Wednesday, September 21, 2016

To The Adoptive Families Who Appear Normal

When we officially adopted our three kids back in May, our family turned a corner into a new normal, one without CPS oversight and one with a whole lot less in our schedule.  No more social worker visits or attorney visits or inspections or court hearings.  No more medicine logs or doctor appointment paperwork.  Suddenly, following a few words said by a judge, we were a regular, normal family.

We began to settle into that and it began to sink in.  I went through a phase of not blogging because I felt like suddenly we were so normal I didn't have much to write about in this foster care and adoption realm.  But normal is relative, maybe surface level, maybe based on appearance.  I began to think through experiences I was having while parenting my children and found myself thinking things like "Normal families don't have to deal with this and that" or "A normal mom wouldn't feel the need to think through that particular thought process."  I was becoming aware of the fact that, though our family may appear normal now and be afforded all the privacy and perks of any legal family in our state, we will never be the same kind of normal as non-adoptive families.

I got to thinking about adoptive families out there in this world and how their own internal normal in their home may differ so much from other families who have not walked the same road.

The parents who run each bad behavior through an analysis of "Is this because of trauma or is this because he's a toddler?"

The mom making sure therapy options for her young daughter jive with her adoption assistance plan.

The family whose vocabulary regularly includes phrases like "first mom", "other dad", "where I lived before", "in my third family"...

The mama calmly clasping little hands in hers as her child intentionally and violently scratches her.

The parents packing up toys and snacks for their annual visit with their kids' first parents.

The dad hurrying across the hall to do his best to calm a night terror.

The mom seeking counseling for herself to help her face her children's challenges with grace and resolve instead of rage and surrender.

The parent managing a plethora of psychotropic medications for their child to combat the effects of prenatal drugs.

The sweet family who prays for their kids' birth mom every night.

The aunts or uncles or extended family who struggle to bond with kids suddenly plopped into their lives.

The child marking milestones...more days in this home than elsewhere, more days adopted and stable than floating from home to home.

To the adoptive families that may appear normal but feel anything but... I have walked this road, the one that looks easy enough at first glance but ends up having pot holes and bumps and erosion and a few locked gates to navigate that other people may not see or understand.  Dear families, persevere.  Persevere in loving your children, in winding your way down that tricky road, in finding your new normal, in embracing it.  I see you.  I understand you.  I am you. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sometimes I Wish I Was Their Only Mama

Of course I'm not going to go into details on the ole public blog here, but we had a little spike of drama concerning our kids' first mom a while back and it stirred up a storm of emotions in me, the second mom, that were new and weird and selfish and normal all at the same time.

You see, we have an open adoption agreement with her (more on that at some point via a guest post from the hubs) so she is by no means gone forever from our life or our kids' lives, even though her parental rights have been terminated and our adoption is finalized.   Most days we rock along in our normal routine, she'll come up in conversation with the kids here and there..."You know who gave you that shirt?  Your first mommy did"... and they'll kind of look off to the side and nod a bit like they are seeing a shadow of a memory that they are trying really really hard to bring into focus.

And then some things happen that bring all the past hurt, drama, questions and pain crashing into focus.  Suddenly we find ourselves swirling with a hurricane of emotions that leave us simultaneously fighting waves of selfishness while stepping out of work for a moment to get tears of sorrow and compassion under control.

Somewhere in that hurricane, I confessed to my husband...sometimes I wish I was their only mama...  Sometimes I wish we didn't have to field the challenges of an open adoption.  Sometimes I wish we didn't have to be the front line defense, to take the first bullets to the chest in order to appropriately shield our precious kids from the intense hurt that lies in their history.

I quickly acknowledged how utterly selfish that is.  He quickly validated my feelings. 

I noted that I'll just have to do my best to reconcile the occasional spikes of motherhood identity confusion with our otherwise very normal life as parents. He noted that this is an aspect of this whole situation unique to me, as the second mama, that he does not have to deal with in his heart, as the only daddy they've ever really known or will know.

I used up a decent percentage of a box of kleenex, wishing my cubicle had a door to close.   He asked an understanding coworker to cover his task while he walked around the block.

