fostering in real life

If Kyle’s post about “not having it all figured out” didn’t come across plain as day, here’s some more “real life” from me about fostering. Warning: I’m about to get reeaaaaaallly vulnerable/honest here.

You guys, I NEVER, in a million years would have imagined, planned, or dreamed that I would become a foster parent. When I was a kid, I never said, “When I grow up, I want to be a foster mom and adopt all the kids in the world and have a huge family.” You wouldn’t have even heard me say, “I think maybe I’ll be a foster parent someday,” when Kyle and I got married.

When Kyle brought up the idea of becoming foster parents, I didn’t think twice about it before I said yes, but not because I LOVE kids and imagined a houseful of them. Not because I am super nurturing and really affectionate and want to cuddle every neglected baby either. But because I knew it had to be done.

If not us, then who? There was a need, and we could meet it. There were kids who needed parents who wouldn’t hurt them, and we would be safe and loving. There were kids who needed a place to sleep, and we had beds.

Let me tell you a secret (okay, it’s not really a secret): I don’t LOVE being a foster mom. It’s freaking hard to be a parent, and it’s even harder to parent a little person you’ve never met and have to figure out and sometimes don’t understand at all. It’s exhausting to figure out each baby and wake up with them every night. I turn into a monster version of myself with little sleep. I go into survival mode and it’s really hard for me to deal with the new “normal”. The past two months with our latest tiny have been some of the hardest of my life.

But I do LOVE obeying Jesus and I feel strongly that He made it plain how we should live – for others. For the glory of God. And the fact that He DID call us to this, means that He also makes me able to do it. I’m still not necessarily GOOD at it, by my standards anyway, but I am able. I can love this baby. I can feed this kid and read them books. I can take this baby to dozens of doctor’s appointments and meetings and therapy sessions. I can do this while we are asked to do it. But I’m just not amazing. I’m doing it, and I’m trying to keep my head above water.

That’s not to say I’m not INCREDIBLY proud of what the little babies that have been in our care have accomplished. Or how they’ve changed from when they joined our family to when they’ve gone to be with family. Our latest little peanut has gained three and a half pounds! and is cooing and smiling and doing all the things she should. We packed the pounds on the previous kiddo too and saw her happy personality emerge and crack the shell of insecurity she had when she came to us.

I have to also give so much thanks and tons of credit to the many, many people that come along side us and make it possible for us to DO this, as imperfectly as we do. We have been overwhelmed with support – gifts and babysitting and friends who come to fold our laundry and pizza delivered and clothes and diapers and most of all, prayers. Many times when I’ve been at the end of myself, someone messages and reminds me they have my back in prayer, and oh go get yourself a latte with this coffee gift card. (Amen and thank you, Jesus.)

And yes, it’s hard to say goodbye. In some ways, there’s a sigh of relief, if we know the child is going to a place where they will continue to be loved and cared for. It’s always amazing how “easy” it is to go back to just our belly babies (bio kids) after a long time with a bonus baby. But I grieve. I hold my kids tight and we talk about the babies and the kids that were in our home most recently. I peek at her daddy’s Facebook profile and see if there’s a new picture of her. When our current sweetie goes with her family in a few weeks, I hope and I think that we’ll have the privilege of staying in touch with her family and seeing her sometimes

I just had to make it clear, again, that I am human and not a saint. I have my terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days as a parent. And as a foster parent. This is hard and I’m not good at it, but God’s grace, some high nutrition, and snuggles make up for my shortcomings most of the time.




Don’t You Want to Thank Someone For This?

Life has been more than a little intense/crazy/full lately. We’ve had a teeny, tiny foster baby in our home for just over a month, and somehow late September and October’s calendar got cram-jam packed with events and hosting people for meals and going places and and and.

I’ve barely had a moment to myself, and haven’t been doing a good job of staying in the Word in this time when I so very desperately need Jesus to help me carry on. In this place of my own slackness, God has used music, mostly from Andrew Peterson, to speak to my heart and bring His truth to my fraying at the edges heart/mind.

