Two baby birds in a nest in front of my house. Coincidence?
There were four eggs. It appears only two are now living in the nest.
Most of my Phone Photo Friday pictures are from my Instagram feed. Follow me @mahlbrandt if you’d like!
I was generously blessed with this amazing double stroller by a woman I had never met. She follows my Instagram feed (Hi @curlybirds!) and apparently reads here too. I am incredibly grateful that someone would take the time out of her day to drive across town to deliver a beautiful and certainly valuable double stroller to my house. Ali and I got to meet her and her six year old twin daughters, too. What lovely, lovely people!
Thank you, again, so very much!
I’m way behind on blog posts. I still haven’t posted about Ali’s and my trip to Florida a month ago or the swimming lessons she started. I have pictures of mid-century modern things we’ve bought and sold. I have pictures of our blossoming landscaping. I was behind before Buzz showed up 12 days ago but now I’m REALLY behind. However, it’s easier to write about what’s currently going on.
• Yesterday was Buzz’s first day of day care (in our care) and it was so good for all of us. The consistency of a daily routine, structure and opportunity to play with other kids all day will be great for him. It was also a much needed break for Ali who has been kind of stressed out (acting out for attention, yelling and hitting a lot) and we could tell she was craving down time, as well as some individual attention from Mom and Dad. I worked at home yesterday with just Ali. Holy Cow! I got so much done! I thought working at home with a child was challenging but after struggling all week last week with two, it was a piece of cake. Day care isn’t cheap and it will use up most of the daily board rate that the state gives us for Buzz’s expenses but it’s worth it for us. This is what Ali did after breakfast:
• We all picked Buzz up together and went shopping for a new grill. I love when stores have double child seat shopping carts, especially when they’re shaped like a car. This is the first time we’ve taken both of these kids shopping. They were driving each other crazy. (Get it?) Seriously, they pick on each other like brother and sister. Ali is a pesky little sister constantly grabbing his steering wheel or flicking his hair. He whines and tattles and is always pushing her back into her side of the car. Then she smacks him. Then he fake cries. (Anyone have suggestions on how to foster sibling love and kindness?)
• Our old grill was a surprise wedding gift from my cousin Dan. I was 18 at the time and I thought, A grill? That’s so…grownup. We’ve used the heck outta that thing over a decade and moved it to 7 different apartments and homes from Erie, PA to Nashville, TN. It was such a wonderful, thoughtful wedding gift. Now here we are 10 years later grilling our first dinner on the back patio of our dream house on a gorgeous May evening with a spunky little Hispanic girl we adopted and a playful little AA boy we’re fostering. I never in a million years would have pictured this as my life from that vantage point but here we are and I love it.
• Speaking of love, it’s not all brother-and-sisterly squabbles. They do like each other. After dinner they wanted to swing in the hammock together and then they were working together to fill containers with rocks in the courtyard. And the sweetest thing yet… Jason was putting Ali to bed while I was putting Buzz to bed. He brought Ali into his room so I could give her a hug and kiss goodnight. As they started to walk out, Buzz said “Wait!” We asked if he wanted to say goodnight to Ali. (We’ve suggested this several times before and they usually refuse anything other than an occasional “night night” or wave.) They both leaned in for a hug and then a kiss. MELT.MY.HEART.
• Neighborhood moms are so generously bringing us meals 3 nights a week and it lifts a huge burden. If I haven’t already mentioned it, Buzz will likely be with us a couple months but of course anything can happen in foster care. I love his mom. We’ve been texting back and forth a few times through the week. She was super helpful in getting me his immunization records so I could get him into day care. (DCS…not so much. They pretty much dropped the ball last week and this desperate mama decided to take matters into her own hands…without of course “going over their heads” because, ah hem, we’ve been warned.) We’re constantly referring to ourselves as Mr. Jason and Ms. Martina to Buzz, both out of respect for his parents and because we believe he’ll be reunified with them soon. However, he has started calling me “Ma” and Jason “Da.” I’m not sure how to avoid this because Ali is calling us Mama and Daddy all day. Also, I don’t think he’s able to say “Ms. Martina” or “Mr. Jason.” I just hope his mom is not offended if/when he calls me Ma in front of her someday. I tried. I really did. Ali, on the other hand, sometimes calls me “Nina.” Or “Ali’s Nina.” Oh that girl!
