Why am I doing foster care?

Posted September 27, 2013
Posted by Michele

July 16, 2013

Why did I become a foster parent?  People ask me that all the time, and it’s really hard to answer.  It’s not because I don’t know why I’m doing this.  It’s because I don’t know how to explain it without sounding, you know, preachy weird.  I do not usually talk about God with random strangers.  So how do I explain something like this?  Because to be honest, the reason I became a foster parent is because God told me to.  That’s right people, the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE spoke to a little wimp like me! I can hardly believe it myself.

(I can just see my brothers jumping up and down right now shouting, “She’s a wimp! She finally admitted it!” Okay, yes, I did. Yay for you. I can still beat you up any day.)

How can I be sure God spoke to me?  It was quite simple. It came from my husband.  

(Take off that big head, my dear, you were only the avenue.)

I had brought up the idea of foster care several times throughout our marriage, but Sam had never been interested.  He had a lot of practical reasons why caring for foster children could not and would not work for us.  

I was not so sure.  So I asked Sam to attend a foster care orientation meeting with me, just to get more information.  When we got in the car after the meeting, he was silent.  He turned in his seat and looked at me very seriously.  I was convinced that he was going to tell me that it was a waste of an evening. But he surprised me.  Insead, he said,

“Foster care seems perfect for us.  I think we should do it.”  

His change of mind was so unexpected that I think I was silent for one full minute (clearly another sign of God’s divine intervention).  From that moment on, Sam has been 100% confident that we should be doing foster care.  He has not had a single doubt.  So I can truly tell you that I have seen the power of the Holy Spirit combined with the decisiveness of a man.  It is scary, people.

Although I had initially introduced the idea of foster care, throughout the licensing process I found that I was the one who was dragging my feet like a reluctant toddler who doesn’t want to do anything that anyone tells her to do.  She thinks that she knows best.  I thought so, too.

I had a long list of reasons why I was not ready to commit to foster care, all of them boiling down to really just one reason, which was:

I am scared shitless.

I guess in the end, we know that fear is not a good reason not to do anything.  But we all have fear, that deep-down, gut-wrenching kind of fear.  It is fear that wakes us up at night with those unspeakable “what-if”s.

And fear can run our lives if we let it.  It runs our lives all the time.  Unaddressed fear can easily become the master of our existence.

Well, God was having none of that with me. He exposed my fears quite unceremoniously and proceeded to hack at them with a machete, leaving me strangely more vulnerable and yet simultaneously more courageous.  Does that sound weird to you? Yeah, me too.

So, in case you wanted to know, that’s why I’m doing foster care.   I know that doesn’t sound romantic or exciting, but its true.  God told me to do it, and I am obeying. One unknown day at a time.

Summer Recap 2 - Weekend with Becca

Posted September 26, 2013
Posted by Michele

July 15, 2013

Luke has always been pretty enthralled with his cousins. So it was no surprise to me that, when I informed him that Becca would be staying with us for four days, he responded by jumping up and down for joy.  We certainly did have a joy-jumping kind of weekend, with lots of giggles and adventures.

July 15 was a sunny summer day so we invited our friends Alisha, Matthew and baby Thomas to accompany us to Frederik Meijer Gardens.  Water is such a simple pleasure on a hot day!

Three ~

Four ~

Five ~

And little did we know that one more baby would be joining us within 12 short hours...

Summer Recap 1 - DeJong Cottage Vacation

Posted September 13, 2013
Posted by Michele

June 23-30, 2013

It is September 13, 2013 at 9:00 pm. The house is quiet.  The kids are in bed.  Sam is tinkering in his workshop/brewery. By some miracle the kitchen is already clean. So finally, at last, I am updating my blog.  Did you miss me?

I am sorry to all both of my avid readers that I have not been keeping up with you. I have been changing diapers, folding laundry, breaking up fights, cleaning dishes, and waking up to soothe a screaming baby in the middle of the night. Wow, when I put it that way, my life really sounds fantastic.  

Still, it's been a fabulous summer, during which I took preciously 1 zillion pictures (the curse of the digital camera), which seemed like a great idea at the time, but has taken me for-e-ver to sort through.  I'm pretty sure that at this point NO ONE cares what we did three months ago.  The temperature outside is cold, the kids are in school, and lo-and-behold Christmas decorations are already on the store shelves.  Right now, hot summer afternoons at the cottage seem like a distant memory.  

