The T-shirt Quest

I’m a sucker for challenges and contests with deadlines. They force me into self-discipline, which doesn’t always come naturally for me. For the past five years, I’ve attempted to keep this earth suit from falling apart by working out at Jazzercise. My adult kids tease me about my “old lady” workouts. (Makes me wonder if they could survive a Flip Fusion or Interval Fusion class!)

In February, Jazzercise challenged us to complete 30 workouts in 35 days. Continue reading

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Two Years and Counting …

FullSizeRender (4)The average time a child spends in foster care is 23 months. Our Princess now has 24 months under her belt of which the last 19 have been in our home with no end in sight. Her life hangs in limbo. Her future seems to be in the hands of a broken system and a judge who is very birth family-oriented and will almost always lean toward sending children back home. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for reunification of foster children as quickly as possible. When it’s the right thing to do.

It seems a tragedy Continue reading

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Good Good Father


We don’t always know what’s best for us…

Last summer our foster daughter wasn’t too sure about the overnight camp we’d signed her up for. Yet now, Princess’s favorite place to be is Camp Horizon or at Camp Horizon’s special activities. Continue reading

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Fostering Firsts

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” 
Martin Luther King Jr.

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The privilege of experiencing our foster daughter’s firsts is not lost on us. Even our adult children love being privy to those precious first moments:

Her toes kicking up sand as she runs to the crashing waves.

 Eyes scouring the shore searching for the best, unbroken shells.

 Building a sand castle and rushing to fill the moat with water before it disappears.

We talk often in our home about how God brings good out of bad. This comes up especially when she’s sad about being in foster care. We’re sad she’s in foster care. We’re sad about all that has happened in her short little life that caused her to land in foster care. Continue reading

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5 Ways to Encourage Foster Families

flowers picWe all wonder how best to support our friends and family who are fostering. Let’s face it, foster families are usually in it for the long haul and they need a large safety net of people they can rely on to remain true to their calling. Below are five simple ways to come alongside them.

1.GIVE UNCONDITIONAL SUPPORT– It’s important to remember that foster parents “inherit” the behaviors and transgressions of the birth family that have sometimes been passed down the generations. Unless you’ve walked 24/7 in the foster family’s shoes, you really can’t understand the depth of the issues they are dealing with, nor the toll that dealing with them takes on a daily basis.

Foster parents are required to keep certain facts and details confidential which often puts them at a disadvantage when outsiders are looking in at their situation. Things are often not as they appear, but this cannot be communicated to you. So please, give the foster family the benefit of the doubt, and instead of judging their actions, come alongside them and offer support and prayer. In the end, the truth always comes to light. Eventually, you may see this happen.

2.REFRAIN FROM ASSUMPTIONS – When watching each other parent, we often assume we know what’s going wrong in the interactions with parents and kids and are quick to give advice or judge. However, when children come from severe trauma, abuse and neglect, these assumptions no longer hold true. These kids’ negative behaviors can be triggered by the most mundane comment or action. And their reactions can be off-the charts crazy and can last for hours.

Foster parents receive training on alternative discipline techniques and how to deal with extreme reactions. Sometimes even those don’t work. It’s a bit of trial and error. The methods you see them use might not be the traditional time out or removal of privileges that seem to work well with your bio kids. Their methods may seem more permissive which could lead you to believe they are perpetuating the behavior.

It’s also good to remember that foster children are often emotionally much younger than their actual age. It would not be strange to see a six-year-old pitch a full-on tantrum that you’d normally see from a two-year-old. So, please don’t assume the foster parent is messing up. Understand that they’ve “got this” and will respond appropriately.

3.LOVE WELL – Sometimes it’s really inconvenient and difficult to love on foster families, particularly those who have challenging child(ren). There are myriad practical ways to show love. After all, love is a verb! Find out the best way to serve your particular family. Perhaps it’s by watching only the foster child(ren), so the bio kids can have some special attention that they’ve been missing out on. It could be inviting the whole family over for dinner, so they can get out of their normal routine. Perhaps you could offer various kinds of gift cards for the movies, a manicure, or dinner.

Remember to love the whole family well. The foster family needs you to love on the foster children the same way you do their bio children. Most of these children have never experienced that kind of love. You never know what kind of difference loving them well could make for their future.

 4.STAY AVAILABLE – You are needed, even if the first ten times you offer, the answer is no thank you. Please stay available and willing to help. Fostering is quite different from raising biological children, particularly if the case requires extra visitations, frequent court dates, therapy, and medical appointments.

Foster parents become overwhelmed, but not always in the beginning of the placement. Like extra bricks being added to a backpack, these extra appointments start to weigh a family down. Added to that is the emotional upheaval that fostering brings with it. So, keep offering help and be available to help with childcare, a meal, running out for diapers, or even offering the most dreaded errand of all, stopping by the post office.

