Monday, July 30, 2012

Yes, West Virginia, there Is Wi-Fi

It has been a relaxing, fun, enjoyable and different few days without Wi-fi.  I guess it's really only been 2 full days, but it seems like quite a bit more.  

Saturday morning Bart did his Riding the Monsters Down worskhop at NACAC.  If you haven't yet been there to check it out, you should look at the blog he is now doing.  It's been a while since he has blogged consistently, so I'm hoping people will check him out.  He's pretty insightful you know -- even if I am his wife and my opinion is biased, I'm sure others would agree that he's amazing.  You can find the new blog here.

After his presentation I hung around at the hotel and attended another seminar -- and then went to the Awards Luncheon.  Our friend Pat did a great job with the closing keynote and it's always inspiring to hear the stories of those who are making a difference in our country for the sake of children.

We were then off on our vacation - -Bart and the three boys and I.   We had seafood on our way to the house in Bolivar, WV that Matt and his wife are generously letting us stay in.  Matt is the coauthor of my third book, Okay, Which one of You Took My Sanity and he's such great guy!  

The highly esteemed president of Adopt America and her family have joined us for a few days and we've been having a great time.  Saturday night our boys joined forces for some rousing video games and we hung out with their girls.   On Sunday after church, Matt came in from the City to take our boys down to the lake.  Bart and I did a little sight seeing and we came home to find that Wendy and Steve had prepared dinner.  We had a great deal of fun telling stories upstairs while listening to the boys scream at the Wi and each other downstairs.

This morning Matt has returned for more tubing fun for the kids and Bart and I have found the library with free Wi-fi.   We are enjoying ourselves.

Life is going nice and slowly right now and I like that.  Vacations should go by really really slowly....

Friday, July 27, 2012

How's NACAC Year 7: The Re-Ignition of Passion

In case you've been my blog reader for a while, you might know that in 2005 I started a tradition of blogging about NACAC from the conference.

Here's the history of those posts.

Pittsburgh 2005

Long Beach 2006

Tampa 2007

Columbus 2009

Hartford 2010

Denver 2011

Being an adoptive parent or working in the field of adoption can be absolutely exhausting.  We can lose our way at times and forget why it is we do what we do.  We can find ourselves almost in a fog ... overwhelmed by the day to day things that surround and plague us.  But NACAC is a place to go to recognize and reignite the passion that moved us forward in the first place.

Remember before you got that first adoption job or before you had that first placement?  I sure do.  Bart and I were out to change the world, one child at a time.  Having been convinced that keeping kids from aging out of foster care was one of the best ways to change the world, we dove into adoption with lots of gusto.  But somewhere along the way we faced some pretty serious days and were repeatedly disappointed.

The same thing happened as I began to work in the adoption field.  Helping friends adopt the first two kids I ever placed was a rush like none other.  Being involved in a match -- or sometimes as many as 80-100 a year -- was adrenaline producing.   And it was like a drug-- this passion -- moving me forward, onward, upward.  But then there was the first time a match fell through - the first time a child I placed ended up in residential treatment -- the first time one of the kids I placed disrupted... and suddenly I started wondering why I had chosen to do what I do.

But each year, as I went to NACAC, it all came back to me.  I rubbed shoulders with, hugged, talking to, listened to, and talked with an audience of people who shared my passion.  Some of them had forgotten it too -- and being together somehow reminded us once again.

In recent conference my passion has been rekindled and reignited by being around people who have heard me speak in the past -- just today I saw so many.  It was so fulfilling to listen as they shared with me how something I had said at a past NACAC conference or other event where I spoke changed their lives in a positive way.

So being here helps me to remember.    I remember that children grow up better in families.  I remember that empowering parents to change themselves leads to more successful placements.  I remember that together -- these people that I have grown to love and I -- ARE making the world a better place because we have adopted or worked in adoption.

Bart and I always leave with new ideas of ways to better parent our children.  I leave with a new desire to be even more effective in my work.  And this year Bart was even inspired to start a new blog about adoption and spirituality called Adoptionality:  Spirituality for Adoptive Parents.

NACAC is that time each year when those of us who are in the trenches can come together and see that flicker of passion in the eyes of someone else who also sees it in us.  That passion reignites ours and suddenly we join together to become a powerful fire.   We take that fire back to our families, to our counties, to our agencies so that people see it in us and their passion is reignited as well.

My role at NACAC has changed.  I have gone from being a wide-eyed observer that nobody ever heard of to someone that many recognize.  But I still need reignition.  I still need to come every year to see and feel passion. 

Tomorrow my good friend Pat will conclude the 38th Annual NACAC Convention with a closing keynote and it will be officially over.  But the rekindled fire of passion from the conference will spread across the country ultimately igniting others who will go on to change this world one child at a time.


