Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 New Year's Resolution Update AND We Are Licensed!

You may remember from this post that my/our new year's resolution at the beginning of 2013 was to listen, answer and trust.  Here's my habitual end-of-year update on how all that went.

We began 2013 with a lot of question marks.  Our initial efforts to become foster parents had come to a screeching halt, leaving us frustrated and trying to discern if it was just a detour or if we were on the wrong path altogether.  Trent was beginning to feel the pull to attend seminary, but what did that mean for his already full two-job schedule, for our church involvement, for our kids?

So we prayed.

We talked to each other.

We talked to mentors.

We tried our best to listen, answer and trust.

And...

We continued to pursue foster care, this time through Texas DFPS.

We said see ya around to our kids and Trent exited his youth ministry position at church.

We stepped away from our church of six years and into a new one.

We sent Trent across town to his first semester of seminary.

So here we are at the end of 2013.  It was a year of big changes, big tears and big smiles. And what better way to close it out than notification from our social worker this morning that we are officially licensed foster/adopt parents!   We have a meeting with her Monday morning. After that she will put us on the vacancy list and we could get a call for a placement any time.

This is getting real folks!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Books I Read In 2013 aka The List That Will Probably Never Be This Long Ever Again

I hereby present to you the books I read in 2013.  Somehow there are a ton of them, 24 to be precise.  What?! I'm not sure how that happened.  I promise you, here on the eve of parenthood, that this list will probably never ever be this long again...ever.  Ok maybe when we are empty nesters.  Nah, I'll be too busy riding my own motorcycle then.  Without further ado, here is my list, along with a few comments if deserved:

Leading Up by Joel Maynard

Radical by David Platt (Paperback conviction on a shelf.  This guy and I could be buds.)

Tess of The d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Four words: double standards, stupid men.)

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (ok maybe this doesn't count since it's so short)

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (A re-read, always a fave.)

All She Ever Wanted by Lynn Austin (She's done it again. Seriously, go read Lynn Austin's books immediately if not sooner)

Persuasion by Jane Austen

A Return To Modesty by Wendy Shalit

The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis (This will become a user guide once we begin caring for kids.)

A Voice In The Wind by Francine Rivers

Echo In The Darkness by Francine Rivers

The Shack by William P. Young  (Whoa. Heavy.)

Bossypants by Tina Fey (And then I went on a random comedy reading stint...)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (I want to hang out with her...)

Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne (Great stuff Shane, but where does that leave us middle class families who can't really pick up and live the nomad servant life in the ghetto of Philly? Or can we?)

The Girls' Guide To Hunting And Fishing by Melissa Bank (So, so weird and useless. I do not recommend.)

Overextended...And Loving Most Of It: The Unexpected Joy Of Being Harried, Heartbroken And Hurling Oneself Off Of Cliffs by Lisa Harper  (Potential to be a super book, but apparently she was too overextended and harried to put good cohesive thoughts and chapters together.)

True Believer by Nicholas Sparks (Dear Mr. Sparks, you are ridiculous. Love always, Not A Fan)

At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks (I laughed through the parts where I know I was supposed to cry.)

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker  (She is brave.)

Jesus Feminist: Exploring God's Radical Notion That Women Are People Too by Sarah Bessey (Ya think?)

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, And The Fate Of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell (Oh my.  I'm gonna go sit in the corner and sing Jesus Loves Me.)

Barefoot Church: Serving The Least In A Consumer Culture by Brandon Hatmaker (The sadly radical idea of actually being the church instead of just going to church and consuming church.)

All Things New by Lynn Austin (After careening through various angsty Christian authors, I decided to end the year with some amazing fiction and Lynn Austin, as usual, did not disappoint.)

The end.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Oh Hi There, Remember Me?

Bear with me for a moment while I wipe the dust off this blog...ok, that's better.

Hi.  It's been a while.  Where have I been, you ask?  Oh, just all over the state of Texas.  December turned a lil bit crazytown, but it's been good.  We closed out Baylor's Floyd Casey Stadium in 24 degree weather and were stoked to watch our Bears beat the Longhorns and become Big 12 Champions in the last game in this memory filled stadium.


We headed to my hometown for Christmas with my family out at the ranch.



Insert a trip to Dallas for a work seminar, then over to Fort Worth to meet with the Area Youth Minister about the camp Trent and I are directing in May.  A few days later, we headed to San Antonio and got Sarah all graduated from Trinity University. 


What a beauty!


Then yesterday we packed up the Rex and headed up to northeast Texas for Christmas with Trent's family.


So far we've had a relaxing day and majorly beat up on a rootbeer can with a twenty two.


I'm gonna zone in on family and Christmas happenings for the next couple days, but I'll be back with more regular posts soon.  I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

CPS Nuts & Bolts - People Involved

I started to write one GIANT post containing a bunch of topics related to the nuts and bolts of a CPS case and what kind of situations we are heading into as foster parents, but I decided to break it up into several smaller posts so I don't have to promise any more imaginary cookies to the folks that read all the way to bottom of said giant post, like I did in this one.

That was a long sentence...

Anyway, here are some of the many, many people involved in a CPS case:

Birth parent(s) - biological parents, presumed perpetrators of the abuse or neglect that triggered the case
Child(ren) - victims of the abuse or neglect that triggered the case
CPS Investigative Team - CPS responders and social workers who conduct the initial investigation, not necessarily the social workers who will then remain on the case for its duration
Kin - grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.
Fictive Kin - adults who know the child and are "practically family" yet are not related by blood
Foster Parents - individuals or couples licensed by the state to provide 24 hour care to children in foster care (that's us!)
Judge - county judge who oversees court hearings and finalizes decisions for either reunification or termination of parental rights
Attorney Ad Litem - attorney who represents the child(ren) in the case and makes recommendations to the court according to what is in the best interest of the child, assigned by the state
Attorney for birth parent(s) - attorney who represents the birth parents and their right to parent their children, if appropriate, either assigned by the state or hired privately
State of Texas as Managing Conservator - for the duration of time that a child is in foster care or kinship care, the state acts as Managing Conservator, or legal guardian, for that child
CPS Conservatorship Supervisor - a social worker who takes care of the parents' side of the case, provides them with their "service plan" that they must complete in order to have their kids come home, monitors their progress on their plan, arranges their allowable visits with their child(ren), prohibits visits when the parent is unsuitable for them (i.e. drunk, high...), gives them plenty of fair warnings of the possible consequences if they are not cooperating with their plan
Child's caseworker - a social worker assigned to the child's case, checks up on them at least monthly in the foster home, talks with child and foster parents about how the child is doing, provides information to attorneys and advocates for purposes of court decisions
FAD Worker - Foster and Adoptive Home Development Worker, a social worker who trains, supports and advises foster and adoptive parents
CASA Volunteer - Court Appointed Special Advocate, a trained volunteer who serves as mentor, confidante and friend to a specific child in foster care for the duration of the case and advocates for the best interests of the child

That's a lot of players, amiright?  We were assured repeatedly during our training that foster parents are a majorly valued part of the team, which we were glad to hear.  We got to meet and hear from some of these players during our training, including an attorney ad litem, a conservatorship supervisor and some veteran foster parents.

