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Technology doesn’t ruin our relationships…. we do.

It’s 5AM when my alarm goes off for work every morning. I open my eyes, and my mind automatically starts racing. Things I need to get done at work that day, project deadlines, and all of the things I’ve got to get finished up around the house once I get off work that evening all loom. Why is there always so much stuff on my to do list and never enough time to get it all done?

I grab my phone while I’m waiting for the shower to heat up and scroll through my notifications, half awake. Knowing she’s not up, I could send her a text message, “Good morning, beautiful. I hope you’re sleeping well and I wish I were still sleeping next to you.” This text serves as two reminders: I want her to know she’s the first thing on my mind. And more importantly, I need her to realize that, regardless of how stressful or busy my days are, she’s still priority. But this isn’t normally reality, is it? I won’t say, “I never do this” but I will be vulnerable and admit I don’t do this nearly enough as I should. Instead I’ll log into Instagram or Facebook, nosing into everyone else’s life, and maybe, just maybe I’ll send that text to her on the way to work.

I’m sure you’ve heard these thoughts. “Our generation is the worst. Millennials don’t know how to be loyal. Social media is killing love.” You’ve heard it all and probably felt it, too. We’ve all been there – laying on the couch with your partner, both mindlessly scrolling quickly through Instagram or Facebook. That’s just become the norm.

Relationships these days lack direction. People “date,” but what the heck does that even mean anymore? Hanging out a couple nights a week? Texting all day? It’s safe to say something is missing, but what is causing relationships to falter at the rate they are? Did the previous generation have to deal with DMs and hundreds of other people ‘liking’ their partners selfies? Nope. But guess what? It’s not technology’s fault. It’s our fault for using this as an excuse and accepting the behavior.

If you meet someone and go out on a date and they never text you – that’s their problem, not the phone’s problem. If they only want to snapchat or text to get to know you, that’s your dates choice. In case you are wondering, PHONES DO STILL HAVE THE ABILITY TO PLACE CALLS. If they don’t take you on a real date – that’s not a technology issue either. Real dates still exist, you just decided not to go on one. (Yes, I’m also guilty of this – in fact we all are, my partner and I just had this conversation yesterday.)

Relationships thrive on communication. Our most intimate emotions are reserved for the person we love, so how is it acceptable to never show this to them?

We’ve accepted so many unacceptable things: sitting at the dinner table with our phones in front of our faces, arguing over text messages in the middle of a busy work day where you’re only half committed to your work and the conversation you’re having with your partner, publishing every live second of our lives on social media.

The same principles apply that always have. It was never socially acceptable to be with someone and cheat on them with another person. Maybe 30 years ago it was leaving a note with your home phone number or sending a love letter in a mail – regardless it was still inappropriate. You may not be “cheating on your partner” but I would definitely say you’re cheating yourself and your partner out of a valuable relationship. We experience lack of communication, attention, passion, intimacy, and even lack of love. So why are we okay with this and all of the communication shortcuts that have become so common?

Blaming social media for our relationship problems is no different than blaming the car for a drunk driver – it’s all about how we chose to use it. Instead of blaming technology and social media, raise your standards! Call your significant other during the day even though you could just text them to tell them whatever you need to say, GO ON DATES, spend uninterrupted time with your partner, and put down your phones – this doesn’t mean you can’t look at your phone, but there’s a time and place and date night isn’t it.

So set new standards – there are plenty of people out there who want the same things you do, you just have to be patient and hold onto the new standards you’ve set – it’s a learning process for everyone, including me and you. Make an effort. Old-fashioned love needs to make another round. Take a minute and tell her she’s beautiful. Call her on your way home from work and say, “get dressed, I’m on my way home and we’ve got plans” for a date night rather than just the common conversation of, “what do you want for dinner? I don’t know, what would you like?” The days of holding hands, opening the car door, taking her out “just because,” sending her flowers just to make her smile, and leaving her notes should never be gone.

We have to be children when it comes to love. We have to be vulnerable and free. That can’t happen when we’re preoccupied with the details of everyone else’s lives. Focus on each other – when it’s all said and done, that’s all you really have. Appreciate her, and show her how much she means to you. Bust most importantly, put your phone down and dial into what’s right in front of you.

Project 333: SIMPLE is the NEW BLACK

Inspired by a blog I recently discovered called: BE MORE WITH LESS

A few years ago, I used to dream about one day having a big, spacious walk in closet to hold more stuff. Today, I crave to one day be able to easily store my clothing and accessories without even needing an actual closet (and I am so much happier) so here is a challenge I have taken for myself and would (of course) like to challenge you guys to also!

This is for those of you new to minimalistic-ness (like myself.) You may have just heard about it, or perhaps you have been quietly watching others live with less for the past three years and you are ready to jump in – let’s do this together!

Beginning December 1st I will be participating in Project 333! The idea behind this is super simple: for the next 3 months you are only to have 33 articles of clothing in your closet. This is ALL CLOTHING, ACCESSORIES, SHOES, ETC. – which is where it gets tricky for me because as a lot of you know I have tons and tons of shoes and about 1,569 scarves. Exceptions include things like underwear, bras, sleep-wear, ‘around the house lounge’ clothes, gym clothes, etc. But let me just say real quick – if you’re gym clothes see the grocery store more than the gym, they count towards your 33.

