Category Archives: Kids

Happy 5th Birthday Austin!

Happy 5th Birthday Austin!

Each year I write a birthday letter to my sweet boy.  This year’s letter is a bit late in coming, but it has finally arrived!

To my favorite boy in the whole wide world,

I am so in love with you, and I am so proud of you!  You are such a compassionate, helpful, funny boy and I’m so glad you are my son.  I have watched you take such care of those who are smaller than you—helping out babies and toddlers, being an amazing friend and trying to care for them.  I have watched you show concern and care for others—stoping to pray for people we see who need help, kissing my “boo boos,” and offering hugs to everyone.  I have watched you blossom into a funny and fun loving boy—telling jokes, laughing with others, and including others.  I have watched you stick up for yourself—asking for help when needed and talking out conflicts that arise.  I have watched as you have learned to talk about your feelings and how  to cope with them—even when doing so exasperates you.  (“I don’t have any more deep breaths!” you’ve been known to say on more than one occasion.)  I have watched you learn empathy and compassion for others.  I have watched you face tough transitions this year and handle them like a champ.  I am so thankful that I get to be your mommy!

This year was a year of so many changes and big events in our lives.  Only a few months into your fourth year we celebrated your adoption!  We had been together for over 2 years, but I am so happy that we are “officially” a forever family.  You are truly a gift from God, and I am so thankful he brought us together.  It is not lost on me that the joy of your adoption also comes with a significant loss.  My heart breaks for that loss, for the pain that it brings with it, both now and in the future.  I want you to know that it’s ok to feel that pain and grief, that it doesn’t threaten the bonds of our family.  It’s ok to be sad and angry about that loss, know that those feelings are normal and natural.  Know also that I will always love you.  There is nothing that could ever change that.  Nothing.  I will love you when you are sweet and adorable and hilarious.  I will love you when you are tired and overwhelmed and confused.  I will love you when you are angry and raging and lashing out at the world.  I will love you when you are silly and wild and scaring me to death with your latest dare-devil stunt.  I will love you when you are scared and confused and frustrated.  I will love you when you have soaked me with water or shaving cream or food.  I will love you forever.

Less than a week after your adoption we headed out of New York and moved to Illinois!  A whole  avalanche of changes was headed your way.  You went to a new school and a new daycare.  You moved into a new home with new neighbors.  You discovered the joy of living in a house instead of an apartment and began exploring the backyard and the neighborhood.  You spent time with family you had barely met before and learned about the joys of aunts and uncles and cousins and grandma.  You learned of new parks and lakes and discovered the joys of Dairy Queen ice cream cones.  Throughout all these changes you were a champ.  You showed such resilience and grew so much closer as you began to trust in our relationship in a brand new way.

It has been so incredible to see your personality emerge even more this year as you became more confident, comfortable, and verbal.  I have loved watching you pretend and be creative.  One of my favorite times is when you decided to put on a show for us—you pushed back an imaginary curtain while you said “curtain open, curtain open,” then you picked up your microphone and Bible and pretended to read us a story, then you sang a few songs, pushed the imaginary curtain closed, and said “curtain closed, curtain closed.”  You love playing with blocks and have developed a talent for building car washes and gas stations for your toy cars.  You LOVE stuffed animals and have a collection of probably a hundred different bears, dogs, cats, bunnies, and various other creatures.  You try to take as many of them to daycare with you as possible, much to the chagrin of the daycare staff.  Two of your stuffed animals are as big as you —Big Doggy and Big Teddy.  I joke that Big Doggy is your therapy dog because you always want him when you are upset.  You are an amazing helper and love to clean.  You have made good friends and begun to interact with other kids in new, exciting ways.  You have a great memory and often want to talk through things that happened months ago.  You have been doing so well in swim lessons—after we moved they had your class go to the diving board and jump off.  Most kids were scared and needed someone to pick them up and drop them in.  Not you.  You are fearless.  You just leaped off that diving board and ran back for more!  You love reading books and riding your bike or pulling a wagon.  You love cooking—you can bake cupcakes all by yourself (apart from using the oven) and love to help cook whatever is for dinner. And iPad—you love watching iPad a little too much.  You are the cutest boy ever—you’re so adorable with your sparkling eyes and one dimple.  When you laugh your joy is infectious.  Unless of course you’re laughing because you just soaked me with the garden hose.  Then your joy is not so infectious.  But I still love you.

