You Don’t Know Until You Know

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Those little feet ‼️

For about three weeks in June (where did that month go?), Bjork and I had a house full of little friends, little hands, little feet.

What?! I know. IT WAS A BIG DEAL. And I’m not even being sarcastic.

I alluded to our new guests a few times in random recipe posts last month, because I can’t not write about personal stuff when I am supposed to be writing about food. 💅🏽 But I never really explained what that was or how it all went down.

I intended to publish this story + reflections post right after the kids left at the end of the month, before we took off for New Orleans. But then life happened, including my typical trip preparation procrastinatory habits and a general rawness from the whirlwind of just having gained and lost three little ones, and it was just too much to actually hit publish. So I wrote half a post and saved it for a time when I could actually handle it.

And I think this morning is that time.

These three kiddos came to stay with us through a placement with an organization called Safe Families. We very naively agreed to host them for a month – and I say naively because 1) OH HEY THERE no parenting experience – Naive with a capital N; 2) small house; and 3) kids ages: four, three, and one.

HELLO, HI, WOW.

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We knew this would be a Big Deal – I used to be a teacher, and I specialized in pre-primary education, and have spent many many summers of my life nannying and doing all that stuff that makes you feel like you should be ready to take on something that’s a Big Deal. And we were excited about it. Obviously, we were about as ready as you can be for any Big Deal thing, which essentially means we thought we were mostly ready and envisioned sweet afternoons playing outside and fun field trips to the zoo. And then we realized about two minutes into the experience that, in fact, you can probably never be ready for things that are a Big Deal.

Three weeks, three kids, lots of lessons learned. Lessons in the sense of those things you don’t know that you don’t know until you know them.

As you can guess because so many of you are light years ahead of me in this smart-caregiving-adult game, we had some fun times and some hard times and some OMG WHAT times, and I learned a great many things during our time as Safe Families hosts.

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1. I Am Not Above Frozen Chicken Nuggets.

At the top of the list. Let’s just say there were multiple occasions over the last few weeks when this lesson made its mark on my life. GOODBYE. Leaving now. 👋🏽

2. When The Going Gets Tough, Showers Become Optional.

Makeup? Hair? Cleanliness? What’s that again? I was pushed to new heights in this department and now I know that, in fact, the world will not end if I wear my unwashed hair in a braid for the third consecutive day in a row.

3. Fruit Snacks = Everything.

Think of any problem in the whole wide world. Now think about fruit snacks. YOUR PROBLEM: SOLVED. We owe our collective survival as a motley crew of 5 to those beloved generic brand dinosaur fruit snacks.

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4. Sage Wins At Life.

Srsly tho. This snuggly girl wore stickers all over her back like a champ, held her head still enough for a crown made of Legos, and slept next to the crib until the little one fell asleep like the most precious dog that she is. The amount of love I have for our fur bb is just completely absurd and irrational and soul-deep. Thank you, Sagey, for helping us be good hosts.

5. We Are Only As Strong As Our Support System.

Acts of awesomeness that we got to experience over these last few weeks:

  • gifts of borrowed strollers, cribs, toys, and sippy cups (okay, fine, I might have sort of snagged the sippy cup from a friend who forgot it at our house but STILL)
  • warm meals delivered to our front door and homemade fudge stuffed into our fridge – one of us stayed strong on the sugar free commitment in that moment and it was not me
  • late night texts and emails from friends with one thousand emojis, gifs, and other morale boosters
  • carseat swapping when safety and car behavior issues came up – complete with a full install of said carseat into our car, because, as you might remember, WE’RE CLUELESS
  • playdates with family and friends, which could also be called chase-them-around-and-let-them-touch-everything-in-your-house dates

You guys. We would not have made it through intact if not for these incredible our friends’ and families’  generosity, hospitality, and willingness to get right up in the messiness of life with us. It makes me weepy as I sit here with my coffee and look at this screen and think about what that really means in a real life, real people way.

What a profound gift to have people in your life who are not afraid to not just wave and say hi from the shore but actually walk with you out into the deepest water.

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6. Hard Things Are Hard.

Bjork and I had this conversation late one night (er, wait, 9:30pm? is that late? my internal bedtime clock is really wonky right now) about how much we want to be a part of “good things” that really matter, but how good things are often hard. And yet we try to do them while somehow expecting the hard things to not be hard… because they’re good.

PS. Imagine this line of reasoning being spoken to you by an overtired person who is on the brink of – no, is actually crying – and probably has a shmear of yogurt on her shorts and a few leftover Goldfish cracker crumbs in her hair, and is wearing the same clothes going on three days now, and you’ve just experienced a moment of Bjork’s life. Luckeeeee.

Bottom line: hard things are hard, and that’s not necessarily bad. In that late night moment, I made a conscious decision to let this experience be hard, and to not let the fact that it was hard take away from its value as a learning experience or as an opportunity to show love or my value as a person. It’s okay to let hard things be hard.

