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The Purest Love

"The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and wom...

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Good Days

These past couple of days have been good. My husband and I have felt strengthened by the hand of the Lord.  Prayer is amazing! We have felt greater compassion, greater patience, and greater peace.

I certainly have not felt worthy of these blessings that have rested upon us but I'm incredibly grateful for them.  I have been humbled by this calling to be a foster mom. It has certainly made me more aware of my weaknesses--and wow, what a delicate balance, to allow this awareness to remain in my mind but not allow discouragement! 

When I've been at my breaking point, I've been blessed with new ideas to handle conflict and the ability to praise the slightest hint of good behavior.

I'm grateful that I have a God in heaven who hears my prayers, both the spoken and unspoken. I'll take whatever good days that come--They give me hope for tomorrow.

-Alicia

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Ride of Our Life

All the foster parents talk about this job being a roller coaster: one day you feel like you can handle everything and the next day it feels like you're reeling out of control, screaming for your life!

My husband and I had a particularly rough time fostering this past week.  The fosters seemed to be making so much progress.... and then we don't know what happened? Both of them have become more emotional and defiant. And the more defiant their behavior is, the less compassion or love we feel for them-- (of course we feel terrible about our apathy) They sense this and it causes them to act out with worse behavior.  It's like a downward cycle.

A couple nights ago, the whole house was in commotion from our foster daughter's tantrums until 4am: Kaylee and Miriam left their beds to try and find a quieter place on the floor downstairs. At that moment, all of my bio-kids were displaced on a couch or a floor while the fosters had their own rooms and own beds.

We were wide awake as the clock ticked over to 4:30.  My husband and I laid in bed staring at the ceiling, wondering what to do, we questioned why we ever made the decision to be a foster family. Discouragement descended into our hearts.  "What if we are damaging our biological children? What if they grow up resenting us and the foster kids for causing so much upheaval in their lives?"

I couldn't find the words to pray the next morning... all I really said was, "Father, we're both so exhausted and we're both struggling to feel the kind of love these kids need right now.  We are terribly tempted to just pass them off to a different family.  And as terrible and awful as that would be, it just feels like it would make our lives so much easier. But it's not just about our lives, these kids need help. We need inspiration.  We need some kind of encouragement, something to refresh and motivate us if this is what we must continue to do."

I only had a few minutes for scripture study because the kids were waking up again and the family routine demanded my attention. I opened my Bible's cover and found a card with two words "keep going".  It was a beautiful simple message on a card from a Relief Society lesson back in October.  I had forgotten about it because I don't usually open to the front cover. I took a deep breath and then opened to the middle of my Bible 1 John 4:18 "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." 

Joseph had an equally short morning for his personal scripture study but it's interesting that he had some similar messages. As hard as foster care is and as easy as it would be to quit, we feel like we need to keep going.

My husband and I had a special fast together this last Sunday.  We're praying for endurance and love, understanding and compassion that sees beyond rude or obnoxious behavior and focuses on the underlining issues and needs of these children.  We prayed for optimism and gratitude to verbally acknowledge any good that the foster kids do--even when praise is the last thing we feel like giving.

We prayed for wisdom to know how to fill the needs of our bio-kids along the way, to help them cope with their discomforts, to recognize how to give their-selves a break and renew their own strength. (They've actually done pretty well and have been amazingly loving through it all.)

Just one day at a time.... one day at a time.

Being foster parents is an extremely humbling and terrifying calling! We have to fight back fear every day... it's something people just have to experience to understand how hard and complicated it is.  We feel like we're free-falling right now but we're bound to get traction again... It's a roller-coaster right?... I guess it's all part of the ride so, we'll keep going.
-Alicia

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My Hopeless Romantic

The afternoon was busy as I bounced between all the household chores, drove to and from music lessons, worked on homeschool with my three younger ones, rushed to the store, and raced the clock to assemble a Thai recipe my foster son had been begging me to cook before he got home from school...

