By Our Love…

This past week someone made a comment, “why would you open your home to children with so many problems, they come with such trash when your life is already so good?” And “You are ruining your life and it’s your own fault.” These comments were not directed at me, but at someone I know who is fostering and going through an extremely difficult time. I wrote a blog post last week and had all intentions of posting it then, but then this happened, and I needed to really think. Why do we open our homes to these children? Why do we put ourselves through all these hardships when we don’t have to? The answer is simple, LOVE. We do it for love. Jesus has called us to love one another (John 13:34-35), to treat each other how we would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12), to care for the least of these (Matthew 25), this is why we do it. My life was good before we brought the children into our home but having these children with all of their “problems and trash” has made our life rich. I was poor before. Lacking in true love, for my family, husband, friends, co-workers, you name it and I was not as loving before. These children have shown me what it is to truly love. Every part of my whole life was rocked when they came into our lives and it was totally WORTH it!!!! Before we had them, I didn’t know how rich a true relationship with Jesus could be. Through all of their “problems” it brought me to my knees and taught me how to abide in Him. Through all their “trash” God taught me how to love unconditionally. Without “ruining” my life I would be broke as a joke when it comes to love. And this is why we did what we did, and this is why I want everyone to have a taste of what love truly is. Children especially deserve that!

I don’t share too much about our children’s living conditions before we adopted them or before they entered foster care, but I want you to hear one of the realities. You can see pictures of my family and the love they have now, it makes it easy to dismiss the hard reality of some of the children’s lives here in the US. When they were found and taken into care, they were found with zero food in a filthy hotel room. No signs of food whatsoever. My children were ages 3,1, and 1. They were starving. When they first came to their new foster family’s home, anytime she would come out of the kitchen with no food they would start screaming uncontrollably. She once took them to the grocery store, the twins were in the shopping cart screaming, seeing all the food in the store was overwhelming for them. They eventually stopped crying when their foster mom had put a pound of raw ground beef in the cart, they stopped crying because they were ripping into the package of the raw meat about to devour it whole. This is the ugly reality of some of the children living here in the US. Our children are starving, my children were starving. This is not how I would want to be treated. What was I doing when this was going on? Not fostering, I think about this often, what if I was certified to foster when they came into care? What if I was able to be there for them when they came in as starving orphans? The reality is when they entered foster care, we were on the road from West Virginia moving to Oregon. The exact same week they were saved by DHS, we arrived at our new home 4 hours away from them. Think about it, what if your child is sitting in a filthy hotel room starving, they are about to be entered into the system. Wouldn’t you want to be the family that receives that first call?

These are children in the United States of America, the USA. The riches country in the whole dang world. Yet most of our foster children are traveling from house to house with only a trash bag holding their belongings. I don’t know about you, but the only time my clothes are in a trash bag is when they are actually in the trash or on the way to thrift store. I believe its time to RISE up and do something about these children, laws are laws are laws, but there are hundreds of thousands of children available and free for adoption. There are children in foster care living in crap conditions or in group homes. I am not just talking about teens in group homes. I am talking about young children 4 years old’s, 12-year old’s and everything in between. There are babies in the hospital with no one by their side. These children need us. They might only need you for a night, or a week, maybe a month, sometimes a lifetime. Its time to RISE up and be proALLlife. Get these kids in loving, clean homes. If you can’t do foster care or adoption, that’s okay. Be proALLlife by helping families who can. No money to help? That’s okay too, be a servant with a servant’s heart. Clean a foster or adoptive families house, make them a meal, lend your ear for them to cry and to vent to, PRAY FOR THEM, become certified to respite (babysit), any of these will help! These are kids, like my babies, your babies, and it’s time to RISE up and make the difference, a country with no orphans, now that would be a site!

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. “

Until the cow came home…

When I was a little girl, I was wanted a dairy cow. I thought one day I would marry a farmer that would jump at the idea of getting me my cow. As you know I didn’t marry a farmer. Far from it. I married a man from the outskirts of Washington D.C., he knew nothing about farm life and certainly had ZERO plans of acquiring that dairy cow. Not sure how my dreams of marring a farmer turned into marrying a big city boy, but heck! Guess I hadn’t met Trey yet.

