Tuesday, May 6, 2014

For I know the plans I have for you...{Foster Care Update Part 2}

This is Part 2 of my "For I Know The Plans I Have For You" post, you can read Part 1 HERE.

...The email that we received came as a complete shock. The email simply stated that many things had changed in the kids' case and that the agency was no longer looking for a foster to adopt home for these kiddos. We waited almost two weeks for that? There was no explanation of what had changed, if we had done something wrong, if there was any chance we could still have them...Nothing. I immediately responded to the email asking for an elaboration of what was going on and asked where we were supposed to go from there. The last time we spoke to anyone, we were told that we would set up a timeline of how to transition the kids into our home, and everything had seemed like a done deal.

After several more days, we still had not received any word. I sent multiple emails, texts and made several phone calls... desperate to find out something...Even if it wasn't what we wanted to hear. But I heard nothing.

After several more days, I finally received an email. This email stated that said that the foster mom had changed her mind and had decided that she wanted to pursue adoption. We had been told multiple times that there was no chance she would adopt them. Even the foster mom had told us that she was sure she wouldn't adopt them. However, now she had changed her mind and everything was different.

We were told there would be a meeting the following week between the case manager, the foster mom and the adoption worker, where a decision would be made as to where the kids would go. Obviously, our chances weren't good. However, I still held out hope that by some miracle we would still end up with them. It wasn't possible that we would go through that long string of events for nothing, right?

After several days of trying to process the change in events, I decided that I would email the foster mom. I wanted her to be fully aware of the impact her decision would have on others, not just herself. I knew she had struggled with the idea of letting the kids go, but I wanted her decision to be based on prayerful peace, and not panic. And I wanted her to know that we loved those kids enough to pray for what was best, even if it wasn't us.

I didn't really expect a response from her. The email was much more of a verbal processing tool for me rather than a hope to engage the foster mom. However, I received a reply from her the next morning and while it tore me apart, it also healed a part of me. She told me how she would be praying for us as well. And she told me that she had felt nothing but turmoil since the search for a forever family for these kids began. She said that as soon as the words left her mouth that she'd adopt them, all of her anxiety and fear left her and she knew she was doing what God had called her to do. It seemed hard to comprehend that someone else could be feeling the same calling that we were, but I knew that ultimately we didn't have that say. I know that she loves those kids more than anything and that God will provide everything that they need. He'll also heal our hearts and give us the strength to keep going.

One week later, on the day of the adoption meeting for these kids, we received a call from our agency asking if would be willing to take a sibling group of 3 girls. In all honesty, it felt like a cruel joke. There were 3 kids we already wanted and couldn't have, and here we are being offered 3 different kids. It took us a little time to process it and make any kind of a decision. In my head and heart I knew that we were not going to get the 3 kids back. And I knew that we had come too far to give up. So we said yes. We were told that we would hear back in a week after the county makes a decision on which family to approve for these girls. So now we wait...again. However, over the last few days, I've grown very thankful for the waiting period that we have. It's given us more time to heal and it's given us time to wrap our minds around the idea of taking on 3 different kids. We have no idea if we'll be chosen as the home for these girls, or if we'll receive another disappointing phone call. But we're not giving up and we'll continue to keep our home open and our hearts willing. And I know that God will bless that, even if it's not how we would have chosen.

Friday, May 2, 2014

My Story Is Not My Fault {Removed}

This video has been floating around the internet for quite a while now. However, we were forced to watch it again at one of our foster care classes that we're required to take to maintain our continued training hours.

This video perfectly depicts why we've chosen foster care. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

For I know the plans I have for you...{Foster Care Update Part 1}

It's been longer than I had intended since I last wrote anything or updated everyone on what's going on in our house...but I think we needed a couple of weeks to process everything and figure out where we were supposed to go from there. And in all honesty, I wasn't quite sure where to begin, how to adequately explain everything that had happened, and writing about it made it real and meant we had to accept it. This story is so long that I'm going to split in to more than one post...so stay tuned for additional updates.

