Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Letter From Mama #3 to My Baby's Mama #2

Dear S.....,

I'll never ever forget the day we drove away from your house with the sweet baby girl who was your daughter for eight months and was to be our daughter forever.  We stalled, we took a picture, we didn't know what to say.  We buckled her safely into her car seat, handed down from her older sister who she had barely met at that point.  It all seemed very unceremonious and casual. This momentous changing of hands, this transfer of life, love and care boiled down to putting her belongings in the back of my minivan and buckling some seat belts.

We left you and your older daughter in your driveway as we drove off with the little girl about whom you knew everything and we knew almost nothing.  I saw you try to hide your tears, but mine mirrored yours at that moment and all the way home.  You told me later when I texted to ask if you were ok that you and your older daughter had a good cry after we left, but it helped to know that Baby was with good people who loved her.  I vowed to myself in that moment that I wouldn't let you down, that I would love her with my whole being, though I knew even then that it would take time to grow.

In an ideal world, a baby shouldn't have had three mamas by the time she is ten months old.  We hope for one and done, for Plan A to be what sticks, for Mama #1 to be the only mama.  But women like you and I know that in foster care that is not the case.  Women like you and I are Plan B.  We are Mama #2...or #3...or #7...  We are here to swoop in when Plan A shatters and a little life is hanging in the balance.   We are here to try our best to help pick up the pieces and put at least some of them back together.

My sweet baby will always have three mamas.  We don't know where paths will take each of us, but each of you will always be part of her story.   She will know your name and your face, even if just from pictures.  She will know how well you cared for her and how much her foster siblings adored her.  She will understand that it is no tragedy that she has three mamas in her story.  No, it is a blessing.  It is three times the love at the beginning of her life, while her future was figuring itself out amidst some bumps in the road.

So, from Mama #3 to Mama #2, thank you.   Thank you for being Mama #2 for my sweet daughter, when I was not able to swoop in quite yet and lift her out of the chaos. Thank you for being such a resource to us as we learned to care for this little one that both our hearts claim in different ways. Thank you for loving her for eight precious, valuable months of her life while we got ourselves ready for the forever part.

With gratitude,
Mama #3

Monday, November 16, 2015

Why Cleaning My Own House Went "Off The Beam"

It's a Monday night and I am free to sit here and do as I please because my house is spotless.

You see, this summer I got a third child, a nice raise and...a cleaning lady.  It's one of the best decisions I have ever made and it was high time.   I put it off and put it off for years thinking a woman as young as me shouldn't have a cleaning lady, that that was too posh of a thing for me to ever consider before I was at least age 30 and had paid off some of my student loans.

But now?  Every other Monday, I pay dollars for someone else to give our house a reset and here is why:

1. We can afford it.
2. With three little kids, our house gets trashed, wrecked, grossified, bleh.
3. The wonderful lady who helps us accomplishes in a few hours what would take me two days.
4. Actually it would take me until eternity because I could not do it as well as she does, ever.
5. Trent and I fought for years about chores and it was so freaking not fun. We don't anymore. Poof.
6. I shoved cleaning my own house "off the beam".

Though I sure don't have much time to read these days, I did make sure to devour Jen Hatmaker's newest book, For The Love.  I tell ya, this lady.  She's a keeper.   Trent would randomly find me laughing out loud at my Nook or dripping tears onto it and just nod and say "Jen Hatmaker?"  Yup.  Sniffle sniffle ha ha.

I for sure resonated with her chapter about what things in life deserve to be "on the beam" or "off the beam", referring, of course, to a gymnast balance beam.  Here, read some of her words instead of mine...

Balance.  It's like a unicorn; we've heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven't actually seen one.  I'm beginning to think it isn't a thing. ...  No one can pull this off.  No one is pulling this off.  The women who seem to ride this unicorn only display the best parts of their stories.  Trust me.  No one can fragment her time and attention into this many segments. 

We have lost the ability to declare a job well done.  We measure our performance against an invented standard and come up wanting, and it is destroying our joy.  No matter how hard we work or excel in an area or two, it never feels like enough.  Our primary defaults are exhaustion and guilt.  Meanwhile, we have beautiful lives begging to be really lived, really enjoyed, really applauded - and it is simpler than we dare hope: we gotta unload that beam. 

You get to do this.  You have permission to examine all the tricks and decide what should stay.  What parts do you love?  What are you good at?  What brings you life? What has to stay during this season? ...  We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.  ...  Decide which parts are draining you dry.  What do you dread?  What are you including for all the wrong reasons? What parts are for approval?  Is there anything you could delegate or hand off?  Could you sacrifice a Good for a Best?  Throw out every should or should not and make ruthless cuts.  Go ahead.  Your beam is too crowded.  I know it.

My beam was too crowded.   Challenging job, three small children, a big ole jenky house, all the things that make people tell me they don't know how I do it.  So I held some auditions in my mind and soul for things that got to stay on the beam or get kicked off.

Cleaning my own house?  Bleh.  Can be delegated.  Off the beam.

Date nights and deep conversations with my husband?  Life giving.  On the beam.

Posting to this blog?  Eh, it teeter totters in priority.  Welcome on the beam when there is room.

Drinks, Chipotle burrito bowls, movies, etc with my friend Kristin?   Hell yeah.  On the beam.

Cooking elaborate homemade meals?   Baha, funny joke.  Off my beam, onto Trent's beam.  Or McDonald's beam.

Time to myself to journal, think, be still?  Sorely missed since gaining a third child.  Scooching back onto the beam.

This is a spectacularly fun exercise when you actually give it some thought, give yourself some freedom, and realize that your beam is your beam and the standards that work best for yourself and your family don't have to mirror those of other women or other families.   Why spend time trying to cram ourselves into someone else's box?  Ain't nobody got time for that.

Cleaning your own house may be the third love of your life after your husband and children.  Scrubbing, mopping and vacuuming may be a form of active meditation for you that you adore and can't do without.  It may be something that fits into your schedule totally fine and gives you a sense of worth unmatched by most other tasks.  You go girl.

Me?  My beam was always sopping wet from the rain cloud of house cleaning that hung over it nonstop and fried from the lightning bolts of fights and zingers shot between me and Trent from all the tension built up.    So I unloaded my beam.

What needs to be on your beam?  What needs to be off your beam?  What is non-negotiable vs disposable?  What does your standard for sanity and happiness need to include?  Come on, join me in imaginary leotards (ok, maybe we should skip that part) and give yourself some room to rock your own beam.  Do some high kicks, back flips, twirly arms and stick the landing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Guest Post From Trent - Permanency In Foster Care

I'm turning over the blog today to my husband, for some of his recent thoughts on this foster care journey...

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  I was adopted by two amazing parents who offered their home to me as an infant.  My older sister, also, was adopted.  We were raised in a very healthy environment where we always knew we were adopted.  Apparently, I was a loud baby (I know many readers who know me are shocked), and my sister looked desperately at my parents and begged, "can we take him back?"  My three year old sister was getting an idea that this loud, screaming baby was a permanent part of her life, and was hoping there was some way to reverse that.

