Tag Archives: motherhood

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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A Guide to Surviving Mom Groups; or Don’t Be a Jerk

When you become a new mother, especially if you are a stay at home mom (SAHM), you often find yourself in a lonely place. Whereas you may have had adult interaction at a previous job, or had the freedom to come and go from your home with ease and see other humans larger than 20 inches long, now you feel secluded. In days past, I’m not sure what moms did. I suppose they made friends with their neighbors, had cleaner houses, and drank lots of martinis. But in my generation? We’ve found solace in the internet.

I know for myself, once I became a mom, mom groups on Facebook became my village. My place to escape, and vent, and socialize, and laugh and cry. With a sleeping baby on my breast, a granola bar in my mouth, and a phone charger always close by, I could have company at the tips of my fingers, from the confines of my 4 walls, without ever putting on a stitch of makeup or shoes.

I became obsessed. The first mom group I was really active in was Captain’s birth group, “The Blue Mamas”. These women became my everything. I talked to them about anything and everything, more than I talked to my own husband. I could count on someone being online at 3am when I had milk soaked sheets and a gassy, screaming baby. From there, I was added to a breastfeeding group. And then another one… and another and another (sooooooo many breastfeeding groups!). Baby product co-op groups, cloth diaper groups, local mom groups, local-er mom groups, mom and baby product buy, sell, trade groups, babywearing groups, general parenting advice groups, natural birth groups, natural family planning groups… ALL. THE. GROUPS. In fact I just looked at how many groups I am in, and I counted 204. Most of these groups are some how connected to mothering.  

How wonderful! I would think, as I found another kindred spirit on the other side of the globe. I had friends in every corner of the planet, people I could talk to and trust with my struggles and joys. What a marvelous age to be living in! One where we can communicate and bond with people time zones away! It was marvelous and it is marvelous–but it can also be not so marvelous from time to time.

With awesome people, come jerks. People who call you names, argue and accuse, and belittle the death of your baby (yes, that happened. From a real, live mom you would love to be friends with if you met her at the park during a play date. Religious, pretty, and fit– great hair, too! Beautiful children and a happy marriage. Literally made light of my baby dying.)

Of course, jerks are everywhere. Jerks are the people who leave trash in the shopping cart at target, cut you off on the freeway, and don’t pick up their dog’s fecal matter at the park. But jerks on the internet are much more brutal than the person who leaves droplets of pee on the public restroom toilet you are next in line to use. Jerks on the internet have a screen to hide behind. They type nasty and insensitive things that they would never say in person. They cut down your character, make rude remarks and follow them up with sarcastic tag lines like “enjoy your dead baby, sweetheart” at the end of a debate on co-sleeping. They are the ones who, in person, would throw a lovely dinner party and serve you the best wine while you had some laughs, but in their mommy group they call people the R-word and make threats about stabbing their mothers in law for daring to wash their dishes. The young mom you sit next to in church tells her mom friends on the internet how badly her husband performs in bed, and your sweet neighbor with twins down the street calls anyone who doesn’t fully vaccinate their kids “murderer”, “a-hole”, and “idiots”. You guys. Women call other women the C-word, simply because those women parent differently from themselves. THE C-WORD. Conversations that would never, ever, EVER happen in real life (at least while sober) happen on the internet with such vitriol and spite that you find yourself alternately blushing and raging while scrolling through your newsfeed.


Why does this happen? Well, if I had the gumption I would google some study that talks about normal housewives who become interweb vigilantes and their need for an outlet so they don’t run off with Fabio or start having nervous breakdowns in the dairy room at Costco. But the thing is, who really cares? I don’t care why it happens, I care THAT it happens. It stinks. 
Now you may be thinking, “yeah, this is nothing new, why is this lady on the internet ranting about ranting people on the internet?” Because I have a solution to share with all of my fellow dwellers on this series of tubes we share. Are you ready?

Here it is: don’t be a jerk. Yup. That’s it! Stop being a jerk. 

Need a little more specific help? Try one of the following:

-Scroll past topics that get you heated. You just move your thumb from the bottom of your screen to the top, and it’s like it was never posted.

-Is your thumb broken, and you simply can’t scroll past? Try reading the opposing view from their standpoint. This will teach you how to practice empathy. Empathy is a word that we like to talk about in feel good memes and want our children to practice, but don’t like to practice when the going gets tough. After trying to understand the other point of view, use your other thumb to keep scrolling.

-Oh no!!! Other thumb broken? Okay, here’s an idea. Ask questions if you really, truly can’t understand. And not passive aggressive ones like “wow, I’m not sure how anyone could be such a giant moron and endanger their children like you do by offering them snacks with red dye, could you explain how you are able to sleep at night while your child’s colon is being dyed green from those Cheetos?” Ask real questions that can help you understand where the other person is coming from.

-Can’t help but interject some advice? Re-read the post. Was someone ASKING for advice? Or were they just venting? Or maybe just sharing an article or stating an opinion? Ask yourself, “do I like unsolicited advice?” If the answer is no, use your pointer finger to scroll. 

