Sunday, November 2, 2014

On This Orphan Sunday...

On this Orphan Sunday, I thought I would share with you something that I shared with my church family earlier this year.  We have a series of stories written by members of our church describing how the Lord has worked to change our lives for the better.  Mine just happened to be about finding my purpose...  My faith...  My life...  My son...

Numb. Devastated. Lost.  For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a mom.  It turned out God had a different plan for me when I had a hysterectomy at the age of thirty due to complications with severe endometriosis.  Still single, with no biological children, I spent the next few years praying and trying to figure out God’s plan for me.  I knew I was meant to be a mother.  I just had no idea how it was going to happen.
In the fall of 2008, I decided to take a leap of faith and become a foster parent.  I had always shied away from fostering because of the usual fears related to having to say goodbye to children that I loved, but as time went on I finally began to trust that God wouldn’t have planted this seed in my heart only to leave me hurting and devastated.  So I dove headfirst into the unpredictable world of foster care, and allowed myself to love my kids with my whole heart despite the inevitable hurt.
While I had always been a believer, that faith was shattered one March afternoon as I stood in a courtroom and learned that the little boy who I had loved as my own for the past year was never coming home.  I had expected pain and tears when my children left my home, but nothing could have prepared me for the all-consuming heartache and flood of emotions that encompassed me in the days and weeks after I lost my little boy.  I was numb.  My heart had a gaping hole that physically ached.  My arms were empty where my little boy should have been.  I was furious that God would allow me to grieve so deeply when He was supposed to be protecting my heart!  I knew that I would never survive another goodbye, so I gave up my foster care license and tried to move on.
I'm not sure if I can say that I've ever fully felt God's presence until a few months after I lost my little boy.  It began slowly.  I would see something that reminded me of my baby and would smile rather than cry.  I would look at the empty crib and imagine another little one who needed me sleeping in it.  As time went on, I began to feel the change within me, and I knew that could only be because of His promise to heal the hurt.  I felt a stronger sense of peace, a renewed purpose, and a faith that I had always HOPED to have, but never really knew that I could find. 
Fulfilled. Hopeful. Blessed.  My life is nothing like I thought it would be when I was younger.  I am most definitely a mom, but my children have come to me in ways I never could have imagined.  Then one afternoon in December of 2012, a two-month-old baby boy was placed in my arms and looked up at me with his “old soul” eyes like he knew something that I didn’t.  That little boy, my "Bug", was dedicated to the Lord here at this amazing church home one year later, and will soon be my first legal forever child as his adoption is finalized next month.
God has healed my heart time and time again over the past five years, and has blessed me beyond what I had ever hoped or thought possible.
I am Tammy (aka. Mimi) and I am CHANGED.

On this Orphan Sunday, and the second day of National Adoption Month, I encourage you to share with someone how your life has been touched by adoption.

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month, so I thought I would make an attempt to do something every day to celebrate my family, to acknowledge Bug's birth family and heritage, and to raise awareness of the great need for loving homes for the thousands of children waiting for their "forevers."  In 2013, nearly 102,000 children were available for adoption through the foster care system.  One quarter of those children aged out of care without ever finding a forever family.

Over the next thirty days, I would love to encourage all of you to share how adoption has touched your lives with your family, friends, co-workers, church families, etc.  If you have been blessed through adoption, spend time with your children celebrating the things that make them so very special.  Thank people who have helped you along your adoption journeys or encourage a waiting family.  Over the course of the next thirty days, I hope to do the following things (in no particular order), and I hope you will participate as well!

1.  Share information about National Adoption Month on your blog and post your personal list of ways to acknowledge it throughout the month (feel free to use this one if you need ideas!).

2.  Share the story of your adoption journey on your blog or with your place of worship if you have one.  (November 2nd is Orphan Sunday and a perfect opportunity to ask your church family to become involved.)

3.  Send a thank you note to a caseworker, judge, agency, attorney, CASA volunteer, etc. who made a difference in your child(ren)'s case.

4.  Read an adoption-themed book with your child.  Share a list of your favorite adoption-themed books for children on your blog or FB page.

5.  Encourage a family you know who are considering adoption.

6.  Put an adoption themed bumper sticker or decal on your car.

7.  Surprise an adoptive family you know with a goody basket, a meal, free babysitting, a gift card, etc.

8.   Make a handmade craft with your child to use as gifts for their birth family or other important people.

9.  Send up a special prayer for the children still waiting for their forever families.  Pray for the children who have aged out of the foster care system and have no support system to fall back on.  Pray for the families who are considering taking a leap of faith and saying "yes" to these kids.  If you have a place of worship, submit a formal prayer request and ask your church family to pray for these children as well.

10.  Share your favorite adoption blogs, websites, magazines, etc. on your blog or FB page.

11.  Watch home movies and look at photos as a family.  Talk about their stories.  Tell them again how blessed you are to be their parent.

12.  Share a story about a waiting child, sibling group, or family on your blog or FB page.  Search or other photo listing and share one that touches you.  You never know if someone you share with might be that child's forever.

13.  Take a key player in your child's adoption to lunch or give them a call just to say hi and thank you.

14.  Look for events in your area celebrating National Adoption Month, Orphan Sunday, or National Adoption Day and make plans to attend one.

15.  Celebrate your child(ren)'s heritage with a fun meal, art project, etc.

16.  Volunteer with an agency, at an event, orphanage, or other adoption-focused organization.

17.  Connect with a child aging out of the system.  Offer encouragement, mentor them, be a safe place they can come to when they need it.

18.  Read a new "grown-up" book with a focus on adoption.  Share your favorite adoption-themed books on your blog or FB page.

19.  Commit to sponsor a child, family, agency, or adoption-focused organization over the next year.

20.  Send a care package to a group home, orphanage, or your local CPS office.

21.  Have a family movie night.  Pop popcorn, snuggle under blankets in your pajamas, and watch an adoption-themed movie with your kids.

22.  Write a letter to your child's birthparent(s).  It could be mailed.  It could be for your eyes only.  Just write the letter.

23.  Buy a t-shirt or piece of jewelry or other item that expresses your love of adoption.  Heck!  Get a tattoo!  (I plan to! :-)

24.  Research adoption-friendly companies and visit one.  Write them a letter thanking them for their support and for everything that they do to help build and support adoptive families.

25.  Send a card to a new adoptive family.

26.  Get a subscription to an adoption magazine or join an adoption association.

27.  Focus on your family on Thanksgiving Day.  Take turns giving thanks before your meal.  Tell your children again how blessed you are to be their parent.