3 and a half years ago we bought a house on a small piece of land, 5 acres to be exact. It came with a few out buildings, chicken coop, a mini barn that we refer to as the pony barn because it couldn’t fit a full-size horse, and a few other random sheds. I mean this place was dying to be a farm! Its has taken me a few years to make this land a farm but this year has been the ticket! Being home with the boys the last year and half has given me the time to do so. Little by little animals have trickled onto the farm. We already had Admiral, our Golden retriever and Cinnamon our barn cat, then after the kids came, we got Obi, L’s mini Australian Sheppard, Skywalker my new cat, I mean L’s new cat… 10 chickens now 12, 2 goats now 3, and one more large animal! Can you guess??? If you guessed a dairy cow you would be right!!

Well she is only a 6-month-old heifer, so not in milk yet. She will not be technically a cow until she delivers her first calf. Her name is Mia! She is a sweetie. There was quite the learning curve after we brought her home. I thought I would be fine with my knowledge of horses but no, just no. I had no clue what the heck I was doing. I think I gave her bloat, which is one of the deadliest things a calf can get, but then I think I was starving her by not feeding her the correct amount of protein. It was a mess. I was walking her to relive her bloat, waking up at all hours to run out to the barn to check to see if she was still alive and kicking, she was. We made it through, those first few weeks were like having a 250 lb. baby. The good news is I didn’t kill her. I am far from the person you should look to for advice about having a dairy cow, but I am learning and fast. With some help from The Family Cow Forum, I got her on track! She is doing well as you can tell by her Christmas pictures. Next September we will breed her, and Lord willing she will calf in late spring/early summer. She will one day become Mamma Mia!

The things I have learned the last few months are, no matter how much research you do on having a cow it will never prepare you for actually having a cow, or heifer for that matter. And just because you marry a city boy does not mean that one day, he wont buy you a farm and then buy you a dairy cow to go with it. There’s always hope. Now let’s see about some pigs!

Thank you, Jesus!

***You can also check out my latest blog post I wrote for Michelle Madrid-Branch

The Miracle of Motherhood: Adopting from Foster Care & Trusting in the Lord, by Kylie Gray

Amateur chicken enthusiast…

I am sitting inside on these weeks of 90 degree days because the wild fire smoke has finally rolled in, blah! Its the bain of my existence. I still have PTSD from last summer being cooped in with three wild monkeys during all of those fires. Lord willing it will surly leave us soon, pleassssseeee smoke go away! I have wanted chickens since we bought our place in 2015 and it came with a chicken coop, it just never seemed like the right time. I finally got the gall up earlier this year and Trey was like “umm yeah, no”. I have learned with Trey he needs a slight shove when it comes to any animals. (This will be a pattern in the next few posts.) Poor Trey. NO! There is nothin’ poor about him! You see, Trey should have known what he was getting into when he married a country girl of this sort. So not one of you should feel bad for that man and plus i think he secretly likes it! Anywhoozal, I ended up saying “well the boys are in the car and we are going to get 4 chicks, are you coming?” He came… We bought 4 and then I realized it wasn’t so bad and then Trey requested his very own chick. One that looked like a classic yellow one, see I told you he likes it! Okayyy, so I went to town on the hunt for Treys chick and ended up buying 6 more. We now have 10 chickens. They are everything and more we dreamed of… Just kidding, but they are pretty cool. We like to sit out by the coop in the cool of the evenings to watch the chitlens try and capture a few. Those dang birds are still not laying. 4 to 6 months my eye! Well technically its hasn’t been quite 6 months but when someone gives me a range I go for the fastest amount of time. Having these birds has given L such responsibility, I do not do a dang thing for them. Every once in while I help lift a heavy bag of food but even then he has  recruited his little brothers to assist him. Above is the cool before, it was this ugly pinky-tan color. yuck! I wanted red and I tried manyyyy shades, nothin! My mom called and said she just didn’t picture me out there with all my farm animals in a classic red barn, it needed to be teal. If you have known me for any length of time you would know i love teal, I loved teal before teal was cool. How had I not thought of that myself?! Yea, kayla k. I painted my chicken coop teal! No jokes about it! Kayla’s, my oldest childhood best friend and has known me since the obsession began, she makes fun of me. jokes on her, I made her wear a teal bridesmaid dress. She still loves me. Here is some after pictures or should i say during pictures, I feel as if its needs some more white trim, a flower box, and defiantly a new fence! Those things will come soon enough but until then enjoy these during pictures!