And we went about our life.  Because...this is our life.   We have an open adoption and all the challenges that entails.  I am the second mama, and in Baby's case the third mama, and I have all the emotions that entails. The confusion, the selfishness, the compassion, the joy and the fierce love I have for these kids.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Texas Kids Are Sleeping In CPS Offices...Please #BecomeAFosterParent

A couple weeks ago, we closed our foster care license.   Then my husband texted me this picture of our local newspaper:

...which lead us to find this online article from ABC News, which made us say WTF, except with the actual words instead of the acronym letters. It made me wish we could somehow go back on the decision that is very right for our family at this time, tell CPS "just kidding" and open our home back up.   Texas doesn't have enough foster homes and we just closed ours.

I texted with one of my foster friends, Kaley, about it, about the article, about our desire to throw open our doors and our arms and our hearts and welcome every kid from every county in our state, especially if the only option for some is to sleep in CPS offices after just being yanked from their homes.  My friend said this:  "I want to be able to do so much more than I'm able to do.  Being a human with limitations doesn't jive well with my heart for helping."  Another foster friend of mine, Elizabeth, once said to me "My heart is bigger than my house."  

Here's something I have discovered about foster parents:  When they commit, they commit big time.  All in.  All the time.  Give me all the kids, oh wait, I don't have enough house and only two arms.  

I already have three adopted babies, and because of that a severe dependency on coffee, wrecked knees, a wrecked house and yet my heart still wants to holler in the general direction of Texas as a whole: How can I help more?!?  

My foster friend, Kaley, that I mentioned above?  She's a single foster (now adoptive) mom.  She decided to jump into the trenches of this great need on her own as a single foster parent.  She's got a great support system of friends and family, but how much guts does that require to take on foster care as a single adult?   She adopted her precious son the week before we adopted our three kids.  She could say she did her time, made her mark, and get out of dodge, but no, she is up for the challenge, is staying licensed and wants to continue to foster.

My foster friend, Elizabeth, that I mentioned above?   She and her husband are fostering two young sisters in their two bedroom house and she has to tearfully turn down calls for more placements of children because her heart has the space but her house does not.  She and I have joked on several occasions about how Texas needs some villages/towns/compounds full of foster families that can support each other, cheer each other on and, most of all, provide a ton of homes for kids in need.

Where are more people like this?

My husband shared that ABC News article above on his Facebook the other day with his own plea to anyone, anywhere, who has any bit of pull toward foster care, to please contact me or him for more information about how to get started.  He came home that evening and said "Nobody responded to my post."  It wasn't with an air of dejection or disappointment.  No, it was sadly with an air of "I figured as much."

People will praise foster parents and expound upon their worth and necessity in society all day every day.  (I can't tell you how many times I've heard variations of "You're doing such a great thing" and "Y'all are incredible".   No.  Hush.  We are two people with a house and some energy and we said yes to something.)  But turn the conversation to "you could do it too" and folks get real full of reasons why not.  And I get it.  Not everyone can be foster parents.  But a whole lot more people could than think they can.

So how do we get them to catch the foster care bug?  God?  Hashtags?  Angsty, dramatic blog posts?

I wrote this post two years ago about why foster care is worth it and I stand by every word in it.   It is worth it and it is greatly needed, in any county and any state.  If you have any inkling whatsoever to know more, to try to start the process, to figure out how to foster and what it involves, please contact me.  Please.  Leave a comment here or message me via the contact form, Instagram link or Facebook link, all down the right hand side of my blog (doesn't show in mobile version, scroll to the bottom of the page and click 'view web version') and I would be over the moon to talk foster care with you, to pray for you, to pep talk you, to google resources in your area for you, to get you over the hesitation hump and into action mode.   My husband's Facebook post got no bites.  I'm hoping this one will at least get some nibbles.

Please.  For the sake of lonely, scared children sleeping in CPS offices...

Monday, June 6, 2016

Operation Get Out Of Debt By Age 35

I just turned 29 in January.  So math says that five and a half years hence, I will turn 35 in January of 2022.

We intend to be out of debt by the time I turn 35.

Yes, including the mortgage.

Yes, you read that right.

Yes, we realize that sounds absurd.

However, yes, it is doable.  Here's how:

Our debt is not insane
Our cars are long ago paid off or bought with cash in the first place.  Our credit cards are not so long ago paid off.  That just leaves student loans and mortgage.  Let me say that our old house, purchased in 2009 if that says anything, was reeeeal cheap compared to a lot of mortgages out there. Only five digits, to be frank.  At this point, we actually have more student loan debt than we do mortgage debt. Gross. So my comment above of "yes, including the mortgage" should maybe instead be "yes, including the mountain of student loans."  But at any rate, we are not dealing with an insane amount of debt here overall, hence why this plan feels so doable.

