To: All Moms, Re: The Guilt

Hey moms, though I’m under no illusions that one blog post is going to change the way you have operated since time immemorial, I have a message for you:

The guilt has to stop.

You know what I’m talking about. The guilt that you’re not doing enough. The fear that you’re messing your kids up. The haunting feeling that you’re not good enough. The pit that drops the bottom out of your stomach when you look at her kids, her kitchen, her clothes, her kids’ clothes, her kids’ hair, her kids’ lunches, her picture-perfect dates with her picture-perfect husband, her hair, her waistline, her seemingly effortless existence.

The thoughts that keep you awake at night, tossing and turning, twisting the sheets into a tangled mess. The voice that says you’ll never do enough. The critic who takes that beautiful family moment – when everything else seemed to fade away and you felt like for just a second, you had done something well – and deflates it: yeah, but you could have made part this just a little better

The constant hammering that doesn’t let you enjoy your kids, your family, your husband. The fear that you didn’t check the labels correctly, the food’s not as nutritious as it could be, the one time you forgot sunscreen will scar them – literally – for life.

You didn’t play with your kids enough today, you haven’t taught them enough Bible verses, you can’t afford to take them to Disney World, their table manners are atrocious, your boys have potty mouths, your girls are catty, you don’t remember the last time you sat down uninterrupted with a Bible, you’re fat, you’re grumpy, and you feel bad because it would feel so good to get away from it all.

Guess what? Your guilt is there for a reason. It whispers truth: what you do will never be enough. All your striving, all your planning, all your research, all your designs and schemes and work: It’s. Not. Enough. There will always – always – be someone better, someone more, someone to compare yourself to and be found wanting.

That’s depressing, but it’s true. You can’t do it all. You’re not enough.

Only one Person in history has ever been enough.

See, this is where the hope comes in. Trust that one Person. Believe that his enough covers your not-nearly-enough. Give your real guilt for your real failures to him. He will cover it with his perfection. He will wipe it away. It will be gone. Grace will cleanse you.

And your self-inflicted guilt that surfaces day after day after day? It’s not from God. He’s not condemning you. And if God is for you, well, don’t be against yourself. Instead, talk to yourself (HT: Martin Lloyd-Jones). Remind yourself: there’s no condemnation. Preach this to yourself (yes, women preachers are great). Rest in his grace. Direct your effort not towards beating yourself up, but to believing that the unbelievable is true and so you can go be a great mom to the glory of God.

You can plan terrific outings for your kids, you can dress them fashionably, you can post that fun picture on Facebook, you can teach them all the Bible verses. Those things are great and wonderful and you should do them. You are called to pour effort into living with passion and purpose the way God wants you to live.

Just don’t worry endlessly when someone else does more, does better, does it all. Forgiveness covers your actual failures and your real guilt. For your imagined failures and your self-inflicted guilt, remember:

God gave your kids the exact mother they need. They don’t need any other mom, no matter how amazing that mom seems. They need you. Be there for them – without the guilt.

Savoring the Moments

As parents of young children, we get this advice all the time: enjoy the moments now, because they will be gone before you know it (the moments and the kids). We already know the truth of this – our oldest is 10 (what?!) and our youngest is four. We’re out of the baby stage and the very young child stage, and I’m not sure how that happened. Must have blinked.

There’s a sadness when you’re finished with a stage. Middle-of-the-night feedings wreak havoc on you, and I still contend there’s no tiredness like the weariness of sleep deprivation brought on by a new baby. Sometimes your eyes just will not open. But you know what? There’s also no sweetness quite like the sweetness of holding a baby by yourself in the middle of the night, the two of you the only ones awake, life’s possibilities before you, his softness snuggling into you, the only sound the swallow of a little throat sucking down that precious bottle. The tiny hands, the chubby legs and cheeks, the eyes that flutter open, the smile that curls up at you. Melts your heart.

I miss that. But I don’t want to miss it so much I miss right now either. I think overall most of us do a pretty good job of savoring the moments. For all the angst that Facebook brings, it’s a really easy way to remember a lot of moments – just scan your timeline or check TimeHop. Pictures are easier to take than ever because we all have a camera all the time. (Developing them is another story. You should see my hard drive. Anybody got any free photo print codes you want to donate to the cause?) You can record funny or poignant anecdotes with words or video in seconds. We’re doing okay at this.

