Sunday, December 23, 2012

Am I Turning Into A Hipster?

I own skinny jeans.

I own TOMS shoes.

I own Teva sandals.

I own V neck t-shirts.

I own whatever these kind of sunglasses are called.

I seriously considered owning some "little house on the prairie" boots.

I own a Volvo...and a Subaru.

RUH ROH!  Am I on the brink of full blown granola??

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cute Homemade Gift Tags

Instructions for cute homemade gift tags for Christmas or any time:

Buy cardstock

Cut cardstock to desired size and punch a hole in two corners

Cut a piece of yarn or ribbon and string it through the two holes

Tie a bow

Address it


Zoom out and admit that your craft desk is not as neat as it appears in the above pictures

The end

Why Foster Care?

When Trent and I walked into the Bair Foundation office in mid August for our initial info gathering appointment with the Intake Director, we thought we were just covering all the bases, learning about foster care and adoption through foster care just so we could say we did.   It sounded waaay too hard and waaay out of our league.

Taking care of a child and then possibly letting them go...not knowing whether they would be our first forever child...possible physical and sexual abuse...neglect...court dates...birth parent visits...behavior problems...medical, so many unknowns...

We thought "There's no way God is leading us to this, maybe in several years when we've actually done a bit of parenting."

Well, funny thing about God...

Trent and I walked out of the Bair office after talking with Melanie for an hour about the system, the kids, the process.   We got in my car and I turned it on but we didn't go anywhere for a few minutes, even though we both needed to get back to work.

Trent said "That felt really, really normal to sit there and talk about all that."

I said "I know."

The feelings from June came back, and it felt exactly the same, a strange mixture in my heart and in my gut of both peace and fear.  It was "yes, this is right" mixed with "you have got to be kidding me."  And I began to cry.  Partly because that is just what I do in lots of situations because I am Anna, but mostly because tears seem to automatically accompany those feelings from June.  We talked during the ten or so minute drive from Bair back to my office where Trent had left the motorcycle, me staring wide eyed over the steering wheel with tears on my cheeks and Trent staring wide eyed at me.

Then we went back to work.

We decided to allow ourselves ample time to simply sit on this idea, to see how we felt about it, to see if it fizzled like our other possible routes, to talk and pray and search ourselves and figure out if we really felt up to this.  We told ourselves that if we decided this route was too scary, too much for us to handle emotionally or too early to embark on, we'd just go back to the domestic infant adoption idea. Well, it is indeed pretty scary, it'll be a whole lot to handle emotionally and we have gathered that we are indeed on the younger end of the foster parent age range.  But we realized after a little while that there was no point in sitting on the idea any longer when we already knew in our hearts what we were supposed to do.

So we emailed Melanie and told her "We're in".

Then we attended 8 hours of orientation, spent a lot of time pulling various paperwork items together and jumped full force into our checklist of things we had to provide or do in order to be licensed.  Then Melanie went back to school and a lady from the Austin Bair office sort of covered for Melanie's Waco duties. Then we were told that the Waco Bair office is closing and we found ourselves more or less back to square one.  Here we are in this state of limbo, not knowing what is ahead or what we need to do yet, lots of unknowns and frustration, lots of different voices talking at us from Bair and DFPS as we try to get back on track.

Hmm...limbo, unknowns, frustration, lots of social workers?  That kind of sounds like foster care itself...   

The phrases "It will all work together for good" or "It's all part of God's plan" are kind of annoying to hear when you are still surrounded by the bad and are still trying to figure out what the heck God's plan is.  But, I will begrudgingly admit that those things are true in this situation.  As I stated in my first blog post about all this, "God is calling the shots here."  And that's why we're not running away with our tail between our legs, just because our first set of plans fell through. If we do that now, there is no way in heck we'll be able to handle the craziness of foster care itself. 

For now, we are back to asking and seeking. We are learning patience and trust by the truckload and we still have God on speed dial.   We're not sure what direction this will take: another agency, DFPS itself, some other crazy curve ball God hasn't thrown our way yet?  We don't know.