One question we were asked during our home study was "How well will you work with the team of people involved in these cases? Some people have issues with different people coming into their home, telling them how to do things, etc."   We responded with "Bring it on, we don't really know what we're doing yet, so we'll take all the help we can get!"

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On Being Married To Your Best Friend

It's realizing too late that you just emptied a dishwasher of not-yet-actually-washed dishes because you were lost in conversation.

It's wandering through toy aisles at Target together, happily daydreaming about future kiddos, but scared to death also.

It's repeatedly renewing efforts to not eat out as much.

It's chatting about each others' day while laying backwards on the bed, because no moms are there to tell you to get your feet off the pillows.

It's facing the sometimes hard, annoying and stressful adventure of adulthood together, including cracked windshields and credit card fraud.

It's lengthy discussions about this messed up world and how to try to fix it.

It's inside jokes, secret codes and knowing looks.

It's sweeping up the trail of needles from the live Christmas tree that you just fetched together and hauled home.

It's using rock-paper-scissors to see who says the blessing at mealtimes.

It's cereal parties in the evening and impromptu ice cream trips even later.

It's ridiculous fits of laughter that neither can contain and neither wants to.

It's arguments and tears, leaves to rake and laundry to fold.

It's a thousand times "thank you for marrying me" and a million times "I love you".

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Wait A Minute, Don't Foster Parents Get Money?

About a month into our decision to pursue foster care, I distinctly remember standing in my office breakroom pouring myself a cup of coffee when I thought "Huh, wait a minute, don't foster parents get money or something?"

About a month and a half into our decision to pursue foster care, I saved this blank blog post draft with the above title.

About fourteen months into our decision to pursue foster care, I'm finally getting around to writing this post about foster care reimbursements and subsidies.

Money wasn't part of our original decision.  We didn't even realize/remember until weeks later that it was even available.  And therefore, it wasn't at the top of my priority list of things to blog about.  But in the interest of information and transparency, here are some topics related to the financial side of foster care.  Please keep in mind that these policies apply to the state of Texas and may be different or not present in other states.  Also, these policies and laws may change over time but are current as of the date of this blog post.

Monthly Reimbursement
Foster parents receive a monthly reimbursement for each child in their care and it is exactly that: a reimbursement.  It is not a paycheck for the foster parents' time and effort.  It is a payment from the state that is intended to help cover the cost of clothes, diapers, food, supplies, toys and activities for the children in care.  It is for the child.  And it truly is a reimbursement, beginning after the end of the first month the child is in care.  It is set at a standardized rate per day, per child based on the level of needs of the child.  You can view the current rates by clicking here.

A note about these "service levels": each child's case is given a level of basic, moderate, specialized or intense.  This is not an attempt to label a child and fit them into some kind of cookie cutter mold, but rather an attempt to make sure that children with varying levels of need are sufficiently getting those needs met.  A child who is doing really well given whatever circumstances occurred to bring him or her into foster care would be in the basic care category.  However, a child who has major behavior, social, mental or medical issues will need a higher level of care, skill and resources, hence the incremental reimbursement scale.

According to that page, we as a foster family will be reimbursed $23.10 per day, per child, for the basic care level.  We do not have to keep receipts or show how much of our grocery bill was for the child and how much for the rest of the household.  Nothing like that.  The payment is made at a standard rate regardless.  The social workers have other ways to tell if foster parents are truly providing for the child or are just cashing in on the reimbursement for themselves and neglecting the needs of the child, which sadly does happen (see the last section of this post).

Daycare Subsidy
Foster parents are not expected to have a stay at home parent and in fact, most do not.  For foster families where both parents work full time, the state provides a daycare subsidy that covers the cost of daycare at a state licensed daycare center which is approved to take the Childcare Services (CCS) payments.  Unlike the reimbursement described above which is paid to the foster parent to reimburse prior costs, this daycare subsidy is paid directly to the childcare center and the foster parents never touch it.  In some cases, the daycare's actual fees may be greater than the CCS payment amount, so foster parents may have to make up the difference.

We're not entirely sure if we will qualify for this daycare subsidy since Trent technically works part time, but if you look at school plus work, he is gone from home full time.   We've been told by an 11 year veteran foster mom "His school will count as his work too" and "You'll get it."  We've been told by the director of the daycare we have picked out that in her years of experience caring for foster children at her daycare, she "has never had one that didn't get the subsidy".   So we'll see.  If we are not eligible for the subsidy, no biggee.  We can swing it on our own.  Remember, money wasn't part of our original decision.

Regardless, we have picked out what appears to be a stellar childcare center which is a 4 star Texas Rising Star center. The director is a licensed social worker who has had many children attend there who have been in foster care, including those of the veteran foster mom I mentioned above who gave us her thumbs up for the place.  The center is obviously set up to take CCS payments and the director told us that for foster parents, if there is a difference between their fees and what CCS pays, the foster parents do not have to make up the difference.   Class sizes are kept intentionally small at all times so that allows them to work well with our unknown time frame, making it possible for us to call her up and say "just got a placement" and her to say "come on over."  Win!

WIC Program
WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children and is part of the Texas Department Of State Health Services.  It provides nutrition/health education and nutritious food items, including baby food, to low income pregnant women and new mothers.  Foster parents are eligible for this program as well and can either go to a local WIC location to pick up items for an infant or young child in their care, or can receive a WIC card for use at the grocery store on eligible items.  Next time you are shopping, look for labels next to things like cheese, eggs, milk and baby food that say "WIC item".  This is what that means.  Learn something new every day huh?

Health Insurance
Foster children receive health insurance coverage through STAR Health which is a division of Medicaid.  Foster parents must take children in their care to health providers that accept STAR Health. This includes other health services such as therapy and counseling.  Besides incidental First Aid type care at home (bandaids, lots of bandaids, we've been told), foster parents don't have to cover medical costs out of pocket and are not allowed to place a foster child on their own private insurance plan.

Once A Child Is Adopted
This sounds like a lot of help available to the foster parents, huh?  No kidding, we think so too.  Once a child is adopted from foster care, these services come to a halt, with some exceptions.  For certain adoption situations, "adoption assistance" payments may continue but these situations involve pretty specific criteria related to age of the child when adopted, whether the child is a minority, and whether special needs are present.  Otherwise, an adopted child is viewed by the state no differently than a biological child. No monthly reimbursement, no daycare subsidy, no WIC, and have to put them on the family's own health insurance.  But that's to be expected right?  Who wouldn't give a child who is now their own child the dignity of being provided for no differently than a biological child would be?  One more note on the adoption itself: there is no fee to the adoptive parents for adoption of a child through foster care, whether through a foster-to-adopt situation or a waiting child situation.

Possible Free College Tuition To A State School
IF a child's adoption fits into the adoption assistance criteria mentioned above, free college tuition to a Texas state supported college or university is available to them. This also applies universally to children that age out of foster care (turn age 18) without being adopted, which sadly happens a lot.

