Friday, November 2, 2018

Lost Friendship & Lessons Learned

Our friendship began when we were nearly 11 years old. It was magnetic. She got me and I got her at a time in our lives when we were beginning to mature into the women we'd become. I trusted her enough to be vulnerable with my feelings and she was one of the rare people who saw me cry. Our friendship continued through high school and we decided to be roommates at college. It made sense, cause we already spent most of our time together.

We continued to room together through college and during our senior year, my then boyfriend asked me to marry him. I said yes. It was so exciting but much to my surprise, something shifted with our friendship. I didn't understand it then and instead got defensive. Why isn't she happy for me? Why is she ignoring me? Why does she seem angry and distant?

But I didn't say anything and I should have. We carried on semi-normally, and I asked her to be my maid of honor. She agreed with tears in her eyes and I felt like maybe we were back on track. Once I was married, the distance between my friend and I only continued to grow. There was an afternoon, after being married for not even a year, that she called me. With tears in her voice, she asked if she could move in with us. Not forever, of course, but for some time until she found a new roommate situation. Tim and I were living in a one bedroom apartment so logistically it didn't make sense to let someone sleep on our couch while we were still figuring out a new marriage. After some thought, I told her that we couldn't let her move it. Honestly, it's still one of my biggest regrets. When she needed me, I shut her out. Our friendship was already breaking and I shattered it beyond repair.

This loss felt incredibly heavy (and still does). My "friendship-esteem" was bruised. I went into friendship very timid and with lots of walls up for the next three years after. My friendships that I did form were surface. And then...

I gave birth to our second son and survived a hemorrhage that nearly took my life. That event was followed by PPD and I found myself feeling utterly alone. I wasn't, of course - I had my family. But I needed people who were actually living it along with me. This is when I decided to try a group called MOPS for the first time. I went reluctantly and desperately. I was reluctant to be in a room full of women, yet I was desperate for someone to tell me I wasn't alone in this journey. These women amazed me! They encouraged one another, they were vulnerable, they met the needs of each other, and they were friends. When I finally admitted my struggle, I had countless women lift me up in prayer, with coffee, and with stories of their own similar stories.

I've learned a lot in the past three years that I've been apart of MOPS. I'm continuing to learn what healthy friendship looks like through witnessing and learning from these incredible women. As cliche as it sounds, you have to be a friend to have a friend. They've shown me how to be a friend by being my friend, even when I had walls up.

Life doesn't have to be lived alone and with friendships that are only surface. In fact, it shouldn't be. As weird as it might feel at first, you have to open up. You have to go out of your way for people. Once you open up, they will open up and when they open up, you need to follow up. That's what we all want, right? Someone who can ask about the details of our lives and where we can feel safe to be make-up free, brutally honest, and have no fear of judgement. If we want that, we have to give that. It's seems so simple, but it will take effort. It certainly does for me. Look, I literally have to make reminders on my phone to ask certain friends about certain things that are happening in their lives right now.

There may be a lot of reasons to say no, but I've learned the hard way that I want to be the friend that says yes. I know that making a meal for another mama isn't convenient. I understand that telling another woman that you feel like a failure as a mom when everyone else seems to have it altogether isn't easy. It can feel overwhelming to open up your imperfect home (it's still such a struggle for me) and let others see that your kiddos aren't always pleasant little human beings. But I'm telling you from experience, if you don't, your friendships will disappear or at least become completely surface level.

Let's get out there and encourage each other as women through deep friendship!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

5 Things to Learn From Grandpa's Life

My Grandpa passed away yesterday. It was a fast and heartbreaking loss for my family. As I laid down last night, tears overwhelmed me as I thought of his life. He was an incredibly simple, loving, and hardworking man. Throughout my childhood you could always find Grandpa either restoring old tractors, helping Grandma fix a meal, watching old westerns, or giggling with his high pitched laugh about something one of the kids did. I realized last night that his life is really the opposite of what we are taught in my generation and I'm so inspired by it. To honor his legacy, here are 5 things to learn from Grandpa Arnold's life:

1. A simple life is not a life without impact. 
Grandpa has lived with my Grandma in a trailer home on land that is not his for my entire childhood. It's small. They have wild cats on the porch. Meals at their home would some times only be sweet corn and muskmelon. The living room consists of a 1980's television and three chairs - one for Grandma, one for Grandpa, and one for a guest. There are trinkets everywhere that each have a story, including three small wooden bears with the names "Michon" "Evan" and "Megan" that have been in the same spot for decades. Their walls are full of family pictures.
It's not what many would consider successful, but it's one of my favorite places on the planet. It's a place where love is felt and where you are always welcome. The minute you walk in the door, you are greeted with a genuine smile and when you'd go, a heartfelt hug and "love you" would be given. That is an impact that I want to continue in our home. It's simple and yet, profound. 

