Monday, January 31, 2011

Moolah Monday -

I previously let on to the fact that for frugal folks we eat out way too much.  This is mostly a result of our crazy schedules - my husband doesn't eat dinner with us most days out of the week so it's hard to do the whole prep-cook-clean thing by myself when he won't eat the leftovers.  So, he eats out - we eat out.  That's not always the case and for what its worth when he doesn't bring food from home he tries to eat for 1/2 price or free whenever possible.  Nevertheless we eat out at least 3-5 meals per week, each. 

One of the traditions we've had for a long-time - at least a year - has been kids eat free night at Jason's Deli.  Every Tuesday I manage to bring 3 kids in  and eat for the price of one (mie).  This has been much easier since the babies have been able to walk.  We have this routine - We get the babies in their high chairs - I roll one and L rolls the other or I do both - we head to the counter to order (reduced portion Plain Jane potato with a side salad, a drink, and 2 kids cheese pizzas) which I do while L picks up drinks for the kids, then he and I together push the babies to a seat, with many stares in the middle.  We get situated, I get asked if they are twins a couple times, I get my salad while constantly watching the kiddos and staying as close to arms reach as I can while visiting the salad bar, and then, as soon as I sit down the buzzer goes off.  I walk over to the food area, look at the server to grab my plate and when I turn around there is L standing there, with the babies by themselves at the table.  He wants to help.

Then we eat.  We have a ton of fun.  The babies split a plate and L picks the pizza he wants the most.  He supplements it with cheese and apples from the salad bar.  The babies get muffins while waiting for their food.  And, most times, they get ice cream cones (which are free).

Alas, this past week we visited and the parking lot was noticeably less busy.  Looking inside I could tell there were fewer patrons, but it was the state of the union address night - maybe folks stayed home for that?  After doing the normal order (L picked bottled apple juice for himself, chocolate milk for little boy and vanilla milk for little girl)  I noticed it was more expensive - $20 vs. the normal $12. 

Sure enough after more than a year they stopped our Tuesday Kids Eat Free night.  It was a bit of a sad night. 

So now we're on a search for a new kids eat free venue.  There are plenty of them out there...someone mentioned Chick-fil-A which made L's eyes light up.  We'll have to look into that.  Here are a few sites I'm aware of that list out kids eat free/cheap restaurants.  Hope you find something in your pocket to help you save a little dough.

And yes, L is keenly aware that we would eat at Jason's Deli because it was kids eat free night which means we "don't have to pay for the kids meals".

Dallas Child - Kids Eat Free
Kids Eat For

And if you aren't in the DFW area you're still in luck -  Choose your state and find your local deals.

Until next time!

Say What ?!? Sunday

Last night my son threw a fit at bed time.  I am praying for patience to handle these situations -  not the fits per se, but the events that lead up to them.  As we prepped for bed he was told he already had his "bedtime drink" chocolate milk and so he would only get water.  I made the cup-o-water and proceeded with his bedtime gummies.  He was afforded not 1 but 2 scooby snacks and then it was up to bed. 

Mie - Here son - take your water
L- No thanks mommy
Mie - Really?  If you don't take it now you aren't going to get anything until tomorrow
L - That's ok mommy, save it for tomorrow
Mie - Ok, but you understand you won't get anything else to drink tonight.

Knowing full well that wouldn't be the last of it we went upstairs for prayers and calling daddy - then bed.

L (Suddenly wincing in pain - minor tears) - But mommy I'm so thirsty.
Mie (trying to stay calm) - I'm sorry son, you will have to wait until tomorrow to get a drink.  Remember you chose not to have anything until morning.
L - But mommy I'm SOOOOO thirsty (Now fully crying).  I can't go to sleep unless I have a drink.
Mie - I'm sorry son.  Next time you can choose to take your drink to bed with you.  For tonight if you want a drink you can get up and go to the restroom (attached to his bedroom) and get a drink from the faucet.
L - NO!  I am not going to do that and I'm not going to bed.  I'm really angry with you.
Mie - That's ok son, you can be angry with me but you cannot have anything else to drink unless you go to the restroom to get it from the faucet.
L - I am not going to do that mommy.  You just want me to be bored and stay awake all night.
  What will happen if you get my cup for me - will I get a spank?

Apparently I was amused - he told me it wasn't funny.  How that had anything to do with the conversation I still don't know.  He said some mean things so I left the room and went downstairs.  I knew it wasn't over, so I grabbed my cup, heard him open his door, and marched upstairs in my "angriest" controlled march -

Mie - Logan, I am very angry with you right now.  Here, you may take one sip of my drink and then go back to your bed.
L - I can't just have one little drink I need a lot of drinks to go to bed
Mie - Well, son, if you want more you can go to the restroom and get a drink if you want.

I'll spare you the rest of the conversation - we went a few more rounds before he calmed down enough to go to sleep. Before I left the room he said -

Mommy - I feel so sorry for myself that I made you so angry with me.

I told him I forgave him - gave him a hug - and left him to go to sleep.  Which he did - 40 minutes after we started.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Family Fun

What do YOU get when you combine a 4 year old and a giant hill?  A dizzy 4 year old.

We had so much fun this weekend as the weather was favorable here in the DFW area.  Friday and Saturday were in the 70s and we took advantage of it.  After work Friday I took the kiddos to a local playground and had at it, going on hikes, playing on the equipment, having races, etc until the sun went down, THEN we went to McDonalds to eat dinner and play on that equipment too.  Today we worked in the garden, went on a bike/trike ride, played in the backyard (and picked up lots of dog poop), then went on a nice long walk through the woods. 

As we came up to the entrance of the woods there is a large hill...little guy immediately said come on mommy - let's role down the hill - apparently this is something he does with his auntie K and cousins.  After 3-4 trips down the hill we were all laughing then continued on our walk, talking about the woods and what we saw.  What a great time of teaching and bonding - we read the signs together and talked about what they meant - like what the picture of the boy being hit in the head by the ball might mean (it's on a golf course), why we can't swim in the irrigation ponds, what irrigation is, what farmers do, how some trees become split and fall down, and many other learn-by-doing topics.  I love those moments as a mom.  It's a special time between me and my oldest booga.  I hope you all had a chance to get some good family time in this weekend with the warm weather and that you enjoy the weather change to come this week.

