So Much Good Stuff

Doesn’t this time of year take your breath away? So much is happening!

This week brings the last day of school, Beza’s high school graduation, a big Sunday dinner celebrating Beza with big kids in town, our 34th wedding anniversary, and Claire leaving on a 17-day 4-H trip to Washington DC.

It’s the good kind of busy.

It also requires a lot of food, which means a Costco trip is planned for Thursday.

Russ spent four hours researching and booking flights for Peru and Kenya last night. It’s a complicated combination.

He and some of our big kids are trekking Machu Piccu this summer. He also needs to go to Kenya for water projects, so rather than come home in between, he’ll go straight from Peru to Kenya.

It’s easier for me to have him gone longer than to have him come home and leave again. Anybody else feel the same?

When he’s gone on a long trip, I get in a groove with the kids. Then when he comes home, I’m so ready not to be completely in charge. If he turned around and left again, I just might fall apart. I think this will be better.

As my Instagram pic at the top of the post says, I’m teaching an online marriage class beginning this Thursday. I’m so excited. Friends, we need to hold on to our marriages, even in the hard – especially in the hard.

We’re also offering the class, How to Balance Nurture and Structure. Melissa is teaching and I will be participating because, honestly, I continue to work on this.

Registration closes tonight (Tuesday) at midnight. You can find more information about both classes HERE.

This is the kids’ last full day of school – I have lots of mixed feelings. I still hope for the old, kick-back feeling of summer, which is probably foolish because we haven’t had that in many years. But I can hope, right?

Actually, I need to make a plan, which I should have done a month ago. I’ve been thinking about it, but I need something in writing. A chart, a list, something that lends structure to the days, weeks, and months of summer. I’ll get to it soon.

All for today, my friends. I hope you’re doing well. Say hello if you have a minute.

If you haven’t subscribed to my newsletter, 5 Thankful Thoughts, I’m sending it out today! It’s short and sweet and you’ll get all the news first, plus my heartfelt gratitude.

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With hope and courage,


6 Marriage Tips for Adoptive and Foster Parents

Russ and I are coming up on our 34th anniversary, which makes me feel like I really know what I’m doing marriage-wise.

We’re also still in the midst of parenting kids with complex needs, which sometimes makes me think I know very little. What I do know is how to persevere and look for healing connections.

There have been easy seasons and hard seasons in our marriage – richer and poorer, sickness and health, tons of kid challenges, and even the deep suffering of losing a child.

All of this adds up to the need to focus on our marriage as adoptive and foster parents. This is a unique parenting experience, filled with many questions and challenges. It can be lonely too.

So what are the solutions? Here are my six marriage tips:

1. My spouse is more important than our children.

Russ has to take first place in my heart and life. I need to make time for him, think of him, listen to him, and connect. We had each other before we had our kids, and we want to have each other after they are grown.

2. Love my neighbor as myself.

Russ is the closest ” neighbor” I have – so close he sleeps next to me each night. I can love him more than myself in big ways, like encouraging him to trek Machu Picchu with some of our big kids. I can also love him more than myself in tiny ways that make a difference, such as offering to pick up a child when he was planning on it, making a favorite meal, or even being the one to get out of bed to take care of a child’s need.

3. Give each other breaks.

Parenting kids with unique needs is exhausting. Getting away together is fantastic, but not always possible. Be sure to give each other breaks, even if it’s only an evening or a Saturday. When Russ has the kids and I can do something restful or fun, it restores energy and joy. Russ needs breaks too and I try to make opportunities for him to get the time he needs.

4. Have at-home dates.

Put younger kids to bed and instruct the older ones to give you some space. Order take-out, cook a special meal, or get your favorite ice cream to enjoy together. Watch a movie, read aloud, play a game, choose a special show you only watch together. If you can leave the house, but not go too far, walk around the block several times in the evening, or try early in the morning with coffee cups in hand. You can check on the kids after each lap.

5. Don’t hesitate to see a counselor.

A good marriage counselor can help you through some of the complex stress of parenting kids from “hard places.” Ask your friends if they can recommend someone. Your church may even have a pastor or someone on staff who can help and support you.

6. Pray for each other and your marriage.

I am more committed than ever to praying for our marriage. What a tragedy it would be if our obedience to God in adopting and loving children who needed families became the very thing that broke our marriages. This is a battle that cannot be seen with our eyes, but we know it is waged against us.

Pray hard. Pray without ceasing. Hold one another up when you’re weary. Ask God to give you his eyes for your spouse.

Update 6/5/19: This course is now closed.

However, if there is a lot of interest, I would love to teach it again. Email me and I’ll add your name to the list of people who may be interested. This course is for women only. []

In response to feedback from moms like you, I’m excited to launch my first mentoring course, How to Keep Your Marriage Strong (for the mom who has nothing left to give).

Many marriages take a back burner to the unique demands of parenting kids with complex needs. During our six weeks together we’ll explore the challenges, talk about practical ways to build connection, and renew hope in your most significant relationship.

