On Wherever You Are


I have grand plans most Tuesdays.

It’s the day I take off my “homeschool mom” hat. Today I was going to write about homelessness on the blog. I had planned on mopping,  scrubbing the downstairs bathroom, and putting away the laundry. I was also going to do yoga, take a shower and finish my knitting project. Collect money for book club and finish the last touches before tomorrow was high on the list. Oh, and make the pizza crust for dinner. (+ do the dishes, put away the vegetables, figure out what smells and find my 5-year-olds shoes)

Ha. It was a nice thought.

I’ve been on the couch with a newborn watching The Goldbergs and typing one handed for 2 1/2 hours.

So dear friend, wherever you are right now, be there.

There’s nowhere else you are supposed to be. 


On Adoption


“He looks just like you guys! That totally worked out!”

I  have no business writing anything today.

I’m exhausted.

And by exhausted, I mean, well, exhausted.

This week we got to do the thing we’ve been waiting 18+ months to do. To legally, permanently, offer up our home to the boy that was born to another woman.

The one that looks just like us.

((Which, for the record, is not a “worked out” thing, whatever that is supposed to mean.))

I wish there was a word that meant both congratulations and I’m sorry for your loss.

Adoption is hard.

It’s like a pregnancy where you don’t know the due date for, that takes 2 years of your life, and stretches your heart way beyond anything stretch marks or labor could do.

Foster Care is hard.

It’s like adoption only you aren’t their forever family, you have to do all the crap parts of parenting, and you never really see how stuff turns out.

Parenting is hard.

It’s like running a small army of humans that all have very distinct ideas of what it entails to be in the army, that had no choice in the matter of joining in the first place, and have to get along regardless.

Three days before we finalized V’s adoption, we welcomed his biological five-day old brother to our home. I kinda thought we would be out of the system by now. Or at least with a plan. Not coordinating court ordered visits with the same bio mom the day of his brother’s adoption.

Starting from scratch before we even finished.

A friend at church asked if it was easier to parent a newborn not having to go through the labor part. I told her it was, in some ways, and it wasn’t.

I’m hungry all the time. I’m not sleeping. My hair is falling out. My pants don’t fit. I don’t know how to make dinner or transport everyone somewhere. Normal, new kid in the family stuff.

Only it’s with someone else’s kid.

Withdrawing from drugs that shouldn’t exist.

Too small to fit in the carseat.

One I missed out on holding for 5 days. Never felt his kicks or hiccups. One that lost everything familiar in one foreign car ride.

So I guess, my heart hurts more. And that’s different.

They, the social workers, always ask at some point, are you sure?  are you guys up for this?”

Not really. No.

And yes, yes of course.

What I told his mom months ago.

I’m not sure what I wanted adoption to feel like. Or what it really does independent of all the new stuff and the tired stuff and the back in the system stuff.

Love is Love.

Wherever they came from. For however long they are with you. And wherever they are going.

That, I do know for sure.


On Running


It’s been a while since I raced.

And by “race” I mean paid $40 to put on a bib and run behind a whole bunch of people way faster than I ever will be towards the music and beer and pie and iced espresso.

The last race I ran was a half that I downgraded to a 10K. Drove to by myself, raced by myself, and left by myself. Never saying a word to anyone. I slogged up the hill. I slogged down the hill. I turned around in time to start getting passed by the leads in the half. I leapfrogged run/walking with a few other desperate to finish women. I heard the music. Saw the balloons. Sprinted ((well, hobbled a little bit faster)) to the end. Patted myself on the back and drove myself home to eat and sleep.

It was horrible.

And I can’t help but think about doing it again.

The last six months in Foster Care were more or less that race.  We slogged through wishing it to be over and dreading the finish all at the same time. Struggling up the hills, struggling down the hills. Run/walking the entire way. Exhausted. Trying to finish strong but out of breath and out of steam and out of motivation to make it to the end.

  But we kept going. Kept walking knowing the music and the cheering and the balloons are so. very. close. We just can’t see them yet.

and then, before we know it, we are in our car, headed home to eat and sleep and process what the hell just happened.

We sent our girlies off last week. With bags of clothes and books and toys. Albums full of pictures. Memories of a season with our family. We sent them off to be reunited with their sibling.  Something long overdue.

I’ve been dreading the feelings of being “the other foster home.” Of playing a part in kids moving from place to place.  Nervous about how to handle comments about our constantly changing family.

