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?

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