It’s Not All Sunshine and Rainbows 

 Last night as I was feeding my baby girl I could not help but think of my oldest daughter when she was younger. As baby girl sat in her high chair discovering her new found favorite food (spaghetti) she was all smiles.  The spaghetti was covering everything from her face to her shirt. She was a hot mess but she was loving it and so was I.  When did I become that mom? 


When my oldest was her age that never would have happened.  She was my first child and I was young (19) and in my mind I had to prove I could be a great mom to all those that judged me.  Her hair was always in place and never would I have let her play with her food making such mess, after all no respectable mother would do that.  If she did happen to get food on her face and hands she was quickly cleaned up and her clothes changed. So why am I not that mom now?

I will tell you why.  Now I know that these moments will pass by all to quickly. It seems like only yesterday I was bringing our oldest home from the hospital when in fact she is now 21 and a senior in college. Life goes by so fast we need to enjoy the little things and that includes dirty spaghetti faces.  No one ever said life would be prefect or that it would not get messy.  It’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows some days are going to be stormy and messy. But that’s OK it’s part of life. I was a good mom then and I’m a good mom now, I’m just different.
One thing that annoys me about social media sites such as Facebook is all the fake illusions.  If you take time to look at other people’s pages you will see that   “life is alway prefect”  Meaning that every photo they post their kids are posed perfectly, their jobs are going great, they love their spouse, their kids love each other more than anything, ect. It’s enough to make some of us feel less than adequate.  I mean most days I’m over here cleaning dirt of of my son’s face, wanting to kill my husband for working over for the third night this week,  cleaning up bathrooms where my sons have “tried” to hit the toilet, dealing with my daughter who wants to argue her point on why the sky should be purple instead of blue,  and breaking up the latest of the sibling fist fights.  My life is far from perfect and seeing others lives so grand did at one time make me feel like a failure.  Don’t get me wrong I have been known to post the ever so sappy “I love my husband more than anything” post but I also show the not so get moments of life.  Like when one of my potty training three year olds told me he “had went number 2” all by himself and I got excited ran to the bathroom only to find his “gift” in my hallway floor.   Why?  Because my life is not perfect.  I don’t want other struggling moms to think they are alone.  Like I use to after reading my timeline.  We are all moms (and dads) trying our best. I don’t understand why we compare our situation with others but we do we always do.  I don’t want others to to see a fake me. What they see if what they get.  Twenty years ago I worried how others seen me and how they thought I was doing as a mom.  Now I don’t care. I know I’m a good mom. And thanks to my older two children I know that I will miss cleaning up dirty faces and messy handprints off the walls all to soon.  Thank you Sie and Bub. Thank you.

I am blessed God gave me a second chance to enjoy all the little things being a mom means.  I am more relaxed with my parenting style this go around (maybe because I am seriously out numbered lol). I love seeing my kids be kids.  Jumping in mud holes, food on their faces, and dirt on their hands. They are enjoying their lives and that makes me happy.  Our family photos do not have us all looking at the camera with big smiles instead my beautiful chaos is well…. chaos.  Kids are running around, someone is always crying, and the only person looking at the camera is normally me.  That to me is prefect.   


At church last Sunday our pastor talked about Faith and how our plan is not always God’s plan.  We may have our life planned out stage by stage but if it’s not part of God’s plan for us it will not workout the way we think it should.  I never planned on being a mom to seven kids but God did.  I never planned on having kids so far apart in age but God did.  I never planned on adopting five little loves or moving out of state but God did.  His plan for us is so much more than we could ever plan for ourselves. We must have faith and follow Him even if it seems life will get a little messy in our eyes.  He does not promise us sunshine everyday but He does promise to carry us through the storms.   

From our beautiful chaos to yours it’s okay if life gets messy from time to time. We are not perfect. Our happiness will come from how we handle all of life’s little messes.

Foster Care : Every Child Needs a Hero 

Parenting is not an easy job. It is hard protecting our kids from all the dangers that surround them in today’s society. We live in a world overflowing with drugs, gun violence, school shootings, sex trafficking, bullying and countless other horrible things.  The world is not a safe place for anyone especially children. And if you’re a foster parent not only do you have to fight off the world you also have to work with a system that in many ways is broken.

