First Day Jitters

M started pre-k today! This is her first year going all day.

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She was excited for school to start.  But she did ask questions like, “What if I can’t find the cafeteria?” and “What if I don’t know the other kids’ names?”  I’m glad we could talk through her fears.  And I’m sure she will catch on quickly.

It’s going to be a great year!  (She has grown a lot since last year.)

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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Twenty Sixteen – part one

The first half of this year has been full We have had a lot of challenges in our family.  But we are resting in the One who is orchestrating our life.  Recently, I was reminded that God is a God of order.  It brought comfort as I can feel circumstances are confusing and uncertain and, sometimes, a total mess.  But, by His grace, I know God has ordained each day for our family.  We take one day at a time, in the order God has chosen.

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I’m behind on sharing photos. Here’s a few of our growing girly!

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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Halloween and Fall Fun

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Our little lady requested Tinker Bell for Halloween. (We found a cute option online.) This was her first year trick-or-treating, and she got to wear the costume two other times at parties. It’s so fun to watch her imagine at home in her fairy dress! 🙂

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All the kids have enjoyed playing outside this Fall as well!  I’ve noticed that I haven’t taken very many photos while we’re out so I captured a few yesterday while Dad was blowing leaves / cleaning up the yard.  Here’s a few of “M”:

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We also got portraits taken yesterday for the babies’ birthdays.  We got one shot of them together, which is adorable.  She loves her Bub and Sis so much!  I can’t share pictures of those cuties, though.  “M” is growing so fast!  She’s such a little lady, now.

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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fourth birthday

A few days ago, I was reminded what our life looked like before children.  It was quiet and mostly boring.  And filled with longings and hopes and anticipation.  It was a good reminder how much has changed in five years.

During that time, we prayed that our home would be filled with children.  We asked for a family.  HOWEVER — although we knew there would be joy in store for us as parents — our focus was not solely on our gain.  We wanted to give a safe family to a child.

I was also optimistic and idealistic about our relationship with our future child’s original family.  Now, I know that open adoptions are hard. Closed adoptions are hard.  Adoption is complicated and no “cookie cutter” solution works for your child and her two families.  Even so, I am so grateful we get to raise “M”.  She is a beautiful little person.  We pray for her birth mother as we celebrate M’s birth and life.

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Necklace from Grandpa and Grandma that “M” received after her adoption.

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We have had a fun weekend celebrating her fourth birthday!  (And we look forward to more excitement this coming weekend.)  She received so much love expressed through gifts and guests and well wishes and texts and hugs.

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Birthday girl with her Hello Kitty cake.

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“M” took a special treat to preschool today for snack time.  She, of course, helped make Minion cups (so easy!) and fill them with popcorn (so inexpensive).  She was thrilled!  Win-win.

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After school, we spent the evening playing at a park and enjoying a picnic as a family! 🙂  We love our sweet four-year-old!

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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Peace in Transition

March-2015-bw“M” has grown and changed a lot this spring. Her legs are longer. Her face is slimmer. She is speaking more clearly (and confidently). She can keep her panties dry all day. These days are passing so quickly!

Two years ago today, we finalized M’s adoption.  We are thankful for her life and for the privilege to raise her.  I am reminded that children are a responsibility, and parenting them for God’s glory matters most.

We do not celebrate “Gotcha Day” in our home.  For some reason, though, I couldn’t get M’s adoption day off my mind today.  It was a wonderfully ordinary day.

In the last few years, I have matured in my understanding of adoption-related issues and its complexity.  It’s hard.  It’s heartbreaking in ways.  Yet, adoption is not about the parents.  It’s a promise to a child to provide, to nurture, to train, and to sacrifice ourselves by bringing her up in ways that honor God.  We also want to honor her birth family as much as we can.

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We don’t know what the future holds for our family.  Truthfully, we haven’t for a while.  Maybe it’s because we regularly have new children in our home, but we feel “in transition” all.the.time.  It’s okay.  At least we don’t have a false sense that we are in control!  That realization is a gift!

For now, Joey is planning to start grad school in January, and the online program takes two years.  He will be a great Nurse Practitioner.  From there, we’ll see where he gets a J-O-B.  We love where we live now.  Yet, we would like to be in an area with more racial diversity so our neighbors, church family, school peers, and friends look more like our home.

We trust the One who is orchestrating all the details.  God has formed our family and we lean into His plan.  We have hopes and desires that we believe line up with His, and we’re watching Him direct (and redirect) us inch by inch.  Oh, I am so glad He is patient!

