The Last 90 Days of 2018 #last90days

A sweet reader replied to my weekly email saying she misses my posts. I wrote back to say I’m having a hard time writing, and she replied, “Just let your heart flow.”

So here’s my heart today (thanks, Regan).

A friend shared #last90days on Instagram and it grabbed my attention. The idea is that we have 90 days (88 today) remaining in 2018 and that’s enough time to establish good habits to carry us into 2019. I don’t tend to join things, but for some reason this appeals to me.

Of course, I tweaked it to fit my needs, because I’m not a good¬†follower. Given that I got up at 4:10 this morning, I don’t think getting up an hour earlier would benefit me. I’ve also done lots of gratitude journals, and it’s a very good idea, but it doesn’t resonate with me right now. Here is my personalized list.

  1. Go to bed between 9:00 and 9:30.
    If I’m asleep by 9:30 I can function, even if I wake early.
  2. Workout at least 30 minutes.
    I tend to do well during the week but not on weekends, so this will take some effort.
  3. Drink half my body weight in ounces of water each day.
    I need this one.
  4. Give up chips and crackers.
    I wasn’t a crunchy, salty person – until I gave up sugar 19 months ago. It’s amazing how I can find other ways to get myself in trouble.
  5. Write a minimum of 30 minutes per day.
    With a book deadline, I’m writing far more than that on work days, but it’s easy to skip other kinds of writing, like blog posts or even getting a story down while it’s fresh in my mind. I still haven’t written about the terrifying experience of doing the high ropes course at family camp – I cried when I was finally down. Surely there¬†is a story in there to use someday.

What about you? Do you like the idea of creating new habits to finish the year strong? If you were going to add one positive habit for the next 90 days, what would it be? Leave a comment and tell me.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin is a great book about breaking bad habits and creating new ones. I’m slowly reading it at bedtime.

I finished a draft of a book chapter yesterday but have no idea if it’s any good. If I write and edit at the same time, I’ll never get it done. So I wrote, saved, and will review it later.

Today I’ll work on another chapter and record a podcast episode with my co-host, Melissa. If you haven’t started listening to The Adoption Connection podcast, please give it a try. I’m enjoying it so much. [If you’re not sure how to listen to a podcast, here’s a link.]

The kids are out of school the rest of this week, which is great for them, but a little complicated for me with deadlines looming. Also, recording with kids around is tricky. I’ll set up my computer and microphone in my small laundry room and tape a big sign on the door. We’ll see if they get the hint not to interrupt or make a ridiculous amount of noise.

It’s¬†5:15 AM and my friend will be here in five minutes to pick me up for Pilates Boot Camp. Bless her for making it easy for me to go because it is a torturous class and I’m reasonably sure if I had to get in my car and drive there, I might skip it, especially once the snow hits. But hey, I’ll get my 30+ minutes of working out done by 6:30 in the morning!

Have a great day, friend. If you decide to join me on the #thelast90days, let me know! And if you tweak it, I’d love to hear your goals.

With courage and hope,


A Three-Point Plan for Parenting Middle Schoolers

Do you have middle schoolers? Are you wondering how to manage these years?

As of today, I have five teens and one pre-teen (plus five young adults). I love teens, they’re interesting, fun to be with, and their worlds are exploding with opportunity. They also need a lot of guidance.

Middle school is a time when kids experience startlingly rapid¬†physical and mental¬†growth. Just yesterday one of my sons called me from the pool and his voice was so deep I couldn’t believe it was him.

Their peers are going through the same process, but my kids, and many of yours, have the added complexity of being adoptees. As kids mature they ask different questions about their stories and ponder the complexities of being separated from their first families. They may wonder, “How did I end up in this family?”

Adoption is always part of their world. Recently my son found an Ethiopian coin and said, “I wonder if this is the exact amount of money my Ethiopian mom needs right now.”

Like mine, some of your teens have an extra layer of not only being adopted but growing up as young black teens in white families. Digging deeper into racial issues and learning from people of color must be added to our parenting plates.