28.  Find an online support group and listen to others' stories.  Do you have an adult friend whose life was touched by adoption in some way, but have never really heard their story?  Ask them about it.  You never know what you will learn from others until you ask.

29.  Create a new family tradition that specifically celebrates your family.  Take a family photo in the exact same spot every year.  Have the kids draw a family picture to frame and display for the year.

30.  Write a letter to your child(ren).

I hope you will all join me in raising awareness over the course of the next month as we celebrate family and give thanks for what we have.  Adoption touches so many lives in so many ways.  Wouldn't it be amazing to play a small part in giving one more child their "forever?"

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Love Life of a Nearly 2-Year-Old

Bug has a girlfriend.  She is a sophisticated older woman - at least three months older than him, but he is quite smitten and the feeling seems to be mutual.

Every morning as we pull into daycare, Bug starts his daily mantra...

"Katie fun!  Katie funny!  Katie nice!  Katie MINE!!!"

Katie MINE?!?  Oh boy!  I never in my wildest dreams thought that I'd be having the "women are not objects to be 'had'" talk with my 21-month-old, but it looks like a little discussion might be in order. 

Their romance began in May when Bug was moved up to the big kid class.  Apparently both children had "matured" during those few months apart (she had moved up before him), and it seems they saw each other in a whole new light.

Every morning when Bug walks into class, he calls out her name and runs up to the table where Katie is sitting.  She immediately shouts, "Bug!" and stands up, pulls out the chair next to her, and orders "Sit here, Bug."  He immediately sits (which I'm guessing might be a big reason Katie likes Bug so much.  Lol.)  They seem to be inseparable.  Every time I walk in and Katie hasn't already left for the day, they are without fail glued to each other's side.  I ask Bug what he did each day, and each day he tells me what Katie did.

I knew we had a genuine "romance" on our hands yesterday when we pulled up to school and the kids' teacher was walking into another building holding Katie's hand.  Bug spotted Katie.  Katie spotted Bug...  And what followed was the most dramatic display of star-crossed love that I have ever witnessed as I pulled Bug towards one building and their teacher walked in the opposite direction with the love of his life.

Bug tried desperately to pull me in the direction of the other building crying, "NO!  KATIEEEEE!!!"  Katie frantically looked for a way to escape as she called out, "BUUUUUGGGG!!!"  Bug tried to break free of my grasp, "KATIEEEEE!!!"  Katie cried out, "BUUUUGGGG!!!" 

Fortunately for the two little lovebirds, Katie's trip to the other building was a quick one, and she and her teacher walked into our building before I had finished checking Bug in for the day.  On a typical day, Bug stays by my side as we walk back to his classroom.  Not this day!  All thoughts of Mommy disappeared the second Katie walked in the door when the two immediately started laughing hysterically and ran together towards their class.

"Um, okay then...  Bye, Buggy!  Have a nice day!  I love you!"

But it was too late.  Mommy had been replaced by a girl.  Guess I'd better get used to it.  My kid's a pretty handsome charmer (if I do say so myself).  I have a feeling Katie is just one of many "loves" along the way.  At least I know that those girls will come and go, but Mommy is FOREVER!

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

You Mean You Don't Do That? Oh...

The other day, my co-workers and I somehow ended up in a conversation about talking to ourselves.  One friend mentioned how she tends to talk to herself at the grocery store saying things like, "Oh, man!  I forgot the chips!"  Another said she talks to other drivers on the road even though they can't hear her exclaiming, "A blinker would be nice, mister!"
That's when I piped in with, "RIGHT?!?  And when you talk about yourself in the 3rd person because you're a mom.  Like 'Mommy needs to get Diet Coke' or 'Mommy forgot the diapers' or 'Mommy needs to go potty!'" 
They all laughed and one friend said, "Yeah...  But that's okay because you have the baby with you."
And this is where my fatal error occurred.  There's that filter that most people have that sensors your words before they come out of your mouth.  Mine doesn't always work properly, and this was one of those times when it failed me miserably.
When my friend said, "... you have the baby with you," I should have said, "Uh... Yeah.  That's right.  The baby...  Yeah."
What I actually said was, "Ha! No, I don't."
All light-hearted banter ceased, and everyone stared at me with that "Oh...  This poor girl needs medication" look on their faces.  You could hear the crickets chirping in the silence as they stared at me with their mouths agape in disbelief.  "Oh, honey.  That's bad..." they said.
You mean you don't do that?!?  Oh...  Oops!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Words That Take Your Breath Away

"Thank you for taking care of us."

Those were the words spoken by an 8-year-old little girl last night as a stranger tucked her into bed.  She and her younger siblings had just been removed from their home in the middle of the night and placed with people they didn't know.  So many times we try to anticipate our children's feelings.  Are they frightened?  Are they confused?  How can we help them?  And so many times, these children stop us in our tracks with only a few words.

"Thank you for taking care of us."

When I read those words on my friend's FB page this morning, all I could think was "wow..."  I kept coming back to it over and over again, my heart simultaneously breaking for that little girl and her siblings and thanking God that, at least for now, they are in a safe and loving home.  I kept coming back to those words and let them truly sink in, and I thought about all of the other times that a child's innocent words have left an ache in my heart.

I remember the first time I provided respite for a foster family, when 6-year-old Rocket asked me "So what exactly are the rules in your house?"  I think he was under the impression that I didn't have any because I really hadn't had to get onto him for anything.  I told him that my main rule is to "be respectful of others" and that included things like no yelling in the house (because I have neighbors upstairs), no hitting or kicking, etc.  He replied, "Why no hitting?" I told him that hitting hurts people, and that I never wanted anyone to be hurt. Rocket's face fell, and he replied in a quiet little voice, "People hit at my real house."  :'(   I knelt down in front of him and told him that that made me sad and that I was really sorry to hear that.   Then I assured him that no one hits at my house.  Ever.  He looked up, smiled, and said, "You're a really nice lady!" and then went on about his day as if he hadn't just taken my breath away with a few little sentences.  I'm so used to only fostering infants and toddlers that it was a whole new experience having children who could verbalize their experiences before coming into care.

Photo used with permission
Yesterday, another foster mama friend posted this picture in a foster parent support group.  It is a list of questions that her foster daughter has for her social worker.  Things like "Am I going back home," "How are Mom and Dad doing," and "Is any family member trying to get me?"  Her foster mom said that her foster siblings recently went to live with an aunt, and this little girl so desperately wants someone in her family to want her too. 

No child should ever feel unwanted.  No child should ever feel fear in their own home.  No child should ever be put in a position to thank complete strangers for doing what their own parents should have done.  No child should ever have to be in foster care.

