My People Are Home!

At least, some of them are. And the rest have plans to arrive soon. Let’s take a census, shall we?

Fiffer, Feffer, and Feff are still here, and they will stay here until the court removes them (possibly…eventually…to go back to their parents). After a couple of weeks of agonizing about moving them, when the time came, we simply couldn’t do it. It would have been hard enough if there had been a young couple eagerly waiting to pour their hearts into these three little people (our own dream). But, alas, that wasn’t the situation. The kids would have either been moved further away from their mother (making visits even harder to accomplish) or they would have been split up. And neither of these possible placements would have been permanent…which means…of course…that they would have been moved again in the reasonably near future. And if their parents don’t get them back? Well. Let’s just say that people aren’t beating down the door to adopt this many kids who are this old. At the end of the day, they’re ours. That’s what we’ve said from the beginning, and that’s what we still believe. We had a moment (or a couple of weeks) of doubting, but we’re solid now. They’re here to stay.

Dillon is also still here. And he, too, is going to stay…much to his dismay. School started great but has been getting rough…both academically and socially. His attitude at home has been pretty rough too…although we did have two consecutive days this past week of normal, human behavior, so we’re hopeful. He has wrestling practice this morning and community service all afternoon…so that should kill his Saturday…which is notoriously a hard day for him. There is hope.

Hayden is still here, as well. She is laughing her way through life…alleluia. Although she’s had some little hiccups at work lately, things are looking up there. Besides work, she’s busy with school, guitar lessons, orchestra practice, Home Stretch Club, and volunteering at the nursing homes and a group home for the mentally handicapped. She continues to be a tender hearted, hysterical kid…the family funny bone.

Josiah, Quincy, and Tom arrived about midnight last night, and we stayed up with them until 2:00, eating snacks and visiting. College life seems to be agreeing with all three of them, and we’re all looking forward to having them home (Josiah and Quincy will be here all week; Tom will be here until Tuesday). The little kids have big plans for them, but I think we’ll let them sleep for a while this morning:)

Zach, Raven, and Sophia should be here for lunch tomorrow and then for part of Thanksgiving Day. Due to a variety of circumstances, we haven’t seen them for a few weeks, so we’re excited to catch up with them. We saw Raven at the grocery store yesterday evening, and she said that Sophia took her first steps this week. Hard to believe she’s that old already!

Haley should be arriving in the wee hours of Wednesday night/Thursday morning. After an overdose two weeks ago, she has been in a hospital in Buffalo, getting stabilized and getting a start on the help she needs. Although plans to go out there have been thwarted, we have talked to her every day (a rare treat). She hopes to be discharged today and move in with different roommates. Then it’s on to the difficult work of healing and changing. We wish she could do all of this closer to home but trust that she has some support in place for herself.

Sam and Reva (my dad and his wife), Erich and Jeanette (Jason’s parents), and Amy and Ellie (my sister and niece) should all be arriving Wednesday afternoon/evening. We can’t wait. I know I say this about every holiday, but I love Thanksgiving…the full house and the full plate…life doesn’t get much better.


“I don’t even know that kid anymore!”

That’s what Quincy said recently about her “little” brother, Josiah. Why? Because our studious, somewhat quiet, hard-working young man…while remaining studious, somewhat quiet, and hard-working…is also becoming more and more of his own person. He is growing and changing during this first semester of college…just like he’s supposed to do. He’s meeting new people, joining new activities, and trying out new things. He’s going to dances (“and actually dancing,” Quincy says), he’s helping with youth group lock-ins at area churches, he’s playing in a praise band, he’s running around town and Lincoln, and he and a few of his buddies have formed a rock band. Here are a couple of pictures that I stole from the band’s facebook page

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Man, I love that kid.

Catching Up

Several people have asked, so here’s the lowdown on the current issues at the Rensner house…

Dillon started school at Effingham High School this past Monday, his dream come true. Over the course of four and a half days (Wednesday was a half-day), his verdict has been mostly favorable. Unfortunately, this is the third school he’s started in a little over a year, so we know this drill. Right now the kids all love him, the teachers are so nice, and when he does make mistakes (like being late to class) people understand and give him a break. We’ll see how long it lasts.

