No, I Won’t Stop Talking About the “Crib-less” Nursery

*I do not own these images*

Hello Readers!

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Fair warning, this is a pretty long post.

So here’s the thing: I’ve never been one to follow mainstream norms. Being the only girl in my third grade class to choose drums as my band instrument (and the first girl ever in my elementary school), I’ve been breaking social norms from an early age. Sure, when I first began planning for Baby, I assumed that a crib was a necessity for any and all babies. When I really started digging into my baby product research, however, I discovered something amazing: there really aren’t any rules for nurseries! There isn’t a single piece of furniture that is absolutely 100% necessary.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t recommend certain pieces of furniture over others, or even assume that what works for me will work for everyone. No; that’s not the point here. I do believe, however, with the proper research and preparation, the crib can and should become a thing of the past. At least for minimalist families who don’t need to put Baby to sleep in a conveniently located position for the sake of their backs.

So, why will I not shut up about crib-less nurseries? First, it helps to look at the original Image result for dance to the beat of your own drum notebookpurpose of the crib. Before cribs, most families co-slept and older babies slept on the floor on some sort of soft mat or mattress (if they weren’t in the bed with their parents), and in some cases, on a bed that hid away under the parent’s bed or what we now refer to as a trundle bed. Our modern-day version of a crib first came about in the 19th century (Victorian era to be more precise). The crib was designed because 19th century parents believed that toxic fumes existed below the knee and explosive gases existed near the ceiling (phew! Good thing that’s been disproved!), so having the baby in a crib was considered the safest place. More reliably, keeping a baby elevated during sleep time kept them better insulated from drafts, since most homes weren’t insulated and floors were not carpeted. Iron cribs later came about  to help prevent bedbugs and lice. That’s definitely a more logical reason to put Baby in a crib, but is it really necessary today?

Enter Maria Montessori: a pioneer in early child development and, more specifically, Image result for maria montessoriearly education. Dr. Montessori believed that children need to be able to independently and creatively explore the world that exists around them, so she developed what is now known as the Montessori Method. Part of that method involves creating a nursery or kid’s space that allows for independent learning and exploration. When one walks into a Montessori nursery today, there is one piece of furniture that is blatantly missing. You guessed it: the crib.

Cribs restrict a child’s movement. Even mobile babies are helpless when placed in the crib and become completely dependent on their caregiver to take them out or put them in. That means that when a small child is feeling sleepy, instead of being encouraged to find his bed and lay down on his own, he’ll use the only means of communication he has to let his caregivers know that he’s tired: crying or acting out. While crying is a crucial survival tool that all tiny humans have and need, crying (aka stress and anxiety in your baby) can be minimized and sleep time increased if parents know enough about their child’s developmental needs. Part of the solution is eliminating the crib.

While cribs do have some benefits, they don’t come without their fair share of safety hazards. How many of your friends have told you stories about their children (or themselves as children) climbing out of their cribs? It’s a pretty common occurrence, and it’s also really scary to think about. While babies and kids are resilient, falling out of a crib can cause serious injury, or they might gain access to something they shouldn’t (like electrical outlets) all whilst the parents are blissfully unaware of the danger because they think Baby is safe in the crib. How about Baby getting her arms or legs in between the crib bars? If she’s particularly chubby (like most babies are), getting those limbs safely uncaught can be a terrifying experience for any caregiver as the risk of injury also can occur. Finally, despite continually being sold at every big box baby store, crib bumpers, baby pillows, and blankets (not to be confused with swaddles) are extremely hazardous to an infant’s health, as they are known to cause both suffocation and entanglement.

So, with that knowledge, why are cribs still widely regarded as a nursery staple? The answer is mainly because humans are creatures of habit and comfort. We don’t naturally stop to ask questions about practices that are widely accepted. It’s like the age-old story about the daughter-in-law on Thanksgiving. Her mother had taught her to always cut the turkey in half before putting it in the oven, and she watched her mother do just that as she grew up. When she went to cut the turkey in half at her new family’s house, her mother-in-law immediately questioned the practice. Of course, the well-meaning daughter-in-law had no idea why her mother always cut the turkey in half, so she called her mom to ask. Her mom explained that she did it because her mother always did it. Fortunately, Grandma was still alive at the time, so she was the next to be called. Come to find out, Grandma always cut the turkey in half because it didn’t fit in the oven she had while her children were growing up. She laughed at the thought that her daughter and granddaughter had made that habit into a Thanksgiving tradition. The granddaughter obviously felt very foolish about cutting the turkey in half after that. Moral of the story is, we don’t always have to do something just because our parents and grandparents did it.

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With that in mind, is going “crib-less” any better? Yes it is, and I’ll explain why. Floor beds allow a child to go to sleep and wake up on his own. Of course, parents will still need to put their baby to bed, and it’s very healthy for children to have a nighttime (and daytime) routine for this, but children will have an easier time falling asleep if they know their movement won’t be restricted when they wake up. Think of it this way, if you were with a loved one and fell asleep near them, and then woke up in the middle of the night all alone in a dark room and found that you could not leave your bed because it was like a cage, how would that make you feel? Now imagine a child waking up to find himself in a crib after falling asleep on his mother’s chest, all alone and scared? Not very pleasant is it? Yet, this is what we do to our more vulnerable children. Why?

***I feel it’s important to note here my appreciation for bassinets and bedside sleepers: Bassinets are specifically designed for newborns (that is, babies who should be sleeping on their backs only and who are not strong enough to roll over onto their bellies). I plan on using a bassinet which will be placed right next to my bed for easy feeding and changing in the middle of the night until my baby is six months old or about 25lbs, whichever comes first. The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommends that babies sleep in their parent’s room until they are at least six months old, and it’s preferable if they room-share until 12 months. While the floor bed will be used with a DockATot for daytime naps before then, it won’t be used as my baby’s primary sleep area until I feel he/ she is ready for that transition. While some parents, particularly minimalist parents, believe that it’s okay to put Baby directly into the crib (or floor bed) upon birth, I don’t personally advocate it. Here’s the thing, what works for me might not work for you, and that’s totally acceptable. What I reiterate constantly on this blog is that you know best what your baby needs. If you’e a foster parent, give it a little time (maybe about two weeks to a month) and you also will know best what your baby needs, though you should try to respect the wishes of your kid’s bio parents because biologically speaking, they know best as well, even if they’re having a hard time managing their own lives. The important point to note here is to trust your instincts.***

A crib-less nursery might not have a crib, but it still has some sort of mattress. This can be a standard crib-sized mattress or a twin. Most people don’t like going bigger because they feel their baby will get lost in a bed so large, but it’s really up to you what you choose. This crib-sized mattress is placed on the floor and is known as the Montessori floor bed. There are lots of options to choose from at this point.

Many people like the look of wooden “houses” to frame the bed. Others prefer a simpleRelated image floor bed frame as they find the “house beds” distracting. Others still prefer to make a simple frame out of wooden bed slats to place under the mattress. The reason I don’t suggest simply putting a mattress directly on the floor (though that is an option), is because humans sweat during the night which can soak into the mattress. If there’s no air flow between
the mattress and the floor, the mattress can become mildewy. Personally, I think the house frames are whimsical and creative alternatives to the crib. You can find reasonably priced frames, like the one pictured, on Etsy.

For slightly older children, some people like to place Image result for floor bed for toddlerlong narrow pillows around the edges of the mattress to help keep children from rolling off. I am a bit skeptical of this practice, however, because it really is no better than having a baby accidentally roll their face (and airways) into a crib bumper. The nice thing about a floor bed, however, is that if an older baby falls off of it, preferably onto a nice soft mat that’s been strategically placed in front of their bed, she won’t get hurt in the process. Considering she’s moving around that much during her sleep, she’s probably able to get herself back onto the bed anyway.

