Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Takeaways & Tidbits Vol. 11

Me: My brain just needs to get in gear with longer tax season days.
Kristin: Our brains aren't a fan of tax season. Nor our bodies.  Only our bank accounts.
Me: You speak the truth.


Me: I'm sorry our house is such a mess.
Babysitter: Oh it's ok.
Me:  I've said that every time you have come over, haven't I?
Babysitter: Yeah...
Trent: Just change it to "I'm sorry we are normal human beings."


Our social worker:  Your tax season schedule makes me want to take a nap.


Me: I won't be at work Saturday morning.  I'll be on a getaway in Dallas.
Coworker: Why, what's in Dallas?
Me: Not our children.


Me: What if I want to write a book?
Trent: I think it would help change the world.


While walking out of a restaurant...

Our son: BYE BYE FOOD!!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sometimes Mama Needs A Time Out

I put myself in time out this afternoon.

It involved telling my husband through a few tears "I think I need to get out of here for a minute", my husband telling me "go for it, take a break", hopping in my van, realizing said van peels out like whoa on wet roads, and going to the mall for a hot second.   Ok, ok, I know, I really took one for the team.   But the truth is...I actually did.   The team needed me to go away for a bit.  Mama needed an attitude adjustment. 

I had been in the house basically all day on account of staying home from church with Sister who was puny yesterday.  Sister had launched into her typical late afternoon in between nap and bed, not quite dinner time, hangry, hold me, no don't, wha wha, I want to swipe those glasses off your face, hey that ponytail looks fun to pull, etc, mood, making me dodge her, therefore offending her greatly and audibly.   Brother was making a grand mess of the living room I kinda sorta attempted to clean earlier, making me wonder why I ever even bother to pick up toys.

I was annoyed at my kids.

I have learned a few things in this wacky parenting realm, and one of them is that when I get annoyed at my kids, I need to momentarily get away from my kids, or else we all spiral down into a puddle of angst and tears and macaroni I have yet to clean up.  Maybe, if I'm the only responsible adult in the house, that simply means I shut the bathroom door, lean against the vanity and literally hide from my small humans for a moment.  (Yes.  Moms of little kids really do this.  It's not just a thing you read about on the internet.)  Or, if my rockstar husband is at home, I may cash in on the luxury of tapping out.

So I left.  For a mere 45 minutes.  I went to Sears and spent some of a birthday giftcard.   I bought a sandwich and a coke and headed home.  And that was all it took.  I was refreshed.  Now, I may or may not have mixed said coke with SoCo after the kids went to bed but hey, irrelevant.

Parents of the world, when you need a break, do you take it?  Spouses of the world, when your partner in parenting madness needs a break, do you encourage it?  

Hide in the bathroom for a minute or two.  Shut yourself into the guest room and close your eyes for half an hour while your spouse fields the kid craziness.  Or get out of the dang house completely if you can.  Go to the mall.  Wander around Walmart.   Drive to the Walgreens parking lot a few blocks from your house and sit in your minivan listening to the radio for half an hour.  (I may or may not present that suggestion from personal experience...no comment.)   Just get out of dodge for a little bit.  Take one for the team.  Your team will thank you in the long run.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Does HGTV Make You Hate Your House?

I adore Fixxer Upper.  It's on HGTV and it's shot in MY TOWN.  Chip and Joanna are so funny and cute, as in, I have laughed out loud many times while watching them interact on the show.  Also the Magnolia store that they run is literally three blocks from our house.  Sometimes on evening walks when the store is closed, I park the stroller in front and, while my bored kids dump their snack cups out in their parking lot, I look in their windows at all the fancy, rustic, mod, fresh decor and doodads in there.   Then I leave, not wanting any, because none of it would make sense in my house.  Except for the green school desk in there.  That I would take.

You see, according to HGTV, my family lives in a fixxer upper.  

The premise of this show is seeking out a house for a client who "has the guts to take on a fixxer upper," narrowing down a few properties, then in the remaining 45 minutes of air time showing weeks' worth of Chip and Joanna's work to fix it up into a stellar residence.  They are super talented and their work is awesome. It's the first 15 minutes of the show that get me, when they are showing the client three properties to possibly choose from, all of which "need some help".  In almost every episode and every property, I see my house.  Not literally, though how cool would that be to be on their show?  No, I mean that the many terrible things they point out that make a property a "fixxer upper"...can usually be found in our house...

"Oh man, look at all this paneling...we'd come in here and do all new sheetrock."    

Uh, the majority of our walls are paneling, some with wallpaper over them and some with paint over that.

"I do not like this siding. We'd need to think about residing the whole house."   

Uh, we have about four different types of siding on our house, some horizontal, some vertical, some gray, some blue, some white, some vinyl, some wood, some soft side, aka asphalt, aka our house is covered in road. 

