You guys. This is such a wild ride, this whole four babes under two years.
There are many times I am wishing a drone was following me around, recording our ridiculous reality.
For example, I wish you could see us load and unload the van — ha! We have to go through the trunk and over the back seat for Sage and Ira, and it makes me giggle 40% of the time (the other 60% I am being kicked in the face, which seems like pretty good odds).
Tonight I walked around the kitchen and picked up what appeared to be cat turds, but they were actually whole entire sausage links that were somehow lodged in all sorts of corners, untouched and uneaten.
And the diapers? Jaw-dropping: at least a Costco box a week.
I have Daniel Tiger songs on repeat in my head all the time forever amen.
Our sink overflows sippy cups and bottles, our car smells like rotten milk. But you better bet that we stay on top of those dishes because in heck will we go to bed without endless clean sippy cups and bottles to wake up to.
If we have an appointment at 10 am or need to leave by 9:30, we are up by 6 am and thinking about all the things and getting it in order or preparing to launch the minivan missile from the garage.
If we are both home, one of us holds down the fort with all our boys while the other one runs frantically around, tossing bottles and snacks and an entire box of diapers and wipes, fifty-million jackets and hats, and don't forget the formula for the baby or the favorite zoo book! It's quite funny as we each take two babies down the last flight of our stairs, talking as though we just ran a marathon all out of breath: "Did you get the binky? What about sippy cups? Does everyone have socks? Don't forget the zoo book! What about the jackets?"
And then there are meal times. You guys. Meal times are sort of like...a war zone. Last night we had spaghetti, too, which made it even more war-like as the red sauce flew and flung all over each child and smeared across the walls. It's caked into the floor because we were too tired to clean after dinner, which is saying a lot, because I always clean after dinner.
I threw healthy out the window. Every meal I made that was balanced and beautiful ended up on the ground, every last crumb, and none in the tummy. So insead of going through the work and exhaustion of attempting to force these children to eat anything of substance, only to give in with crackers and gogurts, I've simply just started the meals with such. Sometimes if I'm lucky, half of them will eat mac n cheese or grilled cheese or quesadillas. We like cheese.
I don't know what it's like to eat meals anymore...it is definitely assumed that meal times are feedingtimes. Like, it is spoon feeding mouths and dodging food bullets and repeatedly saying, "Put your plate down, do not throw your food, that is not yours, stop putting that noodle in your ear." I binge eat after 8 pm. I think I've showered three times in the last two weeks. As you can tell, I am doing really good at self care. At least my big toe still has half of its nail polish on from my July pedicure, right?
We have some systems, though, and systems can be good.
Learning to share toys and clothes and food and space is just so hard, you know? But learning to share mom and dad proves to be even harder. It's to be expected. Their mom and dad are prettyyyyy cool.
I'm convinced this is good for them, this opening our home and our hearts and actively loving others even when it doesn't make all the logical sense.
Ira does cute things like lay by Baby T and sing when Baby T is hating his life because I am forcing his 8 month self to do tummy time for possibly the first time of his life. This morning, Ira sat scream-crying in my face "babyyyy, baby, babyyyy" and pointing upstairs for an entire hour; he really likes Baby T, you guys and it's just really cute.
Above is an image of Loren preventing world war three while I sprint up and down our two flights of stairs and prep to leave our house.
On Christmas Eve Eve, we thought it would be a really great idea to go on a 3 mile walk for a terrible coffee. What else would you do with four 23+ pound children, one stroller, and in 31 degree windy weather? We are so smart and active you guys. We are so Oregonian. So we walked and we regretted and everyone slept for the first half but everyone then cried for the second half.
I need one of those go pros to document everyone's prolonged stare...we thought we got looks before with just virtual twins? Ha! "Are they twins?" about Sage and Ira. Then they see Toddler M and they're like "WAIT no, are THEY twins?" about Ira and Toddler M so do look like twins and are 2 days apart. I get a lot of stuttering and "So wait..." as people are trying to figure out what to ask.
If I'm honest though, right now I sort of feel like someone might feel after having a pile of bricks dumped on them, after just being thrown approximately 1500 babies to care for.
Maybe my exhaustion is a bit dramatic, but I'm not going to demand too much of it, okay? Four babies under two, many of them having experienced trauma and some of them severe neglect and are delayed...it's a lot.
The last two weeks have felt like one million years. They have been anything but Instagram worthy.
Christmas was hard. It was one we will never forget, it had some really sweet moments which I latched onto very hard and will cherish forever. But I had no voice, three out of four of the children were crying the entire morning before we got them dressed against their will, loaded them into the van, and headed to Salem to my mom's. It was of course such a relief to be with family and have so many extra hands.
When we pursued foster care certification, we knew it would wreck us in all sorts of ways. We knew it would be hard because we already have two under two, and one with some higher needs. We expected foster care to be the most sanctifying and humbling journey so far, because, well, it's a messed up system with really neglected and vulnerable kids who need a lot of attention.
It's been humbling, for sure, in the barely two weeks we've been placed with kids. Humbling to the point of: "I should never have become a mom, I am an incredibly impatient human, I am not fit for this, why God, why are you allowing children in my care?"
I think the main thing that's wearing me thin is that every single one of us is sick (except Loren, whoop). I have bronchitis and a double ear infection, all of the boys have terrible colds, Ira also has a double ear infection — we are a real hot mess of sickness and sadness. We've spent too many hours loading these kids into the van and trekking to different urgent cares (because Kaiser is so dang specific) and waiting in cold rooms for hours, and feeling like we might snap right in half right there in the waiting room because what toddler wants to sit and look at a magazine about gardens?