Let me back track about a month...
The very first placement call that we got was for a sibling group of 3 kids, and we received that call before we had even become officially licensed. The kids were a little bit older than we had planned, and we had planned to only take 2 kids. However, we told the agency that we would think about it (with every intention to tell them no). The next day we received another phone call asking if we'd take a new born baby from the hospital and pick him up that day. We said yes immediately, and we waited for 2 long hours to find out if we had been approved to take him. After two of the longest hours of our lives, I received a text that another family had been chosen, but they wondered if we'd be willing to take an 8 month old baby. We were filled with a mix of disappointment about the first baby, but also with excitement for the possibility of the 8 month old. We said Yes, and then were told that we would hear an update the next day after the court hearing. Yet again, we waited. Finally, mid afternoon the next day, I received another text that we had not been chosen as the family for this second baby. Really? This is definitely not how we thought this process was going to go.

Fast forward a week and a half, and we received another call asking if we had thought any more about the sibling group. Parental rights had just been terminated and they needed to be moved into a foster to adopt home where the family would consider adopting them. We told them again that we'd think about, and we were put in touch with the case manager. We spent the next week asking and answering question after question about the kids, pouring over paperwork and information and speaking to multiple people including the case manager and current foster mom. We wanted to learn everything we possibly could about these kids before we could decide if this was the direction that we wanted to go. The case manager finally suggested that we have a trial week with the kids and see how things go. We knew there would be transition visits if we decided to take them, and this seemed like a great way to get to know them before making a final decision.

So, we rearranged furniture, bought some toys and activities to do with the kids, made plans of how to spend the days and anticipated the week ahead of us. The kids arrived, and we felt indescribable fear of "what if we don't bond with them?" and "what if we get too attached?". The first day was absolutely crazy and it felt like the whole day was spent trying to avoid disasters. However, by the second and third day we had developed a routine and gotten very comfortable. And we got so attached. Somewhere over the first few days, we forgot that we were supposed to keep ourselves distanced, and we bonded with these kids and started thinking about the future. Everything began to feel so normal, and I think we were surprised and how easy it came to go from 0 kids to 3 kids.

We prayed and we prayed and we prayed, and told the case manager that we'd make a final decision by the end of the week. However, by the end of Thursday, we knew that we wanted them. So, I called the case manager and she was so excited.We began talking through a tentative transition timeline and school plans for the fall and other little details. The case manager ended the call by saying that she needed to talk to the foster mom and see what she wanted the timeline to look like and when to set up some additional respite weekends.

Again we waited...

A week went by and we continued to wait...

We missed the kids and we were anxious to start this new phase of our lives. If we had been allowed, we would have adopted them on the spot and skipped the required 6 months of fostering. I called and emailed the case manager several times and heard nothing back. I knew that she was busy and there was a lot to talk through with multiple different people, but it was frustrating to have so much time pass without a single update. I didn't like the unknown of what was going on that we weren't being told about.

Then finally after almost 2 weeks of no word, we received an email that completely changed everything...

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Placement That Almost Was

It's been a little while since I've written any type of update on our foster care journey, but there wasn't much to tell. Until recently that is.
After all of the stress and frustration of our licensing process, and the fact that it took 5 months to complete, we were completely expecting some sort of feeling of accomplishment or arrival. A feeling that the stress was finally to an end and now we were on to the fun part. Except, we were never told that we were officially licensed, so we kept waiting and waiting to hear something...anything.
And then on Tuesday of last week, I received a call from our licencing rep. who called to tell me that everything had been submitted and we just needed to wait on them to file all of our paperwork. Good news! Then she asked if I had a few minutes to talk about a possible placement. She explained that they had a sibling group that needed to be moved to a foster-to-adopt home and wanted us to consider taking them. I was completely shocked because: 1.we were receiving our first placement call and we weren't even licensed. 2. it was more kids than we had planned on taking. And 3. the kids were a little older than we had originally said we wanted. I started thinking about car seat arrangements, schools, bedrooms, clothes, everything that we hadn't planned on.  I told her that we would think about it, and because the kids didn't need moved for several months, we had time to make a decision.