About three weeks ago, I was particularly weary of soul. As I walked down the stairs to move the laundry over, with a tiny dirty diaper in my hand, I saw my husband reading to our younger two on our bed. It was a sweet moment, and something touched my heart – a deep gratitude welled up and I had lyrics from “Don’t You Want to Thank Someone” dance through my head. I sank to the step, tears falling, and just thanked the Lord Jesus for all the things. All the hard, all the good, all the sweet, all the bitter that is makes up this season in my life.

There’s so much that’s broken here – I wouldn’t be a foster mom if it wasn’t broken. Babies are supposed to live with the mamas that gave birth to them. We wouldn’t be adopting from a hurting country like Haiti where so many parents can’t even afford to feed their kids, if the world was as it should be. As it will be someday.

But then there are moments that just take my breath away with beauty and love and light. When the baby smiles in her sleep, or when the chubby cub of an almost two year-old leans in for a hug and a slobbery kiss. Or when the sassy little four year old girl in my house tells me, “Mom, I just want to be with you.” And the time my big, almost-grown-up boy climbs up onto the couch and snuggles in as close as he can for the few short minutes before breakfast must be eaten and lunches made for school and clothes put on and the van loaded with all the small people in our house and he’s dropped off for another day of school.

I want to thank someone. And I know Who to thank. Jesus, thank you. Heavenly Father, thank you. Thank you for your redemptive work that is taking place. Thank you for making all things new again someday when you return. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Come soon. Hallelujah.

Can’t you feel it in your bones
Something isn’t right here
Something that you’ve always known
But you don’t know why

‘Cause every time the sun goes down
We face another night here
Waiting for the world to spin around
Just to survive

But when you see the morning sun
Burning through a silver mist
Don’t you want to thank someone?
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?

Don’t you ever wonder why
In spite of all that’s wrong here
There’s still so much that goes so right
And beauty abounds?

‘Cause sometimes when you walk outside
The air is full of song here
The thunder rolls and the baby sighs
And the rain comes down

And when you see the spring has come
And it warms you like a mother’s kiss
Don’t you want to thank someone?
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?

I used to be a little boy
As golden as a sunrise
Breaking over Illinois
When the corn was tall

Yeah, but every little boy grows up
And he’s haunted by the heart that died
Longing for the world that was
Before the Fall

Oh, but then forgiveness comes
A grace that I cannot resist
And I just want to thank someone
I just want to thank someone for this

Now I can see the world is charged
It’s glimmering with promises
Written in a script of stars
Dripping from prophets’ lips

But still, my thirst is never slaked
I am hounded by a restlessness
Eaten by this endless ache
But still I will give thanks for this

‘Cause I can see it in the seas of wheat
I can feel it when the horses run
It’s howling in the snowy peaks
It’s blazing in the midnight sun

Just behind a veil of wind
A million angels waiting in the wings
A swirling storm of cherubim
Making ready for the Reckoning

Oh, how long, how long?
Oh, sing on, sing on

And when the world is new again
And the children of the King
Are ancient in their youth again
Maybe it’s a better thing
A better thing

To be more than merely innocent
But to be broken then redeemed by love
Maybe this old world is bent
But it’s waking up
And I’m waking up

‘Cause I can hear the voice of one
He’s crying in the wilderness
“Make ready for the Kingdom Come”
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallalujah! Hallelujah!
Come back soon
Come back soon

One Step Closer!

Today we learned that our dossier has made it safely to Haiti and we are officially entered into IBESR. We thought his wouldn’t happen until next summer, so we are overjoyed and happily surprised!!


It will still be months or more than a year before we are matched. The committee to suggest and approve matches for new law families hasn’t even been formed yet, so we really have no idea when to expect a referral.

We continue to rest in God’s perfect timing and trust in His unfailing love for all of us – the Puelstons here in America and the future Puelston in Haiti. A ten month fast-forward feels like a golden ticket right now, and we rejoice in His kindness. He can move the mountain. He is mighty. And we’re so grateful to our wonderful agency for helping us and making every effort to unite children with their forever families.

As I flew back to the USA from Haiti last month, I wrote this letter to our future child.

Today I left Haiti, and a piece of my heart will be there forever. I keep thinking of the song “Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton.