  A family that did respite for us a few weeks back said the thing I was truly, honestly, dreading.  “I’m glad things aren’t so crazy anymore for you.”  They had all five kids on a Sunday afternoon because the county thought it would be good initial childcare experience. Ha!  I feel like, maybe, just maybe, we were a bad place to start.

I mean, I AM so glad things aren’t so crazy anymore, but I feel like I get to say that, you know? I’ve been processing why I’ve been dreading that comment and why it stuck out so much for me in a weekend full of encouraging, just the right thing, comments.

 It was our crazy and maybe in a sense, I liked it. And in another way, I miss it. And in a third way, it feels too oddly quiet around here and I hate it.

To bring back the running analogy, it would be like if someone at a water station came up to you after a race and said, “wow, it was hot today.”

It was hot. You are right. Thank you.

It was crazy. You are right. Thank you.

I don’t miss the driving or the meltdowns or the sibling rivalry. The early morning wakeups or the lack of spontaneity. But I do miss our girlies and I would be lying to say that I don’t. We worked really hard with them. We helped get them to a point where they could be ok together in one home. Gave our friends enough time to be in a place to say yes. We loved them in every possible way you could love someone.

It was insane, but I still miss it.

We did it. We made it to the end of a season. The end of a race.

I guess, now, we get to do the water station and comment on the heat. That’s one of the pluses about not racing. And maybe a good reminder to be nicer to the water station people. They most likely have a ridiculous race coming up too.

IMG_4867 (1)

On Respite



A word that I didn’t give much thought to until we started Fostering.

def: a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.

When I looked up the definition I was hoping for something more profound. Some root word embedded that gave a deeper meaning. But that’s it. Simply a short period of rest from something that is difficult.


I’ve had to ask for a lot of help the past six months. I’m not sure entirely how well the depth of my thanks can be communicated.  You know who you are. The ones that watch my big kids for hours. And then do it again. And again. The ones who bring coffee unannounced. The ones that come for free to babysit so Joe and I can get dinner without any interruptions. So we can stay married. The ones who take the girls on weekends so our family can breathe.

But you also know that I keep asking.

and asking

and asking.

And for longer periods.

Like, most recently, for four whole days and nights.

And I have to be honest, I feel utterly and completely selfish every single time.


I don’t know. I don’t have any other way to describe it.

I just feel selfish.

And I’m finding myself angrier the more I do it. The more I ask. The more I rely on you. The more I realize just how much I need it. How much we need it as a family.

I had a conversation with my husband the other day, why did we say yes? Why did we decide to put this weight on our family? On our friends? On our community? It would have been so much easier to say no, we can’t do it. It’s too much. Find someone else.

It feels selfish to have said yes, they can sleep here.

He looked at me a little confused, nodding hesitantly. Like he heard me but thought I was living in crazy town and didn’t want to push me over the edge.


 Half of you are angry that I feel this way. Half are making your way through a response as to why I shouldn’t feel selfish. Why you are here to help with whatever we need. How much you love us and support us and “blah blah blah.”


We love you too.

Respite is, well, it’s a breath in the midst of drowning.


A few weekends ago I was able to take three of our kids down on an overnight trip while we had respite for the girls. There was an intense weight that came off my chest as we drove. Like I could breathe, a real breath, for the first time in months.

We had an amazing weekend of laughing and eating and adventuring.

But it wasn’t long before I had to make the drive back up. Racing the clock to make it before we needed to coordinate care. And the heaviness came back. Tearful conversations. The first time in, maybe, ever, that I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to do just about anything else.

I paid for it Monday. Dysregulation in all of us. Eagerly counting down the seconds until Dad stepped off the plane. Still a few full days away.


 We have another one coming up. A weekend of respite. Girls one place. Big kids another. Baby in my lap on an airplane across the country.


I am working hard to be grateful and not spend quite so much time feeling selfish. To take the breath. To extend our family circle. To grasp the air. Saying Thank You.

Because, if I’m honest, maybe that’s what I’m getting mixed up in this whole thing. The difference between Selfishness and Gratitude.

So, I guess, in short, Thank you. For allowing us space to breathe but also for allowing that breath to keep happening. To allow us to continue.

Breathing over

and over

and over

and over again.

Thank you.


On Parenting Kids that have Experienced Trauma

Foster Parenting

Trauma does weird things to kids.