In all the chaos, I almost didn't notice the most adorable thing happening right in front of me:

My 3-yr-old foster daughter danced into the kitchen beaming with delight as she twirled to show me the elegant red dress she was wearing. Micah stood proudly behind her with a smile. "Doesn't she look beautiful, mom?"
"Yes, she does." I agreed. "Did you help her pick that out?"
Micah nodded and then turned to my foster daughter, sweetly calling her by name, "Now all you need is a beautiful flower for your hair.  Do you want me to pick you a flower?"
She nodded, "Yes".
"Okay, I'll be right back. Wait right here." Micah instructed my foster daughter as she stared out the glass door and watched him step outside.  She waited fondly as he disappeared around the corner of the house beyond her view.

A few minutes later, Micah entered back in the house through the front door, holding in his hand a beautiful pink paper flower with a green paper stem.
"Here you go!" Micah said as he presented his foster sister with the gift.
She jumped with excitement at the sight as he gently tucked the flower in her hair.

"Micah, that was so incredibly sweet of you to do.  Did you make that while you were outside?"
"Yeah" he smiled shyly.  "I wanted to pick one from our yard but because it is winter, there's nothing growing... so I walked around to the front porch and hurried to make her this paper one."
"Micah, you not only just made her day... you made my day too.  I can't believe how incredibly sweet you are!  The flower is absolutely lovely!"
She wore it in her hair the rest of the evening and held it in her hand as she fell asleep tonight.
What a precious memory!

Man! Micah has always been my hopeless romantic. Things like this just seem to be so natural for him.  He has certainly won my heart.
Oh, how I love him!

-Alicia

P.S.
Just a little extra tid-bit that makes this kid even more adorable.. Left Hand Free by, Alt-J is his favorite song right now. He can sing along to every single word.  He loves to play this!
"Pick a pedal eenie, meanie, minie-moe, and Flower, you're the chosen one."


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Building a Palace





“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Friday, January 13, 2017

One-On-One Winter Semester

Winter Semester started this week. I love being on campus so much! For the next few months, I have three of my kids lined up with Seeds of Success--a group of volunteer BYU students who study one-on-one with kids for an hour each week.  Micah and Kaylee go to campus on Mondays and Miriam goes on Thursdays.  I have my class that I attend each week too so, I get to be on campus more than ever this semester.

 The kids love their tutors! Doing their schoolwork one-on-one with college-aged students inspires them to seek a higher education, it helps them learn to socialize with a more mature age, and gives them outstanding role models to follow in their most formative years.

While Miriam studied yesterday, I was able to have one-on-one time with my foster daughter and it seemed to fill the need of her attention bucket for almost the rest of the day.

While Micah and Kaylee study on campus with their tutors, my foster son has expressed the desire to have one-on-one time and be given a tour of the buildings at BYU. I'm more than happy to give him a tour of my favorite place on earth.

Here's to another semester of life, love, and learning!

-Alicia


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Favorite Things

I stay up late most nights taking turns scratching each of the kids backs and listening to them tell me about their day or ask questions about life.  My foster son loves to be last so he can get the longest back scratch and talk to me the most... Tonight he wanted to have a tickle fight after his back scratch was over--making him completely giddy... (so much for sleepiness).  He loves to find whatever way he can to get physical affection (something he has been starved of his whole life). Eventually, he fell asleep. It was cute.

I feel like today ended as a pretty good day.  After all the kids finally dozed off, I reflected on the good time I had visiting at their bedsides. I feel so blessed to have each of them in my life.

One of my favorite things about being a mom is watching all my children discover their own unique passions and talents:


  • Miriam is my little author.  Whenever she has a spare moment, she loves to write books, mostly mystery and suspense books. She loves to have me and Joseph proof-read every chapter. I won't be surprised to see her name published someday.
  • Micah is my sculptor and engineer. He loves to craft things, and he can create just about anything.  He's incredible! He sculpted and sold a nativity set at our friend's shop up the street.  He really could easily sell almost all of his creations. 
  • Honestly, I haven't discovered one particular focus Kaylee has a passion for... she's just passionate.  She's my little lover, always giving away hugs and kisses galore, especially to little babies.
  • I'm still working on helping my foster son develop a passion for something.  He doesn't have much confidence in himself.  I keep telling him that he can do so much more than he realizes.  
  • My foster daughter is only three...  I'm still trying to discover her passion too.
  • And last but not least, Chandler's favorite thing in the whole wide world (besides watching football), is writing electronic dance music.  Chandler began his own SoundCloud page three months ago.  I have to say, for a fifteen-year-old kid, he has some pretty impressive stuff that he has composed.  The other night, Chandler was showing me the latest track he had written.  His stuff is really worth a listen.  When he was finished showing me his work, he playfully nudged me insisting that he share a quick Youtube video about electronic dance music.  It's a pretty funny clip, clearly making a mock of EDM,  We both had a very good laugh together.


