What to Do When Your Child Needs Help Regulating

I have two new podcast episodes for you! Robyn Gobbel gives us practical advice on how to help kids become better regulated.

#25 Regulating Through Movement and Play

The second episode focuses on how to help your child regulate when they’re already out of control. We’ve all been there!

#26 What to Do When Your Child is Out of Control

We have a great free download for you¬†that contains suggestions for regulating and proprioceptive activities. Additionally, there is a list of behaviors that may indicate your child’s level of arousal, which is very helpful.

If you’ve never listened to the podcast, check out this nice review:

These two ladies are fabulous. Easy on the ears. I find they speak with knowledge of being in the “mud.” They have the experience of being with children and advocates for children while supporting those of us in the trenches now.

You can find all of our episodes HERE.


Unsettled: When New Kids Join the Family

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it must feel like for a child entering our homes. It’s an unfamiliar environment they’ve never seen before. Nothing would feel right.

The past two weeks have been a bit much for me and I’m in my¬†own home. Life has been disrupted far more than I imagined when we decided to refinish our floors.

I feel unsettled.

I know, I know, this sounds whiny, “first world problem” and all that, but stick with me.

I continually remind myself this is a privilege, not a problem – and that’s 100% true. But it doesn’t change the reality that for more than a week I couldn’t cook, my refrigerator was in the living room, and the rest of the room was piled high with everything from the main floor.

The following week, everything in the living room was crammed into the dining room and overflowing into the family room.

With a crew of men in my house, even great guys, it’s hard to relax – nothing feels normal.

I can’t seem to settle in and think clearly enough to write.¬† A¬†low whir of anxiety is like a cloud around me.

How does this relate to kids who come to us through foster care or adoption?

When they join our families, their environments are completely disrupted. They are simply uncomfortable in our world.

Nothing feels familiar, smells right, or even sounds normal. We are strangers to them, whether they are adopted from the other side of the globe or joining us as foster children from the other side of town.

For a child raised with the constant hum of the television, the peaceful quiet of our homes may feel profoundly wrong. Our food may smell strange. And while the sheets may be clean, they just don’t feel right.

I’m an adult who chose this home project – even if the¬†reality of the disruption far exceeds what I imagined. I tell myself it won’t last much longer and it will all be worth it. I know life will get back to normal.

I also know this is a small problem, a very small problem, even if it’s uncomfortable.

In contrast, our children have no control, no choice, and they are afraid. Their fear may look like anger, defiance, crying, or other behaviors. They may alternate between hitting us and clinging to us. The early weeks (months, years) can be especially hard.

How can we help them in these early transitional days?

1. Find familiar smells

If your child is joining you from another country, add familiar spices to your menu. Our Ethiopian kids love berbere, a chili and spice blend, and sprinkled it on nearly all of their food in the early years.

If you’re adding a new child through foster care, wash his clothes, but not his familiar blanket or stuffed animal. That being said, sometimes things like lice make it absolutely necessary,

2. Find familiar sounds

If your new child has a favorite show, let him watch it, provided it’s not harmful. The theme song and characters may be a comfort to him. Even if it’s SpongeBob or Caillou, you can handle it for a while.

If your child is from another culture, find music in his language and play it in your home.

3. Find familiar routines

If your child is used to falling asleep while watching tv, maybe you’ll need to do that for a few days as he adjusts. If she’s always slept with a light on, do that for a time. If she’s not accustomed to taking baths, don’t press for them each night. It takes time.


This isn’t profound, but it’s come to my mind often these weeks. Right now I’m working on my laptop at the kitchen island trying to write while stacks of books are on the floor, the sofa is sitting on its side, and electronics are piled in a big box in the corner. The top of the dining room table is removed and leaning against the living room wall. Stacks of games sit on the side of the¬†bookcase as it lays on the floor.

Nothing feels quite right.

I’m unsettled, and I’m pretty sure my kids have felt that way too.

Most Wednesdays I send a short and sweet email to my inner circle of readers. I would love to include you! When you sign, up you’ll receive a free download,¬†Hope for your Parenting Journey: a guide for adoptive and foster moms, as my thanks. Click HERE to subscribe.

