Does it Really Have to be Just Right?

There’s a commercial on the radio station that’s always on in our home. I don’t recall the details but it says, in preparation for Christmas “everything has to be just right.” After hearing this for several days, Raine asked, “Does everything really have to be just right for Christmas?”

Perfectionism is not something I’ve ever fallen into. Nor is it a mindset I encourage. “No,” I answered, “Christmas doesn’t have to be just right.”

Still how easy it is to get caught up in the mindset of making everything glorious and wonderful. Today is Christmas Eve. It’s 9am and both of my kids have been in time out. Athena peeled paint off the bedrooms doors I recently repainted. Raine has lied about a few things and has a very bad attitude.

This is when the guilt creeps in. “I’m ruining Christmas for my kids!” a voice says. “They’ll be scarred for life! Christmas will always be remembered negatively!” Then the voice of reason sets in. Christmas Eve and Christmas day are two days in the midst of many that we have shared and will share as a family. Like any day, they’re made up of a series of moments and a variety of experiences. So far today there have been lows but there will also be highs. Hopefully, my kids will remember the consistency that brings stability to their lives. If they are destructive there is a consequences whether it’s Christmas Eve or any other ordinary day. If they lie and speak rudely to me the result is not a favourable one. That behaviour is not ok on Christmas any more than it is another day of the year.

making bagels for Christmas morning

making bagels for Christmas morning

In years past, I often gave in to that persistent pressure telling me everything needed to be just right. I wanted us, in our state of foster/adoptive family, to be perfectly happy. Year after year, that just didn’t happen. Holidays are hard for those grieving. Foster children and adoptive children live in various levels of grief. Christmas can be a glaring reminder that they are without the family they were born to. Often the hype of the holidays makes that loss more apparent than it is on other days. As a foster mom, I’m starting with several strikes against me as I try to conform to society’s view of this wonderful celebration.

This year, we don’t have any foster children residing with us. Still the increased consumption of sugary treats is making spirits less than bright in our house. Grief is likely also a factor. It’s hard to know because kids can’t always express what’s happening inside of them.

best picture out of about 15 takes

best picture out of about 15 takes

Let me warn you – today and tomorrow will not be picture perfect at every turn. Hopefully there will be some good times that I manage to capture for posterity. And hopefully what Raine and Athena remember is that I love them and that love compels me to parent them wholeheartedly regardless of the day.

Christmas really is a day like most others. It’s an opportunity to come together and choose to love in the midst of imperfections. It’s a time to appreciate the gift of family and friends who embrace us for who we are. In prophesying about Jesus’ arrival on earth, Isaiah declared Him to be the Prince of Peace. Today and tomorrow, I’ll be focusing on pushing away the pressure to have everything just right. I will be working to embrace peace. Perfection may be a goal you’re able to achieve. For me it’s too elusive. So I will enjoy the highs and make it through the lows. And we will celebrate Christmas honestly and without any lofty expectations. I’m ok with that.


Today and Everyday I Am Thankful


Today is thanksgiving. There are many things I’m thankful for. My daughters, of course, and our amazing life. This year I’m struck by the family and friends surrounding us. In deciding to pursue foster care and adoption as a way of life, I counted the cost. I knew full well the sacrifice involved. Gladly, I lay down my own desires and pursuits in favour of parenting children I did not birth. Sometimes gracefully, sometimes not, I deal with problems I did not create – like prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol. I do this because I’m compelled to fulfill the great commission in this manner.

This is not the ministry most of my friends and family have chosen. Still, by association with me, they are drawn in. It’s messy, challenging, and frustrating most of the time. It’s Christmas dinners served in my pj’s because my teenage foster child forgot to take her medication and I didn’t realize until we’d spent a horrific morning trying to get the turkey ready. It’s holes in my walls and knifed wallpaper (something my then 4yr old managed with a butter knife). It’s a child who takes her cough to the extreme, overpowering any conversations around the Thanksgiving dinner table. It’s buying gifts for children you’ve never met and may never see again. It’s me being tired and depleted all the time. It’s me forgetting to confirm whether or not I need you to babysit. It’s things like this that my family and friends are drawn into.

I’ve chosen this wonderfully unusual life. They haven’t. But I am eternally grateful that they have chosen to love me and all that I’m trying to do. I love that I have friends who choose to donate their time to my business. I have family who respond by saving, “It’s wonderful to have a full table,” when I say my friend’s three foster children will be joining us for Thanksgiving. I have friends who drop by with banana bread or a dozen buns when I suddenly find myself with two extra little ones. I have friends who invite us back after Raine has a complete meltdown – hitting her sister and informing all of us that I’m not her mother so she doesn’t have to listen to me. I have friends who come by in the evenings when kids are asleep because I really can’t get out.

When I chose this life, I didn’t consider what it would cost the people in my life. Thankfully they have been willing to pay the price for me to pursue the calling on my life. I am grateful for the support and encouragement they offer. I am grateful for their willingness to accommodate my unusual life. I am grateful that they consider it to be as wonderful as I do. Thank you.


Friendship… is not something you learn in school.

But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship,

you really haven’t learned anything.