And not always right after the fact. It can be years and years before anything shows up. And you may never really know what the actual trauma was.

For our little guy, he didn’t want to eat. Especially if he was upset. We had to sneak attack bottles, set timers and remind everyone to never ever ever ever warm it up.  Now, a few months after our adoption paperwork got started, I’m starting to find out why. But it’s been 15 months.  We had to sneak attack bottles, set timers and remind everyone to never ever ever ever warm it up. He still won’t drink things warm. He won’t eat if he’s tired. Or if he’s overwhelmed. Or if he got a new baseball mitt. Food is not a comfort for him. I’m not sure it ever will be.

For our girlies, I have little inklings of their trauma, but not much. Triggers that always surprise me.

One of the most valuable things that we learned before starting Foster Care was the idea of self-regulation. For the kids, yes. But even more importantly for the caregivers. We heard a lecture on staying as far away from your “red line” as you could. The place where you lose it, where you are totally and absolutely dysregulated. That’s your red line. There’s a great example of a window and how far it can open- the farther it can open the more you can handle. We want to widen that opening for our kids so they can handle more and more along the way. We want to widen it for ourselves so we can handle more.

This year I’ve had to learn how to keep myself far away from my line by asking for help, investing in myself and my marriage and by automating as much as I can. This goes for everything from groceries to housecleaners. Self-care isn’t a joke, you guys. It’s become a buzzword as of late and I’m so glad. But I do fear that we minimize it. Or feel silly for needing it. Or apologetic for a massage or new nails or a clean house. I wrote more about this in my post: We Should Probably Talk

I started to look for some great quotes on trauma but ended up feeling overwhelmed. “Stop being a victim.” “Don’t minimize your feelings, that’s just dissociation…” Some just referred to physical trauma, others to emotional. I’m not a therapist and I don’t have too much to add to this discussion.

So what can you take away from this? One: To take notice of where your redline is.

One: To take notice of where your redline is. Parent or not. Foster parent or regular parent. Male or Female. Employee or Employer. Human Person. Watching how close you are to your line will help you help yourself and others that much more effectively. Two: Be aware. I know we can’t always prevent kids from getting triggered, but we can maybe help them out if it’s happening. For our girls, it may be a nickname or nicknames of family members. Especially if that family member isn’t there and you use the word. For our baby, it may be giving him space if he’s bombarded. It’s not letting him cry too long.  For our bio kids, it may be extra kindness and space when family transitions are happening.

Two: Be aware. I know we can’t always prevent kids from getting triggered, but we can maybe help them out if it’s happening. We can offer extra grace. We can redirect and judge less and parent more effectively. For our girls, they may be triggered by a nickname or nicknames of family members. Especially if that family member isn’t there and you use the word. It’s too much for them. It may be making sure we always have enough milk or have more than enough snacks in the car. For our baby, it may be giving him space if he’s bombarded. He may be trigger by crying too long.  For our bio kids, they may need extra kindness and space when family transitions are happening. They may need space to be angry. To be rude. They may have been running on empty for way longer than any child ever should.

I’m working on my own triggers. I realized not long ago that my heart started racing when I went back to a certain doctor’s office. It did the same thing driving on a road I used to drive on all the time. Even though we aren’t on call for placements, I still get shaky when my phone rings and it’s an unknown number.

And I’m an adult.

How much harder do you think it is to deal with if you were a kid?

Highly Recommended Resources:

(from people that know what they are talking about)

Whole Brain Child

Beyond Consequences 

The Connected Child

The Boy Who Built A Wall Around Himself (picture book for kiddos)

Find more of our story this month on Instagram (@mixingplaydough). 


“Are you the presenter?”

Foster Parenting

“So, are you the presenter?”

 That was the first question I received from an attendee last week. I smiled and said, yes, of course, but really I wanted to smack the lady.


I had a chance to be one of a handful of presenters at a foster parent recruitment night this past month. It was set up as a series of round tables, with the foster families sharing their stories at each one. It’s an awesome chance to get to hear from current and past foster parents, ask questions, get an idea of what foster care in our county looks like and start to build community. It’s meant to be positive, sharing the highs, sharing the vision our county has and the joys of this job.

