Earlier this week, a virtual Christmas card landed in my email box. It was written by my friend, Kaitlin Musser, and included some gorgeous family photos, alongside a recap of her year. After reading it, I immediately asked if I could post it because Kaitlin's year was a bit different than most people's. She and her husband Charlie adopted a daughter named Honey several years ago, they have been foster parents in the past, and are currently volunteering as a Host Family for an organization called Safe Families, which means many children come in and out of their lives all year long. Some kids stay with the Mussers Monday thru Friday and then go home to their biological parents for the weekend. Some only stay a few days, while others will end up living with them for months.
The reasons these kids need to leave their parents varies. Some families are experiencing financial crisis, unemployment, or homelessness. Some are being raised by single mothers or fathers because their other parent is incarcerated, suffering from drug addiction, or mental illness. Rather than placing these children in Foster Care, as would normally happen,the Safe Families organization intercedes to provide a massive support network, allowing struggling parents to have the necessary time and space to get back on their feet. As the website states, "In the past, extended family or neighbors stepped in to help families in crisis by caring for their children for short periods of time. Today, however, many families are socially isolated, and their extended family is nonexistent, unavailable, or unable to help."
All these little ones have made a mark on Kaitlin's life, so she wrote them each a few sentences explaining how they have touched her. She has graciously allowed me to post her Christmas card here:
"Hello family and dear friends,
This seems to be the time of year for beautiful Christmas cards and letters showing glimpses of the time passed. As I began to consider our year and its many adventures, I admit the task of explaining it seemed daunting and overwhelming. Then an idea slowly twirled together: If I want to tell people about our life, then I need to tell them about our kids. As some of you know, Charlie and I have compiled our family together through 7 years of foster care, Safe Families, power of attorney, and acting as God parents. This Christmas, I want to share all of it with you. I want to share with you my family. I want to share with you my year. I want to share with you my life. So here we go:
Honey (age 6)
Our number one. Our forever child. The only one we were blessed to be able to adopt. You are everything and more. You are sweet, sassy, caring, and compassionate. You are funny and generous. You truly are a light in the world and I am absolutely, hands down in love with you.
Ryan (age 8)
You were 18 months old when we met you. You were full of energy, had little language, and enjoyed throwing a book or two. You introduced us to the country of Morocco and the world of behavioral therapy. After the first time you kissed me, all those other times you had hit me meant very little.
Sarah (age 2)
You brought us back into the world of social justice and families in crisis. After Ryan was reunified with his mom, I needed a break to recover and truly believed I would never welcome more children into our home. But you, Sarah, changed it all. You were 9 months when you first snuggled yourself to sleep on my chest and now you are two and half and thriving with your soon-to-be adoption mother. Always quick to laugh and quick to make your preferences known, my dear Sarah you are a gift that paved the way for so many more.
Jeremy (age 2)
Of the 28 months you have been on this earth you has lived 12 of those with us. We've celebrated your first and second birthday. We watched your first steps and taught you your first word. You are a Star Wars obsessed goof ball who is educating us about auto immune diseases and living a life allergic to basic food ingredients. You and honey are two peas in a pod. Knowing you has brought a new knowledge of love.
Ezeckiel (age 3)
One of the most compassionate little men I have ever met. Upon pick you up, your mother dearly embraced me and has become a source of comfort and encouragement. A bit more reserved and hesitant at first, you warm up quickly with your long, lush curls and happy, simple grin.
Anani (age 5)
Anani is my girl. I love cuddling your delicate frame and laughing at your little life jokes. You are stuck in the tension of too many responsibilities and the yearning to just run and play too many games. You are Honey's partner in crime and both of your late night giggles echo way too late into the night. The oldest of four you understand all to well the burden laying on your bird-like shoulders. I will help you carry it my love. I will help you.
Cahda (age 2)
A tiny, delicate doll. A fiery, petite little Miss. You spent only a few days with us and the unpredictable stability of your life revealed itself in frightened tears. Such a tiny girl you are, having to face the world with ginormous bravery.
