A Forever Changing Family

First, two became one. And that was the day Milkman and I were married. We were going to wait a year before trying for a baby.

2 months into our marriage we decided to “leave it up to God and see what happens.” We were pregnant the next month. Just two weeks before our first wedding anniversary, we became a family of 3 when Captain was born.

We thought we would wait a year before trying again. And then when Captain was 8 months old, we got another positive pregnancy test. Our sweet Mamitas was born 41 weeks later, and we became a family of 4.

When Mamitas was 11 months old, we had another positive pregnancy test. We were so excited to be a family of 5! We cherished each moment we had, but at my 17 week appointment, our little baby love was no longer. I delivered Ezra’s sleeping body 4 days later, and we remained a family of 4.

4 months later, another positive test! Our rainbow baby was the greatest joy of our lives. Peachy was born that Fall, and then we were 5. We knew after such a difficult pregnancy and traumatic labor and delivery that biological babies would not be in our near future, but we had already completed our foster parenting requirements, so we trusted that our family would grow in time.

9 months later, we received a call for two sisters from our foster agency. Within 24 hours of getting a call, we were a family of 7. Three months later, they reunified, and for two weeks, we became a family of 5 yet again.

It was too quiet, so imagine our joy when we received a call for an “adoptable” 5 day old newborn baby boy. Sweet Warrior. He left us just under 3 months later to a non-family relative home. We were devastated.

And the calls stopped. We were just 5 again. For 6 months we sat by the phone, and no more children came. But then, a call. And we were 6, when little Chatito came to live with us. And 6 we have happily been, and 6 we shall remain for a little while longer. Then 5 again when he reuinifies, but not much longer after that…

And we will be a family of 6 yet again. Because the Lord has blessed us with the gift of pregnancy!

We are grateful to God for giving us another baby to love. Our hands are full, but our hearts are bursting. What a joy to have 4 children at my feet to love on while a 5th steadily grows in my womb! Join us in praying for a healthy pregnancy and a sweet, full of life baby in Summer 2018!

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Visitation Day Blues: Kid Edition

As we all piled for our morning cuddle on the couch the kids asked what the plan was for the day. I told them, “Don’t forget, you guys need to pack your backpacks with quiet activities, today is visitation.”

Captain, my oldest asked, “Is it the one where we go to the coffee shop?”

“No, that’s the other visit. Today is the one where you need to sit quietly in the car in the parking lot so your baby sister can sleep while the baby is visiting with his mom.”

Both my preschooler and kindergartener groaned. This is the least favorite day of the week. We eat an early lunch, every one goes potty, and we load up into the van and head to the other side of the county for our fosterling to visit his mother for an hour. Because of when it’s scheduled, my little ones end up stuck in the car for two and a half hours. I don’t like it either. Trying to keep my older kids quiet and occupied so that my youngest can get some sleep is stressful. On good days, she gets half of her normal length in nap. On bad days, it’s a 5 minute nap and a whole afternoon of meltdowns. It’s not easy on our foster baby either. Some how it always works out that he gets awoken to go to the visit or awoken once we get to the visit. Lots of interrupted sleep usually equals a very long day with lots of crying, nap fighting, and fussiness for him.

“Mom, we don’t like this visitation day! It’s boring!” I sighed as the day had just started and the complaining was already starting. Milkman looked at me sleepily from the corner of the couch where he spent the early morning after a very early wake up call from our foster baby. We trade off nights, so I actually got sleep last night, but I couldn’t say the same for my sweet husband.

As much as I wanted to reply, “Stop complaining, too bad!” I realized this was a teaching moment. “You know what guys? I don’t necessarily like this visitation day either. It’s stressful for me trying to ensure every one is quiet in the car. But… Well. Do you know why we do this? God says that we need to care for orphans and widows. Do you know what a widow is? It’s someone who has lost their spouse and has no one to care for them. Do you know what an orphan is?”

They looked at me blankly.

“An orphan is someone who either doesn’t have living parents, or their parents cannot currently safely care for them. The foster children we’ve had in and out of our home are considered orphans. So we actually have a really important job, because we are obeying God when we care for foster children. We don’t just do this because babies are cute— even though they are! We do this because we love them, and have a duty to obey God, and this is how our family has been called to obey. And one of the jobs of foster families is to make sure foster children get to see their parents.”

