Friday, October 30, 2015

Welcome Home

Sometimes, God asks us to do God-sized things. You know, the crazy whisperings in your heart that are easy to hush because they're so crazy they don't make any sense to us. I've had to work really hard over the past many years to tune my heart to be receptive to those callings; I always find myself worrying about whether my "heart whisperings" are from God or from my own selfish desires. Of course, as we grow and mature in our relationship with Christ I find our own desires become more closely aligned with what Christ desires, so perhaps that's not the question we should worry about.

Anyway. Will and I started having those quiet, crazy heart whispers early in 2015. We had known since high school this was something we would eventually do, like when we were finished having our biological children. So this year when we discussed these fleeting thoughts, casually at first, it was always a talk about what we would do in the future. After all, we had a 7 month old child at home; it would be the definition of insane to open our home to other kids with one so little, not to mention the fact that we aren't done having our own biological kids yet. God's funny, though. His plans are so much bigger, scarier, and better than our own. Something kept pushing us to do a bit more research. We reached out to some people in our community who are foster parents, and I talked to a cousin who also fosters. It became clear that this was something God had in plan for us, and he was urging us to follow his timeline, not ours.

Which is how, the first first week of my summer vacation, we found ourselves sitting in an office talking to the Foster Parenting Coordinator at what has become our agency. 
Long, arduous, tedious- these words about sum up the process to becoming licensed. We were pushing to get everything completed before Will started grad classes again in the fall. We officially received our foster parenting license on September 30th. We were originally told we would likely receive a placement very soon, as (unfortunately) we live in a busy county. Our specifications are a bit narrow because we want to stick with young children for now, but we were quite surprised when one, two, three, almost four weeks passed and we had no placements.

All that changed this Wednesday, when we finally received the call we had been praying over for so long. That evening, a precious 10- day old baby girl came to stay with us.

So far, she has been a total dream baby. Everyone always said Jonah was such a good and easy baby, but compared to our little Sweet Pea, he was rather difficult. We are savoring her newborn snuggles and enjoying the rare opportunity to go through this stage of life without the other, less glamorous half (i.e., post partum hormones, recovery from childbirth, breastfeeding struggles, etc.) 
You know how surreal it is when you bring your first baby home, and you feel like, "wait, I'm in charge?! I'm being trusted with this tiny, fragile human who can't fend for herself?" Well, we pretty much are feeling the same way, but it's a bit different this time because she didn't grow in my womb. I don't feel like we have a "right" to her. Nonetheless, she, like each child that will hopefully pass through our home, is just as much "ours" as any child that forever stays in our home. 
There are always lots of questions folks have when we talk about our Foster parenting not adventure. I've taken the time to answer some of them: 

We are licensed for kiddos aged birth to 7 years old, although we plan to only accept kids under that's of four for now. When our biological kids are older, we can change our license reflect the new ages or kids we will accept. 

We are licensed for two foster children, which would most likely be a sibling group. 

We are not fostering with the end goal of adopting. We are by no means opposed to or closed to the idea of adopting foster children, and truly the opportunity will most likely arise at some point. However, the ultimate goal of most foster cases is reunification with the family. 

Yes, you can see a picture of our precious Sweet Pea. If we see you in person. Even though these kids are "ours" for a while, they still have the right to privacy and it's our job to protect that privacy. We can't post pictures of their faces or post their names, tell you their life story or why we have them. 

Speaking of, sometimes we will know why they're in foster care, but other times we may not know. No, we can't tell you. 

We know there are always questions, as people are naturally curious. Please don't ever hesitate to ask Will or me; the worst that could happen is we either don't know the answer or we can't tell you for privacy's sake. 