“If I could fall into the sky, do you think time would pass me by? ’cause you know I’d walk a thousand miles if I could just see you…if I could just hold you…if I could just be with you tonight.”

“Somewhere Out There” was playing too: “Somewhere out there, beneath the clear blue sky, someone’s thinking of me and loving me tonight”.

I’m thinking of you, baby. I’m wondering where you are tonight. If you have been born yet, and if you have – if you have a place to sleep that is clean and dry.

My sweet baby, I want to hold you so badly. I want to give you kisses and tell you how much your first mama loved you and how your new daddy and mommy will care for you. I want to show you the place you were born and tell you how much I love Ayiti. I will whisper “manman renmen ou, my sweet child” in your ear and trace your beautiful face with my fingertips.

Your country is beautiful. It has a piece of my heart that will never return – it will always be planted in the cement grey dust of Ayiti.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much hope I have that Haiti will rise and become stronger and more beautiful in the years to come.

I hope it is not very long before I once again step on Haitian soil and see those mountains and the beautiful bay. Not long until I meet you.

And until then, my love, I will pray. Pray for you. Pray for Haiti. Pray for the people who know you. Pray that you will be safe and protected from the evil that lurks for parentless babies. I pray that someone tells you how very much you are loved. I ask Jesus to write your name on His hands and send his angels to guard you. May your tummy have enough food to keep the hunger from being too deep. May you be able to drink clean water. May you have friends to play with and a place to lay your precious head.

And when we do finally make the journey to bring you home to our family, I promise I will hold you. I promise I will cry with you as you grieve for what you’ve lost and try to make sense of what you’ve gained. You are a treasure and we will be a family that always loves and honors Haiti. Always thanks God for your first manman and papa.

This letter to you is sealed with the many tears I cried as I flew home from your beautiful Ayiti. When you are ready, we will go back and visit. We will see your home and see your people. You will always be free to know where you came from and who loved you before us. And if we don’t know, I hope your heart will rest in what is true now: I love you. Your daddy loves you. Your brothers and sister love you.

Whatever happens, however you feel, whatever you do – you will always be loved.

Forever, Mama

Haiti – Cite Soleil

I woke up after that weird first night in a new place sleep…and gathered my thoughts. “Where am I again? Oh yeah, Haiti. I wonder what this day will be like. Will I handle the heat okay? How much bug spray do I need to bring? Am I going to lose it when we pull into the slum today?” I smelled breakfast cooking and coffee brewing.

It was 8am and already the air was toasty warm in the guesthouse. I met two of the women who supported our team with their delicious cooking when I walked into the dining room – Berlande and Kisnel. Both of them sweet as sugar cane, Berlande was quieter and Kisnel had a wide, infectious smile that shone like the sun.

We enjoyed our breakfast, then prepared for a day delivering water to several neighborhoods within Cite Soleil, one of the poorest places in the western Hemisphere. (You can talk about what it might be like, you can imagine what it will be like, but you are never going to be able to understand it fully until you walk across the garbage and see the depth of the poverty in front of your very eyes.)

We boarded the tap-tap and drove through the streets of Port au Prince to the water station where the HH truck fills up it’s tank. As we waited for the truck, I tried to take it all in again – the heat wasn’t unbearable because there was a pleasant breeze…there was a cloud of smog over the city, shrouding the mountains in it’s haze…I noticed the cement-grey dirt and the man napping in a giant truck tire.

Then with a honk of the water truck’s horn, we were off, bumping our way to Cite Soleil. Our first stop of the day was near the construction site of Hope Church, a church Healing Haiti is building in the worst part of the city. The kids of the neighborhood all started yelling, “HEY YOU, HEY YOU!” (it’s a long story, but they chant that at every Healing Haiti group that comes by) and mobbed the back of the tap-tap as we stepped out.

Small brown hands reached for mine, and quickly entwined mine in a firm grasp. Soon I was holding one toddler in front and one on my back, looking into the eyes of each kid nearby and wishing to high heaven that I’d learned Creole before coming. I did learn how to ask their names, and would tell them mine. “Zjo-hah-nah?” “Oui!” I played patty cake with some and arm wrestled others. The kids were astonished when they discovered I was my mother’s daughter! It was so fun to see their eyes widen when I told them, “She’s my mama! I’m her bebe.”