I now need to address baby proofing your child’s nursery should you choose the floor bed over a crib. One nice thing about cribs is that parents don’t have to worry about completely baby proofing their home or even their child’s nursery right away because Baby’s access to those things is restricted by the crib. That being said, a child’s access to plugs and electrical outlets will not be restricted with the use of a floor bed. It’s important to meticulously baby proof the spaces your child will spend most of his time in should you decide to bring the Montessori approach into your home. Besides covering outlets, this also includes making sure there aren’t wires plugged in for Baby to play with or get choked by (sorry, no twinkle lights unless they are battery-operated and out of Baby’s reach), blind cords are up and out of reach, and any sharp edged furniture is covered by bumpers of some sort.

The Montessori Method encourages independent learning, so the floor bed is not the only aspect of the well-rounded nursery. To go into the details of all that would be to make this post waaay too long (ain’t nobody got time for dat!). Be on the lookout for future posts about how to include the Montessori Method in your daily early education routines (it’s easier than you think, especially those of you who are working parents)!

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Choosing furniture and a design layout can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. The best practice is to keep to the bare minimums of stuff because a) that’s less stuff for you to trip over and b) Baby will have an easier time learning to become independent by exploring her environment. I’ll talk more about a minimalistic approach to toys and nursery design in future posts!

For now, I hope you found this post helpful and informative. Remember, above all, if the item in question doesn’t bring you joy, it probably will just cause you (and Baby) stress that you don’t need in your life.




Some Upcoming Changes

Hello Faithful Readers,

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I know it’s been a while since I last wrote. After my last post, I’ve since moved to a new state, unpacked a new home, purged a ton of stuff and…underwent an IVF cycle.

You, readers, are the first “public” entities to find that out (the IVF cycle, that is). My family knows as well as some close friends, but you are the first of everyone else. I’m currently waiting for my Frozen Embryo Transfer, which will take place later this week. Then I’m officially known as what’s called, “PUPO” or “Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise.”

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So, exciting changes for me personally, but I’m sure you’re all wondering what that has to do with this blog.

For starters, I won’t be talking about fostering again for a while. Don’t worry, there will still be the occasional post directly related to foster parenting or how to support foster parents and kids, but it’s time for this blog to make a shift.

This blog, titled “The Fostered Child” will still be following themes related to parenting, so it is staying true to its original purpose and name. That being said, there are a lot of topics that, while I originally posed as fostering topics, also relate directly to everyday parenting.

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I also have a bit of a passion for interior design, particularly related to kids’ spaces and nurseries. In the upcoming weeks, you’ll see posts about my advice for creating a minimalist baby registry, how to design a beautiful, peaceful, and budget-friendly nursery/ kids’ room, and how to not let kid stuff take over your house and life.

You’ll see plenty of topics related to peaceful and calm parenting, self-care for the busy mom (and dad), posts about family products that have made my life so much better, and general parenting info. I will also take some time to talk about my infertility journey in the hopes that it will help couples through that difficult process.

My voice will remain the same as all previous posts. I am still the primary writer for this blog, so the vocabulary, tone, and cadence of each post will stay true to previous posts. I still care about the original topic, but as my life has changed so drastically in the last several months, it didn’t seem right to completely abandon this blog (and all my faithful readers), but it also didn’t seem right to only talk about fostering and adoption any longer.

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I hope you’ll stick with me as this blog takes on all these exciting changes! I look forward to sharing my knowledge and experiences with you and as always, thank you so much for participating! My blog would have no meaning or significance if it weren’t for my readers, so I appreciate your time and interest in my ramblings.





Lost Battles that Were Worth Fighting For

*I do not own the images below. Images were found via Google search.*

Ever hear the expression, “something worth fighting for” before? For me, the phrase conjures up images of victorious heroes of hard battles fought and won. Until I went through this last “Year of Hell” as I now not-so-fondly refer to it, I never realized that just because a battle was lost doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth the fight to begin with.

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When I think about this past year, the battles, the hardships, the endless drama, I tend to wonder why I tried so hard. While I’m still recovering from all the ugly, I’m struck today by how “worth it” the battle really was. Maybe I’ll never know the positive impacts I had on those kids, their biological family, or even their social workers. Maybe I actually don’t want to know. The truth of the matter is, however, that I had an impact: I showed those kids what a healthy, normal family is supposed to look like. Whether they realized that is irrelevant.

Were we the “perfect” family? Hell no. We all are a little bit messed up. Every human being is. Every human being caImage result for simba and the monkeyrries around with him/ her a certain amount of baggage from the past. Depending on how hard things hit, the past can continue to hurt for a very, very long time. Hopefully, we learn to let go of some of the emotional hoarding and stop carrying around all that weight with us; it really can destroy our quality of life. Like Simba learned from Rafiki in The Lion King, “we can’t change the past, but we can learn from it.”

The problem that we were facing was that both kids were looking for the perfect family. Despite being told that no such family exists in the entirety of the universe, they still wanted their perfect Stepford Wives version of a family. The TV show/ movie are creepy for a reason; perfection really isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be. In fact, I think a negative response to hardship, especially child abuse, is the endless search for perfection.

We want that happy family we see in home magazines and on TV – you know which one I’m talking about – the smiling, happy family of four (one boy, one girl, two happy and supermodel-worthy parents), sitting in front of their absolutely gorgeous *owned* home, complete with their beautifully groomed, well-behaved dog.Related image

Who doesn’t want that? That being said, emotionally healthy and stable adults are able to recognize that a magazine only shows a glimpse of the truth and not the full picture. A picture only shows one tiny moment in time, and one tiny part of that tiny moment in time. Perhaps that smiling moment was good, but what about the few moments before and after? What about the parts outside the picture frame?

There was no way we could be the picture of what the kids wanted their parents to be. There was no way I could be the mom they wanted; no woman ever could be and that truth is heartbreaking. Returning to the question of whether or not those kids were worth the battle they waged against my imperfections…yes: they were unequivocally and irrevocably worth the fight. They were worth my sleepless nights, tear-stained pillow, headaches, and all the governmental nonsense I had to put up with for their sakes.

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People tend to ask if we would consider fostering again after we’ve been through a placement. I don’t know if that’s just our situation or if every foster parent is asked the same question. For a while after the Year of Hell, my answer was a non-answer: I’ll tell you when I know myself. Looking back at it now, with a few months worth and several thousand miles of separation on my side, I’d say I would foster again, with reservations. There’s a lot of lessons I’ll take with me into that new chapter of life, and there are expectations that I will now not carry into it that ended up being extra baggage I didn’t need in this last placement.

A lost battle is not easily recovered from. There are a lot of emotions I’ve had to face, a lot of anger, fear, anxiety, stress, sadness, that I had to look head on, recognize as real, and move beyond. It hasn’t been easy. When we moved to a new state, I also recognized that I can’t run from my problems. The new state, the new chapter in our lives presented itself as a fresh start which has been very good for my soul, but I also didn’t want to believe in a fairytale ending. I didn’t want to have the expectation that I would suddenly be happy again, so I came into this new phase of my life with an open mind, hopeful for a positive future and a fresh start.

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I was surprised to find that the peace of starting something new has been like medicine to my heart. Even though I didn’t expect to be happy right away, I have felt happier in my new home than I have in a very long time. Sure, we still have some mundane problems, like making sure we have the funds to pay our bills (moving is super expensive), that we both have jobs, and so forth, but that was expected.

