IMG_6854 (2)

20 Week Pregnancy Update-Lucky Bellows

Hey sweet friends! Today is my 20 week bumpdate with baby Lucky!

To get the most important thing out of the way- yes! We had the anatomy scan and baby lucky is a beautiful, bouncing baby boy! If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve probably seen the announcement and the middle kiddos reactions. Needless to say, my kids are hilarious.

Just a few disclaimers with the anatomy scan!

  1. We are completely overjoyed either way. This baby being a boy has not changed my mind about possibly calling it quits on biological babes, though as my friends in real life can confirm, about a week ago I started really questioning being done either way, so we will see what happens.
  2. The scan was absolutely perfect! Baby is measuring just right, there’s no signs of any kind of complications. My placenta is anterior which may make movement on the outside hard to feel for awhile…but it’s all good!
  3. We have not announced a name and that’s not because we’re being secretive or coy-we literally have no idea what to use for a name. It’s a problem! We come to an agreement for a day and then one of us (read me) decides something is wrong with the name and I back out. For the first time ever, we may get to the hospital without a name decided upon. I’m trying to be okay with that!

Physical:

Second trimester is still being decidedly kinder to me than the first, though I won’t lie-the physical symptoms I’ve had this time are still not that much fun! Despite unhealthy cravings, too much grease makes me sick. My face is still breaking out and it’s pretty painful.

No new stretchmarks have made their presence known. My hair is growing like crazy and despite still being 2lbs under my first weigh-in at the midwives, I feel like my body is holding onto every ounce of water. Overall though, I’m feeling okay.

Mental:

Life has thrown a lot our way the past few weeks, but we’ve got this. Josh, being amazing because hes amazing, has really helped hold it all together. The only real thing I’m struggling with at the moment is pretty normal and average things. Which are never fun, but not notable for metal health changes!

I’m also feeling so excited for this baby to grow and come. All our kids were very much wanted and planned, but as Bear is becoming more and more independent and James is even sleeping in his own bed some nights, another baby sounds pretty great! It’s hard to believe I used to be the lady who offered to skip any and all infants. But MY infants are different and so much easier for me. (I think it’s in the “just pop the boob in” approach I take ha!)

 

Older Kids&Daddy:

Well, we told Princess it’s a baby boy and her exact words were, “Why?” But in all seriousness, the boys are very excited to have another little brother and the girls are dealing well. Daddy is excited for the potential of naming another boy. He insists he knew all along this was a boy.

We’ve been talking lot about where babies come from, how they develop, and all that jazz. I’m waiting for the day Bug says uterus to some stranger.

Baby:

Lucky is now the size of an axolotl, which the kids are going to be super excited about since they learned about them at VBS to summers ago! He’s about halfway done growing. And there are only 4 weeks left until viability! That’s my second favorite day in pregnancy-while I know things can happen and I need faith in God through it all, I always breathe a little easier after we hit that point.

I am trying so hard to get back to writing regularly! Writing is something I love, and I miss doing. However it can be so hard with all these kiddos and life or house obligations. I will be back!

IMG_6604 (2)

18 Week Pregnancy Update: LuckyBellows!

Hey friends! It’s probably about time I give a pregnancy update, huh? Since I’m two weeks away from hitting the halfway point and we’ll know the sex soon. Maybe time? Of course!

Physical:

Thus far, second trimester has been much kinder to me than the first. My nausea has subsided, the exhaustion is gone. I’ve actually lost some weight which I am not complaining about! I have also found that I am starting to be able to eat regularly again. Which for me means more veggies and fruits. I’m quite pleased to see no new stretchmarks-Bear’s pregnancy they flared out, bright red, starting at 14 weeks!

Mental:

I won’t lie-I’ve been better mentally. Hormones tend to make my OCD and anxiety out of control. Thankfully the anxiety has not been quite as bad as intrusive thoughts with OCD. For the time being we’re simply watching what I eat, making sure no caffeine is involved, and leaning into Christ.

If the time comes where we need to explore therapy or medication, we will, but for now it’s mostly just annoying. I get frustrated as my moods slide all over the place because for the most part it’s not an intellectual feeling. It just simply is. C’est la vie. Hopefully hormones will even out as we move along further and further…and enter my FAVORITE time of the year!

Big Kids&Daddy:

Well Bug loves to talk to my belly and Bear blows raspberries on it constantly…so they seem okay with this change? Monkey enjoys saying hi. Princess and Doodle are still rooting for a little girl and let’s be real here-so am I!

Daddy is still not 100% on board with this being our last bio babe. He seems to think he’ll be able to convince me otherwise as time goes on. I seem to think there’s a slim chance of that but hey. Who knows? However many little toes we are blessed with and however they come to us, we will love and cherish them.

Baby:

Lucky is the size of a sugar glider right now. I can feel the babe kicking away though my placenta is anterior again so we have to wait awhile before anyone on the outside can catch one. Apparently babe’s hair is growing in and their ears are developing. Maybe this means I should slow the hard rap in the car? Currently we are looking at a babe coming between February 1st and 14th. We will not be announcing the exact date except to the people who are helping care for our children.