(the absence in texting this week was due to a broken router, which has also caused a major issue in schoolwork accomplishments or lack thereof.  Bear with me as I catch up with all e-stuff in my life!)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Moolah Monday - The Cost of Fostering

Ever wonder about what it costs to be a foster parent?  What you have to pay for?  If you're like most folks, you've probably never considered it, but if you're one of my loyal readers it may have crossed your mind.  In fact, this could have easily been a Foster Parent Friday question as well, probably in this form:

"Do you have to buy all their clothes?"
"Doesn't it get expensive to pay for diapers for 2 babies?"
"How much do you get paid?"

As a foster parent, you are responsible for providing for most of the day-to-day expenses related to caring for kids.  Diapers?  Yep (FYI - about $80 p/month).  Clothes?  If they need them.  Cribs? Blankets? Food? Yep, yep, yep.  Foster parents have to pay for all of those things.

What about if you have a crib and you get a placement with an older child?  Well, then, you have to either deny the placement (tell them no), or, go buy a bed for the older child.  What if you have one baby in a crib, have a toddler bed, and get a call for another 9 month old?  Well, you go to Walmart and buy a convertible crib for that baby too.  Hope you enjoy that crib little girl  : )

Car seats?  They only last for 5 years, so if they are old or have been in an accident you need to replace them anyway, but if you don't have the right size then you need to go buy one.  What if you have room in your car for 3 car seats, need 3 car seats, but you only have 2 that are too big to fit with a 3rd in the back seat of a corolla?  You go out and buy 3 new ones.  (in case you are curious, with very careful looking you can find 3 car seats for 3 different ages that fit in the back seat of a corolla - but it's tight!).  We now own 5 car seats and need one more so we can have 3 for each car with our 3 kiddos.  But, if we ended up getting a small infant next then we would need to get ourselves an infant car seat too.  And infant toys to go with them (but we have 2 pack in plays, a swing, 4 ride-on toys, a bouncy exersaucer thing (not the one that goes in the door jam, that's against minimum standards), 2 tricycles, 3 strollers, and a whole host of other things.

You definitely learn the ins and outs of planning for versatility.  Case in point - before June we'll need to replace our current drop-side crib with a new one and when we do, a convertible will be in order.  Thankfully we have 4 attics. 

On average, since we started fostering, our initial investment per child for the first month is about $1500.  That will go down the more kiddos we have since we won't always be providing them with new car seats and beds and the expensive things, but we will most always have at least $1000 for daycare costs. 

Which brings up things we don't pay for - daycare being one of them.  Daycare is provided as long as funding is available and only when both parents work full-time as in our case.  Of course, that is at a lower rate, in our case $15 per day - so either you have to find a facility that is prepared to take the state funding AND is willing to take only that amount or you have to supplement the fees out of your own pocket.  And, trust me, not all daycares take the state funding - relatively few do.  You also don't pay for any medical or dental care - that is covered by medicaid.  The thing about medicaid is that your choice of doctors are limited and getting into a new doctor with new kids can be tricky.  But, foster parents learn all the tricks about foster friendly clinics, hospitals, and emergency rooms which does help.  This help with medical care is very helpful because otherwise foster parents wouldn't be able to insure with private insurance - foster children don't count as dependents in that case.  We also don't pay for early-childhood intervention (ECI) testing or services when needed, and it is often needed. 

The great news is that foster parents do receive money from the state to help pay for the costs.  The rate is $22 per day, per child designated as "basic" level care.  Rates go up from there for higher levels of care (but we're not licensed for those levels of care).  So, for 2 kids we receive about $1300 per month.  Considering we don't pay for daycare (but would be responsible if funding ran out!) this does help pay for most if not all of their expenses each month. 

Just to clarify - foster care is primarily provided at the state level - so different states have different rates, different things they might or might not cover.  Also, we're licensed directly through the state - if you get licensed through a private agency there may be additional financial support like clothing allowances, continuing education course funds, or childcare for special events.

Receiving this monthly support really helps make it easy to provide care for foster children.  Some people talk about folks out there who do it for the money - I couldn't imagine that at all - but not having to worry about what medical expenses might come up or how much diapers might cost definitely helps when it comes to welcoming new kiddos into our home on a regular basis.  While some parents have to wrestle with their budget every time they go through the process of deciding if they will have more kids - all we have to do is wait by the phone and say yes when they call!  ; )

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Say What !?! Sunday

Be sure to check out the most recent Foster Parent Friday (posted Sunday - oops)

Today's Say What (!?!) is probably something most parents of many children hear on occasion.  I usually don't care too much what other people think of us being foster parents or parents to multiple children for that matter, so much so that I didn't even catch this Say What until hours after it happened.

I took the babies for their well-baby checkups this past week.  They are 3 months apart, which works really well because their quarterly doctor appointments can happen at the same time.  This time I had biological dad with me (see the most recent foster parent friday above - usually this wouldn't happen), but before he arrived I had the kids running all around the waiting room.  Afterall, what else do you do with a 15-month and 18-month old while waiting in a medicaid doctor office for 45 minutes past your appointment time but play peek-a-boo and chase?  (that's why bio-dad was there actually, the appointment was supposed to be over and he was picking up the little guy for the first unsupervised visit - YAY!).  Anywho...back to the story.

At some point two elderly women came in separately but at the same time.  As I played with the kids they were asking me questions. 

Lady #1 - Are they twins? (we get that everywhere we go)
Mie - No, they are 3 months apart
Lady #1 - oh (awkward silence)
Lady #2 - You sure have your hands full!
Mie - Yes, and I have a 4 year old in school today
Lady #1 - What were you thinking?
Lady #2 - She likes kids
Mie - smiling obliviously, still, after 6 months trying to figure out how to avoid the "are you twins" conversation that makes everyone else go "hmmm".

As I said, it was hours later before I figured out that Lady #2 was jumping in on my behalf, clearly bewildered that someone would say something against someone's decision to have multiple kids.  It does make me pause when it's elderly people though - wasn't that much more common when they were in their child-bearing years?  I guess they've gotten used to the idea that women in this day and age "have the right to choose" whether through birth-control or other means?

When we were going through the process of becoming a licensed home both of my grandmothers made comments about our choice.  My grandmother that I mentioned in the last Thankful Thursday, when I told her that we were going to be licensed for 4 kids, said "how are you going to handle all that?".  Ironically, both of my grandmothers had 8 children, that one spent a large portion of the time single.

I'm not offended.  It just triggers my curiousity.

BONUS - An additional Say What !?!
I remembered the 4th one from last week.

As we were waiting at church for childcare to be available for our date, Logan was playing with another kid, his little sister, and our little girl in the little play house thing.  Sitting on a bench nearby we heard -

L: This is my little sister.  I think she's adopted or something.


