A: Why do I have to play alone?
M: Because Mommy needs some alone time.
A: Can’t you just pretend to be alone?
My 5-year-old hates to be alone. Whether it’s her personality, a result of her past, because she was an only child for most of her first 4 years or a combination of all of those; she wants constant feedback and attention. She loves to perform and loves to talk. When her little brother was born and as she started out-growing naps, it became apparent to me that we needed to institute some quiet alone time. For my sanity. And to teach her a skill she is lacking. As I’m writing this post right now she’s sitting at the desk next to me writing letters to “sick people” and chattering out loud the whole time, asking for my attention every 30 seconds or so.
Play alone time.
I think I found this blog post on Pinterest when Isaiah was an infant and I was desperate for 5 minutes without someone talking to/at me. It seemed like one of those obvious parenting moves that I had regretfully overlooked for four years. We should have been teaching her all along to play alone. Don’t misunderstand; kids need time with peers and time with parents and loads of attention. But learning to be content alone and play alone are life skills. Starting with 5-minute increments and working up to an hour, I’ve been teaching my kids to play alone. My 1-year-old can currently play alone contently longer than my 5-year-old. (Again, I wish I had started teaching her this skill a long time ago!) We’re up to 15-30 minutes now.
It’s amazing what I can get done in 15-30 minutes alone. It’s like a deep breath for my mind. I can get the dishwasher unloaded or dinner prepped. I can respond to emails. I can write a blog post. I can finish a graphic design project. Rachel, the writer of the blog post I mentioned above, has some great tips for how to teach your child to play alone. One benefit that I’m not sure if she mentions in her blog, my kids are more eager to play together after they’ve spent some time playing alone. Do yourself and your child a favor and start doing this if you don’t already!
Leave a Comment » | Family, Family: Froggie/Isaiah, Family: Precious/Ali | Tagged: alone, children, kids, motherhood, parenting, playing, skills | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
I love art and doing crafts. I always have. It’s such a joy for me to see my daughter loving art, too. She got a big bucket of craft supplies and a booklet of ideas for Christmas. We’ve been having fun working on these together on these cold, dreary winter days. I’m looking forward to the days she can do these projects more independently so she can work along side me while I work on my own craft projects. But in this stage, I’m just delighted that she’s having fun and getting creative with these projects.
When our buddy Termain was visiting one evening they sat and did art projects together for a while. He’s an art lover too.
One day I was able to get almost an hour of sewing projects done while Ali played with Play Doh nearby. Glorious!
Leave a Comment » | Art, Art: crafts, Family, Family: Precious/Ali | Tagged: Ali, alianna, Art, crafts, homeschool, kids, parenting, preschool | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
When does a woman become a mother? Is it when she conceives for the first time? Is it when she becomes aware of her baby? Is it when she first holds her child in her arms?
I pondered those questions as I was decorating a nursery, taking infant CPR classes, buying car seats and driving a minivan. No baby was growing in my womb, known or unbeknownst to me. I had not see my first child’s face, breathed her name or held her in my arms.
Yet, I felt like a mother.
So, I asked God, “When does a woman become a mother?”
Read the rest of my blog post over at Dropping Anchors blog.
1 Comment | Faith, Family, Family: Me | Tagged: adoption, foster care, mom, mother, motherhood, parenting | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
It’s simultaneously flattering and terrifying that I have a daughter who wants to be just like me. She sees the worst of me, along with the best. My biggest failures are most often toward those who I love the most: my husband and my daughter. I’ve had to ask her forgiveness so many times. She’s always gracious to forgive. She teaches me. When she offends me, I want to be mad; I want her to know that I’m mad. On the contrary, when I’ve lost my temper with her, she responds to my apologies with so much grace. “It’s OK, Mommy. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. You just try again.”
The other day I was heading out to take care of the chickens. She asked, “Mommy, can I follow you?” She hurried to put her shoes on so she could shadow me on my chores. If I’m working, she wants to work. If I’m vacuuming, she wants to vacuum. If I’m cooking, she wants to cook. If I throw a fit when I’m mad, she throws a fit when she’s mad. If I bark commands at her, she barks commands at me (or others). If I sing and dance in worship, she sings and dances in worship. If I feel sick, she feels sick. When I see how much she wants to be like me, I’m humbled. I’m desperate to be more like Jesus so when she emulates me, she’s emulating Him.
