Each year, about three days before my mom’s birthday, my dad sends out an SOS e-mail. He asks if we have any ideas for gifts to get her. Usually, I just wish him luck because my mom is a tough one to shop for!
This year, I had two secret weapons when it came to my mom’s birthday gift: the grandchildren!
With hours to spare before her birthday, we went to Michael’s so Jude could lay on the floor and cry to pick out something to make. Our foster son picked out cute wooden arrows AND a $1 birdhouse. Go big or go home folks.
The next day, we had a painting party in our kitchen. I stripped Jude down to his diaper because he likes to express his creativity by rubbing paint in his clothing. In order to control the finished product a little bit, I hid the red, brown, and black when painting the arrows.
To help Jude achieve the look he was envisioning, I poured paint on the wooden arrow and let him rub it in.
The cleanup took longer than the painting BUT we ended up with some pretty cute gifts for Granny Kelly.
I know you remember me. I was the mom that walked into your office 15 minutes before the door closed for the day. I had the one-year-old that was eating dirt from the potted plant in the waiting room. I also am the mom to the boy that was sitting in the chair.
You may have realized that the older of the two boys called me by my first name. That is because I am technically not his mom. I did not bring him into this world. I, however, care for him each day and love him just as I love our infant that I carried for nine months.
How we ended up at the Sheriff’s office started a long time ago, but I will do my best to fill you in. At our house, we have one rule: Be the best you can be. Recently, that rule hasn’t been followed.
When taking things that are not ours (stealing) became an issue, we tried different approaches. We have tried taking away toys, eliminating time on electronics, time-outs, and rewarding positive behavior with coveted items. Although we will always continue to reward positive behavior, we found that taking away toys, has had the most impact. In addition, we implemented a three-strike system.
If we catch our son stealing, he gets a toy taken away and we also draw an “x” on the fridge to show that he received a strike. We reset the strike count on Sundays. On Monday, the strike count was already at two. Two toys had been removed and two strikes had been drawn on the fridge. We clearly stated to our son that if he received three strikes due to stealing, then we would be going to talk to a police officer, together.
Now, before you shame me for making the police out to be bad people, I will have you know that we paint a great picture of our men and women in uniform. At every hockey game and football game, we make sure to talk to every officer (and security guard) in our path. We wave out the car window whenever we see police, sheriff, or border patrol vehicles. On Halloween, we encouraged our son to dress up like a police officer because he has always been fascinated with the “trinkets” those in uniform wear each day.
When I picked up our son after school, I was told that he stole an item out of the office. Although, it was just something small, I took this report very seriously. Unfortunately for me, this was the third strike. If you remember, after three strikes, we were going to have to go speak to a police officer.
To be honest with you, I really just wanted to go home. I wanted to turn our three-strike system into a four-strike system. However, if I did that, then I wouldn’t be holding true to my words. To the police station we drove.
When we arrived at the police station, as a small-town girl, I instinctively walked upstairs to the sheriff’s office instead of waiting for a police officer. After we spoke to the attendant, we waited.
During that waiting time, I prayed. I prayed that you wouldn’t laugh at me when I told you our “problem”. I prayed that this would be an educational lesson on stealing. I also prayed that God would guide your words as they had the power to shape a young mind.
You see, I was out of strikes AND out of ideas. I needed a backup. Being a foster parent is so hard, and I felt like I was failing. I really didn’t know what else to do.
When you arrived, you knelt down to the level of our son. After a few minutes, he was able to look you in the eyes. Although you two only chatted for a few minutes, I want you to know that you made an impact on that little boy.
When we got in the car and I asked him what he learned, he told me three things:
1. “Police officers are actually really nice.”
2. “Asking is better than stealing.”
3. “If I do good in school, I can be an astronaut and fly to Jupiter.”
Thank you for helping me as a parent.
Thank you for helping teach our son that those in uniform can be caring and compassionate.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to make an impact on a little boy’s life.
Although I don’t plan on getting rid of his items simply for aesthetic purposes, I have been trying to keep my eyes out for basic wooden pieces. If you are like me and do majority of your Christmas shopping online, then I have a few ideas for you! Some items on my gift guide below DO have color. I think finding a balance between a rainbow explosion and a sterile toy room is important.
