Archives for category: successful adoption

Mother Holding Child's HandAll relationships go through seasons – friendship, sibling, marriage, and parent-child.  I realized today that I am now in the season of not only loving my children, but liking them as well.  With some of my kids, the ‘not liking’ season was short.  With some of my kids, the ‘liking’ season has been a very long time in coming.

I think all parents, if we are honest about our true feelings, have times when we simply don’t enjoy being with our kids.  Now for me, I don’t enjoy being with any of my children on Friday night.  That is when I am worn-out from a long week of being a homeschool mom and farmwife, and am ready to be my husband’s girlfriend for our Friday night date!  This is a 4-6 hour time period when I don’t want to be around my kids so I can get a break, enjoy having my husband all to myself, and be refreshed for the same routine in the week to come.  Frankly, our weekly date night keeps our ‘liking’ season going.  If we don’t have this time alone together, neither one of us is very likeable, nor do we like each other much.  We love each other, but liking has to be worked at.

The season of ‘not liking’ kids I am talking about is much longer than a few hours weekly.  It might be for one of those ‘teen’ years, like 14 for sons, or 15 for daughters.  You know, when nothing you say is respected, let alone obeyed, and the eye-rolling look seems to have permanently replaced the ‘rise up and call mom blessed’ look.  I have had those seasons with all of my children that are over 12.  Thankfully, that season passes when they spend more time away from home than at home.  Whether at college, or on their own as a working adult, they learn that their parents are indeed the wisest, most kind, most patient, most brilliant in the world, since they now know a whole bunch of unlikeable people who were not parented with New Testament love and forgiveness, and Old Testament commandments and discipline.  I got an email from my 19 y.o. this week that said “Thanks for everything and believing in me.”  Well, she gets it, finally!

With some of my adopted kids, I have had a very, very long season of ‘not liking’ that started way before the teen years, and continued for many years.  In fact, I think those years actually had 730 days, and the days had 48 hours, because the days and years seemed to drag on and on.  Honestly, at times, they were a complete nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from because I was awake while having the nightmare!  Death, destruction, and running away seemed to be the only answers, and those were my answers – from a capable, Christian, joyful, loving, optimistic, patient, smart mom!  Thankfully time heals all wounds, and the Lord walks us through those horrible, awful, want-to-forget-them-completely times.

Yesterday, while waiting in the car with one of these kids I didn’t like for a long, long time, something wonderful happened.  We actually enjoyed ourselves, just the two of us together, listening to music, talking about not very important, and also some very important things.  We were relaxed, we loved each other, and we liked each other!  It was mutual – I know this because I actually got eye contact without rolling eyeballs, smiles, and complete sentence answers.

Today, while working outside on one of our farm gardens, another one of these kids I also didn’t like – for even a longer time – was so enjoyable to be with!  We worked together, got our job done, did it well, had fun laughing at weird things (like deep holes in the ground that probably housed a disgusting varmit), and enjoyed talking about upcoming family events.  We liked each other!

Last Sunday, I sat in the fellowship dining hall during the service with one of my pre-teen kids.  This kiddo is going through some things that she can’t verbalize.  Her behavior tells of the sorrow:  overly bossy, manipulative, bed wetting, angry outbursts, and running to her dad and I nearly knocking us over as she grabs on to us and holds tightly in a hug for a looooonnnnngggggg time.  Once done, she sits in our lap and snuggles, wordless, until she looks at us with a smile and runs off again to be busy with something in her world.  Sitting with her, as I have been doing for a number of weeks since I discovered – actually God showed me in a moment of my desperation – that she needed this time alone with mom for nearly an hour every week, I realized I liked her.  It had been a couple of years since I felt that way.  Wow, that is an honest thing to say!  I loved her, but I didn’t like her sometimes, in fact for most of the time in an average day.

