Thursday, January 18, 2018

Goals 2018

Before writing this post, I looked back at some of my past year's goals...yeah...I feel like writing a big fat TRY AGAIN over them or just copy and pasting them here!!  But that's boring and doesn't make for an exciting post...so....how about I just write some of the new ones here?  If you feel like it you can take a look at the older ones here.  Before I spit out a big to do list for 2018, I'd like to highlight what went well in 2017.
I cleaned and purged in the alcove!  That means I emptied the huge bin of mostly kid papers and projects that I moved to our new house 2 years ago!!  This felt sooooo soooo soooo good, even if it took me forever to do it.  School papers are better organized now and have a real home.  I'll be ironing on that latest "You're a grown-up!" badge real soon. 
Dave helped me in a big way to get a garden cage up.  I really hope this year to get some things started in the house.  Overall, the garden is set up and ready for the next year.  Big win for someone who 'has to' grow stuff!
We camped quite a few times w/family and friends - this was so good for my soul - I really hope we can plan out more of this in 2018.  I like the long trips too, but sometimes a girl just needs to see her besties and hearing the kids make mischief w/their cousins is definitely priceless.
I've been able to get to bible study w/some women from church on a semi-regular basis.  Still working on relationships and my own personal faith journey, but meeting w/people IRL is a good thing.
Guys - I've been cooking!!!  COOKING!!!!!  Now don't go thinking I mean that fancy pants restaurant kind of stuff, I'm talking casseroles, quiches and Mexican dishes, but being that we are at the Y at least twice a week for a number of hours, I've pushed myself to make real food for my family.  I even tried a new thing today!  I'm getting to be a master of all things 9 x 13...another 'grown-up achievement level' unlocked!  Where's my bouncing star and tinkly electronic theme song? 
I've been decorating the house...there are pictures on the wall...still no decorating theme or coordinating put together rooms but I'm trying!  I am even thinking of hiring a professional for some advice.  I'm ready for grown-up furniture (bought one piece already) and an actual 'style'.  Other than "I'm too lazy to do this, I have no interest, and no eye for what looks good", that is.
Alright!  Now for some new stuff!  First of all, the kids are doing well.  It's been 2 years since we added to the family and we've reached a loose routine and sense of peace in the house.  I know I can step up my game as a momma and some of my goals are related to that.  I'll begin meeting Moses at the library after school to work on his online Spanish class next semester.  I need to carve out at least 10 minutes a week w/each kid.  That sounds easy, but Lord help me, my scrambled brain can never remember to slow down and focus.  I steal moments here and there but so much of our lives happen in a group...it just needs to be a priority for me to make that connection w/each one on purpose.  Another thing I'd like to do more of is hosting people in our home for meals, Bible study or 'play dates' for the kids.  Hang outs?  Are they too old to say play dates?  Maybe!  We are always willing to have people over but I feel like I need to make everything BETTER for that to happen.  "Maybe when we get better furniture....maybe when we re-paint in here....maybe when it's not so muddy outside..."  This year I commit to trying to host someone(s) once a month!  We already hosted a family in the month of Jan, I think...which means I need to get working on a Feb date!  I feel like that one is not a super new goal, but oh well.  Here's another one - get active more.  I think this one will be a little bit easier this year, for various reasons.  Back in the day, I used to run.  I miss it and wonder if my 40yo self can muster up the strength and energy to get back to where I left off?  I once set the goal for a sub 30min 5K and came really close!  I think I technically achieved it but didn't count it for some reason.  I'll have to look that up.  Anyway - living on a country road, I still need to decide if I want to run along the shoulder out there or just drive the 3 mi to town to run on sidewalks.  That seems ridiculous but there is pretty much no shoulder on our road, just a big ditch!  Road running sounds better right now, but we'll see when I actually do it.  Finally, a big goal I have never written down but always wanted to do - design a photo book for each year since I met Dave.  I'm talking about setting it up online and having it printed.  I can't stand the thought of sitting in front of a screen editing a year's worth of photos but I know my kids love the photo books Nana has made!!  It would be totally worth it, even if there were only 100 photos in the book.  (Dude, I take THOUSANDS of photos each year, granted, not all of them are keepers, but narrowing it down to 100 for each year would be tough!!)  Lots to do in 2018!!!  Can't wait to get started on all the good stuff!!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017

(Once again, we are not sending Christmas cards out in the traditional way - see the end of this post for more on that...We hope you enjoy this online version! If you regularly read my blog or see my Facebook posts, some of these stories will sound familiar...buckle up - it's a long one!)

