Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 New Year's Resolution Update

I forgot I even made new year's resolutions for 2014...our life kinda got turned upside down on February 5, 2014 so DUH resolutions weren't on my mind.  But I stumbled upon this post the other day and was reminded that, oh yeah, I resolved some things for this year.  Now that the year is almost over, I give you my annual resolution update.

At the beginning of this year I resolved to do my best...

...To lose weight...
When I saw this one topping my list I laughed out loud.  Let's just toss this one heavily into the WIN column, not because of any actual effort on my part but rather due to the fact that I became an insta-mom to two babies, practically stopped eating or sleeping, majorly began stressing and dropped 30 pounds over the next few months.  Yeeeeah.  Not an ideal way to lose weight and the "success" of it was tainted by the fact that it was merely a result of me not taking care of myself.  But hey, I feel great now.  Bonus?  Trent lost 50 pounds.



Yes, my comparison photos are with my best friend and my other best friend...

...To go with the flow...
Oh gah.  I win at this.  When your house has a revolving door of social workers, inspectors, ECI specialists, an attorney, etc, you just gotta be able to roll with it.  Just gotta, or else you'll go nuts.  I admit to throwing a fit every once in a while when I wanted everybody to leave our family alone, but that's just not how it goes in CPS land.  The Anna from a few years ago would not have been able to handle all the craziness we have dealt with this year, but I'm a different person now and I'm proud of how we've been able to go with the flow so far.

...To remain calm...
Um, well, hmm.  Despite my success at going with the flow, and many instances where I did indeed remain calm...I also completely lost it a lot of times too.  The amount of tears I shed in the first couple months of foster parenting just from the sheer stress of it would fill up a decent sized kiddie pool (which, according to CPS rules, must be emptied after every use and no water left standing, in order to eliminate drowning risk).  My car's steering wheel got several beatings.  There was one snotty cry fest in my office parking lot in front of two kind bosses who told me to take the rest of the day off as they patted my shoulder and repeated "family comes first".  And more than a handful of complete freak out breakdowns in the middle of the night before my baby girl learned how to sleep.   But hey, an attorney patronized and chastised me for how we responded to something and I didn't hop through the phone and chew him out. I called practically every doctor in town before finding one that would see my kids and didn't throw my phone against the wall.  The kids' mom described silly things from the witness stand that made her doubt the quality of her kids' care with us and I didn't jump up from the courtroom audience to start a cat fight.  So...good for me.

...To be a good mom...
How do you even measure this?   I usually forget to brush teeth and the TV often comes on too soon and too much.  Sister tries to eat dirt and Brother somehow woke up one morning with the corn cob in his bed that he had at dinner the night before.  I lose my temper too much and get exasperated very easily.  I am often not confident about parenting decisions, even as small as how warm of pajamas should be worn for a certain weather forecast.  And for a short time, parenting made me a terrible person to be around.

But you know what?  The phrase "I love you" is said in our household about a billion times a day, sometimes whispered, sometimes hollered, sometimes growled.  High fives and fist bumps abound.   Giggle fests take place during regular games of chase and hide and seek.  Discipline is consistent.   Daily routine is solid and reliable.  Fancy toys are available and so is a giant cardboard box. Songs from Frozen are sung "again?" and "again?" and "again?"  Cheeks are kissed and so are "bobos".  Vegetables are consumed and so are gummy bears.  We trudge along and do the best we can.  A year ago I knew nothing about being a mom and now I've got two happy, healthy, funny, adorable kids who call me Mama.

So, here's to 2014.  It was absolutely nuts. And absolutely wonderful.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Picture Frame Calendar or Menu Planner

I made a fun picture frame calendar for Trent's sister, K'Lee, for Christmas and it turned our pretty cool.  Though I am still not pinterested, I did get the idea from there, via my friend Kristin.   I had K'Lee's classroom in mind possibly for this fun frame calendar, but when she opened it on Christmas, she mentioned it would be a good way to do meal planning at home.  Brilliant!  Really it can be anything you want, easy to make, not real expensive.

Here you go...

Buy a picture frame collage with seven openings, cut out nice paper to fit into each spot and put it behind the glass.


Stamp/write/print the days of the week onto the cut out paper.  Be careful to leave margin for how the paper sits in the frame so your words don't end up cut off or hidden.


Put the paper back in the frame.


Get some dry erase markers for writing on the glass.


Ta-da!  Jot down calendar items, week-at-a-glance activities, menu planning, workout routine, scriptures to read, homework to do, you name it!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Books I Read In 2014

Orange Is The New Black: My Year In A Women's Prison by Piper Kerman
A quick read, terribly interesting

A Year Of Biblical Womanhood: How A Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master by Rachel Held Evans
I thought this might just be a liberal feminist having a good bash fest against conservative theology but it was actually a super respectful, thorough look at old testament practices...with a few feminist punches thrown in.  With which I am fine.

---INSERT CHILDREN INTO OUR LIFE FEBRUARY 5TH---

The Honest Toddler: A Child's Guide To Parenting by Bunmi Laditan
The sarcastic comedy was fun at first but I got real tired of the constant snark.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Quick and interesting read, even at 484 pages.  Brought back memories of watching the movie a couple years ago with Gretchen.

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
I heard this was stellar.  It was ok.

Orphan Justice by Johnny Carr
A really good education on orphan care issues across the globe and ways you can help.  This book acknowledges that that answer is not always "adopt a child", not at all.  I highly recommend it to those interested in adoption and those that are not, but still have a heart for orphan care.

Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by Jen Hatmaker
So...this book is supposed to be eye opening, mind blowing, worldview altering.  And I can see how it would be for a lot of comfy Christians.  But our life has already been "interrupted" (understatement of the decade) by two lovely children we did not birth and all the craziness that came along with them.  So I read this book with more nods of "uh huh, yep, rock on" instead of "OMG what a novel idea to serve others with your entire life!"

While We're Far Apart by Lynn Austin
Another good Lynn Austin story, though definitely not one of her best.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
This was a quick read.  Funny at times.  Would have been a lot more meaningful to me if I had caught more than just the tail end of Amy's time on SNL and had actually watched Parks & Recreation at all.  I think comedians who become famous reach a point where they think "Hey I guess I'm supposed to write a book now and ramble on about my life experiences and how I got to where I am."  But was an easy read that could be put down and picked up through holiday craziness.


Books I started and allowed myself not to finish

Undaunted: Daring To Do What God Calls You To Do by Christine Caine
One page she's describing young women being trafficked into the sex trade, another page her own world comes tumbling down around her when she finds out as an adult that she was adopted.  I just...I don't know.  I couldn't get into it.

The Well Balanced World Changer: A Field Guide For Staying Sane While Doing Good by Sarah Cunningham
Fluffity fluff fluffy.  And insanely short chapters, as if world changers or too busy to sit down for any stretch of time to learn how to be well balanced.

All Joy And No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
The content of this book is ok and interesting, but I think something malfunctioned in my Nook every time I switched to this book.  Every time I'd look down at the page numbers thinking I had read at least 20, it would show progress of only about 4.   Slow going, nay, treacherous, I tell you.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
This book was pretty interesting.  It really was.  I guess I just found others that were interesting-er.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Gotchoo

So, this is just a silly little thing that has developed with our son, but I wanted to share it because it's meaningful and awesome.

It started in the stroller.

He sits in the back of our double stroller typically, because his sister will pull his hair incessantly if she sits behind him and him pushing on her seat with his feet from behind her is a lesser evil.  Sometimes ya just gotta pick your battles in parenting.  Anyway, the back seat of the stroller has a sun shade that can fold out over it, which results in various flaps, velcro, plastic, fabric etc all rigged around the stroller's cup holder, compartment for your phone (or, you know, a hot wheels car you have confiscated) and handle bar.  Brother began to wiggle his little hand through a space in all that fabric and velcro, to reach back towards whoever was pushing the stroller.  It was a game at first.  We'd grab his hand and say "I got you!" and he'd pull it back through.   He caught on to the comment and began saying "gotchooooo" when he stuck his hand through, even if we hadn't grabbed it yet.  It ended up with many wonky stroller paths while we pushed with one hand and held his hand with our other.