Jesus, help me to be like You. Help me to love my daughter well. Help me to be on her side and to model love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
5 Comments | Faith, Family, Family: Me, Family: Precious/Ali | Tagged: child, daughter, mom, mommy, mother, motherhood, parenting | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
Where is her real mommy?
I knew questions like this would come but it still caught me off guard. The three year old girl didn’t ask me directly; it was a question for her mom who was telling me later—and perhaps also asking. We’re loose acquaintances so she doesn’t know our story. That mom had suggested to her daughter that she ask Alianna. I told her Ali wouldn’t know how to answer that question. I left it at that. I could have said so much more and I’ve been mulling over what I should have or could have said for hours now.
The question bothers me partly because of the word real. Anyone who knows about adoption etiquette knows that’s a buzz word. I’m her real mom. Her biological mom is her real mom. Neither of us is fake or pretend. We’ve both very real and we’ve both very mom. Alianna is my real daughter and we’re a real family. It also bothers me a bit that this mother and daughter discussed the possible reasons for Ali’s adoption… “Maybe her real mom was sick.” The answer to this question is too complicated for a three year old and too personal for a loose acquaintance.
I’m pretty gracious with adoption questions and I don’t expect everyone to have the right words to use. However, the reason this poorly-worded, intrusive question made me sick to my stomach was the thought of a three year old peer asking it to my two year old daughter. Ali is confident and out-going but she would have no idea how to answer this question in 2.5 year old terms. I hate to think that it would give her a moment of panic… Is my mom not real? Is she not my real mom? Is she lost?
The three year old girl must be observing that often families match skin and hair colors. (Or has someone pointed it out to her?) We were in a fairly diverse setting but apparently transracial families and adoptive families are not common in her circles. I asked Ali later if she’s noticed that we don’t look alike—that she has brown skin and black curly hair and mommy has lighter skin—I stopped myself there because the look she was giving me said, No kidding. Why would or should we look alike? I might as well have been asking if she’s noticed the sky is blue and the grass is green. Then I realized that adoptive and transracial families are very common in our lives. It’s probably never crossed her might that we “should” look alike. There is nothing unusual about her family from her perspective at this point in her life.
Since I’ve been over-analyzing this conversation, I’ve come up with a response for this three year old girl in preschool terms. Here it goes:
I am Ali’s real mommy. She had a different mommy before me. She grew in her first mommy’s tummy. Her birth mommy loved Ali very much but she wasn’t able to take care of her so some helpers found Ali new parents—us. We adopted Ali into our family and we’ve been her parents ever since.
If she wants to know why her birth mom couldn’t take care of her: She was dealing with some really big grown-up problems and she needed to learn how to take better care of herself.
If she wants to know who the helpers were: They’re social workers who work for agencies—Child Protective Services and the Department of Childrens Services—that watch out for kids to make sure that they’re safe and their needs are met.
If she wants to know what adoption is: It’s when a judge decrees that we’re a real, official family—real parents and a real child—forever and ever.
If she wants to know where her birth mom is now: I don’t know for sure. She still lives in Nashville but we don’t see her very often.
(Picture at the top is Alianna with her birth mommy—her other real mommy. Blurred for her privacy.)
4 Comments | Family, Family: Adoption, Family: Precious/Ali | Tagged: adoption, alianna, children, diversity, Family, kids, parenting, precious, preschoolers, toddlers, transracial | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
I’ve had so much going on lately that I’m not even sure where to start with blogging. I haven’t had time to mentally pre-write any posts. Busy at work. Busy with family. Busy at home. I know: Everyone is busy. Blah blah blah.
The title of my post is in reference to this news: We got official word that Bee’s ICPC has been approved by both states. At this point we’re just waiting for the court date where the judge here will sign off on the transfer. I’m guessing it’ll be pretty quick.
It’s good news. Bee is 8 months old and hitting new milestones as fast as she can pull off her socks. She got her first two teeth while she was visiting her family over the holidays and I was happy they got that gift. She’s been THISCLOSE to crawling for a couple weeks now and I’m hoping they’ll get the gift of seeing her crawl for the first time. They’ll get to witness her first pulling up to a stand, her first steps, her 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th etc. words. She has a family that loves her and is able to care for her. It’s where she belongs. I’m grateful that it’s only been two months—for her sake, for her family’s sake, for our sake. Because, dang, we’ve fallen in love hard and fast.
