Thursday, January 30, 2014

CPS Called. We Missed It.

Well, we got our first call from CPS for a placement...


...Trent and I both missed the call...

By the time I called right back, the on-call social worker was already on the phone with another family.  She answered my call then asked me to hold on.  I overheard her place a 3 year old girl with the person on her other phone.

It happens that fast.  If you don't answer, they call your backup number.  If that person doesn't answer, they move on down the list.  They need to get that child settled.

I felt pretty bad honestly but I'm trying not to let it bother me.  I texted some last night with a veteran foster mom we know and she said "They will call again soon.  I've gotten three calls in one day before.  The third call was for our John Boy, who turned 4 today. The right call will come at the right time, and you will know if it is right. It is exciting every time you get a call."

I told her my heart was pounding when I called the social worker back.

"Believe me, I know.  Even if they've only stayed for one night, we knew that we had made a difference in their lives by helping them when they needed the help."

Some little child or children will need our help soon and we'll be ready to jump in.   In the meantime, my cell phone is practically affixed to my body...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Takeaways And Tidbits Lately Vol. 3

As for me, I care deeply for all the watching eyes, waiting for something real, something that heals instead of wounds. I dream of a faith community that demonstrates a love so scandalous and embarrassing that only the foolish and the rejected and the misfits and the cynics will find any solace in it.  My heart's cry is that someone far outside the sphere of Christian endorsement might whisper, "Even me?" and be stunned by Jesus' answer: "Always you."

Jen Hatmaker in "The Duck Thing: Is There Another Way?"


We are thinking of adopting.  It's not that we have tried and failed at having kids, we just feel called to adopt.  I think when I read your blog on the subject that is when I decided we had so much in common.  More than that I felt like someone finally understands me. I can't tell you, which I'm sure you've had the same experience, the number of people that seem baffled by my wanting to adopt rather than attempting to have my own kids.  It is just so comforting to think there is someone who might just understand my feelings and have the same excitement, fears, questions, desires, etc, that I do on this.

A facebook message from a friend that encouraged me immensely and caused me to send a very lengthy reply that boiled down to "Yes, hearts like ours exist!  They are few and far between but we're around, I promise!"


Upon seeing the word "swanky" in a bedtime crossword clue:

Trent: I didn't know that was a real word.
Me: Of course.  How many times have you heard me say "swanky swank"?
Trent: Babe, there are a lot of words in your vocabulary that aren't actual words...


Upon receiving jury summons and claiming an exemption for being in school:

Trent: I bet I won't get picked for many juries once they figure out I'm a minister.
Me:  Because you have faith in humanity?
Trent:  And, ya know, grace, mercy...

Monday, January 27, 2014

In Which I Bare My Soul About...Babies

During this time when we're simply waiting for our first call from CPS, it seems the cosmic motherhood universe has decided it's out to get me.  It is assaulting me at every turn with...babies.

Every time I open my Facebook, it seems there is a new pregnancy announcement, gender reveal, birth date status or adorable newborn photo.

I saw an acquaintance recently whose catch-up-with-each-other news was that she's expecting their second child.

I'm now one of only two members of my highschool class who has not had a baby...although with only seven of us total, I guess that's not that remarkable.

A funny, boisterous lady we are very loosely connect to through Mission Waco has gotten it in her head that I simply must have a baby and made that very audibly clear last time I ran into her.  I didn't bother reminding her of our foster plans.  She was having too much fun predicting when I'd get pregnant.

Even Young House Love, a DIY blog I follow, is all busy getting a fabulous nursery ready for a baby boy.

Talk of babies  Jokes about babies. Announcements of new babies.  Actual cute babies. Pretty clear what time of life I'm supposed to be in right now, huh?.

You know what my reaction is to this smorgasbord of infant info coming at me from all directions?  

First...genuine and true joy for friends.


Any you know how that makes me feel?  

Slightly rotten.

Rotten because my joy over other peoples' news is somehow tainted or brought down a notch.

Rotten because if people want to engage in family building conversations with me it has to first be prefaced by a confusing primer of the CPS world.

Rotten because I shouldn't be jealous of other peoples' joy when we made an informed decision not to pursue that route.