Now?

Whether it's in the stroller or just from the backseat of the car, he says "gotchoo" often and it has come to mean "can I just hold onto you for a while?"  We reach for his outstretched hand and hold it, while we sing-song "gotchoo...gotchoo" to each other.

Yes, sweet boy, you've got us.  Hook, line and sinker.

And we've got you.  On good days, bad days, every day of your life, we've gotchoo.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Weekly Parent's Night Off Program

I'm hanging out at Starbucks all by myself.  It's part of our weekly Parent's Night Off program in our household.


One night a week, Trent goes out and plays pool, drinks Shiner or whiskey and comes home smelling of smoke and revitalization.

One different night a week, I get to go out and sit at Starbucks, write, read, send emails, toodle around Target, or maybe hang out with Kristin and watch movies like Bridget Jones' Diary while drinking white russians.

Trent has been having his nights out for a while now and I recently asserted myself and decided I wanted one too.  He said "Well duh! Go for it!" This is actually my first one and I have been excited about it allllllll day.  Let's face it folks, parenting is a big job, especially parenting babies and every big job needs breaks sometimes.  For your sanity.  For variety.  For getting out of the dang house sometimes.  

Parents, do you get enough breaks?  Do you get any?  Do you need to establish a Parent's Night Off program in your household?  Give it a try.  So far so good for us.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How We've Decided To Handle Christmas Gifts For Our Kids

Trent and I believe in living and giving intentionally.  We don't believe in excess.   And Matthew 25 is tattooed on our hearts.  So when it came to how we wanted to go about Christmas gifts for our kids, we didn't want to just enter blindly into the world of "must buy all the things for my precious babies even though we don't have room or money!" Also, this is our first Christmas as parents, as a family of more than two, so we have a neat chance to create something, start traditions, and embrace an intentional attitude for the Christmas season that we can teach and pass down.

So, we gave it some thought, had some discussions, read about how some other people do it, and sort of mashed a bunch of experiences and intentions into a motto of sorts:

Something you want
Something you need
Something to wear
Something to read
Something to hang on the Christmas tree
And something to give to the least of these

We saw or heard of the first four lines of that pretty often.  I think a lot of people use that as their Christmas giving motto and it's pretty self explanatory.  Something fun, something needed, some clothes and some books.  This spurred a couple conversations between me and Trent about wants vs needs and the perception is seriously skewed sometimes I'm afraid.

Me: I need a new phone.
Trent: No...you want a new phone.
Me: You're right.  Ok, but do I need my car detailed? It's so grody.
Trent: Yeah, maybe you need that...

Dirty cars, stupid Windows phones...when you actually talk about this stuff for real, it's hard to come up with much in the "Need" category that truly, truly belongs there. How often can your idea of a need be followed up with something like "Yeah, but I have a great car, even if its seats are drenched in apple juice and snot" or "Yeah, but I have a working smartphone, even if it's slow and the camera stinks"?  I mean, I went most of last year without a smartphone at all, so...perspective.

We look forward to these conversations with our children as they get older, establishing a healthy sense of need vs want, letting them know that wants are totally fine and there is a place for them, even entirely frivolous wants or splurges sometimes.  But also, we want to alert them to how the consumer world will try to brainwash them into thinking they must have all the coolest gadgets and newest trends and many, many of them, or else they cannot continue with life.  False.

The next line means ornaments.  We'll give the kids an ornament every year that they can unwrap whenever we get our Christmas tree and set it up.  So that'll be a fun little gift to open early on and when they grow up and leave our home, they'll have a nice little collection of ornaments to start their own tree.

The last line is not our own idea, though it produced a big "DUH!" moment when we saw it.  Jen Hatmaker wrote about it at the end of this post.  "Something to give."  What a stellar idea to throw in at Christmas time, into the mix of "I want, I want, I want."  Since our kids are little bitty, they won't understand this yet, so we'll give in their name for a while.  Once they are older, we'll give them a set amount of money then they can choose how and where to give it.   Jen said in her post, "On Christmas Eve, we all sit down with catalogs from Compassion, IJM, and World Vision and the kids buy chickens and soccer balls and seeds and backpacks for other families around the world.  They lose their minds, pooling money and taking 100 years to choose their gifts.  This is my favorite Christmas thing."  This sounds like the best. thing. ever.   What has been forgotten for a moment?  All our own wants.  What is the focus for a moment?  Others' needs.

So, here's to an opportunity to start something, an opportunity to teach, an opportunity to give to our sweet kids and an opportunity to give to others. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Takeaways & Tidbits Vol. 9

Buy Once, Give Twice: Gifts With A Conscience by Jen Hatmaker

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Gifts That Give Back 2014: Thistle Farms by Rachel Held Evans

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Texts with our friend John, re: encountering the birth mother of the two children in their care at the time

Me: Are you sitting with them? Awkward.
John:  There are not enough awkwards in the world. If you are looking for some, you didn't lose them. They are all here. All the awkwards.

Yep, that pretty much sums up parent visits...

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Social worker: I can bring the original letter to my visit this month.
Me: I'm guessing you're going to hide in our bushes this month since we haven't scheduled a visit yet.
Social worker: ...You are smarter than the rest.

(Hide in our bushes = unannounced social worker visit)

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Trent: You are the only millennial I know that still carries stamps.

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Me: Mom, Brother knows so many animal sounds, we have run out of animals to ask him.
Mom: Well, you can always start on the instruments of the orchestra...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bittersweet

Remember when I mentioned in this post that the kids' attorney said the court hearing today was going to be a "non-event"?  Uh...well...

The kids' mom relinquished her parental rights to Brother and Sister in court this morning. 

Since this is a big deal, comes as a surprise to a lot of you I'm sure, and is something I haven't written about yet at all, here are some tidy FAQs for you, because this stuff is anything but tidy...

What does that even mean?
She willingly signed a paper that says she is no longer their parent. It was her choice, with counsel from CPS and her attorney, to discontinue the fight to get her kids back.  It was pretty clear that reunification with her kids was not going to happen and she was made aware of that, so relinquishing her rights is the more peaceful result.  The alternative is to continue to fight a losing battle, end up with a contested final hearing or even a trial, and have her rights ultimately terminated by the court.  When rights are relinquished, there is some room for mediation and agreement about ongoing contact with the children after adoption.  With termination, no go, you're done.  Also, with relinquishment, if you have other or future children become involved with CPS, everything has to start over and go through an entire case time frame.  If you have rights terminated, then later get involved with CPS again for another child, then CPS can terminate rights to that child a whole lot quicker.  It's just not a good way to go.

I thought you were ten months into the case and still didn't know which way it was going?
We've known for a while which way this would probably go.  That doesn't mean it needed to be all over the interwebs. Then the week before Halloween, some things happened and the case suddenly started moving very quickly.  Remember how we failed at Halloween?  Yeah, this is mostly why.  We flew around like crazy people that week talking to attorneys, social workers, pastors, parents, formulating our position for informal mediation regarding her future contact with the kids after adoption.  Then some more crazy things happened and everything stalled for a few weeks.  At this hearing today, we expected the judge to court order mediation and tell everyone to officially move toward relinquishing rights.  We did not expect the relinquishment to happen today.  I'm not sure anyone did.  It was a tense courtroom lobby for the almost two hours we waited for our case to be called, with random pockets of players attempting to discuss options with nonexistent privacy, a mother in tears and two foster parents very, very interested in their phones instead of eye contact.

