Be Kind {a note to students for this school year}

(Author’s note:  For many of us, our kids are starting the beginning of a new school year.  With a new year comes excitement mixed in with a bit of dread (especially when it comes to early wake-up times and homework).  This post is for all of the younglings (K-12th grade) who are beginning this new year of learning.)

Hey, Kids!  Good luck during this school year.  I hope you have a remarkable year of learning and friendship.  Give it you best!  Can I ask you something?  If you could do one thing that could change the world for better this year, would you consider it?  Well, here it is…

BE KIND. 

That kid that dresses a little out-of-style or in clothing that looks worn out, well he may be working a job after school to help put food on the table.

That girl who seems to shy away from groups or other social events, well she may be dealing with the emotional fallout of a parental divorce.

That little girl who seems to be a bit odd, well she may be carrying a dark secret about what is happening to her in the hours of the night when you are getting a restful sleep.

That boy who walks with a limp, well he may have overcome great odds to survive.

My mom used to say to me, “Kill them with kindness.”  I’ll admit that I failed time and again to do so, and there were plenty of opportunities to show kindness that I ignored.  The truth is that we really do not know what is going on in someone’s life until we listen, learn, and understand.  More than this, though, is the responsibility to be empathetic.  Yes, it is a responsibility, and you never know when you will need someone to be empathetic to you.

As a young person, you will make plenty of mistakes.  That is okay.  Mistakes are a way of learning how to navigate this crazy thing we call life.  You will have regrets.  You will wish for a do-over, but let me tell you, the one thing you will never regret is choosing kindness.

You never know…that kid with worn out clothing may end up being the best friend you ever had.  The girl who seems to shy away from groups could become the one person who shows you kindness when dealing with a hardship.  The little girl who seems a bit odd could be the very person who comes to your defense when you need it, and the boy who walks with a limp just might become one of our greatest leaders.

Lots of things come and go.  Fashion, music, popularity, etc all seem to sway with the tide, and they are not permanent.  Do you want to know what will make a permanent mark on one’s life?

Kindness.

Kindness doesn’t sway.  It doesn’t fade out or become unpopular.  It sticks with you, and it sticks to those you choose to be kind to.  Kindness matters.

Kiddos,  I challenge you to be the generation that is known for kindness.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?!  I think so.  After all, we adults can learn so much from you.

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we are PARENTS {my response to Al Trautwig’s Tweet}

18m6oyDid you hear about NBC commentator Al Trautwig’s tweet regarding Simone Biles’ family? If not, here it is:

“They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” (Al Trautwig via Twitter)

Soon after, he received tongue-lashings from others about this very offensive statement, and a #FireTrautwig campaign has started.  He has since deleted the tweet, and has apologized,

“I regret that I wasn’t more clear in my wording on the air,” he said in a statement emailed by NBC Sports. “I compounded the error on Twitter, which I quickly corrected. To set the record straight, Ron and Nellie are Simone’s parents.” (USA Today)

More clear?  Sorry, I don’t buy it.  The fact that Mr. Trautwig took the time to capitalize the letters of the word “not” speaks of great intentionality with his words.  Even though the tweet has been deleted, the impact of it has lingered.  You just can’t flippantly say something like that and expect it to just go away.  Words, whether kind or full of ignorance, always have a way of causing a visceral reaction with people.

Now, I know that some might say the adoptive community is just too sensitive.  We don’t like to use the word “real” when it comes to defining biological family.  We don’t enjoy hearing others ask, “Where did you get him from?” or “Aren’t you worried she will look for her real parents?”  We don’t appreciate any of these types of comments or questions, but we understand fully that education and awareness are greatly needed in the area of adoption.

Perhaps, we (adoptive community) are too sensitive at times.  We like to use a certain verbiage on our terms, but get defensive when others do.  We strive to be viewed as a “normal” family and want to be seen as not differing from others, even though we all know that adoption is different and the way our families were woven together are as diverse as the terrains we all come from.  I understand that we can be (at times) a little snobbish about who we are.  We all know the in’s and out’s of what it is to parent a child not born to us.  We are incredibly good at making things seem rosy all of the time, yet we know there are moments that are just ugly.