So that’s where we are. Blogging has been a little scarce because I’m still fighting to recover my energy. At the end of the day when I have the choice of sorting out my thoughts here or going to bed, I usually fall asleep sitting up before I even make the decision. But we’re definitely getting settled and life is starting to feel more manageable. Thanks for hanging out here and sharing this adventure with us.
Mothers Day continues to be a roller coaster of emotions for me. I am thankful for the many wonderful mothers in my life. My own. Jason’s. My sisters, sisters-in-law and good friends who are journeys simultaneously with me into motherhood. Ali’s first mom who gave her life, loved her, did her best for her, and then gave us her blessing to raise her precious daughter. And now there is Buzz’s mom who is heartbroken and working hard to play by the rules and get her son back. She’s been very easy to get along with and loves her little boy and he loves her too. She sent me a happy mothers day text on my way to church and I sent her one back with a photo of these two beautiful children that I got to spend the day with, mothering. I’m an exhausted, blessed, weepy mess and I’m going to attempt to use this space to sort out my thoughts tonight.
I’m not usually the type who cries reading mothers day cards, but there I was at my parents’ church this morning crying over a Hallmark card before I even got to the handwritten note from my own mom, who is relentlessly loving and encouraging. Mothers Day never used to be an emotional day for me. I wrote about that last year. I always knew in my heart that I’d be a mom and I wasn’t sad while I was childless. I haven’t lost a mom or a child or dealt with other situations that makes women sad on mother’s day. And yet these past two mothers days I’ve been an emotional wreck.
People often tell me that they’ve talked about doing foster care someday. In my head, my response is “but then you decided that you like yourself and your life, so you thought better of it.” I’m joking, but not. Because I like myself too. In a clear-headed, God-focused moment Jason and I decided whole-heartedly to surrender our plans and dreams for what our family might look like and become foster parents. We feel called to it. Most of the time. Other times, I long for my former comfortable, easy, predictable life. I certainly have my fair share of “what the heck are we doing? And why?” moments lately. But I do know why.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
I can’t read this passage (Matthew 25:34-40) anymore without sobbing, because I’ve done most of those things and I’ve seen Jesus’ face in the face of one of the least of these. I can’t go back to putting myself first anymore.
Except when I do. Because I’m not perfect. I pour out my mama love until I’m empty. I’m strong until I buckle under the pressure and I crack a little. I need time to heal. To recover. To refill. This week has been hard. So very hard. And good, too. We’ve been giving this thing all that we’ve got and I feel completed poured out. Empty. I see that Buzz has made a tremendous amount of progress in a week. It makes my mama-heart so proud that he’s feeling comfortable and safe here now. Progress is tangible. Hard work is exhausting.
A woman at church yesterday told me that I’m living her dream. Huh? Her dream I think she said was “to adopt a some kids from Africa.” I didn’t feel compelled to tell her that both of these kids where born in Nashville and that one of them is in foster care. I’d love to know what my face looked like when she said that as I was wracking my brain to come up with a response. I hope I smiled politely. I kind of wanted to smack her in the face and say, “Do you have any idea what this week has been like?” But I know she’s seeing a different reality than me. I know because I do that same thing when I see a picture of a family with kids of all different colors and I think: How lovely! How beautiful! I want my family to look like that. She’s seeing the happy young white mom with the dark brown boy with crazy hair, a mischeiveous grin and a puppy dog backpack and the caramel brown little girl with a big pink flower in her curly black hair, with the infectious smile and owl backpack. And if I do say so, they were both super adorable yesterday. But it’s not all flowers and puppies and sweets around here.
There are tantrums and tears. (Sometimes from the kids.) There are butts and noses that always need wiped. There are accidents to clean up. Wanders to chase down. Slow pokes to pull along. Buckles to buckle, shoes to tie, velcro to fix, cups to fill…one thousand million times a day. In one week I’ve become the mom that’s shouting “Share! Play nice! Walk please! Slow down! Come on, let’s go! We don’t hit! Gentle please! Don’t bite people! Leave the dog alone!” way too many times a day. I’ve relied on the TV as a pacifier more than I care to admit. (Sometimes for the kids.)