All in all, baby and family are doing great! In our next update we should be able to announce the sex!

IMG_6589 (2)

Life/Blog Update

Hey all! Long time no blog. Like…really long time, no writing.

This summer has been amazing! But also crazy busy. Finding time to blog between summer school, hiking, camps, and all these kids made blogging nearly impossible. I wish that wasn’t true and that I could mom hardcore and still write daily. I simply couldn’t this summer.

Now that school has started back up, I can come back though and update you all on our life again. The days off while my kids are almost all in school and I can sit nicely while eating with the littlest ones have left me able to do Bible studying and writing again. And I am PUMPED.

Before I just jump into blogging regularly again though, I wanted to share a bit of this summer excitement with you all and give you guys a family update.

Life Update:

First and foremost, for those of you who don’t know…we are pregnant with Lucky Bellows…baby number 7! As of today, I am 17 weeks and feeling a bunch better than I did in the first trimester. We still do not know what baby Lucky is, but we do have names picked for both a boy and a girl! Josh and I are beyond excited; the girls are really hoping for a baby lady.

My due date is February 13th, so we shall see when Little Lucky comes along. We are not scheduling the cesarean before 40 weeks unless something is not going well so there is the possibility of a Valentine’s Baby!

This summer was fairly uneventful except our wonderful trip to Florida! Yes, that’s right we went to Florida to visit my great grandmother. With two of my sisters, I drove to Florida with the five younger kids. (Dynamite was working, sadly!)

It was the most fun I think we could have had! We visited the Everglades, spent time in the ocean, and loved the pool. The trip there and back weren’t actually that bad, despite driving there and back. The kids were perfect in the car! I don’t know how I got so lucky… but I did! I plan to share a little bit about that in a larger blog post.

Blog Update:

I’m still struggling with this blog, y’all. I want to bring glory to God in my writing, help others, and encourage families and couples to live as happily as they can. The problem being-I feel mightily ill equipped to do those things. Why? I have no idea. Most likely it’s doubt and fear coming from the enemy. But it’s still very real. Every time I write something I feel as though it is not good enough, I am not good enough, and it’s not worth putting it out there.

I’m not sharing that for reassurance; I know many of you are avid followers who checked back all summer and have encouraged me to write. I am so thankful for you all.

Why I am sharing this though, centers around a request I have. If you could, just while you’re saying your prayers, mention wisdom, discernment, and bravery on my behalf. I want to be brave. The stories I have inside of me are all of Jesus’ doing. In Him alone can I stand here, a mom of 7 before I turn 26, a truly happily married wife, and a person whose journey to this place was met with obstacles and trials that may help others. My greatest hope is to use these stories to encourage and bring peace to others living where I have been, by leading them to the One who gives that peace to me.

I would just love prayers to continue to be brave and to become braver in sharing those stories.

I hope you all are excited to see us back and I cannot wait to share more with you all. Baby updates will begin in the next week or so and I am so pumped to share some of the things I have been learning this summer and what we’re looking forward to this fall.

IMG_6945 (2)

Encouraging Families to Live Joy Filled Life (A Re-Brand!)

Hey sweet friends! It’s been a very long time since the last time I updated. In case you missed that previous post, baby number seven is on board! My current due date is February 13th, 2017, though we will have the specific date near Christmas. The past month has been really quiet because of the pregnancy fun…and because I have been working on a re-brand!

A Re-brand!?

Yes, I am going through a re-brand.  In case you haven’t noticed, the theme in this neck of the interwebz has changed as well as our colors. We aren’t planning a huge upheaval of new content, though. It’s still going to be similar to some of what I’ve shared before. So what’s changing with the re-brand? For this new-ish direction we are taking on the blog, we are reworking the why of our writing.

What’s the new why?

We have been changing our why to match what we want our readers to get from Bellows in the  Berkshires. For the past few years, it’s been a mash-up of everything I enjoy and our life story. I love sharing our life with you all, but I felt like I was writing for ourselves and not anyone else. I know people enjoyed seeing the stories about our lives and that’s not about to change; we will still be sharing those. We still hope to launch our YouTube channel starting in August, which will show up close and personal life moments.

That all being said, I want to move forward with our blog focusing on things less personal and focus on encouraging families to live joy filled lives. 

Joy, as I know it, is a wonderful, deep seeded and unfaltering truth. It’s not the same as happiness, which can come and go with how your day is going.  Joy doesn’t come from your situation or your mental health, but it is something much deeper. It’s a choice you have to make every step of the way.

Now-I know how hard of a choice that can be some days. This isn’t going to turn into a place where I preach fluff and nonsense at you, telling you exactly how to live your life. I also am not here to pretend joy is the easiest decision ever and you can wake up tomorrow happy go lucky. Choosing joy is not always simple or easy. I know all to well what it’s like to live each day with mental illness, situations, circumstances that are make you fall below that baseline joy.