In foster care, you hear the word permanency a lot.  Foster care is full of permanency plans, permanency conferences, and permanency hearings.  The word became a normal part of our vocabulary very quickly.  

In Texas, there is a one year deadline (with the ability to extend another 6 months) to complete a case for children in the foster system.  This can put the biological parents in a bind to try to complete their service plan in time.  Any setback puts their backs against a deadline.  Yet, that deadline is in place for a purpose.  Children and teens in care need permanency.  In extreme cases, being passed from home to home creates an environment that often leads to poor decisions, bad behavior and intense struggles for the child.  In better situations, these young people may have solid foster homes, but their life is still defined by a mystery of what the future holds.  Foster care is full of the word "permanency" because it matters.

Permanency is naturally built in to most other family systems.  Whether a family is built biologically, or through domestic or international adoption, the entire process is designed with a fairly obvious permanent solution in mind.  Yet foster care is inherently full of the unknown when it comes to the future.  As a foster parent, the ghost of a lack of permanency can appear in unexpected places.  It can also be the thing which people outside of foster care understand the least.

It is behind the "so when will they be YOURS?" questions.

It looms behind the rocking chair at 4 AM, whispering over a foster mama holding a screaming little girl, "you can take her back."

It kicks you in the gut with court room surprises and disappointments.

It is the culprit in the "I could never do that" comments.

It is found in the tears of another foster mom as we leave with her daughter to take her to her permanent home.

It is realizing you are in over your head, hitting the library, and researching what is best for children in a post-adoption contact agreement.

It is the shadow from which others will question your motivation, choices, and even sanity as a foster parent.

But we do this because it is important.  There are children who need permanency desperately.  We need more people helping parents get their lives back together and get their kids back.  We need more foster parents willing to wade into the water of foster care, with its lack of permanency, and offer a home (temporary or forever) for these children.   

Monday, November 2, 2015

What The Heck Is Going On With Our CPS Case

I've talked to some people lately that think our kids are already adopted.


I've talked to some other people lately that think we at least have an adoption date set.


We are entirely in limbo.  We're waiting for the judge to sign the final orders moving our kids' cases to the adoptions department of CPS, where we can begin an entirely new, though shorter, process.

Das it.

All biological parental rights have been relinquished or terminated.  We have Mediated Settlement Agreements in place for all kids outlining post-adoption contact with their first mom.  There is nothing else standing in the way of us and an adoption day but CPS itself.  Whop whop.  We've been in this limbo for the big kids since July and for Baby since September.  The good news is that all this stalling will allow Baby's case to fully catch up and the two separate cases will become one when we do get the final order to move to the adoptions unit of CPS.  We'll have one adoption day for all kids, which we much prefer.

I've talked to some people that think we are just dying for adoption day.  In a way, yes.  It'll mark the end of an exhausting process and the beginning of known permanency.  We won't have to write down medicine doses anymore and will be able to get anyone we want over to babysit.  But really?  It won't change a whole lot.  These kids won't miraculously feel more like our kids just because a judge says so.  I'm not going to instantly begin staring at my daughters with even more awe of their beauty just because I'm legally their mom.  We won't suddenly love them measurably more just because we have pieces of paper showing their last name matching ours. These are already our kids.  Maybe not to the state of Texas.  But in our hearts?  No doubt.

Monday, October 26, 2015

My Answers To "I Don't Know How You Do It"

Probably the second most common phrase I hear related to parenting, behind "How old are they??" is "I don't know how you do it."   Lots of people seem to be floored by the fact that I remain upright and functioning though I have three kids under the age of four, a challenging job, extra tasks and demands from CPS and, oh yeah, those three kids under the age of four.  That is a big deal to some people who just can't even imagine how someone in their right mind would say yes to such a situation, much less survive it.  I often give a blah response like "Oh we just do our best" or "We have our ups and down" or "It's an adventure for sure."   But each time, when someone says they don't know how I do it, I mostly want to just say "I don't know....we just do..."

But.  In the interest of being informative (and getting this dang blog post published after about eight attempts to get it written over the past month), I give I do it... 

Pep talks from my mother
When a stomach bug took over our house for a week and I just wanted my babies to feel better: "You're doing everything right."

When we had just moved baby #3 into our home: "If people are calling you crazy, it'll only be crazy for a year or 18 months and then y'all will be so, so blessed."

When baby #3 had been in our home a few weeks: "This is a season and won't be."

When our house turned into an evolving disease ward with pink eye, hand foot mouth rash, strep and bronchitis and not one single family member emerged unscathed: "This is a job for OmieJean. I'll be there at 8 am."  (Keep in mind she lives three hours away.)

If it's 7 am on a weekday, our kids are being awakened.  If it's 7:30 am on a weekday, they are being dropped off at daycare.  If it's 7:30 on most any night, our kids are in bed.  We have seen how very much a steady routine benefits our kids, to get enough sleep, to know what is coming up next and to have consistency day to day.  It helps us too because we know our kids know that routine and go along with it great, so that makes things easier for us.

We take breaks
Trent and I take breaks.  Regularly.  Our weekly individual nights out have been sort of derailed lately but we hope to get back into them.  They are so beneficial and so easy.   It's a chance to get out of the house, take a breather, do something or accomplish something.

Cleaning lady
Oh ma gawd.  Life saver.  Just...'nuff said.

Some parents think this is cruel, some use it a bunch.  Our bedtime routine, after some advance ten minute and five minute and two minute warnings, is what we refer to as "plop, night night".   If a kid isn't loving the idea of going to bed right then...they'll get over it shortly and konk out and they still love us in the morning.  Bedtime holds no strife or drawn out drama, unless something is really wrong with one of our kids, which we of course tune into.  But generally, by 7:30, night night.

Our kids are easy
We really have very few issues with our kids.  They're sweet and loving and any bad behaviors are pretty typical to most any toddler you'd compare them to. They eat.  They sleep.  They generally don't try to kill each other.  Could be worse.  Terrible times three would be bad news.  Normal/easy times three is doable.

Trent and I are a good team
We work hard together, bounce things off of each other, are honest with each other, share responsibilities, share frustrations, share successes.  We do our best.  We take our best crack at each day.  Most are incredible. Some tank entirely. But we forge ahead as a helluvah team.

We don't know any different
We have never had only one kid.  We have never not had little kids.  We jumped right into the deep end of the baby pool with two babies at once, so all we have ever known is little kids who came to us as a combo pack.  So we don't have anything else to compare it to and just rock along with the norm we've had from the beginning.

We don't sweat the small stuff
Oof, some parents out there stress over all of the things.  Ain't nobody got time for that, certainly not us.  Our daughter won't let me put her crazy bonkers curly hair in a ponytail one morning?  So be it.  You may go to daycare looking like Albert Einstein.   Our son wants to wear his pajamas and camo boots to Target, then proceed to say hi fifty bajillion times to everybody we pass?  Rock on.  Our baby didn't eat much for dinner?  Whatevs, she's acting fine, so she'll eat when she's hungry.  (Ok, that's a bad example...our baby eats boatloads of food at every meal.)

