Category Archives: Fatherhood

Man Colds and Macho Society

Several years ago, a video came out portraying a “Man Flu”. It was emailed around (this may have been before YouTube was super popular, I have no brains for remembering dates), and it made its way to my dad’s email. I remember we gathered around the family PC where my dad showed us the video and we laughed and laughed! The video was hilarious, and as my dad will willingly admit, when he gets sick, he hibernates and displays some of the typical “man cold” symptoms, so it made the video extra funny for our family.

Throughout the years, I’ve made jokes about man colds, and heard many more women complain about this phenomenon on Facebook. When Milkman caught the first illness he had since we were in a relationship, we were counting down to our wedding day. I wanted to baby him and love on him and tend to his every whim, because my mom always babied us when we were sick, so it was second nature. However, Milkman didn’t require babying or piles of sympathy and tucking in. I think he humored me as I drove to his parent’s house after work and made him a favorite meal and stroked his feverish forehead, but he didn’t seem to be dying. I thought, “well! Maybe he’s just not that sick.” The next day he fainted from a fever, and broke open the skin on the bridge of his nose as he collapsed to the ground. I was so upset (both for him having been hurt and also because I was afraid that gash would ruin my very expensive wedding photos! I know, I know, shallow…) and also a little in awe. Here was a man. A man who was sick. A man who was pretty darned sick. And he didn’t have a man cold?! What gives? Isn’t this a biological thing? Don’t all men look death in the face as soon as they get the sniffles? This is what society was teaching me, so it must be true!

Now, throughout the last 6 years of marriage, Milkman has humored me and does let me care for him a little extra when he is sick. Everyone likes having special attention and care when they are unwell, right? The joke at our house is that I am the one who gets man colds. If I have a cold, you might as well put me out to pasture. Someone spoon feed me some soup and get me a cool compress! I’m not likely to survive the end of the week with the colds I get. Lucky for me, I have a husband who is expert at all things comforting and spoiling.

But it has made me ponder… how was the man cold invented? If not all men get it, it must not be a genetic predisposition. And the more I’ve thought about it, I think it has been a phenomenon created by macho-ism. How can that be? Macho men need nothing! They are manly and self sufficient. They don’t show weakness! Keep tracking with me here.

We live in a society that praises men who never break down, never need help, and never ask for directions. Men have to be strong (or at least appear that way) constantly. Men who admit depression are seen as weak, men who show affection towards their children are labeled effeminate, and men who cry? Well they must be sissies! 

This constant pressure to hold up a macho facade becomes increasingly difficult. But there is one time it’s okay for anyone to show weakness: when you are sick or hurting! Do women show weakness when sick? Sure we do. But it isn’t the last 11 months of emotions coming out at one time. Society has deemed its okay for women to show vulnerability. We can vent, ask a friend for help, go take a spa day– all with minimal judgment. But for some men, it seems the only time they can ask for some babying, some help, and get some pampering is when they are ill.

What if men get “man colds” because it’s the only chance they get to show they need help? What if we stopped expecting unwavering strength the other 51 healthy weeks of the year? What if we stopped making a huge deal out of our fathers, sons, and husbands needing a little pampering when they are sick, and just showed compassion without eyerolling? I can’t help but wonder if that would change the way we see the man cold, and dare I say it? Remove the stigma entirely!

So, the next time the man in your life is “dying” from the common cold, let it remind you to do a little something for him to decompress from time to time when he’s healthy again. Maybe we can change the narrative by just treating others with love, compassion, and being a safe place for people to turn to when they need to show a moment or two of weakness.

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In Between 

I’ve been quiet around here. It’s strange, and perhaps makes no sense, but the busier and more stressed I am, the more I tend to write. I suppose it’s a little escape, or, much like the pressure valve on my new instant pot (who else got one for Christmas??) a release from all the craziness that gets trapped inside when life is jam packed.

