It's Always Too Much

There are common reactions I hear when I tell people that I’m a foster parent.

“Wow, I could never do that.”

“It takes a special person to do that.”

“That just seems like a lot.”

“I just couldn’t put myself (or my family) through that.”

“I wouldn’t be able to say ‘goodbye’ to the kids if they ever left.”

Sure, there is truth in these statements, but there are also excuses, misunderstanding, and selfishness.

I do not believe that everyone should be a foster parent. So please hear that. I am not here to guilt anyone into being a foster parent, but I would like to clear up a few things.

For people that say they could never do it - that may be true, but it also may not be. Yes, it sounds hard and it sounds like “a lot” but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

One of my favorite people, Kati Thompson, has a family motto: “Love God, love people, do hard things”. It is SO good.

Somewhere along the way our culture has decided to worship convenience and ooey gooey feelings so much that we have become repulsed at the idea of doing something that is difficult.

I didn’t sign up to be a foster parent because I thought it would be easy and enjoyable. I signed up to be a foster parent because I am willing and capable. I have a heart to help kids who need a home. I have a home with empty beds. I have people who I share my home with who are on board with the whole foster care thing. My husband and children love welcoming new kids into our home.

Just because we love it doesn’t mean that it’s always a positive experience. But the challenges do not automatically put it in a category of “bad” or “to be avoided”.

Pushing myself to love someone beyond my flesh and blood is not easy. It is exhausting and difficult, but it is worth it. Just because a foster care placement challenges me does not mean that it is an unhealthy choice for me or my family. Are there situations that are unhealthy? Absolutely. But the presence of challenge does not automatically mean that it is bad for everyone involved.

When people have made comments to me about a potential placement being “too much” or “more than we can handle”, it makes me laugh. Exactly what quantity of foster children is not “too much”? What life experiences and trauma is acceptable and manageable? What diagnoses are not jaw-dropping or heartbreaking?

I have realized that foster care fits right into the people pleasing category of my brain. Nothing I do will please everyone always. There is not a placement I could take that would make someone say “Yeah that seems like a reasonable decision that will not have any effect on your life or family”. It’s just not going to happen. It doesn’t make sense because it was never supposed to be this way. Families are meant to stay together, but unfortunately, that’s not always the reality.

People make judgments all the time, everyday. It’s just what we do. But I will be damned if I am going to let those judgments and shocked reactions sway my decision to take in children who need a home and some love.

I hope that I always “love God, love people, and do hard things”. And I hope, soon, that foster care is one of those hard things. We haven’t had a placement in 11 months - a much-needed break. But I think we are all getting ready, in one way or another, for whoever God has next for our family. And we will welcome them with arms wide open, pride pushed to the floor, and a community of support, prayer and resources.

Traveling with Little Kids

One aspect of my life that I have spent over five years trying to master is traveling with kids. Whether it be on a plane, train or automobile, traveling with kids has the potential to be a complete nightmare, especially if they’re under the age of 5.

Here are my tips for traveling on a plane with kids under the age of 5:

1. For the love, choose a seat near the back of the plane.

The back of the plane is typically the loudest area of the plane. So if your kid is losing their you-know-what, you’ll at least be partially saved by engine noise. Also, I have made the mistake of not sitting near the restroom when I was flying with my two oldest kids alone. My son (3 years old) needed to go potty and REFUSED to pee in the pull-up he was wearing. I was begging him to because I had his little sister (18 months and not yet walking) throwing a fit on my lap for the ENTIRE flight. And I mean the entire flight. Luckily a kind woman behind me offered to help, so I handed my daughter over to a STRANGER so I could take my son to the restroom, because obviously you can’t fit three humans in one of those tiny closets they call a restroom. I thought to myself “Well at least she can’t kidnap her”.

2. If you have to pay for a seat (meaning your child is over the age of 2 and you’re not willing to lie about it), take FULL advantage of the fact that the TSA considers your kid a fully-functioning human.

Once your offspring spends 24 glorious months outside of the womb, TSA treats them the same as you and I. This is a financial bummer but a perk in terms of packing. Your 2+ year old is allowed to have the same size personal item as you - which is a big deal on budget-friendly airlines like Spirit. Carry-on bags cost one million dollars on cheaper flights so you want to make the most of your personal item. I found children’s luggage that is cute, on wheels and fits the size requirements for Spirit Airlines. *insert praise hands here*. Sure, I could pack two adult backpacks and act like my daughter is carrying one of them, but then I have to carry two backpacks, a baby and potentially a preschooler throwing a temper tantrum. No gracias. With cute, rolling luggage for my 3 year old, she is WAY more likely to be interested in helping.

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3. Pack a small bag full of surprises.

*Disclaimer: This advice is for parents who have children who do not own a tablet or are not able to be entertained by one for more than three and a half minutes at a time.*

Tiny backpacks and tiny gifts can save the day when you are traveling with little kids. If you are not trying to make the most of your child’s “personal item”, then make sure it is small enough for them to carry on their own. We love using the CamelBak Backpacks for travel. We simply remove the bladder that is typically used for drinking water and fill the backpack with toys, snacks and activities. The Dollar Store is a great place to find small coloring books or other toys to entertain them on the flight. If you have the time, wrap the snacks and toys like they are tiny gifts. Unwrapping becomes an activity in itself. Also, I recommend bringing an empty kids' water bottle or used juice bottle (see picture) to fill up with water. My kids absolutely cannot handle a full bottle of water, so buying something once we're through security is out of the question.