We just do
I mean...I dunno...we have had three sweet little kids plopped into our life that we committed to love and care for.  What are we supposed to do but it?  Some days are a challenge, but most days are awesome.  We just kind of roll with the punches and do our best.

And sometimes we don't
We're tired all the time, we drink gallons of coffee, we often don't have a clue what we're doing, we sometimes get excruciatingly angry or frustrated or fight with each other.  Some nights we go to bed at 8:00 pm. Some days we literally high five each other once the kids are asleep because we made it through another day.  Our house is usually wrecked, my knees crackle now from all the baby toting and my shins will never be the same after almost two years of coexisting with our dang baby gate.

Some days in the trenches of raising little kids are hard, hard, hard.  But you know what?  Even on the worst day, we find ourselves making it to the next one, and the next one.  And not just making it.  It may seem like just getting by while we are down here in the trenches, but really, we are building a life, shaping our kids, keeping them safe and loved, oh so loved.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Power Of 'Thank You' In A Marriage

I noticed something about me and Trent.  We say thank you to each other a lot.  I don't think we used to do this so's not something we talked about or decided to be better just sort of popped up.  And I love it.  

It's in day to day things like "Thank you for making dinner" or "Thank you for doing laundry" when really...Trent doesn't think twice about making dinner and I don't think twice about doing laundry.

It's in things that show skill like "Thank you for changing the oil in my van" or "Thank you for sewing that button back onto my shorts" when really...we're happy to spend our time and skill for the other, especially to save some money.

It's also in big picture things like "Thank you for being our household's foundation for sanity" or "Thank you for working so hard to provide for our family" when really...we do what we do and we are who we are.

A simple 'thank you' says so many things...

I see your effort.

I value your time.

I appreciate your skill.

I acknowledge your worth.

It is basically effortless to say yet can make such an impact on someone.  Why don't you give it a whirl?

Friday, September 18, 2015


Sitting on the back porch of a local coffee shop

Contemplating what caffeinated beverage I want to order

Enjoying the sorta kinda cool morning

Glad that the September tax deadline is over

Looking forward to having a life again

Saturday, August 22, 2015

How Well Do You Know The Ugly Side Of Your City?

I shocked a new acquaintance recently.  Throughout our conversation, in context, I said the following things…

Not that many years ago, 15th street was the place to find a prostitute.

If you see a girl dressed pretty normally but walking down the middle of the street, that’s probably what’s going on.

The theater that Mission Waco now runs for plays and films was once a porno theater.  There has been a whole lot of redemption take place in that area.

“Lordy Anna, I never expected to hear all those words come out of your mouth. How do you know such foul things?

Well…Trent used to build houses for Habitat For Humanity, whose shop and office were on 15th street at the time.  He has worked for or been involved with Mission Waco for several years now, also on 15th street.  I drove a church van all around the hood once or twice a week for a long time to pick up some of our youth for church.  Our daycare is right next to a lot of government housing. We’ve been around the block, including the bad ones.

“Ok, so where do you go to live around here where you won’t get shot?”

You can live in Section 8 housing and not get shot.  There’s not really violent crime in our city.  Sure, it happens in any city, but the bad stuff here is mostly drugs, poverty and hopelessness.

“Ok, so how do you know that too??”

When you live your life in a ministry mindset, you just know things.  You view people as people, even if they are different from you, down and out, live in the ghetto or walk down the center of the street.  Your eyes are opened to rough stuff.  You learn things.  You just do.

Our conversation got cut short and I was left with a weird feeling in my gut. The person I was talking to is new to this city and shouldn’t be expected to know the things we were talking about, not at all. But as I sat in my car shortly after, I was saddened when I realized…I wonder how many people who truly live here do not know about the ugly side of our city.  Either from a conscious decision to overlook it and put it out of sight and out of mind, or a total state of ignorance and not even thinking to think about it.

Every city has an ugly side.  Whether it’s the ghetto that’s buried in a sprawling urban city or rural poverty outside a cute country town…it’s there. 

How much do you know about the ugly side of your city? 

Do you even know where it is?  Could you point out Section 8 housing?  Do you know what Section 8 housing is?  Where do the pockets of homeless folks congregate for shelter or hand outs?  What organizations or nonprofits are available in your city to help them and how? What is the history of the hurt and the source of the struggle in your town?

Do you know anybody from the ugly side of your city?

Shane Claiborne said in his book, The Irresistible Revolution“The great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor, but that rich Christians do not know the poor.”

For a lot of us, our life is carefully crafted to avoid the ugly side of our city.  That area.  Those people.  We situate our life trajectory in a direction completely opposite, towards known comfort, privacy, safety, seclusion, success.  We elevate ourselves, while only a few miles away others are sliding down a vicious slope of struggle.  And we ignore them.  Maybe we step outside of our hemmed in existence sometimes for a service project, but even then, we view ourselves as the upper helping the lower, descending almost to their level, but not quite, spending a few hours contributing to an isolated pocket of need, then retreating to our comfy life to take a shower and wash off the ugly.  

I've got a phrase I tend to say when people give me a typical "oh my gosh" or "how icky" or "how dangerous" type reaction to how much our life crosses paths with the ugly parts of our city.  

People are just people.

When folks look at us from their government housing porch while we pick up our baby from daycare across the street.  When we wave at a homeless dude across the park where we often go play.  When my husband gives a lady on the roadside a ride home from CPS court and listens to her story of trying to get her kids back...

People are just people.  They may be caught up in the ugly side of our city, they may be down and out, they may be dirty, they may be poor. But they're just people, deserving of kindness and respect, wishing for common ground, worthy of more than ignorance.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Family Stuff We're Into Lately

Swimming pool and/or redneck sprinkler rig

Texas is hot, hot, hot.  We bought a kid pool at the beginning of the summer, the rectangle kind with the inflatable sides.  Then Trent build an awesome sprinkler rig out of PVC pipes that stands up across it.  Holes and angles and washers pray water all over the place above the pool and the kids adore the "spalinkaller".  


We somehow made it through almost a year and a half of parenting before our children realized that donuts are a thing that exists in this world.  But now they know.  So we are very into weekend donut picnics lately.


See above regarding Texas being hot, hot, hot. But we found a newly refurbed playground near us that has plenty of trees as well as actual big sun shades built into it.  It's big, on a big open lot area, good for running around freely.  We plop Baby in the stroller and let the others run wild.

De-trashing said playgrounds

When we go to parks and playgrounds, we make a round with the kids before we leave, pick up bottles and papers and such and put them in the trash cans.  The kids think it's a fun game and are learning to leave something better than they found it.


Before we even got the kids, a coworker of mine gave us a tote bag full of those classic wooden train tracks that fit together and the wooden magnet train cars.  Our kids sort of ignored them until recently and now...oh man.  I'm not sure who is more into them, the kids or their dad.  He has since ordered about forty more miles of track from Ebay.  Ok, maybe forty feet, but still.