Our one income family is soon to become a two income family
My hubby graduates from seminary this December and will once again become a regular wage earning individual.  For the past year and a half, we have basically lived on my income alone, plus some part time work of his, and it has been completely sufficient.  His pending increase in wages will be a windfall of dollars available to pay off debt that we have not otherwise been used to.

Adoption assistance pitches in on kid costs
If you adopt a sibling group from CPS foster care in Texas (or a single older child or a single special needs child), you are eligible for adoption assistance.   This includes staying on Medicaid for health insurance, free state college tuition, and a monthly stipend amount from the state which for our situation (it can vary) amounted to the max available of $400 per month per child.    Yeah.   Whoa.  So we don't have to pay for health insurance for three kids or save for college tuition for three kids, and in the meantime, we get $400 a month times three kids.   A smidge weird, not gonna lie, to have the state of Texas helping pay to raise our very own kids, but it sure helps.   So, now that our adoption is finalized and our regular foster care reimbursement and daycare subsidy went away, we still have assistance to help with kid costs.

We're talking about almost six years to accomplish this ridiculous yet possible plan.  Gonna be a few raises in there.  More dollars for more debt pay down.

We don't intend to escalate our lifestyle whatsoever
We have always been a big fan of people living within their means.  It just makes sense for your lifestyle to not get bigger than its britches.  So instead of escalating our spending as we have these increases in income mentioned above, we're gonna stay right where we're at, with used cars, an old house, few vacations, hodge podge clothing and basic/few kid toys.  We live a full, happy, unique life already and don't need fancy stuff to complete it.

But WHY???

Um...why NOT?
I don't like debt.  Who does? I think most people would love to blast their debt and have it out of their lives but unfortunately these days it is just so common for debt to remain a regular part of our lives.  It's just a fact of life for most middle class people...there will always be a car payment...there will always be a mortgage payment...there will always be a credit card payment...   But it doesn't have to be that way.  Life doesn't have to be lived with debt.   Maybe it's a mindset issue, a motivation issue, a planning issue, a responsibility issue, an expectation issue, an appearance issue.  There will be a different culprits for different households, but debt does not have to be the norm.  We decided long ago that debt would not be our norm.  Fun fact: my original plan was to be debt free by the time I turned 30 and we were gonna do it, but then my hubby went back to school and three babies showed up at our doorstep so that got a bit derailed.  But now we are on task for the next half decade.

A family tradition
When I was a little kid, in the early 1990s, I remember one day my dad came home from work with a funny look on his face and something stuffed down the front of his shirt.  He danced around and cutely made mom dig it out.  It was a piece of paper, crumpled by that point.  Mom read it, let out a squeal, jumped up and down and hugged dad like crazy while we kids stood around wondering what the heck was going on.  They had paid off their mortgage.  On the big house they had built on 30 acres less than ten years prior.  For some reason that moment of absolute joy between my parents lodged in my 8-ish year old memory and never went away.

I asked my dad about this the other day, to make sure I had my memory right.  Of course he remembered it too.  I told him "Good job on that.  Good example" and told him we were ramping ourselves up for our plan to be debt free by the time I turn 35.   He said "Well thanks.  And I'm excited about your plan.  You can not imagine the freedom and peace and comfort and other opportunities you can experience and enjoy when you are out of debt.  Go Futrals!"

So we are hereby starting a family tradition of kicking debt out of our lives as soon as we possibly can and keeping it that way.  We've got our spreadsheets and our plan and, most important, our resolve.

Also once we're out of debt we're gonna get another motorcycle, whatever the hell motorcycle we want.  So...there's that too. :-)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

So We Adopted Our Kids Last Week...Now What?

This past Wednesday was ADOPTION DAY!  Or as we are going to call it on every May 25th from here on out, Forever Day.  It was a wonderful day, easy, memorable, special.   Families and might-as-well-be family joined us at the hearing and lots of other loved ones stormed our house afterward for a BBQ lunch celebration.

We're a forever family, what?

We're a regular ole family
We are now afforded all the legalities, perks and challenges of any regular family out there.  I can be actual mom at the doctor instead of "just foster mom".   We all have the same last name.  We know that these are our kids forever and always.