4. DON’T order coffee.

I think it’s precious you think this is a time to relax and drink coffee, but it’s not. Drink it on the way to the airport (for the love) but once you step out of that car, throw it in the trash. If you order coffee there is a 99% chance you are going to spill it on you or your child who is already screaming for various reasons. Once you land and start taxiing, text your family member or friend who is picking you up to make sure they know where the nearest coffee joint is. You’ve earned your second cup, my friend.

5. Pack grocery bags.

I am going to be bold here. You will absolutely, without a doubt, make a mess on this journey. Pack at least three plastic grocery bags. One for dirty laundry. One for garbage. One for more dirty laundry. Yes, you could jam the dirty laundry in your bag, but then you’re going to have to sort through things later doing the good-old-fashioned smell test and that is just zero fun. You could wait for the flight attendant to come to your row to take your trash. But, then you will be scrambling to locate and consolidate everything your kids have thrown. Why not be ready with a bag? Plus you can clean up as you go. A clean, clutter-free space will make you less stressed. There is a good chance you will not have time to clean up as you go, but in the event you do, you’ll be ready.

6. Forget your cute purse, get a backpack.

Do as much as you possibly can to keep your hands free for this experience. Even if a purse is on your shoulder, it is not as convenient as a backpack. Purses slip and swing around when you don’t want them to. Backpacks just stay where they need to be. Plus they are better for your neck and spine. Uneven weight on your shoulders and back coupled with stress of traveling might make you pretty uncomfortable once you’re done traveling.

7. Just because you can check baby gear for free doesn’t mean you should.

If there is a way for you to borrow a car seat or a stroller once you arrive at your destination, do it. Carrying car seats, bags, babies and strollers through an airport is just a lot. I am a big fan of umbrella strollers when you have kids that can walk but are not great at it. In my mind, if your kid fits in a baby carrier (attached to your body), that is the easiest option. Yes, it’s heavy, but it keeps your hands free. Plus your backpack and your baby carrier will equal out the weight on your body.

8. Consider your clothing.

I don’t know about you, but parenting makes me sweaty. Wrangling a preschooler and an infant feels like a more intense workout than CrossFit.

  1. Don’t bundle up, but bring an easy-to-throw-on sweater for the flight, in case the minions fall asleep and you actually relax long enough to get cold.

  2. Wear shoes that are easy to slip off, because you’ll have to take them off to go through security. (Luckily, in my experience, they don’t require young children to remove their shoes).

  3. I believe it is borderline impossible to parent in real pants, so I always opt for black, stretchy, cotton-ness for travel and every other life event.

  4. If you are a mom who is breastfeeding, make sure you are wearing something that gives you easy access you are comfortable with. Your baby might be hungry or stressed, so nursing will make your life easier. Not to mention, the act of sucking helps relieve or avoid the discomfort of ears popping. So if your infant is screaming in pain during take off or landing, breastfeeding could be the solution.

I almost always have my kids in their pajamas for a flight because we are usually flying at the butt crack of dawn. So I make sure to have my potty training kids in a pull-up, undies and two piece pajamas. Dealing with a kid in a onesie on a potty in a dirty airport restroom is just a bad idea. There is an 85% chance the top of that onesie will end up in the toilet or on the pee-covered floor. And even if you are very confident in your child's ability to not have a potty accident, I would still put them in a pull-up. It can't hurt.

9. Pack snacks.

My children act like they are going to die if they don't have snacks on hand at all times, so I try to be really intentional about packing snacks. These are my motivating factors: money and sanity.

Airport snacks are ridiculously expensive and I usually don't have extra time to shop once I'm through security. Plus taking a stroller and multiple children and bags into one of those little shops is a TERRIBLE idea. Trust me.

Pack snacks that are not too messy and will help improve your child's behavior, not make it worse. I always make sure to pack at least one snack that is full of protein - this helps avoid tantrums caused by their blood sugar spiking and crashing. Justin’s Almond Butter Packets and The New Primal Snack Mates and are GREAT for this.

For emergency purposes, I pack one bag of bite-size candy in case I need to bribe my little one into silence. Usually I choose Peanut M&M's since at least there is a teensy bit of protein in there. It is critical to choose a bite-size candy so you can give them one at a time. If you hand your Tasmanian devil a Snickers bar, you will get 12 seconds of peace and quiet. Good job, you still have two hours to go and zero bribery sugar.

Traveling with children is not easy. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Help

Every time you see a decent picture of me, it’s probably because I had the help of a talented friend. Or seven. I probably had to swallow my pride and set aside my self-doubt and self-deprecating thoughts long enough to admit that 1) I want a nice picture of myself and 2) I need help.

That’s really hard. Asking for help is super hard, especially when it is for a seemingly vain task. However these pictures mean more to me than vanity and asking for help is a daily practice that is changing my life.

Asking for help feels awkward because you are admitting that you can’t “do it all” on your own and/or that someone else can do it better. And beyond that, asking for help puts you in a humble, confident position of trusting you are making the right decision and that if someone else thinks you are lazy or weak, that is not your problem. I don’t know about you, but I believe this idea of “doing it all” without help is damaging and debilitating.

Living a life without help is damaging because it keeps people at a distance. It deprives people that love you of the opportunity to bless you. It also might be keeping people out of your life who could love you but haven’t had the chance to yet. I personally love when people ask me for help. I want to be trusted and thought of. I want to be able to bless the people I love. So I choose to believe that there may be others who think similarly.

Not asking for help is also debilitating because, quite frankly, you need help. You cannot do as much without the help of the people and resources around you. Can you live a “good enough” life while maintaining your pride and keeping others at a distance? Sure. Let me know how that goes for you because I have chosen to admit that I am better with my helpers. And do you know what I have noticed? My relationships are deeper, my life is easier, and my joy is richer.