So, Wednesday comes and I'm at the grocery store and my phone rings again. I didn't answer it because I didn't recognize the number....but now I wish I had. I listened to the voice mail and it was the placement coordinator asking us if we'd take a brand new baby from the hospital and if we said yes, we'd have to be prepared to pick him up that day. I quickly tried to leave the grocery store and call him back. By the time I called (5 minutes later) another family had responded yes and their file had been submitted to the county. The placement coordinator said he would submit our file as well, and said he would respond once he hears something (within an hour or so). He explained that he would text me with a "yes" or "no". So we waited for a text message to come through that would mean the difference between going to sleep that night with a baby in the house, or life continuing as usual. An hour and a half later we received a text message that the county wasn't interested in a second referral, and so someone else had been chosen. We were really disappointed, but didn't really have time to dwell on it. In that same text message, the placement coordinator explained that they had another baby that would be needing a home the next day and wanted to know if we'd take her. Of course we said yes! So once again, our file was submitted and we waited. We were told that court was the next morning and we would hear something around 11/12 or we would hear something around 3/4 depending on when the court hearing would actually be held. I spent all of that evening packing a diaper bag and installing car seats and trying to prep Jordan for the possibility that he'd have to pick up the baby by himself if I wasn't able to leave work quickly enough. I picked out clothes, blankets, toys, books, snacks....everything I could think of that might be needed during the pickup. We were about to get our first placement and I was going to miss it...but I wouldn't be unprepared!

So then Thursday comes and I have to go to work and continue life as usual. We spent all of Thursday waiting for the phone to ring with a "yes" or "no". Again, anticipating that our lives were about the change. Around 1:00 I finally received a text message saying that the county had really liked our file, but they chose another family with more experience. Our placement coordinator assured us that it was great news that the county liked our file, and that it would help if we took on some respite placements to gain more experience.

So after 3 calls and 3 days of ups and downs, we still had no placement. It was a little bit of a relief to have an answer and not be in limbo, but it was incredibly disappointing. We had planned and hoped, but it hadn't worked out. We haven't received any calls in the last couple of days, so we wait. I do feel that we are better prepared for when we actually do get a placement, and for that I'm thankful. Throughout all of these possible placements, we prayed that if these were the children that were supposed to come into our home, that it would work out. We did everything that we could and the rest is left in God's hands...and after that we just have to trust. It's a relief to know that we may have possibly been spared of much more significant heartbreak than the disappointment that we felt. And we're grateful that these babies were placed with the families that they needed. So now we wait and wait a little longer, and keep our phones nearby for the next phone call. And pray for patience and understanding as we try to continue to live our lives.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Baby Essentials

Going from having no children to the possibility of having multiple children can be quite overwhelming when trying to gather supplies. Not to mention the fact that we're accepting children between the ages of newborn-3, and we have no idea how long any of those children will be with us. I've spent the last several months hitting up the thrift store on half priced day to gather clothes and toys, that's how much of a bargain hunter I am ; ) However, a couple of my good friends and my sister all worked together to throw us a shower to help us get some of those bigger items. We were given so much stuff as well as enough gift cards to cover quite a bit of the cost of extras!

Now, I don't intend this post to seem as if these baby items are actually essential. However, I will admit that after being a nanny for 10 years, these items do make taking care of kids a little easier! There are other things that we'll need to purchase, such as a pack and play, swing, and double stroller, but we decided to save those for if/when we actually needed them.

Britax B Agile Stroller

This is seriously one of my favorite strollers ever. It's awesome when carting around a little one and it's super light. It maneuvers really well, due to the swivel wheels (which can also be locked into place), and doesn't feel cumbersome if you're in a crowded store. It has the one hand fold system and locks closed so that it doesn't open before you want it to. It is safe for newborns up to children 55 pounds, which makes this stroller really versatile. Another thing I love about it: it reclines all the way flat so that a sleeping baby can lie down. It's not good for jogging, but it does great for regular walks outside. You can check out the full details HERE

