Category Archives: Family

Twice blessed

Our family has been doubly blessed in the past month with two new additions to our family. I’m sure you will be shocked to find out that it wasn’t any more adoptions by Jeff and I, but rather two new grandbabies. We now have 3 grandchildren! Nothing more fun and snuggly than a newborn baby.

Rob and Mason

Sara and Mason

Chris with Zoey

Hales family photo

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Mother’s Day

Last year on Mother’s Day I did something others might consider crazy. I went to the Bishop of our congregation two weeks in advance and asked him if I could be a speaker in Sacrament Meeting on Mother’s Day. I felt that words needed to be said that addressed the needs, desires and concerns of all women. After much prayer, editing, and definite guidance from the Lord, this is the talk that I gave:

I would like to speak today to the women of the church regardless of your current status as a Mother. First, to those for whom Mother’s day brings much joy. Sticky kisses, homemade gifts, that anxiously-awaited call home from your missionary, or thoughts of your own mother and the sacrifices she made for you. 2 years ago I humorously watched an edible Mother’s day gift made 2 weeks in advance and tucked carefully away in my child’s sock drawer slowly reduce in size. The temptation to eat it rather than save it for Mom was just too great. There is much to be thankful for on Mother’s day. But I wish to speak also to those for whom the words “Mother’s Day” might bring pain.

Perhaps you have recently or even long ago lost your own beloved Mother and yearn for the ability to pick up the phone and call her for advice. Perhaps you struggle with infertility and like one of my dear friends would rather sit out in the car during sacrament mtg than endure yet another Mother’s day talk, or are not yet married and like my dear own sister have tolerated painful comments from others such as “What are you waiting for?” You might wonder if this holiday will ever relate to you and your life situation.

Others may feel pain on Mother’s day related to their children’s actions. Perhaps they have strayed far from the gospel and you doubt your abilities as a mother. Or maybe you just feel that you don’t measure up to those idealistic women presented through word and song on Mother’s day.

Some of you already know that I was not a fan of Mother’s day for many years. In our early marriage as we struggled with fertility issues, Mother’s day was just a reminder to me that I was not yet a mother.

Other times I have struggled as a speaker declared a list of everything their mother had done perfectly and I left feeling “not good enough.” In speaking to many sisters over the years, I found that I was not alone in my feelings. How could a day designed to give joy and honor to women as a whole bring heartache to so many?

And then I read “Are we not all Mothers?” by Sister Sheri Dew who originally gave her talk while she was serving as a counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency. I would like to base much of my talk today on her inspired words.

In my role as a foster parent, I am asked to participate in something called “shared parenting” with the biological parents of the children we foster. It might involve writing letters to them letting them know how their child is doing, sending pictures, or even modeling appropriate parenting skills.

I would submit that our Heavenly Father also participates in “shared parenting” which is resounding evidence of his faith and trust in us. Just as I sometimes have fearfully returned foster children to homes where I feel parenting standards are lacking, our Heavenly Father sends his children down to us to raise even though our parenting abilities don’t come close to measuring up to His. He too writes letters—through the scriptures; sends pictures – more than once as I have knelt in prayer with or concerning my children, he has given me glimpses of personal revelation of who my children really are and what they can become. He also models appropriate parenting which we most clearly can see through the example of the perfect life of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Lord stated that his work and his glory are to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39) We have the divine role as daughters of God to participate with Him in this work as he has entrusted us as women with his children.

Sister Sheri Dew stated: “While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity and in effect limit it to that definition, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words or titles they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve ‘the mother of all living’ …and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege and responsibility of motherhood. Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly and definitely that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits, talents and tendencies our Father gave us.”

Elder Matthew Cowley taught that “Men have to have something given to them (namely the priesthood) in mortality to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. They are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children.”

“Nevertheless”, Sister Dew continues, “the subject of motherhood is a very tender one, for it evokes some of our greatest joys and heartaches. Some mothers experience pain because of the children they have borne; others feel pain because they do not bear children here. For reasons known to the Lord, some women are required to wait to have children. This delay is not easy for any righteous woman. But the Lord’s timetable does not negate our nature. Some of us then, must simply find other ways to mother. And all around us are those who need to be loved, led, nurtured and mentored.”

In the words of Elder Holland, “We rejoice that the call to nurture is not limited to our own flesh and blood.”

Whether that means leading and nurturing in your role as a school teacher, Primary leader or Young Women’s leader, you are fulfilling your role as a mother as you nurture the children and youth of today. I would challenge you today to look around you. Who needs you and your influence? Who needs someone to understand them and believe in them?

I am grateful to all of the Mothers I have had over the years. I am grateful for my own mother who gave birth to me and has nurtured me for many years, but I am grateful to many others as well. Who said you could only have one mother?

I am thankful for:

— A seminary teacher who inspired me to gain a testimony by daily reminding us at the end of our class, “You have to find out for yourself if the gospel is true. You cannot live on borrowed light.”

–for Young Women advisors who had faith in me when I didn’t have faith in myself. For Sunday school teachers and seminary teachers who came to my high school softball and basketball games and left me feeling loved from their support.

