Friday, December 28, 2012

I Could Never Do That

One of the most common things we've heard as foster parents is "I could never do that" and then there are various phrases that follow that one.  "I would get too attached", "I couldn't love someone else's child like my own", "I don't have the patience", "It would be too hard on my kids", "We don't have enough room", and the list goes on.  Now, I am NOT saying none of these are valid concerns, but for some reason the whole "I could never do that" thing bothers me. 

I think it is because often when people begin this train of thought it ends with painting us as saints.  All I can tell you is that it hurts, it hurts to let a child you love go back to a situation you know isn't ideal, but in the end we can do what we can do and we are doing just that.  God calls us to enter into the pain of others and love them right there and fostering is that at its core.  God never tells us to protect ourselves from pain.  There is a purpose to this pain and our family has learned long ago, we are never promised a tomorrow even with our own kids. 

We are not saints, we don't have superhuman patience, we live in an 1100 square foot home, my kids are flourishing and growing in ways we could only have dreamed, and we love these children though they are not ours, because in truth we've also learned that no child is ours, they all belong to the Lord and what we do unto his people we do unto him, so we are called to love them and give them all we've got.  We are all called to do that in different ways and in this season, our way is fostering.

I fully understand that not everyone is called to foster care and that is okay.  We have been, I have no idea for how long or how this whole thing is going to go, but we've had four placements and our current placement looks to be a longer we go about daily life as foster parents we've had to really examine is exhausting parenting two children under one in addition to the other three God has blessed us with, but ultimately, we know God has placed each of them in this home and we will endure a little sleep deprivation and exhaustion for this season, simply because it is worth it. 

It is more than worth the cost to sit up rocking a sweet one at night who hasn't known such security, who has endured more in a few weeks than many endure in a few years.  Some days I want to "quit", most days I fail miserably, but the Lord reminds me to dust myself off and get back on the proverbial pony.  It has been my experience that in the pain there is a purpose and that purpose is so much greater than we can imagine, and therefore worth every tear.  When you open yourself up to give of yourself freely each day, to pour yourself out upon these little ones as He pours out upon us, there is a joy and a peace that I cannot even explain.  I am more tired than I've likely ever been and also more at peace and content than ever before. 

Sometimes He calls us to fall in love, to parent a child for hours, days weeks, months, years, and then the child is taken away, I didn't have to be a foster mom to experience that, I experienced that with my own flesh and blood, and though those were some of my most painful moments, they were also my most grace filled, tangible God moments I've had, and I am finding foster care to be much the same.  We put our heart on the line knowing full well it might break...that is parenting, and it is worth all of it and He meets us there.  We are not miraculous, extraordinary or super parents.  We are broken, ordinary, flawed parents.  We could never do this either...but for the Grace of God.  His grace goes before us each day and makes it new, He give us the strength, the courage and the resources for all we need...and in Him we are able to do things we never could do otherwise.

So, honestly, when it comes to foster parenting, "I could never do that either", but it is where He's called me and we are merely being obedient.  His plans for us are good and He is making it happen and I am SO grateful because it is SO worth every tear, heartache, worry, fear and inconvenience. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas From The Bolte Family!

I apologize for the lack of blog posts but five kids under the age of nine is a little time intensive.  ;)  We are doing great!  Enjoying our time as a family, learning together and laughing together.  We still have our little foster girl, and I SO wish I could share her with you but I cannot.  It is looking like she'll be with us for quite some time and she has settled in nicely.  Now if I could just get her to sleep through the night. 

We've mastered the art of getting five kids out the door and are enjoying each and every one of their individual personalities.  After a few times out as a family of seven, we realized that people just stare and make comments, some rude and some really encouraging, but that in today's culture five kids I guess is a lot.  Our new favorite hang our is Sam's Club.  We can feed the whole family for about ten bucks and we can also get the bulk items we need.  :)  It is our go to eating out spot.  Each time we go out Ben has begun singing the song from Madagascar 3 (Afro Circus) only he replaces afro with Bolte...and we all laugh.  People really scratch their heads when they ask ages and we say, 9, 6, 3, 10 months and 3 months.  :)  The last two make people think...sometimes they ask further, sometimes they just get wide eyed and walk away.  Overall it has been amazing though and we feel mighty blessed.

We got to experience TWO first Christmases here this year and that was very fun.  This has been just the most joyfilled, peaceful Christmas I can remember and I am so grateful.  Our hearts are full, our home is pretty full and our hands are very full and I cannot imagine it any other way!  We hope you had a wonderful Christmas as well! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

November Placements

November has been a crazy month in the Bolte household. We had been given a sweet baby girl to care for temporarily on Halloween night and she was amazing and sweet and went home to the best possible situation and we said goodbye to her on November 13th with a tear in our eyes but joy in our hearts knowing she was going home to a place where she is loved and cared for.