I love being a mom... sure it's a tough job but it's so fun to watch my kids grow and see their unique personalities. Time is passing much faster than I ever imagined it would.  I want to hang on to everything I can.

-Alicia


Monday, January 9, 2017

Time In / Time Out

Some of the best advice I've been given from the foster care support group was from a seasoned foster parent.  She said that for every time-out my foster daughter has to go to, give her time-in... meaning: hold her, play with her, talk to her.

Its been working.

As hard as it has been to show this increase of love after discipline, I've noticed that it has really helped.  And I don't see it as reinforcing the bad behavior because she still has the "time-out" but it's reinforcing her sense of being in a secure place, where there's no threat of abandonment.

Speaking of time-out...
I get to have a little one myself... but this is a good time-out, one I get to spend with all my sisters-in-law Feb. 17-18.  One of the guest speakers will be Tim Ballard.  I first heard him at World Congress in 2015 with my Big Ocean group.  If you don't know who he is, go watch the documentary, The Abolitionist. The story is mind-blowing, absolutely incredible!

Layton's 2017 Time Out for Women has a great line-up of speakers for the whole weekend. My sisters-in-law and I used to go to TOFW every year but it has been a while since we've gone last.  I'm excited! The awesome thing about it is, I'm always in the mood for more time-IN with ALL the children after this time-out.

-Alicia

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Not On My Watch

My friend gave our family her old Xbox last week, including several games.  I haven't known my friend for very long but she is an active member of the Church.  I was shocked at the kinds of games she gave us, the ratings were for mature and teen: images of women scantily dressed and provocatively posed, and terribly violent games. To my friend's credit, maybe she was getting rid of these games because she recognized the lack of wisdom in allowing such things into her home, how this kind of entertainment goes against the standards the Prophets have laid out.  I thanked her graciously for the Xbox.  (She doesn't know I threw all but one of the games away.) We kept Madden 16. :)

As a wife and mother who has witnessed loved ones in my family and extended family struggle with pornography, hatred or  blind rage, I cannot let my guard down with the things I allow into my home "because it's only a game".  I am the guardian of this hearth!

My foster son comes from a home where there were no rules with video games or movies, or any kind of entertainment.  In fact, almost his whole entire life has been spent being babysat in a corner by a TV screen or video game.  The effects have been very damaging to his social behavior, his life perceptions and views, his aggression/temper, and his eating habits. When he first came to live with us, he discovered we had very strict rules with our screen time.  He displayed quite a bit of frustration and resistance to our rules.  But after two months, he has shown incredible improvement! I was so proud of him the other day when he said he didn't really care so much about video games anymore and that he was happy with all the other ways we spent our time.

President Hinckley chose to read the Proclamation on the Family to the General Relief Society as his very first audience.  There is a reason he chose the women of the Church first, he said. “You are the guardians of the hearth,” he told the sisters. “You are the bearers of the children. You are they who nurture them and establish within them the habits of their lives. No other work reaches so close to divinity as does the nurturing of the sons and daughters of God.” -(Gordon B. Hinckley, “Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” 101)

It is me who establishes the habits of my children's lives, me! I have a great responsibility on my shoulders.  These things are not allowed in my home, not on my watch. I pray they will recognize the joy that comes from choosing the better part, from choosing virtue and goodness.

"Never has there been a more complex time in the history of the earth. Satan and his minions have been perfecting the weapons in their arsenal for millennia, and they are experienced at destroying faith and trust in God and in the Lord Jesus Christ among the human family.

