Wednesday, December 31, 2014

People Affect Us

Poof!  A cloud of flour and sugar puffed into the air when I turned on the mixer, and I was immediately transported back to a time, just a week or so together, that J and I were baking Lemon Squares.  I'd someone forgotten to raise the mixing bowl and the entire box of powdered sugar, it seemed, flew all over me, her and the kitchen.  Her eyes flew to mine, because she thought I'd be mad.  I laughed and tickled her and she ended up practically taking a bath in the sink since she'd been sitting on the counter to be able to see into the mixer and therefore was absolutely covered.  It was a fun, light-hearted moment for us, but a telling one for me, too.

She's on my mind all the time.  I'll see a Hello Kitty jacket and smile knowing how much she would like that.  I'll be walking around the creek by our house and see a little girl learning how to ride a bike with her dad and remember times we did the same thing.  She was in my life for 8 months, and she's been gone from me for 10 months now.  Longer than she was with me.  But she will be in my heart forever.  Her impact on my life was enormous, to say the least.  

We all impact the lives of the people we touch.  It makes me want to be sure I'm leaving the kind of lasting impression I want to be remembered by.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Life Change

I have decided to discontinue my work on my doctorate degree.  This has been a tough decision, because I'm not a quitter...yet, I'm quitting.  Honestly, that's been a point of pride.  As I met people and loved making contacts with people across positions in a variety of school districts, I was encouraged about the direction education is heading.  Let's be honest.  Some things need to change in education.  And I see some of those changes happening.  I see other changes on the horizon and it's exciting to see and to be a part of.  Yet, this degree was in Educational Leadership, meaning most people want to be a superintendent.  I do not.  So, the more I talked with others and the more I learned and the more we read books on leadership, the more questions I had about if this was where I needed to be.

I talked with a former professor, who understands my heart is vocabulary and teaching curriculum courses some day, and she said I would be pigeonholed into teaching educational leadership courses since many people with this degree are superintendents, thus universities need professors to teach these courses.  I don't want to be pigeonholed into teaching a course I don't want to teach.  

So.  I love the cohort model.  I love the idea of starting a process and seeing it through to completion with one group of people all along the way.  I am not a quitter.  But it doesn't make sense to stay with something that could potentially be the exact opposite of what I need.  So, I'm discontinuing the program.  

I was talking with a friend a month or so back.  My dad had just had triple bypass heart surgery and my grandpa's health was rapidly declining.  I said something along the lines of "This has been a rough couple of months."  My friend kindly, wisely and succintly said, "I think it's been a rough year for you."  

Well, now that you mention it.  J left in February.  I tested, applied and was accepted to a doctorate program in the spring.  I sold everything I own and moved in with my family in July.  I started a doctorate program in August while beginning my 13th year of teaching (We can definitely call August "busy season" for teachers.), my dad had heart surgery at the beginning of October, my grandpa passed away at the end of October and I'm quitting my doctorate in December.  Yes.  Yes, I think 2014 might have been a rough year.  Moving in with my family hasn't been rough at all.  In fact, it's been a humongous blessing.  But change, and some stress with the selling/boxing/moving of everything.  

I was talking with a dear friend on Tuesday and confessed I was limping along until Christmas break.  I love talking with her.  She's known me for over 10  years and loves me dearly.  It's nice to be know?  She compassionately said she didn't think anyone would question it at all if I huddled under the covers and hibernated for a bit.  

Ok.  Don't mind if I do.     

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Children provide writing material

I haven't posted in a long time.  I was thinking about that the other day.  How therapeutic writing was for the time J was in my home and then the time when she left.  Children definitely provide writing material!

Don't get me wrong.  Life has definitely not been dull since she left.  I applied and was accepted to a doctoral program.  I sold almost everything I own and moved in with my parents.  My dad had major heart surgery and my grandpa passed away.  Life has had it's ups and downs this past few months.  But I haven't felt the burning need to write like I did when J was being boisterous and fun or my heart was tender regarding something happening in her case.

Hmmm...maybe I'll start writing again anyway.  Or maybe something will happen soon that drives it. ??

Friday, May 09, 2014

My Second Mother's Day...

Last year, C arrived the Monday before Mother's Day.  She left the day after Mother's Day.  A few days later, I wrote this post about my first Mother's Day.  To summarize: it was HARD!

I have learned so much about mothering in the last year.  I have gained so much insight into the journey of foster care.  I still have much to learn, but I am not in the same place I was a year ago.

J came to my home June 12 and left February 14.  We celebrated my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine's Day together.  We are not together for Mother's Day and as much as she had already started planning her Frozen birthday party, we won't be together for that either.

Everyone's mother is special to them in a unique way.  Whether you have a wonderful relationship or you have a strained one, your relationship is uniquely yours.  No one can take it away.  J always called her biomom "Mommy".  Always.  In the last few weeks she was with me, she had begun calling me "Mama".  Not all the time, but enough I knew it was purposeful.

