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.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Saving Grace Meals

Saving Grace Meals Menu

After discussing with several customers and evaluating my own weekend cooking experiences, I have decided to tweak my menu.  Instead of a weekly, rotating menu, there will be one regular, extensive menu you can order from.  Occasionally, there will be a new item featured that week.  Seasonally, the menu will shift with soups and holiday specific desserts, etc in the fall and lighter salads in the spring and summer.  This will go into effect April 18.

Large (Feeds 4-6): $17
Small (Feeds 2-4): $12

Chicken Spaghetti
    chicken, spaghetti, cheese-y goodness

Salsa Chicken Casserole
     black beans, corn, salsa, rice and chicken

Potatoes and Sausage
     exactly as it sounds....except yummier

Mexican Casserole
     beef or chicken

Chicken Salad **
     apples, pecans (optional), pickles and pickle relish plus family recipe seasonings make this a wonderful entree by itself or you can use it to fill a croissant

Chicken and Rice Casserole
     chicken and rice with water chestnuts makes for the perfect creaminess with a crunch!

Spicy Shredded Pork
     This is one of those melt in your mouth dishes because it has been in the oven for hours and hours and just falls apart.  It can be medium or hot depending on your preference.

Teriyaki Pork Sandwiches
     I provide the pork goodness; you provide the bread!

Deliciously Marinated Grilled Chicken
     Works wonderfully well to top the Spinach Salad or shred for tacos or just eat by itself!

One Order: $10 (serves a family of four-six)
Texas Potatoes
     potatoes, sour cream, cheese...yumm!

Chili Roasted Potatoes
     diced potatoes with slightly spicy seasonings ready for you to roast and serve

Large: $12
Small: $10

Spinach Salad **
     spinach, pecans (optional), craisins, goat cheese, pepperoncinis and a creamy dressing

Southwest Cornbread Salad **
      cornbread, black beans, tomatoes, avocado, red onion and cilantro with a light dressing for a           refreshing yet filling concoction of goodness

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad **
     good 'ole classic!
     *add $2/person for chicken

Seasonal Fruit Salad in a Light Syrup **  $2.50/cup

Blueberry Muffins: $6/dozen
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread: $6/loaf

Brownies: $6/pan
Lemon Squares: $6/pan
Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies: $6/dozen
Snickerdoodles: $6/dozen
Dump Cake: $15/pan
     fruit pie filling of your choice
          apple, peach, cherry, blueberry

Most things I make will freeze well.  There are a few things that should be refrigerated and eaten more promptly.  These items are noted with **.

April 13-14 Meals

Our family has a lot of family favorites and these are definitely a part of the list!  :)


Mexican Casserole: Large: $17   Small: $12
      Your choice of chicken or beef ($1 more for beef)

Creamy Chicken Salad: $6/serving
     *includes pecans     

Texas Potatoes:  $10 (square pan)

Fruit Salad: $2.50/cup
     Fresh fruit in a light syrup


Dump Cake: $15 for pan
     fruit pie filling of your choice
        apple, peach, cherry, blueberry

Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies: $5 for dozen

Snickerdoodles: $5 for dozen

Brownies: $5 for pan


Blueberry Muffins: $6 for dozen

Email me at savinggracemeals@gmail.com by Friday at noon with  your order!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Meals for April 6-7

I'm pretty excited about this menu.  These are either long time family favorites, or I've tried them out this week and they're new family favorites.  :)

Deliciously marinated grilled chicken $3.50/breast
     chicken breast marinated in a delicious marinade and then grilled

     (This is perfect to top Spinach Salad (below) or dice for tacos or warm and serve by itself!)

Spinach Salad: $6/serving
     spinach, craisins, pecans (optional), crispy jalapenos, pepperoncini peppers, feta cheese and a wonderfully creamy dressing

Southwest Cornbread Salad: Large: $10  Small: $8
     This salad is a light and refreshing salad with black beans, corn, salsa and cornbread.  I admit I first saw all the ingredients and found it intriguing.  My family absolutely LOVES it!

Greek Marinated Chicken: Large-$17   Small-$10
     chicken marinated in yogurt with fresh herbs and spices
     yummy to bake and serve warm or shred and add to below couscous

Lemony Cucumber Couscous Salad: Large-$7    Small-$5
     exactly as it sounds :)

Fruit Salad: $2.50/cup
     Fresh fruit in a light syrup

Dump Cake: $15 for pan
     fruit pie filling of your choice
        apple, peach, cherry, blueberry

Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies: $5 for dozen

Snickerdoodles: $5 for dozen

Email me at savinggracemeals@gmail.com by Friday at noon with  your order!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Finding a Support Group

I'm going to be writing a series of blog posts on various fostering topics.  This one is first, because it is dear to my heart, and because my fingers seem to itch to write about certain topics at certain times, not because it's really "first" in the process of fostering.

Finding a support group is critical.  I grew up with my mom founding the Down Syndrome Guild and taking a year position as president of the Dallas chapter of the ARC (Association for Retarded Citizens).  She had dinner with others moms of children with disabilities on a regular basis.  They would meet to discuss upcoming ARD meetings and how they were fighting for the educational rights of their child with a disability.  Angela and I went to a monthly "Sunshine Kids" Friday night hang out time.  It was parents' night out, but it was specifically for families of people with disabilities.  They had counselors that would talk to the siblings and fun crafts and activities and sports that all the kids could be a part of.  I realize this has nothing to do with support groups for fostering, but I'm starting this off because I grew up with "support groups" being a regular part of my childhood, though we didn't call them support groups.

