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'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.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Confessions Of A Busy Person

If something is not dishwasher safe, it does not live in our house.

If it says "dry clean only", I won't buy it.

If it says "dry clean only" and I already accidentally bought it, it goes in the washer anyway and usually survives just fine.

I don't buy clothes that require ironing.

I often put pots and pans in the dishwasher.

I never go to the grocery store at 5:00 pm.  That's just dumb.

Sometimes I leave work at 4:30 just to surprise myself with 30 unexpected free minutes.

Foundation, blush, eyeliner.  That's it.

Comb, blow dry, done.  Hair does nothing but be straight anyway.

Lists.  Everywhere.

Easy Mac.  'Nuff said.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Awkward, Expensive and Amazing Experience Of Having Someone Else Clean Our House

Today was a first for me.  I did something I've never done before.  I handed over a big, fat check to two uniformed ladies I had just met and headed back to the office, leaving them to clean our house.

It was weird.

And expensive.


You see folks, about the time our actual foster parent training began two weeks ago, things started moving really, really, really fast. Hence the lack of blogging.  We suddenly had a whole lot to get done in not a whole lot of time. Throw in a big tax deadline for kicks and giggles became high time to call in reinforcements.   There has been a parade of people coming through our home this week, including carpet cleaners, HVAC inspector, cleaning service rep, cleaning service superwomen and also a wonderful family that showered us with help this weekend for free.  This has freed up Trent and I to parade around getting things like a fire extinguisher, gun safe and Tuberculosis tests.  

The shine off our wood floors might blind you.

Our back bathroom's shower that we always thought was off-white colored, is actually bright white.

The miles of window blinds in our home are dust free.

In a few hours, these skilled, efficient women tackled what would have taken me days.  I will gladly pay money for that.

Moving right along...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Y'all, Our Foster Parent Training Begins This Week!

Amidst the chaos of rearranging rooms, leaving a church, visiting a new church, beginning seminary and working overtime towards a big tax deadline, I have neglected to update y'all on the fact that our foster parent training begins this Thursday, the 12th!

Can I get an "amen"?  And a "finally"?

We are excited and so, so ready.  Pretty much exactly a year ago we were beginning our orientation sessions with the Bair Foundation, the agency we began with but that closed its Waco office soon after.  Who knew it would take so long just to get our foot in the flippin door and get started for real?  I know it's all in God's plan for us and in a way I am very grateful for this year of false starts, delays and frustrations. It has really allowed us time to let this sink in and our hearts have been mashed around to form an indescribably special place for these kids that we haven't even laid eyes on yet.  I didn't know it was possible to love someone I haven't met yet, even while knowing they may not be with us for long.

A few months ago, I wrote honestly about the fear that had crept into my heart.  It's still there to a degree and always will be. This won't be a walk in the park.  But y'all, my outlook is different now.  The waiting and wondering and processing has been good for us but goodness gracious, I'm ready to get this show on the road.

We'll have our training on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5:30 to 8:30 (with two classes in the middle from 5:00 to 9:00) until October 10th.  We'll complete all our remaining paperwork during that month span. Our homestudy will begin while we are in training and be completed after we are done with the training.  Then things are turned over to DFPS for final processing of our file.  The paperwork we received said all this can take up to four months from the time we begin training.

Ready, set, go!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Our First Date With A New Church

For six years we knew every nook and cranny and person at Central Christian Church.

We got engaged while there.

We got married there.

It gave Trent his start in ministry.

It instilled in us a love/hate relationship with pumpkins.

It introduced us to some of the most amazing teenagers we have ever met and will ever meet.

We spent about as many waking ours at that church as we did at our house.

And yet, here we are, once again visitors.  The new people.  Trying to remember names and not even entirely sure where the restroom is.  Shaking hands and hoping we aren't sitting in someone's usual seat.  Missing Mr. Bill's big smile and even bigger hugs at the door.

For someone who a) doesn't really like change and b) is still slightly scared of strangers...going to a new church is a bit of a challenge.  I guess I had forgotten what it's like to be the new kid and start from scratch.

But you know what?  It's good.  And it's gonna be good.  We have joyfully spotted some familiar faces among the strangers and all the strangers have been so kind and welcoming.  We have gotten connected with a family who has fostered many, many little ones and adopted five of them.  We have attended a potluck and brought our sack chairs for a Sunday morning service outside under the trees.  We have also successfully located the restroom.

It's all good.  And it's gonna be good.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Success vs Value

A while back, I came across a quote from Einstein and it made me pause, think, and say to myself "Hmm, wow."   Here it is:

"Strive not to be a success, but to be of value."

I suppose on surface level, this is just a good component for a mash up of inspirational, fluffy quotes.  And that is, in fact, where I found it.  But I decided to think on it a little further, apart from the mash up, and go beyond surface level.

What typically comes to mind when I think about being a success?
Promotions, money, car, comfort, a healthy 401k, generally moving up the proverbial ladder of life.

Who typically comes to mind when I think about being a success?

What typically comes to mind when I think about being of value?
Providing a service, doing good work, creating good products, leaving a mark, making a difference.

Who typically comes to mind when I think about being of value?

I wrote this quote on a post-it note and stuck it near one of my three computer monitors at work.  It's a handy reminder and a challenge.

What do you strive to be?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dear Mama

That time that I pulled hot coffee down on my leg and burned it so badly I had to sleep on my back and wear Dad's big t-shirts for weeks...I was just trying to move your coffee over because I wanted you to sit closer to me.

Those random times when you let me leave my brand new school at lunch when I wasn't sick but just needed a break from the change and the rings true to this day, as Katy says, "Anna has to freak out a little, but then she kicks butt."  Thank you for understanding my freak out days, even though I didn't yet.

All those times when I was small that I startled you so badly when you'd turn around and find me silently standing right there...I just wanted to be near you.

Thank you for teaching me to see what needs to be done.

All those times you chanted "Go! Fight! Win!" on exam days or normal days, complete with cheerleader meant a lot, and it still does to this day.

That Christmas when I got a new outfit for my American Girl doll but the tiny blue satin necklace got lost in the Christmas trash...thank you for understanding that it wasn't just a doll necklace, it was a special tiny thing to me and losing it was heartbreak.  I couldn't have found it without you.

Thank you for all the eggs you scrambled and pancakes you flipped.

Love always,
Your little Anna Pie