Yes, Some Foster Parents Abuse The System
I bet if you already knew about the financial side of foster care it's probably because a) you know me in real life and I have told you about it, b) you are interested in foster care yourself and have learned about it or c) you heard about it in the news from a case where foster parents abused or took advantage of it.  It happens.  Sadly, it happens a lot.  Stories of foster families whose biological kids got to eat steak and potatoes and cake with the parents while the foster kids sat at a different table and were given ramen noodles.  Stories of foster families whose biological kids got brand new clothes from Holister and the foster kids got clothes from the thrift store that were worn out or didn't fit.

The good news is that if these stories have made it to the news then those foster parents' licenses have made it to the trash.  The bad news is that these stories give foster parents a bad rap.  Since the negative stories are what make it to the newspaper or tv, it makes it look like foster parents are just "in it for the paycheck".

Here's my news story to try to counteract the bad ones.  Any financial benefits in place are for the benefit of the child and are there to assist the foster parents in being better able to care for the child.  There are many quality, caring foster parents out there and many foster care success stories of reunification or adoption.  They don't make the news, but they're out there, trust me.

Anyone who actually read through this whole thing to the bottom gets an imaginary cookie.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Dear Men, A Note On Living In A House With A Woman

Dear Men,

Come 'ere, let's have a little chat about living in a house with a woman.  You know, that cute, complicated being to whom you committed life and love and square footage.

At any given time, there may be sneakers by the dresser, slippers by the bed, flats on her feet...and more sneakers, slippers, slip-ons, sandals, flats, flip flops, high heels, peep toes, pumps, rain boots, riding boots and high heel boots in the closet.

There will most likely be tearful PMS episodes that you can't fix or explain and neither can she.

There will probably be froo froo decor sitting around that you see zero need for.

There may be times when your sweet comments about her being beautiful just the way she is are met with "mmm okay" and "if you say so", making you want to holler "Why don't you believe me?!"

There will be chick flicks.  They are inescapable.  Sorry.

There will for sure be more booty grabs and hopeful, suggestive comments attempted by you than there are times she takes you up on them.  Then why does she keep wearing those tight workout leggings around the house???  I know, cruel.

There may be chores or projects you take care of that go unnoticed because she's too busy complaining about socks or something.

And she will probably want to take a picture of everything...


Men, how about you cut your women some slack and allow them to be...women.

I don't mean build yourself a literal Man Cave where you must take shelter from a constant stream of tears, nagging, denials and shoe purchases.

What I mean is...living in a house with a woman can be frustrating, annoying and complicated at times.  But you are not living with a robot, programmed to match, mirror and suit your every nuance and need, despite what that Stepford Wives movie may have portrayed.  And you are not living with yourself.  You are living with another human being and that human being is different from you. You committed to share life together, for better or worse, for successful booty grabs or PMS tears.

Men, you live with a woman. Don't be so surprised when she acts like one.  :-)

Sincerely,
Anna

P.S. Click here for a note to the women on living in a house with a man.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dear Women, A Note On Living In A House With A Man

Dear Women, 

Come 'ere, let's have a little chat about living in a house with a man. You know, that handsome, hairy being to whom you committed life and love and square footage. 

At any given time, there may be a carburetor on the ottoman, a catalytic converter on the dining table or a rifle stock on the nightstand. 



There will most likely be dirty socks in the living room. 

There will probably be whiskers in the bathroom sink.

There may be shoot 'em up video games and intense action movies assaulting your ears.  

There will for sure be more booty grabs and hopeful, suggestive comments than there are times you are in the mood for them.

There will be arguments and spats over important stuff and stupid stuff.

There may be things that you think are the end of the world that he just doesn't seem to care all that much about, which will drive you nuts.

There may be Hawaiian shirts, overalls, and socks with sandals and, if you are really lucky, all of the above at the same time.


Ladies, how about we cut our men some slack and allow them to be...men.

I don't mean just throw your hands up and surrender to a fate of picking up laundry that is everywhere but the hamper while said man hones his zombie apocalypse moves on xbox for hours on end.  That's an imbalanced relationship if I ever saw one, and needs some healthy discussion stat.

What I mean is...living in a house with a man can be frustrating, annoying and complicated at times.  But you are not living with a robot, programmed to match, mirror and suit your every need and nuance. And you are not living with yourself.  You are living with another human being and that human being is different from you. You committed to share life together, for better or worse, for clean laundry or stinky socks.

Ladies, you live with a man.  Don't be so surprised when he acts like one.  :-)

Sincerely,
Anna

P.S. Click here for a note to the fellas on living in a house with a woman...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Takeaways & Tidbits Lately Vol. 2

"The great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor."

The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne

--------------------

"I used to say "But we tithe, and that money goes to stuff Jesus was all into."  Except many churches use it for marble floors and shiny buildings and cool videos and expensive mailers and pretty landscaping and fancy sound equipment and, in one recent case, an awesome multimillion-dollar jet.  How have we let the church deteriorate like this?  How is this okay?  How can we endorse these expenditures?  When did this become standard protocol for the Bride of Christ?  We've engineered an elaborate two-step to justify this egregious spending on ourselves. We are far from Jesus' original vision; the whole enterprise would be unrecognizable to our early church fathers.  The earth is groaning, and we're putting coffee bars in our thirty-five-million-dollar sanctuaries.  Just because we can have it doesn't mean we should.  I marvel at how out of place simple, humble Jesus would be in today's American churches."

And on a lighter note...

"We brought our bounty home and ate half immediately.  It's peach season in central Texas, reader.  Our Fredericksburg peaches lasted three hours."

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

Represent!  My little hometown grows stellar peaches!

--------------------

Email from my sister, Sarah, upon procurement of a printing press for the print shop she and a friend are about to open:

 Hello family!  Wanted to share pictures of our new 1,800 pound arrival...Buchanan the Chandler And Price Press.  We rolled it on pipes, Egyption style, about 10 feet and then used a come-along to slowly maneuver it up into the trailer. All involved fingers and toes are intact save one dislocated finger joint. Quite a feat!



Goodness gracious, my family does awesome things...

--------------------

Beth: Any chance I could convince you two to co-direct Grand Camp 1 this coming summer?
Trent: Oh Beth, you know me.  Small children scare me...
Me: Trent, we can't be scared of small children anymore...our house is about to be consumed by them.
Trent: Ok, small children in large numbers... 

Facebook messages with the Area Youth Minister.  We decided to face Trent's fear and go for it.  Should be a GRAND adventure.

--------------------

Me: Today I cut my tongue on a lollipop and it was the saddest thing EVER.
Trent: The saddest thing ever?
Me: Yes!  Lollipops are supposed to be only happiness and yay.
Trent: Happiness and yay?
Me: Yes........oh hush.
Trent: I love you.

--------------------

Email from my mama regarding Christmas plans:

Any ideas about what else to DO? Rock Box? Ice Skate? Hunt? Make sausage?  Watch college football? Stomp Main St & drink lots of coffee? PUT CHRISTMAS PUZZLES TOGETHER AND PLAY SKIP BO!!!!!! Oh what fun it is to ride .... wheeeee!

