I See You

To the kid who pushed through immeasurable grief this school year, I see you.

To the kid who struggled with anxiety but still showed up, I see you.

To the kid who didn’t participate in sports or anything extra but cheered others on, I see you.

To the kid who did your best to stay awake in class because you worked late to help pay your family’s bills, I see you.

To the kid with depression who kept putting one foot in front of the other, I see you.

To the kid whose ADHD is alienating but you kept trying, I see you.

To the kid who befriended the new kid in class even though you struggle with friendships, I see you.

To the kid who doesn’t have anyone in your corner, I see you.

To the kids whose square shape will never fit into the round holes of standardization, I see you.

Thank you for your courage to show up at school. Thank you for the continued determination to fight through learning disabilities, grief, trauma and whatever else this world has already thrown at you.

To the kids who will never be recognized with any of the awards our public education system gives out, I see you.

You are worthy. You matter.

I see you.

Dear Infertility (part 8)

Dear Infertility,

I think about you. Every damn day. Sometimes you’re just a whisper. Other times, you seem to have a megaphone. I’ve been fooled into thinking that you’ll go away and just when I get a reprieve from you, boom. There you are.

I don’t know why I can’t shake you; why the trauma of my surgery haunts. It’s like you’re sewn into my bones. Every fiber consists of you. Until I shuffle off this mortal coil, I suspect it will always be this way.

Like a spider at night, you’ve weaved a web I cannot escape from, even when I try. Why do you insist on holding me captive? Is it the way you came into my life? Or, could it be the way you’ve changed it? 

I’m a parent. You know this. Still, you persist. You love reminding me of yourself. A bit egotistical, don’t you think? Oh, you really enjoy making me wonder what could’ve and should’ve been. It’s your thing, isn’t it?

Dear Infertility,

Stop. I know I’ve begged this of you for far too many years. You won’t listen. It’s because you’re trauma – T.R.A.U.M.A. Despite therapy, prayer, marriage, adoption and many other things, you remain a constant shadow of pain from years ago.

I find myself wondering about you and it makes me feel guilty, although, I haven’t committed a crime. Guilty for pondering the things I do. Guilty for wishing things would’ve been different. I’m convicted of that.

Dear Infertility,

If I kept it all inside, I’d allow you to win. I can’t do that because you’ve already taken so much from me. You altered my childhood. Yes, you did that.

From the hysterectomy to feeling like a vagabond in the midst of other girls to imagining what my biological child would be like, you’ve been the narrator.

But, don’t forget, it’s my voice.

And, I’m still here.

His Eye is on Them

My kiddo experienced some bullying at school last week. (Before I go any further with this, it’s fair to say that I KNOW my kids do and say things all the time that make us cringe. We’re not naive and fully get that even our precious angels can be antagonistic to others.) We spent time talking about choices and other things that can cause drama but wanted to make sure that our child understood God is an adoring Father and His eye is on them.

I said,

“It’s okay to apologize for things you’ve done wrong. It’s okay to say you’re sorry if you’ve hurt someone as long as you work on the issue at hand. But we don’t ever want you to apologize for who you are…for your interests or likes or anything like that. If you want to grow up and raise chickens, then by all means, be the best chicken parent around. If you want to spend all day with your head in a book, then do it. If you want to be a tattoo artist, go for it but don’t ever say you’re sorry for who you are. The things that other say make you a freak are exactly the things that make you unique. Embrace that. Understand?”

As my kiddo left our bedroom, I instantly thought of Matthew 10:29-31 (Message Bible version). I grabbed the Message bible and headed to my kid’s room.

“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.”

It’s easy to get lost in the world and wonder where you fit in. I felt that way as a girl figuring out female-hood differently than my peers but I remember my mom telling me, “Caroline, His eye is on the sparrow so you know he’s watching after you as well.”

Goodness, friends. Growing up is tough stuff and dealing with rejection is so hard. It’s painful to watch our kids take paths that often have forks in the road. We don’t know which direction they’re going to head down but let’s never forget that God adores our kids. His eye is on them!

Most importantly, let’s continue to remind them of this as well.

