Family Life, foster care

How You Can Support Foster Families

One night this week I was overcome with anxiety. Getting in my car seemed a little dramatic so I left the baby with my husband and ran downstairs to the garage. A room I particularly loathe due to the abundance of camel crickets and lawn equipment.

I crouched down and held onto the side of the old stroller and sobbed. At times my breath came in gasps and I wondered if I was having a panic attack. I remembered how last year I would gag with nausea when things got particularly stressful as a foster parent. We were going through a difficult time with a teenage foster son.

I hadn’t felt nauseous in a while but I did that day after court for our foster baby. And as I sat on my ankles in that damp room, with the stacks of Bob Dylan CD’s and the rows of paint cans, I cried out. God. Don’t forsake me. Don’t hide your face from me. I cried until there were no more tears left.

Then I went back upstairs, got the baby ready for bed and read books with my daughter. I had felt like I couldnt breath but I took the next breath. And so the night went on.

I wrote the above last summer on my blog when we were going through a particularly difficult season as foster parents and I never published it. Maybe I didn’t want anyone to think I was losing my mind, though those closest to me knew how greatly the court case was affecting me. How much I cared for this little baby and what happened to him. I wanted him to be safe and I didn’t have that control. It’s a hard place to be and it can feel all-consuming.

As I write this today our foster baby is still with us and his case has greatly improved. So it feels like we are in a much better place. But for the past few years it’s been tough trying to fulfill this calling to help children in need.

Maybe you’ve thought about being a foster parent but you aren’t in that place right now. You might know how great the need is and want to help but aren’t sure how you can. I wanted to share three ways you can support foster families. Hopefully these ideas will give you a little insight into what a family in your group of friends, church or community might need.

1) Throw A Shower

Often foster families are licensed for more than one child or have decided they are open to receiving placements of different ages. So it’s nearly impossible to plan for every child who may come into your home. Often children arrive with nothing but a trash bag of clothes and sometimes they come without anything. We picked up our baby from the hospital and went home with only the outfit he was wearing and a bag full of blankets hospital volunteers had donated. We spent over $1000 that first week just getting basic things we needed. I was SO grateful for friends who gave me bags of baby clothes from their attics or sweet relatives who sent clothes or dropped by with an outfit or bottle warmer. We had less than 6 hours from the time we got the call to the time we brought baby home. So that’s not a lot of time to prepare.

Yes, maybe it feels strange to throw a shower for a child who could leave at any time. But foster parents are required to send anything bought for the child with the child if they leave- so not only are you helping a foster family but you are also helping a biological family in need. And, the stipend for foster care is low. Many assume it covers everything and foster families are set. Families who want to truly provide for the child in their home end up spending A LOT of their own money. As you do with your kids. And when kids are coming and going this can really tax a budget.

And isn’t every child worth celebrating? Hosting a quick get together is such a sweet and supportive way to show you care and are ready to embrace this new child. Don’t know the family well enough to give a party? Handing them a gift card is also a wonderful way to show your support. And is so appreciated.

2. Treat a New Placement like a New Baby

When your sister had a new baby you probably brought over a meal. Or maybe offered to babysit her other kids so she could get some rest. No matter what the age of the new foster child coming into the home, foster parents could use some help. Between trauma the child has experienced and getting no sleep because a child is scared of their new bed to signing up for new schools, going to new doctor appointments and navigating home visits, bio parent visits, shared parenting- all in the span of the first week- foster parents are exhausted. We had a couple from our church that we didn’t know well drop off a pot of soup and salad one night after we brought our foster baby home. We so appreciated the effort and thought. Can you become a respite babysitter? Often it just takes a background check and you are approved to babysit so the foster parents can take an evening off.

A call or text means so much and instead of saying, let me know how I can help (we’ll never let you know – it’s too awkward!) just say, I’m thinking of dropping off a pizza tonight in case ya’ll could use a break, is that ok? And this is also appreciated even when the child has been in our home for months. Sometimes that’s when a lot of foster parents can get burnt out trying to care for children from hard places. It often gets better- children get more settled, routines get established- but sometimes it gets worse.