5.OFFER TO PRAY – Whether you’re a volunteer, neighbor, friend, or a family member, when you become involved in foster care, you enter a spiritual battleground. The only true weapons are prayer and God’s truth. Prayer often takes a backseat to more practical kinds of service, but prayer should be the foundation of serving foster families.

Look for opportunities to pray with and for the foster family: on the phone, in a short note or email, or in person. You can’t imagine how encouraging this is for foster families, especially in their most challenging times. And of course, take time to pray for them privately.

You may never feel the call to foster, but by encouraging and serving a foster family, you are making a huge difference.

Foster families need you more than you’ll ever know.

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Hair Today Hair Tomorrow

We had been prepared for many of foster care’s challenges: abused children, uncooperative birth parents, and poor hygiene.

But, no one ever mentioned HAIR.

A few years ago, I vaguely remember a friend of mine took in an African-American child for a short time. She was stressing about how to care for his hair and skin. I thought she exaggerated. I mean, how hard could it be?

Let’s just say God has a sense of humor and decided to answer that question for me in the practical realm. The learning curve can be steep. Those who’ve been there and understand give me that knowing, sympathetic look whenever I mention something about getting the girls’ hair done.

We all know hair is NOT created equal.

Thick, thin, straight, wispy, wavy, curly, or kinky. When our girls arrived I became acquainted with the kinky version, but both their heads of hair were very distinct. Let’s just say I’m on a dual learning curve.

When our older foster daughter arrived, I was told I had to do something about her hair right away. The multitude of frayed braids covering her head had been in too long and not properly cared for. Nor washed for at least two months.

First, I consulted an African-American foster mom. She gave me reassurance that I would be OK. She let me know that this was a cross-cultural issue that she’d also experienced when the first blonde came into her home. She cracked me up with the story of how she bought the wrong products, didn’t wash her hair often enough and had no clue how to style that very different kind of hair.

My second consult was with a dear caucasian friend, who adopted an African American daughter. She volunteered her whole Saturday morning to help me. Yes, it took a whole morning to undo that doo. She came armed with two baskets of products she used at various stages of hair care. During our hours of unbraiding, she talked me through various options. The myriad possibilities catapulted me back to being in calculus class, and my brain promptly shut down.

I knew I was out of my league, so I took her to the salon for a trim and style. The hairdresser just shook her head at me and tisk-tisked. How was I supposed to know all of the tangles had to come out before washing and conditioning? The conditioner was supposed to be my friend. No More Tangles was a fraud!

some of our hair products

some of our hair products

So began our HAIR adventures. I’ve learned a lot in 10 months. And I’ve learned my limitations. I’ve also learned that HAIR is costly in time and money. HAIR goes on our calendar weeks in advance. There’s a lot of advanced strategizing involved in conquering HAIR.

We’ve been through a few hair stylists. I confess. I’ve played the “foster care card” and asked for special discounts. It’s sort of worked, but never goes beyond two appointments. I could never balance my schedule with their schedules.

Then we met our Hair Angel. An African-American friend of our foster daughter shared her stylist with us. And now our Hair Angel comes every 4-6 weeks and stays all morning or afternoon to transform our girls’ HAIR.

 beautiful braids by Hair Angel

beautiful braids by Hair Angel

We could not live without her. She’s become like family. She’s affordable, kind, and oh so sweet to our girls. And the funny thing I realized is that most of her clients are African American families. I’m not the only one who needs the Hair Angel.

But, before she comes, we must prepare. Old doos must be undooed.

braids get unbraided

braids get unbraided

Then the hair must be detangled, then washed, then conditioned, then detangled again, then loosely braided before going to bed. Then lather, rinse, repeat with child number two! This unbraiding can take two to three hours per child.

Luckily, I have a partner in crime. My daughter, Olivia, is adept at braiding and unbraiding.

From now on, if you ask if I’m available on the weekend and I respond, “It’s a HAIR weekend,” you’ll know what I mean. And I am expecting a very sympathetic look.

In between visits from the Hair Angel, I’ve had to develop some basic skills. According to her, I’m training the girls’ hair well. I really want to believe her. My specialty with the nine-year-old is puffs. I can make really cute puffs.

two puffs

two puffs

I can make two puffs. I can make three puffs. I’ve even been known to make four puffs. Such talent!

So why am I writing this HAIR post? First of all, I think most people who have never had to care for African-American hair are clueless like me. We think, “How hard can it be?” Now I know!

And secondly, it’s for those who find themselves in my same shoes with unfamiliar hair to care for. It’s best to have a sense of humor and keep asking for help until you figure it out.

Hopefully, God will also bless you with your own Hair Angel.

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Shades of Black and White

FullSizeRender (4)My milky white hand holds her dark mocha hand in mine. She skips beside me, with joy in her heart, not a care in the world. We’re outside taking the dog for a walk in the neighborhood. It’s a safe place for her to hold my hand and just be herself. But often I’m not allowed to bring her to “family” events in public, for then her friends will notice we are not her real parents.