We became foster parents to bridge the gap the kids get stuck in while their mom and dad try to figure things out.  So many kids are thrown into the system without any wrong doing of their own. One of my biggest pet peeves is when we have a child say under two years of age and someone finds out they are in foster care. Normally the first question out of that person’s mouth is “What did he(or she) do to get themselves placed in state care?”  Seriously ???  Like a child that young could do something that bad. Most of the children in care, including the older kids and teens, are there because of the bad choices their parents have made NOT because of what they have done.   

Kids in foster care have seen more, been through more, and lived with more than many adults. They need someone to let them be kids, someone who will love them as they are, who will fight for them and who will protect them at all costs. That’s a pretty big responsibility for a foster parent, but one we are were willing to take.

The system does not always make it easy. If you wanted to be heard then your best bet was to be at the MDT’s  (and we will pretend you get notified about all of these). These meetings are the one place foster parents can openly express their concerns for the child and where you will hear from the caseworker, lawyer’s, birth parent’s and GAL’s.  Every state and every county are different when it comes to allowing foster parents inside the court room. For example where we use to live foster parents were not allowed inside courtrooms during the case.  So I sat in the hallway at every hearing for every child so that the lawyers and judge knew I was there for my kids.  Because while they are with me in my house they are my kids. Correction even after they leave they are still forever mine in my heart.

The caseworkers are overworked so it is not always easy to get ahold of them and even if you do it may take  awhile for them to help you out. The red tape they have to go through to get what should be simple things done is unreal. So you learn to be patient with them.  We were blessed to have amazing caseworkers on most of our cases. In fact, I have become good friends with a few of them.  It is important to remember that while you have a question that you feel is “top priority” they have 30 other cases that have someone thinking the same thing. Email, text, call and leave a message whatever works best for them, keeping open communication is vital, just dont over do it, they will get back to you. Now I know not all caseworkers are good and that some kids get lost in the cracks of the system. It’s sad but true. Happens every day. There are way to many kids and to few good workers to care for their needs. 

As a foster parent our top priority is always reunification of the child and the parent. In many cases I did not want to agree with this.  It is the job of the worker, the judge, the lawyers and the system to figure out  what  is best for the child.  Many times as foster parents it feels as if our voices are unheard and our thoughts don’t matter.  But we fight for what’s right anyway. We fight to make sure the kids are taken care of, we fight for a stable home life, warm meals, therapy, and a loving home. We fight because its what’s best for that precious child looking up at us asking “Do I really have to go back there? I like it here. I have a bed and food everyday”  We fight so that they have a voice, even if it is a small one. We fight because we care.  We will always be the “bad guys” in the eyes of the birth parents. I have had many yell at me I was stealing their child away from them, when all I am trying to do is help them. I blame TV and movies for making  foster parents look like the bad guys all the time. Only on a rare occasion do you hear something good about foster parents. 

The truth is foster parenting is stressful however it’s one of the best decisions we ever made.  And if I were asked I would do it all over again.  It’s a long hard road, but if you can hold your own the outcome is beautiful. We have been blessed to adopt our five Littles out of foster care.  All of the court dates, the delays, the different caseworkers, the home inspections, the monthly visits, and the unknowns were all worth it.  On any given day in the U.S. there are an average of 650,000 children in foster care.  And of that around 7% are in care longer than five years.  It took 2 1/2 years from the time we first held our little guy until we were able to adopt him and his big sister. Our second adoption took 2 years. Thankfully in both cases we were the only foster home they were in, many kids are not as lucky.  With the goal being reunification the parents normally get chance after chance to improve their situation. If they are truly trying I am all for it. In many cases however it’s just a stall tactic and the ones that suffer are the children.  Give them a second chance yes, a third maybe, but a fourth, fifth, or tenth……no.  Many foster parents grow impatient and end up giving up as the weeks turn into months and the months turn into years, they decide the system is failing the kids and then the kids get moved from foster home to foster home. The kids deserve better. 

