Kids need simple tools for managing their schedules. They often become very anxious when they don’t know what’s coming next. This is magnified in kids with early trauma.
I’ve been using this low-tech, back-to-basics tool for many years. It’s so simple, I’m almost embarrassed to share it, but it just might be useful to you!
Although I made this short video last January, the beginning of the school year is the perfect time to try this.
Also, don’t miss the opportunity to join me in The Hope Circle where we recognize the hard and celebrate the beauty of adoption. It’s the perfect place to renew your hopeful, courageous heart and become the mom you’re meant to be.
Doors to this membership site close September 14, 2019, and space is limited.
Way back in 2008, I was drowning. Our first three adopted children had been home for 18 months and the needs were far beyond my capacity to meet.
I was scared, sad, and feeling alone.
Our agency had a private group where parents communicated. I’d been following the story of one mom who was sharing the really hard things they were going through. Even though I didn’t say it in the group, I felt like I understood.
One weekend when Russ was out of town, everything fell apart and I needed to talk to someone – but I didn’t know who.
Nobody could possibly understand.
Then I thought of this young mom in the group. We were complete strangers, and she was more than a decade younger than me, but I knew her name.
And I knew she wouldn’t be surprised by anything I shared or what I was feeling.
I felt a little crazy, but I posted a message in the group asking if I could talk to her and she replied with her phone number.
So I called. I think I managed to say, “Hi, this is Lisa,” and then I began to cry.
That call launched a friendship that is still precious to me. We’ve walked through so much together, lots of hard, but also lots of everyday life. We talk about kids, recipes, marriage, Jesus, and school options.
We both adopted once more after that call, so we supported each other through the ups and downs of the process and then bringing a new child home.
Two summers ago on our family road trip, we got together at her family’s homestead. It was so much fun to see our kids play together, eat together, and have fun. We even snuck away for a walk – just the two of us and her baby.
Friends, we need each other.
Since then I’ve found so many dear friends in the adoption world. Their lives may be entirely different in many ways, but as adoptive and foster moms, we understand each other.
I could share so many pictures and stories but this post would get far too long.
For years I’ve said I wish we could gather around my table with coffee to talk, share our lives, pray, laugh, and maybe cry a little. The fact that we’re spread all around the world makes that difficult.
So,I’ve created the next best thing, a sweet place where we can gather, a place that recognizes the hard of adoption and foster care while also celebrating the beauty.
The Hope Circle
I’ve created a membership community where you can renew your hopeful, courageous heart and become the mom you’re meant to be.
If you’re weary, discouraged, or feeling alone, this group is for you. I offer hope rooted in Jesus, mentorship, and real-life strategies. Best of all, we do this in community with other adoptive and foster moms.
I love this group so much. It’s the very first thing I check when I turn on my computer in the morning. In my own way, I’m having coffee with my friends.
In order to keep the group connected and maintain a safe space, Ionly open the group from time totime and there are a limited number of spaces available.
The group will be open to new members Sept. 1-14 and then will close again for an undetermined length of time.
I spent many hours putting together a page with lots of good information about the group, so I won’t repeat it all here. But please take a look. If you have any questions, email me and I will answer ([email protected]). This group is my top priority.
That call I made all those years ago, the one where I couldn’t talk because I was crying so much, it taught me something. We cannot do this alone. We need moms in the adoption world walking with us, friends who won’t say things like, “Oh, that’s just boy stuff,” or “All teens are like that.”
While many foster and adoptive parents love their kids and are working SO hard to be great parents, the feelings of “liking” can slip away in the face of fatigue and continual challenges.
Last spring I taught a breakout on this topic at a large adoption and foster care conference. The room was packed; parents could see they were not alone in this struggle.
The good news is, there are reasons rooted in brain science for these feelings. You’re not a bad parent, so breathe a big sigh of relief.
In the breakout, I taught about Blocked Trust: what it is, how it happens, and why it matters. Blocked Trust results in changes in our brains making it hard to keep caring and feeling connected with our kids. This is called Blocked Care. Lastly, I taught about ways to overcome these challenges and renew our compassion for our children.
After the conference, Melissa and I brainstormed ways we could share this information through The Adoption Connection to really help parents overcome the challenges and renew their compassion. We worked hard to create new resources and I have good news.
