Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday's Tears - Case Drama

I have been away from my blog for a couple days due to some work commitments.  I just spent a few (or 60) minutes catching up on my favorite blogs from the past couple days and there are a few themes jumping out at mie, begging mie to write about.

First, for all of you celebrating a 1st, congratulations.  I noticed a few first birthdays and several first anniversaries of placements. 

I also noticed several of you are at the point in your cases where termination is apparently imminent and yet not yet done.  I know you are facing court dates and trials and a lot of uncertainty.  Let mie say that 1 year ago we were there with our sweet #4 - termination was all but certain and yet it felt like an eternity before anything would be final.  Tonight though I sat watching my husband cuddle with his daughter who is so smart and beautiful and now ours.  Finally ours.  Forever.

I pray that all of you who are facing imminent termination and hoping for quick adoptions will receive that blessing soon.  I pray for patience in the wait.

We too have court coming up - tomorrow in fact.  We are not at the point where we're facing termination.  At this point the case is still headed for reunification.  If that is not possible, and there are several indications that it may not be, there is a relative resource that is waiting on the completion of an ICPC. 

We're at the point in this case where the future is completely unknown.  It's too early still to believe that it will turn out with any particular outcome, but none of them appear to be desireable at this point.  Termination is bad for all apparent reasons and yet reunification doesn't bring much promise either.  There are drugs.  Poor parenting.  One parent who has dissappeared and overtly chosen drugs over the kids - I'm sure you can guess which one.  Generational history of abuse and overall poor family influences.  All of which have already and promise to continue to harm my kiddos who deserve so much more.  My kiddos, who love their Mommy S and I know would experience a loss with termination.

The relative resource doesn't promise much either.  First of all, it is a male relative of the parent who has dissapeared.  It's not fair for mie to judge someone I've never met but I'm uncomfortable sending these kiddos to the home of a stranger and because of the relationship with this particular parent there would not be any family continuance, the whole point of relative resource families.  He's far away from the parent who is still in the picture.  I would guess that there wouldn't be any regular contact with her - they'd lose her anyway.  Then there is the fact that this relative is an unmarried male who lives with his (male) partner.  This concerns mie greatly.  Less I be misunderstood, I strongly believe in the nuclear family and the role of a mother and father.  Nevertheless that is not my issue in this particular case.  My concern is that for reasons specific to this case these kiddos are terrified of males.  They have become attached to my husband but the only reason for that is the role I played as a nurturing female enabling them to feel safe and trust my husband because I setup the environment where they first could trust mie as a mother.  I may be completely wrong about the situation but I imagine my sweet kiddos going into a home with two men and not having the mother immediately available to comfort them and show them these men are safe. 

Back to court - tomorrow.  I expect it to be simple.  The longest part of the day will be the drive there and back.  I don't expect a turnover.  I don't expect a change in the plans.  I don't expect a decision on the ICPC.  Nevertheless I know to expect the unexpected and to charish each moment I get with my little kiddos. 

If nothing else, foster parenting teaches us to enjoy and appreciate every moment we have with the kiddos in our lives because time is fleeting and we're not guaranteed another day.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Moolah Monday - Research Participation

Last week I told you about how we're saving money in groceries by shopping every other week.  I also briefly mentioned that I had participated in a research study.  This is a great idea for our family that helps us have extra income periodically that really helps our family budget without too much work.

A few years ago a friend at work told mie about a local research firm that paid money for participation in research studies.  This company is a bona-fide research company and does not sell your information (other than the information you agree to provide as part of the research, of course) and does not try to sell you anything.  They have a database with information about you and your family (income level, age, # of children, etc.) and some of your preferences and habits (health diagnoses that you disclose, cars in your family, types of extracurricular activities, etc.).  They use this information to match you to research studies their firm has been hired to conduct (or provide an audience for) and when there is a match they call you to see if you can participate.

Participation can include anything from a brief written survey to a focus group or even a more in-depth product testing panel.  If you're familiar with research design, the parties who hire this firm are trying to get a sample from the population that matches their target consumer.

I've been on the list with this group for a while but have never really matched a survey or been available during the times available, until last week.  Last week they called mie with a brief 30 minute car survey, a beer tasting survey, one about paper goods (paper towels, etc.) and one about sporting goods and apparel.  I didn't qualify for the car survey because my car prior to the Sienna was too old ('01).  J was actually targeted for the beer tasting but since we don't drink at all that was out.  I qualified for the paper goods one but because I work at an organization that sells paper goods I was disqualified.  Because I have had been running to train for the marathon relay I qualified for the sporting goods and apparel focus group.

I went after work one day last week.  It was a 2 hour survey (6:45 to 8:45), sort of near my work (so there wasn't much commute involved) and for my participation I received $80 cash at the end, no strings attached.

It was a fun experience, though the whole time I was worrying about how things were going at home.  I will say though that having a research background I am pretty sure they were disappointed that I qualified.  They were looking for highly active sports enthusiasts.  That is not mie.  I qualified for my training with running but other than that didn't fit in AT ALL.  That's usually ok because they target particular audiences, but in reality I can pretty confidently say that I wasn't there target audience.  Not my problem though - I gave my opinions and earned the $80.

I will also say that I was a bit disappointed too because of the way I "fit" into the target audience.  As it was, I was representing the "older" female in the group - there was a younger girl in college and I was the token 30 year old.  I can't believe I was representing all the old ladies out there.  Jeesh  :)

Anyway - this $80 was unbudgeted so we're using it for a few cool things.  First, I took the first $10 for "myself".  I used this to buy breakfast at Chick-Fil-A one morning last week.  Nice treat.  We used $20 to take the kids to CiCi's on Friday, which technically was a budgeted expense but now will give us $20 extra to use on something else.  Now we have $50 leftover which will be used in a few ways.

First - After writing that last paragraph I realized we didn't tithe on that money.  We should and we will.  $8 out.
Second - Parents night out is coming up at church in a few weeks.  It will cost us about $20 for us to put our kiddos in childcare for the night so we can go out on a date.  We wouldn't have planned it because we're trying to be frugal and save, but since we have this extra we'll take advantage of it.  We have a couple gift cards to a restaurant that we received for Christmas and our anniversary, I think, so we're going to probably use that for a dinner out.

The remaining money might be used for another trip to CiCis or maybe something else - I haven't yet allocated those dollars to something specific.  That's ok - we'll find a good home for it somewhere :)

If you're in the DFW area we use Dallas By Definition.  Otherwise, I'm sure you can do a Google search and find some research companies with good reputations that you can use to sign yourself up.  Happy hunting!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Foster Parent Friday - Questions to Ask When You Get "THE CALL"

In honor of my sister’s license approval, I thought I’d type up a list of questions to ask the placement worker from CPU when they call with a potential placement.  I previously talked about all things placement related here and here, in which I talk about how I go about questioning the CPU worker, nevertheless I thought it would be beneficial to write out the questions in a separate post for the benefit of all new foster parents out there waiting for their first call.

Questions to ask when you get “The Call”:

Basic Questions
  • # of Kiddos
  • Ages & Birthdates
  • Gender(s)
  • Race/Ethnicity (if you care – they usually tell us without us asking)
  • County of Origin (this is important in our area to know not only how far away the case is but also what to expect from the system in this case)
  • Type of Placement (Emergency, Foster Care/Legal Risk, Straight Adopt – usually won’t get a CPU call for a straight adopt)
  • Reason for Removal
  • When do the kids need placement?
If with this information you are willing to proceed then ask the more detailed questions.

