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 PiccuĀ 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 classesĀ 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.

Subscribe to my friends-letter (life is better with friends)

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. [[email protected]]

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.


As We Gather

We’re catapulting toward the end of the school year with all of its special activities, while also preparing for my dad’s memorial service and Noah’s graduation from medical school.

I’m filled with emotions that don’t all seem to fit together. I’m so sad about losing my dad, and I’m dreading the wave of grief I know will hit at his memorial service. I’m also looking forward to seeing family and friends when we celebrate him next week.

My kids are flying in, beginning with Isaiah today, followed by Hannah and David tomorrow, and Annarose on Sunday. Thankfully, Samuel lives in Portland which is only a few hours away. Noah and Katie are moving to Seattle this weekend and will already be there; Mimi also lives in Seattle. The younger kids will drive over with us.

I’m so proud of Noah and Katie, and all they’ve accomplished these last four years. It’s hard to believe medical school is done! He’s doing an OB/GYN residency at the University of Washington followed by a maternal-fetal medicine fellowship. It’s interesting because he was my first high-risk pregnancy and I had a wonderful perinatologist; she must have made an impact on him.

I love having a big family – truly love it. The challenge in a week like this is coordinating where everyone is staying, who is going to the airport, what my younger crew is wearing, where Zoe will stay for the first weekend, my trip to Seattle, when Russ leaves for Seattle, and then the emotional minefield of grief. Did I mention we still don’t know where we’re leaving our dog? My heart races just thinking about the logistical madness.

The end result is I’m not sleeping. The last few nights I’ve opened my eyes to see 3-something on the clock and couldn’t fall back asleep, which is why I’m here chatting with you in the wee hours.

I’m also realizing just how few days of school will remain when we settle back in after our two back-to-back trips. As I came downstairs this morning, the thought of swimming lessons struck me, which made me think about camp, and travel, and just how I’ll occupy my boys this summer.

Claire has loads of travel on her horizons and a summer job lifeguarding at the local pool. Zoe has work and a bit of travel planned too. Beza graduates in June and is moving to San Diego for Job Corp.

As for me, I know I’ve said it so many times, but I really do plan to declutter! It may be an ongoing process for the next decade.

I’m also loving working on my podcast and new website, The Adoption Connection. Wow, it’s fun to have a new, exciting project. My co-host, Melissa, and IĀ set out to create a podcast and have since expanded our project to create a resource-rich website for adoptive and foster moms. I’m excited to share it with you as it develops. You can stay updated on our progress by liking our Facebook page.

Last summer I traveled a lot. This summer I’ll be holding down the fort while Russ and some of the kids travel. I’m okay with that, especially becauseĀ we’re continuing toward our goal to create opportunities for connection with our kids.

I sent my friends-letter, 5 Thankful Thoughts, yesterday. It’s short, sweet, a little more personal, and it’s one of my favorite things to write. I’d love to send it to you, too.

Have a great weekend, my friend. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, like I am, take some deep breaths, and grab hold of a few small things that give you joy. I, for one, will be sipping lots of coffee and listening to favorite podcasts as I drive to Seattle. Then I’ll be hugging my big kids and family!

What’s coming up for you? Share it with me in a comment!

With courage and hope for the journey.


Hospital Days With My Family

If you’ve been following my One Thankful Mom Facebook page or my OTM Instagram, you know I made an emergency trip to the Seattle-area because my dad is critically ill. I left without saying goodbye to the kids (they were at school) and was swept into the strange life of the hospital.

We’ve had lots of bad news. He got MRSA when his pacemaker was put in a few weeks earlier and there are many problems associated with it. Not the least of which is the pacemaker had to be removed. He also had a valve replacement last summer and the valve is also infected.

The good news is we’ve pulled together as a family to support my dad, mom, and one another. I have two sisters (I’m the middle – don’t be surprised), and thankfully we love each other and we’re close. Together with my mom, the four of us have spent many long days at the hospital.

We’ve had enough time to wander and find the bright spots, like the stained glass window in the chapel, and the deli with good soup.

The older grandchildren who live within driving distance came to see my dad last weekend. Those who live farther away have FaceTimed.

Last Saturday, Russ drove over to be with me. I loved watching him care for my dad. When everyone left, we decided to stay the night in his room. They gave us a twin-size roll-away bed that was very cozy, but just right.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke to see Russ sitting at my dad’s side, feeding him ice chips. It moved my heart to see him serve my dad.

As a family, we’ve had many hard conversations about life, death, the future, and more. We’ve shared stories and laughed together.

Noah, who will graduate from medical school in a month, facilitated a family discussion and helping us sort through and clarify the treatment plan.

Thankfully, my dad is making a little progress, enough so that I decided to drive home yesterday. Ten days is a very long time for me to be away from the kids and I felt I needed to go home for a little bit.

I unpacked with re-packing in mind. Nearly everything in my suitcase went in the washer. I refilled all of my toiletries – shampoo, conditioner, lotion. I recharged myĀ travel sound machine (the one I gave Russ for Christmas that I’ve already traveled with three times) and battery pack.

