Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thankful Thursday - Health

Last night we had our second visit with our new kiddos.  It went fabulously.  I really couldn't believe it.  I thought we'd have more challenge.  The challenge will come, I'm sure, but yesterday it went well.

That is, at least until I was on my way home and began to get car sick.  As the night progressed it got worse.  And worse.  I struggled through the night.  I thought I had a stomach bug because that seemed to be the worse complaint but as the night progressed I really struggled with body pain.  My whole body hurt (and I have a temperpedic bed - it shouldn't hurt).  I felt miserable and didn't sleep much.  I did my best to get up to get my kids ready for school but really couldn't do the getting up part.  I managed to get my son to the bus.

It wasn't until about 1pm when i realized I had a high fever.  No wonder I hurt so bad.  After I took some ibuprofen i was able to go to sleep for a couple hours and the fever broke.  I'm still not really able to get up but I'm hoping I can get to work tomorrow. (not likely based on today)

With all that said, I'm really thankful for health today.  You don't realize how good you have it until you're gone.  As I laid around today and whined and moaned from how bad I felt I also noticed all the crap around the house I wanted to do and wished I felt good enough to get up and do it.  Maybe tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday's Tears: My Weekend to Remember

Traffic was light on my blog this weekend.  I live in a fantasy world where that means everyone was gone doing a no-computer thing like I was.  It wasn't intentional - I was just busy having fun with my family doing things we don't normally get to do like the zoo and the museum and two sleepovers, a trip to the pool, snow cones, and a family get together.  And dodgeball.  And a visit with the new kiddos.  Yep.  That kind of stuff.  Welcome back from vacation everyone and welcome to summer!

Yes, we finally were able to visit our new kiddos this weekend.  It was just a short visit but it went much better than we expected and we're looking forward to our next one later this week.  It is a bit strange though.  We're waiting for the next call - another shoe to drop - letting us know that these kids are in fact not coming as we thought they were.  I think we both fully expect that call even though there is no reason to believe it will come.  What we do know and believe is that there is a good chance the kids will move in with us and then be ordered to leave only a few days later.  I guess we'll see.

In any case - everything about this weekend reminds mie of our journey now "3 years ago, today".  In case you haven't been around that long I recommend checking out my "1 year ago today" blog series, a real-life tale of complete chaos and sufficient tradgedy in my home.  This weekend there were plenty of reminders about it all besides the celebration of Memorial Day.  I silently remembered, day by day, what happened in our lives.  To add to it though there was the friend on Saturday who was wearing his new boot - the result of a broken ankle with torn ligaments.  There was the visit with our new kids and subsequent discussion about someone's plan to have them leave immediately after they arrived.  There was a relatives car troubles and my best friend's nephew's very serious motorcycle accident.  Really.  It was all there (and actually I didn't fully realize that until I started typing it out just now). 

3 years ago today my life was definitely hit by a hurricane that caused massive destruction and took a long time to recover from.  I'm still recovering.  For the most part I'm grateful for the experience as we learned a lot along the way but if I'm honest there are still parts of mie that suffer from long-term traumatic effects.  That season was very hard.  It's hard to believe I'll ever be at a point where I'm fully grateful for what we went through.  There's still bitterness and fear in my heart.  I know perfect love casts out all fear and I pray that will become evident here over time as well, sooner rather than later. 

Memorial Day is not about mie.  Corporately it is about celebrating and remembering those who gave their lives for our freedom and we outwardly paused as a family to acknowledge their sacrifice.  Personally though it has a new meaning added to it and I pray the inward pause that now brings fear and pain will eventually fully be replaced by one that glorifies God for His provision and healing.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thankful Thursday - Random Support

Have you donated yet?  Well, you should.  Click on the Donate button on the top-right of my page to support Cherub Mamma fight for her family.

As you probably could tell from my last post, now that we're theoretically getting closer to welcoming our newest family members, baby baby's siblings, I'm starting to see how much of a big step it is to move forward.  It's making mie a bit nervous because I want so badly for this to work out for so many reasons.  Also, I'm staring down the barrel that will make mie go from being a mom of 3 to a mom of 6 and though I'm positive I can do it, I'll admit I've become a little comfortable where I'm at (problem #1).