After she left, Howard and I talked and decided we'd maybe take a break just until the following week to catch up on things and regroup and maybe even have a date. The only exception would be if it were a child returning to care who'd been previously here.

I was surprised when my phone rang at 10 am and it was our "coordinator". She asked if the baby had left the night before and how we were doing. After chatting for a few moments she asked if we'd be willing to take a baby boy and his toddler sibling...I told her I'd think on it, talk to Howard and get back to her. I prayed, called Howard and then prayed some more, in the end deciding we are just at a point where due to the limitations of only being able to hold five children in our van, we need to stick with one child at a time for my sanity, as I like to get out often. So I told her we couldn't. My heart was heavy and I often wonder if that feeling of guilt will ever get better when I know it is just not going to be a good fit.

Aside from the guilt I also felt a bit relieved that I might get a full night sleep. I went about my day and about an hour and a half later the phone rang again and I could see from caller ID that it was the agency again! I answered and this time our "coordinator" said, "Well, God had a reason for you not to take the placement earlier. I know you said you wanted to take a little break and I totally respect that but I promised I'd call if Baby #1 (our very first placement) ever came back into the system, and guess who's expected to be back this afternoon?"

All at once my heart was so heavy and leaping for joy, we'd known when she left that there was a chance she'd be back, but I felt so sad that the reality was that she NEEDED to be back. It is crazy to think that had she come a day sooner, we'd not have been able to take her because we already had an extra baby and had I said yes to the earlier call, our home would have been full. It is clear to me that God has a plan in all of this, yet as I rock her to sleep each night, for the life of me I don't understand it.

For now that is where we are...we went about 18 hours without a placement and this one is expected to be here for a while. We are all settling in and figuring out how to make all of this work and I am confident in saying that without Luke I'd be lost...he LOVES babies and taking care of them and he is SUCH a help! We've managed all five at Thanksgiving tours of the families, the grocery store and a restaurant or two and we are so blessed. It is funny to watch people count and then try to figure out how it is possible that we have Jacob and Baby #1! :) We covet your continued prayers as we head into the holiday season, it is tough to balance being grateful to get to love her and heartache knowing that her family is missing her.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

We Are Changed

We are not the same people today that we were just a few months ago. Today, we live with not just the awareness, but the intimate knowledge that not all children are fed, loved and cared for the way children should be. We have always known that this is the reality but now our eyes have truly been opened and we cannot look away. Once you’ve seen the face of abuse so horrific you’re sure you yourself wouldn’t have survived it, or have held a tiny child who has not had even some of their most basic needs met let alone been appropriately interacted with, you cannot turn back. It burns in your heart and in your mind.

Our family has been blessed to be able to love and hold a few children in our three months since we’ve been licensed and our lives have been forever changed by them. Survivors in their own right, these kids are absolute miracles, but nobody has told them that. We get to. We get to love them and feed them and rock them to sleep at night assuring them that they are safe and secure and the next meal is sure to be served.

Each child comes with a different story…a different reality and no two seem to be just alike. We’ve had four children placed in our home over the past four months and one common thread has been woven through each one and been a real eye opener to our privileged family. Each of these kids has come with little more than the clothes on their very back. Often times those clothes don’t even fit and sometimes they aren’t even weather appropriate. Taken from everything they know and love, they don’t even have a blankey or a trusted snuggly friend to join them on their journey that they didn’t ask to be on.

It has been overwhelmingly heartwarming though to see that with each child who has walked or been carried through our door, the outpouring of love we’ve seen from friends and family. Not everyone can open their home (though I’d encourage you to really think and pray on that) but we all need to open our hearts to these kids and from our experience folks are eager to do so, they just don’t quite know how to help. I am here to tell you that something as simple as providing these sweet ones with just a little something to call their own, can make a difference. I have had the honor of being able to hand a four year old his very first stuffed animal and a five year old girl her first doll and I am here to tell you they are moments I will never forget. I’ve given my own children plenty of gifts, yet giving to a child who truly has nothing is an experience everyone should know.

