table for 4

With great hope that God’s loving plan for our son's life is unfolding exactly as He’d always been planning, we share with you that our family of 5 will return to being a family of 4 one week from today. Foster parenting is a unique journey, and ours has been remarkable. We have loved and parented Lil Man for 1,206 days. 3 years, 3 months, and 18 days. What a blessing he has been!

To address quickly three questions that many have asked us.

  1. It would be atypical for us to have future contact with him, but we would love that if it is offered.
  2. Yes, if he would come back into care, we would be called. But my friends, please, oh please, do not hope for this. Please do not hope for our son’s family to fail.
  3. Yes, we still feel God’s call to be foster parents in the future, but we do not know what that will look like.

Our requests:

  • Please pray for all three of our beloved boys to be resilient. Our hearts are absolutely breaking for our older two sons. 
  • Please pray for Lil Man and his family. This will be a difficult transition for everyone. Pray for his safety and emotional adjustment.
  • Above all, please pray for Lil Man's eternal future. Reminder: Lil Man does not need the Waller family to “save” him. Like all of us, all he will ever need is Jesus.

Finally, we want to remind you that the four of us are at the center of this circle. We promise anything you feel and want to “vent” about – we feel MORE intensely.  Instead of making us grimace through your expressions of frustration, please join WITH us in rejoicing in God’s plan. 

We are so honored that you have chosen to be active foster grandparents, foster aunts and uncles, foster cousins, and FRIENDS for this precious boy. We will never be able to thank you enough for your prayers, babysitting, random acts of kindness, and sacrificial acceptance of this calling. We have no doubt of our Father’s merciful plan for Lil Man.

Great is His faithfulness.

With love and anticipation for the future,

Matt and Kelley

P.S. If you wish to write him a letter or send a picture, feel free (some of you did this last May) – we will put it into his Life Book.



             

Read "station eleven" right now

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Got a book recommendation from a friend phrased something like this: "Kelley, we read a book in my book club recently that everyone hated and I thought you would love it." Obviously, I went to the library ASAP to get the book.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel was.... riveting. I will state up front that post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction featuring a powerful, non-sexualized female protagonist MAY be a bit of a niche. But oh I am that niche!  People sometimes read these books about an ugly future and get depressed, but I see them as the opposite of depressing. Uplifting! It's the triumph of humanity in a situation where everything is hopeless. To me, science fiction is often no different than any other disaster (or in this case, post-disaster) story: whether the heroes are fighting Nazis or Cylons doesn't bother me. I'm here for the story.

And the story here is SOOOOO good. One of the curses of wishing to be an author, I've learned, is the constant struggle to love a book without dying of jealousy as you experience the author's talent. That was definitely a balance for me here. I just loved everything about the way Ms. Mandel wrote. She wafted between tenses, points of view, perspectives. She jumped chronologically, geographically, even philosophically. And she wove a story that I was alive inside. I am not usually big on sequels but I find myself wanting to go back to the vivid world she created because I became so engrossed in it in those 350 pages.

I loved one of the main characters, Kirsten.  I may have pictured myself as Katniss when I read THG, but I kind of had to fade out and just be a reader again when Katniss is killing or kissing people. I felt like I could hang in there with Kirsten, living the story vicariously in her character, even when she has to make really hard decisions.

(Also, she isn't always fresh & clean in the post-disaster apocalypse, and she's self-conscious because she's missing two teeth. This is critically believable to me.) It will never NOT disappoint me to read a story with a strong female protagonist who also happens to be the most effortlessly beautiful woman any person has ever seen. Boooooo on those writers.

 

Instead of a movie feel where you focus on primarily one character, Station Eleven definitely has a TV mini-series feel where the reader meets different people, unsure of how they will intersect. Once they serve their collective purpose, the individual characters continue on their own journeys, and you check in with many of them to see where they landed. 

My husband teases me that instead of reading an hour a night 'like a normal person,' I don't read for 10 days and then spent the eleventh day unmoving on the couch with my nose in a novel, cover to cover. And he's right--when I get into a book, I'm usually going to power straight through. And then I'm sad if it was a great story. 

I was very sad when Station Eleven ended. I would go back there.