Moseying around stores that have carts that fit three kids

After Baby came to us, we quickly learned we can't go out to eat as a whole family.  Nope.  Never. Not even with other adults to help us.  Something about adding that third kid made it quite impossible. combat severe cabin fever at times because Texas is hot, hot, hot, we go to stores that we know have special carts that fit all our many children and mosey around in their air conditioning.  Target and Home Depot specifically have spots for three little kid booties or two booties and a baby car seat.  Trent pushes said giant carts at higher than average speeds, making obnoxious and amazing race car noises while our kids giggle and I huff along behind, trying to keep up.

Saluting every other Honda Odyssey we see

We adore our minivan.  It represents space and practicality and many good things.  Every time we see another Odyssey, we feel a sense of camaraderie and solidarity.  So we salute from our car as we drive, a quick double pump of a fist against our chest then we throw a peace sign.   Because we are ridiculous.

Air conditioning

A couple months ago, my van AC's condenser went out and it became a toasty ride.  $200 to fix. Shortly after that, our house AC's evaporative coil went out and it became a toasty casa.  $1450 to fix.  A week ago, our house AC's fan motor went out.  $770 to fix.  At the same time, my van AC's compressor went out.  $777 to fix.  We're pretty sure everything is squared away better be!!! we're basking in the glory of sub 90 degree temps in our house and sub triple digit temps in our main vehicle.

Living room dance parties

Sometimes we come home from work and daycare and have super rad dance parties.  Our current top picks that we're trying to teach the kids are the Cupid Shuffle, the Cha Cha Slide and the Wobble.  Let's just say, we have a ways to go.  But we shall persevere...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Takeaways & Tidbits Vol. 14

So what I'd like to suggest to my fellow Christians is that perhaps taking up the cross means laying down the persecution complex.  A spirit of fear and entitlement does more to obscure the gospel than elucidate it.  The persecution complex blinds Christians to our own privilege, which then blinds us to the challenges faced by the genuinely underprivileged in this country. ... We get so focused on ourselves and our own concerns we forget the admonition of the apostle Paul to "not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others" (Phil 2:4).  Reality check...facing disagreement is not the same as facing persecution.

For the sake of the gospel, drop the persecution complex by Rachel Held Evans


When you're lonely, but you're terrified of being judged by people who haven't walked the same ground, well, you do what it takes. You hoist yourself up and you hug those kids harder. You make new friends, because your family is so worth it. If you can't understand us, you don't deserve to. (That's what you say to yourself on the worst days.) ... We have so many good days. We're working now, not nearly as broken as we used to be.  ...  But we are entitled to these days, too. We've earned the right to sob our guts out until our hair clings damp against our foreheads and our eyes are rubbed raw.  ... I would give my right hand to erase their hurts, but I know the scars aren't wasted. I'm not confident in my ability to say the right thing or explain it perfectly to my kids when I can't wrap my own head around it, but I do know this: 1) I will love you every single second of your life, no matter what. 2) I will never give up on you. 3) You can say whatever you're feeling and you won't be in trouble. Tell me the truth. Tell me.  ...  
I believe childbirth is the most intense pain a woman experiences. I don't have to have felt it myself to trust it's true. If there's someone in your life who has adopted, you can offer them the same. Be their safe place. Get loud about the ways you see them. Cheer them on. Root for their kids. Do they parent in strange ways? I sure hope so. Do some of their kids have massive feelings that spill out in some pretty frustrating and annoying ways? I'm sure of it. Love them anyway. Love them just the same as if they were quiet and tidy. Let them be sad with you. Celebrate success. Believe what they tell you. ...  Morning came, just like it always does. Today is for eating French toast with puffy eyes and forgiving each other for the thousandth time.

Labor Pains by Shannan at Flower Patch Farmgirl 

Speaking of which...

My sister: When so-and-so was pregnant, her abdomen muscles literally split in half.
Me: Reason number 502 that I will likely never have a baby....reason number 1 being that I already have three babies...


After getting some fried chicken from a drive thru...

Brother (from the way back seat in the minivan): I want some chicken.
Trent: Sorry buddy, I can't reach you.
Brother: Throw it!


Joey: You know, for how often we were taught about stop, drop and roll as kids, I just really thought there would be more occasions to be on fire as an adult...


Sister: Where mama?
Trent: She's not here.
Sister: Mama not home?
Trent: She's in Pennsylvania with OmieJean and Sarah and Abby.
Sister: OmieJean home?
Trent: No, she's in Pennsylvania too.
Sister: I poop.


My dad, Opie: Anna Pie, I heard this Willie Nelson song on an ad and it's going to be mine and Brother's song.  It goes like this: "You're my buddy, my pal, my friend. It will be that way till the end."  But don't tell him my plan.  I'll teach it to him next time I see him and it'll be our song.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Company On Foster Care Island

A while back, I got to meet up with a friend for a glass of wine after work.  She is an attorney who does a decent amount of work in the CPS and family law realm, so she's familiar with a lot of the stuff we've dealt with in our foster care case and some parts of our conversation would have sounded like code to an unknowing bystander.

Her: So I guess Texas has PMC now?
Me: No, it's still just TMC.


(Permanent Managing Conservator and Temporary Managing Conservator, for the unknowing bystanders...)


I took Brother to his three year old doctor checkup recently.  At our clinic, there is a team of doctors and you may not necessarily see your primary doctor each time.  The doctor that we ended up seeing for this visit was a nice young man. I handed him the CPS medical exam form and said my typical "he's in foster care with us and we have to have this form filled out at doctor visits. I've marked the areas that you need to fill out and I've completed the other sections."   He looked at the form, looked at me and told me he and his wife are foster parents too.  He saw our kids' caseworker's name on the form and said "she's our caseworker too!"   He knew how to fill out the form.  He knew to ask if there had been any abuse such that the his examination of Brother's diaper area would cause him stress. He knew that I don't know a thing about Brother's medical history prior to him coming to us and did not act frustrated by those blanks.  He began his inquiry about the status of their case with "May I ask how their case is going?" instead of launching in with the typical "What did their mom do to them??"  When I told him we are nearing the end and heading to adoption, he rejoiced with me but also acknowledged the bittersweet nature of that end and told me the child in their care had just had a goodbye visit with birth mom, meaning they're heading to the same bittersweet adoption end.  


My cell phone buzzed at work the other day and I saw it was the daycare calling.  The daycare director quickly assured me "All the kids are fine, you don't need to come get anyone" then alerted me that Brother had fallen and busted his lip.  "He's ok, it stopped bleeding, but I wanted to go ahead and tell you in real time because I know you have to monitor and report any injuries." 


Foster care plops you on an island.  

You sign up for something that few people pursue or know much about.  You have to parent under different rules and norms than your colleagues.  Your kids may not look like you.  You may face unfair assumptions and rude comments.  People in your life may not support your decision and most, though they mean well, will surely never understand all the ins and outs, the lingo, the systems, the rules, the standards, the emotions, the sorrow, the joy. 

It is beyond refreshing to find company on this island.

The conversation with my friend about PMC and TMC seems technical, but it brought me joy.  I was understood.  The care and camaraderie from the doctor was at a level rarely found in our encounters with professionals.  And our daycare director is so on board with our situation, from her day 1 comment of "They've found a home with you and now they can feel at home here with us too" to her regular reports to us of accidents or other need-to-know items that she would not otherwise report to parents so quickly.