Foster Parent Friday - Q3: Do the parents know who you are?

Q: Do the biological parents know who you are?  (This is usually asked in a fearful tone - as in - are you afraid that they'll find out where you live?  Or, alternatively, in a disgusted tone - as in - do you have to mingle with that filth?)

A: No, not really.  But in our case...

Foster parenting is full of confidentiality rules.  All folks involved are supposed to keep all information confidential except when doing so will pose a harm to the child.  SO, foster parents aren't allowed to share information from the case and you're really not supposed to identify your children as foster children.  Of course those close to us know (otherwise, how else could we explain the frequent change of kids in our home?), but in general we don't go around identifying our children as foster children.  Similarly, foster parent information (full name, address, phone number, occupations, etc.) are supposed to be kept confidential.

Interestingly, I recently re-read something about parent rights and saw that they have the right to meet the foster parents.  This surprised me.

With our first case, I chose to transport our children to the visit.  I was very nervous.  I didn't know how it worked, so it was something new.  As I drove up, a man who definitely looked of the criminal variety was out in the parking lot smoking a cigarette.  I thought it was possibly the dad, so I waited until he went inside before I got out so he didn't see what car I got out of (of course, thinking that if he saw the car he could find out where we lived).  Despite my efforts, when I got inside I found that the caseworker was late and so the dad (and grandmother) were waiting inside for the visit to begin.  As soon as I got to the door the older child (they were 18 months and 2 1/2) went straight for her dad and he came for her.  I was so nervous.  I didn't know what to expect or how to handle that!  Things got even weirder when the case worker was still running late so they asked me to help take the kiddos back while they got a sub to observe the visit.  So, I was able to go back to the visit room and hang out with the bio-family while we waited for a caseworker.  While I was there I was able to answer their questions - how they were sleeping, eating, playing, etc.  The youngest didn't want to go to his biological parents and wanted me to stay.  I was able to get them to agree to let me cut her hair (this is a big deal!).  When a case worker did show I was able to sit in the waiting room for the rest of the visit and got to speak to a couple other parents who were waiting for their kids to show up.  After that initial visit their caseworker told me the dad had chosen not to try and find any other kinship placement because he liked me so much. 

And then I was hooked.  It was then that I fell in love with fostering.  We had originally started out "putting up with" fostering while we found children to adopt, but after having such a positive interaction with the family that day all of the harrowing ordeal of infertility quickly made sense.  Not only did we have the chance to add to our family, but we had a ministry opportunity to help the biological families at the same time.

But back to the original question - in the 8 weeks I transported those kiddos to their visits, I only ran into 1 other foster parent who stayed during the visit, and only a handful of them who were transporting the kids themselves.  All others appeared to be using state-provided transportation.  In sharing this with my foster/adopt friends, the love of fostering (vs. adoption) appeared to be mostly unique. 

Notice I didn't mention the mother in that case...she wasn't there on the first visit and was spotty at best.  She hated me.  Why do I say that?  One time when I was getting the kids loaded into my car she gave her child an empty Gatorade bottle and showed her how to bang it on the seat...she told the little girl "here, annoy her with this on the way home".  I allowed these parents to meet the kids at my car and help me put them into the car as well...I could have only allowed them to wait inside in the visit room...and every time mom was there she immediately picked up something to be angry with me about.  "Why is she crying?  Where is her earings?  Where did she get that cut?  He looks sick".  It didn't help that her kids wanted to go home to me and after only a few days called me mommy, in front of her. - Sometimes it was all that I could do to say something mean.

Those kiddos went to a kinship placement - their grandparents - only 2 months after we had them. 

Since then we've had two other cases.  Our next case has been amazing.  We've transported to 1 visit each week (they have 2).  The parents love their child so much, it's obvious.  We met them at the first court visit and we were able to show them that their child is safe and well cared for.  It's been almost 8 months now and this child is going home in 2 weeks.  I can honestly say that I am so excited.  Yes, there is some concern that the parents will fall back into old habits and that will affect their child.  But overall, we have watched them work toward getting their child back over the majority of a year and are now here to cheer them on.  We setup an email account that's anonymous for biological families to contact us with questions about their child(ren).  We've setup websites for each of our last two placements so the families can have ready access to information (pictures, stories) about their children that they can share with their extended family.  It's gotten to the point that with this one case, after the little one goes home, we are willing to continue contact to support the parents as they get their child back - depending on how that goes we might even share more personal information like our address and phone number so we can stay connected ongoing.

Let me say that is not normal - and if it does happen won't be happening often.  With our first case we would never have given out anything remotely personal due to the facts of that case.  With our most recent placement we also won't give out any personal information - but in that case we haven't really had much interaction with the biological family partly due to the county and how they operate and partly due to the family themselves.  To this point, we haven't shared anything confidential with any of the families.  The most the one family knows is our first names, the city we live in, what type of work my husband does, the type of work I do, and that's pretty much it!  (again, that's more than we'd share with most).

This is what we do.  And we've found it to be wildy successful in the cases and rewarding for us.  There's nothing like the situation where the biological parents are honstely and genuinely thanking you for caring for their child and where you can work with them to encourage them on how best to parent their own child.  In all of the cases we could have chosen to remain anonymous and require that the parents stay in the visit room and don't have any contact with us.  And, depending on our future cases that may be something we choose to do depending on the facts of the case. 

I wish I could tell you how passionate I am about the opportunity we've been given to interact with biological parents as we foster their children.  We didn't expect to love fostering this much.  We are now faced with the possibility to adopt one of our foster children.  Even if that does happen, we will continue to foster other children - though my husband started out saying we might do this fostering thing "3 or 4 times", we now think we might be one of those families you hear of that have near 100 foster placements over time.  No matter if the children stay or go, interacting with the parents has been super rewarding and, in most cases, is probably best for the child as long as we are cautious.

This may be why, as a child, when I pictured myself being pregnant with my last kid, I could never imagine "being done".  God has a plan after all.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Another One Bites the dust

hmmm - maybe I shouldn't title it that way?