My teammates helped hold the water hose as people queued up to fill their buckets, tins, and bowls. Others helped carry sloshing, heavy buckets back to their homes. Some of us simply held kids. One little girl would not let go – she clung to me like a little sloth baby on it’s mother. She even smacked other kids who tried to come up and get my attention or my hands. It was clear I was her person for the moment and she wasn’t willing to share.


Our translators walked us up to the Hope Church construction site and it was so wonderful to see this beautiful concrete structure rising out of the literal garbage heap. When all is completed, there will be a church and a school in the darkest corner of Cite Soleil. Another place from which God’s love will spread, pouring out into a community that so desperately needs grace, hope, and joy.

My deaf teammates taught the kids to sign “I love you” and as we pulled away and went on to the next stop, one boy who had stuck close to me, Delmon was his name, yelled for me and forced his fingers into the ILY sign. His big smile frozen forever in my heart and mind, we bounced down the street and back to the water station to refill for the next stop.

At the second stop, I was surprised to see the ocean open in front of me at the end of the street. I had forgotten we were so close to the bay. A toddler girl, not much older than my Grant, fussed and vied for my attention as we walked to the back of the water truck. I scooped her up, bare bottom and all, and sang her a little song and asked her name. She didn’t understand or didn’t want to share, but no way did she want to be set down.

DSCF2162  DSCF2175

Later I helped other girls put their water buckets on their heads and watched them walk carefully, back so straight, head so high, returning to their home. I helped several kids and some mothers with their buckets, and had a conversation with a young man who spoke a little English. I wondered about the kids and the people I was standing near. “Would the boys grow up to be good men? Will they take care of their families and be kind to their wives?” “Will the girl next to me be pregnant within the year or will she get to enjoy the innocence of her youth a while longer? When she is pregnant, will she have good prenatal care? How big will her baby be? Will she know how important it is to try and breastfeed him?” “Do they know about Jesus? Who will tell them about His love?”

At the final stop of the day, after our own pit stop at a police station bathroom (the grossest one I used in the whole country), after making sure everyone that needed water got theirs, we took a little walk through the neighborhood. I felt as conspicuous as I was, following Michael, the HH staff photographer, down alley and over drainage ditch. We squeezed through narrow, hallway like walking paths between the corrugated metal homes. I saw one house with a port-a-potty front panel for it’s front door. Ingenuity and recycling at it’s finest!

As we walked, trailing neighborhood children and carrying the barefoot ones, I greeted women on their front stoops with “bonswa!” and always received the same in return. Eventually, the narrow path opened into a wider one, which opened into a clearing on the outskirts of the neighborhood. We were on the edge of the bay, no beach to be seen, only the murky sea water meeting garbage several feet deep and shards of seashells. I could see pigs wading in the shallow water, men fishing a few hundred yards away, and in the far distance, shipping derricks ready to receive containers.



It got quiet. We all were trying to process what we were experiencing…what is “normal” for the kids that were in our arms…how hard it is to scratch out an existence in this tiny, but densely populated place. Then we turned and walked back to the tap-tap, pausing on the way to give a sweet elderly woman a Creole Bible she’d been asking for. Her Bible had been a literal shield not too long ago when she was caught in crossfire during a gang fight. The bullet lodged in it and kept her alive. She received the new Bible with much gratefulness, and we left, quiet and contemplating all we’d seen that day.

Each evening, after a delicious dinner we were always quite ready to devour, we sat and shared a “word of the day”. One word to describe how we felt and what we’d done that day. Tears were often shed, encouragement was given, ideas were shared. It was a wonderful way to connect and debrief the day.

The rest of the evening’s details are fuzzy. I probably took a shower and journaled a bit before hitting my bunk and hoping to sleep well. Tomorrow was another day, and I was a little concerned it might be a difficult one…

Haiti – Getting There

Four weeks ago tonight, I was mad as a hornet and crying tears of frustration because my husband wasn’t able to come home to tell me goodbye before I left for Haiti due to a very unintelligent human shooting a gun off illegally and threatening the lives of other humans. :angryJo: That’s probably another story for another time, and probably one best told by Kyle, but I promise you its a good one.