But we do know that there are children right here around us, in our own city, county and state, that need safety and love.  Lots and lots of them.  Maybe some will come and go.  Maybe some will stay with us forever.  But they are out there.  And we want to love them.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why Not Regular Domestic Or International Adoption?

Trent and I made the decision to pursue adoption on July 1st of this past summer. We had talked about it as a possibility at random times for over a year but during the month of June prior to this decision, I repeatedly ran into what I truly believe were God signs pointing us in this direction (which I might write about another time).  Also during that month, Trent was gone to two camps and a mission trip.  So I was stuck at home by myself having lots of tearful conversations with God while Trent was not there.  He got home.  I gave him a day to rest up.  Then I told him all about the month of June.  And there in our living room, the evening of July 1st, we decided to pursue adoption.

I don't think I slept a wink that night.

And so began our journey of educating ourselves, figuring out what paths to adoption were available and what each would involve, praying about which way we should go.

First we looked into domestic infant adoption.
Trent and I are the type that want to serve our next door neighbors, those in need right here in our own community.  There are folks who are wired for international mission or international adoption and we believe that is so good and so needed and they have our full support in it.  But that's not really us.  So at the beginning of all this we figured we'd find ourselves adopting via an agency assisted domestic infant adoption.  This is where you sign on with an agency who does your homestudy and approves you, then works to match you with an expectant birth mother who is choosing for her child to be adopted.  This is how Trent and his sister were adopted.  We even started by researching the Edna Gladney Center For Adoption, the agency they were both adopted through, but quickly gave up on that idea when we saw that it would cost us $34,000 to adopt through them.   After some more research, we landed on Generations Adoptions, an agency here in Waco.  We met with the director to get to know the agency better and we really, really liked it.  Plus the $17,500 fee was much less scary.

Then some time passed. And we became less and less convinced that this was the route for us to take.  You see...that system is doing just fine without us.  They've got hopeful adoptive parents waiting up to three years before they are matched with a birth mother and therefore matched with their future child.  Most of these parents are turning to this agency assisted adoption as their only way to have children and build a family, due to infertility or other complications that prevent them from having biological children.   We realized we might do more to clog this system than help.  We did not decide to adopt based on our own need but rather to help fill a need.  We do believe that if God was indeed leading us to this form of domestic adoption, the child he would lead us to would be meant for us and not for someone else.  And if he put a different situation in our path where we could adopt a child here that didn't come to us through a private agency, we'd be open to that. But for the time being, he wasn't leading us to domestic infant adoption...

So we looked briefly into international adoption.
We have a place in our hearts for Haiti.  Partly because Mission Waco has a very strong tie to Haiti through mission work it does there and we have a very strong tie to Mission Waco now, since Trent's second job is there.  Partly because Haiti is right there so close to us.  Mostly because there is so much hurt and need there.  When we realized that domestic infant adoption was probably not the right route for us, we wondered if God was indeed pushing us outside of our country and this pull towards Haiti was part of that.   So we began to research adoption from Haiti.  It took all of about 5 minutes to discover that at least one of us has to be age 35 before we can adopt from Haiti.  Door >> slam.  So we have to tuck this idea away for now but who knows...maybe in 7 or 8 years we'll revisit it.

Then we looked into foster care...and God met us there.

To be continued...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My New Baby Computer

I'd like to introduce you to my new gadget.  He is an Asus Eee PC Netbook and his name is George.  I name everything, remember?

But Anna, don't you and Trent already have a nice HP laptop?   We have an HP laptop, that part is correct. And it does indeed look very spiffy and nice.  But it has been a pain in the booty since we got it.  If we run Windows on it, it often randomly freezes for about a minute, especially when I would try to upload photos to anywhere.  Trent exhausted his ideas for trying to fix it and Best Buy told us we couldn't swap it out, so my techy husband set it up to dual boot. Now we can run Ubuntu on it as well as Windows.  Blah blah blah tech language...the point is it made the freezing go away.  But it still gives me an error of death when I try to upload photos.

Our HP laptop hates photos.
Anna Pie loves photos.
Therefore, Anna Pie hates our HP laptop.