I don’t want to wait until I “have it all together” to let people into my life. That will be a VERY lonely life because things are always a hot mess over here and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. If you think anyone has it all together, they don’t. Instagram is not life. Balance is not real in the way that a lot of people act like it is. You do some things well, you do other things poorly, and then there are the things you don’t do at all. For example, I don’t regularly clean my house. I barely keep up with laundry and that’s only ever done because my husband does the majority of it. But I do rest almost every day, whether that is an actual nap, or laying in my bed, or just sitting and drinking coffee. That, to me, is a non-negotiable. Keeping my house clean might make me feel better in some ways, but the striving to use every second of nap time for a superficial outcome drains the crap out of me. Give me a mess and a nap any day, please and thank you.

Let’s get to the nitty gritty for a hot second.

There are two types of help: paid and unpaid. They both have their challenges. Paid help is challenging because, let’s be real, you need to be able to afford it. But after that, it’s easier on your pride for sure. Unpaid help is challenging because you are asking for favors and trusting that your friends, family, or whoever in your community will have healthy boundaries and say “yes” when they mean “yes” and “no” when they mean “no”.

I ask my friends, family and church community for help all the time. All. The. Time. And when I’m in a healthy head space, I make zero apologies for it for the following reasons: 1) I want them to be comfortable asking me for help, 2) I want them to be grown-ups who say “yes” when they mean “yes” and “no” when they mean “no”, and 3) I want to create a culture of helping. Oh, and 4) I CAN’T DO IT ALL ALONE.

These are “my people” who I usually do not pay. It’s hard and awkward sometimes, but again, we’re all grown-ups and are hopefully telling the truth and having good boundaries.

I ask for help with childcare, yard work/house projects, random errands or car rides, whatever! Especially when my husband is working out of town and I’m on my own. These are also the people who I reach out to when we have a foster care placement and are in need of clothes, toys, beds, car seats, etc.

Now let’s talk about paid help. I know a lot of people will have eye-roll moments of “MUST BE NICE” when anyone talks about paid help. But, let’s get over ourselves long enough to realize that if a person has worked honestly for their money and wants to spend it on help, whether it is a necessity or luxury, that is their choice. Because they are most likely a GROWN-UP.

My current goal is to make enough money so I do not have to clean my house or do the majority of my laundry. And I feel ZERO shame about this. I hate household chores and I would like to never do them again, thank you very much. The fact is: there are plenty of people who would love to get paid to do things that I do not want to do, so I’m going to work towards funding those people. This is not degrading or disrespectful. Any person with a job anywhere ever is doing a job that at least one other person is wanting to pay them to do. So again, let’s get over it. If I can pay a college kid to mow my grass then awesome! They get money that they would not have otherwise had and I just saved myself and my husband hours of work, which means we get to spend more time together or with our kids. WIN-WIN.

Friends. Life is so much sweeter together. I don’t mean together when my house is clean and the perfect meal is cooked and the wine is in actual glasses and not mason jars. I mean together pulling weeds, or wrangling children, or drinking wine out of mason jars amidst my piles of laundry.

Ask for help and see what magic happens.

Equip Them To Know Their Limits

Tonight my husband and I took our children to meet up with his family for a birthday dinner. We went to a restaurant halfway between our home and his mom’s so we could celebrate on a weeknight without driving too far. It was a really fun and delicious dinner with minimal drama considering there were six kids under the age of six.

An outing like this is not something we sign up for easily. We love people. We love food. We love beer. But do you know what I don’t love? Setting my son up for failure. I don’t love that when I say “yes” to a family party or a church event, I may be saying “no” to his predictable schedule and peace. I may be saying “no” to a sweet “goodnight” and “yes” to chaos and dysregulation.

Some of you may think this is over the top dramatic. But trust me, it is not. I know what my son can handle and I know what he can’t handle. And no, this not the average cranky kid meltdown. This is much deeper. It is much more. Which is why I take it so seriously. I take him seriously.

Because of the beautiful way that God made him, my son has sensory processing disorder. It has been a long, difficult, fascinating journey and it has changed me for the better.

I don’t just push through situations for the sake of having fun or meeting someone else’s expectations. I plan ahead. I prepare for the ways I can prevent meltdowns. I make sure my husband and I are on the same page, the same team.

Every time we do something that goes beyond our typical weekly schedule, it takes work. A lot of work.

This may all seem like a bummer to some people. It may seem like overkill. It may make you roll your eyes thinking I am uptight or controlling. Am I both of those things? Yes. But I’m also incredibly proud of how far we’ve come in this parenting journey. I am proud of how far my son has come in self awareness, healthy boundaries and good communication.

He’s freaking five years old and he is healthier than most adults I know.

Before we go to a party or gathering, he makes sure to pack his drawing materials or a bag of Legos so he has something to do if he needs some space for alone time. Let me say that another way for those of you not paying attention. AT THE AGE OF FIVE, he has the forethought, wisdom, and self awareness to know that he will get overwhelmed at a party. He will experience sensory overload. He will need space and quiet time without other children.

Not only does he plan for this by packing activities, but he also speaks up in the moment. He will pull me aside and say “Mommy, I need some quiet time”. Sometimes he asks me or my husband to join him, sometimes he’s fine to just go off alone. But the point is, the noise and the kid chaos are too much for him and he knows it. It may seem like he’s having fun, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t also getting totally overstimulated by everything going on.