I’m in between. Our home for the last 2+ years is going to have the rent raised high enough that we can’t possibly afford to sign on another year. I’m packing up the house with out much of a clear picture of where we are headed next. We have reached one month without a Foster placement. Every day I wake up and wonder if today is the day we will get a call, and each day it doesn’t ring. 

But though I’m in between, I’m also soaking up the cuddles with my 3 bio kiddos. Captain is enjoying being read aloud to. We are currently working through Mr. Popper’s Penguins and just finished Little House in the Big Woods. I love how he tells Milkman about what we read later on. Mamitas is as sharp as ever. She’s a never ending source of Disney movie facts, and has a myriad of imaginary friends (one named Bubblegummy and another named after herself– who has an astonishingly similar life to her own.) Peachy is a wild child. Wordless jokes, funny faces, and the ability to play her parents like a deck of cards. She’s brilliant and every time she does something new (be it naughty or clever!) I am in awe of her.

And then there’s been time with Milkman. We’ve had 2 dates in the last month, as dates are hard to come by once we have another foster placement in our home. We’ve spent a lot of time talking, cuddling, and indeed– staring at our phones waiting for a call. 

We feel the same way. Thankful that we haven’t gotten a call while our own kiddos have been sick almost constantly this cold and flu season. Thankful for the time spent focusing on our children, and on our marriage. But also mourning the empty room in our home, just waiting for someone else to take it over.

We know God’s timing isn’t our own. We know patience is the key to surviving fostering, whether you have a full or empty home! We know that the right child will be here when the right time comes. 

But in the moment, we feel very much in limbo. Very much in between. 

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One Last Week

One week from today, I will be waking up to your cries for the last time. We will be wearing you in your favorite carrier for the last time. When it is time to go, your temporary siblings will kiss you and say goodbye–not really understanding what it all means. 

I will take you to your new home. I’m not sure how I will be able to say goodbye. I can’t even imagine turning my back after I have kissed you for the last time. As cliché as it sounds, how do you willingly leave a part of your heart behind?

I will go home and while my house will be filled with the sound of 3 young children, it will be too quiet without your steady snoring underneath my chin and you will not be asleep strapped close to my heart. There will be no bottles to heat, wash, or sanitize. Your bassinet will sit empty in the living room. Your clothes will sit cold in their drawers in the nursery. The Rock’n’play still and undisturbed by chubby toddler hands trying to rock you to sleep. There will be no middle of the night bottles to feed you, no songs to sing to you. 

I will worry that you aren’t swaddled how you like, that you aren’t buckled in your seat properly, that you aren’t held in just that special position we’ve found you like. I will wonder if you are confused by your new environment, by the new people in and out of your day, the new sounds, smells, and environment. I will pray constantly that you are safe, loved, and well-cared for.

I’m sure for a week or two I’ll come across a tiny sock, a burp cloth, or a renegade pacifier and the loss will wash over me afresh. My children will see my weep. They will learn what it is to give sacrificial love. They will learn that defending the fatherless is a hard but worthwhile job. They will learn how to mourn, how to grieve. They will learn that loving as the Father loves is a great risk. Just as their father and I are learning.

But for the next week, I will hold you close, I will give you an extra kiss every night before bed and tell you it’s from your mama, I will sing to you, call you by the nickname you will no longer hear once you leave, and rub my cheek against your fuzzy little head, soaking it all in, before you are taken away and we never see you again…

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Transitioning 

visitation days 

You look like you

You cry like you

You smile like you

But you don’t smell like you

You smell like them

And soon you’ll be part of them

And not part of us

And a little part of my heart will break off in your hand

And you’ll take a little of me

And a little of them

And you’ll be all of you

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Willing to Risk

To be a Foster parent does not take incredible strength, it does not take super powers, or special gifts. The right timing isn’t needed, nor is a perfect home. It does not require great wealth, a heart of gold, or above average patience.

What fostering takes is much simpler. It takes the ability to love someone who needs love, when you aren’t sure if that love will be reciprocated or how long that love will last. So, it basically takes what you need for any relationship, whether it be of a romantic, friendly, or parental nature, as my friend Jessica put it to me today, it’s being willing to risk a piece of your heart. 