"Whoa, look at all that old looking brick around the fireplace. We could paint that or re-rock it entirely, freshen it up for sure, make it look more mod."   

Uh, an entire wall of our den is an unpainted brick fireplace.  

"Gross wallpaper. Has to go."

Uh, our kitchen walls are a funky yellow square print bordered with wallpaper fruit, for goodness sake.

You get the idea. 

I heard from someone recently the sentiment "I can't watch HGTV shows.  They make me feel ungrateful, like what I have is just not good enough."   Oof, valid.  But for some reason, I don't really feel like that, even though our house could totally be a starting point for Chip and Joanna's renovation ideas.  You see, as crappy and fixxer upper ish as our house would seem on one of these shows...I'm really ok with it.  Now, for sure there are some things we want to work on over time and we happen to be slowly updating our kitchen as we speak. (As in, every time we go to Lowes we buy two or three more cabinet knobs and one or two more door hinges.  Baby steps, people, baby steps.)

I don't let HGTV get me down.  

Our house is old.  Our house has quirks.  Our house has some areas that are downright ugly.  Our house has some things that are broken.  It will never look like a magazine.  It will never be on tv.  The items in Joanna's shop three blocks away will never take up residence there.

But our house is our home.  Its paneled walls echo with laughter and its scratched up hardwood floors with the stomping of little feet playing chase.  It functions.  It keeps us dry.  It holds life and love.  And I am ok with that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Update On Our CPS Case

Email from our kids' caseworker, 2/3/15:

Hey Anna,
The MSA and relinquishment form [the kids' mom] signed have been filed with the court and her rights have been terminated.  Next and final hearing will be 3/31/15.


Me: Did you see [caseworker]'s email?
Trent: Yeah. I cried.
Me:  Me too.
Trent: I got it right before class.  I shared it with the class and we all prayed about [the kids' mom] and the kids.

Well folks, our kids' first mom is officially no longer their mom anymore.  Though she relinquished her rights back in December, it was pending the approval of a Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA) between her and us as adoptive parents, regarding contact between her and the kids after adoption is finalized.  Yes, we are headed for an open adoption.  But more on that later.  Getting the MSA worked up and signed by everyone involved was a nightmare because we did not do formal mediation.   More on that later too.   We had two hearings postponed because it wasn't ready (not our fault) and finally by the third hearing, early this month, the thing was approved and signed by all parties to the agreement.  Oof.  By that time we were in "believe it when we see it" mode and didn't haul our busy butts over to the court, just waited for an update from the caseworker.

So now we are sort of in waiting mode.  Their mom still has her monthly visit until the case is transferred to the adoptions unit of CPS, which will happen in April after the final hearing.  The only thing left to resolve in the case overall is to wait out the appropriate time of nonresponse from one of the kids' dads so his rights can be terminated by the court even though he hasn't shown up to the situation at all.   After the right steps have been taken to find the person and drum up interest in the child, CPS can say "hey we tried" and the court can go ahead and terminate rights so that permanency can be found for that child otherwise.

The end seems to be in sight.  But we thought in October things might wrap up in a matter of weeks (haha funny joke).  And we thought in December that this entire case would be closed and moved to the adoptions unit by the one year mark of the beginning of the case, February 5th, but that came and went with an extension of the case granted.  So we're just sitting tight and waiting this out.  There aren't any more foreseeable curveballs to be had but, once again, we though that in December and got hit with a whopper in January.

After the case is transferred to the adoptions unit, it's just a matter of getting everything in place for an adoption hearing.  CPS may want to do some updates to our license and home study, but nothing major.  We are already fully dual licensed as a foster-to-adopt home so there's nothing notable we'd have to do.  As far as how long it takes between the transfer of the case and an adoption being finalized?  Not sure.  Could be real quick, could be a few more months.   We figure we're headed for an adoption hearing sometime this summer.

I know I haven't written much about all this as it has unfolded, and I'm ok with that.  While I do want to inform and update, I don't feel like I owe the world a detailed play by play of this very personal, very important time in our family's story.  I'll continue to write some more general posts about the nuts and bolts of this process and where we are headed, but for now, here's where we're at.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Childhood Dirt Doesn't Hurt

We started taking our kids to a new daycare this week.  Last week we got five days notice that our now previous daycare was shutting down entirely and...yeah...I don't wanna talk about it.   But we're good now, after calling literally almost every daycare in our area.  Anyway, during the visit Trent and I made to the new place which miraculously had room for both our kids, the director basically told us "Don't send your kids in cute clothes.  They will get dirty."   We agreed wholeheartedly and I told her we have daycare clothes and we have cute clothes.  There is a difference.

You see, we are ok with our kids getting dirty. 