We moved to Washington particularly because of its geographical features: I love oceans and Brett loves mountains. I am now a firm believer that we should live somewhere because we love it, not because our job is there, not because we’ve lived there our whole life and don’t know anything else, and not even because our family is there. Related imageWe should live somewhere because we love it. Life is too short for anything else. We took a risk moving to WA because we don’t have any close family here and only one close friend, neither of us has ever lived here, and we were basing our decision on what we’ve read about the state and heard from friends and family members who are more familiar with it. We truly are starting fresh. It definitely feels like a scarier-than-average risk for us, but so far, it’s been worth it.

For instance, last Sunday was Mother’s Day. I had been dreading it, mostly wanting to forget about it (except to forget it entirely would also be to forget about my own mom, who wouldn’t have been very happy with that outcome). We decided to spend the day in Seattle exploring this exciting part of our new home and it was such a wonderful day. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had a day as peaceful or happy like this past Sunday was in a very long time. Perhaps it was easier for me to be happy because I didn’t expect myself to be. Perhaps this is just where I belong.

The moral of this story post is that just because a battle was lost, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth the fight. Yes, the victors of war get to write the history, but sometimes losing a battle isn’t shameful and doesn’t always mean the losing side can’t recover or won’t be back to fight another day. For now, I’ve put my sword down and picked up my beach bag umbrella and am off to breathe some fresh pacific coast, sea-level oxygenated air.

Until later…cheers.

SC Robinson



Off-Topic: A Eulogy for My Dog

“Riley – The Best Damn Dog a Person Could Hope For”


When we met you, we had about $500 extra cash in our pockets and an apartment we were about to move into. On a whim we stopped at the humane society to look at dogs. We really weren’t there to adopt; it was just a fun, “cheap,” impromptu date.

When we met you, I have to admit, you didn’t interest me much. You were big and kind of ugly, so I walked right by you, but my newlywed husband of one month saw you immediately for your unusual black and gold brindled coat. I had my eyes on a puppy whose tail was in a cast because she wagged it too often. I knew nothing about her breed, but she was such a happy little thing.

I looked at the puppy by myself for a minute because my husband was transfixed with you. I got him to come over and look at the puppy, but then he got me to come over and look at you. He put his hand up to your kennel when he saw your big, ridiculously convincing sad puppy eyes, and you came up to him and licked his hand. It was over and I knew we weren’t going home empty handed – but it wasn’t with a puppy. It was with you.



When we met you, your name was Ryan. We really didn’t feel Ryan was a good name for a dog, especially you, so we played around with lots of different names. I wanted to name you Igor, after Stravinsky, but it really didn’t fit, and you were such a dumb dog that you just didn’t respond to it. My husband tried Riley and the rest is history. He would joke and call you marbled rye. Sometimes we called you rye-face, sometimes we called you bonehead, because your head was nothing but bone (and you really were quite dumb for a dog your size), but you were such a loving, gentle guy.

The first night, I admit, you were a bit scary to me. You freaked out my sister-in-law — who we were living with until our own apartment contract was finalized — and you growled in your sleep so I was worried what might happen if I accidentally woke you up. They warned us that you were considered an aggressive breed, and because you were so big, I worried that you had some pent up aggression. I couldn’t have been more wrong about you.


After we got to know each other a bit, I realized that you were a really sweet dog. We also realized that if you were given human food of any sort, you’d get sick and had the worst gas imaginable. Even though you were a year old when we adopted you, you were still very puppyish. Your head was bigger than your body could really handle, so watching you attempt to go down stairs was one of the most hilariously sad things I’ve ever seen. You eventually grew into your head, and stairs became no problem for you; something I’m sure you were really proud of. We quickly learned that you were terrified of dogs smaller than yourself, particularly chihuahuas. I once took you on a walk when a little old lady with her fluffy shitzu approached us from the opposite direction. The closer we got to each other, the more you tried to hide behind me. The little old lady and I got a really good kick out of that. It’s a story I’ve laughed about and told more than once.


Eventually we started taking you on outings to places like the local dog parks. The first time we took you to the dog park, you were playful and the ringleader of all the other dogs, but that wore off and you just started going to all the humans, flashing those crazy good sad puppy eyes of yours and getting them to pet you. You decided then and there that dog parks weren’t for playing with dogs, but for getting all the human love you could possibly get. We always thought that was a funny quirk of yours. People would always comment on how handsome you were. For as ugly as your face was, your general stature definitely made up for it, and your personality could win over anyone you met.

Of course, the excitement of getting a new dog did eventually wear off, and taking care of you sometimes was a burden, especially with your sensitive stomach. We learned about three months in that we couldn’t have a self-feeder for you because you would gorge yourself. You were a good listener, but you didn’t always move fast enough for our impatient selves, and now we’ve come to the part that I’m quite ashamed of: when you were young, I wasn’t very nice to you.

It wasn’t your fault. The excitement of being a newlywed was also wearing off. My husband took a job in the oil fields in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, and I rarely got to see him. Since we were in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, there were also virtually no jobs for recent college grads who had majored in music. Certainly there were no jobs for recent college grads who didn’t have any clue how to market their skills, so I was stuck alone with nothing to do but watch geeky sci-fi shows, eat bonbons, and begrudgingly take care of a dog I didn’t really want in the first place. I became depressed and apparently I had some pent up aggression of my own. I wasn’t very nice to you.


It wasn’t your fault. When I’d cry because my life looked like a complete failure at the naive age of 25, you’d come and put your head in my lap, trying to comfort me. Even though I’d yell at you for farting, or getting sick because you ate something you shouldn’t have so I had to run outside in the cold in the middle of the night to avoid having to clean up dog mess, or because you got into the trash and made a huge mess, you’d still come and comfort me when I cried. You were the sweetest, gentlest dog. When I’d smack you hard on the nose for having an accident, or smack you hard on your hips when you didn’t do what you were told, you always treated me, and everyone you met, with such astounding gentleness.

Life moved on and I stopped being mean to you. We moved again. You always got so sad and nervous when we moved. You acted like we were going to leave you behind. Of course we’d always try to console you and eventually you’d realize that you didn’t get left behind. Sometimes you were a burden to bring along, but we never wanted to leave you behind. Sometimes we had to leave for short trips and we actually did leave you behind, but of course you were as happy and playful as a puppy when we returned.


Eventually, we added a second dog to the family. This one I picked out. She was also about a year old when we found her and absolutely wild. She couldn’t have been more opposite to you. In fact, we called you the Yin and Yang because you were such opposites. She has long white hair with a small black patch on her tail, you had short black hair with a small white patch on your chest. She’s athletic and independent, you were lazy and always wanted to be with your “pack.” We would joke that she came from the “hood” so it’s best to not mess with her. She’s calmed down a lot and gotten a bit lazy herself over the years, but this isn’t about her. This is about you.

I remember when we were deciding on adopting her. The humane society requested that we do a “meet and greet” between you and her to make sure she would fit well into our already established dynamic. You were so joyfully playful when you met her. In fact, we’d never quite seen you so happy before that point. It’s like you knew she was going to become your “sister.” Indeed, you were so happy, that after a little bit of playing, you actually got on her nerves and she snapped at you to back off. It wasn’t anything we were concerned about though, because you really were being a bit overbearing. The staff at the humane society were happy with that, so we came home with two dogs that day. She pooped in the backseat first thing because she was nervous and scared, and you just sat there — although acting a bit disgusted — and behaved like the good dog you were.


More time passed. We began learning how to take care of you with a gentler hand. You still made me really angry at some points, something I’m not proud of, but you always responded with gentleness. I really do wonder if you were teaching us how to be gentle the whole time. There’s something to be said for wanting to become the person your dog thinks you are.