A is for AL Amyloidosis - For those of you that don't know, my Dad was diagnosed w/this rare disease months ago.  He has undergone chemo, an autologous stem cell transplant (it just means they took his own cells out, treated them and put them back in, rather than those of someone else), and a few other medical procedures for his heart.  His heart was/is the organ most affected by the disease.  Currently Dad is in 'isolation' of sorts, since his immune system is like that of a newborn baby =)  Please continue to pray for his appetite to return, for his heart/physical well being and healing but also for a peace and joy to fill his soul.  It's been a tough year and 'hiding out' at home, away from family and friends is not easy.  We have missed having Dad at birthdays, concerts, and just random gatherings...We are hopeful for the New Year, that we can get back to 'normal' and celebrate special events together! 
B is for Basketball Hoop and Band - This year we were talking about getting a hoop for the kids, when my Uncle John mentioned that he had one in his basement.  He promised it wasn't pretty but it would get the job done!  Sure enough - we picked it up one day and got the supplies to set it in the ground.  The hoop has been up for a while and there were lots of days where you could find all of us out there shooting around!  In other news, Moses is in band class this year.  He is playing his Dad's saxophone!  Just like the piano, his talent and ear provide us w/much entertainment - it was so easy for him to pick up this instrument he has never played and play whatever he wants!  We've heard commercial jingles, songs from the various genres on the radio, and random stuff they are practicing at school.  I am constantly in awe of the fact that both him and his Dad have this gift/talent.  
C is for Chicks, Chicago and Camping - A high school classmate of mine put a plea on face.book for someone to take some baby chicks off the hands of a friend who hatched them in her classroom.  I happily drove to my hometown and collected a box full of babies!  They cheep cheeped all the way home in the passenger seat!  It was so much fun for the kids to see how they grew and how the cats were around them.  Always an adventure out here!  Another big adventure this year was camping in Chicago.  Yes, IN Chicago!  It is permissible to 'camp' in the parking lot of the convention center.  There are no amenities, unless you count proximity to all that the downtown area has to offer.  Which for us, was plenty!  We did lots of outdoor free stuff, so pretty much a ton of things!  It was BLAZING hot and sweaty...aka memorable.  No electricity means sweating while you sleep, especially since there are no shade trees in parking lots!  Despite that, we would do it again in a heartbeat.  We camped many other places with many other people but some of the best times were when our kids were with their Arnold cousins!  So many giggles and inventive games!  We are truly blessed to be able to have a strong bond between our families.
D is for Duck Creek Campground - This particular campground gets a specific mention in the Christmas letter for various reasons.  We first camped there with one of my besties and her family.  One of my other best friends came up and visited while we were there and it was awesome!  There is a pond/lake, where you can fish and/or swim.  One of the first times fishing, my lucky fisherwoman/daughter Colleen caught a fish bigger than her Daddy's foot!!  As for swimming, there are these huge inflatables that *I* even had fun on!  I laughed so hard trying to get onto that Jupiter ball....I am severely out of shape and bottom heavy, so my spindly arms could not haul myself up there!  After an assist from Dave, I finally managed to climb on!  I haven't laughed like that in a long time and I went to bed that night sore, tired but beyond happy.  It was such a good time that when we were planning a camping weekend with Dave's sister and her family in the area, we suggested it again.  I'm certain we will go back next year too!  The funniest thing was that this fall, Dave was in the closet and he put on a hat we had found while camping in IL last summer.  Would you believe me if I told you that it was from Duck Creek Campground?!  IT WAS!!!  We both laughed and commented on how it was the hat that sent us subliminal messages to go there all along.  
E is for a lot of things, but nothing that really applies in 2017.  So....we hope your state of ennui is ephemeral, and please do not exculpate us as we expatiate and elucidate the other exciting things from 2017!  Consider it an education as you explore a dictionary and encounter some E words from the SAT exam!
F is for FORTY - Both Dave and I turned 40 this year.  No, there was no big bash or anything, but throughout most of the year, Dave was willing to help me knock some things off my 'life list'.  Some of them are mentioned in this post!
G is for Garden and Gymnastics - Two things that are on our list every year!  This year Dave built a serious garden 'cage' to prevent critters from getting to my plants.  Like always, there were plenty of experiments going on - we learned that beans do REALLY well, especially when I double plant them!  Cabbages do well, too.  Some other things did not get into the ground early enough though, so that's a goal for next year.  As for gymnastics - there are 2 of our kids on the team this year!  Both Moses and Bert are on the team and have competed in 2 meets so far.  At the second one, Bert came home with a 1st place medal in almost every event!  His face light up so big when they called his name!!  It's been fun to watch them both grow, learn and enjoy the sport.
H is for Hollandfest - The town we live in is Dutch.  No, I mean they are VERY DUTCH.  They celebrate their heritage every other year.  One of the things I wanted to do this year was attend the festival where they wash the streets, dance and race in wooden shoes and serve ollie bollen.  It was fun to see people we knew from the community and the kids saw lots of their friends.
I is for the Ice Age Trail - One of the things Dave wanted to start was hiking the IAT in segments.  Obviously with small kids, work and WI weather, we are not able to hike huge segments at a time, but we did have some 11 mile days in there!  It's been fun traveling to other parts of the state and hiking in different weather too.  We've been to where it starts/ends in Door County and might do more of it over Christmas Break.
J is for Jesus - Christmas is a time to celebrate His birth...yet so often the season is JAM-PACKED with decorating, shopping, parties, kid's concerts, baking, wrapping, eating, etc...please know that the Lord sent His One and Only Son Jesus to the Earth in the form of a man so that He could live, suffer and die for our sins.  (John 14, specifically verse 16, but the whole chapter is good!)  Even when life drags me down, I have a joy in my heart because I have a personal relationship with Jesus.  The gift of eternal life is for everyone, not just me, and I pray that all who read this letter know that they are LOVED!  If you have questions about my faith or want to learn more, you know how to find me!
K is for Kayaking - Six people, four kayaks...it works!  Sometimes there are 3 little people in one kayak and sometimes there's a kid in with one of us grown-ups, but Mo is almost always on his own.  We've done some kayaking in rivers and lakes this year, mostly in Waupaca area and the river here, maybe once we got out into Lake Michigan.  I think next year we might investigate a better trailer...we thought about adding to our fleet, but so far the little people are not so great at paddling and steering, so they usually get towed.
