Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Dodgeball

Oh. My. Word.

Last Friday our fosters went home.  I have a post waiting about that but apparently you can't post pictures to Blogger from an iPad (that I could figure out) so I'm waiting on that - the pictures are necessary.  I hope they are doing well.  I haven't heard otherwise and I'm assuming they're having a blast.

So are we.  

I've been trying to take advantage of all the stuff that we either couldn't do or I couldn't really attempt having a 1, 2, and 3 year old - the 5 year old usually does that kind of stuff with his cousins nearby and so we have been missing out.  

One such thing is dodgeball.  You read that right...all ages, co-ed, organized dodgeball.  My sister and her family have been going regularly for a few months and have really talked it up but knowing that my littles couldn't participate and my hubby wouldn't be able to go it didn't seem worth it to go just to watch my son play with his cousins, especially because the watching I'd have been doing would have been with my littles, not him.  But now that it's only my son and daughter, and my mom was in town, I was happy to accept the invitation to go play dodgeball on a Saturday afternoon.  Couldn't hurt right?

(Actually, just so you know, yes, it can hurt, both when you get hit and after the games - who knew it took so many muscles that were out of shape to play dodgeball?)

We played match after match of dodgeball from 4:30 until about 7pm.  CRAZY.  Turns out, I'm pretty good at it and I had SO much fun!!!  Logan appeared to be the youngest on the field (court?) by far but he held his own pretty well (in part because people didn't target the little kids directly - they weren't really a threat).  He got hit in the face and then twice in the "tenders", in a row, and he held it together like a champ.  After the first match he would run around the court and try his hardest to throw the balls at the other team.  When his strength and hand size get up there a little bit he'll be a huge force to be reckoned with for sure!  He was even last man standing a couple times which I'm sure you could imagine just made him super proud of himself.  It was also a great opportunity to teach him to be a man of integrity by not cheating and going out when he got hit.  He did a great job.

It really was a blast and I highly recommend it.  If you are in the area, check out Dallas Dodgeball for more information.  If you're not in the Big D, try googling Dodgeball for your area - apparently there are leagues and tournaments all around.  Clearly I'm not cool enough to know these things on my own so a big shout out to Auntie Diane for inviting us to something so crazy fun! (And props to my mom who handled my sister's baby, toddler, and Summer for the whole time while we played).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday's Tears - Tied Tubes

A year ago this week my daughter's brother was born.  This was hard.  Extremely hard.  For the most part we've learned to accept what happened - what else can we do.  We wish our little guy a happy happy first birthday from far, far away.

I suppose it's in this light that I received a strange phone call.

Mie: "Hi, how are you?"
Someone else: "Hi it's (insert)"
Mie: "Sure hi!  How are you?"
Someone else: "I'm ok.  I got my tubes tied today."
Mie: "Oh.  How do you feel about that?"
Someone else: "I feel good about getting it done but it doesn't feel good (the body)".
Mie: "Sure, I understand".

Mind you - I haven't spoken to this person on the phone in nearly 8 months.  This is the first conversation I've had since then aside from a few brief texts.  

I'm not exaggerating, this is nearly verbatim.

Someone at work today asked mie if I plan on having any more (biological) children.  I said I didn't really plan on it but I don't think about it much, if it happens it happens and I hope it does but I don't really count on it.  That's the truth.

The phone call I received today kind of felt like a separate instance of infertility (or third, I suppose).  My husband and I can't conceive.  Our daughter's brother is being raised by another family.  Now the other parents who may have birthed potential siblings for our children can no longer conceive either.  Secretly, yes, I'd hoped one day my children would have a biological sibling, if not both of them then at least one of them (raised in our home).  I suppose that isn't going to happen.

I really don't think about having more biological children often but when things like this come up it rips a little bit of the scab so that it never really has a chance to heal into a complete scar, calloused and hardened.

I suppose I don't really want to be calloused and hardened though.

