Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Labor Day 2017

We began early like 12:15am - one child is up pulling on her ears.
      Ear infection strikes at the wee hours.
      The great debate - do we take her into the ER or
                 do we try to hold out until urgent care opens at 8:00am?
                  We give her tylenol and decide to hold out.
                   The night passes slowly.

5:30 am all but one kiddo is up and ready to go for the day
One child in attempts at being helpful and passing out milk to the others manages to launch a new 32 ounce container of yogurt out of the fridge shattering it and sending it splattering everywhere.

Somewhere in here, I wish it was an option to head back to bed - to curl back up and start over again. While friends are posting pictures of ideal days filled with time at the beach, long hikes, and miscellaneous type family bonding experiences, Marc and I are merely putting this one on the calendar as: WE SURVIVED.

Other highlights from the day include:

  • a nap rebellion resulting in a MASSIVELY cranky kid who desperately needed a nap and is trying to navigate the waters of learning she has some independence and freedom as she grows older
  • a baby who didn't want to nap in his bed - but was exhausted
  • children who decided that, despite the fact that they loved cantaloupe yesterday today they would fight it - refuse to try it - to even bring it near their lips as if it were some type of kryptonite that would take away all of their powers instantly
    • we don't force our kids to eat, if they are hungry they will eat what is on the plate before them, if not it goes back in the fridge until they decide they are hungry, they do not have to eat everything that is served, but they must take a bite and at least try everything once
    • contrary to popular belief by the tiny humans: fruit snacks, graham crackers, and m&ms are not a well rounded meal and one does not get to have that for one's entire source of nutrition
  • folks in the grocery store who felt the need to make snarky comments about the number of children we had in tow
    • let's all just agree to go back to the good ol' days where "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" 
  • must have been a full moon, because it was almost as if the children had come into collaboration together and decided one at a time they would test our limits and push any known buttons that we have
  • a child who learned that he can now throw is his food and Dakota (our beloved golden retriever) will not only love you more but come back time and time again to get more and her tail will wag uncontrollably in love and adoration which you will find HILARIOUS
  • a child who has learned to pull herself up on things but has not yet figured out how to get back down and as a result when wanting to get back down a blood curdling scream will ensue as if one is losing a limb
  • Rain. Lots of rain in the afternoon/early evening
    • while usually we just let the kids go play in the rain, it was a COLD rain and I don't want to risk getting everyone sick and worn down this early in the year
  • a storm knocking down the front pillar on our house
    • thank God for a handy husband who quickly cleaned up the bats 
  • the Chinese restaurant which needed to run SUPER SLOW on our pick up order and the children were going NUTS in the van waiting

At the end of the day: our kids were fed, bathed, and snuggled & read to sleep as we prayed they were fall asleep and stay asleep for the night. Marc and I counted it as victory as we split a Hershey's cookies and cream bar as we tried to defeat the mountain of laundry and dishes and prep for this week.

Why do I share this? Because some day when my kids are older and sleep through the night, I want to look back and laugh - I want to remember the days of small children, the good ones, the tough ones, and the ones that seemed straight up ridiculous (that was yesterday for us). I share because I want there to be someone bearing witness on the internet to the less than picturesque life of parenthood. I share, because there are days like this. While some are picture perfect or at least have picture perfect days, labor day 2017 was not one of those for us. There were moments, when the kids played great, when we were snuggled on the couch reading books, but those moments are found in the shadows of the other side of parenting.

How was your labor day?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dear Birth Mom #2

   We've never actually officially met, I have seen your picture in the jail roster, you are a beautiful young woman. I have heard some about you and I am guessing you know a little about my husband and I. This introduction is far from ideal. You are on my heart and mind often. The world is your oyster - you have (hopefully) many full years ahead of you. At your age, I was worried about my college exams, papers, and the next basketball game I would play. I can't imagine having a couple of kids at your age, the pressure, the social norms, the expectations that have been placed upon you, not to mention being forced to grow up quickly. When your oldest was born, you should have been worrying about graduating high school and your plans after high school not bringing a baby into the world. Our world's were different and perhaps we would have never met and yet, as fate/time/and unforeseen circumstances our worlds have crossed paths.
   I have your daughters living in our house. They are sweet and adventurous, they are learning and growing, they are adaptive and strong. They have your features, they bear some resemblance to you. They too are beautiful and they need you! I am sure I don't rock the baby with the same sway as you and I don't read books with the same voices as you, did you know your eldest LOVES to read books, all the books, every book, repeatedly. I know you have had a bit of a rocky relationship with them and life has been tough, you've been thrown curve balls I have never had to experience. Your support system is maybe not the best. According to the court documents, you've admitted the struggle to have the right influences. You know what you need to do, you've admitted that. The courts and county have given you a plan.
   Try. Work hard. The road before you is bumpy filled with hills and valleys and it may seem like right now you are walking through mostly valleys, but the hills and mountain tops are coming, and the views and experiences from the top are worth it. I imagine you are worried about your girls, or at least are thinking about them. Don't worry, they are being taken care of and loved on.