Mornings at our house can be brutal. On mornings that the dog goes to daycare (don’t judge), it usually takes me 1.5 hours between leaving our house and getting to work… on a good day! The morning brings so many unknowns.
Will the dog run away?
Will our foster child, Little Man (LM), decide he wants to color our white carpet with green marker?
Will Jude poop the second I get him into his car seat?
Usually, the answer is yes.
When it comes to the “kids”, there are many things I don’t have control over. However, our mornings are remarkably bearable when I take the time to plan ahead, and line up everything I can beforehand. Here is how we thrive in the morning…instead of just survive.
1. Lay EVERYTHING out.
After the kids are in bed, I take at least a half hour getting everything ready for the next day. We are fortunate enough to have a heated garage, so I am able to put Jude’s socks, shoes, jacket, and diaper bag in the car the night before. (Previously, I put his socks and shoes on in the house, but he just takes them off when I am driving.) Little Man’s backpack and jacket are also placed in the car. In addition, I place my own items like my workout bag and food in the car.
2. Make Little Adjustments
The first week we had LM at our house, I forgot to pack a snack almost every day. After talking with the teacher, I found out that I could bring a months worth of snacks to be stored in the classroom. Problem solved.
3. Ask For Help
My mom drives by our house on her way to work in the morning. I usually check with her to see if she can help by dropping off one kiddo. Although it isn’t a very practical option, it gives me a little bit of a breather.
On days when LM’s school is closed, he goes to a daycare that opens up before Jared needs to be at work. On those days, Jared is on daddy duty so once again, I can have a little break.
4. Morning Checklist
I am not a morning person. I am more of a “hit the snooze button 90328482 times” person. I could sleep until noon if my little dictator Jude would let me. To make sure we are awake on time, I bought LM an alarm clock. I love that it teaches responsibility AND each morning, the alarm clock gets yelled at instead of Jared or myself.
Once the alarm goes off, LM has a checklist to complete. When he completes all six items with no reminders, there is the option to play with a toy on the way to school. This has been a game changer! One day this week, I actually arrived at LM’s school before the secretary! If you can’t tell, I am proud of that!
I am always looking for ways to thrive instead of just survive when it comes to our morning routine. Do you have any ideas for us?
Let me know if you would like a copy of the morning checklist we use!
I have another copy that has a sun instead of the pill bottle to show that waking up is the first task to complete.
After the election yesterday, many people took to social media to express their disgust in our country. I am fine with that. When I am frustrated, I often post about it too.
I have a confession: I am a natural pessimist. Some people say the “glass is half full”. Others say the “glass is half empty”. I say, “The glass is shattered because I dropped it on the damn floor.” I have the tendency to look at the negatives instead of the positives. My pessimism is something that I work on improving on a daily basis.
Today, it has been especially hard to see any positivity with the negativity flying around. I have been pondering the election results and I keep on coming up with the same questions. What can I do about it? Today I can feel the hate in the world around me but I need to feel positivity. How can I change this energy?
When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Prize, she was asked, “What can we do to promote world peace?” She answered, “Go home and love your family”. That is exactly what I plan to do. I even plan to take Mother Teresa’s advice a step further and this week, I will love my community.
Ways I will spread love in my community this week:
1. I will contact a teacher from high school and let him know I appreciated him coming to all of our basketball games.
2. I will go for a walk with a garbage bag and pickup trash on the side of the road.
3. I will buy the person in line behind me a cup of coffee.
4. I will visit the nursing home on veteran’s day to thank our vets for their service.
5. I will call my grandmas and tell them I love them.
After work, we packed up the kiddos and went to the big town of Forest River, North Dakota for supper. Being it was the first Friday of the month, they had a prime rib special. Jude made himself at home in the bar resturant and both boys put on the charm. Jude even got M&Ms from our waitress in return for smiles and kisses. For this mom, plain beer and great company were the highlights of the evening!
On Saturday, our foster-child’s sibling came over for a play date. I was extremely excited to see that our local movie theater, River Cinema, had a sensory-friendly showing of the movie Trolls. To make it sensory friendly, they keep the lights on, the volume low, and allow you to walk around. At one point, I believe there were 5 of us parents standing so that we could wrangle the kids running around the theater. I was so appreciative of this sensory-friendly option. With it, I was able to take three kids to a movie without any added stress. I hope this option continues to be available in the future! The kids said they loved the movie.