They nodded slowly. Well, the older kids did. My youngest, Peachy, was dancing around like a wild maniac to Celtic Christmas music. Never a dull moment.

Milkman chimed in, “Can you imagine if you only got to see mama and papa two hours a week?? You would miss us so much and we would miss you so much, right? The baby’s mommy wants to see her baby.”

I continued, “Exactly! And that’s one way we can serve his mommy, too. She loves her baby. So I know that visitation day is kinda lousy and boring for us. But it’s a sacrifice we make together as a family to obey God and to serve the baby and his mommy. Can you understand that?”

“Yes, mama.” They replied. I’m sure they didn’t feel super happy to go on with the plan for the day, but at least they now knew there was a valid reason behind their boring day ahead.

Sometimes teaching moments are hard to come by, and sometimes they fall perfectly in your lap, like it did for us today. My kiddos do sacrifice a lot for our family to continue fostering. While it’s not as much as Milkman and I have to, it’s a decent amount for very young children.

I hope they know, for as long or short as we have to foster, it’s not just something we do for the heck of it. It’s something that takes self sacrifice. It’s something that is hard to do. It’s something that takes giving up our schedules, preferences, and desires. It’s certainly not something we do for praise from others or accolades. But, most importantly it’s something that we do in love and obedience— together. As a family.

To the Average Foster Parent

Thank you…

For getting up 7 times in the night with a screaming baby who doesn’t share your DNA.

For googling ways to comfort a baby born addicted to meth, when you feel at a loss.

For crying over biological parents’ loss— even if they don’t seem to feel that loss so very much.

For singing lullabies to the stranger who moved into your home today and assuring her that she is safe.

For quietly patching holes in walls after uncontrollable tantrums.

For advocating on his behalf to school teachers, coaches, and friends.

For the moments when you stand under the shower shaking with righteous anger on behalf of a child who has had their innocence robbed far too young.

For driving miles and miles and miles each week to appointments, visitation, and therapy.

For getting the cold shoulder or worse from biological family members and responding in love.

For building a relationship with her mother, and seeking to mentor and model what a healthy family looks like.

For trying every possible way to help a child with RAD, when everyone else has given up.

For supporting reunification when you know your heart will snap.

For being willing to become a forever family when her family has disappeared.

For taking the punches and responding with “I love you.”

For being willing to risk.

In case no one else has said it, I will. Thank you.

Why I’ll Never Be a Successful Blogger 

We went camping a few weeks ago with some friends (total blast, don’t be afraid to go tent camping with a bunch of very young children!), and they had other friends camping with us as well who I hadn’t met before.

It came up that I have a blog, and as we talked I told them that though I had a post that went viral totally unexpectedly, I would never be a successful blogger. Why is that? Because I can’t write for the sake of keeping an audience.

See, in order to be a successful blogger, you have to put out content consistently. When you stop writing, people stop reading, and when people stop reading, Facebook and search engine algorithms make you less visible to the internet world.

With just one week of us being on vacation, I chose to stay off of social media as much as possible. When I came back and began posting, Facebook had made it so that my posts were viewed far fewer times than the week before when I was posting consistently.

But my problem with trying to write simply for the sake of keeping an audience is this: I can’t– in good conscience– fling crappy content at you just because the algorithms tell me I should.

When I started this blog in January 2012, I was 7 months pregnant with my first baby, and had just left my job as a nanny to get ready for stay at home motherhood. I never expected anyone to read it, and if a tiny piece of me hoped someone would, I certainly never expected thousands and thousands of people to read it, and yet here I am, 5.5 years later with a pretty strong readership. 

I’ve never been able to write for the sake of writing. In fact, I have gone long periods without blogging at all, because I didn’t feel I had anything worthwhile to share. When I write– it’s because I want to. And I usually want to when I am stressed, exhausted, drained, and/or passionate about a topic. 

Blogging is not my job. I can’t promise new content every Monday and Thursday, or once a week, or even twice a month. My job is being Milkman’s wife. My job is being mother and homeschool teacher to Captain, Mamitas, and Peachy. My job is being a foster mother to whichever little one(s) are in my home. My job is keeping our household running smoothly, making meals, and scrubbing toilets. As much as I love writing, it can’t be my first priority.