I really intended to blog before this.... really I did.

On Wednesday I got my email caught up (YAY) before leaving.  We were at the airport by 2... and on the plane by 4:30.  So far, so good.  Boys were being appropriate, Bart and I were feeling good... and then we got to Newark around 8:00.  Our next flight was supposed to be at 9:30 -- to arrive at 10:45.  We waited.  The flight was bumped to 10:45.  Then 2:20.  Then they were saying 3:32.  By that point in time we were feeling like it was going to be quite a long night...

About 11:30 they offered us a night in a hotel and food vouchers.  We took them.  We ended up in a pretty crappy Ramada in a not so nice part of town but at least we had two rooms -- because I had to sleep with no clothes after I washed my them out by hand .....  

We had to be on the shuttle by 7:30 am. but we had $20 a piece to spend in the airport for meals.... so we had a nice breakfast and then went to the gate.  Our 9:30 flight finally left at 11:30 -- landing me in the airport less than 2 hours before the institute I was supposed to attend.  Fortunately Matt of OWOYTMS fame who was copresenting with me offered to pick me up and I presented in my dirty clothes from the day before with no makeup, deodorant or toothpaste having been used since the day before.  It was pretty gross. 

I made it through the 3 hours though and then we had dinner as a family in our hotel after I walked home in 100 heat with my back aching.  I hadn't had any blood thinner or water retention pills or anything and you should have seen my ankles.  They are even worse tonight.  I'd post a picture but it's way too gross.

Today I spent the day at the conferenc while Bart took the boys to the Aquarium and both the natural and national museums.  I enjoyed a  lot of time with Pat O'Brian of You Gotta Believe.  We had breakfast and then I presented with da boss at AAN, Wendy, and it was a good seminar.  Lots of energy and questions...

Lunch was with Kathleen and we had a couple hours together -- it was great to hang out with her.  I learned a lot and enjoyed our time together.

Got to hang out with Pat for another couple hours this afternoon and then the kids and I had dinner with him before heading home.

Tonight or tomorrow I am going to attempt to write my What is NACAC post -- something I've done at nearly every NACAC I've been to.

I sold almost every book I brought -- but there weren't too many....

So far I've enjoyed myself quite a bit.  The kids we have with us are relatively compliant and we've had a good time.  After tomorrow I may even actually spend some days as if I'm on vacation :-)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Time to Pack Once Again

It's been a couple months since I have been on a plane -- but that doesn't mean I haven't packed .... the big move insured that I didn't have packing free months.

We're off for Washington DC to go to NACAC... and then some days in Harbors Ferry West Virginia thanks to our new friend and co-author Matt Hoffman. We are looking forward to some good days and I'm even going to be forced to relax a little because there is no wifi at Matts. I know, I know, whatever will I do.... Now if I can't get a signal on my phone I may just lose it ;-).

I'll try to remember to blog -- but that might not happen regularly -- just so I can prepare you all ahead of time....

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

NACAC -- Who's Going?

Who is going to NACAC?  Looks like the kids and Bart are ditching me for both lunches.....

Kathleen, frequent blog commenter and expert on several things, is planning to be there I know -- maybe a few of us could get together.

Anyone?  anyone??
Today Jimmy left for Job Corps. 

Jimmy was nervous but excited for something new.  We think he will do well.

Last night Sadie returned ... and she was ready to go back.  She has adjusted and even though there are things that she doesn't like about it, her weeks of helping us convince Tony to go back and helping us get Jimmy ready have talked her into a better place.   She has a goal to finish by her 18th birthday (November 15) which is not completely unreachable, though few have done the program that quickly.  It is much easier for her because she is only 30 minutes away and gets to come home on weekends.  She is planning to get involved at church and even join their praise band.

Tony is hopefully on track to finish.  He keeps talking about quitting ... but he said he wasn't going back and he's back!

So far we have found Job Corps to be very helpful and the staff to be great.  Our kids feel like they are on their own and yet they have plenty of supervision.  AND I'm not the person they are rebelling against.

It feels really weird to only have three kids at home, but I think we might get used to it...

And we are leaving for NACAC tomorrow....

Monday, July 23, 2012

Where Did Your Mind Go First?

I realized something very interesting this morning.   When I first heard about the shootings in Colorado, my mind didn't go to the victims.  It didn't even go to their families.  It first went to the parents of the shooter.

Where did yours go?

It's not that I don't have compassion for the victims -- or their families.  But I can't imagine what it would feel like to be the mom of the shooter.   What if she was a good parent?  What if he is mentally ill and his parents had tried everything?