Muhammad Ali
Athena opting out of Kara's attempt at t-ball with the crew

Athena opting out of Kara’s attempt at t-ball with the crew

Friends are my greatest earthly treasure. I can’t imagine life without them. Some have been around a long time – like Erin who I’ve known since I was a toddler and Kara came along when I was 13. Others I’ve met more recently and we share a more immediate history.

My sister, born two years after me, was my first friend. Through out our lives we’ve always been good friends. I am excited to have her back in relative proximity. Instead of across the country, she’s now living only 3hrs away.

Often, I’ve wondered if my girls would have the same joyous experience of having each other and a close circle of friends to see them through life. There were times when Raine’s behaviour made me mournful. She couldn’t see how vehemently she was pushing away her peers – including her sister.

Raine and Kara's daughter, Ruth

Raine and Kara’s daughter, Ruth

This past year in homeschooling, my focus has been socialization. Yesterday Raine got a passing grade!
We went to the Christian campground I grew up at. Erin and Kara were there with their kids and another friend with her foster children.
There were a few moments requiring correction, but all in all both my girls did great. Athena was talkative and engaging – often she becomes incredibly shy in these situations. Raine was inclusive and patient. Still she emerged as the leader, but had an uncommon flexibility.

a quick dinner along the Grand River

a quick dinner along the Grand River

In the shallow wading pool, Raine organized a game where all the kids lined up at the edge. When she said go, in unison everyone ran into the water. Half way through the pool, at the deepest point, all the children dropped down and began splashing. They did this for what seemed like forever. Though leading, Raine didn’t get bossy. She patiently listened when the other kids talked to her. When discouraged, for whatever reason, Raine responded to her friends with kindness.
It was a beautiful scene. Previously, Raine could only tolerate friends in short bursts. But we were there nearly the entire day. And her good attitude continued as we picked up a foster child to join us for the weekend.
Even I was refreshed after our long day.

Even I was refreshed after our long day.

In the daily grind it’s easy to loose sight of how far we’ve come. Last year we were at camp for a week and it wasn’t so rosy. Sadly we could only go for the day this year, but it was well worth the hour long drive. I loved seeing my girls so happy interacting with friends. Some day they may be sitting at the edge of that same pool with those same friends watching their kids play together.
I am a rich woman, blessed with amazing friends – a few of whom I got to see yesterday.

Social Media Fail

I’ve not ventured into the world of Instagram, despite many suggestions.

I received some lovely flowers. My friends know me well!

I received some lovely flowers. My friends know me well!

The problem is, I’m forever forgetting to take pictures. Even with the ease of having a camera on my phone, the thought doesn’t generally doesn’t stay in my mind.

Today I celebrated my 37th birthday with a few friends. Hosting a party became a grand undertaking, especially with three extra little ones underfoot. The 6, 5, and 2yr old who visited us not long ago (Now That was Fun) returned this weekend. I must say this time, with something else on the agenda, it wasn’t as much fun.

The house was an absolute disaster an hour before the party. There was no time for pictures of the freshly polished silver all put out. I tried to capture my daughters in the dresses I made them for the occasion, but didn’t get a clear shot. They dance, and jump, and prefer to pick their noses whenever the camera comes out.

More lovely flowers - I can't properly capture in a picture.

More lovely flowers – I can’t properly capture in a picture.

Bribing the children with candy got the toys at least out from underfoot before our guests arrived. We enjoyed a chocolate fountain with fruit, nuts, and cookies to dip. I put out my grandmother’s wedding china. There were flavoured syrups – gingerbread, French vanilla, Swiss chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut – to mix with sparkling water for my own take on soda pop.

It was lovely. Not all my friends were able to make it. But there was a nice turn out. I may have neglected some guests in favour of two friends I rarely see. We grew up together but live a bit of distance from each other now.

the aftermath of our table

the aftermath of our table

Each guest is a gift to me. Their kind words, encouragement, and willingness to lend a hand make my life possible. Indeed, I would have given up on the party preparations had it not been for a friend who arrived early.

I believe the party to have been a success. But I’ve not pictures to prove it. The thought crossed my mind before the guests arrived, then didn’t enter again until they were gone. At which point I snapped a few. Entire chapters of my life have passed without a single snapshot. Some of my most precious moments have not been captured. I do apologize. My life doesn’t quite fit into Instagram or other forms of social media.

A sentiment expressed in one of my favourite novels by my favourite author makes this fact marginally less tragic.

We owned a Kodak Brownie camera – everyone in Rochester did – but my mother forbade its use. “They stop things,” she would announce whenever the subject of cameras arose. “They interrupt the normal flow of event. Furthermore, they eliminate things. If I take a photograph of this,” she would say, pointing to a beer factory across the Genesee River, “I obliterate this and this.” Even now I can see the way she gestured as she spoke, her arms sweeping back and forth, conjuring the rest of the world, the world that a photograph might have obliterated……

The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart

Perhaps the fear of obliteration is what keeps me from excelling in photographing my life. Maybe it’s the fact that things are never quite picture perfect. I’d like to think it’s because I’m too busy enjoying myself. Today that was certainly the case.

My place, not yet cleared.

My place, not yet cleared.

Athena helping me to tidy up.

Athena helping me to tidy up.


Raine happy after an afternoon outdoors with friends. The mud and chocolate may not show up in the photo – but they’re there.