At home, over the course of the past five days (Wednesday’s half-day bought us more quality time), the verdict has been mostly far from favorable. The attitude that he has carried for a while now has only worsened in his time away. Without going into details (which are boring and repetitive), he fully expects this to be his very own furnished house, complete with maid service. He should be able to come and go as he pleases. In Dillonland, a social life is a right, not a privilege (earned by passing grades and decent behavior). While everyone should ooze unfaltering patience with him, he should be allowed to ignore people who are speaking to him, or (if not that) simply grunt in response. Money should be doled out whenever he has a whim for something new (almost daily). We should drive him wherever and whenever he wants to go, with no regard to anyone else’s schedule (He insisted on this one too many times this week, so he will be on the school bus come Monday morning…the school bus that comes by our house at 7:10 a.m. Logical consequences, baby boy.) Things like healthy eating and tooth brushing are kid stuff, and he is above them (For those of you thinking that I should pick my battles, I am. These are available to him, but I’m not going to the mat. However, I’m not funding a lunch of Mountain Dew…and when/if the dentist bill is out of hand, he will pay part of that out of his own money. Those pesky logical consequences again.) Anyway, since Jason and I don’t see the world in quite the same way he does, the tension around here is pretty palpable at times. He spends a lot of time in his room right now, not because we send him there, but because we insist on decent behavior if he’s going to be around people. And, yes, I count as a person too. So. Much. Fun.

The Fs are still with us. This has undoubtedly been the hardest and most painful decision we have ever had to make in our lives, and their continued presence is not helping. We finally got a call from the caseworker yesterday, though. Right now, they have a home for all three of them, but it’s even further north than we are, so that’s not desirable. Closer to their hometown, they have one home for Fiffer and another for the little boys…splitting them up…also not desirable. They’re making a last-ditch effort to find a home through a private agency, but if that doesn’t turn anything up, they will indeed be split up. I hate that because I know it will scare them to death initially. After the initial shock, though, I can see advantages to them being split up, at least for a time. We are praying, praying, praying for God to put them in a place (or places) that are the very best for them…soon (Dillon’s presence continues to convince us that that best-for-them place isn’t here with us anymore).

Through this all (and I’m not trying to be a drama queen), our friends and family have been beyond marvelous. (Honestly, this topic deserves a blog post of its own, but I just haven’t been making the time lately, so I’m squishing a lot into this morning’s post.) My sister has listened so much that I’m sure her ears have been bleeding at times. Jason’s dad (a very quiet man) also offered him incredibly meaningful words of encouragement over the phone. A dear friend from church brought over flowers and a hug earlier this week (I’m kicking myself for not snapping a picture) and has texted several times this week, asking for updates. Another dear friend from church has been in constant communication via facebook message, checking up on all of us as things progress. Other dear friends have insisted that Jason and I come to a local event tonight to “escape” for a while (and they bought our tickets…and they offered up their daughter to serve as Hayden’s babysitting assistant…poor child). Yet another dear friend (and former college classmate) gave a hug and an ear in the middle of Walmart (although she was horrified that I was wearing a CUW t-shirt at the time). Another former classmate caught Quincy after church (in Seward, of course) last Sunday and told her they had been praying for all of us. And then there’s this…from a college classmate of mine…I started reading her blog…and then she started reading my blog…and we’ve reconnected after all these years…and we got this in the mail from her and her family…


In case you can’t read the note (because of the less-than-stellar photography), it says, “If we were wealthy, we would send you to a sunny beach for some R & R. If we were nearby we’d bring you a casserole or take you out for coffee. Since neither is true, here is a very small piece of both. Thank you for caring for the Fs. Now take care of yourselves. Well done, good and faithful servants!” I was teary as I finished the note and turned to the contents…which were…these…which are certainly more than “a very small piece.” So overwhelming.


Thank you so much to everyone! Again I’m wowed by the Body of Christ. Alleluia.

Running Into the Fire

Feff is terrified of thunderstorms. Absolutely terrified. So it’s no surprise for us to be awakened by a clap of thunder followed by panicked screaming as he races to our room. Bless his heart.

But one night last week he varied his routine in a heart-melting way. I jolted awake to the thunder myself and then staggered out of bed as I heard him shrieking our way. Yes, here he came, hands clasped tightly over his ears, and his terror at high volume. But then he stopped. Right in the middle of the hallway that separates our room from the boys’. With his hands still clutching his ears and his face wet with tears, he frantically screamed at his brother, “Feffer (obviously, he used his real name)! Feffer! Hurry up!