2. Love your spouse sacrificially. 
My Grandpa and Grandma's marriage was not perfect. However, time and time again, we witnessed Grandpa loving my Grandma sacrificially. A few years ago, my Grandma was in a car accident that led her to needing a leg brace. I caught of a picture of my Grandpa bending his aching back to help her adjust it: 
It's one of my all-time favorite pictures. I'm sure he was hurting in order to do this. I'm positive this was only one of many times he did this throughout one day. He didn't complain. He didn't make Grandma feel like she was being a nuisance. He just helped because his bride needed it. 

3. Be in the moment. 
My grandparents still have a landline phone. That meant that whenever they'd visit family or friends, a phone was not attached to them. When we visited their home, there was no television on and they'd often let the phone ring without answering it. Grandpa wanted to have face-to-face conversation and know the details of your life. Grandpa wanted to see his great grand-babies play and enjoy their energy. 

4. Laugh out loud. 
One of the things I wish I could experience one more time is hearing Grandpa's laugh. It was so high pitched and giggly that there were times I had no idea why he was laughing but would still laugh. It was contagious and he was unapologetic about it. He experienced joy in such simple things and didn't hold it in. 

5. Trust God. 
I saved the best for last. If you knew my Grandpa, then you knew of his faith in Jesus. It wasn't a "I know all about the Bible" type of faith, although I'm sure he did know a lot. It was an authentic relationship. You could see it by the way he lived, by the way he loved my Grandma, by the way he enjoyed his family, and by the way joy and contentment filled him. 

Although my heart is saddened, I know that Grandpa heard "Well done, good and faithful servant!" as he entered into Jesus' arms.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Difference Between Foster Care & Private Adoption

It's a question I get often: What's the difference between foster care and private adoption when starting the process?

They really are two different worlds! I thought going into the private adoption world with our second adoption would be fairly easy since we'd been through a foster care adoption. Boy, was I wrong! In light of this, I thought I'd break it down for anyone deciding which direction they want to go and how to get started.


Most people think of DCFS when inquiring about foster care, but there are smaller agencies that contract with the state to provide foster care services. For instance, we went through LCFS (Lutheran Children and Family Services). The benefit of going to a smaller agency is that they often don't have as big of a case load per case worker. For you as the foster parent, that means it can be easier to contact them and get your questions answered. To become a licensed foster parent, prospective foster parents are required to have a home study and take classes.For us in Illinois, we went through PRIDE classes and had a home study done. PRIDE classes were every Saturday for 4 weeks where you are taught about different behaviors that can arise in children in crisis and what a typical foster care situation entails. It was insightful and so nice to go through a class with other people who would be in the foster care journey alongside us.

The home study for foster care is, well, intrusive. But they have to be! I mean, the state is entrusting hurt children to you so they want to do all they can to make sure this is going to be a safe place. We had to divulge our finances, our marriage, our individual lives (past and present), our discipline plan, and a thorough house tour. As a part of the home study, you also will need to get fingerprinted for background checks and have a physical done by your family doctor. Basically, the case worker licensing you will know you better then most of your close friends! It helped me, though, to remember why they have to know everything. It's to keep children who have been through trauma safe, and in light of that it makes sense.

The home study cost: $0

When it comes to actually adopting through foster care, there is significant risk. From the first day you are placed with a child, you will hear the term "reunification" all the time. If the parental rights are not terminated, the goal will always be reunification; when the child(ren) is returned to their birth family. And it should be. In an ideal world, children would stay with their biological parents. However, we live in a broken world where children are sometimes not safe to be with their biological parents. Does this mean their biological parents are bad people? No. Does this mean that their biological parents don't love them? Absolutely not! What it means is that by the grace of God, you are not dealing with the cycle of abuse or addictions or deep hurt that many of these biological parents have. So the foster care system, at it's core, is attempting to help the parents with their hurt, cycle of abuse, and/or addictions in order to be reunified with their precious children.

We were told that it's a consecutive three strike system in Illinois. Parents have a certain time span to meet certain goals and if those goals are not met, it's a strike. If they get three consecutive strikes, then the goal of reunification is changed. That means if they get two strikes and then a pass, the strikes start over and that's how children can stay in limbo for so long. There are obviously pros and cons to the three strike system, but again at the core of foster care is a whole lot of grace for parents in order to reunify children to them.

If parental rights do end up being terminated either through the state or voluntarily, then the child is available to be adopted. There are attorneys who are approved through foster care agencies to complete adoptions. Once you complete adoption classes and more paperwork through a case worker, you can start contacting an approved attorney. The paperwork will be filed through the court and a date will be set for finalization. The typical time span from rights being terminated and finalization is anywhere from 3-6 months.

The cost of adoption: $0


Our private adoption was a little different because we were contacted by the expectant mom. I'm going to explain the process of private adoption in the typical way, though.