One thing I hear from a lot of people is, “Wow, you foster? I could never do that, I would get too attached.” It’s always such a strange statement to me, as nothing in life is ever certain. I suppose we could say the same thing when people get married: “you pledged your life to someone? Man, what if s/he dies and leaves you a young widow? I could never do that, I would get too attached.” And the same goes for friendships and biological children. Getting too attached isn’t really the problem of fostering, because as a foster parent you SHOULD get “too attached.” 

If you loved everyone you love with a guard up to keep you from getting too attached, you would not know real love. Loving people is always a gamble. But it’s what we are made to do and called to do. 

I some times wonder if people think you have to be a robot to be a foster parent. Foster parents aren’t people who have a special switch they can turn on and off that keeps them from getting too attached. By saying *you* couldn’t do it because *you* would get too attached, insinuates that I don’t get too attached.

I currently have a 3 week old baby sleeping on my chest. I feel his chest pushing into mine as he takes breaths. A little whistle in his nose squeaks as he does so. His head is soft, with the most delicate blonde fuzz, and has that newborn smell that causes oxytocin to flow whenever you breathe his scent in. Every now his little feet dig into my tummy to readjust himself, 10 itty bitty toes, delicious and sweet. When I move my face towards his, he opens his mouth like a baby bird for what I like to imagine are baby kisses (but actually are just lips in search of milk!) Some times when he’s asleep, he smiles and laughs– don’t tell me that’s gas, it’s a smile and every time we see it we ooh and ahh. When he cries at night, Milkman interrupts his sleep and leaps up to change his diapers and feed him his bottles. During the daytime we wear him hours each day close to our hearts so he can learn how to bond and form healthy attachments, we seldom put him down. I some times weep when I stare at him, completely overtaken with his innocence and beauty.


Do I sound like someone who isn’t too attached? Do we sound like people who can just take care of an innocent human life and then not shed a tear when we get the call that it’s time for him or her to leave us? Of course we are attached. We love our foster children. 

I am not special. I am not more gifted than you. I do not produce some sort of magical half love reserved for fatherless children. I do not find goodbyes to be easy. What I am is willing. I am willing to have my heart broken for those who have broken lives. I am willing to get attached. I am willing to risk the pain of saying goodbye. I am willing to love. 
Can you be willing to love too? It could mean the world to a child. 

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Two.

Today we will get cupcakes. We will buy 4 helium filled green balloons from the grocery store. 

This evening, we will drive to the beach, unload happy children from the van, and head to the sand. We will sing happy birthday, and eat cupcakes. I will whisper happy birthday, and let go of one green balloon, and watch it soar into the sky. The kids will run and play in the sand. We will eat a special birthday dinner. After, we will get the kids dressed into their pajamas, and head home.

We will unload them from the car, place them into their beds, and kiss them. And when I crawl into bed tonight, I will look up at the top shelf of my closet, where there is a royal blue, velour drawstring bag. In that bag is a box that holds what is left of my son. And I will fall asleep to the sounds of 3 healthy children sleeping rather than 4. And I will wonder how my heart can feel so full and so empty all at the same time.

My sweet, Ezra Eugene. Today is your 2nd birthday. You aren’t here to celebrate it, and while that is tragic for me, I know you are safely held in the arms of our Father, you are feeling no loss, only complete contentment in the presence of the One who formed your tiny, little body. I miss you every day, baby boy. I can’t wait to hold you, again. But in the mean time, I will honor your memory, never forgetting that on September 26th, you were born breathless and still, but completely loved and cherished.

And so, sweet Ezra, I do not say rest in peace, but rather, play, run, laugh, dance, and sing JOYFULLY in the presence of the Lord!

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Why Did We Bother Going to Church Today?

Some Sunday mornings are blessed with quiet children, happily coloring or munching on snacks while listening to the sermon, a sleeping baby, and a toddler who wants to go to the nursery.