So here's to God keeping us on our toes.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Moolah Monday - 2011 Tax Resolution

Finally we have resolution.

I think it was a day or two after we received the last notice that we noticed a large deposit into our bank account that was unexpected.  It was from the IRS.  Ta-Da!

It was a bit disconcerting though - it was only for $2400 or so - not the full $4300 that we were expecting.  Not having any documentation at that point we figured they had made some other calculation than we had and adjusted our final refund.  Frankly, we didn't care and were happy to have that amount and some closure.

A few days later we received not one but two letters in the mail (one to each of us) explaining that we were going to receive the $2400.  Each enveloped was stuffed with another envelope to be used for payment and instructions to make a payment, if we wished to do so.  If the government wanted to save money I could think of at least a few ways to do it starting with not sending envelopes for payment to people who have already received a refund through electronic payment, or, even better not sending 2 in seperately addressed mailings.  Just sayin'

The day we received the letter(s) from the IRS we received a phone call from the agency working on our audit on our behalf.  (during dinner).  They wanted to let us know they received the communication from the IRS about our refund (with payment envelopes perhaps?).  We confirmed we received it as well.  They said they'd found an error in the IRS calculations.

(You'd think after all this time spent auditing they would have it right by now).

We were correct after all and the agency took it upon themselves to notify the IRS (again) of the correct amount and the IRS at that point had committed to fixing it and giving us the full refund that was due to us, as submitted in March.

Last week we received another set of notices in the mail from the IRS (complete with payment envelopes...) that said they were making the correction.  I don't know if the money has hit our account yet - I haven't checked personally but I will.

That day we also received a note from someone affiliated with the IRS saying we would be asked to complete a survey on how well the IRS handled our audit.  A separate note to tell us another note would be coming....

I'll be watching for that.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thankful Thursday - The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth is my all-time favorite movie.

As Small Town Joy would put it - Don't hate.

I watched this movie every time I went to my grandmother's house when I was growing up.  I don't know how or why this pattern started but I'm confident I watched that movie 90% of the time.  The other 10% we watched something chosen by another cousin like Howard the Duck.  Strange choices thinking back. I don't think there was a single Disney movie for us to choose from.  Hmmm...

For this reason I have fond memories of this movie.  I can't watch it without singing every song and reciting most of the lines.  I realized recently that doing so probably makes the experience that much less-enjoyable for those around mie who've I've conned into sitting still to "enjoy" the movie with mie so I'm trying not to recite EVERY line but I found it's compulsive.

Last night our kiddos had an overnight visit, the last before reunification scheduled tomorrow, so I wanted to take the time to reconnect with Logan.  My my mom is in town and he really wanted to watch a movie as a family (minus Summer who had fallen asleep in the car on the way home from dinner).  I suggested The Wizard of Oz, knowing it is my mom's favorite and though I think he's seen it at school I've never watched it with Logan and had been thinking about it earlier in the week.  I knew I didn't have that movie so I then suggested the Labyrinth.  Logan jumped all over it and mom (a.k.a. Grandma Mom - that's what the kids call her) shocked mie by throwing out that she'd never seen the movie.

Say what?

With as many times as I had seen it at her mom's house I would have thought she would have at least seen SOME of it.  Turns out I was wrong and she'd never seen a bit of it.  I'm sure she took the time that I was glued to the tv to do more adult socializing or just sitting kid-free for a bit.  Can't blame her.

So last night we sat down and watched the movie.  I tried desperately to not recite the words.  I failed.  I didn't try to stop singing the songs because, well, that's what you do with a musically-oriented film right?  I only worked through half the movie (despite my dirty house) - I promised #9 I'd make her some bows from Dora ribbon she picked out at the store the other night.  Logan wanted to help mie at some point so I let him help mie make one for #9 and then one for Summer because he insisted she needed a new one too.  He only got burned by the hot glue gun once (!) and it was so small it didn't even leave a mark.  (Just so you know, I always wait until the little kids go to bed before doing things with the hot glue gun or the iron so there are no accidental injuries).