Still, I have worked hours sorting, cropping, and editing pictures of this summer, so... yeah. I'm going to make you look at them.

We spent a week at the cottage with the DeJong family.  It was the perfect vacation.  Luke was in paradise spending every minute with his cousins.  

Sam was very excited to take Luke on his very first 5:00 am fishing trip.  I really don't get why this would be fun.  But there I go, trying to understand men again...

Judah spent hours climbing in and out of this little rocking chair. He was so proud of himself.

Here's my best attempt at a group photo.  Notice how I bribed them with marsh mellows. Also notice how it did not work.

So there are my pictures of L&J and their cousins on our family vacation.  What a blast it was to all be together.  We are heading back to the cottage tomorrow, but this time it is to take in the dock for the summer.  Not that I personally will be getting into the freezing water to take in the dock.  But you know.  Gotta be there for moral support.

Goodbye, summer! You surely were grand.

Joint Birthday Parties

Posted June 16, 2013
Posted by Michele

Saturday, June 15, 2013

When I was a kid, I used to dream big dreams.  Dreams about being special, original, and unique.  

Well, it's time to admit it.  I've failed at those dreams.

I've made three big decisions in my adult life.  Take a look at them and you'll see what I mean.  Thursday, December 8, 2005 was a big day for me.  That was the day I agreed to become Sam's wife.  Never mind the fact that we had both prayed, thought, and discussed this decision for several months.  When we eagerly shared the news with our friends, their overwhelming response was, 

Oh. You too, huh?

Apparently the winter of your senior year in college is not a very unique time to get engaged.  Who knew.

Fast forward to the summer of 2009.  After almost a year of waiting, we were thrilled to announce the news to my family that we were expecting our first child.  And what did my sisters say to this impressive news? 

Oh. You too, huh?

Well, things really started snowballing when it came to my pregnancy with Judah. Not only did my sister-in-law on my side decide to get pregnant at the same time (with the same due date... freaky), but my sister-in-law on Sam's side joined us as well. Oh, and her sister-in-law too.  All due about the same time.  And all four babies were born within 12 days of each other. Sheesh.


Judah & Paige

Noah, Judah & Jacob

Sigh.  So much for being original.  I give it up.  Good bye, uniqueness!  Maybe I can find other ways to be cool. (I'll get back to you on that one.)  But you know what? I'm okay with it.  Because as it turns out, having babies with your sisters-in-law is like WAY more fun than doing it by yourself.  AND both of my kids have cousins their age, which has been loads of fun already.

But perhaps the best part of my major life conformity is that I never have to plan my own kids' birthday parties.  I'm a rather lazy creature when it comes to party throwing, so it's been great to ride the wave of other people's hard work and creativity and just show up with a kid ready for cake.

PARTY #1: My sister-in-law's family was throwing a party for Noah and Jacob and asked if we'd like to come and celebrate Judah as well. Um let's see, you're hosting it, providing everything, and my kid gets presents? Yes, please!




PARTY #2 My other sister-in-law approached me back in December about having this joint birthday party. She had the plates and matching cups ordered by March.  She made and decorated a gorgeous birthday cake with coordinating cupcakes.  She's just. that. cool.  I think I did do something for this party... let's see... oh yeah, I made fruit salad.

Paige & Judah

In the end, I have to admit that its probably a good thing that my aspirations of individuality never came true.  Because if I had planned Judah's first birthday party on my own, he probably would have been eating ice cream out of the carton with a candle stuck in it.  Which we may or may not have done on his actual birthday.

So thanks everyone for the fabulous parties.  I couldn't have done it without you!

Fair Weather Friends

Posted June 14, 2013
Posted by Michele

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Boy, its been a weird spring for us.  It was COLD for a loooooooooong time. Then the weather got warm and the trees were all like take this you puny humans and dropped their pollen all at once.  I was besieged in the house for several weeks by allergen levels in the fatal zone.  So even though the weather was balmy and glorious I was holed up inside, only peeking my head out occasionally in order to grab supplies from the shed or to rescue Judah from eating too much dirt.

