styrofoam balls.

They don’t play on a team sport.

We don’t have a home church. They don’t go to AWANAS or GAs or RAs or children’s choir.

I could go on but you get the picture.

I was on the phone with my mom lamenting all these things and of course she brought me back from the ledge. The ledge that screams “Not enough” and “You’re failing”.

The ledge is a lie cleverly concealed with a bit of truth. It’s a tool wielded by Satan to bring us to despair. And often times, the voices of the culture are chiming in from that ledge. Satan knows that feelings of failure and the lie of “not enough” have the potential to overwhelm us, consume us and truly make us ineffective in one way or another. The way to combat this attack is by separating the truth from the lies. I believe our best defense against this is through remembering who we are in Christ and reminding ourselves what’s ultimately important in the scope of eternity.

My responsibility is to be obedient to Christ with what he has given me, not what he has given my neighbor. To steward well what he’s entrusted to us, not to compare and despair and believe the lies of “not good enough”.

It’s liberating to remind myself that….

We actually don’t have to take trips to some theme park every year to express love to our kids. That quality time and bonding is just as easily found when making a vending machine with their daddy. Or going for a jog with their mommy. Or reading stories before bed.

They don’t always have to have extra curricular activities lined up for them. They learn there is no “I” in “team” when they push little ones on swings, make forts together on the property, help mommy in the kitchen and read to younger siblings.

Jason and I can survive with out date nights and romantic getaways. Porch dates prove just as rewarding and special.

It’s okay if they never make a styrofoam solar system or salt dough map of the United States. Although I may try to stretch myself on this one because I know they’d love it.

It’s hard competing with what we’re told is the standard of good enough. I wish I would quit but I know it creeps in my mind subtly without me always knowing.

Typically after I back away from the ledge and gain a more rational perspective I know, although I sin and fall short of Gods glory, taking a defeated position would not honor Him. The ledge screams failure but Gods Word tells me I’m a conqueror. I don’t have to succumb to the worlds standards of what’s best or enough but there is room for healthy, godly evaluations and resolves. So….

I will make every effort to get in the Word with my family.

I will have intentional moments with my husband and kids.

I will hone in on my children’s God given gifts and talents so they can use them for His glory.

We will find the right church.

I will (by golly!) attempt a styrofoam solar system and/or salt dough map at least of the state of Georgia.

But I don’t have to solve all this TONIGHT or this week or month.

One thing at a time, starting in Gods Word. And He will be enough for us.