So, now what?
Her weekly parent visits will stop.  She requested monthly visits while the case is still open, which we and CPS were ok with.  In the next few weeks, we will work with attorneys to draw up a Mediated Settlement Agreement, a document which outlines the terms of future contact between her and the kids after adoption.  We are agreeing to some contact and have been told by CPS we are being generous.  I may write about that in more detail later, once the MSA is finalized and it all goes through.  This will be approved in court mid January.  That's not it though.  The kids have different dads, neither of which is really in the picture, but who must still be properly dealt with in the case.  CPS does not consider them to be appropriate potential caregivers, but there are still some hoops that much be gotten through to give them proper opportunities to join in, give CPS proper time to wait out nonresponse, etc.  Until that side of things is taken care of, the case remains open as a foster placement.  After that, it will be turned over to the adoptions unit within CPS.  We have no idea what that entails or what the time frame will be but the goal at that point is just to get the adoption finalized.

How are y'all feeling?
Weird. Sad. Exhausted.  Mostly sad honestly, at this point.  A family disintegrated today. A woman signed her name on a line that meant she was no longer a mother to these children.  Then the judge casually moved on, saying "You are excused. We'll now call case number..."   We knew we signed up to work with a rough system. We knew we were headed for craziness. That doesn't make what we witnessed and were party to in our few hours at court today any easier.  Trent and I ate at Cracker Barrel, which is apparently now a court date tradition, then headed back to our life.  A life that now appears to include these two wonderful children forever and always.

Is congratulations in order?
Eh, yes but later.  Today her family crumbled.  Later our family will officially become whole.

Can we do anything?
Pray for our kids' mom.  She needs a blanket of prayer around her right now.  Like a big, fluffy, warm, polar fleece one with snowmen on it. On the way back to work earlier today, a David Crowder song came on the radio with the lyric "Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal"...all the awkward angst and stressful sorrow of the morning burst out of me and my heart broke for this woman.  The number of random drivers in Waco that have seen me sobbing in my car is growing.

This is best.

This is right.  

This is rough.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Random Updates and Oh Yeah, Trent Is Leaving His Job

So, I haven't posted a whole lot lately.  I've been busy, honestly.  Busy doing life, chugging along, working, parenting, trying to stay on top of things.  But here are some random updates, including a big one.  Ok fine, I'll start with the big one first.

Trent is leaving his job.  As in, his last day is this week.  He's going to be a student and a dad and it's going to be grrrrrrreat.  He'll take more classes to get done with seminary sooner. He'll actually get to see his kids between 5 pm Sunday and 5 pm Friday.  He'll be freed up to attend appointments and take the kids to parent visits.  We won't have to send our social worker through hoops and loops to find a time she can come do her monthly visit when we are both home.  And we will indeed both be home. A lot.  It's going to be so good.  This has been in the works for a long time, as life and ministry changes tend to be, and has now just about come to fruition.  I'll bring home the bacon and Trent will bring home the sanity.  So excited.

In other news, we have a court hearing for our kids' CPS case tomorrow morning.  This was supposed to be the final hearing of the case but, yeah, that ain't happening.  The kids' attorney said this will be a "non-event", so...that's fun to hear ten months in.  Nevertheless, we will attend.

I got a new haircut.  And new glasses...


...which look cuter on my baby sister than me...


We had a nice quiet Thanksgiving day at our own home with our little family, then went to visit my family the weekend after.  They kept the kids for a night and half of the next day so Trent and I could go out to our ranch cabin and have a break.  Trent hunted while I read a book, ate an apple, poked around, looked at thistles and cedar berries, reminisced about fun times playing in the old barn.





And there was porch sittin'.


Meanwhile our kids were playing banging on the piano, petting Stetson with a vengeance, having a grand time in Opie's sand pile with Aunt Abby, making toilet paper roll towers with Aunt Katy Poo and getting wheelbarrow rides from OmieJean.  We so appreciated their showering them with fun, care and love while we got away for a bit. Those kids are like celebrities at my parents' house.  If only I could show you the pictures of their grand time together.

So, anyway, what's been going on with y'all?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Takeaways & Tidbits Vol. 8

I used to be concerned about the effect bringing a foster child into our family would have on my own kids.  Would it take away from the attention they deserve from us?  Would it interrupt their routines?  Would they resent us for it?  Now, after the fact, I'm more concerned about the effect NOT bringing a foster child into our home would have had on our kids.  It has changed the, for the better, and I'm convinced they will never be the same for it.

The natural posture of parenting bends itself towards protecting our kids at all costs.  And rightly so in many ways.  However, if opening our home to a foster child has taught me anything about being a parent it's that there is a fine line between protecting my kids from the dangers of being exposed to hard things and protecting them from the dangers of NOT being exposed to hard things.

Foster Care And What I Fear Most For My Own Kids by Jason Johnson

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Trent: Man, I could feed an army with this new smoker.  Well....a small army.  Ok...maybe a regiment.

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Texts with kids' social worker

SW: I almost fell out of a chair, I can only imagine how you must feel...
Me:  Y'all's texts sometimes should come with a warning and an AED.

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Upon arrival at church

Trent: Let's park here by the Byases.
Me: They never park over here. They park over there.
Trent: I thought they had a small gray SUV.
Me: It's greenish, not gray.
Trent:  A Nissan something or other...
Me: It's a Pathfinder. That's a Rogue.
Trent:  Ok but they at least have a Nissan right?!?!
Me: Correct.

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Texts with my family after sending a phone picture of the kids' daycare picture proofs which are a mix of cute and melancholy "I will not smile for that camera"...

Sarah: Haha oh man, they both have the blue steel model look going!
Mom:  What's a blue steel model?
Sarah: Google it hehe. From Zoolander.
Mom:  What's a zoolander?

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Lady in Lowes: Are they twins?
Me: No, they're a year apart.
Lady: So basically you had twins the hard way.
Me and Trent, simultaneously, under our breath: You have no idea.



Thursday, November 13, 2014

I Need You To Do Me A Favor

Remember when I posted in April about our friends John and Ashley, other young, crazy foster people like us?  Well, they continue to follow in our crazy footsteps, including their first foster placement being two small children one year apart in age and the call about said children going like this:  "It's just one child...actually, just kidding, I was wrong, it's two."

They got their first placement this evening.  Two little girls, ages 1 and 2.   So, they're scrambling, they're wondering, they're worrying, they're thinking things like "What have we gotten ourselves into?" and "We have no idea what we are doing!"   Meanwhile I'm texting them, reminding them that yes, this is really hard at first, but they will find a groove, learn these kids, and be awesome.  

It's weird to be on the other side of this.  To be the one advising and sounding like I know what's going on, because we sure as heck didn't nine months ago.  To be the one sorting out some clothes to box up and send, because we sure relied on the generosity of others when we started out.  To be the one confident that they will succeed, because I sure as heck didn't think we would.  It's weird and good at the same time.

Here's the favor I need from you.  If you are the praying type, will you pray for John and Ashley and these two little girls that have just come to their home?  If you are not the praying type, will you send good thoughts, do a happy jig, or some cheerleader moves, you know, whatever, on their behalf?   They really need it right now.  The first few weeks are hard, hard, hard, hard.  I wish we lived in the same city so I could swoop in and help them with this adjustment, or at least stand in the corner of their living room like a creeper and intermittently remind them that they are indeed sane people, that God will lead them through this stage, that this too shall pass, that things will get easier.   Because they will.

Tune into their blog for updates.  Though maybe don't get your hopes up for a post any time soon.  They're a little busy at the moment...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

That Time We Failed At Halloween

My cousin Jana will be SO disappointed in me, after all the cute kid Halloween costume idea links she sent to me.   Sigh.

We failed at Halloween this year.