Then there are days like today, where I ask myself, “Why did we even bother to show up today if we weren’t going to hear a single word of the sermon because all 5  kids are screaming, fighting, crying, filled with energy, and all around going crazy??” I couldn’t wait to leave church today, because the kids were such a handful! I felt like today was a total waste.

So why do we still go to church, when we end up pacing the lobby with children having difficult mornings, and we don’t hear any of the preaching? 

We go because we are setting an example to our kids. We go to show our children that even on rough Sundays, God is the priority. That some times obeying really sucks, and we would rather stay home in our Jammies and hermit, but being with God’s other kids delights him. We go to show them that we don’t get to throw out the commandments that we don’t think are important. We go because God’s word never returns void, and even if they caught one sentence of the sermon today, it may stick with them later. We go because it’s not about us. It’s about God. It’s His day. And what better place to spend His day, than with other people who love Him, too!

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Foster Parenting: It’s Good… for Your Marriage??

It’s been just under 5 weeks since Milkman and I became foster parents. When I got the call from the social worker that there was a need to place a sibling set, and would we take them, if our home study could be expedited, I said I would need to talk to my husband. I called Milkman, my heart racing, and we agreed we would pray about it for 30 minutes, and then I would call him back and we would make our decision. 

Thirty minutes later I called and said, “So, what do you think?” And before the words were all out of my mouth, he said, “we should do this.”

The rest of that day is a blur. Cleaning, arranging furniture, going grocery shopping, and putting our own 3 children to bed. But what will forever ring clearest in my mind is what happened after everything was done. Milkman and I put flowered sheets on the twin bed and placed a stuffed bunny I had purchased just a couple of hours earlier on the pillow, and we sat down, side by side. We prayed for the little ones who would be coming to live with us the next day, and when we finished I said, “Babe? I’m already on an emotional roller coaster. We are going to need to be so transparent with each other. Can we commit to being as open as we can about what we are feeling during this process?”

Now, if you know me, you know I’m a bit of an open book. I don’t mince my words often. And if you know anything about my marriage to Milkman, you know we are very open with one another and seek to have quality communication with each other. However, there is a little box in the back of every parent’s brain that has a lock on it. In that box are the feelings of inadequacy you have as a parent. In that box is where you hide your list of parental failures. And the most secret thing in that box, are the things you think about parenthood and your children from time to time that you are too afraid to type or utter for fear of judgement. You may even just fear that saying them makes those feelings more tangible and real, and therefore more scary. 

I knew that I was going to need a whole steamer trunk for that box once I became a Foster parent, because I assumed (and rightly so) that I would go through so many more feelings of inadequacy, so many more feelings of failure, and so many more feelings about how I would view myself as a foster parent and my foster children. I knew that I was going to have to open up to Milkman about those deep, hidden thoughts if we were going to make this work. And he was going to have to with me.
In the first 24 hours we had our placements, I had to unload on Milkman several times. I would say, “I know this sounds [selfish, naïve, strange, etc.] but, right now I am feeling really [scared, confused, frustrated, etc.]. What about you?” And then he would reply with what he was unpacking from his box.

Every time there has been a change, a bit of news, a call from a social worker, or a meltdown from a child, we have this exchange. It is happening less and less as time goes on. I am able to cope more, he is too. We are learning that if biological parenthood seemed overwhelming or emotionally draining, Foster parenting is incomparably much more so. But still, we have our talks in the evenings when staring at chubby cheeks, freckles, and curls while all 5 children sleep. We can’t believe we are doing this. We can’t imagine not doing this. We can’t believe we love these children so much. We can’t believe we care for their mother (whom we have never met) so much.

Like I said, we’ve always talked, Milkman and I. But I’ve never opened up that little box quite so wide. And same goes for him. We have become vulnerable to one another in new ways. We have an entirely new level of transparency. We hold each other up, because most days, no one is going to understand how hard Foster parenting is except for another foster parent. He’s the closest friend I have, and it just so happens that he is a foster parent, too.

