A Touch of Class in the Wee Hours

My day starts with coffee.

Yours too?

Alarm goes off, I think about staying in bed but know that I really need my Alone Time before the kids get up, so I roll out of bed, put on my robe and slippers, and pad down to the kitchen.

Often, my husband has already made coffee, but sometimes I get there first and I do it.

Either way, a few minutes later I’m sitting in the living room with my coffee, enjoying a bit of silence before the alarms go off in the kids’ rooms. (For some of the kids, the alarm wakes them up. For others, the radio going on lets them know they’re allowed to come out of their room.) Sometimes I read, sometimes my husband joins me and we have a chance to have some actual meaningful conversation instead of the business we usually conduct (who needs to be where when and who is taking whom there—whew!)

Last week, I had an hour between dropping my kids at preschool and needing to be back to chaperone a field trip. Not enough time to get home and get stuff done, but too much time to sit outside the school and wait.

So, I took advantage of the time and for one of my favorite hobbies: thrift store shopping. I showed up just after my neighborhood Goodwill opened and headed first to children’s shoes (where I picked up a pair of like-new pink Keens for my daughter) and then over to kitchen wares.

Some days I hit the thrift stores and don’t really find anything, but this was not one of those days. I hit the jackpot! A lovely vintage cape in fall colors marked half off, a beautiful travel tea mug with a built-in strainer for loose tea, and some adorable napkin rings for my mounting collection of mismatched fine china were just a few items I picked up.

But my favorite find of all was this glass French press.


Isn’t lovely?


For some reason, when I have my coffee in this vessel, it reminds me that aesthetics really do matter. The feel of it, the fact that I need to take a bit more care than when I’m pouring from a metal carafe, the look of it – such beauty in the shape and transparency and the curve of the handle. I take a moment to select the mug that I want for the day—a scripture mug? The charming clay mug that was a gift from a dear friend? One of the owl mugs my daughter insisted on getting my husband and me for Christmas last year? The mug from my mom that reads, Good morning, Christy—I’ll be handling all of your problems today. – God?

Taking a moment first thing in the morning to remind myself that my heart, my mind, and my aesthetic preferences matter before doing the daily deep dive into tending to others (school lunches made? backpacks ready? everyone dressed? breakfast on? shoes tied? got your coats? is today show-and-tell? did you remember your project? etc.) can make such a huge difference in my day.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not above skipping the beautiful French press and slopping instant coffee into my mug. But those are not my best mornings. Those are survival mornings (and we all have those).

But I don’t want to make it a practice of just surviving the day.

I want to flourish. I want to thrive.

# # #

I recently took a trip with friends to Amsterdam. For 72 hours, I drank a lot of coffee in sunlit cafés and enjoyed long, lingering adult conversation. I walked along the canals and people-watched and danced to my favorite band.

It was such a gift.

But I can’t rely on those moments to sustain my sense of well-being. I need little gestures in my day-to-day life that remind me that I am not just a caregiver, not just a need-meeter, not just the shuttle driver (therapy! gymnastics! dance class! more therapy! swimming lessons! PTA! teacher conferences!), not just the mediator between squabbling siblings…

I am a woman who loves beautiful things and coffee and silence and solitude.

And sometimes a $7 French press from Goodwill makes all the difference in the world.

# # #

It took me a while after becoming a (foster) parent—a couple of years, in fact—to realize how important these little gestures would be for my sense of personal well-being. For a long time, I just gritted my teeth, put off those little moments and pushed through. We became parents of two children ages five years and five months overnight—there was a lot to do. I dug deep, wore clothes I could sleep in and go out in public in, cleaned compulsively in the middle of the night, and became an organizing fanatic—desperate for some sense of control in the midst of utter and complete chaos. I accomplished a lot that way, and I kept it together.

But I wasn’t flourishing.

And it wasn’t sustainable. Burnout was imminent if something didn’t change.

# # #

I’m working on a new program right now—a book and video series—that is called “The Flourishing Foster Parent.” It is born out of my struggles for the first few years, and the hard lessons I learned. I hope to have it ready by January—fingers crossed! It will be my best effort at helping new foster parents move past the season of surviving foster parenting and into the practice of thriving for the long haul. I am creating what I needed in that first year.

I pray it will help many. Too often we become satisfied by just getting through the day. But we weren’t made for that. We were not made to live in survival mode. And no one thrives and grows and flourishes when survival is the long-term goal.

# # #

Large, time-consuming, expensive opportunities for self-care are great and necessary every now and then. You need to plan for those and make them happen.

But they are not sustainable for the day-to-day.

Day-to-day flourishing lies in finding ways to fill your cup in small and sustainable things. For some it might mean getting to yoga a few times a week or showing up to a monthly support group come hell or high water. It might mean setting the alarm thirty minutes early so you can have some peace and quiet before things get cray-cray. It might mean seeing your doctor and being surprised when she suggests trying an antidepressant (and following her advice). It might mean hiring two babysitters for the evening, because that’s what it takes so you and your husband can go out on a date.

And it might mean treating yourself to a classy French press and making your morning coffee a more meaningful moment.



What Does it Take to Fill Your Cup? (Some Thoughts on Self Care)

It is difficult to adequately express how dramatically life shifts when you become a foster parent, especially if you have no prior parenting experience. The stress of the emotional roller coaster, the unknowns, behaviors, and demands of foster parenting can really take a toll. One piece of data I’ve heard is that foster parents often burn out after around two years.