She gets VERY EXCITED when her chicks visit the nest.  I adore my mother.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

To The Mother I Saw In The Grocery Store

Dear sweet stranger in the grocery store, I just want you to know that I noticed the smile radiating from your pretty pale face mirrored in the sweet dark eyes of the little girl at your side.

I heard her lovingly call you "mama".

I saw her slip her small, chocolate brown hand into your creamy white one.

I could tell there may be more to your family's coming-together story than others'. 

I watched with a smile on my face as you joined her in weighing the options of which chips to purchase, finally making a decision with gravity and glee.

I saw you dance yourselves and the cart down the aisle away from me, your daughter in front of you clinging to the handle, as you both sung a tune. 

I wanted to dance over to the eggs along with you to see what such a sweet pair would do next.

As I exited the store, I want you to know that I saw you there outside the door, full cart of groceries momentarily forgotten, crouched down at your daughter's level, engrossed in an explanation of the dollars and cents on the outdoor items' big price tags.

I couldn't shake you from my heart for the rest of the evening and found myself grinning as I recalled the devotion, sincerity and fun that permeated your interactions with your daughter.

Carry on, sweet family.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Things I've Been Trying To Work On Lately

Buying fresh produce
This is somehow a novelty to me.  Besides peppers, tomatoes, onions and occasional fruits, we are not that accustomed to buying fresh produce. Upside: It can be sooo cheap.  Also the whole good for your body thing. Downside: Turns out these perishable items, well...perish.  I'm learning the hard way to use 'em or lose 'em if I let them sit too long more than a few days.   So far we have ventured into the land of acorn squash, cauliflower, fresh garlic, new potatoes and brussel sprouts (I've never cooked them myself even though we go way back seeing as I'm German and all).  The verdict so far: yum.

Thorough grocery shopping
I recently figured out how to grocery shop.  Please don't laugh.  I don't mean that I didn't grocery shop at all before.  I just mean that I didn't really know where a lot of stuff is, didn't know how to menu plan or make good lists and wasn't actually willing to pay enough per trip to have stuff at home we will actually want to cook and eat.  I'm no longer winging it but rather approaching the store with a plan, regularity and a bigger budget line item.  Results: We are eating out at restaurants wu-hay less, which more than makes up for the bigger grocery spending.

Regular cooking
I already told you, please don't laugh!  We are in a new routine or chapter of our life right now.  The chapter before this called for lots of hurried meals, food on the fly, "we don't really have any food at home because we didn't have time to grocery shop so let's just go get something", and "we've barely seen each other in three days, let's go out to eat for a little date even though we do have food at home."  But now? I get off at 5 and may or may not go to Jazzercise which lasts until 6:30.  Trent gets home at 7:30.  Regular schedule + time in between me getting home and Trent getting home = time for me to make dinner.   Dinner almost ready when Trent comes through the door = no reason to go grab something and spend money.  Win, win, win.

Figuring out what church is
This is an interesting time for me.  For the past few years, church was going, doing, planning, pouring, and following along on our adventures in youth ministry lead by my husband.  But now?  For a short time at least, I need church to be arriving, sitting, soaking up, and leaving.   Amidst this I'm figuring out what church is to me as an individual, instead of me as the youth minister's wife.  I'm learning that my experience of church for the past few years isn't automatically indicative of what it will be from now on. I'm stepping timidly through a time of searching and change.  And I'm blessed to have a husband and a pastor both willing to engage in these conversations with me.

Enjoying this calm season
My routine is pretty stellar right now.   My work hours are regular, aka, only 40 a week.  My only extracurricular activity is Jazzercise, which I love.   I have time to grocery shop and cook as described above.  I have read six books in the past month (which completely boggles my mind).  I know this calm spell is going to fly right out the window the instant we get "the call" for our first foster placement, so I'm trying to really be aware of it and enjoy it while it's still hanging around.  In a way, I'm letting my soul rest up for the road ahead.


What are some things y'all are working on?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Overwhelmed By Generosity aka "I Told You She'd Cry"

Keith:  I told you she'd cry.
Misti: If she didn't cry, I was gonna cry.
Kristin: If she didn't cry now, I'm sure she'd cry later as she's blogging about this.

And so friends, here we are.  It appears I am predictable.  And weepy.

On Friday afternoon, I moseyed across the parking lot with some coworkers for a Starbucks break (well, break for them, I was signed out and headed home early!), where I was handed a white envelope out of the blue.  The contents of said envelope made my hands shake, my voice fail me and my eyes well up with crocodile tears that promptly spilled over.




WHAT?!  Unknown to me, the fine folks at my office pulled together almost $500 for a Target giftcard for us, then stashed it in a personally signed card that we will cherish always.  

Keith: We did a giftcard because we didn't really know what y'all will need.
Me:  We don't know what we will need either! 

This giftcard could be baby bottles and diapers or it could be twin size bed sheets and 1st grade school supplies. 

This could be pretty pink dresses or camo pants. 

This could be onesies for a 6 month old or sneakers for a 6 year old. 

Or...all of the above at the same time.  

We don't know yet what our initial scramble will look like once we get a placement, and that is why this gift is perfect. But you know what truly touches my heart?  The card.  The well wishes, the blessings, the signatures and the love of the many, many people that rallied together to bless us with this gift.  

This card is such an encouragement to us and is hanging out on our organization station in our kitchen...right next to our properly documented and displayed fire escape plan...


And for the record, Kristin, I didn't cry while writing this post.  It's all smiles now.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Novel Idea Of Living Within Your Means

I prepare a lot of tax returns.  It's the bulk of my job description, though Intern Wrangler competes strongly during the spring.  Sometimes doing tax returns is weird because I get to see into the financial lives of people I do not know and learn a whole lot about them just from the pieces of paper they turn over to me.  I see varied income situations, business successes and failures, and very unique dependents' names.  But there is one situation I sadly have seen several times on tax returns and it just blows my mind.  It goes like this:

Taxpayer occupation: doctor, lawyer, fill in the blank professional
Annual income: somewhere between $300,000 and $500,000
Deductions:
     -invoices for sales tax deduction showing brand new luxury car for him/herself and brand new hip car for dependent, with loans taken out for both
     -student loan interest, sometimes for taxpayer him/herself and dependent at the same time (wince)
     -mortgage interest and real estate taxes on vacation home
     -two or sometimes three mortgage interest statements for primary residence
Tax to be paid when tax return filed: around $3,000 since withholding came up a bit short
Taxpayer reaction: shock and inability to pull the amount from anywhere
Result: questions about how to pay their tax bill on a credit card

I, of course, put on my professional hat (you know, the green visor that stereotyped accountants wear in movies...just kidding) and politely inform them that they can indeed pay their tax bill with a credit card, but the IRS charges a fee for doing so, etc, etc.  What I really would like to say is any or all of the following:

Do you realize you make six digits?

Didya really need the newest Mercedes or was your Lexus doin' just fine?

Did your teenage daughter really need a brand spankin' new Mustang?  I mean, I got to school super in an old Corolla named Squirrel.

Why exactly do you have a vacation home when you already have a primary residence on which you have three mortgages, with interest alone totaling more than I make in a year?

And you are currently freaking out because you can't pull $3,000 from anywhere to pay your tax bill?