I am so amazed at how far you have come—you are learning and growing and impressing me with new skills all the time.  I know it’s hard sometimes.  Being a little kid is hard sometimes.  Being a little kid who struggles with the weight of trauma, special needs, and delays is incredibly hard.  I know we grown ups don’t get it all the time.  But you have so many people who love you and are cheering for you!  And you have a mommy who will fight for you like a crazy, scary momma-bear every day.  Because you matter.  You are important and valuable.  You are brave and strong.  You are helpful and caring.  You are loving and smart.  You are funny and sweet.  And I love you.  I pray that God will give you the confidence to know these things about yourself, to be confident in who you are, to be confident in my love for you, and especially in his love and care for you.

Here are a few pictures of our amazing year together.

Each year I interview you for your birthday and celebrate all the special, unique things about you.  Here is your time capsule from 2016!

Mommy: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Austin:  A school bus driver or a school bus.

Mommy:  Do you want to get married when you grow up?

Austin: Yes, I like married.

Mommy:  Do you want to have kids one day?

Austin: (Puts his hand on his face) No!

Mommy:  What is your favorite thing about yourself?

Austin:  I’m a boy.

Mommy: What is your favorite thing to do at school?

Austin: Play.

Mommy: What do you like to play with?

Austin: A train.

Mommy:  What do you like to do for fun?

Austin:  Watch iPad. Play with Play Doh.

Mommy:  What is your favorite thing about mommy?

Austin:  I love you.

Mommy:  I love you too.

Austin:  I like to eat with you.

Mommy:  Who are your best friends?

Austin: Donald Duck

Mommy: What is your favorite holiday?

Austin:  Family night

Mommy: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Austin:  To get that racetrack (a toy he’s been asking for)

Mommy:  Anywhere you want to visit?

Austin: Church, but I’ll be too big for it.

Mommy:  You won’t be too big for church.

Austin: Yeah, because I’ll get too big for my class one day.

Mommy: Oh, ok.  Is there anywhere you’d like to go on vacation?

Austin: To visit Nana.

Mommy: What is your favorite memory of last year?

Austin:  Going to the airport to get Nana.  Moving to our new house.

Mommy: What is one thing you really want to do this year?

Austin: Get that race track.

Mommy:  What is something else you want to do?

Austin: (proceeds with a 15 minute conversation about the race track, the number of cars included with the race track, the elevator on the race track, the potential for someone stealing the race track, the amount of money he has saved up to buy the race track, etc.)

Mommy: What is something you want to do, not a toy you want to have?

Austin: Go to a pool party.


What is your favorite . . .

Toy:  Cars, my airplane

Drink: Root beer floats

Food: Cheeseburger and french fries and apple sauce

Activity: Going to the water park

Song: “Tooty Ta” and “Wheels on the Bus”

TV Show: Paw Patrol

Movie: Despicable Me

Book: Paw Patrol books

Sport: Swimming

Ice Cream: Twist

Color: White and Brown

Candy: Peanut M-n-M’s and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups

Stuffed Animal: Skye

Game: “The Elsa Game” aka Frozen Slides

Shhh . . . Don’t tell


But Little Man slept through the night last night.  In his bed.  Not curled up on his changing pad outside my door.  The whole night!!!!  Three cheers for a full night’s sleep for him and for me!

Also, in case you don’t follow me on Facebook — my awesomely brilliant friend Angie (the one you saw helping me put together the crib he never used) sat down and brainstormed ways to work through some of his struggles with me.  The screaming bloody murder and throwing himself at me until I’m in so much pain I’m crying when I go to change his diaper.  The hitting and biting, which for him aren’t just an expression of frustration, but a game to play.  Angie knows her stuff.  She’s got a masters degree in working with kids with special needs.  She’s a rock star.  And all her advice worked like a charm.  Diaper changes took a while but happened with zero fighting.  After a few times of hitting he ate up her tools and stopped hitting.  HOLLA!

And that eating thing . . . for the last 24 hours he’s decided he really would rather sit in my lap at meal times than get down and play.  He’s still not really eating anything, but it’s progress.  Not the finish line, but fantastic progress.

Let’s celebrate.  Just not too loud, I’m still keeping my fingers crossed.

Let the chaos begin!