My kids aren't killers.  But it is difficult to be the parent of someone who causes other people pain -- in whatever capacity.  So being the parent of someone who would cause THAT much pain -- I can't help but feel for them.

Apparently at least one other person agrees with me. 

But maybe this sets me apart as different -- like so many things do -- from "normal" people.   Maybe it makes some people angry -- especially those who aren't sure they even believe in mental illness.

But it's who I am.  It's a part of me.

Bart is presenting at NACAC on Friday a seminar called Riding Your Internal Monsters Down.  As adoptive parents we have them - those internal monsters.   But it's in the riding down of those monsters that we come more human -- more compassionate -- more inclined to offer grace.
Sixteen years ago Bart and I made a decision -- right about this time of year -- to submit our paperwork into the county to become foster parents.  And because of that, we never have been, and never will be the people we were before.   It's no surprise that I'm not thinking like everyone else any more, because I've been forever changed.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Acting Myself into a New Way of Thinking

I think I mentioned that last weekend we saw the Church Basement Ladies in a play called "A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement."  It was delightful... but one of the lines that they kept repeating over and over again was this:

I'm going to act myself into a new way of thinking instead of trying to think myself into a new way of acting.    

It was repeated multiple times during the play.  And it definitely applies to love that is a commitment and not an emotion.

Four different times since I have started blogging I've mentioned a concept that CS Lewis taught to his readers have become his students of religion and philosophy.   The most recent was in April and I wrote about it at length in a post called "What's Love Got to Do With It." 

He says:
“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”
So Lewis must have inspired the Church Basement Ladies.  Obviously their point is that it works better to start doing the right things until you think the right things than it does to wait to for your thinking to get you to the place you are ready to do.  

An example.  This morning I had a very hard time with one of my kids who is going back to Job Corps tomorrow.  He, as he has so many of the Sunday mornings of our 16 years together, was awful-- swearing, defiant, obnoxious, casting the blame on me, and attempting to do anything he could to ruin my day.

When we finally all got to church (fortunately Salinda is here today so she could help transport) it worked out that he sat next to me in the pew, quite closely actually.  I was annoyed.  I didn't want to sit by him and I couldn't get myself to a place mentally where I wanted anything to do with him.  My whole inner being was crying out for a break from him....


I decided I could at least act in decent ways even though my thoughts were negative.   I spoke nicely and softly to him.  I didn't say anything negative to him.  I shared a few things about the church with him (this was his first Sunday there).  And all of the sudden I realized that my mind was saying things like "you know, he's not so bad after all."  

Whether or not that last statement is true is irrelevant.  The miracle is that as my actions were what led me to think and feel better about him.   I acted myself into a new way of thinking.

I don't always do well with this but I think it's a hugely important principle for parenting tough kids.  Next time you are struggling with one of your kids -- try acting yourself into a new way of thinking instead of attempting to think yourself into a new way of acting.

Just sayin. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I Ran Away (and always remember to hit publish)

Before I get started let me say this.

If you only have time to read one blog entry today, don't read mine.  The Adoption Counselor has some pretty important and profound stuff to say.  She is articulating some of the things that I have been trying to put into words for a long time.. and any time that someone agrees with me I conclude that they are especially brilliant.

So read her first -- and then if you have time read my stuff....

From Thursday morning:

I got up this morning facing a deadline -- a Powerpoint I needed to finish for one of my NACAC seminars next week.  And I needed to be able to focus.

Except for one of my children was awake and began immediately to push my buttons.  He is so oppositional and turns things around very cleverly to prove that I'm the one who has the problem.  He's completely unreasonable... but twists things so it appears that I am.   Ugh.

So anyway, I finally just walked away and left him to do the very thing he was arguing with me about doing (it involved the TV) so that I could focus on this.  But he followed me cussing me out the whole way.  

I grabbed my computer and cord -- didn't even bother with the case -- and put my shoes on and ran away to the coffee shop.  Fortunately I was able to calm myself down long enough to get most of my presentation done.  I still have a ton to do before we leave on Wednesday...


Saturday morning:

AAAGHH.  I thought I had finished this blog entry on Thursday.  Then I took Sadie to meet Salinda and Gabby half way so Sadie could help babysit.  Then my computer charger decided to die so I had to run to get a new one, have supper, and then head to a meeting.

(by the way, if you are interested, the meeting was about a new ministry we are going to be starting at our church to provide a faith-based ministry for individuals with special needs and their families.  If you're interested let me know.)

Yesterday was a nutty day -- had to leave at 6:45 for a day of appointments.  Tony and Jimmy had begged to come along and since Jimmy always does such a nice job of cleaning my office, I let him come.  What a day it was.