Like...not a thing happened except Sister wore a black t-shirt with a glittery pumpkin face on it to daycare that day.  Das it.  I even failed at timely publishing a blog post about how we failed at Halloween.  At least the kids got some candy at daycare...which got put in a bowl in our kitchen for Trent and I to eat gradually...

I intended to do something for costumes.  But then the social worker said their mom wanted to bring them costumes to their visit that week.  Then she didn't.  Then the whole CPS case took a turn for the crazy and Trent and I found ourselves scrambling to take care of some stuff the rest of that week.  Friday morning rolled around and there were no costumes to wear to daycare.  Friday evening rolled around and there was no trick or treating.  The porch light was off because there was no candy to be had at the front door of the Futral house. I even kept the blinds closed and the living room light off, just to make sure trick or treaters did not misconstrue the state of our party pooper home and get their hopes up.

Trent even had grand hopes of reviving his pumpkin cannon from a few years ago but turn it into a candy cannon that would shoot candy from the backyard over the house into the front yard, as in "Trick or treat!"..."Hi! Backup. Further. Ok, that's good, hold still." ...BOOM!  Candy rain.


Yeah...but that didn't happen either.

So, am I sad about our Halloween FAIL?  Maybe a little.  Am I worried about it?  Nah.  Considering the fact that our kids are tiny and don't even know what Halloween is, as well as the fact that Halloween has never been a big deal to me, as in, I carved my first ever pumpkin my junior year of college...


...and begrudgingly at that...


...I'm not losing sleep over losing a Halloween.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How I Have Repeatedly Failed My Kids And Only Just Now Realized It

I realized something yesterday afternoon.  It hit me like eleven tons of bricks and caused me to have a good covert cry in my cubicle.  I have failed and disrespected my children over and over and over and over, from the very beginning of their time with us.

Too many people know too much about their story.

I realized this when I got up from my desk, went to the breakroom to make some tea and ran into a coworker who asked how their case was going.  About fifteen minutes of updating later I was headed back to my desk but ended up chatting in the hall for another little while with another coworker who also asked how things were going.  By the time I got back to my cube, I was oddly distressed.  It had occurred to me that if we adopt these kids and show up to my company picnic someday down the road, various other people that I work with would know more about our kids' story than they themselves may know yet.  That's not right. And it's all my fault.

I cracked open the cookie jar of information at the very beginning with too many kind, well-meaning, curious people and have, in a way, felt obligated to keep them in the loop since, even though that flies in the face of my children's dignity and, ya know, the rules for how this private stuff is supposed to be handled.   So, why did I?  Why was I so incapable of the appropriate, vague answers and instead just spilled the beans on almost anyone who asked?

I needed to process.
Did you see me in those first weeks and months after we got the kids??  I was a complete wreck of a formerly sane woman who got very sick, temporarily lost her voice, not to mention lots of sleep, dropped ten pounds in two weeks, cried at the drop of a hat and briefly wondered if she would get fired for turning into a crazed insta-mom zombie.  Many times a day I would find myself staring through my computer screen wondering "what just happened to our life?!"  Insert nice, curious people that want to talk through my craziness with me and I was all. over. that.

I'm not good at thinking on my feet.
I never have been.  But turn me into the crazy woman described above, then throw questions at me like "What started their case?" and "What did their mom do to them?" and "Are their dads even in the picture?" and let's just see how well I fare with appropriate answers when I had no time to rehearse any of this because at that point we didn't know what the hell we were doing...  Hint: I didn't fare well.  Even responses that began in the correct realm of vague and private went south fast because with this story, if you even so much as open the can and barely peek at the worms inside, they all tend to slither their way out in an unending stream of drama and layers and side shows and bleh.  Many times I saw the words coming out of my mouth and wanted to stuff them back in but just didn't have the presence of mind to pause and say "Ya know, I should probably stop there."

I wanted to educate.
I can count on less than one hand the number of people in our life that knew anything about foster care before we ventured into it.  It's just not a very commonly understood area for our bubble of people.  So the fact that we have been able to stir up some knowledge and compassion for this area of human welfare excites us.  Part of educating on this stuff involves, well, talking about it.  The difference is talking in appropriate generalities about the foster care system vs the personal story of two actual children in our home.

I liked the attention.
To be completely honest. Frown.  I'm a weird mix of introvert and wanting to put myself out there.  I have a blog that I want to be popular. I carefully craft entertaining or enlightening facebook statuses then meticulously monitor the receipt of likes or comments.  So, when our life suddenly became front page news?  The influx of attention fueled this but I sadly mismanaged it into a radius that ended up way too big.

So, where do we go from here?
Nothing will change on the blog.  It has been fine from the beginning.  It's easy to tailor typed words into appropriate form.  But most of those who know me in person will likely see me back off.  That doesn't mean don't ask about our kids or the case.  Just be ready for fewer details and more "I'm not supposed to talk about that", which I should have been doing all along.  Now, this doesn't mean everybody.  Certain people have truly sustained me through this and with them I will continue to share details. But if you find yourself not among them, please do not be offended.  This isn't about me and it sure isn't about you.  This is about the kids.  And this is their story to tell...later, when they actually, you know, can talk...and only if they want to.  It's not my place to share their story when they haven't even truly learned it yet.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Day Foster Life Got Me Down, Taylor Swift Lifted Me Back Up And My Car Got A Beating

Once upon a time, our social worker came over for her monthly visit at 8 am on a Monday.  Since it made no sense to take the kids to daycare then for a whole 45 minutes before I'd pull them back out for their parent visit, I kept them home in between.  We girls were coming off of a rough weekend of hands in mouth, Tylenol and screaming at 5 am.  Sister's fussy flailing continued all the way to the CPS office where I sighed with relief when I saw the kids' social worker coming out to the car to help me get them inside.  Cue the weekly awkward chaos of getting mom, kids, social worker, diaper bag, etc back to the visit room, where Sister didn't want to be held by anyone but her bones melted when set down, resulting in a puddle of toddler on the floor.

I wanted to join her.

I hurried away from the chaos back to my car, ran an errand, parked back in front of CPS and pouted for a good twenty minutes waiting for the social worker to appear at the door for the shuffle back to my car.   Then comes the drive to daycare with my arm twisted backwards and my hand jostling Sister's leg, singing a resounding chorus of The Wheels On The Bus, trying to keep her awake because she has to eat lunch at daycare before she can fall asleep.  After getting them settled inside and thanking the daycare teachers for their flexibility with us, I sat back down in my car and realized...I'm physically exhausted.  And it's only 11:15 am.

I headed home to change into work clothes. On the way, Casting Crowns' song Voice of Truth came on the radio.

I lost it.

Like sobbing and beating on my steering wheel at the intersection of 39th and Colcord kind of lost it.

You see...I know some of y'all say things like "You and Trent are handling this foster care thing with flying colors", etc.  And we're doing great.  For real, we're really cut out for this and generally rock and roll.   But...there are moments when it's really hard.  Moments when doubt creeps in.  Reminders of how little control we have.  Times we feel terribly misunderstood.  Days when we're hit square in the chest by this messed up system and situation and can't breathe.

So a song comes on talking about the courage to walk on water or slay a giant, and the naysayers that will drag you down and it hits close to home.

But the giant's calling out my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me, time and time again
"Boy, you'll never win! You'll never win!"

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says "This is for my glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

I sat in my car in our driveway for a moment and prayed.  I prayed for peace, for stamina, for a mute button on the naysayers, for the right stone to slay the giant, for courage to tackle him anew each day.  I changed clothes, patched up my face and considered the fact that I should be good and scrounge up some lunch at home. Then I considered the beating my steering wheel had just gotten and decided Mama needed someone else to make her lunch...  

I settled into a booth with a nice sandwich and soda.  A couple from our old church came in.  I hadn't seen her since Day 2 of the kids being with us, when she brought over a boppy pillow in quick response to a Facebook plea I posted that morning.   