Sensitive?  Maybe.  Strong and persistent?  ABSOLUTELY.  Al Trautwig’s tweet was offensive.  In just a few words, he completely diminished what it is to be a parent through adoption.  I literally lifted out of my chair when I read them.  I recalled the moment my son was told that I was not his “real” mother.  After reading the tweet, my mind went to my children.  How heartbreaking it would be for them to read something like that.

To even suggest that Simone’s parents are NOT her parents is exactly the opposite that all families formed through adoption strive to be.

The Merriam-Webster definition of the word parent is this:

  1. 1a:  one that begets or brings forth offspring

  2. b :  a person who brings up and cares for another

  3. 2a:  an animal or plant that is regarded in relation to its offspringb:  the material or source from which something is derivedc:  a group from which another arises and to which it usually remains subsidiary <a parentcompany>  (Merriam-Webster)

Am I not a parent when I’m wiping away tears from my sad child?  Am I not a parent when I’m paying for the various activities my children are involved in?  How about when I’m advocating on behalf of my child at school, or doctor’s office, or in a social group, or when I come to the defense of my child?  Am I not a parent when I feed, nurture, and take care of my child’s daily needs?  Am I not a parent when I invest in my child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual growth?

After all, who else would be doing this?

Adoption may be different, but it is very much PARENTING.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, and it sure shouldn’t take a tweet from an ignorant sports commentator to diminish it.

Adoptive families have nothing to be ashamed of.  We are all explorers in the landscape of children who needed a family.  Let’s leave the definitions of parenthood up to those of us who are doing it, and let’s give children, who have been adopted, the right to call us what they want.

By all definitions and standards, we are parents.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

World Changers {for my daughter and yours}

20160804_155418I spent yesterday with my daughter. We had a “Girl’s Day”. We ate, shopped, laughed, and we hit the salon. Sometime this week, my daughter heard that the store called Justice is THE place to shop if you are a girl. I would like to thank whoever told her this. Okay, not really.

She begged me over and over again to take her there. She went from begging to dropping subtle hints like: “When we go to the mall and look through Justice…” You get the point. So, I caved. We headed to the mall and straight to the store. I’m pretty sure my wallet screamed with a hint of agony the minute I crossed that glitter and glam-infused threshold.

As my daughter looked at bras and make-up (you know…because she is SEVEN), I took a peek at some shirts to get her for the start of the school year. The shirts were all about girl power, being strong, being brave, being world changers, etc.

While I was looking at them, the audio in the store was playing interviews with girls saying the very things that their shirts had on them. I listened as a little girl said, “I’m going to change the world.” Others recounted being themselves and unique and strong and not letting anything keep them reaching their goals. (BRILLIANT marketing, by the way).

This is super embarrassing to admit, but I had a bit of a “moment” in that store surrounded by all that is great about being a girl. I even teared up. Seriously. I was the crazy lady shedding a few tears in Justice.

Now, this is not meant to be political. It is not meant to be for one candidate versus the other or any of that nonsense. I’m completely fine with people exercising their right to vote for who they believe best represents their concerns and values. I may be taking a risk to even post this, but I’ve always strived to be authentic in my expression of feelings, and honestly, this is not even about who I think anyone should vote for.

Yesterday, that little feminist piece of my heart swelled up with pride. Being with my strong-willed, opinionated, and creative daughter, reading the messages of hope and confidence splattered across those shirts, and listening to girls declare their sense of self, all reminded me of just how far women have come. It hit me that we have a presidential candidate (USA) who is female. She might end up being our first woman president. She might not. Agree with her or not, this is historic for us women.

Regardless if she wins or loses, I think or at least hope that we can and will remind ourselves of the value that we all have. We are daughters of purpose. Nothing should stand in our way.

For my daughter and for yours, I teared up a bit in that money-grabbing store called Justice, and my tears were not about how much it was going to cost me to shop there. My tears were ones of solidarity, pride, and hope for my daughter and all daughters around the world.

Let’s not forget that. Let’s continue to be strong, to be caregivers, to be boo-boo handlers, to be entrepreneurs, to be CEO’s, to be worship leaders, and…

to be world changers.