 We celebrated your baby's birthday with cake and ice cream as every one year old needs. She devoured it and had cake from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. The other kids laughed as the cake went further and further in her hair, in her ears, up her nose, it was everywhere. A direct trip to the tub is what she earned.  Soon, we will celebrate your oldest's birthday too, yes, there will be cake and ice cream, and she has requested a balloon, so a balloon there will be. I am guessing you will still worry about the girls, try not to, take care of you, make the steps you need to take. Show up to your visits, the girls would love to see you.
   We hold you in our prayers, for health, for wellness, for a network of support to surround you. Until we meet face to face I will continue to take care of your girls, to try to do the best by them and you as I can. For now, I must go, your eldest is potty training and apparently needs to go "wight now." Today is her first full day in "bid gurl unders" and she's pretty excited, she picked out the princess underwear at Target this past weekend, don't worry I packed extra pants and underwear for daycare just in case.
   Your Girls' foster mom

Friday, August 11, 2017

Dear Birth Mom, Fight the good fight....

Dear Birth Mom-
     I know the road you are on is tough at best. I hear that, I understand that you are facing some giants that I won't even pretend to understand. I cannot even say if given your life I wouldn't be making some of the same choices you are, the cycles of poverty, drugs, and other things are ferocious monsters at best.
     Letters are being sent to your family now, asking if any of them want to take the sweet, adventurous, wildly independent, and curious little boy of yours and mine (for at least the time being). I do not know what that must be like knowing that the courts are moving to remove your parental rights. I trust you want the best for your son as do my husband and I. We are believing the best for him. We trust him to the God who is bigger than any cycle of poverty or system you think you cannot beat.
      PLEASE for the sake of your son, fight the good fight. Go to treatment. Get a job so you can support the two of you. Find stable housing. I realize this is a lot, but no mountain is too big that it cannot be climbed. The time is now to face the summit, make it to the top of the mountain, make steps towards the right direction. Surround yourself with people who love on you, who make wise choices, who aren't going to pull you in the opposite direction. I realize you have shown up to the last couple of visits with your son, and I find that admirable, I do know it must be tough to see that he doesn't recognize you and runs to me when we return to pick him up. I cannot understand what it would be like to have my own children/child not know who I am and come to me for comfort and security. TRUST ME, it isn't too late, he's only fourteen months, hardly past a year, make some moves towards progress and the judge doesn't want to revoke your parental rights.
   The judge may seem harsh, but really has been nothing but grace filled offering you chance and chance again. The judge wants to see you succeed and wants you to have your son back, and I do too. Time, it's not on your side any more, the clock is ticking and ticking fast. Make some changes, your son is amazing and we've fallen in love and always will love him no matter where he lives.
    Our village loves him, our son and daughter adore him and returning him to you will be bitter-sweet and tears will flow. In the mean time, while we all live in a sense of limbo not knowing what the future holds for him, for you, for us, we hope, pray, and enjoy the time we do have with your son. We pray for you daily and unendingly wishing you wellness, wholeness, and the ability to get things together for your sake and your son's sake. We pray for your son, that he will continue to grow and learn and will continue to catch up on his speech. We continue to hand the situation over to God, taking things hour by hour.