We drove 90 minutes or so, stopping to grab breakfast, and then I took them to a park and dropped them off and then headed to a meeting where one of the families I work with was matched with some kids.  EXCITING.   One of my favorite things to have happen....

I then picked up the boys and I had a conference call which I had to be part of from 12-3.  I had planned to do it at my office while the boys cleaned it.... all my stuff for the meeting was online  and required internet access.   About 20 minutes before the meeting was supposed to start I realized that I had left my keys to the office at home -- they were on the key ring with the van -- which, if you're keeping up with things, has been stolen.  Thus I didn't realize I needed my keys and grabbed Barts instead.

So I had to find a restaurant that had wi-fi for the conference call.  After that I met with another family having dropped the boys off to see some friends in a nearby town... and then we headed home.

Afterwards we went over and had a blast with some really nice people -- you know, the ones who can't help but be nice.  The servant type.   They go to our new church and somehow I invited us to their place for dinner with the dad coming to our house to pick up a couple kids and then returning them when we were done.  They fit so well into gift set ...

you've probably heard me say it before but my gift is to be a servee.  I exist so that people with the gift of servanthood have someone to serve.

That's why Mike and Kari were such an excellent fit for our family.  They both have servant's hearts.  But they have moved on an let d now have new friends that they are spending the whole weekend with so I guess I  just need to let it go....

:-)  (I hope you know when I'm messing with people and that I'm not always serious).

This morning i have a conference call about something I can't tell hardly anyone about yet -- which makes it tricky to blog because I have a big mouth.

Then this afternoon we're off to do the final shopping trip for Jimmy who is heading to Job Corps on Tuesday and to pick up a few things for Tony who is returning Monday morning.  Salinda, Sadie, and Gabby are coming home tonight -- and tomorrow we have a fun picnic to attend.

Life is so busy and so good now (though I do miss my husband).  I have been having more conversations with my new Jewish friends via email and I can't wait to share some of their insights... but time is something I simply don't have.

Hope everyone is staying cool enough to survive.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Refined Parents

I was instant messaging Kari via Facebook this morning and we were talking about how sometimes it's not really about our kids but it is about us becoming better people through figuring out what to do with our kids and the strength it brings enduring the trials we face.  She said that a fellow adoptive mom -- you know who you are -- refers to us as "refined" parents.  Couldn't help but have the old song pop to my mind "Refiner's Fire" by Steve Green.  I told her that she should blog it.  She told me to because she's too tired.

When I was googling it to put the YouTube here I ran across this song, which I also love.

So here are both of them -- a gift from Kari and I to you -- if any of you share our faith and see how this applies.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Hospital Census

We get asked the question often, "How many kids do you have at home?"  You'd think that would be an easy question for most people to answer, but it's never easy here.

For example, what does the question mean?  Does it mean how many are actually at home at this moment or how many will sleep here tonight?  Does it mean how many are living with us as in calling their home our address?  Or does it mean how many actually sleep there every night?  Or does it mean how many of them don't have another place to live?  And, wait a minute, do you mean kids as defined as people up to age 18 or are you talking about all of the kids who call us parents?  And how do grandkids and grandbabymammas and grandbabydaddies count?

Bart says that our household census is more like a hospital census.  Let me show you what I mean.   Here is the number of people who slept in our home during the month of July

July 1:  6
July 2:  7
July 3:  7
July 4:  5
July 5:  5
July 6:  4
July 7:  7
July 8:  4
July 9:  4
July 10:  4
July 11:  4
July 12:  4
July 13:  4
July 14:  3
July 15:  8
July 16:  8

See?  Nuts, isn't it?  And the people and players change.  The only one who has consistently been here every night (besides Bart and I) has been Dominyk.  It's nuts.

So this morning Bart left too -- leaving me here with six kids and a car that seats 5.  It's going to be a long week.

He went to Florida to cool off.  Ironic huh?  He has his spiritual formation academy which he loves and I wouldn't take it away from him in any way, but not having the van is a huge inconvenience.

One more random thought.  It's John's 22nd birthday.  Sad he's in jail. I think I'll leave that topic alone for no cuz it's time for me to get to work before they all wake up!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Just Like Parents

This is a Christianish or possibly Jewishish post because I talk about God.  So if that bugs you you don't have to read it.   I won't feel bad (in fact, I won't even know!!).

Yesterday my husband was having children's time at our new church (Brunswick UMC in Crystal).  He was planning to preach a sermon called "God's Divine Adoption Plan" in which he would weave our personal adoption story into the verses in Ephesians that talk about how God adopts us. 

You never know what kids are going to say but you couldn't have scripted it better.   The conversation went something like this between the pastor and the kids.

Who does God love?


Does God love you?


Does God love you all the time?


Does God love you when you are good?


Does God love you even when you are bad?

yes, they all said.