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that children are living out these things every day.  Foster care is necessary because some parents will fail their children.  It is our responsibility as foster parents to walk with these kids through times of uncertainty, hurt, and fear of the unknown.  We do our very best to be an anchor for these children to hold on to when the big feelings come and threaten to take over.  And when their words hit us in a way that leave us heartbroken and breathless, we let them them know without a doubt that they are loved, that they are safe, and that they are most definitely wanted.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Letters Between Mothers

You might remember in early April, I reached out to Bug's birthmother.  In the two months since that initial letter, my son's first mom and I have been writing back and forth every week or two.  I tell her stories.  I answer questions.  I reassure her that Bug is growing up loved beyond measure in a home free from dysfunction and chaos.  She gives me pieces of his history.  She tells me her hopes and dreams for him.  She thanks me over and over for reaching out and giving her a chance that she feels she doesn't deserve.

It's a strange thing to have such a monumental connection to a woman you've never met - a connection to a woman who is so very different from you, and I know she feels the same.  I cling to every word as I piece together our son's past - where he came from and how he came to be mine.  She locks away every detail that I share about our son's present - his likes and dislikes, silly stories, and personality traits.  I smile when she responds with "Oh my goodness!  I know where he gets that!  His father used to do that all the time!" or "You said he loves cars and he loves to read, so I'm really hoping I can find a car book next time."  She cries happy tears when I send her little momentos like a handmade Mother's Day card from Bug and school photos - all things that she thought she would never be able to see when she signed relinquishment papers last September.

It's all still new, and we are still slowly figuring out the details of what we want this relationship to look like.  I am adament that any direct contact with Bug will not be happening until he is much older and able to help make that decision himself.  She completely agrees because she doesn't want to confuse him or let him down in any way.  I worry that frequent letters will cause her more pain than comfort when she reads about what all she is missing every day, and she worries that she will share too much about her past and how she was raised and I will decide that it's not worth the risk.  It's a balancing act, but it's one that I truly believe is worth every ounce of effort we can put into it for Bug's sake.

Every time I open the post office box to see a letter...  Every time I find a lone key to a parcel box...  Every time I address an envelope and drop it in the mail, I know that my son is gaining a little piece of his history.  I watch my little guy as he reads the first book his birthmother chose just for him and I see the collection of his birthmother's letters growing as I store them away, and I know without a doubt I made the right decision the day I reached out to the woman who loved my son first.  With every word, I am able to piece together my child's story in ways that I never would have been able to with only that big black binder handed to me by CPS.  With every word, I also have hope for the future.

I don't typically ask for prayers, but please lift up Bug's first mother over the coming weeks/months.   Please pray that she can feel my hope for her and my faith that she can overcome her addictions and learn to live a life that is not filled with dysfunction and chaos.   Pray that she can feel God's love and know that she is not alone and that this time she has people who believe in her and who are lifting her up in the best way they know how.   She is lost and struggling, but wants so badly to find a life outside of what she has always known.   As hard as it was for her to admit to herself that she couldn't be allowed to parent her son, she knows that he is exactly where he is meant to be, and we are both so hopeful that by seeing my love for him and how he is being raised, she'll get her first glimpse into how things should be.   Please just remember her in your prayers.   That's probably the best thing I can do for the woman who gave my son life.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Five Years Ago...

Five years ago today, my life was changed forever.

Five years ago today, a two-toothed, smiley little drool machine crossed my threshold, and the roller coaster journey that has ultimately led towards the creation of my family began.

The day that Booger Bear came through my door, I knew that there was something special about that little boy.  Little did I know, this little guy would be connected to every amazing thing that has happened in my life since.

In the year that Booger was with me, I learned just how deep a mother's love can run.  I quickly learned that the best sounds in the world are your baby's laughter and the little "I love yous.'"  I learned that baby hugs and kisses and "cuddle time" with your little boy can make a bad day turn around in an instant.  I learned what it means to be a mom.

Losing him was the most devastating thing that has ever happened to me, and I had no idea how I would recover from the grief.

Imagine my surprise when one year later, Booger had once again firmly planted himself into my heart and life...  along with his new mommy, his dad, and his newborn baby sister.

In the five years since Booger Bear first came through my door, I have gained a daughter, a son-in-law, and a granddaughter.

Because of my experience with Booger and his family, I am still Mommy to my amazing little 3-year-old Monkey more than two years after he returned home to his dad.  I never would have had the courage to try to co-parent with a former foster child's father on a long-term basis if I hadn't seen firsthand how foster care can work.

Five years after Booger Bear entered my life, I am the forever mommy to an adorable little Bug who has his own unique connections to Booger along with sharing the same middle name.

Five years ago today, my life was changed forever when a 7-month-old little Booger happily fell into my arms for the first time.

Five years ago today, a family was born.

Friday, May 9, 2014

"First Night" - Foster Care Supply Drive

May is National Foster Care Month, and we foster moms tend to take it very seriously when it comes to promoting, sharing our stories, and providing ideas on ways that anyone can help these amazing kids.  I have been focusing on my "Foster Care Bucket List" quite a bit while I'm taking my little foster care sabbatical, and this month I decided to organize a "First Night" Foster Care Supply Drive to help foster families in my agency with immediate needs upon placement. 

I am collecting things like diapers, pull-ups, underwear, diaper rash cream, baby wipes, toothbrushes, socks, pajamas, blankets, stuffed animals, formula, etc. "First Nights" can be stressful enough without having to make a midnight run to Walmart for Children's Tylenol when a little one comes to you in a hospital gown with a fever, three diapers, and no wipes (just like my very first placement). My hope is that we can collect a good supply of "First Night" supplies to have on hand for the children and families who need them.

Please comment or contact me if you'd like to contribute or would like more ideas or details!  I would also love to hear what all you have planned for National Foster Care Month in your area.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mimi's Infant Dress Code

As I've been purging and organizing my stash of tiny human clothing while I'm on my self-imposed one-year foster care break, I've decided to be very particular about the types of outfits I will keep for future babies.  I figure I've been dressing infants for over five years now, and I can safely say what I will and will not be putting on my child.  As I started going through my foster care closet (aka. My "Monica" Hidden Closet of Doom), I realized that I have established rather clear-cut "rules" on infant clothing.  Let me introduce you to:

Mimi's Infant Dress Code

Rule #1 - No one piece outfits or pajamas with legs that pull over the head!  I learned this lesson the hard way at about 2:45am one morning when Monkey had a diaper blowout of massive proportions in his brand new adorable red flannel jammies.  I realized as I was cutting his clothing off of him, ER-style, in the middle of the night that all future outfits must have an easy means of escape that don't involve pulling poop-covered material over my child's head.  Yes, the outfit may be the cutest thing you ever saw, but trust me when I say it won't be quite so cute in a blowout situation.

