Christmas Shopping in October

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Well guys. I have some good news. It’s not even Halloween, and I am officially done with Christmas shopping for our extended family. Yep! Every single one of them! I still need to purchase a few things for the kiddos, but other than that, done. How did I finish my Christmas shopping so efficiently you may be wondering right now. Especially since yesterday I hadn’t even started it! Well I’m here today to give you a step by step instruction set. Bare with me. I know 12 is a lot of steps. But should you choose to follow them, I can personally guarantee the successful completion of all your Christmas shopping in October.

  1. Sign your baby up for the most cost effective daycare in town.
  2. Don’t read the paperwork stating the way said daycare maintains their low tuition costs is through mandatory thrice yearly fundraisers.
  3. Find a fundraising packet in your baby’s backpack.
  4. Lament to your husband about how you can’t stand school fundraisers.
  5. Marvel at the people willing to pay 9 bucks for a roll of wrapping paper when you so cleverly secured several rolls from Target for just 50 cents each last December 26th.
  6. Toss said packet into the recycle bin.
  7. Eat an Oreo.
  8. Wait two weeks and three days.
  9. Receive reminder from school that fundraiser has not been returned, despite being due 3 days ago.
  10. Toss said reminder into the recycle bin.
  11. Receive reminder from school that your fall fundraising quota has not been hit and you must pay the remaining $250 by Friday or have your infant expelled from daycare.
  12. Beg for mercy.

Simple right? Thankfully Hazel attends a good Christian daycare, and they are big on the kindness stuff. Unfortunately, they aren’t big on the letting mothers off the hook for being negligent fundraisers stuff. While dropping Hazel off this morning (which Rob usually does, but I did because I was trying to talk my way out of having an expelled 11 month old come Friday) I was given the opportunity to fulfill my fundraising obligation by placing an order on the spot. The upside is that I will have something in return for my $250 dollar requirement as opposed to just giving the school a check for $250. The downside is that the fundraiser is selling things like Taco plates and avocado scoopers. As difficult as I find scooping avocado with a regular spoon, I just don’t have the cabinet space for $250 dollars worth of junk fine home furnishings. Which is why I’ve decided to bestow my gifts upon the people I love most. Merry Christmas family! Hope you all enjoy the Snowmen fondue sets and cell phone holders.

Monday Morning Coffee Talk: Homework

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Things have been pretty easy breezy in our house in the evenings lately and there is one sole reason for that: Will’s new school does not assign homework. Third grade was a tough year for him homework wise. And as you parents know, when your child is having a tough time you will be having a tough time too. He came home each night with about an hours worth of homework. This was after already completing an hour of it in aftercare everyday. There were math worksheets, spelling words to write 5 times, definitions, science lessons, and book reports. Every. Single. Night. 4th grade started off even worse. Most nights he was up until 10 and still wasnt finishing it all. He was waking up early every morning to do more homework which he hadn’t been able to complete the night before. He was extremely disorganized. He did the same assignment twice without even realizing it. Lots of things were taking a backseat to his homework as well. We gave up almost all weekday family time (no more reading together or playing a board game before bed). I’m slightly embarrassed to admit, one Friday I realized I couldn’t remember the last time Will had showered. There simply wasn’t enough hours in the day for school, homework, and personal hygiene.

The worst part was that all this work didn’t even seem helpful. In an attempt to get it finished he was rushing through everything. His handwriting was atrocious. He didn’t seem to be retaining any of it. He was simply skating by in an effort to get a check mark for completion. He also began spending a ton of time on distraction techniques. We’re talking 10 minutes using the bathroom or sharpening a pencil. He no longer had the drive to finish his homework and have free time. He had realized there would be no free time left by the time he got to the bottom of that massive pile. I talked to his friends parents, they were all having the same homework struggles. The issue was brought up at back to school night (which we missed because we were in Seattle) but the other parents filled me in that the school stood by its workload.