–Visiting teachers who used to think that I would not want them as my visiting teachers because they were from my mother’s generation and yet as a young mother I so appreciated their example, their love for me, and most especially their wisdom.

I am thankful for women in this very ward who have loved, nurtured, and taught my children. Who have attended my children’s: dance performances, gone to football games to watch the band perform, sewed a wedding dress for my daughter, struggled in a sign language class because she was in the Primary Presidency and wanted to be able to converse with my son. Those efforts have not gone unnoticed. It may not take a village to raise a child, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have a ward family to do so.

If you are not yet married or do not have children, the Lord may have a different timetable for your life, but you ARE a mother in Zion. My sister has often nurtured my children much better than I as not a birthday or holiday goes by without a package in the mail or a visit from her letting them know that they are special to her.

Last, if the children you have borne cause you pain on this Mother’s day, please know that your Heavenly Father is aware of your situation and recognizes you as a valiant mother. Eve was glad after the fall realizing that without it she would never have had children. Yet imagine her anguish and sorrow over one son who killed another. Our children have their free agency. 1/3 of our Heavenly Father’s children chose not to keep their first estate in the premortal existence as they chose to follow Satan instead of our Father’s plan. Yet we would NEVER doubt our Heavenly Father’s parenting skills. The Lord is aware of your children. He knows them, he loves them. They were his before they were ever yours and he will never give up on them. As it says in Isaiah 9:12, “His hand is stretched out still.”

As an aside to those who see others’ children make unwise choices and say, “My children would never do that,” you probably ought not to say it in front of any witnesses. If you have never struggled with any choices that your children made you are probably the mother of a newborn.

As Sister Dew so aptly stated, “As daughters of our Heavenly Father and as daughters of Eve, we are ALL mothers in Israel and we have always been mothers. And we each have the responsibility and the privilege to love and help lead the rising generation. How will our young women learn to live as women of God unless they see what women of God look like, meaning what we wear, watch, and read; how we fill our time and our minds; how we face temptation and uncertainty; where we find true joy; and why modesty and femininity are hallmarks of righteous women? Every one of us has an overarching obligation to model righteous womanhood because our youth may not see it anywhere else. ”

Elder Holland declared, “You can’t possibly do this alone, but you do have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you. [As mothers and women] yours is the work of salvation and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been. Rely on him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope. You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well.”

May we rise to the challenge that the Lord has placed before us. May we recognize our sacred role and stewardship that our Father has entrusted us with as mothers in Zion and may we always remember that regardless of our current mortal circumstances, that we are ALL mothers for it is a divinely appointed, and eternal role.

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My baby girl is coming home!

The Sunday before Easter my phone rang at 6 a.m. I was not amused since weekends are my only time to sleep past 5:45, and my alarm was not due to go off for another hour. I groggily answered it only to hear, “Are you awake? I know it’s early still out there but I need to talk to you.”

It was Peanut’s cousin and she told me she had been up all night with Peanut who had a tummy ache and who had cried all night. She had also thrown a two hour tantrum the evening before and her cousin said, “I have been trying to tell myself that I can do this, but I can’t. I just can’t. Besides that, she loves you, you love her, and she needs to come back to you.”

With those words, I was suddenly wide awake. Did I actually hear what I thought I heard? Yep, she said she was sending her back. I wanted to shout “Hallelujah! Thank you God!”, and a variety of other praises of gratitude, but instead I just tried to calmly listen and empathize with how she was feeling. After all, she was hurting inside and it took alot for her to call me and tell me honestly what she was feeling. She said she had not told anyone else yet, but that just by telling me the weight of the world felt like it had been lifted off of her shoulders.

I have hesitated to post anything for fear things would not work out. After all, the agency handling the out of state adoption could still place her with someone else if they insist on keeping Peanut with her brother. I cannot take him. I have pondered and prayed about it and he is just not meant to come to our home.

This week, however, a plethora of prayers have been answered as we found it is pretty much set that she will be rejoining our family in early July. Her brother’s previous foster mother has consented to take him back as well so both children will return home to familiar places and routines.

Six months ago I wrote this as my heart was breaking:
Tonight at dinner she said, “Mama,I will miss you when I am gone. After I have stayed there for a very long time will you come get me?” Oh my dear one, if you only knew how very much I wish I could.

If the caseworker doesn’t end up flying to get the kids, there is a chance that I might be flying them home. So yes, my dear Peanut, after you have stayed there for a very long time, I would be willing to do almost anything to get on a plane and come get you. Thank you, God, for allowing my baby girl to come back home!

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the Outlaws out West

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What would it take to make me blog again?

I have pondered that question for over a year now. Every time I think I will blog again I hesitate for two reasons. First, I don’t want to share too many private details about my family on the internet and I worry that perhaps I have shared too much in the past.

Second, I am a foster mom, currently to 3 little ones. Confidentiality rules say that I can’t share their photos or any real identifying information about them on the internet. Since so much of what they do fills my daily life, it doesn’t leave me much to say without sounding like a soundtrack that has words bleeped out.