When we embarked on this journey, I pretty quickly realized that there was no wave of support and understanding heading our way on its own, so I sought community.  I stalked blogs and sent Facebook friend requests to strangers at the mere mention of "Oh I know so-and-so who is a foster parent."  We consciously built our team of babysitters, mentors and supporters and continually let them know how much they mean to us.  We've got our people on our island with us now.

Do you have company on foster care island or are you poking around it all by yourself feeling very alone?  Either way, let's connect.  I've got some plans brewing for this blog for ways to connect and empower folks in this foster care arena, but for now, if you've been reading this blog in the background and want to be known and heard and feel like you're not alone, leave a comment below or send me a message via the contact form on the sidebar.   I have developed some great online connections with people who have just taken a moment to say hi and share their story here.  Are you my next island friend?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Field Notes From The Rocking Chair

I am back in the rocking chair once again.  The baby I used to rock to sleep now lays down by herself with her Bear Bear and I'm rocking another baby girl.  Forward and back, forward and back.  Lots of minutes to think...

I am watching my older daughter do baby yoga in her bed, or maybe it's pilates, with leg lifts and sweeping arms.

I am scared of being consumed by three small children, of my own identity fading as I am wrapped up in theirs.

I am praying for this child that I hold close, for her present, for her future, for her to sleep peacefully on this particular night, for the scars she doesn't know she has yet.

I am singing, mostly hymns, trying to remember all the words, though the sleepyhead in my arms doesn't care.

I am wondering why this chair ends up 45 degrees turned and three feet back from where I start with it every night.

I am guessing and doubting, wondering and learning what this child needs.

I am regretting never sewing those padded covers to ease the edges of these chair arms against my own arms.

I am arranging big girl furniture in my head, because these little girls who share hours in this rocking chair with me will not always be so little...

Friday, July 31, 2015

Things I'm Into Lately


So comfy.  Soft.  Cute.  Easy.  Have been wearing lots lately.

Messing with my hair

My hair is straight and fine and doesn't do a thing, nor do I usually try to do anything with it.  Lately I've been trying to do a little more with it, even if that just means pulling it half back into a rubber band (gasp).  And sometimes I do my funky updo that I've done off and on for half my life and it looks pretty nice to start...

...then turns into a hot mess by the end of the day...

...and looks super funky when I take out the bazillion bobby pins...


Gimme gimme gimme.  These are my Shoes Of Summer this year.

Adult coloring books

I want to hug whoever invented these.  It probably would drive many people up the wall but it's very calming and fun for me.

Parenting books

Because three children.  No pressure.  Omg.  Must learn all the things...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I Take It Back

What's that I said only a few days ago about this being the easiest baby in Texas?  About this three under three thing being a piece of cake?  About not drinking coffee?

I take it back.

There's currently a pack n play set up in our living room which contains a still snoozing baby that came home from daycare with some fever yesterday and proceeded to wrestle with me until 1:00 am last night.  Maybe it was teeth coming in.  Maybe it was gas.  Maybe it's finally setting in for her that she's in a new family and all the change knocked her down.

But it took me back to middle of the night mode.  Back to what in the heck does this baby need??  Back to I don't think I can sing Amazing Grace one single time more. Back to fighting selfish tears because I just want to go to sleep.  Back to frantically texting my night owl mother who gives calm advice and encouragement and blessings and prayers and wishes she could beam herself here to camp out on our sofa and help wrestle.

I'm back in baby mode.  Guessing games and frustration and up half the night.  But here we are with our previous down pat parenting life turned on its head, so we'll keep chugging and doing our best.  And drinking coffee...

Friday, July 17, 2015

Our First Week With Three Kids Under Three

Hey I'm still alive. Whaddayaknow.

Nah really, we are doing quite fine following the addition of a third baby.  I'm pretty sure she is the easiest baby in Texas, possibly the universe, so that helps a whole huge ton. She sleeps, she eats, she smiles, she high fives. We are learning new things, new routines, a new child.  And we're tired.  Oh are we tired.  But we are keeping our heads above water for sure.

I'm so tired of coffee.  I have consumed much of it in the past week or so and I'm just super duper over it, much like I find myself in the final weeks of tax season.   Caffeine yes, coffee blech.  So I've been trying tea or soda instead but really I think I just need about 14 hours of sleep a night to curb this fatigue.  Baby sleeps through the night, there's no problem there, but we are both just. so. tired. omg.   Even though the past week has gone swimmingly in the area of logistics and keeping children generally alive and happy, the emotions have been running high and that can drain ya, lemme tell ya.  So I will keep chugging.  Just not chugging coffee.

I was worried how the girls would do sharing a room, if bedtimes would be a disaster and nights would be a wreck of nobody sleeping, including me.  My worry was unnecessary.  When baby has had her bottle, she is done for.  Goner.  Not even Sister hollering for her typical minute or so upon my exit from the room will bother her.  And then they sleep.  And then they wake up in the morning and stand up and stare at each other over the ends of their side by side cribs and my heart melts.  Sister points and says "Baba! Baba!" like "Mom, did you know this baby is still here??"

I have had moments when I have thought how does anybody handle three kids ever and I have had moments when I've thought what's the big deal, this is a piece of cake.    The latter is more common than the former, much to my surprise.

Brother alternates between talking to or playing with Baby and totally ignoring her.  Sister alternates between being surprisingly independent and being hella jealous.  Suddenly someone else has busted her previous monopoly on mama's attention and she occasionally makes her opposition known in the form of plastering herself to my leg or attempting to physically take over my arms or lap, such that Baby sometimes ends up smushed or dethroned.  We're working on Sister getting specific time with me often, when she doesn't have to fight for it.  The flip side is a wonderous independence this has brought out in her and a more proportionate reliance on daddy to fulfill her needs.  

This will be a journey for sure.  Nobody said we needed to have this all figured out lickety split.  But we are really doing quite well so far.  So...go us.  *pats self on back*

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

An Excerpt From My Journal About Loving This New Child

From my personal journal...

This is different from when we got Brother and Sister.  With them, we didn't know if they would stay with us or not and we were just trying to survive the sudden stress we had been thrown into.  There was little time in those first days to focus on learning to love truly.  Unknowns consumed us.  Love grew, but it took time.  We felt like we had the time too, plenty of it.  We just needed to figure out how to parent in the first place and knew the love would find its place. 

But this time...we know she will be our daughter, that she will be ours forever.  I feel like I'm supposed to suddenly love her like a daughter, right away.  I struggled with this in the days before we got her.  I wasn't feeling that love yet but felt pressure to.  I kept telling myself that I needed to give it time, let it grow, that I had only seen her a few times, much less had any substantial chance to get to know her. 