The next morning, I flew to Haiti with a team of twelve other people. One of them was my mom, the other my friend Kelsey. The rest were nearly strangers to me. And nine of them were deaf. I got to brush off long since forgotten ASL and learn again how to communicate in sign language! Looking at our week ahead, I had no idea what it held, or how I would react to my first experience in a developing nation. You can hear all about what to expect, how different things will be, cultural nuances, etc., but none of that will prepare you for actually stepping foot into Haiti.

haiti team

As the island of Hispaniola finally came into view in my tiny square of a window, my heart tightened with….excitement? joy? I’m not sure how to describe my feelings as I looked down at the varied topography and saw the city of Port au Prince come into view. I marveled at God’s beauty and majesty as I saw the mountains met by turquoise waters. We landed and I was nervous with anticipation to finally set foot on Haitian land. This country that had been in my heart for five years, but only in pictures and video…I was about to actually see it with my own eyes and touch it with my own hands!

haiti from the air

We went through passport control, and gathered our many suitcases. As we walked out of the airport, the sultry, humid air along with the light scent of diesel/campfire/burning trash enveloped me. I tried to take it all in – sights, sounds, and smells as we made our way to our transportation – the organization’s tap tap.

Our cheerful translator, Emmanuel, and our very capable and happy driver, Brune’, took us to the Healing Haiti guest house, which wasn’t far from the airport – right in the heart of the capitol city of Port au Prince. There we were greeted by the staff, and settled into our rooms for the week. My mom and I shared a room – one of the many things we shared over our time in Haiti.

Our team – most of them still not well known to me yet – prayed together and shared our “word of the day” with each other before we hit the sack, exhausted and travel weary. I went to sleep in a new country, a strange bed, wondering what tomorrow held and how my heart might break when I saw kids the same age as my own children living in the poorest slum of the western hemisphere. I had no idea.

the fosterhood

I don’t know why i feel like blogging when life gets most crazy.

I don’t know why when life is ALREADY crazy, God finds a way to add more to it.

Seriously. why don’t they EVER call with an emergency placement of a kid when my life isn’t stacked, and when my husband isn’t going to the other side of the world for two weeks in less than 48 hours?

Also, foster care placements should come with a couple additional things beyond diapers, wipes and clothing, if it were up to me.

  1. An owners manual to explain what makes them happy, how they like their bottles, when they take them, what they need to get to sleep at night, etc. But since I’m still waiting on one of those for the kids I gave birth to, I will keep dreaming.
  2. A one hour massage for post-placement. or whenever you get around to it.
  3. A full house cleaning. I can’t even explain the level of disaster my house is at this moment.

Yes, those things would be nice, but truly, I’m so glad we can help provide a safe, loving place for a little soul who needs it. No perks needed.

This is National Foster Care Month, did you know that? The need is great. Right now there are kids that need a safe place to land tonight. You don’t have to wait until you have the perfect anything – I promise you that I feel like I am not the perfect anything today, or most days, actually. You just need to have an appropriate place for them to sleep, and a heart that is open. Getting licensed is a process, but it isn’t hard or overly complicated.

All the excuses? All the reasons to not do it? They’ll all be there tomorrow and the next day. Why not now? (Of course there are seasons and “good reasons” not to, but if you don’t have any or your reasons are dumb, then stop it. ;-))

Join me in this crazy place I call the fosterhood. There’s a lot of mess, a lot of crying, a lot of laughter, a lot of tears, a lot of wondering why things are broken and why kids have to suffer for their parent’s poor choices, but its a really, really brutiful (brutal and beautiful) place. I’d love to have your company. I’ll brew more coffee for you in the morning and when evening comes, I’ll pour you a glass of wine too. We can do this broken, loving, hard thing together.

Someone I follow on instagram (She Does Justice) posted this today and its super appropriate at this moment. I need a lot of Jesus and His church to do this. Tonight as I rocked an inconsolable little person and asked friends to pray for calm and sleep to overcome the sad and stress, I was so so grateful to not be in this alone.