-Just really, super, can’t help but grace the interwebs with your opinion? We circle back to the first step: Don’t be a jerk. Just don’t. You can still state your opinion without being mean. I’m sure of it. Because you do it every day when you talk to your girl friend over coffee, pillow talk with your husband at night, and sit across the table from relatives at Thanksgiving. Besides, you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If you really wanted to convince someone of your viewpoint, you’d do it nicely.

And you know? Being nice isn’t all that hard. Saving your sarcasm for super witty blog posts (cough, cough) or open mic night at the local stand up club is okay. Kissing emojis don’t need to be used next to peach emojis, unless you’re sending your husband a suggestive text, and threats of dismemberment, bodily injury, or death… well those are best left unsaid at all.

I’m preaching to myself here, too. We can all stand to be a little nicer. I wiped feces off a few butts today and I bet you have as well. I’ve eaten chocolate in the closet and sobbed with a glass of wine in the bathtub while my kids banged on the door, and I assume that also speaks to your experiences as a mom. I have cried staring at my sleeping babies at night, my heart exploding with love, and you do that, too.

So when next we meet on the internet and the topic of formula vs. breastmilk, MMR, organic food, circumcision, or how much screen time is okay, let’s all not be jerks. It makes the internet a nicer place to hang out while I ignore my kids’ screams for more snacks. 

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5 Things I Learned While Living Without Netflix

So, we moved!

 We were living in a 1,000sqft duplex in a nice 1970’s neighborhood. We loved where we lived, it was just the right size for our family, and had a nice big backyard. We had hoped to continue renting there until we could afford to buy, but when we got notice of a sizable rent increase, we had to start looking elsewhere. We looked at scores upon scores of homes. Everything was so expensive or in a bad area, and nothing seemed to be falling into place. 

Just as I was despairing and hope seemed lost, we saw an ad for an old Farmhouse that was renting for less money than our current duplex. It was 2,500sqft, and sat amidst acres upon acres (upon ACRES) of farmland. We went to look at it and found out there were 75 people who wanted it. Somehow (oh you know, probably God! Haha) we got the place. 

While nearly the perfect home, there is one huge drawback to living in the middle of nowhere: Crappy internet options. We went 3 entire weeks without internet. And you know what that means? No Netflix. For 3 weeks. Can you say #firstworldproblems? Well, anyways, it seemed like a big deal at the time.

Here’s what I learned living without Netflix for 3 weeks:

1.  I always thought it was the fault of Netflix that Milkman and I were up so late. Totally not. When you watch sitcoms before bed (we love Frasier! On our 4th time through, because I’m a creature of habit!) your evening post kids bedtime is broken up into 23 minute increments. If we turn on Frazier at 8:45pm, I know we can watch about 3 episodes and then we need to go to bed. 

Without Netflix to tell time by, Milkman and I either would watch a movie on DVD that was too long and stay up late, or we would just stare at the ceiling til 11:45, look at the time and say “Woah. We should go to bed. How is it almost midnight??” 

 Clearly my late bedtimes have very little to do with Netflix and everything to do with poor self-control!

2.  My kids actually CAN entertain themselves for longer periods of time without TV. Without a steady stream of Beat Bugs, Sarah & Duck, or Zootopia, my kids had to find other ways to stay busy. They spent more time outside, looking at books, and playing pretend. I feel like my children were more content since they knew they couldn’t just ask for a show and one would appear. 

3.  You don’t always need background noise. I’ll admit part of the reason Netflix is often playing in our home has 75% to do with needing to fill the house with some sort of non-kid voice noise. Being a stay at home mom can be lonely with no other adult interaction. Having Andy Griffith or the Great British Baking show on loop during the day with us seldom watching is how I can hear adult voices, and indeed, break up the time my husband is at work into episode sized chunks. 

With no background noise, I got to appreciate the sound of the neighbors’ chickens clucking, the sound of wind brushing through the leaves in the trees, and birds singing on my porch. I got to live in the moment a bit more, rather than just waiting or the next best thing to happen (that means Milkman pulling up the the house and me getting a break!) 

4.  I have a lot of CDs I don’t listen to anymore, with some really good music on them! This is kind of a result of no Pandora or Spotify rather than just no Netflix, but since the Netflix is usually running on the TV, and when we do listen to music, it’s streaming, I forgot about how much music I have! Captain learned how to work the CD player and would just throw random CDs on to listen to from my old collection. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Jars of Clay, Ace of Base, Nightwish, Funker Vogt… so many good tunes. We enjoyed a lot of dance parties!

5.  While we reluctantly enjoyed the lack of Netflix, because of the extra family time it brought us, the thing I learned the most, is I really freakin’ love Netflix. You could go broke renting from Redbox constantly, and even more broke buying DVDs of your favorite shows or movies, but Netflix is one heck of a sweet deal. For $8 a month with Netflix, you get more than what you pay for. Unlimited access to documentaries, kids shows, and Frasier? You don’t realize just how great it is, til it’s gone!