We've had our little girl since August.  She was 9 months then (15 months now) and if you do the math you'll see we've had her for almost 6 months.  In that 6 months there have been 5 identified relative kinship placements that she could potentially go to.  In other words, her maternal grandmother, paternal great grandparents, paternal great-aunt, and another one I never knew how they were related.  The most recent one was the parents of the paternal great-aunt who were recommended by the great-aunt as a potential home for her. Mind you it has been somewhat decided that this will be a permanent home.  Do the math - how old would the parents of your great-aunt be?  I'm thinking 70 ish.  I don't know how old they are or what resources they have to be able to raise a child - they could have been the best parents in the world with a totally stable family.  Nevertheless, when I was told they were being considered I worried for our little girl for one reason, if they were in their 70s, they would be in their 90s before their main parenting responsibilities would be over, assuming they made it that far.  Then what would happen to her? 

I am completely grateful that these folks were able to come to the decision they did - that she is better off where she is now and that they couldn't provide the long-term family life that our little girl deserves.  No one is guaranteed another minute, let alone 20 years to raise their children, but I do feel we can probably provide a better home & life for her than what she would have had.  Maybe.  I am guessing the decision that they went through (it took 30 days for them to get back to us) was a hard one.  Putting myself in their shoes knowing that they had a relative out there in foster care who needed a permanent home, not knowing where she would be placed or what her life would be like - if I were in their shoes my heart would be torn. 

We have the opportunity for now to keep up with them (and any other family who wishes to participate) through pictures and our anonymous email system we've setup.  That way, if they wish, they can get to know us a little bit.  It's one of those things...we think we're pretty cool and if they just knew how she lives on a daily basis maybe it would help...but of course that only helps a little bit...we're not her blood relatives and she would never have that.

Of course, with that family no longer being considered, the state has run out of options for kinship placements - which means that the next step would be to identify an adoptive placement and yours truly would be the preferred home.  We have started the process by providing certain pieces of information.  That being said, until the judge drops the gavel (which we can be very far from) there is always the opportunity for plans to change and another home to be found for our little girl.  In the meantime we will be facing the battle of trying to protect our hearts while moving forward.  That my friends is not an easy path to take, but nevertheless we are grateful for the opportunity.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - A Beautiful Goodbye

In January 2010 my family lost it's Matriarch - Audrey June Katvala.  This was the first of many crazy events in my life in 2010, but strangely (and hopefully not too morbidly) despite the huge loss the events surrounding her death were unbelievably, well, beautiful. 

You see, in the course of her 79 1/2 years, my grandmother managed to survive everything thrown at her, with grace as far as I could tell.  She survived two husbands, birthed 8 children, "adopted" 3 more as her own, preceeded 32 grandchildren and 20-something great-grandchildren.  Life wasn't easy for her, but I never saw her complain.  Growing up I thought my family was a perfect demonstration of love and although as I grew older I learned that wasn't nearly as true as I'd grown up to believe, the truth is that my grandma Audrey taught me a lot. 

In her latter years she had several severe health issues, but did her best not to let others see how bad it was.  I know by the time she passed she was in so much pain and living in sickness a Christian woman I believe death brought her relief and serenity as she was called home to be with our Lord. As wonderful as it is to think about her lack of suffering now and her impact on my life (and those of many), her passing was enviable.  (Of course, I mean, as enviable as it could other words, with the exception of her pain and certain details if I were able to choose how to go, this would be it). 

When it became apparent that my grandmother would not make it much longer and she went into the hospital, immediately her family surrounded her, at least those who could physically get there.  I was one of the handful of surviving children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and friends who was not able to get back to see her before she died, but even so far away I was able to participate in letting her go.  In her final hours, nearly everyone was able to gather around her in the hospital room, singing worship songs, saying their final goodbyes, and celebrating her life.  I'm told that when not in her room, most of the grandchildren remained in the waiting room (overnight even) telling stories of their childhood and reconnecting.  those of us who were far away were able to talk to my grandmother on the phone, knowing for certain that it would be the last time we'd talk to her in this life, which meant we were able to tell her what she meant and as properly as possible, to say goodbye.  Everyone had the chance, as they wished, to say whatever they felt they wished to say to her before she died and though in the end she wasn't necesarily able to speak back, it was clear that she heard and she acknowledged each person.  Only a couple days after she entered the hospital, she passed quietly in the middle of the night.

Seeing as how we'll all have to go at some point, if I could go as an elderly woman with everyone I love around me, having the opportunity to say goodbye to them all and them to me....I think that would be pretty cool. 

It was a year ago this past week.  We miss you Grandma Audrey.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Moolah Monday - Debt Free Living

I'd be lying if I said we were debt free.  I'd also be lying if I said we were working on it.  Well, not lying per se, but that certainly wouldn't be the truth.  In fact, in the last year, we've certainly jumped feet first into significant debt with the purchase of a new home and a new car.  Nevertheless, debt-free living is our goal. 

What's the plan?  At some point my husband discovered Dave Ramsey and his seven baby steps.  The biggest challenge for us in this process, which involves working on building up a small saving before paying off all debt except the house, then saving up a sizeable emergency fund before working on other investment opportunities, is simply to be diligent in doing it!  It should be fairly easy for us to get past baby step one, but admittedly that's where we are at this moment.  It probably has to do with moving into a new house and everything else that has gone on in the past year, but we're gonna get back into it, God willing. 

We were great at following a budget back before our son was born.  We needed to learn to live off less so that we could save up enough to provide while I took the full leave allotted (it ended up being 13 weeks).  Because we had to, I was able to learn to save $700 each month simply by following a budget.  At that point the goal was $1 per person, per meal, or $125 per month for food for the two of us.  Most months we did just fine.  What was the key?  Having a serious goal - and being passionate about reaching it. 

Probably most important?  Being on the same page as my spouse. 

Nowadays we have a loose budget in our head.  Clearly we never stick to it because, well, I know what's in our bank account and I already told you we're on baby step one despite there being no real reason we should still be there.  We've been given grace in this area, but its not where we want to be.  We have to save up that $1000, then work on our few credit cards which don't have that much on them, pay off the car, then pay off the student loans I've racked up, most of them during my Masters program. It will be a long journey that we need to be more fired up about, but that's where we're headed. 

Debt-free is a real option.  Who's with us?

Say What !?! Sunday

Having set my mind to do this segment (and, sharing that commitment with my husband), I've been more than aware of the awesome things we've heard around our home this past week.  I have 3 fun things to share actually there were 4, but after writing down the first 3 I can't think of the 4th -

  • About Marriage - We were sitting around watching tv.  A man proposed to a woman and I was telling Logan about how daddy did that once to mommy, then we got married...