Yes, sometimes I have to ask him how he’s doing. Sometimes I have to remind him that he’s allowed to demand personal space. He’s allowed to require quiet time. But for a kindergartener, he’s pretty freaking self aware.

Most adults I know don’t realize when they are overwhelmed until it’s too late. They don’t realize that they have said “yes” to too much until they are exhausted and resentful. They don’t understand how overstimulated their brain is until they are unable to relax.

But my boy… he is wise beyond his years. And that my friends, is partially because of me. I did that. I taught him. I raised him. I continue to teach and raise him. And I had a freaking epiphany tonight when I was reflecting on how proud I am of him… I realized I DID THAT.

I don’t often think about what I’m doing well as a parent, but tonight I am. I’m thinking about it. I’m thanking God for it. I am thanking God for the mom He has made me to be and for the son he has blessed me with. I make a lot of mistakes… enough to fill a thousand pages. But I am choosing to fill this page with the victories of my work as a mom.

Choose to be a Cheerleader

I was feeling discouraged and depressed. Not quite dream-less, but definitely beginning to surrender to the lie that my dreams are not worth pursuing.

You see, I had recently turned a corner in my life. I made a decision to start pursuing my dreams. One whisper, one baby step at a time. I had decided to choose moments of bravery over a lifetime of safety.

That choice comes with some very high highs and some very low lows.

So this day was a low. After days or weeks of encouragement, enthusiasm and energy, I hit the inevitable wall. I was finally... blah. My self esteem was a bit stunted. My motivation was nonexistent. The piles of laundry and unused cleaning supplies made my big house feel like it was caving in on me.

My kids were asleep which meant I was even more aware of the lowness of my low. Silence has a way of shouting self doubt.

I heated up my coffee for the hundredth time that day and tried to distract myself with a task that had nothing to do with me.

I refocused my eyes on one of my friends. I focused on her dream for a hot second.

I hid away in my office, away from the laundry and the mess and I started to read the first draft of her first book.

Do you know what freaking happened?

I got goosebumps. I got energy. The dream-flame within me was fanned to life again.

Not because I had a great idea. Not because I self-talked my way to a positive outlook.

But because I made space in my life to link arms with my friend who needed feedback and friendship in the midst of chasing her dream.

I put a stop to my obsession with my daily to-do list failure long enough to see beauty and encouragement that was waiting for me on my computer screen.

I chose to be a cheerleader instead of wallowing in self-pity. And that choice ended up being exactly what I needed.

Have you ever experienced this?

You don’t even realize you are stuck in a self-centered swamp. Since your thoughts are self-deprecating, the pride and narcissism are disguised. But that’s the trick right there.

We were created to acknowledge the gifts within us and those around us. To ignore the existence of the gifts or worse, see them and turn a blind eye, is an insult. I believe it’s an insult to the Creator. He did a good thing making you and I. It was all intentional and beautiful and now, it’s our responsibility.

It's our responsibility to live bravely, using our gifts and talents to follow our dreams. To love and encourage generously. To link arms with each other.

I believe that this Creator intended for us live linked and not lonely. He did not ever want us to keep our focus on ourselves. And I know this is true, because I feel when I’m doing it wrong and I see what happens when I do it right.

Wrong feels small and tight. Wrong feels obsessive and anxious.

But right? Right feels exciting and uplifting. Right feels like endless possibilities and peace. Right feels like choosing to be a cheerleader when you think you've forgotten how to cheer.

Instant Family

I have only been a licensed foster parent for a few years, so it can feel strange to share my experiences when I know there are countless people out there who know way more than me. But regardless, I feel that sharing stories is important. Especially on the topic of foster care. In my mind, the more information that is out there will help others decide if they want to take the brave leap into the foster care world.

Just last night I watched the movie, “Instant Family” for the third time. I love this movie and I highly recommend it for any adult to watch - even if you have zero interest in becoming a foster parent.

I feel like this movie did a great job portraying a variety of scenarios and hardships that are common in the world of foster care. Of course, this is a movie and the characters are played by actors, so it’s not real, but I think they really did their best to make it accurate while also entertaining.

Here are my thoughts on some parts of the movie that stuck out to me in particular:

1) Tantrums are REAL. These are not your average I’m-a-pissed-preschooler fits. These are hardcore emotions that have spun out of control because that child’s life has spun out of control. I think the movie did a good job of showing the chaos, the noise and the mess. But in my experience, the tantrums have been far more physical. The children I have had in my home have resorted to hitting, punching, kicking, headbutting, scratching, ANYTHING to get the point across to me that they are sad, angry, frustrated and out of control. And most importantly they wanted me to know that I AM NOT THEIR MOM.

2) Nighttime meltdowns are not so easy to soothe. In the movie, there is a scene where the little boy is crying in his bed, maybe from a nightmare of some kind. The parent spends maybe 15 seconds trying to comfort him and he falls back to sleep. This may be a reality for some families, but for the kids that I have had in my home, the feelings that came with nighttime were serious. The heartbreak and fear run so deep. Having had a difficult biological baby, I thought I knew how to comfort children but this experience was an eye opener for sure. There are no quick fixes in foster care. These kids need more patience, love and grace than you could ever imagine.

3) "Parentification" of the oldest child is a painful reality of sibling groups in foster care. The way that Lizzy feels obligated to keep her younger siblings safe and cared for is all too common among foster children. In many of these situations, the parents were not able to care for the kids so the oldest child had to step up and act like the parent. This is a level of pressure and stress that no child should have to experience.