Now that she has been here a few days, I can feel the beginnings of it, just barely.  I tell her "I love you" often, to get in the habit, but I sometimes think "Do I really?".  In some fashion, yes, I do.  I love her as a beautiful child who needs a home and a family.  I love her as a cute little girl who is sweet and funny.  But as a daughter?  That will come.  I know it will.  I am not worried.  It comes from caring for her, feeding her, bathing her, holding her, getting to know her and letting attachment grow.  I am throwing myself into those things since that's all I can do at this point.  Those are the things I can easily learn here at the beginning and must learn in order to properly care for her.  And they are what cause love to grow.  Those and simply time together.  When you don't grow your child inside you for nine months, I guess this is the way connection is created and attachment arrives.  I guess.  

We're moving forward.  Smiling, laughing, clapping, playing, rocking.  Day by day.  Love will grow.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

That Time That Jen Hatmaker Invited Me To Her House

So for any modern Christians hiding under a rock, there's this lady who lives about two hours south of me named Jen Hatmaker who I adore. She and her family really get this guy named Jesus and the things He told us to do with our lives.  I have a blog post draft in my line up called 8 Reasons I Want To Be Jen Hatmaker When I Grow Up.  Or maybe 9.  I can't remember.  She's an author, speaker, biological mom, adoptive mom, feisty lady, pastor's wife, preacher, leader, doer of good things, champion of social justice.  Also hilarious.  As in, sometimes I have to stifle snort laughs when I read her blog posts and facebook anecdotes.

And she invited me to her house.

Ok, ok, a computer randomly selected me to come to her house, but I'm just gonna stick with SHE invited me because I feel as though in her heart she truly wished to invite all the specific randomly selected folks and is stoked for us to show up.

Lemme back up a smidge.

Jen and her husband, Brandon, and a whole lot of other cool people just launched a new project called the Legacy Collective.  As I began seeing news of it come out on their facebooks and through Jen's EF e-mails (you want to be her EF, I promise), my heart hollered "Yesssssss!"  I may have even shaken fists of triumph at the sky/ceiling.    Orphan prevention, sustainable housing for homeless, child trafficking rescue and prevention?  Um, yes please, I would like to be on board with that.  They intend to design this as true community rallying around these causes, contributing money and wisdom and experience.  They're having a launch party at their house with their Legacy Collective leaders and a random smattering of the rest of us.  I figured with how many people are in their tribe, there was no way I'd randomly get in on that, but didn't really care.   I wanted to count myself in regardless.

So I trotted over to their giving link and pledged my little $15 per month.  It's not much.  But for a family running on one income, while incurring seminary loans, with two foster/adopt kids already and another headed our way shortly (omg, everyone remain calm) you give what you can.  And that's the beauty of their system.  They want a lot of people to simply give what they can and suddenly, math happens, and they've got a lot to go on.  

A few days later, this appeared in my inbox:

My eyes got wide and the first thing that came to my mind shows just how much I have apparently internalized Jen's words over the past couple years, both her insightful writing and her quirky Jen-isms... 


I get to go to Jen Hatmaker's house?  FOR THE LOVE!  THIS IS A WHOLE THING.

The email said I could bring a guest.  After spewing the news to my husband, I asked if he wanted to go with me.  "Not enough to pay for a babysitter."  Ok then.  Valid reasoning, given the aforementioned one income/student loans/many babies situation.  Next.   I proceeded to tell my friend Kristin " who gets to go to the Legacy Collective launch party?"  She already knew exactly what I was talking about and I knew she would.  She is one of Jen's EF's too.  I told her I was bringing her and she died.  Figuratively of course, or else...well...I wouldn't be able to bring her.

Not only will the Hatmakers be there (of course they will's at their house), but also Willie and Korie from Duck Dynasty and Scott Hamilton.  As in, how many minutes of my young life were spent listening to his figure skating commentary?  A whole lot.  The email said to RSVP.  I RSVPed the heck out of that thing.  Heck yes I'm coming.

So there you have it.  The story of how I got invited to hang out for an evening with a bunch of world changers.  I'm excited.  I'm honored.  I can't wait!

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Day We Met Our Third Child

We set up the visit by email with Baby's foster mom.  We arranged for Brother and Sister to stay at Judy's house, so we could focus on meeting our new daughter.  I say new...she's ten months old and we've known about her since before she was born.  We had seen her in passing as we shuffled our two kids in and out of CPS parent visits, but we had never truly met this baby, never held her, never viewed her as our own.

Her foster mom shooed the other kids out into the yard and said "let Baby have some time with her new mama and daddy."  Her other kids are all either adopted or close to it.  "New mama and daddy" wasn't a strange phrase to them.   Her foster mom talked to us for a bit about the transition plan we had all come up with, about Baby's habits and routines. She said since all her kids have either been adopted or gone back to their biological parents, she has never done this before. We said we haven't either. Then she went outside too and left us alone in her house to get to know the little girl she had raised and loved for the past eight months.

Trent and I looked at each other and at the sweet little girl on the rug near us.  We had already been on the floor since the moment after shaking her foster mom's hand.   She crawled toward us, a strength she had only recently attained after some struggle and therapy.  We praised her and told her she had a more normal crawl than her older sister's funky side winder crawl had been.   We told her that her sister had some strength troubles too but caught up quick just like she is doing and that her brother welps up like crazy from mosquito bites just like she does.

She stared at us.  Oh, did she stare at us.  We knew about this, from the kids' caseworker and from her foster mom.  She's a serious baby.

We each held her for a little while.  We talked to her and played.  Then after almost an hour, we left.  What else does one do during an initial visit with a ten month old?  We will have more visits.  We will have more transition.  But for now, we have at least met her and held her and let her know we exist in this world.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Futral, Party Of Five...AKA The REAL Reason We Bought A Minivan

No, I'm not pregnant.  If you assumed that, you just need to hush.  If we bought a minivan in December because we were pregnant, then I would be looking slightly different now in June.  No, we bought a minivan because we came upon a steal of a deal.

Also because our kids have a ten month old baby sister who will be moving to our home very soon.   

Yeah.  So.  Let me back up a smidge.  And y'all get comfy...this is a doozy...

Not that many people know Baby even exists, much less her story or where it's headed now.  We have known about her since day one, though she was not born yet.  On the night Brother and Sister were brought to our home almost a year and a half ago, the investigative social worker who had removed them said "Their mom is three months pregnant."  I stared at the six month old baby in my lap for a moment and my heart thundered further into my throat than it already was after suddenly having two babies plunked into our home.  I said something lame like "Ok then" and we proceeded with signing many placement papers and embarking on our crazy foster care journey.

We didn't know how things would play out with the placement overall, much less with the baby sister that didn't even exist yet outside the womb.  The older two could be back home with mom before she was even born, she could be born and cared for by their mom just fine, or she could be removed as well.  There was just no knowing.

We quickly, and sadly, learned not to tell many people about her.  All three kids are each almost exactly one year apart. When Baby was born last August, their mom was a couple weeks short of having three kids under the age of two.  Aside from people either very close to us or very polite, the responses to such information turned out rude and hurtful.

"Doesn't she know about this thing called birth control?"....."Oh my god, what an idiot"....."She needs to keep her pants on"....."Did she get knocked up while on drugs?"....."Who in their right mind does that?"....."She's obviously nuts"...............