is for Lineage - This year I really wanted to get all the cousins on my paternal side of the family together.  I see the cousins from my maternal side quite often, mostly because they live in close proximity.  You know how you always say "We should really get together!" but don't?  I hate that.  Call it part of my birthday present to myself, I was determined to pull the cousins together!  Not everyone was able to make it (hello?  Work, plane tickets are not cheap, etc...) but it was so good to be together with family!!  I chose to kick the weekend off with a visit to the cemetery where my grandparents and one set of great-grandparents are buried.  The legacy those people left, both in terms of people created, physical traits and character traits, is absolutely overwhelming.  I am so blessed and grateful that I was able to share some laughs and get lots of family hugs that weekend!!
M is for Middle School and Mom Moving - This year Moses started Middle School!!  Yeah, did you blink too?  It just seems not possible but it is.  He's doing online Spanish, band and STEM as his interest classes.  He is learning a lot about responsibility...let's just leave it at that.  For the most part though, it seems to be going well!  I think we could say the same for Dave's Mom - she moved last weekend!  It was a big move - almost all the way across the state, to the same town where Dave's sister lives.  Now when we visit, it will be a two-fer!  We'll get to see 2 factions of the family on the same trip!  We're excited to have family Christmas at her new house this year and the cousins will be together again, which will probably lead to another M word = mayhem!
N is for the Ninja Mud Run - This is an annual event in my hometown.  My parents love watching my brother's son and my own boys in this event!  We had great weather for it again this year and even bumped into some friends.  The boys are already looking forward to doing it again next year!
O is for Optometrist - This year Moses got glasses.  We had a lot of laughs trying on different frames and the ones he liked the best were a pair of prescription safety glasses!  There ya go, kid, you're all set to work in the factory...(no, I did not let him get those)...but it reminded me how little I know and/or care about fashion.  Like the 40 year old Mom that I am, I was looking at all these practical, functional frames while he was looking for flashy, trendy, sporty, what in the world is on your face kinds of frames!  Ah well, in the end we found a good compromise and the poor kid can see the clock and the scoreboard.
P is for Play, Packers and Pudgie Pies - In the beginning of the year, I had a very small part in another play.  It was so good to see 'my peeps' again!  I know I've said it before, but it means a lot to me that I am able to participate in things like that.  The next one is Packers - we drove up and took in a Packers practice this year!  Bert kept tracking Clay Matthews, giving me a play by play report of which end of the field he was on, while the other kids had fun yelling for AARON!!!!  Thankfully Aaron Rodgers was willing to wave and make faces at all his adoring fans =)  Afterwards, Mo got high fives from a bunch of players as they left the practice field and Ernie got an autograph!!  It was a big day.  Also, just recently Davon House was at our local grocery store so the kids got another autograph and photo op!  The next P is MY favorite one of all!  At some point, my cousin posted something about a Pudgie Pie cookbook and I had to have it.  I love making pies when we are camping and this cookbook had all kinds of recipes!  I'm not exactly a foodie, but I do like to eat...anyway - I promise that if you camp with us next year, we can make a bunch of these recipes!
Q is for Quotidian - You didn't think you were going to learn so much from a Christmas letter, did you?  The truth is, learning is a quotidian activity.  This year I attempted to slow down and focus on the quotidian tasks of providing security to the little people.  I learned a lot about their needs and tried my best to improve the quality of our quotidian lives.  (I think that's enough of that word now!)
R is for Rock Painting - Early in the year 2016 there was a viral news story around here about someone who painted rocks for kindness or something...well the kids started seeing them around and there's a facebook group for painted rocks in our community.  So we joined!  The kids like painting rocks, hiding them, and hunting for them!  We've found rocks on hikes, at grocery stores and therapy.  It's been interesting to see the artwork and hear about who found what rock.
S is for Summerfest and Sibling visits - It was the 50th year for Summerfest and as part of my 40th year celebration, I requested to go and see one of the bands I love from 'back in the day' (when I was less than half my current age).  Dave and the kids sat through some early 90s rock for me but we got to sample lots of other bands and styles of music!  We heard the Badger Band which is always a highlight!  Another highlight has been foster family visits.  Starting in October, we began meeting with Bert and Ernie's biological siblings and their foster families (they had been previously meeting as a bio family, including their mom, with no foster family members present).  It was a new experience for all of us, since it was the kids who had something in common and not the grownups!  We have shared some laughs and look forward to getting together again in the future.
T is for TPR and Timm's Hill - TPR stands for Termination of Parental Rights.  In fall the boys' bio parents rights were terminated which means they are legally free for adoption.  It also meant that visits with bio parents ended.  No adoption date has been set - there is an appeal process so we are waiting out that time line.  This was a huge step in the legal process though!  We feel like we are halfway up the mountain.  Speaking of high points, this year we climbed the tower at Timm's Hill, aka the highest point in WI.  I am that weird girl who plans trips to see odd landmarks.  I tried looking for the lowest point but since Lake Michigan levels are constantly changing, that data doesn't really exist.  Also, did you know that there are a large number of world city names for towns in WI?  Lima, Florence, Paris, Troy, Vienna...
U is for Unanimous - some events of the year have left uloid marks on our hearts, others reminded us that we don't live in a utopia...still we are unanimous when we say that we are blessed!
V is for Vegetate - we plan to do plenty of that this Christmas Break!  At one point this season, an ad came into the house with a family on the cover all decked out in matching jammies.  The kids kept saying, "Awww!" and commenting on how neat that was...personally, I think it's a little corny, but later that night I was researching the cost of 'family pajamas' (no, it's not one big pair of jammies that everyone crams into - that's what I think of when I hear that word!!) and wouldn't you know, I found some I could stand.  We passed out the jammies over Thanksgiving weekend and slept around the tree!  We have some fun family photos of everyone in the Christmas jammies and I have officially retired from snorting whenever I see a family all matchy-matchy.  My crew looks pretty cute and VERY happy in their matching pajamas!  WORTH IT!
W is for Wildlife - as always, we see a lot of wildlife in the yard and woods.  This year we even saw a buck!!  It never gets old.
X is for Hexagon - yeah, ok it doesn't start with x!  Neither does Six, but I'd like to use these to describe our family right now.  There are 6 people in our family and consequently 6 sides to every story.  This blog post, though, is pretty much one sided since I'm the only one writing it!
Y is for Youth Group - this year Moses is old enough and has begun attending youth group through church.  I have chosen to go along and it's such a joy to see how the kids are learning and growing.
Z is for Zip Line - This year Dave installed a zip line in the backyard.  He researched all the equipment, including what would hold 300 pounds so guys like him could ride it!  (No he's not 300 pounds, but better to over-estimate than under, right?)  We put a deer stand under it and attached both a swing and a bar from a playground set.  It's about 100' and a quick ride between 2 trees!  It's given us a lot more ideas for how to get around in our woods!

