Dear Birth Mom

Dear birth mom to my son,

Yesterday our, your, my son became a teenager.

Yesterday I wondered if you were thinking about him at all, wondering how he’s turning out.

Our, my son is turning out to be one great young man. He opens doors for others now, helps out, is polite and a hard worker. He is one of the funniest, most real kids I know. He and I have some of the most straight-forward conversations, deep and lighthearted at the same time.

He has overcome many obstacles in these past couple of years. His grades and academic confidence have gone up. He works hard to achieve the grades he gets. He makes friends easy. Has begun to make wise decisions concerning his choices. He is not afraid to stand up for what he believes and is who is his.

He is starting to really see that he is much smarter than anyone has ever told him he was. Starting believe he can achieve many more things. He is stepping out of comfort zone and trying new things.

Our, my son has been giving wise advice to his younger brother. Seeing the same behaviors in him that he has overcome. He is compassionate and caring with the youngest in the house.

Though he may be quiet, he sure knows how to tell a good joke. When he gives a compliment take it because he sincerely means it.

Dear mom to my son, do you miss him or wonder how he is? Did you feel a twinge of loss yesterday in your heart? Dear mom, he his loved. He is cared for. He is growing into a fine and decent young man.

Thank you for relinquishing your rights so that I could be his mom.

Signed,

Our son’s mom

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Puppets, Scared Dog and Good Times

On a much lighter note, this week thus far has been appointment free other than taking The General to his speech and OT!!

I have also had the privilege to work alongside our eldest son as he has taken on the project of fixing up the Children’s Church puppets.

YEARS ago I was involved in the puppet ministry and actually hand made four puppets along with another fellow puppeteer.

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These poor puppets have seen better days. We fixed up the tears, broken arms, and holes.

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Gave them all a good shave. Took years off of them.

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Removed old, missing eyes. Replaced them with new, bright ones.

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He fixed their hair, gave them new clothes, tongues (not shown here) and a few got accessories. A lot of work, but so well worth it. I love working alongside my son and seeing our new kids see behind the scenes and all the work that goes into these. The General LOVES the Granny.

The funniest thing was we had them all set up like this in the dining room, where the dogs go in and out. Our big dog would not come in with them in there. Hubby had to put them all in the playroom before she’d come in the house. They can give you the impression that someone is there at first glance.

The Road Ahead pt.1

As the clouds cover the mountains in our back, backyard an off and on mist like drizzle dampens the thirsty ground, I actually share a Facebook a two-year-old memory on my page:

“So, today is THE big day that we get our kids. I woke up feeling a little off (okay more than a little). I couldn’t put my finger on it until my dad texts me and asked if the labor pains have started. THAT’S it!! Mental labor pains, emotional labor pains. Yes, I am totally feeling the labor pains. I am not going to lie, taking on four kids is pretty huge. I try not to think of what God has asked us to do very often, as the responsibility can seem too much. I just take one day at a time with a big goal in mind. I am much more excited than scared, but so much has gone into this time, into getting kids, these kids, so many “what if’s” that we have heard for two plus years. Life is never going to be the same for us…but then again it wasn’t from the day we met them. Thank you all for your support and help and prayers through this all. You honestly don’t know how it strengthens me. Okay, I need to get off and finish getting ready we have a lot of road time ahead of us.”

When we went to a CYFD sponsored adoption event hours away, we had no idea the outcome. No idea if we find “the” kid or kids. No idea if our adoption journey would continue on the three-year long road for finding our child/children or if God’s GPS would lead us on a completely different path. All we knew was there were some kids a few social workers had for us to meet. We knew their names and ages, and some workers provided a bit more information. As the event went along we met most of the kids on our “list” and none seemed to click. I kept asking about the sib group of four we were told about. Half way through I had to use the porta- potty and literally ran into and a 10-year-old boy who would soon be our son. He was coming out of the porta-potty as I walked passed. I quickly scooped out the other kids that were nearby, four of them, who look to be about the ages we were told.  As I answered nature’s call I listened to see if any names were spoken by the group washing their hands at the portable washing station. None. As soon as I was done I headed over to the station myself. Again, trying to check out the kids without looking like a stalker, also trying to still my heart at the little one on the stroller reaching his hands out to me. With clean, dry hands I made my way to the only adult in the group. I introduced myself to her. Ms. L replied; “You are the one!” and we proceeded to make quick small talk and she introduced me to the shy, apprehensive sib group standing before me.