Kids who are now in a safe place step out of survival mode and then the difficult behaviors start up. We’ve all navigated the tantrums in the store- but magnify that by 100 when trauma is involved. It can be hard and we need to know we are doing a good job. Once my sister mailed me a care package with the essential oil Valor in it. Just that name made me tear up. I wasn’t feeling brave- I was scared that foster care was becoming too hard. And her sending that made all the difference.

3) Watch Your Words

This one is hard, because I have had so many well-meaning people say hurtful things. And I know they didn’t mean to be hurtful! So I wanted to tread lightly- but still let you know what’s important to hear and not hear as a foster parent. First, we can’t share details of the bio families. So asking if the baby was born on drugs – or where the parents are- or what they did- it’s best just to avoid these questions. Especially in front of the kids. Even young kids can understand that it’s not normal to not be with their birth families. And questioning the details in front of them makes them feel like THEY aren’t normal. I had someone ask a previous teenage foster son how he liked his “new” parents. Actually, he would much rather have been with his “old” parent, his bio mom, and again- the question made him feel like there was something wrong with him.

I always introduce my foster kids as my sons or daughters. Because at that moment, that’s what they are. So when you are speaking to them or about them, treat them the same way. And let’s avoid the horror stories. The ones about friends who fostered or foster kids you read about in the news. Foster care is nuanced and every case is different. Just because you saw on CNN that a teenage foster child burned down the foster families house does not mean every teenager in foster care would do that.

Another question I get asked all the time is, are you going to adopt so- and- so? The reality of foster care is we often don’t know. And some families are fostering just to foster and not to adopt. Again- saying this in front of the child is a definite no. They know deep down that their futures are up in the air. Some want to be reunited with their birth families and some would like to adopted. But they don’t have a say in the matter and neither do we. So a better question would be, how can I pray for you?

And that leaves me with the last point, which I’ll just leave under this one. Pray! I cannot tell you how thankful I am for ALL the prayer warriors who pray with us and for us. Even people we don’t know well will let us know they are praying for us. It means more than you can know.

Support for foster parents can make all the difference in whether these families continue to foster or give up because it gets too hard. You play such an important role as supporter. I often think of my extended family as a foster family too- because they are helping and encouraging us and that’s a ministry in and of itself.

So thank you!


Family Life, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized

Why am I Thankful?

‘The more you practice the art of thankfulness, the more you have to be thankful for.” – Norman Vincent Peale

When I think about what I am most thankful for, it’s never anything I own. It’s always my family and friends. The people we do life with. The ones who get you through the hard times that make the good times so much sweeter. I’m thankful for my house but I am more thankful for the people inside who make it a home. I’m thankful for my car, but I am most thankful it gets me safely to North Carolina and Tennessee to spend time with family. I’m thankful for all of the Thanksgivings spent lingering around the table talking with loved ones, some who are no longer with us. I’m thankful for memories of Thanksgivings past. The tears my Grandfather Gordon always cried when the whole family gathered in my Grandparents’ kitchen and held hands as my Dad prayed. He was the only one who could get through a prayer without crying. My Grandfather always treasured seeing his family gathered together. It moved him to tears every holiday. I’m also thankful for Thanksgiving memories made with my in-laws. We’ve spent Thanksgiving at the beach, different houses; one year everyone crowded in our tiny three bedroom house to celebrate Thanksgiving and to celebrate the birth of my youngest daughter. Even with all us crammed in that tiny space my heart was so full.x

“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is. – Ernest Hemingway

So today, let’s list-actually write down or type out what we’re thankful for. List the little stuff…like the sunshine dancing on the floor, lighting up the room after a week of rain. Or the art work or photograph that makes you smile every time you walk by. The smell of something yummy cooking or the scent of some delicious takeout. I made a list to share of what I’m thankful for. As I wrote it, I felt like they say the grinch did, and my heart grew three sizes.