I think there are several schools of thought on homework. Some parents I’ve talked to believe homework prepares their child for the real world. You know, like employment and stuff. I personally believe that if my real world job required me to work full time and then come home to do several more hours of work every evening and weekend, I would be looking for a new job. But maybe that’s just me. I also know there are some guidelines recommended about homework, like 10 minutes per grade level. I’m not sure teachers are considering the fact that 10 minutes of homework for one child may be much longer for another child. I’m okay with a few projects at the elementary school level that my child can really immerse themselves in and learn from. I’m also okay with the “read together for a half hour most nights from your choice of book” thing that some of my friend’s children are required to do. But I’m not okay with the endless busy work I see so many children being forced to do.

What are your thoughts on homework? Is your child getting too much? Maybe you think their learning from it? Any good routines for getting homework completed in your house? What was homework like when you were a child? Talk to me on this Monday Morning!

How does adopting through foster care work?

The most frequent question I get asked on this blog is definitely “How does adopting through foster care work?” I’ve been typing a lot of loooong emails in response. Sometimes explaining it better, sometimes explaining it worse. I thought perhaps I could explain it here and refer to this post as needed. Hopefully this will be helpful to anyone who is thinking about adopting through foster care.

howdoesadoptingthroughfostercarework

The foster care system is complicated (to be honest sometimes it’s a mess). There are some overlaps between various cases, but for the most part no two cases are exactly the same. The duration of time can never be guaranteed. Some cases take years. Some cases take months. Our personal case took over 3 years. This is on the longer side of average, but not unusual. I’ll try to make this short and easy. Please understand that this is condensed, and the time limits are guesses based on my experience and the experience of friends.

Before we start, let me state, THE MAIN GOAL OF FOSTER CARE IS REUNIFICATION OF THE CHILD WITH THEIR BIRTH FAMILY. And it should be. When this isn’t possible the child may become available for adoption. Below is how it generally works for those who are not able to be reunified.

Basically there are three phases for children who end up getting adopted through foster care:

  1. The child enters foster care and their birth parents are given the chance to work a case plan.
  2. If number 1 is not successful, the goal is changed to adoption and eventually the birth parent’s rights are terminated.
  3. The child awaits an adoption date.

When A Child Enters Foster Care

Let me again repeat, the initial goal for children in foster care nearly always begins as reunification with birth parents. There may be rare circumstances where this is not the case, such as death of birth family or long term prison sentence, but almost always the goal starts as reunification. When children first enter foster care, their birth parents have the opportunity to work a case plan. The hope is that the situation that caused the child to enter foster care can be fixed, and the child can be returned home. During this time they hope to be able to place the child with family members so the transition is easier for the child. If family members (known as a kinship placement) are not available, a foster family or resource family is where the child will be placed. Sometimes during this early phase, the child’s caseworker will continue to look for a kinship placement even after they are placed with a foster family. If you choose to start at this phase in a child’s journey it is very important that you support reunification.

The birth parents will begin to work their case plan. It can involve anything, but usually involves things like going to rehab, getting a job, taking parenting classes, finding a safe apartment, etc. Sometimes children are returned to their birth family very quickly. The issue may have been something minor like mom having an unsafe boyfriend, and her case plan was simply that she had to kick him out. Some children will be in this phase much longer. Some parents will work hard to complete their case plan. Some will be unable to.

After around 15 months

After around 12-18 months, If the birth parents are unable to work their case plan, the goal is changed to adoption. The goal change will be decided in court. The birth parent will likely still have visits with their child after the goal is changed, and will still be able to work on their case plan. The caseworker will begin attempting to identify a suitable adoptive placement. The current foster parents will usually have first priority to adopt, as the child has usually bonded to them. Sometimes kinship will be considered again. If neither kinship nor the current foster parents are an option, another foster home may be sought out. The child may move in with the possible adoptive family at this time, or the family may just be identified as an option should the case go to adoption.