My foster journey has officially jumped on the roller coaster and is off for a wild spin.  I got a call on Friday for my first placement.  A 2.5 year old little boy was being moved out of a foster home and they were looking for a pre-adoptive home that would take him.  He has some developmental delays (although from what I’ve seen so far it seems to be mostly centered around speech delays).  I got to meet him on Monday at the foster mom’s house.  At the time he was supposed to be moved Friday.  After I left she called and asked for it to happen faster.  I met him again yesterday when I went to a doctors visit with him and foster mom.  Then this morning he was placed with me

To protect his privacy, we’ll be calling him Little Man.  In case you’re wondering, he is absolutely adorable.  He loves books.  He wants to sit with a book in his hands (which he reads like a teacher doing story time, showing you the pictures) and you also have to have a book in your hands (which he wants you to read aloud).  He also loves putting this away and keeping things tidy.  (Perfect for the OCD in me, right?!)  He can run like crazy (in fact, when trying out nicknames for the blog I considered names revolving around Speedy Gonzalez, Lightening McQueen, and the Road Runner).   When he’s tired he loves to cuddle.  However he has absolutely no interest in the crib.  He very quickly discovered how to climb out of that thing.  Nap time was an hour and a half of crying and interrupted by 10 minutes of sleep.  He stayed up late to meet my small group, and hopefully tire him out for bedtime.  It was still a tough sell getting him to go to sleep, but considering it’s his first night in a strange place with a strange person and being too young to understand what the heck is going on, he did awesome.  Fortunately I have a crib and a twin bed.  For bedtime I put him in the twin bed and he did much better.  He seemed less afraid without the “prison bars” of the crib.  Plus, he’ll be more safe without the danger of falling while climbing out.

Considering I didn’t sleep well last night stressing out about how today would go and worrying that he would be scared, I am exhausted.  Let the mommy-hood begin!  Now I’m off to finish up the enrollment paperwork for daycare, where he’ll be going tomorrow.  So many changes for Little Man!  I’m praying God will help him feel safe and loved despite all the chaos around him.

And here’s a pic to tempt you with his cuteness.  (For those of you who have been asking, I can’t post any picture of him that shows his face.  But I’ll try to make up with it by giving you lots of adorable no-face photos!)  The first is of him trying to reach the snow.  The second is him falling asleep while being read to at small group.  (Did I mention I have the best small group in the world?)





I feel pretty . . .


The next topic on my blog challenge was to write about the best compliment I ever received and why it meant so much. Contrary to the title of this post, my favorite compliments have nothing to do with being pretty.

For those of you that don’t know, my first love was theatre.  In fact, my undergrad degree is in theatre, with a minor in vocal performance.  Back in college I walked off stage after performing a monologue in “The Good Doctor” and a fellow cast member told me “You inspire me.”  I’m not gonna lie, it felt pretty dang good.  Partly because that cast member was a professional actor who’d been being paid to act for years.  But if we’re being real, it probably had a lot more to do with the fact that I had a massive crush on him.  So maybe that’s not really the best compliment I ever received.

Then there was this time about six years ago I asked a parent I knew to write a reference for me.  I was applying to work as a nanny and I needed to have several written references.  Within her letter she wrote, “I believe Amanda would sacrifice her life and take a bullet for my kids.”  Awe.  It was awesome . . . and it really is true.  I fall in love with every kid I am blessed to work with and I’m so thankful that not only the kids, but also the parents, feel that love.

But probably my favorite complement came one day in college when someone came up to me.  I’m not really sure how she knew me.  Honestly, I can’t even remember who it was.  But she looked at me with a slightly curious look on her face.  Then she said, “I see Jesus in you.”  And that was amazing.  That’s my life goal right there.  For people to look at me and not see my occupation or IQ, not my dress size or faults, but to see the love of Jesus through me.

What about you?  What kind of compliment has made your day?

Holy Rollers, Crazies, and Completing Foster Classes


Holy cow has it been a long time since I’ve blogged.  I’m sure I’m guilty enough to be hauled off to bloggers prison where they feed you bread and water and make you type on typewriters.   I do kind of have an excuse.  I promise I’ll share it at the end. Anyway, I just read back to my last post and it was on my first night of foster classes.  That was two and a half months ago!!!  Yikes.  But it’s fitting, because tonight was another memorable night in my foster care journey.

My last class.

I have completed my MAPP classes and am now on to the next stage of becoming certified.  Everyone keeps asking how soon I could get my first child and the answer is: I have no idea anymore.  I used to say about a month after my class ends was the soonest.  But all of that is dependent on how fast my homefinder wants to move.  Apparently there are two perspectives among homefinders.  One that believes you should help process potential parents through as quickly as possible, which means starting that process during their classes.  And the other which believes you should wait and see if the potential parents stick through the classes and actually decide to become parents before starting the process.  My homefinder is apparently of the second perspective.  So, while many of my fellow classmates have been meeting with their homefinders, I’ve yet to talk to mine.  And it appears that he may have waited to start my paperwork as well–and  that can take several months.  So . . . when am I going to get a child?

Who the heck knows.