Did I mention that you make six digits?

Whooosaaaaw, deep breaths.  Considering even a smidgen of these unsolicited comments would be completely unprofessional, I just stick to the calm coaching about which would be worse, credit card fees and interest or IRS late payment penalties and interest.   What a dumb situation to be in when you make almost half a million dollars a year.

DEAR PEOPLE!  I have the secret to happiness for all you middle class folks that are so blessed with a steady, good level of income and yet are so financially stressed and unhappy: try living within your means.   And I don't mean folks making half a million dollars like my client above.  I mean truly middle class families making well under $100,000 a year.  Do you realize how rich you are compared to most of the world?   For goodness sake, let's try to manage it well instead of acting like we are all stressed to death and just don't have enough money.  I'm not talking about getting out of debt here, though that obviously plays a big part in financial stress relief. I'm talking about structuring little daily financial routines all the way up to giant decisions like how much house to buy in such a way that you are not getting in over your head.

Live in a house you can afford, really afford.   Our house cost five digits, contains over 2000 square feet, is almost 70 years old and has not imploded on us yet.  Oh, and our mortgage payment is less than $700. It's a pretty stellar set up.

Drive a car you can afford and pay off.  Then keep that paid off car until it dies or your needs for size or utility change.  And for goodness sake, if you drive a fancy commuter truck that gets 12 mpg and has never nor ever will haul, pull or trailer something, or even as much as have mud boots stuck upside down between the cab and the bed, you should get rid of that truck stat.

Don't buy your teenager a brand new car. Just don't. There are life lessons to be learned here.  My 17 year old sister drives an old, beige, hail pocked Honda Accord that a lot of teenagers wouldn't be caught dead in, but you know how she feels about it?  She's just grateful to have some wheels, calls it the Hondatron, and says the pock marks just add "texture" and give it good aerodynamics like a a golf ball.  That, my friends, is the kind of teenager you want to raise.

As long as student loans are in the picture, give them a higher priority than flashy vacations.

Or just don't take flashy vacations.  I've never been to Disney World and honestly I think my memories of mom + daughters nights watching Cinderella on VHS are much more special.  Not to mention several thousand dollars cheaper.

Folks, I can tell you from firsthand experience that living within your means is da bomb.   It allows you to take care of budgeting and bills in a matter of fact, "no biggee" attitude, then close the laptop or checkbook and not worry further.  For us, it allowed us to exit Trent's entire church job/paycheck for him to go to seminary with no freak outs whatsoever.  Between losing that paycheck and getting raises at our remaining jobs, it was about $15,000 net income gone.  Kablam.  And it was no. big. deal.

People, I want this peace of mind for you. It takes intention and what you perceive at the time as real sacrifice to get there, but let me tell you, once you get there, you can throw financial stress out the window and it is so flippin awesome.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Takeaways And Tidbits Lately

"You know, I think this is what we're supposed to look like when we stand before Jesus.  I don't think we're supposed to show up in glory with time to spare, a fresh manicure, and perfect hair.  I think if we're really living the gospel, we're going to fall at His feet exhausted and messy, with mismatched socks, just plumb worn out from loving people as hard as we can!"

Overextended...And Loving Most Of It: The Unexpected Joy of Being Harried, Heartbroken and Hurling Oneself Off Cliffs by Lisa Harper

--------------------

"Sometimes obedience isn't for us at all, but for another.  We don't know how God holds the kingdom in balance or why He moves a chess piece at a crucial time; we might never see the results of his sovereignty.  But we can trust Him when he says press on, cling to hope, stay the course.  He is always at work, even if the entire thread is hidden.  I might just be one shade of one color of one strand, but I'm a part of an elaborate tapestry that goes beyond my perception."

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

--------------------

"If you need any baby stuff, let me know."
"We're cleaning out the garage and set aside a bunch of kid stuff for you. Come over and take anything you want."
"I have some bags of toddler clothes for you."
"I've got a twin box spring, frame and headboard, just not the mattress. But you are welcome to those things if you want them."

Some of the wonderful people in our life lately

--------------------

Me: Rachel said we could have one of her cribs.
Trent: Does she want to give away both of her cribs?
Me: Maybe, but we probably don't need two cribs.
Trent: We might need two cribs...
Me: You're right...we might...

Crazy realizations of just what an unknown road we are headed down

--------------------

Me: I kind of want the little Nook reader...
Trent: Super! Let's do it.
Me: I mean, it's not terribly expensive I guess...
Trent:  Yeah it's not bad, let's do it.
Me: Maybe you could find it cheaper on Ebay...
Trent: Yep look, here's one new for only $40, let's do it.
Me: Oh, it can wait and be on my Christmas list...
Trent:  You never buy anything for yourself, let's get the silly thing!
Me: Ok I'll see if it fits in the budget for this paycheck...

Dynamics of a financial nerd living with a tech nerd

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Home Study Complete, And Now We Wait

Well folks, we have done all that we are supposed to do to become licensed foster-to-adopt parents.  Our home study interviews last Monday were the final step.  And now we wait.  The lady who did our interviews has two weeks to do her giant write up about us, then she'll turn that back over to CPS where a supervisor will review our entire file.  So we're getting really, really close to being licensed.

Let me tell ya, being grilled for 5.5 hours by a stranger about your marriage relationship and hopes for family is a pretty good way to see if you and your spouse are on the same page or not.  Newsflash: we are.   I know the point of the interviews was for this lady to glean information about us, but it was also a really good opportunity for us to glean information about ourselves and bring this whole past year of processing, discussing and learning to a culmination.  The home study visit was exhausting, voice straining and brain smushing, I was pretty useless when I headed back to the office afterwards and I couldn't muster up any energy for Jazzercise that evening.  But, it was worth it.

She asked us what our strengths and weaknesses are as individuals and as a couple.  She asked us how we handle disagreements.  She asked us how we were raised and disciplined, how our relationships with our families are and how each of us gets along with in-laws.  She asked us about our finances, our health, our neighborhood, our friends, our stresses, our outlets for fun, and our love life.  She asked us how we plan to protect, nurture, discipline, teach and love on the kids that would come into our home.  She asked how we feel about birth parents, social workers, lawyers and the CPS system in general.

She asked us "If you could change something about your marriage, what would it be?"  We had to sit for a minute to think about that one and all we could really come up with was maybe that Trent be better about putting his dirty clothes in the hamper...  If dirty clothes are our biggest worry...I think we're in good shape.

And so we wait, for just a few more weeks.   Then it could be "go time" at any moment.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Learning To Expect Delays But Not Lose Heart

I literally just sat down at my laptop with the blank Compose window for this post showing the title "Home Study Visit Tomorrow, No Pressure Right?"   I was planning to wax poetic and comical about my urge to scrub every nook and cranny of our house even though this particular person is not particularly interested in our physical house, and my notion gleaned from movies and a friend's testimony that one must bake homemade cookies for this type of visit and preferably burn them in order to have a good story to tell later...

Then the very nice lady who is doing our home study called to say her husband has to have surgery tomorrow and could we reschedule for Monday morning?  Though I wanted to say "Surgery? Lame excuse. Our future kids are on the line here, lady", I actually said "Monday morning is just fine. We'll see ya then."