A year in the making…

this blog, pitiful as it might be, has hit its one year mark. today is the day we say Hazzah to a fresh start! it seems to be the theme in the last few weeks of my life. we recently hit our one year mark with the boys and ever since it just feels like a new leaf has been turned over.

the boys, holy smoke, the boys. one year, can anyone of you believe that its been over a year since we brought those willy boys home?? i cant! time has amazingly sped by, while at the same time days felt like they would never end. this year is one to be documented. we have grown so much as a family and ohhh has it ever been so difficult. we are flying through this life with abounding GRACE! or i am learning it at least. Grace is the key to this life. giving myself grace, giving my children grace, giving Trey grace, and Lord give me Grace! parenting is hard work, kudos to you all who have done it since your children were born! ha! since our adoption has been final, in April, there has been a huge shift in the boys. they are feeling the utmost secure. do we still deal with behaviors or out right naughtiness? umm 100 percent. after all don’t we all deal with that within ourselves? but instead of it feeling like it comes from a place of trauma, it feels just like normal everyday kid stuff. there is very much of a difference. someone once told me “wait till you hit that one year mark, it will be like a switch flips in them.” Ours didn’t seem to happen at the one year mark but a few months before. i probably told many people a 100 times over this year that “its like a switched flipped” or “they are night and day difference” and its so true. each time i tell someone that its because i cant believe how different that have become. i am not naive i am aware that things will or might come up as they age but i am not going to live that way. i truly believe that God has transformed these boys. there is no other reasonable explanation. God is the only answer. people will say “you and your husband are heroes” and to me that feels wrong. i am not a hero, we wanted these children, we weren’t doing the children a favor, they are ours.

after the adoption it felt like i was in a season of “rest”, after we hit the one year mark it felt like “go time”, whatever that means! i am seeing Big things for this family. zero clue what the heck its going to be but feels big. so here is to a new fresh year with endless possibilities! what i do know? we will be finishing all of the projects around the farm and house that never seemed to get done, writing a little more on this blog, and mayyyybe getting few new animals. i plan on writing a few posts here and there on all of the above, while still navigating this second year of parenting. annnnddd Go!

All about L…

Y’all I have talked about the twins and all of their mischievousness but, what you haven’t heard a lot about is our oldest. Trey and I both have had to make an extra effort for L, he can easily slip through the cracks and be put on the back burner because his brothers take A LOT of our attention. I suppose you could say he is our hidden gem, at a whopping 6 years old he is full of fun and life but he is also full of hurt and pain. If you were to just look at him you never be able to tell what he has endured. My heart aches when I think about his life and what he has already been through. So, let me take you back to some of the crazy crazy things that are so AMAZING about this little boy and little bit on how he became ours.

All along we knew the boys were in a suburb of Portland, coincidentally I was also born there. My whole Moms side of the family still lives in the area as well. My cousin Lacy and her family happen to live in the same county as 2 of my boys. I thought that was cool and if we got chosen for these boys we could stay with them and didn’t think anything more about it. Then, one day my Mom and I were talking about how Lacy has a little boy, Griffin, who is the same age as L and it would be nice to have another cousin his age. I am pretty sure it dawned on both of us at same time, and she said, “you should text Lacy to see if Griffin goes to school with L”. I said, I should but there is NO way! I did anyways. A little while later I get a text back “yep! Is this him?” she has sent me a year book picture of L and right next to him was her son Griffin!

Before we even knew of L, the Lord had one of my own flesh and blood with him all along that WHOLE time. How. Great. Is. Our. GOD?! He knew long before me who my son would be, He knew, He knew, He knew. The best part of this whole story is that Griffin didn’t just know L, they were best friends. What are the odds you might ask? Less than a 2% chance that they would be in the same school let alone the same class. From there on Lacy was able to tell me little anecdotes about L that her son would come home and tell her. Those little tidbits of info was enough to sooth my soul in such a time of longing. It has also been such a blessing for L to have griffin in his family. L has been through a lot and to be able to have his best friend now be his cousin is something only God could have ordained.