Detailed Questions
  • Are there any kinship placements or ICPC’s pending?
  • Have they previously been removed?
  • Are there additional siblings?  (Either already placed in foster care, not being placed together, or living with relatives)
  • Medical History & Condition
    • Are there any developmental delays?
    • Are there any known disorders, disabilities, or illnesses?
    • Is there suspected abuse?  (I always specifically ask if they have been sexually abused, especially with males)
    • Is there suspected exposure to drugs/alcohol?  Will they be tested?
    • Height/weight OR clothing size – they may not know but I ask anyway.  
  • Visit information (where, when, how often, etc.)
  • Are you the only one being asked or are they waiting on others to call back too?
  • Is the family cooperating with the department?
  • Is there a history of violence or gang affiliation in the home?
  • Age/stage specific questions – are they potty trained, etc.
  • What else can you tell me about the situation?
If I accept, I also ask for this information during the call:
  • Caseworker contact information (usually this is an investigator with emergency placements)
  • When should I expect the caseworker to contact me?
Depending on the situation, I’ll also ask these questions or I might ask these questions of the caseworker when he/she calls:
  • Do you already have a Medicaid number for me?
  • Do you have their social security numbers?
  • Have they been in childcare?
  • Do you expect they will have a CASA appointed to their case?
  • Are there any upcoming appointments (doctor, dentist) already scheduled?
  • What services are you expecting the child will need (ECI, therapy, medical specialists, etc.)
  • When are the next conferences and hearings scheduled?
Usually I get plenty of information from the CPU worker to determine whether or not we are willing to take the case.  In the more rare event that we don’t get enough information to agree to accept the placement, you have the following options:
    1. Speak to the caseworker/investigator before accepting placement
    2. Pre-placement visit – these are available for all placements EXCEPT emergency placements and are not required for children under 2 (in our area).  Nevertheless, you can ask and if it’s a placement for kids already in care then you can certainly set the expectation that you have a pre-placement visit.  Keep in mind that it may not be beneficial for the child to have a pre-placement visit in some circumstances.  We try to use our best judgment (and have never had a pre-placement visit).
Also, I always tell them that I think we’d be willing to take the children but I’d like to call my husband quickly to run it by him.  I ask them if I can have 5-10 minutes to call back.  This has always worked.  My husband and I have an agreement when we have openings in our home that we will answer the phone when it is a repetitive call and the first words are “We have a call” or we’ll text each other with “we’ve got a call”.  That way we get back to each other very quickly and in time to get back to the placement worker quickly.  Of course we have always said yes to the placements we’ve received with two exceptions – when we were out of state once and when the placement would have put us out of compliance with our license (i.e., children are too old or too many under 18 months).  

I hope this is helpful – do you have any to add?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thankful Thursday - New Foster Parents

I am so passionate about this whole foster parenting and adoption thing that I can't help but share.  I share with you all.  I share at work.  I share at home.  I share in my family.  I share in the system.  God didn't place this passion in mie until we faced infertility, admittedly, but since then I've been compelled to do something.

Surely I hope this passion and advocacy helps encourage others to get involved either by supporting foster and adoptive parents or, ideally, by becoming foster and/or adoptive parents themselves.  Though regardless we'd continue this mission as long as we're called, it's also nice to know that through our story others may also join in.

Today I have the great privilege to congratulate my sister and her family for receiving their license yesterday.  They live about a mile from us and though we live in different cities and different counties (!!!) we are now licensed through the same county office.  They are dual licensed for the same age range we are so I'm excited to be able to pool resources for clothes and other gear.

Now they sit, waiting for their first placement call.  I remember those days.  We received notice that our license was approved on a Friday afternoon and from then on I knew we could get "the call" any minute.  For an entire week I anticipated that call.  By the next weekend that anticipation had died down a little bit and I stopped thinking the call would happen "any minute".  And then it came - 11:45 pm was the minute.  The rest is history.

Today I'm very thankful that we've had the opportunity to encourage this family (and at least one other that I know of) to become foster parents.  So many out there who think "they could never do it" and at one point in time our family and these other two felt the same way.  I know we felt it was "for someone else".  It wasn't a hostile position against foster care but just one of ignorance of the system and what we could do with God's help.

Thank you God.  Thank you for giving us infertility.  Thank you for showing us through this very difficult and painful condition how much you love life and children.  Thank you for showing us that there is something bigger out there than the dreams and goals we may have for our own lives and families.  Thank you for broadening our vision to include care for these children and many more who need good parents.  Thank you for using infertility to open our hearts and leave holes in our home that could not be filled with our own biological children but instead are left open for children born to others who for one reason or another cannot provide proper care for their children.  Some will stay forever, others for hours or days, but God we know that you will hold them for a lifetime.  Thank you for allowing us to participate in this magnificent mission of caring for YOUR children.

And thank you for letting this passion be contagious.

Working Mama Wednesday - 2 Truths & a Lie Answers

The correct answers for the lies are - C, A, A, B, B, and B.  Read on below for explanations!

Group 1
A) Last night my husband told mie to stop pretending to bite him while he was on the phone with this father.
B) This morning my husband said he was watching an SUV in rising water - it had 6-8 inches below the roof.
C) My alarm clock woke mie up at 5:30am this morning.

Sadly, I was trying to pretend to bite my husband while he was on the phone with his dad last night.  I was amused.  He was not.  That is probably even more sad.  

We had a lot of rain in the DFW area overnight.  Apparently this morning my husband had to respond to a swift water rescue where someone drove their SUV into an intersection where the water was rising.  She was pulled out safely but the car was stuck.  While waiting for a wrecker the water rose higher and higher so that it was nearly completely covered.  That is a bad day for those folks.

My alarm clock did not wake mie up at 5:30 this morning.  It was set for 5:55 am but never had a chance to go off.  Instead I was awakened by an extremely loud crash of thunder.  God told mie to get out up.  Surely He meant wake up so I stayed in bed and watched the news for 20 minutes before actually getting out of bed to start the day.

Group 2
A) Summer is fully potty trained and we are done with toddler diapers!
B) We prayed with Logan last night for salvation and my hubby cried.
C) #10 has progressed to the point where he walks most places and can say "love" while he cuddles with you.

We did pray with our son last night for his salvation.  He has been asking lots of questions recently and last night was the night to pray "the prayer".  I don't particularly believe that saying a specific set of words in and of itself will save you and automatically turn you into a Christian, nevertheless it was for him an "official" start to his walk with Christ and my husband and I will continue to help him grow in his faith as he gets older.

Summer is not potty trained yet.  She's hit this point where she's refusing to go on the potty.  This is very hard to handle as a working mom.  If I weren't working I'd keep her home with mie either naked or with real underwear on and teach her that way.  I don't have that option right now so things are slower than I'd hoped.  That's ok.

Aren't you proud of #10 too?  Considering when he joined us less than 2 months ago he was showing no signs of walking-readiness and the only vocalization he had was this hideous screech, this is super progress.

Group 3
A) I made the daycare change a child's pants yesterday - they had poop on them but the diaper was clean.
B) I assigned one child to cook dinner for us this week as a consequence for his actions.
C) I sent one child to bed early last night for sneaking candy from a Christmas stocking.

#9 has a bad habit of sneaking food that she finds "out", particularly candy or cookies.  We don't usually leave these things out but around Christmas we had things out more often and that's when her tendencies became known to us.  It's not something most 3 year olds wouldn't do.  Last night she found a stocking in our bedroom while waiting for us to finish bathing Summer & #10.  She went to bed early by about 10 minutes and didn't get a story.

For Monday's dinner I had prepared a pork roast in a crockpot and had turned it on.  Later that day my hubby mentioned that it wasn't plugged in.  The culprit?  Logan - he'd unplugged the crockpot to plug in his cell phone (it has games but no service, an old one from many years ago).  His consequence (since we didn't have dinner ready as a result) was that he has to cook dinner for us this week.  Friday he will be cooking chicken nuggets and french fries along with setting the table.  Yes, I will be helping him to make sure everything is done right and no one is burned.

No, I did not make the daycare change #10 even though he did in fact have poop on his pants.  They insisted they would do it and I insisted they would not.  We had a 2 minute drive home where I immediately cleaned him up and changed him into his PJs.  For mie this was much better than making another pair of pants dirty and having one less pair on standby at school.

Group 4
A) To save time in the morning, I put my makeup on in the car.
B) To save time in the morning and evening I blow dry my hair before going to bed each night.
C) To save time at night I have a meal plan posted in my kitchen.

Most mornings you will find mie putting on my makeup in the car after I drop my kids off.  Sometimes this means I put it on when I get to work in the parking garage.  I'm totally ok with that.  

Blow drying my hair at night would not ever save mie time.  My hair is on the border of curly and wavy and in the middle of my back - it would take mie forever to blow dry it decently and when I woke up it would be a mess again.  Instead I put it in a bun wet, with conditioner and a special gel, so that when I wake up it is less wet and ready to scrunch and be done.  I will often add a little bit more gel and maybe some hairspray and this way, in my opinion, it turns out beautiful with no fuss.

I do have a meal plan posted in my kitchen.  It includes what is on the agenda for dinner for the next 2 weeks.

Group 5
A) I feed my forever children breakfast before school.
B) I feed my foster children breakfast before school.
C) I drink a home-prepared Starbucks Chai Tea Latte for breakfast each morning.