It's not like we turned to foster/adopt as a last resort due to infertility, as is the case for some.  We are intentional and determined and excited to see this through.  But the thing is...this foster/adopt stuff is hard...  I knew that going in.  I heard it.  I read it.  Now I'm living it.  We don't even have kids with us yet and I'm realizing that what I heard and read is indeed very true.  This is hard even before the kids show up on our doorstep (which will literally be how they come to us, in the care of a social worker of course).

It's hard now, before actual kids, because so much is out of our control.  In fact, at this point, we're just sitting here licensed, waiting for CPS to call us. Nothing is in our control right now.  For someone like me who can be control freaky on occasion, this waiting is slightly agonizing.  Pair that with the joyous onslaught of all things baby lately and it kind of makes me what to stand on my front porch and holler "SOMEBODY BRING ME SOME KIDS STAT!!!!"  But, considering such behavior might cause the neighbors to call the loony bin on our behalf, I shall refrain.

There's a good thing to come from all this weird envy and potential porch hollering.  It has helped me realize that I'm ready for this.  I see others beginning their parenthood journey and the little pang of envy I feel is because I want that too, in our own unconventional way.  I see happy little family photos and I know that we're headed for that soon too, though you'll have to take our word for it since we won't be able to post it on Facebook.

I'm ready for this.  I want this.  Bring it on.

Like, come on CPS, call us.......

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Still Novel Experience Of Skipping Church

In the past week, Trent and I have spent 38 hours at the theater.

We will spend another 4+ there today for our final show and striking the set.

Trent has hundreds of pages of homework to read for classes this coming week.

We are scraping the bottom of the barrel for clean dishes, clean clothes and groceries.

Church starts in 12 minutes.

And we will not be there.

For the three years that Trent worked in church youth ministry, the few times we missed a Sunday were planned in advance, requested off, few and far between, and for good reason, like holidays or his grandfather's funeral.  When church is your job, that's just the way it has to go and that's fine.

Since he left his church position last August, we have skipped church for no good reason only one time.  Well, we had a reason but it was simply the realization of "whoa, we can do this."   We are so happy to have found a new church to land in where we have been loved and included from the get-go that...we don't want to skip.

In a few minutes, Pastor James will begin the service, Miss Candy may notice we aren't there but she'll probably guess why since she came to our show yesterday.   Hymns will be sung, children taught, a message given and received, communion taken together as a family.

But...Trent will be on the sofa reading about the Babylonian Creation Epic and I will be shuffling loads of laundry.

And that's ok too.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Flashback to Highschool - Junior Year

During which I rocked that school uniform...

...wore dorky hairdos...

...and played soccer...

Friday, January 17, 2014

CPS Nuts & Bolts - Timeline Of A Case aka How Long Might These Kids Be With Us

Note: This is a general outline of the timeline a case may typically have.  Some cases are resolved in a much shorter time frame if it is either very clear that it is safe for the child to return home or very clear that it is not.  This general timeline applies to the state of Texas as of the date of this post and may differ in other states.

Removal from home
After appropriate investigation has been made into a potential CPS case and it is determined that it is unsafe for the child to remain in the home, a CPS social worker will remove the child from the home.  Some removals are immediate upon discovery of active domestic violence or drug abuse, i.e. police are called by neighbors and CPS, or the police themselves, conduct an emergency removal of the child from the active situation.  Children are almost always taken to a licensed foster home upon removal, though in some cases they only remain there for a few weeks, long enough for an appropriate relative to get a home study approved by CPS and begin taking care of the child as a kinship placement.  If a kinship placement is not available or appropriate, children will remain in a licensed foster family home.

Two weeks
Within 14 days after removal, caseworkers and attorneys have been assembled/assigned and a team meeting is held to discuss the known facts of the case so far. A period of further investigation begins, to gather more information about the case. 

Six weeks
At approximately six weeks after removal, a court hearing is held in which the birth parent(s) are presented with their service plan that they must follow through on in order to have their child returned to their care.  The plan outlines requirements specific to their case, such as drug or alcohol rehab, parenting classes, job training, obtaining adequate housing and childcare, or disassociating themselves with any individuals deemed unsafe for the child to be around.   Birth parents are then given a specified amount of time to work their plan and are not at all left hanging to figure it all out themselves.  CPS social workers and other state agencies are in place to guide them.  The service plan specifies a time frame in which they must work their plan. 