Joy may not be easy, it may be quite hard for you; but joy for you and your family is totally attainable.

From this point forward, everything I write will focus on encouraging and helping families find joy in their lives. Joy in parenting, in marriage, in the hardest times, in the postpartum depression. Joy in the best and worst moments this life can send your way.

As I mentioned above, I won’t be just switching to fluff and happy posts. I still fully intend on focusing on some of the harder parts of life. Joy does not erase those heart-wrenching and hard moments and I promise I will not either.

As we move forward, I hope you stick around and enjoy the changes that are to come! I know I am so excited to make these steps towards where I want this blog to go.

 

To the Mama Who Dreads Mother's Day

To the Mama Who Dreads Mother’s Day

To the mama who dreads Mother’s Day

I know what this weekend brings. Your emotions are probably in overload. Maybe there’s guilt, because you don’t want to erase their first mom. Resentment because you would love the Mother’s Day they talk about in mom groups. Annoyance because holidays should be easier than they are in your life. Heartache because you know it’s not only you having a hard time. Jealousy because you really just want a year where it’s actually about you. And shame-because you shouldn’t be feeling all these things.


Maybe this is your first year as a mother or your tenth, but for some reason Mother’s Day never feels as good as you were promised. If you came from a healthy nuclear family, you probably remember Mother’s Day with some fondness. You made your mother a card or bought her a gift and celebrated the woman who kept you alive as a child.
If you came from a blended family, or one that was unhealthy, that’s probably not the case. It may bring up old feelings of betrayal, confusion, or more shame at what your family looked like. If you’re struggling with those on top of what’s going on in your life today, I am truly sorry.
Nevertheless we had expectations for what life would look like when WE became mom on Mother’s Day. We give our children our all, each and every day of the year. Every sports meet, every extra curricular, every dinner.

We were going to be moms who were worth celebrating.

But instead of what you pictured as a perfect celebration of your parenting, Mother’s Day is uncomfortable. It’s triggering. It leaves you feeling shame, guilt, jealousy, heartache, and pain. Sometimes, if you’re like me and so many other trauma mamas out there, it leaves you feeling helpless and broken as your babies struggle to cope.

If you’re an adoptive mama, or foster mama(and maybe even step mama, I’m not sure because I’ve never been one!) chances are Mother’s Day is not all flowers and breakfast in bed.

If you’re anywhere on social media by now, you’ve seen the memes and videos about what moms really want on Sunday. Sleep. A clean house. A moment alone without their kids. Moms all over are sharing these posts and laughing together. Well maybe not all moms-because what I want for Mother’s Day is a little more complex, yet less intense and easier. Or one on the outside of adoptive and foster parenting would think.


I want my children to not feel the weight of choosing between two mothers each and every year. Because if they celebrate me, does that take away from their first mom? (Correct answer, no. And celebrating their birth parents does not take away from us. Stay tuned for more on that)

I want to wake up to “Happy Mothers Day” instead of screams and sobs about how horrible I am.

I would love for the week leading up to be given flowers from the garden or even a smile instead of punches and kicks as they attempt to cope with feelings they’re still having trouble understanding.

What I wouldn’t give to not have to comfort my crying child as she holds tightly to flower for her other mama. Every year she takes one for her and the past two, it’s been left sitting on our table until it finally wilted. But do I tell her she can’t take it?

I need to make sure those living outside this realm of reality understand, I do not feel threatened by celebrating my kids birth mother. She is their mother as well and giving her that honor on Mother’s Day will not take away from who I am. Just like we can celebrate grandmothers and aunts and if you’re a member of our church, every female in the building.

But because it’s such a complicated relationship, we can’t just invite her to brunch too. We can’t call her up and say “Hey Happy Mother’s Day.” My kids have so many emotions in their tiny little bodies and sadly this day is one of those holidays that really bring them up.

And this day is one of emotion and conflicting thoughts for me as well.

I know I’m not the only mother out there who is on their way into a weekend that can go two ways. Maybe my kids have come to terms with their past or are going to cope really well. Or maybe it’s going to be a war zone in my house, as we all fight for the same thing. A feeling of security, the love we crave and the love we want to give. We’re not actually battling each other, but sometimes in their little minds, they don’t know the difference between battling each other and their memories, emotions, and pasts.

So, mamas, if you’re like me and coming up on a hard Sunday: I see you. You are loved. You are worth breakfast in bed and flowers on your table and longing for what simpler family relations give. I am so sorry this day is about to be difficult. I’m sorry if your week has looked like mine and behaviors have already spun out of control. I can’t stop that.

But I see you. You are loved. And you are mama.

It’s easy to forget in the mess of things that truth. You are parenting these kids because you love them. And chances are, they love you. These overwhelming emotions and thoughts doesn’t change the basic fact that one thing holds you together. Love. Even when they’re screaming they hate you and would rather live with their “real mother”.