In 3 days, understand why your child pushes you away, why you’re not a bad mom because you’re losing patience, and shed the feelings of shame and guilt. There is hope, and you can regain that compassion!
If you want to learn more and continue taking concrete steps toward rebuilding compassion, you’ll have the opportunity to join our intensive, From Apathy to Empathy: How to Regain Compassion for Your Child and Yourself. More on that later – but I have to say, it’s going to be good.
For now, I encourage you to sign up for this simple FREE 3-Day Compassion Challenge to begin reshaping the hope you have for your relationship with your children.
If you have a friend who needs encouragement, please share this with her. We want to give hope to as many moms as possible.
Russ and I are with some of our kids on Whidbey Island at our favorite place in the world. Most of the older kids arrive this weekend. This is our final summer at the lovely home we’ve enjoyed for ten years.
I’m trying very hard to focus on gratitude for this beautiful home shared with us by our lovely host, but I find tears are often close. This was a gift given to us during the hardest decade of our lives and I’ll always be grateful. I’m going to miss it terribly.
It’s hard to imagine anything this good ever happening again. But God’s plans are so amazing; I’m trusting He’ll lead us into this new season of gathering as a family.
Does your family have a special gathering place? Do you camp? Rent a home? Gather at a family member’s house? I’m wide open to new ideas. Leave a comment for me!
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: …a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance… Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4
We needed a place to grieve, a place to gather and hold one another close as our hearts were breaking.
Our house had been bursting at the seams for years. In 2008 there were 13 of us in our four-bedroom home. I dreamed of building an addition, but it was too costly. Could an outdoor space expand our home – at least in good weather? Maybe a porch or a patio?
Then one snowy morning on a rural Idaho highway our lives changed forever.
We lost our 13-year-old daughter, Kalkidan, in a tragic car accident. We were in shock, injured, and devastated.
As we walked through grief, I knew I was different now. My priorities had changed. I could no longer race through my days dealing with urgent matters and living as if there would always be time for important things later.
There might not be a tomorrow.
More than anything, I wanted to gather with my family and hold them close. I wanted them to know how dear they were to me. These precious people are my most valuable treasures and I wanted my life and priorities to reflect that.
A few years earlier, my father had given me some money as a generous gift telling me to use it for anything I wanted. My sisters quickly decided how to use theirs; I waited and thought about it. Now it became clear. I wanted to build the long-considered patio where we could gather as a family, grieve, and someday, maybe even laugh again.
I could picture it in my mind; a simple concrete patio with chairs around a fire pit. Russ, however, pictured something entirely different – a patio of stone pavers complete with a curved wall, lighting, steps leading up from the driveway, and a cobblestone pathway winding to the front of the house.
He researched, drew designs, and dug up the backyard with the tractor. Russ loves hard, detailed work. Making something beautiful with his hands was one way he could grieve.
But as life would have it, time was short and progress was slow. Parenting our large family while recovering from the accident took everything we had.
Then our daughter got engaged and asked us to host the wedding in our yard.
I looked at our home and yard and knew the amount of work would be tremendous. But twenty years earlier we’d stood in the backyard with our realtor and I said, “You know, we could even have a wedding here someday.” This was our dream coming true.
We said “yes” to hosting the wedding and took a good look at what needed to be done.
Over the years of parenting our kids with lots of needs, we’d fallen behind on home and yard maintenance and it showed. Completing the patio catapulted to the top of our frighteningly long To-Do list.
As soon as the snow melted in April, work began. We spent long hours carrying heavy pavers one-by-one, placing them in alternating patterns on layers of perfectly leveled gravel and sand.
As the wedding day grew closer, Russ worked later each night. Most nights as I got ready for bed, I looked out our upstairs window to see Russ working under bright utility lights.
There were many times over the past four years when I was frustrated and even angry that this project had become so consuming. The process was tedious and took too much time and effort.
I had dreamed of a place for us to gather and grieve, but here we were four and a half years later still building the patio.
The wedding day came and just hours before family photos, the patio was finished. It took most of our family and a few incredibly sacrificial friends to complete it.
As I looked at this carefully crafted space, God opened my eyes to a beautiful truth.
My dream of a patio was birthed in sorrow. Now the first event to take place on it would be a wedding.