I hung up, texted Trent about the change, scooted my now ironic laptop screen out of the way, set my head in my hands, shed a few very large tears, sat up, scooted my laptop back towards me and updated this blog post title to the one you see above.  You see, this is just more practice for us to get ready to work in a system that is complicated and, at times, heartbreaking.

We originally began working with an agency that then closed its entire Waco office and pretty much left us on the curb.  

We turned to DFPS and our intro meeting was originally scheduled for April...but actually took place in May.

We were originally told our training would begin in August...but it actually began mid September.

We originally scheduled our home study visit for tomorrow...but it will actually happen four days from now.

I've found my amount of stress and tears has diminished for each of these delays and I'm realizing that this is really good practice.  I don't mean it's teaching us that we can't rely on the various players in this system. We have found ourselves working with amazing people. What I mean is that these delays now are helping us build up a thick skin and a big heart to later deal with even more serious delays and curveballs.

We may be told that a child in our care has a visit with their birth parent on a certain day...but then that birth parent doesn't show up.

We may be told to arrive at court for a hearing on a certain date...but then learn that some random piece of paper is not entirely in order, or some needed person is not present, and be told to come back again at a later time.

We may be told that it looks like a child will be able to go home to his or her parent in a matter of weeks...but then said parent slips up or a new side of the case surfaces and that child can't go home quite as soon as they thought, if at all.

We might be told that a case will be a slam dunk for termination of parental rights and we might quickly be able to head towards adoption of a certain child or children...but then the birth parent is awesome and gets their act together, works their service plan and brings their kids home.

We are discerning a tricky balance here. On one side we are learning that we need to take things with a grain of salt, go with the flow and be aware that things can change or be delayed in the blink of an eye.  On the other side, we are learning that we need to dive headfirst into the choppy waters of this commitment, extend our heart to these kids with abandon and know that it will most likely get trampled on along the way.

So our home study got delayed four days?  That's a blip compared to some of the stuff we are headed into.

Moving right along...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

9 Reasons I Love Jazzercise

1. The focus isn't on weight loss or being skinny.  The focus is on being healthy. Losing weight is just a bonus.

2. Attendance is made up completely of normal looking women, of all ages, occasionally including a 7-ish year old.

3. It's a safe place to shake my booty and "shimmy the girls".

4. The instructors are such kind, funny women.

5. It truly is a good full body workout.  We get sweatay, let me tell ya.

6. We get pelted with positive phrases like "y'all are looking awesome", "look at all you sexy women out there", "we're so glad you're here today", "work those cute little booties", and "God bless ya!"

7. If we are invaded by zombies, we have been taught plenty of good punches and round house kicks...or we can just stun them to death with our stellar dance moves.

8. It's the only place where leggings really can appropriately serve as pants.

9. WE'RE SEXY AND WE KNOW IT!!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Currently


Currently...

Enjoying a glass of wine after getting hot and sweaty doing chores

Proud of my husband who is writing his third paper this week, and it's only Monday

Considering dying my hair

Reminding myself to be thankful for our old house, quirks and all

Missing my sisters

Anticipating our home study visit which is now scheduled for this Friday afternoon

Loving children I haven't even met yet

Bringing home the bacon

Listening to the shrieky ghost sounds our water heater makes and

Realizing that it might really scare our kids

Obsessed with my pink, sparkly nails, thanks to the youngest of the many Stephanies in my life

Pondering what size tupperware the remaining tortellini from dinner will fit best in

Remembering just now that I have a load of laundry to fold

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Novel Thing Called Boredom

Yesterday evening I experienced something I haven't experienced in years.  Boredom.  It was weird.  I felt like I was doing something illegal by not doing anything.

You see, I haven't worked a regular 8 to 5 schedule since January and now I am (for a few months at least).

Our house is clean, laundry done, groceries gotten, so I didn't need to do any chores.

No foster paperwork to complete or inspections to prepare for since that's all done and we are in limbo waiting for a call to schedule our home study visit.

I read two books in the past five days, which tends to happen after tax deadlines pass.  So I didn't want to read more.

Project Runway just ended and since it and So You Think You Can Dance are the only shows I watch record, I didn't have any episodes to catch up on.

I didn't want to blog.  Just wasn't feelin' it.

Trent was at church, so I couldn't hang out with him.

I was seriously at a loss, people!  I was standing aimlessly between our living room and dining room without a clue what I should do.   I felt mischievous and I felt great.  I felt deliciously unproductive for once.  There was no to-do list or agenda and I didn't go in search of one.

So you know what I did?  I flopped on the sofa and got a crick in my neck from watching two straight hours of Duck Dynasty...

Uh oh.  You know what this means?  We need some kiddos up in here, stat!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Foster Training Is Complete, Next Up: Home Study

Hey, guess what!  We finished our DFPS training last week.  Time flies when you are trying to stay afloat through 6 hours of training per week plus one short month to get lots of inspections and paperwork done plus homework and a midterm, all sandwiched conveniently between two tax deadlines.  Ay yi yi.  But we did it! And we have fancy certificates to prove it.


Friends, we are getting really close to being licensed foster parents with our names on the "ready, set, go list", which is a real thing but not named that I'm sure because I just made that up...   But for real, we're about a month away from being licensed. Our nine training sessions are complete, our ole house has passed its various inspections and our initial home visit from our social worker resulted in her "selecting us in" to the system which is their fancy way of telling us we've made it through Round One.  

Now comes Round Two.  The Home Study.

"But Anna," you say, "didn't you just tell us they've already studied your home plenty and it passed with flying colors?"  Well, first of all, I don't know about flying colors...probably more like 35 mile per hour colors. I mean, come on, we can't get grass to grow in our backyard and the dining room that I tore into in 2009 still doesn't have baseboards...  Anyway.  Yes, they have checked out our physical house and deemed it safe for children.  Now what's left is for them to check us out as human beings.   Hence, the home study visit.

DFPS currently contracts out home studies (because there is currently funding to do so) to a firm that does nothing but home studies.  So, DFPS will gather up every scrap of paperwork we have turned in and hand it over to this firm, who will start our file then call us soon to schedule a home study visit from one of their people. This person isn't interested in our house. They are interested in us. It will basically be about half a day of questions.  Lots of talking.  Lots. As our social worker told us "they're gonna get in our business."  Who are we? Why do we want to be foster-to-adopt parents? How were we raised?  How is our relationship with our families?  What experience do we have with kids? How will we parent and discipline? What support system do we have? How is our marriage?  How do we make decisions and handle stress?

Did I mention this takes about half a day?  Whew.  Bring it on.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Life After Church Ministry

It has been two and a half months now since we remodeled life as we had known it for three years.  We stepped out of the realm of church ministry and into the realm of grad school and preparing for foster care.  Though we have gotten used to our new routine, there was plenty of change to grapple with in the meantime.

The biggest change is obviously that we are no longer surrounded by teenagers all the time.  Trent is volunteering a little bit with the youth at our new church, but it's pretty minimal.  He likes being in volunteer mode with it which allows him to say "Sorry can't come this time" if he has too much homework or something going on.   And me?  No teenagers for me.  When we stepped out of church youth ministry, I made the decision to turn my focus to foster care and pour myself into that.