Flash forward to when we brought the boys home. L started out like a dream. When his little brothers were out of control he was calm and helpful. At times Trey and I would forget that he was still so young and had his own hurts. Recently L has started to act out and honestly, it was a relief to see that happen. He feels comfortable enough to let us in and see the good, bad, and ugly. At least for the last year, L has known exactly what has been going on in his life. He knew he was in foster care, he knew that his foster parents were only temporary, and he knew people were out there looking for his Forever Family. He talked about a Forever Family almost every day. When his caseworker would come to visit he would ask if she was there to take him to his forever family. He would say how he wanted a family with a dog and a house with a front and back door. He looooonggged for permanency.

This past week we took all the kids to get all set up at the doctor. When we were there the doctor was talking to me and about L being in foster care, L overheard, looked right at her and said “No, I am not in foster care anymore!” then looks back at me, “right momma?”. Truth be told I was in shock at what he just said. He is so smart and picks up on everything, mind you we remind him daily that we are his forever family and he will never have another momma or daddy. So, I just said “that’s right baby, you are not.” The doctor just smiled and went about the appointment. He technically is still is in foster care but he doesn’t feel like it and that is making all the difference. He now is being adopted, back with both of his brothers, has a dog, and a house with a front AND back door!

These words are just that, words. They cannot begin to explain the love I have for this child of mine. But I can say that my love continues to grow and grow for him. I cannot wait to see what the Lord has in store for him, it must be pretty special for a boy like L!

The Shituation… pun intended.

Crap got real the first couple weeks at the Gray household. I have heard many people talk about how the children might regress and could have some interesting behaviors with moving into yet another home. These stories I am about to tell you are prrrrettttyy crappy!

About two weeks ago I hear knocking on the upstairs door where the twins have their bedroom. (We have a bell that chimes when the twins open their door so we know when they are up, but they choose to knock instead). That morning I drug myself out of bed to head upstairs and as soon I do I hear X1 say “Momma, Momma X2 pooped in my room, he pooped in my room!”. At that moment, I thought I should just turn around and go straight back to bed but I had to deal with what was inevitably looming behind the door, CRAP! I open the door and there are both of my twins, X1 is freaking out right in front of me, thoroughly disgusted, X2 is buck naked and covered head to toe in his own excrement! Not only is he covered but so is his room. Everywhere I look there is poop smeared, it was the whole length of the carpet, on his bean bag, on his bed, and somehow at the very top of their wardrobe. Keep in mind they both still wear pull-ups at night and his pull-up was perfectly clean. To top things off I have a very week stomach so throughout this whole process I am having run and make a break for it. I went up and down the stairs to go outside to get some fresh air multiple times. It was Treys first day back to work, and I was already overwhelmingly emotional, of course this would happen. I went back up and picked up X2 and carried his poopy self to the tub. I mean he had it ALL over him, in his hair, in his ears, all over his face, in between his toes and fingers. I. LOST. IT. I couldn’t deal with myself and I certainly couldn’t deal with the shituation. So, I did what every grown woman would do… I called my Momma! 

The following week, also when Trey was at work, X1 was is in our sunroom in quite time. He comes out and looks guilty and I  knew something was fishy! “X1 what did you do” he just looks at me and freezes, (I learned that freezing is common symptom of children that have gone through trauma, they use it as a defense mechanism). When he froze I knew for sure he was up to no good and I could sense what he’d done, “X1 did you poop in the sunroom?” X1, stares at me blankly and then says “I had to poop weally bad”. (The bathroom is right around the corner). Now, the next task is to find the scene of the crime. I couldn’t for the life of me find it. If you are thinking it would be easy to find because your nose would lead you right to it, you would be wrong. There was NO smell. I go to him and say, “you’re going to have to show me where it is.” Blank stare. “X1 you have got to show me!” Then he points to the toy box that is shut and latched. I had him open it and still nothing… suddenly there it was, the unmistakable smell, poop was for sure there but nowhere to be seen! Then he moved around the toys and once again… I made a break for it! I ran outside and stood behind the glass door and gave my instructions of what to do. I couldn’t handle this again, and you would think that X1 being so disgusted by his brother in the previous week that he would be last to reenact this sort of incident. I mustard up the gull to make it back to the sunroom to deal with the shituation and noticed that my son this whole time had a chunk of poop on his head.