I'm still going to keep our kids' photos and names private
Prior to the adoption, we were not allowed to post our kids faces or names on the internet.  Now that they are legally our children, we can do as we please in that arena, but my gut would like me to please still refrain from posting their pictures or information publicly.   I have posted their faces and names on my locked down facebook profile, but as for this blog and my public Instagram, sorry folks. I don't really have an explanation but I'm going with my gut on this one, at least for a while.

We have an open adoption
This means the kids' first mom is not gone from their lives completely.  Much more to come very soon regarding this topic via a guest post from my husband.

We are no longer a licensed foster family
For two and a half years, a Texas Department of Family & Protective Services foster care license has hung in a frame by our front door, as required.  Today I took it down.  It was with expected joy and unexpected sadness that I did so.  You see, we have our hands quite full at the moment with three toddlers so wouldn't be able to take more placements for a while.  Meanwhile, our CPS agency won't keep a home open and licensed for that long if you aren't taking kids, since it uses up their resources and time for no gain.  So, closing our license was the only option at this point.  

On one hand, we are excited to just be parents.  To give Tylenol without writing it down on a medicine log.  To go to the doctor without toting paperwork with us.  To go out of town without telling CPS where we are headed and for how long and with whom.  To no longer have a revolving door at home of the kids' caseworker, our social worker, the kids' attorney, ECI therapists, fire, health and RCCL inspectors.  To grab our people in a pinch when we need babysitting even though they don't have CPR, fingerprinting and a background check.   It will be SO NICE to just settle in to be a family without a government agency basically living with us too.

But...I am actually surprised at how sad and bereft I feel.  For years, this has been our thing, our identity, our jam.  For years we have been marching to this crazy drum and suddenly it is silent.   It took us a year and a half to figure everything out and actually get licensed in the first place and yet it took one single phone call to shut it all down.  I am sad because there are so, so many children out there who need a safe home and we are not currently on the list to help them.  But we are not being useless.  Don't you even think I'm hinting at that.  We never expected our first placement to end in adoption, much less with three whole children at once.  I believe in the bottom of my soul that this placement, these children, are the exact situation God intended for us when we embarked on this journey.  But I also believe that God intends more for us and expects more from us.

So, this is not the end.  This is a new beginning.  The beginning of our legal family of five.  We intend to be a family of more in the future still, whether temporarily or legally.  We have committed to seriously re-evaluate our family situation on every Gotcha Day (the day our kids first came to our home) and really pray, talk and stew about getting licensed again.  We are giving ourselves probably at least two years before we would, when our kids would be ages 4, 5 and 6, potty trained, more self sufficient.  Neither of us wants to fall into thinking it's never good timing and we know we'll never not have our hands full with these hooligans who already live here.    We are realistic, but we are committed.

I'll sign off now, for the first time ever, not as a foster mom but as...just mom.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Letter To My Kids On Adoption Day

Dear Kids,

In a few hours we will be in our county courthouse, before a judge, becoming a legal and forever family.  The judge herself told me a few weeks ago that "this is your day".  Your day to run around the courtroom if you wish, to be happy, to show joy, to be kids.  I was somewhat relieved to hear her say that, given that it is near impossible to get all three of your little bodies sitting still.

This is a big day.  This is your day.  This is our family's day.   The gravity and weight of this occasion have settled solidly into my soul and I am over the moon with joy.  But...this day is not everything.

This is the day the state of Texas will acknowledge us as a legal family.  But it is not the day our family began.

This is the day I will legally become your mother.  But it is not the day my motherly love began.

This is the day your last name will match ours.  But it is not the day that your humanity began.

Your story is unique.  Your story is challenging.  Your story is precious. 

Our family's story is unique.  Our family's story is challenging.  Our family's story is precious.

We honor your past, celebrate your present and eagerly anticipate your future.  We will have good times. We will laugh so, so often. We will work through life's plain ole challenges as a plain ole family.  We will face the confusion and questions about your tricky start in life when they rise up and we will block out the rest of the world, plop down on the rug, hash through it all, say as many words and cry as many tears as we need to until we are as much at peace as we can be in that moment.

This won't always be easy.  Turmoil may pop up.  Trauma may surface.  Strangers may make ignorant comments about our family. People may assume things about your story that are entirely false.  But we are prepared to rally as your parents, to circle around you.  At times we will take the blows on your behalf and shield you entirely.  Other times we will jump down into the trench with you and fight alongside you.  Still other times we will sit back and cheer you on from afar as you live out your unique, challenging, precious story with strength, confidence and love.

