Foster Parenting

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Celebrating Normalcy

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing a space for our celebrations.  It's important that we find time to celebrate, even the little things in life. 

This weekend, I celebrate the normality that comes with being 13.

Putting makeup on her little sister and then letting sister put makeup on her.

Walking in and seeing her at the computer pinning "cute" ideas for her bedroom.

A trip to Target to buy a new bedspread and "cute" things for the wall and seeing her smile as she added to the cart.

Listening to her sing the lyrics to Hamilton as she decorated her room.

Baking cookies from her new cookbook...Nutella Peanut Butter Swirl.

Watching her carefully place her books on her new bookshelf.

Playing High/Low at dinner and hearing that her high is being with us.

 Although to some this list might seem to be not much, to my husband and me, it is the world.  This 13 year-old who we love very much is healing and for that we are eternally grateful.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Embracing 2018

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing this space for our celebrations.  I invite you to read other celebrations and leave some comment love for other writers.

My One Little Word came relatively easily to me this year.  Some big decisions for our family led me right to my word. 

During Thanksgiving, Keith and I sat down with our 3 grown children and told them what we were thinking.  Autumn and Destiny are part of our family.  We couldn't bear the thought of letting them live with another foster family, but we also knew it was important that our whole family was on board.  Even though our children no longer live with us, their input is valuable because our decision affects them.  I so love the honesty of my children...tears were shed...tears for what won't be, but also tears of happiness and love for what can be. 

At this point, we don't know what is next.  What we do know is that as long as we are needed to parent Autumn and Destiny, we will fill that role for them.  My heart is filled with joy, but if I am honest, I'm also a little nervous. 

And that brings me to my word...embrace.

I received this email earlier this week from DailyOm.

As we bob and weave with the ebb and flow of life our roles change, but our true self remains constant. As spiritual beings having a human experience, we go through many aspects of humanity in one lifetime. Living in the material world of opposites, labels, and classifications, we often identify ourselves by the roles we play, forgetting that these aspects shift and change throughout our lives. But when we anchor ourselves in the truth of our being, that core of spirit within us, we can choose to embrace the new roles as they come, knowing that they give us fresh perspective on life and a greater understanding of the lives of others. 

And that's what I intend to do...embrace the changes life brings me this year and take on new perspectives.  I intend to focus on living in the present and be open to new opportunities and experiences.  That's kind of hard for me, so I'm looking forward to what the future might bring.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Our Stories

Join Two Writing Teachers in sharing your Slice of Life stories. 

As we put up our Christmas tree this year, I couldn't help but think about all the other Christmases that have been celebrated in this house.  It's our first Christmas here, but another family had 55 years before us to hang stockings and put out milk and cookies for Santa. Did the family put their tree in front of the picture window like we did?  Did the kitchen fill with the scent of cookies baking in the oven?  Did children run around, excited for the upcoming visit from Santa?  The last few years left the house empty, so I can't help but think  she must be thrilled to be filled with people again celebrating this beautiful season.

The early morning quiet beckons me to sit in before the tree, remembering our own stories told by the ornaments hanging there. 

The ceramic gift box has been hanging on my tree for the last 32 years, but before that, it dangled from the branches of my grandparents' tree.  Each of the grandchildren had one and when we got married, the ornament came with us to our new homes. 

The Budapest ornament makes me smile.  One lazy Saturday morning this summer, I opened my Instagram feed to discover photos posted by our oldest daughter from Budapest.  "Is Molly in Budapest?" I asked my husband.  Neither of us were aware of her leaving the country.  I gave her a call and she answered the phone, "Oh my gosh!  I am so sorry!  I forgot to tell you that I am traveling this week for work." 

Each ornament on our tree tells a story.  And now that we've settled into our home, we begin to create new memories and stories that will be added to the history of this house.  I look forward to seeing where these stories will lead us.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Celebrating the Simple Things

Thank to Ruth Ayres for creating this space for our celebrations.  It's important to take time to celebrate even the smallest moments.

My heart is full tonight as I write.  Lights are twinkling, cookies are cooling on the racks waiting to be iced or drizzled, and the house is a total mess.  So many things to celebrate this week!

Final paper turned in!  I couldn't go to school without the support of my husband who keeps things sane around here.

Note left  by a little girl who was mad at me, but still wanted to help bake cookies.  Made me smile.
Keith and Destiny are building a cell phone microscope.  She is becoming a little scientist.  

One of my favorite traditions at Christmas.  Although I got a text from my son last night that the dog ate a dozen sugar cookies while we were gone.  Good thing I had made a double batch.

It's been a wonderful week of time with family, doing new things, and slowing down.  

Monday, November 27, 2017

#EnticingWriters Blog Tour

When I first heard that Ruth was writing a book about helping kids with traumatic backgrounds through writing, I was thrilled.  As many of my readers know, my husband and I opened our home and hearts to two young girls who have hard backgrounds.  Before the girls came into our lives, I thought that young children from similar backgrounds just needed someone to love them and everything would be fine.  As Ruth explains in the first part of her book, children’s brains are altered when they experience traumatic events in their lives.  Below is an image of two brains, one from a 3 year-old who received love and nourishment from the beginning of her life and one who has experienced extreme neglect.  The amygdala, which controls our emotions is enlarged in the child who has been neglected and traumatized.  The amygdala is where fear comes from and children who have trauma in their backgrounds live with fear every day of their lives, even when we perceive there is nothing to be afraid of.