And then one of the little girls said, quite loudly, 'just like parents!"

Yes, folks, that is the whole point.  God is a parent who loves us when we are good but also when we are bad.  And everyone deserves an earthly parent who can do the same thing.

I learned long ago that love is a commitment not an emotion.  There are days when I don't particularly like my kids or enjoy some of their behaviors.  But I never stop loving them. Because love is not a feeling, it is a decision.

I want to be the kind of parent who, like God, loves my kids when they are good and when they are bad.  

As Pat O'Brien says as he shares the feelings of adopted older teens:

"May you love me the most, when I deserve it the least, because that is when I need it the most".

I'm grateful today for that reminder from a preschooler and hope that I can continue to love my kids even when they are "bad."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Zero Kids Waiting July Newsletter

We're getting closer to Zero all the time in Minnesota.  Check out this newsletter with some helpful links....

Taking Time for Some Fun

I'm in my element lately -- I love new things!!! and I love being busy and meeting new people and so the last couple of days have been good ones, but very busy!  So I'm taking some time for fun this weekend.

My meeting Tuesday morning is something I probably shouldn't talk much about, but last month I ran uncontested in a non-election to volunteer to serve as our state's Task Force on Permanency facilitator (did I tell you this?)  Since matching is my passion, this is a great opportunity to make an impact.  We had a very good turnout and there was lots of positive energy and interaction in the room.

Then Thursday night I met with some wonderful women who are putting together the 2nd Annual Christian Foster and Adoptive Parenting Conference on October 27th.  Please save the date as this is going to be a great day.  We are calling the conference "Choosing Hope" and anyone who is a person of Christian faith who either is or is considering this type of parenting should be there.  Bart, Kari and I as well as my friend Deb will all be speaking and several others who are not in the current "circle" of adoption support speakers in Minnesota which will be great.

Yesterday morning I drove down to meet a new family who is interesting in adopting.  I always love those initial meetings.

But once I got home from that around 1:30 and made some phone calls and sent some emails it was time to have some fun.  And that we did.   Before seeing the play "The Church Basement Ladies" we went to dinner at the restaurant at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Plymouth.   They had a pasta bar which was really really good.  It was sort of a Mongolian grill concept where you chose your meats and veggies for the pasta and then had them sauteed in front of you by a chef.  Choose one of three noodles and one of two sauces, add some parmesan cheese.. to DIE for.  Included in the price were decadent desserts -- all you can eat buffet sample, so tried three.  And, to make it even better, some of our new parishioners bought us a membership to a new dining club and we had a buy-one-get-one-free card so the whole meal for Bart and I was $21.00!!!!

The play was great, the food was awesome and, oh, yeah, we went with fun people (Deb and Nate) who also let Dominyk hang out at their house.   The night was wonderful.

Today I get to meet the BFF for coffee at a Dunn Brothers here in the Cities.  Kari is doing a presentation and so I'm going to have the opportunity in just a couple of hours to see her Big Fat Fanny.... and then this afternoon I'm going to relax and watch a movie on Netflicks on our huge TV.   (of course, I will still work some, but tomorrow I go from being the parent of 2 at home back to six, which is more than we've really had since May 29th.  Alone too as Bart is going to Florida.  But on the 23rd Sadie and Tony go back to Job Corps and Jimmy leaves on the 24th to head to Wisconsin to be in Job Corps with Tony....

Sometimes life is just really good... in spite of the drama of our adult kids and the stolen van ... funny plays, good friends, make your own pasta, and unlimited deserts.. and a day with only two kids to worry just doesn't get any better than that.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Had company for dinner last night and then went to bed, deciding I was way too tired to stay up and finish all the paperwork for my meeting this morning so I would just do it when I woke up.  Except that after my shower I came upstairs to discover that our van was stolen.  Yes, our dumb 7 year old, 160,000 mile (but paid off!) vehicle was gone.   Very annoying.  I had to take Bart to work and then drive the car to my meeting and my lack of preparedness I think made a few people angry. 

Bart has made the police report and called insurance, but this is a MAJOR inconvenience and just thinking about all I will need to do in regards to this has my mind spinning.  In fact, the whole thing has me exhausted so I'm going to take a nap.  Like right now. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When They "Age Out" of Us

In the comment section of a somewhat controversial post called "That's What Rents Are For" one of my readers made a very insightful statement that has had me thinking for ten days.  And that takes some doing ;-)

The comment was : 
You are assuming those children aging out of the foster care system want a family and everything it involves. Five of our adopted children have a family and I guess you could say they have 'aged out' of us. If we are not giving them things then they don't need us, want a relationship with us or have us involved in the things LT posted about. They 'aged out', left and here we sit shocked because they want that good life their bio fams modeled. I am not sure if they will ever 'age in' to our family.
We know exactly what that feels like.  We have several of our children who have left our family before or shortly after their 18th birthday to do all kinds of interesting things.  And they pop in and out when they need something simply to return back to a lifestyle that is harmful to them and completely against everything we have ever taught them. 

