Life

How to Teach Your Kids to Love Books

Now I’m obviously not an expert, but we are 7.5 years into this parenting thing, and I would like to think we have done something right in regards to teaching our kids to love books, because they seriously both really love books!

I remember when Abigail was a baby, and we had mounds upon mounds of board books, and I used to force myself to read them to her while she literally stared at the wall or the ceiling fan, and at the time it felt useless.  Why in the world should I read to a baby?  The American Academy of Pediatrics shares that an “important part of brain development occurs within a child’s first three years of life, and that reading to children enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills.”  So despite the wall and ceiling fan stares I pressed on.  No, I did not read for hours and hours a day, but books were always readily available in our home.  We read often to her, and one of her favorite activities soon became reading.

When Alex came along, he was very different than Abbie.  She was an early talker.  I can remember her jabbering audible sentences by around 18 months.  Alex turned two and was barely saying much.  I was just beginning to worry about his langugage skills, when all of the sudden one day something clicked, and he honestly talks more than his sister now!  He didn’t seem as interested in books, but with time, and using some of the tips I am going to share with you today, he too has become an avid book lover!

Now there are about a million different types of lists like”books you should read to your child by kindergarten,” but honestly those types of lists make my head spin.  I don’t need more rules.  I don’t need more “to-dos.”  We can easily overcomplicate so many things in our lives, by over-analyzing, and over googling because we as parents don’t want to screw it up, but let me encourage you….stop googling how to teach your child to love reading, and just read.  It’s really that simple.  I used to live in fear of not following the “rules” of all of the to do lists that seem to exist as a new parent, and about 30 seconds in told myself “forget that!” I just need to try to be the best me I can be.  So if you are looking for a simple, uncomplicated way to make reading a priority in your home then please read on…

#1  Give your children access and time for books.  Make a space for books in your home. It can be a shelf, or a cute basket…or make them fit into the decor of your home, but make them easily accessible to your children.  There are even age appropriate board books for younger children that aren’t so easily torn.  The second part of this one is allowing your children time.  It feels like parenting in today’s world is so much busier than I remember being as a child.  We seem to all be going 100 miles an hour from one activity to the next.  We do our best to keep life simple, but nevertheless despite my husband and I’s best introverted efforts we cannot always be hermits 🙂 and we do need to some social things.  So analyze your life, and activities and make sure your family is involved in what you want/need to be involved in, and don’t let your activities dictate your priorities.  YOU get to decide what your priorities are.  We almost always have books in the car, or in a tote bag to take to a meeting, etc so that the kids can choose a book to read wherever we are whether at home or on the go.

#2 Model a love (or at least an interest) of reading.  Now as adults it is hard to find time to read, and many of us don’t love to read, but reading is still a huge part of our lives.  Make time to model that for and with your kids.  I find it’s so easy to turn on the TV to distract the kids so I can have some quiet time, but it amazes me when I force non TV time, what the kids come up with to do.  Today I caught them gathering almost every pillow from the house, and turning our Family Room into one huge nest where they snuggled up together to read.  I took a few minutes to read them a few books, and then joined the nest with my own book to read next to them:

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I typically spend a few minutes each morning in my devotion time, reading my bible, or a bible study book, and often times my kids will wake up and come snuggle up next to me.  It doesn’t have to be a huge part of your life, but when kids see their parents model reading, it makes it a lot easier for that love/interest to develop in them as well.

#3 Utilize your local library.  We used to be frequent fliers at the library, but you really don’t have to be to encourage a love for books.  When Abigail was younger we went almost once a week, but when Alex was born, everything was just harder.  Harder to get out the door, a harder baby, harder toddler, harder ….well you get the idea.  His behavior made me not even want to go anywhere anymore so our trips to the library became less frequent, but we still get to utilize this free resource.  When we go we get lots of books….seriously, we check out like 20-30 books at a time.  We each pick out some, and then I renew them for the maximum time which I think is 3 weeks each time, and you can renew that for 2 more times which means I can keep these books for 9 weeks.  That means I really only get to the library probably 5 or 6 times a year, but for younger kids it works out well anyway because by the time I return those books, Alex has them memorized which is such a great learning tool for him to work on comprehension, repetition, recognizing letters, and sounds, etc.

#4 Let them choose their own books.  This one is HUGE!  Those book lists of award-winning books to make your child a scholar by age 5 that I mentioned earlier….this is where I threw that out the window.  I can almost guarantee you that no 3 year old boy is going to be interested in a book about a pink pony named Muffin who had adventures with a dog named Bear.  Do you know what 3-year-old boys think about?  Dirt, sand, dump trucks, diggers, trains, planes….you get the idea.  So let your kids be themselves.  Allow them to express themselves through their choices in literature by getting to choose what to read.  This doesn’t mean that we should allow our kids to read whatever trash that they come across, but when you are parenting young children, this really isn’t much of an issue in my experience with young children’s picture books.  It becomes an issue on quality and content with more mature readers as you start to monitor what they may have access to (random side note Abigail did bring home a few Barbie picture books once, and quite honestly the way they talk to each other made me feel stupider just reading them so I encouraged her to pick something else next time, but she still had a vast array of books to choose from that were of interest to her.  I gently nudged her away from books that I didn’t really feel were appropriate, but still allowed her many other books to choose from).