It’s bad news because we’re going to miss her a lot. Bee is sweet, cuddly and easy to love. She’s been calling us Mama and Dada, which melts our hearts. Her family is kind but I’m not confident that they’ll stay in touch considering they’re 8 hours away and we’ve only had minimal phone conversations related to pick up and drop off in the past 2 months. Alianna has been such a wonderful big sister to her and I know this goodbye is going to be hard for her. She still prays for Buzz and his mom everyday. As soon as I got the news, Jason explained to Ali that Bee will be leaving soon to go back home with her family. “Why?” Because we’ve just been taking care of her for a little while. Remember why we do what we do? Just like for [Buzz], when kids need a safe place to stay and live while their family gets ready for them, we take care of them here. “Awe…” as she hugged her. “I love [Bee].” Then he reminded Ali that she’ll be staying here because she’s part of our family forever.
2 Comments | Faith, Family, Family: Bee, Family: Foster Parenting | Tagged: baby, baby bee, Bee, children, Family, foster care, foster parenting, kids, parenting | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
On Thursday afternoon we got a call—only our third call in 3.5 weeks of being open to new placements—and it was a “yes” call. A 6-month old girl? A baby? Yes! God has been preparing my heart since August for our next placement to be a baby girl…ever since I found out Alianna’s biological mom was pregnant with a girl. Bee is not Ali’s biological sister, however, I know that God was preparing me for Bee as well as putting that baby sister on my heart so I’d pray for her a lot. In fact, when I found out baby sister was coming into state custody, I bought some formula, diapers and a newborn onesie from the clearance rack at Target just in case. They put baby sister with another family member so we never got that call. However, funny how God works isn’t it? That onesie I bought just in case…I found an exact duplicate in the tub of clothing that came with Bee!
I love when God gives me these little signs to show that He knows me and He cares what matters to my heart.
So, back to baby Bee. That’s not her real name, of course. It’s my online nickname for her. We don’t really know how long she’ll be with us at this point. There is a family member out-of-state that they’re hoping will work for her placement but state-to-state transfers and documentation can be slow. Initially we were told it might take 6 months. By the next day, we heard they’re going to try to expedite it, but they still couldn’t give me a time frame. Just “faster.” One day at a time. It would be nice to know if she’ll be with us for Christmas so I can prepare but such is the way of foster care.
Bee is a big baby! That’s part of the reason for the nickname…she’s round and bumbly. I though Ali was a big baby but Bee is already too big for all the 6 month clothes she came with. I have some 9 and 12 month hand-me-downs from Ali that suit her much better. We’ve been blessed with another very easy-going, happy, good-sleeping baby. Praise the Lord! She is really delightful and we’re all so happy to have her join our household for however long we get to kiss her big, soft cheeks and inhale her delicious baby smell. I’ll write more about how we’re all transitioning when I have more time.
Leave a Comment » | Family, Family: Bee, Family: Foster Parenting | Tagged: baby, Bee, child, foster care, foster parenting, parenting, placement | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
It was on October 29th when we got our first call. Based on past experience, I expected the calls to continue coming every other day at least, until we got a “yes” call. But the phone hasn’t rung again. I was relieved. More time to rest. More time to prepare. More time to enjoy life as a family of three. But then the guilt started creeping in. I have a slew of foster mama friends (through social media) and many of them are in the trenches right now, doing the hard work of foster care. I started feeling guilty about all the sunshine and rainbows over here and wondering if some kid across town is suffering, waiting for a foster home to open up. On Friday, due to that guilt, I sent our FSW (family service worker) an email to make sure we are indeed on the call list and that the first call wasn’t a fluke.
On Tuesday morning, I opened up my Jesus Calling devotional to November 12. Once again, God used that little book to speak directly into my situation. In case you can’t read it in the picture above, here’s the first half:
This is a time of abundance in your life. Your cup runneth over with blessings. After plodding uphill for many weeks, you are now traipsing through lush meadows drenched in warm sunshine. I want you to enjoy to the full this time of ease and refreshment. I delight in providing it for you. Sometimes My children hesitate to receive My good gifts with open hands. Feelings of false guilt creep in, telling them they don’t deserve to be so richly blessed. This is nonsense-thinking, because no one deserves anything from Me.
If that wasn’t enough to relieve my guilt, our FSW wrote back on Tuesday afternoon to confirm that we are on the list. We’ve done nothing wrong but calls have slowed down drastically as they’ve changed the way they do removals. I suspected this already because I read this news article. In short, they’re waiting until they hold a hearing before taking kids out of their homes. I think this is mostly good. I’m not at all in favor of the government being able to come and take away a child without a valid, proven reason. On the other hand, I’m concerned about kids languishing in rotten situations longer than necessary. Calls have slowed way down. Where are all the kids? Are there that many cases that don’t justify a removal? Or are there kids who are being left in abusive situations due to lack of evidence? Not much I can do in that situation but pray.
I’m doing my best to move forward into this time of ease and refreshment guilt-free. Thankfully, God has been speaking a lot lately (or is it that I’ve been listening better?) and He keeps assuring me that He knows what He’s doing, who He is bringing to our family next and when.
Leave a Comment » | Faith, Family, Family: Foster Parenting | Tagged: foster care, foster parenting, foster parents, parenting, waiting | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt
I want to write from the heart, to pour out and sort out all that’s swirling around in my mind, but blogging requires a balancing act between public life and private life that’s tricky to manage. Perhaps it’s especially tricky as a foster parent, because a child in state custody is never legally mine and their stories are not mine to share. I say all that because I have a lot of heavy stuff going on in my heart and my head and I don’t know what, if any of it, to share here. The complexity of that stuff makes writing a blog post about sewing a toddler purse or making a peanut butter pie seem terribly superficial.
Here are a few random bullet points from my brain swirl:
• On Thursday we started getting placement calls again out of the blue. I was under the impression we were on hold status because we hadn’t gotten any calls since…well, since May 3 when Buzz arrived. I had a discussion about that with the third placement worker and she said she would be glad to make a note on our file that we’re not available until the end of October, when Buzz’s 90-day home visit trial period is over. Placement workers are the sweetest people working for DCS and they have one of the most discouraging jobs. All three of the placements we were called about—4 kids in total—were under the age of 2. That’s extremely rare in our county. I’m sure they were able to find homes for them but it’s still heart breaking to say no. If it were November I would have said yes to any of them. I’m now officially hoping for a baby next time after mentally imagining saying yes to each of those placement calls.
• I called back the sweet placement worker on Friday morning to clarify that we would make an exception to the hold status for any previous foster kids or their biological family members.
• On Saturday morning Ali and I met Buzz and his mom for breakfast. It was the first time we had seen them since the beginning of August when they were reunited. It was also Buzz’s 3rd birthday. I’m so glad we could celebrate with them. I got the impression his mom has had to close their world in so tight that they really don’t see many family and friends. Both kids ask about each other a lot. Apparently Buzz asks to see pictures of “Mama and Ali”…it really means a lot to me that his mom told me that because I was afraid it was hurting her that he calls me Mama. He calls her Mommy, thankfully, so he has a different name for each of us. Buzz was quite nervous when we walked into the IHOP. I’m sure it stirred up a mess of emotions. We both assured him that he was going home with his mom and we were just visiting because Ali and I miss him. (Jason too but he’s traveling.) He was pretty quiet through breakfast. It looks and sounds like they’re doing great. I’m so proud of them both! We all got hugs when we said goodbye and tentatively made plans to get together again next month. I’m blessed to get to keep in touch with them. We’re certainly not required to but we both just want to keep in touch. I love that!
• I keep coming back to the word trust, over and over again. Trust. With all of the unknowns. WIth all of the maybes. With all of the secret hopes. With all of the dreams for the future. WIth all of the worries about situations and individuals way outside of my control. With all of the confusion and mess. TRUST. I started looking up Bible verses related to trust on Sunday afternoon. “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5. That verse has been popping up in my head for several weeks. And the follow up to trust is wait. Be patient. Wait. Trust.
2 Comments | Faith, Family, Family: Foster Parenting | Tagged: Faith, foster care, hope, parenting, patience, trust, wait | Permalink
Posted by mahlbrandt