Children Are Worth It

 

Bailey Family 2015-3b&amp;w

Photo Credit:  Freedom Photography

 

I just can’t even tell you how much I love these kids. There are not enough words in my somewhat limited vocabulary that express how rich, deep, authentic and pure my love is for them. They came into my life without expectations. I didn’t care what race or gender they were, or what their histories consisted of. No expectations, just hopeful anticipation.

It took me a while (like twenty-five years since the age that barrenness interrupted my life) to hold a baby and feel that smothering, warm and wonderful feeling of motherhood. Sure, I was a foster mother. Sure, my first baby could have left. Oh, but that feeling…that moment when your soul is completely eclipsed by a love that has not been felt before.

There are moments when I forget that huge mountain of barrenness that once blocked my path. In my frustrations with busyness, struggles with strong-willed children, and just plumb tiredness, I forget how far and how hard the uphill walk was to motherhood.

But…when I look at my children now, I can declare,

“That mountain was thrown into the sea!

That mountain crumbled!

That mountain is no more.

That mountain has been conquered, and praise God for that!”

Honestly, I do not miss the mountain, but I appreciate it. I recognize that barrenness caused immense pain. I fully understand that illness created physical, emotional, and spiritual angst. I know the body is far more vulnerable than the soul.

Infertility and barrenness are hard. Adoption and foster parenting are hard. Raising kids with extra needs is hard. However, all of the “hardness” of it melts away when you realize that your children (however they come to you) are meant to be yours. Don’t give up, friends.

Children are worth it.

 

Kids These Days (or so, they say)

A few months ago, I listened as a gentleman of a different and older generation say, “I feel sorry for those of you raising kids in today’s world.”  His words, although meant to be sympathetic, sort of frustrated me a bit.  I keep seeing on social media and hearing through conversations that children these days are just “doomed”.  They are spoiled.  They want immediate action.  They are not being raised “right”…whatever that means.

Essentially, there is no hope for the younger generation…or so, they say.

Last week, I was a guest speaker at a local Vacation Bible School.  I spoke to around 200+ children from ages four to thirteen.  My topic was about what they can do to help foster children in their communities.  The four-year-old’s through Kindergarten ages just did not quite understand what I was talking about, so we decided it would be more fun to sing songs.  Besides, that’s way more fun, anyway!  Right?  After we were done, this little sweet-pea of a girl around the age of four came up to me and said, “We can give books to babies who don’t have them.”  Oh, be still, my heart.

The eighth-grade boys…well…yeah.  Let’s just say I’m SO looking forward to my son being in the eighth grade.  NOT.  Major kudos to those of you who teach this age group!  Don’t get me wrong.  They were respectful, but you know…a little “too cool for school”.

The first through seventh graders were listening with intent.  When asked what they could do to help out children in foster care, they offered, “Help find them a home”, “Invite them to church”, “Tell them about Jesus”, “Give them a Bible”, and “Be nice and be their friend.”  Children as young as the first grade were suggesting these things.

Afterward, I thought about the words of the older gentleman and his worries for those of us raising kids in today’s society.  I also thought about the different editorial posts floating around Facebook and other social media forums that suggest that children of today do not have a chance.  Call me an idealist, but I disagree.

Sure, life is vastly different that it was in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.  I was a young girl in the 70’s, in Junior High and High School in the 80’s, and a college student in the early 90’s (which, by the way, was awesome).  Life is different now than it was during these time periods, but you know what is not different?

LOVE.

FRIENDSHIP.

GENEROSITY.

COURAGE.

COMPASSION.

CURIOSITY.

OPPORTUNITIES TO MESS UP.

OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE IT RIGHT.

EMPATHY.

THE NEED TO CONNECT.

THE DESIRE TO DO GOOD.

Just a few days ago, my daughter told me that for one of her birthdays she wants to ask people to give gifts to homeless children and families, instead of her.  Let that soak in a bit.

If my little sampling of children from Vacation Bible School and my daughter’s expression of what she wants to do are a reflection of “kids these days”, then I dare say, they are going to be just fine.  So, please stop saying that children growing up in today’s society are doomed.