And here’s the other thing – there’s good stuff coming. Just because one great stage is through doesn’t mean all the ones to come will be duds. There’s more fun coming – we’re just shifting the way that fun is delivered. For example, our 10-year old is developing an adult sense of humor. He says things that are legitimately funny, not just little kid cute. He gives me a sly grin when I crack a joke that sails over the younger kids’ heads. He has taken my sports interest and expanded it by a ton – I’m pretty sure he knows more than I do about Kentucky basketball now. I just took him and our 7-year old to Rupp Arena to watch UK play and the look on their faces when they entered the cathedral of college basketball – well, that’s as good a memory as feeding them in the middle of the night a few years ago.

I guess my point is this – like most things in life, it’s a balance. Miss previous stages, sure, but do it with a smile, not with grief. Look forward to the next stage, yes, but do it with anticipation, not with impatience. Most of all, appreciate now, but do it with joy, not with guilt for not doing it enough. Enjoy the already. Look forward to the not yet. You’re here now. Your kids know that. They love you.

We had one of those moments the other night at the dinner table. Just our family, eating, when our five-year old – Mr. Class Clown – decided to eat his french fry in way not approved by Miss Manners. The kids cracked up, my wife and I laughed till we cried and I looked around, thinking, this is one of those moments to savor. I love when the kids’ faces are filled with delight and the pure, unfiltered joy of the innocent. One kid who thrives on making people laugh, his whole body smiling, his dimple a cuteness you can’t resist. The other four, who couldn’t help but laugh at his antics. I love to watch them all. I want this moment forever.

And now that it’s written down and I have a picture in my head – wish you could see it – it’ll be there when I need it.


So, we have daughters now. Two wonderful little girls who once upon a time were not part of our family, but now enjoy all the rights and privileges that come with our last name (such as they are – if they understood more, the girls might want to back out of this deal).

We have spent two and a half years aiming toward this goal, not knowing if it would ever come about, wondering if we would ever feel like they were our kids. Because in a lot of ways, we’ve just been babysitting. Yes, they were part of our family. Yes, we loved them. But the reality is they weren’t our kids.

Now they are. And while we haven’t switched out of foster mode overnight, things are starting to feel different. How could it not, when you stand in front of a judge, raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth and then, after a few basic questions, the lawyer hits you with: “Do you understand that this adoption means that these girls will have your last name? Do you understand they will have all the rights and privileges of your natural-born children? Do you understand that under the law, there is no difference in any of your children? Are you ready to claim them as your own? Are you willing and able to take care of them? Are you ready for them to be part of your family?”

With tears in our eyes and hope in our hearts, yes.

Because it’s a little surreal that this actually happened (adoption is something OTHER people do, right?), I think we’re seeing the whole experience through the eyes of others. The eyes of 50 of our family and friends who sacrificed time and money and convenience and vacations to join us in a courtroom on October 1 to witness the final adoption ceremony. The eyes of the court workers which got bigger every time the elevator doors revealed another crowd of supporters. The eyes of the social workers who cried their way through the ceremony because not all cases end up like this.

A huge shout out to our family and friends who supported us for so long. Fostering is hard. You can’t do it on your own. You need people to give you breaks, to make you meals, to help you talk things out, to ride the roller coaster with you, to host a fantastic open house so everyone can come celebrate. You did all of that and more for us – thank you.

Because we’ve already had the girls in our home for two and a half years, our day-to-day lives won’t change. We’re already used to wrangling five kids every day (and yes, wrangling is the correct technical term). Legally, though, everything has changed. Their last name is now our last name. They are considered natural born children to us. The state is not taking them out of our home. Their biological parents are not coming to get them. Our boys have sisters. Our girls have brothers.

So this, the final adoption, is both the end of nothing and the beginning of everything.

There’s talk in Christian circles about how extraordinary our lives should be. We need to move to Africa to make our lives count. We need to start an orphanage. We need to live in the inner city. We need to leave a legacy that ordinary people can’t match. We need to accomplish great things. We’re failures if we just go to work, know our neighbors, take our kids to school, go to church.

My theory: many extraordinary things happen simply through the accumulated weight of ordinary details. Uncountable loads of laundry. Thousands of meals. Bedtimes every night. Car rides every morning. One diaper at a time, one day at a time, one girl at a time. The story of our lives does not play out mostly in the big moments – our legacies are written in the millions of small decisions that reveal our character each day. How we speak to our kids. How we prioritize our time. Our faithfulness to our church. The phone calls with our parents. The texts to our friends. Our consistency in loving our neighbors.