Before I wrap up this giant post, I feel the need to address the white elephant about foster parenting. Be cautious to say that you could never do what we do because it would be too hard to say goodbye. We haven't experienced this yet, but after only 48 hours with our little Sweet Pea we have an inkling that when the day comes it will be more difficult than we could ever express. It is going to be "too hard" every. single. time. But what's harder is knowing how many children there are in our city, our county, our state, our country, and our world that have no one. No one to quiet their cries. No one to calm their fears. No one to push them to reach a goal. No one to support them in the tough years of adolescence. There is a real need for people to love these kids, and that need is greater than my personal and selfish need for the security that comes with taking no risks and quieting the heart whisperings that come from the Almighty one Himself. We were not put here on this earth to live safe, quiet lives centered and focused on our own goals. I'm not saying everyone should become foster parents, but I encourage you to tune into your heart whisperings. Pay attention to the things that might only be a fleeting thought for "someday" and examine why it has to be someday. God sometimes asks us to do God-sized things (like becoming foster parents when you have a perfectly lovely baby at home who already takes all your time and patience, and you know you'll get too attached to every dang child that walks through your door and it will mean your heart gets broken again and again and again), but He won't ask without providing a way. He is faithful, and He will mend our hearts and give us strength when we have none left of our own. 

     (Two babies under 18 months!) 

Annnnnnnnd I'm going to end this post there because our newborn eats every 3 hours, and this Mama is feeling the burn from the past two nights. 

Peace and love, 

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Better Place

There's no doubt that a  baby's first year is incredibly difficult for the parents, especially if they're first time parents. While I felt totally prepared and ready to have a baby and make the switch from being a young woman to "mom," I don't think there's ever really words to prepare you for the complete identity shift that occurs when you have a little one.

I'm still me in many ways, but other parts have had to fade away and new strands have emerged. And it's good. I like who I have become. I've always known I was meant to be a mama. I feel like I am really basking in the place God had prepared for me. It's taken Jonah's 13 1/2 months on this earth to finally feel like I've (kind of) arrived at this point.

Jonah's birth was traumatic. I think it took me almost two or three months to shake off the newborn delirium and finally realize just how traumatized I was by it. I started writing a few posts on it here on the blog but I never published them because I couldn't make the time to wax my true thoughts and feelings into written words, but also because it was hard to try and iterate something that is not culturally recognized and talked about.

I'm not sure that I'll try to go back and talk about it to the extent that I truly want to. I will say, though, that Jonah's birth- my process to become a mother- consumed pretty much my spare thought. The what-ifs. The I should'ves. The I wonder ifs. The if  onlys. Of course logically I know you're not supposed to do that, and you can't do that to yourself, no matter how much I fought it I couldn't escape. Will was my rock through those dark, dark months, but no matter how patient and understanding he is there comes a point that really no one else can truly understand. I kept waiting for my light at the end of the tunnel. I prayed it would come soon.

Finally, around the time Jonah was 9 months old I began to feel the vice grip of his birth lessen its hold on me, if ever so slightly. No longer consumed, however it was always still there, like a tide lapping at the edges of my mind. Life swirled on around me. People long ago stopped asking how I am, but rather, it was and is always about my child. This is not to say, of course, that people should not be interested in Jonah or ask about him or coo over him. However, hello, I'm still here too. This subject has been written about many times by other moms- the loss of personal identity because all anyone sees anymore is your cute little kids. This is something I've really been feeling a lot recently, though. At first it's fine because, yes, my kid is adorable and yes, I love talking about him. But then there comes a point when no one asks about you. No one truly wants to see you; they just want you to come to bring the baby so they can see him. No longer can you have conversations about anything you think or about things going on in your life, because either your conversation partner steers the conversation to the baby or is distracted by the adorable baby and you can't even finish your sentence.

So, anyway, coming out of that rabbit hole. Will and I had always planned for me to be a stay at home mom eventually. Probably after our second kid was born. But then I went back to work when Jonah was five months old and it was the worst seven months of my life. It's hard to go to college and get a degree for something only to realize not even three years later it was all for waste, because I was not born to be a teacher and take care of everyone else's kids. I was born to be a mom and raise and nurture my own children. Many moms can do both, and I salute those superwomen. But I could not do it. I wasn't doing a good job at anything- working or at home. Will and I discussed and prayed about our options. And then one day I was talking to a coworker who was pregnant with her second child. They use the same daycare we did, and I asked if she was planning to stay home or come back to work (I had assumed she would stay home because paying for two children in that daycare would be approximately 2/3 of our paycheck, and to me, it would totally not be worth it. Teaching is too stressful and hard to only bring home 1/3 of a paycheck). Now, this lady is so incredibly sweet and I respect her and in way judged her decision. She kind of laughed and said no, she wanted to finish decorating her house before she quit her job.