As we were learning how to be better dog owners, we also were learning how to be foster parents. What my readers should understand here is that foster parenting requires the utmost gentleness and patience. We realized through our training that, even though we would never, ever consider treating a child the way we had treated our dog at times, we could and would start being gentler with him. There were better ways of training and correcting you, even at your age (you were middle-aged in doggy years by then). No matter what we did, you always acted like you wanted to please us. We realized that sometimes your disobedience stemmed more from your inability to understand us. We had “intellectual” struggles with you that we never faced with our other dog because she is as smart as a whip. When we had finally learned how to understand you better, we became much softer with you. After all, it was only fair; you always responded with your affection, no matter what you got.

One day we introduced you to our first foster children. You were so gentle with them, even though you were taller than the little one. They learned really quickly that they didn’t need to be scared of big dogs because you were so incredibly gentle. Despite being gentle, you were also extremely protective. Our other dog is territorial, so many-a-time she’d hear something and start barking, and you’d bark right along with her, though your bark definitely was not backed up with any sort of bite. In fact, when you’d bark, most of the time you didn’t have any clue what you were barking at; you barked because she did. That’s not why I talk about your protectiveness though. You often slept in the room with our foster kids until they fell asleep themselves. Sometimes you’d lay outside their door, reassuring them that no bad guys would ever get to them. When they cried, you’d comfort them. When they were scared, you were by their side. After they left our home and returned to their own, you would sleep outside their room because you missed them. Our other dog definitely missed them too. And when I cried because I missed them so much it hurt, you both were right there ready to share your love.

We eventually got a second placement. I don’t like talking about this placement because the pain I’ve endured from it is so great that I haven’t healed much yet. With this placement, we were supposed to adopt a pair of siblings. They were quite a bit older than our first foster children and they had been through much, much more. As always, you were gentle, and they learned how to take advantage. I saw my own past meanness toward you in them and it reminded me once again how I could have been so much kinder to you when you were younger. Watching them with you taught me how to teach them to be kinder humans, but it still hurts me in knowing what it all did to you. It still wasn’t your fault. Hurting people hurt people (and pets).

By this point, you had entered your senior years. Some of the fur on your chin and paws had turned gray. You had to be on thyroid pills because you couldn’t stop putting on weight, regardless of how much/ little we fed you, and you acted depressed. The pills worked a small miracle for you, and I find peace in knowing your last few years were more comfortable for you. The drama that the kids brought with them, however, was so incredibly hard on all of us (including the kids themselves), but it was particularly hard on you. Even though we told them not to feed you anything other than your own food, they didn’t listen, so you began getting aggressive about getting into food in places you never would have gotten into before.

One unfortunate Christmas, this new behavior around food led you to find my stocking, which happened to be full of chocolate. Because you were you, you also ate part of my stocking, and not just what was inside. You became severely sick with a distended stomach, and we had to put you through emergency surgery. Somehow, you made it through that alive, but it was certainly a close call. After that, you got really shaky and nervous anytime I had to take you to the vet. It amazes me that you could even remember where you were when you were that sick. My husband said that you were so sick it was actually making you blind, so you barked at him when he and the kids came home that night, which was totally uncharacteristic of you.


The surgery bought you some time. The drama around the kids’ case got worse. The stress in our home rose. For reasons I refuse to go into right now, you suddenly got sick a few months later. We had no idea what was wrong with you, and it looked like you had been poisoned. We took you to the vet again and they gave you hundreds of dollars worth of medicine to make you better again. They confirmed that somehow you got ahold of an
Advil liquigel pill and that you were honestly lucky to be alive. Those meds bought you a little less than a year, and we’re still paying off that bill.

Yet I’m glad we had that year together. Eventually, the placement of the kids we should have been able to adopt completely fell apart and it was just us four again. I had been through Hell and back for those kids, and the damage that year did to both of our dogs was visible. The events of the year had been traumatic, and somewhere in that timeframe, I had started researching cats as therapeutic support animals. Apparently purring helps to regulate breathing (I’ve since confirmed this). After the kids left, we decided to go ahead and adopt a kitten with the hope that he would help me be able to sleep better. It worked, and because of you, we approached training and caring for him much differently than how we approached it with you. Because of you, we had learned how to be gentle.

When we brought home the kitten, you were curious but cautious. You quickly realized that cats have five pointy ends and you really didn’t want much to do with him. He would cuddle right up to you on your bed and you’d look at me with the sort of desperation that said “please rescue me” but you’d let him be as long as he wasn’t attacking your tail. We thought it was amazing that he always wanted to cuddle with you, and much like you, he too likes laying in the sunshine. As always, despite everything you had been through, you treated the tiny little kitten that you could swallow whole with the same tender gentleness you always had with everyone else you met.

And then it happened. About four months after we brought home the cat, you suddenly got really, really sick. This time, we couldn’t do anything about it. You were so sick, so frequently, that we had to have you sleep in the garage. I felt so horrible for you. You had never slept alone in the cold garage before; you had always known the warmth of your bed next to our own. We moved your bed to the garage, and put your winter coat on. We set up heat lamps so you wouldn’t be cold and covered you with old towels.

Unlike the rocky past, we didn’t get mad at you when you messed so often that we had to clean up blood almost every hour. I am sad to say that when you first got sick and messed in the house the first two times, I did get angry and yelled at you. Again, my anger wasn’t your fault; I had actually just received some bad news of my own that had absolutely nothing to do with you, so your sickness caught me off guard and made my day that much worse. The anger is something I struggle with now and then, after going through the Hell I went through this last year. Over time you’ve helped me get better though, and the anger wore off quickly. After I realized that you were no longer in control of yourself, I stopped being angry about the messes and started focusing on making you comfortable, on making sure you had what you needed. At one point, you almost threw up on me because I was sitting next to you inside trying to warm you up (you had been shivering for a while) and by that point, it didn’t even bother me. I just felt really sorry for you and the pain I’m sure you were going through.

It was really difficult for me to leave you alone in the garage that night so I could go to bed. I wasn’t sure in what state I’d find you when I woke up, but you somehow miraculously made it through until the morning. You wagged your tail when you saw me and I thought maybe you’d bounce back from whatever it was that was killing you.

The next morning we had to leave you alone for a while and I’m really sorry I did, although I know we made the right choice and I’ve been told that dogs prefer to die alone. I don’t know if I believe that about you though, because you never liked being alone; you always wanted to be near us. Before we left, we tried to make you as comfortable as possible outside in the dog run. You sort of fell down in a soft spot our other dog had dug and we moved the heat lamps in that area so you’d stay warm. Fortunately, it was turning out to be a sunny, warm day, and when we left you, the sun was shining on you, just like you always enjoyed. When we returned, you had left us for good.

So now I’m writing this eulogy for you, Riley, because you were the best damn dog I could have ever hoped for, and I’m not even the one who picked you out. I’m struggling more with your death than I expected. You taught me what the true definition of gentleness is. Your death made me realize that I had been taking my pets for granted, something that I’ve already begun to remedy. You were incredibly sweet, astoundingly forgiving, protective, sensitive, and most of all, gentle.


I already miss your enthusiastic tail-wagging (tail of mass destruction, we liked to call it), to welcome me home. I miss being able to feed you popcorn (the only human food that didn’t make you sick and therefore your favorite treat), I miss having your heavy self sit on my foot to let me know that we’re buddies, I miss your perfect sad puppy eyes when you’re wanting my attention. I miss how you’d lay your head on the back seat so you could look out the rearview window and still be as lazy as possible when we took you for car rides. I miss having your heavy head on my lap.