I do drink a home-prepared chai in the morning.  I usually bring it with mie for the drive.  I also feed my forever kids breakfast before school.  I don't feed my foster children breakfast before school.  I hate this but it has to be this way.  My forever children go to a different school than the fosters.  That school does not include breakfast so I have to feed them before we leave.  The foster's school does include breakfast.  If I feed them before I drop them off they will end up eating twice or be forced to sit out while the other kids are eating.  They already have a few challenges with regulating the amount of food they eat so it works out best if I get them ready while the other two are eating breakfast and then they watch tv or  play while I get the forevers breakfast.  Nevertheless, it is still a bit awkward for mie that I "treat them differently".

Group 6
A) I recently lost my car keys.  I blame it on the kids.  I'm sure they took them out of my purse.
B) I found my car keys under the Christmas tree blanket that is still up in the foyer.
C) Thankfully, I keep 2 sets of car keys in my purse.

Unfortunately, I did lose my keys recently.  I do believe the kids took them out of my purse.  I have to zip it up when I come home or else they will take everything out of it.  Sometimes I forget to zip it.  That is how I know they will take everything out of it.  Thankfully, I do keep 2 sets of car keys in my purse.  Unfortunately, the two sets are one for each car so I don't have my own set of keys for the swagger waggon at this point - hubby and I have to share.  The good news in that is the kids only lost that key, which was on a separate key chain.  I still have the key chain with my car key to our other car and my house key.  Not that I use the house key - I almost always go in the garage door.

I have a feeling the Christmas tree may be hiding my car keys.  There is no basis for this feeling but I haven't checked yet to rule it out.  Therefore, I haven't found them.  I'm holding out hope.  Yes, one of our Christmas trees is still up.  But give us props for taking down the garland this week that was on the banister.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Working Mama Wednesday - 2 Truths & a Lie

How about a fun game for a Wednesday morning?  Let's do 2 Truths and a Lie, shall we?

Here are the rules.  I will give you sets of 3 things "about mie" below.  Each choice will be labeled a, b, or c.  Your mission is to correctly identify the lies about mie and post them as comments below.

Group 1
A) Last night my husband told mie to stop pretending to bite him while he was on the phone with this father.
B) This morning my husband said he was watching an SUV in rising water - it had 6-8 inches below the roof.
C) My alarm clock woke mie up at 5:30am this morning.

Group 2
A) Summer is fully potty trained and we are done with toddler diapers!
B) We prayed with Logan last night for salvation and my hubby cried.
C) #10 has progressed to the point where he walks most places and can say "love" while he cuddles with you.

Group 3
A) I made the daycare change a child's pants yesterday - they had poop on them but the diaper was clean.
B) I assigned one child to cook dinner for us this week as a consequence for his actions.
C) I sent one child to bed early last night for sneaking candy from a Christmas stocking.

Group 4
A) To save time in the morning, I put my makeup on in the car.
B) To save time in the morning and evening I blow dry my hair before going to bed each night.
C) To save time at night I have a meal plan posted in my kitchen.

Group 5
A) I feed my forever children breakfast before school.
B) I feed my foster children breakfast before school.
C) I drink a home-prepared Starbucks Chai Tea Latte for breakfast each morning.

Group 6
A) I recently lost my car keys.  I blame it on the kids.  I'm sure they took them out of my purse.
B) I found my car keys under the Christmas tree blanket that is still up in the foyer.
C) Thankfully, I keep 2 sets of car keys in my purse.

Alright friends - get to commenting with your answers.  I'll post answers before tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday's Tears - One Of Those Days

It was Friday.

One of those days.

I have been battling this cold now, enhanced by some mean allergies and an influx of mountain cedar in the area, for nearly 2 weeks.  Friday was the 2nd day of the big bad cold hitting mie hard.  I was feeling sick.  I had no voice.  More accurately, I had a voice that to mie sounds like a really annoying barking dog.  Or a goat.
So I was feeling crappy, I sounded crappy, I know I didn't look too hot, and I'd forgotten to take my allergy medicine.

One of those days.

I started the day with a meeting at work that just didn't make mie happy.  I wasn't feeling well and so I was moody and that didn't leave mie with as much patience with certain things that I would have liked to have had.  It bothered mie all day - apparently my quick recovery of patience was sorely lacking too.  I was actually angry.  And frustrated.  And you all know I cry when I'm frustrated.

It was one of those days.

I managed not to cry during the day no doubt out of pure exhaustion and lethargy than anything else.  Instead I decided it would be a good idea to go chat with the person that was causing mie concern.  That wasn't a great idea.  As I went to chat he shut the door nearly on my face and I turned around and walked away, more frustrated than before.  Of course, it wasn't directed at mie but someone else had walked into his office a few seconds before I'd arrived and they needed privacy - I was just a few minutes to late to be first at that point.

One of those days.

He faithfully came over to check on mie, knowing I wasn't ok, insisting that I talk about it.  I didn't want to - not like mie.  I did anyway.  I pleaded my case with as much passion as I could between 4-5pm on a Friday when I was not feeling well at all.  Though it wasn't a detrimental conversation it didn't help much and now it was 5:15, later than I like to leave but it should have been fine.

Should have, but it was one of those days.

I spent the next 90 minutes driving 10 miles of my 25 mile drive home.  Most of that was over maybe 3-4 miles.  I couldn't get anywhere.  I was moving 2-3 miles an hour most of the time, it felt.  I had to ask my husband to pick up the first two kiddos - I thought I'd get home faster that way and we could go out to dinner as a family as early as possible - that was our plan.  I spent more time on the freeway.  Apparently there was an accident.

One of those days for those people too.

I eventually ended up calling my husband to pick up the other kids as well.  This was apparently devastating news to Logan who was waiting for mie to come home.  My phone call home put him in tears - he thought I was driving into the garage and ran out with a surprise for mie that he had been holding onto all day.  When it wasn't mie and I was instead saying that I would be even later, that crushed his already fragile (tired) spirit.  They went to go pick up the other kids at daycare #2 and waited for mie in the parking lot.  I finally arrived at about 6:40.  Nope, I wouldn't have made it to pick them up on time either.


Rather than be happy to see mie when I finally arrived he was so overwhelmed that as he handed mie his gift he burst into sobs.  The heaving sobs where I knew I'd screwed up as a mom.  Except, I really didn't - I didn't have any control over it at all as my commute had taken at least an hour longer than it usually does - but that didn't make mie feel any better.  But I did - I hurt my son's feelings.  He'd planned something special and I disappointed him.  I sat and held him for a few minutes going out of my way to tell him how much I loved the gift he made mie.  It was a beautiful flower made from tissue paper.  I could tell it was made with love and I felt like a chump, which only added to the crappiness of the day.

One of those days.

We finally made it to the restaurant around 7pm, about an hour after we'd originally planned.  Mind you, this is our first Friday night together in at least a year and 7pm is #10s bed time.  It.  Was.  Packed.  I mean line out the door not letting people in to control room capacity kind of packed.  Though our friends who were eating with us had saved us a table, we waited in line for another 20-30 minutes to get in and eat at a pizza buffet.  We were all tired.  I held Logan most of the time in line.  Summer kept hanging on the door so no one else came in.  #10 was screaming.  Nice.  We ate.  We went home.  The kids went to bed.

It really was one of those days.

Thankfully, Saturday was a new day.  I still felt crappy but it was a good day.  I took the kids and my nephews (that's 6 kids total) to the museum.  We didn't have any incidents where I ended up covered in poop.  We watched a shark dissection and an electricity show/class.  We played.  We went home and had a nice dinner.  The kids went to bed.  My husband drew mie a hot bath and made mie relax in it before going to bed early.

THAT was one of THOSE days.  I'll take THOSE days anytime.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Moolah Monday - Groceries

I previously told you that our life schedule was changing.  We're now 1-week into our new schedule and overall I love it.  The best part about it is that my husband has taken it upon himself to step-up his game on being a dad and husband.  I mean big time.  I don't think the two are related, necessarily, but instead it's a coincidence in timing that makes this whole transition in our life just wonderful for mie at the moment.  In response, I'm trying to be very supportive of my husband as well as I know this change is major for him and has some not-so-great side effects for him that he's more than willingly taking on for the sake of the family.

He would tell you it's working for him too with all the extra cuddles from the kids he's receiving.  Last week I went to a focus group after work one night and he sent mie this picture.  Apparently after putting #10 to bed the kids all, on their own, joined him on the couch to cuddle and watch cartoons.