*Side note: although I will be donating, throwing away some of my clothes – there’s exceptions to out of season clothes. My tank tops and shorts will go in a tote and go into the attic during the next 3 months. Then I will be doing this AGAIN in the spring for my spring clothes and then again in the fall for my fall clothes and so on and so forth.  

Originally I decided I was going to try this for a few different reasons…

  • I NEED an extra push for me to truly commit to this minimalist lifestyle that I’ve been craving to have for so long.
  • I need boundaries in order to help myself follow these guidelines for my minimalist changes.
  • The challenge sounds both reasonable and challenging – and I love a good challenge.

Now it has become an experiment that I value and will continue to recommend to others.

First step, put it on your calendar. Depending on the state of your closet, you may need 2-5 hours or more. Clear the day, hire a sitter, unplug and make it important. (I’ve chosen Thursday because I will officially begin my 33 days on Friday, December 1st.)

Next step, take inventory. Empty your closet, yes the entire thing. Don’t worry about sorting yet, just throw everything onto the bed. (If you put everything on your bed, you’ll be motivated to complete the project before bedtime.) If you have clothes in drawers, storage containers, or other areas of your home get those, too. While you are at it add your shoes, accessories, and jewelry. All the things.

Take a break. This is a great time to take a walk. Get away from your closet, clothes, guilt, frustration, or any other emotions that are coming up. Walk and breathe. Let it go. Take a walk, eat a snack, walk away from the chaos for a few minutes.

Next step, turn up the music. Move the clothes on your bed to piles on the floor with a ruthless first pass sort. Don’t give it too much thought, just go with your first reaction. Sort items into the following piles…

Love: I love these items. They fit me well and I wear them frequently.

Maybe: I want to keep this but I don’t know why (you know you have those items!)

Donate: These items don’t fit my body or my life.

Trash: These items are in poor condition (repurpose if possible!)

 

  • Keep going until your bed is clear and you have 4 piles on the floor.
  • Box or bag up your items to donate and bring them to your car or garage. Get them out of sight immediately.
  • Take out the “trash items.”

Take a second pass at your remaining two piles. Try on the clothing you aren’t sure about and ask the following questions: “Would I go to the store and buy this today? Will I wear this in the next 3-6 months (or ever?)

Box up all of the remaining items from the “maybe pile” and put the box in the back of your closet for 30 days. If you didn’t miss the box after 30 days, DO NOT OPEN IT, donate it.

Sans titre 3

There’s the challenge – I will be doing mine on Thursday so expect an update from me at some point over the weekend with pictures for accountability! I’m excited to share, I’m excited to see yours!

2018 Book Bucket List: For The Eager & Hopeful Foster Momma

Yes, this is a LITTLE EARLY… only like a month, so who cares? Haven’t you guys learned by now that I don’t do things on a reasonable time schedule?! I’m always early or late – never on time! So let’s get ahead of this one and be early, shall we?!

There are plenty of research-driven, practical and informative books written for foster and adoptive parents. They’re great books, but they’re not really ‘book bucket list material.’ These memoirs (and even a few thrown in self-help books) are “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry,” break-and-warm-your-heart type books that any foster/adoptive mom would love (and ‘normal moms,’ too!)

Beyond Consequences, Logic, & Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Attachment-Challenged Children With Severe Behaviors

Beyond Consequences, Logic, & Control: Volume 2

The Adoptive Parent Toolbox

The End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care

Garbage Bag Suitcase

Born Broken

Shattered: Memoirs of an Amnesiac

Blessed Chaos: A Journey Through Instant Motherhood

Another Place at the Table

Three Little Words: A Memoir

Terrified (Angela Hart’s Books are AMAZING! This is the first book in one of her series!)

Living Between Danger and Love: The Limits of Choice

Welcome to the Roller Coaster

The Garbage Bag Kids

Cruel to Be Kind: Saying NO Can Save a Child’s Life (Seriously anything by Cathy Glass)

Self-Care for Foster and Adoptive Families

No Matter What: An Adoptive Family’s Story of Home, Love, & Healing

Groomed: Danger lies closer than you think (Seriously anything by Casey Watson, too)

The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family

A Different Beautiful: Discovering and Celebrating Beauty in Places You Never Expected

The Mystery of Risk: Drugs, Alcohol, Pregnancy, and the Vulnerable Child

There you have it, my friends… our 2018 reading list is complete! You’re welcome. Seriously though, I promise you will not be disappointed by any of the titles I listed above – I’m super eager to read all of these. 98% of them were recommended by fellow foster mommas! I’ve chosen them for this list because they speak directly into our journey from an authentic and been-there-done-that point of view. That’s precisely the kind of resources I need to help me through this often-lonely and isolating journey!

I’ll give some updates as I finish these and hey, if you guys want to pick one a month or so we can read them together and I’ll reflect with you guys via facebook or even here! (Anyone interested in starting like a book reading group where we share thoughts on what we’ve read from the books each month? JUST A THOUGHT!)

The Most Requested: Becoming Fosterees

After receiving yet another request for an “overlook of the process” I have put this together for you guys! As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have either about fostering or about the agency we go through!