Don’t get me wrong, Fostering can be hard on your marriage. There’s a lot of stress adding a change to your family dynamic, and it can be scary. The lack of sleep, schedule changes, visits, appointments, and nearly non-existent down time when you have 5 children under 5 is draining. But some how, right now, it’s pulling us closer together, and I’m thankful for it.

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GIVEAWAY! Cheeky Tummy Diaper Bag!

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I love me a good bag.  Once I had kids, I had to give up my giant purses that I loved so much, because carrying a diaper bag AND a big ol’ purse is just not practical.  I had seen some designer diaper bags here and there, but I couldn’t believe the price tags on them.  I really hate spending loads of money on something that is going to be hit with serious wear and tear and  possibly WILL end up with some sort of bodily fluids on it.

 

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When Captain was a baby and my only child, other moms would see me lugging my huge diaper bag around and say, “Oh, just wait til he’s older, you’ll go back to a purse and just carry one lone diaper and a few wipes in a baggy in it.”  Four years later, and I’m still carrying a huge diaper bag with my entire world in it.  Clearly these mothers didn’t know me before kids, when I would carry a purse large enough to cart multiple crochet projects, one-eighth of the historical fiction section of the library, a Costco-sized tub of Advil, and many tubes of red lipstick. I plan for disaster at all times.  I ALWAYS carry an extra change of clothes for each of my 3 children, enough diapers to last us a couple of days, snacks, activities, and wipes galore.  (You can never have too many wipes on hand!)

 

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What’s In My Bag: iPad mini, journal, Amazon Wipes, 8 diapers, muslin blanket, nursing cover, Cheeky Tummy changing mat, toy, sun screen, Era Organics Honeybuns balm and powder, diaper cream, Contigo water cup, snacks, pacifier wipes, sunglasses, change of clothing for Peach, Mamitas, and Captain, and Captain and Mamitas’ note pads and pens! Whew!*

 

I came across this bright, playful bag from Cheeky Tummy and I thought, “It’s been too long since I had a cute bag.  It’s time to carry something cute again!” and I am SO glad I did.  This bag is not only adorable, it is HUGE inside.  It holds everything I need to have with me without being stuffed to the zipper.  Oh! And it comes with a matching changing mat!  I feel so fancy whipping our my pretty little mat (its cushion-y, too you guys) to change a booty and folding it and fastening it to go back into its spot in my bag.

 

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Another feature I love is that it is incredibly versatile.  Prefer handle straps?  It comes with those.  Like a shoulder strap instead?  Oh, yeah, comes with that, too.  What about a bag that attaches to your stroller?  Um, yeah! Also included. (PSA: never put an overloaded bag onto the back of your stroller handle without a firm grip on your stroller, we don’t want any babies tipping backwards!)  I threw this on the back of my Uppababy Vista, and it looked super purdy.  I’m telling you, I feel fancy.

 

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Here’s the deal, it is a great bag all around while still being affordable.  After talking with Diana at Cheeky Tummy, I was able to really see the heart behind her company.  As a new mom she felt overwhelmed by the amount of bags and price points on the market, and out of that frustration Cheeky Tummy was born.  I liked her bag so well, that I asked Diana if we could give one of these gorgeous orange and white chevron bags to one of my lucky readers and she agreed!  So, head over to She Rocks the Cradle on Facebook, and enter the giveaway!

 

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Want one of your own right now?  Head to Cheeky Tummy’s store and grab a bag for yourself. If you use the code CRADLE10, you get 10% off your first order!

 

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See you on Facebook at the Giveaway!  Its over on July 3rd, so hurry to enter!

 

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Their Papa

It all started on a Friday night in July and we were going to get drinks and listen to Brazilian jazz downtown, and I had a strange feeling that I should stick to the jazz and not the drinks. I came out of the bathroom and into the living room in the converted garage where we were living, and I said “it’s probably a false positive.”