If you must know, I was happy for him but also wanted to punch him.  It is not cool that everything went so easy for him the first night he had them by himself.  Seriously...even Mr. Logan No Sleep went to bed on-time without fighting at all and was asleep before I got home.  But really I was happy for him or he wouldn't want to do it again!  

And yes, those are my stockings on the fireplace still hanging from Christmas.  And yes #9 is wearing Christmas PJs.  That's real life around here folks.

Back to the point of this post.

With the change we've had to figure out how to do some things differently in our schedule.  We used to go grocery shopping together mid-day on the weekends but that no longer works for us.  In anticipation of this change I decided a few weeks ago to start shopping 2 weeks at a time.  My thought was that this way I'd only have to take the kids with mie shopping 2x a month rather than 4 and maybe I'd also choose to buy less extras because I'd cut my chances down by half.  So far, only going shopping 2x per month (and still Costco weekly - for the tradition of it mainly) has worked out really well for us with Costco being a good shot at filling-in with fresh bananas and milk every week.  I have learned though that I need to find a different time to go.  Waiting until 6:30pm on Sunday night to head out with all the kids in tow was probably not the best choice of times, especially having to shop for 2 weeks worth which made it a looonnng shopping trip for all of us.

And, I have to say to the sweet lady who encouraged us at the store - thank you.  Except for one thing that was well meaning but not effective for us...she said "Just blink and they'll get older".  I wanted to say - NO!  They never get older!  They are always the same age.  We persistently have 1-2 year olds - they never get older we just start over with them every few months.  :)

As I was saying - my hypothesis was also that we'd spend less because we'd shop fewer times.  I believe we've found a winner with this strategy even though it's not necessarily the plan of hard-core couponers who shop when the deal is right.  Our plan is slightly different - we shop for what is right when we go shopping - meaning, we stock up on things that are a good deal but are shelf-stable when we're on our shopping trips and then try to minimize the cost of things we "need" when they aren't on sell but we need them.

For example, last night I purchased 10 boxes of health food Hamburger Helper.  That normally should have cost us $16.50 at this particular store.  Instead, it was on sale for a price of $10 and I had two coupons that saved us $1 each.  That meant we paid $8.00 and saved $8.50 off the regular price.  SCORE!  Will we eat all that in the next two weeks?  Not a chance - we will have hamburger helper ONCE in the next two weeks and I might decide to make 2 boxes of it to have leftovers for my lunches.  The rest will be good for a while. I also purchased AXE shower gel, the kind preferred by my husband and his son who wants to be just like him.  The price was $4.17, which was marked as a sale price but admittedly I don't believe it was a real sale.  Nevertheless, I had a coupon that was expiring before I go shopping again and it was buy one get one free.  My husband didn't need any new shower gel, but for $4.17 I got two bottles of it - $2.08 is a good price for that type of shower gel - and we'll stock that in the cabinet.

On the other hand, we needed to add some fruits to our selection.  I scoured the displays to find a few kinds that were good prices.  Rather than saying "we're out of apples so I'll buy apples" regardless of price, I found "Cuties" - those clementine oranges "for kids" - and grapes on sale for a good price so I bought some of those to last us the next two weeks.

We really stocked up yesterday.  I already had all the meat I needed for the next two weeks because I'd stocked up on my last trip when I found a few great deals (50% off the meats I'd purchased).  Now that I stocked up on several non-perishables (or, really items with long code dates, they will perish some day), I'm set for a while.

I did get a bit nervous as the clerk was ringing things up - the bill went all the way to $228.  That would be on-par with what we normally spend a week, not a savings.  That would be ok, but I was hoping to save both time (energy) and money going every two weeks.  Normally we'd spend about $120 per week at the grocery store and $75-$80 on stuff at Costco.  That adds up quickly.  Then I scanned my rewards card and he added my coupons in.  The bill went all the way down to $161.  I saved $67 or 30% off the regular bill.  That was cool and meant we're saving money with this tactic - about $160 per month just with stuff we're buying at the grocery store.  I've been really careful about what we're buying at Costco too.  With the exception of diapers/pull-ups, we usually only need about $10-20 more worth of stuff - bananas and milk and maybe a few other things like waffles or peanut butter or syrup (see the theme!).  So, we're saving a boatload there as well.

Now, if I can just figure out when to go I'd be set!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Say What (!?!) Sunday - Who's Really In Control Here?

This past weekend my son spent the night with his cousins.  After an evening and a full day spent playing with them, it was time to pick him up.  I called to see how he was doing:

Mie: Hi Logie!  How are you?
Mie: mind you...it was 5:15ish, I was home by myself with the other 3 kiddos, and it was about 45 minutes from darkness.  Sure Logan!  I panic to think how I can do that quickly...  I'll be there in a little while.

We had a good time at the park.  It was fun until my long-time potty trained 3 year old decided to poop in her pants, the 3rd kid of the day to poop in their pants (or out of them) in a public spot.  After cleaning up it was dark and we had to go home.

Yesterday I was at my sister's house hanging out.  Everyone was taking turns sharing Logan's Speech stories after Logan helped his auntie remember what those turny screw things are called - you know - WINGNUTS!

Anyway, it was Uncle Mike's turn.

Mike: Mie - you know what Logan said yesterday when you took them to the park?
Mie: No what?
Mike: After you hung up with him he turned to Aurora (his cousin) and said 

"See Aurora, I TOLD you I'd FORCE one of the adults to take us to the park".

Mmmhmmm.  Wish I would have known that BEFORE I took them...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Children's Prayers

This is my right arm.  See that scar?  I know you are out there saying "how can I miss it!"  I got that scar a few days before Christmas when we had our annual family cookie baking day.  Apparently it was a really, really bad burn.  I hardly felt it at all.  It didn't really blister quickly like most of my burns do.  Nope - with this one the skin was just gone and it has taken a really long time to heal.  Truth-be-told it was on a spot I already had built up scars on, albeit not this bad, and I think that is part of the reason it didn't hurt so badly when I burned it.  If I put my wrists together you'll notice matching scars on each arm in that spot and again a little bit higher just under the thumb though again none as bad as this.

I get a burn in those spots almost every time I put something into or take something out of the oven.  You'd think I'd learn, but as you can see, I haven't yet.

The girls are fascinated by my "boo-boo".  They ask mie about it every time they see it.  Then they ask mie 10 times in a row just to make sure they heard it right.  Now #9 will tell mie "Mommy is that the boo-boo you got from the cookies?".  Well yes, sort of.  It is cute that they are so concerned about it but it is highly annoying to mie as well - they want mie to show it to them so they can examine it and it often turns into the thing to do when they don't want to do what I told them to do.

Often when the kids get boo-boos I first "kiss it and make it better".  I'll often hug them and ask if they're ok.  I usually tell them they'll be fine.  Sometimes they want to make it bigger than it is and I want to tell them "WHAT DO YOU WANT MIE TO DO ABOUT IT!?!?!"

That is the real side of mie.

Instead of saying that, I often say "let's pray for it".  It's a good model to show them to take our wounds and concerns to Christ and it's also a good model for them as they grow older to know that though people can bring some healing only God can truly heal.  Plus, then when they continue to worry about it I can tell them God has it under control so we don't have to worry about it anymore.  And then I don't get nearly as frustrated.

I've started to use that now when they have other worries.  Clearly this burn concerns them so I've asked them to pray for it.  This morning as Summer was sitting on the potty trying to avoid doing what she was sitting their for she became fascinated with my boo-boo.  So, I asked her if she would pray for it.  She's 2 so I didn't know what to expect.

Oh it was such a blessing.  She folded her little hands (while on the potty), closed her eyes, and started speaking with her ever developing language skills.  Most of it I couldn't understand but I was able to pull out a few words - boo-boo, owie, Jesus and of course AAAAAMen.

That is such a reward for mie as a parent.  Her sweet heart knows to pray to Jesus to make it better for mommy and she wants to do that.  I can't understand her prayers but that doesn't matter, He does.  Such a joy teaching these kiddos to develop their own prayer life through everyday lessons like a little healing scar.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Working Mama Wednesday - Update on the Chore List

A while back I wrote this post describing all the things I was looking forward to when I was finished with classes at school.  I have pretty much avoided all things school now for both the Summer and Fall semesters and seeing as how I don't want to not finish after all that I have decided to make it my mission to finish this year if it is in my power.  I'll do my part anyway, that's all I can do.  

With that I am going to attempt to complete my comprehensive exams (comps) at the end of February.  Between now and then I'll need to get ready for that and ideally put the finishing touches on my dissertation proposal.  It's pretty close to being ready for proposal defense, but I can't defend the proposal until I complete the comps.  It's all formal like.  

If I'm successful at comps then I'll be able to propose my defense.  If I'm ready, I could propose almost immediately after I pass the comps - like within an hour or so.  That would be cool because I can't finish my dissertation until I do the research - I can't do the research until they approve my proposal.  If all goes well I could potentially defend my dissertation in the Summer and graduate then.  That is my goal for now!

This means I have to get my behind back into the swing of things with doing schoolwork nightly.  Hubby is now home nightly so maybe I could even sneak away one night a week to do dedicated work on this stuff.  I happen to like the local McD's as a quiet place to work.  

As I get through that, I thought I'd go through my list of things I was looking forward to back in April last year to see how well I did on accomplishing them and see what left I have to do (that will have to wait...)
  • Catch up with all the laundry - all washed, dried, put away, hung up, and ironed if needed.  Maybe even if not needed.   I did this and it felt good.  Of course recently with the washing machine broken I got behind but this weekend I mostly caught up.  I even ironed.  I'll slightly change this to "wash my suit jackets".  I usually get them dry cleaned but haven't in a while and they're in need of some service.  
  • Scrub and sanitize the bathrooms.  Heck, every room  I promise I've done this at least once or twice since last April.  I've done a good job keeping toilets clean with Summer's potty training but this can use some revisiting.
  • Clean the carpets I don't think I even tried this...
  • Vacuum the stairs It has been done, but as I sit here today needs done again.  I did vacuum all of the upstairs on Monday just didn't get around to the actual stairs.  
  • Catch up on couponing I've done good at this!
  • Paint the inside of my house Wow - that was a lofty goal...my house is 4000+ sq. ft. so for mie to have expected to do the whole thing that's crazy.  I did finish the kitchen (except behind the fridge) and we did the girls room over the holidays, so I made some progress.
  • Catch up with scrapbooking (I'm 4 years behind - and my son is 4...)  Yeah, my son is now 5 and we are 5 years behind...
  • Do some gardening - set up where I want to have my flower gardens and vegetable gardens in the future not done either.  I just can't figure out where to do the gardens in the yard...  
  • Setup my home office (right now its a catch all) Still a catch all and right now a staging area for Christmas decorating.  
  • Spend super time with my kiddos, with lots of crafts, baking, and reading books.  I'd also like to figure out how to regularly get my kiddos to the pool, which I couldn't do by myself per state regulations but I wouldn't even try - that's a disaster waiting to happen. This is why I didn't do much work on school - I spent lots of time with the kiddos.  I didn't get to the pool as often as I would have liked but we went to the spray park nearly every weekend and did lots of other activities to spend time together.  I cross it out only because I did do well on this but it's obviously something that is ongoing.
  • Mop the floor.  Maybe even everyday.  Who was I kidding?  Everyday?  Not quite, but I do mop it once a week or so which is a great improvement.
  • Work on a project with my husband. Not sure which project I thought I'd work on but we did a few things together.  We did plant some flowers in the front yard so that was cool.
  • Take a shower every day. Well, at least every other day.
  • Get in shape physically.  I want to try to shoot to run the half-marathon at a Dallas area lake with a fellow foster/adopt parent who does it as a fundraiser (or, at least on behalf of what she's doing).  This would be no small feat as the farthest I've ever run was a mile and that was a very big stretch for me.  So, I'll settle at first for walking more with my kids.  I wouldn't say I'm in shape at all, but I did run 5.2 miles in the last leg of the Dallas White Rock Marathon Relay.  That was a HUGE accomplishment and I'm super proud of myself for doing it.  I haven't run since, but I want to keep training for different events including the one I mention above.  To make sure I'm not too distracted though I've committed to finishing my degree before taking on other projects like training for the White Rock n' Roll half.
  • Get my craft room organized. How do you write out that under your breath laugh?  
  • Sleep more. I did this....besides spending more time with the kiddos I definitely got more sleep.  That was beautiful and the biggest thing holding mie back from getting back into doing schoolwork at night.
  • Get ready for baby Well you all know how that turned out.  
So - here goes nothing!  Wish mie luck and hold mie accountable!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday's Tears: Donations Part II

Yesterday I told you about how blessed I was and how receiving a bag of clothes for little girls completely reminded mie of that blessing.  I wanted to keep writing, because I wasn’t done on the subject, but the post was already really long and the second half will prove to be equally so – and take a bit of a different direction.

Tuesday’s Tears.  Sometimes these topics are truly things that make me cry out of anguish and pain – like when my uncle was murdered or when the system reared it’s ugly head and we “lost” our daughter’s brother.  Sometimes they are my thoughts on stories and trends I see out there in the world, like verbal abuse.  Other times my frustrations get the best of mie and I rant about how challenging it can be to remain patient when 4 kids decide to try and run rampant.  (By the way, I forgot to add in that post that I believe this was just kids being kids – I don’t blame them a bit and though it was crazy I still had everything under control, with help of course from the One who is really in control).

Today’s topic represents tears of a different sort - tears of passion.  Passion of a woman’s heart that has been transformed to be madly in love with children she didn’t birth and of the mission to truly care for each orphaned child, whether orphaned temporarily (foster) or permanently (adoption).  Admittedly, it took infertility to get mie to the place where I am today – the place where I believe I understand more about our need to rise up and care for kids who are not biologically our own and yet desperately need us as parents. 

Truth be told – we need them as our children too, maybe even more so.  I didn’t intend to go here, but what would be a post from Mie without at least one aside?  We talk about how children are a blessing.  In some Christian circles there is the concept (from the Bible) about how children are a measure of blessing and he who has a “Quiver full” is blessed indeed.  Though this is not the predominant belief in American or European cultures, surely you can imagine why in Biblical times children were understood to be a blessing.  Not only was there less of an understanding of how scientifically the body worked to reproduce and therefore there was a natural understanding that there was a supernatural intervention to create life but from a purely practical perspective if a couple, especially a woman, was without child they had no one to care for them as they aged.  They desperately needed children to be able to survive.  This is no longer true in America.  In fact, the common perception is that the child-free couple or those who have a minimum amount of children are better able to provide for themselves a life worth living.  They have less expenses.  They have more time to travel and pursue their hobbies and interests than someone with children.  So, absent the survival need for children, they have now become more commonly considered a burden rather than a blessing.  If you disagree or don’t believe mie, just pay attention to how people around you talk about children…better yet, take 4 with you, by yourself, to the grocery store and see how many people give looks, chatter amongst themselves, and often times say some random things.

Christmas Eve I did just that (it wasn’t the first, or the last time either).  My kids were singing Christmas carols through the aisles, all off-key, singing different songs none of whom (except maybe Logan) knew the correct words or tune.  Nevertheless they were full of joy and with the exception of a few random hair pulls or reaches for products on the shelf they were very well behaved, especially considering none of them had been able to nap that day.  Some people saw what I saw – the beauty of the season through these precious kiddos eyes.  There were others who thought I was crazy I’m sure but were polite enough to force themselves to say something with good intentions, like “you sure have your hands full!”  There was this one set of ladies though with whom I almost lost it.  I don’t get that way often but they stirred a passion in mie that I almost couldn’t control.  I think it was a mother and daughter or maybe an older sister and younger sister.  As often seen around here, they had pristine hair and makeup far more worthy of Nordstroms than the Target produce section where we happened to cross paths.  As I joyfully danced to the tunes my kids were singing and talked to them as we picked out our produce I caught their glance and overt whispers.  No amount of applied beauty products could cover whatever ugliness was in their hearts and whispers.  Granted, I couldn’t hear what they actually said, but it was clear that it had something to do with mie being the crazy lady who clearly hadn’t learned where babies come from.  I almost lost it and walked over to them to not-so-kindly tell them that I was a foster parent and ask them what THEY were doing for others on Christmas Eve.  I was furious at their audacious judgment and self-righteous indignation.  It still fires mie up.  But I controlled myself and just went on enjoying my shopping trip. 

You may have noticed a theme in the foster parenting blogosphere over the past few days.  It’s right up my alley and I pray it turns into a groundswell for community awareness for foster parenting.  Seriously, I already have the ad campaign written and if I knew how to market it (not to make money, but just to continue to spread the word) I’d do it in a heartbeat.

I’ve said it before, one of the comments I (and most foster parents for that matter) hear most frequently when we tell others about what we do is “I could never do that”.  Often times that statement is well-meaning and accompanied by many thanks and acclamations of sainthood.  Other times it’s paired with “You must be crazy”.  Yes people actually say that.

The truth with mie and apparently many others is that I am not special.  I just said yes.  Follow the embedded links and you can learn how Tammy, MamaFoster, The Wright Family, and Maggie aren’t super special either (though I love them all).  We and many other men and woman have chosen to acknowledge reality outside our homes and accept the risk that comes with providing for children who need parents.  Despite what so many tell us, we aren’t saints.  We aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  Many (though not all) of us initially began our foster care experience for less-than-altruistic intentions – we wanted to be parents and hoped fostering would give us a chance to adopt at some point.  But we’ve all come to the same conclusion.  Children, though yes they are a lot of work, are still a blessing today.  Yes there is pain involved in letting a kid go after you’ve raised them in your home for a period of time.  But it’s worth it.  We are at the point now where we can say without a shadow of a doubt WE are the blessed ones in this relationship.

Others before mie have shared some of their reality so I’ll share a glimpse of mine too.
  • I still have almost all of my Christmas decorations up in my home.  All, of course, except the tree ornaments which came of ASAP because I was dead tired of keeping the youngest (#10) from throwing them around the house and eating them.  Yes, I said eating them.  I have no idea when they’ll eventually get taken down.
  • I sent more than half of my Christmas cards out in the middle of January - and I’m not Orthodox.
  • This morning despite waking up 30 minutes early and getting out of the house 15-30 minutes earlier than usual I was still late to work.  Why?  Because after dropping off the first two kiddos at their daycare, driving the other two the extra 10 minutes to their daycare, and then walking them in to their classrooms I got back into the car to find a voicemail from the first daycare that said I had brought #10 in with only one shoe.  The honest truth?  I would have left him there with 1 shoe if it hadn’t been for their visit today.  I’m perfectly ok with being the mom who leaves their 1 year old at daycare with only 1 shoe on most days, but not on visit days.  So, I drove the long way back to their daycare because by the time I got the message I was already past the point where I could literally “turn around” and I happily delivered the lost shoe.  From the time I left my house it took mie 1 hour and 15 minutes to drive the 26 miles to work.
  • I once told one of my children to drink their spit in their mouth when they told mie they were thirsty and it earned mie quite the scowl from the other “soccer moms”.  It doesn’t matter that he’d just finished a 16 oz drink after finishing 2 chocolate milks at dinner within the past 15 minutes and I knew that this was just an attempt for him to get attention at least in part due to his RADish behavior.  I was an evil parent.
  • Last weekend when the 3rd child of the day pooped in her pants and we were at the park, I took a look to see that it was still coming out.  I simply “caught it” with a baby wipe and took it to the trashcan and let the kids finish playing.  
Like the others - though I try - I can’t prevent every injury, I don’t always talk with perfect love despite the fact it is our family rule, I’m not always patient, and sometimes I want to run away.

But the blessing we’ve received is that while many people acknowledge these “weaknesses” in themselves and use it as an excuse to not get involved, we’ve said yes anyway and that has produced refinement.  No, I’m not always patient but if you hang out with mie and my kids most days I do believe I’m more patient than many.  Why?  Because I’ve learned to be patient.  What else are you going to do with this many kids?  How else are you going to get themall home from school and fed and to bed while they’re all tired and hungry and ornery?  You have to be patient.  You have to choose love when you don’t have those natural biological feelings of love you might get when you carry a child for 9 months and then birth them.  When you go from 1 child to 3 to 1 to 2 to 3 to 2 to 4 to 2 to 4 to 2 to 4 and other than saying yes to accept a new placement you have no control over what happens to these kids you have to learn to be flexible.  And so the “singing” chaos in Target on Christmas Eve is now something you enjoy rather than an obnoxious annoyance.

And you know that even though these kids may not remember you because they were too young, you had a chance in shaping the lives of each one that comes through your home, no matter how long or short they are there, no matter if you “liked them” or not, no matter if they left your home and went straight back into the environment they came from.  You protected them and provided for them for those hours, days, weeks, and years and you hope that for a lifetime they're better off because of it.

And YOU got to be a part of something like that. 

You no longer care if you will get to go to Tahiti this year or if you’ll ever get to see Stonehenge.  You don’t care if your furniture has no doors for safety reasons (sorry I’d give credit but I don’t remember who that was!) or if your homestudy says your home is decorated “simply and functionally” rather than elegantly.  You don’t care if your TV isn’t the newest model and if, indeed, it has a horizontal blue line across the bottom.  You’re grateful for - of all things - a washing machine that doesn’t pour water all over the place because you are simultaneously potty training, managing a stomach bug, and dealing with mounds of mud from where grass used to be but you haven’t had a chance to replant yet and doing that with 4 kids and no washing machine proves challenging.

You care about lives.  You say yes to almost any placement because you know deep in your heart that these lives of kids you’ve never met are worth it and because you said yes you’ll be blessed immeasurably – definitely not with material gain despite the fact we’re reminded “some people do it for the money” on the news or documentaries, but blessed with things money can’t buy.  Memories and life lessons not easily learned elsewhere.  You’re blessed knowing that if you’re granted the chance to live to be grey sitting on a front porch rocker you will look back and know that you are a better person than you would have been and your life experiences were the important ones.  You will have never wasted a moment on something fleeting – kids don’t give you that chance J

So how does this tie into my post yesterday about donations?  Because some people may truly not be called to be foster or adoptive parents.  Though I think more people are being called that ignore said call, there are some who are not supposed to foster.  And because there are some that are called and yet despite everything I could ever tell you about how blessed I am for saying yes you still will choose to say “I couldn’t do it”.  For all of you who for one reason or another choose not to foster – you can still get involved.  Very clearly – help those of us who’ve already said yes.  Take your turn to say yes by helping those of us who do.

Some have suggested you provide meals.  Great idea.  Typically though new parents will get meals from friends and family, foster parents rarely get that same type of support when they have a new placement even though they often will add 2 or 3 children to their home at a time. 

Here’s another idea.  Find safe kids things.  Clean them and collect them.  Heck – just collect them because we’ll clean them anyway, we’re used to it.  Then find a foster parent who needs something.  We almost always could find use for something or, if we can’t in our home we will find another foster parent or even a birth parent who is really working their plan who needs these things and we’ll make a way to get it there.  Here are suggestions:
·         Beds – cribs, pack n plays, toddler beds, twin beds, bunk beds, futons, anything.  And for that matter – bedding sets.
·         Pack n’ plays, swings, car seats (not expired), booster seats, strollers, etc.  Even if we have one trust mie we can use another.  Example – in our family we have 7 car seats.  That’s because different kids need different sizes.  And still, with that arrangement, we sometimes have to drive 50 extra miles in a day to switch cars so that we can manage pick-up and drop off because we don’t have enough car seats for the less-used car.  And 2 are expiring later this year so we’ll have to buy more.  That means if nothing else changes in our family we’re short at least 4 car seats this year.  If nothing else changes, and that's not likely.
·         Booster seats, sippy cups, kids utensils and dinnerwear, bibs, towels, washcloths, bath toys, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
·         Toys – of all ages, types, and sizes, indoor and outdoor (no trampolines, door-jam jumpers, or walkers).  Because we care more that our kids can play with stuff than whether it clutters our house.
·         Stuffed animals or cuddle blankets – hand made knitted or crocheted are wonderful tokens to say “you are special” to a kid in need.  My mom once knitted #7 a beanie because she’d done it for Logan.  Oh my how he loved that thing.  It showed him he was important to someone.  Think about it – there are little kids who don’t know they are important and frequently before they come to our homes they aren’t important to anyone.  Are they important to you?
·         Clothes – seriously we can use all weather, all sizes, etc.

On that note – I have a dream of setting up a closet for local foster parents.  We have something provided by the county but it has to be new stuff and obviously you can only get a little here and there.  Many foster parents have higher income levels and don't qualify for additional support set aside for those below the poverty line.  With that in mind, I want to set up a supply for my friends and family who foster so that when they have a new placement they can raid the closet for a full wardrobe.  So far I’m set for girls size 18mo - 3T and boys sizes 2T to 4T, but if I could get that “set” for babies (girl and boys, size 0-12 months) and girls 4T-5/6 and boys 5/6, I’d be able to really serve this population who volunteers their homes, hearts, and wallets to help these kids who need a home. 

Many times kids grow out of things and parents will have a yard sale and donate the leftovers.  Consider finding a foster parent to donate to.  Sometimes people see a good deal at the store and want to buy it but don’t need it themselves – buy it for a foster parent.  Earn a free gallon of milk with grocery store rewards points?  Just drop it off at your local foster or adoptive parents home – I’m sure they could use it or again they’ll find someone who will.  Buy a lot of clothes off ebay – pick up a playset and deliver it from Craigslist – see a dresser on the side of the road pick it up and bring it over.  We can use it.  I promise.  And though it may not match our décor – we’ll make it work.  We’re great at that.

Don’t have any money?  Come do our laundry one day – or play with our kids while we mop the floor.  Let us take a nap when we’re sick.  Take them to the park so we can plan meals for a week.  Bring your own kids over to play – trust mie, one or several more won’t bother us at all if it means we have the chance to get something else done around the house.  Offer to come with us when we go grocery shopping – it really helps to have someone stay with the cart and other kids when one of the kids has to go to the bathroom – NOW.  Offer to wash our car or the windows or clean our showers because seriously that stuff doesn’t get done nearly as often as it needs to.

It really doesn’t matter what you do – if you can’t or won’t foster/adopt yourselves, if you really care but would say “I don’t think I could do that”- first rethink it, maybe you can – I’d say try it yourself you might be surprised.  We were.  Second – reach out and do something to help us – whatever you do it will be helpful AND it will encourage us and rejuvenate us so that we can keep going.  I’ve had 10 kids in 18 months in addition to my own biological son.  Think about your circle of friends – how many of them have added 10 kids and lost 7 in the past 2 years?  I’m not looking for credit – I’ve already explained I’ve been paid in full.  My point is this – if you know those who’ve experienced something in the past 2 years and you’ve felt the call to help them out – try not to ignore the need for those in the community, first of all the kids and second those who don’t have to and yet still reach out and open their homes and lives to the risk of pain in order to help those kids in need. 

We are extremely grateful to everyone who recognizes the effort we make and even more so decides to join us on the journey.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Moolah Monday - Donations

(This is part 1 of 2)

Our budget has been stretched pretty thin since we adopted Summer.  In one day our budget became about $1600 lower than it had been before.  This one day came only 14 days after our budget had taken a separate $1400 hit.  Add that up and it's a grand total of $3000 less to spend each month.  No wonder we're feeling the pinch!

Thankfully God continues to provide for us and in reality this $3000 has come entirely from our additional spending or saving money.  In all honesty, it makes the frugal momma in mie sick that we didn't even think about the fact that we were spending THAT much money each month that we obviously didn't need.  Without it, we were still able to spend plenty on Christmas and we're still making it during our most challenging financial months of the year (January & February).  Let mie tell you, our financial hearts have been taught a lesson in being responsible with our finances.

Due to our limited resources we've been less able to spend on things we'd previously said we "needed", including a full wardrobe for #9.  She's a bit larger than the average 3-year-old and seeing as how this is both the oldest (and largest) girl we've had we're less prepared with clothes that fit her.  She didn't come with many that fit to begin with - her existing wardrobe apparently was made up from anything from 18 months to size 8 - I think I salvaged 2 pairs of PJs (one slightly torn), 1 pair of underwear, 1 pair of pants (that were slightly too short), and 2 shirts.  That's all the girl had that fit.  After going through my stockpile of clothes I was pleased to find a few more size 3s (good for Summer), some size 4s, and 1 or 2 size 5s.  Most of the size 4s were too small but some were suitable.  Other than that this little girl was in serious need of clothes that fit!

When she came I went out and spent about $100 on things we needed, both for her and her brother.  $50 of that came from a gift from a family member for Summer's adoption.  In that loot I was able to score some leggings and turtlenecks along with some sweatsuit sets in her size.  This left her with about 5-6 outfits that could be worn regularly.

(Then my washer went out...seriously not convenient timing...it challenged my creativity to keep her clothed well!)

Last week at church Summer's teacher stopped us several times to say that she had some clothes for us.  A family  member of hers was going to give them away to a charitable foundation but she pleaded to give them to someone at church.  She thought of our dear Summer.  This wonderful woman thought of us when she had plenty to share.  She had no idea how much she was helping out.

Look at all those clothes.  If you can't see very well, those are 6 stacks of girls' clothes - each stack is 8-12 pieces high.  Most of them are size 3T, which is perfect for Summer as she grows into them this spring and summer.  Some were size 2T, which I can add to my 2T collection for future kiddos.  Then there were several 4T and 5T items as well.  The stack in the top right corner is all 4T and 5T shirts - I had #9 try them all on and you should have seen her light up.  That green one on top is especially cute and she beamed when she wore it to church on Sunday.  After letting the girls try on a few pieces I went in and sorted through their existing stuff and put things away either in their drawers (to be used now) or in tubs (to be used in the future).

Now we are perfectly set for clothes for Summer until she's in 4T.  When we get to 4T we probably need some more items, but we have a really good start.  #9 has a great start on her 5T wardrobe and many of the 4T stuff will do for now.  We are so blessed.

Come back tomorrow for part 2 of 2 - Tuesday's Tears - Donations

Friday, January 13, 2012

Foster Parent Friday - Our Fostering Traditions

I'm still sick today - in fact I stayed home from work because I thought it would be better not to spread the germs.  And I have a book or two to read for work so I'm going to curl up in bed and try to get better.  That's my plan anyway.

In honor of my congested brain, I thought I'd share with you some of the things we do for our kiddos to help honor their place in our family - to help them feel like they belong.

Piggies & Paws Art
If you haven't seen this before, you really need to check it out.  My cousin is a Piggies & Paws artist and she introduced us to the concept.  As we tried to figure out how to remember each of our kiddos in a memorable yet cost-effective way, the service she provided us became a clear winner.  (Click on the image for more information or you can Contact Mie if I can help answer questions).  The business operates much like other home business where they hold home parties, called galleries, generally at a "host's" home, where the artist displays sample artwork and guests of the host come and go with their children (or whomever will be printed).  Guests will find a design from samples the artist provides and once ready the artist will take the hand and/or footprint of the child (typically) who will be "printed".  There are designs using one or two handprints, one or two footprints, or a combination of each.  They have designs that are for everyday occasions or scenes, special events (like birthdays), and for holidays or seasonal occasions.  If you go to the website you'll be able to see how many different types of designs you can choose from.  Of course you can't see the designs; they want to make sure no one copies and makes their own.  Oh how I wish I could ethically share mine with you on this blog because they are so creative and my cousin does such a great job making them!  I have a special scrapbook where I keep the ones from my foster children, but I have several others from Logan and Summer that I've had done over the years (don't want them left out each time I get one for a new foster kid!) and those are displayed proudly in our home, at my desk at work, and in my husband's garage (that one is a power drill from my son's foot!).  

Though I can't show you the designs I've received, I think I can tell you what I've chosen.  What I do is look through the books and try to find a design that reminds mie of the child's personality or something that has happened while in my care.  Here's what we chose for each of our kids:
  1. A Summer/Beach/Girly Sandal - She was our first girl and this fit her personality perfectly
  2. A Baseball & Glove - He loved to play catch and ball was one of his first words
  3. A Boy in a Sleeping Bag - One thing that amazed us about this kiddo was how he LOVED to sleep and he was so good at it!
  4. I have two for her - I know one was a ladybug and that is the one in our memory book.  I just looked and saw the other was a fairy, which I'd forgotten.  Amazing since we just decorated her room with fairies and this will be perfect to hang on the wall.
  5. A Caterpillar - it was feminine and cute and lots of shoes - this one was hard because we had her less than 2 weeks before I had to pick her design before she went home and we didn't know her very well at that point.  This worked though because she had a thing for shoes!
  6. A butterfly - our only little baby, the butterfly was perfect because it represented her daintiness and overall cuteness.
  7. A motorcycle - perfect for our little rock star wild-man.  
  8. A poodle - we also chose the designs for #7 & #8 shortly after they arrived because there was a gallery at a convenient time, but by this time we already knew #8 was a bit delicate like the poodle design.
We haven't had #9 and #10 printed yet but I look forward to the day I take them to get theirs done as well.

Pillow Pets
Our son Logan got a Pillow Pet when he was about a year old - they were just starting to come out and were only at the fairs.  We were in LA at the LA County Fair while visiting family and he was getting grumpy but this thing became his pal.  At that time there were only a handful of animals and his was the dog.  At some point we decided Summer (then #4) one and I desperately wanted to get her a ladybug.  She is my little ladybug and it seemed to fit her perfectly.  At that time #3 was going home and so we didn't get him one.  #5 & #6 weren't with us long enough to give us a chance to get them one.  After #7 & #8 were with us for a while we decided to get one for each of them as well.  It's not something we make a huge deal about - we don't say things like "you have to be with us longer to get one" or anything like that - but when we do end up getting them one it becomes "Logan & Summer have one, do you want to get one too like them?" and it's kind of a bonding experience.  Before they have one we don't point out that they don't have one.  #7 got a dog like Logan, in fact Logan got a new one because #7 poked little tiny holes in Logan's so he got the one with the holes in it.  #8 got a pink pig.  Pretty soon it will be time to get one for #9 & #10 - we'll see when it feels like the right time (to us and the budget - they are $19.99 each).

Glow Worm
I bought Logan a glow worm sometime between his 1st and 2nd birthdays.  I had a glow worm growing up and I remember how much I loved that thing - so Logan needed one too :)  He still loves it.  At some point #3 got to borrow it from Logan, but when #4 joined us it was clear she needed her own.  She got one for Christmas or her birthday the first year she was with us - a pink one.  These are the only two kiddos who've received a Glow Worm.  This falls 3rd in order of what we give out to our kiddos and we haven't had too many who have stayed long enough to get to the point of getting a glow worm.  Again, it's not something where we have a hard and fast rule to get one that we point out to the kids as a differentiating factor, but it's more used as a celebration for being part of our family - I guess this one can be used as something that we get symbolically at the point the child either becomes legally-free or at the point where the case turns in that direction, toward TPR and adoption with us.

This tradition is saved to celebrate bringing home our forever children and again was rooted in something we did with Logan.  The day Logan came home from the hospital I felt the need to get out of the house.  As crazy as it was (it was seriously hours from when we got home and he was 2 days old!), I guess I just had a hard time adjusting to the need to rest and stay at home enjoying our new little boy.  We built him a policeman bear that we immediately put up on the shelf for safekeeping.  The day we adopted Summer, after court was done and we'd celebrated by going out to breakfast, we made sure to make a trip back to Build-A-Bear to celebrate the day we took her home as our forever child.  My mom and sister were there, just like they were when Logan got his.  This time though, unlike with Logan's bear, Summer was able to participate in the process, picking out clothes she liked and the bear she liked with just a little help from her mommy and daddy.  Since Logan wasn't able to participate in picking out his original forever bear, he was able to make a friend too that day - he made an army bear with full camoflauge.  Apparently he loves that bear because he wrote about it in his journal for school.  Too cute.  Maybe we'll continue the tradition and for any other adoptions that happen we'll let all kids build a new bear to celebrate the building of our family...we'll see because that would be beary very expensive!

So, there you have it, the things we do to celebrate the various stages of kids as they join our home and family.  I love having these traditions because they really do serve as opportunities and symbols of how they belong in our family, foster or forever.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thankful Thursday - God's Protection

I had planned to write today about being thankful for marriage, particularly ours.  That will have to wait however as I'm not feeling well and don't have the brain power today to really write what I needed to write.

That's just fine - God provided mie with something else to be thankful for today.

Today I am thankful for God's protection.  Specifically, I'm thankful for how he cares for "my" children when they aren't around mie.  The reality is that no mom, especially mom's with multiple children, can be with all of their children every second of the day.  Any experienced mom realizes that it only takes a second for a child to disappear and get into something dangerous no matter how skilled the parent and how well the home is child-proofed.

Crawling infants and toddlers are especially challenging I've found.  They have a very short attention span, want to put everything in their mouth, have very little self-control, and yet aren't capable of getting themselves out of troubling situations once they've found them - they are typically blissfully unaware of the crazy danger that exists in this world.  And they move fast.

Miss Summer fits this description perfectly.  I love that girl so much - she is so full of life.  That spunk keeps us constantly on our toes.  She so desperately wants to hang out with #9 and Logan, the big kids, and usually she can hold her own but she lacks the ability to set her own boundaries to keep herself safe like the other two do. She'll get there in time but still needs nearly constant supervision.  I'm not complaining - this is a post of gratitude, afterall.

Case in point, we lost her twice yesterday at church.  As we were handing off #10 to his childcare room she managed to sneak off.  I had my back turned for all of 30 seconds and she had shimmied her way out of the stroller and ran out of sight.  Thankfully as I started to panic a friend pointed out she was only 20 feet away in the main play area, safe and sound.  The campus is large and she could have been anywhere.  Later when we were picking up the kids she managed to escape in the few seconds it took mie to pick-up #10.  This time she had run to say hello to one of our good friends who graciously kept an eye on her until we found her.

As if those weren't bad enough, later we had a crisis.

After church my husband went out of his way to get mie dinner.  (He did this because he ordered his own dinner as I sat next to him, completely forgetting to get mie something so I went hungry).  This means our usual 20 minute trip home probably lasted about 35.  The kids were tired.  They were mostly quiet, except for #9's occasional tattling on Summer, at least once for taking her ponytail holders out.

Summer does this a lot.  In fact, though it's gotten better it's almost every time she's alone in her carseat.  She does it at naptime too.  Usually her hair ties end up around her wrist and we've learned now that she needs the larger, softer "mini-scrunchy" types so that she doesn't hurt her wrists.  Apparently she does this at school too because she almost always comes home without the bows or hair ties we sent her in.  They're always very good at putting her hair back up in some cute fashion, but it's always with those tiny clear thin rubber bands - the kind I'd think of when you do thin braids.

When we got home last night it was late so we did a mad dash to get the three youngest kiddos to bed.  I picked up Summer and hugged her and kissed her then sent her upstairs to her dad to get her PJs on while I waited for #9 to use the restroom first.  Before I put her down she wanted mie to kiss her hands.  I kissed the left one then she brought up the right one and though it was dark I could tell her skin looked funny.  It didn't feel funny so I assumed she'd played with chalk or finger paint or something at church.  She didn't seem abnormal otherwise so I put her down and sent her upstairs where my husband was waiting to put her PJs on.

Next thing I know he is freaking out.

On one hand I wish I had taken a picture so I could show you how bad it was - I'd never seen something like it before - but of course it was an emergency so I didn't run down to get the camera before fixing her.

Her hand was discolored (an understatement).  And freezing cold.  She had tied one of those darn things ties around her wrist and it completely cut the circulation of.  Her hand looked like it was freshly dead - dark purple (almost black), swollen.  I tried to find a similar picture online but couldn't find anything like it and I wasn't about to start searching for pictures of dead babies just to show you.  But it was bad.  Very bad.

My husband was panicked.  He immediately removed the band and because it was still so bad he thought there must be another one.  I rubbed her hand vigorously to restore the circulation, and that is how I noticed how cold her hand was.  Cold and swollen.  And dark, dark purple.

Thankfully her hand regained normal color after a few minutes.  She cried after I started rubbing her hand - I'm sure it hurt at that point.  We know her hair was up when we put her in the car and it was probably 15 minutes into the car ride before #9 told us she had taken her hair out.  That means she had probably had her circulation cut off for the remainder of the car ride (20 minutes) and no more than 5 at home before we caught it.  That's 25 minutes.  She didn't make a peep in the car.  She didn't cry or in anyway indicate she had a problem when we were at home.  If we had put her to bed by the light of her nightlight last night (which we did for #10) we wouldn't have seen it for who knows how long.

But she is ok.  She is safe.  There wasn't any appearance of long-term damage last night or this morning.

These things happen.  Unless I never put her hair up or I always take her hair out when we get in the car, just to put it back up when we get to our destination, there's nothing I could have done to prevent the situation or react to it any more quickly.  As parents we can be the most vigilant, observant, helicopter-style parents out there and we still will face times where we can't save our kids from the dangers in this world.

I still will continue to try to prevent any danger from meeting up with my children, no matter how much they inadvertently search it out, but I'm grateful we have a God who is much more capable than I am at being omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.  God protected her when we couldn't, and today I'm reminded of being thankful for his protection.