Ukraine On My Mind

Like many others, I woke up this morning with Ukraine on my mind. As I listened to my snoring husband next to me, I searched my phone for any new updates. Stomach in knots as I read about the 13 soldiers on Snake Island who took a defiant last stand, the woman who confronted a Russian soldier and the plight of two sisters separated from their parents while holding out in a bomb shelter.

From the warmth and safety of my home, I sat there trying to wrap my mind around the trauma and fear Ukrainians are dealing with. They’ve been down this path before. I can’t imagine.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of listening to two Ukrainians who started a ministry to provide loving, safe families for abused, neglected and abandoned children in their home country. Their hearts and passion for children flowed through each word they spoke. During a call with them, they soaked up all they could about trauma-informed care and yearned for knowledge to help restore the lives of broken children.

I also listened to a coworker who traveled to Ukraine and worked directly with the families and children at a summer camp. He held back tears as he talked about the humility and warmth of the Ukrainian people. He also broke a little when speaking about one particular boy whose trauma absolutely split his heart into pieces.

As I sat in my bed this morning with Ukraine on my mind, my thoughts immediately turned to them. It’s devastating to consider the work they’ve done, and still want to do, is now at risk. It angers me that trauma-upon-trauma is spilling out onto the people there.

It seems selfish to worry about what to fix for dinner or to run to Starbucks or any of those things we do on a typical day in my country. My kids are safe. They are warm, sleeping in their beds. Our family isn’t separated. We’re all here. Oh, the things we take for granted; the twisting of our version of freedom into concerns of trivial things.

Friends, let’s keep Ukraine in our hearts. Lift up the parents sheltering their children and the elderly who’ve already fought this war time and again.

Pray for Ukraine and its people.

Pray for courage, strength, protection and peace.

Win At Parenting When You Work From Home

Parents who are working remotely while caring for young children and babies are charged with both managing their time and juggling work and home responsibilities. While this 24/7 dual role can take a toll on your mental and emotional health, implementing a few basic survival tips can help improve the situation and allow you to retain your sanity. Below, Barren to Blessed offers parents a few ideas on how to win at parenting when you work from home.

Separating Home And Work Life

While it may feel like an impossibility, creating a schedule and sticking to it can help you balance work and home and keep the two entities separate. If you have a partner or housemate who can assist, divide household and childcare tasks in such a way that you each have designated blocks of time during the day in which to focus on work. 

This is especially critical if you’re scheduling Zoom meetings or phone calls that require quiet and concentration. Ask your boss for a flexible schedule if necessary. According to the BBC, colleagues can be a bit rough on one another for perceived lateness or distraction, but many become more accommodating with the knowledge that countless parents are struggling to juggle work and home simultaneously.

Create Designated Workspace

Although numerous parents are working from kitchen tables, card tables, and bedrooms, if there’s any way to create designated private office space, it can help you ensure a clear delineation between what constitutes home and what constitutes work. According to Grey Campus, doing so can also help you manage time and stay focused

Keep all of your professional tools and supplies organized in a single place, including notepads, your laptop and a charger, and any other materials and files you need for everyday work responsibilities. If you have a specific space set aside, declare it off-limits to the rest of the household. If necessary, you may need to get a bit creative — take critical phone calls from a large walk-in closet, laundry room, garage, or any other space where you can temporarily carve out privacy.

Keep It Clean

Having a clean or disorganized house or workspace isn’t just a hassle — it can make your mind feel cluttered and disorganized as well. Cleaning, decluttering, and organizing is the best way possible to not only stay focused but to think clearly and freely. You can eliminate negative vibes and energy by airing out your house, letting in some fresh air, and even smudging, if you’re so inclined. Decorate with items that make you feel happy and peaceful. Studies show there’s a direct correlation between how tidy your living space is and how you feel mentally, emotionally, and even physically. Creating a calm and comfortable environment will help you be more centered and productive, both as an employee and as a parent. 