If I'm honest - it's not that I'm comfortable.  Really it's that I have a 5 month old baby, haven't slept through the night except maybe 3-4 times since he arrived, and I keep forgetting that when I'm exhausted by the end of the night and don't feel like cleaning off the kitchen island.  Then I feel lazy and wonder if 6 is going to put mie over the edge.  It's not.  I know that without a doubt.  And then I remind myself I'm just tired because I have an infant with no "new mom hormones" (and yes, that makes a difference in helping combat sleepiness) and no post-partum break from work because in reality, I'm only kind of post partum.

But I didn't come here to complain, I came to celebrate the support I've received in getting ready for the new kiddos. 

(BTW - reach out to your local foster/expectant adoptive parent to let them know you're rooting for them just as you would an expectant mother!  It will mean the world to them, especially when they're expecting "multiples"). 

In the past few days I've had a few reminders that things are going to be ok and I've been really grateful.

First - I needed to talk about our next steps with my hubby.  I made a point to discuss the risks similar to what I wrote about on Monday, except in greater detail.  His response was "I don't see anything happening that will stop us from moving forward.  I know it might be difficult."  This was a very solid answer from my hubby who, at times, can be a little intimidated by out-of-the-norm behavior (and the idea of 6 kids).  He was confident that this IS what we're going to do (if given the chance) and we'll do whatever it takes to make it work.

Second - A sweet friend this morning wrote on her Facebook page about how her newest foster placement has improved so much in the short time she's had him.  Now, that isn't always the case and after 20 foster children (and a handful of RADlets) I certainly understand that well.  But I also know that even WITH the RADlets I've had the behavior, though difficult, DID improve at least a little due to proper care and stability.  There are no guarantees with these new kiddos but I know it IS possible and more importantly, our God is able.

I love that.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Mouse at the Corner of Ugly and Ugly - Beauty is Still in Sight

We are finally making progress in the attempt to have the siblings come live with us.  Progress - as in I actually have a date (that I refuse to actually write down because last time I did it changed before I made two phone calls).

Now I'm being warned - this behavior may be too much.  Is daycare really the right choice?  This behavior may be too much.  "I'm concerned about the behavior".

I've known about the behavioral challenges from the beginning but as things go (and cases too) when children are moved repeatedly behaviors tend to become overexaggerated.  Behaviors can be scary in some circumstances.  Lifestyle change due to behaviors can be even more scary.  The thought of how our lives might have to change to accomodate these children causes a bit of stress.

Then though there is the compounding fear - what if it IS too much.  What if we have to ask them to be removed?  The thought is unbearable.  It would mean yet another move for these children.  And for us.

It would also mean with certainty baby baby would be moved.  Once the children are together they will not be separated for almost any reason regardless of who has more relationship with whom at that point.

So we stand at a cross-road.  Today for us life is great except we know our baby has siblings, children I've felt like were "mine" from the beginning, who are not with us.  Right before us we have two paths.  One involves bringing the children into our home with the chance of healing, permanency, and hope but the very real risk of chaos, RAD, & ODD.  We are committed to not letting that be a reason to stop us and yet if for some reason it doesn't work out this path is forward only and at some point we would face the decision to let them ALL go, including our baby, or accept the consequences of keeping them all.  The other involves NOT bringing the children into our home because of our fears of what could be.  In the end we'd lose baby baby with that plan as well as they'd seek to find another home for all 4.  This is it.  There's no going back.

I described this whole 5-month process as feeling like a mouse being led around with a piece of cheese in front of my nose.  I see the cheese and I'm pursuing it but as I do I run across this wall and that obstacle.  It's been very hard to find the other end of the maze.  I know that someone is holding the cheese and someone is putting up obstacles.  The challenge is  - I'm not sure who is who.  Is it devinely appointed that we should follow that cheese, that God continues to whisper "keep going - it will be worth it", even when we face obstacle after obstacle designed to keep these children from a forever home that will help them heal?  OR, is the cheese a distraction from something else we're supposed to be pursuing and God continues to save us from that path by putting the obstacles in front of us to protect us?  I honestly feel like it could be either and I'm not always confident as to which way to turn.