"You look a lot better now than that day!"  

As I showed them pictures of the kids on my phone, I agreed and laughed, remembering the absolute wreck I was on February 6th, but wanted to say "You didn't see me thirty minutes ago..."  Turns out foster care continues to wreck me.  I felt more tears coming but punched them in the face because Jimmy John's was not the place for another breakdown.  Instead we chatted about Sister's crazy curls and I gave my appropriately vague update on their CPS case. 

What does Taylor Swift have to do with all this??????

I made it through the afternoon at work, more or less, and headed back to the daycare to get the kiddos.  On the way, Taylor Swift's newish song, Shake It Off, came on the radio.  Let me back up and explain that this has been my theme song since I first heard it.  It's quite ridiculous really, the connection I make between her lyrics and my life, but let's just roll with it, ok?

Just as Casting Crowns' lyrics resonated with me earlier in the day, so did these, with a drastically different effect.

But I keep cruising
Can't stop won't stop moving
It's like I got this music in my mind
Sayin' it's gonna be alright

'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
Heart-breakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
Shake it off, shake it off

Hey, hey, hey
Just think, while you've been gettin' down and out
about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world
You could've been gettin' down to
this
sick
beat



Well yes ma'am, Miss Swift, I will indeed get down to your sick beat, complete with top volume singing, bouncing in my seat at red lights, drawing attention to myself, not caring, and yes, more beating on my steering wheel, but this time because I needed a drum, not a punching bag.

Sorry lil Volvo...

Monday, October 20, 2014

How To Be A Supermom

In various dialogues I have had recently, in which I was describing the many various kid related tasks I have had on my plate lately, one of the responses I got was "You're a supermom", to which I snorted and said "Haha yeah right."  But it got me thinking.  What did I accomplish to deserve such off-target praise?

I hereby present to you, how to be a supermom...



1. Work full time outside the home
This part isn't fair to the stay at home moms out there who are actually the real supermoms.  Omg, I could not do it, so kudos to you, for real.  But in my experience, the supermom compliments stem from the fact that people seem to think that working and having kids is somehow really, really hard.  "And you're working full time too?!"  Uh...there's this thing called daycare where my kids go while I go to work.  It all shakes out.

2. Have kids, preferably small, the more the merrier
It's somewhat hard to be a supermom without actually having kids, so...yeah.  Have some. Or acquire some like I did.  The greater the number and the lesser the age, the better.

3. Have many things to do and accomplish, including caring for said kids
Work deadlines. Doctor appointments.  Valentines to send to daycare (because two year olds totally care about such things).  Dishes, laundry and cooking to do.  Lunches to pack.  Notes to write to teachers.  Pull money from the bank for the babysitter.  Try not to run out of gasoline.  Pick up prescription.  Email family.  Maybe throw in some speech therapy for good measure.

4. Perform all of the above somewhere in the realm of fair to mediocre
Be absent from work for kid related stuff a whole lot.  Barely make regular work hours when instead you should be working overtime hours.  Scurry around in a hurry, tossing kids into car seats for all the stuff and things you have to do. Turn on the TV way too much for your toddler. Hope people don't come over at an inopportune time and see the wreck that is your house.  Bonus points if your car is overdue for an oil change and is four months out of inspection.

5. Mention some of the above in casual conversation 
Better yet, post a facebook status about it.  And BAM.  You're officially dubbed a supermom.  Let the responses roll in saying how you're doing great, you've totally got this, "I could never do what you do" and, drum roll please, "Oh my gosh, you're supermom."  The ultimate.   Go ahead and fulfill the obligation to deny, deny, deny and call them all out on the LIES they are telling.  Supermom?  Haha funny joke. Yeah right.  It's all smoke and mirrors and thiiiis close to coming crashing down.  And yet people seem to think that your attempts at greatness that result in mediocrity at best are some valiant and wildly successful venture into parenthood.  Guffaw.

6. Believe it.
Here's the thing.  You are a supermom.  Whether you stay at home with your kids or work outside the home.  Whether you are sailing through mommyhood with ease or barely hanging on by a thread. Whether your schedule is calm or insane.  Whether your employer is understanding or overbearing.  Whether your floor is covered with blocks or your shirt is covered with spit up.  You are supermom. Say it with me now..."I am supermom."  You are.  So believe it.  And rock on.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Currently

Playing hookie from life with this boy...


Ecstatic that tax deadlines are over.

Sitting in a comfy chair, at a hipster coffee shop, in my skinny jeans and cardigan, looking at Warby Parker glasses online.  WHO AM I??

Hoping my baby girl's teeth don't hurt her too bad today.

Wishing I had worn warmer shoes than sandals because Fall is apparently here. At least for this morning, since the high is 88.  Good ole Texas. 

Ok bye.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dear Son, Don't Ever Stop...

Dear Son,

Don't ever stop giving hugs.  They are the best and you are so good at them.  You give the melty kind with arms flopped and head resting on our shoulder, smothering us with joy and trusting us with your little heart.

Don't ever stop saying I love you, or "Ah luh ye" as is the norm now.  I swear you say this like...fifteen bajillion times a day...including hollering it through the dark and the closed door right after we leave your room at night.  Sometimes it's the first thing we hear from your room in the morning.  When you grow up, you might think it's not manly to say I love you fifteen bajillion times a day or holler it through a closed door but, it's one of the best things a man can do.

Don't ever stop dancing.  Because your dancing is absolutely rad, dude.  Sometimes you look like you're doing the robot, sometimes you look like you're doing my former youth minister's old man dance, sometimes you are rockin' out and fist pumping in your car seat, complete with head banging.  Dance through life, sweet boy.

Don't ever stop asking questions.  I love to watch your curious mind look at things and I don't tire of you asking "wha dat?", also about fifteen bajillion times a day.  If you want to know something, always ask.  We will be here to provide as many answers as we can for as long as we can.

Don't ever stop asking for help.  It's always better to stretch out your hand at the top of a steep stair and say "Hup, mama, hup" than to bite off more than you can chew and end up face planting on the cement and chipping your teeth (oh wait, you did that the other day).  Don't be afraid to ask for help.  It's not a sign of weakness.  It's a sign of knowing what you need in order to succeed.  I am more than happy to take that sweet hand of yours and guide you.

Don't ever stop being peaceful.   Ok, let's face it.  Your sister can be a little bully sometimes.  But when she's pulling on your hair or bothering you, I'm so proud of you for not retaliating.  You could hit her.  You could fight back.  But you don't.  You get mad, but you just tell her "No, no" and holler for me to come rescue you.  Keep that peaceful response, for the world could use a few more peacemakers.

I marvel daily at your sweet little soul and can't believe we have been so blessed to have you in our life.

Luh ye,

Mama

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tips For The First Night And First Week Of A New Foster Placement

First night:

Have someone come over
Anyone. Your neighbor, your mom, your version of our "Mama Judy".  Especially if you have a placement on the way that is multiple children, the more adults the better.  There will be paperwork to sign, stuff to figure out, info to soak up from the social worker and, oh yeah, shocked children hanging around as well to tend to, the infant version of which might not allow you to put them down. Then there will be the inevitable trip to Target or Walmart made by one spouse, leaving the other home alone with children they know nothing about and are not yet adequately set up to care for.  Do not overwhelm your home or the children with many people, but at least have one other human being come over to help.

Give the kids a house tour
If they're old enough to understand what's going on, give an actual house tour of the entire house (and yard perhaps, if it's not dark and 20 degrees outside like when our kids showed up).  If they're little, allow them to just explore.  Brother toodled around our home with Trent right behind him for a while after they arrived.  He was looking around and saying "mama?"  We let him get a feel for the place and look all he wanted.