Sweet friends, be gentle with yourselves this weekend. Take the moments you need to recuperate. Hold tight to the Gospel truths, that your worth is not found in who brings you flowers or even simply smiles at you on Mother’s Day, but in the knowledge you are doing Kingdom works and are exactly where God called you to be.

And friends who are on the outside of this battle, please remember. We chose this. Most of us knew exactly what we were walking into when we signed up. I was well educated

And, I would choose it all over again.

Allow us a little grace. Give our children some too.
It’s hard, even when you’re fully prepared, to deal with the days that bring up turmoil and heartbreak. It’s hard, even when you’ve been trained thirty hours by the state, to know exactly how to handle it all. Harder still, even when it happens every year, to cope with the fights and insults thrown your way. It’s hard when that coping has to come second to helping your children cope first. And it’s hard, even with the knowledge of psychology to not allow yourself to feel hurt.

Be kind. Let our kids celebrate or feel whatever it is they need to feel. They made a letter for Mama S? Fine. Great. It truly is okay with me. They tell stories about the nice things she does? AWESOME. They’re remembering the positives. Taking that right from them will only hurt us at the end of the day. Let them be human. Allow them the feelings the have.

(For more tips on how to behave on Mother’s Day, read here!)

And please, give them grace.

They truly do not want to meltdown any more than you or I want them to. Our kids want a good day. They just can’t control what’s happening inside them all the time. Please be gracious about their struggles. And remember, you know some of their story, but not all of it. Trauma is long lasting and hard to handle as an adult now. I can attest to that. I can’t imagine as a child who may lack the vocabulary to properly convey their feelings.

Hug a mama you know who may be going through this. Love on us a little extra this weekend. I wish it was easier, I truly do. But until it becomes easier, I need a little extra loving.

And mamas, a final note for you.

You are loved. I see you. And you are mama.

I’m praying for all those mother’s out there who are going into this weekend feeling broken down and worn out. Please, if you have a specific prayer request, let me know. Don’t feel guilty for not loving this weekend like the world thinks you should. Parenting complicated situations is…well complicated.

tlaking to friend about PPD

EN&MH: Talking to a Friend About PPD

Hey sweet friends, today we’re going to dive into Maternal Mental Health Month a little further and we’re going to discuss something very near and dear to my heart-when someone you love is struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety.

The first person to come to me and tell me things felt off was my husband. He was there day in and out, watching me struggle. Since he’s met me, Josh has watched me battle a hundred battles for my mental health. When I began to present signs of postpartum depression and anxiety, Josh was the one who brought it up. Without him pushing me I’m not sure I ever would have sought help.

I know many of you reading this today are biological mothers. My survey from this spring showed that. Some of you may have struggled through postpartum mental health issues, others maybe not. The chances are that even those of you who are not birth mothers will be around someone who does give birth are pretty high as well. I believe it’s always important to be vigilant and there for these new (and OLD) mothers! Here are some ways you can try help a mother struggling with postpartum mental health issues.

Know the signs.

The first and most important part of this is to know what you’re looking for. Postpartum mental illness can take on many forms. It doesn’t always look like what we picture a severely depressed person looking like: unable to leave their bed and crying constantly. Sometimes a person dealing with this goes on able to function the exact same way.

I wrote about how to recognize postpartum depression before, for mothers who just gave birth. This information though could be great for any of their friends and relatives. I also urge people to remember the many different forms mental illness can take postpartum.

Know the facts.

A person can develop postpartum depression after one baby and not any others. They can have four without it and then one with it. The woman can have a huge history of mental illness or they can be one of those people who have never had any mental health issues. (Those still exist, right?) Not all moms with PPD are dangerous-but yes, some can be. This isn’t about having “more faith”; it’s a mental illness. Whether a woman becomes pregnant on accident, or has been trying for years, it may develop. If she’s virtually alone with the baby or has the best support system ever.

Know the facts! It’s imperative you are educated not only on the signs but also on the facts surrounding maternal mental illness. Being aware will give you more power as you to help. Knowing the facts about it will also help you…

Know your personal bias.

I don’t say this out of judgment sweet friends. We all have some personal biases. I have a very good AND EDUCATED, friend who once said to me “What do I even have to be depressed about?” She never once questioned my depression. But when she was diagnosed with it she didn’t want to accept it because she had a good life. There was no trauma and nothing to be depressed about.

Sweet friends, sometimes there’s no trauma or outside contributing actors. A mental illness is a mental illness. Like cancer, it can occur at no fault of the individual. But also like cancer, there can be things that happen in your life that cause it to develop. Postpartum depression is not excused from this comparison.

Unlike cancer though, we as a society want something to point at and say “This is what caused it” when it comes to mental illness. That “this” isn’t always there.

Sometimes the mental illness just is.

Why do I share this little spiel? Because we all have personal biases. And that’s okay. You shouldn’t live in them-you should work your bottom off to rid yourself of ignorant biases. But the time to work on that is NOT when going to a friend in the midst of a struggle.

