Foster Care Day 26: Using Cloth Diapers

Cloth Diapers for Infants

This is the bucket of cloth diapers which is emptied on nearly a daily basis. Or… empty for approximately 2 hours a day depending on how you think about it.

Today my wife and I went to the county fair with our foster kid (DC). My wife wanted to change DC’s diaper in the ladies’ restroom… but the line for the baby changing station was long. So she came out of the restroom and asked me if the men’s restroom had a changing station?– And if it did, would I mind changing the diaper? I’m not going to go into a huge rant on gender equality here… but the fact that my wife felt it necessary to ask if the men’s restroom even had a changing station shows that some things are still evolving. I actually didn’t know if the men’s restroom had a changing station even though I had already used the restroom twice. It is not a priority of mine yet to see if the men’s room has a changing station. So I checked, and yes it had a changing station. Shockingly, there was no line of men waiting to change the diapers of their kids. So I went in with DC and changed his cloth diaper quickly.

Cloth diapering is not hard. Although it is occasionally gross, the impact on the environment is worth it. In addition, even with the laundry loads, they are cheaper than disposable diapers. I am glad we are doing it because of the saved money and the environmental friendliness (no disposable diapers filling up landfills). You can’t throw disposable diapers away… because “away” is still “somewhere.” Once a week there is an amazing discovery in the cloth diaper and I wish I could throw it away. But in general the gross factor is acceptable. I definitely recommend you choose cloth diapering for your infant/toddler.

Overall, our first four weeks of foster care have gone fairly well. We will have two kids sometime in August… so, you know… we’re not master parents yet, and now our house will go from zero kids to two kids in a flash.

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Foster Care Day 15: “How Do Single Mothers Do this?”

My wife is a competent person. She is a former business analyst. I am a competent person. I have a M.S. in Sociology and I’m working toward my doctorate. But being foster parents is a big change in our lifestyle. It’s not like going from zero to sixty m.p.h. in 4 seconds. It’s like going from sleeping to 120 m.p.h. in the blink of an eye. Tuesday morning, we had no kid in our home. Tuesday afternoon we had an almost walking one-year-old child in our living room.

I have no idea how single moms (or single dads) do this, because my wife and I are both intelligent and hard working people. We normally work well as a team… but DC (foster kid) has totally rocked our world. If you do not have kids, I am not saying your life is not hard. As a married grad student, sometimes I worked over 60 hours a week. That was hard, and we had no kids to deal with. I don’t think my life is harder now… but it is very different. And I do not like change. Kids bring a lot of change.

Here are things I wish I had known before I became a foster parent. So knowing these will hopefully help you if you ever become a foster parent, adopt, or need to watch a friend’s kids for a the weekend. Going from no kids to a one-year-old is a drastic change.

  1. Sleep is suddenly a luxury. Sleeping in, sleeping through the night … sleeping anytime becomes a luxury. If you aren’t careful you will become a zombie really quick. I have no idea how single moms (and single dads) deal with the lack of sleep… they just do it. I am kind of a wuss when I do not get my full amount of sleep.
  2. Kids toys are amazing. These super expensive toys are fun, and entertain an energetic toddler for seconds at a time. Thankfully my wife and I were smart enough to not waste hundreds of dollars on new toys that he would not play with.  We bought them from Goodwill and yard sales. DC does play with them, but they do not hold his attention long. DC has had the most fun testing out his new walking legs, opening up doors, and chasing the cats. In addition, his favorite toy is a whisk. He bangs this whisk on different things and listens for the different sounds it makes. Thankfully he has not hit the cats, dog, my wife, or I with the whisk. His second favorite toy was the broom. Was the broom…
  3. Speaking of DC hitting things. He seems nonviolent, but he has left some bruises and scratches on my wife. Her arms are bruised from when he thrashes at bedtime, and he has scratched her face when trying to push her away. Had I known, or my wife known, that he would be a thrasher… we could have bought some K9 training gear to protect her arms and face. I think a hockey outfit also would have worked.
  4. Toddler proofing the house. We were told to toddler proof our house. We did that before DC arrived. No problem. Once DC arrived, over the next 36 hours, we “re-toddler-proofed” our house. Thinking we were ready for the kid was one thing… discovering our house was not toddler proof was something else. I blame the case worker who told us DC was learning how to walk but could not walk yet. My first day watching him, DC was walking all over the house and carrying a broom (literally). The broom WAS his favorite toy for the first two nights. But he wasn’t strong enough to control the broom because it was too darn big. This meant that DC would walk eight or ten steps carrying the broom, loose his balance, and the broom handle would whack him in the head. He would cry… but did not let go of the broom. He would walk another eight or ten steps, loose balance, and the broom handle would whack him on the head. He didn’t seem to be hurting himself, I think he was just angry because there were no tears even though he cried. He has not played with the broom for at least the last five days. Toddler proofing = big changes.
  5. Where did the Time Warp come from? DC being awake 8 to 10 hours a day means my wife and I have 4 to 6 hours a day where we can be productive. It’s like time in the day disappears into a black hole. How do single moms attend college and work a part-time job?? My wife and I have not hit a smooth schedule with DC yet, but we are working on it.
  6. Cleaning every night reminds of working at a restaurant… it’s like having a flashback to waiting tables and cooking in kitchens. YUCK!! After DC goes to bed I clean for about 40 to 60 minutes… getting rid of all the “new” sticky spots, spilled food spots, etc. If I did not do this we would have ants all over the house. But this process also reminds me of closing time at a restaurant. Combine the fact that I hate cleaning, and that I hated working at the restaurant… and this cleaning hour becomes a sour hour.
  7. We have the Swedish Chef in our house. That’s right, DC does a spot on impression of the Swedish Chef from the muppets :-) Baby language is not my specialty, but “Derby derby derby dooo” seems to mean =  “I am tired, I just pooped in my diaper, but I want to play so DO NOT try to put me to bed or try to change my diaper.” A clicking sound he makes with his tongue definitely means something is wrong with my stomach. However, DC uses this sound similar to way smurfs use the word “Smurf,” because to him the clicking sound has more than one meaning. This clicking sound can mean a.) my stomach is hungry, b.) my stomach is upset, or c.) I need to burp. Baby language has meaning, trust me. Single moms have their kids from birth, so they can figure out all the different facial expressions and sounds their kid makes. We received a kid who was already one-year-old… so it’s like receiving an alien with a fully developed language. DC makes the sounds, and expects (or hopes for) a certain reaction. We have to figure out what the sounds mean, like playing charades.