Rule #2 - Snaps must not be "hidden."  It is hard enough snapping pajamas in the dark after a diaper change.  Those "fancy" jammies where you have to turn the seams inside out so the snaps don't show are just not right!  Whoever came up with that design clearly didn't have children or they never would have released those garments into the market.

Rule #3 - Tight-fitting thermal jammies must be at least two sizes larger than what the baby typically wears.  I played a mean trick (unintentionally, I promise) on Miss Kaitlyn at daycare one day. I sent a cute little outfit for Bug's "I Drooled Down to My Toes in my First Outfit of the Day" ensemble. I had never put him in it myself though because I took one look at it and thought, "That's gonna be a "B" to get him into!" So I sent it to let Miss Kaitlyn have go at it. She's young and in shape! Surely she was capable of wrestling the squirming octopus into submission! The look she gave me when I walked in the door to pick up my little Bugmeister that afternoon made me rethink my position on the matter in the future.   I believe she said something along the lines of "Don't you ever do that again!"  ...and I am fairly certain that chocolate made its way to daycare the next week as I grovelled for forgiveness.

Rule #4 - I am all about the zipper!  My mom has always said that she hates zippers because she worries about all of the awkward positions you have to put the baby into to get them in the outfit.  I maintain that any child who can suck on their own toes with ease will have absolutely no problem bending in half to get their leg into that one non-zippered side of the outfit.  Zippers just make life easier.  Bring on the zippers!!!

Rule #5 - Hair accessories need to be proportionate with the child's head.  I adore hair bows on baby girls!  I can't wait to get a little pink up in this house so I can accessorize to my heart's content.  But when it comes to your little one's hair accessories...  Puh-leeze!!!  Try to show a little restraint!  When your little girl's hair bow is bigger than her entire head, perhaps it's time for your loved ones to stage an intervention.  (This is a touched up photo of Monkey.  I didn't want to offend anyone by posting an actual photo of their baby with a ridiculously large bow on its head, but I think you get the idea.)

Rule #6 - This one is more a personal "rule" than one that I would impose on others, but I simply can not let my kids run around without pants.  I don't know why.  It's not like a baby in nothing but a diaper and a t-shirt is hurting anything.  Heck!  It might even be more convenient to forgo the pants altogether, but for some reason I just can't do it!  My babies wear bottoms.  Period.  The ironic thing about this rule is that I tend to sleep in a t-shirt and undies myself.  (TMI, I know.  You're welcome for that! ;-)  I can't tell you the number of times that Monkey has exclaimed when he calls me into his room in the middle of the night, "Mommy!  You no having any pants!"  So the fact that my children are always bottom-covered due to my crazy hang-up really is rather funny.

I'm sure I could list another dozen rules if I really thought about it, but these seemed to be the ones that immediately came to mind.  What about you?  Do you have an unspoken dress code for your little ones? 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Birth Order as Evidenced by Breakfast

I realized yesterday morning as I sat Bug in his highchair at daycare to give him his breakfast that you can tell the birth order of the children by what their parents have given them for their morning meal.  I'm sure this can be determined by other factors as well, but it was blatantly evident this particular morning by food alone.  :-)

The little girl in the highchair next to Bug was clearly the firstborn, only child.  She was picking at what appeared to be a piece of homemade, whole grain, blueberry bread with a lovely container filled with fresh, certainly organic mixed berries and banana slices and sipping on a cup of milk that I'm sure was probably squeezed fresh from cow or goat or whatever mammal just that morning.  It reminded me of Booger Bear and what I used to feed him...  My first child...  Always fresh fruit along with a cup of whole milk and a healthy grain of some sort.

The child on the other side of Bug was most likely a second child.  He seemed happier than the little girl gagging down that grainy bread and thick milk.  He was munching on a handful of Cheerios, a banana, and yogurt and drinking what appeared to be diluted white grape juice.  This made me think of Monkey...  My second little guy...  I still wanted to do a well-balanced meal that included dairy, grains, and fruit, but I also wanted to go for convenience as well.  I had a "no colorful juice" rule that pretty much eliminated all juices other than white grape or apple juice because I didn't want to deal with stains, but gave Monkey the chance to enjoy a sweet fruity drink every once in a while. 

Then came my Bug.  I plopped him in the highchair, handed him a cup of bright red juice, and gave him his "breakfast" that consisted of a PopTart and a squeeze pouch of applesauce.  Yeah...  My little guy is clearly #7 in our family's "birth" order.  In my defense though, it was a strawberry PopTart!  And I felt a wee bit guilty for not giving him a grain of some sort, so I did reach over and snag a small handful of Cheerios from "Second Child's" tray.  I thought that action would prove to be beneficial in a number of areas - my kid gets a grain, Second Child won't overeat, and both boys will learn the joys of sharing.  Win/Win!

I have to admit, I am a little concerned about what Future Child #8's morning meals might look like if my steady decline in breakfast standards is any indication.  I think as long as I don't go the dry Lucky Charms, cookies, and a soda route, I'll consider breakfast a success. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

"Foster Friday" Tips - Time Saving Tips

I recently asked for topic suggestions on "Trippin's" Facebook page because I've been suffering from crazy writer's block this past, oh...  YEAR!  Lol.  :-)  I received several requests for organizational tips and ways to keep on top of all of the paperwork and other foster care requirements, so I thought I'd write this one first.

I had previously written a post about my personal organization method, and that really hasn't changed.  You can view the entire post here, but in a nutshell, my biggest tips are:

  • Set up a permanent binder for each child in your home upon placement that will ultimately include everything related to that child.
  • Include a smaller "appointment folder" with frequently used forms and other paperwork that is required for doctor, dentist, therapist appointments, etc.  This is your "grab and go" folder that you will take to routine appointments in order to avoid having to lug the huge binder with you.
  • Create a "to do folder" that includes paperwork and other things that need to be followed up with that week.  
  • Find a good "Mom's dayplanner" that includes lots of room for jotting down notes and for keeping track of multiple children's appointments.
  • Routine.  Routine.  Routine!  Set aside the same time every week for completing foster care related paperwork.  Having a set time and place to complete your weekly reports goes a long way towards helping you stay on top of all of the required documentation without having it pile up and become overwhelming.

One topic that I haven't really elaborated much on is that of time management.  After five and half years juggling home visits, doctor appointments, therapy, court dates, visitations, training classes, etc., I've developed some good time management strategies that have really seemed to help.