So here are a few favorites that my kiddos are loving right now:

Alexander’s Recommendations:

He absolutely loves the series of books on all different types of transportation by the McMullans.  They are very interactive, and honestly entertaining as an adult to read as well!  Here are a few of his favorites:

I Stink

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https://amzn.to/2O02Sej

I’m Brave

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https://amzn.to/2Li0HnT

I’m Dirty

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https://amzn.to/2Loxrw8

I’m Fast

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https://amzn.to/2ut5lWu

 

Abigail’s Recommendations:

The Magic Animal Series by Sue Bentley- Magic Pony, Magic Puppy, Magic Kitten, etc (you name an animal she probably has a book on it!)  No matter what animal it is Abigail loves them!  She is reading well above grade level, and what I’m finding is hardest for her is to find age appropriate books for her (going into 2nd grade) but that are at an appropriate level with not too much mature content.  We tend to stick to the books with amimal characters which helps a lot with staying away from books with content that is too mature.

Magic Puppy

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https://amzn.to/2uwcV2R

Magic Kitten

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https://amzn.to/2NreiHh

Magic Pony

9780448462059

https://amzn.to/2NWEnPn

Magic Bunny

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https://amzn.to/2mrJFG8

I hope these tips are helpful as you find ways to encourage your own kids to read, and figure out what methods work best for your family.

Happy Reading!!

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(Note: The links in this post are affiliate links, and we will be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking through our links, however the opinions stated in this article are fully my own.  I was not compensated for giving my true, honest opinion.)
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Foster Care/Adoption · Life

My Random Whereabouts and Updates

So it’s seriously been like 6 months since I shared anything here.  Good grief!  For a person who can say about a million words a day you would think I could find more time to write, but alas…life happens, and this got pushed to the back burner 🙂  And for the sake of giving a picture update, here is one of the 4 of us taken at a wedding reception in Illinois a few weeks ago:

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In all honesty, though a lot of life did happen in those 6 months.  I made some big life decisions that changed a lot of things.  I started off the end of last year planning to teach a few community ed courses at our local community college in hopes of that turning into starting a veterinary assistant program there.  The initial conversations that I had with the college were had with that being understood, but as we moved into the spring semester, the courses already 3/4 prepared as I readied myself, the conversations started to change, and it became clear to me that this wasn’t the direction the college was headed, and if it was it was going to be a 10 year plan to get there….that did not line up with my timeline at all.

I’d been there before- trying to work odds and ends jobs to make ends meet while trying to stay home with the kids, but honestly Dave and I were both tiring of that lifestyle.  We both knew my season of being home on a limited income could only last so long, and I was ready to take the next step, but I just wasn’t sure to where or to do what.  For the past year I had been working from home in a job that paid decent, but was not working with my schedule of being a mom as much as I had hoped.  In efforts to find better balance, and higher pay I pursued the teaching option, but that obviously wasn’t going to work either.  So we prayed, and brainstormed a lot.  We have talked about me pursuing other careers for years, but the timing didn’t seem right, and honestly I was afraid of change, and if I am being really honest…afraid of failure.  I have pursued a lot of niche hobbies, and careers over my adult life, because honestly I didn’t really know who in the heck I was when I left home.  I went to Vet Tech school because I love animals, but had no idea that being a vet tech is not a living wage, or of the high physical demands and stress of the job.  Once I became a mom, most of my priorities changed.  I didn’t mind working, but work seemed to get the best of my time, and I came home to give my family leftovers.  Me becoming a mom was honestly the first step in really finding me.  My whole life I had set my goals based off of what others accomplished, and what I was given praise for, but had never taken into consideration what my real passions and talents were or what direction God was leading me in.  The more experiences I had in different jobs the more I discovered what I loved and hated, and what my heart really desired.

The list of changes was long guys….like seriously…really long….

Initially I returned to school to get my undergrad and hopefully teach biology.  When I realized that wasn’t for me I took a real estate class, but my heart wasn’t in it so I never even tried very hard to pass the exam.  I sold Mary Kay, but quickly gave up because I hate selling things like that.  Once we moved to the Chicago suburbs I had to quit my vet tech job (which I had been doing full time while pursuing all of those things), and I did some work in veterinary academia which I really enjoyed but alas as I mentioned before, pursuing that just wasn’t working out.  I became a doula for a season, but after attending 3 births that I was at for over 24 hours, while having a nursing baby I knew I could not do that anymore.  I loved birth work, but I need more structure than that, and 3AM wake up calls was too much.  I worked for a non profit women’s ministry for awhile, and I loved my work in women’s ministry….still do honestly, and from my work there, and attending a speaking and writing conference back in 2011 I really felt God revealing to me a big piece of my heart- that I love working in women’s ministry.  The company I worked for then closed down last year so I needed to find something else to do.  I knew I wanted to work from home so I became a virtual assistant, but the work was just not a good fit (as I mentioned before).  So that leads us to this past January.  I felt stuck.  We both wanted me to have more income, but how….how to find balance with that in a way that works for us.  I couldn’t fathom working in an office again.  I love working from home far too much, but my current job was making me feel like I had to be “on” all the time, because of the type of work it was, and tied down for certain hours that made me feel like I couldn’t leave my home.  We prayed, and talked about this a lot, and ultimately decided to have me pursue real estate again. This time I was actually excited about it though.  We honestly had continued talking about this career path for years after I initially considered it.  I had gone through so much in all of my other career experiences that I realized what I really valued in my work, and that was to find a job that was flexible, with good work life balance, good pay, something I could do from home, and if possible that I could be my own boss