I am not sure how single moms deal with all of this. Obviously they adjust, but I have no idea when I would study if my wife did not take care of the kid for part of the day.

Anyway, those are some of the things I did not expect when we got our first foster care placement. The time warp, the re-toddler proofing, the whisk being his favorite toy… the painful flashbacks to waiting tables (PSA: Tip your server 15 to 20 percent!! If you bring kids and the kids make a mess, tip extra).

The only cool thing on the list is having the Swedish Chef in our house, because honestly, who wouldn’t want to hang out with the Swedish Chef. Sure… some people might choose Gordon Ramsey from Hell’s Kitchen. But in my book the Swedish Chef is the true MasterChef… and yes, it is pretty cool to have the Swedish Chef in our home (except for the penchant for instant disasters). The video below is a perfect example of toddler proofing your house, and what it means to have DC (the Swedish Chef) running wild in your home.

Today I Became a Dad for the First Time – Plus, my 200th Post

Happy Father's Day

Today I became a dad. A foster dad. So yes… this is an exciting day. But remember, when a child goes into foster care it is one of his/her worst days EVER.

We got the call last week that we would be getting our first placement… Continue reading

Foster Care 201: I Got Fingerprinted the Day Before “Valentine’s Day”

I am a married man. There are various things on my mind the day before Valentine’s Day. Those things include what should I get my wife for Valentine’s Day. She is dieting and said: “I don’t know if you already got something, but I hope you know you would be in trouble if you get me chocolate.”

I am glad she told me that. Honestly, I am a graduate student… and I forget which day is which on a regular basis. I knew Valentine’s Day was on February 14th but that doesn’t mean I knew February 14th was THIS week. Do you ever have those kinds of weeks/years… where you cannot tell one day from another?

Another random thing that that was on my mind today: getting fingerprinted. Continue reading

Foster Care 106: Push Button Parenting

My phone will ring, and when I answer I’ll hear something like: “Can you take a child, two actually … I’m in the car on the way… if you say no then I’ll look for someone else… one of them has allergies, I have the meds and directions with me… you’re the house on left past the Subway, right?”

That is a call I expect to get within the next few months. My wife and I finished our first round of foster care classes and are now in phase two of certification. After we finish jumping through the dozens of hoops and miles of red tape, we will officially be foster parent certified. And then have our first foster child delivered to our house.

My job is to stay calm although I will most likely be nervous, scared, and confused when the first child arrives. The foster child will be having his/her worst day ever… and will be feeling nervous, scared, and confused. And then, after that initial moment of internal panic, I am supposed to become a parent. It is my job to provide stability for the kid.

Biological parents generally have nine months of warning before they become parents… and they have 14 years of warning before they need to deal with a teenager. I will have an hour or so of warning. My wife and I will be taking classes to be certified for infants, but by the end of the year with an over-strapped foster care system, who really knows who we will end up with? A twelve-year-old boy? Twin infants going through drug withdrawal? Our warning is going to be a phone call saying a kid(or kids) are on the way… possibly in the middle of the night.

I meant for this post to be about all the good parenting tips I have learned during foster care classes… but as I write it, it feels more like push-button good parenting. Because at the push of the social workers’ speed dial button, my wife and I will become foster parents for a day, a couple weeks, maybe two years. We may have one child in our home for two years. We may have ten children at different times in our home over one year. Depending on the day we may have a child with PTSD, or a child with depression, aggression, maybe a child with allergies. Parenting a two-year-old is different from parenting a teenager, which is different from parenting a five-year-old… which is different from parenting an infant. In each instance we will modify our lives to parent whatever child we get… we will become what is needed for that day, or week… or two years.

I’ve learned a lot about parenting teenagers, infants, and toddlers… but I have never actually done ANY of that. Book learning will become on the job learning… all at the push of a button.