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INTEREST MEETING (Early July)

We attended an initial interest meeting led by the TREK training recruiter (TREK is the private agency we chose to go through out of Cartersville, GA. You can visit their website HERE.) at our home. Besides hearing basic information about foster care, how the training process works, what TREK does during the process, etc. She also did a walk through of our home, talked about things that stuck out to her in our home that needed to be done in order for the state to approve us (in our case we needed to build a fence because we live on a main highway, cover a few exposed wires from some home-improvement projects that weren’t quite done, put a lock on a cabinet for the medications and such.) This is an opportunity for you to talk to a real-life social worker, ask questions and get information before beginning IMPACT training and your stack of paperwork. For us, this was a good thing to be able to do because it was one-on-one with her so we were able to listen during the meeting and get questions answered that apply directly to us.

IMPACT (July – August)

Every Tuesday night for 5 weeks we attended IMPACT training. During this class we had a class of 4 couples (including us.) We spent a lot of time discussing how different things affect children, both trauma and good experiences, how you take those things and are able to shape a future for the child. We also spent time going around the room discussing our own stores, the “why” and “who.” Why being the “reason you’re there” and the “who” being “what age group you’re looking for” and “how many your home is open to.” In an effort to have realistic expectations, we also spent time reiterating the sacrifice and risk involved and shared a lot of “worst case scenarios.” Yes, there were some really awful, heart breaking stories but coming out of IMPACT, do you want to know what our mindset has been? “We understand the risks and are prepared for the worst, because we’ve also seen the opposite happen.”

PAPERWORK & WAITING (September – October)

During IMPACT training we were handed a binder with approximately 100 forms and tasks we needed to complete prior to our home inspection, including:

  • Background Checks: FBI, state, child abuse…. and some other ones with a whole bunch of agencies that needed to make sure we weren’t escaped criminals or predators on the run from the law. It seems invasive, I know but keep in mind that you are being vetted to take care of children (not to mention that have already been through trying situations.) If you (or anyone in your home over the ago of 18) has a criminal record, this will more than likely disqualify you. If you’ve ever hurt a child (or anyone else for that matter) you can go ahead and take your application and place it in the trash.
  • Medical Forms: If you’re anything like me (or Kate,) this is the part where you realize that you haven’t been to the doctor in nearly 5 years and quickly make an appointment so that the doctor can say she has, in fact, met you before, give you your TB test, drug screening, and RPR screening, and fill out said paperwork. This was also a push to make us get a primary doctor. 
  • Reference Forms: You’ll need to provide names, addresses, and phone numbers for quite a few references, like your boss, a family member, and a family friend or a neighbor. This is probably about the time you should mention to your friends/family that you’re doing this (NO, you should already be talking to them – they’re support is absolutely everything.)
  • Questionnaire: This is about the type of children you’re open to bringing into your home. (YES, you have a say so in your preferences.) This is pretty extensive and could potentially be overwhelming. It goes way further than gender, age, and race… it goes into great detail about mental disabilities, health concerns, etc. This is one of the big things where Kate and I had to sit down together and go through the list and talk through each set of circumstances. Age was easy, gender and race we didn’t have a preference. But there were certain things we had to talk through with mental health and physical disabilities – what we as a family had the ability to care for and what we had the time to be able to commit to. I wish we were the people that could just say, “oh yeah, give us anything – any age, any issue” but it’s not that simple, especially with us both working full time jobs outside of the home. When you get a placement call about a child, you have very limited time to make a decision – so having already had the hard conversations before the call both with your partnere and the agency will help the decision process go more smoothly.  On the other hand, this list will not always be referenced by everyone – you’ll still get the calls the agency has come across their desk, simply because everyone is a case by case basis and although you have the right to say no to any child, they will still ask you just to make sure your notes haven’t changed. When filling out these forms, you’re neither committing yourself to anything nor closing the door on anything – it just forces you, your spouse, and the caseworker to have this conversation and explore what you think you’d like to have vs what you’re willing to take.
  • Discipline Agreement: You cannot spank your foster child. Period.
  • Financial Statement: You’ll fill out all of your monthly expenses and income. Basically, the state wants to see the one number doesn’t exceed the other, so that you A) can pay your mortgage and B) aren’t in it for the money. Get ready to pull out some utility bills and check stubs to confirm your numbers. If you asked me the amount of our electric bill each month…. yeah, I have no clue. Maybe it’s $20, maybe it’s $200? Kate did this part of our paperwork.
  • Alternate Caregiver Forms: Who do you plan on leaving your foster children with when you go out for date night or while you’re working? Different states handle this differently but the state of Georgia’s rule basically states, “you can let anyone you would trust your own bio children with babysit your foster kids.” Grandparents want to keep them for the weekend? SURE, GO FOR IT! They just need to fill out this form and be able to pass a background check if it’s going to be an ongoing occurrence. 
  • Copies of Documents: You’ll need to get copies of your driver’s license, birth certificate, marriage license, home and auto insurance, etc. 
  • Background Questionnaire: This covers every intimate detail of your life past, present, and future – seriously. What was your childhood like? Did you have a good relationship with your parents? How were your disciplined? How many people did you date in college? What’s your relationship with your siblings like? How’s your sex life? How willing are your friends and family to help you with your foster children? What are your career aspirations? How many children do you want? Why don’t you have your own children? How do the children you do have feel about you adding foster children to your home? Time to flush your modesty, there’s no secrets – you’re about to lay out your life on paper.