Six months
At about six months into the case, another team meeting (of attorneys, social workers, often the birth parent(s) themselves and sometimes the foster parents) is held to evaluate progress.   The team considers the birth parent's efforts to work their plan, how the child is doing in foster care, how the child handles visits with the birth parent (are the visits positive or traumatic for the child?), etc. At this point, the team really decides which way this case will go in actuality and begins to move in that direction.  If things are going awesome, the team prepares to move for reunification.  If not, the team will prepare to move for termination of rights.  Things can get really messy at this point.

Ten months
At about ten months into the case, if it has not been done already, a hearing is held in which the judge decides on a permanency plan. Attorneys present their arguments for either reunification or termination of rights and a decision is made.  If the child is indeed able to return home, a plan is set for a gradual return with increased visits, unsupervised visits, overnight stays and then finally a permanent return.  If, however, the judge makes the final decision that the birth parent's rights are to be terminated and the child cannot return home, a plan is set for seeking an adoptive or other permanent situation, such as an aunt or grandparent becoming guardian.

One year
One year from the time of removal is the normal maximum of time that a CPS case can be open, with a few exceptions, described below.  Standards were revised a few years ago to create this maximum in the interest of finding permanency for these children quickly, whether that be with their biological parents or with another family. This is a good change and one I was so glad to learn about. Many children of course remain in foster care for longer than this year but that is because of time needed to find an adoptive home, which can take a while or sometimes sadly not work out at all, in which case children "age out" of foster care at age 18.  But at least children in foster care are not stuck there because of the case dragging on forever.  The case is normally closed within a year, it's the adoptive placement that can then take a while.

One and a half years
In some cases, an extension of the case is allowed for another six months past the normal one year maximum that a case may be open.  This normally happens if a birth parent is doing really well working their plan and has consistently showed effort, but either the parent needs a bit more time to get some things worked out or the court wants a bit more time to see if the parent will remain consistent.  Some parents blow off their plan completely and then in the last month ask for more time to complete it.  CPS sees right through that and this extension of time is not given in cases like that.  So, the absolute max that a child may be in foster care because of the case remaining open, is 1.5 years.  Remember, it could be longer and for some, the remainder of their adolescent life because, frankly, nobody will adopt them...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Letter To The Children Who Will Soon Come To Our Home

I'm praying for you.

I know that if you come to our house soon, that means that bad things are probably happening to you right now.  It may feel like your world is caving in.  You may be too young to know that these bad things are not normal and are not ok. Or you may still be in the womb, fighting to thrive and develop in a toxic environment.

I wish I could somehow assure you that there are people who want to help you, to pull you away from risk, to help your family figure out how to be a good family, and help you all get back together again if they have learned how to keep you safe.

Trent and I are ready to care for you, love you, support you and help you heal.  We are here for you to talk with, cry with, and laugh with...whenever you are ready.

We understand that you probably won't trust us at first and you might even be scared of us and this strange house you have been brought to.  That's ok.  I promise.  We'll show you around the house so you know where everything is and we'll give you time to get to know us.  We can do some fun things together like watch a movie or bake some cookies.

You don't have to call us Mom and Dad if you don't want to. And if you do want to, that's just fine. You can call us whatever feels comfortable to you.

We know you might be missing your parents, even if they hurt you or didn't take care of you, simply because they are your parents.  I want you to know that it's ok and normal to miss your family and your house and it's also ok for you to like us and enjoy being at our house.  That doesn't mean you love your family any less.  These tangled up feelings can be tricky to figure out.  We respect your feelings; we respect your background; and we respect your parents.

The "maybe days" ahead won't be easy.  Maybe you'll be able to go back to your old house.  Maybe you'll get to see your mom soon.  Maybe...  It'll seem like a lot of things in your life are in the hands of a lot of strangers, but those people just want what's best for you and it will take them a little while to get it all figured out.  We can wait and wonder and walk through the maybe days together.

