How To Stay Connected With Your Kids When They Don’t Live at Home


Are you looking for great ways to say connected with your kids who aren’t living at home?

Some of our kids leave our homes for happy reasons – they’re growing up and going to college or starting a job. Other times their departure is due to hard reasons, like residential treatment.

Melissa and I share our experiences of our children leaving home for a short time or longer – the happy and the hard.

How do we stay connected when emotions are tough? How do we connect with our big kids when our days are consumed with younger, or simply more demanding, siblings?

We share our best tips in this episode of The Adoption Connection podcast.

#19 How to Stay Connected to Kids Not Living at Home

I hope you’re enjoying the podcast as much as we enjoy creating it!


How to Find Hope this Christmas Season

It’s nearly December and Advent begins this Sunday.

Many of us come to this season feeling hopeless. Maybe you’re struggling with your children. You may feel you’re living a life you didn’t sign up for and you’re grieving the life you imagined you’d have. Marriages struggle. Sickness presses us down.

Sometimes darkness closes in.

In this place of hopelessness, Jesus comes. He steps down into the lowly places to be with us in our hardest moments, in our sorrow, in our shame. Nothing is too dark for Him.

He comes as the light of the world bringing hope and light to our lives.

On the first Sunday of Advent, we light the Hope candle. In order to hope, we have to connect with our hopelessness. Even in the times when God seems silent, He is present and that first light of Advent reminds us He is near.

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Each Sunday we light an additional candle and the light grows brighter as we anticipate and celebrate the coming of Jesus.

I’ve loved Advent traditions for many years, and have written numerous posts about the ways our family observes this special season. This year, all of a sudden, my kids are older and busier.

I’m thinking about how to hold on to what is dear while recognizing life is very different now. Our evenings are filled with basketball practices and games, kids’ jobs, and homework; often we’re not at the dinner table together.

While hanging an ornament on our special tree may seem childish in some ways, it roots us in our truth, that God’s redemptive plan for our lives has been in place since creation. This year we may read the scriptures and hang multiple ornaments each Sunday rather than each day. Imperfect is better than not at all.

We’ll use Unwrapping the Greatest Gift as a guide for hanging our Advent ornaments.  The Wonder of the Greatest Gift looks really lovely if you’re looking for a way to celebrate with your family. The pop-up tree is fantastic; scroll down the Amazon page to see pictures of the author’s daughter with the book.

We’ll also follow a free reading guide like this one available through LifeWay or this free pdf.

I recognize that if Advent is important to me, I need to put more effort into planning my personal Advent journey. I’m following the readings in The Advent of the Lamb of God.  If it doesn’t arrive on time, I’ll start with the older version on Kindle, Behold the Lamb of God. I just might light my own Advent candle each morning as I do.

Advent and Christmas also bring our family into our time of greatest grief; we lost Kalkidan four years ago on December 27th. This is all the more reason I need to press into Christ. My heart is so easily troubled and anxious. My mind runs to “what ifs,” what if we hadn’t stopped at the mailbox, what if we’d waited one more day to make the trip. And why, oh why, was there a car coming toward us on that cruel curve early that morning.

Jesus says, “Peace, be still.” Be still my heart and mind. Light the candle. Read the words of truth. Anticipate the coming of my savior, the Light of the World.

You might like more of my Advent posts:

Four Simple Advent Traditions

Finding Advent, Finding Hope

Advent: Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

My heart feels tender and tears are near as I write this morning. I know how very hard holidays can be when life feels tumultous and the days impossible. When relationships are broken and our hearts are low, when we feel shame or fear, it’s hard to hold on to hope.

I’m with you. I understand.

If you need encouragement, I have a free gift for you, Hope for Your Parenting Journey: A guide for adoptive and foster moms.

I send you my love,


Circle for $49.99! Keep Your Family Safe Online

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

I’m up early ready to get my turkey cooking, but need to share a quick deal.

Circle is having it’s biggest sale ever – $49.99 ($50 off)! We bought Circle when it launched in 2015 for $99 and we continue to be so happy with it. Circle filters the internet as it comes into your home and covers all devices. You can also set parental controls and even pause the internet in your home with one click. I set time limits on the TV and Xbox too.