There a multiple agencies you can go through to complete a home study for private adoption. The home study is still intrusive but we felt like it wasn't as detailed as the foster care one. We still had to complete background checks and physicals. We also had to complete education hours, which we were given a list of websites to use. This made it easy so we could take classes over the web, based on when it fit into our schedule. While the home study is happening, a profile book would be completed. A profile book is a snapshot of your family that you present to expectant mothers making an adoption plan. The profile book tells the expectant mother who you are, why you want to adopt, and what your home life is like.

The home study cost: Anywhere between $1,000 - $4,000

Once you are home study approved, you can begin applying to agencies who work with expectant mothers wanting to make an adoption plan. The old-school way is to stay with one agency and wait among lots of family to be selected by maybe a dozen expectant mothers throughout the course of a year. However, I recommend the multi-agency approach where you would apply to multiple agencies across the United States in order to be presented to more expectant mothers then just a handful. It's important to note that you can only present to one expectant mother at a time, but when doing the multi-agency approach there are more opportunities to be presented.

If you are selected by an expectant mother, this is called a match. This is where the relationship can build with the expectant mother and the hopeful adoptive parents. Matches typically happen sometime in the expectant mother's second or third trimester but can even happen days prior to a due date or after a baby has been born. Either way, though, there are fees along with adopting privately. There are a lot of opinions on this and questions of why it is so expensive. My short answer is this: There are many people involved within the adoption making sure the expectant mother is well taken care of(which includes counseling, medical care, and basic needs), paperwork is filled out appropriately, and taking all of the correct legal steps. When you consider all that is involved within adoption, it then makes more sense.

Average cost of adoption: $35,000-$45,000

There is risk within private adoption, because the expectant mother is the mother until placement paperwork is signed. Each state is different, but in Illinois the placement paperwork can be signed 3 days after baby is born. This is important, because it gives the expectant mother time after the birth to think about this huge decision. If paperwork is signed, then you are able to take the baby home (given that the baby can be discharged) if you have adopted within your own state. If you adopt outside of your state, then you will have to wait out ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) for adoption paperwork to be processed by both states. On average, the wait for ICPC is 7-14 days but it can take longer.

Once placement has happened and you take baby home, the agency that did your home study will complete post-placement visits and they will help complete paperwork for finalization. Paperwork will be submitted to the court system by either the placing agency attorney or an attorney local to you, depending on the circumstances. You will then receive the date of your finalization which is typically 3-6 months after bringing baby home. The baby is fully yours once the finalization hearing is complete and the judge signs the decree.

Average legal representation: $2,500-$5,000

Once I spell this all out, it's common for people to feel overwhelmed by all the steps. But I know someone who can help! My sister-in-law, Susan, is an adoption consultant through Christian Adoption Consultants. She can help walk you through each step, create your profile, give recommendations on what agencies to apply to, complete your agency applications, and offer education and guidance throughout it all! You can read more about why to hire an adoption consultant on her blog.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Parenting is Hard & Sanctifying

"This won't be the last time that doctor appointments feel heavy and clinical terms seem overwhelming, but I promise you will never be alone in the struggle."

I wrote this nearly a year ago and little did I know how true that specific line would be. This last month has been hard. It's involved lots of different appointments, medication changes, and big emotions {from both of us}.

I think, as parents, we can get so wrapped up in our children's emotions that we forget to feel and process our own emotions. Legit, most of my days are "I see you're feeling _____" or "It's okay to be mad but it's not ok to do ______ when we're mad" or "Do you need a hug?" or "Can you try that again with kind words?" It takes a lot of effort to be the emotional regulator without losing your own emotion control all. day. long.

Sunday morning we had a particularly rough morning with J. His emotions were high and when his emotions are high his words get very hurtful {thank you, impulses}. I was at my wits end and just decided to get ready without responding. As I was doing my make-up, he walked up to me and asked, "Mommy, do you still love me?" Oh my heart. Immediately, I got down on his level and said, "Absolutely. Mommy can be mad and love you at the same time. My love doesn't ever go away." He smiled and went on his way playing.

That should have been the end of it, right? But it wasn't. The devil has a way of getting to me with parenting moments like this. I started having insecure thoughts like: Why does my son question my love for him? Should I be doing more?

On the way to church, I finally acknowledged my own emotions and the tears started flowing. If I'm honest, I've felt defeated and ill-equipped for a while. But God met me at church with a song:

"Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine"

It's exactly what I needed in that moment. I needed to remember that I can rest in Him, because where I'm ill-equipped HE isn't.

I'd love to wrap this up with a pretty bow, but that wouldn't be truthful. We are still in therapy. We are still working on new parenting methods. We are still just putting one foot in front of the other with God as our guide.