Just as the previous two years have FLOWN by, we know the next two will as well.  Sure, day-to-day life will have ups and downs as we wade through it; but, we are firmly anchored to the Rock.  He is unchanging.  We have peace in transition.

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio. 

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healing relationships

As I stood in the kitchen, I could hear “M” playing in her bedroom. Little Bubby was playing in the room too. She was talking to him, but he was not listening nor even looking at her. She was pretending she is the mom and he is the dad — and she was telling him all about their baby.

She didn’t care that he’s distracted in parallel play. She didn’t care at all that he wasn’t really playing with her.  But she did shut the door to prevent him from wandering away.  She simply does not want to be alone. She needs a friend.

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Our little 3-year-old needs people near her all the time. She constantly asks if she can get in the pack-n-play with Baby Sis.  If she isn’t near one of them, she is resting her hand on me. She needs community and to connect.

Sometimes, as parents, we operate as if children do not need family.

Humans are designed to need healthy, consistent interaction from Day 1. Unfortunately, many children do not get that care.

This past weekend, Joey and I were able to attend a parenting conference.  In particular, this training focused on children with difficult pasts: any child who had a stressful infancy or childhood; any child who had experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect; any child who was harmed by someone that should have protected him or her; any child who was exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero; even any child born prematurely who was unable to be held while in NICU. Children with these histories, are impacted neurologically. Simply put, their brains do not respond in the same way a child’s brain with a healthy beginning does.

Adoptive parent Terri Coley said: “A child from a hard place needs much more than a safe place to live.”  The premise of the training is this: Relationships heal what relationships harmed.

Deep healing takes intentionality.  Dr. Karyn Purvis said, “There is no quick fix for a child who has been harmed. … If you understand your child’s needs and you’re able to give it, tremendous healing can occur. It’s gonna take time.”  She recommends Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI).  It’s a balance of structure and nurture (Eph. 6:4).  It is purposeful parenting.  TBRI requires me to invest myself in my children.

I recently told a friend: “It’s tough to be an introvert with clingy kids.”  I recognize (and do my best to overcome) my natural tendency to seek Me Time.  Even though I want to connect with the kids, I sometimes get “lost” in the day-to-day tasks.  This is nearly every parent’s struggle, too.

I get it: Parenting is hard.  It’s exhausting, even when you have the resources you need.  For now, I am so thankful for a preschooler who reminds me, “I need you!”  Or when her actions say: I need my family!

I know that she will stop asking one day, “Mommy, will you hold me?”  Yet she will always need connection in an age-appropriate way.  As God enables, I will strive to meet her emotional needs.

Keep up the good (hard) work, moms and dads! Your kids need you. 🙂

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio. 

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absence and presence

Tragedy is part of our families’ stories. Our children’s stories.

Josh Hamby is an adoptive parent living in Africa. He wrote a piece at The Archibald Project that is worth your time.

Here’s a sample:

“Sin and grace, absence and presence, tragedy and comedy, they divide the world between them and where they meet head on, the Gospel happens.” – Frederick Buechner

I can’t think of a better way to describe adoption.  . . .

The call to explore adoption shouldn’t be centered around what we want. It’s a last resort for a child who has experienced tragedy. (And while I’m here, can I say those kids aren’t marketing materials? Because they aren’t, so stop using them as such.) The higher on the priority list the needs of the child are, the lower on the list of options adoption becomes. This makes adoption an extremely difficult and unglamorous journey. It isn’t always the best option, and thus we put ourselves at risk for pain.

I use that Buechner quote because I believe that’s where adoption lies – in the middle of sin and grace, absence and presence, tragedy and comedy. Sin means men and women suffer from poverty and struggle to provide, absence of family is a reality for abandoned children, and tragedy is what we can call those and every other example in the book.

But grace is what awaits all of us who seek refuge from sin. It walks alongside a single mother struggling to provide and instead of taking her children from her, tells her that keeping her children is a possibility worth pursuing. Presence is what every child deserves to feel – whether from biological family or adoptive. Comedy is joy in the resolution – whatever that ends up being.

If you have the desire to adopt, I encourage you to bathe it in prayer. Hold your motives with open hands so they may be formed and shaped to look more like the Father’s heart. Adoption isn’t for every family and it isn’t for every child.

And maybe that’s the whole point. Maybe the adoption journey, as hard as it is, doesn’t always have to end in adoption. But by grace and by God, if it ends in us looking more like Christ, it is well.

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Read the full post HERE.

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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Of Loss

My experience as a foster parent is limited. We have cared for only nine children and, by the providence of God, we adopted one of those children He placed in our home. During these past four years, though, I have learned that foster care and adoption involve transition and change. And, usually, loss too.