Be Kind To Yourself

We’re all living in an unprecedented time, where parents are often charged with being  employees, caregivers, and teachers – often simultaneously. In addition to setting parameters that help you maximize your professional productivity, set aside time to rest and recharge so you can be your best in all areas of responsibility. Invest in some clothing (like a nursing T-shirt, for example) that allows you to work and parent comfortably. Also, Healthy eating and regular exercise or activity can all aid in this effort. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether that’s from older kids, a spouse, a partner, or housemates. Remind yourself, it’s okay to not be okay all the time. Simply creating a plan of action can get you in a frame of mind where you feel focused and in control.

Take Control of Your Future

In many cases, the work-from-home battle can feel so insurmountable that it becomes a choice between working or quitting your job to stay home. The latter comes with many pros and cons, with the biggest con being a loss of income. However, if your family can afford for you to stay home, you can find alternate ways to make money or even go back to school to pave the way for your career once your kids are in school. And with online degree programs, you would have the opportunity to earn your advanced degree and study at your own pace while you still take care of your parental responsibilities.

While all the tips in the world can help you be organized and manage your time to its fullest, there are some undeniable challenges that only your employer can help you address. Be up front with your supervisor about your limitations, and collaborate to create a flexible work schedule. This will ensure you’re meeting your obligations and responsibilities to your employer, and to your colleagues, while also taking care of your needs, and those of your family.

**Note: Thank you to Gwen Payne for this guest post on how to win at parenting when you work from home! You can find her at http://invisiblemoms.com/

Image: https://pixabay.com/

self-care tips for kids

5 Simple Self-Care Tips for Kids

Self-care isn’t just for adults – children need time for self-care, too! In some ways, age-appropriate self-care for kids is actually quite similar to self-care for adults. It’s all about winding down, practicing healthy habits, and finding relaxing hobbies they enjoy. You can find fantastic ideas for kid-friendly self-care activities on Barren to Blessed! In addition, here are a few easy ways to ensure that your kids have opportunities for self-care.

Be a Great Role Model

How can you ensure that your children understand the importance of self-care? By setting a great example! You can teach them through your own actions. If you’re always struggling with stress, your children could become anxious, too. That’s why managing your time well and prioritizing self-care in your own life’s key. For instance, if you’re a business owner, you can prevent fatigue and burnout by outsourcing tasks to contractors and other employees, avoiding distractions during the workday, and taking care of your most important responsibilities early in the day instead of procrastinating.

Arts and Crafts

Arts and crafts are a fantastic form of self-care for people of all ages, including young children! By making space for arts and crafts in your home, you can give your kids a chance to explore their creativity without rules or grades. To make sure these crafty activities don’t become too stressful or messy for you, Oxo recommends organizing the materials they’ll need beforehand and cleaning up together. Show your kids how much you love their artwork by hanging it on the fridge!

Physical Activity

Do you ever feel concerned that your children don’t get enough exercise? Exercise is a necessary aspect of self-care for kids, and you can make an effort to help them become more active. Care recommends encouraging your children to sign up for an organized sports team, taking them to the playground when you have free time, and playing fun backyard games with them like catch and tag.

Relax and Read

Adults and children alike can turn to reading for self-care! If your children are too young to read on their own, you can stick to a nightly reading routine and read aloud from their favorite books. And if your children are older, you can start encouraging them to read on their own. For instance, you can head to the local library each weekend to pick out a new book. 

What if your child doesn’t know what to read? It can take time for children to figure out what kinds of books they really enjoy. In the meantime, you can ask your librarian for their recommendations or talk to other parents about which books their children have enjoyed recently.

Time Outdoors

Do you feel like your children have been spending lots of time inside lately? While there are plenty of healthy activities that children can enjoy indoors, it’s a good idea to introduce your children to the great outdoors and help them cultivate an ongoing love of nature. You can start in your own backyard by adding fun features like a sandbox and purchasing basic gear for sports like hula hoops and frisbees. When you’re ready to give your kids the chance to adventure beyond the backyard, you could spend the day hiking or even plan a family camping trip! This is a fun way to teach your children skills like using a compass and identifying plants and insects.