Some of us are truly called to “big” things. But get the mundane, ordinary things right first – that’s extraordinary in itself. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything has?” Fostering and adopting has been like that for us. In some ways it felt like a big thing (try taking five little kids to a restaurant), but much of the time, it was dealing with the unending details that make up our lives. Add in the issues of fostering – emotional, physical, social, mental – multiply it all by five kids and it feels more crazy and exhausting than extraordinary. Months went by with no daily difference. But add up 30 of those months and everything changed.

Many people tell us how amazing we are, what a wonderful thing we’re doing, how lucky the girls are to have us, how extraordinary this is. And I get it. In a general sense, they’re right and they’re just expressing their joy. But we’re not amazing. This isn’t extraordinary, not for those to whom Adoption already means so much. All we’re really doing is living each day in light of the glorious gospel of grace. It’s only possible because Jesus was adopted so long ago by two young people who weren’t quite sure what was happening, but took it a day at a time until the stone rolled away.

We have daughters. Our world has changed. We can’t wait to see what happens next.

The Evil Genius of Build-a-Bear

My parents have a fun tradition to buy each of their grandkids a Build-a-Bear animal for their fourth or fifth birthday. We all go to the store, the birthday kid picks out a bear and its outfit, hat and shoes, we eat somewhere and a good time is had by all.

The grandparents have completed this process seven times – four for my brother and three for us. Every time the honored child has been a boy because Hoaks can’t seem to produce females.

Now that we’re grafting in girls from the outside, things are, uh, different. I’m still not entirely sure what transpired when we walked in that den of childhood bliss to celebrate the girls’ fourth and fifth birthdays with two grandparents, two parents, three boys and two girls, but we left carrying a whole lot more than we entered with.

First, bears are not enough. The good business people who run Build-a-Bear wisely decided at some point not to be constrained by their name. Not only can you stuff and dress your own bear, you can now choose a cat, a dog, a pony, a ninja turtle and much more. I know this because an orange and white doggy with mega-eyelashes (Lucy) and a purple pony with wings (Sparkle) now reside at my house.

Once the girls saw the pony and the dog, they could not be talked into anything else. They were laser-focused. Which is totally fine. If they want a dog instead of a bear, more power to them.

Until you realize that a dog and a pony have four feet rather than a bear’s traditional two feet. And it’s 99 percent impossible to walk out of Build-a-Pony/Dog without also buying footwear for said animal. Only now you’re buying twice as much. Plus roller skates. More on this in a minute.

This is especially where the evil genius kicks in. One of the salesladies had very thoughtfully dressed a stuffed dog in every accessory possible and placed the dog front and center so that when my daughter entered the store, she would be overcome with joy, point at the dog and say, “I want this one! I love its roller skates and its dress and its crown and collar and its sparkly leash!”

The saleslady of course hears this and says to her partner in crime, “She wants one just like this.” Those are the words she said out loud. I broke her code, though. What she really meant was this: “Hahahaha, these people are major suckers!!!!! Let’s pile on every accessory we can find. If they say no to even one item, their whiny little kid is gonna throw a major temper tantrum. Grab double of everything for the feet. Yes!! I love how easy it is to swindle families!!!!” The speed with with the second saleslady responded was astounding.

We now have a dog and its frilly pastel tutu dress, a winged pony and its robe and hat, two glittery leashes, a crown, a collar and two birth certificates. Oh yes, and eight shoes and eight roller skates. Let me digress — roller skates for a dog are about the dumbest thing I can imagine. And yet, that’s what makes the girls excited, so roller skates it is. And here’s the rub: at least 90 percent of the time, those shoes and skates will not reside on animal feet where they belong, but in random locations where we can trip over them. There may or may not be inappropriate yelling when this occurs. Okay, digression over.

With all the accessories, we kicked in a little to cover the added costs brought about as a result of the extra x chromosomes. Build-a-Bear has quite a scheme going. I applaud their marketing department. I also would like to rain down calamity upon their heads.

I’m pretty positive this is only the beginning of the accessory parade that will march through our house over the next decade. And you know what? They’re happy, so it’s all good. Evil, but good.