When sickness hits a family of six made up of mainly babies, it sort of is actually terrible. I'm sure it's terrible for everyone else too, but this just feels especially difficult.
There are lots of reasons for foster care to wreck you in ways that make you better (at least that's what I'm banking on), but being sick shouldn't be one of them. If you can't tell, I'm quite annoyed that we are all so sick.
Before we all got sick, life felt much more doable on the daily. Heck, I even took these boys to celebrate Kwanzaa with Portland's Nikki Brown Clown and let Loren have some time to himself. I felt kind of like a rock star as you can see with my open mouth excited grin.
Now that I'm done complaining about everyone being sick and miserable and crying constantly, I'd like to share a bit more about why we said yes to foster care.
When we were pursuing infant domestic adoption, I had a ton of messages in my Facebook inbox from people asking us why weren't doing foster care instead. There was a major lack of approval, so to speak, for infant domestic adoption. Something I didn't realize existed, but something I'm very well aware of now.
We had always kept fostering on the table, but it sat on the side, away from our main desires: growing biologically and through international or infant adoption. We didn't know enough about our hearts or the foster care system to know we needed to truly consider it.
I'd like to say very clearly that we didn't choose foster care because it's fun or convenient.
This wasn't the best time to say yes to foster care, but I am entirely convinced there is never a best time in our American world view. Life is not easy when you say yes to foster care. It is not simple. It is not clean. And it is not cute or dreamy. You are not signing up to build The American Dream family, you are signing up to be a safe space for vulnerable children and becoming a trauma informed human.
I will definitely say that these two extra boys have brought us joy and they have blessed our family in ways no other two humans can. It will always mark a time in my heart of deep honor to have been their home for a short time.
Oregon (and I'm sure many other states) is in absolute crisis regarding the foster system. There are dozens of kids sleeping in hotel rooms with their caseworkers, awaiting a placement. Current foster families have too many kids and are overloaded (have I mentioned we have 4 kids under the age of two? Annoying? Sorry, it's just a lot).
The number of kids needing a foster home exceeds the number of foster resources. The most recent number of children I read are in our tri-county's system is around 2400.
This last fall we began certification with the hope to adopt a specific child in our (foster) community. That did not happen, but we figured we would continue our certification — what would that hurt? We were half way done and considered this a nudge in a direction we weren't yet walking.
As Loren finishes graduate school and we live off my writing and photography income, we agreed we are barely capable for short term shelter care. But at least that would keep a few kids out of hotels or DHS office floors, right? It felt like one small way we could be used during this time, and while we are certified, we can also offer over night respite to our friends with long term placements.
We are no heroes or saints or anything other than ordinary people sick of a broken system and vulnerable children going on without warm homes and safe spaces.
I have been hearing two responses as to why people feel they are unable to step into foster care:
- I cannot love a child that is not biologically mine. They are too traumatized, too hurt, too broken.
- I would love those children too much to "return" them to their family. It would hurt too much to "give them back."
What I would respond back, for you to really dig into and process, are these two questions:
- Yes, you can. You love your spouse, your friends, your community. Love isn't a happy and cute feeling, it is a choice to be patient and kind and not rude. You can learn about trauma and educate yourself and really stand in the gap for a vulnerable child.
- Foster care is about the kids. We do everything we can to advocate for them, stand in the gap for them, and love them well. Sometimes that means reunification, other times it doesn't. Either way, if you end up saying "goodbye" to a foster placement, you more than likely have actual community you can grieve with. That child, though? Very unlikely he/she will have anyone to fully and honestly grieve with. It is worth the breaking of your heart.
So, I don't know. Maybe just think and pray on it a bit more. Process out loud or on paper why you aren't open to doing foster care. Foster care isn't for everyone, but I also just don't think it's ideal for anyone. You know? Like, this isn't how it was meant to be, but it is how it is, so now what do we do and how can we help? Especially as followers of Jesus. He was the best example of standing in the gap for the vulnerable and marginalized.
I recognize our roles all look different. The last few weeks, many of you stood in the gap for us, and therefore these boys, by sending us gift cards and cash to buy extra food and necessities. We were sent gifts and clothes and cribs. We've had babysitting a couple times just so Loren and I can get out to breathe and stare at a wall. I mean, that is amazing. Thank you.
Well friends, if you've stuck through to the end, you'll be the first to know that our short-term emergency placement with these two sweet boys is coming to an end. This next week we will be transitioning them to their long term placement and my goodness is it already a whirlwind of emotion.
I know Toddler M is already struggling so much emotionally, it just cracks right into my heart. They've already been in far too many temporary placement homes the past few weeks and I'm praying big time for both of them. We will never, ever forget having them in our home and family, celebrating the birth of Jesus and the birth of the New Year. Every single gift purchased and clothes sent for them from you (we were given so much, thank you, community!) will go with them to their new home and family.
It's been a real mess of a time with all of this sickness, and Ira is not going to like when there is no more Baby T to play with, but we have each other. And soon enough, I am sure we will have another little one to stand in the gap for and to learn once again what it means to be patient and kind...and see how far we fall short.
And thank Jesus He is bigger and fills in all the cracks and gaps... am I right? I've never been more grateful for grace.
Grace is the only way to make it through the day.