I suppose this is where Matthew 6:33 comes into play, that I should seek 1st the Kingdom and everything else will work its way out (my paraphrase), but it's in the practical, daily steps where that begins to be hard.  This does though give me hope.  As I run around in this little maze with cheese and stumbling blocks galore what I do know is that on the other side the true reward remains.  I must run this race, maze and all, with perseverance to obtain the prize and even though today I'm at the corner of Ugly and Ugly, there is beauty where the sidewalk ends.  Of this I am certain.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Guest Post: Intentional Parenting - Buildling Your Child's Safety Net

I came across Stacy from To Have Hope through an announcement about her new book (referenced below).  As both a foster and adoptive parent to children with traumatic backgrounds the idea of having hope was more than enough to hook mie.  We all need support on this journey.  (Speaking of - have you donated yet?).  I love what Stacy's doing and I love her message.  I asked her to share a bit with us on some of the key points that drive her mission.  After you read, I highly recommend you check out her new book, her website, and the many resources she's made available.

As we have walked our twelve year journey as adoptive parents, it has become glaringly clear that we must be Intentional Parents. We must make the choice to do “it” differently than other families, do “it” longer than other parents and sometimes do “it” under the microscope of all the bystanders in our lives. The reality is that parenting adopted/foster children has to come from a place that is rooted in meeting your child where he or she is …emotionally, psychologically, physiologically and physically, whether or not society, or even your own instincts, agree.

The question quickly becomes how? How do we deal with the everyday hurdles that get in the way of creating strong, healthy relationships such as lying, stealing, tantruming or aggression? I strongly believe that the answer is to intentionally choose to create a plan that will build your child’s safety net. A safety net is that assurance of survival an infant receives beginning in utero, the assurance that will eventually be the foundation of self-esteem, intelligence and that all important sense of belonging and worthiness. The safety net is the promise of survival. It is the respirations, heart rate and calming voice an infant is born knowing as its source of nourishment - first, nourishment for growth, but later nourishment that lends itself to creating a safe place from which your child can come-and-go to explore the world, learn that he can make a positive impact on it and then operate in relationships with a healthy sense of his own Bneeds and the needs of others. Unfortunately, our children come to us with their nets terribly damaged or totally gone; they have learned not to rely on that net—they have a difficult time trusting others, being parented and participating in intimate relationships. They need a net. Better yet, they deserve a net!

We follow a simple formula to help us intentionally build and maintain each of our children’s safety nets. The formula has to be considered a living, breathing entity because we are dealing with living, breathing children. Even though the components are numbered, it is meant to be used more in a cyclical fashion. With each developmental stage or life event, our children are being challenged and we will most likely need to revisit portions of the formula over and over again.

Component 1 – Move Your Own Stuff. In this component, we choose to look at what hurdles could possibly be put there by our own wounds, experiences and expectations. Then, it is important to sort them out and set them aside.

Component 2 – Educate Yourself. Many of us have done a lot of research and are probably more experts in our child’s diagnoses than the experts themselves, but it is important that we can apply that knowledge in everyday difficult situations.

Component 3 – Use Tools and Techniques that Build and Maintain the Net. Here’s where we get down to the actual tying of the knots of the net. It takes great consistency and perseverance, but if you are open to learning new tools and techniques, the net will begin to take shape.

Component 4 – Keep On Keepin’ On. Without Component 4, the other three are pretty much useless. Component 4 reminds us that this is a long journey and that in order to maintain the net, we must surround ourselves with support, have an action plan so we can parent in a healing manner, learn to measure progress lest we give up, nurture our closest relationships to have the strength it takes to hold the net and choose to forgive ourselves for our parenting blunders so we can begin fresh every day.

This formula has really become a way of life for us. As we intentionally hold our children’s safety nets through daily struggles and developmental stages along with the big storms of life, they have slowly come to rely on the net…they have come to rely on us. We have witnessed our older adopted children let the net hold them, protect them and even guide them…they no longer have to do it on their own...they have come to trust the net. As they trust the net to take care of them, they are beginning to trust the message the net holds…YOU are worthy of good! They are beginning to believe, at their core, that they are loved no matter what, they are good enough no matter what and that they are fully a part of our family and always will matter what!