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(Us at the adoption event in our red bandanas.)

Now, there are no words to really explain how you feel when you meet kids who could one day be yours. You want to take them all into your arms at once and run away with them. At the same time, you want to walk into this as if you had to choose between door number one or door number two. Door number one being the “Let’s walk away now and wait for an easier road.” Or door number two: “What the heck are we doing? What the heck are we waiting for? What the heck are we doing?” no turning back door. I had so many questions. I wanted the event to stop so we could just talk to the kids, to their worker and really get to know them. And boy, oh boy, could I just squeeze the little chubster in the stroller.

I hurried to find Hubby and our eldest son so they could meet Ms. L and the kids too. I’d like to say we played it cool, and not seemed too eager, like many of the other parents looking for their child. But part of it is a bit blurred. I know we milled around with Ms. L and the sib group for a bit. At one point I mentioned that when Little Man in the stroller held out his arms to me, I wanted to grab him right up. To which Ms. L replied in her (sorry for any racial tones here) stereotypical welcoming African American woman voice, with her all-encompassing personality, “Go right ahead.” “Really?!?” I took that happy boy right into my arms and was he heavy!

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(Do you see the lady in the jean skirt and white tank top? That’s me next to our eldest son. The little feet right in front of me belong to our soon to be youngest son.)

Again, much of that day was a blur, so many thoughts, so many emotions are involved in one of these events. I do remember the turning point was at lunch. When Ms. L let us eat with the kids. I quickly looked up ahead at what was being served, told the kids and got their orders. It was hot, it was dry and like I said it was a bag of mixed emotions for the waiting parents and waiting kids. So small talk didn’t always come easy. While we sat at our table eating, some picking at hot dogs and burgers we tried to ask the most neutral questions as possible, trying to find out as much as possible in so short a time.

As the event came to a close, and “our” sib group made an early exit, we were left to decide, left to talk about the road ahead, left to comment to the unknown or not. I still remember sitting on the edge of my seat trying to remain ladylike in my jean skirt while removing the enormous amount of goat heads from my brown and teal mary jane crocs. Non-stop talking was going on, while we took off our red bandanas and contemplated out future. The road home was a long one, made even longer both the weight of the decision we faced and the wait of starting the journey ahead.

Fractured Perspective

At the end of February, our little one suffered a second bone fracture. A new one! Read about the original one here.

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Long story short the preschool staff let him climb on playground equipment too soon and he fell. We are also going to see a pediatric orthopedic doctor to have our son’s  bones checked, blood work.

Having a child with a physical disability even a temporary one helps you see things in a different perspective. It gives you a much deeper appreciation for what the parent/s and caretakers of children with long term physical problems go through.

Can we talk about just the sheer number of doctors appointments involved? And the paperwork! This alone can be a part-full time exhausting job. Thank God we don’t live far at all to most of the doctors we have needed to see, but even that takes time. Getting the wheelchair in and out of the vehicle, helping your child into the said wheelchair. Finding the wheelchair accessible ramp (which is never a short cut), handicapped parking is usually taken, navigating in and out doorways (thank you every place that has automatic opening doors). Keeping your child entertained during the inevitable waits. Keeping your child calm when he is freaked out, doesn’t want to be examined, x-rayed, etc. Comforting him and apologizing to the staff afterward. Then there are the pizza (or whatever food treat you bribed him with) runs you promised if he were brave.