Without regular Wednesday youth group as a midweek marker, my week days run together like crazy!

We lost a paycheck but are staying afloat just fine.  More on that later.

It's October 16th and we have not seen or touched a pumpkin yet this month.  Whoa.

Our weekends are actually weekends again, which is really nice, not gonna lie.

Trent has homework, reading, studying and a 99% average in his Greek class.  His nerdy soul is thriving.

He has been getting to know good people over there in seminary land.  Good professors, advisors and fellow students.  Different ages, different experiences, some married, some not. Some from around here and one from Australia.  All learning, searching, growing and being challenged.

We miss our kids.  A lot.  But we hope they are in good hands, we think of them often and are grateful for Facebook as a way to keep up with their lives.

Things are good.  Things are really different from what we were so used to, but it's good. We're rocking and rolling, living life, loving life and just continuing to see what God has in store for us each day.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dear Young Women, Please Explain The Giant T-shirt Trend To Me

Dear Young Women,

I need some help.  I just don't get this giant T-shirt trend.  You know what I'm talking about...the XXL t-shirts with the shoulder seams halfway to your elbows and the hem halfway to your knees, most commonly worn with covering up Nike or knock-off running shorts and often paired with an intentionally messy and even sometimes greasy looking ponytail.   Exhibit A:


The other night Trent and I stopped at the Student Union Building at Baylor for some dinner before heading to the library to crank out our autobiography packets for CPS.  Our quest for a hamburger was nearly derailed by our encounter with a massive, high pitched gaggle of sorority girls outside the food court.  ("Oh my gawd, I'm like so glad to see you! I haven't like seen you in like two ooweerrrs!")  BUT, for the sake of our tummies and the opportunity for me to take this stalkerish blogger photo, we braved the onslaught.

Notice anything?  They are ALL sporting the giant t-shirt.

Girls, I tried to think of what purpose it serves or why this trend is so popular, but this is all I came up with:

A) You girls are modest and don't want boys to be looking at your bodies so you obscure your figure in a sack.

B) You girls really aren't modest and do want boys to be interested in your bodies, therefore forcing the boys to wonder "Hmmm, does she actually have shorts on under that long shirt?"

C) You work out all. the. dang. time.

D) You don't actually have any other clothing and are therefore forced to go through your day wearing your pajamas.

E) Your regular fashion life is just so overwhelmingly fabulous that you often have to go to the other extreme of baggy shirts and messy ponytails to take a break.

F)  You want to give off the impression that you spend many schmexy nights at your boyfriend's and live a perpetual "walk of shame" back to your place wearing his too-big-for-you shirt.  (Psst, sweetie, having your sorority name all over the too-big-for-you shirt kinda gives away the fact that it's not actually his shirt.)

That's all I got.  Girls, please enlighten me.  In the meantime, I'll stick with my size medium shirts that actually fit me...

Sincerely,
Anna

Friday, October 11, 2013

Why We Don't Want You To Congratulate Us On Our First Foster Placement

This topic has been rolling around in my head and heart lately and I'm just gonna go for it even though this may seem like an ungrateful thing to write about.  We're getting really close to being officially licensed as foster parents, which means soon our name will be in the hat for our first placement of children with us.  There's been a lot of build up to this, a lot of time, a lot of work.   It will be exciting. It will be huge.  It will be life altering.  It will be so hard and it will be so amazing.

But...when we get our first placement...please don't congratulate us.  We want your well wishes.  We need your prayers.  But congratulations just doesn't really seem to fit.

You see, for a child to come into our home, something happened that made it unsafe for them to be in their own home.

For us to add a child as part of our family, even for a short time, another family has to be without their child, and a child without his family, even for a short time.

For us to have the joy of taking care of a child, someone else who was supposed to have that joy doesn't.

For us to experience that point of becoming parents, when life as we know it flies out the window and we reach that moment we've worked towards and planned for, a child is experiencing life as they know it come crashing down around them.

For us to welcome a child into our forever family, if that is able to happen someday, that child has to lose the family that was supposed to be forever but couldn't be.

So, when we get "the call" and we post on facebook that it's go time, please turn any words of congratulations for us into a prayer for the child or children coming into our care.  This isn't about us.  It's about them.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Confidentiality In Foster Care

I had the following conversation with a coworker the other day:

Coworker: I learned recently that you can't put pictures of your foster kids on Facebook.
Me:  Correct.  I have a blog post in my draft line up about that very topic.

So here it is.

For anyone chomping at the bit to hear a bunch of details and see cute faces once we begin having placements, don't get your hopes up.  We cannot post any personal information about foster children in our care, including photos and names, anywhere on the internet.  There are several reasons for this:

1.  It's the rule.  We're simply not allowed to, in order to protect the privacy of the child and the child's birth family, who deserves respect, no matter what the situation.

2. We'll be helping these kids deal with some tough issues and bad stuff they've been through.  No way am I going to post all kind of details about their situation and what happened to them. That's just insensitive. Any children that come to our home will have experienced some kind of abuse, neglect, perhaps an alcoholic or drug addicted parent, or other endangerment or trauma, in order to come into care.  That's a given.  But we'll just leave it at that for purposes of internet world.

3. This is their story to tell.  Not ours.

So, if you know us in real life, you will of course know our kids' names, see them in person, and see many cute pictures of them on our phone or camera. For family far away, we'll set up private photo sites online. Our Christmas cards will most definitely include any children in our care at the time. We want you to know our kids and love on our kids.   But we must appropriately protect their privacy during their time in care.  We ask that you would also respect this rule in your own use of social media if you take pictures of, or make mention of, our family.

But, if you only know us through the internet, please don't expect to see pictures, learn names or get the scoop on what our kids have been through.   Don't worry, I'm still going to talk about them on the blog, share happy times as well as struggles, and discuss general day to day issues we face as foster parents.  It will just be with no pictures, no details and with cute but obscure nicknames like Little One, Baby Girl, Lil Man or whatever we come up with.

If and when a child or children are adopted into our family permanently and legally, we can then post pictures, names and news about them on the internet as we wish.  But until that day, confidentiality is the name of the game.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Saracita, I Am Painting 3 Foot Tall Weeds On Our Closet Doors And They Look BOMB!!"

The title of this post is a reenactment of the text message I sent to my sister as I transformed the closet doors in our bedroom into a windy dandelion garden.   It was super fun and pretty easy.  I had toyed with many stenciling ideas for our new room and landed on this stencil from Cutting Edge Stencils.  


I used leftover yellow paint from a test can that was our first attempt at yellow for the walls that we deemed too bold.   I also used leftover gray paint that we used to paint the frame of the full length mirror in our room (to the right of the closet doors).  All matchy matchy and nice.   

Using the stencil was pretty easy.  I followed the directions' recommendation and bought a spray adhesive to lightly mist onto the back of the stencil so that it would temporarily stick to the closet door and prevent the paint from bleeding under the edges of the stencil.  Since this design has a lot of little bitty spaces, this was super helpful and this would have been a disaster without the adhesive.  Otherwise I just used painters tape to hold the whole thing in place and got to painting with little 99 cent craft paint rollers.