There are so many great features; click on the link to read about it on their site. This is a one-time purchase – no monthly fees. You can add an additional service to cover cell phones and mobile devices, but this covers every device in your home. Disclosure: When you purchase using my link, I make a small commission. Please pass this on – it truly helps families!

I’m also sharing lots of Amazon deals on my One Thankful Mom Facebook page. I need to get my Christmas shopping done early so I can enjoy the holiday.

Since I started this post, a friend stopped by for coffee with her baby, I made stuffing, put the turkey in the roaster, and the boys are heading to a flag football Turkey Bowl.

It’s going to be a good day.

Many blessings and much love,

Favorite Games for Everyone

Games are a great way to gather with family and friends. I prefer fast-paced and word-oriented games. Russ likes board games involving strategy. Our kids like all kinds of games. With so much variety in our preferences, this post has games for everyone.

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

Current Favorites

Our new favorite is Suspend. We played it a ton last Christmas and elementary-age kids to adults love it. It’s easy to grab and put on the table after dinner. We visited and talked about all kinds of things while we played.

Two other games we played after dinner were Bananagrams and Qwirkle.


Card Games

Card games are great because they’re simple to play and small to store. Some of our favorites are:


Dutch Blitz  or get the Expansion Pack for 8 players


You can never go wrong with Uno or Spot it!


More family favorites

HeadBanz is fun for all ages and always makes us laugh. Guess Who? is another great one. Other favorites are The Amazing Labyrinth, Connect4, Payday, Monopoly, The Game of Life, Clue, Jenga, and Blokus.


Games for big kids and adults

Ticket to Ride and Catan are big favorites with my crew.

Other games that hold my family’s attention are Risk, Stratego, Apples to Apples, Taboo, 7 WondersCarcassonne, Codenames, and Pandemic.

These are some of our favorites. What are yours?

You might also like this post, Top  10 Gifts For Kids That Aren’t Toys.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season.

With love,


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One is Silver and the Other Gold

Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver, the other is gold.

Our daughters have been friends for 13 years, since they were 7 years old, which means we’ve been friends just as long. They’ve grown up, chosen different colleges, and have many other friends, but these two share a special history.

Last weekend the four of us went to Couer d’Alene for a night. It was a quick trip, yet so relaxing and fun. We laughed hard as the girls shared childhood stories. They even had videos from an ill-fated vlog they started back when they were both still in braces.

When I tell our family’s story, I nearly always mention Beth, who stepped in and homeschooled Annarose when our life became chaos. Four new kids joining the family took all I had. Beth is incredibly organized and gave me a gift I desperately needed.

Annarose was even included on a family road trip across the country.

As moms of big families, and/or moms of kids with unique needs, it’s hard to make time for just one child, and even harder to make time for friendships. I tend to feel spread so thin, I just want to stay home when I can.

I want to encourage you to make time for old friends. You may not have the energy to form new friendships, but friends who’ve stood the test of time are a gift. And if they like your kids, no matter what? Hold on to them forever.

After traveling so much lately, it was hard to pack a bag one more time, but the moment I got in the car with the two girls in the back seat, just like when they were young, I started smiling and didn’t stop.

A fire burns bright, it warms the heart.
We’ve been friends, from the very start.

You have one hand, I have the other.
Put them together, We have each other.

Make New Friends

What do you value most in a friendship?

My short and sweet weekly email, 3 Thankful Thoughts, comes out each Wednesday and can be read in a minute or two, I promise. I chat a little about my family, share links to posts and things I’m loving, and keep you updated on important things.

I’d love to count you among my email friends. Sign up here and I’ll send you a simple guide I created for moms like you, Hope for Your Parenting Journey.

Lastly, I’m watching the Amazon Deals closely as the holidays approach and posting some of the best ones on my One Thankful Mom Facebook page. They’re starting to get good!

Much love,


Survive the Holidays While Keeping the Joy

#13 Survive the Holidays While Keeping the Joy

The holidays can be a big challenge for kids who are sensitive to change or easily dysregulated. Melissa and I share our best tips for keeping the holidays calm(ish) and happy.

Planning in advance, making wise decisions, and saying “no” to things that just don’t work are keys to holiday success.

This is a fun episode because some of YOU called in and wrote emails to leave your suggestions. We love hearing from you!

Let me know what you think of this episode. Can you believe we’ve done 13 and we’re going strong?!

With joy,