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.


Monday, October 28, 2013



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...


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.