Something clicked for me when she said that. This is totally not about her and her personal decision, but when she said that I saw my own life in front of me. The only reason I was considering going back to work next year was because of the money. So we could pay of student loans. Put some more into savings. Set us up to not have to live quite so frugally. To make things easier. And yes, because there are still a lot of things we want to do to our home. Crystal clearly, I saw that I was choosing things and my house over my child. And I could not do it. That night Will and I decided I wasn't going back to work.

Then the race to the end of school was on and it felt like we would never make it. Of course, we did and suddenly, like a breath of fresh air, I had time. I had breathing space in my head that allows me to concentrate on things like my family and my home and cooking and laundry. All mundane things that are enough to make some women cry, but this is my place at this stage in my life. I am so happy. I am content.

I saw both of my midwives right after school was out and each of those visits was the most healing I've had in a year. Though neither of them said anything particularly profound, being in their presence again and talking about my feelings; finally having someone (other than Will) acknowledge what I went through. Acknowledge and affirm my feelings. Acknowledge how hard it was. Acknowledge that I had every right to feel like I do. THAT was like the proverbial balm on my scar I never realized I needed. I'm still working through a lot of my feelings, but I feel so much lighter and healed than I was three months ago.

Of course this is not to say everything is easy and a breeze now! Oh, no I don't think any mother could say that. Jonah still fights almost every single nap. I'm really struggling to get back to a healthy place with my post-partum body. The normal wear and tear of motherhood and raising a baby. Laundry piles up on my couch. My kitchen floors are proverbially sticky. I fight the cat and dog hair on my floors constantly. But the dark cloud that's been hanging over me is much less like an ominous storm cloud, and more like a wandering puffy cloud. It's there, but not so scary. I'm in a much better place now.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

1 Year Old

Earlier this month, my tiny squish turned 1! I'll save all my feelings and reflections for another post; for now I wanted to share his party.

We went with a nautical theme. I figure he has the rest of his life for the theme to be what he wants, so the first party gets to be what Mom wants!

I made this "chalkboard" from a black foam core poster and metallic sharpies.

About twenty minutes before the party started our power went out. We quickly lit all the candles and it was fine. The heat started to get pretty oppressive but the power came back on just before things got too bad.

 We served hamburgers and chicken kabobs with sides; Jonah got some chicken and steamed carrots.

Jonah does this adorable bashful clapping when he gets excited and sense the attention is on him.

Jonah's "cake" was watermelon cut into a cake shape covered with coconut "icing." You take a can of full-fat coconut milk and stick it in the fridge over night. The cream will rise to the top, and you can use that to mix with vanilla and honey if you'd like to make a paleo icing. I didn't add anything to it, and he didn't seem to care much for the taste. He's never had anything like it though, so I wasn't expecting too much from him.

He liked the texture, though!

My mom and two of my brothers drove down for the party. It was so nice to see them!

Try to feed Poppa.

 Grammie and Gramma serving the cake.

Unfortunately the best family shot we got the whole day. Oh well.

Friends from our small group.

Without all the food.

It was a great day to celebrate our sweet baby's first year!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


I have a few posts in drafts right now; it seems every time I finally sit down to write I end up taking so long, and then I never finish the post. Maybe some day I'll go back and finish my thoughts. For now, though, here are some snippets.

We went on a cruise over spring break! We went with Will's family to Jamaica, Grand Cayman Islands, and Cozumel.

We were on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas.

We've been planning this vacation since before I was pregnant, and it was so worth the wait! Jonah did awesome.

Seriously, everyone who looked at him on the ship commented on how cute he is. (Not that I disagree.)

He wasn't too sure about the ocean, but he did love having all his favorite people dote on him 24/7.

Will's parents watched Jonah in the evenings after he went to bed so Will and I could go catch some shows. We were truly impressed with the quality of all the performances on board the ship. Overall, I would recommend a cruise for a family vacation, even with a super little one, especially if you have grandparents willing to go and help babysit.