Put pets up until later
You may not know how your pets will do around children and you sure don't know how the children coming to your home will do around your pets.  Put pets in a closed room or outside when the children are arriving and allow them to meet a bit later when you can focus on the moment, control your pet and reassure the child.

Have a change of sheets and pajamas set out
You don't know what that first night will have in store.  For us, it was throw up at 3 am, which sent us scrambling in the dark for more crib sheets and pajamas, neither of which we were even sure we had.  

First week:

Wash what they came with

Our kids arrived with a couple trash bags of clothes and toys, all of which were damp and musty.  Your kids' stuff may appear to be fine, but can't hurt to go ahead and run it through the washer for a fresh start.   Note that if there was anything significantly dangerous going on, like a meth lab in the home that would have soaked into the clothes, CPS and the police would not have let the child bring anything with them from that home.

Note what they came with
Somehow separate or note what toys or clothes they came with, vs other items you already had, are given, or buy.  If the child goes home, you don't want to have packed away their first Christmas dress or given a special toy to Goodwill. 

Take off of work to get organized at home and get what you need
Unless you've been at this for years and have plastic boxes nicely labeled of all ages of kid clothing and supplies, you're going to have a scramble at first.  Our home was in complete chaos for days as we tried to figure out what we had, where it was, what we needed and when we could go get it.   This was basically impossible to accomplish while the kids were at home.  The only way to gain some control was to go home while they were still at daycare and take care of things.  Take time to get set up well and things will go a whole lot smoother from there. 

Ask for help
People want to help you.  They really, really do.  Let them.  We asked people to come over when we just needed crowd control.  We asked veteran parents what these age kids are supposed to eat.  We asked nurse friends about amoxicillin and caring for little congested chests.  We asked people to pray. We asked for pizza.  Swallow any pride or drive to do all this yourself.   If you need help, ask for it, and you will be astounded by the response.     

Be specific about what you need...and don't need
At about 8 am on our first morning with the kids, I posted a Facebook status asking if we could borrow a few specific things.  All of them had showed up at our house within two hours.   That continued.  We kept putting feelers out for specific things we needed and they just kept showing up.  It was awesome.   On the other hand, some people seemed to think "New foster parents! They must have nothing! I'll send them my entire stash that I've been meaning to take to Goodwill!"  I remember standing in our living room with Mama Judy looking through piles of things that people had brought to her for us.  I was so overwhelmed.  She told me "You tell me yes or no.  If you don't need it, you don't need it sitting around."  So we did just that.  Yes, no, that's broken, yes, I don't even know what that is, yes, no, no, that's for a newborn, we don't have a newborn...   Then she packed all the No items back in her minivan and I never saw them again.  We still ended up with piles of stuff in our den that came straight to us without the Judy filter that sat and sat and finally my sister took most of it to Goodwill a couple months later.   So that's a tip for people wanting to help new foster parents: ask what they need and allow them to say no.

Take care of yourself
Eat. Breathe. Remain calm. Take a shower.  Take vitamins.  Designate people in your life to remind you of these things and help take some load off to free up time for you to do so.  I tasked two coworkers with making me drink water plenty while I was at work because I sure wasn't finding time to do things like eat food or hydrate while home with the kids during those first weeks.  Church people that came over to help insisted that I sit still and eat the food they brought over, while they bounced our baby or folded our underwear.   Listen to these people.  You can't be a very good foster parent or human in general if you are wasting away, getting sick and smell bad...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

CPS Purgatory AKA The Middle Is Maddening

In my post the other day, I mentioned the 6th circle of hell.  Today I'm talking about purgatory...maybe I should go dig out my highschool copy of Dante's Inferno.   Hey, nobody said this CPS stuff was easy, right?   And therein lies the purgatory element of this.  Just like souls in purgatory supposedly must rely on the intercession of others to get them out of it, over whom they have no control, we are stuck in the middle with a bunch of CPS people working (supposedly) to get this all wrapped up.  We have no control over them, the timeline, or the outcome.

Such is the life of a foster parent.

Enough with the poetic old literature.  Being in the middle is hard.  And we have been very aware of this middle phase lately.  At almost eight months into this case, we know a lot more than we did at the beginning, of course, but still don't have a clear picture of which way this will go as far as reunification vs termination of rights.  And now, eight months in, there's a new cast member that has entered the drama whose new involvement will delay things a bit.  CPS may request an extension of the case from the judge, which would push us past the February one year mark.  But we don't even know if that will happen.

On one hand we are rocking and rolling with these two sweet little ones, loving and living.  But on the other hand, every once in a while, we're reminded that we're in the middle.  Looking at family memberships to the zoo that last a year, I wonder if the kids will still be with us a year from now.   Sorting through some clothes their mom sent for Sister and putting away items that won't fit her until next summer, I wonder if we will be the ones to see her wear them.  Recalling cute shoes in the top of Brother's closet that are hand me downs from our nephew and still too big, I wonder if we'll see him grow into them.  At Brother's speech evaluation this week, the lady explained to me that their program only serves kids until age three but we can adapt his services as we go up until that point and I mentioned that we don't know if he'll be with us at age three, so we'll just have to see.

These moments tend to hit me like a ton of bricks honestly, but not for very long.  I'll get upset sometimes for a moment.  Every once in a while I need to burrow in my husband's arms and have a good cry.  But you know how we deal with this middle phase and all its unknowns?  We just continue to live life.  We'll buy the year long zoo pass.  We'll keep the 2T clothes and size 8 shoes accessible.  We'll begin speech therapy and just see where it goes.

We'll keep rocking and rolling and loving and living.  That's about all we can do at this point.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Our Experience As Middle Class Foster Parents Navigating Low Income Systems

As I've mentioned before, sometimes being a foster parent puts us in weird situations.  One of those is the experience of dealing with systems and agencies that exist to serve the poor, even though we ourselves are a middle class couple who would not otherwise find ourselves in these situations but for our foster parent status.  I'll preface the reviews below with the statement that this is just our experience and others' experience may differ.  I also want to say that my comments about these programs and services do not stem from an arrogant, middle class, I-deserve-better-than-this attitude, but rather an overarching humans-deserve-better-than-this sadness.  Oof.  So here goes...

WIC: Where Inefficiency Reigns and Dignity Goes To Die
I hate the WIC office.  I do not throw around hate casually, but this place is like the 6th circle of hell.  Or whatever circle of hell makes you sit in a crowded waiting room in excess of two hours with small children who are bursting at the seams with boredom, hunger, tiredness, or all of the above, and therefore start tussling with other children in the room who are suffering from similar afflictions.

Here is what must be accomplished during a WIC certification or re-certification appointment, in order to receive your food benefits for your child:

-Five minutes with a WIC representative to fill out a few paperwork items
-Five minutes with a nutritionist to weigh and measure your child and prick their finger for an iron test
-Three minutes with the nutritionist again to go over the results and ask any questions
-Two minutes with the paperwork person again for wrap up and to get your updated WIC cards

How many minutes does that add up to?  Yeah, not many.  Remember I said above that this process takes over two hours.  Your "appointment" will be set for either 10:00 am or 1:00 pm on a certain day.  You show up and sign in, along with many other families, then go sit in the waiting room.  Twenty or thirty minutes passes in between each of the steps listed above and families are called in for each in no apparent order.  So, though I was among the first to show up a few weeks ago for Sister's "re-cert", I was literally the last to leave, over two hours later.  Each time a WIC employee comes to the waiting room door, you pray to the high heavens that they call your name, then sink back in your seat when they inevitably don't.  Oh, but when they do, it's like Christmas, until you remember you have a billion steps left in the grueling process.