4) Non-foster care parents may say things that are naive or even offensive. In the movie, there were instances where foster children were referred to as “damaged goods” or biological children were referred to as “real kids”. Using phrases like these are hurtful, but unfortunately, common. I have spoken to many people who say they would consider being foster parents but want to have their “own” kids first. Regardless of DNA, age, race, behavior, or circumstance, if a child is in your care, you better treat them like your own. It may not always feel like they are “yours” but that is for you to feel on your own or in the safety of a conversation with another adult who you completely trust. Those are not feelings to share openly with children. I remember several times that strangers would ask me “Are they all yours?” when we had two foster children. All that does is make our kids feel self conscious and even more ostracized than they already do. When we went through training to become foster parents, we learned which words and phrases are helpful or which are hurtful. Even if you have good intentions, the child only hears your words and sees your actions. Intentions don't necessarily matter.

5) There is usually a honeymoon stage. For one of our placements, the honeymoon stage was about 24 hours. But like the movie, some stages can last several weeks. Children may be on their best behavior as they are getting used to living with you or trying to “figure you out”. This may not be encouraging, but I typically expect things to be super difficult and then I am pleasantly surprised if we have good days...or even hours.

6) The panic of reunification is something I have only experienced once. The children we had with us for one placement were so eager to get back with their biological mom. She is a wonderful woman and she loves her kids very much. The visits seemed to always go well, even if the behavior in between visits was awful. But when it finally came time to reunite, the oldest was panicky. He wanted to make sure I had his mom’s phone number. He wanted to know when we would see each other again. It was heartbreaking, because to be honest, I had no idea if we ever would see each other again. And this was a GOOD situation. This was a case where the biological parents did their absolute best to get their children back as soon as they could. Even with a “best case scenario”, there was so much heartbreak and confusion.

7) Increased visits with biological families cause increased bad behavior at the foster home. Often, as a case nears reunification, the visits that the kids have with their biological families become more frequent and longer. On one hand, this is great because this means a family is getting closer and closer to being put back together. But on the other hand, this is confusing for the foster kids who have finally settled into a new routine with their foster family. Any disruption in routine is hard for kids, regardless of if they are in the foster care system. So for a foster kid to start to feel a sense of security or at the very least, predictability in schedule, it throws them off to have that changed up.

8) One of the most important parts of the movie was when they showed a set of foster parents who had a daughter adopted out of foster care. They talked about how she was still in and out of rehab, but the point is she is putting the work in to get healthy. She had all of the odds stacked against her in life, so for her, health and happiness is going to always be work. I loved that they included this because "happy endings" aren't real, or at the very least, they aren't just happy. The reality is the effects of trauma are long lasting.

Yes, being a foster parent is hard. You go through a roller coaster of emotions, sometimes on a daily basis. But it is always important to remember that the feelings you are experiencing as a potentially mature adult, are nothing compared to the experiences of that child who does not have the ability to process even a fraction of what they have experienced.

Overall, I think “Instant Family” is a great movie to watch if you want to get a glimpse into the world of foster care. No movie or story is all-inclusive. Everyone’s story is different. But I hope that this has answered some questions for you.

If you want to learn more about foster care, ask me! I would love to talk about the many ways you could help foster families.

Respect the Seasons

My husband and I have three biological children (5, 3 and 5 months). We are foster parents but do not have any foster kids in our home at this time.

During the past 6 years of pregnancies and parenting, I have had a variety of job combinations.

I have worked full time outside of the home with my kids in daycare.

I have worked full time remotely (inside my home) while I was pregnant with my first kid.

I have worked three part time jobs while my kids were in part time daycare so I could be a part time stay at home mom.

I have been a full time stay at home mom.

I have been a 90% stay at home mom.

I tell you this so you know that I have tried a bunch of different things. I didn't do this to intentionally find out what works for us, but I have definitely learned a lot over the years about myself, my kids, my marriage, and how we all function well together.

And, let me tell you, it all changes. I had to change as life changed.

I used to feel guilty that I didn't have a set career plan. I used to feel like if I changed my mind, or our family needed to pivot, that I was somehow failing. Or admitting fault. Does anyone ever feel like that?

It's almost as if I had no respect for the fact that God gives us seasons in our life. I don't mean winter and summer, I mean weeks, months or years when one thing works, and then all of a sudden, it doesn't. When a spouse and children are involved, navigating those seasons is way more complicated. And humbling.

When I worked full time, it was difficult to handle the logistics and the emotions of full time childcare. There were a lot of tears. There were a lot of rushed, frustrated conversations. There was not much quality time.

You see, this season was not just hard because I had to get used to a new job and a new schedule.

It was hard because we had our first foster care placement (two 17 year old girls).

It was hard because I had to take care of my son after a minor surgery.

It was hard because my son received a diagnosis of an SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder).

It was hard because I had to completely shift the way I parented in light of SPD.

It was hard because I had an awful 8 weeks of pregnancy.

It was hard because I went in for an ultrasound that showed no heartbeat.

It was hard because no one tells you how to deal with a miscarriage.

It was hard because I had to make the decision to walk away from a job that I was actually good at.

But, I had an amazing team in that season.

The women at my daycare lifted burdens off of my shoulders I didn't know were there. The occupational therapist who worked with my son and I after he was diagnosed with SPD absolutely changed my life. When my husband and I felt clueless, we could look around and see we were not alone. And even more than that, we could get a break! Going to work felt like taking a breath. It felt like pressing pause on the diagnosis and the tantrums. A relief from the questions that never seemed to be answered. And we could take a break, because we had a team around us.

Some people may think it's awful that I needed a break from my kids, especially in the midst of a brand new diagnosis. But I hope most parents realize the importance of taking a break. Whether it is for 8 minutes or 8 hours a day.