Be still my heart. Such love. Such courage. Such sacrifice.

It almost makes you forget that they spend 90% of their time arguing/fighting/tattling/punching.

Brothers. You can’t beat ’em.


I’ve been arguing all week. A few times, I’ve been arguing with actual flesh-and-blood people. True, they weren’t arguing; it was just me. Someone would say something like, “Well, it’s probably about time you gave them back. You’ve hung in there longer than I ever could have” and I would respond, “Give them back?! They’re not kittens! How can we give them back?!” Or someone would say, “Oh, I hate to hear that the kids are moving! That has to be so painful and confusing for them!” and I would respond, “You don’t think I know that?! But it’s not just about them! It’s painful and confusing for us too! And we have to think about everybody involved, not just them!” And the poor people (who were just trying to be sympathetic) would mumble, avoid eye contact, and move on.

Most of the time, though, these arguments were just taking place in my own head, between the myriad of personalities that live in there. To say that this has been a tough week would be an understatement. Except for the weeks surrounding my mother’s death, I have hands-down cried more than at any other time in my life. And the mental gymnastics?! Oy. We made this decision Monday night. Then we made it again Wednesday night. Then I called Jason in a panic from Wisconsin on Friday, and we made it again. He has been an absolute rock, but I’m pretty sure he’s considering changing his cell phone number.

The bottom line is: I. Hate. This. I feel embarrassed and ashamed when I have to tell people that this is what we’re doing. Do I think we are making the right decision? No, I don’t. I don’t really think there is a right decision. We’re between a rock and a hard place. Both choices lead to pain for a lot of people. Do I think we are making the best decision? Yes, I think we are. But I might change my mind in an hour…and then change it back. Good or bad, right or wrong, the decision is made. A huge part of me thinks that if I just could have been stronger and handled things better, things wouldn’t have come to this. But they have. For my own peace of mind (and maybe to save Jason and my sister at least one more teary phone conversation), here are the reasons:

  1. The investigation. Yes, it’s over. Yes, it was unfounded. But it scared the crap out of us. While we want to believe that our innocence would always be maintained, the damage to our reputation frightens us.
  2. The kids are getting harder, not easier. I don’t know why this is. I feel like, as their mom does a little better, she’s egging them on by promising that they won’t be here long. We’re back to a lot of defiance and dishonesty…things we thought we had gotten a grip on. We are weary.
  3. Dillon is home, and it really isn’t good for the kids to be around him very much. He is toxic right now. Honestly, it’s not good for any of us to be around Dillon very much. We’re thinking about giving him the house and calling it even:)
  4. The emotion of the investigation has revealed chinks in our relationships with our own kids. They are weary, too. They miss us and sometimes feel like we’re too busy with the littles to give them the time and attention they need and want. Painful to hear, but true.
  5. The emotion of the investigation has revealed chinks in our marital relationship, as well. Jason rightfully pointed out that he and I have been “dividing and conquering” for so long that it sometimes feels now like we’re just “dividing,” and that’s not good either.
  6. I’m no longer terrified that they’ll be separated. In fact, I’m not sure it wouldn’t be a good thing…at least for a time. They feed off of one another’s rage right now, and it’s not healthy for them.

So. There it is.

As for the littles, they are hanging in there. Undoubtedly, Feff is the most heartbroken. He has said several times that he just wants to stay with us forever, which kills us every time. But, then, because of his youth and personality, he’s the most loving of the three…and the most easy to love. I have every hope that he will adjust relatively easily. The other two are sad too…I’m sure. Their grief is coming out in anger (complete with a lot of swear words) and greed (Can we take that with us? What about that?)…so charming. We have had a lot of extra cuddles with all of them, and we have had countless conversations about how none of us should let our grief and anger (legitimate emotions) make us act in ways that we will regret later. We are talking about ways to say goodbye to their school friends.

We are expecting a call either Monday or Tuesday to set up the details of moving them. We are hoping it will be this week, because the suspense is hard on all of us. The plan is that we will work with the new foster home(s) to make the transition as smooth as possible. Please continue to pray…for the kids, for the new home(s), and for us.

