This Time

05/08/2013

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.

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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.

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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.

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Approval Letter: Ready or Not, Here We Go!

03/26/2013

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This came in the mail on Friday. Jason sent me a picture of the letter while I was at work. Totally non-chalant. He texted to say that Ali liked my chicken salad and “Just got the mail too.” He’s as cool as a cucumber about this whole thing, unless it comes to advocating for a child—then stay out of his way or you’ll get bowled over! But, seriously, how does he stay so chill about it?

My immediate reaction was freak out. I’m not ready!

Then I remembered, wait… yes I am. We’re going to be fine. We can do this. Deep breath.


Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids

03/07/2013

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

We really loved our last house but sold it so we’d have room for our family to grow. Specifically, we wanted to have more bedrooms so we could continue to provide a home for children in foster care. At our previous home, I designed a room that could suit one or two kids ages birth to five years old, male or female. It was a big challenge, especially with a small room. This room is targeted toward 2-12 year olds in my mind, though we’re keeping an open mind about ages at this point. It felt much easier this time around, I suppose because we already had the super versatile IKEA KURA bed (which can be flipped over to be a low loft bunk bed) and I’m not set on putting a crib and dresser in here…yet. (We do need to add a dresser ASAP, we found out last week.) Other than the bed and bedding, the woodland creatures curtain was the only other element we started with from the previous house.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I chose the green wall color based on the curtain. Also, green is supposed to be soothing and it’s one of my favorites. I read somewhere that mirrors are good for self esteem for kids. Ali loves looking in the full length mirror in her room so I put one in this room, too. It was less than $10 at Target. See that house reflected in the mirror?

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I found this when we were unpacking. I colored this picture in art class in first or second grade. I pray that our next kids will feel at home in this room and at our home. I added some cuddle buddies to the bed.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I started adding bits and pieces to this room without any kind of theme in mind; just using what we had available. A friend gave us the headphones pillow as a housewarming gift. We had the other 2 pillows already. The rockstar flashcards are the only 4 letters I completed when I started designing the series 4 years ago. Maybe I’ll finish it one day…

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

This old acoustic guitar that was a gift from my parents for my 16th birthday narrowly escaped the trash during the move. (Jason’s guitars are a million times nicer so he doesn’t see this as fit to play. However, I think some tween or teen might love it!) We also have a collection of random, discount pile Hatch Show Print posters that I thought could help fill the walls here.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

There are a few vintage ReAbide items living in here. This Florence side table works for now as a night stand.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

And this Mack arm chair (below). Before we moved in, I ordered a Nashville road map. I thought it might work as a big poster for this room. It’s colorful and free (as an AAA member) and I thought it might be neat for kids to see where our house is in comparison to where they used to live. The rug is from a local IKEA reseller. I think it’s the only thing besides the full length mirror that we purchased for this room.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

I have a pack and play set up in here. I’m hoping it’ll be enough to convince our case worker that we’re equipped to take a child younger than two. Ali still sleeps in her crib and I don’t have much desire to buy and set up a second crib. If we accept a placement of a younger child, we might consider getting another one at that point…or maybe moving her to a big kid bed.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com  Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

The book ledges also came from the previous house. These books (with the exception of Pop Warhol’s Top…which I don’t recommend) these books were are all specifically chosen to be in this room.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

So a really cool thing happened. This room developed a theme without me even realizing it! I suppose it started with the Nashville map, and then the Hatch Show Print posters, and then the guitar. The headphones pillow and the rockstar flashcards followed suit. The theme that developed—which happens to be something that every child who stays in this room, regardless of age or gender will have in common—is Nashville! Music City. Even the woodland curtains and botanical bedding and rug work. We live very close to a huge park so we see squirrels, owls , leaves and lots of trees in our neighborhood.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

It was important to me that I had thoughtful, personal elements worked into the design of this room. I didn’t want it to feel like a guest room. I want it to be a special room because it’s made for a really special kid…a kid we don’t know yet but I want him or her to feel comfortable, loved and wanted from the moment they walk in. I want him or her to know that we’ve been thinking about and praying for him or her before we ever met.

Here’s the floor plan of this room. It’s about 10×12.

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids - myMCMlife.com

If you’re putting together a room for foster kids in your house, here are some things I recommend:

• Flexible sleeping arrangements
We have this room set up with a twin bed and a pack and play. Without much trouble at all we could flip the twin bed into a bunk bed and replace the pack and play with a real crib. Sometimes foster parents put together a really nice room for 5-12 year old kids and then God has a sense of humor and their first placement is a newborn. Flexibility is key for foster parents.

• Adequate Clothing Storage
This is one of our home checklist requirements from DCS. I’m hoping to add a dresser before too long but for now, we have a big closet ready with hangers and hanging storage for smaller items. We also keep extra blankets, pillows and sheets in the closet.