With each stinging comment, the words SHUT UP YOU JERKS rose higher and higher in my throat and Baby slipped deeper and deeper into secrecy.  The people that needed to know, did know.  Family, close friends, bosses, the aforementioned polite people, folks that earned the privilege of receiving ongoing information about our true situation by extending grace and insight at the onset instead of hurt and judgement.

And now for a brief history of this sitcheeation, to bring all you other folks outside that circle up to date on how exactly we have come from being a family of two to a family of five in less than a year and a half.

February 2014 - Brother and Sister were placed with us by CPS.

Summer 2014 - Their mom gained enough stability such that CPS did not intend to remove Baby at birth.

July/August 2014 - Brother turned two.  Sister turned one. Baby was born.

October 2014 - Some stuff happened and we thought there was about to be a quick end to the case overall with Baby remaining with her mom. Then some different stuff happened and CPS removed Baby.  Even though we had known for a long time this was a possibility, we struggled, we prayed, we cried.  We weren't licensed for three.  We weren't ready for three.  Three, at that time, would break us. We made our decision and CPS placed her with another foster family.

Winter 2014/2015 - A lot of people decided a lot of things.  The kids' mom decided to relinquish her rights to Brother and Sister but fight for Baby.  Baby's foster family decided they did not intend to adopt, if it came to that. And we decided that in that case, we didn't want Baby submitted to the masses for adoption, so either she went home to Mom or came to us.  So, we bought a minivan.

Spring 2015 - We waited.

May 2015 - CPS called us and said the case was not progressing and they were changing Baby's permanency plan to adoption instead of reunification.  The ball was tossed into our court to work with her foster family and work out a time to transition her to us.

July 2015 - Baby will move to our home.

That's quite a nut shell for how the past year and a half went...

But here we are.  About to be a family of five.  About to be challenged.  About to have three kids under the age of three.  About to have birthday season at the end of every summer for the rest of our life.  About to deal with crazy looks and comments from people that assume we birthed them all that close together.  About to have a little posse of siblings all together in the same home.

How are we feeling?

Oh...ya is one supposed to feel about things like this?  We are excited. We are freaked out.  We're working out some logistics like which two kids will share a room and bracing ourselves to spend a lot of money on special skinny car seats for Trent's car in order to fit three across.  We're wrapping our hearts around the idea of a new child coming to our home and grateful that we will have a stellar resource in her foster family to ease the transition and help us learn to care for her.

We are at peace.  We are willing.  We are choosing to trust.  We are choosing to love.

That's our story and we're stickin' to it... 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Takeaways & Tidbits Vol. 13

I admit that sometimes I go to church just to sing.  I love to sing.  I'm not a snob either.  I have friends who poo-poo anything that's not a deeply and rightly theological hymn, not me.  I love the hymns and I love the big hairy worship anthems, I love singing Jesus-is-my-boyfriend songs and Scriptures songs, I love simplistic choruses and I love when they play the piano and tell us to just pray to ourselves and the way that the melodies of our own mouths rise up.

Palms by Sarah Bessey


Me:  Why is there glitter all over the sofa? What do we have that is glittery?
Trent:  Children who attend daycare.


Me: I've got a pot roast in the crockpot at home.  I'm on top of life today.
Coworker:  Pot roast equals on top of life?
Me: Hey, small wins for people with small children.


Regarding our daughter and her spunky personality...

Trent: I'm so glad she turned into an actual human instead of a non-sleeping, vomiting, zombie child.


Brother: I want donuts
Trent:  Sorry buddy, we don't have any donuts.
Brother:  Uuh, get more donuts.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Love Poem For My Minivan

Dearest Homer,

It's been about half a year now
Since I traded in my sporty red car
I balked at buying a minivan
I never thought it would go this far

The ridicule came on fast
The van haters came on strong
I cried some tears from their words
But have since learned they are wrong

After a decent psychological hurdle
My affection for you now runs deep
I can't imagine any other pairing
Oh you to your death I will keep

I swoon at your spacious interior
Your head room, leg room, cargo space
With back seats down, who needs a truck?
Even landscaping timbers have a place

Your complexion isn't the best but
Dents and dings make no difference to me
I'm not so interested in what you look like
We're not in the business of being fancy

Your power steering is pretty wonky
Making turns is sometimes tough
But I just look on the bright side
My mama arms will get buff

Your cup holders are a little insane
They number one more than eleven
With almost two per passenger
We're definitely in drink holder heaven

I know there are fancier out there
You're not the newest model or year
But paying cash & incurring no debt
Was definitely cause for cheer

So, here's to us, dear Homer
Many more happy years I foresee
I raise my wine glass in a toast
To my darling Odyssey

Monday, May 25, 2015

Dear Kids, Don't Be Careful

Dear kids,

Remember that time when our little family was outside in the backyard and y'all were trying to climb backwards up the slide at the same time?  Or that time y'all were running sprints on our new sofa?  Or that time you were carrying around daddy's heavy drill?  Or that time your ride-on toys turned into bumper cars? Or that time you were yanking at the window blinds to get on the other side of them and wave bye bye to OmieJean?

There was a phrase that echoed across all those experiences, and more where they came from, over and over, to the point that I got sick of hearing myself say it.  

"Be careful."

Now, your mama is a careful person.  I very much like it when there is a plan, things are predictable and everyone and everything is in one piece.  But here's the thing...

I don't want you to live a careful life.

Yes, there is a time and place for care, caution, reserve.  I mean, I'd rather you not crash your car or go to jail or fall off a roof.  I'd love for you to take care in what you purchase, to do your best to make sure the things you own are ethically created and traded.  I'd prefer that you give mama a call once you are done driving back to your college dorm after a weekend at home to let me know you made it.  But really...

I want you to live a brave life.

Don't be careful around poor people or homeless people.  Don't just hand them a couple dollars hoping they'll bug off.  Fling love at them instead, listen to their story, shake their dirty hand, acknowledge their history, treat them like a human, an equal, not someone you think is just out to take advantage of you. 

Be brave with how much money you live on.  Resist the urge to gradually elevate your lifestyle as you get older and feel like the world says you are supposed to, but instead set the bar low.  Figure out an income level where you can provide for your needs and live plenty comfy, then stay there.   That takes courage.  To resist the next best, grass is greener, new fangled lifestyle item out there.   Be brave in the face of "everybody's doing it" and "I guess it's time for an upgrade".  You can do it, I promise.

Don't be careful with where you live.  There's no need to skidaddle to a cute suburb where houses look the same and so do incomes and front yard alarm system signs.  Live in your city, plant roots in your city, enrich your city, even if that city comes with urban struggle and mediocre school districts. 

Be brave with who you love.  Love the outcast, the needy, the forgotten, the persecuted, the sinner, the arrogant, the rude, the down and out, the full of themself, the eye-to-eye and the want-to-punch-them-in-the-face.  

Don't be careful with how you serve.   Don't box your service into a half a day here, a project there, merely checking off the pat-yourself-on-the-back box for another year.  No, serve with abandon. Serve with your whole life in a way that changes your whole life. Live out an all consuming attitude of service to others and love of others, all others, such that people think you are crazy for taking it so far.