I'll tell you a secret.  This is going to be new and strange and different and scary for me and Trent too.  We are getting ready for you the best we can.  I bought you some colorful bandaids, some cool toothbrushes, some watermelon shampoo and some nightlights, but if you don't like those things or if you need more nightlights, you can come back to the store with us and pick it out just for you, just the way you like it.  It might take a bit of time for us to get the kind of things you like and get your room all set up, but I want you to know that our hearts are ready for you.

Oh our hearts are so ready for you.   I have prayed for you daily and cried over the struggle or danger that your little life's path will come across before you come to our house.   If you are hurting right now, if you are hungry, or sick, or confused, or sad, or alone...I wish I could assure you that we are waiting for you and we want to help you and love you in this scary time.  We want to help bring the light back into a darkened childhood and help your family all we can.

And, sweet little child, if the grown-ups in charge of these maybe days decide that it's not safe for you to go back to your old house and live with your family again, we will cry with you and try to help you heal from this huge loss that your little heart suffers.  That will always be your old house, they will always be your family in your heart and you can talk about them with us whenever you want to.  They are a part of you and we honor that.

Dear one, if things turn out this way and you can't go home, I want you to know that our home can be your home.  If you want to, if you are happy here, we would love for you to become part of our forever family.  Here at the beginning that sounds far off and hard to understand, so we sure don't have to talk about that right away.  We'll take things one day at a time.  We'll get to know each other, we'll do fun things together, we'll walk through hard times together, we'll learn a lot and we'll see how things turn out.

May the Lord bless you and keep you; may He make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; may He lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

We Broke Up With Our Data Plan...Sort Of

You know that AT&T commercial that aired a bazillion times during college football bowl games in the past few weeks?   The one advertising unlimited talk, text and data with no contract for $45 a month.  If so, did you also see the fine print at the bottom of the screen that says it provides unlimited talk and text but only 350 MB of data?

That's not much data at all.  And it's exactly what we wanted.

You see, we've been paying Verizon $150 a month for talk and text on our two regular dumb phones and data for my tablet, all on two year contracts.  Blech.  We wanted to simplify.  We know we live most of our lives in wi-fi bubbles for various apps and smartphone capabilities.  We wanted the data plan gone and most of the bill with it, but the possibility of getting inexplicably lost in a neighboring county while trying to find the location for a court hearing, or needing to reply to a social worker's email right away kept us from cutting ties with the data bubble completely.

Enter AT&T.  And $70 a month.  And cool phones.  And no contract.  And backup data of 350MB if we happen to need it.

So we broke up with Verizon.

The best they could do for an equivalent plan was $120 a month.    Trent made a spreadsheet to compare the cost of cancellation fees to Verizon with monthly savings we'd have on our bill thereafter.  Cancelling and moving to AT&T now vs waiting out our contract with Verizon until it would naturally end in May, paying the bigger bill in the meantime, then moving, came out to $15 difference overall.  The cost of our new phones would be the same either way, and we knew we'd have to purchase them at full price since no contract means no signing bonus or discount off a new phone.   Since we were excited about getting new phones that would bring our technology back into the current decade and I was excited to no longer have to carry around a phone and a tablet, we went for it.

We got Nokia Lumia 520 phones.  They are cool Windows smartphones and they only cost $100 each.  

We got different cases to tell them apart.  I have not given mine a name yet, but I'm sure one will be forthcoming.  

We're loving our decision.  While forking out the money for cancellation fees was not super fun, I'm swimming in the happy knowledge that our cell bill has been cut in half.  We keep the data connection turned completely off, just use the regular phone and text features normally and rely on the many wi-fi bubbles in our life for things like Facebook, blogs,, etc.  If I want to check my Facebook while traipsing behind Trent through Lowes, too bad, so sad.  But who really needs Facebook available all the time? (Answer: no one.)

We've unplugged...sort of.  We still have that 350MB security blanket if we need it.

Has anyone else broken up with their data plan recently?  Do you think you could or would you never survive without it?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Our House Rules Are Cuter Than Your House Rules

Remember the strip of photos at the top of this post, that we took as part of our foster/adopt "maternity" photo shoot with my sister? Well, we had an additional purpose for them as well.  They're the foundation for our house rules. 