Attention Parents: If you take kids to this movie, bring a book… unless trolls farting cupcakes is your forte.
Sunday was another beautiful day outside! We went to my parents’ farm and my mom took some great family photos of all of us. Although we will not be able to use photos of our foster child in our Christmas card, I am so happy we will have the photos to remind us of our journey as a family of four.
When I was in college, I loved daylight savings because when the bars close at 2:00 a.m., it is really 3:00 a.m.! As a parent, I despise it. A 5:00 a.m. human alarm clock named Jude made sure that we had PLENTY of time to play before school. Uffff.
Jared and I did not take a single parenting class when I was pregnant with Jude. I knew my trusty friends, Youtube and Google, could help me if needed. When researching pregnancy and childbirth, I failed when it came to reading about breast feeding. How hard can it really be? I have boobs, the boobs will fill with milk, and then the baby will drink the milk. Easy peasy.
I was wrong. Breastfeeding was and still is challenging!
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that breastfeeding, with its many known health benefits for infants, children, and mothers, is a key strategy to improve public health. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding alongside introduction of complementary foods for at least 1 year.
The CDC and AAP failed to mention that if you want to exclusively give breast milk to your baby, you need to bust your ass each day. You may even do everything you can to breast feed and something still just doesn’t work! My personal experience is that providing your baby with breast milk is extremely taxing, exhausting, and rewarding.
1,000 ounces in 3 months
I knew I would be going back to work when Jude was 3 months old. I also knew that I wanted to give him breast milk until his first birthday. Thanks to my breast pump, I was able to pump and store over 1,000 ounces before going back to work. Here is how I did it:
After reading the reviews on amazon, I ordered Fenugreek Seed and Blessed Thistle. Although some claim they didn’t see a difference in milk production, I personally did. For the low price of these supplements, I thought it was worth a try!
As a baby gift, my mom got us the Medela Freestyle Hands-Free Double Electric Breast Pump. I could have found a cheaper option that would be covered by insurance, but I was set on having a pump that was battery operated and hands-free, so I could walk around the house while pumping. The freestyle allowed me to pump everywhere. The motor is so little that it could easily fit in the diaper bag. I once even pumped while at the movie theater!
If you have ever washed a breast milk bottle, you know that the fatty liquid can leave residue inside the bottle. Kiinde offers an easy alternative with its disposable bottles. I was able to pump directly into the storage bagwith the Kiinde system. If Jude needed a bottle when I wasn’t around, Jared could easily pop a nipple onto the storage bag. The one downfall of this system is that the bags are quite large. You still have to use a 6-ounce bag even if you only produce an ounce of milk.
4. Pump Strap
As I said before, I pumped EVERYWHERE. We live about 20 minutes out of town so I always used that time to pump. The Pump Strap allowed me to be hands-free, so I could pump and drive at the same time. I tried many different support devices including the Medela and Hogfish but this was my favorite. I loved that I could keep my coat on while pumping during the cold winter months.
I purchased doubles of many items and sometimes even triple! I believe we have two car chargers and at least four wall chargers for my pump. I know we have at least triple of every pump piece (besides the motor). I would justify paying for all of these duplicates by calculating how much money breastfeeding was saving our family because we didn’t have to buy formula.
In order to reach 1,000 ounces before returning to work, I had to spend a lot of time pumping. I began pumping when Jude was just a few hours old. After a few weeks of building up my supply, in a thirty-minute pumping session, I could usually produce 10 ounces. In addition to pumping, I was also breastfeeding as much as possible. I once calculated that with breastfeeding and pumping, I was getting milked for at least 8 hourseach day. This was a typical day for us:
7. Support System
I told EVERYONE I was a “pumping mom”. The truth is, in order to pump, I needed some extra help! My parents would order dinner for me when I was in the car pumping outside the restaurant. My husband would wash the pump parts each night. My sister-in-law was always answering the crazy questions I had. My friends cheered me on as I tested my breastmilk for alcohol after girls night. I had so many people that knew my goal and encouraged me. I know I wouldn’t have reached my goal without their support.