November is National adoption month. Foster care is a wonderful way to make adoption a reality.  In our six years  and over 20 long term placements we only had  one child go back to their birth parents one. All the other precious little lives were moved to their new forever home or we adopted them.  If you feel God is calling you to adopt, pray about foster care. There are so many kids in group homes right now that need someone like you. Why not take a leap of faith and open your heart to a child in need? It might just change your life. It did mine.

From our beautiful chaos to yours remember everyone needs a super hero in their life, someone willing to come in and safe the day. After all even Superman was adopted.  Are you willing to be that hero?

 

A Day in Our Life with Autism 

 If you have looked at any of my posts or know me personally you know that our JR is autistic. He however does not see himself as such. You see he has always been JR in our eyes. Autism does not define who he is, He defines who he is. If you know my son then you also know he is the most loving caring child around. He loves to give hugs, hi-fives, and he has been known to give a few kisses out in his day. His smile can make my worst day great and my worries disappear. He has overcome so many obstacles in his life and he has done so with a joyful heart and his infectious giggle.  He does not see himself as an “autistic child” he just sees what we see…our son, our charming, sweet son that God saw fit to bless us with.  Wish everyone could see him through my eyes.

The problem is not autism, it’s people who don’t understand it.  Let me share two somewhat recent events with you. I apologize in advance for some language:

Thr first from a few months ago on adoption day. A day that should be full of love, laughter and wonderful memories. I am thankful that baby girl is now forever ours, and now that I have all of my paperwork  in hand I feel safe in sharing.  
We were told our adoption hearing would take place at 1:30. We arrived at 1:15 with our large support group(seriously like 40 plus people) of friends and family there to celebrate with us, yes they all were allowed to be there the judge said we could invite whomever we wanted and he had preformed the boys adoption so he knew there would be many attending.   As luck would have it there was a case in front of us taking a while to finish up. We did our best to keep the children entertained in the hall while we waited our turn.  JR was playing and fell into the backdoor of the chamber hall, not even the courtroom door when the bailiff stuck his head out and said, “This is not a play area it’s a courtroom for God sake control your kid” and he slammed the door.  All I had time to say was ok.  Later the same bailiff stuck his head out the main door and said “Jesus fucking Christ are you all here for one hearing?” And slams the door again.  Around 2:15 after we had waited an hour in the narrow hallway, and were out of snacks, we were told to go in the courtroom. We did and there, we found the judge trying to decide which case needed to go next.  As we sat down JR looked up and saw the judge, he took off and went to sit on the “big seats” like he had at Alex and Eli’s adoption, which the judge had said was fine. Before I could grab him he was gone through the doors up to the seats. That’s when the pompous bailiff started screaming at my son saying, “this is a fucking courtroom act like it, Jesus Christ get ahold of your out of control child” along with some other things I could not make out because I was trying to get my kid. Who was now scared because this “man” had started screaming at him. We took all the kids out while they figured out what case was going to happen, I even apologized to the lady, who was obviously there for the other hearing  and she said,” no worries I have 3 boys myself they would have done it to”.  

Jump forward we are now back in the hallway and JR is in full meltdown mode because his friend (the judge) is in there without him.  Sierra offers to take him to the car because there is no calming him down. She misses all of the adoption. The only pictures she and JR are in are the ones we took before hand while waiting in the hallway.
We go back in and the adoption takes place and all is good, I do not see the bailiff’s face anywhere which is probably a good thing. Then it was time for pictures. We only did a few with the judge.  How could I do family photos with part of my family waiting out in the car?   
 If Mr bailiff had bothered to talk to me or any of us as a human he would have learned that my 5 yrs is autistic. If he does something one way one time he will always do it that way.  The 1st time we were in that courtroom, with that judge,  the judge allowed JR up front, he gave him M&Ms he became his buddy. He let them be kids because it was their day.  He had no right to yell at anyone like he did let alone yell at a 5 yrs old child, autistic or not. You Mr bailiff should be ashamed of yourself. I understand that this man deals with drunks and drug addicts all day long, so maybe he was having a bad day but this was a child, MY CHILD, and there is simply no excuse.
I am afraid he has now scared JR far worse than he will ever realize, in fact I am sure he went home and told your wife about that uncontrollable kid and then forgot all about him. But the problem is JR will remember him and those that look like him (other cops)  He will never want to go back to the courthouse he is scared. As a bailiff he was suppose to set and example for everyone to follow. My child may not have behaved the best, but he was doing the best he could.  I personally thought he was doing fine considering all the waiting we had done. And for the recorded most thought it was funny & sweet that he wanted to go set with his buddy the judge. The judge even asked where JR was after the adoption was done. So Thank you for being an ass and scaring my son. 