Our internet is still super lousy, and sometimes it’s so slow that Netflix can’t stream, but I gotta say, after 3 weeks with no internet and no Netflix, I wouldn’t willingly cancel my subscription any time soon.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some Lockup: Women Behind Bars to go binge on. 

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It’s Not Cultural Appropriation If the Culture is Your Own

Hold on, and brace yourselves for the following post, because it may ruffle some feathers…

A couple of weeks ago, my youngest daughter wore the cutest dress. I wanted to share a picture of it on social media, but I hesitated. Why? Fear. Fear of someone seeing my see-thru-white, strawberry blonde baby in a Mexican dress and wagging a finger at me in the name of Cultural Appropriation.

What’s cultural appropriation (or CA as it is sometimes abbreviated)? Go google it. I know just enough to get myself into trouble, but not enough to explain it well. Basically, if someone from another culture “steals” a piece of a culture not their own, it is called cultural appropriation. If you’re white and wear dreds: CA. White and wear a Kimono? CA. White and paint a sugar skull on your face? CA. 

My daughter, as I mentioned before is suuuuuper white. But the dress she is wearing is from a culture her own, not stolen. My mother is Mexican. Her first language is Spanish. She was raised alongside her 12 siblings in the home of 2 Mexican American parents who spoke Spanish and had/have dual citizenship. My mother bought this dress from Mexico. For another one of her very white looking grandchildren, and this was passed to each of them, and now it is my little girl’s turn to wear it.

At any other point in my life, I would have posted this with pride! Look at my daughter looking adorable in this Mexican dress! Isn’t she cute? Isn’t she sweet?! But in today’s social media insanity, I hesitate. Because someone who doesn’t know me, may accuse me of stealing a culture that is my own.

Here’s the deal, it’s really, freakin’ important for me to expose my children to the rich Mexican culture my mother comes from. My mother married a white man, and I married a white man. My children have 1/4 of Latino blood in them. Growing up, I assumed I would marry someone who was also Mexican because I wanted my children to be steeped in Mexican culture. But that didn’t happen, so my white husband and I do our best to teach our kids about their Mexican culture. We teach them words in Spanish, and we use the correct pronunciation for words in Spanish. I practice rolling “Rs” with them, I say Spanish vowel sounds with them, we read bilingual children’s books. Putting my daughter in a Mexican dress is just another way I can introduce them to our rich culture.

I fear my generation has gotten so steeped in their separation of cultures, that many in the next generation are going to miss out on learning about mine. I refuse to tell my children that since they look white, they may not practice and enjoy Mexican food, dress, and culture for fear of offending someone. I refuse to hide in shame for putting my child in something that rightfully belongs to her. I refuse to bow to what my generation says is acceptable and not when it comes to this topic.

 I guess my point in posting this is to say, unless you know the exact ethnic or cultural background someone is from, save your judgement. It’s simply not your job to assume where someone has come from. And if we are told we cannot ask about someone’s gender, then you certainly aren’t free to ask someone what their cultural background is. It’s just not your business. It’s hard enough being mixed race without being constantly asked about it.

So now, after all that: Enjoy this adorable picture of my 1/4 Mexican daughter wearing a Mexican dress and playing with her full Mexican grandmother! Isn’t she adorable?

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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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24 Hours 

It’s been 24 hours since I first laid eyes on you. Red-faced and screaming so loud I could hardly hear anything else. You were a stranger to me, just one day ago.

You were placed in my arms by our wonderful social worker, and immediately I needed to protect you. I shushed you out to the car where we picked up your things. 2 paper bags with some clothes, diapers, wipes, and a can of formula. 

It is the strangest thing to have a newborn without postpartum bleeding, nursing cramps, cracked nipples, and a whacked out hormone drop. But, some how my body is wanting to feel these things when I hold you. You do not smell like you came from me. Your scent is entirely different, but my body let’s down milk when I hold you close, my womb aches when I feed you your bottle. The sun is setting right now, and I sense that old postpartum blues feeling creep up where I am homesick in my own home. 

It’s so familiar to have a newborn in the house and yet this time it’s also different and unknown. I’ve never fed a newborn formula in a bottle, and certainly not at the same time while nursing my biological baby. Having to watch the clock for feeds and log ounces in and diapers out feels formulaic (no pun intended!) and foreign. Trying to distinguish between your cry for comfort and your cry for hunger is something I’ve not had to do, since a breast has always fixed either problem in the past. 

You’ve not been alive very long, and you’ve been with me for less than that, but some how I love you so much, my heart could burst. And whether you are here for 1 day, 10 days, or many more I’ll keep loving you. 

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Nice To Meet You

We were both wearing black shirts, blue jeans, and had our hair up in black bandanas tied at the top of our heads. Her children ran to her. I hung back so she could greet them. I came closer and held out my hand tentatively for a handshake, and was pulled into a hug. 

One child holding on to both our legs, one child between us being held in the middle of our embrace. Tears fell, our bodies shook with emotion as we hugged. The words of trust she spoke softly in my ear will not soon be forgotten. 

She is their mother, they are her children. I am their caretaker, I am her cheerleader in the sidelines. We are on the same team. We are on their team.

This is Foster Care. 

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