The diagnosis: You always hope and pray for the best, but brace for the worst. Okay, bad, bad fracture…so bad they are calling it a break. I can do this for 5-6 weeks. You learn to look at the light at the end of the tunnel. Then you get told a few weeks in that your son isn’t healing right and may need surgery. NOT what any parent wants to hear. You get a miracle, no surgery! Praise God. The weeks are over, you pushed it through. The cast comes off and your son can’t even walk without assistance for more than a couple of weeks. Just when he gets to walking fairly well, he falls…a whole new fracture in the growth plate, nonetheless. More diagnosis, more tears, screams of painful fear, more comforting, more tests. More waiting. More pushing it through. More enduring, grinning and bearing it. And yet our situation is mild to what I am sure a terminal diagnosis is like.IMG_2191

The added workload: our son is four, too small for crutches. He is dependent on us to take him to the toilet, put him up to eat, dress and undress him. Sponge baths are hard for all involved. You would think we are torturing him every time. So draining. He is really good at getting around on his own. Whether that’s scooting on his bum or in the wheelchair. His independent nature helps him in this area. His active imagination also helps him not get too bored being pretty much home bound. This boy is an outdoor kid and it hurts that he can’t go out and play. In a sense, we have gone backward. He was just getting to the point where he could pretty much dress himself and other such independent skill.

The emotional wear: It is NEVER easy when your child is hurt, really hurt. I can totally handle normal scrapes and bumps. When it goes beyond the normal you want to go into mama bear mode, build your child a safe bubble for him to live in the rest of his life. But that is not practical or wise. With the leg cast, we have bumped into walls more than once. Even though our little son hasn’t complained too much about it at all, knowing how tough and brave he is still gets to you. When he cries out while getting casted “I want to go home” ugh, it still brings tears to my eyes and heart. Knowing how much he has spent in the doctors, hospitals already since he was born saddens me. The anger you feel towards those to let it happen. The frustration you feel when people are not their nicest when you are just trying to help your baby and are at your lowest for that day. When you feel helpless. Again, I can’t imagine if it were long term or terminal.

I have found an unexpected loneliness too. No one can truly know the struggle this puts on a family, an individual unless they have gone through something similar. Not everyone wants to hear your story or even notice there is a story. Also a-not-so silent judgment at the looks we get. We already stand out because of our ethnic differences pair that with a bright orange cast. I want to loudly tell some people “It NOT my fault. I DIDN’T hurt my baby!”

The decisions: We have had to make many medical decisions for our four-year-old in these past two years. Most have been the right ones, and one, well we really had no choice and it may have caused him to talk differently. Another we are totally opting out which not everyone agrees with. As a parent, you are ALWAYS making decisions for your kids, for their short-term and long-term future. Yet the medical ones seem harder, no matter how much research you do.

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(This pretty much sums up how we all feel about the whole situation.)

To wrap this extra long post up, I know I don’t fully know the depths of the hardship having a child with greater medical needs than a two-time fractured leg, but I have a much greater understanding than I had before. I have a greater appreciation for life when these things don’t happen. Also, I have a gratefulness to our God who has strengthened us through it all. At times when I should’ve broken, God gave me the strength to rise above and keep the victory.

Living on a Prayer…and Budget pt. 2

To quickly recap from part one; when starting a budget you need your essentials budgeted first.

*Food- we should be spending 9-14% depending on what source you read.

*Shelter-Depending on your income and outflow you may have to reassess where you live and/or your living arrangement.  Financial advisors will that no more than 25-28% (the opinion varies from site to site) of your income should go toward housing.  I am no financial advisor, but you may have to downsize or move if you are over your budget here.

*Clothing-While we need clothes…thank God for clothes…this one can be easy or hard to figure our just how much you need, especially if you have growing children.  However, after looking it up, conscience says about 4% of your income should be spent on clothing.

Let’s go back to food…my favorite: set a budget for your food allowance and plan accordingly.  I am a meal planner, have been for over 20 years now.  At first, t can be hard, but it quickly becomes second nature.  You can gather up old cookbooks, Grandma’s recipe box or look online at the endless recipe sites and start planning.  When meal planning, make sure when picking out recipes that they include regular products you either have already or will use again.  Sauces and spices for example can add up really quick especially if you will rarely use them.  Ask a friend if he/she has that sauce or spice and see if you can use it just for that recipe.  If so, make sure to give them some of the yummy dish you make.  That way they will more than likely let you use there pantry items in the future.