Parenting is hard and sanctifying and humbling and beautiful.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Being a Boymom & My Daughter

I thought that I was destined to be a boymom. 

I used to have bike races and dig in the dirt with the neighborhood boys and all through school most of my closest friends were boys. They were easy to get along with and didn't have all the complexities of what many female friendships often brought. They accepted me for me, cause let's be honest - I can be quirky. 

I've also always been a daddy's girl. We'd shoot hoops, work on landscape sites together, pretend we were in the WWE (I claimed Sting, while he claimed Hulk Hogan), and watch OSU beat Michigan year after year. I guess, I was what some would call a tomboy. 

Females were intimidating to me and many times I felt unaccepted by them. So, being a boymom felt comfortable. It's what I knew and what came easy to me. 

But then, she entered my world in late June. 
A girl means periods and prom dresses and boobs and body image and wedding dresses and hormones...all things that I stumbled through, at best. Can you tell that I was nervous!? Overjoyed, yes. But, nervous too.

However, this adorable and squishy girl has decided that I'm her favorite person. Me? She's only three months old, but nonetheless I am her favorite. I never would have imagined that I'd have a mama's girl on my hands. It is such a welcomed and sweet surprise! 

She gives me these whole body smiles and I continually feel lucky that I have a daughter. God knew I would have her as my daughter and when she looks at me for what a woman is, I hope she finds a woman who is confident in being imperfect and at ease in Jesus. I pray that she finds her value in Him and that she sees her beauty in being kind. 

And I realize she'll most likely turn into a daddy's girl. For now, though, I'm soaking her up! 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Waiting & Learning to be Still

When I'm particularly anxious, it drives me to keep busy. I want to avoid the situation causing the stress with movement and busyness. The last couple of weeks have been filled with anxiousness as we await the newest addition to our family. When the kids are awake, I'm hustling them to parks, play dates, and running errands. When they are down for a nap, I'm busy with everything and anything in the house - folding laundry (and actually putting it away because it's time consuming), doing dishes, vacuuming, and picking up toys.

When all of the chores are done and I actually sit still, I find myself wanting an escape from my thoughts. Sleep has become difficult. I'm distracting myself with mindless phone games, television, and pinning decor ideas on Pinterest until my thoughts are numb enough to fall asleep. I go to yoga once a week to "relax" but last week I literally had to walk out in the middle of it because my stomach was in knots.

It's hard for me to admit, because I've personally experienced God's faithfulness countless times especially with the adoption of Jacob. Yet, here I am struggling to trust Him. Today the chores waited while the boys napped, because the busyness has left me empty. What I was trying to distract myself from isn't getting any easier. I'm now desperate to be still with the God who has it all in His hands. I opened my devotional and this prayer really challenged me:

"Help me to trust you, because you are worthy to be trusted. You alone give good gifts. In faith I will rest in you for my future and the future of my family." - Adopted for Daily Life

I want to rest in Him. I want to rest in knowing that He knows the details and in His perfect timing. But geesh! Right now it's a daily hourly battle. Today I got vulnerable with Him and through tears begged God to anoint us with peace as we walk in this vastly unknown situation.

Will you join us in praying? We've been blessed to have so many of you walk alongside us and ask how things are going or if there are updates. To be honest, we are simply waiting and there is little known to us. We'd love your prayers for health of the baby and mama, peace for us, and wisdom for the doctors and nurses who will be involved.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Why Mommy Cried & Your Potential


The doctor explained, "He's a good boy. He has a good heart. He just has an impairment with impulse control and regulating emotions." I felt the tears well up in my eyes and allowed them to flow freely. He was saying exactly everything I knew to be true in my heart, yet felt weary of at the same time. You quickly came to my side after playing intently with the toys and asked, "Mommy, why are you crying?" I didn't have much of an answer in the moment but I want you to know it's because...

I hate to think of you struggling. I want life to be easy for you. I don't want cycles to continue in you. I can't control that as much as I wish I could, however I can tell you what I see when I look at you.

I see a boy with incredible potential. I see a boy who is smart, sensitive, happy, energetic, a leader, and passionate about EVERYTHING. My constant prayer is that you see that in yourself. That these diagnoses don't hinder you and that you believe you can be batman, a police officer, a firefighter, a daddy, and/or whatever you dream of next. Because, buddy, you truly can.

Today, though, Mommy has to sit in the grief of knowing I can't take it away for you. This won't be the last time that doctor appointments feel heavy and clinical terms seem overwhelming, but I promise you will never be alone in the struggle. Your father and I will walk alongside you as best we can, all while leaning on God to be our ultimate guide. Our goal is to give you treatment options, but also not let it define you. We want you to know that having a diagnosis doesn't make you less than, but only adds to your strength as a person when you overcome or learn to live with them in a positive way. We're in this together, babe.

Love you always,