Peace & Love,
   Your son's foster mom

Friday, July 7, 2017

Grandma Nane's Recipe Box: Banana Bread

In many regards I am a typical millennial. My iPhone is close at hand and I am quick to turn to google or the internet when in need of an answer or help. Pintrest and AllRecipes are my go to for a recipe. A couple nights ago as I was putting something away in my cupboards I looked up and noticed on the top shelf a handful of hometown recipe books and my Grandma's recipe box and it caused me to pause. I quickly abandoned my lengthy to-do list and found myself flipping through my Grandma's old recipes on index cards in her handwriting, my mother's handwriting, and even some I believe is my Great-Grandma's handwriting. There in my cupboards sat a time capsule of sorts. I wanted to explore it, I want it to soak it in, I wanted my Grandma to sit with me and tell me the stories of the various recipes, which ones were good and which ones she served on which occasions. As the box flew open there was even a little smell of my Grandma that come wafting out of the box, and the memories flooded back to me, if only there was a way to preserve that smell.
          In the wake of my Grandma
Nane's battle with Alzheimer's a year ago (and eventual death) we found ourselves moving both my Grandma and my Grandpa into a retirement village, that had independent living for my Grandpa and skilled and memory care for my Grandma. We moved them out of what had been home for them for several decades and transitioned them into new homes. While we were going through the house we were helping my Grandpa downsize to their new apartment and take care of what things remained.  Some where along the line I was given this old recipe box of my Grandma's and I tucked it up high in my cupboards and apparently the back of my mind. She wasn't necessarily know in her latter years for her kitchen skills but rather her ability to consume dessert after dessert and pick a nice place to go out for a meal.
     However, her recipe box has me inspired to take a little journey with her, to explore the recipes she found worthy of keeping and today started my adventure with my newly turn 3 year old assistant. As I flipped through the recipes I knew I had to start easy, I also recognized the mountain of bananas that have been filling up my freezer and my husband has been reminding me to use up or get rid of. I found the banana bread recipe that my Grandma had used at some point. Lucy and I began to bake this morning in a brief moment where the boys were both sleeping.

It was good and I would use it again. I double the batch and got 12 mini loaves, 12 regular muffins, and 48 mini muffins. It was marvelous and I am excited to see what else this little box of recipes holds. Next time I use this recipe would probably replace the oil with apple sauce and decrease the amount of sugar. The bread is definitely approved by the tiny humans in my house as they consumed bite after bite with repeated requests for more.

What is your go-to for recipes?
What is the best thing you've ever been handed down?

Friday, June 9, 2017

Dear Birth Mom

Dear Birth Mom-
    You currently have gone missing. No one is really sure where you are. People are looking for you and we are worried about you. You were suppose to report to treatment earlier this week. There were plans to reward you with a visit with your son and return you back to treatment. I can't imagine what it's like to have missed the last six months of his life. You've missed a lot sure, but he still has SO MUCH MORE LIFE. The reality is - if you got your life back together sooner than later and took the necessary steps when he is older, he probably wouldn't even remember me or our family. He'd only know you. He deserves to know you. I want you to know him. I want him to know you.
   There is a date looming, where you need to have shown some serious signs of progress or they are going to start looking towards your extended family for permanency. The courts aren't going to let you completely shirk your responsibilities with your son. They are going to start looking for a permanent place for him if you don't start making progress. My husband and I are still rooting for you. We are on your side, while it may seem we are the enemy as we have your son, we are here for you. We agree with the courts, your son deserves to have stability in his life.
  Your son is great! We celebrated his first birthday and he smashed his cake everywhere. He earned himself a direct trip to the tub. Our family and friends sang and celebrated as if he was one of ours and loved on him in ways that you would have loved to have seen.
   He's got some new skills, he's figured out how to clap and loves clapping. He's moving and grooving and any day now we expect him to take off running. We've got a slide in our living room and he loves crawling up and going down over and over and over again.
   PLEASE, go see the case manager. We sent a handful and a half of pictures and some hand and foot print art for you. May they be an inspiration for you for what you are missing out on, may you be inspired to do the hard work that is before you. Your son is worth it. You are worth it. I hold you in prayer every.single.day. God is bigger than any of our troubled histories and makes all things beautiful, including you and me. We all have our troubles but God walks with you in the midst of it. I pray you find the help you need so you can be reunited with one of the sweetest little boys I have ever had the chance to love on.
    In the meantime, your son is in good hands. He's happy and healthy. He's thankful it's summer and we spend most days outside. Every night the bathtub has a brown ring from the dirt for being outside. We will continue to love on him and treat him as one of our own. Our village will continue to love on him.
      Your Son's foster mom

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Road Trips

Flying is expensive and with our ever growing family it is only getting worse.
We now are resorting to flying when absolutely necessary - or we find an amazing deal on flights.

Our family has a growing edge in terms of road trips and we are slowly but surely figuring out what makes the most sense and how to make it happen.

Over the next several months we will be travelling to: Wisconsin, eastern South Dakota, Colorado, and western South Dakota.