When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.‘ – Willie Nelson

What I’m thankful for.

A wonderful, amazing husband, two sweet girls and two loving eccentric old lady dogs.

A house that is now home. Fully renovated and repaired.

A tribe of amazing friends. I never thought I would have such amazing girlfriends in my life but I really do.

I have two sisters living in Georgia. One is only fifteen minutes away.


My bother- in -law is home safe after almost a year in Afghanistan.

This month I got to spend time with all four of my sisters. Really good quality time.

The beach.

I have three adorable nephews and three adorable nieces.

I’m thankful for my large shower. After ten years of trying to balance on one leg crammed in a corner, in our old house, this large shower still makes me happy.


I’m thankful for all the trees around our house that are gorgeous red and yellow colors.

Good food!

I’m thankful for a dinning room full of tropical house plants that make my heart sing when I walk by.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to homeschool our girls.

Sushi and sake.

I’m thankful for art, music and classical education.

I’m thankful for long summers and short winters.

I’m thankful for hard seasons that make sweet seasons even sweeter.

I’m thankful for my grandparents. I’m thankful my daughters got to meet all four of them and still get to spend time with my Memom and Granddaddy Wilder.

I’m thankful for my huge extended family.

I’m thankful for the 13 foot Christmas tree my husband picked out in true Griswold style.

I’m thankful for the men and women serving our country.

For the missionaries spending their Thanksgiving in a different country away from their family.

I’m thankful for Whole Foods bakery making gluten free pecan pie.

I’m thankful for a pool where we made so many good memories with friends and family this summer.

I’m thankful I can call my mom whenever I want to.

I’m thankful my youngest daughter is so creative.

I’m thankful my oldest daughter is a little scientist.

I’m thankful God is the same God who created the world, changed the hearts of kings and then sent us His Son.

I’m thankful for forgiveness and salvation.

I’m thankful I’m the daughter of the Most High Warrior.

I’m thankful my kids love Jesus.

I’m thankful for coffee.

I’m thankful for extra thick memory foam on a king sized bed.

I’m thankful for sparkle lights .

I’m thankful for Christmas.

I’m thankful for Disney World. And being able to be a kid again.

I’m thankful for my wonderful family I was blessed with when I got married. Now I can say I have six sisters.

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Maya Angelou

I am thankful for you, reading our blog each week and coming along on this journey with us. Comment and tell me some of things you’re thankful for this year and if you’re already decking the halls or waiting until after Thanksgiving to decorate.

” What if today, we were just grateful for everything?” – Charlie Brown

I wanted to share some pictures of the people and things I’m thankful for. Post some pictures what you’re thankful for in the comments!


Family Life, Seasonal, Thanksgiving

11 Topics for your Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving meals can be both fun, joyeous and somewhat predictable. We all come prepared to answer the lovable questions of “what are you up to now? How is school? What are your plans?” These questions are sweet and asked out of politeness and curiosity and while some of us may jump at the opportunity to talk about our plans, some of us may not feel as enthusiastic about providing boring answers. I love family and the wonderful occasion of gathering together and catching up on life. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. We are reminded of what life is all about. What really matters. We get to eat and eat and eat wonderful delicious homemade food! And while Thanksgiving may look different for everybody, I think we all long for that sense of community and fellowship.

We’ve put together some table topics for you to enjoy using at your own Thanksgiving gathering this year. Table topics can be a fun way to encourage everyone to share and to share about things that everyone can be interested in. They help us to remember why we celebrate Thanksgiving. Simply copy and paste these on note cards that you can tuck under everyone’s plate at the table. When everyone has eaten enough to start carrying on conversation, interrupt to explain you’ve hidden a card under each plate and you’d like each person to take a turn answering the question. Then allow everyone else to briefly chime in and share their own answer to your question.