Two amazing friends of mine have started a blog of their own, it is called Soul Purpose and their goal is simply to seek out needs within the community and try their best to make that need known so that people have the opportunity to make a difference and meet those needs. The immense need out there is overwhelming if you look at it so by breaking it down, one need at a time, we are given specifics and one by one these needs are met. This month they’ve chosen to bless some of these sweet kids who come into the system with nothing and give them a little hope and security in a few simple items. They are looking for small tote bags so the children have a way to carry their belongings, blankets so that the children have something of their own to wrap themselves in and a small stuffed animal for the children to love.

So, as you go about your Christmas shopping, we’d invite you to maybe pick up an extra bag, stuffed animal or blanket and open your heart to these kids. They’ve endured more than we can probably imagine and they deserve a safe and loving home with a few things to call their own and having something handed to them at the beginning, that could be a constant as they transition could be huge for them. I encourage you to stop by Soul Purpose and see the great work that is being done there and jump in and join us! Let’s make a difference! Once you’ve opened your eyes and heart to the need there is no turning back, you’ll be changed too and I promise it is worth it, these kids are SO worth it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

October Placements

Two weeks ago we got the call for a sibling group of a 4 and 5 year old. Not much was known about the pair but they were believed to be typical kids a boy and a girl and they were hoping we could take them. After much deliberation because we don't really have room in our van for TWO more kids we decided to say yes.

The days that followed were a whirlwind. Every day we learned more and more and found that these children needed FAR more than what we could give them here. They needed a home where they could be the center of attention and where they could get all of the services they needed. We loved them dearly and they were really great kids but in the end it was decided after a discussion with their case worker that it was in the best interest of EVERYONE for them to be moved to a therapeutic home.

It was one of the most heartvwrenching days EVER as we let them go and prayed that we somehow were able to help them in their short week here. We kept them until just the right home was found and we are praying they are getting all they need and are feeling loved and safe there. It was humbling to have to admit that their needs were beyond our ability, but we take comfort in knowing their needs are not beyond the ability of our Heavenly Father and that He indeed has a good plan for them.

We got a call then on Halloween night for a baby girl who is currently with us and we are enjoying her fully! From what we know a family member is trying to get approved to take her which really will be in her best interest and so we just intend to love her and snuggle her while we get to and then pass her back to her family once they have things figured out. It is tough, but I am so grateful to get to have this small part in helping families and children.

With each case my eyes are further opened to the brokenness of the world that I never knew existed. Well beyond my experience of brokenness each of these places breaks my heart for what must be breaking His and while it hurts, I have peace in knowing that we are doing what He has called us to. He is leading us and we are following. With each smack of reality we are reminded that He is bigger and we are nothing without Him and it is a wonderfully humbling place to be.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thirty Four

She was on the cusp of 34 the cold January night when she rocked her nine year old girl and wept. Somehow everything had become too much and she wasn't coping. She rocked and cried and said goodbye. She cleaned and cleaned and sent us late that night to a neighbor's house. As we headed down the driveway, a gunshot was heard. In that mom ended her own life. She'd thought a lot about it and planned it out. For many years, I've found it easy to just hate her. She put us through a lot. She was mentally unhealthy for a while and I will probably never understand.

This week, I turned 34. The weeks leading up to this birthday have been hard. I have now lived longer than my mother. It is an eerie feeling. Luke is the exact age I was when she died and Ben is the age my sister was. It is impossible not to put ourselves try and imagine what she must have been thinking, to think of what it would do to Luke and Ben...I realize how young we were and how much we were forced to deal with. It is kind of haunting. Memories are coming back and it has just been plain tough.

I think the biggest issue is that when a suicide happens, no one wants to deal with it. It is an ugly horrific reality and we want to pretend it isn't. I can remember being furious as people would paint my mom to be a saint. I was angry and she chose death over me. I fully understand that she was "sick" but the reality is that it is okay to be mad. It is okay to feel betrayed and angry. I have always been made to feel guilty for feeling that way and the truth is...I don't anymore. In a matter of moments, my mother scarred us for life...we have a right to be angry regardless of the underlying circumstance.

Statistics show that suicide tends to reoccur in families and it is a statistic that others have often reminded me of. The thing is...I think that the reason it reoccurs is because no one confronts it, we say they were "sick" and pretend it isn't as horrific as it is, we don't talk about it and we just continue to shove it under the rug. Those things we shove under the rug always have a way of resurfacing...we have to deal with it...we have to deal with the reality no matter how ugly. Life isn't a bed of roses...we need to stop pretending it is. We live in a broken world with a lot of ugly realities and the sooner we just admit that and confront it head on the better off we will be.