And then the season changed.

I focused more on being a stay-at-home mom. I didn't think it would be rainbows and butterflies, but it felt like a season I needed to step into based on the needs of my kids at that time.

Am I thankful that our financial situation allows me to be a 90% stay-at-home mom? Yes.

Do I want to decrease that percentage very, very soon? Abso-freaking-lutely.

My husband and I have come to the conclusion that me being a stay-at-home mom may not actually be best for us in our current season. And that certainly doesn't mean I'm selfish or a crappy mom.

That means that we keep our eyes open to what is working and not working.

That means that we keep our ears open to what opportunities God might be whispering to us.

Stay-at-home parenting is not even close to the top of the list of things I'm good at. And I'm okay with that. As long as I'm aware that I AM good at other things.

I'm currently in a season of:

What the fruit am I doing? What do I want to be doing? What FREAKING steps do I take to get there?

And then every roadblock or tough day sends me back to thinking...

SEE?! This is why I should just power through this season of tiny people. I should enjoy this stage. I should ignore my dreams and goals and the tiniest nudges I feel from God because there is no time or space for me to be anything but a mom right now.

It's crazy how I believe God made everyone intentionally and uniquely with gifts. But then when I consider my gifts, I decide that there isn't space or time.

Well that's just bullshit. I know it. You know it. God knows it.

Maybe your dream is to start a company.

Maybe your dream is to work part time outside the home while also doing the stay at home mom thing.

Maybe you LOVE being a stay at home parent. Or maybe you don't but you consider it an honor to do that right now.

Maybe you are in a role (corporate, creative or care-taking) that does not bring you joy, but you are hustling behind the scenes to pursue your dream.

Maybe you are somewhere in between these things.

Freaking awesome! Just do what you need to do. What you want to do. What you were made to do. Make space for it. And don't let anyone make you feel like you are not measuring up.

In fact, take that ruler they are using and smack them in the face with it.

Your kids will be better if they see their parents embracing who they were made to be in each season. It will change, you will change. And that's okay. In fact, it's beautiful.

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A FEW NOTES:

1) Being a mom is enough of a job on it's own. The phrase "just a mom" can seem offensive, but it doesn't have to be. If you want your sole focus right now to be on momming - more power to you! Do what you think God created you for in this season. Embrace it. Do it well.

2) I understand that people look back on seasons of parenting and miss it. I've experienced it a few times, even though my kids are still young. But be careful with the "enjoy it now!" and "don't wish away these little years!" comments to moms that are exhausted and really pissed off that they had to wipe someone's butt and then also get slapped by that same person who will likely throw their food on the ground. It is rarely encouraging. It is mostly just frustrating. I feel more loved and cared for when people validate me in feeling like some seasons are really freaking hard.

What The Fruit?!

Last year I decided I wanted to make dance a part of my life again. I had danced when I was younger but never made space for it once I was in college and then married with kids. Finally I realized it was one of those things that I thought about everyday and I needed to make the space.

Even though my daughter did ballet with one studio, they did not offer any hip hop classes. So I started to research other options. I told my friend, Veronica, that I was planning on signing up for a class in town and she had a brilliant idea: let’s start our own class.

The studio that my daughter dances with is run by a lovely young woman who goes to my new church. Veronica suggested we ask her if she could create a class if we were able to fill it. She said yes!

A few weeks later, six moms got together for our first hip hop class. Our teacher was a college student who was the epitome of charming. Not only was it a blast to chat with her in class and borderline stalk her on Instagram, but it was a refreshing gift to learn from her, and I don’t just mean choreography.

This girl is something else. She is wise and mature beyond her years. She is graceful not just in dance but also in the way she presents herself. You can tell within five minutes of meeting her that she has integrity and a passion for her faith.

Between the dance moves and the song choices, you could tell she was not your average college girl. She was not interested in flaunting body parts or crude language. She loves and respects God, and therefore, she loves and respects herself, which is reflected in the way she dances.

One thing that stuck out to me immediately was her choice of words in moments of frustration. When I would be getting ready to blurt out a four letter word, our dance teacher would say “fruit!”. I LOVE THAT.

I love it because she is not delicate or weak. She is strong. Her personality is big. She is endearing. Her sense of humor is contagious. But in a moment when she could so easily swear like most other people her age (or my age) would, she chooses something better. Something that makes you stop. Something that makes you laugh. Something that makes you think about your choices.

If you have no issue with swearing, fantastic. Do what you feel. But I have spent over a decade trying to minimize the crude language that leaves my lips. That’s my own personal conviction and choice. But it is hard!

I so often tie censoring my language with being overly precious and uninteresting. And, let me tell you, I want NONE OF THAT.

But Colleen has been this sweet little example to me of what is possible. I can be strong and not offensive. I can be funny and not crude. I can be endearing without shock value. I know this because Colleen is all of these beautiful things.

And do you know what the best part is? She’s younger than me. Maybe ten years younger. I LOVE that. I want to always be willing to learn from people younger than me. I want to have my eyes and ears open and ready to learn from whoever God may put in my life when I need a lesson, whether it be big and obvious or small and subtle.

May your attitude remain humble. Your curse words silly. And your dance moves BANGIN’.

It's On Me: Navigating The Holidays

You’re sitting around after Christmas dinner, there are way more cheesy potatoes sitting like a rock in your stomach than your “Christmas nutrition plan” ever intended (and all God’s people said “amen”) and you’re updating Aunt Sally on your latest career move or blind date. You can see ALL over her face just how she feels about your ability to make good choices. Even if the words that come out of her mouth are “Oh that’s nice, dear”, what she’s really thinking is “What the crap is wrong with you?” And you’re sure of it.