Maybe you’re an open book who willingly enjoys talking about anything/everything in your life or maybe you’re a private person (like myself) who doesn’t typically choose to open up about any of the above topics – not to complete strangers anyways. Either way, this process can be uncomfortable.

Final Home Inspection (November)

TIP: Ask your case worker for a list of everything the DFCS workers will check for when they come to your home during “drop in visits.” The TREK caseworker gave us a checklist, and we went through the list until each thing was checked off and then wrote out next to it in our checklist where each item was stored within our home and stuck it in our binder (more on this specific binder in a few weeks – it’s a life saver!) so there would be no questions. This goes for things like first-aid-kit-examining, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire escape plans, emergency contact information, etc. 

Waiting….. and waiting…. and more waiting…. (November – December)

As much as any future foster parent may wish this part of the process away to just get on with the actual foster parenting, it’s the perfect introductory course into foster care. Maybe the discomfort prepares you for the trails of traumatized children and difficult social workers. Maybe the delays build the patience needed to await placements and court dates. Maybe the surrender of control prepares you for the challenges of parental visits and unanticipated changes – both last minute planned and cancelled. And maybe the sacrifice is meant to remind us of why we got into this journey called “foster care” to begin with.  

Tip: If you leave pestering, condescending messages for your social worker every day, the chances of this 5-7 month process becoming exactly 7 months to the day are 100%. If you leave the progress of your home study solely in the hands of your (well-intentioned, over-worked) social worker, the chances of this 5-7 month process becoming exactly 7 months to the day are 100%. We found a happy medium – be helpful, do what you need to do, and keep the social worker informed of the steps you’re taking in that direction without being overwhelming… IT IS DIFFICULT, YOU ARE EXCITED, BUT BE PATIENT.

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Extra, but very important side note: When you choose to get involved in foster care, well-intentioned workers, friends, and family will share horror stories with you. You must be prepared for the “worst,” but hopeful and prayerful for the “best.” There is, absolutely, sacrifice involved in foster care and, absolutely, risk involved in foster care. If you’re interested in an easy process of caring for or adopting a perfect little child, you may want to reconsider foster care (also, you may want to reconsider parenting, because spoiler alert: it’s all hard.) For every nightmare story you’ve heard, there is a miracle story to match it. I’ve watched children go into a home who, despite all they’ve been through, are sweet and easy and a joy to care for. I watched one of my best friend’s get the call for a baby who was “fast-tracked” to adoption not even 6 months after getting her license. These little stories don’t even address the little heart-miracles for those who experience those “worst” cases. Just be realistic about the risks while also remembering the miracles.

The trouble is that you think you have time.

It’s selfish of me to want you back, because the last moments of your life were painful ones. You weren’t yourself. You weren’t happy. You were frustrated. You were confused. You were suffering. But that doesn’t change the fact that I miss you. I wish you were still around to have conversations with on early mornings and late afternoons. I wish you were still around to hug and kiss and exchange I love yous.

Of course, when I say that I want you back, I don’t mean I want back the last version I saw of you. I want the version of you from my childhood. When your strength was up, when your spirit was intact, when your legs were sturdy enough to dance across the room during holiday parties. When your arms were strong enough to squeeze me tight the second you saw me walk into a room. When your lungs were healthy enough to yell our names down the hall and tell us it was time to eat.

I want the version of you who would break into a smile whenever you saw me. Who would remind me that it was okay to come by anytime or call anytime. Who would make me feel like I had the best family in the world.

I try not to think of you during your last days, because I know that wasn’t the real you. That wasn’t the version that you would want me to remember. You wouldn’t want me to think of you as a tiny body in a hospital bed or as a corpse in the center of the room or as a box being lowered into the ground.

You would want me to remember you as the person you were during your younger days. During the days when you sat over a pot of Brunswick stew on your birthday or hovered around the homemade ice cream maker on Fathers Day because those were truly your favorites which also made them mine, too.

And that version — the kind, loving, peppy, happy version — is the only one I see. Every time I close my eyes. Every time I dream of you. Every time I tell a story about you. Every time I think about you.

I understand that if you were still alive, you would still be in pain. I understand that your death was probably for the best in a twisted way, because now you’re finally at peace.

But that is never going to stop me from missing you. That is never going to stop me from wishing that you — the real you — could come back to us.

Embracing The Wait

A couple of months of thinking about it myself, a couple of months of talking with my partner and then talking again… and again to establish where we stood in our lives both together and as individuals to figure out the best path of choice for us, a couple of months to decide on and get our feet in the door with the private agency we were going through, and six painstakingly long months for IMPACT training, the home study and the paperwork for the licensing process to be completed. Now that time is winding down, we are just ready to BE FOSTER PARENTS. “You know what would make this moment even better? If we had little Travis to spend it with, too.” Yeah, this is everyday life and conversation in our household.

Looking back now I realize it was only five months between the first home visit and introductory meeting to the day that our paperwork was finally sent off to the state for licensing, but right now it feels like an eternity. Take the overall lack of phone ringing I had expected, add in a few hiccups with things needing to be done at the house, misplaced paperwork, and also the busyness of our private agency’s office outside of the things we needed from them, and I was in full will-it-ever-happen-distress mode. Every story of a child languishing without a family was like a dagger in my heart. “We’re here. We’re waiting. Give US a child to love!”