Our trips will be a combination of full family trips and a couple of times I am going to attempt to make the trips without Marc. I MUCH prefer Marc is along, his sense of direction is exponentially better than mine, he LOVES to drive, and I can easily pass things back to the kiddos while he drives. With all of the kiddos still rear facing it is a little harder to pass things back.

Some things I have learned:

  • I pack one of two ways
    • On short trips I pack a large utility tote {from 31} for each night. So for our trip to Wisconsin where we will only be gone for two nights I will pack a bag to take into the hotel the first night and a bag to take into the house where we are staying the second night. I also throw in a bag of extra clothes and miscellaneous things just in case - because the tiny humans are unpredictable at best.
    • On longer trips I pack a medium utility tote {also from 31} for each person. I will also have a bag of miscellaneous things as well
  • Other important things: 
    • a pop up laundry basket or laundry bag
      • I don't like when our dirty and clean laundry mix and keeping it straight in random bags doesn't work for me - makes it easy when I start the dreaded unpacking - dump the laundry in the washer and start putting way the stuff still in bags
    • a soft sided cooler with some food for the journey - saves us money so that we don't have to snag all our food from gas stations and fast food restaurants 
      • milk, fruit, drinks, yogurt, cheese sticks, & soda for tired drivers
    • a travel potty
      • we have the "my carry potty" which I am not even sure if they make any more but it is wonderful - when Lucy {2.5yrs} has to go potty we don't always have miles of warning - it is usually only a couple minutes, so we can pull off and she can pee in the little potty on the side of the road - I wash it out when we get to our destination
    • a box of things to keep the kiddos occupied in the van
      • books, little people, movies {we try to not let them watch ridiculous amounts, however, sometimes this mama just needs a bit of time without having to entertain the kiddos}, stuffed animals, etch a sketch, color wonder coloring books & markers, dry erase boards 
      • I also have our box of toddler busy bags that I created with some friends a few months back
    • A small bag of things to do when we get out of the van to stretch
      • bubbles - my sweet girl LOOOOOVES bubbles
      • a ball to play with if we can't find a good park
      • a blanket to sit on so we can eat meals outside and let the kiddos run wild
    • a few thank you notes in our car because I like to be able to leave thank you notes when we stay with family
    • A bag of stuff for this mama
      • a book, my kindle, yarn, crochet hooks, chargers for the tiny human's kindle, phone cords, my camera {I do love my iPhone pics, but sometimes a real camera is nice}

Any road trip tips you'd love to share?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dear Biological mom, love a foster mom

Dear Biological Mom,

I can't imagine the strength it took to separate from your child. I imagine it's the same strength and determination I see in your son as he is trying to take his first steps.

I wonder the roads you are walking and the steps you are taking. I pray for you. I pray that you have a support network to come alongside you and catch you when you fall, to encourage you when the road seems rough, to hold you up when you don't have the strength to do it on your own. I want you to succeed in reunification with you son. It is a gift to have him with us. We've surrounded him with our own village of people who love him, care for him, and have taken him in. He's in good hands. He's well loved.

I want you to know the ways in which the little guy snuggles in with his blanket and bottle as he closes his eyes at night. I want you to see the joy in his eyes as he chases balls around the house. I want you to know his adventurous spirit. I want you to be able to kiss his bumps and bruises as he explores and discovers the world around him. I want you to know the ways in which he loves food and his fierce shake of the head when he disagrees or is all done eating. I want you to kiss his sticky fingers and face at the end of the meal. I want you to be here for him. I want you to be the one he calls "mama."

For now I stand in your place, he looks to me as "mama." I kiss the sticky fingers, the bumps and bruises, and read books with lots of pictures. We play on the slide and he would let me push him for hours on the swing. My daughter introduces him as a brother.

I pray for you, each and every day. I pray you are able to do what you need to do to be with your son again. I grieve for the things you are missing and the things we see. We are rooting for you.
In the mean time, know we love your son. We are caring for him to the best of our ability and trying to document everything so we can tell you all about it if the chance were to arise.
Enjoy the hand and foot print art we sent you, may it remind you of the sweet little boy who is growing and changing every day.

It will be hard on our family if/when he goes back home to be with you. We will cry big tears, we will continue to pray for him and you each and every day. His story, your story, and our story is forever woven together no matter what the future holds.

Be bold mama and work hard, you've got this. I believe in you.

  a foster mom caring for your son