Before you approach a new mama you think is struggling, make sure you have yourself in check. Did you think “well she’s wanted this for so long, what does she have to be upset about?” That’s not something to say to a new mom. Do you think “It’s normal to check a child’s breathe 60 times in the night, unable to sleep because you’re so anxious?” Also don’t say that.

Be aware of your own personal biases and do not force the ones you have on a struggling parent.

(Some cute babies to lighten this hard topic!)

Know what to ask. (AND LISTEN)

Once you have all the things above done, it’s time to approach this mother you love. Please, please, please, for all things that are good and holy, do not just come out and say “I think you have postpartum depression.” Instead, ask things.

“How are you doing?”

“Have you been sleeping/eating/getting out?”

“How do you feel?”

“What can I do for you?”

These are all examples of open ended questions you can ask the mama you’re worried about. After you ask them, really and truly LISTEN. Hear what she has to say. It’s possible she’s overjoyed and is just hormonal so happy people make her cry. It’s possible she’s getting no sleep but coping with that well. (That was me after Bear.) Listen to what she’s saying.

And listen to what she’s not saying. Body language doesn’t lie. Is she making eye contact? Is she crossing her arms, which means she’s closing herself off? Does she seem uneasy while telling you how she is?

Be aware of what she says and what she doesn’t say.

Know when to speak.

This one is tricky. You don’t want to cause discomfort for a mom but you also want to help. I get that. After asking her questions and listening to the answer, you may still be worried. That means it’s time to speak up. Speaking up and “confronting” her may feel terrifying. But it’s important to remember you are doing this out of love, not anger or judgment. (Go back to number three and make sure there’s no judgment!) Some ways you can openly ask her while not making her feel attacked:

“Hey, I noticed you haven’t been feeling great, have you talked to your midwife about it?”

“You seem really down lately. How can I help?”

“I’ve seen you struggling lately, do you think talking to someone would help? Can I help you find someone?”

Other mamas reading this-THIS is when you would speak up if you’ve been through it. There’s something so comforting in knowing we are not alone. The first time I shared about my personal struggle with PPD, I had a friend message me on Facebook. She was also struggling and felt empowered to talk about her emotions with her spouse because I had just shared mine. (If you ever wondered why I share so intimately and honestly about my mental health-this is why. Because no one should ever feel alone in it.)

Know when you need help.

A little rawness here, because what else am I ever, know when you need help. I share this not only in relation to maternal mental health, but all mental health. I’ve lost friends to suicide. A few. I’ve also been the person calling them, anxious that they are going to commit suicide. There have been days of my time I sat in emergency rooms with friends who didn’t want to be there, but I couldn’t convince them to be safe.

Know when you need to reach out to the family members, spouse, other friends for help. Talking about someone maliciously is never okay, but talking about someone to keep them safe. Be aware of your limits as a person.

I hope this helps sweet friends. Loving people who are struggling can be hard, but you wanting to help is such a blessing.

7 Foster Care and Adoption Prayers to Pray

7 Prayers for Healing Families

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. I’ve spent over half my life being acutely aware of the serious abuse that is often faced in our foster care system**.

Because foster care is about reunification, sometimes children return to a home where they experienced abuse before. After their parents have completed the necessary work to push forward to reunification, they move back home. Supports will sometimes stay in place and the ultimate goal for me as a foster parent was to help as I could while acknowledging they were healing their family.

These healing families need support still, but they often will not receive as much as they truly deserve. Today, as I’ve done with prayers for waiting families and prayers for foster care and adoption, I want to share another side of the picture to pray for over a family while it is healing.

  1. They find support from people around them.

    Foster care involvement can bring forth two types of people in your life; ones who stick around and ones who run for the hills. Join me in praying that healing families find the prior. Agreeing with mistakes made in the past is not necessary. But they do need support now. The children being reunified, the parents working diligently to make sense of this new reality. They are in tremendous need for love, support, and helping hands. The church has been known to pull back from these families. May we pray that they find church families and friends to lean into and these churches and friends stay present.

  2. The abuse is left in the history and does not reoccur.

    I am struggling with a kind way to say this, not because there is anger or hatred in my heart, but because I think this is something some people really struggle with. Abuse is very rarely a single generation occurrence in families. Very rarely is it as simple as wanting to hurt someone else. I have seen abuse as a continuous and never ending round and round. I have seen it in coexistence with addiction. There have been cases where the abuse is saturated into the family dynamics. This is why it can be so hard to walk away from it. Lift up these healing families and speak peace and healing over them. Pray God creates a new way.

  3. Education and tools to avoid future abuse.

    In those continued prayers for the abuse to be left in the history, pray that education and tools to avoid future abuse are presented to these families. Pray that if the abuse is generational wide or complex, the children in the situation are kept safe and the adults willing to work are able to find their own resources.