Apparently many of you are or have been in my same boat. I follow this awesome “fellow foster parent group” on Facebook and DAILY I see messages from different families who are licensed,waiting and just plain desperate to get started. I feel you. We’re nearly the same person. I GET IT! Over the past few years I’ve learned about the process involved in placing children and how to best navigate it. So may I offer myself as a guide to you and share some tips I’ve learned along the way now that we’ve finally reached the end?

Disclaimer: First, as always, keep in mind that I’m in Georgia and some of this information may be specific to how things are done in my area and may vary from yours. Second, the point of this post is to help people who are passionate about caring for children be connected to children in need. I hope that the tone of this post stays true to that purpose and doesn’t come across as though we’re talking about trading commodities or giving ploys to “get you a kid.” I want great foster families to be connected to great foster kids, plain and simple.

  • Be easy going and respectful. This one would seem to fall under the “common sense” category, but it’s where I’ve seen foster parents get into the most trouble with their caseworkers. Too often foster parents are demanding and difficult and disrespectful, then are surprised when they’re met with the same attitudes. The agency or office you’re dealing with is just like your own workplace. If you have a bad experience with a client, chances are your co-workers are going to hear about it. If you have a great experience with a client, chances are they’re going to hear that, too. You will gain a reputation within your agency/office, and you get to choose what kind of reputation it is. Work to build the reputation of someone who is a delight to work with.
  • Get to know other foster parents. Ask your agency about activities for foster parents, join a support group, find a Facebook support page, exchange numbers with the parents in your training classes. Do whatever it takes to get to know other foster parents in your area. Chances are they will get calls for children that they’re unable to care for and can pass along your information to the worker…plus sometimes it just helps to have someone to bounce ideas off of and trade out stories with! It may be a little uncomfortable to do the whole reach out, (Hey, I’m a foster momma, too! Let’s be friends!) but it’s worth the discomfort – and if we are being honest, foster parents love to connect with other foster parents!
  • Tell every worker who calls you about the age, gender, etc. of children you are able to care for. If you get a call for a baby when you’re only able to take a teenager (or vice versa), don’t hang up without saying, “I’m sorry I can’t take that child, but just so you know, I’m able to take…” Sometimes the worker will have another case sitting on their desk that fits your family perfectly, or sometimes they’ll get one the next day or the next week. Every worker you come in contact with should know which placements you’re able to take vs just you saying ‘no’ and then thinking forward on that your home is full.
  • Call the supervisor of the department in charge of placing children in your office. Introduce yourself and tell them which children will fill in your home and family. The worker you’re dealing with may only be aware of the cases that come across his or her desk, but the supervisor should know about all the children in the entire office. You want to put yourself on their radar for when a child who’s a fit for your family is in need.
  • Take vacation/emergency/respite placements. This is a variation on getting to know more workers and foster parents. For each short term placement you take, it’s another connection made with a worker (or two) and a foster parent. Communicate to everyone you meet that you’re eager to bring a child into your home and the specifics of the children you’re willing and able to care for. I’ve known foster parents who have later become foster/adoptive parents of children they first had as a vacation or emergency placement. I have gained some of the best allies through respite care and met the most wonderful children who I still to this day have an incredible bond with. (Added bonus: if you’re a new foster parent and you’re chomping at the bit to care for a foster child, taking a vacation placement could “hold you over” as you wait. A friend of mine describes respite placements as a “mini mission trip in your home” and she’s SO RIGHT!)
  • If there’s anything unique about the “kind” of child you’re able to take, make sure your worker knows. For example, because my partner and I both work full time jobs, we’re opted in for the school age children as opposed to newborns or toddlers. Our preference states children 4-8 years of age and although we don’t really have a preference of gender, race, or behavioral or health disorders there are some things we simply can’t fully commit to in our home due to working full time jobs and if we have a chance to give that child to a family that CAN care for them in full capacity who has an adult full time in the home or whatever then THAT is what we would like to do.
  • Keep your criteria for the age/gender/race of the children you’re willing to take as broad as possible. If you’re only looking to take a healthy, white four year old girl, you’ll have to wait for that exact child to be in need. If you’re willing to accept boy or girl, a range of ages, siblings, all races, and children with medical/special needs, chances are you won’t wait for long at all. (Of course, this “tip” should never trump the more important foundation, which is to only say “yes” to children you believe you’ll actually be able to care for. You’re not doing anyone any favors by taking a child you’re not sure will work, only to have them moved. Another broken bond, another “failed placement” can be detrimental to a child in foster care.)
  • If you’re an adoptive family, check out www.adoptuskids.org or ask your agency about “matching parties.” There are over 107,000 foster children who are “legally free” and waiting to meet and be adopted by their forever families. You can learn about or even get to know these “waiting children” by looking through your state’s web site or attending a matching event. These methods may give you a bad taste in your mouth and they are typically older kids or even kids with some sort of mental/health disability. It may feel like you’re shopping through a catalog for a child or speed dating orphans, but these methods are simply harnessing the power of compassion. Putting a name and face and story to these children can be the first step to them entering your heart and maybe even your family.