I wasn’t sure how to start or what to talk about at each table. Usually just the basics, “Hi, I’m Lauren, my husband wishes he could be here, I have 5 kids ranging from 8-1”

And then I would pause. Not sure where to go. Why did we start this again? I stumbled and stuttered through most of it, just asking if anyone had any questions for me I could answer. It was an effective solution and probably the easiest way to not get burned out over the next two hours. But I left feeling like maybe I could’ve said more. Maybe I should’ve had a great family mission statement and specific reasoning behind it. Anything other than we wanted to adopt at some point in the future and this was free.


The same couple that asked if I was the one actually presenting also had a few other gems that night.

“How long are kids in care?”    It depends. 

“But are we looking at like 4 months or like 3 years?” It depends 

“How much do you get paid?” It depends 

“I’m just trying to get my head around this, you mentioned foster parenting was a good fit for your specific skillsets. What are they?”   Seriously?  I like kids. And you are a jerk.

The rest of the time they would ask a question and look at each other, say “oh sorry, it depends” and laugh. 

I also met amazing couples with really great questions. Excited and eager and nervous and as ready as you can be. Parents and Couples and Singles. There were tears and laughing. Sighs. A few words of encouragement “You sound like a really good Foster Mom.”  I shared the resources that are available and gave tips on how to ask for help and how to be specific about the needs and concerns of your specific family.  I shared details about the county and scheduling and what to expect when someone comes into your house. The simple things like- show them around, make dinner, watch a show, put out clothes, have icecream.

I connected with the other foster parents in our community, sharing stories and laughing. Wishing I could’ve sat at the table with them and just listened to their stories. Searching for some sort of encouragment. For the “me too.”


A lot of days I wish we had taken time to sit down and write a foster family mission statement before we started. My heart is too stretched to do it now. Stretched with hints of comings and goings. With the constant feeling like I’m never quite doing enough, not connected enough, not bonding enough, too distracted, too overwhelmed, too… all the things.

The what if’s playing so strongly.


I’ve had more time to think of what I wish I had said that night. I think that we started this journey by simply pulling a thread. We started looking at what adoption would look like. We went to orientation in our county. We liked what we heard. We went to training. We submitted the paperwork. We updated our house. We answered the phone. We answered again. And again. And again. Small threads that led to where we are now. Nine years of marriage, eight tender hearts that we love deeply, one home bursting with memories that we will never forget.  Small threads that we pulled and pulled and pulled.

Or pulled us.

Maybe that’s a better illustration.

I’ve never felt more just ‘along for the ride’ then I have the past few months. And I’m starting to slowly learn that that’s ok.

“Wow, God knew what was gonna happen here for sure.”

yea. that.

I’m so glad he does.


If you ever have a chance to attend something like this, I would highly recommend it. We had foster family helpers, foster parents, county workers. Even if you just want to hear what it’s like to be a foster kid, it’s worth it just for that.

Or, you can always email me. Or come watch my kids. Or buy them a gift. Or get them icecream. That’s a great way to see that they are really just normal kids and not anything like the sappy radio commercials make it all sound.  I promise I’ll only put your questions on the blog if they are like really really really really annoying.

There was an illustration a little while ago that dissapeared from the internet (or at least I can’t find it now) but it’s a foster famly and the web of support that surrounds them. Thank you all for being a part of that web. Not everyone can actually be the foster family but I do hope that everyone can at least have a realistic idea of what foster care looks like in America in 2016. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll start the thread pulling for your family too.


“I’ll still Love You…”


Today marks the start of my husband’s busy travel season. We’ve been anticipated this for quite some time and I’ve been sort of a pill about it in retrospect. Those feelings of doubt start to creep in and before you know it you’re totally overwhelmed.

“It’s a lot…It’s too much…You’re too young…You don’t have the support system…You pushed away all your friends already.” -My brain


We had a busy day. All of our days our busy but lately Tuesdays require special gumption and fortitude. Back to back to back appointments and taxi driving and emotional highs and lows. We got home and I tried to put the girls to bed while the rest watched a show.

There was a lot of dawdling.

I was tired.

So I put the little in her crib and told her sister to tell me when she wanted a kiss, turned off the lights, and left.

Which was pretty much the worst possible thing I could’ve done in her eyes.


I knew I needed a minute so I took out the trash and fed the chickens and put jammies on the baby.

Then I stopped to pray.

Which is funny, because I never actually pray. Like ever. And I fully believe in all the goodness of the Bible and Scripture. It’s been a long journey and my bible study on James finished up last night with a bang. It was on prayer. And what prayer should look like. What prayer CAN look like. I left my friends knowing that I simply wanted the desire to pray more. Not any routine or structure or program.