Even though I know it comes with the territory, I don’t always feel prepared for these changes.

  • I hurt with fellow foster parents who are heartbroken for the kids who have left. I hurt with foster families who are doing all they can to allow a child with challenging behavior to remain in their home.
  • I hurt for birth families who are struggling during the separation.
  • I hurt with children who are away from their birth family — whether temporarily or permanently.

The losses are real. The pain is real.

Sometimes I feel completely surrounded by hurting people.

Even in adoption, I know it is not win-win. Our beautiful daughter has been with us since birth. I realize I have that privilege to raise my feisty girlie because her first mother doesn’t. She will always be regarded with respect in our home — I feel a deep debt to her as I raise our daughter. Yet there is a void in our daughter’s life and in her birth mother’s life.

I can’t imagine the sorrow (sprinkled with comfort, in some cases) that a birthmom feels when she sees her child loved and cared for by another woman. That struggle could become unbearable. (I know each adoption is different. The circumstances and agreements are different. Some children enter a new family after relinquishment, others after removal by the state. I’m not an expert. But I am calling us ALL to feel with and hurt for one another.)

Hurting people often act in fear. They do or say things that they wouldn’t otherwise. There’s a common saying: “Hurting people hurt people.”  And it’s true.  Foster families (both the caregivers and the other children in the home) endure it often.  Although it still hurts, understanding WHY a person is behaving a certain way helps us to empathize.

“Everyone needs compassion, a love that’s never failing / Let mercy fall on me …”

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I don’t respond well to accusations, snide remarks, or rude behavior.  YET I know I could be that person making those remarks tomorrow (or today) if I let my focus shift away from what God has done and is doing and onto myself.  I could easily be the anxious one.

In these challenging times, God calms my spirit and reminds me that He is sovereign:

“If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
    whoever attacks you will surrender to you.

“See, it is I who created the blacksmith
    who fans the coals into flame
    and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
     no weapon forged against you will prevail,
    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.”  Isaiah 54:15-17

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God is the Sovereign One! He is with me. He cares. My well-being is His concern.

I like what Matthew Poole’s commentary says: “Both the blacksmith that makes all warlike instruments, and the soldier that uses them, are my creatures, and totally at my command, and therefore they cannot hurt you without my leave [i.e. permission].”

My pastor just finished a series in Esther. He put it this way: “Esther affirms the providence of God. Nothing just “happens” in life. In fact, if just one event could occur outside of the sovereign influence and care of the Lord, then we could not trust Him. But it can’t. The Lord is in control of everything” (Seeing God When You Can’t See God, February 1, 2015).

Even in transition. Even in change. Even in the midst of loss, God cares.

Understand this: That difficult person in your life is placed there by God. “His life, his strength, his skill, are all in my hands, and he can do nothing which I shall not deem it best to permit him to do. . . . I bare [i.e. confirm that I] made him, and he is wholly under my control and at my disposal” (Barnes’ Notes).

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Life, in general, often involves loss, death, estrangement, removal, change.  We cannot escape heartache in this broken world.

I am learning to let myself fully feel loss and to grieve with / for my children and their first families. I don’t always do it well. But I know we can learn from one another. We can listen and remind ourselves that God is at work in and through these circumstances. One day He will make everything right again.

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio. 

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1st Day of Fall

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This little lady is enjoying the (slightly) cooler weather so she can play outside longer! I didn’t intend to photograph her pants so I let her wear sweats… oh well. 😉

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I made a digital scrapbook page for her album:

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Credits:
Repartee Full Kit and Repartee Wood Flairs and All Laid Out – Vol 7 template from Dawn by Design
Fonts are Pea Elaine, Pea Eleanor, WaterBrushROB, Traveling Typewriter

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio. Learn more about Joey and Elaine.

 

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Cinderella

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All these photos were taken with a camera phone in a dark room — not the best combination! 🙂 But they’re precious and real.

Journaling by Daddy:

Tonight Moriah began to dance in the kitchen when she heard the Stephen Curtis Chapman song “Cinderella.” She twirled in a circle like a ballerina – my heart broke. How she has grown so much! I need to take every opportunity to cherish little moments like these. Because like the lyrics say, Moriah will grow up quickly; then, she will move on to live out the life the Lord has for her.

Lord, please strengthen me to teach her Your ways in my speech and actions. Lord, please quiet my spirit and mind to see and enjoy the many blessings You shower on us. How easy it is to not return thanks to You because I am too busy or distracted.

Digital supplies:

Kit is Refreshed from Dawn by Design and Sarah Jones
Fonts are Cocktail Script, Century Gothic