One of the most important things we need to do as foster parents (or any parents, really) is find ways to attend to our own needs so that we have something to give others. You can’t care for others if you’re not caring for yourself! (It’s the old “put your oxygen mask on before trying to help someone put their mask on” rule).

In this video, I’ll share some of the ways I take care of myself so that I can care for others. In the interest of full disclosure, it has taken me the better part of three years to figure out what I needed to do in order to be at my best for my family and the children who join us temporarily! It’s easy to get overwhelmed on this journey.

What are some of the things that fill your cup? Please share your thoughts, tips, and questions in the comments below!

How Fred Meyer Changed My Life

Close your eyes for a moment and picture a woman with a full grocery cart and three children in tow. One child—the toddler—is in the seat of the cart grunting and screeching as he struggles to unbuckle himself. Another child—the second-grader—is skipping along behind her and asking repeatedly why she won’t buy him the massive plastic barrel of cheese puffs she’s passed by four times because her list is all out of order and she keeps having to backtrack. And the last child, the gorgeous three-year-old with long blond hair and crystalline blue eyes, is gripping the back left leg of the shopping cart, body splayed out on the floor trailing behind as her mom pushes the cart forward, dragging her along as she screams bloody murder.

This mom is holding herself together remarkably well. And then a fellow shopper, an older woman, helpfully mutters as she passes by, “I think she needs a nap.”

This exact scene happened to me once. It was straight out of a comedy. And, to my credit, I did appreciate the humor of it. I was actually laughing at the train wreck that was my family in that grocery store. I mean, it really was funny.

But I’d like to avoid ever doing that again.

# # #

In January, my family moved to another part of town, and I started looking for what would be my new grocery store. I tried the nearby Safeway a few times—that was where I did most of my shopping in the old neighborhood, and I loved accruing all those gas points. But someone suggested I try Fred Meyer, because apparently their produce is awesome. So, since there is a Fred Meyer really close to our new neighborhood, I decided to give it a try.

Which is where I discovered something that I never even knew was a thing.

Fred Meyer, at least the one near me, offers child care for shoppers. They have a play room and a person in there who will watch your kids for free for up to an hour while you shop.


Did you get that? You go in to the store, drop your kids off in the play room, which is manned by a trusted adult, and then walk the aisles alone. You can stop and read labels, calculate savings, brainstorm recipes or search for them on your smart phone, and, more importantly, be alone for a whole hour. 

I sometimes even use that time to go to the bathroom by myself.

Can you even imagine? It’s a little piece of heaven.

Plus, they also allow you to accrue gas points.

# # #

I recently visited with a woman who is a new foster parent. She has had her three-year-old foster son for just over a week, and she is experiencing what is one of the hardest things about the first few weeks: adjusting to the reality that, if you didn’t already have kids, you are suddenly never, ever alone. It’s a huge adjustment. And as I told this new foster mama, it is so very important that we find ways to get breaks and take care of ourselves so we have something to give. It’s the number one key to avoiding burn out. And it took me a long time to learn.

She texted me that night to say that she went to Fred Meyer right after we spoke. Her foster son had a ball and she got a break. Amazing.

For me, as a full-time stay-at-home-mom, the child care option at Fred Meyer has become part of my self-care. I used to love grocery shopping, because I love to cook and I love to calculate costs and look for savings, so I would shop sales and find recipes for what was good and in season (or make up new ones). But unless I shop super early in the morning before everyone is up, or at night after my husband gets home from work, or when I have a babysitter, I always have someone, or someones, with me. So being able to put them in the play room and shop alone is a gift. And now it’s something I do at least once a week.

But it’s not just about shopping alone. The childcare at Fred Meyer has also given me opportunities for weekly one-on-one time with my kids. Sometimes I pick my daughter up from preschool and take her and her little brother to Fred Meyer, where he goes into the play room and she shops with me. When we do that, it’s less about the grocery shopping or me getting some alone time, and it’s more about connecting with my daughter. She loves to do everything I do, so I give her some extra independence and responsibility during our grocery shopping “dates.” I let her pick which fruits we’re going to get—she loves to weigh things in the produce department—and she “helps” me with my list. It’s so good for her to just be involved in the process, but with multiple kiddos in tow, it’s not always feasible to do so. She loves it, and I love getting that time with her when she is not competing with her brother for my attention.

The same goes for when I have all three kids with me. I’ll put the younger two in the play room and my oldest can walk with me, chatting together about school or whatever is on his mind that day. Fred Meyer has given me a really great way to connect with my kids more intimately while accomplishing something that I need to do on a regular basis anyway. And for that, I am truly grateful.

I should also point out that my kids love going in the play room at Fred Meyer. We walk into the store and they run to the counter where we sign in. They know the drill and it has become pretty seamless getting them in and out.

All in all, it’s win/win for my kids and me. (And for Fred Meyer, too. I’m sure I’m spending more money there than I would if they didn’t offer child care 🙂

# # #

Did you know about this? Is there a grocery store near you that offers child care?

I know IKEA offers child care, but I have found that it is often full when I get there, so I can’t count on it as an option. Plus, IKEA is not part of my usual shopping. I only go there once or twice a year. My gym, the YMCA, also offers child care, which is a huge part of my self care as well. My kids love the “Kids Zone,” and I love being able to maintain my regular routine of running and practicing yoga. I am a better mom when I am able to exercise.

But a grocery-and-department-store that allows me to shop alone? Amazing. Incredible. Revolutionary!

And that, my friends, is how Fred Meyer changed my life.