So, after all of that, with those conversations fresh in my mind, I prayed.

“We do not know what to do but our eyes are on you.” -2 Chronicles 20:12

 I went back in, asked her to put her jammies on (one more time) and asked for a hug- not sure if she would be willing to at all. It was a gamble and I knew it. But, she said yes, a little confused as to what happened, to my relief.

And so there we sat. Foreheads together. Not sure where to go next.

“I’m sorry you miss your mama. I’m so sad about it. You know you can kick and scream and punch and throw the biggest fit known to mankind and I will still love you. You know that right? I’m so glad you are here. I know you would rather be with Mom. What do you like about her? What do you miss?”


We talked a bit about all the things she misses and what our schedule was for tomorrow. I tucked her in and said goodnight.

“I love you. Goodnight girls”

“Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”  -John Piper

I can’t promise these girls a thing. I have no idea what the next few months will look like. None of us do. But it’s a lot easier for my heart to be broken than theirs. And as much as I look at these girls and know so deep down that I may not be forever Mom, they can still be deeply loved with recklessness. They deserve to be loved that way. I am called to love them that way. So, as I fumble through, as I do my best to parent solo more days than not these next few months, I know that his power is made perfect in my weakness.

And, really, isn’t that enough?


On Joy Sparking

Foster Parenting

I’ve had some version of this typed up for quite some time. Disappointed in not being able to finish it while also feeling like something was missing. This idea of joy sparking will not be a new one to anyone familiar with the KonMari method of home organization. It’s the one where you hold every item in your home and, if it doesn’t spark joy, you get rid of it.  It has a special place in my heart for projects you never, ever, ever, want to start but are really glad you did when you are done.


We’ve had a lot of really hard discussions as of late. A lot of waiting. A lot of uncertainty. A few tentative timelines.

Timelines for things we need to decide. Really hard, heartbreaking no matter what, things.

There have been many days that I feel like I’m drowning. With my head barely above the water. Only to be completely amazed by something that sparks an overwhelming amount of joy.

Today was for sure one of those days.

We went to pick up the girls and things started to unravel. No one wanted to be in the car again. The day went by way too quick. We knew they were tired and overwhelmed. One of my little ones ran the other way when she got to the car. “No! No Wanna. MY mama. MY mama.”

It just…well… sucks to be the other one. The one they don’t want. The one they are mad at and take it out on and the not the right one- one. I managed to buckle her in her seat still screaming. Then I had to coax in her sister. Who was also mad at me for the whole situation. For having to go to school. For not having a snack in the car. For getting her buckle stuck.

This is, obviously, ridiculously hard on all of us. The older kids tried to hold it together but I had to make a phone call and everyone was hungry and it was just a bad situation overall. A bad one that I wish I had handled differently.

By the time we got home, I still had to make dinner. Hungry and exhausted. Wanting a bottle of wine and a cheesecake. Or a bowl of popcorn. Or a piece of bread with butter. All the things not available to me during this *expletive* whole30 I signed up for.

Maybe that’s more than half my problem today and I should just stop here.


The joy sparking did happen. The girls sat down for a “conversation” and talked about the game they wanted to play and how they should compromise. Not a bit of prompting on my part. It was a little insanely mature for a 3 and 4-year-old. The 2-year-old decided to go potty in the potty. Twice. She’s not potty trained. At all. And my hodgepodge of forgotten vegetables roasting in the oven turned into a magic bowl of crispy comfort.


Things unravelled again. My husband came home late. The kids were wild animals during dinner. Half of them still had food on their plates when we cleared the table. One of them lost like every privilege known to mankind before being relegated to their room for the night. Rockstar parenting.

There will be a lot more ups and downs in the continuing months. And while we may have an end in sight, I’m not entirely sure I’m brave enough for it. That I’m strong enough for it.

It’s hard in the middle.

As much as I try to wish it away, though, I know that I can’t.  I still have a chance to see each one of the little tiny joy sparking moments and display them proudly.

I’m confident that these will be our “remember when” days:

“Remember when we had to climb over car seats to buckle everyone?”

“Remember when we put a bed in the sewing room to make room for more littles?”

“Remember when we couldn’t make it through a dinner without three different kids getting up and walking around?”