So now you know our ABCs and stuff, next time won't you make memories with us!  (Terrible rhyme, but you can't blame me for trying!)  Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  May you have many blessings and friends to share them with in the New Year!

We hope you enjoyed this green version of our Christmas card! (If you still wish to receive a paper copy, leave a comment.) There are lots of reasons we decided to do things differently this year (again!)...here's a few:
1) Save postage. We love you, but we're cheap!
2) Save paper. You just recycle those cards after you read them...you do recycle them eventually, don't you??
3) Save printing costs. See reason #1!
4) Save stress. Nothing to print, sign, stuff, address...
5) Expand our options! Now you can see a practically limitless amount of photos.
6) Our greeting to you is saved in cyber-space for posterity! 
7) It went so well the past years...we heard a lot of positive responses, and even some people who said they'd try it themselves. Welcome to the dark (green) side! (Sorry that was a goofy Star Wars joke...)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Melandia

I read a post from an amazing site called the Mighty today.  I felt like jumping up and down, yelling YES after every line, waving it in everyone's face...it's SPOT ON, exactly how I feel right now...I will share the link at the end of my post, but I wanted to expand on it a little.  So many times as a foster/adopt parent, I hear the same comments from people.  I sometimes carry a chip on my shoulder (I know I shouldn't do that - I'm a work in progress!) and get grumpy.  I feel isolated and frustrated that the average person doesn't get me or what I"m going through, but then I remember that they might not really don't know!  Back before I became a foster/adopt parent, I had absolutely no clue.  So instead of being grumpy today, I choose to try and share.  If you are one of my 7 regular readers, none of this is news to you, but maybe it will help others along the way.
You say - "You look tired..." I say - Yep, it's been busy latley! What you should know but I don't say b/c I don't want to scare you off - (from the article) Adoption is the late night researching of attachment disorders, trauma, fetal alcohol syndrome and pouring your worries out in online support groups so you can have the strength to get up in the morning and try again. (I do get up. Every morning. Mind you, not quickly, and I drop the kids off in my jammie pants a lot, but I do get up. My strength is found in the Lord, my kids' faces, my hubby's warm embrace...I yell at the tv during football games, I eat too many snacks at night, and I go to bed too late. But I get up every morning.)
You say - "You're kids are so lucky!" I say - Nah, we're the lucky ones! What I should say but I don't b/c it will make me sound over-dramatic - (from the article) Losing their first family is not lucky; it’s unimaginable, heart wrenching loss that never, ever goes away. (I would like to add that GRIEF is a huge part of adoption and foster care, not in the way you would think. There is grief when a kid returns to the bio parents, of course, but the children themselves are grieving all kinds of losses. Some of us parents might be grieving the loss of our perfect plan too. Which, yes I know is ridiculous b/c God's plan is perfect and way better than mine, but again, there are days when I struggle w/this still. And grieving is not over-dramatic. Grief is real and it's both a burden and a gift at the same time. To miss someone, to be sad about something lost is healthy but oh so hard. I could talk a long time about this but it's not the focus of this post.)
You say - "You have free time, you're a SAHM, right?" I say - Actually I'm pretty busy. I spend a lot of time driving my kids to therapies and hello? Running a house of 6 people? Yep, busy. What I should say but don't b/c some people get really upset - (from the article) People talk about being upset their favorite show got cancelled while you are re-reading a 35 page neuropsychological evaluation through tear filled eyes. (Side note: I have my favorite shows too! This Is Us, anyone? But honestly, I do read lots of medical reports and journals and research and posts from others 'in the trenches'. And yes I cry. I am not a doctor. I do not understand trauma, medical jargon or even why the sky is blue. If a show gets canceled, I do my best to move on. If my kid is denied a therapy or a service that's helpful, LOOK OUT.)
You say - "We don't really hang out anymore...she doesn't seem very friendly..." I say - (silence) (I don't say a word to you, but I lament to my husband - If a friend can put up w/my hot mess, my lack of communication, my venting...then a friendship will happen. Otherwise, I guess I don't have too many friends, just a lot of shallow acquaintances. That's my life right now.) What I wish everyone knew but why bother them with it... - (from the article) They don’t see the late nights, the trauma behaviors, the crying every day over school, endless meetings, judgmental teachers and never ending therapies. (I really don't have a lot of friends. Every single one of my best friends lives almost an hour away to multiple states away. I've tried to make friends here, I have, but who wants a friend who is tired, busy, tangled up in a hard place w/her kids and sometimes carries a chip on her shoulder? Also, it's really hard to be there for a friend w/their own needs when your energy is spent on your family's needs. I feel like I have nothing to offer anyone! 99% of the time I'm ok w/this. Please understand, though, it's hard for me. Hard to be a friend. Hard to make friends. But I do miss friends! This is the duplicity of my life right now.)
You say - "Let me know if you need anything!" I say - We're good! What rattles around in my brain but rarely gets admitted to anyone - Admitting that some days it’s just too much would be admitting you’re feeling like a failure — wouldn’t it? (It's so hard to ask for help. I believe I am the best person for this job/parenting...and yet...I over-analyze, second guess myself and fret fret fret way too much! I have asked for help on occasion and I am promptly amazed to the moon and back how much the people around us are willing to help. We couldn't do what we do w/o some good people around us.)
I really wanted to cut-n-paste the whole article!! I think it has a big impact for me right now b/c we're in the midst of it. There's a lot people don't see behind the scenes when you parent children from hard places. One of my biggest pieces of advice for people lately has been to get to know someone different from you. This applies to a lot of situations. Of course, don't put yourself in harm's way, don't go about it alone - have someone to with whom to process what you are learning, and don't do it if you can't be respectful. But seriously, we will all benefit from a greater understanding of those who are different than us. There have been a few times in life where I have done that and I'm still doing that. I don't regret one minute of getting to know someone different than me. I see the world and the others around me in a new way each time I add to those experiences. I encourage you to read this article, to gain a greater understanding of what people around you may be going through. I also hope it helps you understand me and my crazy good life a little too! (No commas, that's not a grammatical error Auntie! It's not crazy and good, well, it is but here I meant to say that it's crazy good. B/c it is.)

https://themighty.com/2017/11/what-adoption-is-when-you-parent-kids-from-hard-places/

PS - "The Mighty is a digital health community created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities."  That's how they define their site.  I think everyone can find something that makes them feel like I did after reading this article.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A beautiful mess

Wow - it's been too long!  My head has been filled w/useful and useless knowledge lately.  Guess which one is winning the war for my brain cells?  Let's dive right in, shall we?

TPR was granted the other day.  (For those that are not in the adoption/foster care world, TPR stands for Termination of Parental Rights.  Which means the kids are free and clear to be adopted!  Unless a bio parent appeals.  In which case it could be 1-2 years before an adoption date is given.  Not that I would know anything about that...)  It was sort of an unceremonious day.  I walked around for a few days feeling downright heavy that someone's loss will eventually be our gain.  The gravity of this situation is not lost on me.  I have said it before and I will say it again - this world is a broken place and we are not living the lives we were intended to live.  Yes, I am ecstatic about being a step closer to adoption, but oh man - there were a lot of waves of emotion about infertility, 'stealing' other people's kids (yes, people say things like this out loud) and the way God grafts things like trees (read about it here!  Science!  It's cool!) and people in families much the same way.  You guys, when waves rock the boat, I drop the anchor.  I really don't go anywhere (ok that's a lie, I go tons of places, taking my kids to a million appointments and activities...I put about 500 miles on my truck each week, but I don't go anywhere where I talk/really talk to people).  I function in a manner that is one foot in front of the other.  But I survived this round (take that!) and I have more tales to tell!

The boys had their first gymnastics meet!!  Super fun seeing how Moses has progressed and improved!  I was also proud of Bert - out of all the new kids, he was the only one who did not need reminders of what skills or what order they were in for each event.  He just went out there and did his routine, did the events, no reminders and minimal help from coach.  To be honest, I was a little surprised!  Still learning not to sell the little people in my house short.  They are fully capable of big things, just different things than other kids.  The next meet is this weekend and then there's a break until January, I think.  That's when the 'big' ones in Milwaukee start.  My butt is already bleacher shaped so I've got that going for me!!