I suggest we focus on three simple things with our middle schoolers:

1. Take every opportunity to connect.

  • feed them – for me, this means making breakfast on school mornings and having substantial snacks after sports practices and games
  • maintain traditions, like Friday pizza night
  • welcome their friends to our home
  • create special moments, like a breakfast date before school
  • be fully present – I need to put my work away before they get home from school
  • gather for family dinner as many nights as possible
  • maintain a variation of your bedtime routines even if they seem too old
  • pause to really listen – put your phone away if that helps (it helps me)
  • in terms of adoption issues, be sensitive, answer questions honestly, and try not to take anything personally

2. Support them as they explore their interests.

  • understand their need to expend energy and develop their interests – my boys need lots of physical activity
  • sports offer structured, supervised time with other adults and peers
  • for kids not into athletics, there are many other activities like Lego Robotics, Boy Scouts, 4H, music, and many clubs
  • youth group – my guys are both old enough now to attend middle school youth group at our church
  • look for opportunities for them to work and earn money to gain financial responsibility
  • support them academically – we’re instituting homework time at the table after dinner

3. Pray

  • I don’t say this lightly; for people of faith, prayer is essential
  • recognize that our teens are facing situations at school we didn’t even imagine when we were teens
  • technology deeply impacts their world, put safeguards where we can
  • but – we can’t shield them from everything; encourage open conversations and trust God
  • remember that prayer is far better worrying
  • pray with them (and over them) before they leave for school and encourage them to pray too

I’m reminded of this quote:

 God acts when we pray and often does more in seconds than we could do in hours or weeks or sometimes years.  John Piper

Take every opportunity to connect, Fill their lives with positive activities, and Pray.

Have a great week, friend.

With courage and hope,


Thankful for Vacation and for Going Home

This morning I was up at 5:00 because the “silent” alarm on Russ’ Fitbit was going off every five minutes. He didn’t hear a thing.

It’s our last morning on Whidbey Island and I’m thankful for the moments in the nearly dark and very quiet house, but after spending hours packing the house last night, I could have used a little more sleep.

The happiest reason to go home is we’ll see Annarose! She left to study abroad in Colombia last January and stayed to travel for the summer. We were able to FaceTime and text, but I can’t wait to actually spend time with her.

We also haven’t seen Zoe in nearly four weeks! She just got back from visiting family in Utah.

So much to be thankful for:

1. Connecting with big kids who arrived from all over the country. They fill my heart.

2. Celebrating Hannah and David’s engagement!

3. Sailing with Russ. Walking the beach with Russ. Talking with Russ.

4. Minimal cooking – lots of food from the grill.

5. Ebenezer and Wogayu learning to skimboard and discovering a new way to have fun on the beach.

6. Taking in moments with special friends and family.

7. Breathing the salt air, looking out at the beach and the Olympic mountains, taking in the beauty.

8. Fighting back against a huge fear.

9. Playing badminton and card games.

10. Enjoying Claire’s friends and my niece who added fun and energy to our days.

11. Reading – a little.

12. Escaping the hectic – no appointments or errands.

Vacation is not always easy; we had some really hard moments with kids. I wrote a long post and didn’t publish it because it sounded too sad or possibly too whiny. Maybe another day after significant editing.

The first episode of The Adoption Connection podcast will be available tomorrow. So nervous/excited!

Have you downloaded my free guide yet? I wrote Hope for Your Parenting Journey: a guide for adoptive and foster moms just for you.

Have you gotten away this summer? How did it go?

With courage and hope, my friend.


Happy News – They’re Engaged!

We have exciting news! Hannah is engaged to her love, David!

She was completely shocked when he proposed last weekend, thinking it would be a couple more months. We were in on the surprise, so that made it extra fun for us.

It’s also very special that he proposed at our family’s special place, Whidbey Island.