A Falcon?

We almost didn’t go. After all, it’s been a pretty rotten week around here…a lot of chaos, a lot of emotions. Poor Jason has been a rock, but it seemed terrible to leave him juggling all of it so that Hayden and I could go to Wisconsin for a couple of days.

However. He insisted. Hayden needed it. Everything had already been arranged. So we went.

It. Was. Fabulous. I didn’t want to like it. After all, I’m a huge fan of CUNE. That’s where I went; that’s where Haley, Quincy, and Josiah have gone; that’s where so many of my friends now live; we’re Bulldogs around here.

At least we were. Hayden is far from making an official decision, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if she decided to become a CUW Falcon instead. She has some swag to prove it (and…OK…I admit it…I have a t-shirt…and…OK…a sweatshirt…because it was on sale and I needed a sweatshirt anyway…really).

So…a few cool things about CUW…

First, they’re as Christ-centered as CUNE…which is a top priority for all of us.

Second, the campus is just beautiful. The college used to be located in downtown Milwaukee, but they bought this campus from the Notre Dame nuns back in the 1980s. The chapel is simply beautiful…very “Catholic” with all the stained glass windows and stations of the cross. And there are underground tunnels connecting every building (except one) on campus. The students can go from dorm to classroom to cafeteria to library…all in their shorts and flip-flops…in the dead of winter…pretty cool. The whole system seemed like a maze to me, but the girl leading our tour told us it took her about a week to figure it all out.

Third (and this is probably true at lots of campuses…we’ve just started looking), the major seems just perfect. Hayden has been vacillating between Early Childhood Education and Special Education, but it turns out she can do a double-major…and still graduate in 4 1/2 to 5 years. Perfect.

Fourth, the dorms are pretty interesting. The freshman girls’ dorm isn’t air-conditioned (boo), and each room houses 3 or 4 girls (which seems weird), but hey…it’s the freshman dorm…we weren’t expecting the Taj Mahal (as it seems some of the kids and their parents were). However, the upperclassman dorm is gorgeous. Each kid has their own (little) room, and then four of them share a bathroom and living area..and the dorm overlooks the lake…pretty awesome. There’s free laundry on campus (a difference from CUNE), and each room comes with its own mini-fridge (another difference).

Finally, there’s this…

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The campus is located right on Lake Michigan. They have a beach area with a big spot for a bonfire, and steps and a trail leading down to the shore. The trip down the stairs was a breeze. The trip up (we took one little flight of stairs and then the switchback trail…repeat…and repeat…and…) was a pretty good workout. I kept telling Hayden I was just stopping to take another picture, but we both knew that was a lie. Hayden loved it too and wants to come back there for her senior pictures (that 5 1/2 hour drive didn’t seem to daunt her).

We actually skipped three sessions to spend some time at the lake, a fact that mortified one of our tour-mates (a very uptight mom with a very uptight first-born daughter). I tried to explain that this is our fourth child entering college, and the sessions on financial aid, graduate programs, and athletics weren’t necessary for us, but her eye roll and sniff of indignation communicated her feelings quite clearly. Hayden and I exchanged a few eye rolls of our own (as well as a few giggles).

The trip home was long (gotta love that city traffic) but good. Hayden texted Quincy and Josiah so that they could be together when she called him. The (good-natured) trash talk and rivalry started right away, and there was a lot of laughing on both ends of the phone.

Just what this mama’s heart needed to hear.

Our Bedrock

There’s a lot of shifting sand at the Rensner house right now. The Fs will be moving soon, Dillon is home but in limbo (I’ll write more about him soon), I’m preparing to start working more hours, etc. But in the midst of all the changes, these things remain unchanged:

  1. God is with us. Emmanuel is walking every step of this road right beside us. One of our songs for the Sunday School Christmas program this year is Casting Crown’s “God Is With Us.” I have been singing these lyrics all week: “Love is raining down on the world tonight. There’s a presence here I can tell. God is in us, God is for us, God is with us…Emmanuel. He’s the Savior we have been praying for. In our humble hearts He will dwell. God is in us, God is for us, God is with us…Emmanuel.”
  2. Nothing can separate any of us from the love of God. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
  3. Oh…and one more thing…Dillon is not at all happy with the “service” around here.

So. At least we know where we stand.