I doubt I will ever find a dog like you again. You left an impression on me, Riley, and I have been forever changed. I do believe that we’ll be reunited one day, so until then, rest in peace sweet puppy, in the sunny spot we buried you. Your light has forever warmed my soul.


From the Outside Looking In

I’m a people pleaser. This is something about myself that I’ve acknowledged and been working against, because some time ago, I came to the all important realization that I can never please everyone. At some point, I have to be true to myself and my family.

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Back from the family vacay, I now possess new wisdom from hard lessons learned, the most important of which is this: when you’re on the outside looking in, you never have the full picture, so don’t judge.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect from my first trip traveling with kids. Kids are kids and make mistakes, sure, but traumatized kids are rarely predictable. For me, what started out as an easy, argument and bickering-free road trip, slowly morphed into something I never expected: the vacation in Judgement Town.

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My foster kids are smart. When I say “smart” I mean really high IQs combined with an extra mature measure of street savvy due to having to learn how to survive from a very young age. So what looked like gross overreactions from me to what seemed like “typical” preteen behavior from my daughter, was actually my escalation after several days of being treated disrespectfully, being disobeyed in even the simplest of tasks, and then being judged by the rest of my family for it and told how to parent.

What everyone else saw: I was being too hard on my daughter. She was perfectly charming to everyone else, so she therefore was being mistreated. My son, on the other hand, was the one I should be paying more attention to, because he “plays” us and stretches the truth a lot.

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What I saw: My daughter being fully aware of how horrible she was treating me and how she deliberately was making me look bad, while being perfectly behaved and respectful to the rest of my family. What she didn’t care to share with those she charmed is that she admitted it all. My son was being exceptionally well-behaved, at least during the first week of the trip. My husband and I knew he was trying to get his way by going to one of us first and then going to the other. It didn’t work well for him very often. We were aware that he tends to stretch the truth, but these were petty lies and easily corrected. He was doing really well, so we let him be a kid and let him have his way some of the time. We were on vacation, after all, and wanted him to have fun.

What I knew through it all: My daughter looks and acts like the “good” child. She seems like she’s perfectly put together and well-adjusted. She learned how to do this before I ever knew her, because that’s how she survived in the midst of abuse. During that time, she also learned how to manipulate people into getting what she wanted and/or needed and learned that people who don’t know her well trust her easily when she’s charming. She’s a skilled liar, and until recently when she let down her guard and we saw through the facade, she’s gotten away with it without consequence. My son, on the other hand, looks like the “bad” child. He whines and acts much younger than his age when he doesn’t get his way, he’ll lie about little things even when we all know he’s lying and he rarely owns his actions. He used to have huge meltdowns and at one point a few months ago tried to pull a dresser onto himself. Dresser dismantled and removed, we held firm and maintained the structure, which he eventually admitted he liked, and the meltdowns eventually subsided. Regressions in his behavior today do not even compare to how he acted when he first moved in. He’s practically a different child now.

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Toward the end of the school year, my daughter got herself into some nasty trouble at school. She came clean, and since then, has been really difficult to relate with. Every time I think she wants to get close, she uses that to hurt me. We’ve talked time and time again about how it’s not okay to hurt others just because she is hurting. She asks “why?” and “who am I supposed to take it out on then, if not you?” every. single. time. we have this discussion. Every time I give her more constructive ways of dealing with her emotions, such as journaling, drawing, tearing up paper, etc. Every time she asks for goals, and I give her some manageable ones, like “think before you act” and still, I’ve made very little progress. What I’m learning, however, is subconsciously, she wants and needs to be held accountable for her actions. She needs to know that no matter what she does or how much she hurts us, we’re not going anywhere. That doesn’t mean, however, that we will allow her to get away with destructive and disrespectful behavior. 

I will admit there was one point during the trip that I had absolutely had enough and ended up flipping off a family member from the shore as she sailed away in my brother’s shiny speedboat (trust me, she deserved it, but that doesn’t excuse my actions). I’m not sure if she saw me, but my husband did, and he wasn’t impressed. Before that moment, I had tried to sit down and have an adult conversation with that family member, and she blew me off, blamed me for all of it, and said that I “was the situation.” This, coming from a woman who didn’t exactly win the award for best-parenting-practices and who is absolutely not trauma-informed, and has absolutely no idea what it is like trying to build a relationship with kids with such a rough past. Other family members tried to school me on my reactions toward my daughter as well, saying that I shouldn’t make a big thing out of it, but those same family members also parented their own kids with the same overreactions and strictness that I did, over things that I perceived as “typical” kid behavior. Unfortunately for me, I can be loud when the rest of my family is quiet. I am a trained opera singer; sometimes I can’t help it.

It all goes to show that when you’re an outsider looking in, don’t be so quick to judge. I don’t have the full picture of my brothers’ journeys with their kids, and they really don’t have the full picture of my journey with my kids. At the end of the day, as parents, we need to provide the structure and discipline that only we, as their parents, know they need and know they respond to. We have to listen to our “gut” when it comes to handling inappropriate behaviors from our kids, and sometimes, we need to tune out the “noise” created by the advice of others who don’t know better, like advice from parents who gave their fifth graders smart phones, for instance. We told our kids that their high school graduation present will be a smart phone if and only if they get accepted to college and plan to attend. Before that, they get the “dumb” phones. This is our choice because I honestly can’t imagine surviving middle school and parts of high school with the presence of social media, and then having access to it at my fingertips. That’s something my kids simply don’t need. They’ll hate us for it in the meantime, and other parents will attack our decision because they’re insecure with their own decision to let their 12-year-olds have smartphones and Facebook accounts, and we’ll ignore that noise too when it happens.

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The other important lesson I learned: toys don’t add to one’s happiness. Sure, they’re fun and provide a certain amount of entertainment for a time, but when all those toys cost thousands of dollars every month in payments that force one to become a slave to the 40-hour work week, do they really add to overall health and happiness? Do they really bring that much joy two out of seven days? Are they worth it?

One thing living in Colorado has taught me is that the best pleasures in life are simple. The beautiful scenery is better enjoyed with a light backpack and a good pair of hiking boots than in a fancy off-roading vehicle you only drive once a year because it was so expensive you don’t want to scratch it. Driving in a car you own — even if it is old and beat up — to meet friends for lunch is always better than driving a car you make payments on just to impress the stranger at the stoplight. Your true friends don’t care about the car you drive, or the size of your house, or your 72″ flatscreen TV, or any other “toys” you might own. They care about you. They want to spend time with you. Over the past few years, I’ve been slowly getting rid of stuff I never use. Some of it was sentimental and hard to let go of, but I felt a lot freer once I did. My house stays cleaner with less clutter everywhere as well. My cupboards and fridge are filled with the food and goods I need for two weeks, tops. It forces me to shop at the local farmers’ market more often and it also helps to prevent waste. Knowing that there are so many people in the world who have nothing, makes me absolutely despise wasting food. There’s an old saying: less is more. I would agree with a slight amendment: less but better. Just because I have a large closet doesn’t mean I have to fill it. In fact, deciding on my daily attire takes a lot less creative energy when I only have a few high quality and versatile pieces to choose from. I also am discovering that I find joy in a clean house and organized closets.

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Okay, I’m getting off my soapbox. Moral of the story: DON’T JUDGE (unless you are a licensed judge, in which case, judge on, but only in the courtroom)!!!

Traveling Light w/ Kids: Part 1

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Road trips are one of our favorite summer activities. Every year, we load up the car with our gear and pets and head west to visit my family. This year, however, is our very first year road-tripping with kids.