And now fast forward to a few weeks ago. JR and I were waiting on his bus to pick him up for school. As the bus pulled up so did a car going down the road.  I didn’t think much of it after all she did stop at the flashing sign.  I help JR up the steps and hand him over to his aid. She takes him to his seat and starts to buckle him in his seat belt.  I made small talk with his driver while we wait for him to get seated.  The lady in the car starts honking her horn repeatedly. I look over and she flips me off. The bus driver looks at me and asks “What’s her problem?” I said I didn’t know and that’s when the aid said JR was good to go and she sat down beside him. Taking four minutes tops. The bus pulls off (the ladies horn still honking) and I turn to walk back up my driveway. As I do so the lady in the car wipes around the bus with her window down yells “Its a bus stop not gossip time, some of us have things to do you stupid bitch”  I return the name calling as she drives off.  Not the most grown up thing to do but I was mad. I could hear her cussing me until her car was no longer insight.  What if that had been her kid? I guess I could think she was running late, or maybe she had gotten some bad news that morning in either case she still had no reason to act like that.  It’s a special needs bus, the stops take a few minutes longer The bus driver will not pull off until everyone is seated, that includes the aid. Just be patient.

I have cried more than I care to admit over both incidents. They both still make me so angry and upset when I think about them.  If they only knew my son. I pray that neither ever have to deal with the daily struggles of having a child with a disability. I pray that neither of them have to go through hours of therapy weekly for years just so their child can try to fit in with “the normal world”. I pray your child sleeps more than 10 hours in a week, or at least a few hours each night so you can rest. Running on little sleep would not do well with your aggressive attitudes. I wish you a life of ease for mine is not. Mostly I wish you took the time to understand before going off on MY SON. Its not easy seeing how others see your child you either get the “You poor thing it must be awful”  look or the reaction of the two individuals above. When people learn he is adopted we get the “He’s adopted right? Why pick a kid with so many issues?” Seriously ,we have heard that one more than once.  I won’t lie, there have been days I wish things were not as they are, some days all I want to do is cry and hold him tight. We deal with meltdowns and behaviors that many don’t have to, however there is beauty  in autism.  My son does not judge, he does not see race, he does not hate, and he does not lie. He does love, he does see the world in a beautiful light like so many of us can’t, he is full of life, he is a great big brother very protective and compatioante, and he is one of my greatest blessings.  If you could see the world as he does what a wonderful place this would be.  

FYI I did see the bailiff about a month later at another adoption (new cousins for me woohoo 💖💙) and he was much better in the courtroom,  no cussing this time around. And as for the lady in the car, the bus driver reported her and we have not seen her back down this way, I assume she is leaving earlier or taking a different route.  Let’s just hope it stays that way.

From our beautiful chaos to yours spend more time lifting others up. The world is full of heartless people it’s important for those in our life to know just how much they mean to you.

Elissa’s Chant

My six year old is struggling and has been for a while.  We are working on things and she really seems to like her new therapist but as her mom I still worry.  There are things that happened to her, things she lived through those first 18 months that affect her more than any of us could have predicted. I will never no everything that happened and I will never understand why bad things (neglect/abuse) happened to her. But they did so we must move forward. But it’s hard so so hard especially now that she is getting older.

One of the things we have noticed is she downs herself a lot. If she tries something new and is not successful immediately then she becomes frustrated and starts the “I will  never get it” “I can’t do this” “I just give up ”  Nothing breaks a mother’s heart more than seeing your child beat themselves up.  It’s such a lonely place when you can’t help them no matter what you try.