When you read something here on my humble and homely little blog, it’s because it mattered enough for me to take the time to say it. No filler, no fluff. No pandering to the masses or clickbait. Just the musings of a tired mama, tapping away on her phone screen while rocking a child or hanging out on the bathroom floor while kiddds brush their teeth. 
So for those of you who stick around for my occasional content, THANK YOU. I’m so glad there is someone to read what I have to say. And in turn, I promise not to fill your newsfeed with “Ten Ways to Turn Your Houseplants into Dragons”, “16 Steps to a More Organized Kitchen”, and “Why My Children are Way Better than Yours.” 😉
PS I just posted this blog without a featured photo. This is practically blogocide. 

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

GIVEAWAY! Our Fun Day at Simi Valley Saplings!

Summer is in FULL swing.  I put out the word locally and asked if there were any mom-owned businesses that catered to families.  One of the first invitations to visit her business was Leah of Saplings in Simi Valley.  I hadn’t heard of Saplings, but after a quick perusal of her website, I knew I had to come visit.

 

Simi Saplings is an indoor play area unlike anything we have in Ventura county.  Most of us think of an indoor play place as being focused on gross motor skill play, and while those places are awesome, Saplings is on a different scale.  

 

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From the moment you walk in (entrance is on the side of the building!), you are transported into a calm and cool (hello! Escape the Summer heat!) atmosphere.  The theme of Saplings is woodsy and outdoorsy!  Leah told me that her family loves to be outdoors, to hike, and go camping.  Since she knew she would be spending a considerable amount of time indoors at Saplings, she brought the outdoors inside.  Calming sky blue walls with painted trees (and a SUPER cool tree Leah constructed!) give the place a sweet and charming woodland vibe.

 

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There are LOADS of imaginative play stations around the room. Your little one can be a Doctor, Vet, Store Keeper, or Hair Stylist.  For the little performer there is a band and music area (complete with a drum set, which Captain LOVED) and a Puppet Show stage.  Your child can race their cars with a friend, have a camp out next to the felt campfire and roast pretend marshmallows while they sit on a cushiony tree stump.  If your little one wants to climb and slide, there is a playground right in the center of the room.  It’s just the right size for your preschooler!  There is a reading corner, complete with a soft rug, fluffy pillows, and kid-sized lounge furniture next to a window with lots of natural light pouring in, which Mamitas liked especially since there was a book with her hero (Minnie Mouse!) to be read! 

 

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The Seedling Meadow is a safe and cozy play area for little ones from 0-2.  It has a half-wall protecting it from the rest of the main play areas and from older playmates who may not see little ones underfoot.  Peach had such a blast crawling, playing, and sitting on the little riding toys in the enclosed area.

 

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Have a budding artist?  The art area is INSANE.  Fully stocked with various artistic mediums, easels, tables, and a chalk wall.  In fact, Leah goes the extra mile and on Tuesdays and Fridays, at no extra cost but your general admission, there is a special craft lined up for your child to do, and bring their craft home with them!  Saplings also occasionally teams up with Color Me Vino for the kid and alcohol-free version of a wine painting party for a Paint N Play party!  Your little one can come in, and for $25 they can create a work of art taught by an instructor on a canvas, and then play all day!

 

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Which brings me to my next favorite feature: ALL DAY PLAY.  It really means all day.  That means ins and outs for the whole day once you pay your admission!  You can come first thing, play with your little one, eat your packed lunch in the food area, go home for naps, and come right back after naps until closing without paying any extra.  That is SUCH a plus if you have littles who need to get their midday siesta in!

 

Another great thing is you only pay for your kiddos to play.  So while parents are encouraged to play with their little ones (and the space is made to facilitate just that!), adults do not pay admission costs.  For those of us with multiple children, Saplings offers a sibling discount!  Leah has 3 little ones herself and appreciates that it costs families with multiple children more to do fun things.

 

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They also offer two different party packages for birthday parties.  One is semi-private and the other is offered on Sunday’s and it totally private.  You can either do all the decorating yourself, or talk to Leah about having her plan your fuss-free party with the various add-on items.  Just show up with your party after booking and she’ll do all the shopping and decorating for you.

 

While I loved how much my 3 kiddos enjoyed playing at Saplings, I also really enjoyed getting to talk with Leah and hear about her life and her passion for bringing parents and children together to play.  Her husband has been a huge support to her as she has seen her dream realized since she hung up her teacher hat and went into mom and business owner mode.  She made a place where she could bring her children to work with her, and invites you to come and play with yours there, too!

 

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Head over to my Facebook page for a chance to win a day of play!

 

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!