I must admit I’m a bit mortified. We are lucky that our first experience traveling with kids is with older kids (pre-teens), but they are still kids, nevertheless. They are also kids with a past, so they surprise us everyday with new behaviors we’ve never seen before. Who knows what could happen when we’re all stuck in a car together for 12 hours?(!)

So, I’ve been doing lots of research. We have a Jeep that we’re planning on taking, but with two big dogs in the back and kids taking up the backseat, we are limited on space for all our stuff. My husband borrowed a carrier designed for the top of cars such as ours, but that hasn’t stopped me from my obsessiveness with minimalist packing. My goal is to pack one duffle bag with everyone’s clothes. Everyone will also be allowed one small bag for toiletries and underwear (that’s mainly for our daughter’s privacy as “the lady” has shown up and it’s really none of her brother’s business).

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I know some of you more experienced parents out there are thinking that I’m totally bonkers for wanting a minimalist packing list, but I know it can be done because lots of other people out in cyberspace have tried it successfully. I also have realized that dragging that extra stuff along has never made long trips less stressful. In fact, all that stuff has had the opposite effect.

So here’s my game plan based on my own traveling experiences (my husband and I successfully refused to check any bags on our way to Europe last fall, we’ve moved a lot, and we take this road trip every year) and the research I’ve done preparing for this particular road trip. This is part 1, because this is before the trip. Be on the lookout for Part 2 to find out what worked and what didn’t. Hopefully it will help others get their traveling game on!

1) Plan ahead.

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I think I’ve read this on a dozen blogs and in a dozen different journals so far. Everyone starts with planning. Fortunately, I’m a natural planner, so this one was easy. I planned ahead by doing my research on what products are out there that will make our family trip easier, how to pack and what to pack, types of snack foods to bring and how to avoid eating out, etc. Once I had finished my research, I started making lists of the things I thought we’d need on our trip. I adjusted those lists several times by choosing to make some sacrifices. For instance, I really don’t need a sweater and a sweatshirt and a jacket. I chose the sweater and the jacket, but will be leaving my Porto University sweatshirt at home. For one, it’s super bulky. For another, it’s special, so I don’t want to risk losing it on the trip. I decided that my son also doesn’t need 8 pairs of underwear. We’ll have access to washing machines! On this trip, we will also be taking a three-day camping excursion, so we need to pack our tent, camp chairs, and air mattresses. This is honestly the bulkiest bit of our packing, and had we not been planning on camping with my brothers for this trip, I dare say we could leave that ugly luggage carrier off of the top of our Jeep.


2) Invest in the right products.

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During my research, I discovered Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap. I haven’t tried it yet, but apparently it has 18 different uses, from shampoo to dishes to laundry. It comes in different scents — I chose peppermint because I know that’s a smell my whole family can agree on — and comes in big family size bottles so I only had to buy one to fill everyone’s body wash, shampoo, and shave cream (for Hubby) travel-size bottles. It’s not difficult to find in stores, either. I picked mine up from the local Target in the organic soaps/ cosmetics aisle. It was near the Burt’s Bees products. Extra bonus: it’s fair trade and organic, which makes me doubly happy about my purchase and it was totally affordable. The large bottle only cost about $15. I filled 9 travel-size bottles with it and still have some left. That’s a lot cheaper than taking everyone’s individual shampoos and body washes to fill the travel bottles with. Also, the castile soap is concentrated, so it should go a really long way…as long as I can convince my kids that they don’t need as much as they think…but I digress. On my shopping trip, I also bought space-saver ziplock bags for clothes, travel toothbrushes that are full size but fold in half, travel-size toothpaste (one for each of us…again, this was a decision I made to preemptively stop fights between the kids), and mini deodorant for everyone (my son can really stink when he’s sweaty…). Below is a list of some other things that are necessary for traveling (specifically road-travel) with kids:

  1. Full-size first aid kit. I decided to skip the travel-size kit because it lacks some necessary components, such as tylenol and Neosporin. Now I won’t have to bring big bottles of that along.
  2. Snack-size ziplock bags. For all the snacks I got at the grocery store. A couple days before the trip, I’ll be preparing everyone’s “snack packs” so that the temptation to buy those sugary treats at the truck stops won’t be so hard to conquer. This is also inevitably healthier than eating at fast food places.
  3. Movie-theater candy boxes. Currently, King Soopers (Kroger) is having a sale on movie-theater candy (10 for $10). I got everyone four boxes of candy and labeled them by name so there are no arguments about who gets what. This will save us tons of money on the road.
  4. Our family’s favorite fizzy drinks and water bottles. We like Kirkland’s (Costco-brand) flavored waters because they are carbonated, taste great, and aren’t full of crap like most sodas. They are sugar and aspartame-free, and the only bad ingredients are food dyes. I’ll definitely take that over truck stop fountain drinks. We plan to freeze most of the water bottles so that they work as ice packs for our perishable foods, but as they start to thaw, they will make nice refreshing drinks as well!


3) Pack efficiently.
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As mentioned above, I plan on only taking one duffle bag of clothes for the whole family. Because we’ll be visiting family, this works out well because we’ll have access to washing machines, so, I really only need to bring one week’s worth of clothes for a two-and-a-half week trip. I also spent a lot of time researching how to pack clothes, with folding tips, and color-coordinating. Some of the best advice I saw was to color-coordinate everyone’s clothes and to keep it neutral. The last thing I need while on vacation is to have to do 30 loads of laundry. If everyone’s clothes are color-neutral, such as grays and blacks, I can wash the clothes all together. If I pack my son’s favorite red shirt, along with my daughter’s favorite white shirt, however, I will be forcing myself to do at least two loads of laundry. Why do that to myself? It’s a vacation, after all. Also, color-coordinating everyone means that our family pictures will look that much nicer. Anyone with kids knows that getting that nice picture is a lot harder than it should be.


4) Dress for the occasion.

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This probably works better for air-travel, but having everyone wear their bulkiest clothing items during travel-time will save a lot of packing space. I’ve also been told (though I admit I don’t take this advice often because I want to be comfortable) that wearing closed-toed shoes such as sneakers or hiking boots is best in case the worst should happen and I suddenly find myself traveling on foot.


5) Plan the route ahead of time.

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When we finally are on the road, I know of at least one place my husband and I always stop for a special tradition/ road-trip treat: Little America. That place is great. Best bathrooms ever. Cheap ice cream cones. By planning out our route efficiently, we can make time and room in our budget for this special tradition. On the flip side, we also happen to know that fuel prices at Little America are super high. So, using apps like GasBuddy (or to navigate our fuel stops, we won’t get caught also needing fuel at our favorite roadside stop.


6) Keep your kids entertained for less.

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There are so many different products available for keeping kids entertained. One of the pieces of advice I’ve come across is surprising your kids with new toys that they can play with in the car (not expensive toys, but things you can find at the dollar store). Some people take the time to wrap these like presents. Personally, I don’t have time for that, nor do I want to deal with the trash, but I think the kids will appreciate it anyway. For my kiddos, I got sketch pads with new colored pencils for both, a fidget toy for my son, and a fashion designer coloring book for my daughter. I also grabbed some new books (I wanted to get these from the thrift store, but they didn’t have the ones I was looking for, so I ended up buying some on sale at Target), and they both have portable dvd players they can use. One of those dvd players was borrowed from a family friend. The other we had to buy, but Amazon has some really good deals, so don’t overspend on things like that if you don’t have to. We thought about downloading movies onto our iPad, but decided that portable dvd players only allow the user to do one thing, where as the iPad has some other things like games and documents that we don’t want our kids messing with. We also typically limit their screen time, so eliminating the temptation to do anything but watch a movie was worth the investment.


