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You Don’t Know Until You Know

Safe Families-6

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. 🐶⭐️🏆🐶⭐️🏆🐶⭐️🏆

Sage-1


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274 Comments

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Lindsay, I absolutely adored this post. Everything that you do is so genuine and incredibly kindhearted and I am truly so glad you shared this experience with your readers. You make a lot of good points and I really appreciated #8–we’re all just doing the best we can. I think too often, people (myself included) are too quick to judge others (especially, perhaps, a parent with a tantrum-throwing toddler) and reading about your experience and your perspective really does help me understand how important it is to have empathy for others and to remember that everyone is just doing the best they can! Thanks for this.

  2. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Rosie

    You are awesome. Dead set awesome. Nuff said. Stand still while I throw that comment right at that target on your back!!

  3. Pinch of Yum Logo

    You’re amazing. Your honesty and vulnerability about the challenges of caring for children are refreshing. Parenting is the hardest job on earth and I, for one, am in awe of what you and Bjork did for those children. I’m a single mom to a precious 6-year old girl, and I often say that parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever loved. You and Bjork have good hearts and deserve every ounce of success that has come your way!

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo
    BeccaV

    Wow! I have a 6 and 2 year old and when you become a parent it completely changes your life – your life really isn’t your own anymore and it sounds like you experienced that 100x! It always amazes me people can take kids in whether it be through the program you did or fostering – I think you must have a big and very patient heart for that, something I don’t think I could do. Thank you for sharing your experience – if anyone would have something hurtful to say about this post shame on them.

  5. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Meg S

    I’ve always loved your blog and awesome recipes, but this is a whole new level of awesome! I’m so inspired! 🙂

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Morgan

    What a beautiful response to a difficult experience! I loved your honesty, vulnerability, and humor. Thanks for opening up!

  7. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Erica B

    Thanks for sharing! I like breaking up the food posts with some real-life-shit. Reminds us that we are real people behind these screens.

  8. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Lindsay, I applaud you for your vulnerability and honesty here. I can’t imagine taking in three kids at once and parenting them for three weeks, only to have to say goodbye. I can only try to visualize how difficult, rewarding, challenging, stretching, exhausting, and amazing that all was. I think it’s great that you and Bjork took in those kids; I have no doubt that they benefitted greatly from your kindness and hospitality. I admire your willingness to write about things that are difficult to share, and to engage in living in the messiness of life with others. It’s something I’m striving toward. On another note, I live in the Minneapolis area and have been thinking for some time how wonderful it would be to get the chance to grab coffee or something sometime. : )

  9. Pinch of Yum Logo

    You have a big heart and that is all that matters. If we all had the answers, we wouldn’t need other people. Great job on making these little kiddos feel safe and doing the best your could with what you have.

  10. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Wonderful post Lindsey. And a big kudos to you and Bjork for taking on this challenge. As a mom of three littles (5,4,1) I can relate to everything you said in this post. God has given extra grace to certain people and I honestly believe you two were granted this gift.

  11. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Liz in St. Paul

    Crying real tears over here. Lindsay and Bjork, I am so so so so proud of you guys. Welcoming three kiddos into your fridge, your home, and your heart is absolutely insane, and is just the kind of love this world needs. Once in a while. When your lives allow it and your emotional batteries are fully charged. I’m so glad you guys had support through this, and I hope that after the dust settles you’ll be able to look back proudly and feel like you made a difference for that family. Because I’m 10000% sure that you did.

    Ok- side story, but I promise it’s all related in the end. After my son was born, I ended up providing hospice care for his Great Grandma Hazel. She was an amazing pillar of the family, but she had both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and needed extra care and help taking her medication regularly. Grandma Hazel had moved in with my Mother in Law, and so for 50 hours a week, I was with her. Helping her bathe, getting her dressed, cleaning up and giving her meals.

    At first it was almost like an extended maternity leave, with both of us cooing over the baby, spending the day at my house, and going for walks. Then it got harder. A lot harder. Eventually, Grandma Hazel had to enter hospice care. Eventually, I wasn’t able to have my son with us anymore because she needed my full time, 50 hour a week attention. And eventually, Grandma Hazel passed away while I cared for her.

    It was hard. I’m not saying it was three-kids-you-dont-know-hard, it was different. I do think that there were a lot of the same questions at the end, questions that I still don’t necessarily have an answer to.