I let the paint dry on the stencil in between painting each dandelion to prevent stray paint on the back from swiping onto the doors.  I also held it up in many different spots to figure out where I wanted to do the next one, then reapplied spray adhesive lightly, taped and smoothed it in place and went to town with the paint again.


When I switched to using the gray paint, I actually flipped the entire stencil over for one of them so the stem would be going a different direction.  This made it very important that I let the paint already on the stencil dry since the other side was covered in it.



After painting four successful weeds flowers onto the doors, it was time to make it a blustery scene with dandelion seeds flying away.  The stencil came with these three seed stencils which I set about randomly placing all over the doors.


This was the funnest part because there was not much rhyme or reason to what I was doing other than generally spreading the yellow and gray ones evenly and making them look as if they were blowing away.


I loooove how our little closet door weed garden turned out!


P.S If anyone would like to paint their own 3 foot tall dandelions anywhere in their house, please feel free to borrow my stencil.  To use it anywhere else in our house would be major dandelion overkill, so it has pretty much served its purpose.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Cha-ching! How Much Does It Cost To Get Ready For Foster Care?

Howdy.  I thought it might be informative to explain to y'all the various costs involved with getting ready for foster care or foster-to-adopt.   It is by no means free and the costs below are in no way reimbursed by CPS, but we figure soon-to-be parents spend boatloads of money getting ready for their kids all the time, so this is no different...except most parents don't have to lock up medicines and pay for a stream of inspectors to come through their house...though maybe some should!

Anyway, below is a list of our out-of-pocket costs in this licensing process.  If you were to jump into this yourself, some of these may not apply to you, like you may either have no firearms in the house or already have a gun safe, and you may not have carpet that needed cleaning, etc.   But unless your reaction is "I already have that", you would be required to pay for and take care of the things below.

Fire extinguisher  $62
Tuberculosis tests $46 ($23 each)
Health Department inspection fee  $30
Fire Department inspection fee  $36
Outlet safety covers  $9


Lock that Trent installed on bathroom cabinet to store medications  $5



Lock box for psychotropic meds (ADD, depression, etc) to store inside locked cabinet (have to be double locked)  $12



HVAC inspection (part of FD inspection, we used Capstone Mechanical)  $130
Gas appliances inspection (part of FD inspection, we used Bukowski Brothers Plumbing) $80
Smoke detectors in every bedroom, hallway and living space (we bought all new/better) $56


Carbon monoxide detector  $20
CPR and First Aid training $100 ($50 each)
Fingerprinting  $82 ($41 each)
Fireplace screen (has to be unmovable/attached so we found one online with doors that Trent is going to bolt to the brick on the sides and add a good door latch to)  $139


Gun safe  $130
Trigger/bolt locks  $9
Separate ammunition safe and lock  $15
Whole house deep clean $276
Carpet cleaning $119


A couple of those things haven't actually happened yet (FD inspection and CPR/First Aid training), but we know what our cost will be.  We don't foresee any more costs directly related to our licensing and approval process.

So that leaves us with a grand total of $1,356.  Whew.  Now on to basic furniture, clothing, toys and supplies...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Day I (Almost)Threw Away My Wedding Bouquet

My wedding bouquet was gorgeous.  It was simple, classic and beautiful, with a silky ribbon around the stems, held on by pearl pins.



Emphasis on "was".  Trent's sister hung my bouquet up to dry after the wedding, which I very much appreciated, but it then sat in a vase on our mantel for the next 5 years getting quite crispy and dusty.  Amidst our recent overhaul of our house and ruthless decluttering, Trent and I made a deal that he would throw away my bouquet at some random time unknown to me because I couldn't bring myself to do it and I would throw away his rusty motorcycle sissy bar at some random time unknown to him because he couldn't bring himself to do it.   I held up my end of the deal but, lucky for my bouquet, Trent is forgetful a boy.  It hung around long enough for me to figure out a different plan.   I've made rose jars before for various random flowers Trent has given me (here, here, here), so why would my wedding bouquet deserve less?  I ever so carefully took it apart, put the pearl pins from the stems in the bottom of the jar, added as many rose buds as would fit without them crumpling into dust, and tied the original ribbon around the jar.



It turned out great, but this post is about more than my wedding bouquet's rescue from garbage death.

This is about the fact that I have been so completely thorough and ruthless with decluttering our home and life that...I was about to throw away my wedding bouquet...  

Anyone who knows what a sentimental sap I am knows that that is uncharacteristic of me.  Anyone who has seen the boxes of photos, letters, cards and memorabilia I keep knows that it would take a lot for me to reach that point.   There are a few reasons for this blind and furious desire to get stuff out of here:

1. I visited my sister Sarah in San Antonio a couple times this summer.  The house she lives in is furnished with necessities and decorated in her minimalist, beautiful style.   There is no clutter where she lives.  Everything has a purpose and a place and that's all there is to it.  I left her home inspired to attempt the same with ours.  Less is more...more space, more time not spent cleaning, more peace of mind.

2. We need the space.  It's a simple matter of logistics.  We are about to open our home to one or two kids at a time and we are serious about their rooms being their rooms.   This means that the camping gear and card table that have heretofore lived in the "kid room" closet need to find a new home, either elsewhere in our house or at Goodwill, so that that closet can truly become a kid's closet.  The children in our home need us to help them find self esteem and identity. Having to shove around our stuff to make a bit of room for their own is not going to help with that very important search.

3. There were closets in our house that have held the same junk since we moved in.  If we haven't needed it in four years, we don't need it at all.

4. Trent and I are now sharing 3.5 feet of closet space.  It was 4.5 but the gun safe ate a foot.  We've got our off season and not often worn clothes in our back bedroom closet still, but as for day to day use, 3.5 feet is what we've got.  So that required a major purge of our clothing to get down to what we actually wear regularly.

5. My final reason is the most serious and is why my heart has been in this and not just my logistical head.   Trent and I have recently discussed the possibility of both of us going on a ten day "exposure trip" to Haiti with his employer, Mission Waco, which operates established missions there. In a very small nutshell, now is not the right timing (if there is such thing as "right timing" in God things), not for both of us to go at the same time at least.  So don't be on the lookout for news of a big trip.  But here's the thing...here's where my heart went as we had these discussions, as I imagined the impact such a trip would have on me and as I recalled conversations with others about the drastic change of heart they had after similar trips...why does it have to take a ten day exposure to international poverty to get us to tone down our own life?  Why does it take raising several thousand dollars and going on an exciting mission trip to get us to realize the level of excess in our everyday lives?   Why does it take seeing firsthand the hurt and struggle of someone having nothing but the clothes on their back and the scraps they dug out of a garbage heap to make us actually feel grateful for what we take for granted every single day?  WHY?  

When I make the effort to put my mind and heart in the same place that it would be if I had just come home from such an eye opening trip...the clutter we got rid of was just that...clutter. Unneeded. And my 1.75 feet of clothes on a rod seems like ten miles.