Self-care is just as crucial for children as it is for adults. In fact, by emphasizing self-care for kids, your whole household will feel happier and healthier! With these tips, you’ll be able to teach your child about self-care from a young age.

Are you looking into adoption? Find tips and guidance on Barren to Blessed! Browse the blog today for real-world advice on adopting.

*Admin note: Thank you, Daniel, for this guest post! Daniel can be found at https://dadsolo.com/ Go check out his other great parenting tips!

wanted and loved

“Well, your mom didn’t even want you so that’s why you had to get adopted!” I heard this coming from one of my kid’s bedroom. The next sound heard was that of my crying child. I ran to comfort my child. My husband following to hug our child, while I stood in the bedroom of the child to which those words were spoken. “Why? Why would you say that? That isn’t the truth – about you or any your siblings. We’ve never said that. All of you are adopted and loved and very much wanted. Don’t say that because the world is going to tell you that and it’s not true,” I said, while looking into my child’s eyes. My child looked right back into my eyes and said, “The world has already told me this.”

Taken back, stricken with a twinge of heart-pain, I reassured my children the truth that they are very much wanted and loved by all members of families – biological and non-biological.

Yesterday was World Adoption Day and this memory of a recent conversation just kept playing over in my mind. I chose to take a pic of my empty hand – no words or symbols. Nothing.

Because sometimes adoption seems so full of nothingness and overwhelmed by everything at the same time.

Because adoption is filled with immeasurable despair and longing; yet also carries a sustainable hope.

Because all of us (adoptive parents) can’t let it be about us – our wants and our needs.

Because every single day, we have to get up with a blank slate – one that we don’t pour our own expectations all over; one that we let our kids write their feelings on.

World Adoption Day is about bringing support and awareness for adoption by encouraging people to snap a pic of their hands with smiley faces on them. I certainly hope my lack of a smiley face or words on my hand suggests that I don’t support it. I do. I always will. There are plenty of smiling, joyful moments in adoption.

But sometimes, we have to be the blank slate – one that never turns away from our children’s feelings; one that gets rid of what we thought parenting would be like.

One that fully recognizes we have so much to learn.

Autism-friendly home environments

Image credit: Pixabay

Many children on the autism spectrum have sensitivities to their surroundings. As such, there are a number of home design and layout features that should be taken into consideration based on your child’s unique needs so that you can create Autism-friendly home environments. This article will provide you with valuable information as you navigate parenting a child on the spectrum.

Home Location

While it’s not always possible to find a home situated on a perfectly quiet and peaceful cul-de-sac, if you have the option to be picky when it comes to your home’s location and layout, consider the environment best suited to your family’s needs. For example, if your child wanders, you might be more comfortable with a home situated internally in your neighborhood. Avoid busy streets. If your child has separation anxiety, a two-story home with the owner’s suite on the first floor and secondary bedrooms on the second floor might be problematic. If you have specific needs in mind and are working with a real estate professional, inform them in advance of your preferences so they can help you narrow your search appropriately. The goal is to create an autism-friendly home environment.

Interior Design

Some kids on the autism spectrum have a sensitivity to fluorescent light and loud ambient sounds. Acoustic finishes can help insulate living spaces, and noise-canceling headphones can provide on-the-spot respite as needed. Other kids have a need for order and continuity. Do your best to create a living environment that is calm and peaceful and caters to your child’s particular needs. For example, choose a bedroom removed from heavy traffic. If you’re moving from another location, unpack your child’s belongings first and set up their room in a similar fashion to their previous room. Creating an organizational system for personal belongings helps to create a sense of order. Use color in line with how it stimulates or relaxes your child. For many on the spectrum, muted colors are good for concentration and focus. More vibrant colors are appropriate for activity areas.

Furniture and Finishes

Heavy furniture often works best in homes with autistic children. Rounded rather than sharp edges on things like counters and tables can also help prevent injuries. Exposed cords, wires and open-railing stairwells present hazards. Bright, shiny, or busy surfaces or decor that “feel loud” can be too much for some sensitivities. Glazed muted windows with auto blinds, and dimmable LED lighting in common areas can help change the mood of various sections of the home, as needed. You may also want to create “stimulus zones” that allow for engagement and stimulation without making your child feel overwhelmed. According to The Art of Autism, sensory issues can change over time. Follow your child’s cues in creating an autism-friendly home environment. 