With courage and hope,


Adoption Triad Talk and Mike Berry on Winning the Heart of Your Child

If you’ve always wanted to hear the candid thoughts of an adult adoptee or a birth/first mom, I’ve got two great episodes of The Adoption Connection podcast for you. Melissa and I interviewed each other about our experiences of holding two roles in the adoption triad.

#24 My 2 Parts in the Adoption Triad: Melissa’s Story of Being an Adoptee and Adoptive Mom

#23 My 2 Parts in the Adoption Triad: Lisa’s Story of Being a Birth/First Mom and Adoptive Mom

Lastly, we were so happy to have Mike Berry on our podcast. We had a great conversation focused on his new book, Winning the Heart of Your Child.

#22 Winning the Heart of Your Child with Mike Berry

I hope you enjoy these episodes. You can find the show notes for all of these episodes HERE.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, please help us get the word out to the adoption and fostering community. Share it with just one friend; it makes all the difference!

Thank you so much.

With courage and hope,



Learning to be Content With a Well-loved Home

A friend once told me, “You know, Lisa, I don’t think God is going to let you get rid of that blue carpet until you’re thankful for it.”

Nineteen years ago we came to town for a weekend to buy a house. We looked at thirteen, narrowed it to three, and then chose our house. Russ and I are slow decisions makers, so buying a house in a weekend still stands as one of our most decisive moments.

As we walked through the house admiring it, I said, “I love the house, but this blue carpet has to go.”

Never, let me repeat, never say words like that. God was giving me a great house on eight acres in a nice town – a big change from our current home. That’s what I should have focused on.

We had six children when we moved in, and with no wiggle room in our budget, the carpet stayed. I figured in a few years I would get my dream of pulling out the carpet and replacing it with hardwood to match the rest of the main floor.

Then in 2006, we began the journey of adopting four children over a span of 17 months. We were spread thin in every possible way: time, money, energy. As we were plunged into the realities of parenting children with early trauma, all that wasn’t absolutely essential was stripped away.

Our days were focused on safety and security for everyone in our family. It took all I had to care for the physical and emotional needs of the kids. Putting dinner on the table was a test in perseverance most days. Going to the grocery store was nearly impossible.

The financial strain of meeting the special needs of so many kids felt like it might pull us under.¬†And darn it, did I mention we value being debt-free? We couldn’t put new floors on a credit card.

Life comes into sharp focus in the face of trials. Things I once thought were important, like the appearance of my home, became far less significant as we faced the needs of our family.

Concerns about the color of our carpet, the age of our cars, the style of our clothes slipped all the way down to the bottom of our list of priorities.

That blue carpet saw it all: babies, potty training, house training a puppy, sickness, and even the gallon of milk that exploded when I dropped it while carrying groceries into the house.

It was even worse than it looked, which is saying something, and I knew it.

As 2019 begins, we only have three children still living at home; it’s strangely quiet. We’re not buried in as many needs as we once were.

Our well-loved home has grown a little shabby over the decades.¬† The finish has worn off the high traffic areas of the wood floors in the kitchen. The original 1920’s red fir in the entryway has so many splinters I’ve kept a rug over it to protect our feet.

It’s finally time to take care of the floors.

Last Sunday we moved everything (including the refrigerator) from our main floor into one room. Monday the crew arrived and the project began. We’ve already run into a significant complication with the discovery of wet subfloor due to water leaking through an exterior wall. Nothing is simple!

What have I learned from this?

1. Contentment and gratitude are essential.

2. Debt weighs us down; very few things are worth it.

3. Sometimes we just have to wait – even if it’s 19 years with a not-so-loved carpet.

4. In the waiting, Pinterest is not your friend.

Discontentment takes up precious energy which no parent has in excess.

Thinking over and over again about something we can’t have, steals joy and gives nothing in return.

Did I ever become truly thankful for the old, blue carpet? I’d like to think so; although as with many other things, it’s been a back and forth tug-of-war in my heart.

I can say with certainty, I’m hugely thankful to own a home, however imperfect, where I can love my family and welcome our friends.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  1 Timothy 6:6-8

Contentment is essential, my friends. Work on it. Catch yourself when you want to grumble and complain. Choose gratitude every time – write it down to remind yourself.