• Books and Toys
Admittedly, we don’t have toys in here but we do have a playroom right down the hall. It’s mainly because of the wide age range this room is open to that I haven’t put many toys in here. The stuffed animals are probably nice for any age kid, though. These books have been carefully selected to be in this room: Maybe Days: A Book for Children in Foster Care, I Don’t Have Your Eyes, I Had Trouble Getting to Solla Sollew, The Little Train That Could, The Velveteen Rabbit, and the Sleep Book.

• Nightlight
Some kids won’t want it on but we have it ready just in case. A new room can be scary and dark. The nightlight is enough to make the whole room visible. We also moved Ali’s constellation turtle light in here because she doesn’t use it anymore. It projects stars on the ceiling for 45 minutes before shutting off automatically. We’re also required to have hallways lit and to have flashlights handy. We got this 3-in-1 night light, emergency light (comes on automatically when the power goes out) and flashlight for our first foster parenting experience. It is in our hallway.

• A Place for Photos
The frame on the nightstand that says “Welcome” is actually a placeholder for a personal photo. Thanks for another foster mom’s suggestion, I also added (after taking photos) a bulletin board with pictures of “Who Lives Here” (me, Jason and Ali with names by our photos) and a photo of our first foster placement with her name and hand print. I will add a photo of each new child under either category.

• Curtains without strings or cords
Another requirement for our home safety checklist—not that we have a curtain but that there are no choking hazards dangling from blinds or curtains.

• Rugs secured to the floor
Yeah, I actually stuck this rug to the floor with rug tape. Another item on our home safety checklist.

• Smoke detector
Our list doesn’t require it to be in the child’s bedroom but there is one in there per codes for a new house build.

• Egress window
Also per codes, in order to be considered a bedroom, a room must have a window that can be opened for escape in case of a fire. Our home safety checklist also requires this.


Nesting

01/28/2013

Apparently I’m nesting. After getting the news that we had a February 28 deadline to reopen our home with DCS, I spent most of my free time during the weekend while Jason was out of town hanging pictures, unpacking those last few stubborn old boxes, sorting, organizing, hanging curtains…

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We also got the door lock for the hall closet and our new home phone line set up.

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I think maybe Jason is nesting too, because he’s patching up spots on the wall where we had some nicks and scratches as I’m writing this. We still need to assemble the monster KURA bed, install safety locks, cover the outlets, secure the TV to the wall in the den, rugs need to be “secured” with antislip pads…we also need to get a booster car seat, another twin mattress, night lights…Sheew! Is my list getting longer instead of shorter, or it just me?


Letting Go

12/18/2012

“Hug your baby tight when you get home,” a well-meaning friend suggested on Friday afternoon, hours after the unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook Hill Elementary School.

At some point every parent will come to a point when she realizes she doesn’t own her child, the child is not an extension of her but an independent creature and as a parent it’s impossible to protect our babies from every danger in the world. There is a risk of putting our children on such a high pedestal that we make them idols, treasured above the Life-Giver Himself. Abraham was guilty of such and God pushed him to the extreme to force first-born Isaac out of the god status Abraham had put him in. Let him go and entrust him to Me, or I will take him away.

As painful as it was, I’m thankful for the experience we had of almost losing Ali over a year ago in a bizarre placement battle through DCS. When we thought we had lost her, I buckled under the incredible pain. I broke for her, thinking she was about to lose her family a second time and her second chance of growing up with a father. I had no choice but to let go of my maternal grip of her… she was not mine. She did not belong to any person. She belongs to Creator Father God.

By a miracle, she was placed back into our arms and we walked out of courtroom with custody, dumbfounded. We let go of her because we had to, and God saw fit to give her back to us. I pray that I never forget that she is not MINE. I don’t own her. I’m entrusted with the responsibility and incredible blessing of being her mother. My love for her is deep and wide and it goes on forever. Everyday is a gift and tomorrow should never be taken for granted.

I will hug her a little tighter. Snuggle a little longer. And then I’ll let her go, take a deep breath, and trust the One who made her.

My heart is broken for the families in Newtown, CT who lost their loved ones. I’m praying specifically for the families of two of the children that God brought to my attention. Reading through the names of the victims, the name Olivia caught my eye, and then Benjamin. One of my best friends has two precious children named Olivia and Ben (who are thankfully safe and well) and when I thought about them, my heart crumbled. So, everyday I’m lifting up the Engel and Wheeler families as they’re walking through this dark and horrible tragedy. May the Prince of Peace, the Comforter, wrap them up in His arms this week and in the days to come.