Tonight I’m grateful for Domino’s Pizza, kind and hard-working husbands, friends who know how to work nebulizers, effective and fervent prayers, social workers that miss their kid’s band concerts because they are running other people’s kids around trying to find safe places for them to sleep, and most of all, a God who enables me, selfish, little me, to put aside my comfort and rock a little soul to sleep in the middle of a messy living room. Grace. So much grace.

adoption update 3.0

Or maybe it’s even edition 4.0 – I’ve kind of lost count. SRP_7542

It’s been nearly a year since our epic and incredible adoption fundraiser. Friends and family blew us away with their generosity and kindness.

Since then, we’ve done a lot of paperwork, compiled our dossier (so much work! yay!), had it authenticated and translated (yay!), received approval from USCIS to adopt a child from Haiti (yay!) and….now our progress has come to a screeching halt.

{Boring and detailed info ahead – read only if actually interested, haha}

In December, Haiti changed some procedures and made some new rules for adoption agencies operating in Haiti. these changes are PROBABLY for the better? but its hard to tell until more months have passed and more families have been matched and are going through the system under these changes.

What’s changed:

1. Now adoption agencies cannot have preferred partner creches (orphanages) with whom they work and advise/match families. They have to work with any and all creches throughout the country. This is kind of scary, because until now, good agencies like ours have only worked with ethical, safe, “good” orphanages which have high standards of care. (Not that an orphanage is ever a good option for a child, but you know what I mean.)

Now its possible that we could receive a referral (a match to a child) that would come with a host of major issues – a child who isn’t actually an orphan, abuse from their time in the institution, major attachment issues, etc. So it feels like the risk factor has gone up significantly. Perhaps not, but it feels that way since there is less “control”, so to speak.

Our agency reassured us that they will do their level best to help us if we were to receive a sketchy referral from a terrible creche. It would break our hearts to say no to any child, but we have been thoroughly educated on RAD, FASD, abuse and other trauma issues, and we’ll have to weigh the info we get with what we know in our hearts is wise and right. Not cool or ideal at all, but that’s where we stand.

2. Agencies have been given a limit on how many dossiers they are permitted to submit to IBESR (Haitian social services department) per month. This limit is 1. SO over the course of a year, our agency can only submit twelve family’s dossiers to IBESR.

This is probably an attempt to reduce case loads and ultimately speed things up for waiting families and children, but its a frustrating delay for us, of course. As you can imagine, there were quite a few families ahead of us with finished dossiers awaiting a referral. Our agency let us know that our dossier is in queue and will be submitted between May-July of 2016. That feels like a long time from now!


All of this means we’re basically in a holding pattern – flying over our dream and not able to land for quite a while. However, while we’re stuck in the “airplane” of waiting, we’re going to seize the day. We’re going to learn Creole, REALLY learn it, in this time. We’re going to Haiti at every opportunity. It’s not expensive to fly there and its not expensive to be there! I’m heading there in June, and hopefully next year we’ll celebrate our tenth anniversary there. The more opportunities we have to learn the culture and love the country, the better! We will be better equipped to be the parents of a Haitian child. Awesome.

We also will keep learning about adoption challenges and joys; we’ll go to conferences and classes and make friends with adoptive families and Haitian- Americans. We’ll update our home study twice, we’ll renew our status with USCIS at least once, and we’ll keep doing foster care as the opportunities come along.

It’s not a setback, it’s a time of preparation. Time is on our side.

We’re also hoping that the wait on this side will result in IBESR becoming quicker and more coordinated on the other end! It would be really great if the time we’re waiting now ends up being the longest we’ll wait. Right now, families are waiting months and years for a referral and then months more after they are matched for the legal proceedings in Haiti to go through. Maybe, just maybe, the wait won’t be so long once we’re matched with our precious child.

And who knows? Perhaps the child that will become a Puelston has yet to be born. It would be just like God to put us in a holding pattern to save our dossier for “such a time”.

So there you have it. Lots of news, but no news. Lots of forward movement, and then a giant waiting room. Lots of grace from a loving God as we walk this winding, long and crazy road of adoption.