So, why, you may ask, doesn't the WIC office simply schedule 15 minute actual appointment slots?  They run about 8 or 9 families through there in the terrible two hour span.  You do the math.  That works out to about 15 minutes each.  Well, perhaps they tried that at one point and realized that many low income folks don't keep appointments well, so they went to this current approach of "show up mid morning and we'll run you all through at some point before lunch in no logical order whatsoever."  Lucky for me, the only white woman in the waiting room, wearing lovely business casual clothing, I have a professional job with three weeks of vacation, two weeks of comp time and one week of sick time available to me each year, all of which I intentionally saved up for the express purpose of caring for these children.   But if I were actually a minimum wage earning individual that WIC mostly serves?  I would have just lost about a tenth of my pay for the week...

By the end of each of the two WIC appointments we have had, one with the whole family and one with just me and Sister after she turned one, I have left the building feeling utterly and completely defeated.  I was physically tired from wrestling a toddler for hours.  I was angry at the system for being so inefficient.  I was grasping at any shred of dignity I could find left at the moment after being crammed in a waiting room for so long with no regard given for my time, my obligations, or my child, whose day was very disrupted.  I found myself weighing the benefits we get from WIC against the crummy appointments necessary to obtain them.  My conclusion is that it is no longer worth it.  When Sister got seven cans of formula a month, that saved us over $100.  But now that she does not get (or need) formula since she turned one, her benefits match Brother's (milk, cheese, juice, cereal, fruit, veggies, eggs) and both their benefits combined save us about $30 per month.  Considering we're actually comfy middle class folks who find ourselves in some of these programs via our foster care status, and not from actual need...$30 per month is not worth it.  Not worth our time, our sanity or our dignity.  So when this hard earned round of benefits is up, we'll let them lapse.

But for the folks to whom $30 a month is huge...they have no choice.  They're stuck.


Medicaid: Accept Rejection
When the kids came to us, they were very sick, so we called up a random clinic the next day that the initial social worker mentioned takes Medicaid.   We got in right away but quickly realized the doctor we landed on was terrible.  Probably why we got in right away.  I'm not sure how this person keeps many patients for long.  After several weeks and many terrible appointments (the kids continued to get sick repeatedly in the beginning), Trent and I asked our own doctor if he could care for our kids.  "Sort of," he said. "I can see them for sick visits but cannot provide their well child checkups or their shots."  Kinda weird, but that's how his clinic was set up with foster kids' Medicaid status. Our first Medicaid hurdle.  At the time, we went for it.  Our kids kept getting sick and we needed to get away from the initial terrible doctor, stat.  Then our kids' birthdays came around and the need for checkups and some shots.  We realized that, as much as we love our doctor, we needed to settle in some place that could provide all we need.

So I began making calls to various clinics and doctors.  And with each call I wanted more and more to reach through the phone and punch someone...

"We do not accept Medicaid."

"We're not taking Medicaid patients at this time."

"We're not taking foster children at this time." (Ouch.)

So, after many calls and many dead ends, I decided to just call the Family Health Center, whose main purpose is to serve folks with Medicaid.

"We're not accepting new patients at this location."

For the love!!!  Can a foster kid get a doctor around here??  Thankfully, I had recently met a lovely woman at an adoptive/foster moms gathering who is a doctor at the FHC and my personal connection with her allowed us to bypass the clinic's current state of "sorry, bye bye" and get an appointment.  Finally!

Note: In case you are wondering, the kids must remain on Medicaid.  We cannot put them on our personal insurance in order to bypass these issues.  Until legally adopted, children in foster care are served by a certain division of Medicaid designated for them.

Making Appointments: Oh, You Have A Life?
My experience with making appointments in these systems has been...interesting...   You'd think the process of scheduling an upcoming appointment of any sort would naturally begin with a question such as "What day of the week would be good for you?" or "Would morning or afternoon work best?"  On the contrary, in these systems, the process of scheduling an upcoming appointment begins with "Your next appointment is on this date at this time."  WIC is especially bad at this.  At least the FHC followed the above statement with "Is that alright?"

This caught me majorly off guard at first.  I wasn't given time to consult my calendar. I was just handed my next time to show up.   I guess they assume low income people have no life, all they do is work...or not work...so it doesn't make much difference when you tell them to come in.  Even so, at least give a person the dignity of being asked...

In Conclusion...
You have probably heard the phrase "If you build it, they will come."  I'd like to offer an alternate phrase: "If you crush them, they cannot rise."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Eight Things Foster Parents Are Required To Have That Really Any Parents Should Have

1. Fire extinguisher
Foster parents are required to have a fire extinguisher in the home and have it inspected annually.  If a home is two stories, there must be one on each floor.   You don't have to be a parent for this one or the next two to apply, simply a homeowner.  Be careful of small fire extinguishers that can be purchased at home improvement stores.  We had one of those and when I took it to an actual fire and security business to get it inspected and tagged, they pointed out to me that it had already lost all pressure and would have been completely useless if we had needed it.  In fact, he told me, you may be buying one off the shelf that has already lost its pressure and is a dud.  That's pretty dumb.  Go ahead and spend the $60 or so to get the high quality extinguisher that you know you can rely on if you need it.

2. Smoke detectors
CPS requires foster homes to have a working smoke detector in every bedroom and hallway.  Let's be honest.  How many have we taken low batteries out of to get them to quit chirping at us and never put new ones back in, rendering them useless?  Newer built homes often have smoke detectors hard wired in to the home's electrical system and in all the right places, but if your house is older, might give them a look and buy some new batteries.  

3. Carbon monoxide detector
This only applies if you have gas appliances and/or a gas furnace.  It serves the same purpose as a smoke detector, except it picks up carbon monoxide to alert you to even the slightest gas leak.  We got one for $20 at a home improvement store that plugs into an outlet so we don't even have to mess with batteries.

4. CPR training
If your child started choking, would you know what to do?  If they had a severe allergic reaction and their body shut down?  Perhaps you have indeed had CPR training, but did it include training on infants and children?  There are different ways to respond in these scary situations depending on the age of the victim, so I believe it's very important for all parents to have CPR and First Aid training that includes infants and children.   Hospitals sometimes offer classes, community colleges may have continuing education programs, local Red Cross and even individual instructors who can come to your home to train you.

5. Escape plan
The fire department's inspection of a foster home includes making sure every room has an escape route to the outside, via door or window, or is directly attached to a room with an exit.  We also have to draw our floor plan and mark said exits on it.  An added level of this plan is to have an actual escape plan and meeting point outside the home.  If your home was on fire and you had to get out, could you actually get out of each room?  Does your family have a designated meeting point outside the home to count heads and know that if someone is missing, it's not because they happen to be safe, but on the other side of the house?  Have you coached your children, if old enough to understand, on what to do in case of a fire, what to do, where to go?  It's a scary subject to talk about, but should be talked about.

6. Medicine safety
Foster parents are required to have all medicines under lock and key, so we added a lock to one of our bathroom cabinets.  While non-foster parents may not feel the need to go to this extreme, they should at least keep all medicine well out of reach of children and safely contained.  We are also required to discard leftover medicine immediately after doses are complete (ex: your child finishes ten days of amoxicillin but there is still some left in the bottle), so there isn't unneeded or expired medicine hanging around.

7. Gun safety
If foster parents have any firearms in the home, they must be locked up in a safe, unloaded, and ammunition locked up separately.  We added a trigger lock for good measure, even though it's not required, and the keys to all are stored safely in our home.  This sure renders our shotgun pretty useless for home defense, but consider that if you can get to your firearms easily for home defense, your child can also likely get to them.  This could lead to an accident that could take the life of your child or others.  It has happened.  Why do you think CPS has such strict rules about it? And if you have coached your own children on gun safety, please consider that someone else's child visiting your home may not have the same knowledge or understanding.  We Texans are especially, uh, attached to our firearms.  But just...be smart.