Foster parents are advised to have their house rules clearly presented somewhere so children that are plopped into an unknown environment can easily know expectations and safety for that home.  You may remember from this post that I read a book last year by Karyn Purvis called The Connected Child.  In that book, she outlines a suggested foundation or starting point for house rules, in a concise format that is easy to remember.  

No hurts.

Stick together.

Have fun. 

We decided that was a great place to begin our house rules, partly because we truly do like it and partly because we've never done this before so we have no idea what our house rules should be and we were happy for someone else to tell us.  Specific things can fit into those broad statements as appropriate.  For example, the specific rule of "we don't run in the house" would fit under No Hurts because you could fling yourself into a bookcase and get hurt.  Or "we don't leave the house without permission" would fit under Stick Together.  We can also use it as a broad reminder, like "if you are pouting, that's sad and we can't have fun" or "we are all pitching in to do some chores and if you don't help, we aren't sticking together."

So.  Ideas started brewing and the recently smothered crafty side of me had some fun.  First I used to overlay text onto each of the photos we took with my sister Sarah, like so:

Then I had them printed as 5x7s and headed to Michael's down the road to look for some frames with the mattes that you can write on, like people use at weddings sometimes to write well wishes.  Even better, I found craft frames that you can actually just paint or write right on.  And they were only 50 cents each.  Win!  I assembled them and Trent did all the necessary math to hang them evenly spaced and staggered near our dining room. 

The idea is for us to use Sharpies to hand write our specific rules onto the frames, around the picture and phrase they go with.  So we could write the examples I gave above onto the No Hurts frame and the Stick Together frame.  We'll also write things like "family fun days" and "be silly" on the Have Fun frame, because goodness knows Trent and I are all about having fun.  Heck, we even made our rules fun!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Foster/Adopt "Maternity" Photo Shoot

Before Christmas, I got a little antsy since all we had left to do was wait to be licensed.  I got a little saddened honestly at the lack of humanity in our trek so far.  Here we are, expectant parents getting ready to take care of sweet little ones, but all we've experienced and had tossed our way is paperwork, inspections, interviews, classes, questions, locks, safes and fire extinguishers. 

I wanted something more.  Something to help prepare my heart, not just approve our house and fill our brains.  

We had already arranged with my photographer sister to take some pictures of us over Christmas, in order to update some of our frames at home.  Being a pictures person, I had mentioned the possibility of adding some humanity to this whole process by taking some "maternity" photos, typical of expectant parents, but giving it our own twist to fit our situation.  

I wanted to copy the cute idea of taking pictures of the parents' feet with baby shoes next to them, waiting to be filled, except with two photoshopped fill-in-the-blank spaces instead of shoes, indicating that we've got (currently) two spaces in our home and our hearts for whoever may come our way.  I wanted to make the cute heart with my hands, but over my own heart instead of a pregnant belly, because it really does feel like these children I haven't even met yet are growing in my heart. 

While Sarah slept off the last finals week of her life one afternoon, Trent and I went to Main Street in my hometown and, over a pale ale, I shared my ideas with him. We discussed them for a bit and I got a bit upset that it sounded really corny once voiced.  We realized that we were trying to fit ourselves into someone else's mold.  I was ready to throw my hands up and just abandon the idea, but Trent, my wonderful, caring, thoughtful husband, salvaged the whole thing. 

"We don't need to fit ourselves into another mold.  We need to create our own path."

So we did.  We carried on with our discussion and came up with some ideas for a photo shoot that would reflect US and OUR situation as expectant parents.  After we woke Sarah from her post-college slumber before the "diffused light" time of day passed, we shared our ideas with her.  I wondered if she'd think we were weird.   She loved it.  

How many expectant parents do you know who pose for their maternity photos with a fire extinguisher? :-)  For the record, that is not a DFPS regulation fire extinguisher, just one that my mom had under their sink.  Ours is much more heavy duty.

Here's to the future, for creating our own path and taking the road less traveled. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

OMG I Bought A Scale

Confession: I have never owned a scale.

My parents had a rinky dink ancient one under their bathroom sink when I was a kid but it rarely made an appearance outside the confines of the cabinet and didn't even really work when it did see the light of day.  I believe that this absence of a weighing machine during my formative years allowed me, unlike some young girls, to escape the (I'm sure unintentional) lesson from adult's behavior that a scale is supposed to be a fixture in the bathroom, the number on it actually means something and it has enough control to make or break your mood.  

