Adoption, Community, Fostering, Raising Warriors, Self-Care

How to expand your family without going crazy (aka: receiving a child well)-For adoptive/foster families and their support systems!

(Whether you’re a parent, an adoptive parent, a foster parent or you know of such crazy folks, please take the time to read this!  It takes a village to raise a child and some kiddos just naturally require a bigger village. Please be the village for someone else!)

So you have a new kiddo on the way. Congrats! I’ve mentioned how difficult it is to make the HUGE decision to say yes or no to a phone call, so yay you! You’ve made one giant leap of faith into the unknown- or if it’s not your first rodeo: the slightly known with millions of variables!

If you are fostering, you most likely have minutes to prepare. If you’re lucky, you have a few hours to wrap your mind (& household!) around the transitions that are about to take place. If you’re adopting, you may have years to anticipate yet it still seems to catch you by surprise that the time is now. I’ve felt the eagerness to meet and love and protect a sweet soul while at the same time fearing my own limits and inability to “do it all.”

Friends, I’d like to propose to you that YOU CAN ASK FOR HELP. And here’s how!

How many people have told you “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”?? And you respond with a blank stare thinking “I’m not even sure I know what to do, but if I ever have the capacity to multitask AND delegate, I’ll let you know!” Well, here’s a few options for you to respond with:

1. “We eat food. Can you make food? Fine, can you order food?”
Now, I know you can do this yourself, BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO! No matter who comes into your family (age, number, gender, length of stay) you & your family will still need to eat. This is one big thing off your to-do list when you have no idea what each day or moment will look like. Ask a friend to make a meal-train, let your mom/grandma/neighbor bring freezer meals, suggest that anyone- no EVERYONE- could order you take-out.

2. “Can I have your ID and Social Security Number?”
Are these kind folks free of a criminal background? Do they truly care about you and your kiddos? Every parent/couple needs a break once in a while – a moment to get away and take deep breaths or just to take another kid somewhere without siblings. Jump on the fact that this person just offered their help, send in some quick paperwork to the caseworker and TAKE ADVANTAGE of an extra set of hands… even if you’re not tired…yet. No doubt they would love to sit in your house during naptime and let you walk (or run!) around the block. Or perhaps you could drop your chilins’ off for an hour or two of grocery shopping WITHOUT HELP! If your placement is too old for a babysitter, a sort of mentor-ship or “godparent” relationship could be in order. They could spend time cooking or playing a sport or learning a trade together. I’m not above asking a friend to take my bio kids on a one-on-one date so they can refill their buckets, too. What if you even let a friend hang at your place for dinner & a movie with the fam and you stole a date night with the hubs!? *Gasp!* Put these kind folks on your respite caregivers list and refill your bucket before you reach dire straights.

3. “My stockpile is dwindling”
Foster or expecting parents often have the any-minute-a-kid-could-come-and-I-want-to-be-ready stash. At the last minute, you know the age & gender & hopefully most of the needs of your kiddo, but generally speaking I can always use a refill of toothbrushes, shampoo, Tylenol, water bottles/sippy cups, soft blankets, pre-packaged snacks, and miscellaneous clothes & shoes. These are tiny comforts I want to offer a child as a introductory peace-offering of sorts. If a kid can find some small sense of security just from having their own necessities right away, I want to bring it! Don’t hesitate to ask for these trivial purchases or more specific items if you can. I bet a friend wouldn’t think twice of grabbing a few extras next time they’re out and it will save you a midnight run!

4. “My family needs two of me, think you could be a clone?” or quite possibly: “Don’t leave me alone!”
There are plenty of days any parent feels isolated and half-crazed from overwhelming tasks and limited hours in the day. “Why do all of my kids need to talk all day and then still want stories at bedtime?” All the while the toilet is plugged and the sink is overflowing and by the way, “Kids, we’re having Pajama Day tomorrow since 2/3’s of you don’t have any clothes left.” (Let’s not even question why my darling boy hasn’t run out of underwear yet… or EVER.) How about some community in this moment!? How much could it hurt to have a friend wash dishes WITH you and then fold laundry. And what if we cooked dinner together or even ate together in the midst of our crazy? Honestly, the odds are that this friend wants to love you well but is feeling their own version of “half-baked” at the same time. Let’s DO life together!!

5. “I need encouragement.”
This may be the hardest one! Who wants to admit that they can’t do it all? It’s so hard to confess to someone that you may want to quit loving because it hurts or that you can’t face one more tantrum and come out the winner. PLEASE use this response with A FEW (more than one!) trusted friends/family members! You need someone who will see you crying in the back row at church and deliver a Venti Latte with a hug the next day! You need someone who will send a love note via snail mail that gets lost and finally arrives on JUST the day you need a pick-me-up. WE ALL need calls and texts saying we are being prayed over and believed in without prompting. We need to know our arms are being lifted when we can’t hold them up a moment longer.

Soooooo… You’re probably thinking of someone who’s asked this exact question recently. Go back and get them. Let them help! Really & truly. You’re allowing them the blessing of being a part of something miraculous and fulfilling in a way they maybe never would have been able to. Not everyone is able to welcome a precious child into their family right now but everyone IS called to love the orphan and the widow in their own way (James 1:27).

Adoption, Community

How to obtain more extended family (the good kind!)

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted a big family.

My mom always wanted a big family too.

