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.


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


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.


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: 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


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


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...


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)


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


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


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?