During all of this I kept labeling myself as “flighty” expecting others to think all of my choices were ridiculous, and perhaps some or many did, but honestly it ultimately didn’t matter.  What mattered was my journey that God was taking me on to reveal His plan for me.  It was Him revealing parts of me that He wanted control of, and helping me see passions and purpose that I didn’t see before

Of course we have had discouraging comments, but I have had many more encouraging ones.  Ultimately there are always going to be people who disapprove of something which is why I have to let go of one of my biggest struggles- people pleasing, and work only to please the Lord. His way and His plan for my life are ultimately what matters.  Each of our lives is so different from others and that’s why comparison can be so bad for us to do….His plan for me, isn’t your plan, and it shouldn’t be, because He has uniquely designed a plan and purpose for you!

I recently was in contact with a person that I could just tell had some judgemental thoughts about all of those changes, and this time actually verbalized all of those thoughts outloud to me…. for most of us that is one of our worst fears, someone saying outloud to our face our own deep seeded insecurities, but this time when I heard them, though it stung a bit, I realized I had grown enough to realize what was being said didn’t matter.  Someone’s perception of me doesn’t matter.  What God asks me to do, and my obedience to that is what matters.  There are people who have had not very nice things to say to us about foster care, but that doesn’t mean we should drop everything just to make one person happy, it’s about trusting God with all the pieces of your story.  To know that He knows His plan, and purpose even when it doesn’t make any sense to us.

So when I started this process of getting my real estate license, it was the beginning of March.  I chose an online program because I knew it would fit best around our lives right now, but ultimately it also meant far more hours of studying.  I pushed myself, and when I say pushed myself, I mean that I pushed myself really hard.  I was still working my other job, had family visit during that time for 2 weeks, and ended my course work by the end of April.  Almost every free moment I had was spent studying.  I studied to take my state and national exams mid May, and passed the first time!  Seriously guys I broke down sobbing in the bathroom of the testing center afterwards.  I was so happy to finally be done, and know how hard I pushed myself to get there!

Now I tend to be a workaholic, and have to watch myself because I can become so driven that I lose sight of my priorities, but my drive during this seemed to be fueled by something else.  Never in a million years did I think that Dave would ever be ok with me quitting my job before I had another job lined up, but we sat down towards the end of April and talked, and he told me that it was ok for me to quit.  He could see how hard I was working towards getting my real estate license, and had no doubt in his mind that I wouldn’t be able to pass even though I was doubting myself the entire time!  I also had this inner gut feeling that I wasn’t sure whether it was a God thing or not, but I was sensing God was trying to clear our time to be more available for foster care.  I knew my other job was much harder to balance than we had originally hoped, and a more flexible schedule with real estate would help provide that balance.  So I was beyond motivated to finish, not just because I wanted to be done, but because I felt like God had something waiting for us.

So almost as soon as I finished I brought it up to David.  Here we are almost looking at a year now since we went on the foster care list, and still no placement.  When we originally went on the list we told them we would only take placements from our county (the visitation center for birth centers is 5 minutes from us!) so we felt like that was a huge answer to prayer….we don’t have any blood relatives here to help us out so we knew driving far out of our county into another could mean 45 minutes to an hour long trip 1 way, and we knew this would mostly be on me.  We knew that was something we couldn’t do so we waited….I think in all in the last year we got 5 or 6 calls all from out of our county until finally I told the social workers we only wanted calls from our county. Since that last call I have literally gotten 0 calls about potential placements, which basically means in a years time I have never received a phone call about a placement in our county for the age range and gender we want.  We obviously don’t want to bite off more than we can chew in taking a placement, but the reality is, we had become really comfortable with just being comfortable.  Taking a placement means being open to how it may disrupt our family, our lives, our schedules, and we want to control it, but we can’t.  We felt safe in taking on only what we knew we could handle, but we were forgetting about trusting that God would be our strength in doing this, and submitting to how He specifically wants to grow us in this process.  So we prayed, and honestly we weren’t on the same page.  I was trying to be open to whether or not this push to open up the cases we take on to be from another county was just me being impatient and tired of waiting, or if it was a God thing.  In the middle of June our case worker had to do our annual home study to make sure our file was up to date, and while she was here she basically told us “if you want to get an actual placement, then you need to loosen up your criteria a bit.”  We would never choose to do something because someone pressured us into it, but I left that meeting realizing how much control we were trying to have over this, and how much we weren’t just letting God be God.  Regardless, it gave us more to discuss, and last week on our loooonggg drive to Illinois and back we had plenty of time to talk, and we both decided it was time to open up our placement search to the county next to us as well.  I checked the GPS- it’s 23 minutes to the visitation center instead of 5, but that is much better than 45 min to an hour one way.  I think we can handle that.  It seems ridiculous that that small of a decision could that long to make, but 23 minutes one way turns into almost an hour of travel time, and of course once there I can’t just leave….I have to wait for the visit to be over because if I drove home it would be time to turn around and come back again so it honestly it turns into much longer time committment.  If the visit is 1 hour or 2 it can be a 3 hour comittment once a week or twice a week if that is the situation that our placement has…it is much bigger than just a 23 minute drive.  We were just trying to wrap our brains around how to fit that into Dave’s work, my work, kids activities, and our family activities, and didn’t want to stretch ourselves too thin, but we feel confident in this, this will be a stretch for us.  It will not come without struggle.  We will have to sacrifice, but it’s a sacrifice worth pursuing.