Quit judging us parents.  We are doing the best we can (just like you were when you were raising kids).  I am raising three children in today’s society.  They struggle with various issues, but let me say, THEY ARE GOOD CHILDREN.  They might misbehave from time to time, but they know right from wrong, and they have hearts that desire to seek friendship and to help others.

For the love of children, please stop thinking that all kids are just spoiled or misbehaved or don’t care about their fellow-man.  I mean, come on.  IF they are this way, then really, who should we be blaming?

If you think today’s generation of children is not going to turn out okay, what are you doing to help?  Can I offer you a few suggestions?

  • Help a young family that is struggling.
  • Tutor kids at the local school.
  • Teach a Sunday school class.
  • Volunteer at the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club.
  • Work with at-risk kids.
  • Invite the neighborhood kids and parents over for dinner.
  • Donate gift cards and other items to families in need.
  • Love on that single mama doing the best she can.
  • Encourage that daddy who is working two jobs to make the bills and put food on the table.
  • Become a reading buddy to sick children in the hospital.
  • Pray for families, children, and the world.

I can go on and on, but I suspect that you get the point.  Or, at least I hope you do.

Please, stop saying that kids these days are not measuring up to what you think they should be.  I, for one, refuse to believe this.  If you spend any amount of quality time with a young child, I dare say, you will be amazed.  They are not doomed.  They are just beginning to sprout their wings into this vast world.  They are learning about the world around them. Sure, there are things they face and deal with that we may not have as children, but still, the world has a lot of beauty in it.  Let’s make sure we show this to them.

Our young generation will be the next teachers, parents, doctors, pastors, political leaders, chefs, scientists, explorers, artists, engineers, and caregivers.

For my children and for yours, 

or the teenage boy who helps his disabled mother raise his younger siblings,

or the child who sells lemonade on her street to raise money for others,

or the young person who visits the elderly lady down the street because she is lonely,

or the boy who sticks up to the bully at school….

why would you think they are simply not adding up or are “doomed”?  

After all, children are our future…

Give that a thought.

 

 

 

Home Is Where Your Story Begins (sort of)

20160713_192557.jpg

“Home is where your story begins…”

This is the sign that is hanging on a wall covered by the artwork of my children. I’ve had it since our oldest was a baby.  Today, my daughter looked at the wall, and said, “That’s not really true, you know.” I said, “What’s not true?” She said, “Home is where your story begins. That is not true. Your story begins in your birth mom’s belly.”

She moved on and went about playing around the house, but of course, I’ve thought about this conversation all day. I promise you we do not prompt discussions about adoption or biological parents. It may seem like we sit around and hash out our adoption story with the kids on a daily basis, but that is not true. Honestly, we rarely talk about it unless they mention it.

Over the course of the past few weeks, both of our older children have randomly said things about it. What this tells me as a parent is that they are both coming into recognition that adoption is a big deal, that their lives have a different component than their non-adopted friends, and that they are figuring it out as they go along and grow older.

And, you want to know what? I’m both excited, a bit relieved, and a little scared by it. I’m excited that they trust us enough to bring us their questions. I’m thrilled that they seem to understand (as much as their age allows) that they grew in a different mother’s body. I’m relieved that I can start sharing more about their stories as they grow older, and that, so far, I haven’t totally messed it up.

However, I am also a little scared – scared that they will experience a measure of heartbreak (and rightly so) for not being able to grow up in their families of origins. I’m scared that the next question will be one that I will have to answer with truth, even though, some of the truth is ugly.

This is the life of an adoptive family. We chose to tell them as young as possible (like reading stories about adoption when they were barely toddlers) that they were adopted. When they were learning to count, we would say things like, “two mommies”. When they played with baby dolls, my husband would ask, “Did you adopt that baby?” And, so on.

No regrets. Only truth.  

My daughter’s insight caught me off guard today, but it also caused me to be a bit in awe of her.

Yet again, this is another example of a life lived from barren to blessed.

Adoption is Different

My child: “Mom, who was your first mom?”

Me: “Well, Mamoo (name the kids gave my mom) was my first mom?”

My child: “You only have one mom? You didn’t have a first mom?”

Me: “No. Mamoo is the only mom I have.”