There was a certain parent at our now previous daycare who had two little girls in attendance there.  I was always so confused when I would pick up my own kids who had dirt under their nails, dirt on their face, dirt in their hair, dirt in their diaper and these other two little girls looked as cute and pristine as the moment they were dropped off that morning.  Perfect, cute outfits, intact ponytails and not a speck of dirt on them.  I finally figured it out one day.  One of the little girls was lounging on the floor at pick-up time and the parent said "Get up off that floor, it's dirty!"

These little girls got in trouble for getting dirty. 

Now, let me say, there is a time and place for clean and nice.  I'm not gonna let my daughter dig in the dirt in her Easter dress.  But regular ole daycare days?  If I'm not mistaken, there's this thing in most houses called a bath tub and this other thing called a washing machine. Kids are supposed to get dirty.  It's part of growing up.  I am living adult proof that dirt doesn't hurt.  The following pretty much sums up my childhood...

That's me on the left in each photo.  I know, I know, the hair.  As Jen Hatmaker says, "What in the actual heck?"  I don't know...ask my mother.   Anyway, my sisters and I found much camaraderie with the neighbor kids involving dirt and mud.  

So, parents, lend me your ear.   Can we lighten up?  Can we let our kids be kids?  Can we minimize the freak outs about dirty faces and admit to ourselves that a stained shirt is not a ruined shirt, it's still a perfectly functioning shirt?  I think it says in the Bible somewhere, there is a time to be clean and proper and there is a time to roll in the mud and make memories.  Right?  Something like that?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Thoughts Foster Parenting Makes Me Think That I Otherwise Wouldn't

I am an overthinker.  I'm pretty sure I get it from my dad.  Attorney.  Accountant.  You get the idea.  I think about everything, over analyze, let my brain go further that it probably needs to... As Trent and I entered this foster care realm, I have become very aware of certain thought processes that I would totally not have if it weren't for our status as foster parents...

"I shouldn't send our foster friends that shirt, even though they need clothes this size."

This shirt showed up in the original flurry of stuff we received when we got the kids.   I have no idea who it came from and whoever you are, thank you.  But Brother has never worn it.  I pulled it back out during our foster friends John and Ashley's recent foster placement flurry as I was putting together a box of stuff to send to them.  I didn't put it in their box either.   Captain Heartbreak?  Little kids removed from their mom and plopped into a strange home because it was unsafe for them to remain where they were?   Little boy joining John and Ashley who was so very connected to his mom and can't be with her for a time?  Yeah...heartbreak alright...

"What should I wear to court/permanency conference/parent visit..."

So, put yourself in my shoes for a moment.  I am a generally successful human being who is adequately caring for the children of a young woman who has less than nothing going for her in life and cannot adequately care for said children.  I encounter her regularly via parent visits, meetings at CPS and court hearings.  Oh what to wear on such days?  I don't want to intentionally dial down my own style or try to hide that I am a put together lady but I also maybe don't want to show up to court wearing a power pencil skirt and shiny stilettos when she apparently didn't read the sign that says no jeans in court.  On such days, I would put myself in her shoes, perhaps unfairly.  I would convince myself that she had this inner monologue going on the whole time we were in sight of each other and she was hating my heels and my slacks and my blouses and my cute red Volvo because they all represent a level of comfort and success that I have and she doesn't.  And I have her kids and she doesn't.  So on parent visit days, yes, I'd intentionally opt for an outfit on the more casual side of business casual.  The day of the permanency conference last summer, after much thought and stressing, I opted for a wholesome khaki skirt, a nice cotton blue blouse and some sensible brown shoes.  Court I didn't stress about too much.  My heels and nice clothes showed up there because you are supposed to dress nice for court.

"I shouldn't put that cute sign in our kids' room."

I ended up with this little sign after Trent's big family Christmas gift exchange two years ago, right before we got licensed as foster parents.   One of his aunts said "You could put that in your future kids' room!"   It is indeed a cute sign and it does indeed live in our house, but not in either of our kids' rooms.   Count your blessings?  Let's see, you couldn't live with your mom and had to come here to this cute room that she never could have provided for you, and live with people that swooped in and caught you when your little life was tumbling out of control.   So yes, count your blessings, AKA us, Trent and Anna, and this cute room and this nice crib and all these clothes and all this stuff you wouldn't have had otherwise.  No.  I hope you sense the sarcasm. We're providing what we can and do not need a thank you or some reminder in our kid's room that they better be grateful because where they came from was a whole lot crappier.  Everyone should count their blessings and I like this cute little sign.  But it can live in our den just fine.

"How can I answer the 'do you have kids' question without suddenly becoming the center of attention?"

Do you have kids?
Yes, we have two.
Aw, how old are they?
Two and a half and one and a half.
Oh....wow....that's...really close together/Y'all were in a hurry/So you basically had twins the hard way/Holy cow/Oh man/My sister and I are a year apart and we survived/How'd that happen?