Create Space for Movement

Kids on the autism spectrum need safe, fun outlets for energy, especially those who self-soothe by fidgeting. Create a room designed just for this purpose, like a bedroom or area of the family room with gym mats, bean bag chairs, and rocking toys. Give your child control over the environment and make sure lighting can be adjusted as necessary. According to the New York Times, you can also create a “reset” space in which there’s a calm, secluded environment in which to relax. For example, a mini tent or fort with a weighted blanket offers a calm, cool, quiet environment that provides a much-needed retreat space if your child becomes easily overwhelmed.   

An autism-friendly home environment can be a haven in which your child can thrive. Taking sensory and emotional needs into consideration allows you to give your child a greater sense of self-confidence and independence. All of which leads to a better quality of life for the whole family. 

*Admin note: Thank you to Amanda Henderson for this guest post on the important topic of creating Autism-friendly home environments . Amanda enjoys writing in her free time, and recently decided to create safechildren.info so that she would have a place to share her thoughts and favorite resources on parenting and child safety.

When Adoption Is Misrepresented

My youngest child likes to watch motivational videos on YouTube. Sometimes, the videos are fictional stories based on current life issues. One particular video caught my eye, so I sat down to watch it with him. Adoption is the main theme of this video and in my opinion, they got so many things wrong. When adoption is misrepresented, I tend to notice.

*I decided not to post a link to the video as I do not want to promote it. The story is fictional, using actors.*

Scene: A couple introduces a school age girl to their middle-school-aged daughter and says,

“Meet your new sister.” Their daughter reacts by saying, “She’s not my real sister. I’m your real daughter. She will never be my sister.”

The girl runs off, crying and soon the parents start scolding their daughter for her actions. Then, they said the words that cause me to cringe every time I hear anyone say them.

“We’ve been waiting until the right time to tell you but…” They go into this toxically sweet explanation of how they couldn’t have a baby and decided to adopt her. “So, you see, you’re adopted as well.” The girl said something like, “My entire life has been a lie?” They comfort her and she (quickly) becomes okay, again. She then runs upstairs to comfort her newly adopted sister.”

End scene. Cue throwing up a little in my mouth.

There are so many things wrong with this video. While I believe the creator attempted to teach a lesson about assumptions and adoption, it was way off and a total disaster. (This is my perspective of an adoptive parent – not of an adoptee.)

First, it’s never going to feel like the “right time”. Because let’s be honest, a lot of us (AD parents) fear the child rejecting us. Here’s the reality, though – kids deserve to know their histories. All of it.

Using adoption positive language in our home (once we were legally cleared to do so) became the norm. The words – adoption, foster care, biological families, biological mothers/fathers, siblings, etc – were words my kids were familiar with. Placed as infants, they grew into toddler-hood and school-age-hood knowing they were adopted. We don’t fear discussions about it. Our kids take charge of these discussions, ask questions, etc. They grieve when they need to – not when we’re ready for them to.

Seriously. It’s never going to feel like the right time for you (adoptive parent) but if you hide adoption from your child, don’t expect him or her to trust anything else you say. Their entire lives may feel like a lie – because omitting the truth is very similar to it.

Okay, second point. It is unrealistic for a child to just go, “Oh, okay. Now I know the truth and I’m all good.” Um, nope. From witnessing my children, I have seen that adoption is very much an evolutionary process. Each and stage of life brings about unique challenges.

Sometimes, it’s heavy. Sometimes, it’s light. But it’s always about their needs, not ours. When they come to us to talk about it, we stop and listen. When they eventually say they want to reunite with biological family, we will stop what we’re doing and ask if they need help. It will be when THEY’RE ready, not us.

Third point – Please do not use infertility as the sole reason you adopted your children. Let’s say that again. Do not use your infertility as the sole reason you adopted your children. My kids know I can’t have babies. They figured it out when asking if I could have a sibling for them. I have never said, “The reason we adopted you is because we can’t have a baby.” The truth is that is not the reason we adopted our children. We adopted them because we loved them and when the opportunity came, we took it.