*Here is a little bit of a back story. All three of my children think it is hilarious to call one another anything that deals with poop. Their most beloved phrase is to call each other is a “poopy head”. I am sure that doesn’t shock or surprise most anyone who has been around little boys. I however strongly disapproved of the name calling but there is only so much you can do to stop it. When you finally get one to stop then there are two others waiting and ready to spout it out just to get a rise. Once one says it they are all in on it!

Me: “X1 you have poop on your head”
X1: “Momma don’t call me a poopy head!”
Me: “I am not, but you literally have poop on your head! So, I guess that does make you a poopy head”
My child found no amusement in this and was very upset to realize that he was now a poopy head.

Of course, I again called my Momma not knowing exactly what to do! Both times my Mom was out of town so she just provided moral support and listened to her sobbing daughter losing her mind on the other side of the phone. She gave me words of encouragement and felt pretty bad for me and the kids. When I am in the thick of the crazy I can so easily forget what my children have gone through and the traumas that are still very real for them. I forget that they are still raw and are in need of healing. It’s something my mom reminds me of each time I give her a call, which is a lot, and is probably the reason I call. She also tells me I need to, in her words, “to put my big girl pants on and deal!” I also need that too. We haven’t had any more of those incidents in the recent weeks and I am very much hoping that those have passed but, if they do come again life will go on and with each passing day my boys will start to heal.

** In case you were wondering in the weeks past they no longer use the term “poopy head” and for that I am grateful. Instead they a have moved on to a more sophisticated term such as “pee-pee head”.

How it ALL began…

It was the spring of 2016 when we decided to finally take the leap and figure out how we were going to adopt a child. We both had a heart for adoption but just didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know much about the system but I did have few relatives that were either foster parents or adoptive parents through the foster care system and that intrigued me. So, I took the plunge and called our county to figure out what I needed to do to get more info. I was told we needed to take a class called Foundations and you need this class no matter if you are wanting to be a foster parent, foster to adopt, adoption through foster care, or even private adoption. We got signed up to be in the next class starting in May.

We knew we were not interested in being foster parents because the idea of a child being in our home only temporary broke our hearts so, we chose to go into the classes solely for adoption. I commend people who do temporary foster care and one day I could see us doing that as well. Anyways, our classes were a two-and-a-half-hour drive away from us and we got an early start the morning of May 14th. On our way down a storm hit with some heavy rain and hail. I told Trey to slow down and he did however, the truck in the other lane did not. We were hit head on and our car was totaled. Needless to say, we didn’t make it to our class but we were okay. Later I called to reschedule and they said the next class wasn’t until October. I was devastated. I believe I just started crying on the phone to the poor lady (FYI: I cry a lot during this process) and she said we could do it in another county that happened to be closer to us in June. I called that county and the lady said “oh I am sorry miss the class is full” I don’t even know if I said anything before I just started bawling. She didn’t know what to do. I explained to her what had happened and I said “please, please there has to be a way, we will stand in the back or bring our own chairs, we just HAVE to get into this class!”, we got put on a waiting list and were told to call back. I did. Many times. But hey, I got us in and we didn’t even have to bring our own chairs!

The paperwork, holy crap, the paperwork. It’s a lot but worth it. Our homestudy was completed the week of Thanksgiving. It took longer than we expected but that seems to be the norm with working with the state. Once the homestudy was done we got access to this website that had every child available for adoption in the state of Oregon. It was crazy. Children of all ages, race, and backgrounds. They show you a picture of the kids, their ages, ethnicity, and a little short story about them. We knew we wanted no more than two and if possible, we wanted mixed children because of the obvious. We also didn’t really want to get a child older than 5. The first children that we chose were the children that are currently in our home. They were everything we wanted with one added bonus, there were 3!