Prince Lionheart BoosterPOD

Since I knew that there was a chance we could get a 2or 3 year old, I knew that there was a possibility that the kiddo would be too big for a highchair, but still too small to sit in a full size kitchen chair. So, I set out to find something that we could use at home, that would double as a portable highchair for a younger child. There were several features that I knew I wanted in a booster seat: I wanted it to strap to a chair so that it wouldn't fall off or slide around, I wanted it to have a harness system to secure a wiggly kid, I wanted it to be comfy, and I wanted it to be light. I quickly found that there weren't a lot of options that met all of that criteria. However, The Prince Lionheart BoosterPOD fit everything I wanted and was prety reasonably priced. You can check out the full details on the product HERE

Ingenuity Chair top Highchair 

Since space is limited in tiny kitchen,  and we aren't sure how long we'll be using a highchair, I wanted to find a highchair that was portable, convertible and didn't take up a ton of room to store. This highchair is actually a brand new product by ingenuity and so far I've been really impressed by it. It straps to any kitchen chair and has 4 different height levels to adjust to the height of your table. It features a 5 point harness to secure even the youngest of kiddos and has 3 reclining levels. The tray is dishwasher safe..which I LOVE! And best of all: this seat grows with your little one and converts to a booster seat to be used by a toddler. You check check out the full details HERE

Dr Brown's Bottles

I am actually not overly picky about bottles and chose these bottles based on the fact that I had experience with them during my nanny years and I knew how to use them! Sounds silly, but I wanted to choose something that I knew I liked and wasn't taking a shot in the dark. Dr Brown's bottles are some of the most popular bottles on the market and are great for babies with sensitive tummies.
You can check out the full details HERE

Baby Italia Convertible Crib 

I have a problem that I call expensive taste without an expensive budget. I wanted so badly to find a Pottery Barn crib without spending Pottery Barn prices! So, I scoured Craigslist for months waiting for a great deal. I knew we needed a convertible crib, because we didn't want to store a crib and swap it out for a bed as soon as a kiddo turned two. After a couple of months of searching, I found this awesome crib for $75! The woman actually threw in a bunch of baby stuff once she learned that we were becoming foster parents, which was awesome! I love this crib because it had the look I was hoping for, and it converts from a crib to a toddler bed and then to a full size bed. You can check out the full details HERE

Infantino Fresh Squeezed Squeeze Station, Pouches, and Spoons

I plan to continue working part time for as long as it makes logistical sense, so I need to be ready to pack up baby food and toddler friendly snacks. We drink a lot of smoothies at our house, so I plan to make homemade baby food as well. This product takes homemade baby food to the next level and makes it portable, disposable and fills it for you! All you do is steam and mash your food, and then the squeeze stations fills the pouches for you. For added convenience, they even have spoons that you can attach to the end of the pouches so that you can spoon feed the baby. You can check out the product details HERE

Skip Hop Grand Central Diaper Bag

Anyone that knows me knows that I have an extreme purse addiction! One of my favorite parts about gathering all of our baby gear, was picking out a diaper bag. This diaper bag is not only super cute, but it's functional, organized, and is big enough to accommodate packing for more than one child. It has 3 divided sections, 11 pockets, and 2 insulated pockets for bottles and sippy cups. It has a fleece lined pocket, made especially for sunglasses, a phone pocket, and comes with a cushioned changing pad. And because it is made by skip hop, it features their special stroller straps that make securing the diaper bag to your stroller super easy. The icing on the cake is the fact that it doesn't look like a diaper bag! You can check out the product details HERE

I'm sure I'll need to update this list a year from now, but hopefully we're off to a good start. Feel free to comment with any items that you felt were particularly helpful with little ones, foster or not!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Organic Antioxidant Muffins

We've recently made the switch to organic foods in our house...and aside from the dramatic cost increase, it's the easiest diet switch we've ever made. It doesn't require us to "give up" any foods, doesn't require some odd tasting substitute, and everything tastes better than the non organic versions! There are many obvious health benefits to eating organically, but my main goal was to decrease the amount of GMOs that we consume. I've always made our food homemade and cooked as naturally as I could...but what good does it do to cook from scratch if my ingredients aren't all that natural?!