You are a joy, a delight, a blessing.  We are honored to get to call you ours.

Happy Forever Day sweet babies of mine.

With all my love, for all my days,


Sunday, April 24, 2016

We Have Our Adoption Date!

Our Facebook world already knows this, but...check it out...

That's right, we have the date for our adoption hearing set!

I saw that I had a missed call from our attorney's office as well as a text from our social worker saying "did you hear the good news?"   I was in an appointment and couldn't call the attorney back so texted our social worker "Just tell me what the good news is!!"  So she did.  Because she is cool like that.   I later called the attorney's office back and heard it straight from the secretary's mouth as well.  

Alerted Trent, exchanged some exclamatory texts, wondered at the fact that CPS actually came through earlier than expected for once, given that we had been told to count on June for an adoption hearing.  We texted our families and close people to make sure the close circle of folks we want present at the hearing didn't have conflicts.  The response was generally "if there was a conflict, there would shortly no longer be a conflict!"  

Then I ate a sandwich.  Then I cried in my minivan.  Then I pulled myself together and went to a board meeting for CASA.  What better group of people to spend some time with right after getting this kind of news than leadership of an organization that expressly serves kids in foster care and has been tracking our family's story?  I interrupted the president's introductory remarks with "can I say something?" then proceeded to burst into Ugly Cry level of tears as I somehow choked out "about an hour ago we got our adoption date."  So I turned a professional board meeting into a cry fest but apparently it was ok because the whole room erupted with cheer. 

Then I spent way too many minutes making the very simple image above, then many more minutes letting the tidal wave of responses, likes, loves (because that's a thing on Facebook now apparently), comments and all the emojis in the land bolster the joy I was already feeling.  (Also trying to convince Uncle Joey that me saying he could wear a suit to court did not mean a swimsuit or morph suit...)

Man, you people know how to cheer a family on.  A lot of you know me or have at least met me in real life.  Others of you I only know through the interwebs.  And yet, across the board, the love and support you nice people have poured out to our family that has been on this wacky journey for over two years now is overwhelming and so appreciated.   So, thanks for being awesome and celebrating with us in this very important time in our family's story.  You rock.  All of you.  Even the ones I've never met.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

5 Tips For Surviving A Busy Season In Your Family or Marriage

Most of y'all lovely readers out there know that I'm a tax accountant, which means from about February 1st to March 31st I work 55+ hours a week and from then until April 15th I sell my soul to my employer.   In the olden days this wasn't such a big deal since it was just me and Trent, but now with three chillens in the picture, and a disaster of a tax season last year with only two chillens, we approached this spring with some planning and some fierce determination for it to be a success.  And you know what?  So far so good.  So I decided to impart to y'all some of our strategies we've landed on, in case it could help anyone else out with a busy or challenging season in their family or marriage.

Maybe you're a tax accountant too (may the odds be ever in your favor).  Maybe you're in some type of ministry that has busy stretches, like summer for youth ministers (been there).  Maybe one of your kids is on a select sports team that requires intense devotion, time and travel.  Maybe there's an illness in your family that is pulling certain members away from normal roles in order to provide care.  Whatever the season may be for you and yours, I hope these tips can help out at least a bit.

1. Make a plan
Coming into this tax season, we discussed what my overtime schedule should be, how we should tackle daycare drop off and pick up, under what circumstances we'd call in OmieJean as backup help, who would generally be responsible for different chores, etc.  We set up a routine and we have stuck to it as much as we can and as long as it has worked.  It is not, however, set in stone, but I'll get to that.  You gotta have a plan though to start out.  Discuss expectations and hopes for how the busy time will go.  Allow space for each other to voice concerns or things that are scaring you to death about how this is all gonna go down.  Pinpoint areas of your normal routine that are normally handled by one or the other of you that may get turned on their head because that person simply won't be able to handle those things for a time.  Our main goals for tax seasons are for Trent to not be a single parent for three months and for me to actually see my kids and remain a present parent.  We've made a plan that splits the daycare duties and has me home in the evenings and most of each weekend.