Or are you?

That’s the tricky thing about people pleasing, not only do you want to do and say everything exactly right, but you also have to try to read their minds in the midst of it all. It’s like running a Christmas Marathon (which sounds like my worst nightmare). It’s EXHAUSTING. And all the sweating you do will deplete you of your carbs, leading you right back to those freaking cheesy potatoes that you know won’t digest fully until next Tuesday.

We all know the holiday season is chock full of warm fuzzy feelings for a lot of people. But even if you look forward to house guests and holiday parties, it can still be tricky to navigate all of the relationships that tend to collide in November and December.

I love throwing parties. I love going to parties. I love being around people with delicious food and drinks to share. But even in the midst of all of that, I still struggle a lot when I surround myself with so many people that I love for days or weeks on end.

My two biggest weaknesses during the holiday season are my tendencies to 1) people please and 2) try to control every situation (mind-reading included).

People pleasing is an exhausting, maddening business on any ordinary day. But people pleasing during the holidays is the WORST.

Think about it: you are surrounded by people you love who you may not get to see or speak with that often. Conversations are basically boiled-down cliff notes on your life. And chances are, you actually care what they think of you.

If you add being a control freak to my people pleasing tendencies, you have yourself a pretty scary holiday season. If I’m hosting a party, I want everything to be perfect. If I have house guests, I want everyone to get along. And at the end of it all, I would like for my house to be spotless, even though it never is, even without 10-20 additional humans in it.

Can you relate to ANY of this?

I am both so excited and absolutely anxious for Christmas festivities to begin in a few days.

I start to think about all of the things that could go wrong with ten kids under one roof.

I think about how someone could possibly judge or offend me.

I obsess over the details of my travel plans and how my husband or children may mess something up.

But you know what? I am basically ruining my holiday before it even happens. Navigating the holiday season with family and friends can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be terrible.

The line between tricky and terrible?

I can act like it’s everyone else’s fault that I’m worried, but really, it’s on me.

It’s on me to CALM DOWN and make some choices.

These are the choices I am making this week and next so that I can enjoy my family and friends instead of becoming a stress-ball that no one wants to be around.

1. I bought paper plates and plasticware because I hate doing dishes for 5 people, let alone 20.

2. I will say out loud (and probably write down) all of the people and activities I am excited for.

3. I will say out loud (and probably write down) the events as if they have already happened and were a blast.

4. I will make a plan with my husband for what we (mostly I) can handle in terms of hosting (see #1 about not doing dishes).

5. I will not forget to take my antidepressants because they make a BIG difference for my anxiety and general ability to enjoy life.

6. I will remind myself that my husband is on my team and he is not the person to take the blame every time I get stressed out about the TINIEST inconvenience.

Maybe you can’t relate at all to any of this and I just sound like a crazy lady. That’s okay. I didn’t write it for you. I wrote it for the people who also have SUCH a hard time enjoying the holidays because their brains are going a million miles a minute obsessing about things that NO ONE ELSE CARES ABOUT.

Also – for my fellow people pleasers:

1. They are not thinking about you as much as you think they are thinking about you (thank you Jenna Kutcher)

2. Someone else’s opinion about you is none of your business (thank you Rachel Hollis)

What choices can you make this holiday season to keep the tricky from going terribly, and heck, even surprise yourself and have a little fun?

The Power Of Words

One of my college roommates, Alesia, changed my life with lessons and wisdom from her walk with God that have challenged and encouraged me.

Conversations with her leave me craving a better life. A life where I am closer to God. A life where I think outside of the box and my own limitations. A life where I live every moment like I know that I am the strong, brave, smart woman God created me to be.

I like her so much that I named my daughter after her. That, my friends, is admiration.

Clearly, Alesia has had a major impact on my life. One lesson I have learned from her, and continue to learn, is the power of words. Her method for teaching this lesson seemed insane but I will never forget the process or the outcome.

She did this weird experiment where she filled shot glasses with water and rice. Each was covered with plastic wrap. Each day for a month, she spoke to two of the three shot glasses. To one she spoke words of love. To the other she spoke words of hate. And the third, she ignored entirely.

After that month was over, she observed the results of her experiment. The love shot glass was practically unchanged. The ignored shot glass was a little moldy and yucky. The hate shot glass was DISGUSTING. Moldy, smelly, foul.

Alesia definitely proved her point.

Not only did she emphasize the importance of the power of words with her experiment, but Alesia lived it out everyday.

In a culture that encourages self-deprecation and unrealistic standards, she would stop me dead in my tracks if I spoke negatively about myself. Alesia would remind me that the words that came out of my mouth not only reflected what I believed in my heart and head, but they also acted as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I spoke something enough, it would probably become true.

The fact of the matter is, God created me exactly the way He intended to. I am beautiful. I am smart. I am strong. I have purpose. He has big plans for me. That is the truth.

However, it can be so easy to forget what is true.

It is so easy to believe lies. It is easy for me to believe that I am ugly and worthless. It is easy for me to believe that I have been forgotten about. By friends, family and God. It is easy to look at my degree, my house, my bank account and my waistline and think that I am not enough.

But that is a lie.

Each time that I spoke a lie out loud in front of Alesia she shut it down. She would remind me of truth.

Find a friend like Alesia.

Find a friend who not only speaks life and truth, but also is brave enough to tell you to stop when your words are using their power for harm instead of good.