    How are you doing? What is next? Do you want to do that again?

    It’s been nearly four years, and my answers to those questions are still changing. I do think that I would help a friend or family member if they needed it, but I don’t think I would give 50 hours of every week or welcome a month long guest. I’m not sure that I would open my fridge in that same way, but what I do know is that I couldn’t have done it without support. After my experience providing care, I have been able to provide meaningful support to others going through their own hard times. With a new baby. A sick relative. A job loss. Illness. Life.

    I hope you can mourn/process/rest and come away with a sense of accomplishment. As you both figure out what’s next for you, I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  12. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Oh, I have tears. Because what you guys did was such a good thing.

    I am unable to have kids of my own and I have often spoke of adoption – which is more than I can afford. So, there was the foster to adoption program through the state. But, life never quite went in my direction and now I fear my age is too much of a factor.

    Years ago, with my ex we did a similar program. It was beautiful, crazy, fun and heart breaking all at the same time.

    But, just like you said, we are human and we are doing the best we can.

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Katie Rose

      Please don’t give up in adoption if you truly desire to adopt. There are so many children that need a loving parent, and so many programs to help you along on the journey. And age shouldn’t be a big problem

    2. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Anne

      Chrystal,

      I used to work for a foster care and adoption agency. Please know that most county foster care agencies are looking for parents who can and will love and support a child. That is so much more important than age. I’ve seen people in their 40s and 50s adopt from the system.
      Keep trying!

  13. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Lindsay,

    I haven’t commented in quite a while (though I’ve still been faithfully reading!) but I had to take a moment to comment on this post. First, thank you for being so brave as to share such a personal experience with all of us.

    I also want to say that, I think, no, I know, you and Bjork have done an amazingly good thing for these kids! Opening your home and lives to these children, and taking the good and the bad, is the very definition of hospitality. Who knows just how many wonderful ways your kindness to these kids will impact their future for good?

    However, I also know the truth is that really caring for people in this way, really having an open fridge (both literally and emotionally), is incredibly challenging. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to do it, just that it’s hard too. (I speak from personal experience, when I was in my early teens my family adopted. Opening up to a new person, in my own home, was one of the more challenging emotional experiences I’ve had. It brought both moments of joy and a lot of heartbreak.) Thanks for being open and admitting your challenges too.

    On a lighter note, I think both you and Bjork are both honorary members of the parenting club now. Emergency diaper runs? Car seat troubles? Applesauce pouches and fruit snacks? Yep, you guys are totally in the club. And by the way (big secret!) we all do frozen chicken nuggets (or some other similar food) for our kids now and again! It’s the only way to stay sane sometimes.

    Thanks again for sharing. You guys are totally awesome!
    Michelle

  14. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Rachel

    This has me in tears this morning. The good kind because you, just like when you were in the Philippines, gently got me reflecting on what I am doing to help others. I watched my 18 month niece while my in-laws went on a trip to bond after losing their baby this spring, and WHOA was it challenging/discouraging/mind-boggling/tear inducing and HUMBLING. Keeping your fridge open to anyone is hard, but you are rocking it 🙂 Oh, and those applesauce pouches…permanently in our cupboard just in case some littles stop on by! <3

  15. Pinch of Yum Logo

    You guys are seriously SO awesome! I’m constantly inspired by the way you’ve turned your hobby into this amazing business/career, but more personal posts like this also show that you’re both really good, kind-hearted people too.

    I can’t imagine how overwhelming it must be to take on 3 kids at once with no parenting experience so kudos to you both for even giving it a go!

  16. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Kayla

    Not many people would open their homes and hearts to 3 strangers let alone 3 young kids and yet you did. I am sure if was so hard not being in control and eating frozen chicken nuggets (welcome to the life of parents) but you both survived and are so much better for this. I am so glad you shared this story with us! Sage was a trooper and deserves an extra treat or two:) Now go get a cup of coffee and enjoy the silence! You both deserve it!

  17. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Jodi T.

    WOW! What an admirable act of kindness you showed for those sweet babies.

    “Good Things Are Hard”….. Love this.

  18. Pinch of Yum Logo

    These posts when you share your heart of always some of my favorites. In my mind, I want to open my home and my heart as you did, but deep down I have so many fears. I love reading your perspective and I am once again challenged to live unselfishly in this hard world. You are a gem. 🙂