             

the final frontier

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My sister and I listened as our oldest four children played Space Station the other day. This make-believe included specific ranks (Commander, we need more oxygen in the science bay! Ok, Lieutenant), math for strategic rationing (We only have one box of food left until we get back to base, and there's four of us, so we each get one-quarter food.), and pretend names: Michael, Charlie, Mae, and Neil.

I've been thinking about space a lot lately since my husband and I started rewatching Star Trek: The Next Generation. ("Encounter at Farpoint" is so much longer than I remembered. But Q is just as weird.)

In case you aren't familiar, our kids were playing Neil Armstrong, Mae Jemison, Michael Collins, and Charlie Duke. All American astronauts. Total #mompride and #auntpride moment. We've bred pint-sized nerds. Little learners -- hooray!

My son is doing a second-grade biography project, and--of course--he chose Neil Armstrong. One of the pieces he has to include in his essay is stories of his chosen "hero" as a child. I loved seeing what he picked:

  • Neil Armstrong was a Boy Scout.
  • Neil Armstrong baked donuts to pay for his flying lessons.
  • Neil Armstrong's first flight was in a plane called the Tin Goose when he was 6.

Lessons learned from this: Neil Armstrong was 6 once. He really liked planes. He worked hard. He chose a path that aimed at his goal.

A Facebook mom's group I'm a part of recently posed a question, "What would your child's future career be based on their current obsession?" People gave answers like firefighter, veterinarian, mommy, and police officer. Others said paleontologist, archaeologist, dolphin trainer, and--yes--astronaut. Everyone gave thumbs-up with comments like "awww reach for the stars khaleesi." The tone of the conversation made me feel like they all believed we were raising assistant-to-the-regional-managers.

Don't get me wrong -- if my kids love and honor Jesus, I don't care if they find a way to support their family as professional elbow models or salesmen for pocket lint. But my point is that somebody, somewhere IS raising a future president. Somebody IS raising a future astronaut. Somebody IS raising a future head of the UN. Somebody IS raising a future five-star general. Somebody IS raising an Olympian. Somebody somewhere IS raising the inventor of the whatchamacallit that changes the world.

Odds are, it isn't me. But you better believe I'm gonna live my life like it might be. I'm gonna answer every question they ask, nurture every dream they imagine, and check out books until my library card is declined.

I'm gonna help them shoot for the moon even if they miss.

Speaking of missing the moon, my favorite line in one of my favorite movies (Apollo 13) is delivered by astronaut Jim Lovell's mother (the actress, sidebar, is actually the mother of Ron Howard, the director of the movie). In a movie full of "Houston, we have a problem," and "Failure is not an option," my favorite line is probably less memorable.

The family is holding back tears because Jim's ship is basically drifting in space after an explosion. Jim's mom turns to her granddaughter and says, "Are you scared? Well, don't you worry, honey. If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it." 

There's a mom who never told her son he wouldn't be an Eagle Scout. Who never told her son he wouldn't get into the Naval Academy. Who never told her son he wouldn't graduate first in his class. Who never told her son he wouldn't be a test pilot. Who never told her son he wouldn't be an astronaut.

Something tells me that when he got home after Apollo 13 finally landed, when those parachutes thawed and the carrier brought him home... something tells me she still told him he could go get the moon.

I'm gonna be poetic here, but The Final Frontier isn't space. The Final Frontier is my kid's future, stretching endlessly before him. 



             

mother's day for mom-mom

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Dear Mom-Mom,

I didn't buy you a Mother's Day card again this year. Twelve years and I still teared up at Wal-Mart when I passed the "mother's day for grandma" cards.

This morning I smiled when I thought how you would be really excited about my flowers. This is just the right week for a visit to my garden. I trimmed all the dead daffodils, so everything out there is looking right on the verge of an lively explosion. The peonies have buds, the allium is open... there's just green everywhere. I think it would make you happy. I don't remember if you had a lot of flowers... I just remember how green your yard was. I remember riding Big Wheels down your hill, rolling down your hill, and I remember the stepping stones out your back door... grey against bright green grass. 

I drove by your house a few years ago and sat in front of it like a person in a movie, waiting for you to open the front door and wave me inside. You didn't, though.

You would love to watch my kids. My boys are way too loud, and I know you'd tell me that--but then you'd smile and tell me a story about something out-of-control I did at their age. (There are a lot of those stories.) Their pictures would be everywhere in your home--school pictures, pictures they drew, pictures of my mom (your baby!) holding her grandkids, pictures of the kids all together at holidays. There would be pictures of you at everything my boys do--I know you would show up to school presentations, grandparents' day, church stuff. You'd just be there.