Robin Williams and The First Day of School and the Powerful Play

I’ve always said my favorite movie is Dead Poets Society. There’s something inspirational about the way Mr. Keating breathes life into a group of boys who desperately needed someone to believe in them. If you don’t think the English language can powerfully affect people, well, here’s Mr. Keating himself: “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

As Mr. Keating, Robin Williams gives his students passion and purpose and hope. It’s sad, then, that hope was not ultimately fulfilling both for one of his students in the movie and for the man himself, who committed suicide this week.


’Tis the season for school to be starting. In fact, my kids are in the middle of their first day as we speak. They head off to a fresh new year with new shoes, haircuts, clothes and backpacks. They’re excited, nervous, bummed that summer is over, glad to see their friends and even up for learning new things (sort of). They’re ready to challenged, ready to grow, and in the case of a few, ready to be goofballs like you would imagine Robin Williams was.

His parents may have watched him march off to school each year with joy in their hearts and smiles on their faces. Their dream was not that one day, despite massive success in the world’s eyes, he would commit suicide. Their dream was the same as yours and mine – that he would be happy and healthy.

And yet, that’s the not the end of my dream for my kids as they break new ground this year. It’s not the end of the dream for any Christian parent. The ultimate dream is that the life-changing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ would reach into our kids’ lives and trade their broken souls for whole ones.

Wait, broken? Yep. We’re all messed up. We don’t have to teach our kids how to be lazy at school, say mean things to their friends and slack off on their homework. They do all that just fine. We have to teach them how to do it the right way. That’s the effect of sin. An even greater effect is the breaking of our relationship with a holy God. Sin breaks it. Christ restores it. Our kids – and all of us – need Christ.

I didn’t know Robin Williams. I don’t pretend to know anything about mental illness. But I do know I’ve seen God change situations that seemed unchangeable. I know nothing is beyond him. And that’s the hope I hold onto as my kids march bright-eyed into a world where famous actors and beloved friends commit suicide, where a 16-year old driver dies in the blink of eye, where 3-year old girls drown, where there’s disease and suffering and pain and death. We can’t face that on our own, and if we try, we’ll inevitably be overwhelmed. It’s impossible.

The only hope is someone who can rise above, who in fact has already beaten death at death’s own game.


There’s a scene in Dead Poets Society where Williams quotes Walt Whitman in answer to the question of why we should continue amid the struggles of life:

“Answer: that you are here — that life exists, and identity.
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

Our kids are contributing verses today. We’re contributing verses. Let’s make them count for eternity.

And oh yeah, here’s the closing scene of Dead Poet’s Society. Gets me every time:

On LeBron and Redemption

Redemption always plays well. That’s why we’re so fascinated with LeBron James’ return home to Northeast Ohio four years after he broke the hearts of millions by taking his talents to South Beach.

It wasn’t just that he left, but the way he left that rankled — the made for TV spectacle, the complete lack of self-awareness, the ineptness of his management team, the kids used as a prop.

The reaction was intense. Fans burned his jersey. Kids cried. His boss wrote one of the most vitriolic letters you’ve ever read, burning every bridge there was to burn. Words like narcissistic, disloyal and cowardly will do that.

Return, while theoretically possible, seemed highly unlikely.

Four years later, everything is different. LeBron again kept us all on edge for 10 days as he decided where he wanted to play. This time, though, it was pitch perfect. No leaks. No spectacles. No parties or even press conferences. Just a classy, first-person article in Sports Illustrated, kept a complete secret until 12:13 p.m. EST when it published online.

This letter shows a new, humble, mature LeBron. He owned his previous mistakes and showed how he has grown. He gets that what he’s doing – returning to a hardscrabble area of the country that has been devoid of hope for so long – is bigger than basketball. It’s about that hope. It’s about showing the kids growing up the way he did that change is possible. It’s about the fans who haven’t seen a championship in half a century — and if you don’t think that matters to a city and a region in decline, just remember two of the biggest things that inspire groups of people to rally together around a common cause: sports and religion.

He grew up while he was away. And with that “college education” came an ability to forgive. He met with his once and future boss to hash out their differences. Many thought he wouldn’t get past The Letter, that such a public figure deserved nothing less than a full-on public repentance and even then, that might not be enough.

LeBron proved bigger than that. “Who am I to hold a grudge?” he said.

And so he’s coming home. He wants to bring a championship with him. He has the talent and now the experience to make it happen. It’s a fantastic story, the best outcome we could have hoped for as sports fans, as writers — really as anyone except Heat fans.