I love her with a mother's heart, but she will not be with me this Mother's Day.  I hadn't thought much about it until today, but now I'm wondering if I should prepare myself to be a little emotional on Sunday.

My second Mother's Day will be one without a child.  And, frankly, that just feels weird.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Preparing for a Home Study

You've finally finished all the paperwork, and you are facing what to do for the home study.  Maybe your agency has given you a checklist and you feel overwhelmed at everything that is required or prohibited.  Or perhaps your agency has simply said, "Pay attention to what we say in all the trainings and do that."  Ummm...."that" was a LOT of information spread out over 30 hours of trainings over several months.  Say wha?

Either way, you're probably a little overwhelmed.

Here's my advice.  Take a deep breath.  You're ok.  You've made it this far!

Now.  Talk with another foster parent, within your agency if possible, but really anyone will do.  Figure out what "temperature" your agency is about the home study.  Are they going to be there for 2 hours per person in your family?  Or maybe they'll be there for 2 hours total.  Are they going to open cabinets and scour your refrigerator for expired items?  Are they going to expect your children to be available for individual interviews?  What are you expected to provide for them while they're there?

The more detailed they are, the more prepared you will be for the state inspection when it comes.  And, y'all, it WILL come.  My home study developer was not very detailed and I led her around showing her things I thought she should ask me about.  I didn't feel prepared when the state came.  (It was fun.  (I mean, it was fine.  By fun, I'm being a little sarcastic....but it really was fine.)  I was prepared.  However, I didn't know what they would ask for and what if I couldn't show it to them because I didn't have the mythical "it"?)

Some agencies want you to have a "disaster" bag with 3 days worth of food and water in a safe place in your house as well as one in the car.  My agency never mentioned anything like that.  My agency did want me to have a list of emergency phone numbers handy and the children in my home to know where they are (which I thought was ridiculous since J didn't know 911 and wouldn't have been able to give them my address even if she did know 911 and I wasn't going to teach her my address because her mom couldn't have it, but....whatever.)

So, preparing for a home study.  Bottom line: talk to other foster parents within your agency and see what the agency expects.  Talk to your agency is they're helpful and knowledgeable and the person you're talking to as worked there long enough to be able to answer your questions.  I personally have found that foster parents are more helpful than agency personnel, but every agency is different.

A list of things that seem to be "across the board" with agencies:
a fire extinguisher on each level of the home
no food on the floor (even in the pantry)
evacuation map posted somewhere
medicine locked up
Child needs a bed
Child needs clothes or you need to have a place for their clothes to go when you do get the clothes

See?  Not so hard.

My home study lasted 2ish hours.  The last 15 minutes she walked around my home.  The first, and major part, was the interview.  Everything from my childhood to how many times I'd moved to why I hadn't chosen to do in vitro if I wanted to be a mom. (No, I'm not kidding.)  We talked about the ages and ethnicities and genders of kiddos I was willing to take and behaviors I was or was not willing to have in my home.  We talked about my rules for food.  This is a major one.  Food has to be available.  If you're planning to lock the refrigerator, please do not get into foster care.

The home study seems to cause a lot of anxiety for a lot of people, and I think the reason I was nervous was because my agency didn't communicate their expectations well.  I know other people are nervous because their agency's expectations are so high, they aren't sure they've met them.

Don't worry about how clean your house is or how neat and tidy it is.  You may already have kids.   Your house will look lived in.  It doesn't have to look like you're trying to show it to new buyers.  Promise!

You can do it!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Out of Season

Y'all.  I published this post a few weeks ago.  In it I mentioned I was almost done with the Christmas soap and was excited to pull out the Spring smells.  Well, I finally finished the Holly Berry Wreath and Winter Candy Apple and reached in to bring out the Tangy Tangerine and Kitchen Lemon soaps...and instead I saw the Cinnamon Pumpkin that was half finished.  Ahhhh!

The Tangerine stayed under the sink.  The Kitchen Lemon is brightening my cooking days.  The Cinnamon Pumpkin is hiding in wrong-season shame in my master bathroom.  I can practically smell the Tangerine from here!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Child Friendly?

When I became a mom of a 5-year-old over night, I felt comfortable in many areas, but I was completely lost in other areas.  I asked many friends for help, and they came through with flying colors.  As I continue my series on preparing for foster care, I think this post will be very helpful to adults that desire to be parents, but are not yet parents.  If you're already a parent and opening your home to little ones that need a safe place, then this may not be as helpful to you since you've already walked the path of parenthood.

And with that, I'm just going to jump right in! :)

I had NO clue about children's clothing sizes or TV channels or movies (other than Disney).  I knew the obvious child friendly foods, but those were mostly snack items.  I needed ideas for child friendly meals.  I also learned I needed help with age appropriate apps and advice on toys that she would enjoy but wouldn't drive me crazy.  I wanted to have things in my back pocket for rainy day back up plans.  I just needed ideas!