"Confrontation with reality gradually eases the pain and removes the power of the act from the lives of the survivors and their future generations. " Dr. Marilyn Gootman

The above quote holds so much hope. We've got to confront it and quit running from it...this year, the 34th year of my life is the year I will fully confront it. I will deal with the darkness of the past in hopes of enlightening my future. The truth is, my mom shot herself. She changed the course of many lives by a choice she made in one instant. It sucks the breath right out of my lungs and for my WHOLE life no one has wanted to ever talk about it because it is uncomfortable, but silence isn't the answer. We have to press past the discomfort to find healing.

Suicide hurts, it destroys families and childhoods. My mom was likely depressed. Why is it so taboo to talk about mental illness. The silence is killing people. We've got to be unafraid to talk about it, she was too proud and likely too afraid to ask for help and I can't help but think about how many others out there are struggling with this. It is okay not to have it all together all of the time. It is okay and even admirable to ask for help.

Suicide is the TENTH leading cause of death in the US, and for every suicide that results in death 11 more are attempted. This world is broken and people are crying out. Every 13.7 minutes a person commits suicide. Ninety percent of those who commit suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric condition. About ten percent of the population suffers from clinical depression in a given year...this is more than coronary heart disease, cancer or AIDS. Yet we are still more likely to speak out and educate on those other diseases.

Depression and mental illness is NOTHING to be ashamed of. It is a real condition that can be treated and catastrophic deaths as a result can be prevented. If you are out there and you are reading this and are feeling hopeless...there is hope. Please get help.

If you are out there feeling like suicide is the answer, I can promise you it isn't. It might end the pain you are feeling, but it will multiply the pain your loved ones feel exponentially. If I have learned ANYTHING from my mom's death it is that even though I fail each day in some way...being the mom and wife I am for my family is so much better than not being there for them. A mediocre mom beats a dead mom any day. I promise. My mom has been gone for almost a quarter of a century and I am just now, at 34, acknowledging the damage that has been done and seeing a counselor myself for the hurt I shoved away for far too long.

25 years later her choice is still haunting me. I am ending the cycle though...I am counting my incredible blessings and asking for help. While I am not currently depressed or suffering from mental illness, the trauma of the past needs to be brought out into the open, where it has never been and dealt with so I can move forward and let go of the anger I still carry despite my every effort to forgive her. I am going to heal and so can you...and we don't have to do it alone.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Just the other day the boys found a picture of me when I was three years old. They to this day refuse to believe it isn't Hope. People always tell us that she looks a lot like me...what do you think?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lapidaries, Zoos and Pumpkin Farms Oh MY!

We've been having lots of fun and enjoying each other over the past few is a glimpse into what we've been up to.
We went mining for gemstones with some of our homeschooling friends at Stoneworks Lapidary

They were all SO focused!

Luke found lots of treasures!

Hope LOVED looking for BLING!  ;)

Ben was METICULOUS.  :)

 Hope started dance class!  She is the most adorable ballerina.

 This handsome dude turned 8 months old and started CRAWLING after one OT session working on it!

 As you can tell...he is also growing like a weed and LOVES his food!

 We headed to the Cleveland Zoo for a family fun day!

 The kids enjoyed the wolf exhibit most as they were very active!

 We also got to spend a VERY fun family day at a local pumpkin farm...where the kids got to ride these awesome pedal cars.

 Jacob is just the smiliest guy ever!  We just love all he brings to our family!

 They got to slingshot tiny pumpkins!

 3-2-1 BLASTOFF!
 They played in the cornbox

 We took a hayride!

 We love Sisson's Pumpkin Patch!

 Hope made corn angels!

I love these silly kids and ALL of our time together!  We are just so blessed...and looking forward to seeing what our family will look like next week! 

Friday, October 5, 2012

He's Broken Our Hearts...I am Grateful

Last Monday, I picked up the phone as I bustled about cleaning up the lunch of our four busy children entirely unaware of how life was about to change. "Hi, Kristy! I was calling to let you know that we have a little girl coming into placement and I was wondering if you and Howard were available to take her." My heart sunk and ultimately I knew I could not give her an answer without talking with Howard. Unfortunately at the school where Howard teaches, he gets NO cell phone reception and does not have a phone in his room so it can be tough to reach him. I was getting packed up and ready to head to his school anyhow so I figured I'd talk to him when I got there.

We talked and reviewed all of the pros and cons and fears and hopes and ultimately we knew God had called us to this. I called back and said yes. I can tell you that for ten days we had a precious baby girl in our home. We looked into her beautiful eyes and saw a priceless gift the Lord has blessed this earth with. She's lived a tough life and we can only pray the future for her is much brighter.