8. Behavioral Intervention training
Raise your hand if you received some kind of schooling, training or other equipping before you embarked on your current career. Now raise your hand if you have kids and have ever attended a parenting class.  Anybody?  Most parents set out boldly into parenthood with hardly a clue what they are doing.   And most of those parents muddle through and do fine.  But why not take advantage of some resources out there to enhance your parenting, make you feel that you have a plan, that you and your partner are united in your parenting approach, that people smarter than you have given you a tool box to pull from?   Foster parents are required to attend Behavioral Intervention training annually.  This topic deals with psychological development of children at various ages, how to connect with your child, different discipline and reward systems that could be used, the effect that trauma or certain life events can have on the child's development and behavior, etc.     A starting point for this topic that I would recommend is Karyn Purvis' book, The Connected Child, as well as her programs and resources out of Texas Christian University.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Letter To My Former Self

Dear little 17-year-old Anna Pie,

It is I...well, you...from a decade hence.  Hi.  How are you?  Actually I know how you are.  You're freaked out and lonely.  You're settling into a totally new life at a college with more people at it than your town, with a strange roommate, no car, no friends and no mama.  Deep breaths, little girl.  This is all "part of the journey", to sound cliche, though I know right now it kinda mostly sucks.  Rest assured, you'll get the chance to move across the bathroom to an Elle Woods genius of a sweet blondie roommate and some of the best friends of your life are out your dorm room door, to the left, way down at the end of the hall with the hair straighteners and brightly colored comforters. They hale from a land of cooler temperatures and something called snow. Too bad you're too shy right now to go meet them.  But you will, in time.

Oh, that cute reddish head guy you've noticed lately running one of the cameras in chapel...you're gonna marry him.  Before you've even graduated from this place.  So there's that.  No biggee.  You won't actually get to meet him face to face until the beginning of next school year, when you have found the aforementioned friends and such, so carry on and how about have a misadventure with some short, dangerous, complicated young man in the meantime, mmk?

I have good news for you.  You have learned to trust your gut and act on it.  You are no longer quite as much of a pushover, though sometimes kind of a little bit, yeah, maybe.  You know how to speak your mind and stand up for what you believe.  You can hold your own in an argument and can be downright feisty on occasion.  And here's the kicker...sometimes you talk too much.  I know, right?!  Hard to believe.  It's like all the quiet from age 0 to 17 was stored up for later and now sometimes that cute reddish hair camera boy from chapel gives you a knowing look that says "omg, shush."  (Except he is a manly man and doesn't say things like "omg".  Also the reddish hair is all gone so don't get overly attached to it.)  Unfortunately, you are still scared to talk to strangers on the phone.  Not sure what to do about that one... Oh but hey! You can swallow pills now!

Ok sweetie, let's talk about God.  And church.  And this thing called faith and this somebody called Jesus.   I know right now you are "church shopping", which for your car-less self means getting a ride to whichever church you can each week.  You'll hop around, you'll settle in at one place for a while and then another.  Most people will be nice and most intentions good, but finding your true faith and true mission is a ways down the road yet. Hang in there.  In the meantime, you'll serve in roles that are great and roles that make you want to yell. Church will lift you up and bring you down. Your heart will be broken for, with and by others and, bless your heart, you'll struggle with a level of anger and confusion you never thought yourself capable of feeling.  But here's the thing...  Faith isn't about church.  It's just really, really not.  Faith is about doing what Jesus says and loving others with a fierce, active love that is blind to age, class, race, income, status, orientation, history or screw ups.  It's really quite simple.  Yet flippin' hard.  Go peek at Matthew 25.  File it away.  Because He is going to use those words to mash up your heart and stir it all around and spit it out in such a new form that you won't even recognize your old version of faith.

Oh, and about having kids and starting a family with the reddish head camera boy...first take everything you've ever known about the nice, normal, conventional ways to build a family, put those in a tupperware, tie a nice bow around it and throw it into the middle of IH-35 where it will be smashed up by an 18 wheeler.  Too graphic?  Ok, how about this: go ahead and put your ovaries on a shelf.   Just you wait, child.  I can't even tell you...I just can't even.  All that heart mashing and faith rewiring and courage growing will lead to the best and hardest thing you have ever done in your life.  And it will be awesome.  Trust me.

Ok bye.

Love,
27-year-old Anna Pie

P.S. This thing called Facebook is about to be invented.  It's cool, but don't let it take over your life.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Flashback to Highschool - Senior Year

Because it's Throwback Thursday and for some reason bloggin' is just not happenin' lately...



My school didn't have tryouts back then.  They begged any warm blooded student to be on the team so we'd have enough to play.  Basketball?  Sure, why not...  :-)


Youth group spring break ski trip, me and my sis Katy.


Senior trip to NYC.





Yup, that's my entire highschool class.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The "We Have Bigger Fish To Fry" Mentality In Foster Care

I now follow this blogger, another foster parent in the trenches of loving fully in the midst of hurt and hard.  She recently wrote this post, which resonated so much with me:

I think it's safe to say that most parents would agree that talking about Santa, and whether or not he truly exists, should be a pretty big conversation.  It's just one of those things that all parents will have to face at some point. 

That moment happened for us this week.

And it should've been a big deal, but it fell third in line behind: No one loves me and Really, really bad things have happened to me. 

This family's "Get in line, Santa" story is an example of what I have come to refer to as the "Bigger Fish To Fry" mentality in foster care.  Otherwise basic parenting tasks or responsibilities may take a back seat to very serious issues that need to be dealt with.   Simple childhood joys or discoveries may be overshadowed by the aftermath of a terrible situation.  Conversations that perhaps should be a big deal just aren't because messy stuff has taken the spotlight.

Some further examples:

Before we were even licensed, I was talking to a coworker about some of the issues that children in foster care face.  Somehow the topic of food issues came up and the coworker asked how we would handle that.  I said "If we get a child who will only eat McDonald's chicken nuggets then by golly, we'll buy stock in McDonald's."   The bigger fish to fry is that we'd just need to get the kid to eat something, even if unbalanced and not that healthy.  The otherwise normal task that gets lost is that of helping a child learn to eat vegetables, grains, know they can count on their next meal showing up, etc.

Another coworker recently asked me if Brother has been potty trained since he just turned two.  My response boiled down to "Oh hale no."  You see, we're still so busy figuring out how to be parents to these two particular kids, toting them to parent visits and appointments, social worker and attorney visits, etc.  The bigger fish to fry is all the STUFF we have to do besides just parent and the task that gets lost is, well, yeah, I think age two is about the right time to start potty training.   (We're still not going to yet.)

The things we deal with are pretty mild because our kids are so young and they experienced very little trauma in comparison to many other cases.   But a lot of foster situations could have even bigger fish to fry than this...

There's not room in the weekly schedule for a child to be on a baseball team because their time is taken up with speech therapy, counseling and special tutoring to help them recover from the abuse they have experienced.

Foster parents who should otherwise be playing happily on a trampoline with an eight year old are instead disciplining and coaching on appropriate language to use and why it is not ok to say the F word, the S word, the B word.

A foster daddy and daughter who should otherwise be playing tea party in her room cannot be alone together because she will start making sexual advances towards him.

You get the idea...

Part of the foster parents' job is to bring back the little fish.  It may take time to build trust, skills, appropriate understanding.  It may take strategic massaging of a weekly schedule.  It will for sure take the foster parent bearing the brunt of bad news and changing situations.  But part of our job is to instill a sense of childhood back into these children that was stripped away when "nobody loves me" and "people in my life have hurt me" entered the scene.  

So, here's to the bigger fish to fry...may you be dealt with appropriately and as needed, but not so much that you take. over. everything.

And here's to the little fish...the tea parties and trampolines and vegetables...may you find a way to the surface too.

And here's to all the foster parents holding the deep fryer...may you have wisdom and discernment, stamina and grace.