  • Fill out weekly/monthly paperwork with the information that will not change (ex. name, ID numbers, address, etc.) and make copies for future use. This one quick step will save hours over the course of the year depending on how many children and how much regular paperwork you are required to turn in.
  • Take the maximum allowed number of training hours completing online courses.  Most agencies/counties allow a certain percentage of your annual training hours to be taken via different forms of media.  You can easily get two hours of credit in 30 minutes or less when you take online courses.  You also save on driving time and the hassle of locating approved babysitters.  Ask your agency/county about how many online hours are allowed each year.
  • Whenever possible, double up!  Meaning if you already have to take a relevant class, seminar, etc., ask your agency/county if those hours can be counted towards your annual training credits.  I have had agencies that issued 30 minutes of training credit when I submitted a copy of my quarterly WIC training certificate.  The class is required in order to maintain your child's WIC benefit, so being able to "double up" and use it for foster care training hours as well is a time saving benefit!  
  • "Doubling up" works well when it comes to monthly home visits as well.  In any given month, I can have 5 or more people visiting my home.  Because I work full-time and can't be taking off work at the drop of a hat, I have a monthly home visit method that works out well for me.  Each month, I set aside  one or two days for home visits, doctor appointments, etc.  I tell my children's caseworkers, CASA workers, my agency worker, etc. what days we will be available during the day, and tell them that they can come any time on those days or they will have to come in the evening or on the weekend.  Once I have one person schedule, I try to get the others to come at the same time.  This tends to be very beneficial to everyone as it's a good time to get everyone involved on the same page.  Workers can ask questions to each other, and you as the foster parent, can learn a lot more than if you were simply meeting one on one.
  • Ask if your workers can occasionally do their monthly visit's at your child's daycare or school.  I had been fostering for nearly a year before one worker told me "That's okay.  If you can't get off work, I can just stop by his daycare. We do it all the time!"  That would have been nice to know before I took off work multiple times a month for nearly a year!
  • Utilize therapists that come to your child rather than having to take your child to their office whenever possible.  I had a similar experience when it came to my teen's weekly therapy appointments that I had with the caseworker.  I had no idea that she made home visits until we had been going to her office every week for months!

I'm sure there are more time saving strategies when it comes to managing the busy schedules that being a foster parent inevitably create.  I'm always looking for more!  What time saving tips do you use when it comes to foster care?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Doctor Office Torture

Having spent what seemed like 7,000 hours in two doctors' offices with a 19-month-old last week, I think I can safely say that a root canal without anesthesia performed by a blind Tourette's patient would quite possibly be a more pleasant experience than what I endured.  I'm sure that anyone who has ever taken a toddler to the doctor can sympathize with me.

Bug's appointment on Tuesday was with his new non-Medicaid (HOLLA!!!) primary care doctor, so of course they handed me a stack of incredibly detailed paperwork to complete in the waiting room.  I tucked us into the thankfully empty children's corner and tried to contain him while I spent entirely too long filling out those forms.

With his uncanny ability to know the precise moment that Mommy is distracted, Bug took the opportunity to attempt to:

  • climb every empty chair in our corner
  • move furniture
  • pull out every book and magazine he could find
  • "straighten" all of the art on the walls

Then the little toot noticed the giant aquarium on the other end of the packed waiting room and took off running for it the second I went to sign my name on one of the 10,000 forms.  That's when Bug realized that there was so much more to offer in that room than what our little corner had provided, and I spent the next 30 minutes attempting to distract him with snacks, his sippy cup, books, anything to get him to stay close me. I would have given him a Sharpie and let him color on the walls if I'd had one available!  At one point, I had my clipboard in hand completing forms and had Bug securely locked in "leglock" of sorts just to keep him from running up to complete strangers and shouting "HI!"  

All I could think of as I called out Bug's name for the millionth time was this skit that Bill Cosby had done about 4-year-old "Jeffrey."

Kind of like "Jeffrey" -

Yes...  That was my son...  "Jeffrey."  I was shocked that I didn't hear applause when the nurse finally called us back to the exam room!

Any hopes that I had that waiting in the exam room with Bug would be easier were quickly dashed when he realized that he could open the door all by himself.  I sat on the floor with my back to that door filling out even more forms as Bug took the opportunity to explore his new surroundings.  He once again pulled out every book, magazine, and puzzle in the room.  He pushed the doctor's rolling stool around the room until he realized that it swiveled.  Then he laid on top of it on his stomach and spun around and around in circles.  He located the brand new Kleenex box as well as the trash can.  I am fully expecting a bill for tissues and a new puzzle as I am fairly certain an entire box of Kleenex and a puzzle piece or two ended up in there.  He found the crinkle paper on the exam table and tried to "mummify" himself.  I believe he spotted the computer just as the doctor arrived.  At least that was one crisis averted!

As soon as the doctor walked in, Bug sat quietly in the corner putting together a puzzle (the one without the missing pieces hidden in the trash can).  She probably took one look at me...  the out of breath, perspiration-drenched, disheveled mess with the glazed-over expression, rocking herself back and forth in the fetal position...  and thought to herself that I probably needed medical intervention more than the adorable, well-behaved toddler who smiled up at her with his big hazel eyes and adorable grin.  I apologized for his behavior earlier, and she just smiled and nodded with that "knowing" look that car mechanics get when you tell them your car is acting up and it drives perfectly for them.

Bug was an angel throughout the entire exam.  He got his 18-month shots like a trooper, and then my little terror in size 5 toddler shoes reached into the diaper bag, grabbed his sparkly pink Mr. Flamingo Bird, held my hand, and we walked out the door as he exclaimed "bye-bye!" to every person we passed along the way to our car.  Apparently the sight of a little boy with a sparkly pink flamingo in tow goes a long way towards restoring peace and tranquility where chaos once reigned.  The other patients who will forevermore remember my child's name just as Mr. Cosby will remember "Jeffrey" were all smiles and gushing all over my son as we walked towards our car.

...where he promptly fell asleep with Mr. Flamingo Bird in his arms.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Another "First"

So a couple of weeks ago, I added another item to the list of "Things I Never Thought I'd Do Before Foster Care" when I wrote a letter to Bug's birthmother in prison.  I have never met the woman who gave birth to my son, and she hasn't seen him since he was two months old so I really didn't know what to expect.  I had heard from several different sources over the past year and a half that led me to believe that despite everything that happened early in his life and the choices that she made, she loves Bug very much.  The fact that she voluntarily relinquished her parental rights and added for the record that she knew that Bug was in a good and loving home and would have the life that she wants for him with me gave me the added push to reach out to her when Bug's adoption became finalized.