7) Clean the house before you leave.

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There’s nothing like a clean house, clean sheets, and clean bathrooms. There’s also nothing like coming home after being away for a while to a messy house. I think the last thing I want to do when I get home is have to worry about cleaning. So, that’ll be taken care of before leaving so that when we all get home and get to enjoy our own sheets for a change, they’ll be fresh and ready to accept us.

So, now it’s off to finishing the packing and prepping the food! Our trip is in t-minus three days. I will let you know (probably when I get back from vacationing it up), how it all went in “Traveling Light w/ Kids: Part 2.”

As always, thanks for reading!


Walls: A poem about the very real consequences of parenting children with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).


My house is full of walls.                                                                                                                    Not the brick and mortar type,                                                                                                            Not the dry, papered, or paneled.                                                                                                      You call them imaginary because you can’t see.                                                                             But they are real.

They block my way every morning.                                                                                               They rise up in my path in the afternoon.                                                                                     They sometimes have doors that slam themselves shut                                                                  In the dusk of the evening hours.

Every day I work to tear them down.                                                                                            Every night they rebuild themselves.

I’ve become tired. I’m exhausted.                                                                                                         No one believes me.

My house is full of walls.                                                                                                                   Walls made of fear and anger.                                                                                                        Walls made of anxiety and hatred.                                                                                                     You can’t see them because they hide well.                                                                                     But they are still there.

Every now and then a window will appear.                                                                               Every now and then I’ll find a door.                                                                                             Every now and then I think I’ve found my way through                                                                 In the dawn of the morning hours.

Every night I cry at my failures.                                                                                                      Every day I try again.

I need help in this battle. I’m fighting a war I can’t win.                                                               The help I need never comes.

I’m paying for the sins of another woman.                                                                                      Sins I can’t possibly repay.                                                                                                                     Yet the debt is owed and the bill is due.                                                                                             The Collector is here to collect.

My house is full of walls.                                                                                                                      Not the type that shelter from the storm.                                                                                         Not the type that keep the cold at bay.                                                                                               You tell me there’s no winter chill                                                                                                      But I feel it all the same.

They whisper conspiratorially.                                                                                                           They make you believe that I put them there.                                                                               They make you believe that I started the fight.                                                                                  In the heat of the afternoon hours.

Every day I scream in agony from the pain.                                                                                 Every night my fingers bleed.

I’m screaming but no one hears me.                                                                                                   I’m screaming but no one comes.

My house is full of walls.                                                                                                                      Not the brick and mortar type,                                                                                                           Not the dry, papered, or paneled.                                                                                                      You call them imaginary because you won’t see.                                                                                      But they are real.

They are so real.


How to support foster children: a 5-step guide

Hello faithful readers!

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Today I’m going to talk about how you can support your local foster children with a handy dandy guide! Hopefully, you’ll find some useful information on how you can make a difference, especially if you can’t become a foster parent yourself.


  1. Let go of the guilt. If you know that you can’t become a foster parent, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, your awareness of your inability to be a foster parent is commendable. There are a lot of ways you can still get involved.
  2. Get in contact with your local DHS (Department of Human Services). Most likely, they are looking for people to volunteer at events or help out in other ways.
  3. Get in contact with with any foster parents you may know and ask them how you can help. Parenting is hard. Parenting traumatized children is even more difficult. Chances are, your foster-parent-friends would love for someone to do any of the following for them:
    1. Babysit. As long as the babysitting time period doesn’t exceed four hours, babysitters don’t need special certifications, training, or licensure.
    2. Clean their house. Between cooking meals, transporting kids to and from school, therapy, counseling, and visits, basic household chores get left by the wayside. If you really want to help out a foster family, this is probably one of the best ways of doing so.
    3. Make or buy them dinner. Like #2, time is something that foster parents simply don’t have the luxury of anymore. Buying a pre-made meal or making one yourself and bringing it to them will go a long way. If you plan on doing this, make sure to ask about their child(ren)’s preferences, allergies, and any food restrictions the parents might have on their kids (for instance, in our first placement, we didn’t allow our 3 and 5-yr-olds to have anything sugary after 6pm because sugar made them “crazy”).
    4. Offer to do their grocery shopping for them. Again, time is a luxury foster parents don’t have. When we first took in kids, between both my husband and I working, we rarely had time to do the grocery shopping and were forced to use our precious weekend time for that task instead. I realize this is a problem for most families, but foster kids have so much on their plates that it can become ridiculous at times and foster parents are pretty much powerless to change it. Those weekend hours are better spent on creating happy memories (see my “On Creating Happy Memories” post for more info on that) and providing a family-like dynamic with their foster kids. Don’t worry about funds; if you offer to buy their groceries for you, they will probably bend over backwards to make sure you have a list and money.
    5. Ask if there’s anything specific they need. Knowing is always better than guessing. If you’re unsure if your local foster family would appreciate any of the above, ask them how you can help. They will appreciate it!  Get in contact with local charities and nonprofits that support the foster system. Charities and nonprofits are always looking for volunteers. If you don’t know of any near you, Google is a great resource. I guarantee there is at least one organization in your community that supports the foster system.
  4. Get in contact with local charities and nonprofits that support the foster system. Charities and nonprofits are always looking for volunteers. If you don’t know of any near you, Google is a great resource. I guarantee there is at least one organization in your community that supports the foster system.
  5. Donate. If you don’t have time to volunteer, I understand. If you really care about the cause, chances are you have funds you’re willing to give away. Donating to the local organizations mentioned in #4 can go a very long way in supporting kids in foster care and making sure they have what they need. Recently, I led a fundraiser with a local nonprofit to make sure that kids in foster care could dump the infamous garbage bag for a brand new backpack of their very own filled with all sorts of goodies such as gift cards, blankets, artisan hand-made journals, socks, and so forth. I was really proud of this work, and I know you would be too!

Image result for how can I helpI hope there is at least one point on this guide that has helped you to feel more empowered to support foster children. Remember, the system is set up to protect the children in it, so don’t be immediately discouraged if you don’t get to hang out with the kiddos. Sure, feeling appreciated by the people you aim to help is super rewarding, but most of these kids either don’t know how to show their appreciation or flat-out don’t appreciate it. Why? Because no one would appreciate being ripped from the only home they’ve known. Exercise empathy for all parties involved – the police, the county, the foster parents, and most importantly the foster children. That will be an excellent guide for you as you decide how you can best help!

Cheers, and thanks for reading!



Differentiating between “normal” behaviors and “trauma” behaviors

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Parenting is hard. No really,  it is. If you’re a parent, you understand this very fundamental truth. If you ever want to be a parent, recognize this very fundamental truth now and save yourself a lot of frustration later.

If you’re a foster parent, differentiating between age-appropriate behaviors for well-adjusted children and behaviors that are only associated with children who have trauma pasts can be a difficult and confusing path to follow. That’s why this post includes several charts for your reference!

The big problem in telling the difference between “normal” behaviors and “trauma” behaviors is that often they look really similar. The best advice I can give you is to remember that your traumatized child is still a child and, despite having gone through some things that he never should have at that age, more often than not, he will act his age. That being said, if you’re child has a traumatized past, always choose the trauma-informed parenting techniques. They work for well-adjusted kids as well.