Godliness with contentment is great gain.


My Gentle Journey with Essential Oils

Let me begin this post by saying I do not sell essential oils and I’m not writing with the purpose of persuading you to buy anything. This is simply my story of how essential oils help my family.

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

In 2010 Russ and I went on a cruise with his parents and siblings. In addition to the time we enjoyed together, we often had dinner with other folks on the ship. One dinner remains in my mind.

I began talking with the woman next to me about our lives, children, and shared faith. As I talked about my kids, I mentioned one was struggling with deep depression. We were considering medication and lifestyle changes to help but we were scared and overwhelmed.

Her teen daughter suffered from depression and in addition to other supports, she was using something I’d never heard of, an oil with properties to lift a person’s mood. It was called Wild Orange. It sounded a bit odd, but something about it made sense.

After dinner, we strolled to their cabin where she showed me a wooden box filled with small bottles of oils. She generously gave me a small bottle of Wild Orange and I nearly cried. I was curious about how my child would receive it and if it would help. I knew it smelled good and I liked opening the bottle just to breathe it in.

Following her instructions, I rubbed this oil on my teen’s feet at night and encouraged my child to wear small amounts so the uplifting scent could be inhaled. Together with other changes, it helped.


Years passed, and as many of you know, in 2014 we were in a tragic car accident that injured Russ and me and took the life of our precious daughter, Kalkidan.

We were in great emotional and physical pain. Russ’ sister brought us a nearly magical lotion called Deep Blue that we rubbed on each other’s aching shoulders, necks, and hips as we cried nearly every night. She also brought an oil called Elevation for us to rub on our hands and inhale the scent. I bought a simple diffuser and at night we diffused Serenity blend into our room. The scent became a comfort to us and we began looking forward to it.

Another friend brought a Lavender spray we spritzed on our pillows at bedtime. We grew to love that scent so much, we still use it most nights four years later.

That was a season of many tears; the oils brought us comfort and alleviated some of our physical pain.


In the midst of this trying time, one of my kids wanted to try oils too. I bought a simple diffuser and an experiment with oils began. Different ones were tried, with the final conclusion that Lavender was perfect for sleep and calming.

Even before the accident, sleep was challenging for me, so I created an intentional sleep hygiene routine. I go to bed early, wear a sleep mask, and diffuse the oils that help me most. This routine has made a huge difference in my life and health.

We ran out of Serenity for a while and in the swirl of my life, it took me a while to get more. The night I finally had more to diffuse, Russ came into our room, immediately walked to the diffuser on his nightstand, cupped his hands around the water vapor coming out of it and inhaled deeply. He looked up, relaxed his shoulders and said, “I’m so happy you got more of this.”


Our kids need a lot of support, but trust me when I say, moms and dads need it just as much.

Under the stress of parenting kids with early trauma, we stop sleeping, we become anxious and depressed, we can’t focus, we grieve. This is just what our kids are often experiencing too.

Medication is a gift when we need it, and many of us do at times. Additionally, we can care for ourselves every day using simple supports: drinking water, taking a walk, diffusing oils that lift our moods or help us sleep. These are powerful tools for my family and yours.

Lastly, Isaiah got me a new diffuser for Christmas (the one pictured above) and I love it. This morning my family room smells like fresh lemons and it makes me feel happy РI can always use more of that.

Do you use essential oils for your family? Leave a comment!

With courage, hope, and love,


Disclaimer: This post doesn’t contain scientific or¬†medical advice. I’m not a medical provider; this is simply my story.¬†

The Bitter and Sweet of Foster Care with Jamie Finn

#20 The Bitter and Sweet of Foster Care Reunification with Jamie Finn

“I couldn’t do foster care because I’d never be able to give them back.”

How many times have you heard this, said this, felt this? There’s no doubt, it’s so hard to love and care for a child and then return him to his family. And yet…

I sat down with Jamie Finn to talk about the bitter and the sweet of loving children and then letting them go. Jamie shares her journey from viewing herself as the rescuer of children to being a loving support to them and their birth families.

This was a beautiful conversation – I hope you enjoy it.