My biggest piece of advise to you is to embrace the wait. You are going to learn to be patient in waiting..or you’re not. Waiting for a placement is the first step of waiting for information and waiting for court dates and waiting for parents and waiting and waiting. The more you work to fight for patience now, the more your heart will be inclined towards patience and trust later. It’s a difficult battle, but it’s a battle you’ll face over and over again. It’s a battle worth fighting for right now.

Great joy, Happy November!

Well it’s officially November, so I guess I can FINALLY say this without someone breaking their neck from whipping their head around at me: Happy Fall (and Happy Holidays!) That’s right, I’m calling it and all of you guys can finally leave me alone in my excitement because as of September 22nd IT IS FALL! CAN I PUT UP MY CHRISTMAS TREE NOW?! You guys all know, it’s not a secret, I suffer from severe PDHE. I’ve had it since I was little–Public Display of Holiday Enthusiasm–and a common side effect is launching into seasonal festivities before they’re actually due. Forget this “Official First Day of Season” crap. The calendar I measure all things in life by is the one that Hobby Lobby sends out to their set-up crew employees for those specialty front aisles erected three months before the holiday they’re promoting. In fact, I got so excited for the Christmas aisles going up the day after Halloween last year, that I was with the set-up employees as they put them up: “Um, ma’am, we’re not quite ready yet. You might want to come back tomorrow when we’re finished.” NO, I WANT TO GET MY TINSEL NOW!

“What’s your name tag say? Mary? Yeah thanks, Mary, but no. Let me help! Pass me that box of tinsel. OH MY GOD, Mary! THESE REINDEER PILLOWS MAKE MY HEART SING! What other colors do you have them in?!” 

The fact is, one day is simply not enough to celebrate my enthusiasm for holidays. Remember, I’m a self-developing minimalist. Just kidding – sort of, I mean I’m still trying! Minimalist genes don’t run in my family so it’s taking SERIOUS EFFORT (and arm-twisting persuasion by my better half,) and PDHE certainly doesn’t jive well with KonMari’s “does it spark joy?”  approach because, in case you haven’t noticed, ALL of the holiday things bring me great joy. Every single last one. My life motto: MORE TINSEL PLEASE!!!! (Marie Kondo can whittle down my collection of holiday knick-knacks when she pries them from my cold, dead hands.)

I find this time of year gets a little tricky though with PDHE. There’s a split crowd, and the ones fighting for the preservation of “the season it still is” (also known as Grinches, Witches, etc.) aren’t always so understanding of premature ejaculation of the holiday spirit. Listen, we can’t help it – it’s a DISEASE, a true mental condition. I once knew a girl (who shall not be named to protect her identity) who posted a photo of a Christmas tree on November 1st with the caption “Yay! It’s that time of year!,” and her social media community paid to have her killed. Okay, I made that up. But I thought I should be transparent here and tell you and that late August, when I post a picture of me on the back porch barefoot with my glass of wine on my Instagram to appease the “Too Early!” crowd, just know that my caption “Still loving summer!” is code for “I’ve already put in 6 hours of research on ways to decorate my front porch with autumn leaves and pumpkins, and there’s a fall wreath already on my front door… and I more than likely already have scarf on AT THIS VERY SECOND.” Okay? Good, glad we’ve got that settled here and now.

Another problem with PDHE is that we’re not really into the subtle decorating thing – by we, I mean I… I AM NOT into subtle decorating. I want our Christmas tree placed in the front window so I (and everyone else) can see it from the road. I want my front door to have a Christmas wreath along with my snowmen on the porch showing how many Christmas adoring people we have in our family! I see your simple white-pumpkin-against-white-walls scene that subtly whispers “faaaaaaallll” (Does it really though?) and I raise you some decorating vomit of a giant “I love fall most of all” sign next to my cornucopia of glittered pumpkins and brand new fall wreath that I just redid and placed on my front door for this very occasion. Why whisper “Fall” when you can scream it? Listen, I don’t do surface relationships well. I want intimacy, and this year will be my 24th year with Fall. “Subtly” isn’t how I want to celebrate; we’re past that. Go ahead, November. You can touch my boobs. (No, Kathryn. I haven’t had a single ounce of tequila.) 

Here’s my excuse, are you ready? Brace yourself, this may come to a shock to some of you… Georgia weather is super disheveled. The only thing we really have to launch us into festive displays of enthusiasm are store aisles and the release of merchandise that leaves no room for questioning the calendar. Seriously, last Christmas the weather was nearly in the 80’s but just the week before it was in the low 40’s so can you REALLY blame me? Who needs the sight of the ground hog’s shadow to mark the beginning of spring when there are 200 packages of pink sugar-coated Peeps that told me so in Target three weeks ago? Our hay rides, our pumpkin patches, our beloved Christmas tree farms? Why, we find them in the aisles of Hobby Lobby, in the end caps of Target.. 

These establishments are holiday churches in a way, and walking through the garland-strung aisles of fall splendor in any of these stores sets off a rush that puts me in a full-flung pleasurable state – at last I am completeThese places are Messengers of God to a PDHE living in the mess of Georgia weather, and because he’s a gracious giver, he grants us access early–pine cone turkeys in September and snow-dusted wreaths in November. Christmas tree little debbie cakes? They leave me with great joy. Football season and colorful falling leaves? Great joy. Heck, even those tacky decorations you put on your vehicle to make it look like Rudolph? Great joy, great joy, great joy.