As it is for many other adoptive/foster families, it has been a difficult and tumultuous journey. We often felt alone and hopeless and it is out of our struggles that my vow to walk beside other families was born. Over the past ten years, I have been in the trenches with many families offering advice, insight and sometimes just an understanding ear. These experiences, the unceasing devotion of so many parents and the endless stories of others out there struggling to become a family became the energy I needed to put down on paper a formula that I have seen in action, a formula that helps to create an environment conducive to attachment, a place where life can be more peaceful, a place of hope for a better future. My book is Adoptive Parent Intentional Parent: A Formula for Building and Maintaining Your Child’s Safety Net. It is packed with tools and techniques that really work in everyday situations. My hope is that your family will find it to be a useful resource.

To receive more tools, techniques and every day tid-bits please join Hope Connections on Facebook. To receive a monthly newsletter or to find my book you can visit my website or go to

Thanks for sharing Stacy!   So - what are you all doing to build your children's safety nets?  What challenges do you face as you parent intentionally?  How do you overcome those challenges? ...let's share to encourage each other toward hope :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

ANNOUNCEMENT: Banding Together to Support One of Our Own

*Edited - if you already read this blog, read again...*

Many of you have commented on this blog about how "amazing" our family is for doing what we do.  You've complimented mie on being a great mom.  You've shared your condolences when we have lost celebrated the return of each of our foster kids over the past 3 years.  Some of you cried along with mie when Summer's brother was born and subsequently adopted to another family 1500 miles away because you'd been on the journey with us the whole time.  Most of you are as exasperated as I have been waiting for baby baby's siblings to join our family for the past (nearly) 5 months.

Can I tell you something?  First, we're not amazing.  Second, the ONLY way we can walk this walk is through God's help and the support we're provided by all of our supporters.  I'm not being trite.  It's absolute truth and I'm completely grateful for it.

How many times have you sat back and thought gosh...I wish I could do something, but A) I didn't tell you how you could help and B) sometimes it seems impossible? 

I am now begging you to help one of our own.

Cherubmamma needs our help. 

If you haven't already, go read her blog.  Seriously she's been such a great support to those of us in this little community we have.  Her stories, willingness to share, and words of encouragement over the past couple years have meant the world to mie. 

I've been following her story for a while and now's the time to reach out and support her back.  If you're not familiar, she has two foster cherubs right now who've been with her for a long-time, longer than foster children are "supposed" to be in care.  They still don't have permanency.  The plan being pushed down everyone's throat does not appear to be in the best interest of the children.  It seems by all accounts these children want to stay and would be best with the only family they've really known for a LONG time.  Our God has opened the door (and their hearts) for these children to stay IF cherubmamma and her family are able to intervene.  In case you're not aware, legal intervention involves hiring your own attorney at your own expense (15-20K).  It is really expensive.  In our state, only about $1500 per child would be recuperated through the foster care system.  This is a huge burden to most people, certainly Cherubmamma and her family who had not been preparing to go down this road.

Here's how you can help:
  • Pray.  Pray for wisdom, for favor with the courts, for sanity, for God's will.  Pray for the funds to come through and the process to be swift.  Pray for clarity and a change of perspective for those who would oppose this permanency plan.  Pray for the kiddos who are being put in danger as they're forced to visit relatives they hardly know (and who don't keep them safe).
  • Donate.  Mimi at "I Must Be Trippin'" has organized a puzzle fundraiser to support Cherubmamma and her family.  To participate, all you have to do is donate using the donate button at the top of my page.  For every $5 donated, Cherubmamma and her family will add a piece to their puzzle, literally, with your name on it.  To read more about this puzzle and what it means to her, please click here.  I will also match every donation that comes through my blog up to $200.  If you're a foster parent, consider donating a portion of your monthly stipend toward this fight.  Imagine if everyone who has been praying for these little cherubs donated for one puzzle piece.  Or two.  Imagine what could be done. 
I happen to believe that when you do both - pray and donate - you're attacking this problem with Cherubmamma in the spiritual world AND the physical and that the combination is powerful.  I also know without a doubt that this will be especially encouraging to Cherubmamma as she and her family take up this fight.  Let's let her know she is not alone.  We are here to support her.

Finally, keep an eye out for more information on another project designed to raise money.  As we speak several of us are working feverishly on writing down a piece of our journey to share with you all in the form of an e-book.  Pray for us as we pursue this avenue as well, that the stories written will touch hearts and lives and in the end help finance Cherub Mamma's journey. 