Nevertheless, summer is finally here, and we are spending lots of glorious time out-of-doors.  We're taking walks, playing in the yard, and meeting tons of new people!  Oh wait....actuallythey're not new people, they're my neighbors, the same ones whom I've lived by for the past six years. It's just that I haven't seen or talked to them for over eight months.  I've watched them skittering to and from their cars through the flurries of snow and wind and rain, but back in the cold days, we had no time or interest in chit-chat. A quick wave was all the friendliness we were willing to offer.  But now that the weather is sunny and warm we're suddenly best buds again.  We're SO friendly now. Hey, you got a new haircut / stroller / job / dog / minivan / baby! Cool!

Now that we are outside and tending our gardens, we are so generous too.  Here, do you want these toys? Can I borrow your shovel?  Could you help me with my flowers?  I'm sure my husband could help you with that! 

(I may have gotten in trouble for that last one.)   

On a walk last week, we noticed a "Sold" sign in front of a house on our street with some unfamiliar people sitting in the yard.  Being in the spring spirit, we introduced ourselves to our new neighbors and invited them over for dinner the next day. And the next morning, while our other neighbors were working in their yards, we invited them over as well.  Of course we did! It's spring!  Let's all hang out and be friends!  Pretty soon we had a jolly old party going, and it felt like we always do this.


But the truth is, we don't.  We barely know the people that spend the majority of their lives mere yards from our front door.  Are other neighborhoods like this? Or is it just us?

I pitty the person who moves to my street in the winter.  I'm telling you, you will meet no one. Don't take it personally.  My neighbor moved into her home in October.  No one even said hello to her until March.  I did try to meet her. Once. I knocked on her door, but no one answered, and it was cold outside, so I went home. Apparently everyone else on this block is as lazy as me.

So neighbors, are we friends or not?  Every summer we have a weekly play group going, and the kids run like siblings through each others' yards while we share every aspect of our lives.  But during the winter, I never see you.  I don't know what to make of this. 

I'm enjoying the fun while it lasts.  And who knows? Maybe this winter will be different.  Like that one year when someone had a dryer fire and we all stood outside in the freezing cold in solidarity as we watched the fire trucks and exchanged the news. Well.  I will not wish a home disaster onto someone just so that we can hang out. But at least we know what it would take to finally make us year-round friends.

Children's Museum

Posted June 09, 2013
Posted by Michele

Friday, May 31, 2013

You know what really sucks in life?  Having a free pass to something that you never get to use.  When I find an expired coupon in my wallet, its like a little part of me dies.  Recently I discovered an expired coupon for a free Lime-Flavored Krispy Kreme donut and I was all How could I have let this happen??  Never mind the two rather important facts that 1. I don't like lemon and 2.Krispy Kreme donuts are determined enemies in my quest to not become a blimp.  For some reason these facts did not matter to me when faced with the unspeakable horror of an UNUSED FREEBIE.

This month, we were given a free pass to the Grand Rapids Children's Museum just for the month of May.  Of course being the brilliant, on-top-of-it-all mom that I am, I completely forgot about our free pass until May 30th.  Enter panic mode. Counting knuckles. Reciting 30 days has September... 

Phew! Thanks to Julius Caesar (who invented our bizarre calendar) I've been given a second chance on life.  May 31st! Children's Museum, here we come!

I had taken Luke here two times in his life. Honestly, with a toddler, the Children's Museum is about as exciting as being at home, except with less privacy and a lot more germs.

To a 3-year-old, however, this place is like a little paradise.  Especially their new Construction Zone.  Luke was in little boy heaven.

We also discovered a baby area which Judah totally owned.

We couldn't have asked for a better morning.  The boys were happy and this mama was happy to take them there for FREE! 

Gotta love the hair

Posted May 31, 2013
Posted by Michele

Friday, May 24, 2013

Looking back at Luke's bath time post today, I remembered how unusual Luke's hair looked when he was a baby.  He has a very, very strong cowlick.  I am not kidding.  I am not usually one to brag, but my kid's cowlick could beat up your kid's cowlick any day.  Seriously. You do not want to mess with this thing.