Ok, maybe that isn't correct logic, but you get the point.  It was time for a change and it was time for a splurge (gasp!).  So my techy husband set up searches on Ebay and found George for $113.  (In their short prime, Netbooks retailed for at least $250.)   These things are itty bitty laptops that were in stores for only a short while and are nowhere to be found anymore besides the internet.   Tablets have taken over.  But I already have a tablet and I wanted a working laptop, with an actual keyboard and screen and mouse.  And I wanted an itty bitty one.  10.1 inches to be exact.

I'm in love with George.  Wait, no, that's not right...I'm in love with Trent.  But I reeeeeally like my new baby computer.  It's so small, lightweight, portable and handy.  I could even put it in my purse!  Perfect for blogging or picture posting or budget spreadsheet tweaking or autobiography-for-foster-care writing at a coffee shop or at the kitchen table or in bed or in the car or...

I'm a girl on the move and my new baby computer can move right along with me as I try to capture memories and tidbits of life wisdom.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our Neighbor Kids

Our neighbor kids next door play in our front yard regularly.  They ride their bikes all over it, play football across both yards for more space and play in our sprinklers sometimes.  They also scooter, skip and skate all along the sidewalk and sometimes take a spill into our yard.  Sometimes a little girl from down the street joins in.   We certainly don't mind.  It's not like we have pretty grass they are going to trample...  They also have super awesome games of Hide And Seek meets Lord Of The Rings Elf Battle meets Space Invasion which involve the entire perimeter of their house and some of the bushes on the side of ours.

Our neighbor kids across the street just moved in and are absolutely hilarious.  It's two brothers and a little bitty sister.   Trent once heard one brother tell the other "You're a lame-o!"  I mean, come on, who calls someone a lame-o anymore?  Lost art.  Trent had a good giggle and went on with his grilling.  One time I got home from work and saw big brother carrying little brother around by the waist...upside down.  Just toting him around.  No idea why.  Another time big brother was poking around by the street picking up pecans and little brother was very, very busy keeping little bitty sister a safe distance from the road, under the pretense of hiding behind their trash can and peeking around it.  If she tried to get out he would herd her back behind it and say "ssshhh" as if they were spies. The other day when I tried to go jogging, I went past their house and little brother gave me a very friendly "Hi!" from their front porch.

Our neighbor kids caddy corner to our back yard are two little girls, either sisters or our neighbor and her friend.  These little girls have such creative minds when it comes to the games they play.  When I was outside in the back yard painting the shelves for our laundry room remodel a while back, I was so, so amused and impressed by how well they played together, outside, in a back yard with no playground or toys or tv screens.  "Such and such is chasing us, we have to run and hide behind that bush as fast as we can!"  "Guess what animal I am.  Ok now you be an animal and I'll guess what you are."   "Ok let's both jump up and down and see who can jump up and down the longest."   And the giggles, oh the giggles.

We are surrounded by cute, creative, playful children and I am so excited about that.  Pretty soon we'll also have small children in our home and I hope our kids can fit right in with these funny, fun, creative neighbor kids.  I have SUCH fond childhood memories of playing with the kids next door on the 30 acres next to our 30 acres...playing house and school and war and spies, hosing each other off after dancing in mud puddles, swaying in the tippy tops of cedar trees, dodging snakes at the creek, throwing tennis balls over the roof to each other, having Thumbs Up Club meetings in the chicken house and Nasse Creek Gang meetings in the barn attic, playing hide and seek in the front field of newly baled hay, saving little fishies that got stuck in puddles when Pirate Swamp across the fence overflowed after a good rain...

Trent and I don't have 30 acres, the neighbors next to us don't either, and the neighbors next to them don't have a Pirate Swamp.  But we've got a front yard that we'd love for a passel of our kids and neighbor kids to trample.  We've got a shed they can use for Thumbs Up Club II meetings.   And if they want to throw tennis balls over the roof, Trent can help them take that game up a few coolness notches and whip out his air canon.