  4. Healing, forgiveness and renewal for the person who suffered the abuse.

    I feel like this is a pretty straight forward one! Praying for healing for the people who are in the midst of having their souls and bodies renewed. I encourage you during this month to pray for all those who have experienced childhood abuse. Pray for them whether they are still children or teenagers or are old men and women. Keep them all in your prayers. But especially, in this week of praying, keep the children being reunified with adults who may have abused them.

  5. A revival of the soul and change of identity for the perpetrator.

    As Christians, we are all about becoming new. We cannot preach the gospel without recognizing renewal, restoration, and revival are at the center of it. In the same sense, we must be willing to pray for others soul and identity changing moments. This may be a process a person goes through over years…it may be a moment when it clicks and they are never the same again. Regardless, pray over the abusers in these situations. I know that can be hard to do. We want to hate them because we can never understand them. But if you bring to God the prayers that they someday will no longer understand how they did it either, that new heart may take over. It may not come naturally, but I urge you, spend one night this week praying for them.

  6. Protection over those involved.

    It hurts me to say, but reunification is not always the best. In some cases the abuse will not stop after reunification. We are living with a very flawed system. Use tonight to pray for the protection over children or adults in the situation when abuse is not over. Pray for the protection over all involved.

  7. Continued support and awareness from the state.

    I’m going to jump back up to my comment above and reiterate, so many of these parents do not know why what they do is wrong. If you grew up being slapped across the face for any rude remark, you think that’s the norm. Pray that the state and institutions stay involved in lifting these families up. As older children return home, pray that the state, schools, and churches step up to help teach these teenagers who will someday be parents become good ones. Keep in prayer that these families do not fall below the radar. We lose so many children who could use the help because it is a very flawed and overworked system.

Praying for healing and reunified families may not be your immediate reaction when thinking of the foster care system, but it is a very real situation for many involved with the system. Prayers shouldn’t be saved for the ones we believe are “worthy” of our prayers but for the ones who need it the most. If you find these prayers hard to do, I encourage you to bring your own heart to God and ask Him to breathe mercy and love into it.

Abuse is completely unacceptable.

We must fight to take the reality of it away from the over 400,000 children in foster care each and every day. Prevention begins with the most vulnerable of our society. Prayer is only one way to get involved. As a Christian, I am completely believing in the power of prayer. As a former foster parent, I encourage you to find hands on ways to help as well. Become a parent mentor or advocate. Volunteer as a birth parent advocate with the foster care system and help educate these adults on parenting techniques that are appropriate. Encourage your churches to offer parenting classes.

And join me in prayer for the entire month of April for those who have been abused. They deserve them whether they are still only 8 or 80 years old today.

**I must use this space to recognize and acknowledge not all children in foster care have suffered from abuse**

17457364_1443242312421371_7669123451194902402_n

March Recap&April Goals

March is over! I can’t lie, I almost don’t want to do this. My March goals have no been met. At all.

I can’t lie, I’m totally feeling the sting of failure this month. I wish I had done better. But it’s been a lesson to me and I’m ready to do better in April!

So, our very failed March Recap:

Complete a spiritual fast. I didn’t do this…at all. Ugh.

Walk/Run/Hike 40 miles. I haven’t done this. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the snow killed me. I thought it was supposed to stop snowing and turn into spring? Oh right-I’m in Western MA. Spring doesn’t exist this year HA! As I write this, it is snowing outside…

12 blog posts in March! I did succeed this in! I was very proud that I managed to write twelve posts this past month. It as hard and I don’t think I’ll be aiming for that again anytime soon because I’m slowly learning I have to put a lot more time and effort into the Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Health. I LOVE that about them…but they sure do take up more time.

Stay on track with our GIFT challenge for the kids. I think this is the one that hurts most to admit I haven’t kept on top of. I loved my ideas so much, but introducing them every night for the next day then doing them has been…well a challenge. I wish I had a better way to do it but at least we do some of them; Princess has such a heart for the Lord and takes the initiative to remind us most days! That’s been wonderful to see.

Get Three Dates. We had one date night again. It’s been hard to make this a priority and to be frank, it’s exhausting when it feels like I’m the one pushing it all the time. Husbands, pursue your wives okay?

March was disappointing to say the least. It wasn’t a bad month, but I feel as though it was a lacking in progress month. Then again-it wasn’t. We did get Monkey set with therapy, we had a lot of fun with various things, and before the second huge snowstorm came we had a few family walks.

But I am SO ready for April. What are our April goals?

Complete a Whole30. I contemplated if I wanted to share this publicly or not, but I think I could use the encouragement and accountability that comes with sharing it. I’ve been recently dealing with a lot more migraines and pains in my knees. Someone brought to my attention we don’t eat exactly the healthiest-while we love our salads and veggies we are also a family of brownies and chips. I really like this particular thing because it has a focus on the reintroduction period and how your body reacts to each thing. Fingers crossed it’s not cheese making my head hurt. I don’t want to give up cheese!

Read three books. I had been doing really well with my 26 books in 2017 goal, but in March I slacked off(I slacked off on everything, let’s be real here.) I would love to read three more and put myself at ten books for the year on May 1st! I’m definitely going to be finishing “When The Enemy Strikes” by Charles Stanley and the mystery novel I had started. I’ll share the ten I’ve read in my April Recap, May Goals post.