One of the hardest things about being an adoptive parent of adult children, especially during the ages of 16 to 25, is watching them walk away from really good stuff to really bad stuff.  As they leave our homes they express no gratitude for what we have tried to do for them and it is very painful.  I have had to battle resentment toward them daily for years (and I'm not always successful, but I know that resentment hurts only me as I pointed out in this blog post from three years ago).

But when I ask myself if my children are better off than they would have been had we not adopted them then the answer I always come back to is yes.  Because even for kids who, as the commenter pointed out above, don't want a relationship with us or have us involved in their lives, they have a choice.

Transition years are really tough for a lot of kids -- not just adopted kids, but for adoptees they are very complicated.  But our kids know (and by our I mean all of us who remain committed to adult children even when they aren't doing exactly what we prefer) that if they hit bottom there is someone to call.  Maybe they will call us and all we can say is, "I'm sorry that that happened to you, no we aren't going to give you more money, but we love you."  But even though that isn't much it is more than the kids who age out of the foster care system.

I look at some of my kids right now and I think that there is a good possibility that if they had stayed in foster care they would be in nearly exactly the same position they are at the moment (jail, unplanned children, on probation or parole, broke, unemployed, relationships disintegrating, etc.)   But there is a difference.  They have someone.

I have often said, "Having a mom or dad to call from jail is much better than not having a mom or dad to all from jail."

No, it wasn't my dream for my children.  But I tell myself daily that I am doing what I'm doing because it is the right thing to do -- regardless of the results.  They are my children and there is nothing they can do about that because I claimed them.  And even though I make tons of mistakes in my parenting, I'm not giving up on them.

There are a couple more reasons why I still would do this again even if all of my kids "age out" of us.  One is for the next generation.  The children who I am now parenting, at least according to the social workers in the regions they came from, had no viable relatives who could or would step in to care for them.  My grandkids do because they have us.   I'm very grateful that they don't need that -- they have plenty of support and my kids or their counterparts are doing a great job with the babies... my grandchildren are attached and did not have prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol.  That generation has a better life because of what Bart and I are attempting to do as parents.   I was telling a friend yesterday who shares my passion that we have several children who if their children stay out of the system will be the first generation in 4 to not be in foster care.  Their parents were, their grandparents were, and their great-grandparents were.  Breaking that cycle is a powerful thing and so far it looks like we have done that by adopting the parents of our grandchildren.

The next thing is that we offer our kids a choice that without us they might not have ever been able to experience.  We show them what it means to live in a healthy family.  Those of us who are in a relationship model what a healthy one looks like on a daily basis.  We model the value of education and some of us acquaint them with a faith community.  We show them what it means to go to work, pay bills, budget money,  balance a checkbook, eat fairly healthy meals (some of us healthier than others, big smile), and the list goes on forever.  Exposure to all of this may never had happened had they stayed in the foster care system and been shuffled from group home to residential treatment, etc.

Finally, as I tell my kids often, "it's not over 'til the fat lady sings, and I ain't singing."  We have no idea what will happen in the future.  I have a younger brother who was an alcoholic from 21-40 when the doctors told him he would die if he kept drinking.  I believe he has been sober since.  My parents, wonderful people who raised him right, prayed that he would stop drinking for 20 years.  He did.  But it took 20 years (and he was raised by amazing parents who did everything "right."

So the bottom line is that it is not over yet.  These nutty kids who are finding their way in this world as young adults may just come around.  It may not be until our death bed, but some day they may say thank you.  Between now and then they may "age in" to our families again.  But even if they don't they still have that choice.

And that's the difference.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Random Details from the Last Few Days

Wow, blogging time just doesn't seem to exist lately.  I find that I am at my computer less -- which is really good for my family -- but when I am at the computer I am getting as much work done as possible.   A lot of my work at the moment is meeting with families and others or making phone calls whereas in the past it has been very computer based.... so that means less time sitting here.  But here are a few details from the last few days.

1.  Thursday was a full day.... meetings, work, etc.  Full but enjoyable.   That night we had some really good friends over -- people who were in our wedding and had a ball!

2.  Friday we headed to Mankato to take Tony to get ready for the missions trip.  We picked up Wilson where he was staying from the fourth and took he and Tony to our former church's assistant pastor where he and Tony were spending the night.    Leon was to join them Saturday morning.  This is a picture of the three of them with the new pastor of our former church.   I know, feels kinda weird.