I entered my 5th decade...no I'm not 50, sheesh, how tired do I look?!  Do the math - 0-10 is your first decade...I'll wait...yep, the 5th decade!  If you hear Aquarius in your head right now, you and I could be besties!  Again, the day was pretty unceremonious, which is how I like it.  I went out to lunch w/my parents which is the best!  They were there on my first day in this world so it's pretty special to be able to share another day w/them all these years later.

The start of this school year has had a few bumps.  Ernie is doing great - I think all the issues we had at the end of the year are ironed out!!  The school district this year decided to do a 'push in' model...for my kids who have educational needs, that means they are now primarily in a mainstream classroom setting, not the small group setting they were accustomed to in the past.  This has caused great upheaval for Bert!!!  Colleen seems to be hanging in there...she has such a great attitude and is always smiling!  For my guy Bert, though, this is like another blow to an already nerve wracked life.  Pray for him.  Little dude is not adjusting well.  As anyone who has parented a child who endured trauma knows, this kind of traumatic experience sends a kid right back into survival mode.  It stinks for the whole family.  It's sort of like starting over from scratch.  In these first couple of weeks of school, I found myself saying "I don't wanna adult today" many many times!  It's quite the job, parenting is....I love these little people w/every fiber of my being and I will skip all the chores in the world to be there for them.  Dust bunnies?  Nope we have a dust farm.  Sink filled w/dirty dishes?  Yep I saw that, just over here rocking my kid.  My kid who is gangly and long and makes me wonder what the weight limit is on this rocking chair...?  I cried when my aunt and uncle brought us this rocking chair...side note - sometimes a shower present is more than just a shower present.  Sometimes it represents so much more!  AND - sometimes that rocking chair takes on new meaning over time and you wind up rocking in a way or w/a person you never could have imagined back when you first considered rocking in it.  Back in the day my grandparents had this double glider thing...I think I need one of those.  I have tried looking them up online but no success.  I'm pretty sure they don't make them anymore!!  Sad face.  I remember many nights visiting my grandparents and 'gliding' on that thing.  I even scoured used sites!  Anyway - let me know if you see one.  I think I could really 'rock out' w/my big kids on one of those!  (This pic is different than the style my grandparents had, but the closest thing I could find!)

We have new chickens!!!  I think since last time I wrote, we have gotten 2 new batches of chickens...So there are quite a few of them now!  It's sort of humorous - the new ones are really friendly and follow me even more than the other/older ones.  Today a guy came to pump out the septic and left the lid ajar.  He worried they would fall in!  I promised him they were bird brains, but not that dumb!  And if it turns out that one of them is, I sure am not going in after it!  We had a good laugh!!

What else...?  Garden did well...I always sort of give up on it at the end.  I think peak harvest season coincides w/allergy season (imagine that) and I sort of avoid going outside much then.  But I did get a ton of green beans!  I didn't dig the carrots yet - should I do that now?  We've eaten 2 of the 8 cabbage.  The pumpkins and squash are still dark green...I think I got them in too late.  We'll see.  Basil needs to be picked and processed.  Maybe this weekend?  I already pulled out dead stuff like the peas and random brown greens.  Overall I am ecstatic that the garden cage worked!  Every year is a learning curve for the next, but now that I'm set up, next year should be smoother.

I've been going to youth group w/Moses and just yesterday jumped into bible study again.  I missed that!  We'll see how it works to shove extra stuff into my busy days but can I just say how weird it felt to be kidless and talking to other adults for an hour??  Scratch that - not weird - AMAZING!!!  I am so scatterbrained and all over the map most days, not really tending to my own soul, so this is good for me.

Well I've got a few more posts started in my head...hope to write more soon!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Mom's agenda for back to school

I'm making a to-do list.  There are so many things I have been saying. "I'll do it when the kids go back to school" that I know I'll never remember them!  By posting a list here, I hope to refer to it and accomplish it.  The goal is to make an edited post w/them all crossed off soon!  At some point I should sort the agenda items by priority but today it's stream of consciousness typing.

1) Take a nap.
2) Get a massage.
3) Roundup the buckthorn.  (No not like a rodeo - roundup like spray the chemicals to kill the invasive species!)
4) Clean the fridge.
5) Go through mittens/hats/snowpants/boots etc.
6) Print and hang more photos (I have been doing better at this!).
7) Tour the community fitness center and see if that's better than driving to the Y.
8) Downstairs bathroom closet organized.  Ugh.  Not looking forward to it.
9) Organize desk area.  Which would hopefully lead to a bookshelf over there...
10) Go thru school papers and files from last year.  Yep, still didn't finish that!
11) Go thru med files.  I'm keeping way too many papers now that a lot is online.
12) Follow up on our girl's medical file from before adoption.  Still have no access to that.  When another future surgery is being discussed, it becomes clear that it would be good to learn about what happened in the first one.  No cause for alarm, just frustrating that we can't get the files.
13) Furniture re-do in Moses' room.  Looking for a loft/desk combo.
14) Prep a bunch of meat in the instant pot.  Freeze.
15) Clean downstairs bathroom shower/tub and tile.  Or knock it out and put in a new one, which would probably be easier.
16) Put a front on the composters and use the pitchfork to turn it over.
17) Clean out the garden.
18) Pick up in our bedroom.  I'm terrible for tossing stuff on the floor in a hurry and regretting it later.
19) Find a hutch for the dining area.  Or something like it.
20) I should just put all the closets on here.  There's stuff crammed in every one!

I'm sure there's more, but that's a pretty good start!!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Random Cobb