“Remember that month when we did whole30 and weaned the baby off the bottle and you were out of town for half of all of it?”

“Remember when our home was bursting and the beds were full and we collapsed in bed each night hearts overflowing?”

“Do you remember when….???”


Joy Sparking.


On Advocacy and Gorilla Fighting

Foster Parenting

“When you are wrestling with a gorilla, you don’t stop when you are tired; you stop when the gorilla is tired.” — Robert Strauss

After asking for months about rumors of an IEP for one of our littles,  I finally got the whole report in my hands a few weeks ago. I read it all the way through and then started sending out emails as fast as I could. Why she wasn’t getting the resources she needed? How do we get them to her? Who should I call? What are our options?

“Well, if you have time, we’d love for you to call so and so at this number.”

“Oh and it looks like you need to transfer it to a new school district since it was done in a different one from where you live.”

So I did. I called. I talked to a very nice lady that was sure to help us out. And managed to start a ridiculous chain of events that I couldn’t stop.

The community liaison in our district set us up to attend a school on the other side of the county.  I communicated that we needed transportation and heard back that it was too far. Sorry.  You can get her here right? Every day?

No. No I can’t.

Then they told us they could transport her on the bus.

But now, the only opening they have at all, in the whole county,  is in the middle of the day. Right during nap. Right up until the time that she is supposed to be in a different county for something else. Which would mean leaving early 3 days a week. And I’d still have to pick her up to drive an hour every day. Because she would be leaving early.

It most definitely did not seem worth it for a girl that has been through way too many transitions and was finally feeling settled down.  So I emailed (instead of calling, because well, they can’t hang up on me) to communicate everything this little needs and see what we could do about it.

The next day I got an email back saying I needed to talk to someone else. Sorry. And no, they can’t give her resources in the preschool she is in now because it’s not a district school. And no, she doesn’t qualify for early services anymore because she’s 3. And no, she can’t go to the local school midyear because she’s not 5. And you still have to talk to so and so over at this other-other- place.

It was a mess, you guys. A mess. 

The CW told the parents she was starting a new school. Then I had to tell everyone that I thought this was a bad idea and we needed something closer. At which point the CW told me she trusted my judgement and to do what we thought would be best. So I told everyone that we were trying to get her somewhere but logistics weren’t working out.

We managed to get her a spot local that starts in the Fall and they *helped* me out by un-enrolling her from the school that I never enrolled her in.

We did it. *high five*  

Or so I thought. *bleh* 

Later in the week our CW realized that she was going to get dinged for not getting our little the resources she needed soon.  She promptly gave me a list of  “solutions,” including, but not limited too, enrolling her in the original county that the IEP was done in to see if she could get a spot there.

Which, apparently, I could do.

So that was kind of a waste of a week.

“..things are never as complicated as they seem. It is only our arrogance that prompts us to find unnecessarily complicated answers to simple problems.” Muhammad Yunnus (in his book Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle against world Poverty.)


We haven’t made any decisions yet. I’m waiting to hear back from our resource worker to see what funding we can come up with. Joe and I have talked about just paying out of pocket to get the resources she needs until we can get it sorted.

Because, well, she needs them.

And it’s only like an hour a week if we just pay for it ourselves.

And, if we are all being honest, we may not have until the fall anyway.

”Our challenge is not to educate the children we used to have or want to have, but to educate the children who come to the schoolhouse door.”
— H. G. Wells


I’m still trying to figure out where my role as advocate is.

I think some weeks it means making those hard decisions and holding my ground when I see something weird. I think other weeks it means asking the same question fifteen different times to the same three people. It means thinking outside of the box for what would really be the best for our littles.

This week may have involved a lot of running around our own tails but we are getting places.

And for that I am excited.

Even if it means fighting the gorilla for another week.

“When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments — tenderness for what he is and respect for what he may become.”
  — Louis Pasteur, French chemist and microbiologist


On Government Approved Nutrition

Foster Parenting

“The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.” -USDA

A few years ago I remember WIC being in the news a lot. The government was going to shut down for some reason or another and that included WIC checks not being issued. Many of the talking heads went on verbal rampages about the welfare state. Those of us using WIC checks were not exempt from the rhetoric.

My first experience with WIC was after my first was born. While we were still in the hospital, the nurse came in with a pile of paperwork and told me I needed to fill them all out. One of them was the initial paperwork and information for WIC.  For whatever reason I told her no thank you, we were fine.