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I think you'd like my new kitchen. I remember when you redid yours--from green and yellow into pink and blue. So chic! Mine is gray. You'd be excited because you love new things. Pretty things. You'd open my cabinets and comment on where the tupperware would be easiest to reach. Your feet would slide just a little on the floor when you walked.

You'd be really good at using your cell phone, I know it. I think you would text, but you'd complain that everything was too small. You are still the only senior I can think of who loved technology. Would you still be making a monthly newsletter for your Twalker friends? Maybe you'd be using Pop-Pop's pictures but if you were here he'd use a digital camera.

Wow, we never went to Target together. Lancaster didn't even have a Target then. How could we have never gone to Target together? You would love Target. 

You'd be at the mall a lot. You do love the mall.  Park City looks really different, but you'd like it. And you'd buy us a pretzel when we--no wait, scratch that, you'd tell Pop-Pop to buy us a pretzel while you showed us something pretty you bought (but you saved the receipt because you might return it) and ask what I bought and introduce the kids to the people you were with because you know everyone in the center court, and maybe I'd get introduced just once more as "the one you wanted to be a boy."

I think of you when I make cookies. With butternilk. Yes, I still use the recipe with the typo. Butternilk cookies. 

Almost thirteen years since I've seen you... how is that possible? How have you never met my children? How have you never seen my house? How are all these things true and real when you are not a part of them? It's so weird to have you there for everything and then you're gone.

I have your canning jars upstairs, and when I use them I cry. I don't cry because I'm sad.  I know you're happy! So happy!  I cry for myself because I miss you and I cry for my mom because she doesn't have her mom and I cry for my kids because they've only seen your picture and never got a hug from you and never smelled your shirt and never heard your laugh and that's sad. Because your laugh was awesome. 

I will forever have the "Hello-Kelley" way you greeted me on the phone. I will forever remember weird things you said to me that hurt my feelings--not because you were insensitive or cruel but because you were human and so much like me. I hope I'm like you, at least. Your funny words are a reminder to me that words matter. Because I'm full of words! I know I used to drive you bananas--you told me right to my face once, in fact.  

Boy did you SHOW UP for things. Every picture of you is at something--graduation, plays, concerts, games--you showed up. A presence at everything. Hopefully, I pray, never taken for granted.

I miss you so much. Happy Mother's Day.

Love.

Kelley Rose



             

Fatherhood and foster care

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‘Fatherhood’ is the only answer I give when people ask what will fix what I often call the ‘broken’ foster care system. While better judges, faster timelines, and addressing caseworker burnout may help ease some of the stress on the overburdened American foster care system, it won’t fix anything. The only thing that will? Dads.

If you can’t trust me from experience, check out these incredible stats on the importance of fathers. The very long list includes that children who grow up without a father are 4x more likely to be in poverty, 2x more likely to drop out of high school, and—perhaps the most disturbing—7x more likely to become pregnant as a teen [1].

What happened to fatherhood?

The U.S. Census Bureau says 1 in 3 children in America live without a father. In fact, from 1960 to 2016, the percentage of children living with only their mother nearly tripled from 8 to 23 percent [2]. Unfortunately, emphasizing any differences (i.e. improvements) a dad brings to a child’s life leaves you at risk of becoming the enemy of the Big Abortion Political Machine in our country.

But, wait. Why would the abortion industry want to diminish the role of fathers?

Here’s their rub: if the country begins to admit that dads offer a worthwhile contribution to parenthood, we inch closer to giving dads rights to their unborn children. Keep in mind that the Supreme Court has ruled that fathers have no rights when it comes to their unborn children. Even requiring a spouse's consent for a married woman's abortion is unconstitutional (Planned Parenthood v. Danforth), they say, and the unborn child’s father doesn’t even have to be notified after one occurs (Planned Parenthood v. Casey).

A big reason there are half a million children in the American foster care system is to protect abortion.