Most of you are cheeseheads so you probably know that's not his real name, but when Colleen calls him that, I can't help but snicker!!  We attended a practice recently and they were handing out these 'fans' - which are essentially life sized faces of the players on a popsicle stick.  She kept asking where her Random Cobb fan was...oh man!  It was adorable!
Well, this random update is going to ramble so hang on.  I have been meaning to type up a bunch of stuff about this summer but it feels like the only time I am sitting is in the truck.  But!  Tonight is a Packers preseason game so I'm on the couch (wouldn't miss it even if it's preseason!) and I'm a pretty decent multi-tasker (I prefer that anyway).
First, there was no big trip this summer.  Just lots of little ones!  Plus a lot of family and friend time which is so special and means a lot to me.  Since we were home more, we had the yard sprayed for mosquitoes - what a difference that makes!!  We can actually be outside...I can go water the plants or pick veggies at dusk and barely get a bite.  I hate the thought of chemicals but this year has been SO VERY RAINY and I'd rather enjoy the yard than suffer.  Since we've been home more, I have been able to battle the deer and see what's been planted by the people who lived here before us!  I'm loving all the astilbes in different colors!!  Dave built a garden 'cage' and except for the greens, the garden is huge.  Spinach, kale and basil don't seem to do well here.  I'm thinking of reading up on the soil...I have raised boxes though so the soil is my mix I created.  I'm a little annoyed at having to buy greens but since I double planted green beans, I guess that makes up for it!  Squash, zukes, pumpkins and cabbage are doing well, peas did ok.
Cats and chickens are doing well enough too.  We 'lost' Peyton cat for about a week, but she showed back up!  Took a few days for her to look her usual self but seems right as rain now.  Raccoons have been getting at the chickens again so we lost a few of the chicks we are raising.  There are 19 chickens right now, 5 of which are roosters.  If you want one, let us know!  Not too many people actually want roosters though...it's sort of a joke.  People come over and we try to get them to take a cute roo home...ah well.  I know they are good for the hens.  I'm fairly certain the molt has begun - still getting eggs and the light is on.  Could be the new ones are affecting the old ones.  Hoping to renovate the coop a little before the snow flies.
Dave has been trucking us around, making all of our summer dreams come true (mostly mine).  This guy has some big house projects pending - we miss natural gas!  He's been researching and getting info on that project but also getting some electrical work done on the house.  I can't tell you how selfless it is that this guy spends his summer trucking us around, checking off the honey do list and spending extra quality time w/each of us.
Moses is getting ready for middle school...middle school!!  Oy vey, I need to practice saying it.  He's starting band lessons (saxophone) next Monday and I am so excited!!  When I started band in 9th grade, it was when I realized there were 'others' like me (ESFPs).  I suddenly had an even bigger family of people who didn't look at me weird when I was ME.  Ok, I lied, some of them looked at me weird but then they laughed and joined me in whatever shenanigans I was a part of!  I've been praying over my boy that this would be the year he is able to...not sure of the word...the year he is able to feel at peace and at home.  Middle school is such a crazy time for some people, but it can also be when they find their 'fit'.  He moved up a level in gymnastics this season and if he's anything like his cousin who is one year older, I think this will be a growth spurt year!
Colleen is impressing me w/her social/emotional growth.  This girl is becoming more outgoing and relishing her big sister role (despite being the same size or smaller than her younger brothers!).  We're getting a few health concerns taken care of this summer.  Nothing major but stuff we've needed to work on.  She has been singing a lot lately and I'm hopeful that her genetics being different than mine, she'll have a shot at being in a choir some day!  We discovered painting rocks this summer and that's right up her alley.  She's a crafty kid!  She's been getting so much stronger w/her PT this summer and I can't wait to see what she can do in the school year.
Bert and Ernie are getting tall!!  Bert still amazes us w/his wit and physical capabilities.  He studies movement in others and learns quickly.  He will be joining the gymnastics team this year!  Can't wait to cheer on both of my boys and I'm furiously working on a way for me to be in many places/events at one time.  Ernie, my dear Ernie...hit a few bumps in the road at the end of the school year and insurance caused a few more, but - in true Ernie fashion he just keeps his head up and charges through life anyway.  People keep asking where we are on the road to adoption....we've had court, a few times that were like false starts.  We may be one step closer in mid September - if we talk in person you may already know what that's about, but if you are out of the loop, feel free to ask.  Projected adoption date is easily a year or more down the road though.  We're in it for the long haul!  We don't need a piece of paper to be a family - there was a really special moment last week that reminded me.  After all the fuss of court, the kids spending days w/other people and my momma heart just hurting, we rolled out from the tube pizza crust and made our own pizzas.  The family chatter and camaraderie brought tears to my eyes.  It was so dumb, just 4 ingredient pizzas, totally basic and bland, but they loved every minute of it!  "This is the best dinner ever!"  They were all obviously unaware of my poor attitude about it and the day, and the kids all seemed so happy to sit together, talking, laughing, telling silly stories and singing.   I just let it wash over me, smiling through the tears.  We are so very blessed w/people who help us, support us and pray for us.  They say kind words and encourage me when I feel like the most insufficient of moms.  The trials (both literal and figurative) might knock the wind out of me some days but I survive on the moments like that pizza dinner!
Alright - that's 'all the news that's fit to print' for now.  Let me know if you want to hear more about anything that we're up to and I'll write about it soon!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Foster care 101

You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can't make her stop teaching!

(...I have edited this post and agonized over it so many times...I have prayed over it and shortened it and added to it and thought of deleting it...I have wanted to write something like it for so long though, so I finally decided to publish it!  As it is!  I won't re-write it again!  I just wanted to make sure you know that I don't pretend to be perfect or know all the answers...but since I/we have some experience in foster care, I thought it might be useful to share some of it.)

A while ago, I posted in my various social media accounts that I was taking questions about foster care and adoption.  Any kinds of questions!  So many people come up to us and say that they've thought about doing it, but...OR they say they want to talk to us about it and they're curious but for whatever reason it doesn't happen.  Sometimes it's hard to find time in our schedules or people are intimidated or maybe they are afraid to ask questions...?  Don't worry, it takes a lot to offend me!!  One thing I have learned from talking to people about foster care (and from my own personal background), is that there are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation floating around out there.  I thought I would take this opportunity to write up a primer, of sorts, for foster care and adoption, for those of you who are too chicken to talk to me!  KIDDING!!  In all seriousness, though, please let me know if you have more questions or if I missed something.  Now there's a couple of things we should get out of the way before I address some of the comments/questions I received...

The first thing I need to point out here is that I am not an expert.  I am doing my best to provide info but also to share some real life experiences.  I am a current foster mom, an adoptive mom, and a REAL MOM.  But I do have to give this disclaimer - our experiences are just that - OUR experiences.  You might know someone who had a different experience.  That's ok.  You might know someone who lives in a different state, where the rules are different.  That's ok.  You might find your experiences to be different that ours.  That's ok.  We have so far only done foster care through the public system, in our county and through the state.  We have so far only adopted through our state's public system (WI).  I may not have info on private agencies, but I would be THRILLED if you asked and I could help you!  Please know that most of the data, facts, info etc I have included in this post is based off the the WI public system of foster care.  Alright, now that we've got that straight...let's get to it!