Since I last blogged, we have celebrated many birthdays, the return of my son from his mission in Texas, the marriage of that same son, the birth of a granddaughter, and many other fun and exciting events. I chose to write about each of those in my private journal instead of blog about them, because that is where I can share the true feelings of my heart. After all, by the time my kids and grandkids read what is in my journals I hopefully will be dead and gone. If they want to kill me after what they read, it will be too late. 🙂

There IS something that has caused me to want to start blogging again, however…Child Protective Services. Why they are called that is beyond me. They should be renamed Parent Protective Services because with them it never really was about the kids. All of the caseplans are parent driven and/or money driven. If the parent succeeds, the children go back whether they want to or not. If the parent fails, CPS often looks for an adoptive home with extended family even if the child is firmly attached to their foster family and begs to stay. Don’t forget the money factor. Yes, foster care costs money. But so do adoption stipends to extended family members who often were not interested in the children until they hear a stipend is involved.

It’s pretty much what we are going through right now and it is ripping my heart out. How do you tell a child you love with all your heart that you wish she could stay when she sobs on your shoulder that she doesn’t want to leave? You do just that. You tell her how much you love her and how you always will and then you go in a private room and sob into a pillow so she doesn’t hear how much it hurts you. You tell her you will never forget her, and you won’t. And then you pray to God that she will never forget you and the love and laughter you have shared for almost two years.

Trust me that she has given us her fair share of grief. She came non-verbal, with angry fire in her eyes at times as she spit, bit and kicked, but it only took me a little while to realize that more of that venting came from fear rather than anger. Now that she will be leaving soon, we are seeing many of those same behaviors again, and they are very clearly fear based.

She comes in each night to my room by midnight and crawls in bed with me. She tosses and turns and cries out in her own bed, but once she is snuggled up in mine she goes into a deep, deep sleep. She feels safe. And loved. And CPS is taking all of that away. They are ripping a child out of my home whom I dearly love and who dearly loves me. All because of what they call “family.” A cousin who hardly knows my foster daughter and her sibling says she wants to adopt them. She lives 3,000 miles away.

The kids visited her in October and thought it was just a great vacation. No one told them that they were testing the waters on how they would do permanently there, but that’s a joke anyway. Kids on vacation are nothing like kids who are permanently moved to a new home. The cousin said they were wonderful and couldn’t understand why the other foster mother and I have ever had any trouble. Does she know what “honeymooning” is? Has she ever raised kids with ADHD, PTSD, ODD? Nope. But she will be soon.

Will she let my little one crawl into her bed in the middle of the night when she is frightened? Will she sing her the songs we sing before we go to bed each night so at least her bedtime routine is familiar? Probably not. Everything I have suggested to ease this transition has been openly rejected.

When our little one leaves in a few weeks it will be like a death in our family. And CPS didn’t even have the heart to allow her to stay through Christmas as we had pleaded. Nope, she needs to leave beforehand. CHILD Protective Services indeed. Just don’t ask them to ever protect a child’s emotional health. They see the case as a success because they are placing a child with “family.” Ugh.

Meanwhile, our little one doesn’t understand the permanency of this move at all. She still thinks she is coming back even though I have tried to gently tell her that she will be staying there for a very long time and that she will have a new mama to take care of her. She tells me she doesn’t want this cousin as her new mama and that she doesn’t want to go. Does CPS care? Nope. Does her worthless, court-appointed attorney care or do anything? Nope. He doesn’t even have the decency to return any of my phone calls.

She asked recently if she can have a Dora cake for her birthday and I reminded her that she won’t be living here when her birthday rolls around. Because she found that so upsetting, I gave up on trying to reinforce the idea. Now when she asks if she can be a cat next year for Halloween, I just say “We’ll see.” She seems happier with that answer. Tonight at dinner she said, “Mama,I will miss you when I am gone. After I have stayed there for a very long time will you come get me?” Oh my dear one, if you only knew how very much I wish I could.

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Broken wrist

scaphoidNo one can say that Taylor ever does things halfway. From breaking his leg in a soccer game to now breaking his wrist as a missionary, he tends to do things 100%. He was playing basketball on his preparation day and is now sporting a royal blue cast after falling hard on his wrist a few weeks ago. He broke the scaphoid bone and here is an excerpt from his letter home yesterday:

Elder H. here in Arlington… with a full solid cast (it’s a royal blue!) on my left arm and missionary signatures adorning it. Yep. Scaphoid fracture. I had a bone scan on Monday, and in the words of Dr. Milne, “Well, Elder H., leave it to you to have the freak accident fracture that doesn’t show up on x-rays. Have fun in a cast in the middle of the Texas summer!” Oy… So yeah. Been a fun week.

I saw this great pic above and am guessing that hitting his wrist this way is how he broke it.

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Our Family Theme

water bottle“Don’t touch! It’s mine!” How many times a day do I hear that? Far too often. Usually it’s from V., our foster daughter, which is normal for a 3 year old. She thinks everything belongs to her.

The older kids also, however, seem to have an extra strong claim on ownership. Just in case there was any doubt, Micheline decided to let us all know that this water bottle belongs to her.

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