I had no idea what to say or where to begin.  What exactly do you say to the woman who gave your son life, but made terrible choices that ultimately ended in her losing her child?  I decided to start by explaining who I was and letting her know that I was writing because I wanted to tell her about Bug.  I knew that she had a general idea of who Bug was with after meeting Heaven's mother in jail earlier last year and Heaven making the connection (another one of those "only in foster care" moments), but I was never allowed to contact her while Bug was a ward of the state.  Now that he's officially mine, I wanted to do what I thought was right for my son and reach out to the woman who loved him first.

I told her all about Bug's personality, his likes and dislikes, shared a couple of funny stories, and sent a few recent photos.  I acknowledged that I understood how difficult it was for her to relinquish and to be apart from him. I ended by opening the door for contact with me and told her that I understood if that would be too difficult. I didn't specifically say "thank you for giving me my son" - just acknowledged her feelings and put the ball in her court for correspondence with me.  I specifically said, "My hope is that you would like to keep in contact and that [Bug] will have the opportunity to meet you and know you when he’s older." I thought that statement would make it clear that there will be no personal contact with Bug now, but that I'm not opposed to it in the future.

Then I looked up the guidelines for mailing letters to inmates at her prison because I had no clue what I was doing, wrote what seemed like a novel to address an envelope, plopped on a couple of stamps, and dropped the letter in the outgoing mail at work (I'm sure the mailroom staff had some raised eyebrows when they came across that one!).  That was two weeks ago, and I have since sat with baited breath and wondered whether or not I had done the right thing.

Then came today...

I woke up with a gnawing feeling that I needed to go check Bug's PO box.  I set up a post office box under his birth name so his birth family could maintain contact with him and we could maintain our anonymity.  His maternal grandmother was given the address back in September, but has never used it and the box has sat unused since it was opened.

                             Until today!!!

I drove to the post office at lunch, and in our box was a lone key to one of the parcel boxes.  Inside was a package that contained this book, a CD, and a form letter from the director of the volunteer organization that helps incarcerated mothers connect with their children by giving them the opportunity to read a book to their child.  I immediately put the CD in my car's CD player and was able to hear the voice of the young woman who gave birth to my son as she read the book that she had chosen especially for him.

Several people have asked me how I can be so invested in my children's birth families.  Why does it matter so much to me that my children have some sort of connection to the people who gave them life when they failed them time and time again?  For me, the answer is simple.  I have three forever children whose birthmothers have all battled addictions and demons that they just haven't been able to overcome.  They love their children, but addiction often has such an incredible stronghold over a person that someone without a strong support system simply can't escape it.  I love my children more than words can say, and I feel like I owe it to them to extend a piece of that love to the women who gave birth to them - to show them compassion and grace.

Bug's birthmother may never be able to overcome her addictions or heal to the point where she can have an ongoing relationship with him, but as of today my son will be able to hear the voice of his first mommy telling him that he "is more loved than he will ever know."  And that, my friends, is worth the risk.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


With the finalization of Bug's adoption this past week, I have heard the comment "Oh!  Now you get to be a real mom!" more times that I can count.  I understand where people are coming from, and I try not to take offense.  But every time I hear that statement, I can't help but think of my oldest son.  My three year old little Monkey who has never known another mother except me...

I think of the little boy who stirred from a deep sleep when I leaned in to give him one last goodnight kiss last night and he gently touched my cheek and whispered, "I love you, Mom" before falling back into his dreams.

I think of the little boy who repeats praises and lessons I have taught him to his little brother, Bug.  "I love you, Baby Bug.  I so very proud of you!"  "You needs to listen to yous Mom and Dad and Nana and Papa.  They keep Monkey and Bug safe!"  "What's the matter, Baby Bug?  It's okay.  Mommy be right back!"

I think of the little boy who eagerly waits for me to get home for lunch and constantly tells my mom how much he loves me.  "I really love Mommy."  Mommy's a really good Mommy."  "Mommy teach me to have good manners."  "Mommy a very smart lady." "I really love Mommy."  "Mommy coming home real soon!"

I think of the little boy who runs to me for random hugs and to kiss his "owies."

I think of the little boy who wants to sleep in Mommy's bed when he's sick.  "Mommy sorry about your icky coughs.  It's okay.  I sleep in your bed, Mommy?"

I think of the little boy who wants to "sing some songs" before bed every night and who always requests "Jesus Loves Me" and "the red and blue and purple and green and orange and yellow song" (aka. "Jesus Loves the Little Children") because "Mommy teached me songs about Jesus."

I think of the little boy who has spent more time in my arms than in anyone else's, and I know that is exactly where he belongs.

I may never be Monkey's "legal" mother, but I challenge anyone to look at my son and tell him that I'm not his "real" mom.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Full Circle

Four years ago, I stood in a courtroom desperately trying to hold back the tears that were streaming down my cheeks.  I had just learned that my baby boy, the little guy that I had loved as my own for the past year, simply wasn't coming home.  No transition.  No goodbye.  It was just over.

If you had asked me four years ago where I thought I would be today, I can guarantee it wouldn't have been here.  Today, four years after my world was turned upside down, I stood in a courtroom and allowed the tears to fall.  Today, my tears weren't tears of sorrow or despair.  Today, my tears were tears of joy.  Today, my world was turned right-side up again as I became the legal forever mother of another amazing little boy.

Welcome to the family,
My Little Bug!

I sure hope you like me...
'Cause you're not going anywhere!  :-)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Friday, February 28, 2014

Excitement and Fears

Bug's adoption will be finalized in four days, and the excitement and anticipation are really taking hold.  It's certainly to be expected.  I've been "foster pregnant" for 5 YEARS, 4 months, 2 weeks, and 6 days!!!  (Not that I'm counting or anything...)  

Soon I will able to give my little guy a dose of Tylenol without having to report it.  Soon I will be able to take my son out of the state without having to get permission from a judge.  Heck!  I can take him out of the country if I want to and don't have to tell a single person!  Soon I won't have to panic every time Bug decides to be a stuntman and ends up taking a nosedive off of his rocking horse.  No fear of CPS moving him because he has a bruise.  I can give him a mohawk if I want to and no one can stop me!  (For the record, that won't be happening.  But it could, and that's what matters!)  There are so many things that I have been looking forward to since I knew that Bug would be legally mine forever, and the anticipation of being able to have a "normal" family life without CPS hovering for a while is overwhelming in itself.