Lorena (age 3)
My beautiful Lorena. How I miss the way you whispered "I love you" in my ear and how your eyes would sparkle. You wanted to be brave so very badly. You fought your tears and would softly speak your fears so only I could hear. I loved brushing your hair as you took in your life story as an elegant stoic. My Lorena, you truly are beautiful .
Elijah (age 2)
Such a rough-and-tumble, take-no-victims boy. You know you are simply adorable and you know how to use your charms to your advantage. Stubborn yet sweet, defiant yet delicious, you steal hearts and hold hopes. Such a boy with many plans for grandeur hidden up your sleeves.
Story (age 2)
What a mystery you are. At nine months, you brought us back to the basic sleep survival of caring for a newborn. Even with no peace at night, you brought peace in the day. An easily- entertained soul who simply enjoyed being held in a carrier and shown the bright large world. Even now at two and a half, sleep for you is still is this great unknown, but your calmness and serenity seem to somehow breath through your life without a tear lost.
Joseph (age 3)
The first day we had you you took a massive bite out of Honey. But now, a year and a half later, you give more kisses then anything else. An adorable, strong-willed sweetheart, you can fully frustrate me one minute only to melt my heart the next. My god son.
Celia (age 4)
A little girl lost in her head. On the spectrum for autism, the way you see the world is vastly different from those around you and it makes you easily over looked. Then every once in a while, the quiet self-containment breaks way and the epic, need to be seen erupts. A beautiful child with rose-colored hair who has seen many things, but has no words to share. One day I hope to hear your story from your view and in your words. My god daughter.
Micheal (6 mnths)
A younger brother only six months old. You are figuring out your place as your life already proves to be unreliable in its stability. My god son.
Kenya (9 months)
Oh Kenya, you are a doll. Always happy and always smiling that big, toothless grin. As the youngest sibling of four, your positive nature will help you survive.
Taro (age 2)
Never give up on Taro. The second to oldest, you tend to be classified as trouble and pushed aside for your younger siblings. But motivating that thrill for attention is a thrill to be everyone's friend. You are the first to take my hand and the last to run off and play. I see your sensitivity sneaking itself behind all your boyish toughness. Never give up on Taro.
Aaron (4 months in January)
Mr. Aaron, I love you so. So smart. So very very smart. The world is a platform to learn and red is your favorite color, spelled R-E-D. I love the love you have for life. Endless bounds of energy compiled with endless bounds of joy. You are articulate and clever; you are hilarious and kind. When you enter a room the heaviness lifts, and you find authentic glee. Pure and heavenly glee. My god son.
Landon (age 3)
You were in our care very briefly when poor choices made caused you to leave us unexpectedly. I barely heard you speak a word and I always wondered what you would say.
Jacob (age 3)
Such a handsome and heartbreaking boy. Such a mamma's boy with energy and a sneaky smile to boot. Your capacity to love everyone around you is contagious. Every time I see you, I feel my smile grow larger and my heart swell just a tiny bit more.
Jessica (age 3)
You my darling know what you want and I am fully convinced you will get it. Not a girly girl; yet, you pull out nail polish and a Barbie just to keep everyone guessing. Hilariously clever girl that you are, you may be the younger sister, but are fearful of little and ready to conquer.
Brianna (age 8)
All high heels and sass, you seemed more mature than your seven years. An artfully-crafted beauty, you lean over with stories of wonder and tales that bring laughter. Your intellect reveals the truth of the broken world, and the way you pause to take in your surroundings reveals a hidden pain underneath.
Rionna (age 4)
Slow to warm up and even slower to let go. A quiet yet sweet spirit. You keep your secrets to yourself.
Zionna (age 2)
The opposite of your sister, your nature is fearless and vast. The world is yours to discover and you let little stand in your way.
Zaylon (age 3)
Although you are only three, your tall and strong build suggests you are at least six. You have a large sense of duty and have been handed responsibilities no babe should be given. Yet, your high energy and laughter show glimpses of the child beneath the serious role you are filling in your family.
Zuriel (age 1)
A tiny, fearful soul. A hesitant and weary darling. Along with your brother you are piecing together life in such a broken world.
Life is good and thank you for sharing it with us! Merry Christmas,
Charlie, Kaitlin, and Honey Musser"
To learn more about your local chapter of Safe Families and how you could be involved, check out their website here.