Yeehaw! Bring on the kiddos!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Money Saver - Fred The Radiator Heater

Confession: Trent and I live like Eskimos in the winter time.

Our house is big and heating all of it for the whole winter would be really expensive, and somewhat pointless because we really aren't there a whole lot anyway.   So we don't.  If it's going to be reeeeeal cold, we of course turn on the furnace enough to avoid busted pipes and seeing our own breath inside our house. And duh, we turn on the heater at least on Sundays when our Bible study group comes over.  But for the most part, ole furnace stays pretty bored in the winter and we just bundle up in slippers and sweatshirts and robes and quilts, sometimes all at the same time! 

There is one room in our house, however, that is Toasty McToasterson for the whole winter: our bedroom.  Watching tv or cooking dinner in the cold is doable, but sleeping in the cold is terrible.  So we took a page out of my parents' book and bought ourselves an oil filled radiator heater the first winter we were in our house.  I named it Fred, because I have to name everything, much to Trent's amusement annoyance.  Fred came from Home Depot and cost us about $60.

It plugs into the wall in our bedroom and the oil inside heats up and starts to flow around in those ridges, therefore radiating heat.  There's no blower or fan, no exposed orangey glow.  You probably wouldn't want to give it a hug but if you had to poke it around to move it (it has wheels!) you could without getting burned.  You can simply set it to a constant low, medium, or high heat, or use the thermostat feature which means it turns on and off to keep the room at a certain temperature.  Because it radiates heat instead of blowing heated air around, it takes a little while to heat up a room in the first place but give it a bit of time and, like I said: Toasty McToasterson.

I have no clue how much money we have saved using this method as opposed to heating our whole house, but I'm sure it's at least enough to cover the $60 cost of buying Fred originally.

Disclaimer - This furnace boycott will of course come to an end when we have children living in our house that need to be kept warm and cozy. But as long as it is just us there, we prefer our money saving Eskimo lifestyle.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Keep Calm And Carry On

We have gotten a lot of encouraging words from some of y'all on facebook and in real life about our recent developments in the foster care world, aka, our agency's Waco office closing down.  My mom's jaw dropped when we filled my family in last night and she said "but I have a whole lot more kid books on hand!" I assured her they will still be able to be used and loved.

I just wanted to post a quick blurb before heading out to the ranch for Sauer Christmas and say that I think we are done with freaking out, some of which did happen. And though we are still indeed pretty frustrated at having to back track, we're ready to figure out how to move forward and indeed we are moving forward.  This is a setback but it is by no means squishing our plans to become foster parents.  We really feel like this is something we are supposed to do.

We'll see what we learn and figure out in the next couple weeks.  Our eyes and ears are open to see what path we are supposed to take.  Another agency?  Work directly with DFPS?  Some different version of caring for children in need of a safe home and family?  We'll see what God has in store and we'd appreciate your prayers as we learn and discern.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

When Your Foster Agency Drops Out From Under You

We've hit a speed bump.  Well, actually, for now it feels more like we've run into a brick wall...

We were told yesterday that the Waco office of our foster care agency, the Bair Foundation, is closing down.   We don't know why and apparently it is a new development.  We dropped off a bunch of completed paperwork at lunch yesterday and asked the secretary if the January training schedule is out yet.  She was pretty wishy washy about it but said it was not.  Later in the day I emailed the director a random question and he responded by telling us that the office is closing.  I did not like that answer to my question... 

So, now what do we do?

Option 1:  There is another agency in town called Arrow Child & Family Ministries that has agreed to take on Bair's foster families, but it looks like Arrow specializes in higher level of care kids, "those that have suffered the most abuse" as their website says.  We're not sure that we're ready for that. Those kids need experienced foster parents or maybe even a stay at home parent.  But all we know about Arrow is based on a few brief, frantic trips to their website, so we'll of course dig deeper than that.

Option 2:  We can work directly with the state's Department of Family Protective Services and not have an agency.  This is not uncommon and we are not immediately opposed to the idea, though we liked the idea of having an agency as a Christian network of support and a middle man between us and the state. 

Option 3:  Ok God, did you shut this door in our face on purpose? Are you nudging us in a different direction?