If you've ever wanted to help - this is your chance.  Every $5 matters.  Every prayer matters.  Every note to CherubMamma matters.  Let's band together.  GO!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Moolah Monday - Vacation Planning Tips: Looking for Deals

This weekend I shredded some of those credit card check thingies that seem to come to our home in over-abundance. I’m always shredding them it seems. Yesterday, it was about 6 separate sets of them. As I did, the verbiage on one of them caught my eye. It talked about using the checks for all those unexpected repairs, home repairs, travel...
No was in that list and I thought how is travel possibly unexpected? I suppose there are times that you travel that you didn’t expect well in advance like we did when my dad was in a motorcycle accident and the outcome was uncertain or when my Uncle was murdered and we attended his services. But even then it’s not like I suddenly woke and found myself driving or flying somewhere thinking did I get on this journey – this drive is so unexpected? (and so forth...). I don’t know – the wording just struck mie wrong.
Bottom line – you don’t have to go into debt to travel and/or vacation. There are ways to plan to keep yourself from burying a hole that forces you to work even harder for the next year It may very well be difficult but the rewards are worth it.
I’ll leave that lesson to Small Town Joy because as I told you last week she’s the best at it. I do want to add a few tricks to her process that we use to help us plan.
We’ve picked up taking an annual vacation to visit Sea World in San Antonio. It’s a place we can drive to reasonably and we have SO much fun. So far we’ve been a family of 6 with 4 kids making the trip a challenge physically (trying to keep them all alive, you know), and financially. Here’s how we’ve done it:
  • Research ahead of time to find the best deal – In our case, we found a local hotel that offered several things free when you stayed with them. When you purchased one room they added in gift bags for the kids when they arrived, free breakfast for 4 (normally like $20 per person), one free dinner, and free annual passes to Sea World. The price difference from a regular room was minimal (maybe $20) and more than paid for itself. We had to stay down there anyway and though we could have looked around for a cheaper motel or stayed with friends the price of the deal made it worth it. In other words – if we hadn’t stayed at that hotel with that deal we would have had to pay the same amount to get into the park for the day and wouldn’t have had the added bonus of free breakfast, goody bags, the hotel pool and accomodations, etc. We might as well have stayed in the hotel! I want to say we paid $150 or so per night, and we stay 3 nights.
  • Consider the annual pass – Our annual pass came with our hotel but it made a huge difference! If you don’t find a deal like the one we found, look into it on your own. Many parks have some sort of season or annual pass that is the same price or only slightly more than the pass you would buy for a day. We used that to visit the park two days in a row. Most of the theme parks I’ve been to can certainly be an entertainment option for multiple days on the same vacation and Sea World San Antonio is no exception. Rather than attend multiple parks or tour multiple areas, we just camped out at Sea World for a couple days, seeing the shows, playing in the water park, and riding rides.
  • Re-use the annual pass – if you do find a park you want to visit that has a reasonably priced annual pass (or free, like the one we found with our hotel room) pay attention to the time period it is good for. Our annual pass was good for a full 12 months from the time we purchased it. SO because we liked our trip so much we decided to vacation there again the following year. We just made sure to go back before our passes expired and as the dates went we were able to return about 4 weeks before they expired. This means through our planning and research we were able to visit Sea World on 4 different dates with 6 people without paying for a single pass. If you add up the hotel rooms for both years we ended up paying approximately $900 plus fuel, food, and bonus stuff (souvenirs, etc.). That’s $450 per year for a 4 day vacation for a family of 6 or $75 per person, including hotel and theme park admission. I’d say that’s pretty good.
  • Determine what you’d splurge on, then do more research – Because our price for the vacation(s) to this point was pretty low, we decided to do a few more things to make our trip easier/more special/more cost-effective. For example, Sea World had a wristband program both years where you were able to pay an extra $40 dollars or so, which gave you the ability to go to the front of the line on several rides. We took advantage of that (for our kids who were old/big enough). This meant that it made our lives MUCH easier being able to take our bigger kids straight to the front of the line, quickly getting to ride the ride they wanted, without the other parent having to try to somehow entertain the littles (toddlers) in 100+ degree heat for however long it took to stand in the traditional line (usually they said 60-90 minutes!). That extra $150 or so for our family was definitely worth it. The second year we researched a bit on the cabanas they had available. For about $200 we purchased a cabana rental that included those wristbands, a cabana with a stocked fridge, towels (to keep), shade, a fan, (a place for the toddlers to nap!), dinner or lunch (2 pizzas and drinks), ice creams, sunscreen, and a private character visit to the cabanas for pictures and hugs. If you do the math, all of that “extra” stuff cost us $50 which was far less than those items would have been on their own (seriously – it provided for 2 meals for a family of 6 at a theme park – that itself is usually way more than $50). And, since we didn’t pay for the theme park tickets themselves, it seemed very much worth it to us to “splurge” there.
I will caution you to be careful with the “deals”. Not everything is a fantastic deal. For example – if we would have purchased the wristbands for all of our children automatically it would have been a waste – the wristbands were only good on some rides and my kids under 36” wouldn’t have been able to ride anything with them. Food plans can be a good deal but again you may not want to purchase for little kids or you may want to bring PB&J to cut the costs even more. As you do your research, really think about how much you can afford to spend and what would work for YOUR family.
I did spend an evening (several hours) researching the park website, hotel websites, travel websites, etc. to be able to find these deals, so you do have to factor that in but again if you look at the total cost we paid (about $800 total, per vacation, including the splurges), it was well worth it.
(This post was NOT sponsored - we just like Sea World THAT much).