Also as a result of this no-scale upbringing, I have no earthly idea how much I weighed at any given point in my life except for the months leading up to our wedding, when I was somehow convinced by the world that all brides are supposed to worry about such things.  Even then, I didn't spend my measly money on one of those things, I simply paid attention at the doctor's office.

Well...there's a first time for everything.  Here I am, a week shy of my 27th birthday, and I have purchased my first scale.


I have not given it a name like I do with most of the other gadgets I obtain (phone named Sam, tablet named Napoleon, eReader named Snookie, etc).  This is because it is not my friend.  It gets to live in our back room where it is cold and dreary and only gets visits from me once a week on Sundays.  Sad life.

Why did I finally buy a scale?

Honestly, because I don't know where my friend Kim keeps hers in their house anymore.  Also Trent and I are both intent on eating better, getting regular exercise and losing some weight.  We're doing it together and want to be able to actually track our progress, so here we are.  We own a scale.  It has proved inescapable.

At least I made it 27 years.  Well, almost.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

In Which A Friendship Fueled By Burgers and Tax Returns Comes Full Circle

So, I have this friend named Sonya.  We go way back, to about 2005.  She and I were the dynamic duo of President (her) and Treasurer (me) that ran Baylor Habitat For Humanity for a couple crazy years and somehow managed to raise $40,000 to sponsor a Habitat house. The entire frame of said house was then built on Baylor campus right by Fountain Mall by a gaggle of eager little freshman, sat for a week in the name of raising awareness for our fine collegiate organization (come on, what does that better than a whole house frame sitting on campus?!), then carefully deconstructed and moved to the actual home site.  It was quite possibly the most stressful summer of our lives.

After shoving placing the Baylor Habitat reigns into the hands of some newbee officers, we carried out the remainder of our college years and launched into adulthood, where our friendship has morphed into a dependable annual exchange of a tax return in Sonya's hand for a burger in my belly, as well as, for a time, my name and number listed as her (and I quote) "contact person who would call the appropriate people if she was maimed, dismembered, eaten, etc....while at work," in the event of which, "I may have her car and Trent may have her G.I. Joe Collection."  So yeah, we're buds. 

But our I'll-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine friendship came full circle a couple months ago.  By way of preface, I'll remind you that once upon a time, I got married.  Not being in favor of unnecessary stress on a day when my main job was to look pretty and say "heck yes I do" to the man of my dreams, I asked Sonya to be my wedding day manager.  She made sure candles were lit, vendors were on task, people were where they needed to be, etc.  And when boutonnieres came up missing since the florist apparently forgot that small detail of our order, Sonya made some appear out of thin air from centerpiece roses. Frankly, she kicked butt as a wedding manager. 

In honor of those previous few weeks of me stressing out and her remaining calm and being awesome, we posed this photo right after the ceremony, May 18, 2008:

And now about that full circle thing...  I give you November 16, 2013:

All is well in the cosmic balance of mine and Sonya's friendship.

Carry on.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Resolution 2014-Do My Best

In 2014, I resolve to...

Do my best to lose some weight
I know, I know, typical resolution.  But it's here nonetheless.  I'm not establishing any specific goals, just going to do my best to eat better and exercise.  We'll see what happens.

Do my best to go with the flow
I have a feeling 2014 is going to throw the planner in me for a loop.  We're headed into foster care for goodness sake!  That's a guaranteed bundle of unpredictability and unknowns.  I'm going to try my best to just roll with things.

Do my best to remain calm
This year is gonna be nuts.  No denying. We don't even have a placement yet and I'm already freaking out a bit.  But that doesn't do anyone any good, so...deep breaths.

Do my best to be a good mom
I don't know how to be a mom.  Normally you get to figure it out one day at a time from a fresh start with a tiny, brand new human being, with lots of free meals and no obligation to even leave your house for six weeks if you don't want to.  I'll get to figure it out with a couple hours notice and a couple days off, with possibly a not-so-tiny human being (or two) that does a whole lot more than eat, sleep and cry. I'll launch into being Insta-Mom and it might be pretty shabby at first. But all I can do is my best!

Wishing you a beary happy new year!