We also stopped  by to see the very cute Aiden.  I hope he isn't commenting on Grandpa's preaching already.

3.  Saturday morning I spent at a coffee shop trying to get things done.   Life has been SO hectic.  Saturday afternoon we watched a movie (we finally, after having the DVD player for a couple years, have a configuration and internet service (NO MORE CHARTER!!!!!) that allows us to watch Netflicks on the big TV... and with only two kids home there isn't much competition.  That night Courtney and Isaac and Sadie were at our place.    Bart made dinner and then we took Isaac to the park while Courtney went out and Sadie had a friend over from Job Corps.

4.  Sunday was another great day at church followed by a trip down to Burnsville to a reunion for those adopted from Guatemala.  I was not looking forward to having to tell the orphanage director who raised Jimmy and Ricardo for several years of their lives that Ricardo had moved out and wasn't really speaking to us.  However, on the way down for some reason Jimmy was looking at the jail website and saw that Ricardo was in jail too!  So I had to tell her that (I have this truth-telling problem).  Apparently it was a fight and he should be released today, but I guess we'll see.  We also heard that Tessa broke up with Mike and that he might have a new girlfriend, but he really hates it when I blog about him so I am going to stop talking about that.

Here's a picture of Jimmy with Mirna who ran the orphanage for about 30 years before it closed when adoptions from Guatemala ended.

5.  On the way home we had ice cream and it was very fun -- though Isaac totally didn't get the cone thing and used a spoon and made a horrific mess. 
 Another movie last night and the weekend was over.

Back at it this morning -- was at the Y without Kari and that was sad.  Today I get to have back to back lunch/coffee with two Debs and then tonight we're having church folks over for dinner.

So life is full and good and crazy as always.  I have some brilliant blog plosts brewing -- but way too much email to process to be brilliant today.  They will have to wait...  just like Isaac did so patiently for his ice cream yesterday....

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Last Chance to Register for July 10 and 17 Trainings

Beyond Consequences Training and Support (Eight Part Series with my friend Brenda Benning in Edina) and Nurturing Feeding: Promoting Recovery from Eating Issues in Traumatized Children with Elizabeth Jackson in Bloomington are coming up in July.

More details here.

Money Saving Tips Especially for Adoptive Parents

Once again Adopt America has brought you an insightful article... that is now posted on the Everything Adoption blog that I created several years ago.

Check it out.

Our 4th of July: A Photo Essay

We braved the extreme heat to meet Mike and Kari and their kids to grill at the lake and let the kids go tubing.  It was really really hot and humid, and there were a LOT of people there.  Sue and Tim and Sue's mom stopped by briefly, but we hung in there for about 4 hours...   Isaac and Courtney joined us.

Isaac was smart enough to allow his mom to put sun screen on him....


unlike Dominyk, who I asked several times to do so because I didn't want to suffer the aftermath.  He didn't and we've been suffering the aftermath ever since as he has been obsessing about how bad it hurts.

Tony accused me of not reminding him to put any on even though he sat and listened to me tell Dominyk again and again that he needed some.

For the first time Courtney gave him some pop -- and the carbonation tasted funny.

So he was stuck with water -- a word he just recently learned to say and was able to repeat again and again all day.  He also repeated this game.  He would ask for a drink of my or Bart's water.  When he got some he would fill his mouth and then spit it on me, getting my feigned drastic reaction, to which I punished him by pouring a little on his head.  He then repeated that again and again and again (you know, patterned, repetitive somatosensory (thank you Bruce Perry).   If we weren't careful, he grabbed the cup and dumped it out all over himself.


He was as cute as ever and the whole heat thing was worth it -


Another highlight of the day was watching Kari completely snap because Ben, who refused to bring shorts, was complaining about the heat.  Yes, that's a hamburger turner.

So it was SUPER SUPER hot- we got to hang out with our BFFs and be with Isaac who is really the cutest thing ever. There isn't a lot I'd suffer like that for .... but it was way worth it.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Yelling or Watering?

Leon has designated himself as our volunteer landscaper this summer and he's doing a great job of keeping the lawn looking nice.  We were gifted a potted plant last week and somehow it got knocked over and the pot broke, so Leon decided to plant it in the yard outside.  We had a conversation that went something like this.

"Hey mom.... you know that plant?  Well I found it in the yard and it was dying and looked awful, so I yelled at it and it came back to life."

I responded, "Did you also water it?"

"Well, yeah."

"Do you think it might have been the watering that made it come back to life?"

After I said it it made me think of what a great analogy this is of our kids that are adopted from foster care and orphanages (and I generalize, because every situation is different, so no offense taken if this doesn't apply to your situation).  The pots that they were in were broken -- not the kids themselves.  And they were replanted into new pots (our families) hoping that their spirits would come back to life.