Jonah is ten months old and started crawling about 3 1/2 weeks ago. He is extremely mobil. He will crawl everywhere and likes to walk while holding onto your hands. He pulls up onto things and lowers himself back down without any issues.

He continues to be one heck of a happy boy. He got sick again earlier this week with a fever one night. We went to the pediatrician the next day because we were worried about his ears, which have had fluid in them for over two months now, but the doctor said his ears look good and we don't have too much to worry about. None the less, we can't wait to get him out of daycare. He hasn't been 100% well since Thanksgiving.

I officially turned in my resignation letter to my principal on Monday. It was hard because as far as teaching goes, I know I have it as good as it's going to get (at least around here in the district I would want to teach in). I love my school and coworkers and kids, but nothing has ever felt so wrong as going back to work and leaving my little fella with other people to take care of him during the day. It will be definite change of lifestyle for us for me to not be working, but Will and I are ecstatic for the change.

Will's in tapering part of training for his second marathon. He's running the Oklahoma City marathon at the end of this month. Jonah and I are supposed to run the 5k; I suppose I should start running again if I actually want to be able to finish!

In other news, I've started my Trim Healthy Mama journey. I lost all of my pregnancy weight within two weeks of Jonah's birth, but like many new moms find, my body looks completely different. I was trying to loose weight when I got pregnant (and had recently lost almost twenty pounds), but I'm ready to break free from this body that I feel trapped in. When I first started I did really well and lost 11 lbs in four weeks, but then we went on the cruise and it's been extremely difficult to re-commit to staying 100% on plan. Maybe posting more about it here will help keep me on track.

Anyway, those are a few snippets of our lives right now. I hope to be back soon!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What I Know

We're still alive over here! I have updates to Jonah's weekly photo project, but that will require a bit more time so it'll have to wait a bit longer. Jonah is currently taking a nap in his car seat just inside the front door, so I thought I'd jot down some notes about my thoughts lately.

Wait, why is Jonah taking a nap in his carseat you ask? Well, you see, my child is apparently one of those very few who don't need naps. Scratch that. He definitely NEEDS naps, but he refuses to take one at a time other than while he's nursing. About once a week or so he'll actually stay asleep when I put him down, but other than that we're out of luck. Also, he screams approximately 97% of the time that he's in his carseat, so the fact that he decided to take a nap in his carseat and stay asleep when I brought him in from the car is quite the miracle.

Anyway, we're chugging along here. Jonah is 16 weeks old (17 tomorrow), and there is so much going on in my head and in my heart. I go back to work the first full week in November, and while I'm cherishing every single second I have here with my little man, I'm really starting to feel quite a bit of anxiety about returning to work. I like my job. I know that my job has purpose and meaning and that hopefully I have some kind of small impact on students' futures. But I want to be with my baby. I want to be with him every day so I can watch all the small details about him unfold as he grows.
Annnnnd I'm back, three days later to finish the post.

So anyway, the point of this post is that being a mom is the best but hardest job in the world. I'm sure those veteran mommies are like, "you think you know that now, but just wait. You really don't have a clue yet."

I am a researcher. I'm pretty sure I drive my family nuts when I bust out another, "Well, according to....." but I can't help it. I like all kinds of research, too. The peer-reviewed articles in published journals, news articles (when the journalists are flaming idiots, which unfortunately seems to be the case more often these days), books, and anecdotal "research" by other moms. But I'm here to tell you that no matter how much preparation you do, there are just some things you can't fully be ready for when you bring your tiny human home from the hospital.

Unfortunately, a few of these things made me feel like I wasn't doing something right, or that maybe there was something "wrong" with my baby. But what I've learned in the past seventeen weeks is that we all create our own normal. Every mom and baby are different, so the old saying of trust your gut is probably one of the best things we can do as moms.