Anyway, my point is, that if we are faithful to ‘feed My sheep’ as the Lord commands us, He is faithful in giving us a heart to shepherd them.  A heart that not only loves them, but likes them.  My heart, being conformed to the Savior’s everyday, and letting Him mold it everyday the rest of my life, not only helps me unconditionally love my challenging children, but helps me learn to like them for who He created them to be.  Parenting is a lot easier, fun, interesting, and rewarding when we like the children we will be parenting the rest of our lives.

The conundrum is that the children who are the least likable, are the ones that need the most time with parents one-on-one.  The challenge is to put the parent-child relationship ahead of all other pleasurable activities that one certainly ‘likes’ more than the unlikeable child.  That is where seeking the Lord, trusting in Him, relying on Him for every breathing minute of your day comes in to play.  I need to remember that, and practice it purposefully.  I have found that if I want to do something I like to do, doing that with the child I don’t really like, helps us have a relationship that grows from unconditionally loving each other, to absolutely liking each other.  Just as 15 minutes daily practice of a foreign language, math facts, or a musical instrument helps you become very knowledgeable about that subject over the years, so too is relationship parenting.  Just 10-20 minutes of focused time, each and nearly every day, makes a difference through the years.  Eventually, the Loving Season, also becomes the Liking Season.

Grammy 80th Birthday photo McMinn Family with Grammy, PoppyAfter taking a year and a half hiatus, I am back to blogging about Christian adoption success! Life gets in the way of our dreams and desires, and the Lord teaches us things while we take a break from our activities. What I have learned in almost 18 months of not writing on this blog, is that Orphan Care is still very important to me and my husband, and we want to be encouragers to Christians who feel God’s call to provide foster care and/or to adopt.

This year I am homeschooling only my adopted children, with the departure to college of my youngest biological child.  Although I miss her and our other grown children who live and work on their own, I must say that things have settled down nicely and my adopted kids are all at really wonderful points in their lives – which means they are easier to parent, and a blessing to be with.  The ups and downs and hard-work of the last 11 years have been tiring, and sometimes terrifying, BUT God is good and He has brought all of us to a great place.  Each of our 5 adopted kids profess faith in our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ, are bonded strongly to our family, are doing well in school, and most important, have developed love, joy, and character.  There are a few things we are all still working on, but I can say I look forward to getting up in the morning to be with my kids all day long.  This is a tremendous encouragement to me, my husband, and all those folks we try to encourage regarding adoption.

Our good friends have taken in a 2 year old boy and we are tickled with his progress. Of course it has been a huge change for their family, very tiring, and at times chaotic, but when I see that little guy, I know the Lord is doing an amazing thing for him and his new forever family.

I have also become friends with a woman who does foster care. She inspires me that at our age, we can still make a difference in the lives of kids, whether for a short time, or on a permanent basis.

Cary, my husband, and I have decided to start a local support group for orphan care providers, that will be based on Christian principles. God has orchestrated all of the details, and our first monthly meeting will be in May. We have a facility, have received some grants we applied for, and have promotional materials we designed and had printed. We have been sharing them with adoptive, foster and kinship families, and are excited to be used by the Lord in this way.

At the end of this month, I will be giving a presentation at a local gathering of child care providers, including foster, adoptive, and kinship parents, regarding our new support group.  I have put together a powerpoint as an outline, and will upload it onto this blog for interested readers.

We had the opportunity to host 7 South Africans for one overnight last month here on the farm. They are singing/dancing ambassadors for Horizon International, a Christian organzation sponsoring AIDS orphans. It was a treat to get to know these humble young men whom Christ has redeemed from the devastation of the pandemic that is killing millions of Africans. Again, God uses every opportunity to help those He loves, died for, and was resurrected to save.

I’ll end today’s post by recommending several excellent books that I have recently enjoyed reading, all promoting the cause of orphan care.

I Beat the Odds, by Michael Oher. The subject of The Blindside tells of his childhood of neglect, his joining the Tuohy family, and his acension into the world of professional football after earning a college degree. Told in a truthful, poignant, yet private personal way, this book is full of the reasons that Christians should do the right thing and provide orphan care, and also excellent improvements that could and should be made in the foster care system. Mr. Oher is a gentlemen through and through as this is not a celebrity ‘tell all’, but a revelation of his life, and what he is now doing to help others in similar situations. Excellent for orphan care providers to understand where their kids might have come from, and for social workers to learn some things to do, and not to do, when trying to help kids.

Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis. Wow! This is an inspiring book and not just for young women. How far should Christians be willing to go in order to obey James 1:27?  Katie traveled across the world, but also left a comfortable life in order to adopt a van load of girls, change a whole community, and love the unlovely because she loves Jesus Christ!  At 55, I was encouraged to fight the good fight and never stop. I was also reminded that just loving my kids every day is the most important thing I can do.
Living by a Leap of Faith; Tom and Debra Ritter. Real life account of a real life family doing real life things on a super-sized level. Precious, precious, precious is all I can say. I wish I had read this years ago before I started adopting. This family is living proof that God provides for those He calls to follow Him. Written in an easy to read style, with many practical suggestions and ideas, this will encourage every Christian family to consider adopting, not just one child, but many.  An absolute treasure, and I wish they were my neighbors.

Adopted for Life; Russell D. Moore. A Southern Baptist Seminary professor, Moore speaks about his adoption journey, and encourages the Church to be more engaged in orphan care. This is a must read for church leaders, and men will appreciate a Dad’s point of view and heart. Scripturally based, the book challenges Christians to follow God’s call to vist orphans in their distress – to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

All of these books are worth purchasing for yourself, your local library, and especially for a friend or family member whom you want to encourage to begin, or continue on, their adoption journey.

PS:  One of the many things I did on my hiatus, was to develop two websites, with blogs, for two of our family businesses.  Please feel free to stop by!

http://www.blessedcreekfarm.com

www.expandinghorizonsmedia.com

Well, after two and a half weeks, I’m back to blogging!  We returned from our week in paradise, enjoyed Christmas at home, went to bed early on New Year’s Eve, and started back to our usual routine of home school and life today.  Great to have a break from writing to process it all.

Vacation…what can I say…it was over the top fantastic!  It was worth the 15 year wait to have a real beach holiday with my main man, and all the kids did so great without us!

We stayed out late, we slept in, we did what we wanted, we didn’t have to do anything, we had our own schedule, we experienced new adventures, we were lazy, we soaked in the hot tub, we read on chaise lounges poolside, we dined on our balcony, we tanned on the beach, every restaurant we ate at was better than the one before, and we caught fish!

Wow, I even got to read four whole books! (I’ll review them in the next posts this week.)  My honey even upgraded us to a convertible!  He even found a car show (while I shopped!)  We acted like twenty-somethings, and lived like kings.  I forgot how much fun it can be to be the girlfriend instead of the mom!

And did I mention room service, and maid service, and drinks poolside service?

The kids had lots of fun with big sister home from college. She and big brother took wonderful care of their younger siblings.   They decorated for Christmas, shopped for and wrapped gifts, baked all kinds of fabulous treats, played games, watched movies, stayed up late, and didn’t miss us, much!  No one acted out, or at least we weren’t told about it, the house was still standing, the livestock were all well fed and watered, the dishes got washed, the meals got cooked, and most of the laundry was caught up. 

It may never happen again so I am relishing in the fact we had such a perfect week in paradise.  We are happily married, refreshed, can wink and laugh at our memories (we bought a souvenir sign ‘It’s 5 o’clock somewhere’,) and appreciate our kids all the more.

Life is good.  God is great.  And we are crazy!

 

Our home school support group has a couple of Christmas traditions that we enjoy.  Today at our annual Christmas Brunch we collected shoebox gifts for foster children in our county.  Our 20 families filled 40+ shoeboxes with age appropriate gifts, festively wrapped and labeled them. 

Next week we will go caroling at our county’s Human Services building to bless the social services workers there, and deliver our shoebox gifts.  Home schoolers singing Christmas carols at a government building?  Well, why not!  Last year we did it, and they invited us back!  One gentleman told me he had worked there twenty years and no one had ever come caroling.  He loved our ‘heritage’ songs.  I hate political correctness, but if that’s what it takes to get an open door to share the love of Christ, then so be it!