I remember her once mentioning more siblings to me and I turned the tables on her with pros and cons charts and my 7 year old powers of persuasion. Poor Mom, she never knew what hit her! I think it was the time I blew out HER candles on HER birthday cake to wish for a baby sister that she realized she had a true problem on her hands!

I’ll admit that my Mom did… and now, even I have… purchased a dog to sway the kiddos and “buy” more time without another sibling. ***Let me tell you THIS IS NOT THE ANSWER.

So if traditionally growing your family is not the right option for you at this time: the good news is that, of course, children can be adopted. (I have traversed this terrain and intend on doing it again despite my better sense of judgment some days.)

But DID YOU KNOW!? Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents can be adopted too!

There are many ways to go about this venture and honestly, I would HIGHLY recommend it even before adopting a child. For this I have several reasons: #1 Less paperwork… Ok none. And the government doesn’t even need to know!  #2 It’s way easier considering that anyone over 18 probably doesn’t need help potty-training or sleeping through the night. Aaaaaaand bonus #3 If you adopt adults into your family first, then you have them to help out with future adoptees. Many hands make light(er) work! Win-Win!

So how does one go about finding these lovely folks and adopting them into your family? Allow me to tell you. (We have several honorary family members. We love them so fiercely, they could never get away even if they tried! (Mwa-ha-ha!))

Step 1: Notice those around you. Is there a co-worker with no holiday plans? A college student who’s family is all out of town? Empty-nesters in your small group? A friendly-looking Grandparent sitting one table over at your favorite cafe? Meet and greet those strangers, then invite them over or out for dinner. (Ok stranger danger, yes, just use your good judgement, geesh!)

Step 2: Set up a recurring time to spend together. Most likely these adopted family members will be reserved at first. Weekly family dinners or monthly movies nights will break down walls and open up conversation. Frequency is key. When you find something in common, jump on it and make it a new tradition. (Overwhelming them with love is a good thing!)

Step 3: Include your “new members” in family events and/or projects. Everyone wants to be a part of something bigger. Birthday parties and Easter dinner are simply the best for those with out-of-town family or no current traditions of their own. Is this person handy? Plan a fun hands-on project with them. (We highly recommend building a deck. You never know when your newfound uncle will draw up legit blueprints for you WITH an itemized list of materials!)

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The amazing”Uncle B” may have been a HUGE part of building our deck, but he also just happened to be hanging out at the house the day Mya was dropped off in a rush. He voluntarily held her fussy little self while we figured out the logistics (aka ran out to find diapers and a crib!) and to this day he is her very favorite person!

I am a better person because of the people I have invited into my life. These family members love our family, mess and all. They listen like the sister I never had, celebrate milestones I can’t even see or measure and they mom-hug me when my mom is out of town. I need these people. Just yesterday I got a box of fluffy, sweet cinnamon rolls from an empty-nest momma who knew I’d had a hard week!

We Schuiteboers have “adopted” many and we seriously love our peeps! Our extended family keeps growing but so does our immediate family, so we need more people who have our backs and keep our best interest at heart just like we do theirs. Many are the folks who need to see and feel love on this planet. Not just any old greeting, but the up-close & personal love that only a family can give. We do life together and it’s so much sweeter this way!

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Why yes, we have even “adopted” a friend’s dog as our own periodically. (Pre-Buddy of course!)
Adoption, HOPE, Our Journey: Adopting from Africa

A Playlist To Worship While We Wait

Oh my sweet Elisee. He is so innocent. And so joyful. I have revelations of the Father’s heart every time I think of my little African treasure. Here’s his latest photo. ( And you can ignore that serious face, it’s a farce!)

My big 10 year old!

I can just imagine his bedtime thoughts as the world quiets and the day fades into peaceful darkness. “Where’s my mom & dad?” “Why haven’t they come yet?” “Why did God choose me and yet leave me here?”

Of course, I haven’t asked Elisee about these things. I’m sure I couldn’t bear to hear his little voice speak my own wonders. Yet here we wait: him and I on two different continents.

So I choose to praise the God who holds the sun and the moon and my Elisee.

I think God is amazing to have introduced us to Elisee in such a unique and divine way!

I am thankful that I have met and spent time with the son I prayed for, for so long! I’m thankful for every single kiss I planted on his round cheeks!

I am thankful Elisee has met his birth-mother and gets to see her occasionally.

I am thankful he can go to the very best English school and live with a  family who can show him love and relationship in new and beautiful ways.

I am thankful my son learned how to give and receive love during our 3 week stay with him. (Adoptive moms: Healthy attachment potential, yay!!)

I am thankful for God’s promises which stand strong despite my doubts and fears.

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God’s Literal Promise

I am thankful I have a Father who loves me enough to love my children even more than I could ever love them. And fulfill their needs before I even know them.

And so, for now I will worship. So many powerful songs have been written about the correlation between worship and waiting, I know I’m not the only one needing the encouragement. So here’s a few to inspire hope inside of you as you wait for your promises to be fulfilled 💕

Hillsong United – Stay and Wait

John Waller – While I’m Waiting

Kristene DiMarco – Take Courage & I Am No Victim

Brian & Jenn Johnson – You’re Gonna Be OK

Upper Room – Surrounded

Elevation Worship – Do It Again

Skillet – Stars

Elevation Worship – Nothing is wasted

Aaaaaand here’s the whole playlist on YouTube in case you want to listen to it all on repeat.

That’ll get you started 😜

Let’s lift our hands together!