Yesterday did not help matters. It was report card day.  I was looking forward to it as well as dreading it. Does that make sense?  This was her first report card after our big move. New school, new teacher, new friends and new ways of doing things.  Stressed does not even cover what I was feeling.  She gets off the bus with a necklace around her neck.  She told me she won it for going to school everyday. Perfect attendance for the nine weeks. One would think she would she would be happy, not she was not. She quickly followed up with “Mrs X took me all the way down to orange (not good behavior) today I just quit”  I asked why she was moved down (past green, past yellow) ?  She replies “She expected me to stay in my seat all day, it’s just not fair”  We come in the house and I try to cheer her up but once she has hit that stage it’s almost impossible.  She pulls out her report card out of her backpack and slowly hands it to me. 

There in bold black letters I saw what I already knew. When it comes to her studies (math, reading, writing, ect) she is performing on average or above average for her age. Her classroom behavior was a different story. The teacher had said some things like “Does not listen, does not stay in seat, talks out of turn, does not follow directions” She had only one good mark out of the list of nine.  We went over the report card together seeing they use numbers instead of letters like they did back home. I could see in her eyes she was crushed. “I’M TRYING MOMMY I’M JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH” With that statement my heart broke and I took things into my own hands.

The report card does not define who she is. It’s just one thing about her. God does not see her as a child that acts up in school or one that can’t stay in her seat. He knows she’s trying, He knows there are issues. And HE LOVES HER ANYWAY!!!  I took the report card, signed it, placed it back in the backpack and went and got some construction paper.  And I asked her “Elissa how do you think mommy and daddy see you?” “How do you think God sees you?”  She lifted her head and through the tears she replied “You love me always right momma?”  And I answered “Yes”  We sat at the dinning room table and talked about things she liked about herself and things she thought she could improve on.  As we talked we wrote things down. “This will be my chant mommy. Every morning and every night I am going to say this.”  We took it to her room after she picked which statements she wanted on her poster and hung it above her bed. She was smiling from ear to ear. Before she went to bed she stood there and read her “new chant” loud and proud.  This morning after she got dressed she looked at me and said “Its chant time momma” and with me by her side she read it loud and proud again.  

This might not change her over night, but it is giving her a conference I think she needed.  Report cards are something many of us take way to serious. Children learn in different ways so they can’t all be graded the same. I know we have a long road ahead of us. And I know that we with make mistakes along the way, and that’s okay. God loves us anyway. Whether we are a straight A (or  all 4’s) student or if we are a D(or 1’s) student giving it our best. He loves us anyway. In time we will figure out her behavior issues together. Until then I will love her just as God loves her. 

From our beautiful chaos to yours don’t let reports determine the love you have for your child. They need to know we love them even on the not so great days. 

Who am I?

In the beginning I was just a dream of my mother’s. Then I became a daughter, first born child, to my parent’s.They are truly like no other’s.

As a child I was a granddaughter, apple of their eyes, stay and play with me awhile, card playing, garden helper, and slumber night at grandpa and grandmas kind of gal. 

I am a big sister, though sometimes not the best but siblings argue from time to time I guess.

I am an aunt of two spunky teens, they make me smile oh how I miss seeing them it’s been quite awhile.

For awhile I was Dave’s wife, mother of two, then I became his ex-wife if people really only knew.

 I am a survivor of domestic violence. It took years to escape, I had it search within to figure out this was not my fate. 

But who am I?

I am a Christian. I love my Jesus, the hallelujah host, I am not perfect not even close, so thankful for the times God love me most.

I am a friend, been both a good one and a bad. I have been there for some at their weakest moments, yet lost some because I was to consumed with life events. 

I am now Todd’s wife, mother of seven. I really miss living in WV “almost heaven”

There I was wife, mom, foster mom, adoptive mom, and so much more. Here I feel a loneliness  like nothing before. 

I miss my foster group meetings and dinners with the family. I miss my best friend’s girls night outs and and surprised bags of peanut M&M candies.

Don’t get me wrong I love my kids, our new house and state, I just wish I was adjusting faster and could have an occasional husband date.

Here I am only mom and wife, and half the time I don’t feel I am even getting that right.

I am now a Tennessean, Mountaineer at heart, Packers are my Pro team after all I am smart. 