We had fun.

Promises were fulfilled.

My mom has now seen the Labyrinth - I'm sure that was on her bucket list, complete with the little extra tidbits I've picked up on over the years like the "hidden" foul language.  Good times.

I now know my mom enjoys David Bowie music (but not makeup).

The laundry is folded and still sitting on the coffee table.

Some dishes are done but more are still in the sink.

I'm thankful for the memories I have with this movie and for the ability to share new ones with my family.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Working Mama Wednesday - The New Office

It took about 5 weeks after I started my new job (which, by the way, was about 6 weeks after I accepted the position) to get my new office.  During the month of June, primarily, I was working back and forth between where my team was located on one floor and where my temporary office was located on a completely different floor.  Once my office was ready it took another week to get my stuff moved by the movers - that stuff included my files, books, office supplies, food stash, and my phone with my phone extension attached.  It was a long wait.

Once all my stuff arrived I was so unbelievably busy, literally I didn't eat for 2 or 3 days, I didn't have time to move in.  That left me with a new office, 7 boxes, and 1 crate sitting in my office waiting for me to unpack for nearly a week.  I made slow progress, maybe a box or so a day, partly because I was busy and partly because I now have a new office setup and had to think about how I wanted things organized.

This meant I wasn't organized.  I had have papers all over the place, trinkets that are unorganized, and just piles of stuff laying around.  I did, however, get my pictures up as quick as possible along with the little notes from my son and husband I mentioned here.  Those little things are so important to me.

With the addition of the pictures people are now stopping by to mention how much my office is getting put together and how it feels a bit more like home.  

To which, seeing all the piles of unorganized crap, I affirm that yes, indeed, this is what home looks like :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday’s Tears – Sending Kiddos Home

We finally have a date for our current foster kiddos to go home.  After one more transition visit (overnight) they will come home to us one last time before leaving Friday morning.  This brings us really mixed feelings.

Let me point out that generally we are excited about this transition.  Very excited.  It’s always nice to see the system work in that the children get to go back home to their mother (or father, or whomever they were removed from).  It’s nice to know that people can change and get 2nd (or 3rd, or 4th…) chances in life (sometimes).

Transitions like this bring so much possibility with what could be for our family.  As we go down to 2 kids I see even more outings that are easier to manage.  I want to take my kids to see the newest Ice Age movie and can only imagine how much easier it will be with my 2 than the current 4.  I’m looking forward to cleaning and organizing my house, having more cuddle time with my 2 forever kiddos, and maybe a few later-night ice cream or pool parties.  Maybe pulling out the tent and having a sleepover with them.  These are things that either can’t be done with fosters or are very difficult to manage when you have a bigger family.  My kids get along very well so I look forward to them playing together and building a closer bond as the other playmates leave.  And though the kids I have are generally good kids there are certain behaviors and challenges with these kiddos I will not miss at all as they leave.  Our house will be much less screamy.  My back will be less strained.  These are all the benefits of losing them from our home but we also look forward to the way our family can develop after they leave.  When will our next call be?  What type of placement will it be?  How many?  What ages?  What gender?  There are countless possible answers to those questions to daydream about.  There will be one specific answer – our next placement.  That is all very exciting.

Typically as transitions near my husband and I relish in the benefits of children leaving.  If you hung around us much you might think that we’re cold and heartless, that we don’t love the children, that we won’t miss them, that we won’t be saddened at all.  This is far from the truth.  We will miss “our” kids – afterall they have been “ours” now for more than ½ a year.  We will wonder what will happen with them.  Though we know they will be loved we wonder how the transition back home, and all the ideals they have in their head, will affect them.  Given our history, we wonder if they will stay where they are going.  This time we wonder how this will all affect our daughter as it is the first transition after her adoption and where she is old enough to realize the difference between permanency in the home and transient relationships (daycare) and yet not old enough to fully understand what is happening or be able to verbalize what she’s going through.  We don’t worry quite as much about our son as this is old hat to him but we do worry about how this all “becoming old hat” will affect him and what we can do to minimize the hurt he feels as his brothers and sisters come and go.  