My grocery lists would/do include items we need all of time like toiletries, milk, bread, eggs, did I mention milk.  We have usually ate pretty much the same things for breakfast so that was easy.  For lunch Hubby took leftovers to works.  The kids either brought lunch or ate at school, it varied.  I also ate leftovers or made something at home.

Again, our grocery list didn’t vary much other than for dinner items. For that is where the planning helps a ton.  Here’s what I looked for: I had a few easy, quick meals for those busier than normal nights, meals that would stretch and I would try to vary the meats.  I tried to keep the favorites in there (I give my recipes a star rating to quickly identify the favorites) and add new recipes to try out.  Like I said living on a budget doesn’t have to be boring.

Now for the clothing.  Luckily, I don’t get bothered if I don’t wear name brand clothes.  My family has been pretty good about it too.  When the kids got jobs they tended to buy more name brands, but they too quickly learned how to find a good deal.  So, I am going to be completely honest…I love to shop at thrift stores.  I shop at stores ending in Mart as well, and some name brand stores (clearance racks and sales $$$) as well.  But there’s not much like thrifting and walking out with three grocery bags full of shirts that only costs $35.  Yes, that just happened last week!  It’s like treasure hunting.  Hubby mainly buys brand new clothes.  In his line of work he needs very sturdy, heavy duty clothes that are VERY hard to come by used.  However, the kids and I have gotten a good amount at the thrift stores.  Now I don’t buy undergarments or swim wear used.  EVER.  No matter how tight our budget is.  I also shop online for clothes.  Where we live we have a For Sale-(our city’s name) on Facebook.  It’s like an online yard sale.  I have gotten our toddler grocery bags full of clothes for under $40.  These types of sites/pages are great for reselling your kiddos used clothing too. There’s also this site I LOVE, LOVE: Thredup.  I have to not go there too often or I WILL go over my clothing budget.  They have name brands, if that matters to you, quality clothing for women and children.  With a family of seven, this is a game changer.  Their return policy is terrific too.  Okay, enough of the infomercial here.  I have also shopped yard sales, but not too often.  I prefer the organization of stores.  Hand-me-downs have been a blessing to us.

To briefly sum it up, there are many ways to save money and stick to your budget.  It takes a bit of time and effort, but it will be worth it and it will pay off.

 

Living on a Prayer…and Budget pt.1

If you missed my first post about budget living please go here.

Frugal.  Cheap.  Penny-wise.  Prudent.  Practical.  Thrifty.  Tight.  These are just some of the names one might call you if you watch your money and/or live on a budget.  Some are names to be proud of, some maybe not-so-much.  The word I love when it comes to money is not on this list is SMART.  Telling one’s money where to go puts you in the driver’s seat and ahead of the ball game.  Being smart with your money all comes down to a budget.

Just the thought of that word budget can send shivers down one’s spine, or get the audible groans from some in the crowd.  While for others it is a word bringing gleeful delight.  No matter which side of the budget fence you are on you need to be on a budget for the long term.  Hubby and I use Dave Ramsey’s budget method.  We got on a budget due to some unfortunate events (not related to the book).  I wish I could say we have stuck to our budget like a straight-A student.  We haven’t.  It’s more like we’ve been on the dean’s list, should’ve been in detention and everywhere in between.  However, we have stuck with it, reworked it here and there and are still making it work.  Here’s how we did it for over 20 years on virtually one income, while raising two kids and adopting 4 along the way.

Let’s start with things everyone needs: food, clothes and shelter. I am going to have to make this a two parter…talking about food alone takes up my word count!!