    Mie - "And so we'll be husband and wife forever and ever" - in my dreamiest princess tone
    Logan - (without blinking in a most matter of fact tone) - "Well, what about when you're dead".
    I strongly resisted the urge to turn it into a theological lesson - some just need to wait until later even with Logan.
  • About Rappers - We were driving from preschool to daycare to pick up the babies.
    L: "Mom...Mrs. (teacher's name) said her nephew listens to rap music"
    Mie: "Oh really?" doing the I'm a totally interested mom thingL:  "Yes, but I don't like rappers"
    Mie: "Really?  Why?"
    L:  "Because they are angry chefs".
    Mie: happy the van has us so far apart so he can't see me chuckle "Angry chefs?  Like mad people who cook?"
    L:  "Yep"
    Mie: "Well, I bet some of them can cook but probably not all of them are chefs".
  • Today, at our normal after-grocery-shopping lunch, we were adding "goo-goo-gah-gah" in place of "who do you do" in the Labryinth's know the one..."Power of voodoo...who do you do..."

    L: "That's what the Indians say"
    Mie: "GooGoo Gah Gah?"
    L: "Yep, that's what the Indians say"
    Mie: "No Logan, the Indians don't say that" (honestly not sure if he's talking about Native Americans or Indians from India)
    L: "Yes mom, that's what they say in China.  I'm serious!"
Ah.  These things are never-ending.  We love it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - Q2: Do the parents come to your house?

Q: Do they get to see their parents?  Do the parents come to your house?

A: No.  I couldn't say that strong enough.  How about absolutely not.  Which of course begs the question then, where do they see their parents?

First, let me explain a little bit about visitation.  In most cases biological parents are allowed to see their children while they are in foster care during supervised visitations.  These visits are regularly mandated by the court and generally involve 60 minutes each week, except in the case of an infant (<12 months) who might get more time, maybe 2 - 60 minute visits.  Of course, this setup is different by judge, caseworker, and frankly, case.  Typically, the visits are limited to mother and father but occasionally extended family are allowed to participate.  Siblings who are not in foster care or who are in foster care in another home are often afforded visits too.  In my experience, the courts and CPS go out of their way to make visits happen and it is fairly rare for parents to be denied visits completely.  In my experience, visits are only canceled when parents continuously refuse to show for their visitation (in which case the children are brough to the visit location in anticipation of seeing their parents who never show) or when parents rights are terminated.  Parents are required to abide by certain rules during visitation including things like avoiding physical discipline and maintaing sobriety during the visit.  In two of our cases, parents have had separate visits, meaning 2 visits per week for the kids throughout the case.  We've also had one case where the parents had visits for a while but were canceled a few months into it because they were unable to show up regularly.  Visits are a vital part of foster care as they maintain family relationships which help in reunification.  In the cases where children don't end up going home, visits can be a positive part of setting up new bonds with new families.

Visits most frequently happen at CPS offices, sometimes called child advocacy centers (in Texas, each county is run differently).  These offices have visitation rooms setup with toys and space for parents to play with their children.  In some cases they have two way mirrors so caseworkers or other supervisors can watch without interfering with the visit while in others they caseworker must sit in the doorway to make sure things are going well.  I gather that during these visits the caseworkers/supervisors take notes and watch the interaction with the kids to make sure they are ok and interacting positively.

Occasionally visits might happen at other locations, depending on the case and the situation. For example, if a case is going well a caseworker may agree to allow the parents to have a visit at a park or a fast-food restaurant play area to celebrate the child's birthday.  The majority of visits though are done at the offices.

It is important to note though that one of the reasons biological parents don't come to the foster parents house, in typical situations, is that foster parents have the right to anonymity for the safety of their family and the child.   In most cases, all involved do their best to keep foster parent information safe, so if biological families have foster parent information (like their last names, addressees, occupations/employers, etc.) it is a very big deal.  That being said, there are exceptions.  This brings up two more questions we are commonly asked - "How do they get to visits?" and "Do you see their parents?".  These will have to wait for another Friday.

Thankful Thursday - Files Schmiles

Home (let's face organization is critical to keeping all of my proverbial balls in the air.  In the past year my life has looked more like the ball pit at the playplace than a masterful juggler's show, which is not at all what I care for as it has brought my fair share of humility and frustration that has led to more slippery fingers.  But I digress.

Each year in December or January I like to spend a few hours to go through my files, clear out and shred things I don't need anymore.  This typically includes going through existing files, making a huge mess, and setting up new files for the new year.  Ideally, this allows me to make room for the new items both in getting rid of old things and setting up a new system for things in life that have changed over the past 12 months.  Once things are setup this way, it makes it so much easier to be able to move forward and stay organized for at least the next 8-10 months.  Though I typically get behind a little bit toward the end of the year, spending this annual time helps me catch back up and start with a clean slate.

In November 2009 we put our home up for sale and entered the contract on our new home.  This was a very quick process and so the filing that had been stacking up toward the end of the year was stacked in boxes, out of site and inaccessible.  We stayed in that situation through the new year and until we moved in May 2010, which means not only were we behind at the end of 2009, nothing was prepped for 2010 and through the first 6 months and into the move piles and piles of filing kept stacking up. 

1 week after we moved our world fell apart.  It kept falling apart for 4 weeks - the least of our concern in rebuilding was our filing system.  Of course, that meant that over the remaining 7 months of the 2010, we've lived in a very unorganized home....not only are there still rooms that are unpacked (though just the craft room and the guest room closet now!), our filing system was well-passed out of hand.  This of course was just one piece that mentally defeated us...even though I'm letting go of Mie my goal is to avoid letting my house take control.

Last night I was able to spend gathering all of the 18 months worth of unfiled junk.  At one point I had 20+ piles spread over half our living room floor.  I was smart enough to wait until the babies went to bed and Logan was watching Scooby Doo but on occasion he did come out to tell me about the mess I was making.  It took 2 1/2 hours to get through all the sorting, filing, and shredding, but in the end I felt so free.  I also managed to clear out my safes medicine cabinets (a little licensed-home humor).

I treated myself by eating a pomegranate.  Alone. (and yet even without Logan's sharing I only made it through half). 

I was fortunate enough to find a long-lost Chili's gift card, which means for our date night we'll get to have a nice treat, another thing I'm thankful for. 

Though if I had to rank them getting through the files would far beat the free Chili's.  And it's $50 so that's saying something.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Working Mama Wednesday - Mama's Massage

Sharing my journey as a working mom with you, whether you're in a similar boat or not.  More for me than my audience, the intention is to share what I will be doing each week for Mie, because we all know that Moms, whether working outside the home or not, don't take nearly as good of care of ourselves and a happy mom is a happy house.  Intentionally blogging about it might make it happen regularly (and give you all ideas as well!).