After my first class I told you I was making guesses about who was going to drop out of the program.  I think everyone who I suspected would bow out did.  Plus a few others.  And then there’s the few random people who you’re skeptical of.  The people that you think, “Somebody else please notice that this guy is creepy with a capitol C!”  Or the people who blurt out comments and you look around thinking ,”Did anyone else notice the crazy that just spilled out?”  They stayed of course.

Tonight one of those people asked me what I do for a living.  When I told him I’m a pastor he looked at me and said, “I would never have guessed that.  I mean, you’re not a roller.”  Yeah, crazy.  I’m not sure if I should take his surprise as a supreme compliment or an epic failure.  Probably somewhere in the middle.

Anyway . . . I used to post pics of my latest foster kid purchases.  It’s been several months and so there’s been a lot of progress.  So instead of random pics, I thought I’d show you the kiddos room.


You can just barely see the corner of the crib.  I’m planning on being available to take a wider range of kids, so I have both a twin bed and a crib.  I’m going to paint some artwork for the walls, and I’m still looking for a few more pieces of furniture.  (If you happen to know someone willing to sell a dresser that could also serve as a changing table and a small nightstand at a low cost, let me know!)  Mostly though, the room is coming together.  I have a closet piling up with cabinet locks, outlet plugs, baby towels, pajamas of all sizes, snack cups, baby monitors, kid-proof cups, bibs and tons of other stuff.  My Amazon wish list for my foster kiddos keeps growing, but the essentials are coming together.

In other news, the last two and a half months I have been incredibly sick.  (Hence the long hiatus from blogging.)  It started in September and for a couple of weeks I held out from going to the doctor.  My friends told me I probably was going to need gallbladder surgery and I was trying to wait for that until after I completed a huge event at work.  Probably not my wisest idea ever.  But textbook me.  Workaholic is my middle name.

Anyway, I completed the event and the next day went into my primary care doctor.  He agreed–I was probably going to need surgery.  He sent me home with orders for tests but told me he thought I’d end up in the ER for surgery that night before the test would even be able to be scheduled.  The next day I went into the ER (all kinds of craziness) and was admitted.  They were going to run another test, but the consensus was still the same–I’d probably have surgery the next day.  Only the next day they decided it wasn’t my gallbladder and they had no idea what it was.  So they kept me in the hospital for several more days. Doing absolutely nothing.  Running no tests.  Sending no doctors to see me.  Just me and my roommate who kept the TV on 22 hours a day listening to ear trash.  (“I know he’s cheatin’ on me and I’m ’bout to have his baby.  And so I went and slept with his brother.  So now nobody believes me ’bout whose baby it is.”)

After a week in the hospital I went home.  But I was still out from work for another week almost.  I kept going to doctors visit after doctors visit and test after test.  I’ve had a endoscopy, multiple blood work tests, Celiac’s test, CT scan, stomach emptying test, upper GI scan, sonogram, a HIDA scan, and on and on.  And I still have two more tests to go.  Ultimately they have found nothing.  But yet I’m still experiencing pain, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss.

Finally I decided to go see a Naturopathic doctor.  I’ve only been once, but so far she’s listened to me far more than all the other doctors and nurses I’ve seen in the past two months.  Combined.  She put me on a gluten-free, dairy-free, protein-rich diet with tons of supplements.  It’s only been about a week so I’m not sure if it will help, but I’m hoping.

So that’s my life, internet peeps!  What’s going on with you?


First Round of Sketches


In case I haven’t mentioned it, I’m doing a musical theatre camp for kids this summer.  I’m really excited about it–it’s a great chance to help kids develop their talents, have fun, and build confidence.  Anyway, we’ll be doing The Little Mermaid–not the Disney version, but a pretty cool one.  I just finished the first round of costume sketches/paintings.


Now . . . who wants to sew construct these for me?

Goodbyes are not always forever.


Last week I wrote about saying goodbye to the child I had tutored this year.  I wondered if I would ever get the chance to see her again.  Today I did!

I tutor at an inner city school through a program organized by a literacy coach who attends my church.  When we created the tutoring program we introduced the 4th graders at the school to an incentive program.  At the end of the school year every child who had raised their Lexile score by 100 points would be invited to a party where they would be entered in a drawing.  Ten lucky kids would receive new pairs of sneakers.  When this program was started and the incentive plan mapped out, I wasn’t yet on staff at my church, so I didn’t really know anything about it.  Last week I got the opportunity to jump in and help make it happen.

So today I had an ice cream party with 35 kids who had raised their Lexile scores by 100 points or more.  And my amazing girl was one of them!  If a child raised their score 200 points or more they got two entries in the drawing.  And she was one of those kids!  I’m so proud of her!  And so happy that I got to see her again.  I then headed over to our local Sports Authority to purchase the sneakers the kids chose, where a team of four staff bent over backwards to make sure every kid got an awesome pair of shoes.  It’s great to know that ten lucky kids will be smiling brighter tomorrow!  I’m so happy that I’m a part of a church that makes awesome things like this happen and believes in the value of supporting our city schools!