I still hate frogs and stormy nights, but love to held around bonfire lights.

I am a kisser of boo-boo’s, a taxi, and a toilet bowl cleaner, sometimes life maked me just a little meaner. 

I am who I am, I’m lucky and blessed sometimes though I wish I knew who “just me” was I guess.

Do You Ever Think of Them?

A letter to our birth mom(s) ….

All the little ones are tucked into bed. I have finished the second round of check-ins to cover them back up, change diapers and kiss them once more. Life may be busy and at times overwhelming but I would not change a thing.

It’s in the moments like this I find myself thinking of our birth moms. Our adoptions were not the typical ones you see play out on TV or like the ones in the newspaper ads. We did not submit our story to an expecting mother for her to look over our file and pick us to be her child’s forever parents. We do not have an open adoption were we(the adoptive parents and birth parents)can share photos and stories about how the kids are and what we both hope their future holds. We do not share stories about our own childhood in hopes to give them the same type of wonderful memories. No our story is nothing like that….so I wonder.

I wonder if on their birthdays do you think of them? Do you ask yourself ” I wonder what toys they like now or how tall are they now?” I wonder if you think to yourself “School is starting soon, will she like her new teacher?” ” Will he ride the bus?” I wonder do you miss late night cuddles and having the magicial mommy kiss that can make the biggest boo boos all better? I wonder if you miss hearing the phrases I love you mommy or Can you tuck me in tonight? I wonder if you even realize what you have lost or have the drugs completely consumed you? I wonder and wait for the next call to come in saying ,”she’s had another baby.” I wonder if you miss them. I wonder do you ever cry yourself to sleep? Do you catch yourself looking in the crowd to see if anyone looks like what you picture them to look like. I wonder if friends or family still ask you about them? I wonder what their lives would be like if the state had not stepped in to save them. A million thoughts and questions run through my mind, especially late at night while I rock our youngest back to sleep or while our son is judged by outsiders on his actions, things he can not help because of the drugs and neglect he had to go through. I get so mad at you and the things you’ve done. You have no idea the damage you placed on their lives because of your choices you made without thinking of the outcome for them. But then God reminds me if it was not for you I would not have them with me. So I wonder what do you think of me?

I am thankful and grateful that I have been given the chance to be their mom. I am thankful for the few talks we had as we waited outside courtroom doors. I am thankful for a system, though broken sometimes, allowed us to keep 4 siblings together and also allowed us to adopted one who had no one. I could not picture my life without them so I wonder what your life is like without them. I wonder if they have your smile, your laugh, or if they have your personality. Does she get her unruly behaviors from you, does he think and solve problems like you? I wonder if they will ask me questions about you later in life. I wonder how I will answer these questions. I wonder if they will thank me for giving them a chance at a normal life or will they recent me for keeping you away from them? How will I handle that? I wonder if you pray for them and wish them well in their new life. Or if once they were removed from your care you never gave them a second thought? I wonder if your ok. I wonder if you are safe. I wonder if you even care.

I know you never planned for drugs and alchol to take over your life. I know that having your children removed and placed in state care was not how you saw things when you were a little girl. I know you must have been angry, scared, and maybe a little ashamed. But I need you to know they are okay. They are better than okay they are great. Know that I love them. All of them. I love them with every beat of my heart. I love early morning wake ups to giggling down the hall. I love story time and playtime and all the times in between. Know that they are happy, sassy, talented, and yes they fight with each other like all siblings do. Know that I vowed to each of them they will always know how special they are each and every day. Know that I am grateful you had them and did not abort them. Thank you for giving them the gift of life. I am blessed to have them here. I am blessed to be their forever mom.

I may never know the answers to these questions. And I guess I will be ok with that. I am thankful God placed each of them in my arms. I am thankful He had a plan for them when life throw them a curve ball. I pray for you and your life choices. I pray things start to look up and help is received.

I will continue to pray for you I know the circumstances where not what either of us planned but because of you I am mom to my beautiful chaos. We are forever connected in God’s great plan.

From our beautiful chaos to yours its okay to question the unknown but dont get stuck there.Someday you may get the answers you are looking for. Until then just have faith in God’s greater plan.