What I didn't expect was the near constant state of anxiety and numerous panic attacks complete with shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pains, overall shakiness, etc.  Initially I thought it was because I would soon be solely responsible for the health, protection, education, spiritual growth, self esteem, and overall happiness of another human being for at least the next 16.5 years.  I mean, I freaked out when I bought a washer and dryer for crying out loud!  This is a CHILD we're talking about here!  Then I realized, "No.  That's not it." 

I couldn't quite put my finger on what I was so nervous about until last week when I received Bug's case file from CPS.  That's when it hit me.  Reading page after page about my little guy's first two and a half months of life, the details of his birth, the facts surrounding his removal from his birth family, etc. broke my heart and left me wanting to wake him from a deep sleep and hold him for the rest of the night.  That's when I realized where my anxiety about this adoption was coming from...

How do I give my son his full story without breaking his heart?

They don't teach you this part in your foster care training.  The goal of foster care is to help heal and reunite families.  I suppose they don't want to plan for alternatives.  But that certainly doesn't help when you've adopted a child from a hard place and they want to know their stories when they are 5, 9, 13, 16 years old.  How do you look into the eyes of a child you would give your life for and have to honestly answer their questions about where they came from and how they came to be "yours" and protect their heart from the pain and loss at the same time?  

I have always believed in open adoption whenever possible.  I have always believed that a child can never have too many people who love them.  I know that Bug's birth family loves him.  I saw that love firsthand, and I struggle with my decision not to allow contact with him at times.  In Bug's case, however, an open adoption simply isn't safe, and our safety has to come before my desire for Bug to have his birth family play an active role in his life.  My hope is that I can reach out to them using Bug's birth name and be able to have a semi open adoption.  I want to be able to let them know he is okay and to be able to ask questions and get more information from them that can't be found in that thick black binder.  I want Bug to be able to reach out when he turns 18 and have some idea of what he might be stepping into if that is what he chooses to do.  But in the meantime, how do I make it okay for him?

I worry about school projects and family trees and all of the questions that will come up as he inevitably encounters situations that will bring up the feelings of loss that come with adoption.  I worry that I won't have the words or the ability to help him through those hard times.  Then I worry that I'll be so consumed with anticipating his emotions that I won't be cognizant of what he is actually feeling!  Apparently, I worry a lot when it comes to my little guy's heart.

In the midst of one of my panic attacks, my foster mama BFF told me to remember to "join his story at his level, each moment and year, rather than having to tell him a big bad story. By the time you get to 'that part,' he will already be so aware of how God has written love into his life that it will be a thing to grieve, but not a monster to eat him."  I pray that's true.  I pray that I am able to show Bug how very loved he is by so many.  I pray that when the questions come, I can find the words that will help my son.  But most of all, I pray that Bug will grow up knowing that he was fearfully and wonderfully made by the Lord Himself and that his future is one filled with love and hope.

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Bad! I'm So Sorry!

Oh my goodness, you guys! I feel terrible! I just realized that sometime in the past several MONTHS, the forwarding feature for my blog email address was turned off and I haven't responded to a single message or comment since what appears to be September of last year! And here I thought that no one had any questions or comments... I will be working on answering emails this week. There are quite a few to go through. If you sent me something, please don't think I'm a horrible person for ignoring you. I really DO appreciate the feedback and questions! Keep them coming!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sad Goodbye...

Kitty Cat Tommie

We had to say goodbye to my first baby today.  :'(  Kitty Cat Tommie lived a great, long life and was very very loved by a lot of people, but most of all by me. He was "guard kitty" to my babies (especially Monkey and Bug) and was SOOO patient with enthusiastic toddlers, even when all they wanted to do was tackle him to the ground in a big bear hug or use his tail as a chew or pull toy. Tommie has been with me my entire adult life, so it's already a foreign feeling not having him here. I certainly won't miss that CATBOX! But I'm sure going to miss my spoiled rotten, bed-hogging, toe-licking, woke me up at 6:00am by chewing my hair, followed me into the bathroom even when I managed to beat the kids in there, crawled over my shoulder to get to my taco WHILE I WAS STILL EATING IT, always under my feet, INSANELY loudly purring, super soft, curled up on my lap every night after the kids went to bed, Tommie Cat. We had a great almost 17 years!  <3

Friday, February 14, 2014

Just Sayin'... ;-)

Got the news this morning!

BUG'S adoption will be finalized 
on MONKEY'S 3rd birthday!

How cool is that?!?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Things I've Learned Along the Way (Part Two)

When I first started fostering, I naively thought that the initial training I received would prepare me for what I would experience as a foster (and hopeful adoptive) parent.  Oh, how very, very wrong I was!  Over the past five years in Foster/Adopt Land, I have learned many valuable lessons along the way.  Some practical, some silly, and some very tough, emotionally draining ones...  I thought I'd share some of the lessons I've learned with all of you and hope that it helps some of you who are just beginning foster/adopt journeys of your own.  If you missed Part One of "Things I've Learned Along the Way," you can find it here.

Not-for-profits and other assistance - Contrary to public opinion, most foster parents aren't raking in the money.  Those of us who want the best for our children often have to seek assistance in order to help make that happen.  There are so many organizations and churches out there whose sole purpose is to assist foster children, fostering families, and youth aging out of care with scholarships for summer camps, clothing assistance, help during the holidays, providing initial placement necessities, etc.  Ask your caseworker, CASA, or your church if they know of any or search the internet specifically for "organizations supporting foster children in ______ county."  You might be surprised what all you can find!

Organization skills- With the never-ending mountain of paperwork, appointments, logs, and notes that foster parents must keep, it is sooooo important to find an organizational system that works well for you.  Keeping organized is one of the best things a foster parent can do in order to maintain their sanity.  It took a little while, but I finally developed a routine that works great for me (see the link above).  Now when a caseworker calls to ask seemingly random questions like, "How many visits has Bug had with his grandma?" I can quickly look it up and respond.  Don't invite more chaos by becoming overwhelmed by the paperwork.  Routine, routine, routine!  Trust me!  You won't regret it.