Next - some practical info.  If you are interested in foster care, you probably wonder where to start.  A really great resource can be found here - the WI Department of Children and Family Services website.  If you are looking for specific county by county info, you can find each county's foster care coordinator's contact info here.  Keep in mind that Milwaukee County is separate/different from all the others.  You can find more info about Milw Co. by visiting this site - BE A KID HERO!  There are various private agencies and I apologize that I don't know much about them.  (I've seen ads in the newspaper, so I know they are out there.)  If you or someone you know is interested in foster care but do not live in WI, I can still help you find that info - just let me know.  (Side note, I am not focusing much on adoption in this post, so I'll save those links for another time, but please know that I have tons of both private and public adoption contacts if you are interested!)  Most people start their foster care journey by either making a phone call to the foster care coordinator or they see a poster about an informational meeting and decide to attend.  Once you've made your intentions known to the Dept. of Family Services (or whatever your local agency is called), you will receive a fat packet of paperwork to fill out!  Don't be scared...there's background checks, a list of the regulations, medical forms, etc.  Nothing too serious.  After you turn your packet in, you will be contacted to set up an interview, where they will ask you questions about why you want to do foster care or about your childhood.  I remember being really nervous, but honestly, it's no big deal!  There is also a home study, where a worker will walk through your house and check that things are legal.  (Medications are locked up, there's a railing on the stairs, etc...)  We fretted so much that our house was clean and super safe but padded bumpers on coffee tables are not necessary!!  If something is found to be out of order, you are given a chance to fix it =)  After a bit of back and forth, if everything is set, you will receive your license and your home will be considered 'open'!  Then the fun begins!  You will receive calls about kids and after hearing some details, you can say yes or no to the placement of the child/ren in your home.  Most likely the kids will arrive with a file, which you will stay up reading the first night.  Chances are you'll need to make a run to the big box store to get some things or pull a few things out of storage.  Some people ask friends if they can borrow some things until they can get what they need too.  There's so much I could say about this stage, but there are lots of other things to talk about too, so let's move on.

Often people ask how we came to the decision to do foster care...so I should probably start there.  When I was small, I loved kids!  I couldn't wait to grow up and babysit!!  Sometime in the middle of grade school, I read the book Cheaper by the Dozen.  In no time at all, I made it a life goal to have 12 kids, no 13!  Depending on when you asked me, it was either 12 or 13.  Fast forward to college, when I met a guy who didn't flinch when I told him my life goal of having a large family.  We married and bam - infertility.  I'll spare the details...we had a biological child but UGH.  It was hard.  My pregnancy was difficult, it took so much to get pregnant, and I was sick of being a science experiment.  So many nights crying, yelling at God, asking why He would give me this HUGE desire for a HUGE family but then basically a point 1 percent chance of getting pregnant...!!!  Yep, I was exhausted, probably suffering from post-partum and just generally over dramatic.  My husband had brought up foster care/adoption before we had a bio kid and when he asked again - I freaked out a little.  OVER MY DEAD BODY would I ever give a kid back...once they're mine, they're mine and I would NEVER EVER EVER do that!  (Side note - I have a lot to say about spouses not being in agreement on this topic, but that feels like a whole 'nother post.  I think that both halves of the couple should independently talk to people who are already foster parents separately.  I think they should both do their own 'research'...maybe attend a training or Q&A session...this is just my opinion.  A lot depends on why one person is not on the same page as the other.  Feel free to contact me to talk if you want more suggestions or ideas!  Maybe I'll write a future post...)  So anyway - adoption crossed my mind but that seemed really hard too - I mean, some people go broke trying to do that!  I just couldn't see it.  It was nuts that he even brought it up.  BUT - he made me promise that we'd look into it.  Then....I'm not really sure what happened.  One night I was crying again....and it hit me.  The whole point of foster care wasn't to build/grow MY family - it was to care for a child for a while, so that another family could be built up and restored!  I almost fell out of bed, it was like God hit me w/a 2x4!!  If you knew you could make your community a better place by helping families grow and flourish, wouldn't you try to help?  I love going places and seeing families at the park, at festivals, or other events around town!  Some families need extra time and help to better themselves, and we could be a part of that process.  We didn't jump in right away...but we continued to collect information...we went to an informational meeting on adoption, hosted by a private agency and all I could think of was the ever changing rules, regulations and financial component.  Then we went to an informational meeting for foster care and adoption through the state and I'm not going to lie, the comparison was DRASTIC.  There are so many kids waiting in 'the system', it really tugged at my heart strings....so I was back to the thought of filling my house w/foster kids.  =)  Long story short (or medium?), we fostered a handful of kids before being approached about adopting a child through the state.  Our first adoption was relatively quick, considering everything we have learned since then, and we went back to fostering for a while.  At the moment we are in the process of adopting siblings through the state again, but we are most likely not going back to fostering.  So that's a bit of our back story (I obviously shortened it!) and it should bring you up to speed as to where we are in the process now.

Frequently we hear, "Oh I could never do that (foster care)....!"  To be honest, that WAS me.  The thought of saying goodbye to kids was SCARY and grief is a huge part of foster care, for both the foster parents and the kids in care.  Think of this though - they are taken from the only family/house they know (often by a police officer and series of strangers/social workers) and brought to a new home, filled with strangers.  They truly grieve this and often have no idea how to process these changes.  I tell you this not to scare you away, but to be honest.  My grief of saying goodbye when it's all over, said and done, is nothing compared to what I presume they are feeling when they first come to my home.  I am an adult, I can process my grief, I have an established support system and skills to deal with it.  If I feel it is too overwhelming, I know where to go to get help.  (Side note - call me if you don't.  I know people =)  I can hook you up w/some amazing resources!)  Anyway - yes, saying goodbye is hard. We have had placements come for a weekend, and others that were in our home for two years!!  We made awesome memories, made photo albums for them...we loved and cherished our time together!!  We were sad when they went home but absolutely thrilled that a family was put back together and doing well!!!  That's the real joy of foster care, the hope that can blanket over your grief!!  You get to share the joys of raising a kid!!  One thing I'd like to point out is the fact that Moses was already born when we started.  Which means, he, too, was going through all of this.  He bonded w/our first placement, a boy about 2 years younger than him - we bought matching shirts!  They were so adorable!!!  We told him that we would be A's family for a while and that we would treat him as our son, brother and friend.  We explained that at the end of A's time w/us, we would say goodbye but that he would always be considered family in our hearts.  We talked about families helping families and that to us, that's what makes a strong community.  Honestly, Moses didn't think twice about it.  Obviously there were sibling 'spats' and the usual amount of sibling jealousy, but I don't think Moses ever thought that we were anything but a 'normal' family.  Now Moses is almost 12 and loving 'extra' people comes quite naturally to him.  In my opinion, we don't give our kids enough credit.  First of all, they have no reason NOT to love someone.  They don't ever seem to notice physical differences or care about a person's housing situation or how many items of clothing they have, etc.  They follow our lead, they love easily and are far more generous and gracious than we tend to be.  Yes, we all shed tears when we said goodbyes, yes we all spent time remembering and processing together.  My job as his parent, is to help him do that.  I'm not saying every kid can find it as easy as he does, but you know your kids.  You are the best person for them to take their cues from and you can give them the tools they need to handle the changing shape and size of a foster home.  (Again, I'm not an expert or psychologist, these are my opinions, but I think other foster parents would tell you the same.)