Friday, May 10, 2013

Foster Parent Friday: Give Yourself a Break

My hubby and I got ourselves really busy this week to get our home in great condition to show to our new, temporary FAD worker (our caseworker, not for the kids) who was (finally) coming to get the show on the road for #16's siblings.  Everyone in this case is concerned about finding a long-term home for these kids, members of a large sibling group, and that is difficult to do.  They have been concerned from the beginning about these things and whether our home with then 6 children 6 and under would be acceptable.  Everyone has shown concern for my husband and I and whether or not we are indeed happy, not just ok, with this move.  That is one reason this all has taken time.

As we moved through the home cleaning room by room it was painfully obvious that some things had been ignored from an organization perspective.  There were several areas that had become dumping grounds and though the house was generally clean and safe for all of us, it just wasn't as functional as it could have been because of the abundance of clutter in some of the rooms.  Things just needed to be put away.

Things like the Christmas decorations.  I'm not sure if I posted this here or not but we didn't put our Christmas decorations away until St. Patrick's Day.  (and by away I mean most, not all, in boxes).  These boxes were left scattered in the office with things I'd purchased after Christmas for next year in bags or just left on the floor.  It was a mess.  Hence - we didn't go into the office.  Not going into the office means not putting boxes in the office away.  It wasn't going to get fixed.

The 'media' room was equally in shambles.  It had 3 beds in there and had been turned into a fort by the kids, where they had stored a bunch of toys and books from the playroom.

As my hubby and I finished up our cleaning (which we DID accomplish, finally), we looked at each other and shook our heads.  Could we believe we were finally putting the boxes away into the attic?

I made us stop for a second.  Yes, I could believe it.

The day after Christmas we welcomed a new baby into our home.  This new baby came straight from the hospital and was days old.  We had no knowledge of him prior to the call around noon on the 26th. 

I had to remind my husband and myself that we need to give ourselves a break.  In reality, there are very few parents out there who suddenly have a baby they had no knowledge about dropped on their doorsteps with only a couple hours notice.  Most moms giving birth have somewhere around 40 weeks (or at least 5-6 months) to plan for the arrival of their baby.  They're able to get a nursery ready and purchase the things they need and wash the clothes and all that jazz.  They're able to research childcare if mom is working, which wouldn't start until 6-8 weeks or so after the baby was born because mom would get to take time off, often paid by disability or savings that had been saved during pregnancy.  Grandparents or other relatives are able to plan to arrive to help the family with the new baby since they too had some knowledge.  Friends and family setup meals for those first few weeks and sometimes lend other support like cleaning the house or what not to help the mom adjust to the new baby.