Last year, Jude was only two weeks old when Halloween rolled around. As a gift, he was given a bat outfit complete with an adorable knit hat. Instead of spending money on a costume he would only wear for a few hours, we used the bat ensemble as his halloween costume.
Our little bat:
In August when my mom returned from a trip to Boston, she stopped by our house with gifts for Jude. One of the gifts was an obnoxious (but adorable) patterned onesie. This insect-print outfit was so cute that I wanted to make sure it was used for more than bedtime. Somehow, I came up with the idea that he could be a bug catcher for halloween in the fall. The best part is, we used items already in our house so we didn’t have to go out and buy a costume. We did purchase toy insects that can still be used after halloween.
Definition: A scientist who studies insects.
I kept on referring to Jude as a “bug catcher” but my husband informed me that he was actually an “Entomologist”.
This week has been a wild one so far at the Gowans.
Jude was sick on Monday & Tuesday but thankfully, his Grandma was able to watch him while Jared and I worked. On Tuesday afternoon, I got a call from the school saying our other “Little Man” (LM) was sick. LM will sometimes fake sick, so I didn’t take the report from the school too seriously.
I still had some work to do so after I picked up LM from school, we headed over to the University. As I was unlocking my door to the office, LM said he could feel something funny in his throat. Before I could even figure out what he meant by that, he projectile vomited everywhere!
To make matters worse, classes dismissed right at that second, so we had to guard the puke on the floor from the college students walking through the hallways to their next classes.
LM was quite proud of his huge splat of puke, and enjoyed directing traffic around his pool of puke! He made sure to announce to everyone that they needed to walk around his puke. “Watch out… I puked all over the floor… I only had chocolate milk for lunch… Don’t slip in my puke… That is all MY puke!”
(Photo I quickly snapped of the college students walking by)
Thank goodness LM is cute.
God really wanted me to slow down this week… literally.
When we got home on Tuesday night, I heard hissing in our garage. Don’t worry, it wasn’t a snake, it was just a flat tire with a huge nail sticking out. My wonderful husband put on a spare, that I swear was made for a go-cart, and I was forced to drive 55mph.
I HATE having work done on my car, because as a female, I feel as though people try to take advantage of me. They don’t realize that the girl walking up in high heels grew up on a farm, and isn’t an idiot.
These are things I have heard from businesses in Grand Forks, when my car needed to be serviced. For your entertainment, I also will share my responses.
(Photo taken while I was responding)
Service Man: Your air filter is dirty and needs to be replaced, so you are not breathing in toxins.
Jess: Isn’t it ironic that you are telling me that with a cigarette stuck behind your ear? My air filter looks great! You can just blow out the dust if you think it is too toxic for me.
Service Man: (After taking my tire off) We can’t patch your tire (with the perfect nail hole).
Jess: Oh shoot. Can you put on the spare for me and I will drive somewhere else to get it patched?
Service Man: Oh, I guess we can give it a try.
Service Man: If you don’t replace all four tires at the same time, your car will not be as efficient and your gas mileage will go down.
Jess: I would rather lose a mile per gallon then pay hundreds of dollars for tires I don’t need.
Service Man: You need all four new tires at the same time, so your car doesn’t shake.
Jess: I live on gravel. My car always shakes.
Service Man: (After draining the oil from my car) It looks as though your car requires special oil.
Jess: How much does it cost?
Service Man: About $120
Jess: I will go somewhere else then.
Service Man: We already took the oil out of your car. It will blow up if you drive away.
Jess: If you do not give me non-synthetic oil, I will call to get my car towed out of here. In the meantime, it will just have to sit there.
Service Man: Ok. We will put the generic oil in.
When possible, I try to take preventive measures as to not get ripped off. Here are my favorites:
1- As soon as I pull up, I write down my husband’s phone number for the service man. I let him know that if he believes I need anything other than a basic oil change, he can call Jared to talk about it. In the last three years, Jared has yet to receive a phone call.
2-Whenever I have a problem with my car in Grand Forks, I go to American Tire. Unfortunately, They don’t have swanky lounges, free pop, or WIFI. They DO have great customer service and are also very respectful.