In my shoes, I don't regularly get "mom-time".  Sleep still isn't Logan's forte, so even though all of our foster kids have been happy to be in bed by 7:30, primetime hours in our home aren't usually kid free.  So most nightly free-time activities aren't usually an option...I'm still in the position of trying to get a regular shower.  because I'm in school the time mie time usually is what I scrape together to do schoolwork.  I'm going to do my best to find something weekly, however small, to do something for mie.

This week I'm kicking it off big time.  For our anniversary last year my husband surprised me with two massages and gave me an honestly guilt-free choice...I could have two massages or go as a couple.  There was no hesitation for me - a date would be great!  It's been a few months since our anniversary and with work, school, and babysitting schedules we just haven't had the chance to go, until now.  Yippee!  This week we have an appointment to get our couple's massage and I'm super duper excited.  It will be a couple hours together, a small inexpensive dinner, child-free, getting a massage together.  Sounds heavinly doesn't it?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Moolah Monday - The Perception of Wealth

Moolah Monday - An opportunity to discuss money matters for frugal living.

It's interesting to consider the impact money has on our worldview.  We all have different perspectives on the importance of money and its purpose primarily influenced by the way we were raised, our belief system, the people around us, and frankly the amount of resources we have available.  This in turn influences your actions: how you earn, save, and spend money (and, how you judge the actions of those around you in regard to financial matters). 

Anyone who really knows me is well aware I am extremely frugal.  It is yet another one of those control things I hold dear to.  I grew up in a "self-made" home from parents born to financially poor families.  I watched my parents work hard to combine their talents, work-ethic, and luck to climb out of a social history of poverty.  And this taught me that with my own (God given) talent, work-ethic, and luck (aka God's provision) we could be sure that our needs would be taken care of. 

Someone recently visited our new house, which is quite large and in a great neighborhood, and was apparently shocked that I was a coupon mom.  It didn't fit within her worldview that I, living in that home would be someone who avidly clips coupons and looks for deals.   Upon hearing this I wanted to say "How do you think I got here", but that comment assumes I believe I did it on my own and that I have "arrived" somewhere which isn't really the case. And it made me think of how that person's worldview compares to my own.  Not that I have much information on how she thinks about money, but it did give me a clue that she may believe a common fallacy - wealthy people don't worry about money like poor people do.  Now, I wouldn't put myself in the column of "wealthy" (ahem...I'm not quite convinced I'll have enough money in my account at the end of the week to pay the mortgage this month), but I know that we are extremely blessed and are much closer to that side of the fence than some other people are.  What I will say is this - worrying about money has nothing to do with how much you have or don't have.  We're all familiar with stories of extremely wealthy folks who lack security in their financial position and folks who have nothing who live daily in peace and joy.  So it's not the amount of money one has that brings financial security but something else.   Here are a few things that shape our financial worldview:
  • Financial resources are a tool provided by God to further his kingdom - We didn't create what we have but are entrusted with it to help provide for God's people.  That means we try to be good stewards, giving generously, spending wisely, and saving for a rainy day but not with the false hope that we will be providing our own security.  Everything we have belongs to God and should be kept in that proper perspective. 
  • Wealth does not bring joy, security, or peace - All of these things come from knowing a loving God and being secure in your salvation.  Period.  When we first got married we bought a 30+ year old mobile home in a trailer park.  There were times our annualized debt to income ratio was extremely negative.  Extremely - and then we faced a layoff.  We know what it's like to not have money to pay the bills.  But we were happy.  We made the best of what we had.  I remember during those days I had the thought at some point that if we could just make $5K per month we'd be rolling in the dough.  We passed that mark quite some time ago and I assure you that we can easily spend that amount and still be left wanting more no matter how much you make.  We know that (though it wouldn't be easy) if we lost everything and ended up on the street we would still be ok.
  • This life isn't meant for our comfort - Though we have more than plenty, the second we start using it for our own comfort or start thinking about how life should be easier (I wish I could just sleep in....why can't the cars stay running!...seriously, another medical bill?) things start falling apart.  Trusting God for our our needs is key.  The rest is just part of the plan.  What plan?  I don't know.  Not ours!  We aren't owed anything, in fact, we deserve death for our sins so the grace we receive above and beyond that is generous.
So, with these truths (based on scripture...I should have spent the time to add that in!) we live frugally.  That means store brands and coupons.  That means sharing with others everything we have.  That means finding ways to teach our kids these lessons and appreciate what they have and where it comes from - God not us. 

This is a bit more rambly than I care for but it's meant to be a foundation for future lessons on money matters from our household to yours.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Say What?!? Sunday - "It's always your way..."

Kids say the craziest things and my Logan is no exception.  So, Say What?!? Sunday (or, occasionally Saturday) is an opportunity to capture those moments that might otherwise be lost forever.

Our weekly Costco trip was an interesting one.  Not only did we show up in the rain and leave in the snow, but at least half the time I spent trying to help my 4 year old calm down, primarily because he was exhausted from spending the night at his cousins' house the night before.

I don't recall what started the fit...I do believe he started the second he saw me walk in the door to pick him up from his cousins', something about wanting to finish the latest Scooby Doo...but eventually at Costco it ended up with me holding him as he shouted in my face...

"You always get your way!  I never get my way"

Aside from the obvious discipline issue, I'm still not sure if I should reward myself for mother of the year or do some research on better parenting techniques.  On one hand, way to go mommy for making it clear to your son that he has to submit to your rules.  On the other hand, surely there is a way to get him to THINK it was his way.  It really doesn't say much about my parenting techniques in the end - it was an obvious manipulation technique driven by his exhaustion.  The proof? We asked more than once what he wanted, what "his way" would be, and all he could say was that he wanted his way, and I never give him his way. 

....and after spending 2 hours building snowmen and having snowball fights, watching two Scooby Doos, and cuddling with him before bed he had another melt down saying "You never rub my back or tickle me like you do the babies maybe I would like that!"  Another hint at what is going on in his head.

And a reminder why he needs to get more sleep.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - Q1: Isn't it hard to see them go?

As rookie foster parents who after 3 placements and 4 children feel quite experienced, we have been asked the same questions repeatedly multitudes of questions.  Totally appreciate the curiosity and understand where the questions come from.  The reality is that the world of foster/adoptive parenting is completely off the radar for most folks.  It was for us, at least until we jumped in feet first.  Now it is as normal and second nature to us as tying our shoes. So, the attempt will be for us to answer these common questions through the Foster Parent Friday segment of this blog.