(Remember - if you want to chat more about any topic, if you want to talk further about something I have moved on from, please comment, email, call or ask me in person.  I'm trying to keep this from being the world's longest blog post!!)

Another comment we hear from people is that they are 'too old' to do foster care.  Have you ever had a car that was so old or junky, but you still drove it b/c it was better than no car at all?  (Oh dear, did I just compare more experienced humans who have been on this earth longer than me to a junky car?  That is NOT how I feel about you, but I need this analogy to work, so bear w/me!)  For a child, having no parent is worse than having a loving parent who might not be able to run fast or sit on the floor or do 'new math'.  It really doesn't matter if you can do those things - can you love someone?  Can you give them guidance, feed them, provide them a place to sleep, play games w/them, hug them, laugh w/them, hold their hand when they go to the doctor, tell them stories about how the world works, protect them, pray for them, pick them up from school, cheer them on at their activities, etc?  There are so many things you can do AT ANY AGE that would be beneficial for a child.  I know people who were in their 50s or 60s who have adopted young children just beginning school.  Having a strong community/village around you is a tremendous help!  But it's still possible!!  Now I completely understand if that's just not your thing...but maybe you could be a respite provider?  Respite is the word for short term care.  For instance, when we would go on vacations, there were times the kids were not allowed to come w/us.  In those cases, we set up respite care for the kids.  They spent the weekend w/a family who was fully certified in foster care and were willing to love on 'our' kids for a short time.  There are a lot of people of all ages that do this - they love the short term nature!  They are able to help kids and foster families, supporting them and filling a real need.  Many people enjoy this b/c they don't need all kinds of baby stuff in storage (most foster families send along everything the child would need) or supplies for every age.  They just open their home for a short time (from a few hours to a week, for example) and then go back to their daily lives.  This is a valuable resource for foster families!!!  There is a HUGE NEED for respite providers around here...

...which is a nice segue into another topic.  Lots of people don't feel led to foster or adopt.  There are still many ways you can be supportive or be actively involved!  Besides respite, you could do things like donate suitcases or duffel bags to your local department of child protective services.  Many times when a child is removed from the home, their clothes or personal items (if there are any) are shoved into a trash bag.  Every child, w/the exception of 1, who has entered my home, came this way.  There are great organizations like Sweet Cases (I'm sure there are others!) who give you duffel bags to decorate and then get them in the hands of kids going into care.  I've seen lots of lists of what you could do for families, ranging from things like pray for them to pay for their family vacation!  That doesn't seem too practical for most people, but here are a few ideas that might be right up your alley...
- Ask to redecorate the 'visit room' - where birth parents and their children have supervised visits in the local department of health and human services (or whatever they call it where you are from).  Many times these rooms have a tired old couch/furniture and some outdated toys in them.  Kids go there once or more a week and see the same toys...I know a few of mine frequently complained that they didn't have anything new to do!  Like all kids, they wanted something fresh!  You could stock the room w/new crayons and coloring books, a few new or gently used toys, books or games or even ask if they would be open to craft projects the kids could do w/their parents!
- Bring the families a meal.  Lots of people bring new moms and dads a meal when they have a baby, but not many people think of it for foster parents.  When we get new kids, it's a little chaotic!  A meal would be nice - those having a baby had 9 months to prepare, sometimes all we get is 30 minutes and we are adding a new person (or even more than one person!) to our family.
- Buy them a case of toilet paper (or any common household supplies).  Ok, that sounds weird now that I typed it out, but seriously!  When you add new people to your family, you suddenly start using more toilet paper (or baby wipes).  This is something that sometimes gets left off the list when we make a late night run to the store...And well, we all use it!  It's a gift you don't have to worry about someone returning!
- Get certified to be a babysitter or respite care provider.  Different states/agencies have differing regulations, so check w/the foster parents.
- Ask to 'sponsor' a foster child's participation in an activity - maybe you could supply the child w/soccer shoes and shin guards, or pay an entrance fee to a camp or summer program.
- Offer to go along clothes shopping!  Many times it's overwhelming to take a child whom you have just received into care to the store since you don't know their sizes.  It involves a lot of trying things on and sometimes the kids get bored.  You could help organize the clothes and keep a parent company.
- Offer your photography services.  Only once did we pay for pictures to be taken w/kids in our care.  It's expensive and if kids are coming and going, it's hard to justify the cost.  I wish we had done it w/all of them!!  It didn't need to be professional, but having the advice or services of someone w/photography skills greater than mine (which is not much at all) would have been helpful.
- Use your hobby or interest (besides photography) to help a foster child. For example, if you're mechanically inclined, you might find good, used bicycles and repair and donate them to a foster care agency or a foster family you know.  If you are good at mending clothes, you could help patch the knees of pants (I could really use you right now!!).
- Throw special occasion parties for foster and adoptive children in your area. Help celebrate birthdays or adoption days!
- Truly, just checking in and listening is helpful.  Many times foster families feel isolated and like they don't 'fit in'.  They don't get as much time to practice 'self care' and something as simple as chatting for a few minutes can make them feel welcomed and relaxed.
That's about all I've got off the top of my head...but this list of 101 things is quite extensive.  The needs of a foster family change from time to time, so the best advice I could give is to ask a foster family if they need anything.  They might be to shy or humble to tell you anything, but at least you tried!

Alright, I think this is the world record for longest post...I had better stop here!!!  If you are curious about the length of placements we have had, you can check the 'Our Family' tab for a list of children (aliases used) who have been placed in our home and the dates when they were with us.  As I said before, our experiences may be different than that of others' you know, but it's a good way to quickly show what has happened on our foster care journey.  Thanks for reading all of this!  Thank you to those who have waited patiently - I had at least 3 people tell me they I needed to hurry and finish writing it already!!

One final note - we have found a great network or community of foster care families and we have benefitted greatly from the friendships formed.  We'd like to think that we have contributed in some small way to the growth of that community in our area.  In writing this post, I only hope to encourage and support others who are interested in both joining and building this community further.  If that person is you, dear reader, I would be overjoyed!!  I said it before, but it bears repeating - if we can help in any way along your journey, please ask!  But for now - class dismissed!!