1. What has happened to you this year that makes you thankful?

2. What makes Thanksgiving special to you?

3. If you had to eat one Thanksgiving dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?

4. What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?

5. What’s the most unusual food you’ve eaten on Thanksgiving?

6. Name any movie where they celebrate Thanksgiving.

7. Describe your perfect Thanksgiving.

8. Who are you most thankful for? Who has had the greatest impact on your life?

9. What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition? And why?

10. What hard thing that has happened to you this year, that you have learned and grown from , are you thankful for?

11. What are some of God’s promises that make you thankful?

Happy Thanksgiving from Iris+Hart, in particular Cate, Nancy and Lauren. We hope each of you have a fun and memorable time with family and friends. We are thankful for each of you.

Enjoy your conversations with each other and let’s us know how it went. We love hearing from each of you.

**Possible answers for number 6: The Blind Side, Home for the Holidays, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving etc.

Family Life

My Fifth Wedding

December 8th is a very important event in our family’s life.  Our fifth and last daughter is getting married.  It was kind of funny that my husband’s concern  about having five girls wasn’t how to provide for their education or the extra curricula activities or even all the sets of braces they needed, but the weddings!  He saw dollar signs at the mere mention of the words “I do”.  But you know what, he’s been such a trooper, such an amazing father as he helped to plan and yes, pay for each wedding.  The number one thing we did, after all the champagne popping, was to set a budget.  Each daughter had a certain amount of money that we’d provide for their dream wedding.  Next, I would sit down with the bride -to-be and ask her to describe  the wedding of her dreams.  I’d write it down to refer back to it amidst the wedding planning to see if we were on track or not. And of course not everything they wanted was possible, but we tried.

Each of our daughters is unique and therefore had different priorities. For one daughter  the dress was very important, another it was the invitations or the venue and so on.  One thing we learned is that it doesn’t take a ton of money to throw a beautiful wedding but it does take a community of people.  Our people pitched right in for sure, from my wonderful sisters to my special group of friends.  They all willingly gave of their time and talents.  And for that we are extremely grateful. It’s been a privilege and honor to reciprocatefor their daughters’ weddings as well.

Back to our December wedding, Nan is the bride and Perrin, her groom.  We are so happy to be gaining another son-in-law.  Truly, we love each of our “sons”.  Also having married children is the best!  Hey you eventually get grandkids too!  Nan and Perrin are getting married at a small horse farm down the road from us.  It’s where Nan had one of her first jobs, feeding the horses when the owner was on vacation or helping out with the never ending farm chores.  It’s an important place to her and the owner calls Nan her “farm daughter”.  We are excited to hold the wedding there, but it is not a wedding venue.  It won’t cost us anything, but it will take some creative and hard work on all our parts to make this a memorable day for the couple in love.

The first task is building a bathroom.  Hart, my hubbie, and Perrin, the groom are very handy guys.  They have undertaken  this task.  Last Saturday after a trip to Lowes, they were in the driveway sawing and hammering away.  They have the basic shell up and I can’t wait to see it.  But of course as nature would have it, we are in the midst of a major hurricane, Michael, as I write this.  So there have been trips to the farm to make sure the structure is protected from the storm.  I’ll be posting pictures of it as I make my way over there to photograph their progress. Just in case your curious as to why there is no bathroom at the farm, Bayberry Farm is a hobby farm and not where the owner lives, so that’s why there are no facilities (ie. no house)  on the premises.  Her dream is to live there in the near future.

We will set up tents for the reception.  Nan wants long tables with lots of greenery down the middle.  Since it is a small affair we will use my mix matched china plates and crystal glasses, cloth napkins and lots of greenery and white twinkle lights everywhere.  There is an unfinished large log cabin on the property and we will have the food in there.  Since it is December we will have heaters in strategic places.  We are also collecting warm throws for the guests to use during the ceremony.  Weather permitting Nan wants a bonfire outside the tent for roasting marshmallows.  The food is the couple’s favorite dishes.  Smoked pulled pork, slaw and rolls, mac and cheese, an assortment of deviled eggs, salad etc.  We are serving broccoli cheese soup and tomato basil soup as an appetizer in my tea cups.  Nan has designed a very special cheese board, plus the best bacon wrapped dates you’ve ever had.  She also wants signature cocktails, wine and beer.  For dessert I am making a small wedding cake and we will have a variety of doughnuts and the smores of course!  I can’t forget the coffee and hot chocolate bar. It all sounds so delicious and romantic.