During the licensing process for fostering, there is a LOT of mandatory trainings.  They would encourage you to find a support group.  Find other foster parents you can talk to and seek information from.  I always thought it was ridiculous since they never told you about any you could join.  I mean, how am I supposed to find a support group?  I'm a go-getter and don't give up if I'm looking for something.  I'm also a pretty out-going personality, so I was able to connect with several other foster moms.  However, you know there are people out there that NEED support groups and aren't a part of one.  I just think it makes sense for agencies to have a list of some options.  Or maybe even offer for their own foster parents to use their facilities and meet occasionally.  Anyway, I digress.

I had just moved to Plano and recently started attending The Village.  I asked around on Sunday mornings about foster parents and was put in contact with Kristi.  We have a secret Facebook group.  This means none of our friends can see on their timeline when we post in the group.  Only members can post and you have to be invited to be a member.  We ask each other about doctor and dentist recommendations.  We provide respite for each other.  We ask each other questions about how to handle certain behaviors.  We meet once a month at someone's home and every one talks non-stop with questions about court cases and certain judge's or case workers or agencies or behaviors or foods or allergies or trainings or fire marshal visits or home studies or.....and the list goes on.  It's awesome!

One day, I was in pretty desperate need of child care.  J had come, but I had to go to work for a few days and needed someone that could watch her.  Kristin called and said Arrow (our mutual agency) had told her I was looking for child care.  At the time, she was a foster mom (she's now a forever mom, woot-woot!) and she was willing to watch J for several days.  It was AMAZING because Kristin is a former OT and has 5 forever kids and J LOVED going to her house.  It was a huge blessing.  Well, Kristin is a member of a different church and they also have a support group and I got connected with them, too.  We also meet once a month.  It's way closer to home, so it's easier to make these meetings.  This group also offers trainings pretty regularly and family fun nights each month.  It's great!

Both of these groups have their own personality and both of them offer something different, and I absolutely adore ALL of the ladies I've come in contact with.  We help each other with meals, babysitting, encouragement, a shoulder to cry on, a laugh and joyful yell when milestones are reached or court decided something that was truly for the good of the child.  We don't see each other daily, but we're in and out of each other's lives and provide knowledge, support, wisdom, connections and a plethora of resources to help each other walk this journey of fostering.

If you're not in a foster parent support group, I strongly encourage you to find one.  If you don't know of one, start one yourself!  Open your home.  Start a Facebook group.  Invite others that are at any stage of the process to join you.  Help each other out!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Want a new ____? What's wrong with the old?

Lotions?  Soaps?  Candles?  Conditioner?  Mousse?  Leave-in conditioner?  Eye shadow or liner?

I could go on and on.  I have bottles with one squirt used, bottles that are half empty, and bottles with only one or two uses left.  I have bottles that are still sealed.  These are bottles I forgot were there, so new bottles were purchased.  I have bottles I received as teacher gifts and bottles I bought myself.  I have eye liner pencils that are perfectly fine except when I needed it, I couldn't find my sharpener, so I bought a new pencil instead.  I have samples of products I would not have ever purchased myself.  I have multiples of one scent or brand because they were buy 2 get 1 free, you know!

I really do try to not spend excess money.  I buy economical brands or choose carefully if I'm going to decide to pay more money for a finer quality item.  As a teacher, lotions, fun soaps and candles are an easy, cute and fairly inexpensive gift, so they're very popular.  I used to keep the Christmas scented soaps in my Christmas decoration boxes to pull out next year since they weren't even half used...except I received more the next year, and then what?  As of right now, I have twisted peppermint, holly berry wreath, and winter candy apple soaps going at the kitchen sink and bathrooms.  They're almost finished and I can't wait, because I've already purchased fresh new spring scents that are sitting lonely under my kitchen sink just waiting to brighten the room with their lively colors and smile inducing smells.

I reached in my bathroom cabinet today for a bottle of lotion and stayed my hand because of how many there were.  I don't use lotion all the time, but I think there are currently 5 containers in some stage of use in my bathroom cabinet.  I'm positive there are more in my car and one under the sink in the half bath downstairs.  Throwing perfectly good items away is ridiculous.  Purchasing new scents just because they smell good is equally ridiculous.  My goal is to start using what I have regularly.  Lotion is good for my skin.  I need to be using it.  One person can only wash her hands so many times, so the soap takes time, but soon, very soon, I will be able to throw away and bring out the new.  Candles will be burning because they create welcome smells.  I'm out of my regular conditioner, but I have another bottle of a seldom-used conditioner that I will be using in it's place instead of buying a new bottle of my regular.  Perfectly good items need used.

I'm not allowing myself to buy one single item in any of these categories until I have made sure I don't have something else that will work equally well, even if it's not my favorite.  Being a good steward of finances means exactly that...not spending money when I don't have to.  We all have ways we'd rather spend our money.  I'm trying to get into grad school.  I'd really like to buy a house some day.  Yes, soaps and conditioners and concealer isn't expensive.  I get that.  But every $5 and $10 adds up and if more money can go in savings, then there is more in a down payment account later!