It has honestly been super easy to eat many of the same foods that we would normally eat, however it requires a lot more cooking from scratch so that I can control every ingredient that goes into the food...Goodbye convenience food! There are some awesome brands of organic convenience foods, but they're so expensive that I can't justify the convenience. So, I took a few trips to Costco and Whole Foods to stock up on organic flour, organic sugar in the raw, organic coconut oil, organic eggs and a few other everyday necessities. From that point, it was simple ingredient swapping on many of our favorite recipes. 

This post features one of our favorite muffin recipes that I tweaked a little. My recipe was actually for blueberry muffins, but I didn't have a lot of blueberries on hand, so I made due with what I had. The original recipe calls for regular flour, sugar etc, but I just swapped all of that for the organic versions...super easy! 

Organic Antioxidant Muffins
  • 2 cups organic unbleached all purpose flour (I used regular, but you could use whole grain)
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup organic sugar in the raw
  • 1 stick organic unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 organic egg, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup organic whole milk (add more if your batter seems dry)
  • 1 1/2 cup organic antioxidant blend berries (mine included blueberries, strawberries, cherries, raspberries and pomegranate)
  • organic sugar in the raw or organic brown sugar, for topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 c. muffin tin. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine butter, egg, and milk; mix well. Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture and stir with spatula until combined. Fold berries into batter. Spoon batter into muffin tray, filling cups 2/3 full. Bake 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle top of muffins with sugar and bake muffins an additional 10-15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Inspections Galore

This post is long over due, as several people have asked for updates on our foster care journey, but I've been too drained and tired to write anything. I kept saying to myself, "today I'll update my blog" but it never happened! Today, I had to take the plunge and say something.

So, we had assumed this process would go much more quickly and easily than it has. I've heard some people say that they were licensed after one home study and a few classes. That idea gave me great hope...we could handle that! We were told from the beginning (by our agency) that we had 28 hours of required class time to complete before we would start our home study process. That's not so bad! I told myself. However, after some recent changes in the agency, additional classes were added (18 hours plus 8 hours of CPR and First Aid, to be exact) which we learned about halfway through our other classes. To plow through a total of 54 hours of class time in a matter of just a few weeks is crazy. In addition to that, we had our home study process...

Being the over achiever that I am, I scoured the internet and different resources to find out exactly what would be expected of us so that we could be as prepared as possible. In my mind, we'd have everything ready, the inspector would tell us that they didn't need to come back, and we'd be home free! not so much. I quickly discovered that the home study process was more of an interview (more like interrogation!) process than an actual inspection. We were questioned until I couldn't even form a coherent sentence. Our home studies turned into 16 hours spread out between 4 visits. I got my hopes up every time the assessor came because I thought for sure it would be the last one. It was the only thing that kept us going. However, every visit came with an "ok I'll need to come back again" and another stack of paperwork. Every visit brought more things that needed changed in the house, and some things that we had changed and were told to change back the way it used to be. And every. single. time. we felt our conviction to keep going with the process depleting.  It seemed that at every turn we were hit with another road block.  

Yesterday we had our "final" inspection with the agency and fire inspection. Thankfully, we finally passed the agency inspection and completed our home studies!! However, our fire inspection didn't go so well. Within two minutes of the fire inspector's arrival, he discovered that all of our smoke detectors were placed a few inches away from where he wanted them and we would need to move all of them. His reasoning for this was that because our house has different ceiling levels throughout the house, the smoke would not reach the detectors. Ironically enough, an hour after he left I was cooking dinner and something had dripped into the bottom of the oven (which obviously smokes). I opened the oven door and the smoke filled the kitchen and immediately set of the smoke detector in the front hall. I wanted to call the fire inspector back show it to him!
He also discovered some outlets  (behind a bookcase and a couch!) that did not have protectors on them. I mean really, if a child is moving a bookcase I'd say we have more problems than the exposed outlet behind it. So, away he went and told us to call and reschedule another inspection. 

So, again I tell myself (and everyone else), we're almost done! Our licensing rep told us yesterday that she plans to get our paperwork in order and send some forms to the state so that we can get licensed. We still need another fire inspection and a trip back to the dr. for TB tests, but we're praying for no more surprises! I keep telling myself that a few years from now we'll laugh about everything that happened to get to that point and it will all be worth it!