7. Humor. Humor. Humor.

Every night, Bjork would spend about an hour (that’s being conservative – probably more like 90 minutes) managing the bedtime routine for one of our little friends.

And every night, he would send me these ridiculous self-depricating texts from our bedroom, where little friend was camped out, because – well, it’s just too much to even get into – let’s just say sleeping bags were involved, and why are sleeping bags so shiny and slippery? FYI to the sleeping bag people: we’re trying to contain squiggly kids here, thank you very much.

Anyways. So began our nightly routine of sending gifs representing the range of emotions one might experience during bedtime, emoji-only conversations, and pictures of pugs in costumes because PUGS IN COSTUMES.

I would silent belly laugh out in the kitchen (our only non-kid occupied space left in the house with no doors to contain the noise) and my internal batteries would recharge instantly.

We would not have survived without humor. A quick (adult) cry followed by self-depricating jokes. A frustrating moment and then a pug in a costume. This = survival.

8. We’re All Just Doing The Best We Can.

As Glennon says, there are no good days with kids, just good moments. And even with the good moments, we really struggled with this new routine. There were so many times I’d be out in public really having a hard time (well, straight up failing, if we get right down to it) managing to look normal and nice and mostly just normal.

A few days into the placement, I took two of the kids to the park and right away I noticed a dad who was obviously upset with one of his little guys, trying to get everyone in his young family back to the car in one piece. And where I might have otherwise wondered what their deal was, on this day my first thought was: YOU’RE AWESOME AND GOOD JOB, DAD. I wanted to run over and hug him (see above note about struggling to look normal). After this experience, I’d like to think that I have a better understanding and empathy and appreciation for what people are going through specific to herding around the littles – I mean, in a very, very distant, tried-on-the-shoes-for-two-seconds kind of way.

We’re all just doing the best we can, right? From the exhausted and dedicated teachers and parents, to the neighbors who show up at 10pm on a Tuesday to help install an escape-proof carseat, to the Target cashier who tries to distract the girls from eating all the candy in the checkout lane during an emergency run for diapers.

People are pretty crazy and awesome.

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It was hard to say goodbye, and also, it was time. The kids were missing their mom, Bjork and I were hanging in there (aka eating frozen chicken nuggets and not showering), and there had been a few days of back and forth transitioning at the end of our time together that made it feel like everyone was ready for things to get to a place of normalcy.

Lots of our friends have asked why we would ever do this and if we will do it again.

I don’t know if I have a good answer for either question.

One phrase I always think about is something I heard at our church a few years ago relating to hospitality in the truest sense: who has access to your fridge?

My heart and soul wants to say that anyone can have access to my fridge, including these three kiddos – just give me a second to switch out the Bai5 and the spicy noodles for those seriously awesome applesauce pouches real quick. I like to think that I’m open-handed with my stuff, my life, my time, that my fridge is open to anyone. This experience, in theory, was sort of a manifestation of that desire to really live out what I feel about that in my heart and soul.

But then there’s the reality: it was actually really hard to have three new people live with us. It did not feel comfortable or normal a lot of the time. It was good, sweet, soulful moments speckled into three weeks of uncomfortable, not-sure-if-we’re-doing-this-right messiness.

So I have my mind, saying that yes! of course, my fridge is open to anyone, and I have my favorite shirt stained with snot and ketchup reminding me that actually living out that mind-heart-soul belief is not easy. Or clean. And it definitely doesn’t smell good.

That’s not really an answer, but that’s my answer.

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A quick word about comments and vulnerability: I’m actually terrified to publish this post, much less leave comments open. My heart is racing. The internet has made me into this weird of a person, you guys. 🙈

I find that whenever I go into deeper, more personal territory than the normal food blog YUMMYYYY SO GOOD! stuff, there’s a high chance – no, there’s basically a guarantee – that someone will misinterpret my intent, or something I said, and feel the need to let me know what they think about it in a screen-to-screen way.

So it feels weird to ask you to be gentle with your comments, but I’ll just say this – can we view comments as a face-to-face, not a screen-to-screen? I do want to hear from you. I NEED to hear from you, which is why I am ultimately leaving the comments open. You keep me encouraged, and equally as important – you keep me humble, letting me know when I might have made a mistake. And I really do need that. But just so you know, I am also a real person who has been known to be overly sensitive and is deeply affected by your comments. *puts giant target on back* 🎯😱😂

We’re all just doing the best we can, right? Bloggers and commenters alike.

Thank you for reading this post. It sounds cliche, but I really appreciate the fact that we can share stories and life together. It’s more than just a screen thing to me. ♡

Let’s end with a picture of Sage because she’s really just everything. 🐶⭐️🏆🐶⭐️🏆🐶⭐️🏆

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