None of that happened for us.  We got a new precious baby on Thursday.  I had already planned to take the next 5 days or so off for the holidays before going back to work.  Thankfully I was able to extend to 8 days or so pretty easily, but I went back to work with a 10-day old baby (whom, remember, I hadn't planned for...).  He was too young to take to childcare so we'd hurried to find a private nanny at $100 per day.  Do the math - that was just one of our children and not reimbursed by foster care childcare payments - we were on our own.  Speaking of childcare, I had to use those 8 days to hurry to find a childcare location who'd have a spot open for him when he was old enough (who also took state funding) - I hadn't had the time to put ourselves on a waiting list months in advance.  To help curb the cost of the nanny my hubby agreed to take full responsibility of the baby a couple days per week.  Those days were usually his days off when he would have taken care of things like taking down and putting away decorations or fixing the fence that blew over during a windstorm (yes. that happened during this time too).  We had no provided meals.  No help from grandparents (this is not a slam - just the truth - they had just visited a couple weeks before and it's unreasonable for us to think they could drop everything and pay outrageous last-minute airfare during the major holiday traffic time!).  It was just us, our little family with support from my sister who lives local (but also is a foster parent with her own brood).

But it didn't stop there.  Did I mention the ground was unusually covered with snow when the baby arrived?  Two days later we accepted 2 more kiddos who only spoke a language other than English.  These two attended a school different than the one the baby would attend weeks later.  A few days later we learned about the siblings.  5 weeks later I had to travel for a week for work and my hubby maintained the fort at home with 5 kids by himself.  3 weeks later our older two left.  2 weeks later another older two joined as a potential adoptive placement.  4 weeks later they left. 

In other words, since Christmas not only have we welcomed a surprise newborn but also 4 other children who have since come and gone.  (not to mention the emotional roller coaster of waiting for #16's siblings for the past 4 months).

Yes - I can believe we let the media room, which has a closed door and is separated from the main living area of the house, be built into a messy fort for 3 months or so.  Yes - I believe we didn't put away the Christmas decoration boxes into the attic until May.  We've also done some really important things for real-live human beings who needed a safe-stable (and fun!) family.  I know this was right.  On the other side I don't think we're going to hear "shame on you for leaving your Christmas decorations out a few extra months".  Nope. 

Lest you see this as a complaint let me acknowledge that we did, indeed, sign-up for this.  This isn't a rant about not having support from friends and family when we welcome OUR kids into our home.  There is NO bitterness there at all.  WE could have said no.  We didn't have to accept any or all of the placements we accepted in the recent past.  The point is not say "Woe is mie - feel sorry for us".  I would tell you we are FAR more blessed because we walk this road than the amount of work we have on our plate.

Instead - my point is to encourage you.  Stack of dishes in the sink?  It's ok.  That too-full closet you don't want to open?  You can get to it later.  Are your Christmas decorations still out?  (come on - don't leave me hangin here...).  It's not the end of the world.  Did you miss the church volunteer day because your kid was in the hospital for a week? 

Give yourself a break.  Really.  Keep on truckin and take care of it when you can but never forget that the road you are walking has impact far beyond whether your rose bushes were pruned well this past winter. 

Go on - pause. breathe. carry-on.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Moolah Monday - Vacation Planning Series

One thing that is incredibly challenging as foster parents is to plan for what is to come.  I believe God has used this to teach Mie that His plans are better than my own and to rely on Him more, nevertheless there are practical things about not being able to plan that can make life difficult, as in planning for a vacation.

For example:
My hubby and I usually take 1-2 trips to visit California out-of-state each year.  We have been feeling the need to do this soon because we haven't been out in over a year and we'd like to see our family.  But how do we plan?  The decision about when to go is fairly simple, usually, but how many people will be coming with us?  We can't plan to fly because we can't be guaranteed we'd be able to purchase more tickets on the same flight if we purchase them separately, waiting makes tickets more expensive, and purchasing extra tickets now doesn't quite help since you can't very easily transfer tickets to others.  I was thinking about surprising my mom for Mother's Day by flying out, but what if the siblings are ready to come to our home before then?  Will the judge let them come after being in our home for a short time? ...

We try to go to Sea World each year.  It's close enough to drive but how many passes should we buy and whose name will they be in?  How many kids will need a pass and how many will be free (by age)?  How many hotel rooms will we need?  

This year we have a wedding to attend in Boston.  We haven't been able to confirm that we can attend because we just don't know if and who might be able to go.  Same issues as before - how many kids will we have and when will they be here and will they be able to go?

It is a big challenge.  There are other similar challenges like reserving spots at the summer childcare programs that are filling up quickly - will I have a child who needs a spot there?  Should I spend the $200 reservation fee (non-refundable) if I don't know for sure I'll need the spot?  Should I risk waiting and being out-of-luck in finding a program?