We are thrilled to have David¬†join our family, most of all because he loves Hannah. Second, he’s an amazing, kind, loving person. Third, did I mention he’s a psychiatric social worker who happens to be great with adolescents?

[The third point is a little selfish to include, but I know you, of all people, can appreciate the gifts he brings to our family!]

When Hannah decided to do a fellowship (following residency), we were happy for her, but a little disappointed she would be far away for another year. Then she chose the one program in her specialty that was two years rather than one, and it was far away in Cincinnati.

But God had a good plan in taking her there that went beyond her career. She met David.

They haven’t set a date yet, but wedding planning has commenced!

Lots of excitement for the Qualls family and a huge amount of gratitude to God.

With happiness,


10 Steps for Overcoming Sloppy Parenting Habits

Paying the price for sloppy parenting is no fun – for parent or child.

It would be nice to say this is a theoretical situation, just a teaching moment for parents needing advice, but that’s not the case. Once again, you get to learn from my mistakes.

I have issues with saying, “No.” It’s probably rooted in some big psychological issue a therapist could mine the depths of for hours. But there’s no time for that today.

With one of my kids,¬†in particular, I’ve gotten sloppy. In the spirit of building trust and offering compromises, as well as good doses of conflict-avoidance and fatigue, I’ve neglected to give firm and loving “no’s.”

It’s easy to slide into bad habits that aren’t too noticeable at first¬†until they come back around and bite you in the butt, which is exactly what happened last week.

During a visit with one of my best friends, my child’s behavior was beyond challenging. Out of our routine, lacking sleep, and eating differently were all factors, but it was clear this was also an ingrained habit.

Even parent coaches need coaching sometimes, and my friend is close enough to tell me the truth. “You’ve got to stop allowing him to negotiate with you. Remember, no negotiating with terrorists.”

It doesn’t help that this kid is very smart and, like two of his older brothers, he can make an incredibly convincing argument. One day this will be a strength, I’m sure, but it has become a rather exhausting way to parent.

It’s not fun having my weaknesses pointed out, even by a friend who loves me and loves my kids. It’s not easy shoring up my parenting skills in someone else’s home while my husband is out of town. But after a particularly trying day at the Seattle Center, there was no doubt about it, a firm and simple “no” needed to make it’s way back into my toolbox.

Thankfully, I’ve already had many opportunities to practice, in fact, they seem to come around constantly. I’ve created this problem and I¬†need to fix it.

I’m following ten steps to get back on track.

10 Steps for Overcoming Sloppy Parenting

1.| Recognize the problem.

2.| Be kind to yourself and remember even great parents get off track.

3.| Talk it through with your spouse, a good friend, or even a parent coach.

4.| Determine your strategy for turning it around – I’ll share mine in a moment.

5.| Explain the problem to your child and your responsibility in creating it.

6.| Let him know the new plan. Have compassion; this may be hard for him.

7.| Remind him of your love and what a great kid he is.

8.| Do it – follow your plan. When you slip back into your sloppy habits, correct yourself and get back on track.

9.| Ask a friend or spouse to hold you accountable, or write a blog post for thousands of people to read so you won’t be tempted to give up.

10.| Follow through and patiently wait for the good to come.

I knew I had this weakness and it became glaringly obvious. My friend encouraged me to make changes – to say “no” and stick to it even if I regretted my answer or my son had incredibly intelligent reasons for me to say “yes.”

The night after our Seattle Center debacle, I sat with my son at bedtime. I told him how much I adore him, then explained it’s been hard to enjoy being with him because of his arguing and constant negotiating. I said we needed to change this bad habit and I would be giving firm “no’s” that he needed to accept. I took responsibility for allowing this bad habit to grow.

When he does a good job of accepting “no” I praise him in a low-key way, (good job accepting “no”), give him a hug, or give him space if he is unhappy. When he doesn’t accept it and arguing ensues, I use as few words as possible, and if absolutely necessary, walk away.

I do what I can to set him up for success by saying “yes” when I can and giving a firm “no” when I can’t.