Foster families and kids often have a tough time at Christmas.  Kids are displaced from their birth family – for good or bad – and extra mouths to feed, and extra gifts to purchase can stretch the budget of already stretched families.  A simple shoebox full of fun gifts can make a child feel loved and special.  I took  my kids to Dollar Tree and we each filled one.  The older kids helped the little kids fill theirs. It was easy, fun, and we know these modest treasures we will bring smiles to kids on Christmas.  I asked my older adopted daughter if she remembered receiving Christmas gifts while in foster care.  She said she got a few gifts, but not as much as now.  She thought foster kids would really like it that people thought about them and wanted to bless them.

The Christmas season is a great time for families or groups of families to reach out to orphans.  Whether by giving wrapped gifts, food, or time, love can overflow as we all do a little, so a lot will get done.

What can your family, church, or social group do to come alongside orphans this Christmas?  There are many ideas, so pick one and get started blessing others.  Be sure to share the greatest gift of all – God’s Son Jesus Christ, born to earth, so we could all be adopted into God’s Kingdom.

In my last post I discussed the huge positive impact my older biological children have had on their younger adopted siblings.  We have so many kids that we are our own little social circle!  What if a Christian couple wants to adopt and does not already have children that will become older siblings to adopted kids?  There are many benefits to including trustworthy older children as ‘brothers and sisters in Christ’ within your circle of adoption support that includes extended family and friends. 

Where can trustworthy older kids be found to fulfill this role, and what should parents look for?  A few places to start include:

  1. families in your church
  2. local home school support group
  3. 4-H or other leadership development  clubs/programs
  4. older bio siblings of other adoptive families
  5. cousins, or young aunts and uncles, in your family.

Of course, you can’t just pick just any kids to befriend your adopted children.  You’ll need to spend time together as families, getting to know both parents and kids.  Here are some qualities (no special order) that you should be on the look out for in both youth and their parents:

  • high moral standards (teach and obey the 10 Commandments)
  • compassion for children, and desire to help others
  • integrity
  • trustworthiness
  • honesty
  • not gossips
  • respect for parents and role of parents as authority in family
  • peer independence
  • racial, ethnic, or cultural connections
  • spiritually mature
  • solid work ethic
  • confidence and openness to new people and things
  • willingness to socialize within family, and with other families

In what types of social settings can you engage these young people to develop ‘brothers and sisters in Christ’ relationships with your adopted kids?  First, know that all situations involving adopted kids should be well supervised by you, their parent(s), for many years to come, until you have a solid level of trust with your adopted child.  Consider engaging in only family activities, so relationships can grow within that context, ie: you are with your kids, and other parents are with their kids.  A few ideas for family-to-family fellowship include:

  1. Family fun night with simple soup supper followed by board games gets laughter and conversation going
  2. Saturday morning brunch followed by same gender team chores – moms and daughters canning, quilting, or crafting; dads and sons working on cars or fix-it projects
  3. Sunday picnics after church in the park playing recreational team sports – baseball, basketball, sledding, soccer

Notice each of these includes a meal!  That makes it more convenient for everyone, but also fellowship at the meal table builds relationships and is an easy place to start. Be sure to include the whole family – kids of all ages and parents – to forge friendships with the whole family.  Start by inviting families to your house or neighborhood.  Keep things inexpensive by doing potluck meals.  Don’t over schedule these opportunities, but think of them as a once-a-month or seasonal treat.  The purpose is to get together to talk, laugh, and build lasting friendships. 

Remember to keep things low-key so as not to overwhelm your adopted kids.  One larger family at a time is plenty, or maybe two smaller ones. Though it is easier, and probably more fruitful for the budding friendship to just relate to one family at a time.  Your relaxed and friendly attitude will set the standard.  Talking with kids about your expectations before these get-togethers will help them know what is going to happen, and their part in it. 