Literally, cringe-worthy. Infertility comes into play in a lot of adoptive families’ lives but it should not be the only reason for adoption. Adoption deserves better. Our kids deserve better.

Fourth point – Just say to no to surprising people with new siblings, etc. Kids are not presents that you lay under a tree. We’ve surprised our kids with a new puppy but I could never image surprising my kids with a new sibling. Every ounce of that is wrong. Kids should be a part of the discussion.

When we took in my youngest (who is also biologically related to me), our kids were a part of that discussion. They were only six and four; yet, we included them. We call our third adoption a “surprise” but not because it was a surprise to our family – as in “here’s your new puppy kind of surprise”. We didn’t plan to adopt again. So to us, it was a bit of a surprise.

Looking at my son when the video ended, I said, “I think her parents should’ve told her she was adopted when she was a lot younger. Do you?” His answer: a resounding “YES”. My kiddo is only eight and struggles with comprehension but he understood very clearly what was wrong with the video. When adoption is misrepresented, it does more damage.

I sure wish media did the same when creating tales about adoptive families and adoptees. They miss the mark nearly all of the time. This so-called motivational video got it all wrong, as well. Adoptive families and adoptees are either portrayed as over-the-top positive, lovey-dovey or the lead perpetrator of heinous crimes in an episode of a crime show. There’s hardly even a show with adoption theme that represents the vast majority of us – just normal people doing our best to live and love.

We must recognize adoption for what it is – a complex, multi-layered experience. We aren’t perfect and I know every (adoptive) family will experience different things, but we must always put kids first – before our feelings, before our fears. When adoption is misrepresented, it hurts everyone involved – adoptive parents, biological parents, and most important, adoptees.

loss is often overlooked in adoption

I’ve known for years that loss is often overlooked in adoption. I’ve seen it in my own family and the lives of others. This week, loss hit our home.

Legs shaking as I walked down the stairs to my child. “Hey, I need to talk to you about something,” I said.

My child looked up. “Uh-huh?”

“You’re not in trouble. I just need to tell you something. You know how your biological mother calls me from time-to-time?”


“Well, she left a message yesterday and I don’t want to wait any longer to tell you. Your biological father passed away this week.”

Silence. My child wouldn’t look up from the Ipad screen as I explained what I know and only what I know. It was my responsibility to tell my child the exact truth. Nothing more. Nothing less.

“Adoption is our life experience, but I’m not in competition with your biological family. I care about them. I don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes; to have a biological parent that I don’t know. If you ever need to talk or ask questions or any of that, I need you to know that it’s okay.”

“Okay”, my child said.

The truth is I’m just saddened about all of it. To be the one to tell my child about the passing of a biological parent breaks my heart open. I’ve sat in the reality that adoption is both a blessing and a burden.

A blessing that gives every single day.

A burden that continually humbles me.

Loss is paramount in adoption. Anyone who says differently needs to do a serious heart-check about it. While we acknowledge what is believed to be a God-ordained weaving of our family, we also mourn that we will never be able to replace what should have been for them.

God doesn’t want this. He doesn’t want families like mine to have to care for children like ours. He never intended for families to be broken by trauma, abuse, and absolute hardship. This reality smacks me. It breaks me.

When I say that loss is often overlooked in adoption, I mean it. When I say that loss is weaved into every fiber of it, I mean it.

I know it. I live it.

While adoption should be celebrated, at the same time, it should also cause one to consider the deep meaning and reasoning behind it all. I will never replace what my children have missed. I will never be their biological parent and fill that hole in their lives. This agonizes me.

But, I can do what I know needs to be done. I can be honest. Tell the truth. Be open and genuine.

I can welcome questions and console tears.

Barrenness dropped into my life. The only way to become a parent was through adoption. But, friends, the full measure of that emotional responsibility pricks my heart nearly every day.

Yes, loss is often overlooked in adoption but the truth is that loss is weaved into every fiber of it.