This is our God’s way. What we sow in tears, we reap in joy.
We’ve sown many tears of loss and grief in recent years. Now, after decades of prayer, our daughter was marrying a wonderful man.
We’re reaping so much joy.
God does not leave us in our sorrow forever. He gently leads us back to joy, even in the hard, dark, confusing times. He shines light into our darkness and illuminates the beauty.
On a beautiful July night, our daughter and her husband exchanged vows. Fields of wheat turning from green to gold served as a backdrop. Later that evening, after a delicious dinner, humorous toasts, and cake-cutting, the music started and we danced.
We danced for hours on the patio. And when the DJ packed his gear at the end of the night, our kids set up another sound system and the music kept going.
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever. Ps. 30: 11-12
God turned our mourning into dancing. His love stuns me and fills me with gratitude.
Sorrow will rip your heart wide open leaving you gasping for air and desperately crying for help and relief. You may weep.
But the tears you sow today will grow into a rich harvest. One day death will be defeated forever and our joy will be complete.
Friend, if you’re grieving and your heart is broken, you can trust Him. This is not the end.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Ps. 126:5
The patio will always be a symbol of what God has done. The place where I thought I would grieve became the place where we rejoiced in the goodness of God and recalled answered prayers. It’s the place where we danced for hours celebrating two people joining their lives and becoming a family.
I believe we’ll see Kalkidan again and I imagine it may feel we’ve only been parted for a moment. Her vibrant spirit we loved on this earth will be even more colorful and brilliant in heaven.
And we’ll dance in the presence of our holy and loving God.
Money is a tricky subject and every family manages it differently. I’m trying something new with Greenlight.
My oldest is 32. Not to sound all nostalgic, but money was simpler when she was growing up. No phones. Lots of chores done for the sake of our homeschooling family. No allowance, but we met needs as they came up. She and her siblings earned money babysitting and later had jobs.
There is a 20-year span between my oldest and youngest – a lot has changed.
My youngest kids are now 12 and 14. They’re growing up in a radically different world and somewhat different family. They go to school, play lots of sports, go to the local pool and gym with their friends, attend athletic camps, and are generally busy outside of our home.
This is different from a standard debit card because I preloaded my parent account and now I can transfer small amounts (even $1) as often as I like. The money is immediately added to their cards.
We don’t pay them for basic household chores, but when I offer an extra chore, like vacuuming my car, I can pay them without scraping together loose change! That’s a game-changer for me.
And with a wedding at our house next month, there is plenty of extra work to be done, which means money to be earned.
Want to go to the movies with your friends? Ask mom for a paid chore.
Need money to pay for lunch at a basketball tournament? Mom can put extra cash on your card. If you want to spend more than she gave you, check your balance and see if you have enough.
With a smartphone, kids can check their Greenlight app to see the current balance on their cards and track their purchases.
How many times have I asked, “Where did that $5 go?” and been met with, “I don’t know.” Now we’ll know exactly when and where it was spent.
There are lots of other features:
Money can be put in permission-based categories such as “spend anywhere” or spend only at a specific place.
Track chores and pay automatically.
Money can be divided into categories of: spend, save, give.
Real-time notifications so you know where and when your kids are spending money.
Lost cards can be turned off with one tap on the app.
When my boys have cash, it disappears quickly. I hope this slows them down because they’ll see more clearly the value of their work. How many weeds did I pull for this money? Do I really want to spend it on candy at the pool?
They’ll also see how quickly money is gone if they forget to pack food for an event and spend it on snacks.
This could be even more useful for kids who struggle with impulsivity or who are easily tricked into giving their cash away.
We’re trying it for free for 30 days. Will it be worth the $4.99/month fee per family? We’ll decide at the end of the summer. I expect it’s going to be a bargain for the stress it lifts off me.
We’ve had a lot of tension over money because situations pop up all the time and I never have cash. I hate being the mom whose kid rides to an event with someone and they end up buying food for my child when they stop after a game. Or I scrambled for cash but didn’t send quite enough.
This will help with birthday money from grandparents too. A portion can go on the card for spending and the balance will be saved for something special.
Greenlight is brand new to us, but I see the potential for it being really positive.
While I can’t tell you what’s right for your family, our story may help you.