Let’s take a look at Lucy, an 11-month-old foster child. Lucy was recently removed from her bio-parents’ home when reports of neglect caused the police to make a visit to her home. When the police found Lucy, she was wearing dirty clothes, acted hungry, and seemed to be very inactive as far as crawling around the space. She was extremely quiet for her age, and though she responded to someone directly talking to her or picking her up, she didn’t seem to know her own name. Take a look at the chart below to see what the police should have found upon meeting little Lucy:

Age (0-2 years) Developmentally appropriate behavior

0-3 months

  • Reacts and turns toward sound
  • Watches faces and follows objects
  • Coos and babbles
  • Becomes more expressive and develops a social smile
  • Develops a general routine of sleep/ wake times

4-7 months

  • Babbles chains of sounds
  • Responds to others’ expressions of emotions
  • Grasps and holds objects
  • Regards own hand and explores objects with hand and mouth
  • Sits with, and then without, support on hands

8-12 months

  • Changes tone when babbling
  • Says “dada” and “mama” and uses exclamations
  • Imitates sounds and gestures
  • Explores in many ways (shaking, dropping, banging, poking)
  • Pulls self up to stand and may walk briefly without help.

2 years

  • Says several single words and two- or three-word phrases
  • Follows simple instructions
  • Points to things when named
  • Finds hidden objects
  • Scribbles
  • Stands alone and walks well

Chart Credit: Child Welfare Information Gateway – chart credit website link.

Developmentally, Lucy should have been actively exploring her environment. She should have been able to respond to her name and been able to “talk” to others via babbling, changing her tone, and imitating sounds.

If you jumped to dirty clothes and acting hungry as an all conclusive sign of neglect, think again. Babies are extraordinarily hard to keep clean. It’s perfectly acceptable for a parent to not change their baby’s clothes in many circumstances. Acting hungry also is not a good indicator. Now, if the police noticed that she was ravenous and tried to look around for age-appropriate food for Lucy and found none, there we have a problem.

Lucy’s behaviors are really what gave away signs of neglect in this case. These behaviors developed over several months in the same way normal behaviors develop over several months. One day or even a week of neglectful actions on the parents’ part isn’t enough evidence to conclude that Lucy had been neglected.

Trauma can take many forms, however, and can happen in a moment. Consistent acting out behaviors, however, come from consistent trauma or a lack of guidance and healing from traumatizing moments.

Let’s take a look at Thomas, a six-year-old boy whose parents were just tragically killed two months ago in a car accident. Thomas had been a part of that accident as well, but was the only survivor due to his location in the car. Thomas refuses to go anywhere near a car anymore. His kinship family (foster parents/ family who happen to be related to the child in someway) has been struggling to go anywhere or get any place on time because Thomas throws a huge temper-tantrum every time it’s time to get in a vehicle. His kinship parents understand why he’s so afraid of cars, but they also know their lives need to move on. Thomas has been making that very difficult. The moment it’s time to go, he’ll scream, kick, bite, cry, and thrash about; he seems to lose his entire sense of self, others and the environment. Obviously, these are not normal behaviors and need to be approached from a trauma-informed perspective. Let’s look at the chart below to see how Thomas should be acting:

              Age (3-7 years)    Developmentally appropriate behavior

3 years

  • Uses four- to five-word sentences
  • Follows two- or three-part instructions
  • Recognizes and identifies most common objects
  • Draws simple straight or circular lines
  • Climbs well, walks up and down stairs, runs

4 years

  • Uses five- to six-word sentences, tells stories
  • Understands counting and may know some numbers
  • Identifies four or more colors
  • Copies or draws simple shapes
  • Walks/ runs forward and backward with balance

5 years

  • Speaks in full sentences, tells longer stories
  • Draws circles and squares, begins to copy letters
  • Climbs, hops, swings, and may skip
  • Tries to solve problems from a single point of view and identify solutions to conflicts
  • More likely to agree to rules

6-7 years

  • Reads short words and sentences
  • Draws person or animal
  • Takes pride and pleasure in mastering new skills
  • Has more internal control over emotions and behaviors
  • Shows growing awareness of good and bad

Chart Credit: Child Welfare Information Gateway – chart credit website link.

At age six, Thomas should have more self-regulatory ability to control his emotions and behaviors, which he clearly lacks; Thomas is acting emotionally on par with a two or three-year-old. It’s important to know that kids are resilient and with the proper help and guidance, can and will find healing. Since Thomas knew a loving home before the accident, it is very possible that his emotions will stabilize after he has gone through the grieving and recovering process. It is also possible that Thomas will have a difficult time getting in vehicles for the rest of his life because the trauma associated with such an event is the type that adults sometimes can’t even handle. As long as his emotional needs are being supported, Thomas can conquer his fears and be able to function at age-level once again. Trauma of this type, or really any type, takes time and patience to overcome.

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Now let’s talk about Sarah. Sarah is 16-years-old and has a decent social life. Recently, her parents have had a hard time with getting her to talk to them. She’s moody, is constantly on her phone, prefers the company of her friends and is sleeping in a lot later than she used to. Sarah’s parents are worried that she might be getting into some trouble at school with peer-pressure, but they haven’t heard any negative reports from her school and her grades have remained steady. Their only evidence is that she’s not as open with them or as talkative as she used to be and it doesn’t feel right.

Take a look at the chart below to see if Sarah’s parents need to be concerned:

Age (8-18 years) Developmentally appropriate behavior

8-10 years

  • Reads well
  • Multiplies numbers
  • Expresses a unique personality when relating to others
  • Solves conflicts by talking, not fighting
  • Is able to “bounce back” from most disappointments

11-14 years

  • May have frequent mood swings or changes in feelings
  • Gradually develops own taste, sense of style, and identity
  • Has a hobby, sport, or activity
  • Learns to accept disappointments and overcome failures
  • Has one or more “best” friends and positive relationships with others the same age

15-18 years

  • Begins to develop an identity and self-worth beyond body image and physical appearance
  • Is able to calm down and handle anger
  • Sets goals and works toward achieving them
  • Accepts family rules, completes chores and other responsibilities
  • Needs time for emotions and reasoning skills to catch up with rapid physical changes

Chart Credit: Child Welfare Information Gateway – chart credit website link.

Did any of Sarah’s recent behaviors pop out as abnormal? Probably not. Sarah is in the process of becoming an adult. She’ll start sleeping later and staying up later at night (known as “late phase preference”) because she’s still growing and her body is still changing. According to the chart, 11-14 year-olds are known to have “frequent mood swings”, due to hormonal changes. Often these changes don’t stop at a specific age, rather, mood swings caused by physical and social changes may occur until Sarah is completely finished with puberty. What about Sarah’s parents’ concern about her recent lack of openness? While it’s no fun for the parents, and probably a bit harder for Sarah herself, this is also normal behavior. Hopefully, Sarah knows that she can trust her parents enough to talk about the really tough things she might be going through. That trust comes from years of her parents talking to and listening to her about the small things: the things that adults don’t find important but that kids do. So, when Sarah has a real issue, she can feel safe talking to her parents or even an adult at school such as her favorite teacher. Sarah is beginning to form her own identity and self-worth. Part of this process is separating a bit from parents. Again, this is normal. Sarah’s parents, however, aren’t helpless. Signs of something wrong can come from a variety of places: are her grades slipping? Has she lost interest in hobbies or activities she once loved? If she’s on social media, is she being bullied? Is she bullying others? Has she stopped eating, or has she been excessively dieting? Have her hygiene habits changed drastically? If Sarah’s parents are aware of the signs that something isn’t quite right with their daughter, then they have the power to step in before things get worse or before Sarah makes a life-threatening decision.

Staying informed and up-to-date on current trends, parenting techniques, and what trauma looks like in kids 0-18 is a crucial step in raising happy, healthy, and successful adults. Be sure to check out the resources page on this blog for valuable information and educational materials that are widely accepted and available.

As always, thanks for reading!