Have you seen that meme that compares a profession or activity in four quadrants: what society thinks I do, what my mom thinks I do, what I think I do, what I actually do. They’re pretty funny. I decided today that if I made one for foster parenting, the boxes would be:
what society thinks I do: abusing children and living the fat life off those huge government checks
what my mom thinks I do: snuggling babies
what I think I do: folding endless laundry
what I actually do: setting up and tearing down Crib
Not to be all #shamelessbrag, but I’m at the point where I don’t need instructions to set up and tear down Crib. And it isn’t like a simple process. You need, like, a drill and all kinds of hex key tools. But this sucker has been up and down enough times that it’s like “we gotta get Crib out again” and an hour later, there’s Crib. Boom.
We bought Crib when we were pregnant for the first time, almost ten years ago now. So exciting! We set it up carefully, my husband following the instructions for the first time in his life because I was being fanatic about safety. Then we did the thing where you, like, try really hard to shake it apart, and when nothing clangs to the floor, you nod at each other like, yeah, nothing’s going to tear this sucker apart.
Our 9yo slept in that thing in our old house for a while, then I cried the day I went in to get him from nap and he had chewed the CRAP out of the sides. Like just a single nap, he got bored and nibbled down basically every piece of wood he could reach with those irritable two little teeth on the bottom. I was heartbroken. Poor Crib!
Truth is, I was pregnant again and was picturing a new baby in this now less-than-pristine wooden Crib, and it made me angry. Turns out, she would never sleep in Crib, just safely in the arms of Jesus. (you can read more about that journey here)
No one can stand empty Crib, especially one that was to be filled, so we converted it to a toddler bed. A few years later, we were about to move and I was pregnant again, high-risk, and all of a sudden, I was recovering from a month-early C-section instead of helping our whole family move our house. I never got to say goodbye to the old house, but Crib turned out in the new place with a new baby in it. I don’t honestly know who set it up that time. But there was Crib. Ready to cradle another baby.
Just three short months after that, we got our first foster placement of a newborn and an eleven-month old, and suddenly Crib had a bunch of co-workers! People said we looked like a daycare with now three cribs and a barely four-year-old just adjusting to life in a big boy bed.
Looking back, Crib likely felt like he had it easy, as his occupant was a sweet sleeper, and the other two babies (who were in the midst of one of their young lives’ great traumas) were experiencing physical symptoms and emotions they didn’t understand. Endless crying and thrashing with all the strength their tiny bodies could muster probably made Bonus Cribs shudder. Truthfully, Bonus Cribs saw a lot of sadness, but—I hope and pray—maybe the beginning seed of some healing, too.
After we returned to a family of just four, Crib become a toddler bed again briefly, then did a brief stint in the attic. Crib was probably lonely, but not for long.
Another call and another baby, this one a micropreemie full of medical needs and uncertainty. But, oh—did that boy grow! Did he amaze us? Every. Single. Day.
As micropreemie turned into best-little-brother and precocious toddler, Crib had to be moved into big brother’s room—inseparable little buddies—because it was better to have Crib in the same room than risk anyone climbing out of (or INTO!) Crib to share the night. Crib must have felt so much love in those cuddles.
I’m going to yadda-yadda-yadda the part where this particular Crib occupant left, because it’s still a little fresh even a year later, and I don’t have a lot of words for that experience—but Crib has stood solidly empty since last July as a salve for formerly-big-brother who was now missing his smaller counterpart. He solidly refused to have Crib taken away, preferring to sleep with an empty bed than all alone.
Crib was empty and quiet for nine months. We only recently decided it was time to put Crib back in the attic, adding a set of bunk beds in his place.
Now the phone rings.
And so it begins again.
Hey, Crib? It’s me. I have the hex keys and the drill. I’ll see you in an hour.
Welcome back. You’ll be wearing pink for this next part of the journey.
Take off all the hardware and remove the drawers. Lay the pieces on a dropcloth. I do a general tune-up on the piece here. Anything wiggles? Glue it and clamp it overnight. Any furniture tacks sticking out? Hammer them back in. This is also a good time to oil any drawer rollers with WD 40.
2) sand & clean
Use light sandpaper (I prefer a sanding sponge) to take off the top layer so the paint can adhere. Smooth out any cracked spots and remove any loose paint. Wipe it with a damp cloth.
Mix water-based paint with water in a 1:1 ratio (equal parts) for a standard look, or add more paint for more coverage, less paint for less coverage.
Apply the mixture with a paintbrush, wait 1-3 minutes (depending on your color preference), then wipe it off/in along the grain of the wood. I used an old t-shirt which left just enough paint on and let me give nice, weathered streaks. The first coat mostly wiped off, so I left the second coat on for longer and allowed the layers to build.
Be sure to let it dry at least a little (it dries fast, maybe 10 minutes) between coats. For this piece, I applied 6 coats total because I wanted it mostly white. If you make any mistakes, this stuff is incredibly forgiving. Wipe drips with a wet cloth, then do the area again if it gets too light.
4) protective coating
When the paint is good and dry (I waited two hours), apply a water-based polyurethane coat. Because even this reddish cherry wood took on a blue hue, I picked a poly with faint yellow tones, and I’m very pleased with the results. (I use triple thick because it goes on faster, but be careful, it’s prone to brushmarks.) It has both cool and warm undertones, like age wood should. I did one coat on the entire piece, then a second on the tops only (where my books will live), and then a third on the tops of the drawers because the previous stain was pretty cracked there and I had done a lot of sanding in that location.
I stupidly let paint drip into my drawer rollers, so I needed to do some cleaning (learn from my mistake and don’t do that!), but then all that was left was putting the hardware back on. I would usually have replaced it, but this stuff looks kind of awesome with the white.
I’m sure it’s not unique to Lancaster County, PA, but our library does a fabulous summer reading program for children. Even for the littles! So I can read to my 2-month-old (and the big boys can read to her) and we can fill our colorful little squares that equate to blocks of time and POOF in August, you get a free book, free ice cream coupons, free soft pretzel coupons, free fast food treat, free local baseball tickets — just all kinds of things!
My little men have their noses in a book often, side-by-side on the couch. (If it’s a really lucky day, the 9yo reads his chapter books to the 6yo.) We’ve always had a standard ‘book time for screen time’ currency in our house, but the summer reading program really does incentivize them pretty well in the non-school months.
Local sponsors always show up to get kids reading books, and my kids love it. We’ve participated every year, and there are often different, new and exciting prizes. This year, they’ve even added a physical fitness quest that results in different prizes if you check out local parks and complete various activities like a daily exercise routine.
If you’re a local, you can learn more here.
I follow a lot of foster care media online, and the best campaign I’ve seen in a long time (possibly ever but there are some awfully good ones) is #donateyoursmalltalk. The concept is that the simple act of sharing information about foster care can make a difference. As a foster mom, I love this because there is an ABUNDANCE of mis-information out there, and it’s critical to speak truth. I invite you to watch, learn from, and love these spots. Then, donate your small talk. (Copy/paste facts below the videos.)
More than 700 youth enter the foster care system every day.
23,000 foster kids age out every year.
1 in 5 kids will be homeless when they age out of foster care.
Adopting children from Foster Care can be of little or no cost.
1 in 184 kids in the U.S. are in Foster Care.
The average age of a child in foster care is 8 years.
There are over 400,000 kids in the foster care system at any given time.
70% of foster youth aspire to pursue a college education.
34 months is the time it takes for foster kids to get adopted.