Here is the point where I would rather just have a nice conversation about my cute children but feel obligated to explain that we did not in fact give birth to them actually, that we got them at the same time already that close in age, that we are in fact sane and do in fact know "how that happens".   Sigh.   Enter the "Well we're foster parents..." explanation, which is never short and is always followed by either the Y'all Are So Amazing I Could Never Do That speech or the How Exactly Does All That Work question, to which I want to reply "Do you have about three hours for me to explain it all to you?"  While I want to bring as much awareness as I can to foster care and the need there, I don't like being the center of attention.  I especially don't like inadvertently hijacking conversations that should, at the time, be focused on something other than me.

Oh well.  Onward!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Yarn Pompom Gift Topper

This is just a super quick craft tip.  A few weekends ago, I skidaddled up to Dallas for Steph's wedding shower.   I got to sit still, in a car, by myself, for about two hours, twice, there and back, but that's a different story.  The point of this post is that I wrapped Steph's gift super cute and wanted to share the idea.  I bought pretty wrapping paper for it but was less than impressed with the selection of ribbon and bows at Target.  So the idea popped into my head to use yarn.  Duh.  I'm all about yarn.

All I did was wrap hefty yarn around the gift a few times, make a big pom pom with my handy pom pom maker and tie it onto the yarn to kind of pucker it together on top. 

Now, this is not a tutorial about how to make pom poms.  Go buy a pom pom maker (the blue and white circle thing pictured above) at a craft store and follow the directions.

But hey, check it out!  Cute and novel.

And Steph and I were cute too.

The end.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Oh What A Year It Has Been

A year ago today our world was rocked.  Ok, that's an understatement.  We had two babies plopped in our home with some diapers and some paperwork and began the greatest journey of our lives so far.  A year ago we had just met a little baby girl with more things she couldn't do than could for her age and a little boy who didn't talk.   There were no smiles the first few weeks for either, no personality, no health.  But now?  We've got a smart curly girl with an attitude and smiles for days and a handsome little boy who gives amazing hugs and can count to ten (with a little help between three and four usually).  A year ago we had no idea where this would go.  But now?  We know these two kids will be ours forever.

It was really, really hard in the beginning and at various times since.  We couldn't have made it without some really amazing people in our lives to help us, advise us, calm us and root for us.

So thank you...

To all our church people that put their names on a literal sign up list for daily shifts to come over and help me in the evenings for the first few weeks of craziness when Trent was at work and I was at home freaking out by myself with kids.  Even those of you who may have come over and thought I appeared to have things under control, or those of you I didn't really know that well at the time or even still, I needed you there.  I needed you and you stepped up.

To Sonya, Jason, Stephanie, Kathryn, Katy and Carlie for babysitting and Maddie, Marley and Bethany for manning womaning the church nursery.

To Mama Judy and Mister Bob for...oh that list would never end.

To Randy for his name tag and Pastor James for all the sloppy sugars.

To my mom for being Dr. OmieJean, providing helpful advice for sick kids, the more-valuable-than-she-knows comment "You're doing everything right", and a standing offer to hop in the car and bail us out of throw up or fever because sometimes "this is a job for grandma."

To John and Ashley for being foster friends, a sounding board for frustrations about CPS, bittersweet milestones and crazy stories.

To Uncle Joey for being a precious presence in our kids' lives.  Also a jungle gym.

To Kristin for being an ever present and willing participant in my heartache, worries, joys, milestones, updates, complaints and coffee runs.

To my office for being flexible with me during this very, very important time for our family.

To our kids' caseworker and our social worker for what they do for us and for the foster system.

To the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who have embraced these little ones as part of the family, helped change diapers, read books, babysat, allowed me and Trent some breaks, and covered our children with love.

Oh what a year it has been.  Am I right?  Here's to many, many more because these kids are stickin' around!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Things I'm Working On

Eating real food
No, I don't mean organic food or non-processed food. Ain't nobody got time for that. I just mean that it's not uncommon lately for me to eat a hodge podge of randomness for lunch and dinner, like a PBJ sandwich and some cheese, or a salad and cereal, or just cereal.   I feel kind of gross a lot of the time and I know it's because I'm not actually fueling my body with legit food or enough of it.  Life is just busy and I need to carve out a little more intention and care for mama's tummy.

Writing letters to my grandmothers
I used to be so faithful with this.  Ugh.  It is in my power to send little nuggets of joy via snail mail and I should do it more often.

Speaking up
No, I don't mean speaking up for a cause or advocating for something.  I just mean literally speaking louder.  As in, a lot of the time, my husband cannot understand what I am saying.

This used to be my jam, but I've been on and off with it for the past few years.  It's still something I value though, so I've begun trying to find little blips of time to write, including my weekly night off from parenting.

Sitting up straight
Because desk job.