Q: Isn't it hard to see them go?

A: The sentiment behind this question is also often intended when we hear its second cousin - "I could never do that...I would get too attached".  The answer is both yes and no in our experience, mostly no.

Truthfully, we have only had one case (2 kids) go home so far and the situation surrounding that transition (foster parent lingo alert!) was a bit crazy, not because of the case as much as our life situation at the time, which really didn't allow us the time to grieve the loss.  That being said, I strongly believe that through that situation and our reaction to it we were shown how much we were made for foster parenting.  Nevertheless, I'll caution my answer with this caveat - every situation is different.

When you receive a placement [the child(ren) arrives in your home], there is a period of time where it is weird.  You don't know anything about them and they don't know anything about you.  It's a honeymoon period of sorts where you are figuring out how to live together.  As good foster parents we do everything we can to incorporate our kids into our home, make them feel welcome and loved from the time they arrive, and then establish a new normal routine.  This is kind of like when biological parents bring home a new baby from the hospital.  Things have changed in their life and you have to establish the new normal.  The difference is that with foster children they have an existing family and experiences that mean "home" to them and so it's not exactly the same as bringing home your own biological child straight from the hospital.

In our experience, it is strange at first.  There isn't necesarily an immediate feeling of parental love and attachment - that has to build over time.  In our experience, that bonding has happened very quickly, which has taught us or at least reminded us how important and impactful good parenting is for the development of a child.  We're not super awesome cool parents.  We have a dual-income home (and as the mom, not only do I work but I go to school too).  We're not perfect by any means, but we consistently give our children safety, security, and basic needs like food, shelter, and love.  All of our cases have been some form of neglect so far, so these things were lacking, at least to some degree (we don't know what degree and if we did due to confidentiality wouldn't share) and it has been amazing to see how quickly new children fit into our family and daily routine.  In our case, it has only taken a few days, a week tops. 

After that period of time we then move forward with life as normal and the children in our home feel like our own children.  There are constent reminders that they aren't because of visits from a variety of folks, parent visits, special insurance, medical logs, and a variety of behavioral issues that you wouldn't expect from your biological children, but the feeling of being a cohesive family happens fairly quickly.  Then on and on with daily life. 

At some point there is a sense and then final notice that the children will be going home, which of course doesn't necesarily mean they will return to their old home with their own parents, though that is one option (I'll make a note to discuss that in another blog later).  We have made it a point with each case to make it clear for everyone that we need notice when our children go home because we have another child that will always stay, forever, and we need time to adjust him to the idea that they will be "going home".  So far, we've been fortunate enough to receive that courtesy, but there may be a time in the future where we don't get it.  In the first case, we had 1 weeks notice.  In one of our current cases, we've had 2 months to get used to the idea.  That prep time is used for preparing our hearts for their departure and getting them used to the idea of moving on to their new place so that when the time finally comes we're able to move forward with our lives with the least amount of grief possible.

I can't say that there isn't any sadness - I can't imagine a case where you don't bond at all.  At the very least there is a disruption in your home life so that can cause uncomfortable feelings.  That being said, it really depends on a couple things.  First, what are they returning to?  Our first case they were returning to a relative they previously lived with who we knew loved them and they loved to be around.  We knew that although we probably wouldn't have picked that as the best option for them, they would be ok.  And we just trusted God to take care of them.  (and, in that case I can follow along online to see the progress...that's not true of all cases).  In the other case of the child going home we've had a great relationship with the biological parents the whole way.  At this point we are rooting for them and want to see them succeed with parenting their child.  So his returning home, though he will have been our longest placement (8 months), will be a celebration and we're talking with the parents about possibly establishing a friendship with them beyond returning home to keep that supportive relationship going for all involved.  So, yes, it's sad a little bit but we're overwhelmed with happiness that this has worked out and he loves his parents and we're proud of them for making good choices to be able to care for their child.  Depending on the circumstances of the case, though we're disrupted, we're able to be happy for the children that they will be stable and ok.

We've had one case so far where we were told the child would be going to a place we were not at all comfortable with the decision.  Foster parents have some involvement in that decision, though not really much at all especially depending on the state officials involved.  So, we can speak our mind but really don't have too much recourse or "rights" to make the plan ourselves.  This is where involvement and influence are really handy.  In the case I'm referring to I was angry and upset not because we'd be losing this child from our home but because I didn't feel it would be a safe place long-term.  So we prayed.  We prayed for her safety and wisdom for those deciding.  We prayed for her long-term care and that we'd be ok with the decision.  Two days later we received notice that the placement was disqualified and she would not be going there.  We were overjoyed (and a bit saddened for the people who wouldn't be getting her).

Overall though, there are great benefits to having a child go home if you have peace about where they are going and you can trust that God will take care of them.  For example, when our first kids went home, we went from 3 kids to 1 again...imagine how much more simple life is with 1 child vs. 3!  (especially since at the time I couldn't walk due to a severe ankle injury).  And, our son is a bit older and sleeps in.  Yes!  More sleep on the weekends!  Easier trips to the grocery store.  Not to mention the new and exciting possibility about getting a new call with new children and the excitement that goes with that.  When our current placement goes home, we'll go from having "twin" one year olds to just having a 4 year old and a single 1 year old...that will be a piece of cake.  And, we'll have the possibility of adding two more kiddos to our group.  Sweet! 

If this sounds crazy to you, you aren't alone.  I'll write a post on that sometime too.  But it isn't crazy to us (not now anyway!) and that  is what tells us that we were made for such a time (and life!) as this.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

New Year, New Blog

Happy New Year All! 

It's time for a change around here, hence the new look and feel.  My hope is that you'll find the content a bit more regular, focused, and meaningful too.

When I started this blog, I had a 9-month old and a few pressing issues in my life that I felt the need to journal about.  Over the years I focused mostly on pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, with the occasional rant or rave about other things in my life.  It was entirely intended to be a diary or journal of sorts that you out there in cyberville would ready if you wanted to. 