...We need more of the distinctive, influential voices and faith of women. We need you to learn the doctrine and to understand what we believe so that you can bear your testimonies about the truth of all things" - Elder M. Russell Ballard - Men and Women in the Work of the Lord


-Alicia

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Builders

"Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)



My foster daughter has shown quite a bit of improvement this past week.  She has had less melt-downs and less hitting.  She has been more compliant and has been communicating more politely with full and complete sentences.  She has even been letting me potty-train her (something she resisted with vengeance a few weeks ago). With the melt-downs fewer and farther between, our house has seemed more peaceful and the tension in all my children has decreased.


My foster daughter put together these blocks and said with excitement, "I'm building Alicia's house".  (I can't show the photo of her face but imagine an extremely proud grin.)  I'm sure in her mind, it was just simple play. but I like this picture because this is a good reminder to me to build my house right.

Over the holidays, we visited two of my husband's sister's homes.  My foster son was in complete awe of how huge their homes were.  He said a few things to them that made us uncomfortable. As we drove back to our place he kept making comments about how rich Joseph's sisters must be.
I leaned back over the driver's seat and said, "They do have very nice houses don't they? But that's not what makes their place a great place to live.  They are rich in much more important ways."
He stopped to consider what I meant.
I continued, "A house is made of brick and stone but a home is made of love alone."
"What's that supposed to mean?" He asked.
"Listen again. What do you think it's supposed to mean? 'A house is made of brick and stone but a home is made of love alone.'"
"I don't get it." My foster son huffed.
"It means that you could have the richest, most biggest house on the block, and it will be absolutely worthless if there is no love felt inside that home.  It also means that 'home' is more of a feeling, than an actual place."
He continued to reflect on my words but didn't say anymore.

In my short experience of being a foster mom, there is one principle of practice that keeps coming back to my mind: "to build-up"... to build each soul that lives here.  I'm learning how important it is to recognize the smallest accomplishments, to praise each person for their efforts (even if they don't meet my expectations and especially when I don't feel like offering praise). What kind of house am I building?  What feelings reside within these walls and am I making it the place where there is enough love for Gods and angels to dwell?

"For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere."

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

-Alicia



Monday, January 2, 2017

First Goal of the Year


"Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake."

- Psalms 115:1 - KJV


"Don't give glory to us, O LORD. Don't give glory to us. Instead, give glory to your name because of your mercy and faithfulness."

- Psalms 115:1 - God's Word Translation


"Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness."
-Psalms 115:1 NIV Translation

This is such an awesome scripture!  I love this verse in all the versions of the Bible.  Can you imagine how different the world would look if we could only remember where all the credit and glory really belongs?  Can you imagine how much we would stop worrying about the opinions of others, for good or for ill... and focused on the One opinion that really matters most?

Even Christ--who deserves all the glory--said during His ministry,  " Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." - Mark 10:18

Elder Neal A. Maxwell observed,

Is there not deep humility in the omnicompetent Christ, the majestic Miracle Worker, who acknowledged, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30)? Jesus neither misused nor doubted his power, but he was never confused about its source, either. Instead, we mortals—perhaps even when otherwise modest—are sometimes quite willing to display our accumulated accomplishments, as if we had done it all by ourselves. Hence this sobering reminder:

“And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.

But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.[Deuteronomy 8:17–18]"

On another occasion Neal A. Maxwell recognized,
“Something I have heard President Hinckley do many times publicly is to give all the glory, the praise, and the honor to God. This is something I am going to do more often, including today, incorporating my appreciation for God’s tutoring and blessings.”

I think this is a fantastic place to start with a New Year’s resolution…  to always give credit where credit is due.  To be watchful and careful everyday that my motives are pure and not self-centered or self-aggrandizing. And when there is any praise given to me, I pray that I will be quick to acknowledge from Whom all blessings flow.

-Alicia

"Let not any passion be for kingdoms we have fashioned in our own name For our own fame... Let us not be fooled And let us not be disillusioned Let our eyes see You clearly... Anything that’s true Anything that’s good Let it point to You... Not to us" -Nichole Nordeman