During the weeks that Dave and I weren’t entirely on the same page a lot of discussions took place, and one in particular stands out in my mind as we were discussing if this lull in time for this particular pursuit meant something different.  What if it meant we were supposed to do something else in orphan care?  Perhaps not foster, or maybe not adopt at all, and I can honestly say my heart broke at the thought.  This child that I have prayed for, for so long….I just started weeping.  Our family doesn’t feel complete yet, and though we may not know all the steps that God wants us to take to orchestrate that, or what twists and turns He may have in store, I am confident that we are pursuing Him the best we know how, and though that sometimes involves wrong steps, and reevaluating…I know He is faithful, and will continue to lead us as we keep pressing into Him.

So today, I contacted our social worker to ask her to update our file to take on cases from one of our neighboring counties as well, as well as being open to counties even farther away with children in our age group whose cases are moving into termination of parental rights meaning they will be finding permanent homes for these children to move towards adoption.  I’m feeling a little nervous now to be honest.  Knowing that we most likely will get more calls now, and a much greater possibility of one of the children from these calls being placed with us.  So it’s scary-  I feel very comfortable in this place where I am at right now.  We both do, and for as much as I like my comfort, I know that much growth and ultimately joy can come in the harder places God walks through with us.

So if you think of it please pray- for our hearts and home to be open to whatever child God wants to place with us, and for us to not be afraid for the Lord says “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid!  Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go!” (Joshua 1:9)

 

Blessings,

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Foster Care/Adoption · Life

Missed Call

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Wednesday night was a really hard night for me.  At around 7PM that night Dave and I realized we had both missed a call from our foster agency at around 3PM that afternoon.  I listened to the voicemail, and immediately was internally beating myself up.  Dave at the time was getting ready to take the kids outside to play in the hot tub before we put them to bed for the night, and I was glad for the peace, and quiet because I just needed some space.

The house was quiet, and within moments, I found myself sobbing and weeping in an all-out ugly cry.  “How did I miss the call?!” I heard myself say.  Guilt laced internal blame for what I fool I was for missing it.  “What if I missed ‘the’ call?” came soon after.  “What if this was our assignment, and I missed it!?”  I sat this way for awhile just crying, and praying, and I realized the very root of what was making me so upset…

You see we haven’t had a call in months now. The last call we received, was another call for a child in another county, and I told the social worker that we really only wanted calls for this county, because we were unable to commit to a child out of county that would require more driving, and accommodations being made from our family.  So when I found this missed call, I assumed it was a child from our county…the first call we had had in months, and they come so seldom, that I feared that we had missed our chance, and really buried underneath all of these layers, was that I am so scared….scared for our potential future child who is somewhere right now, that I don’t even know, in a probably not so great situation, and she is scared and helpless, and I might be her mama someday, and SHE.  IS.  NOT.  HOME….. My scared mama heart just WANTS HER HOME where I know she will be safe, and in my arms.

Man this foster to adopt stuff is hard.  It’s different than fostering…..where a family knows it’s probably temporary, but they are a safe place, and a family for a child in need, and it’s a role that is so needed.  They love on kids, and they pour their lives out, and fostering is such an important role too.  It’s also very different than adoption, but it’s so very similar in that your heart is aching for a child that is not yet yours, but that you can’t yet have, and that you so desperately want to just be home in your arms.  Fostering to adopt is letting your heart live in this place where you pour it out to love on a child that isn’t yours, working to reunite them with their birth parents, while at the same time trying to break down walls in your heart to love them and welcome them into your home, because they may truly someday be yours….. my heart doesn’t know how to deal with these feelings yet.  It’s uncharted territory, that there is no right or wrong way to walk through these muddied waters, but it’s a necessary course.  Either way people end up broken…birth parents losing rights to their children was never God’s design.  Reunifying children with birth parents is mending brokenness that never should have been.  It’s grace, and forgiveness, and starting over.  Fostering to adopt isn’t us saving children…it’s God bringing wholeness out of brokenness, but either way it started out as broken…

Time spent with Jesus that night was just what I needed.  My heart calmed down a bit, and I received a few encouraging texts from friends, and one wise friend, in particular, said:

“God does not let His children miss His voice.” 

I just love that image….absolutely nothing, can keep me from missing the call that will be God’s assignment for us, and even if we miss it, and it is His assignment for us, she will eventually come to us missed call or not.

Missing this call, and experiencing these emotions was really good for me.  My reaction that day seemed so dramatic though….why in the world was I ugly crying about a missed phone call, but it made me realize how much I had compartmentalized and numbed myself in this waiting to not feel anything.  I distracted myself with busy, parenting, and work, and wouldn’t let myself feel towards this.   Another dear friend helped point out that God may be using even this to ready our hearts, and stir up a deep longing for this child to prepare us even more.  Dave came inside that night to a wife with mascara dripping off her face, and he looked at me slightly terrified, and said “what’s wrong?!”  It gave us time to process, and unravel feelings that we haven’t been letting ourselves feel in this time of waiting, and honestly was a unifying moment in this process that helped us both realize that we’re in this together, and in his own way he feels the very same way I do, he just doesn’t talk about it as much 🙂

On Thursday I got another call…..go figure…no calls for months, and then 2 in a row.  I honestly almost thought this call was it, until the social worker revealed at the END of the call that this was an out of county case…. I hung up the phone, and like every other phone call from the foster agency, was overwhelmed with emotion at the notes I had scribbled about this girl on a page of paper that summarized her life in horrid words that no child should ever have used to describe anything about her, but this….this is foster care.  Kids with hard pasts that they don’t deserve, who just need someone to come alongside them and show that them that they aren’t worthless.  That they aren’t defined by their parents choices that have littered their pasts, but they can have a much greater hope in a God who mends the broken hearted, and finds them so worthy of being loved.