It hasn’t been easy, and today, as the kids begin waking, I remind myself of this plan.

Today, my ‘yes’ will be ‘yes’ and my ‘no’ will be ‘no.”

How about you? Have you slid into parenting habits you need to break? Join me and let’s do it together!

I have a new Free download at The Adoption Connection, 8 Ways to Help an Adoptive or Foster Mom. I know how hard it is to ask for help. This resource includes a one-page sheet you can give to family and friends.

I also offer parent coaching and marriage mentoring on my resource site, The Adoption Connection, where we cut through the overwhelm, get into your specific needs, and make a plan to bring about the changes you desire in your adoptive or foster family.

Have a fantastic week – happy and consistent parenting, friend!


3 Special Moments You Shouldn’t Miss

“Go to the wedding, go to the funeral, stop at the lemonade stand.”

For many years life was crazy busy. I homeschooled, parented seven children, adopted four more children, wrote a blog, spoke at conferences, and learned all about parenting kids with trauma.

Living in the trenches of parenting children from “hard places” was a marathon. I was running with all I had every day and there was little time to give to others.

I once skipped a family wedding because I was too emotionally and physically exhausted. It was a necessary absence, nevertheless, I missed one of the biggest moments in my niece’s life.

The thing about weddings is they are about more than the bride and groom. Our presence tells them, and their families, we value them and their very special day took precedence over all the other opportunities and responsibilities pressing around us.

But what about funerals? I was one to avoid funerals at all cost. Death has always been very hard for me and unless I absolutely had to attend, there was no way I was going.

Then my daughter, Kalkidan, died.

This is isn’t the time to tell that story, but I want you to know that when we were in a terrible car accident and our 13-year-old daughter didn’t survive, I was terrified of her funeral. I was physically injured and emotionally in shock. I was completely sick and overwhelmed the day of her service, sure I wouldn’t make it through.

When they wheeled me down the aisle in my temporarily-needed wheelchair, I saw the crowded pews and my heart filled. When we sang, the voices surrounded us like the most comforting hug you can imagine.

The air was thick with love and I breathed in great gulps.

Mid-way through the service, our family stood on the altar as Russ spoke. I looked up and saw that not only were the lower pews packed, the pews climbing higher were also filled. I could not believe this display of love for our family.

Later, friends formed a long line and, as I sat on a stool bandaged and bruised, they came one-by-one to hug us, whispering comforting words in our ears, or simply taking our hands in theirs as tears flowed down their cheeks.

We remember the people who came.

And what about lemonade stands? I blame my friend, Ann, for this one because her words inspired this post. I’m not generally spontaneous. Besides, I live in a nearly cashless world and kids don’t take debit cards!

But what if I intentionally put money in my car for lemonade stands, fundraisers, and stopping for ice cream with my kids?

In my busy, check-it-off-my-list world, I tend to put my head down and plow through. How many times have I driven past children selling lemonade and thought, “I wish I had time to stop.”

What if I lightened up and paused to smile at children pouring sticky glasses of lemonade?

Weddings. Funerals. Lemonade Stands.

What do these have in common?

So many of us are isolated and lonely. These special moments require us to pause and remember what is truly important. At the end of the day, or the end of the week, will we treasure our checked-off lists of accomplished tasks or our family, friends, and neighbors?

We need one another for both the sorrow and the joy.

When we show up and love with open hearts, we demonstrate generosity of spirit. We are saying, “I see you. You are valued and loved. Your joy is my joy, your sorrow my sorrow.”

So go to that wedding, show up at that funeral, and stop at the next lemonade stand you see. It’s worth it.

I created a new FREE download, Hope for Your Parenting Journey: a guide for adoptive and foster moms. Grab your copy by clicking on the blue button in the upper right corner of One Thankful Mom !

Lastly, don’t miss my FREE webinar, Travel Tips for Adoptive Families.

Special thanks to my friend, Ann, for inspiring this post.

Cherish one another,