Each week we’ll meet for a live class (or you can watch it later) where I’ll present the material for the week followed by group discussion. Throughout the rest of the week, we’ll gather informally on our private Facebook group to discuss how you’re processing and applying the lessons.

This class is for women only and will be a very small group in order to provide a safe environment and supportive community.

I would love to have you join me.


I Took a Little Trip

Well, friends, as it turns out, I’m out of town for a few days.

I was going to write a clever post about my trip, but between packing, getting things set to leave my family, and knowing I have to be up at 4:00 AM, this is going to be short and sweet.

Wandering in the Tetons

Russ and I are taking seriously our 2017 commitment to restore neglected relationships. The last (many) years made it difficult to spend time with some of our nearest and dearest family members. Today, I’m off on a trip with my parents and sisters. Can you believe it?

This is a big deal for us, and not easy to pull off, but we are making it happen and I’m very thankful – especially to Russ.

After our accident, I remember being struck by how short life is and how precious people are. We have to pause our crazy lives and cherish the people we love.

I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say on this when I get home.

I’ll try to get a friends-letter out this weekend to tell you I made it back and maybe share a story or two. Add your name to my list if you would like a short note from me in your inbox most weekends.

As I prepared for my trip, I found myself wishing I’d done a better job asking if some of you would like to write guest posts – just a simple day-in-life, nothing earth-shattering, unless you want to wow us.

So often we want to hear a story of another life, another woman loving children God has brought to her through birth, foster care, or adoption. Or maybe still waiting and hoping for children.

If you would like to share your life with us, please take a look at the My Thankful Life guidelines and send something my way. Sometimes it’s seriously hard keeping up the pace of publishing posts while also working on a book (or two), traveling, speaking, being mom to the six kids at home, wife to Russ, and doing life.

I could use a little help from a friend, or two, or six.

Can’t wait to tell you about my trip. I’ll be back soon!



5 Tips for an (Un)Successful Weekend Getaway Without Kids

Last weekend Russ and I had a no-kid, restful, romantic getaway. We set the dates well in advance, dreamed big (Mexico!), adjusted our expectations (Coeur d’Alene), and then made plans for a great weekend.

It lasted just about 12 hours, and much of it was spent sleeping. I could have easily let disappointment sink me emotionally and create tension between us. Thankfully, Russ and I are professionals when it comes to dealing with the unexpected.

It’s easy to write tips for a successful weekend getaway, but I’ve been a mom for nearly 30 years, so I’ll impart a little wisdom from the trenches. Here are 5 tips for an (Un)successful getaway because, let’s face it, it’s going to happen some time.

I took this photo as we arrived Friday night - it's the only one I took.
as we arrived Friday night – the one and only photo I took

Five Tips for an (Un)Successful Weekend Getaway

1. Be flexible | As much as we love to plan, illness, travel problems, and even work schedules may change everything. Last weekend, we dropped our sons off with friends. Two hours later their little boy had a fever; he grew sicker through the night and by morning they took him to the doctor who was nearly certain he had influenza. There is so much flu going around, the clinic was out of tests, so it isn’t confirmed, but we’re going to trust his judgment.

Tips Stolen from the Kids’ Therapist #2 [Do-overs]

The holidays are coming, and with the fun, stress also rises. We may need to dig deep to keep ourselves regulated along with our kids. Today, I’m talking about Do-overs for grown-ups.

Over the years, Russ and I sat through many therapy sessions with our kids.  While the knowledge we gained continues to be invaluable for our kids, there are unexpected gifts for us – insights and skills we use to heal, cope, and manage our own relationships and lives.

This post is the second in the series Tips Stolen From the Kids’ Therapist.


Don’t miss:

Tip #1 This feeling won’t last forever

Tip #2 Even grown-ups need Do-overs

One of my favorite tools for parenting kids, and especially kids from “hard places,” is the Do-over, or the Re-do, (depending on who is teaching).

The basic concept is to give a child the opportunity to quickly correct a behavior making better choices the second time around. When the child tries again and has success, the brain literally begins to form new pathways that become stronger as this positive behavior is repeated time and time again.

Let me give you a simple example, that of course, would never happen at my house.

A child storms in the front door, throws a backpack on the floor, rushes past mom (lightly bumping into her) with no greeting or eye contact, opens the refrigerator and yells, “I’m hungry!”

Mom says, “Wow! Slow down a minute. Let’s try that again. How about a Do-over and then I’ll help you get a snack? Grab your backpack and let’s go back to the front door.” (Mom keeps a light, playful tone.)

If the child is receptive, they repeat coming in the door again with a big (maybe even silly) greeting, hanging up the backpack, and mom offering an extra good snack. When it’s done well, Mom says, “Way to go, you did such a great job, I’m really proud of you. Let’s eat a snack together.”

In The Connected Child, Dr. Purvis writes,

By actively replacing misbehavior with correct behavior in your child’s memory banks, you can help the child encode competency.  A re-do “erases” the muscle memory of the failed behavior and gives the child the physical and emotional experience of substituting a successful one in its place.


A re-do can be as simple or complex as needed.  As many doors as it took your child to go off course, that’s how many you have to revisit and correct each false step.  The Connected Child p. 98

If re-do’s are good for kids, they’re good for adults too.