Would you pray for these kids?

For their safety, for God’s protection over them while in homes that may be harming them.

Pray for the foster families- that God would ready their hearts, and give them wisdom to help the specific children He has assigned to them.

Pray for God’s plan for your family in orphan care- is it to support a foster/adoptive family?  To walk beside them, give of your time, and resources to help?  Maybe God’s stirring in your heart to consider adoption or foster care….it’s ok to be scared of that.  I was.  Terrified actually, but God is so very good to gently walk me down this path in His time.  He will for you too.

Lastly, pray for our girl, and my mama heart, that so desperately just wants her home….that God would keep her safe, and that ultimately we would trust that His timing is perfect.

Blessings,

 

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Foster Care/Adoption · Health · Life

When God Changes Your Plans

I’ve done a lot of planning in my life…

Planned to go to college.  Get a degree.  Get married.  Buy a house.  Have kids.  Stay home and raise kids.

My plans did not include buying 3 different houses within 5 years, or moving across the country 850 miles away from our family.

My plans did not include developing multiple autoimmune diseases that often times mess with me physically, and mentally.

I never planned to work while trying to balance raising a family, nor was the family we have today the family I dreamed that I would one day have.

There have been so many times that I have sat in the presence of the Lord crying, sometimes yelling “This is not what I wanted!”  “This is not what I had planned!”  “This is not what I asked for!”

I’ve found that what is at the root of me gripping my plans so tightly is control.  I often times don’t trust God enough to realize that He is in control and that He ultimately, even when life feels really really hard, has my best in mind.  You see we don’t grow as much as we could when life gets handed to us on a platter.  When I look back, it’s been in my times of brokenness that God has grown me the most.  Sometimes, just like children, God lovingly disciplines His children in order to align them within His will, to make us look more like Him.

This morning I was pondering these thoughts because something triggered in me a memory, back when Alex was a baby, and how hard that season was.  I was a new mom of two.  Trying to adjust to life with two kids, and acknowledging now what I didn’t know then, that I’m positive I had an undiagnosed postpartum anxiety issue.  It was a really hard time for Dave, and I.  Dave was struggling a lot with his commute to work and came home pretty much useless in helping with the kids, and Alex was so hard.  Fussy, needy, sooo clingy.  I felt so trapped and stuck, but I couldn’t get away because someone had to take care of the kids.  I remember not actually feeling “love” for Alex until he was around 8 months old.  Before then I just loved him out of duty, because that’s what you do when you are a mom whether you feel like it or not.

Before then Dave and I talked about having more kids, but once you have kids the realities of parenting set in.  Financially it’s hard.  Emotionally….I felt so alone.  Pregnancy…my body hates being pregnant….I throw up for 9 months, can’t eat anything, and then I have the baby and 3 days later I can’t eat whatever I want again.  It’s beyond morning sickness.  It’s hyperemesis gravidium (you may have heard of Princess Kate’s struggle with this in the news).  There are varying degrees of it.  Mine was mild compared to some moms, and even at that, I felt awful.  I was hospitalized at one point when I was pregnant with Alex for it in preterm labor due to dehydration.  I remember watching moms with the same struggle I had who just kept having babies, and I seriously wanted to die…..I had hoped after Abbie that pregnancy couldn’t be worse, but I was wrong….my pregnancy with Alex was so much worse.  I knew once I had him that I wasn’t sure that I could do this again, but I felt so guilty.  We wanted more kids, but then not only was my pregnancy hard, but he was a really hard baby.  So hard that I kid you not, ended up with us sitting in a doctor’s office when Alex was 3 months old for a vasectomy appointment for Dave.  I imagine we were quite the sight….me sitting in the waiting room with a 3-year-old and a crying infant, as we waited for my husband’s “appointment.”

We had talked and prayed, and both of us knew what our dreams of what we wanted our family to be were, but we also knew biologically we couldn’t have more children.  I remember vividly praying about it one night, and it was then that I knew, our marriage couldn’t do this again. We prayed and entrusted to God that if He wanted to expand our family more He would do so through adoption.  Nevertheless a dream died that day.  We had always talked about adoption, and at one point considered adoption before we had biological kids, but when it gets taken away, and you had always hoped for more…it feels much harder.

One absolutely amazing thing about a dream dying though is that God always has a plan.  Although it may be different, once I come to, and submit to His plans, not mine, I realize His way is best whether I understand or not.  He sees the entire picture.  He knows what I need, and what I don’t need.  He knows what will make me more like Him, and what will cause me to stray from Him.  So even though His different plans may be a hard pill to swallow sometimes, I have enough experience to know that His way is always best.  Sometimes with time some of my “why” questions will be answered, and some of them never are, and may not be on this side of heaven, but His word is true when He says in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Maybe our plans died that day, but not God’s.  He knew He wasn’t finished with our family yet, and though I have no idea what His timeline looks like for completing our family, I know once again fostering wasn’t my plan, but it was God, and I have to trust that He knows what He is doing and that He is good despite knowing that this will be hard, and though it took me awhile, I’m pretty excited to see this hole in our lives be filled with an actual sweet little person.