2. Be intentional about date nights and family fun
Our plan involves me going to work at 6:00 am six days a week and Trent getting the kids up, dressed and to daycare by himself.  I pick up the kids from daycare four days a week and we generally have our normal, chaotic, fun evenings at home.  We also try to throw in fun trips to parks and such on weekends.  I work when my kids sleep so that I can see them when they are awake, but then once they are back asleep, I'm soon to follow.  Because my alarm clock begins with a 4...  Then on weekends there are chores to catch up on.  Where in all that am I supposed to hang out with my husband??  We made the decision before this busy season cranked up to put a bi-weekly date night on our schedule.  Our fabulous babysitter, Carlie, has us penciled in every other week and we pay her real dollars to give us a few real hours out.  It's a break, it's a chance to sit still and talk to each other across a restaurant table, a chance to reconnect, a chance to pretend it's not tax season.   Best. Decision. Ever.  Prioritize family relationships and your marriage to the degree you can and you won't regret it.

3. Budget accordingly
Leave it to me to bring dollars into this, but it's a valid point.  When life is out of whack for a busy time, your regular household budget may no longer be accurate for that situation.   For us, we end up eating out a whole lot more than we otherwise would, whether it's quick lunch dates for me and Trent or drive thru trips for the whole family.   I also make more trips to Starbucks than I otherwise do, because of that whole alarm clock beginning with a 4 thing.  Thankfully, my busy time includes overtime pay, which helps with these increased or different expenses, but that may not be the case for everyone.  So take a look at your family budget, think about what could be affected because of this wacky season and adjust accordingly.   While some expenses may increase, like eating out, others may likewise decrease, like leisure activities or entertainment, since you ain't got no stinkin' time for them.

4. Adapt
Just because you made a plan in the beginning doesn't mean you have to stick with it the whole way through.   Have regular check in discussions to make sure things are still working or see if you need to tweak how you are approaching your routine.   Trent and I had a conversation recently in which we asked questions like is this working for you, what are you struggling with, what can I do differently, what do you think we need to do differently overall, should we shift this schedule item, should we prioritize such and such more or less, etc.   In that discussion, we changed some of our plan, mostly because I'm to the point in the season when I need to work even more hours.   I'm gonna shift my arrival time earlier and he's going to handle daycare pickup a few more days a week.  I may pull some second shifts, working more after kids go to bed, and we did indeed have to call in OmieJean recently for backup.  If your busy time stays the same all the way through, it may be more possible for you to stick to the same plan all the way through, but if yours ramps up at the end like mine, you'll need to roll with the punches and adapt.

5. Encourage and acknowledge
This is hugely important.  It is less about logistics and more about attitude and sanity.   If one of you is busting their butt to accomplish the busy season tasks, that means the other is picking up some slack in some way.   Acknowledge that both are working hard to make this work and encourage each other in the roles that you have taken on.  Our busy season abounds with "thank you for handling the kids each morning" and "thank you for working so hard to make our money" and "you're a rockstar dad" and "you're an asskicker CPA" and "thank you for doing the laundry" and "thank you for doing the dishes" and so on and so forth.   This attitude of appreciation and encouragement lightens the whole dang thing up a few notches and make you feel like a valuable part of a team instead of just a slave to this challenging season.

In conclusion, in the words of my mother, the aforementioned OmieJean... Go! Fight! Win!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Dear Kids, Always Stay Humble And Kind

Dear Kids,

Tim McGraw wrote a song for you.   Or I guess he wrote a song that I wish I had written for you.  It encompasses so many things I want to tell you, so many little pieces of wisdom I want you to internalize and live by.  So here, let him tell you...

You know there's a light that glows by the front door
Don't forget the key's under the mat
Childhood stars shine, always stay humble and kind
Go to church 'cause your momma says to
Visit grandpa every chance that you can
It won't be wasted time
Always stay humble and kind

Hold the door, say please, say thank you
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you've got mountains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind
When the dreams you're dreamin' come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind

Don't expect a free ride from no one
Don't hold a grudge or a chip and here's why
Bitterness keeps you from flyin'
Always stay humble and kind
Know the difference between sleeping with someone
And sleeping with someone you love
"I love you" ain't no pick up line so
Always stay humble and kind

Hold the door, say please, say thank you
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you've got mountains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind
When the dreams you're dreamin' come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind

When it's hot, eat a root beer popsicle
Shut off the AC and roll the windows down
Let that summer sun shine
Always stay humble and kind
Don't take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you're goin'
Don't forget turn back around
Help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind

Love you,

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Dear Women, Grab At Friendship

Dear Women,

Once upon a time, my best friend sat in the cubicle to my left and we saw each other at least five sevenths of every week.  Then she took a different awesome job and the cube to my left became inhabited by a bright intern who slightly resembles Ron Weasley.   Kristin and I went from being automatically thrown in together almost every single day by way of our work to...not.  The short story is that we're still friends.   The longer story is that we floundered around for a few months after her exit and hardly saw each other as she settled into her new job and I fielded various waves of sickness in my household during (of course) tax deadlines. Then we decided that royally sucked, that we each needed the other in our life and we had a serious conversation or two in which we decided we needed to grab at friendship.

You see, at our age we're in that funky in-between when we are actually adults but mostly still feel like kids and wander through most days thinking "when did I grow up and how the heck am I this close to turning 30?"  We're past the points in our youth when friendship or at least social interactions were tossed our way left and right, arranged by other folks with not much effort of our own: school, youth group, college groups...   Now we're solidly in that stage of life when the things being thrown at us are mortgages, grocery trips, car repairs and, in my case, many babies.  Lost in all that hubbub of adult life can be one of the very things that is life giving.


How many women out there are blessed to have even one true, close girl friend?

How many women out there are lonely for that type of friendship?

The type of friendship where one shows up in literal pajamas for movie night after putting her many babies to sleep.

The type of friendship where one barges into the other's unoccupied house and leaves homemade cinnamon rolls in the microwave so the dog won't eat them.

The type of friendship that shares honest advice on life, marriage, and car payments and offers the use of their shower when the other has a busted pipe.

The type of friendship that texts ridiculous things back and forth, making each other stifle laughter for the sake of their appearance as calm, studious CPAs.

The type of friendship that goes about ten days without seeing each other and results in a "I haven't seen you in forever."

I've got that. I love it.  I'm doing it.  And you know how?  I'm grabbing at friendship and Kristin is grabbing right back.  We prioritized ourselves and we're succeeding.   We didn't stop at "We should hang out sometime" which a lot of women say to each other and never act on.  We went past that, all the way to "What should we do this week?" because it has become that normal for us to be in each others' lives.

But Anna, you are both so busy with adult life and you with your babies and how the heck do you do it?  How do you find time for friendship?

I put her on my calendar
I literally put my friend into a repeat-every-two-weeks calendar item called "Have you hung out with Kristin?"  I did.  That may appear super lame and make her sound like a chore, equivalent to trash day or bring-diapers-to-daycare day, but that's not the case.  No.  She is equivalent to Pay Day or Date Night on my calendar (both also bi-weekly).

Weekday lunches
We are both working women who are busy bees, but we still eat lunch.  E'ery single day.  Work day lunch meet ups are a great way that we get together and catch up for a bit, even if it's only a quick 30 minute break when we gobble some Chipotle and say see ya later till next time.

Hang out after kids go to bed
My little kids go to bed at 7:30.  That leaves lightyears of evening left..ok least two hours...let's be realistic, we are in fact busy, tired adults.  Many an evening have I plopped my children in their beds and left my husband to tend to the quiet house while I fetched or was fetched by Kristin to go grab a drink, or a dessert, or a movie.   Other times I drive myself the two miles to her house for Netflix plus brownies plus sweatpants.  Other times she drives herself to my house for Fixer Upper plus sorting six trash bags of hand-me-down kid clothes.

Low expectations
You can tell we are such socialites and the things we do to hang out are sooooo FABulous.  Baha, yeah right.  Most of our hangouts involve Chipotle, random adult beverages, sugar, and a TV screen.  So fabulous, lemme tell ya.  We keep the bar low.  The point is to hang out and share life together, not win Socialites Of The Year.  (If that were a thing, barf.)

No strict agenda
We mostly fly by the seat of our pants.  Just because I have a calendar reminder every two weeks doesn't mean we hang out on that day every two weeks.  Sometimes it's weekly, sometimes we go a while without seeing each other. Sometimes it's lunch, sometimes it's an evening outing, sometimes we eat too much, sometimes we talk until past our bedtime, and soon we'll go shopping to find me an Adoption Day dress. We're all over the place and don't box ourselves in.

Our husbands support our friendship
Our guys know that this is important to us so they help make room for it on both sides.  Trent keeps kids sometimes, will shoo me out the door, tell me to take my time and even pipe up with "you haven't seen Kristin in a while" if that is indeed the case.