Two examples quickly come to mind.

One is the type of morning when nothing is going right, I’m irritable and snapping at the kids. I know I need to pull myself out of the downward spiral, but it’s just so hard to do. That’s when I need to step into my laundry room whisper a prayer, take a few deep breaths, walk back out and start over again. Sometimes I even tell my kids I need a do-over.

Another example happens in communication. Not long ago I said something to Russ, and as soon as I did, I realized the way I said it and the words I chose, were going to take us down a path I did not intend. As the words left my mouth, and I saw the expression on his face,  there was a moment of silence between us.

It was just long enough, I jumped in, “Let me try that again. It was not what I meant to say or the way I meant to say it.” I went on to choose my words and tone more carefully. Rather than repairing a bigger problem, I was able to quickly correct it with a Do-over, which saved us a lot of time and energy.

There are many examples of this in my life, and I’m guessing in yours too.

Do you use Do-overs? With your kids? With your husband?

What are some of the best tips you learned from your kids’ therapy sessions or from parenting books, etc. you apply to yourself?

How was your weekend? Annarose had a dinner party Friday night for 40 friends, which grew to 60 later in the evening. It snowed so much that Russ had to pull some kids out of precarious places on the driveway and then plow the driveway with the tractor so they could all safely leave.

We went to a very nice Christmas party for foster families on Saturday and came home with presents for the six youngest kids.

It snowed all weekend, which was good and bad.

Russ was supposed to leave for Oregon on Saturday, but the interstate was closed. Then he was leaving Sunday, but it kept snowing and there were issues with the trailer, and in the end, he couldn’t leave. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to enjoy having him home much because he was loading the trailer, working on problems with it, and preparing to leave all weekend. Despite that, I’m very thankful he didn’t drive on snowy roads – we need him.

Now he’s home for a couple of unexpected days so we may get our Christmas tree, which will make us all very happy.

How was your weekend? Don’t forget to tell me  your best tips stolen for the kids’ therapist!

Have a great Monday, friends.



Completion and Restoration for Our Marriage and Family in 2017| Part 2

Part 2 of my thoughts on the coming year and our theme of Completion and Restoration.

2017 completion and restoration image

Don’t miss Completion and Restoration for our Marriage and Family in 2017 | Part 1

Last week I wrote about the theme of Completion for the coming year.

What about Restoration?

With so much upheaval in our lives, relationships have also been neglected. We’ve been working so hard, for so long, we haven’t taken time to enjoy the people we love.

We plan to change that in 2017.

The most important relationship is our marriage.

I love Russ with all my heart, and I need to make sure he knows it, every day. I need to love him more than I love myself, which is easy to say, but not so easy to live.

Every morning before the kids leave for school, we pray,

Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
And love your neighbor as yourself.

Those words have sunk deep into me – do I love my neighbor as myself? Do I love my husband as myself? When a task is inconvenient, will I do it anyway to make his life a little easier or better? Do I make sacrifices for him the way I want him to make them for me?

In addition to our marriage, we’re thinking about our kids, especially our older children.

We need to figure out new ways to love our adult kids and grow our relationships with them.

2016 brought many changes with our big kids and we expect 2017 to bring more.

This fall, both Samuel and Isaiah moved away, Isaiah to St. Louis, and Samuel to Portland. These were not, “I’m moving away for a year and I’ll be back,” moves, these were grown-up moves. They won’t live in our little town again. Mimi may be on the verge of moving away too.

Soon we will only have our youngest five living near, which bring us to a new season of life. We need to think about our big kids, how to connect with them, how to spend time with them.

We lost many years while pouring ourselves into their younger siblings. Those can’t be reclaimed, but we can intentionally build something new. It’s tempting to look back with regret, but we won’t gain a thing; we can only look forward and find a new way that brings something better.

Many other relationships were also set aside during those years. We want to restore some of those as well, as time allows, but first, our marriage and our children.

What else will the Lord lead us to restore? Our health, faith, traditions, joy? We don’t know yet, we only know this is our plan for 2017, and honestly, the glimpse we have right now feels full.

We’ll be praying over the long list of incomplete projects/dreams/tasks/commitments, asking God for wisdom about what to complete in all realms of our lives: personal, professional, family, home – everything.

I’m guessing a good number of tasks will be permanently crossed off our lists. We’ll likely wrestle through the remainder, asking each other good questions, prioritizing, figuring out how to help one another.

I will be Russ’ biggest supporter and assistant as he works to complete and restore in 2017, and my most restrained self as I hold back from beginning too many new things and focus on completing what I’ve begun (dare I whisper the word “book?”).

We’ll keep walking through trauma and grief. I met with our counselor yesterday and he told me we’re right where we should be in the grief process. Good to know, because I often feel I’m not handling it well at all.

Russ and I are doing this together – loving each other – trading ashes for beauty, and sorrow for joy, incomplete for complete, and broken for restored.

Lord, have mercy on us. Give us clarity of mind, grace for one another, hearts overflowing with love, and strength to complete the unfinished and restore the broken. Amen.


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