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Friends whatever your hopes, and dreams were for your marriage, your family, your career, your home, your health….whatever they were, it’s ok to mourn.  Its ok to grieve what was, and what you had hoped would be.  Let yourself cry out to Him however many times it takes, but at some point, we must release our control of what was, and cling to what He has for us instead.  His plans for you may not appear to be shaped the way you had hoped, and they may not be as sparkly as you think they should be.  Remember though our purpose here is not for ourselves.  We forget that sometimes.  We tend to focus on our comfort, our desires, our wants, and we forget that we are here to worship our Creator, and fulfill His purpose for us in His kingdom:

Colossians 1:16 says:

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”

Hearing this truth doesn’t change the fact that it is hard to let our dreams die to His will, but I pray that these words will point us to who and what our hope is really in.

Before we moved to Pennsylvania I found this children’s book that Lysa Terkeurst had released titled “It Will Be Okay.”  This book makes me cry, as it tells a beautiful story of two friends (a fox, and a seed) who were living their comfortable, happy life, and in an instant, their life becomes uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and even scary at times.  You see these two friends caretaker was a farmer, and when the time was right the farmer planted the little seed and separated the friends.  They were terrified.  They were lonely, but they soon realized that though things were different and a bit uncomfortable, they were still okay, and as time went on, they both found how this farmer’s plan to put them into a hard situation grew them in more ways than they could have had they stayed in their happy, comfortable old home.

On the inside front cover of this book I penned the following:

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May you take great comfort in knowing, it really will be ok.

 

Blessings,

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Health · Life · Mental Illness

My Struggle with Mental Illness

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I hardly feel worthy to even label myself as one who struggles with a mental illness, not when I know there are so many others who struggle much deeper than I.  Whose pain is much more debilitating than mine.

One of the things I find so frustrating about struggling with mental illness symptoms is the lack of control that comes with it.  You never know when it’s going to hit you.  It comes at you like a crashing wave that you have absolutely no control over.  You can’t predict it.  You can’t foresee it.  You can’t wrangle it.  Most often the wave comes crashing down, all-consuming, and you are left to figure out how to swim and thrash about in it, and somehow still come out with your head above water.

It hurts my heart so much to realize the people that get hurt the most by my struggle with mental illness symptoms are those closest to me.  They get the best of me, and unfortunately the worst of me.  This is typically the case whether we struggle with a mental illness or not.

I feel fortunate in that my anxiety and depression symptoms are actually a compass for me.  When I start feeling anxious, and depressed it’s typically because something is going on with my thyroid again, and that sends me to my doctor to check my bloodwork, and most times it means I need an adjustment in my medication, or sometimes it means we need to add another medication.  For many this isn’t the case, and though the up and down rollercoaster that I experience on a regular basis is not fun, I am thankful that at least there is some hope in knowing the cause.  For many, this just isn’t so.

Mine manifests itself most often in feelings of inability to handle life, panic attacks, secluding myself, hopelessness, verbal attacks towards those I love, and each one of them is a desperate plea when I feel out of control to regain some sense of control.

What I find most ironic about what happens in these moments is that I so desperately want to be loved, and know that I am not alone…that someone will stand by me, and yet I push people away…I make it incredibly hard for people to want to love me, and yet I am fortunate enough that those closest to me still do…they choose me as wife, as mom, as friend.  Maybe not in that moment, but I have grown a lot when I experience this that I fumble my way through it and verbalize what is actually happening to me for them.  It’s hard to get the words out though.

My husband told me just the other day how incredibly hard it is to love through it, and honestly I am so glad he did.  By forcing myself to get words out to describe what is happening even with tears streaming down my cheeks, and between hiccupy sobs…the more we communicate to one another the better we love each other through the hard.  He deserves to know so he can at least try to understand even if he never understands what exactly it feels like, and him telling me how hard it is to come to me when I am pushing him away helps me to at least comprehend what he is feeling, and why he isn’t being supportive in the way I wish he would, because he honestly doesn’t know how.

I’ve told him before “sometimes, I feel like it would be easier if I had a broken arm or something….when someone’s arm is broken, everyone can see that his or her arm is broken, and so they know he/she will be unable to use their arm in the right way, but no one can see a mental illness.  It would be easier for people to be supportive, and understand if they could just see it.”

But you can’t….mental illnesses are uunpredictable, and they aren’t black and white.  You can’t control it, and you definetly can’t logic your way through it.

There have been so many moments when I feel the wave coming, and anxiety consumes me, that I look into the mirror, and what I see is not even me.  I am completely unrecognizable.  It’s an out of body experience, that is so hard to even describe if you’ve never experienced it.

You try and pray your way out of it, but I gotta be honest….sometimes if there really is something biochemically off in your body, you really need help and intervention.  Praying helps, but I am living proof that sometimes medication or supplements are needed to help with the problem.

So friends if you are reading this, and you too struggle with symptoms of a mental illness, please know this…you are not defined by your disease.   Even though it often times feels like it, don’t believe that lie.  You have value.  You are enough.  Your story is worth being told, and if you are in a state where no one seems to believe you, and no one seems to understand please know that I do, and I see you.  YOU MATTER!

