Tag Archives: motherhood

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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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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The Day Mamitas Weaned 

The first time she nursed, she had just been born. The world was a scary, cold, and bright foreign land to her. She screamed with all the gusto her 8lb. 5oz body could muster– which was quite a lot. 

She had an angry (and quite frankly and ugly) scream. The nurse had to move her over under the heat lamp for something, I don’t quite remember what, but Milkman was snapping pictures of her as I heard her scream. I kept saying “okay, just give her to me now, okay, please give me the baby, I just want to nurse her!” You see, that was the one phrase Milkman used to help me get through her 23 hour labor: “Just think about the first latch with your new baby…” So after weeks of prodromal labor, months of painful walking and moving, and a day of no sleep, all I wanted was to nurse that baby. 

Finally, the nurse handed her over to me, and her ugly little scream filled the room ’til she latched on, I sighed with contentment and then– OW! She bit me as hard as she could almost immediately! That was the beginning of our 3 year nursing journey. 

It started with clogged ducts, mastitis, 6 months of undiagnosed ductal thrush, blebs, and lazy latches. Things didn’t get easier til she was almost 9 months old. I got pregnant not much longer after then wth Ezra, and weaned Captain right before I lost Ezra. I told Milkman that she would not nurse as long as her older brother, surely she would wean at 18 months. But she didn’t. Surely at 2! She’s such an awful nurser, and my milk had dried up from Peach’s pregnancy, but she didn’t. Certainly at 2.5, that’s when Captain weaned. But she didn’t. So when she was 2.5 I asked when she would wean and she said “I will wean when I am 3.” And so every night for 6 months we continued to nurse before bed. We have counted down, and talked about it. I have looked towards her 3rd birthday with eagerness to say goodbye to tandem nursing. And as it drew closer, I started to feel a sadness. The end of an era. 

We picked Golden Slumbers by the Beatles as our weaning song. We listen to it, sing it, nurse to it, and cuddle. Every night this week I have asked her if she’s really, truly going to be done nursing and she smiles and laughs and says she will be all done at 3. Tonight, the day I have looked forward to with relief and sadness is here. Time to wean. 

The last time she nursed she wore a pink pajama shirt and pigtails. She had just finished her cake and ice cream. I asked her if she was ready to nurse for the last time and she happily said yes and giggled nervously as I began crying. She asked for our song and we sang “… Sleep pretty darling, do not cry, and I will sing a lullaby…” And she wiped my tears off my face one by one while she nursed. Her big brown eyes held much more seriousness than her 3 years of age allowed. I didn’t time her or cut her off, and she nursed longer than she has in 6 months. I kept asking if she was done and she kept shaking her head no. And then, she popped off and said “Mama! I unlatched! What’s unlatched mean? Cos I did.” And gave a cheesy grin. And with that, she was done. 

For 3 years I have hated, loved, resented, and appreciated nursing her. And in that one moment, it was over. This chapter of our lives closes, and it isn’t one that gets revisited again. I am so sad. But I know, as I learned from weaning Captain, that our relationship isn’t over. It’s just a new chapter. 

I love you, big girl. Happy 3rd Birthday. 

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Hush, Little Mama, Don’t You Cry…

After 6 years of discussing it, 4 years of deciding to do it, 1 year of going through classes, background checks, paperwork, and fingerprints, Milkman and I got the call to become Foster parents. The last week and a half of my life has been so exhausting and such a learning process. It brings more emotions each day than I normally experience in a month. 

Thankfully, we expected uncertainty, we expected to work through a lot of emotions, we expected to be exhausted having 5 children aged 4 and younger… But one thing I didn’t know I would feel is intense love and compassion for the mother of our Foster children.

There are so many horror stories of biological parents who get their children taken away and put into foster care. There are parents who truly don’t care about their kids, parents who abuse their kids, and parents who grossly neglect their children. Many of those stories are sad and real. These are the stories that made me want to become a foster mom as a teenager, so I could help remove a child from a scary situation.

However, in my VERY short time as a foster parent, I’ve come to the realization that some (hopefully many!) mothers whose children get placed in foster care are not so far gone that they are not in shambles at the thought of their precious babies being handed over to complete strangers. I don’t know the parents of our placements. I don’t know their ages, what they do for work, or what kind of struggles they are going through. What I do know of most parents whose children end up in foster care is that things got tough enough in their lives that someone needed to step in to help out while they get the right things into place.

I am not the hero. The parents of these children are not villains. We are not fighting some war on opposite sides of the battle field. We are, in fact, on the same team. We are on the same team as their children. We all want the same thing: for their children to be healthy, happy, and safe. 
When I hold these sweet children close to my heart and sing them bed time songs, I think of how their mother must be wondering who is tucking her babies into bed. When I push one of these children on the swings and hear them giggle, I think of how their mother must miss that sound. When I look into their eyes, I wonder if they look like their mom or dad did as children, and think of how I’m staring at a piece of this mother I’ve never met. 

How her heart must ache. How empty her arms must feel. How many tears must her eyes have shed… 

When I put myself in her shoes, I imagine her desperation, fear, love, and yearning to feel complete again. 

There may come a day when we have children in our care who have been in truly deplorable circumstances, and whose parents I struggle to love. But for now, I’m so glad that God is teaching me to practice empathy for these people I have never met. 

I wish I could tell the mother of these children that her treasures are safe, and hug her when she cries. But for now, I’ll just keep holding these little ones close for safe keeping, until she’s ready to hold them safely again herself.

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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!

 

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