We probably could’ve used the extra milk and bread but I didn’t really care for this nurse all that much and I was trying to make a point. People assume all types of things when you have a baby at 20.

It was six years later that I had my first WIC appointment. This time as a foster mom. We get a small stipend for the kids but not much. It kinda pays for diapers and maybe the chance to eat out a little more often. But it for sure doesn’t cover formula or gas or general child raising expenses. All kids on Medicaid automatically get WIC and our resource worker recommended we make the call. So I called and got an appointment and off we went to get some checks for formula and baby food.

I have to be honest, I hate the whole process.

I’ve finally figured out that if I go to a male cashier they are significantly kinder. Even better if they are young and male. On occasion I find a woman, one who is usually also on WIC, that gives a little knowing nod. People at the store consistently huff and puff at me. They’ll stare at my other purchases. On all sorts of high horses of condemnation and judgement. Once I went to the Starbucks right after using my WIC checks and you would’ve thought I was the devil in human form.

Here’s the thing though,  whatever you may think about people that are on WIC, WIC food just kinda sucks.

We can only buy the specific brand listed on our checks. We can’t buy organic baby food or bread or rice. Formula drops off after their first birthday and in comes whole milk,  grains and beans, peanut butter, eggs, apple juice and no sugar added cereal. Once they turn two, we are only allowed low fat dairy products in addition to all the grains in their various forms.

We get $8 a month for fruits and vegetables.

That’s the equivalent of two potatoes, two apples, a head of romaine and five bananas.

For the MONTH.

Anyone with any concept of modern nutrition knows this is totally backwards. I can buy sugar laden peanut butter but I can’t buy honey nut cheerios. I can feed my 23 month old three gallons of whole milk one month but once they turn 24 months, low fat all around.

Even though our doctor recommended no juice at all, I get 128 ounces of apple juice a month for each kid, from the government.

When I asked about it, they said, “We know, we can’t do anything about it. Just don’t buy it when you go”

“Mom, is this the government milk again?”

I was going to promise you that no one was getting fat on WIC checks but that would be a lie. It’s hard to feel full on $8 of vegetables a month. It’s hard to thrive on $8 of vegetables a month. It’s impossible to think straight when you eat quesadillas and black beans for lunch. Every. Single. Day.

We are in a rare category of people that utilizes WIC but doesn’t totally rely on them for our nutrition. We don’t think twice about buying the high quality meat and produce and fancy shmancy coffee.

But here’s the thing, most people that use WIC aren’t in that boat. They get $8 a month for fruits and vegetables and that’s ALL. There is no extra money for organic baby spinach. There is no extra money for wild caught salmon or uncured nitrate free bacon or raw almonds.

Joe asked me to write this post a few weeks ago. He was hoping I wouldn’t leave any stone unturned. That I would rant and rave about how ridiculous this whole thing is.  How much time and energy and effort I put into just getting the checks, let alone using them, and how no one actually likes to eat any of it. He was hoping I would say something along the lines of “the government is slowly killing our kids with crap.”

And he’s right. They kinda are. But sitting here and writing all of those things isn’t really going to make much of a difference in a lobby driven system. It’s not going to help the working parents utilizing this resource (and that’s what it is if we’re honest with ourselves). They don’t have the time or energy to complain or make a fuss.

What’s going to help, and what I want you to take from this, is twofold.

First, we need to find ways to increase the fresh produce that our kids are getting on a regular basis. This includes things like WIC checks. We need $8 a week, minimum, for these kids. What they get now is unacceptable. This may be the only chance they have to eat quality fresh ingredients.  We need to have an abundant harvest of things that go bad.

I’m always amazed at the looks our girls give us when we put out a salad or a plate of berries. Like, where in the world did we get it? I’m not sure what they’ll think when our garden starts growing or when we finally get to go to the farm this summer. I have a feeling it’ll be like the first time they went to the zoo or saw the mountains out their window.  Up close. The real ones. The big ones.

Second, we need to stop with the judging. With the looks and the online backstabbing and the criticism and the- I deserve all of this because I work for it- mentality that is the white American upper middle class. We need to not be afraid to tell people that we utilize WIC.  We need to be able to go to the store and not worry that the middle class man behind us in line is going to roll his eyes.

We can do better.

We have to do better.

Do you live in the US? Here is the contact for WIC:  Let them know what you think.