I have to stop and wonder: between me and that woman, which one of us is seeing the real picture? Both of us? Maybe neither? Perhaps we’re each only seeing one small part of the greater picture the Master Artist is creating.
Most of my Phone Photo Friday pictures are from my Instagram feed. Follow me @mahlbrandt if you’d like!
I have lots of things in my mind to process and share, it’s just a matter of finding the time this week as we’re all still getting situated. This is our first placement of Foster Care Round 2 and there are some really significant differences this time:
1. We have another child.
I know this is obvious. In a lot of ways, it’s made this transition easier. Our house is already pretty child-proof. We have lots of toys, a playroom, kids shows loaded up on our Netflix, bath toys and shampoos and soaps, high chairs, sippy cups, etc. We’re familiar with toddler behavior and have a lot of well practiced discipline and parenting techniques. We have toddler friendly foods and an understanding of little kid schedule. All of these things were a huge learning curve with our first placement, Ladybug, who was 16 months old. There are also some challenges that come because of having two kids. The fighting…I mean learning to share. Two kids running in opposite directions. Taking turns. Dividing our parental attention between two. Attempting to adapt them both to the same schedule. Double the: bodies to wash and dress, teeth to brush, butts and noses to wipe, shoes to put on, car seats to buckle, sippy cups to fill, backpacks to pack, toys to wrangle, boo boos to kiss. It’s also double the: cuddles, giggles, comforting hugs, smiles from strangers, sighs of relief when they’re both finally asleep, safe and sound at night.
2. A community of fellow moms.
The first time we became parents we had a few friends who were already parents but not a ton. I wasn’t part of any groups or clubs. This time, holy smokes! It wasn’t just our immediate friends and family offering to help. I sent out an email to our neighborhood MOMS club right after Buzz was asleep on Saturday morning requesting clothes because he hardly came with anything. At 8:30 am the first mom was out my doorstep with a big box of clothes, shoes, underwear, socks, pjs, toys, diapers. (Some of which is pictured below.) Throughout the day, we got 3 more deliveries. I thought we could handle it from there but in a weak, desperate moment yesterday I put out another plea for a few grocery items and some babysitting help. Before I knew what hit me I was sitting at my computer weeping as phone calls, texts and FB messages started pouring in with offers to help. One friend left immediately for the grocery store with my short list of desperate needs. Another mom from the MOMS club called to set up a meal calendar. Another couple of friends offered to bring meals this week. I am blown away but the support from our community! Also humble enough to admit that I need help this time.
3. Grieving people.
The most significant difference with Buzz’s placement is the emotions. Ladybug didn’t really show signs of grief. She was angry sometimes and I’m sure there was some confusion or frustration but she didn’t really seem sad. We never met her birth mom. The family member we did meet, the one who got custody of her, didn’t seem sad either; just frustrated and angry at the department. Ali was a little baby and as content as any baby I’ve ever met. Her birth mom was not outwardly sad, though I know she was struggling. She was very tough and didn’t let her guard down very much. Buzz has been much more sad and emotional than I expected for a 2.5 year old boy. He cries daily, says “I want my mom!”, pouts…it’s very clear that he’s grieving. When we first met his mom she was also very visibly sad and scared about how everything is going to turn out. That combination has just about wrecked us emotionally, too! The most significant thing God is teaching us right now is compassion. He wants us to know what it feels like to be near to the brokenhearted, the way God is near to the brokenhearted. If you ever feel like You can’t find God or you don’t feel His presence, get around some broken, desperate people. That’s where He is working, moving, healing, loving. That’s where He is. But let me clearly warn you: It’s a gut-wrenching, heart-tearing compassion.
I feel like I should write another blog post but all I can think to say is: I’m tired. I sit down at my computer at night and nap time to try to catch up on work and I’m struggling to keep my eyes open. We’re doing fine in general. I hope I can write a more thoughtful, coherent post soon. Or at least some pretty pictures of something.