We usually try to plan and then be flexible if our family changes due to foster care.  As I said before we usually just plan to drive rather than risk flying anywhere.  It is made much more difficult right now though because we have the looming placement of Baby Baby's siblings.  We're still being told it can come any day now.  There is progress being made this week to get our license updated.  Folks are now more and more sure the kids will come to our home.  That being said we've been waiting for them now since the first week of January and it seems absurd to mie to be counting on them coming with any certainty.  Really.  

What I'm saying is that this whole planning thing has actually become more difficult now that we have specific children identified as a possible placement rather than living with the unknown.

I don't know if there's anything that can help solve our vacation planning dilemma in its entirety.  With foster care, we'll probably guaranteed to have a good degree of permanent uncertainty.  It's just part of the deal.

Nevertheless, I've found Small Town Joy's Vacation {Budgeting} Planning Mini-Sessions very helpful.  I highly recommend checking them out.  This girl has her act together (and I'm still trying...).

Whatever you do, make sure you do take some time out for your family to be together.  Rest, rejuvinate, have fun, and share...

What are your vacation plans this year?

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Thankful Thursday - Random Things I'm Grateful For...

I was REALLY hoping today I'd be able to share with you that we got the call for the siblings to come or that our license had been extended so they can come or something equally as large and powerful that I've been waiting for.  Instead, you (and I) will have to settle for this list of random things I'm thankful for.

  • Salvation - I made the mistake choice of starting a spiritual conversation with my son last night after he prayed at bedtime - note that it must be late.  Part of his prayer was well-intended but signified a common hard-to-fathom spiritual truth, namely the concept of grace for "bad people".  So - I led a discussion about how grace is free and no one, not even us, deserves it and the wages of sin is death.  I did it in an age appropriate way but nevertheless my 6 year old wouldn't go to sleep and eventually broke down that he was scared and not just regular scared but scared to go to hell.  This led to another spiritual conversation, more tears, some hugs, and finally reassurance that our price has been paid.  AMEN.
  • My hubby - Though the stupid web game he's hooked on drives me nuts, I've been very impressed with my hubby lately in prioritizing the important things - like finishing the backyard fence and helping me with the kids during hospital week last week.  I love that man.
  • Marie Calendar's Dutch Apple Pie & Breyers natural vanilla ice cream makes the world a better place at the end of a long day.
  • Good friends - including all of you - I'm so grateful I know the people out there who will support mie with words of encouragement and even correction in love when I need it, like when the baseball coach ...well you get the drift.  What's that?  I need to forgive and move on...ok - thanks for the correction again.
  • Dallas area Children's Medical Center - who cared for all of us while baby baby was sick and gave my kiddos unlimited popsicles with the option for sugar-free.  Because there's only so many popsicles a child should have in a day but that changes when they're in the hospital.  Right?
  • My accidental haircut - the haircut itself was not accidental but the way it was cut was.  I went in to cut layers into my hair one night when I was tired of the way it was laying and accidentally cut one part of the layer on one side way to short with little room for correction.  I did what I could.  The next day (and since) I've had so many complements on my hair.  Many people thought I colored it.  I did not.  I was just a bit too snip happy and apparently it worked in my favor.
  • Perennial Flowers in my front yard - last year we planted them.  I didn't take great care of them during the winter freezes and worried I'd lost them.  They have all bloomed BEAUTIFULLY this spring.  I'm amazed.
  • My son's good report card - he did awesome! Finally tested more accurately for his reading level at 2.5-3.5 grade (he's in K) and met his reading goal at 177%.  Way to go buddy!
  • Infertility - I missed the opportunity to post during National Infertility Awareness Week, unfortunately, but I'm so grateful for our journey through infertility.  If you're walking that way be encouraged - I hope you find solace and resolution soon so that one day you too can be grateful for that journey.
  • Our new temporary FAD worker (our caseworker) - she's awesome!  I really appreciate her.  I haven't heard from her yet (should have yesterday) but every time I talk to her I leave the conversation content and impressed with her devotion to what she does.  
  • The greek restaurant near work - I've had the Salmon Pita 2x this week.  Tough on the wallet and probably on my weight loss desires but man is it good.  Yum!

Have a great day everyone...maybe I'll have great news tomorrow.  Maybe...