Seems counter-intuitive, right? If ‘unplanned’ or ‘unwanted’ pregnancies are ended, there should be fewer ‘unprepared’ or ‘unequipped’ parents, right? Shouldn’t there be fewer kids who need foster care? (I say this only to repeat the line I’ve heard from others, not intending to give credence to the disturbing idea that a child is better off dead in the womb than living in foster care.) Unfortunately for the witty-rally-sign-writers, that isn’t the case. Yes, I’m pleased to know that the abortion rate in the United States is at its lowest since 1973 [3]. But even though non-permanent contraception use has increased [4] (and while the overall rate of contraceptive use exceeds 60% [5]), unplanned pregnancies still account for nearly half (45% or 2.8 million) of the 6.1 million pregnancies in the United States each year [6]. Bottom line: we hand out condoms at high schools, the government pays for birth control pills, and we encourage abortion-on-demand, but the rate of children in foster care continues to increase [7]. (Side note, if you’ve read the so-called “Romania case study” about how abortion bans lead to overwhelmed orphanages, please read this.)

Let me explain.

Abortion is big business. Allowing fathers the right to preserve their unborn children would put a huge roadblock in the way of this cash cow. So, abortion has been labelled a ‘women’s rights issue’ to silence men from having a fair voice in the future of their child’s life.

Unfortunately, because this movement loudly labels fatherhood as obsolete to protect abortion, they are also eroding the reality of American fatherhood and hurting kids who need daddies and other male figures in their lives today. Remember the stat above that children who grow up without a father are four times more likely to live in poverty? Sobering. And the last large-scale study related to fatherhood and foster care found that more than half of children in foster care came from single, female-headed households [8]. The media screams that we can redefine a ‘family,’ but the ‘family’ simply doesn’t work as well without dad.

Even if a mother choses to make an adoption plan for her unborn child, dads can be dramatically shortchanged by an obscure law. Did you know there’s a system in most states called a paternity registry? Probably not. But since NO state requires a pregnant, unmarried woman to report the name of her child’s father, registering in this system (that almost no one knows about) is the only way a biological father can be guaranteed to receive notification or a voice in court [9]In other words, a dad could be fully prepared to raise his child, but if his girlfriend changes her mind, she can give birth and legalize his child’s adoption without even telling him. (This is Christopher Emanuel’s story.)

The talk of toxic masculinity and the (necessary) #MeToo movement are making it difficult to talk positively about men these days, but we need to be willing to discuss the possibility that the breakdown of the family—and the removal of a consistent, positive male role model—is what is causing a lot of our country’s problems. We need to be willing to address that the lack of fatherhood has led to tidal waves of children overwhelming the American foster care system.

If you think I’m only talking about the kids today, it’s bigger than that. I’m talking about the kids thirty, twenty, and fifteen years ago. I’m talking about the kids RAISED without dads in the 90s and 2000s who are now semi-adults or adults. I’m talking about the girl who was raised by a single mom and is now a mom of teens herself. I’m talking about the boy who was raised without ever seeing a role model of what successful manhood looks like [10]. I’m talking about the child two, three, and four generations into the hijacking of feminism who was raised by a single woman who was raised by a single woman… We’re oceans deep into no-daddies-necessary, and it’s drowning us.

The only thing that will fix foster care on a large scale is the acknowledgement of God’s design and admitting that:

  1. having a father in the home statistically improves children’s lives, and
  2. a stable, loving family is the ideal place to raise a child.

The solution to fixing the foster care system is the long-term, systematic promotion of positive fatherhood.

 

 

 

[1] https://www.fatherhood.org/fatherhood-data-statistics

[2] https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2016/cb16-192.html

[3] https://www.guttmacher.org/news-release/2017/us-abortion-rate-continues-decline-hits-historic-low

[4] Long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods, including the IUD and implant  https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2017/10/contraceptive-method-use-united-states-trends-and-characteristics-between-2008-2012

[5] https://www.guttmacher.org/news-release/2017/overall-contraceptive-use-united-states-remained-steady-2008-2014

[6] https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/unintended-pregnancy-united-states

[7] https://www.acf.hhs.gov/media/press/2017/number-of-children-in-foster-care-continues-to-increase

[8] National Study of Protective, Preventive, and Reunification Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[9] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/paternity-registry/396044/

[10] I want to clarify that a Christian, two-parent family is not the ONLY possible circumstance to raise healthy kids, and I’m not advocating some sort of mandated two-parent household where widows and widowers lose their children. And I’m certainly not suggesting that a single mother should ever, EVER EVER stay with an abusive father.