Nan decided on silk flowers because we can make them ahead of time and it will always be a keepsake for her.  Thirty-five years ago my mother-in-law was in the wedding flower business and she made all of my wedding bouquets from silk flowers.  It’s been special to use my bouquet as a centerpiece on our anniversaries and it’s a fond memory of June, especially since she passed away this past February.  I’ve been making bouquets and boutonnieres and corsages and the cutest flower girl fairy wands!  I adore working with silk flowers.  It is one of my hobbies.

Back in September when three of Nan’s sisters were in town we went to Lynchburg, Virginia to a wedding boutique.   Our second daughter, Claire got her gorgeous gown form this very special place.  It’s called Church Street Bridal. Proceeds from the sale of the gowns go to domestic violence prevention and intervention services.  This includes sheltering victims, helping them with legal counsel, and even training them to get back on their feet.  The store is located downtown Lynchburg in the YWCA.  Now isn’t that amazing?!  Not only are we buying a wedding dress but helping someone in need!  I love that!  The gowns are new samples that have never been worn, other than being tried on.  The prices range from 200.00 t0 900.00 but theyretail for 800.00 to in the thousands of dollars. Sometimes they even receive dresses that range in value between $10,000 to $30,000.  Again isn’t that amazing!  We have always had such a good experience there too.  The sales women are so nice and so excited for the bride as she searches for her special dress.  Once the bride declares that this is her dress the sales woman asks, “Are you saying yes to the dress?” and if she says yes, a bell is rung and everyone shouts.  It’s quite a wonderful moment for the bride who has dreamed of this moment her whole life.

Nan found a stunning lace dress that fit her perfectly.  She put it on and said, “I feel beautiful in this dress”.  It is a dress from Kleinfelds in NY, which is cool if you’ve ever watched “Say yes to the Dress”.  The dress she chose is made by designer RomonaKeveza and retailed for 3600.00 but we purchased this gown for 300.00.  Once again isn’t that amazing!  Nan also found her floor length veil there and we couldn’t all have been more ecstatic for her.  What a fun trip and the young grandgirls that went with us were in heaven. I’m not allowed to share pictures of Nan in her dress until after December 8th.  But I will you can be sure.

Each of our girls’ receptions have been a family and friend affair.  My sisters and I make all the food and my friends are so gracious as to serve it at the reception.  I have made each of their wedding cakes as well.  That tradition started many years ago when my three sisters were to be married.  My dad priced cakes, (my aunt made mine) and was aghast at the cost!  So he decidedthat he  and I could learn to make wedding cakes!  We signed up for a cake decorating class and guess who was the star of the class?  My dad.  He had such a steady hand that he could make icing roses perfectly.  The instructor gave us her no fail pound cake and frosting  recipes, and we were set to go.  We purchased the necessary cake pans and got to work.  Together we made around 4 or 5 cakes, some for friends.  He helped me make my oldest daughter’s wedding cake but after that he retired from cake making and I’ve been on my own.  I will say it is not my favorite thing to do.  I would not enjoy making wedding cakes for a living but I have enjoyed making cakes for my girls and a few close friends and family.  But after wedding #5 I think I’ll retire my cake making skills as well.  Yet who knows when I may get the urge to create another masterpiece down the road.

I’m already feeling sentimental as I am preparing for Nan’s big day.  My house will truly be empty of children, although she is 22 and going to college.  It just feels final.  Like the end of an era.   Don’t get me wrong, I’m so thrilled for each of my girls and it is right that they live their own lives.  And I do, and will enjoy time alone with the love of my life.  I am looking forward to it just being the two of us.  And I am super excited to take over Nan’s room!  It will become my work room for Iris + Hart!!  Now that’s exciting!