*Grocery Shopping-One of the first things we budgeted was our grocery bill.  Now our grocery bill included toiletries, diapers (some people will put diapers in their clothing expense category), cleaning supplies, etc..  Lumping it all together worked MUCH easier for me, instead of having to finger through three to four different envelopes and keeping the items grouped together on the conveyer belt when shopping all at one store.  I got a certain amount when Hubby got paid and had to stick to that amount for two weeks at a time.  I became a meal-planner.  It is second nature for me now.  I would sit at our kitchen table with my cookbooks, varying them each time, even trading with a friend to mix it up, and pick out different meals (mainly dinners).  Today, with the internet, looking up cheap meals is just a click away.  We ate a lot of casseroles, spaghetti, beans and rice, and just food that would stretch and would make a lot of leftovers.  During our lean years we didn’t eat out much at all.  I made and baked almost everything we ate.  We grew some vegetables and would’ve done more if we lived in a more garden friendly environment.  Where we live couponing doesn’t really help much, but I do use coupons only when they save me money.* (more on this later)  We even shopped at one of those food stores that sell slightly damaged (dented) food products for a fraction of the price.  This has been great for snacks and boxed items.  I watched the store sales and since we live in a smaller town I could go from store to store getting the good deals.*  Living on a shoe string budget or just a budget doesn’t mean you have to eat like a pauper.  We have eaten good tasting healthy meals for all of these years and there hasn’t been too much complaining.

Another help in the food department when you have a family is setting limits.  It’s good for adults too.  We haven’t ever let our kids just eat whatever, whenever, how much ever they want.  We set limits and have snack times.  We serve smaller portions at dinner.  This way there is less waste for those times when their eyes are bigger than their stomachs.   (Can we just say with some kids this happens more than not.)  Besides, they can always get more.

One more note about grocery shopping and buying food.  Buying healthier food can be more expensive and put a big dent on the food budget, but it can be done.  When a person eats healthier, fresher foods they fill up faster and the pangs of hunger don’t come as quickly as when they eat the cheaper, less healthy food choices.  It can take more time to prepare, cook or bake, but it is worth it of you manage it with your schedule.

*About using coupons and driving around from store to store, it may not be worth it.  This is where you need to put your detective skills to work.  Get that old calculator out and see if  using that coupon on the particular name brand item is actually worth the little bit you’d save versus buying the generic version.  In most cases the generic is just as good and will save you money.  (Every little bit helps.)  Learn what you can and can’t buy generic.  When it cost more in gas to go form store to store for that “great” deal then it’s not so great.  I know of a lady who will drive out of state (about 1 1/2 hour drive) just to get “cheaper” diapers.  That is NOT smart shopping.  Not only will she spend more on gas than she will save on the diapers, she will probably spend money on something to eat.  If she’s like me she’ll pick up other items that weren’t on her list as well.  However, if, like us, SAMs is that far away and Hubby works half way there already then it is worth the trip to save us some money on big bulk items we go through all of the time.

 

Ewww That Smell

I mentioned in my one of my last posts that I would talk about the ninos and their smell.

Well, here goes.

When our little guys and girl came to us almost two years ago they were coming from different foster homes. Chief and Nana were in the same home. The other boys were separated too. So four kids, three different homes. Yet they all had the same funky smell. They didn’t smell per se. It was their clothes. It took months to get that funk out. They all were in clean homes too and ours was a clean home.

I talked to another adoptive mom about it. How no matter what I used, how many scented beads I shook into the washer, their clothes still smelled. She said her boys did too. Stress related. She can actually tell when one of hers would be lying by his smell.

I did some researching, just a bit to see how studied this really is. Here is what I found:

http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/signs/body-odor

http://www.springdaleclinic.com/how-does-anxiety-cause-body-odor/

http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Anxiety/Aniexty-and-body-odor/show/5052

There isn’t really much info on kids from foster care “smelling”, but there is evidence that anxiety and body odor can be related. There are also other types of B.O. that golly, I really didn’t know existed. B.O. I’d rather not mention here.

Recently I posed this question/topic on a foster/adopt Facebook page. The result was better than the internet search. Yes, it really is a “thing”. No matter what kid. No matter the background. No matter the age. They all came with some kind of smell. Some reported taking a year to get rid of the smell. Other than the stress factor others suggested they kids diets as well.