When I look back over the past several years of our lives raising tough kids I confess to doing my share of yelling.  My kids would tell you that I can be loud and go on forever when I am upset about something.   But I'm pretty sure the reason that they are functioning as well as they are has more to do with the times when I watered them.

The moments of praise and encouragement, of laughter and fun, of relationship building and hugs... those times when I watered them -- that's what has made them grow.

The fact that their Dad has a constant bucket of that stuff that he sprinkles from one kid to another on a daily basis has been a big bonus as well because sometimes he has to follow me around and water them after I'm done yelling.   I yell less and water more than I used to -- but he's been a consistent supply of water during all of our parenting years.

I have been inspired by my friends Deb and Kari because they are really good at watering.  I love to see the way they praise, encourage and compliment their children.  I know I need do a better job.

Because when it's all said and done, I'm hoping that my children will be adults who thrive like stable yet always growing plants.  And if they do, it will be the watering, not the yelling that made the difference.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Monday, July 02, 2012

The Strange World of Blogging

Online connections are very interesting.  I may have mentioned that I met a blog reader in person the other day -- without even having a police escort -- violating all kinds of internet safety issues.  But it is very interesting, I think, to meet someone that you have only known online.

I've done this a few times -- met up with someone who knew me from my blog and I think that there have been a few who have been disappointed.  They have not liked me as much as they thought they would because on the day that they met me I wasn't as perky or fun or energetic -- or whatever -- as I appear to be in my blog.

Others I've met have been pleasantly surprised that I'm not quite as dogmatic or annoying as I appear.

Regardless, meeting people through after months or years of an online connection, can be quite surprising.

Miscommunicating like I did  in my last post bothers me.  Typically these things happen because I always write too quickly and don't proofread carefully.    Unfortunately I know myself pretty well and I know that when I am representing only myself, I get careless about communicating correctly.

Because of my time constraints, my only option is to stop blogging... and I'm not quite ready for that.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

That's What Rents are For....

Did you know that when kids are texting they refer to their parents as rents?  I have to confess that it rubs me the wrong way completely because to me it sounds like they are suggesting that all we are good for is free rent.  Maybe it's my background and the way my kids approach things that has me tainted, but I don't fully appreciate the idea that Bart and I might be referred to as "rents."  But I digress.

Yesterday I posted this as my Facebook Status:
Over 20,000 kids a year (27,854 in 2010) age out of the foster care system without a family. When did you stop needing your mom or dad? This number fuels me... 76 kids a day being forced to walk into the world without anyone committed to them. That fact alone keeps me awake some nights and I'm really puzzled why it isn't bothering others as much as it bothers me.....
 It sparked an interesting conversation.

But yesterday was one of those days where I did something that "typical" parents do for 19 year old kids.  I met Salinda to help her with a car purchase.  I'm not going to blog all the details of the drama surrounding why she needed one, and I don't intend to get involved in it, but the bottom line was that she really needed a car and Sadie had some money saved, so she borrowed the money from Sadie and Sadie and I met her here in the Cities to get the car -- because she needed a check and we could write one.

I have a fiercely independent daughter who has not asked me for much the past few years.  She is working 2 jobs and taking good care of Gabby.   But she needed someone to drive over and write a check that represented money she herself had found.  Is the kind of things that parents do.

When Mike got out of jail a month ago or so, he needed someone to help him find a place to live and give him a few hundred bucks to get settled.  He is 23.  He periodically needs this -- he might always need it because of his disabilities... and we gave it to him.  We gave him a bed and a microwave that we didn't need ... I sent countless texts and emails trying to find housing.  It was a lot of work and money we could have used for other things -- but it's the kind of thing that parents do.

So what about the 27,854 kids in 2010 who aged out of foster care without a parent?  Certainly there were some who had good foster parents who remained committed to them.  Some of them reconnected with their families who were fairly functioning.. and they made it OK.  But many, many of them didn't fair so well.  And let's face it... a great number of them are living a live similar to that of LTs.

It's great to be pro-life and insist that all babies be born.  But if those baby's end up in the system.... whether as toddlers or teens -- those who were so adamant that they be born need to step up and care for them.  

Sometimes it is overwhelming to be the parent of so many kids transitioning to adulthood, but lately I'm finding it to be more of a privilege.   Because helping someone get their first car... or settle in after they move to a new town ... or head off to Job Corp... that's what rents are for.

My mom still calls me every Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. my time.   I still call her whenever exciting things (or really bad things) happen.  Because that's what rents are for.

And if you don't have rents?  Or even a rent?  Or anyone?  What's life like?  Nobody should have to find out.