B.L.E.S.S. Your Kids


A year or so ago, a great friend and mentor of mine, Craig Dixon, preached a sermon on parenting. I entered church that day expecting to learn great tips on how to lovingly discipline my children. But I was in for a surprise.

The sermon message was clear and even sounded simple. He said “bless your kids”.

I was shocked. Maybe this seemed like an obvious message to other parents in the room, but I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I wanted practical tools and instead I got a heart adjustment.

Recently, this sermon came to the forefront of my mind as I was laying in bed at 3 in the morning. I had just fed the baby and was starting to think (read: worry, obsess) about some of the issues we had been experiencing recently with our older children.

My husband and I often just look at each other and realize we have no idea what we are doing. But that night, I thought about the sermon and the word “bless”.

I started to think of those five letters and what they could each represent that would help me remember in the difficult moments of parenting, how I could bless my children.

This is what I came up with:

Believe them

Do you know what sucks? Being lied to. Especially when it happens over and over again throughout your day or week by the same person. Children are notorious for telling stories when they should really be telling the truth.

When I am on my high horse and at the end of my patience for the day (around 10 am), it is easy for me to jump on the opportunity to tell my kid that I know they are lying. It’s easy to choose punishment and shame over grace and trust.

But do you know what makes a person feel loved and trusted? When you believe their words.

I realized that I would rather have my children successfully lie to me and have them go to sleep at night knowing their mother takes them seriously than accuse them of lying so much that they decide it is better to not tell me anything.

Give them the benefit of the doubt even if you are pretty sure they are lying to your face.

Yes, they may be getting away with something they shouldn’t be doing. But in the long run, it is going to benefit your relationship because there may be a day when they need a safe person to talk to, and that person should be you.

They need you on their side more than they need you to prove them wrong.

This does not mean that you let your children dictate “truth” in your household. It does not mean that you do not teach them the importance of honesty. But it does mean that you don’t jump to the conclusion that they are being dishonest every chance you get.

Listen to them

When I need to make sure my children are listening to me and not just hearing me, I say, “eyes please”. Making eye contact when you’re communicating helps you absorb what the person is telling you plus it makes them feel like you are truly listening.

I can’t expect my children to learn how to listen well unless I am modeling that behavior for them.

Listening to a person is respectful, so if I want to raise respectful and interested people, I better put down my phone, walk away from the stove and listen to every word they have to tell me, with my eyes on them.

When my daughter gets the attention of everyone in the room, with silence and eyes on her, she gets a huge smile on her face and usually forgets what she was saying. She has an older brother that talks enough for ten people and parents who talk just as much.

Her normal is having to fight for a turn to speak.

But that smile says it all. Her beaming face lets you know that she feels loved, respected and interesting because you are taking the time to shut your own mouth, open your ears and direct your eyes to the littlest soul in the room.

Explain yourself to them

It causes my son anxiety if we give him instructions without telling him why we need him to do that. I don’t justify my request for him to wash his hands after he goes to the bathroom, but for certain directions that are out-of-the-ordinary, it is helpful for me to explain the reason I need him to do whatever it is that I need him to do.

Some parents might think they should never have to explain themselves and that their children should just obey, obey, obey.

I get that… to a certain extent.

But I also know that I definitely like to know why I’m doing something that I’m asked to do. It helps me feel at peace about my actions and about obeying the person who is asking something of me. I also tend to perform an action better if I understand the “why”.

I have realized that taking 15 seconds to answer my kids’ questions BEFORE they obey can actually save me an hour-long tantrum when I just respond with “just do it”.

I do, however, ask that my kids say “okay Mommy” and THEN continue with a question.

Responding to a request from me with “But…” is the beginning of an argument and is not okay. If their response is communicating obedience and positivity, I’m more than happy to answer their questions and help clarify what is going on in my mind that I’m asking them to be a part of.

Serve them

I don’t know about you but I think my attitude towards my children can feel like I think they owe me something. As if bringing them into this broken world is some gift that they need to pay me back for over the next 18 years.

Even when my attitude isn’t ugly, I become overwhelmed that my interactions with my kids are mainly me completing tasks for their benefit, not for mine.

By default, I am serving them. But this call to serve them means to go above and beyond to do or say something that will make them feel cared for, loved and noticed.

Sometimes that means sitting on the floor and playing a game. Sometimes that means taking them to go get a donut. Sometimes that means having a dance party when I really need to do ten loads of laundry.

Serving a person is an act of humility and love and I definitely want to be a mom that models those two qualities to my children. And choosing to serve them in a way that is specific to their personality will make them feel even more cared for and known.

Smile at them

When my daughter knows that she is being disobedient or unkind, she looks at me and says “Mommy smile at me!”. Of course, she’s trying to manipulate the situation, but her demands made me think a lot about the power of a smile.

She can sense that our relationship is strained and she wants it to be fixed and for some reason, she thinks that a smile will fix it.

Our days are shadowed by packed schedules and a never-ending to-do list. Our interactions with our children can be ruled by commands and requests. Sometimes I realize that I don’t even take a moment to look into their sweet faces, let alone offer a genuine smile.

Maybe some parents are naturally cheerful and love their role as mom or dad. I am not one of those people. I have a serious case of RBF and I am very easily stressed out by my daily momming responsibilities.

For me, remembering to smile is a difficult but crucial part of blessing my kids.

And yes, they know when I’m faking it.

Blessing my kids requires me to dig deep. It requires me to know them. To set aside my selfish desires. To value what they value.

When I take the time to B.L.E.S.S. them, I realize what Craig was talking about in his sermon that Sunday.