I learned a lot in the last ten days. My heart has once again been transformed and molded by pain and tears and I am so grateful. This sweet girl brought to our home gifts I will never be able to thank her for. She was our introduction into the foster care world. We'd done respite for a few families but she was our first "placement" and my heart bursts with gratitude that the Lord chose us for her even for just a little while.

With five little ones in the house I learned to be a much better steward of my time. It has become abundantly clear to me that the things the Lord wants me to do, will demand much of me, but that ultimately He will provide all of the resources, time, money, patience, knowledge, to accomplish them. If I run out of resources, I was likely not a good steward of them, and I am often guilty of this. I learned that I have GREAT kids (not that I didn't already know this, but really, they amazed me) I watched as my children loved, shared everything they had with and prayed for this sweet baby girl. In the hours after we learned she would be leaving us they held her and prayed over her with hearts that just poured out to Him. They snuggled her and cherished every moment and praised God for allowing her to be with us even for a short time. My heart still swells as I summon those memories.

I have learned that the system is broken, that sometimes decisions are made that we just don't understand and that it is frustrating, but ultimately after holding that sweet girl and looking into her face I can tell you with certainty that it was worth it. She is worth it, our children are worth it...sometimes because we live in a terribly broken world, children need a safe place to may be long term or it may be very short, and likely we will get no say in how the whole thing goes, but we can serve. Turning away because the system is broken surely won't fix it. We can enter into their pain and just love them for as long as we are able. A good friend and mentor said to me as I learned of baby girl's leaving. "Remember how you held Isaac and Asher and loved them for as long as the Lord allowed? You loved them as best as you could and gave them all you could cherishing whatever time God gave you. That is what this is...we love and we let go and it is hard but it is what He has called us to." She is right. Another friend endured incessant calls from me just listening to me vent at the perceived injustices I was seeing all the while reminding me that this WAS in fact what I signed up for. I have learned that supportive and authentic friends are a rare gem and I cherish every one.

I have learned that it is going to hurt. I had no idea how I would grow to love this tiny person in just over a week, but I sure did. I felt confused, angry, frustrated and disheartened when I knew she was leaving, but God called our family to this very place and he worked out a story so beautiful that His hand is abundantly evident. In our culture we want a quick fix. We want to avoid pain at all costs. We want to spare ourselves something...and I think the greatest lesson I have learned in my lifetime has been that when we spare ourselves that pain, we are really denying ourselves something better. Avoiding pain is not what God calls any of us to. He calls us to enter in to the pain of those around us and love them right there. To truly allow our hearts to be broken for what breaks His, to weep along with them and for them, to be His hands and feet. It hurts, tears flow, hearts break and he puts all of those pieces back together into something even more beautiful.

It has been a crazy whirlwind week. The funny thing is I have always longed for normal...I have always longed for the mundane and I am learning day by day...that is just not us. I am so very grateful for the journey he has us we step outside of our comfort zone, as we truly allow our hearts to be broken for what breaks His, things just become so much more clear...praising Him for that clarity tonight...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stepping Out

I think we are outgrowing this van.  ;)  I will tell you unequivocally though that God provides ALL we need for what he calls us to!  Blessings abound when we step out in faith!

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Bountiful Harvest

I was hoping I'd have more time to update with all the fun things we are doing, and yet we are so very busy I have  not had time!  We have spent the first two weeks of school exploring and learning and really enjoying each other.  We've harvested from our garden, done some canning, freezing and dehydrating, we've taken trips to the lake, the zoo, the park, the creek, the retirement home.  We've visited with family, read lots of books, researched many animals, provided some respite foster care, and enjoyed being outside.  The week ahead will include LOTS of time at the Albion Fair as the kids are prepping their entries today! 

Though I am sometimes so busy that I barely have time to grab my cup of coffee in the morning, I cannot help but look at my life and praise God for all He's trusted me with.  I am so blessed to get to help Him form and shape these four sweet blessings and I have to admit He gave me the PERFECT partner to do it all with.  I had my wisdom teeth out a few weeks ago and Howard really stepped it up...I didn't think it was possible to love him more but each day, I do! 

So here is a fun photo update: 

Ben and Hope washing tomatoes for Daddy and Luke to process

Luke and Howard processing the tomatoes.

Our favorite nine year old

Our bountiful harvest

Sweet Hope and her bounty from the kids' garden

Sweet Luke and his homegrown purple corn and the first carrot!

Silly Ben and his carrot stub

Green Bean Smiles

Mommy and Hope at our family reunion

Mommy and Papa White kissing on a cranky Hope

Hope, Daddy and Jake watching the trains at the zoo.