And for those of you who are concerned about me now after reading this, know that I am ok…I’ve talked to my doctor, and recently got labwork done revealing that I do indeed have a hormonal imbalance that I need to get corrected…again.  I’m just writing this after being on an emotional roller coaster, and wondering why my body is broken, but I also know that I need more Jesus, and perhaps a little bit more of my medication 😉

Blessings,

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Foster Care/Adoption · Life

The First Call

It’s been about 2 months since we went on the waiting list for foster care, and honestly, since it was still summer, and both kids were home, I didn’t really think much about being on the waiting list at all until after school started in September.  I was too consumed with learning the ins and outs of my new job, and hoping we wouldn’t get a placement until after Alex started at his school so we would have consistent childcare options if we did get a placement.

Once school started I felt myself take somewhat of a sigh of relief….”ok, now we can get a placement.”  Even though I knew a placement could have happened the moment we went on the list.  I’ve heard stories of people waiting months, to people being handed a case the day they go on the list, to others only waiting a few weeks.

Last weekend I had a bit of a moment.  I typically try to hit up biannual consignment sales to stock up for the kids clothes, and while I was there my heart got a little sad.  I knew that most likely before the next sale I would have another child in my home, and here I was staring at clothing that would fit her, but I have no idea who she is or what size she will be to know what to buy her.

I feel very blessed that moments like those are fleeting.  I would imagine if I was aching to have children this waiting game would feel like an eternity.  Having 2 bio kids of our own already keeps me busy, and not overly consumed by the thoughts of all the whens, and hows, and ifs that could rule my mind.

I’ve found that I’ve gone through ridiculous nesting phases in this process which I believe I mentioned before.  My most recent was last week.  All of the sudden I looked at my area rugs and was horrified at their appearance and become obsessed with cleaning them like..now!  I then proceeded to scrub them by hand until they looked much improved.  I laughed at my ridiculousness and chalked it up to nesting.  I seriously have never ever scrubbed an area rug I owned (although I will say…it was quite easy and the results were great so I may do it again nesting or not in the future 😉  Sorry if that is gross…not sure if my lack of attention to them is abnormal, but in my mind they just never mattered on my list of things to clean.

So anyway (focus Bridget focus) here we are 2 months into this waiting game, starting to wonder why we seriously hadn’t gotten ANY calls yet….I mean really…do you know how many thousands of kids are in foster care?  You would think we would have had 5 calls the first day!  Then this morning….the phone rang about 10:30 with a local # but one I didn’t recognize.  I didn’t think much of it.  I figured it was Abbie’s school, or maybe Alex preschool calling me with an automated announcement or something, and just like that I heard the woman on the phone say she was from our foster agency, and my heart started thumping…this was it!  Our first call!  Immediately my mind started racing, and I heard words like “emergency placement” and “today” and my mind started reeling about things I had going on this afternoon, and if I would need to juggle things around, and would this child be sitting at our supper table tonight, and sleeping in the bed that has been sitting empty for 3 months…I quickly started jotting notes down, and scribbled as much as I could gather about this particular child.  I asked a few questions, and then I was left to call David, and call back the social worker with our decision as to whether or not we would take the case.

I hung up the phone, and immediately sat down and cried as I stared at my notes.  How in the world does life get to this place?  A place where all that we know of a 5 year old child is a laundry list of horrible things that no one…I repeat NO ONE, especially not a young child should ever have to face, or even knows exists at such a young age!

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I hesitated to share this with you, and I guarantee you when we get a placement I won’t share our child’s details with anyone here in this space.  Those details are too intimate to share when it’s not my life I am telling you about.  It won’t be my story to tell.  I share only because THIS IS FOSTER CARE.  It’s not meant to scare you (though believe me I know many of you it will.  I was one of you.  I was scared too.  I didn’t want anything to do with kids who may in turn hurt me because of their own wounds and scars).  I share because I want you to know the depth of brokenness that these kids deal with…

Wounds inflicted not because of their own choosing.

Wounds inflicted because someone else chose to do that to them.

Someone they trusted.

Someone they should be able to cling to, inflicted harm, not good.

Something God intended to be whole was broken, and ripped away from them.

I share so that you can start to see what God has helped me to start to see…

That NO ONE is broken beyond repair…not with Jesus.

That EVERYONE deserves to receive His hope, and His grace.

That these kids deserve a chance to thrive.  To really, truly live a life where they are safe, and loved, and given a chance to be set free to be who God created them to be.

And that is the beauty of the gospel….we too were adopted into God’s family- given grace, and a second chance.  To be taken from broken pieces, and be made into something beautiful.

I’ve heard many times “it’s so awesome that you are doing this,” but you know what…I’m not that awesome because if I’m really honest….we are terrified of this!  We know we are not strong enough.  We want to run away from the brokenness that we see in foster care, to stay in our comfortable life.  Why would someone knowingly choose to inflict pain upon themselves…. The potential of having a difficult foster child, adopting a child with lifelong problems, or having to hand a child back that we have grown to love as our own…..are all potential challenges we may face, but it all comes down to one thing….obedience.  God asks us to act in obedience to Him when He asks us to do something.  We can ask all the logical, what if questions we want to, and His answer remains the same….this is something He has asked us to do.