Don’t kid yourself — he’ll get his money, and he wouldn’t have done this if he didn’t think talent was there basketball-wise. But it’s still incredible. A local boy made good. Then he left and many thought he’d never return. Now that he’s back, just about everyone is rooting for LeBron.

America loves second chances. We’ll forgive just about anything as long as someone apologizes and works to make it right. It often makes an even better storyline – triumph means so much more when it comes after tragedy. Redemption always plays well.

It plays well because deep inside, in places we don’t like to talk about at parties, we each know we need redemption. Maybe our mistakes haven’t been as public as LeBron’s, but they still gnaw at us, unresolved, condemning, lingering. How do we fix ourselves? We don’t know, and so we’re glad when someone figures it out, when we see them made whole, returning home.

What every person on this planet needs is to become part of another redemption story that’s deeper and older and more powerful than LeBron’s. In this story, the main character is the one who has been wronged, but he is also the one who found a way to save those who had wronged him. He could have taken hope away, but instead he poured it out abundantly.
This redemption story, centered on a rescue mission, was planned from the beginning and executed flawlessly. It is still being carried out. Sins are forgiven. Life is reborn. Eternity awaits.

Yes, redemption stories always play well because they echo a deeper, fuller redemption born before time began. LeBron’s story is good, but it’s got nothing on God’s.

Foster Update: Horizontal Because Vertical

In the Ask Pastor John podcast this week, John Piper talks about adoption. He recounts his family’s own story of adopting a newborn African-American girl when he was 50 years old and had raised four boys. She is now graduating from high school, and he talks about how beautifully adoption has worked out for his family. It wasn’t without risk – adopting was pretty much the opposite of everything he had experience with, and he wasn’t sure how it would go.

He told his story in part to counteract some of the difficult stories that have surfaced about how hard adoption can be – adjustments might not happen, families can be devastated, kids can be disrupted, and more. That’s the reality of the broken world we live in.

But there’s beauty and joy in adoption too, because there’s beauty and joy in God’s adoption of us as sons and daughters. Think about that for a second – God could have saved us and left it at that. He didn’t have to make us part of his family. But not only did he declare us holy in the courtoom on the basis of Christ’s substitutionary death, he brought us into the living room and told us to make ourselves at home. He made us his children and promised us an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. The Father planned our adoption, the Son accomplished it and the Spirit applies it every day. Unbelievable.

And that’s why we can adopt earthly children no matter what may come. As Piper says:

Be encouraged that not only is it (adoption) a beautiful thing to imitate, but that your own experience of it is the guarantee that God your Father will be there for you in every single challenge you face in adoption. Because of our experience of the vertical, we can now take the massive risks of the horizontal, knowing that He’s going to be there for us in every way.

Because of the vertical, we can take the risk of the horizontal. Yes, it’s a risk. Anyone who has adopted knows that it feels like there’s no safety net sometimes. But the net is there, and it will hold.

That brings me to this update: it looks like our adoption of our two foster girls (Okay, are they really foster girls at this point? It’s been more than two years. Let’s just go ahead and call them family.) will finalize in late July or early August. They keep pushing it back, but no one ever accused the government of being efficient.

Our social worker brought us a massive stack of paperwork to read through, including all the medical records they have on the girls and their parents, and the chronology of how the girls ended up in foster care. We can’t share details in public, but if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance their lives were much different than yours and mine. God’s grace in plucking those girls out of the life they were in is indeed remarkable. (Where they ended up may be a little questionable …)

So, we’re on track. School is out now, so five kids at home every day will be a joyful (and some days not-so-joyful) challenge to navigate. And hopefully by the time school starts in August, two girls in the commonwealth of Kentucky will have a new last name.

[Listen to John Piper give counsel to couples considering adoption.]

Saltshaker Parenting

A few months ago, I started a new job doing marketing for a company called Dynamic Directions. We do coaching and consulting for financial advisors, but are reaching into other industries as well. One of the cool things about the job is being exposed to lots of new ideas and concepts about business, leadership, entrepreneurship, etc. Many of the things I hear apply to many areas of life, not just business.

As part of the job, I’m reading a book called Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, a successful restaurateur in New York City. It’s a fascinating read about his philosophies of how and why he runs his restaurants. I highly recommend it for anyone in business, but again, the principles apply to more than just the business world. One in particular struck me the other night as perfect for parenting.