 

So, forgive me now as I prematurely break forth into Seasonal Festivities Mode. From here to forth, you may see me in a scarf with my boots on hot days, throwing around the word “cozy” far more times than is deemed necessary and throwing candy corn at my dog because THOSE THINGS ARE JUST PLAIN DISGUSTING (but still in great joy.) “Tone it down” isn’t a phrase you’ll hear around here until the last of Hobby Lobby and Target’s Christmas aisles are picked over and cleared out. It’s time to dial it up–because, after all, it’s Fall.

Happy November, you guys. You’re welcome. 

THIS IS US: This isn’t just a silly TV show.

This is going to be a quick one.

When every foster & adoptive mom in the country deems Tuesdays at 9 to be sacred. When we have a whole thread on the ‘Foster Mom Support Group’ Facebook page committed to talking about THIS television show. When my closest friends and I text through the episodes, and the messages aren’t just about the scenes on the screen but our own experiences with what we are going through RIGHT NOW and the comparisons of how we currently feel and how we will feel in a few months when these real life circumstances on this “ordinary television show” become our every day “normal.” This one is different.

This 24 year old has never fully understood all the chatter about “representation in media,” because this 24 year old girl is always somehow represented. But when I see this part of myself–the foster and adoptive parent part of myself that I rarely get to notice anywhere else–alive and on screen, I get it. It’s like an “aha moment,” like a light bulb finally clicks on and I get how powerful and moving and sweet and important it is to see your life mirrored before you. It’s all just so familiar, and it all strikes a chord way down deep.

I laugh just a little too hard when Randall laments that it’s been three whole weeks without a placement (especially when he faults “the blogs” for not fully preparing him. I apologize on behalf of us all, Randall) as I sit here and picking at my cuticles and constantly jotting things down that I could be and should be doing to prepare for our fast approaching home inspection. I cried way, waaaay too hard when ‘young Randall’ explains to his siblings that his craving for his birth parents is like a ringing in his ear and reassures them that it has nothing to do with them. And I run the full train of emotions… sadness/celebration/guilt/hope when he explains to his foster daughter that even though he didn’t know his birth parents, his life with his adoptive family was blessed and happy.

Seeing foster care and adoption on the screen like this is a gift to foster and adoptive families. But it’s not just a gift to those of us who are living it. It’s a gift to everyone else, too.

It’s a gift to the people who haven’t had the opportunity to see foster and adoption lived out in real life before. It’s a gift to the people who have questions about transracial families. It’s a gift to the people who’ve never considered adoption for their families. It’s a gift to the people who know that foster care exists but have never even considered that it had ANYTHING to do with them.

I remember two weeks ago, I cried watching the preview because “oh my gosh, they’re becoming foster parents” and I cried throughout the episode because “oh my gosh, that’s me!” But then I kept crying once the show was over (and again now) because of all the families whose hearts will open to foster care and adoption, and all of the children who will be brought into homes and families. All because of a silly TV show.

We’re Expecting: Falling in Love with the Journey.

It’s no secret, everyone knows (well everyone who will listen long enough for us to share) that we are getting ready to foster some little kiddos in the next few months. We have spent the last 6 months going through training, filling out tons of paperwork, and preparing our home to prepare for the child who instead of saying “our foster child” we call “little Travis.” I’m sure all of our friends/family who already know about “little Travis” are giggling right now – because it’s such a familiar, ongoing conversation. “Any more news about little Travis? When is little Travis coming? What do you guys have left to do to prepare for Travis? WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE CHILD’S NAME IS NOT TRAVIS?” As we went through IMPACT training, that was the #1 thing they stressed to everyone in our class (all 4 families) – talk to your friends, talk to your families, talk to your coworkers. This isn’t just effecting your household – it’ll effect everyone you come into contact with on a daily basis and it’s good to get everyone equally excited and involved. Believe me, WE ARE EXCITED.

 

I would be lying if I said we haven’t been on pins and needles the last couples of months, literally boiling over with excitement, anxiousness, so many different emotions spilling out. No, our situation isn’t “ideal” to a lot of people. In fact, at first with certain members of our family when we mentioned it they took a deep breath before asking questions because it is a frightening, nerve-wracking blessing.

 

Foster care is something that you HAVE TO go into with an open mind. An open mind for your placement, an open mind to the adjustments you’re willing to make in your life, and an open mind to the past your child will come from and possibly go back to. We have this same conversation weekly, both with one another and different family/friends – “What happens when you give a child all of these things and that child goes back?” You’re right, what happens? You can either give them everything in the entire world, dedicate your life and your love, give them all of these things they may never get to experience again.. you let them play softball, let them take that dance class, let them go to that festival, take them to white water and six flags, take them anywhere and everywhere a kid deserves to go to, let them be involved in EVERYTHING A CHILD DESERVES TO BE A PART OF or you couldn’t. You then take that from them just like people have their entire lives. My question is, “why wouldn’t you?” Because you don’t want them to feel a loss if/when they go back? How about let them feel the love, care, and have a wonderful life while they’re with you instead? How about make those memories with them while you can to make that extra impression and show them there is a life that’s worth striving for in the long run?