One of the things that scared me going into this was feeling like I had to say “yes” to every placement that came our way, and that brings me back to today.  Today David and I felt a firm “no” was our answer, because this child was not in our county, and it would mean a significant more amount of time and travel on our part to accommodate, and that is just not something we feel capable of right now.  I was so grateful for this….grateful that God made the decision so easy…at least for today.  I realized as I was on the phone and asked the social worker more questions, she really had nothing else for me.  My desire to know more, and all the details….got mere tiny notes worth of information about a child that was potentially going to join our home long term.  For me…it’s not enough, but I have to trust that when the time is right, and our placement comes it will be enough.  I won’t know all the details, and I will spend months decoding the mystery of the child’s story who is placed in our home, but it will be enough, because God is enough to fill in every gap, and be my source to best lead these little lives every moment of each day that He gives me with them.

 

Blessings,

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Life

Do I Really Need to “Cherish” Even THESE Moments??

Yesterday was one of those days where I kind of felt like a circus clown juggling one minute, teaching dogs to jump through hoops the next, and balancing far too many things at one time.

I had several conference calls scheduled for work, and while I love working from home, I love my child-free days working from home even more.  Though I’m good at multitasking, my brain works best when I can give my full attention to one task.  I do my best work when I can fully invest into something.  So I spent my day juggling how long I knew I would need to spend with Alex to have his “tank be filled” so I could get through phone call #1, then knew we would need snacks before phone call #2.  Somewhere around there lunch needed to happen before phone call #3 and more quality time with Alex or I knew I would be interrupted….

So anyway when I get in this funk, where I feel like I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off, and I get depleted because I am so focused on my needs and my selfishness  that I forget that God gave me these little people in my life to love on and serve…..well often times then I tend to point my frustration towards my kids.  Questions like:

Why are they getting in the way of what I want to accomplish?

I can’t wait until they are older so they aren’t hanging all over me all the time.

Get your own snacks…better yet…why are you hungry AGAIN?  I just fed you 10 minutes ago…… all of these cross my mind.

My kids become a burden in those moments, and sometimes I take the moment too far and it’s wasted, but if I listen closely here is about when the Holy Spirit steps in and nudges me to remember what role he has asked of me right now for them-  to be their mother.

Now don’t get me wrong here…there is a difference between serving our children, and worshipping the ground they walk on.  There is necessary self-care, and there is definitely selfishness in my sinful nature that makes me want to hold my own needs above anyone else more often than not, but this is another post for another day 🙂

I have heard countless times over the years “Cherish these moments!  They grow up so fast!” And can I be honest- as a mom of littles I hear that and I cringe, and I want to kick the person who says it while at the same time hug them and sob “I know!”

I know it goes by so fast!  I really do, but when you are in the thick of it….babies to toddlers to preschoolers from spit up to breastfeeding, to diaper blowouts, pureed covered babies, tantrums, and screaming 3-year-olds sitting in a cart walking through the grocery store….it feels so long, and lonely, and like you will never be out of it, and then in a blink, it’s gone….and all the sudden those babies are going to birthday parties without you, and asking about slumber parties, and doing chores responsibly without being told…how in the world are you supposed to handle it all any better?!?!

I can’t.

I just can’t.

Not on my own I can’t.

I do my best to cherish every moment, but to be honest, I lose it sometimes.

I blow it big time.

Like, a lot!

Then “sorry’s” are said, and heart to hearts happen, and wounds are mended, and we start over again, and you know what?

I am so grateful that we get to start over again.

Because you know why?  I feel so much pressure from the words “Cherish these moments!  They grow up so fast!”

Pressure to live perfectly.

To walk through life unscathed.

Pressure to not mess up or miss something, and I can’t live up to that.

I need grace to actually LIVE life.  

So MUCH grace!

Not permission to do whatever I want, however I want, or whenever I want.

No I need grace to have permission to mess up.  To not have to be perfect.

If it’s anything that I’ve learned from being a parent, it’s that I’m actually missing out on more of real life trying to be perfect all the time.  

Real life is made up of “I’m sorrys,” burnt suppers, and kissed boo-boos.

Real life is made up of lessons learned the hard way, giving up control, forgiving others, and loving through our differences.

And so today….I muddled my way through trying to be the best parent I could be while balancing a bunch of work stuff.  My heart wasn’t in parenting today, but it doesn’t have to be.  Not when I have Jesus, He makes me enough I lay it down before Him, and He helps me be what I need to be.  I don’t always have to “feel like it.” Sometimes you just have to “do it” and watch “God work through and in you.

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So right after I had my hissy fit woe is me, feel like a circus act moment today I snapped this picture of Alex, and right there, I was humbled….here is my 3-year-old old little man, looking like a 5-year-old.  So proud.  So tall.  And God reminded me that yes, it is these moments I want to cherish, because soon, that 3-year-old boy, looking 5-year-old boy really will be 5, then 10, then 15, and soon enough a real man going off on his own, but I don’t have to find my “want to” in cherishing these hard moments in the early years, or in the teenage defiant years….I just have to let Jesus be my enough, and if Jesus is my enough, I don’t have to be perfect.  He gives me grace.  I’m given grace to make mistakes, and know that I am only enough because of Him….never without Him.

I don’t know about you, but I am so thankful for that.  So I’m just going to keep on letting Jesus be my enough, because it’s so freeing that I don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations anymore.  I don’t have to live with the guilt weighing on me that I didn’t cherish enough of the moments, or do enough, or be enough. I just need to live this one life for Him, because He is enough.

 

Blessings,

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