Be brave in the face of the world's standards.  The world will tell you to be careful.  It will tell you to carefully structure your life so you are comfortable and "set".  Don't continually chase comfort for yourself.  Under the world's standards, will you ever really reach it?  Instead chase adventure, live out a calling, use your life for others rather than yourself, stockpile memories rather than wealth, love with abandon. 

Kids, I want you to live a brave life.  I pray you have the courage to do so and I will be rooting for you the whole way.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Parenting Advice From An Amateur: Hire A Dang Babysitter

Joey: When can I stop by to drop this stuff off?
Me: We'll be home at 5:30 then we have a babysitter coming at 6 and we're going on a date.
Joey: A date?  Is that allowed?
Me: Heck yes it's allowed and we're really good at it.

Trent and I have been been on two dates in the past five days.  Though that is for sure more frequent than our norm and involved a little extra dateness for our anniversary, it's still indicative of the fact that date nights are something we value and prioritize.  We got in this habit before becoming parents, when youth ministry was our baby, and the habit has stuck.

When was the last time you and your partner in parenting madness went on a date?  Hmm?  If your answer is "oh, last weekend" then I give you a virtual high five.  If you have to think real hard then this post is for you and I want you to follow up my previous question with this one: Whose fault is that?  

Here is my message to you: Hire a dang babysitter and go on a dang date.  

Potential excuses that I intend to crush or at the very least explain away so you can't use them anymore:

"Babysitters are expensive."
When we embarked on this parenting voyage, I conducted a thorough, exhaustive and possibly annoying poll of various parents and young folks who babysit to determine what a valid going rate is in our city.  I was assured that $10 an hour for two small kids was plenty, so that's what we pay, though I often round up and throw in extra because it's what I have in my wallet at the time and up the ante majorly if the sitter is caring for a sick child.   How long does it take to eat dinner out?  Two hours?  That's a mere twenty bucks to shove into a teenager's eager hand.

"But paying for a babysitter plus paying for dinner out gets way too expensive."
Then go to Wendy's. Total date cost is now at about $32. The point is not to eat a gourmet meal.  The point is to get away for a hot second from the small humans living in your house.

"Babysitters are hard to find." you attend a church?  Do you have coworkers with teenagers?  Do you have friends your age fighting baby fever that need a dose of birth control via taking care of someone else's kids for an evening?  Grandparents nearby?  If you have none of those things, check out and go from there to find some candidates and interview them.  You're not allowed to say babysitters are hard to find if you haven't even looked.  For our foster care situation, our babysitters have to be over age 16, have a background check, get FBI fingerprinting done and be adult, child and infant CPR certified.  That's a tall order and yet we have four approved babysitters in our pocket that we found.  Because we asked.  (And we paid for all that stuff they had to do.)  My experience, especially with teenagers or college students, is that they need money.  For some, babysitting is their one and only wobbly source of income.  They need you as much as you need them.

"But my child might freak out if I leave them."
They'll get over it.  Our kids freak out most times we leave them.  Heck, one time they freaked out just from seeing the babysitter's vehicle drive up in front of our house.  But they calm down and, gasp, survive.

"But that's not fair to the babysitter to leave them with an upset child."
Last time I checked you were paying them dollars.  Sometimes earning dollars is hard work.

"Nobody can care for my child as well as me."
We bypassed this one.  When our two kids were plunked in our house, we didn't know what the heck we were doing and realized full well that some seventeen year old young lady with babysitting experience would likely know more about parenting these little strangers than we did.  I think that has actually benefited us, even as we have better learned what the heck we're doing.  While acknowledging that parenting is no joke, we also realize that it isn't rocket science to keep a couple toddlers alive and happy for a couple hours.  It can be done just fine by someone other than yourself.   Maybe they get to eat too many goldfish crackers.  Maybe their hair doesn't get combed out just so during bath time.  Maybe the pajamas they end up in that night aren't what you would have picked out.  But you know what?  It's ok. If you want to start small, go on a late afternoon date that ends with dinner, then get home in time to do bedtime routine.  That's an easy first step for your kids and a babysitter to tackle.  But please venture at some point into letting the sitter put them to bed because it's so nice to return home, hand over some dollars, and just go to bed yourself.  The good news is the more you use a babysitter, the better they know your kids and their routine and the less you have to wonder if they are floundering from lack of instruction you failed to provide.  Hint: they're probably doing just fine.

So, I want you to repeat the following phrase ten times before you go to bed tonight: "I will hire a dang babysitter."  Or at least initiate the search.  You may be surprised what good relationships it yields with caregivers willing to love on your kids.  Do it for yourself, your partner, your sanity and your relationship.   For real.  Do it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Anniversary Number Seven

A few days ago in the grocery store we ran into the pastor who married us.  He said "Y'all have an anniversary coming up pretty soon."   Yes, yes indeed. 

Here I sit in a local coffee shop, with my husband and our matching laptops, an afternoon off, a peach smoothie, a Lula Jane's cookie (aka heaven in saran wrap) and seven years of marriage behind us.  

Yeah seven.

As we approached this anniversary, some people guessed how many years we were coming up on and most were too low.  Many said six, so that's pretty close.  One said five. One said four.   People seem to forget that Trent and I were mere babes when we wed, not even out of college yet.  

We embarked in a wobbly, headstrong fashion into grown-up land and have been blazing our trail every since.  With each passing year, we have learned more about each other, challenged each other, cried together, laughed together, cursed together.  We have had successes, made mistakes, acted on brilliant ideas and tripped over bad ones.  Our friendship and camaraderie have a strength and depth unmatched by any others I've experienced in my life.  We are a team...when it comes to money, to time, to chores, to this ridiculous thing called parenting.  Our bond is a peaceful one, marred only by the ever so rare and short lived emotional tussle. Together we have learned how to grow up, how to set priorities, how to be gracious, how to die to self and live for others.

So here's to us.  I raise my peach smoothie and toast to seven exceptional years so far and many more to come.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

In Which I Offer A Short Pep Talk To Parents

Sometimes in Parents Of Small Children Land, you end up with tears in your eyes, frustration in your heart, anger in your mouth and mud on your black dress pants.  You stumble into the house with two screaming children literally hanging off of you. Then your social worker makes an unannounced visit and asks her monthly "Any new stresses?" question and you say "You didn't see me forty minutes ago."

Dude.  Sometimes parenting is no joke.   Am I right?  

We've been entrusted with the care, health, behavior and general well being of tiny humans who rely on us to fulfill their every need.  Remind me who thought this was a smart idea?

Fellow parents out can do it.  We can do it.  

On the days when one kid can't function if not glued to your body and another has conveniently chosen a mud puddle as a place to collapse in a tantrum.   On the days when bedtime comes early so you don't blow your top and, oh wait, too late.  When patience is thin and exhaustion is thick.

We can do it.  Do what exactly?  Our best.  We can do our best.  Some days that may be a pretty crappy version of a parent.  Other days that may be a vision of parenting perfection. There will be mud puddle tantrums, but there will also be smiles, hugs, I love yous, sweet quirks and praised behaviors.

Keep trucking, parents. Keep on keepin' on.