He talks about learning to lead his staff and instill his own drive for excellence in them. When they didn’t live up to his high standards – for setting the table exactly the right way, for treating guests with his standard of hospitality, etc. – he kept getting frustrated and upset, until a mentor in the restaurant business gave him an  illustration:


“First” he said, “I want you to take everything off that table except for the saltshaker  … leave the saltshaker by itself in the middle.” I moved it … to what looked to be smack-dab in the center. As soon as I removed my hand, he pushed the saltshaker three inches off center.
“Now put it back where you want it,” he said. I returned it to dead center. This time he moved the saltshaker another six inches off center, again asking, “Now where do you want it?”

I slid it back. Then he explained his point. “Listen. Your staff and your guests are always moving your saltshaker off center. That’s their job. Is is the job of life. It’s the law of entropy! Until you understand that, you’re going to get mad every time someone moves the saltshaker off center. It is not your job to get upset. You just need to understand: that’s what they do. Your job is just to move the shaker back each time and let them know exactly what you stand for. Let them know what excellence looks like to you. And if you’re ever willing to let them decide where the center is, then I want you to give them the keys to the store. Just give away the restaurant.”


That’s exactly like parenting. I’ve been frustrated lately because my kids don’t seem to be getting it. They
don’t obey right away, their table manners are atrocious, they pee in the yard, for crying out loud (and I’m not just talking about the boys). Two seconds after I tell them not to talk in that crazy voice, they’re doing it again. Five minutes after I ask them to clean up the garage, it’s still a royal mess.

Yes, some of it is simple discipline. But that doesn’t fix my attitude. I find myself getting frustrated and mad awfully quickly: Just do it the right way! I already told you! Why aren’t you listening to me?!?!?!?!

You know what? It’s not my job to get upset. I should expect things to not go well. They’re kids. They’re sinners. They’re going to disobey. They’re going to have accidents. They’re not going to listen.

Instead of getting upset (again), I need to move the salt shaker back to the middle.

It’s good to have high standards. God calls us to have expectations. But our kids are  not going to reach those standards the first time or the fifth time or even the tenth time. Meyer uses a technique he calls constant, gentle pressure to impart his standards for excellence, and I think it works for parenting too.

Constant, gentle pressure. Constant, because you can never give up – explain the standard every time. Gentle, because you don’t want to break them – don’t react from anger. Pressure, because you want them to reach the standards – excellence is obtainable.

Our kids are going to fail. So are we. (That’s why there’s a little thing called grace.) So next time, instead of getting mad, take a deep breath and move the saltshaker back to the center.

Spring Break: Flat Tires, Lost Kids and Rhyming

Were I to give you a blow-by-blow account of our weekend in Indianapolis with the kids, you would, with good reason, fall asleep. So, a few highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be):
– If you’re going to hit a pothole and blow out a tire, it’s best not to do it at almost midnight in the rain on a forsaken road outside a junkyard, the kind of place where a gun-toting proprietor might  investigate why a minivan is lingering outside his empire. On a related note, it’s great fun to watch a traffic light change three times ahead of you as you limp to your destination on the flat tire.

–  When you go to the neighborhood tire establishment the next day, it’s pretty funny when four of your five kids fall asleep on the way there and as you haul them one by one into the waiting area, the owner watches, wondering just how many more you’re going to bring in. Also, it’s good to have snacks for when they wake up.

– One more tire note: it’s pretty cool that your little girls think you’re a superhero who hung the moon because you fixed the tire. We could all use a little more of that kind of wonder and belief in our lives.

– Cousins are cool, especially new baby ones.

– April in Indianapolis apparently means that even though the thermometer says 82, it feels more like 102 at the Zoo. This will make your children whiny and tired and oh yeah, whiny. Five kids was about four too many. We did see lions and tigers and bears, but it was kinda underwhelming. Side note to the Zoo concession people: when it is 102 degrees outside, you might want to wait longer than “the ice cream is just barely frozen” before you serve it. Otherwise, you end up with disturbingly sticky ice cream goop EVERYWHERE.

– When your 4-year old foster daughter wanders away from the non-fenced-in playground in the middle of the Zoo, it takes a few minutes to realize that she’s gone, and then a few more minutes searching and thinking that surely, she’s just in a corner or underneath a slide or something. Then you have to accept that no, she’s really not there.Then the Zoo people have to radio each other to look for her.