And in that moment, your face displayed a joy I had never seen before. I just remember you saying “Babe! Babe! Babe!” and kissing me. I refused to let myself get excited because I was scared of the unknown. After googling “false positive pregnancy tests” I took another and it was also positive. You held me and you said “I’m going to be a daddy.” And that night I got a virgin Mai Tai.

And when Captain was born 9 months later, he was placed in your arms all swaddled, and I watched you from my bed while I cramped and bled and was sore, and nothing was more satisfying than seeing the man I loved the most hold the physical proof of our love– our son.

And 8 months later, I was tired and decided to take a shower after a nursing marathon with Captain, and before I got in the shower, I looked at the test on the counter to see 2 lines. I came bursting down the hall in piles of tears, so scared to be pregnant and nurse a baby, and you held me and told me it was going to be okay, and you once again had that look of joy in your eyes, though slightly dimmed by 8 months worth of sleep deprivation. I didn’t know you were scared about money in that moment, because you never let it show, you just held me and kissed me and said “We are going to have another baby!”

And when she was born after 57 months of pregnancy (okay, it felt like that) you stood over Mamitas’s screaming, pink body and she let out the most ghastly shriek I had ever heard, and you said your baby girl was perfect and beautiful.

And then 10 months later, Captain announced mommy had a baby in her tummy, and you gave me a look of astonishment and once again I saw that light in your eyes I had seen twice before, and you were so excited, you even ate the oatmeal I made for breakfast that day.

When I delivered his sleeping body at 17 weeks, it was just you and me in the room, and you cried with me. I sang “Stay Awake” to Ezra, and he couldn’t hear me, but you did, and you sang me and our still child praise songs and held his tiny body in a green blanket I made just hours earlier.

4 months later, I asked you to get my glasses off the bathroom counter on a weekday morning before work, and after you saw the test on the counter, you came back to me in the living room with tears in your eyes, and you held me and we cried, and I didn’t see your eyes because mine were too clouded from crying, but I felt that light and warmth and joy radiate through my body from yours, because we were going to have our rainbow baby.

And when we met Peach, after a very awful 48 hours of little sleep, and frustration, you cried at the sight of our baby girl– the first birth you cried at.

Late nights, and middle of the nights, and early mornings, you are present. When Captain cuddles up close in the dark of the night and I hear you kiss the top of his head, when you wash Mamitas’s hair in the bathtub and assure her you wont let the shampoo get in her eyes, when you take Peachy from me because I’m tired and put her in your Ergo and sing to her. When I get into bed and begin whimpering, missing our Ezra Eugene, and you hum “10,000 Reasons” in my ear and whisper that you miss him too.

Your children love you. There is some sort of magic in your relationship with each of them. Captain wants to be just like you, Mamitas wants to have your attention every second, and Peach? Well, she wishes she was glued to you 24/7 because you are her favorite person.

I hear so many say that women become mothers the second they see those 2 pink lines, and fathers have to grow into their role as a dad after the baby has born. You were different. I have grown into motherhood, but you were made out of the fabric from which the finest fathers are constructed.

And now that I think of it, it didn’t all start on a Friday night in early July, it started in a church parking lot in April, 14 months earler. We were both nursing confused and broken hearts and we sat on the curb in the middle of the lot and cars began heading home that Sunday night. We talked about our faith, and we talked about how we were raised. We talked about goals in life and morals and values. And we talked about children. And I had never seen a man my age so passionate about the idea of getting married and having babies and raising a family. And though in that moment I didn’t know for certain what would become of our friendship, a little light flickered in my mind’s eye– a little hope, that maybe those babies you seemed so excited to have one day, could be my babies, too.

When you don’t sleep for 4 years and you spend most of your life covered in some sort of bodily fluid from a child, the time that passes seems to grow into centuries. But here we are, babies, kids, family, and so much love.

And when you walk in the door every day after a long day of work, and you drop your work bag on the floor and your children see you, I see the same light in their eyes that I saw in your eyes each time you found out they existed– and that makes all the craziness worth it.

I love you, Milkman. Our babies do, too! Happy Father’s Day.

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