It’s also nice to know that goodbyes are not always forever.  I’m sure that’s a hope I’ll hold onto as a foster parent.

Waiting for my unknown child


Yesterday as I was cleaningI walked into my future foster kiddos room.  Right now it’s about half-Amanda, half-kid.  After I send my amazing friend Shanna on an Ikea-run it will be all-kid.  In the meantime it’s filled with bits and pieces for my kiddos:  stuffed animals, packages of pajamas organized by size, scarves and hats, toothbrushes and soap, Hello Kitty and Spiderman band-aids, coloring books and bubbles.  These are the trappings of childhood.  And in the meantime I’m waiting . . . no, not just waiting, preparing.

I ran my hand along the top of the now-assembled crib and I said a prayer for the kids who will one day be mine, even if for only a few weeks or months.  I pray that God will help my home to be the safe and loving place they need, and that in me they will find someone they can trust.  That even when they rail against me, they can do so being secure in my love.  I imagined all the adventures we will have together–whether going to the park, traveling on vacation, or making it through a family visit.  And I pray that through those adventures somehow I can help them see their own beauty and talent and intelligence and value.

And I realized . . .

I won’t just be creating a loving and safe place for them.  They will be creating a better version of me.  I know that I will learn so much from my unknown children.  I will become a better person because of the lessons I learn as a foster parent.  Lessons like patience and humility and selflessness.   I’m not sure how to prepare for those lessons, but I’m ready to be schooled.

Saying goodbye


Today I had my last tutoring session with the amazing fourth grader I work with.  Each week I have listened to her read, helped her with vocabulary, and read to her.  She’s an incredible young girl–smart, funny, a natural actor, and cares for her family.  She always looks so pulled together and I’m pretty sure that’s part of the reason some of her teachers and administrators have nicknamed her Michelle Obama.  I haven’t had too many sessions with her, but I’ve come to love this kid, and today was goodbye.

I brought her a present–a couple of books: A Wrinkle in Time and The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  I hope she’ll be inspired to keep reading.  I also brought her a registration form for the musical theatre camp I’m putting on this summer.  She would be such a great fit.  This girl can’t read a novel without doing voices, funny accents, and even tears!  I highlighted that there are scholarships available and I really thought she’d be great at it.  We’ve been talking about this camp for a while, and she told me she’d love to be Ariel or Ursala.  And then she told me she can’t come.  Apparently she already talked to her mom about it and she has to spend her whole summer taking care of family–a sister and a niece who are both under the age of two.  I so understand where she is–I have been in those shoes.  But now that I am older (and hopefully wiser) than I was as at the ripe old age of eleven, I realize that there is something so wrong with this.  She’s just a kid.  She shouldn’t have to be a part-time parent or full-time babysitter to family members.  She should be able to go to camp and read books and have fun.  Not change diapers, and make bottles, and entertain little ones.

This isn’t the first time she’s alluded to the fact that she is a caregiver in her family.  Once when she came back from missing several days of school (for which I was told she was sick) I asked about how she was feeling.  “Oh, I’m fine,” she said, “It was my mom that was sick.  I had to take care of her.”  Another time she told me she was responsible for making sure her brother got to school–waking him up, packing his lunches, etc.  When I asked how old he was she told me he was in high school.

I’m willing to bet that if we took a hard look at kids in our country today, there are a lot who are being asked to be the caretakers of their family at a very young age.  And I wish I could stop that–help them hang on to their childhood just a little bit longer.  Not that having responsibility is bad, but filling the role of a parent or daycare provider is a lot to ask of a ten year old.

I hope I’ll see my awesome kid again some day.  But I don’t know.  Today may have been our last goodbye.

And that reminds me of all the goodbyes I will have to say as a foster parent, and how hard that will be.  I’ve had to say a lot of goodbyes in life.  To kids at the shelter I worked at, to people I’ve met in other countries, to friends and family as I’ve moved to six different states and two different countries, and to amazing loved ones who left this earth too soon.  And maybe all those goodbyes have helped prepare me for the goodbyes I will have to say to foster children whose lives I will be a part of.  And just like the amazing girl I tutor, I can only hope that somehow, by being a part of their life, I will have made a difference.  That in some small way I will have left an impression that will remain behind as a reminder of the hopes and dreams I have for them.  And maybe, one day, I will get to see them again . . . and see those dreams come true.