I've long since given up trying to comb Luke's stubborn locks into submission.  Judah's hair is much friendlier, although it grows at the speed of light.

Seriously, didn't I just trim it? Oh my.

The Stair Masters

Posted May 27, 2013
Posted by Michele

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Luke has never been very adventurous in physical activities. He doesn't do any reckless climbing, jumping, swinging, or anything of that sort.  The child still claims that he cannot climb out of a pack'n'play.  

(If Luke gets into a crib, he will stand in it and cry for forever until we give in and pick him up.  I know 18 month-olds that have more skills than this guy.)  

Don't get me wrong - I like my kids to be tad cautious.  For example, Luke would be terrified to walk through a parking lot without holding my hand, and frankly, I am thrilled about that! 

But the stairs, ooh the stairs.  This has become a little ridiculous.  The boy is 3 years old and STILL craws down them. I've tried several times to get him to walk down the stairs on his feet, but he always refuses. I've told him that big kids do it. He doesn't care.  I've told him that all of his friends AND all of his cousins can do it.  He still refuses. (what happened to peer pressure?) But I finally found the key to motivating him to walk down the stairs - one simple, glorious sentence:

Your little brother can do it.

Ah, what a precious phrase.  Sibling rivalry? No, I am not afraid to promote it.  On the contrary, I welcome it. I am going to milk the heck out of it! Isn't that what having two boys is all about?

Okay let's be clear here, Judah cannot walk down the stairs. If that was true you'd have seen him on Good Morning America by now. 

But he is getting really good and crawling up and down the stairs. I mean REALLY good.  I've watched him do it about 30 times now without a single fall.  He seems too young to be given free stair access, but... maybe it's time? How many times does a mama have to watch her baby in action before she admits that he's ready? 

Anyway, his little brother's success was enough to encourage Luke to be adventurous, too. Here are my two boys, practicing their new stair-mastering skills.

My dear, cautious Luke - maybe there's hope for you yet!


Judah's first word!

Posted May 20, 2013
Posted by Michele

Friday, May 17, 2013

Up until this point, the only "word" that Judah has uttered has been "dah-dee", which he says a hundred times a day, regardless of whether or not Sam is present. So we don't really count that.

But this morning, at Real Food Cafe, something happened. When Judah dropped a spoon, Sam said, "Uh-oh!" and gave him the spoon back. Judah dropped it a second time and then, to our astonishment, he said, "Uh-oh!"  !! He said his first word!

Of course we got so excited that we made him repeat it about 50 times, and I'm sure everyone in the restaurant thought we were nuts for making such a big deal about a little thing like "uh-oh".  Yeah, parents can be a little crazy sometimes ;)



(Grand) Mother's Day

Posted May 19, 2013
Posted by Michele

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I had the saddest and sweetest unexpected conversation with Luke a few weeks ago.  One morning at the breakfast table he said to me, very somberly, "Mommy, I'm sad."


"Because," he sighed. "I only have one grandma."

I have no idea how this concept came to him, the concept that most kids have two (or more) grandmas.  It was all I could do to hold back tears as I replied, "Yes, I'm sad about that too."


"Because Grandma DeJong was my mommy."

"And you miss her?"


"And now she lives in heaven with Jesus?"

"Yes." By this point, I was definitely crying. But I managed to say, "I know you only have one grandma, but she is a really great grandma. So we should be thankful for her."

"Yeah. Let's go to her house today!"

"Sorry, we can't go today.  But just think; you have other women that are just like grandmas.  Like Oma Chris and Grandma Becky.  And you have four great-grandmas. All these women love you very much. So we can be thankful for them." 


We continued to discuss all of these women and how exactly they are all related to Luke, etc.  It made me very thankful and put a smile on my face, even as the tears were still sliding down my cheeks.

I asked myself this week how my mom would have embraced Mother's Day, were she in my place.  I think I know.  How many times did she instruct me to look beyond my (seemingly monstrous) sufferings and to focus instead on God's blessings and provision?

I honor my mom today for the remarkable woman she was. At least once a week I find myself asking, How did she do this? I wish I could ask her. But I also thank God for the women that I have left on this earth.  You have blessed us more than I can say.  Happy (Grand)Mother's Day to you!