We have no stress when it comes to the unknown, but instead of the known, which is that when our call comes, life will completely change. Our hearts then go on the line, like clothes out to dry. While we wait for s/he/them to arrive, it seems like the laundry list of things I’m thinking of and going over in my head continue to grow.

 

5 Daily Thoughts That Go Through My Mind While We Wait

Visits. Will we have birth parent/family visits? If so, how often? Who will be there? What will they be like? Will I be okay with this?

The room. We have finally began getting the bedroom all set up – we are getting everything situated and I’m so excited to have my mind at ease as the project has come to a close. (FOR NOW!)

How will WE acclimate? How will OUR FAMILIES acclimate? How will LIFE acclimate? On the final home study questionnaire, they asked us how our families feel about us deciding to become foster parents – I think everyone is excited and WE are of course excited but there’s of course the nervous knit in the back of my mind as we tread into this unknown water.

When will s/he/they arrive? To say that I am no longer on pins and needles waiting for our call would be a lie, but I AM more at ease with it these days.. becoming more patient, or at least trying to be. But because I know the process is well on its way, I can’t help but think, “when?”

The long road to “Gotcha Day.” It’s a very, very long road. You know how sometimes you procrastinate even beginning a project because you know that once you start the end is still so very distant? Adopting from the foster care system has many parallels to that.

 

I imagine that before you give birth to a child you have your own laundry list of questions and stressers while you wait. I am not sure what your main ones are, but for me, I will say it’s absolutely all 5 mentioned above.

While we wait for s/he/them to arrive, though, I must do absolutely everything in my power to ensure the stress levels keep at bay. And I won’t lie, we have been doing an awesome job of staying in the present. It is so easy to look backward, then forward, sideways and then forward again. But all that causes is a dizzying effect, and so I am teaching myself to stay right here, in the now, for the present. And this is not just for me, but for Kate as well. We only have today, and today is perfect as is (even while playing this little waiting game.)

S/he/They are going to be here before we know it. Maybe you could help out while we wait with a little game? Are you up for the fun?! I have the same anticipation that any other mother has when she waits for her baby to arrive. If I had a belly bump right now, and the due date was approaching, people would start making their predictions about the arrival date. Our home inspection and paperwork should be sent off to the state by December 1st (hopefully!) So what do you think? What will be the date when we get our call?! I really love that you share this journey with us! And have I told you yet that I really love that you share this journey with us?!

PSA: I hate math but these are numbers worth looking at.

I despise math. My clearest (and most traumatic) memory of high school is my senior year sitting in the middle of geometry realizing “this is where it ends, this will be the reason I don’t graduate.” When it came to anything other than math I was fine, I could write papers for days and learn a study guide forwards, backwards, and upside down but when it came to math I struggled and miscalculated my way into failing nearly every test that was set in front of me outside of basic math that could be done with a calculator or counted up on my fingers. In a store, I can compute every item on the clearance rack in seconds. (I truly am smarter than a fifth grader.) But if you offered me a million dollars to calculate the number one million using trig or that-calculator-one, I would curl up on my bedroom floor and cry even now. (PSA.. I squeaked by geometry with a C and graduated high school.)

Here are some numbers that a simple mind like mine can’t grasp.

There are 153,000,000 orphans in the world, 18,000,000 who have lost both parents. (428,000 of those children are in the US foster care system at any given time – Over 670,000 went through the foster care system at SOME POINT in 2015… more than 12,000 of those were in Georgia.) Every day 5,769 children become orphans. Every year 14,500,000 children age out their country/state’s orphan care system. Of the 14,500,000 who age out, 4,200,000 of the young women will become prostitutes and 4,900,000 of the young men will end up in prison. 400,000,000 abandoned children live on their own. 1,200,000 children are trafficked each year globally.

If you read these numbers anything like the way I typed them, you just glossed over all the zeros and saw the precise number of “it’s a really big problem” and “that’s a really, really big number.” (Too many zeros?) These kinds of numbers are just too much to even process. These kinds of numbers are overwhelming, impenetrable.

American family units are equal to nearly all of the orphans in the entire world. American family units outnumber foster children 1,075 to 1 (298 to 1 in the state of Georgia.) Average Americans live on 70 times the amount of money the average orphan lives on. When you look at it like this, the numbers aren’t overwhelming in the least.  In fact, it’s almost shocking there’s a “crisis” at all.

I recently read an article about advocacy that recommended when you share stats you should “choose the smallest numbers.” No matter your math prowess, none of us do well absorbing all the zeros. We shouldn’t focus on the millions, we should focus on the “ones.”

So, you, one person reading this one article: There is one child lying in bed in your town who went to sleep without care, without protection. There is one couple in need of funds to bring their one child home through adoption. There is one single mother in a remote village, who is struggling to provide for her one child. There is one foster mom in your church needing prayer and encouragement and help. There is one child in an orphanage across the world who’s never known the love of a parent. We’re not talking numbers any more. Now we’re talking people.

For the vast number of needs that need to be filled, we each have our own numbers we bring to the table: the hours in our days, the beds in our homes, the dollars in our bank accounts. And most of all, the one number we all have: this one life given to each of us to live.

(All numbers are estimates, change on a second-by-second basis, and were pulled from UNICEF & UN reports.)