I’m ready to get back in the car at a moment’s notice. Thankfully, I’m only 300 miles away, which is far better than across the country.

If you are a praying person, we would love your prayers.

Last week I managed to send out my newsletter, 5 Thankful Thoughts.Ā I plan to send a new one in the next day or two.

If you haven’t subscribed, I hope you will. It only takes a minute or two to read and is a little more personal – it’s a letter I write for my inner circle of readers. Hopefully, that includes you! You’ll also be the first to hear any good news or exciting things happening here at One Thankful Mom.

I came home to daffodils starting to bloom (yay!) and wet, sloppy snow (boo!), but it’s good to be here writing at my kitchen table.

I send you my love – and for those of you who have been praying for us, thank you from the depths of my heart.

With courage and hope,


Decluttering: Choose Smiles Over Boxes

From time to time I mention a decluttering project. I say I want to get rid of a large percentage of what we own. I say visual clutter makes me anxious and stressed.

All true.

But there are a few things I have a hard time giving away.

1.| Things that were painfully expensive for us to buy and required sacrifice.

2.| Things that have deep sentimental value.

3.| Things that recall a sweet era of our life as a family.

I’m pushing myself to let go of homeschooling tools and children’s books. This is hard becauseĀ these things fit in all three of the categories above. But I have boxes of books and cabinets full of supplies and tools (have I mentioned my love for math manipulatives?); I need to let most of it go.

Yesterday I dropped off a bag of homeschooling items to a young family, and before I was even home, the children were playing with them. The mom sent me this picture the next day.

Homeschooling represents a big part of my life as a mother. Until we adopted, we exclusively homeschooled. It became apparent that it wasn’t the best educational method for our new children and we took our first steps into school.

I’ll be honest, I grieved. Homeschooling was a key part of our family culture and it deeply pained me to let it go.

Since then we’ve done homeschool, private school, charter school, and public school; usually a combination. Currently, my youngest five all attend public school.

What about my grandchildren? This question trips me up.

First of all, I don’t have any yet. Secondly, if my grandchildren need something I’ve given away, I can probably buy a replacement.

Which takes me back to what I wrote above, “…before I was even home, the children were playing with them.”

I can save things for the future, or children can enjoy them today. I choose smiles over boxes in my garage.

Saving things without a solid plan for when they’ll be used is rooted in fear – fear that there won’t be enough, fear I’ll never have this item again, fear that God won’t provide.

As I write, I see how ridiculous this is. Do I really need to worry about whether God will provide American Girl books for my granddaughters to enjoy when those granddaughters don’t exist yet?

I’ve been checking in with my adult kids as I declutter. For instance, I asked my older girls if they were okay with me giving away their collection of American Girl books. One of them said, “Be free. Let them go.” Another said, “I might like a couple of special ones.”

We settled on saving the dolls and letting go of all books except a few special ones. Perhaps I should let go of the dolls, but they fit in one box and maybe I’ll have granddaughters who think it’s really special to play with them at my house. I may revisit that, but for now, I’m content with the decision.

Tell me, what do you have stored in boxes that a child could enjoy today? Can you choose smiles over boxes?


Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot Change

Hello, friends! I’m flying to Seattle on this beautiful, snowy morning for an attachment and trauma training, followed by the RefreshĀ  Conference.

Actually, I was supposed to leave last night, but my flight was canceled due to the lack of a plane. At our small airport, the plane has to arrive from Seattle in order for the next group of folks to board and take off.

The wind was blowing and it was snowing hard as the incoming flight prepared to land. After three passes of the runway, the pilot determined the visibility wasn’t good enough for him to land and he headed back to Seattle.

I rebooked my flight for late this morning and came home with a very happy son who was glad to have his mom home one more night. We snuggled up and read Wonder before he went to bed.

There was a time when a glitch like this would churn me up, make me super intense and unhappy, or at the very least, twitchy. God is teaching me to let go of the things I can’t control.

This is a learning process for me, but I’m becoming more adept and determining what I can control and what I can’t. I can’t control weather, flights, my children, my husband, my friends. I can only control myself, and I often struggle enough with that.

The Serenity Prayer asks that we will know the difference between the things we have the power to change and those we don’t.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

This may require learning new skills, like deep breathing, praying without ceasing, and caring for ourselves in stressful moments. We may need to give up old habits, like frantically looking for solutions when there are none, pacing, making ourselves physically sick, or self-medicating with substances or food. We may also need to learn to be quiet when we are tempted to say harsh, critical things.

This is a life lesson worth embracing.

I’ve made a couple new videos you can see here, or on my OTM Facebook page, ORĀ  on my new OTM YouTube channel.

If you are coming to Refresh, be sure to say hello! I’ll be easy to find Saturday morning at the early morning mom’s gathering. Don’t miss it!

I can’t wait to write and share what I learn from the attachment and trauma training. I know there will be many gems for you.

I will be posting on my OTM Instagram and most likely a lot on my Insta Story.

I send you my love! With courage and hope for the journey,