Without further ado, here are some things that I was unprepared for, even with all my research:

  • Apparently not all babies nap. Now, this one is still up in the air as to whether or not it's a healthy anomoly. Babies are supposed to sleep, like, a LOT, especially when they're tiny. When Jonah was in the NICU he was awesome at sleeping, waking to eat, having a tiny bit of awake time, and then conking out for a few hours. When we brought him home, he did take a few naps in the first few days, but after a few days at home it was like a switch flipped and since that time, we've been lucky to get two solid naps out of the kid per week. The exceptions are that he used to nap when I held him. Which was lovely and so sweet and moments I wouldn't trade for the world, but after a certain point you can only take your house being so filthy before you start to wish you could put down your beautiful babe for just one of those naps so you could put clean sheets on the bed. The past ten weeks or so, though, have been really been napless except for while Jonah's eating. Did you know babies can eat and sleep at the same time? They can. It's great for efficiency but exhausting for you as mom because WHEN ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO NAP? One of the things new moms hear over and over again is to sleep when the baby sleeps. I would have. I would have LOVED to take a nap to help recover from childbirth. I would still love to take a nap because we're still getting up several times a night to nurse and I still feel like I have a hangover when I wake up in the mornings due to sleep deprivation, but I can't because Jonah likes to nap while he's eating and on a rare occasion, while he's in the car (that's if he's not screaming like a wild banshee) or while I'm wearing him at the store or at church. I should note that we have been making slight progress on this front, though. I've noticed that if he is going to take a nap, 2 pm is the most likely time and 11 am is the second most likely time. We've been working really hard on laying in his crib for those nap times, but I think he's only actually stayed asleep once I've layed him down in the crib twice. The other times he wakes up as soon as I start lowering him in it, but I usually try to leave him in there until he starts fussing, which can be any where from two minutes to twenty minutes. 
  • While we're on the topic of sleep, let's talk about night time. While I was pregnant, Will and I set up the pack n' play in our bedroom and planned for Jonah to sleep there "for a few weeks" and then he would transition to his crib in the nursery. ha. ha. HA. I think it was his first night at home, after getting out of bed for the twentieth time because he would not stay asleep, that I finally told Will I was going to put him in bed with us. The next night, he started off in bed with us and we broke down the pack n' play. We put the little guy in the middle of the bed between us on top of a towel because he was spitting up pretty bad in his sleep and we didn't want to have to change our sheets every day. Jonah wore his footie pj's and a swaddle blanket (but with his hands sticking out because he HATED them being stuck in the swaddle, which actually made my life a lot harder because his startle reflex was so strong for a long time and he would wake himself on a regular basis by jerking his hands). We put him towards the top of the bed and Will and I scrunched our pillows down further towards his feet so there wouldn't be any risk of him suffocating on our pillows. This made nursing at night so much easier. After a few nights I discovered that if I could leave him on the side of the bed where he had finished eating he had a higher chance of staying asleep than if I flipped him over back to the middle of the bed, which eventually morphed into us changing Jonah's little pallet onto my left side instead of the middle of the bed. It was a lot more comfortable for me to lay on my left side at night, but I dearly miss my Bump Nest from pregnancy days! The rest of our set up includes the salt rock lamp I ordered from Amazon. We actually keep it on all night on the dimmest setting (the soft amber light is the only light I've found I can sleep with it on), but the dimmer turns up enough that I could turn it up while feeding Jonah to see everything. And finally, I keep an extra pillow and my feeding pillow under Jonah's feet on the bed at night so that when it's time to feed him, I can stack the extra pillow with mine under my arm for extra support. Jonah's s night time sleep schedule for the first several months included the two of us camping out on the couch at night until any where from 11:30 pm to 1:30 am. If I tried to get in bed sooner than that he would immediately wake up and start crying (and if he didn't, he would wait fifteen minutes until I was almost asleep to do it). To me, that was more exhausting than just staying awake until I knew he would actually sleep for an hour or so, so we stayed on the couch and watched a ridiculous amount of Netflix. In addition, Jonah was cluster feeding from around 6 pm to midnight every night any way. Around eight weeks old we started trying to get into the routine of getting a bath every night, and now finally we are able to get in bed before 10 pm. Our routine is to eat somewhere between 7 and 8, take a bath pretty soon after that, then get in bed together for  his last feeding before he goes to sleep. The past few nights he's slept from about 9:30 pm to 1 or 2 am, which has been AMAZING. But he's had good sleep for a few nights and then regressed back to waking every two hours before, so I'm not quite ready to say he's sleeping well yet. Which brings us to the next question: how long are we going to bed share? I never planned to bed share before Jonah got here, I honestly do not know how breastfeeding moms survive without doing it. Unless, I guess, you happen to be one of the lucky ones whose baby sleeps through the night. I think the answer to that question is "as long as he needs it and it's working for all of us." I think if and when Jonah drops down to waking only once in the night I could manage to get out of bed, go into the nursery, feed him in there, and then come back to bed. Will is totally supportive of Jonah staying with us right now because he sees how exhausted I still am (and I haven't even gone back to work yet!) I anticipate Jonah needing to nurse a little more at night when I go back to work and I'm nervous about my milk supply when I go back to work, so I think we'll continue bed sharing at least another month or so after I go back the first week in November. All that said, it goes back to as long as Jonah needs it and it's working for our family. Right now he's still not rolling over and is a pretty peaceful sleeper. I anticipate him beginning to roll over in the next six weeks or so, which might change how much sleep we get and we'll have to reevaluate. 
Alright, so this is my third day trying to get this post written, and it's getting a little ridiculous. So basically, my point is this: all mommies and babies are different. Just because all the lactation consultants told me Jonah should eat every 3-4 hours, doesn't mean that's what his little body needs. My child eats every two hours. He cluster fed for six hours in the evening for the first few months of his life. Babies are wonderful at telling you what they need. So even though it's exhausting to feed a human for forty minutes and then repeat in about an hour around the clock, it's what my baby needed (and still does, although it doesn't take forty minutes for him to eat now).
Ha. I never published this when I originally wrote it. So I'm publishing now, a month or so later.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Back to Work