Sometimes we need to jump in over our heads simply because God asks us to. That’s what happened to us a few years ago when we unexpectedly became foster parents.
Becoming Foster Parents
This is the very short version of our adoption history. We had seven children by birth, adopted three from Ethiopia, adopted one more from Ethiopia. Adoption rocked our world and took us on a journey like nothing we could have imagined.
Even after parenting for twenty years, taking classes, reading books and preparing in all the ways we knew, nothing could have prepared us for the impact our children’s early trauma had on our family.
We struggled – a lot.
And we loved – a lot.
Then we faced a devastating tragedy. Russ and I were in a car accident with our daughter, Kalkidan, and she didn’t survive. We were plunged into grief and pain.
I spent many months recovering from physical injuries. The recovery of our hearts continues.
Two years after our accident I started a ministry at my church for foster families. I thought we might foster some day; maybe when we’d recovered more from our loss and our family felt whole again. For now, I wanted my church to become engaged with caring for vulnerable children.
Then I got a call from a caseworker asking if we could take a teen girl for one respite night. We figured we could handle that.
One night became two, and two nights became two weeks. There were no foster families in our community open to a teen at the time and we learned she would be placed nearly two hours away. This meant a greater distance from her family and a third new high school.
Our hearts were stirred. We weren’t ready – in fact, we were scared.
In our adoptions, we’d walked through some deep, dark places. Our family was doing better and we didn’t want to put our children through any more suffering, especially as a result of our choices.
And besides, we were grieving; grief was sometimes exhausting and even cruel.
Then there was Zoe with her own very hard story, her own losses and grief. Yet, she seemed to fit in and we felt comfortable with her. She was a real person, not a theoretical foster youth. She sat at our table, laughed with the other kids, and let me teach her how to cook dinner.
Amazingly, it turned out that after years of doing intense therapeutic parenting with some of our children, Zoe didn’t require parenting at that level. I remembered what it felt like to be a regular mom doing a decent job.
I’m not saying it was a complete breeze. The foster care learning curve was steep.
Who were all of these workers and what were their jobs? How and where did visits happen? Who made decisions for Zoe? Me? Her mom? Her social worker?
When we had our home study, I didn’t even realize that’s what was happening. I had no idea what I was doing.
The foster parent training classes took time we didn’t have. But if we wanted to keep Zoe in our family – and we did, we were required to participate in 27 hours of training. Thankfully, the classes were good and we enjoyed the other foster parents.
Surprises in Foster Care
The biggest surprise was the relationship we formed with Zoe’s family. Somehow I thought foster parents were anonymous to kids’ families. While that’s essential when the family is dangerous to the child, it wasn’t necessary in our case. We got to know them over many months. Her family has been in our home and we’ve been in theirs. We’ve met grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her brothers borrow tools for their cars on occasion and one of them cooked dinner for us a few weeks ago.
Unexpectedly, we navigated questions of adoption and guardianship. We learned it’s not straightforward with a teen, especially one with a big family who loves her.
Based on the number of months Zoe had already been in foster care, we thought that two-week stay might extend to six months.
It’s been 2 1/2 years. If there’s anything I’ve learned, foster care is full of uncertainty.
This month Zoe turns 18. We thought she would stay until she graduated in June, but she’s made a plan to share an apartment with her brothers. She’s ready to be with her family. While I have lots of conflicting emotions, she’ll always be part of our family too.
Besides, she’s only moving two miles away.
I’m not sure how to commemorate this transition or what our role will be in her future. But she’s let us know we’d better finish building the new patio in time for her graduation party.
The Big Question
This leads me back to the beginning of this story and the big question.
Do I think we should always jump in and say “yes” when a need comes our way?
No, I don’t. We need to be wise.
Consider the needs of the children already in your home. Their safety and well-being always come first. We had two weeks with Zoe to get to know her and feel as sure as we could that this would work.
Your marriage matters too. Those of us loving and caring for vulnerable children often have tender hearts. If our marriages fail under the weight of saying “yes” too many times, everyone suffers.
Be wise. Listen well. Pray, a lot.
Then when God tells you to leap – jump high and far with all your strength. He knows where you’ll land.
Since writing this, Zoe turned 18 and did move into an apartment with her brothers. She is graduating from high school this Friday and we’re hosting her graduation party.