Go through and update my pinnable graphics. I’ve come a long way since I began blogging and my graphics are one sure way to see that growth. I have updated some of my more popular posts, but I would love to go back and fix them ALL. It can be super time consuming, so with that I’m only aiming for 8 new posts this month.

That’s what April will shower down upon us! It also will bring Josh and I’s birthdays so follow the Facebook page and keep an eye out for our birthday live video. Do you have any burning questions you just SO want to know about us? Ask Below!

17362056_1429868213758781_1508826302022370245_n

Fourth Friday Update (March)

Happy March y’all! I know I said this last month, but I am still having a hard, hard time with the fact that 2017 seems to be FLYING by. What have we been doing in March?


Reading
: I finished off another Cathy Glass book, and with no shame, I admit my poor little heart has felt defeat. Those books, my friends, are heart wrenching. I moved towards trying out a new novel, Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale. It’s a bit mysterious and outside my normal pleasure read, but hey…why not try something new?! I’m also chugging my way through When The Enemy Strikes by Charles Stanley. A lot of biblical information and conviction in this book, so it’s taking me a few days(weeks..months).

Watching: James has been on a sort of non sleeping strike again so behold, terrible late night television again. I recently sat through all the Lake Placid series(did you know there’s like five?) and I started watching One Day At A Time on Netflix. It’s pretty funny, but it’s also been an interesting look into some Cuban-American cultural things. Apparently there was another show back in the day by the same name and a similar concept!

Eating: Lots and lots of potlucks. I feel like we’ve had at least one dinner at the church every week. That’s not necessarily a bad thing! But man, I feel like making potluck meals is my new normal. We also have eaten a lot of soups because the weather just isn’t letting up. I know it’s spring in New England…but does New England know it’s spring?! I’m 100% ready for some grilling out and summer salads.

Dreaming: Does dreaming of sleep count? Josh has been a wee bit ill the past week, before that Monkey wasn’t 100%….I feel like it’s been a non stop exhaustion this past month. Mama needs a break and I don’t know when that’s coming. But also-dreaming of spring and summer. I just want to spend hours outside, go on hikes, not be cold or wet. You know, those farfetched dreams when you live in Massachusetts in March.

Feeling: Tired. I know that’s kind of a constant throughout this update, and I don’t share it for sympathy-it’s just my truth in this season. I’m also overall pretty happy and feeling blessed…but exhaustion takes it toll even when we do hold tight to joy.

Listening: At the moment, a yelping child. Honestly, this month has been filled with a lot of laughter and for that I am so grateful. It’s also been filled with a lot of screaming children because, well, they yell. A lot. And we’re so ready to get out of the house for a few hours most the time. I’ve also been feeling a bit of nostalgia and been listening to some old school punk and emo music. That’s embarrassing…

Moving: For walking, I’ve actually done better in March about the number of steps I take…but I haven’t kept track of the miles I walk. OOPS. We were getting out after dinner and walking to church a few days there, but again…it’s cold. I’m still on a camping mattress too(joy) and I’m still doing a few FitStar exercises here and there(actual joy.)

Blogging Favorites: I have two I want to share with you for the past month. The first is by Kira at Joy Pursued on What Children Teach Us About Being Humble. I LOVED it. Learning from my kids is one of my favorite things to do. You should also check out my friend Summer’s post on Filling Up Your Content Calendar here! You can give Summer a shout out when you realize JUST how awesome sauce my content calendar for the next few months are!

What’s been going on? Not a whole lot! I’ve been staying on top of writing as much as I can and praying for a little more health to hit out house. We had a nice date night out thanks to our awesome church family, but everything we’ve tried to do since has been kind of a mess. Sickness, busyness etc has kept us at home. We began Monkey’s therapy pursuit and that’s been a challenge in itself for us-but we know what we are working for. We celebrated Doodle, Dynamite, Bug and Bear’s birthdays and Bug turned THREE! This weekend, my baby is one. How is that even possible?? I have also been living it up on a fitness/health Instagram, so if you have any interest in checking that out it’s right here: walkhikemom

What has your March been like?

ENMH ADHD

EN&MH: ADHD

We are jumping right into our first informational post of the Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Health series with ADHD!

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD)

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder(or ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that is characterized by impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity. While it is often diagnosed in children and adolescents, ADHD is usually a life long condition. It can be treated with medication, therapy, and accommodations/interventions. On average, about 10 % of children ages 4-17 have been given the diagnosis of ADHD. As one of the most common brain disorders faced by school aged children, it’s important to equip parents. I want to share information on the risk factors, signs/symptoms, and treatments for ADHD.

There is no known cause for ADHD. There are a few factors heighten the risk of a child or adult being diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The greatest common factor in children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD is a genetic heritage.  Parents who have a family history or diagnosis of ADHD are more likely to produce children with ADHD. Other risk factors include substance or alcohol exposure in the womb, low birth weights, exposure to toxins(such as lead exposure) at an early age, and premature birth.