New Home: Den/Playroom Plan

11/13/2012

Den/Playroom Room plan from myMCMlife.com

Sources

1. Sherwin Williams Greek Villa

2. Exposed concrete block wall

3. IKEA TROMSO day bed and pull out trundle $80 each (This is a big fat maybe. I was hoping our vintage gold pull out sofa would fit in here but it’s too big. We need some comfy seating that would ideally work also as a guest bed or maybe even a bed for a future child. No futons.)

4. Basketball hoop. $33 on Amazon. The top priority of this room is fun.

5. Natural hickory wood floors, like the rest of the house

6. Black chalkboard wall

7. Jason’s first guitar, which is now wall art. Second priority of this space is creativity and musical instruments will definitely be part of that.

8. Urban Outfitters zig zag rug, 5×7, in gray. Another big maybe but it’s my current top choice.

9. Pop & Lolli Build-a-Bot decal set. I won these on Design Mom’s blog and I’m pretty stoked to play with them… I mean, let some kids play with them.

10. Some kind of bookshelf to store toys, books, instruments. Vintage and metal painted a bright color would be nice. (This one is from UO.)

11. My old Apple iBook from 2002, which is still kicking, sort of, and hopefully has enough juice left to play some kid’s DVDs. Eventually we might add a small LED TV into this room.

12. Vintage footstool

13. Metal storage cart (painted a funky color) for toys and things

14. Child-size seating, like this metal folding chair, and maybe eventually a child-size table.


It’s Tea Time!

10/10/2012

If you know me in “real life,” you know I’m a tea drinker. (Hot black tea—not herbal, not green—with a little sugar, to be exact. Republic of Tea Mango Ceylon is my all-time favorite and I’m currently out in case anyone is interested.) So naturally, I must teach my daughter all about tea. With a gift card from her adoption day, I decided to order this Green Toys Tea Set.

I was not familiar with Green Toys prior to this Amazon order but I’m very impressed. They’re made from recycled milk jugs, BPA, phthalates and lead-paint free—believe it or not they’re made right here in the USA. And they’re inexpensive. I think this set was a great value. For $19.99 we got a tea pot with lid, sugar bowl with lid (same as teapot’s), creamer, four saucers, four tea cups and four spoons. My favorite thing about it is probably the mix of colors: pink, purple, blue, green and yellow. It’s like Fiestware for toddlers!

I opened the package one evening after Ali had gone to bed and I was so excited that I set it all up…

and, ahem, had a tea party with Lucy…did I just admit that?

Thankfully, Ali redeemed my craziness the next day and indulged me in several tea parties. She seriously played with these toys for hours. She’s not totally getting the tea concept yet but she loves to bite the saucers and take the lids off the tea pot and sugar bowl.

The tea set was such a big hit with Ali that I sent her cousin Iris a set for her birthday. I hope she enjoys it too, and they’ll be ready to have a tea party next time they’re together.


Teeth Are Good for Corn on the Cob

06/13/2012

Our little Choongie loves to eat. Purées are getting less and less interesting and the rest of the food on the table more appealing. The other night she was intrigued with our corn on the cob so I snapped mine in half and shared with her. She was thrilled!

Seriously?! You’re gonna let me have my own cob to hold?

Her fifth tooth has been stubbornly working it’s way out and it seems like chewing food is particularly satisfying.

It gets even better, baby! There are millions of wonderful foods out there.


Documenting an Adoption

05/03/2012

A sweet commenter suggested that we hire a photographer to document our adoption day. I had thought about getting a photographer to get some family pictures of us around the time of the finalization but it didn’t occur to me to have someone document the actual day. She sent a link to the video that was put together celebrating their family’s adoption day. The audio from the courthouse really gets me because it stirs up memories from being in court with Ladybug and Precious. This brief documentary is so beautiful. I’ve cried every time I’ve watched it. (Fair warning.)

I am so looking forward to our adoption finalization day!


Recommended Reading: Water Baby P.S.A.

09/08/2011

This week, while Jason and I spend some time purposefully disconnected from the internet, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite recent blog discoveries. Be back soon!

Cindy over at Zach Aboard wrote about the importance of teaching your kids to swim. They live on a boat so it’s obviously very important to them. I grew up with a pool in my backyard for my first 5 years so it was very important to my parents, too. I started taking swimming lessons (“water initiation”) when I was 6 months old and by the time I was in preschool, I passed a water survival test where I jumped off the high dive at the YMCA full clothed and swam to the other end of the olympic size pool. Thank you very much, Mom and Dad. I love how Cindy put it:

“Swimming is not a sport, or a pastime, or a summer thing. It’s a life skill. But for some reason people spend more time and effort teaching their kids to ride a bike than swim. If your kid never learns to ride a bike, it’s really no big deal. I don’t ride. If your kid doesn’t learn to swim, they could die.”

Photo from “Water Baby P.S.A.” on Zach Aboard. (This makes me want a waterproof camera so bad!)