Ladies, this can be done.  Do you have a little baby seed of a friendship that needs some nurturing to really flourish?  Grab at it. Ask your friend to grab right back. Have a super honest conversation with each other and decide to be super grabby.  Be intentional, be purposeful, ask your husband or significant other to help you create space for friendship.  It can be done and you will be so grateful for it.

Go get grabby!


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Heart Dump

If heaven is an actual place, I hope that it's a dark quiet room with a big king bed and I hope no one bothers me for the first millennium while I sleep off motherhood.


I started reading Harry Potter.  No, not re-reading.  Reading them for the first time...better late than never.  OMG.  Harry, where have you been all my life? 


My children are hilarious and so. much. fun.  Their little personalities are blossoming and it is a delight to live life with them.  If Once we survive these toddler years, I think we are in for one heck of a good time with these crazies.  We can't wait to have fun, random family adventures, make memories, learn lessons, and make an impact on this world.


I've gotten us on a new budget plan.  It's called You Need A Budget and it's the bomb.  The level of calm and control that has permeated our household and marriage in the almost two months since I started it has been flippin incredible.  We are the boss of our money now and we've got big goals for it, so it better watch out.  I also created a debt reduction plan spreadsheet with an end result of getting us out of debt, including mortgage, by the time I turn 35.  I just turned 29.  You do the math.  It's slightly absurd but I think entirely possible so yeah, watch out debt.


It's mid February and we turned our air conditioning on in our house today.  Because Texas. 


In other news, my husband built the most badass treehouse ever for our kids for Christmas.  They scurry up and down it, haul their little sack chairs up there and pretend to watch TV.  Because that's what you do in the great outdoors up high in a treehouse.  Pretend to watch TV.  (facepalm)


Around this same time last year I was busy trying to be a writer.  I was super jazzed for some reason, despite the tax season timing, and had these big ideas that I was gonna be someone on the internet.  I spent $12 on an actual domain name and web address.  I spent $120 on an online blogger workshop that I never finished.  I set up a Miss Anna Pie Facebook page that I never update. I had my sister design me a custom blog header. And then I watched my post publishing rate take a nose dive.  Turns out when you have the worst tax season of your career then gain a third kid, things change.  Focus is altered.  Determination wanes.  Priorities adjust.  But here I am...trying once again.  Trying to revive this passion.  Ignoring the green beans on the dining room floor and instead sneaking away to Starbucks after kids are snoozing.  Actually opening my laptop some evenings and at least staring at a blank post screen, willing the words to come.  And look...some words showed up.  A hodge podge of random snippets but hey...I wrote words.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Update On Our CPS Case

The last time I provided an update here on our CPS case, I explained that we were waiting for the final termination orders from the DA's office, so we could move to the adoption unit of CPS.  Well, now two months later, we are on one hand SO much closer to adoption and on the other we still feel a billion years away.

We have been moved to the adoptions department of CPS and have a new adoptions social worker who is awesome.

We have hired our attorney, who told us "we've got the A Team working on this adoption."

We have made progress on adoption related paperwork.

And yet...we are still waiting on those blasted final termination orders that I described back in November.  Our caseworker told us she thinks the orders for the big kids have come through and she is poking and bugging and fighting and throwing fits to get Baby's done too.    The good news is we're getting everything else in order so we can hop to it once we have those.  The bad news is there is a 90 day waiting period once those come out of the DA's office and into our caseworker and attorney's hands.  When we first met with our new caseworker in December, she told us that March was a realistic month to hope for an adoption day, but now we're looking at more like May probably, with this 90 day countdown involved.

So, more hullaballoo and gobbledeegook and waiting.  Nothing new here.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Books I Read In 2015

Gah my list this year is'd think I gained a third kid that turned our life upside down or something!!

The Open Hearted Way To Open Adoption by Lori Holden

The Ultimate Cheapskate's Guide To True Riches: A Practical (and Fun) Guide To Enjoying Life More By Spending Less by Jeff Yeager

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin

The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

For The Love: Fighting For Grace In A World Of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker

Books I started and allowed myself not to finish...

The Antelope In The Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life by Melanie Shankle

Get Some Headspace: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life In Ten Minutes A Day by Andy Puddicombe

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions On Writing And Life by Anne Lamott

Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg