Gotcha day

Two years! How can it only be two years since I first laid eyes on our boy L? It feels like I have known him my entire life and then some. It was around 11 pm, when my husband and oldest son brought him home and laid him next to me. He was pretty beat up, and extremely exhausted. He couldn’t talk, was scared to death, so he just screamed. I held him for hours that night as I rocked and tried to reassure him that he was safe and okay. The state had told us that night he was only 15 months old. We never question it because, he was so tiny, walked as a new walker would wobble around and he couldn’t/didn’t say anything besides, mama, over and over as he cried. We didn’t find out until five days later that he was actually 2 years and 7 months old. Imagine how scary that must’ve been for him, being taken from the only place he had ever known, even if it wasn’t the safest, he knew no difference. Then he slept in a DCS office for four days as they waited to find a foster home for him. Finally being sent to a new family, new house that was full of Caucasian people when he had been surrounded by only people with skin tones as beautiful as his. This is just a glimpse of his story, but so many kids in foster care share similar stories. They come with nothing, they are terrified, often hurt and extremely abused.
Today is little man’s gotcha day, for us it’s the day we laid eyes on our son. The day my heart said, ‘oh, there you are, I’ve been looking for you my whole life.” To him it was a scary day, a healing day and the start to a new normal as he grieved his life before us. For many other reasons the journey of foster care and adoption have been one of the hardest seasons so far of our lives and yet, I would do it all over a million times, just to say hello for the first time to each of my babies. I still would tell each of you, if you feel called, jump in headfirst. My life is fuller, crazier, harder and richer because of each of the children God brought into our home. We are ending foster care month, so it’s fitting I get to end with one of my favorite days, the day I met my son! Happy gotcha day, I am so thankful and blessed I get to be part of all your tomorrows. Love you!

YES

Eleven years ago if you would have told me, we would have more than one child I would have said, NEVER. After Shaley was born I was a mess, as a mom, wife and women, I was one giant walking mess. I remember clearly the moment I told Ben I only wanted one child and his response was, “I have always wanted six children,” in which I quickly responded, “ well, I think you married the wrong person.” After Shaley was just over a year old, the postpartum started to lift and I started taking care of myself more, slowly life came back in to me and we tried for our second child, who was such a perfect and happy baby, so having baby number three was an easy choice to make. We made a permanent choice to not have any more biological children when our youngest was ten months old. We said we have always wanted to adopt, so if we felt led to have ONE more child we would go that route.
Now we sit here one week away from being the parents of eight children. We will soon be our own sports team, our already giant grocery bill is about to explode on a whole new level. I am sure our Costco membership will pay for itself in the first month. My washer and dryer are about to be put to the test of a none stop work load. Our kids will always have plenty of children to play with even if they are fighting with one, they will still have more than a half dozen other siblings to play with. I will have plenty of little guys to take me on mother/son dates. All of you that are moms to boys understand what a boy does to a momma’s heart and what this will mean to me. Ben will have more than he ever dreamed of in hunting buddies. When there is just too much testosterone running wild in the house I will have two girls to sneak away with for pedicures, and I am sure Ben is grateful there are only two sweet girls in his life that he will have to scare the boys away from, trust me, he has long been preparing for that first boy that we all know will one day show up at our door, but knowing Shaley he will be one awesome boy that her daddy will love. I am so excited for our boys to move in, nervous, yes! I have this nagging feeling like I should spend this next week sleeping and watching Netflix, because life is about to get crazy up in here. We will have one week to adjust and then school starts and life gets a tiny bit more simple for me in the day time but the mornings and nights are a whole new kind of crazy, I am sure.
If you would have asked me a year ago when we started this journey, if we would ever consider bringing five more children into our home, I would have laughed at you and said that isn’t even possible, is it? But if you asked me that same question today, I would tell you, we can’t wait to see what God is about to do with our family and we are so thankful he chose the children he did to be part of our lives. Are we ready, probably not even close, but that’s okay. We have the best family and friends anyone could ask for, and the one thing we are sure of is, this is all part of His plan and all we were asked to do is say yes, so we did.

Are you part of a big family? If so what are some of the best parts for you with living with a lot of other people that love you like crazy.  I can’t wait to hear all the positives that come from a house full of people.yes-2jlm7ae

Big things are still to come

On December 14th 2014 we brought into our home the oldest brother of a little girl that was in our home at the time. She ended up only staying about four months with us, until reuniting with her birth father. The little guy stayed for a short time longer until DCS placed him in another foster home that had his two brothers. The goal is always to keep siblings together if at all a possibility. We were pretty sad with him leaving but God allowed something that is very uncommon in the Foster care world, HE allowed this little guy to keep in touch with us and still come over for sleep overs, all because he asked his case worker, who saw past the red tape and saw what was most important, keeping relationships in tact, because it mattered to him, so it mattered to her. How awesome! Well, fast forward several months later, we got a call a few weeks ago saying this little guys case is going into adoption and would we be willing to adopt him. There was no hesitation at all, the answer was YES. The question that came next, is where it all got crazy real, what about his brothers? I was sitting in my car dropping my daughter off at her cousins when I got this call. I sat there for a moment and said, we just can’t right now with having the three little ones (one with very high needs) it would surely be too much. She understood and we went on with the thought of just adopting him. As life was challenging the next few weeks with caring for one of our littles that demanding so much of our time, energy and love we nearly couldn’t think of much more than that. We were in a constant state of alert, and the fight to help this child start to heal from the past life of hell they lived. We saw great steps of progress and great steps backwards also, but daily, a tiny, very tiny crack in this child’s shell was coming off, but we questioned if we could continue this fight that we were on and do so well with our other children much longer? Then we got a call last week that this child of ours would be reuniting with a family friend. Was this an answered cry? Or a million steps backwards for this precious child? It was now out of our hands, so we prayed and asked God to walk before and with this sweet child, always. We breathed, we rested and we enjoyed ourselves for a whole two days lol and then our little guy called and asked for another sleep over and we of course said yes and this time also brought one of his brothers for this sleepover. We had a great time and this is where we started talking, praying and gasping for air. Could we bring maybe just one of his brothers in? I mean they are sweet and we know them and if we love our guy so much how could we not love an extension of him? Then we talk to folks, ask for prayer and we observe what the dynamic would look like with a house FULL of crazy kids, as they all played and ran a muck this weekend in our home. The more we talked to folks, the more we prayed, the more we simply thought, the more we came to the same conclusion, we can’t separate these three boys and there is a real reason God kept them in our lives even after leaving our home. We had our church pray over us Sunday night and Monday morning I woke up around 5 am and kind of felt under qualified for such a giant life long task. So I talked a lot to God that morning laying in our bed, I asked Him could we really do this and do it without completely failing all our kids? Would there be enough of us for all of them? Then at about 5:40 am that same morning I received a text, from a sweet lady named Lynn from our church and she wrote, “Honestly, I feel that it will be just as overwhelming at times, as what you’ve been through recently. But I see you and Ben as giants, filed to the brim with love that good wants to overflow into these children he is bringing into your house. I know He sees your trembling heart, how could HE not? He has placed you into a loving caring community, not by accident. Have you ever heard of Buck Brannaham? He was raised by a couple that took in over 40 abused children. He was one of them. Check him out on FB. (He trains horses now using some of the techniques he learned from his adopted parents.) I think HE wants to stretch you further and HE is asking you to accept the challenge like queen Ester. You and Ben are here for such a time as this.” …..

….You see that big pause? Yea, that is what I did. I just stopped and thought, really God, you think we can do this? So after talking to Ben we sent a email to the boys case worker saying, we would like to be considered to adopt all three brothers. It’s not official and there are a few steps that have to be approved for it first, but if it is really God saying yes, then noting will stop it. If it’s not truly his will nothing can force it. Pray with us and we know it is a lot but we also know God, he is so much more than a lot.
So perhaps if He sees fit we will be parents to 8 beautiful children. How crazy, awesome and big fat scary our lives have changed in just under a year.

Be carful what you ask for…

Standing in God’s will looks different for each of us, depending on where He places us. Ben and I are in a season full of blessings and love, but also sleepless nights, crazy tantrums and a open house full of social workers and therapist. We feel so called and yet somedays so inadequate to withstand the calling placed within our hearts. As I am up so often every night comforting our baby that because of her start in this world, sleep has never been a big part of her life, another that is often up crying for reason that right now only God knows why, and an immune system that seems to have forgotten how to work, I question if I am enough for these children, if my body can keep this up. If others not walking this path would even understand if I talked to them about it. We are normal folks, we love sleep, lazy days, date nights and all those simple things, but this season is different for us, it’s hard at times and I find it can be a lonely road because, talking with most people I find myself wanting to explain so much in hopes that they will see a glimpse of the reality in which I am describing.
Last night after I tucked in one of our littles who is a sweet, bossy and very independent little person, I found God working on my heart to see her as He see her and to have the kind of patients for her as He has for me. This was a few hours before I walked into her room and found her not wanting to sleep but, instead wanting to play. “Funny God, I get it. I wanted more patience, so you gave me a beautiful opportunity at 1:30 in the morning to practice using this gift I asked for.” This was all while we were still up with a very fussy baby that didn’t want to sleep, which isn’t unusual at all but after the patience test, i had to laugh in order to not cry. Shortly later I found myself laying in bed with our beautiful 9 month old princess, who was breathing very heavy while squirming with what seemed like pain on my chest. I hummed softly in her ear and that’s when she did it, when she reminded me how crazy love is, she laid her arm across me and patted my chest until she finally feel asleep early this morning. Even though I was dead tired, I laid there in that exhausted moment and thanked God for this kind of love and humbleness in my life. I don’t always like the dirty parts, but I will never be caught saying, that I don’t love this season because, Ben and I, even though today are completely dead tired, have still caught moments of looking in each other’s eyes and both saying the same thing with a look, “we are so thankful for all of these children that are teaching us more about love and getting out of our own wants than any other thing has ever done. Oh, and that we should take turns getting a nap in today.” 😉
I was guiltily once upon a time of thinking people that were walking this path were just being to hard, to strict and that all they had to do was give a little more love. Love does win and it will cover a multitude of sins, but it isn’t all that is needed in putting very broken children back together. They are fragile, they have sharp pieces of glass that can cut and hurt us all over them. They are younger mentally then their age and yet know so much more then their tiny amount of years should know. I was wrong for thinking I got it, I was wrong for doing anything more then being a good friend with two open ears. I was wrong to say, love is all you need. We need patience, endurance, Jesus and a few good friend that even if they don’t get it, understand enough of what a phone call or text of encouragement will do for a very tired soul. Thank you to my few that some days are what God uses to carry us through. ❤

Stolen Voices

We have six children in our home, three of which are under three years of age, as you can guess, life can get crazy busy and hectic around here at times. Sometimes we feel as though we just don’t have enough time to follow through, to go the extra step or always be consistent, but we don’t have that option, at least not with some of our kiddos. Our two toddlers come from horrendous abuse, neglect and because of this, the results are, they don’t communicate well, they shut down, they hide, they run, they have melt downs for what seems like no reason at all, to the unknowing eyes. As the parent, we will ask a simple question, in which we get a blank stare that is often filled with fear. It goes something like this, “Hey sweet heart, do you have to use the restroom?” In which, we get two glossy eyes starring back at us and usually an accident to follow, because of the fear an adult talking to them will do. One of our littles is an amazing talker, she sings every word to every Frozen song there is, she talks and talks the ears off to our children, but the moment an adult, whether Ben or I or her preschool teachers speak to her directly, she shut down, instantly. It can be so frustrating to say the least, but not at the children as much as the horrible adults that caused these pains in these babies. I often wonder if these adults could see the day to day horrific pain they have caused, would they get it? Would they weep with remorse, would they give up the fight and let these babies go to a better home? The external scars on these babies have all healed up, but the day to day fight by us, of being constant, being present, working tirelessly to connect and restore has just begun. Everything isn’t better the day they are removed from the care of their abuser, to me, it seems that’s the day the pain really begins. These children are use to the chaos, neglect and abuse, so bring them into a home with rules, love, boundaries and little, to no chaos and they will fight it, they will crave it, they will demand it to return, so they can feel normal and at peace again. So what do we do? We resist, we love, we fight them and we stay constant, day after day and night after night, until one day it starts to click. We say, “I love you” several times a day to our children and one of our littles response is always the same, she turns her head, says, “no” and walks away, until last night, she looked at my daughter and said the words back to her. Maybe she has never heard those words before, maybe those words were always attached to pain, there are a million maybes of why they do what they do and maybe we will never know, but today my heart is frustrated, broken and determined to give these babies back their voice. I hate what they have gone through and I hate that so many abusers get so many chances at the cost of children, but right now, they are here and while they are, if all they ever receive from us is to know what love feels like and find their voice, I will know we have done our job. #lovewins

Do you do it for the money?

I can admit that prior to becoming a Foster parent myself, I always wondered why so many Foster folks had such large families. Was it the money or maybe they had a Mother Theresa complex, because it’s so rare to see a small foster family these days. Whenever you watch television they are great at sending a false message of what foster families look like and maybe I was a little guilty of believing things I knew nothing about. Why couldn’t I and others see these folks as having a heart for children, a heart to serve, a heart to help while stretching outside of themselves. Why are we so quick to pass judgment on people and their lives? I am part of a private Foster parents page and so many are sad or struggling with the loss or judgment from family and friends. So often they are not asked to participate in outings or events because many of the kiddos they are loving on have pains and issues that are hard to deal with, especially in public situations. I also hear many feeling isolated by family because, well, ‘they did it to themselves,’  because, really, they did. They didn’t have to help this child or add one more to the mix, they could of stopped and let someone else take care of this child. So when they are having a hard day, who do they vent with or ask advice from when the ones that should be their support are busy judging. What if they didn’t do it to themselves, what if they don’t do it for the money, what if Mother Theresa is a saint many would never try to even compare their lives to.

Lets start with how they did it to themselves. They did cause less sleep for their life, less alone time, less money to go around and less adult time, but, lets stop and think what they really did when they brought that last baby in to their home. They added life to a family, extended their hearts to love more, they chose love over comfort, they chose to take the bible and Gods command to love all orphans as literal and not just some old ancient words. If you are a parent of any number of children, by birth, adoption of fostering you know it can be hard and exhausting and every parent has their days where they need to vent. That need doesn’t change because they are not biologically there children. Be an ear, bring a meal or share a glass of wine with the Foster parent in your life. They just like before, have days where they still need YOU.

I love Mother Theresa, that lady will always hold rockstar status in my eyes, she didn’t own much of anything, spent her days in poverty, served others and only asked for Gods sustaining power to carry her through. She was one of a kind and not many folks are like her and not a single foster parent I have met is trying to be her. They all have things like; t.v’s, cars, homes, clothes, go on some kind of vacations, whether big or small. They are just regular folks that have seen the need and how desperately children in our own backyards need us all to help them. So they stepped up and did what they can, even if that looks different to you, don’t judge them, because trust me, what they are doing isn’t always easy and they don’t do it for the kudos, they do it for the love of the child. I know that a small portion of foster families are bad and have unclean motives, but don’t let that small one percent, cause your taste buds to turn sour over what your friends or family next to you are doing. Join them, invite them over for a BBQ, hear their stories and share in their passion. Encourage them it will mean the world to them.

They do it for the money I bet. I was someone that thought this notion prior to becoming a Foster parent myself, that money had to be at least a small motive, because how could anyone open their home and lives to multiple children that are not their own, if it’s not about the money, right? For the average foster child in Arizona it breaks down to a whopping 63 cents per hour that the Foster family gets. That is 63 cents an hour to be a full time taxi driver to multi doctor and therapy appointments and also pick up and drop off at visits each week with the child’s bio parents, where once you pick that child up, you quickly turn into a therapist to their broken and confused little hearts. Your ability to transition into a Dr. happened often also as you have to take care of immune issues, lice, abuse, fears of showers, cars, the darkness, bed wetting, tantrums and you quickly learn you could make double the money part time, at minim wage and have nights and weekends off and not spend your nights holding a crying child that is scared of God knows what. Then you feed them and my Lord do these kiddos eat, I mean eat. One of mine gained four pounds the first 10 days he was in our home. The real fear of starvation is a strong force so many of these kids have, which causes them to never want to go hungry again, so they eat, gorge, hoard and are always looking for their next meal. Oh yea, did I mention they also usually come to your home with just the dirty clothes on their backs, rarely with even shoes on their feet? So these families get a child and run out to a store to get the basics that day of what they will need. So yes, they do need the money, because I know for so many they couldn’t do it without that extra help, but it’s not what they do it for, because 63 cents an hour just doesn’t cover all they do. Next time you have a bag of hand-me-down kid clothes, maybe instead of Goodwill, you could bless a Foster family in your life with them, because they will be used and so greatly appreciated.Roll-of-money

I am sure Ben and I have people that we don’t know about casting judgment our way, but we have way more casting love our way. I am so blessed, our life is full of people that are supportive and encouraging, from church, to family and friends, but most Foster families do not feel this way. Lets change that. The next time you catch your self wanting to judge or roll your eyes at the momma with many kids in tow, don’t, instead, lend a hand, a meal, encouragement, love and just watch and see just how far that love will go. #lovewins

You are worth it

Loving a child through their pain and brokenness can be hard. You don’t always get to see the end result, the reward of your hard work. Sometimes you are just a stepping stone in their journey, a small but mighty ripple in their ocean. So often what people are doing to help broken children is an invisible act of love not seen by others but remember it’s always felt by the child.

To the teacher that brings in extra food for the child she knows hasn’t ate a meal in days, the neighbor that always invites the ‘troubled child’ over to hang with her family so often she feel like she has an extra child or the foster/adoptive parent that are in the trenches picking up the pieces to their child’s broken past. Thank you! You may not hear that from the child today or see your seeds of love growing in them just yet, but one day it will happen. The next time you’re having a hard time walking in love towards this child, grab them by the cheeks, look them in the eye and tell them they are worth it, because they are. Once upon a time I was worth it and I am forever grateful to all the people that looked me in the face as a broken child and said, “you are worth it, Nicole!”  Today, I completely agree with them, all their endless acts of love were worth it. So please don’t give up the fight even when it seems overwhelming. Broken children, have broken hearts, but when someone tells a child they are worth it, watch and see the broken become whole again.

Growing……

Our family grew by two feet, two beautiful brown eyes and one beautiful, strong and independent little girl this week. We went back on the call list and received several calls in a very short time period. This whole process can be so overwhelming at times to say the least. How do you say yes to one, and say no to all the others? There are parts of this whole journey that are hard on a momma’s heart, but through circumstances and a failed attempt at bringing home a little guy first, the last call I took was for a beautiful little princess and she is perfectly perfect. If I haven’t said it before, you should know, I love this calling, I just freaking love it, even the no good, exhausting days, because the next day is a new day to start over and try again.

We started

As long as I can remember we have wanted to adopt children. At one point in my life I actually said I didn’t want to have bio children I wanted to just adopt. I am so happy I didn’t listen to myself then, because our three children add so much beauty to this world. But even as teenagers both Ben and I would talk of our desires to adopt children one day. Well, fast forward many years, life happened, amazing kiddos were born, healing was happening, careers were being made, and that desire went on the sideline, till this past June when Ben and I took the first step towards adoption and are trudging along with the licensing classes and home study. We don’t know who this child will be but we have prayed for them as a family each night since starting this journey and we believe God is working out all the details. We are thrilled, nervous and over joyed with th As e thought of this child who our eyes have never seen but our hearts are already connected to and who will be joining our crazy home one day.
Children need mommies and daddies. They need committed parents who love them. They need someone who will come running in the middle of the night when they have had a bad dream or when the horror of their past catches up to them. They need predictability, they need discipline, they need love. They need a mailbox with their last name on it. They need a parent sitting in the audience when they are dressed like giant cloud or cheering on the sideline at their football game. They need a dad to wrestle with them, a table to sit around over a meal to share the highs and lows of their day. They need a place to call home. They don’t need a lot of money, expensive trips or the latest gadget they just need a family that no matter what is on their team. Ben and I can’t supply them with everything but thank God everything is not what they need. So, whether our family grows through foster to adopt or just adoption is still yet to be seen but we wanted to share the news, because without most of you this wouldn’t be a possibility, we love you guys and are so excited to continue this journey with all of you. ~ Martins