There will be more to come about the wedding and with pictures!  We are hoping and praying for  warmer temperatures for this event.  Isn’t life a celebration?  Every time I turn around its someone’s birthday or anniversary or some big milestone in their lives.  But truth be told, every day is worth celebrating.  And I for one am so thankful for my family and friends who celebrate with me.

What are you celebrating this fall or winter?

The Creative Home, Uncategorized

The Best Kept Beauty Secret

You see these words plastered all over magazines in the line at the grocery store. Empty promises to look and feel ten years younger. A product is usually tucked in there somewhere but the main idea is always this: wear sunscreen and drink lots of water. While this isn’t necessarily untrue (it does help!) Nobody is really buying that it will take ten years off your face and body. However, Dr. David Weeks, the neuropsychologist from the Royal Edinburg Hospital conducted a study that showed genetics were only 25% responsible for how young we look and feel and that the rest is linked to behavior. So what is the magic formula, the well kept beauty secret that will restore youth and luster to our lives?


Togetherness. Gathering. Laughing. Smiling. In other words, being happy! “Oh great.” You might think. “How am I supposed to pull that off when I feel miserable?” It’s true that we don’t go through this life unscathed and some lives are significantly harder than others. Yet, studies show that the more we put a smile on our face, even if it is forced, our body responds to this with a boost in oxytocin levels. Oxytocin.

The hormone’s influence on our behavior and physiology originates in the brain where it’s produced by a structure called the hypothalamus and then transfers to the pituitary gland which releases into the bloodstream. Levels of oxytocin tend to be higher during social interaction. “It’s like a hormone of attachment, you might say,” said Carol Rinkleib Ellison, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Loomis, California and former assistant clinical psychiatry professor at the University of California, San Francisco. “It creates feelings of calm and closeness.”

When you gather with those you trust and love and learn to enjoy company and relax with company your oxytocin levels raise significantly. In fact, the more you laugh, kiss and interact with those you sincerely love the more you sleep better at night and your cortisol levels are lowered. Cortisol floods the body when you are stressed. This helps us take action when we find ourselves in a physically demanding situation and our fight or flight response takes over. However, our bodies have a difficult time discerning between stress from a scary event and emotional stress. Emotional stress also significantly increases cortisol in the body but what is worse, it stays there. Prolonged levels of stress disrupts nearly every system in our body. It can suppress our immune system, upset our digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It is also the worst thing for our complexion. In fact, stress hormones like cortisol are linked to wrinkles, says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist. What blocks cortisol? Oxytocin.

You might be thinking life is just too stressful to try to fight stress. We get that. Life isn’t easy. But we can make the most of any situation. We can choose to smile. We can choose to connect. If it is necessary we can choose to get help. What we cannot afford to do is isolate ourselves. A sense of community is very strong in many different cultures around the world. In fact, many cultures thrive and depend on community.


So the next time you are debating whether or not to have your loved ones over for dinner or to go that event with your best friend that you keep putting off, we highly recommend you do it. Loving others for their sake…and your own! We need each other!


By the way! Last week we had a giveaway!

We are excited about this new creation in our homemade shop!


This is a wonderful find for summertime decor, boys nursery or anyone who just loves the sea! This sign spells Salt Water on a beautifully “beach weathered” 12×16″ gray wooden sign. A handmade braided rope is attached for easy hanging.

We are happy to announce that Linda Gabbard is our winner of this sweet little sign!

If you would like to stay updated with more giveaways then join our circle! Joining our circle doesn’t mean we’ll be sending you daily emails (we don’t want to overwhelm you!) but it does mean you will be sent exclusive discount codes and exciting new product sneak peaks from time to time. Thanks for tuning in!

❤ Cate & Nancy