Well, only for a week (and thank goodness it's only that!) this week was professional development for teachers and students return next week. I can't believe summer is already over; I mean, I just had this baby last week!

 But somehow here we are, in the dog days of summer and all the stores are full of shiny new supplies. It was a hard week to work since the little guy is still waking in two-hour cycles at night, but it really didn't want to "waste" a week of maternity leave on PD, since these are arguably the easiest weeks of the year. 

We are incredibly blessed that Will's job is flexible enough that he can work from home if he needs, so he was able to stay home or watch Munchkin. We did hire a babysitter for this afternoon to make sure Will could get in all his hours, but it was a pretty good week for everyone overall. 

On Monday, Will brought Jonah up to my school to bring me lunch and so that I could feed him, and Will was all dressed up and gloated that Jonah had slept practically all morning. When I got home it was more of the same- Jonah had slept and been so easy and blah blah blah. I was a bit upset since that is definitely not how the majority of our days go. I mean, I usually only count on one or two actual legitimate naps per week and here we are with the baby sleeping all day.

I think Will had a reality call, though, because on Tuesday when I got home and I asked how everything went, the response was something along the lines of, "He. Wouldn't. Let. Me. Put. Him. Down. All. Day."  Hahaha

It was really hard to leave Jonah for so long, and I am so incredibly thankful that I still get to stay at home another ten weeks. However, I think it was really good for me to be forced to leave him for such extended periods of time and see that we can, in fact, do it! He did well with his bottles, even though he would initially get pretty upset when he realized how fast he had finished it. I was able to pump in my classroom when I needed, and overall I was able to get just about as much milk as I needed. We're actually freezing the fresh milk and giving Wee Man frozen milk since it will expire next month. I plan to try and continue to put back at least three ounces a day for "just in case." I think the majority of moms worry about not pumping enough once they go back to work and I don't want to be on a day-to-day basis. Being a pumping high school teacher will definitely be a unique challenge because I won't be able to take a break whenever I need, but rather only during my conference and lunch. I also plan to pump just before and after the bell rings so that I get four sessions in during the day, even though they won't be evenly spaced. 

I am excited for the weekend and the opportunity to spend more time with my boys. We are meeting my dad and stepmom for dinner tonight and tomorrow Jonah and I are heading back up to my classroom to finish getting it ready and the. We'll help my sister-in-law finish moving into her apartment. Sunday we have church and a community prayer event. I will work on Monday for the first day of school to meet the kiddos, and then I am officially off until the first week in November. 
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