She doesn’t like that we have such distinctive colors. She loves me. I have a beautiful painting she made for me that says so. But this. This problem of our different skin color bothers her.

Our family experienced life as minorities for a short while when we spent a month in Lesotho. We felt the strangeness of being just a handful of white people in that country of dark-skinned Africans. We adjusted to the stares as we shopped and walked through the city center. We didn’t feel especially discriminated against, but we were obviously very different.

They critiqued us for being too skinny. They felt sorry for us and were surprised I’d managed to find a husband with such little padding on my tush. They showed great concern for lanky Olivia’s future and her marriage prospects. But, mostly, they loved us well, and accepted us, and our foreign ways.

Now where we are not minorities, we again find ourselves in the place of being judged for the color of our skin. It’s this strange place where no matter what we do and how loving we try to be, that underlying prejudice gets in the way. We feel helpless and know that, short of God’s intervention, there’s no escape from the challenge of overcoming prejudice.

We have always been open to receiving all foster children into our home, no matter their culture or race. But, it’s only when you receive children of another skin color that you realize how complex it can be.

First of all, we know our fair-colored skin makes it pretty obvious we’re not the girls’ bio parents. Like most kids in foster care, they want to keep this fact a closely guarded secret. So, we’ve had many discussions about how to explain our relationship to others. We’ve found common ground with them telling other people, “We’re staying with friends of our parents until they get their act together.” It’s mostly true. We’d love to be friends with their parents if they’d open that door.

Foster care tends to be messy. This issue is messy. It’s a combination of two things that cause the girls to experience anxiety because of our differences. The first issue is that they don’t want anyone to know they’re in care, but our different skin tones put a spotlight on this, and people ask questions. The second issue stems from the racism they’ve learned in their home. They wrestle with what they’ve been taught and told at home, and what they’re now experiencing. Somehow the two don’t match up and it’s confusing.

Living in this tension gives us a new vulnerability and perspective. The girls always notice when people stare at us in a restaurant or in public, whereas I have been oblivious to it. I thought it was a good thing that I was so clueless and somewhat “colorblind.”

For me, it just feels normal. They’re our girls and we’re simply a family having dinner. However,  I’ve had to make a shift and pay closer attention. I’ve learned to be more sensitive to what they notice and how they perceive their surroundings.

Some prejudices are taught, but I believe with lots of love and actual life experience, they can be unlearned. It seems we all carry some kind of judgment and prejudice that lurks beneath the surface. Only with God’s grace can we recognize and reconcile this. We are praying for healing for our girls, for ourselves and that we’ll all learn to see what’s inside the heart.

God is at work.

Recently, when I offered to attend the elementary school field day festivities, she politely declined, “Everyone will ask who you are and they’ll see you’re not my real mom.” I accepted with understanding, but felt sad I couldn’t be there for her.

However, two weeks later, when the end-of-the-year class party rolled around, she asked me, “You’re coming to the party, right?”

I needed to be certain. “Are you sure you want me there?”

“Yea, I wished you’d been at field day to cheer me on. I want you to come. It’ll be fun!”

 Something changed. The desire to have a loved one present and share her experience overshadowed her embarrassment and her fear of people finding out.

When I arrived at her classroom, she wrapped me in a big bear hug in front of everyone. And boy did that feel good!

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Beauty-and-the-Beast-disney“There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.”

― G.K. Chesterton

Hurt people hurt people. 
It’s sad but oh so true! If you think about it, our gut reaction to being wronged or hurt is to lash out. As we mature, we learn how to control these impulses and channel our anger and negative emotions so that we rarely hurt others.

Can you imagine Continue reading

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Good Enough

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The most common question we hear as foster parents is, “So, how’s it going with the girls?” That’s a loaded question even though it’s meant to be kind and inquiring. We can’t tell most people how it’s really going because so much is confidential, but we’re fairly open with our inner circle of friends about how much we struggle some days.

Most recently, we were asked how we felt we were doing as foster parents. As painful as it was, I answered truthfully, “Well, we’re keeping our heads above water. It doesn’t really come naturally to us.” I continued to bare my soul and shared how I look around and see some people seem made for this thing called fostering. Continue reading

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Super Powers

file1701243516609If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Me, I’ve always wished I could fly. Then I’d truly experience freedom. I could defy gravity and not feel so tethered to this world. I would soar above everything, and all below would fall into perspective.

Until this week, I’d always wanted my fantasy superpower to be the ability to fly. Now I’m wishing for a new super power: wherever I am – truth would be revealed. I don’t necessarily mean the kind of truth when someone tells me that I, in fact, do look kind of chubby in those pants or that it’s time to wash that grey right outta my hair.

No, I mean the deeper truth Continue reading

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