Much to the chagrin of mommy shaming bands around the world, there is little to no proof that high sugar, television time, or environmental factors such as parenting choices, have any effect on whether a child develops ADHD. While there are behaviors within ADHD that can be affected or worsened by unstructured home lives or high amounts of sugar, these are not risk factors that cause ADHD. Again, most studies point to a hereditary gene, but even if you don’t have ADHD your child may.

The symptoms and signs of ADHD can be broken into two parts: Inattention and Hyperactivity/Impulsivity. The symptoms in both categories can overlap-especially in young children, but are fairly different in how they appear.

Inattention

  • Has trouble maintaining focus on a specific task or goal
  • Loses or forgets where they put important items or items neccessary to finishing a task
  • Avoids or dislikes activities that require mental concentration for a long preiod of time.
  • Often or easily distracted by stimuli unrelated to the task on hand
  • Makes or overlooks small and careless mistakes on activities
  • Does not appear to be listening when spoken to.
  • Distracted easily
  • Has trouble organizing, sequencing, and keeping things in the area of which they are meant to be.
  • Does not follow through or finish tasks assigned to them

Hyperactivity/Impulsivity

  • Unable to sit still (fidgeting, squirming, tapping fingers or feet)
  • Runs about or climbs in inappropriate situations(adults and teens may feel the urge to)
  • Leaves seat when it is expected of them to stay sitting
  • Speaks excessively and without stopping.
  • Appears unable to slow down, as if “being run by a motor)
  • Unable to partake in hobbies, games, or play quietly
  • Interrupts or intrudes in on others conversations and games
  • Unable to wait his or her turn
  • Answers questions before called on or the question is finished

The above symptoms can be presented in three ways, predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, and combined presentation. ADHD must be diagnosed by a team of professionals. Often it includes working with a psychiatrist, your child’s pediatrician, the teachers they work with, and your own experiences.

This list may be causing you to pause and think “Wow, is that my child?” I urge you to remember that there are developmental and behavioral things that children are capable of doing at each age and some of the above listed “symptoms” can simply be a child at their appropriate level of development. This fact alone is something you must consider. There is also a number of the symptoms a child must present before being diagnosed. There is an amount of time they must be presented for.

But Lauren Jane, now I can’t stop thinking about it. This has crossed my mind before and seeing all these behaviors spelled out. What do I do next to help my child? Or I think I might be dealing with ADHD myself? 

The next step is really easy-but can be really hard as well-call yours or your child’s doctor. And if you’re looking at it for your child, contact their teacher as well. Make your worries known to both and request an appointment or an IEP meeting to talk about evaluations being made in school. This sounds really simple; and it should be.

However in this time, it can be hard to make your voice known. While we have covered, true ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder and not caused by bad parenting or too much sugar, there are sadly still doctors and educators out there who are seemingly unaware of this fact. I will be sharing an entire article on advocacy for your children and for yourself. Hopefully that step is easy for you much like it has been for us.

There is no cure for ADHD but it is possible to manage, treat, and reduce behaviors and symptoms. Techniques used to lessen symptoms are often therapy, medication, and interventions or accommodations in school. 

Therapy

As a whole, I am a fan of therapy. I believe it is such an amazing tool for mental wellness. When dealing with ADHD, there are a few different kinds of therapy a family can begin. Behavioral therapy is used to teach those struggling with ADHD techniques to better control their behaviors. Therapy can be used for caregivers as well as those living with ADHD. In a parent/guardian case, therapy is often given to the adult in the relationship to educate them on skills and strategies. A parent will learn how to provide positive communication, positive reinforcement, and structure and discipline.

Behavior therapy can also be used for children. A therapist will work with them to improve functioning in all situations. A therapist may use talk therapy, as well as play therapy. Play therapy is using imaginary play to communicate emotions and circumstances. This is often used for much younger children. It is important caregivers and children are working together within therapy.

Medication

Some children and adults are able to fully function and control behaviors without the assistance of medication. For others, it is an integral part of coping with ADHD. I want to be clear when I say this blog will always be a space where I support the usage of medication when prescribed by a medical professional. Simulants are most often used to treat ADHD, though there are on-stimulant options. Since I am not a doctor, I won’t further elaborate my knowledge(or lack thereof) on medications. I will simply leave here that they are an option in ADHD treatment.

Interventions/Accommodations at School

If your child is diagnosed with ADHD and attending a school that recieves federal funding, they may qualify for an IEP(Individual Education Plan). I highly recommend researching what your state offers as far as support within the school systems. Ask your child’s teacher for help and information on contacting a district psychologist and know your rights! (This post will be coming at a later date!)

 

If you believe that you or a child in your care is struggling with ADHD, pleae contact your doctor! I am not a licensed professional and this is not intended to be used for diagnosis, rather simply a collection of information.

 

Source|Source|Source