So, I've compiled this list from my own experiences and those of friends who have parented awhile.  If you're new to parenting, you may find this helpful!

Food (child friendly, "typical" allergy friendly, etc.)

dipping and finger foods – 
      carrots in ranch
      nuggets in ketchup
     oven fries
     veggie chips
     granola bars
     cut-up fruit w yogurt dip 
     apple sauce packets

Relatively healthy “treats”:
     berries with dairy whipped cream (in the can – makes anything cool)
     fruit parfaits (made with  yogurt) 
     smoothies (made with yogurt)

Easy well-liked meals include:
     pasta and sauce
     pizza grilled cheese (add pepperonis to a grilled cheese sandwich) 
     breakfast (pancakes or French toast and scrambled eggs) for supper
     sloppy joes
     simple soup (plain Campbells) 
     mac and cheese
     organic chicken nuggets (Costco)
     nitrate free hot dogs
     sandwiches (cute sandwich cutters that use everything but the crust may be helpful!)
     rotisserie chicken (most grocery stores have these heated and in "warming" stations for easy pick up)

Apps and Websites
     Duck duck moose 
     Hungry guppy
     PBS Kids is a great place for younger kids to play games and watch videos.
     ABC Mouse is a preschool-kindergarten website
     SUMDOG is a great learning website for older elementary kiddos

TV Shows and Movies
     Phineas and Ferb
     Veggie Tales
     Disney Jr
     Nick Jr
     PBS (non-cable)
     Qubo (non-cable) 
     Redbox for movies and Wii games
     Amazon prime has lots of free streaming kid videos and shows. 
          ** be mindful of shows about orphans. 
                  This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I'd steer clear from:
                         Stewart Little 
                         Despicable Me 
                         Series of Unfortunate Events
     Disney movies are typically well loved:
          This is all a matter of parents' comfort level. I personally thought very carefully about each story line before turning one on.  There are some scary messages and some child-specific messages that I wasn't willing to show.  

Clothing stores:
One thing I found is that some run small, while other stores' items wear out quickly.  Here's an easy list of what you can expect from kids' clothing stores!

Once Upon a Child/Kid 2 Kid all the way – use their discount programs, sign up for email and get discounts – sell back when you’re done.

Carters runs small
Children’s Place runs a little slim
     Children's Place has awesome deals on clothes.  They have a free rewards program and also 
     have coupons most of the time.
Old Navy runs big but can vary widely
Stuff from WalMart usually only lasts through one kid 
Osh Kosh and Levis that have lasted through at least 3.  
Champion tennis shoes are 1/3 the price of Nikes but we had one pair last a week and our used Nikes have lasted almost a year

Outside Activities
     shooting a basketball
    Grapevine Botanical Gardens
    Downtown Grapevine
    Heard Museum
    Frank Buck Zoo
    Grapevine has fun things all the time!! 
          Butterfly festival
          Thomas the Train
          Amazing Christmas stuff!

Inside Activities
     Grapevine Aquarium
     Perot Museum
     Public Library (most have children's programs year round; some even have trails or ponds nearby that children enjoy)
     Family movie night (make it special with pallets or special comfy chairs, lots of popcorn, etc.)
     Family Game Night (board games, card games or Wii)

Specific Toys to Encourage
    Discovery Toys 
     transportation sorters
     Legos are huge (esp. with wheels and doors pieces)
     a couple puppets
     A Mini Tramp and IKEA tunnel are great indoor gross motor play
     Everyone needs a balance board too – got a cool one at Aldi for 12 bucks.    (Vestibular/balance input helps with emotional balance and control.)
     A dish tub with rice put down in a (dry) blow up baby swimming pool is awesome (just dump the spillover back into the tub when done – add extra kitchen measuring cups, small bowls and things to hide in it – we also put our Banagram letters in there. 
     Melissa and Doug (worth the investment!!) simple and minimal noise
     Arts and craft stuff
     Montessori type play stations or busy bags (dollar store loot ;) 
**multicultural dolls, super heros, books....have a rainbow of cultures and races in your toys**

Specific Toys to Stay Away From (due to any number of reasons)
     Electronic toys
     Zhuzhu pets (they can burn skin and rip hair out)
     Anything small with a zillion pieces. Often too overwhelming for kids to clean up :(

Tips – 
   -  stuffed animals and kid things that say you can’t machine wash often survive the washing machine
   -  IKEA is a great place for kid’s stuff (esp. inexpensive gross motor and sensory play toys) – They have adorable cheap tents and play rugs. 
   - buy shorts/pants with the adjustable waist. (buttons/elastic inside to move as they grow)  It makes it so much easier for everyone.