It is probably a good idea to let the other parents know your train of thought on this, but not necessarily the kids.  Parents working together, fully informed, can steer their kids toward family friendships, but can’t force them.  Things may not work out as hoped for, so keep trying with other families until you have some success.  Always trust your instincts, and that of your kids, if you or they sense something uncomfortable.  Kids may lie to get their way, but their emotions and attitudes (and acting out behavior) usually reveal the truth.

If your adopted kids have inappropriate behaviors that are known to you ie: stealing, lying, fire-starting, sexual acting out, etc. please let the other parents know about these without giving specific, confidentiality-breaking details.  If you don’t have anything to suspect about your kids, be a good supervisor anyway, and ask the other parents to help in this manner.  It is always a good idea to make sure kids are NOT hiding in closets, playhouses, forts, or tents while playing, doors to rooms open, and no kids should play in bedrooms just to keep things safe.  Parents and kids should be within viewing, and listening distance at all times to insure no monkey-business!

Adoptive parents need a break from needy kids.  Your adopted kids need friends, especially ones that can be peers and mentors to them.  Sharing the burden with other strong families will help, and new friendships will be the reward.  No matter how young your adopted child is, even if an infant, spending time with other like-minded families will be a blessing to you and your adopted kids.  Through the years, friendships can grow which will only increase the much-needed, life-long support system for your adopted child.

I have many wonderful things in my life to be thankful for, and at the top of the list are my bio kids.  Ranging in age from 30 down to 18 y.0., they are indeed a joy, and now as adults are my closest friends.  The days are long when kids are young, but the years fly by.  I can remember their tiny toes, and headfuls of hair at birth; their cherubic faces as they got caught in their naughty deeds as toddlers; their unending energy in elementary school; and our fights and making-ups during their teen years.  Now, I get to enjoy seeing them soar into their futures.

Among all the things they bless me with, it is their caring and loving hearts toward their younger adopted siblings that I love the most.  They are the big brothers and sisters every child should get to enjoy, and are more than great role models to kids who ‘act out’ as they overcome great loss and sorrow.  My adopted kids would not have made the great strides they have without their older siblings.  The extreme patience, forgiveness, and fun-times that my older kids have given my younger  kids are life-changing gifts – like an organ transplant which blesses a dying patient with restored life.

It is easy to neglect older bio kids when needy adopted kids come into a forever family.  The little ones needs are so great, the help of the older kids is so essential, and parents’ time is limited to 24 hours a day, sleep needing to take some of that.  I know we failed over and over again to protect and meet the needs of our bio kids as we sought to help our little ones.  We failed to prepare them for completely inappropriate and painful behaviors such as sexualized play and running away.  We fell short on giving them the love and attention they needed every night at bedtime when they wanted to talk, as we were too tired to even say goodnight.  I don’t know why they didn’t mutiny!

Our older bio kids more than met us halfway as we have navigated the arduous journey of being an adoptive family.  How thrilling it is, now that the worst of the transitions are over so things are a bit smoother, that we can actually spend time nearly everyday enjoying our adult children.  Whether we talk on the phone, email, meet them in town, or have them out to the farm, contact with them is such a joy.

Lately, my husband and I have tried to make a serious effort to spend as much time with them as we can.  Whether paying for plane tickets to fly them home for holidays, or spending an uninterrupted meal just with them, it is our turn to give back what they gave to us – life for our little ones. 

One thing we have attempted to do is for both of us parents, at separate times, to travel with our older kids on a special journey.  Whether it is a college scouting trip – like my hubby is doing with my 18 y.o. in hot and sunny Florida this weekend (as opposed to freezing and snowing Colorado where I am with the rest of the bunch), journeying together on a mission trip, or driving one on a move to a faraway city, we relish the alone time with each of them.

Caring and involved biological siblings are the key to adoption success.  They deserve as much of our time and resources as  possible.  Our older kids are why we don’t really spend time with adult friends, on personal hobbies, or work outside our home more than we have to in order to pay the basic bills.  Our older kids need time and attention, too.  They deserve even more of our time and attention than what we have to devote to our adopted kids, as they are the reason our adopted kids can have life with us in our home.

My 21 y.o. son works the farm with my husband.  In hubby’s absence today, he is supervising the livestock chores.  He came in the house just now, and very patiently asked for our two adopted teens to come back outside in the freezing snowy weather to finish some overlooked chore items.  How patient he is with them!  How lovingly he reminds them of the neglected items.  How fatherly he instructs them.  How brotherly he plays with them when the work is done!  I have two more sons and two daughters just like that.  Despite the horrible things those two teens did and said to him when they first came to our family, he loves them unconditionally, and cares that they mature into responsible, productive, loving, righteous fellow believers in Christ!

Oh, that all adopted children could be so blessed with dutiful, older Christian siblings!  After mom and dad are gone to Heaven, these are the family members they will be blessed with for love and support in the years to come.

On our family farm, we use sustainable practices to produce high quality meats from the heritage breed livestock that we raise.  Our customers are willing to pay a premium for our bulk meat products as they enjoy ‘slow food’.  ‘Slow food’ takes time to grow, prepare, and consume.  It has higher nutritional value, better flavor, and allows time for fellowship in its growing, purchasing, preparing, and consuming.

When the days are hectic, we all depend on a quick stop at the nearest ‘fast food’ joint.  That kind of food isn’t really good for us, but meets a need on long days that are too busy.

‘Slow food’ is better for us than ‘fast food’.  ‘Slow food’ takes thoughtful preparation and planning.  It is the lasagna made from scratch using Grandma’s recipe.  One of my favorites is being able to make home-made refried beans after two days of preparation: soaking beans overnight, then slow cooking beans and pork scraps a second overnight in the crockpot on low, and finally re-frying them for a couple hours on the stovetop.  Even better is when you can make  home-made tortillas to wrap around those garlicky, soft refried beans, home-grown tomatoes and lettuce, topped with raw live cultured sour cream from our milk cow!  The long two days are worth all the preparation for the full-flavored taste and serious stuffing we do until every last bit is wiped off the plates.

In our home we try to eat ‘slow food’ three meals a day.  This takes a lot of planning and time on my part, as well as help from the rest of the family.  We enjoy smelling breakfast, then lunch, and finally dinner cook all day when we wake-up, while we home school, and when we come in from afternoon chores. We look forward to sitting down to a delicious meal, then talking for a while after it is all consumed.  These are the best parts of our day, and they take time.  We discuss current events, politics, religion, and all the great important topics of life.  This is how our kids have learned for the past 18 years that we have home schooled.  Sure they learn from their textbooks, but our long meal times are where we discuss the good stuff, and build strong relationships that last a life-time.

Slow living is better for all of us than the fast paced rat-race lifestyle we are all so used to.  Slow living takes planning and time.  It takes commitment by parents, and willing participation by kids.  It is the best kind of living for parents, bio kids, and adopted kids.  We have seen huge changes in all of our kids since moving to our remote farm.  We all had to slow down and focus more time and attention on each other.  Deciding not to get cable TV was a jump-start to slow living.  Growing our own food was an essential part.  The most important factor was not getting in the car everyday to head to town.  High gas prices have helped us stay home more.  We all dread those weeks when life causes us to get in the car every day, day after day.  Our children who have problematic behavior are especially prone to difficulty on those ‘fast food’ days.

As winter hits making travel more hazardous, our family loves to just stay home, put dinner in the crock pot, build a fire, read good books, play board games, and just ‘be’ together.  That is the essence of slow living.  It is the best kind of life, and one that we all should return to in order to really live.

Yesterday my 10 y.o. unleashed a series of ‘acting out’ behaviors.  It started in the morning with a wet bed, went to grumpy and uncooperative during morning chores, and continued downhill with rebellion during schoolwork.  I kept my patience with her intact, and offered for her to accompany me to town for the afternoon on some last-minute errands.  I tried to engage her in casual conversation as we sang songs while driving, and made our stops along the way. 

After 2 hours she seemed ready to start the day over again.  When we got home, I had her help me with some dinner prep which went fine.  Once she rejoined the other family members for late afternoon chores, little miss pit-bull reappeared and the slippery slope continued.  Finally, after all of us enduring her lack of cooperation at meal-time, I sent her to bed early which meant she would miss out on Friday night family fun activities. 

As I was preparing for bed, she got up to go to the bathroom, then came and found me in the laundry room.  With tear-filled eyes she said “Mommy, I think I know what is wrong.”  “What?” I patiently replied.  “I have a broken heart” she continued, breaking down into sobs.  I held her and just breathed with her.  “What gave you a broken heart?” I asked tenderly.  “I don’t know” was her only reply.

Sad to say, she really can’t put words to why her heart is broken.  At 10, she isn’t emotionally aware enough to analyze her plight in life.  She might blame it on little brother picking a fight with her, or big sister being too bossy.  What she can’t say is that she misses her birth mom everyday, and has since she last saw her 7 years ago. This is the consequence of the sin of sex outside of marriage, birthing kids out-of-wedlock, and birth parents not properly caring for their own flesh and blood, so others have to do it for them.  In the end, it is the innocent children born into such a life that are punished for the sins of their fathers and mothers.  Only time, and a huge outpouring of unconditional love by adoptive families, and trusting in the sacrificial love of Christ, can mend that kind of broken heart.

In the meantime, I am clearing my schedule to insure she gets more ‘mom time’ each and every day through the holidays and beyond.  My hubby is out-of-town with my older daughter shopping colleges, so it is single parenting for me during the next four days.  Thankfully, snow is falling so we’ll stay home, and take life really slow.  Broken hearts need a lot of attention and time.

Meal-time can be a blessing for families who gather ’round the table’.  It can also be a curse for the cook if picky eaters reign, or too hectic of a schedule makes meal planning, preparation, and consumption just one more thing to get done in a hurry.  I have learned to get meat out of the freezer the night before, prep two casseroles at once to freeze the second, and put dinner in the crock-pot nearly every morning!

Kids newly placed with an adoptive family can make meal-time a battleground.  They can be overly picky just to be rebellious, reject delicious food just because it is new to them, or refuse a dish because of bad memories associated with it.  Though they might have nearly starved to death from neglect, they might starve themselves in their new home just because they want to.

How can Dad and Mom, adopted kids, and the rest of the family make meal time a positive event each day?  The right frame of mind regarding meal-time can make it the primary bonding and fellowship time each day for a family.  It is crucial to long-term family success.  Here are some things that we have had learned:

  1. Discuss with your child what things they like to eat; talk to them about your favorites, and the family’s favorites
  2. Discuss nutrition with your child, and talk about how God provides good food for us so we can have strong, healthy bodies
  3. Take the time needed to plan, shop for, and prepare delicious and nutritious meals, eliminating other time-takers in your schedule
  4. Plan meals so that at least one item is something your child is used to, and enjoys eating
  5. Plan meals to have color, taste, and texture contrast to pique appetites
  6. Take time at the grocery store to shop with your child, letting him/her suggest a few things each trip
  7. Serve at least three  items each meal so the child can enjoy eating at least two; sliced fresh fruit is always an appealing choice
  8. Everyone should have at least one bite of each item served
  9. When eating out or at someone else’s home, these rules still apply; but, avoid over-correction at the Holidays!

Meal time should be a positive experience for each person at the table.  This means teaching table manners.  So as not to overwhelm children, try introducing a new one each week, with gentle reminders about that specific one.  Correct once, then overlook until the next meal to avoid it becoming a battleground.  Try these:

  • begin each meal with thanking the Lord, and praying for family member (and others’) needs
  • pass food to the right when first serving up; for seconds, say the person’s name closest to the dish, then ask them to pass it to you
  • chew your food 20 times to get saliva flowing for proper digestion, and swallow it before you talk
  • try to go around your plate when eating, one bite of each the go to the next item
  • take time to enjoy eating, not just gobbling food down
  • take turns talking so everyone has a chance
  • parents ask open-ended questions to start conversations
  • always thank those who prepared the meal, and who worked to provide it; Dad and Mom set the example here.

It is a good idea to end the meal on a positive note.  We conclude either breakfast or dinner (based on that day’s schedule) with a family devotion.  We start with a hymn (I purchased a dozen hymnals at a garage sale for 50 cents a piece), then Dad uses a devotional book to read a scripture passage, and ask questions.  We pray, and then close with a second hymn.  This puts everyone in the right frame of mind to start or end the day.

We have learned to avoid correcting a child at the table.  If someone acts up, they are excused to ‘time out’, and then their behavior is dealt with after the meal, one-on-one.  This allows others who were being appropriate to enjoy the meal-time.

Finally, I have a few ‘no-brainer’ meals for days that just are too hectic.  PB&J sandwiches, taco salad, spaghetti, fish sticks, and frozen pizza have saved my sanity more than once!  My husband doesn’t complain as long as I never fix peanut butter and jelly when he is home to eat!  Once again, it is both Mom and Dad who hold the key to success.

Real estate is always considered an asset, even when you owe money on a loan for it.  The average home in our adjacent metropolitan area sells for $250,000.  I recently read an article that it costs about $250,000 to raise the average American kid these days.  If our kids cost us as much as our real estate, then we should treat them as assets, not  liabilities.

If you own your home, you treat it, and the contents, with respect.  When you purchase something new, you take care of it.  When things break, you fix them.  The average homeowner probably spends at least an hour a day, and one day out of the week, performing maintenance such as lawn mowing, house cleaning, minor repairs, all to keep the real estate in good condition.  Several times a year, major tasks need to be performed, or at least hired out – roof repair after storms, electrical problems, plumbing issues, deep cleaning, and tree trimming or other seasonal yard work.  If we spend the time it takes when the need arises, our asset not only stays in good shape, it increases in value.  Also, performing the work ourselves can be satisfying, and we can see the fruit of our labor over time.

The best investment in real estate is often a fixer-upper.  The adage of location, location, location is crucial when buying a dilapidated property.  If you can find just the right one, that matches your pre-set criteria, you can purchase it, invest your time and money, make necessary improvements, add your personal touches to make it special, and have a great property in the long run.  Many real estate investors flip properties – fix them quick, and sell them fast.  My husband and I have always lived for a long time in our properties, enjoying them all along the way, and relishing the results of our hard work for many years before we move on.

Kids are similar to real estate, except they are priceless and irreplaceable!   They are more than worth our daily investment of time and resources.  Our assets, our kids, will grow beyond measure if we take the time each day to:

  • engage a child individually in conversation, listening to their concerns and dreams
  • appropriately train our child, including guidance and discipline
  • give them positive eye and verbal contact
  • help them with school work and other personal obligations
  • provide for their needs – emotional, physical, and spiritual
  • make meal time and family time something to look forward to, especially at the beginning and end of each day

Seasonally, we need to invest more resources into our asset by planning:

  • Family vacations or special events where the whole family joins together, such as our week-long county fair
  • a special day, weekend, or event with one particular child, and one or both parents
  • birthday celebrations for each child when everything on that day is focused on him/her
  • Holiday traditions during Thanksgiving and Christmas which build strong bonds and memories

Our daily and seasonal efforts will surely increase the worth of our assets.  They invariably will take much of our precious time and resources.  We parents would probably rather devote our efforts to other things such as our personal pursuits or hobbies.  However, the sacrifices we make for our assets will be noticeable over time as our investment grows, and we see a return on our capital expenditure. 

Children are a blessing, and a heritage from the Lord.  Like the other talents He bestows upon us, we need to handle them wisely so the talent grows.  We need to be good stewards of our assets, for the glory of God.  Our children, especially our adopted children with their often overwhelming ‘issues’, once grown, will either be a liability to society, or an asset.  We need to do what it takes now, to ensure they are an asset, and a blessing, as they enter adulthood and start their own families.  The heritage we pass on to them of the importance of individual worth, and family as a support system, will bless many generations to come, thereby increasing our extended family’s overall assets immeasurably.

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