Silence…This is a snippet of the conversation I had yesterday with one of my kids. It came completely out of the blue – like most of the conversations we have had about adoption, birth parent(s), etc.

This child has been with us since just a few days old. This child never lived with a biological parent and is extremely bonded to us. Here’s the deal, though. It is wrong to assume that “the child may not question as much if you get him/her as a baby”. It is also wrong to assume that the child will never wonder about biological family, or compare his or her own histories and situations to other people’s situations.

Adoptive parenting is somewhat evolutionary. As the child grows, their concepts, understanding, and desire to learn about their stories evolve. It is our responsibility as parents to be comfortable with this. And, it can be tough.

Once the gavel falls and declares you as the adoptive parent(s), your adoption story is really just beginning. Look at it this way: The paperwork, court processes, placement, and finalization are really just the introduction to the story. The rest…well, that is where the “meat” of the storyline really comes to life.

Adoption is different. I’m not ashamed or offended when that is suggested. It just is. However, in the difference, there is a great opportunity for a richer, more meaningful parenting experience, and for you, as the parent, to be challenged, humbled, and continue to grow in life .

This, my friends, is just one more way that I am learning my life is far from barren.

America, the Beautiful {thoughts from Independence Day}

20160704_215557 (1)America, the Beautiful.  The land of all whose free.  Yet, in this land, we fight and rage over what we think should be.

America, the Wonderful.  The home to which we love.  Yet, in this home, we worry and wonder what the future is made of.

Where have you gone, you mighty beast?  The mountain of the brave.  In our freedom, we spit and blame, leading so many to be enslaved.

Bring back the few, the furious, the ones who believed in truth.  The ones who fought so early on, laying foundations for our youth.

What if they could see us now?  How offended we easily become.  Is this what they battled for?  Isn’t this what they escaped from?

What happened to our invitation for the weary to our shore?  Since we did we become so bitter that we desire to shut the door?

The persecuted masses, the tired few, the ones who seek to breathe free.  What about the longing souls who want to kiss liberty?

America, the Beautiful, I still believe in you.  You raised this daughter to be one who seeks joy in things anew.

I still love you, my blessed home, the terrain of diversity.  Show me, teach me, prove to me that we will turn away from perversity.

We live our lives so liberated, free to do as we please.  Yet, in my mind, I fear and wait for the moment we are brought to our knees.

Our Lady Liberty exclaims these words, “…I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” America, sweet land of mine, these words we should not ignore.

America, the Beautiful.  The home of bravery.  Perhaps, it’s time that we reflect and consider our history.

Author’s note:  As I watched the fireworks last night, I thought about our nation.  With all of the political stuff going on and the “war of opinion”, I’ve been thinking a lot about the valiant ones who fought for our liberation, some losing their lives, for the very things that we take for granted – religious freedom, free will to set our own paths in life, and freedom from tyranny.  I think it is important that we truly remember who we are.  A land of immigrants.  A land of multiple origins.  A people who sought freedom for all.

A people of promise.

Let’s not forget that.

What is Therapeutic Foster Care? {Adoption.com article}

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between traditional foster care and therapeutic foster care?  In my job, I’ve been asked this question a lot.  I recently wrote an article about this very subject.  You can read the article by clicking the link below:

What is Therapeutic Foster Care?

I hope this answers your questions!  There is a great need for therapeutic foster parents, so if it has ever crossed your mind, I greatly encourage you to consider becoming one.

Blessings,

Caroline

This Place of Grace

Wow, friends. This has been a sad week for so many. From personal acquaintances dealing with sudden illness to the news of what all has transpired in Orlando, it seems every day brings about a different reason to mourn. Sometimes, I don’t even want to check my phone alerts or news channels/sites due to so much tragedy going on within our communities, our nation, and the world.  I had this quote from Dennis Garvin on my mind today,  “Temptation is not his (Satan’s) strongest weapon. Despair is.”

Do you want to know what other words rang out in my mind today?

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23 (NIV)
Even when it seems the world is collapsing around us, the comforting Word always seems to bring me right back to this place of grace; this wonderfully rich place where hope sustains and fulfills.  Friends, let the Word speak to you.  Embrace it.  Carry it throughout these trying days, and rest comfortably in this place of grace.