The Bair director told us that the paperwork and training we have completed so far likely will not transfer to another agency or the state, since everyone has their own version of paperwork.  I have kept copies of everything we have turned in so far, so I guess we could kind of regurgitate the information onto someone else's similar forms from that. But a lot of hours of work will have to be repeated.  We will likely have to call on family, friends and employers once again to repeat the reference packets they already graciously spent time on once.  We canceled our doctor appointments for physicals tomorrow. We erased TB tests at the Health District from our immediate to do list.  I halted my research on how to get FBI fingerprints.  We'll have to start over with a new checklist and a new timeline. 

We are frustrated.  We know we'll figure it out somehow, but we are frustrated.  We were rocking and rolling on our paperwork and making a big push this month to get a lot done, our hearts were really getting on board with this idea and we were beginning to feel emotionally ready to have children in our home.    But now we are taking steps backwards instead.  Right now we feel like we are back to square one.

We knew we were signing up for crazy, but we didn't expect our agency to suddenly drop out from under us...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Be The Change

I don't own a lot of jewelry.  With the exception of a few pieces that were purchased at some point to match a certain outfit or dress, my jewelry collection consists of special items that were given to me as gifts or purchased on special occasions.  I love getting special jewelry as gifts, but it's extremely rare that I buy jewelry for myself.   

However, I do have a ring that is very special to me, that I bought for myself, for no occasion at all.  It was $16.99 at Target and caught my eye one day then tugged at my heart for a week or two before I went back and bought it.  It's just a sterling silver ring with a swirl in the band on one side.  But it was the words engraved on it that caught me. 

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

I think this quote is commonly attributed to Ghandi, but it doesn't much matter to me who said it originally. This cheap little ring has become a staple in my jewelry collection and I wear it all the time, sometimes stacked with my mission trip wife ring.

This ring is a reminder and a challenge, for me, for us, for our faith, for our life.

It's a reminder and challenge when I get into a selfish whiny fit about being so busy with all this youth ministry going on in our life.  We can be friends and teachers to these young people that God has placed in our life. 

It's a reminder and challenge when I get totally overwhelmed by the idea of becoming foster parents and wonder what the heck we are thinking.  We can be a stable home for children who need one, even if just for a short time.

It's a reminder and a challenge when I look over our budget spreadsheet and feel bad that we can't give much money to worthy causes.  The Kingdom of God doesn't just need money, it also needs hands and feet and willing hearts.  We can be those hands and feet and willing hearts.

What breaks your heart is this world?  Where do you wish to see change?  I challenge you to be that change. 

Don't just talk about it.  Don't just be sad about it.  Don't just throw money at it.  

Live it. Do it. Be it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Money Saver - Drink Water

I've got a really, really easy money saver for you today: when you go out to eat, order water.   

I have really gotten in the habit of this over the past couple years as we have been trying to control spending and knock down debt and it's basically a no brainer for me these days.  Now, if we're grabbing something quick and a drink is part of a combo deal, I'll go for a Coke or Sprite.  Or if we go somewhere that has irresistible tea like McAlister's, then I will order it (unsweet and put Splenda in it...their sweet tea is over 300 calories a glass!).  But for the most part, my drink order is "I'll just have water please."    Not only is it healthier than soda or sweet tea, but the savings add up. 

Assume you had the opportunity to choose water over another drink about three times a week.  That's probably a reasonable average: Sunday lunch after church, a busy evening with no time to make dinner, and a date night out.  Honestly, a lot of folks out there could probably up this to four, including us. 

Assume a drink at a restaurant averages to about $2.00 each among various restaurants.

$2 per drink x 3 per week x 52 weeks = $312 per year

If we wanted to get real technical, we could factor in the fact that you probably paid a tip on most of those drinks too...but I think I've sufficiently made my point already.

Makes you think about that measly 2 bucks a little differently when you look at it over a year huh?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

How I Edit Photos

Here is how I edit photos:

I don't really know if I'm very good at it, but that site is where I give it a whirl.  It's free.  Go try it.