Image from work of Dr. Bruce Perry

  As I read the book, I couldn’t help but think that all teachers, not just teachers of writing, should read this book. We all have hurting children in our classrooms, children who are hungry, fearful, and anxious.  I’d like to highlight some of the stories and quotes that spoke to me as both a teacher and a foster mom.

 Ruth helps us understand how children from hard backgrounds are impacted. She helps us know that children who appear to be willful and disobedient are likely reacting in fear.  We’ve all had those students who tell us that they don’t know what to write about or don’t have a pencil to write with and little writing gets done.  Like Ruth, I used to have kids leave a shoe by my desk if they needed to borrow a pencil. I wish I'd known then what I know now.  Children come to us giving us the best they can give with the resources they've got.  It's up to us to meet them where they are, because they may be doing their best to just keep safe.  We need to remember that "they aren't trying to cause problems; they are doing their best" (p. 21).  

In the second section of the book, Ruth cheers us on to be writers ourselves and reminds us of the importance of writing workshop.  On p. 61, she says, "...writing workshop is essential to education.  Not because every child should grow up to be a writer, but because we all must learn to communicate our stories, our beliefs, our knowledge in order to make the world a better place."  I believe with all my heart that we need to provide spaces for our children to tell their stories, especially the hard stories.  Sometimes it is only through writing that the stories can be told because they are too hard to say out loud. Our children need to feel empowered knowing that their voices matter.

Part 3, Moves to Entice Students to Write, is chock-full of ideas to help even our most reluctant writers put pencil to paper (or fingers to keyboard).  I love her "celebration mindset."  I recently shared a video clip with teachers in my building by Matt Glover.  In it, he was talking to parents about the subtle difference between nudging our young writers and pushing them.  He tells the story of his son going out on the dance floor and his wife teaching him to dance, one step at at time.  She acknowledged where he was as a dancer and she gently nudged him one dance move at a time, instead of pushing him by giving him all 15 steps at once. Ruth's philosophy is the same.  She reminds us, "Instead of focusing on the things students don't do well, consider the things they are almost doing as writers" (p. 82).  Oh, this is so true.  We all know what it's like to sit down with young writers.  There are a million things we could talk about with them.  But, we need to remember that our writers are children and they are going to write like children.  Their writing won't be perfect. If we help them pick out the gems, the things they are doing well and find one thing that they are almost doing, we can give them specific feedback that gives them that little nudge to move forward.

I hope this brief introduction to Ruth's book "entices" you to go out and get it. I've only touched on a small part of all the things I loved about this book.  My copy is dog-eared, underlined, highlighted and filled with notes.  I know that I will go back to it over and over again.  This is a book with heart.  It's so much more than a "how to teach" book.  The stories woven throughout are poignant and important.  Many of the stories made me chuckle, while others brought tears to my eyes. I could relate. We need to erase the stigma that comes with these mental health issues and move toward helping others understand what early trauma does to a child.

Thank you Ruth for this beautiful book.

In case you missed other stops on the blog tour, you can check them out below.  Thank you to Stenhouse who is giving away 2 free copies of Ruth's book.  Please leave a comment about this post by November 30, 2017 by 11:59 EST to enter.  Winners will be chosen by a random number generator.

Ruth is also offering free registration to her new course Enticing Writers Book Club if you purchase a copy by November 30th.  Just forward your receipt to for a free registration.  The course begins in January.

11/15 (W) Michelle Nero

11/17 (F) Leigh Anne Eck

11/18 (Sat) STENHOUSE FB LIVE at 1:30pm (CST) with Shawna Coppola and Stenhouse FB Page
11/20 (M) Mary Helen Gensch
11/22 (W) Jen Vincent
(November Newsletter -Write About​)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Celebrating Family

Thank you to Ruth for providing this space to share our celebrations.  We need to celebrate the small things in our lives.

My heart is overflowing.

Our house was filled with
Children, young and old,
And an important boyfriend.

Construction paper placemats
Two moms' sets of china
Hand-scrawled name tags
And clear plastic cups (because we ran out of glasses)
Lined the table.

Our house was filled with
Old stories
New stories were made.

My heart is overflowing.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


I told myself I couldn't write.

I wanted to write, but instead, I shut down and closed up.  I was afraid of what would come out.  I was afraid that I might come undone in the messiness and uncertainty of our lives.

I forgot how reaching out and connecting opens our hearts to new possibilities.

I forgot the importance of laughing.

On Thursday, I boarded a plane to St. Louis to attend #NCTE17. 

Oh, how I had missed my friends.  While only able to stay for 2 days, I reconnected with old friends and made some new.  I listened to stories and calls to action.  I learned new ideas.  I bought some books.  Sparks of energy bubbled inside me.

The fog lifted.  I felt hope again. 

I woke up early, back in my own bed.  I knew what I write again. 

As I write in the quiet early morning, I am joined by a sleepy eight year-old.

"Julie, you're home," she whispers as her warm body curls into me. 

I invite her to write with me and she accepts.  My heart is filled with gratitude, contentment, and love.

Yes, there are many things to, friends, laughter, stories and reawakening.  Thank you to Ruth for creating this space to celebrate.  Thank you for enticing me to write again.