Since July 2007 I've managed 93 posts, but its no surprise to those of you who have checked on me that this year has been more scarce than any other.  It's no coincidence that this has been one of the most challenging years of my life.  I hinted at that with my last post and promise to get to those details soon, but the reality is I've been treading water this year and certain things have been thrown out (blogging, cleaning toilets, etc.).  In looking back, I've actually had two years of challenge.  Apparently at the end of 2009 I felt the need to summarize the challenge I faced then too (see here).  I had an epiphany a year ago on what God was teaching me.  I don't know if I learned that lesson well then or not, I feel like I did, but He's continued the learning process through 2010 in a big way.  At that point I was letting go of the anchors I had besides God, and I did that.  Then I went on my merry, relying on God as I went along with my life plan.

Did you catch it?  My plan.  Not God's.  In 2009 I let go of my reliance on everyone else...except myself.  This year was all about severing me from my plans.  Clearly hindsight shows this process started earlier, lesson 2009 led to lesson 2010, but apparently I wasn't ready or willing 365 days ago to let go of my plans.
What I had planned for my life, for my year, for each day, was NOT what God had planned.  At all I think.  Not at all.  It's not that I planned anything bad or ungodly, but what I had in my vision of the future life of Mie just wasn't in the cards.  Now, before I get slammed with hate mail on making my own future and having faith, hear me clearly...I'm not saying God failed the omnipotence test and therefore that "God can't...", but the reality is there are some things that I had planned that will not happen.  Here are a few examples...when I pictured my life having children I thought I'd have at least three (at some point that changed to five), that I'd have conceived them easily, naturally, about 18 months apart, and by now, the 5th anniversary of conceiving Logan, I'd have 3 born and #4 on the way.  That's not gonna happen folks.  Now this one, I've known.  (Yet somehow now that 5 years has passed since his conception, talking about kindergarten in the fall, all of that seems to be triggering some repressed memories I guess).  Things I didn't know?  I thought I'd go through parenting with one of my best friends, who was pregnant with me and had a son, one of Logan's best friends, 3 months after me.  I'd seen her nearly everyday for 5 years and we'd went through every milestone together, every holiday, the joys and the tears.  That vision I had of us 14 years from now celebrating our sons' graduations from high school...not going to happen.  She died in May...she was 35.

There were 6 events like that in the span of 2 weeks in 2010.  Six.  Add in the rest of the 365 days and you can add 2 additional deaths and several other life/plan altering events and it became clear to me that God was ripping me from the plans I had for myself.  This year has been so hard and in reality it all came so fast that I didn't have the chance to grieve it all.  Maybe that's a good thing.

Strangely, as my husband and I reviewed 2010 headed into the new year we found that it was one of the most incredible journeys we have ever been on and, though I don't wish some of our experiences on anyone and don't particularly wish we could repeat similar events in the future, we look back on 2010 fondly.  Some of the events sucked.  But the year in total was great.

Now, as 2011 begins, it's time to start a new in which I am actively seeking what God has for my life.  Don't get me wrong, I thought I was doing that until this adventure was thrust upon me (us), but as I've learned, Letting go of Mie is as much a part of my walk as anything else He might have planned.

Join me won't you?

Did I ever tell you about the time I was almost arrested?

I just found this post that I started Dec 09/Jan 10...don't know why I didn't post it. - Enjoy!

And from the vault of "what we don't know about Auntie Mie" I thought I'd share with you a little known fact. I'd hope that it would be surprising, but I just rethought that and maybe it's not to some folks? I was out with some girl friends last week and somehow this came up. Actually the topic was who had been in the back of a cop car. On that note I was the obvious choice until one of the friends told us of the time she was arrested for work...driving a school bus...because her best friend used her id. Nice. But, when I explained my adventure had nothing to do with my husband, it did shock my friends. Hmmm...let's see.

So, I've always been a "good girl". Don't get me wrong I've done lots of stupid things in life and made dumb decisions like everyone else, but I haven't come close to any obviously arrestable offenses (I say it that way only because I know now that there are SO many arrestable offenses that I'd find it hard to believe that cops couldn't have arrested me for something at one point or another in life based on one of those little loophole things). Time numero uno happened at a point in my life where I was attending the small private Christian university, "dating" a guy that abused me, working full-time, still a good girl. The thing was though, that working full-time meant I was out at late hours...sometimes 3 or 4 am because I would close the place and that was social time. Super Loser Family didn't like me so we never went there, particularly in the early morning hours so we'd find random places to hang out. One night we had stopped on a street nearby in a residential neighborhood, not hurting anybody (or doing anything wrong). We were parked on a cul-de-sac that overlooked a cliff...I was in the driver seat. All of a sudden coming straight at me at a speed I couldn't tell was two bright lights. Obviously a car.

Now, we were in a very good neighborhood, but it was sometime in the wee hours of the night. The good girl that I was, I was street-smart enough to know that this car was nothing but trouble for us. My nightmare flashing before my eyes was that it was someone who was going to get their kicks from pushing us off the cliff by running head-first into my door. Thankfully, instead, the car slowed down...and the blue & red lights came on. Now I was safe and figured it was no big deal. I have nothing to hide...not doing anything wrong.

The officer apparently didn't believe me when I told him everything was fine. He asked me about 100 times if the guy I was with was hurting me and another 100 times if he was on drugs. It makes me hindsight I should have said yes, which would have been a lie at that point, and given him a good lesson in life...but in reality I told the truth (I was good remember!) and he pulled us both out of the car. I was fortunate enough to get to sit in the back of the car while Loser was questioned, in depth. I was asked if he could search my car...I had nothing to hide so I consented...and of course he found some electronic/computer thing (it was a zip drive, but it was out of the computer in Loser's bag and didn't look like it belonged there). I was asked about it several times...where it came from, etc...I dont remember now what made him believe us that it was rightfully owned, which it was, but eventually he let us both go.

I remember going home and telling my parents, my dad in particular, this really funny story. We got in one of the biggest fights in our life and hurtful things were said (i'm sure on both parts). We eventually got through it and at some point I was let free of Loser. Thank God.

You see though...I thought (and to this day think) that the whole thing was funny. It was funny because I have no fear of the police. (especially now). I actually have no fear of the law. Maybe I should, but I don't. I kept thinking how funny it was when I was in the backseat, not having any fear about what he'd find in my car...that this was one of only a few times ever I'd get to have that experience.

And I learned a few things...

-Apparently right where we parked was a favorite party spot
-Backseats of cop cars are hard plastic-like materials, not soft and plush like most regular cars
-Hanging around with Losers, even packaged as good guys, only gets you in trouble
-Look for opportunities to teach your kids and then discipline as appropriate rather than looking for opportunities to simply discipline them otherwise you'll miss the teaching poitns
-Innocence provides a natural get out of jail free card, but looking guilty hides it in the sofa couches