The Road Ahead pt.2

Just last night, the sermon at church was about God’s purpose versus our preference. While the topic can refer to a number of examples in my life, this story came flashing in quicker than a preteen girl can change moods. (Part one of this journey can be read here.)

The decision on whether or not to go forward with adopting the four kiddos we met in the northern part of our state was really already decided for us. It was up to us to answer. We knew once we met them that they were “the ones”. We knew in a way that can’t really be explained. Hubby, our eldest son and I just knew. Hubby a bit less, but he still knew.

I NEVER imagined God wanting us to adopt four.at.one.time. NEVER. I even spoke to God in my heart, “but God, four?!” We were not set up for four, we had not planned on four. Our plans were a bit (very) different, but yet there was this underlying peace, that God was with us. God’s purpose versus our preference.

September 2015 we met our kids, we didn’t bring them home until February 2016. We missed all of the ‘big” holidays with them. When we met them in September, we decided to take the next step rather quickly. We met with our caseworker, his manager in the CYFD office and video conferenced with those involved in the kids’ case. There we were presented a Reader’s Digest version of the kids’ life, personalities,  behaviors, etc. We asked questions, lots of questions. Then it was go home, talk about it, think it over, pray. Then onto the next step. The is where the hold up was. This step required LOTS of paperwork. With four kids, there is a tree’s worth of paper involved just for this one meeting. The copy machine in our kids’ CYFD office was broken. Let me remind you that when you are dealing with foster care you are dealing with the government. We were hoping to bring the kids home by Thanksgiving. No fixed copier. I called everyone I could think of. Thought of EVERY possibility to get those papers copied. No fixed copier. Let me tell you that was one sad Christmas. We missed Thanksgiving, we missed one of the boy’s birthdays, and now we missed Christmas.

At this point in the game, the kids were still not told that we wanted them. To me, this was the hardest. We knew how we felt. We knew how hard we were trying to bring them home. They had no idea what had happened to the family they met way back in September. Did that family even want them?

I don’t remember when, but I ended up getting ahold of our governor’s liaison. He helped us before, and he came through big time for us again. Not only did the kids’ CYFD office get one brand new copier, they got two! From then on it was pretty smooth going.

So, with the biggest black binder, I have ever seen, Ms. L (the kids’ caseworker) came here to have the next meeting.  Again, more reading, more questions, more notes were taken. Go home read, think, talk, and pray. Onto the next step: calling the foster parents, teachers, etc. of our kids. I had my list of questions, my spot on our bedroom floor where each call was made. For one call, despite using a translator we really didn’t learn much about our little one. One foster mom was headed to the ER at the time I finally reached her!! Yes, the ER. She wasn’t sure if she was having a heart attack or what!?! Okay, so here’s the part where I am like let’s go get our son NOW! Can we break some rules? (If you know me, breaking rules is NOT my thing at all.) I had to leave it, leave him in God’s hands.

Needless to say, there was a LOT of waiting and a LOT of praying and too much fretting on my part. Once we did all we were supposed to do here on our end, it was time to give the final answer. Nothing we had read, nothing we were told changed our minds. We said yes.

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.

IMG_2218

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

IMG_2221

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

IMG_2220

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

img_2223.jpg

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.

DSCN3339.JPG

(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!

997059_478170882324679_553515900121387112_n

(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.

IMG_2193

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.

IMG_2187

(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.

 

While It’s Easy

This post was prompted by two conversations I had today.  One with my eldest, 18yo, son and then our 12yo son’s PE teacher.

18yo son and I were talking about a convo he had with our church’s youth group about being a martyr.  How many of us really know what we would do if we were faced with real persecution and/or martyrdom?  Probably none of honestly know what we’d really do.  I am sure as christians we have a scenario in our head of how it would all go down.  However, humbly, we just won’t know until we get there.  Which I pray we never arrive at that terrible juncture.

Could I still defend my faith, my belief in my savior Jesus while seeing any one of my kids tortured or faced with the threat of death?  My 18yo and talked about the horrible reality of what christians before us and even today in other parts of the world go through for their faith in a very graphic, grown up format, one not suited for this blog.  We left the sobering conversation with the choices we make today, the little ones, prepare us for bigger ones.  The ability to make huge stands starts with taking small ones, at school, at work, with friends, family, neighbors and sometimes even church people.  The little ones won’t seem so big once you do it a few times.  Then the bigger ones won’t look so big.

As an American, I take for granted my religious freedom and it has made me weak and not sure footed when pressed to defend my convictions.  That saddens and frightens me.  I know that many martyred christians were given a tremendous amount of courage, faith, peace and grace at their time of martyrdom.  I believe He still does and will continue to do so.

I also know that while I have time and the freedoms, I need to make the stands here, no matter how small they are, no matter how big they may feel.  12yo son is taking dance in P.E. right now and asked if he could be excused.  No problem.  We don’t really think it’s appropriate for middle schoolers to dance with each other anyway. So I wrote him an excuse note.  Then I got a call.  The P.E. teacher wanted to know why we wanted him excused.  I didn’t pull the religion card, though I could’ve.  Admittedly, while I knew exactly why we excused him, defending our stance was tougher than I thought.  The words for my case didn’t just flow out with confidence as I would’ve liked.  Though the teacher was understanding and I got my wish, it really brought to mind the convo 18yo and I had just hours earlier.  It really wasn’t a big deal to say no he couldn’t dance and that the school had to provide an alternative (which they had none, but came up with one) in light of what others go through.  Yet, I feel a bit stronger, a bit more prepared to defend my faith and my convictions the next time around.

The way things are going in the school system, (and America) I think I may need to gear up for more such stands, while it’s easy.  Before it gets real.