When you see the spray park across the path and run to see if she’s over there and don’t find her, it’s nice when passers-by notice your face that says oh-no-where’s-my-kid-and not-just-my-kid-but-a-foster-kid-and-what’s-gonna-happen-when-the-state-of-Kentucky-finds-out-we-lost-her and say “Hey, are you looking for a little girl? She’s right down there with a security guard.”

It’s also nice when she’s sitting there shooting the breeze with the guard and he tells you that she had the wherewithal to go up to a nice lady and say, “I’m lost.” And then she told the guard that mommy was wearing a purple shirt – and she was right. She may be kind of a space cadet, but she handled herself really well – we were impressed. She’s got some street smarts.

– Those Zoo people know what they’re doing when they install a playground – you pay a truckload to get in, and then your kids just want to do what they can do for free anytime instead of taking advantage of actual Zoo resources. Okay, we did Zoo stuff most of the time. But still.

– Traipsing into the men’s room with four kids keeps you on your toes, especially when two decide they have to go stinky at the same time and someone has already left a souvenir on one of the toilets. Poop management deserves a high spot on any parent’s resume.

– Five kids, three of whom are within a little over a year of each other, don’t make for the easiest vacation. But you go make it happen anyway and they have fun – their favorite part was the Zoo, imagine that – and so do you and it’s even more fun to do it all with a partner who you love and have a great time with.

– One more: on the way home, the kids played a rhyming game where they had to find two words that rhyme. For one memorable set, the first word was truck. I’ll just let you imagine the second word. Yep, we’re fantastic parents!

Fostering Update: Keep On Keepin’ On

So it’s been a while since my last update. Mostly because there hadn’t been much of an update until recently. We’ve just been trucking along, working through the small daily tasks that add up to more than the sum of their parts. Fostering and adopting sounds like a noble cause – and it is – but much of the time, it’s just day following day where you have to keep on moving.

There’s been a debate in recent months on doing big things for God vs. living your quiet, everyday ordinary Christian life. I have a few thoughts on that topic, but mostly, I think it’s more of a both/and than an either/or. The big things are often made up of the small, mundane, ordinary everyday things that add up to a life well-lived.

Fostering isn’t heroically dashing into a ramshackle house to snatch three filthy kids out from under their drug-addled father’s iron fist seconds before his meth lab explodes. Fostering is parenting — just more so because there are more kids. Fostering is getting up in the middle of the night when she wakes up sobbing for no discernible reason. Fostering is sweeping up the crumbs that somehow covered the floor in the 2.9 seconds since the last time you swept. Fostering is scaling the highest peak known to man – Mt. Laundry – every day. Fostering is peeling off the wet jeans because she didn’t want to take time to pee in the potty. Fostering is turning the house upside down looking for her glasses. Fostering is shoving the Tour-de-France style lineup of bikes out of the way (again) so you can get the van in the garage. Fostering is figuring out exactly when you can fit in another parent-teacher conference. Fostering is playing referee all day long. Fostering is hair dryers and rubber bands and hair bows and many other contraptions that a dad’s hands were not made to operate. Fostering is putting one foot in front of the other, day after day after day.

That’s basically been the last few months. But, a couple of weeks ago, a news flash: both parents have signed over their parental rights to the state. The process had stalled out because the dad was not responding to calls. He’s been out of circulation since November — not calling, texting, seeing his girls, anything. DCBS is understaffed and overworked, so they didn’t have time to pursue him. Supermom Kelsey finally got him to respond to a text.

So now, on April 15, a judge will officially terminate the parental rights of two twenty-something citizens. They will no longer have claim to their biological offspring. Our girls will legally have no parents other than the Commonwealth of Kentucky until the official adoption date can be set a couple of months later. Then, the judge’s gavel will fall and the girls will get a new last name.

The mom is due any day with her fourth child. None of her previous kids live with her. This one, we hope, will be different. She’s more stable. She’s older. She has our phone number and our offer of whatever advice we can give. Pray for her.

The dad is homeless, the last we heard. The cousin he was living with (where the girls used to spend the night) got back into drugs, so he moved out. Good call, but hard. Pray for him. 

And so, we keep on keepin’ on. Pray that we’re faithful, pray that in weakness we’re made strong, pray for grace. Five kids, full days, full hearts. God is good.