Privacy (or lack thereof) - One of the first things you learn about in foster care training is the privacy policy regarding your foster children.  Foster parents are not allowed to share ANYTHING with ANYONE regarding their placements.  Technically, we're not even supposed to identify them as foster children (although, seriously...  You show up to church with three new children one week, and people are gonna figure it out.)  No shared photos...  Not even Christmas cards of your family with children who have been with you for two years!  It's frustrating, but understandable to an extent.  What they don't tell you is that while your foster children have absolute privacy, you will have none.  That fact becomes very apparent during your homestudy when a stranger walks into your home and asks you extremely personal and somewhat embarrassing questions about your life.  As time moves on, you will be required to open your home to caseworkers, therapists, CASA volunteers, attorneys, random licensing workers, etc.  Some will walk in and make themselves at home, searching through your pantry for expired foods, digging through your medicine cabinets, and asking you more personal questions that you'd rather not answer.  And the lack of privacy doesn't stop there!  They'll even go after your friends and family by asking any frequent visitors to complete background checks.  I can see it now, "Hi Mr. Apartment Maintenance Man.  You are in my home more than twice a month, so I'm going to have to ask you to give me your social security number, your driver's license number, and all of your addresses for the past five years."  I have learned to limit background checks only to the people who will be babysitting my kids, and as far as anyone else is concerned, I have no other friends.  :-)

Questions - Don't be afraid to ask questions!  Ask questions before accepting a placement.  Ask questions throughout your children's cases.  Ask questions about birth families.  Ask questions if a situation arises that you are unsure how to handle.  You might not get an answer, but you'll never know unless you ask.

Remember that the goal of foster care is almost always reunification with family first - This is one lesson that many fostering families learn the hard way, even though they know that reunification is the goal.  Adoption-motivated families can have a very difficult time separating their desire to adopt from the ultimate goal of foster care...  To help families heal and reunite.  It can be especially difficult when caseworkers walk in and almost immediately ask if you would be willing to adopt.  I learned the hard way not to set myself up for even more heartbreak by believing that questions and conversations about adoption mean that the case is actually headed that way.  In fact, I have become so reunification-minded and an advocate for bio families who clearly love their children that I still have a hard time believing that I am about to finalize Bug's adoption.

Send important email correspondence to multiple people at once - It never fails.  I can email a caseworker ten times a day for a month, mark it as "Urgent," bribe with chocolate and Diet Coke and not get a single response until I decide to copy multiple people on my messages.  It's amazing how quickly things get accomplished when you've emailed the caseworker and copied their supervisor, your agency, your child's GAL, CASA, etc.

Transportation assistance - As a single, full-time working foster mom I know that I am simply not able to take off work to transport to/from visits.  I tell the placement workers up front that I will need someone else to transport to/from visits.  While different agencies and counties have their own policies regarding foster parents providing transportation, my county has always provided transportation for my little ones' weekly visits because they know before even placing them with me that they will need to do so.  I do try to transport occasionally so I can talk to the birth family and answer any questions they might have, but for the most part, my county has workers who transport and supervise visits for foster parents who need help in that area.

Utilize the knowledge and experience of long-time foster parents - No one...  I do mean no one...  understands the ins and outs of the foster care system like a long-time experienced foster parent.  Search for blogs, search for online support groups, and develop relationships with other foster parents who have been there.  Some of my closest friends are fellow foster moms who I have met online over the past five years.  Don't be afraid to reach out!  We're nice, and we're pretty smart cookies, too!  :-)

Vocalize any major concerns, but learn to let go of the "small stuff" - As foster parents, we have to learn to accept that everyone has different standards when it comes to parenting.  What might be unthinkable to us might be perfectly normal for our children's birth parents.  I would never in a millions years give my 3-month-old Kool-Aid and goldfish, but wouldn't you know, your baby returns from a visit with exactly that in his diaper bag.  Your first instinct might be to immediately tell their caseworker, but you know what?  The caseworker is going to say, "At least they are feeding him!"  Learn to voice major concerns (like when Bug came back from a supervised visit reeking of marijuana which ultimately led to a random drug test and ceased visitation upon the results), but try to look at the big picture when it comes to minor concerns.  No, they might no parent the way we would, but if it's not a behavior that would result in removal from the home in the first place, don't work yourself up over it.  Lead by example when you can, but learn to let go of the "small stuff."

WIC eligibility - I had no idea that my little ones were automatically eligible for WIC until another foster parent asked why I wasn't using it for Booger Bear.  He had already been with me for eight months at that point!  Since then, I've utilized my kiddos' WIC benefits until they turn one year old.  Saving $150 or more a month on formula and baby food is a huge blessing and worth the slight inconvenience of having to go up to the WIC office once every three months.  I haven't ever used it after my little ones have turned one, but I probably would if I had several children who qualified.

And that's just PART of the CLOTHES!
X-treme hoarding of all things "child" - I have learned that something happens to ordinarily reasonable women when they become foster parents.  I prefer to call it "nesting," but some might call it "hoarding."  There's just something about knowing that we could get a call for any age or any gender that sends us into "Always Be Prepared" mode.  Over the years I have made a fervent half-hearted effort to minimize my stockpile of baby gear, clothing, toys, and other infant/toddler supplies, but it seems my "foster mama hoarder" tendencies run too deep.  I have, however, managed to think smart when it comes to my awesome collection.  "Convertible" is the name of the game!  When making purchases for baby gear and other larger items, I have learned to invest the money in items that will grow with the child or that can be easily converted for any age.  I can get a call for a 2-year-old, a newborn, or a 13-year-old and can use the same frame as my cribs convert to toddler beds and then full-size beds.  The same goes for things like bathtubs, highchairs, toys, etc.  Well...  Maybe not for the 13-year-old, but you get the idea.

You will likely never have to use a lot of what they teach in your yearly required training classes - "Water Safety..."  While I suppose technically I do use what is taught in that hour long class on a daily basis, I am fairly certain I could have figured out not to leave my 1-year-old unsupervised by the pool all on my very own.  "Emergency Behavior Intervention..."  I believe I have taken that particular class at least six times now, and I have never had to use a single thing.  I foster infants and toddlers.  Any "therapeutic holding" that I do is of the "rocking to sleep in the rocking chair" persuasion.

Z...  Um, yeah.  I can't think of a "Z" so I'll leave you with another "Y" - You won't always attach to the children who are placed with you...  and THAT'S OKAY!  Don't beat yourself up for not feeling that instant bond with a baby.  Don't let yourself get down because you can't seem to connect with an older child in your care.  What matters is that these children feel loved, safe, secure, wanted, and cherished while they are with you.  Sometimes the bond of love grows softly over time.  Other times, it might never fully develop, and THAT'S OKAY!  It is okay to say "no" to adopting a child with whom you don't have that connection.  By saying "no," you are giving that child an opportunity to find a permanent place with a family who does.  I believe that all long-time foster parents have been in this situation at one time or another, and are often afraid to admit that they don't feel that attachment...  As though something must be wrong with us and if we just try harder, that bond will come...  I have learned over the years that my feelings are absolutely valid and shouldn't be taken lightly or overlooked.  You won't always attach to the children in your care...  and THAT IS OKAY!

And there you have it...  Tammy's words of wisdom (for what they're worth ;-) and what I have learned over the past five years as a foster (soon-to-be adoptive) mom.

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