As we drove to the store last night, after an extended visit, #9 sang mie this song (she likes to sing):

“I’m going to leave you…I’m not coming back…I’m not going to be in your family anymore…I’m not going to miss you”.  Then she laughed. 

Before I say how I feel first let me say I know this is confusing times for her and is expected from any child being tossed from home to home.  These are big feelings for a little one to process and express.  Within the ride to and from the store she also mentioned how I shouldn’t cry (I wasn’t) when she goes even if I miss her because she’ll come back after her visit – “don’t be sad mommy”, about how she had “THIS MANY” (2 fingers) families and how we’re her family and her birth family is her family, and how she isn’t leaving.  She can talk a lot J So she’s confused and probably dealing with mixed feelings and some fear about the uncertainty she faces as we continue through this transition.  I don’t blame her one bit.

But it hurts to hear something like that song.  One hard part about foster care, aside from not being able to guarantee the kids are safe when they leave your home, is to know that you will always be second best.  No matter how much love you pour out, how stable your family is, or even how much “stuff” you can give the kids, there is always a high-likelihood that at some point your kids will reject you as “not the REAL family”.  Forget about those grocery store comments from strangers, when “your” kids point it out it really sucks.  You can pour out your heart into kids over and over again, you can face sleepless nights and countless court dates and appointments, your whole family can open their lives, their hearts, and their homes to welcome you in as an equal family member, and yet in the end when kiddos go home it feels as if it was all wasted because you are rejected anyway.

Of course this isn’t about mie and it’s not all wasted.  There are homes out there that aren’t good homes.  Who knows what could have happened to our kids if they weren’t with us for however long we had them.  Hopefully we helped them heal and learn to trust while they were with us.  Hopefully they had some experiences that were fun and memorable.  Ideally we planted seeds so that in time Christ’s love above all will become apparent.  We have also learned something from each of our placements about how to be better people and better parents.  As we go through transition we hold on to these truths…that we do matter and that it IS worth it…so that the momentary pain of words said (or sung in this case!) out of confusion, fear, and pain are much more manageable and bearable.  It is why we focus (and talk about) the benefits of having the children leave, so that the pain of rejection and fear of the unknown associated with being foster parents can be subdued by hope for what is to come.

Join mie in praying for #9 & #10 and their family, so that as this transition continues it is smooth and joyful, that we have wisdom to share with them to ease their fears, calm their nerves, and help them process those big feelings.  Pray too for our forever kiddos, that they are comforted as their brother and sister leave and that they find solace as we reunify as a core family.  May this be a time of celebration.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Moolah Monday - Saving While Spending

I'm writing this post for 2 reasons.  I want to show you how I can hardly make a decision that doesn't at least strongly consider frugality.  Second, I want to give you some ideas on how to use math in your favor to be frugal and/or overcome frugality.

I'm going to give you some real numbers here and some of you are going to say WAIT!  That's not frugal - that's a lot of dough.  Others are going to say "I spend WAY more than that".  The amount isn't so much the point as is the mindset.  I remember learning early on in my life that there will always be more to buy and you will always be able to feel like you don't have enough, if you let it.  In other words - the more you make the more you spend.  To combat this - try thinking in percentages or hours worked.  In other words, if you bought lunch today, that may have cost $5.  If you make $5 an hour, that's worth 1 hour of work!  Or, if you make $40 per day, that's worth 12.5% of your daily gross income.  I use this technique with older kids who ask me for things as a way to explain to them how much things cost and the importance of understanding how wage works.  I use minimum wage as an example (and stress the importance of working hard to make more than minimum wage) and then explain that the (insert football, soda, etc.) that they want to buy would mean they'd have to work 2 hours (or whatever) to gives them another perspective.

(It gives us one too if we think about it that way).

So here are my two examples of how I think about frugality and work it into our spending plan.

Example 1 - Home Decoration

My home has 17 rooms.  I've lived in it for 2 years.  All of the rooms are the original beige from when it was built in 2005, except one, which was painted sage-ish green before we moved in.  Since then we've painted the kitchen (though not behind the refrigerator) and Summer's room.  Logan's room is partially painted (and has been for about a year).  That's it.  We more than doubled the sq. footage from our last home so we have several rooms that aren't "setup" at all - the office, the craft closet, the media room - and all the rest are just filled in with what we have.  I'm frugal.  According to our adoption homestudy our home is "practically decorated".  That it is.

Last night my hubby sent me to the store to buy decorations for the guest room downstairs seeing as how my mom will be visiting soon and it was looking pretty shabby.  We don't have any bedroom furniture sets in our house and this room is no exception.  When we began decorating last night it had the queen size futon my hubby's had since he was a teenager, a cheap desk from Walmart or Target my hubby bought for our old house, and Summer's nap-time pack n' play.  There were curtains left from the previous owner.  Basically it was ready for a makeover.

I'm a closet interior decorator.  I love to do it.  I'm bold with color.  I just don't get around to it much.  It takes patience.  It takes a babysitter (I just won't paint with my current set of kiddos around - too chaotic).  It takes money.

Anyway - I went shopping for 90 minutes to buy "a couple hundred dollars" of stuff to decorate.  My hubby was thinking wall decor but I knew we needed a new bedding set and curtains to really make a difference.  I shopped all of kohls.  I shopped all of Target.  (that's all that was open at 8:30pm on Sunday night).  I didn't find anything that struck me as the right quality for a low-low price.  I didn't find anything that gave me vision for the room when we were ready to paint.  I couldn't imagine buying new curtains and new bedding and wall decor and eventually new furniture.  But I wanted a relaxing escape that matched the rest of my house.  I did find two bedding sets that would work - one with a greenish hue and one with an orange/brown/burgandy/taupe color.

I decided on the orange/brown/burgandy/taupe set.  Why?  Because I knew if I bought that set I'd be able to reuse the decor from my old guest bedroom that happened to have been painted the same color orange.  I ended up buying the queen bedding set, 4 panels of curtains (one set of thermal), 4 new pillows, a new double rod curtain holder, and a wicker hamper for about $275 (including the 5% discount for using the Target debit card).  When I got home my hubby helped me fix the bed up, hang the curtains, position the hamper, and hang the mirror and 6 matching pictures that we'd already had sitting in a closet.  It still needs paint and one day a nice furniture set, but for today it is a beautifully decorated room.  I'm re-purposing the existing curtains and curtain rod to go into the dining room - the room that was painted sage green and the one I'd say is the most "done".

Example 2 - Sea World
Last weekend we vacationed in Sea World - we needed to get at least one more use of the annual pass we'd acquired through a hotel package that included free Sea World passes.  (Before I go further, yes I believe the hotel rate was inflated at least a little to accommodate the tickets).  In any case - last year we were able to go to Sea World 2x for "free" but I felt we needed to use them again to make it worth it.  So I found a buy 2 get one free hotel deal (at the same hotel as last year) so we could spend a couple more days at the park.

Entry to Sea World was "free" so we added a few extras.  We ate breakfast with the Sesame Street characters day 1.  Day 2 we rented a cabana.  This was the BEST DEAL EVER!  Here's how it worked:

For $199 you got the following:
-4 Sea World Towels ($40)
-1 bottle of sunscreen ($10)
-2 Large pizzas ($40)
-8 bottles of water ($16)
-8 bottles of soda ($16)
-8 bags of chips ($16)
-4 Ice Cream Bars ($10)
-4 Unlimited Quick Queue passes (jump to the front of the line on rides, all day) - ($140)
-Locker Rental (in the cabana, private locker with refrigerator and freezer) - $10

Of course with all that you also got all day use of the cabana which a great place to put our stuff, gave our kids a place to nap in the park, gave us a private place to eat where our kids could be crazy (or not), and had a ceiling fan.  We also had a private visit from the characters with plenty of time for interaction and pictures.  It was a special treat for the kids.  It was a huge blessing for us.

So, from my estimation with just the tangible items the cabana rental was worth $298 if we purchased things separately.  It was listed for $199.  We paid $160 - you got a 20% discount if you were an annual pass holder, which we were, because we got "free" tickets from our hotel room last year.

Yes, $160 is a lot of money and we could have really not spent anything.  That being said we learned last year that investing in the Quick Queue passes was a huge blessing for a family like ours because of the ages of our kids.  The ones big enough are not really patient enough to wait in lines but I do want them to learn they have to delay gratification.  The bigger help is for the parent staying off with the kiddos not big enough to ride who have to sit there in the stroller just waiting - if they had to do that for an hour or more waiting for their brother and sister to get off the ride it would really suck, especially because we go in the summer when it's really hot.  Either that or we would have to have one parent go off and do a "little kid thing" with the little kids and one go off and do the "big kid thing" with the big kids.  Our family spends enough time apart so it is worth it to us to spend the $140 and we'd planned on it, which meant it cost us $20 for everything else.  One meal for 6 could have easily cost $20 even if we'd brought it into the park or left it in our car so we could have a picnic.  We could have made the food they gave us last all day - due to a storm we chose to buy dinner and get out of the rain (which of course we could have done in the cabana too) - so that means everything else was "free".

That's how I look at it - I'll happily spend money on something, if I have it to spend, if I can see the value in the purchase.  Alternatively, I have a hard time spending money just to spend it or on luxuries like home decorating or cabana comfort.

Just a little glimpse into my head :)

Friday, July 06, 2012

Foster Parent Fridays - Is there such thing as successful reunification?

Q: Is there such thing as successful reunification?

A: I'm sitting here asking myself this - whether people who have their kids removed can actually get things together enough to get their kids back and keep them.

(As a side note, you'll notice a few of my blog features are down including the one about my kids.  I may put that back up soon.  I have also taken down several blog posts.  This is temporary.  I have had a "security breach" with a birth parent who became antsy to know more about mie and did some digging to find my facebook.  Some things were taken out of context and she was offended.  I quickly made my facebook private but I don't know whether or not the link to my blog was noticed.  Therefore, I took a few more things off here not because I'm ashamed of what I posted or that I think I violated some rule but because I don't think it will be helpful for HER if she sees some things on here.  So, for the time being, I have reverted a few posts).

If you could see the page that has my kiddos on it (by number of arrival and general info of their case) you would see we've had 10 kiddos, 1 of whom was adopted and 7 of whom "went home".  The first two kiddos went to be with a relative for the duration of the case and it was thought the relative would end up adopting.  The 3rd child reunified with his parents in what seemed to be a successful reunification.  The 4th we adopted.  The 5th and 6th we only had for 2 weeks but it was expected they would be adopted at the end of their case.  The 7th and 8th were reunified last October.

To date, #7 & #8 were the only ones with a successful reunification.  #1 & #2 was technically a reunification since the relatives who took them in had them before removal.  1 year after they went "home" we were notified that relatives could not afford to care for them and they were going to be put up for adoption.  #3 only lasted in his "successful reunification" for about 8 weeks before we got the call to take him back - he went to live permanently with a grandparent.  #4 was adopted by us - no reunification possible.  I don't know what happened to 5 & 6.

Frankly, I was surprised that we hadn't received a call about 7 & 8 earlier this year.  One of the kiddos was a RADlet and though all parents involved loved the children it just didn't appear to me that they'd be able to handle the RAD with the various emotional challenges the parents faced.  Nevertheless, as of January or February I was in communication with mom every couple weeks or so and we'd planned to meet up to get the kids together.  For a variety of reasons including my schedule that didn't happen and I've been meaning to give her a call (or text, since that's what I did).  I was beginning to think that I was wrong.

I wasn't.

I got an email last night from bio-dad of #7 asking for his shot records.  When reunification happened the kiddos went to live with mom and step-dad/bio-dad to #8 so I was surprised that bio dad #7 was asking for this information.  After asking a few questions and doing snooping online I found that #7 was sent to live with his dad and #8 and her dad moved out of state - mom no longer had custody of either.  There was an arrest involved.  During the return-to-monitor.  I swear to you I'd specifically heard "sometimes we send them home because our case isn't strong enough but that gives us a chance to watch them to see if they'll screw it up for themselves before the case ends".

Successful reunification it was not - not in the long run.

I hear a lot of people talk about how screwed up the system is.  So what would we say in these cases?  That its the system's fault?  That the system wasn't successful?  It depends I suppose - at the end of the day these kids are not with their mother which means both that they're not with the person who should be caring for them and they're not with the person who's unable to care for them/posed them risk.  Was this case successful then?  What does success look like in CPS cases?

I know at the end of the day I did everything I could to keep these kiddos safe while I had them.  I advocated for them.  I kept in contact with mom to help her adjust.  I left the door open with biodad long enough for him to know he could contact mie to get shot records, 9 months after they left my home.  I continue to extend the offer to help however I can to keep these kiddos safe.

I'm staring down the path of reunification for my current kiddos and with case details and my history so far I'm not sure I believe reunification will be successful.  It has nothing to do with how much the parents are or are not working their case plan or how much effort is being put in.  I just haven't seen a successful reunification yet and wonder if THIS will be the time that sticks or will I hear at some point down the road that yet again another family is left broken.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Drinking from a firehose

I bet you were wishing for a cute picture of one of my kiddos trying this feat.

Actually it's mie, here, desperately trying to not drowned.  Here's what I'm going through in the next week:

*collect 250 more responses (500 total) for my dissertation research - I've been trying for 4 weeks and got 250 - I need 250 more by monday.
*teambuilding/team kick-off for my new team at work - now that we're all together one day this week is dedicated to setting things off "right"
*which, by the way, is complicated by the fact that on Friday my department was merged with another - another previously led by someone else and which I didn't know much about until I got that department's people and responsibilities.  Both teams are very busy.
*Said change happened as I headed, with my family of 6, to spend a 4 day weekend in San Antonio at Sea World.  Super fun.  Spending the weekend (4 days at that) meant I didn't have my normal weekend to do house work including laundry, meant I was gone on the day the changes happened at work, meant I was unable to do much toward gathering more responses for my dissertation, and meant I've already missed 1 day of work this week - a week already shortened by 4th of July.
*I've been sick - nothing like having no voice at Sea World.  I lost one of my kiddos twice for a few seconds (he ran off to be with his dad) and it was terrifying not being able to scream his name or his dad's to get help.  And I've felt horrible.  I'm sure you can guess I didn't get much rest with my kiddos at Sea World.
*July 4th.  And, for that matter, events on July 3rd.
*Transition for my kiddos officially starts tomorrow with a supervised visit in the home.  Let more chaos ensue

And in the next few weeks:
*Really finish collecting my dissertation data (this includes about 10 more hours of work?)
*Get all the stuff ready to send my kiddos home (like all their toys, sort through clothes, etc.)
*My mom is coming for a visit (YAY) but also means a different schedule than usual
*Sending the kids home activities including a goodbye party, getting their prints done (haven't done that yet!), and finding time for our family picture.
*Maybe getting new kiddos?

Oh - I may be sparse here for a little bit as I struggle to tread water for a few weeks.  I'm still around.  I'll still post, but maybe not as frequently as usual.  I'm thinking of all of you out there!

(And I do think it's funny that so many of us tend to be on this same cycle where we send kids home and get kids around the same time...let the cycle continue...)