The court will set a hearing date for the Termination of Parental Rights (also called TPR). The TPR hearing is usually scheduled anywhere from 6 months to a year after the goal is changed to adoption. If the birth parents do begin working their case plan during this time, the hearing may be postponed. If the birth parents do not make any progress on their case plan, a judge may decide to terminate their parental rights. If the rights are terminated, the birth parents lawyer can file an appeal. Appeals are pretty common. Usually the appeal is not granted. It may be granted if the birth parent has suddenly started working their case plan or if their was some kind of technicality. If the appeal is granted they will redo the TPR hearing.

After Termination of Parental Rights

If TPR is granted and the appeal period has passed or been denied, the child is now “legally free” for adoption. The birth parent will no longer have visits*. If the child’s current placement is planning to adopt them, not much will change. The family will await an adoption date, which usually takes 6 months to a year. If the child’s current placement is not planning to adopt them, the child’s adoption worker will continue to seek a suitable placement. The adoption worker will seek out parents who specifically want to adopt and fit with the child’s needs. When a match is made, the child will begin visits with the potential adoptive family, eventually moving in with them. There will usually be a few months to make sure this is the right placement for the child, and then an adoption date will be set. This will generally be around a year after the child is moved to the potential adoptive family.

After The Adoption Date

Once the adoption is completed this is YOUR CHILD. Your child will be issued a new birth certificate with your name on it as the parent (but hang on to the old one for them if you can!). And that’s it! You don’t have to deal with anymore court dates or social workers coming by to visit. *If the birth family is safe, I would personally recommend trying to maintain a relationship with them, though it is not required.

Things To Think About

If you are hoping to adopt through foster care you can enter in at any of the 3 phases. I was going to list a few pros and cons of each. But that felt very wrong since we’re talking about people here. There are no pros and cons, but there are things to consider.

Things to think about when entering at phase 1:

  • Since cases often take 2-3 years, if a child becomes available for adoption they have been with you for a good deal of that time. You have likely bonded as a family. This minimizes trauma to the child as they don’t have to go through the upheaval of moving to a new home if the case goes to adoption.
  • You know the child’s case very well, which is helpful to a child when they are older and have questions.
  • You probably know the birth family through visitation during the case, which again is very helpful as your child get’s older.
  • If you do not want to adopt out of birth order it is easier to be placed with a younger child if you enter at phase one.
  • The point of foster care is reunification. You must be able to support this as a foster parent. Your worker may be able to place children with you who seem more likely to be adopted eventually, but this isn’t a guarantee. A lot of foster parents go through heart break.

Things to think about when entering at phase 2:

  • The child will be able to begin bonding with you sooner then if you wait until after TPR.
  • You may still get to know the birth parents if visitation is still happening which is good.
  • The birth parent may still get their child back. It can be harder emotionally when you think the child is going to become available for adoption.

Things to think about when entering at phase 3:

  • The child is legally free for adoption and the chances of the birth parent getting the child back are miniscule.
  • You will be adopting a child who is really in need of a family.
  • If you have young children and do not want to adopt out of birth order it may be difficult to be matched as nearly all children are at least 2 or 3 years old by this point, and more likely 6+. Not always, but often.
  • The child may have spent the last 2-3 years being bumped around to various foster homes, or they may have spent the last 2-3 years attaching to a foster home they now have to leave. The transition is understandably tough.

 

I hope this helps people who may be interested understand a little more about adopting through the foster care system.  If you have any questions feel free to email me! I’ll do my best to answer them, or point you in the direction of someone who can.

8 Fun Tips For Camping With Children

We just got back from a weekend of camping. Our neighbor has been organizing a family camping trip for the passed 3 years. This year there were 8 families, with 16 adults and 20 kids for a total of 36 people. As you can probably imagine camping was IN-TENTS. That’s a 9 year old joke I picked up this weekend, get it IN-TENTS INTENSE. Hilarious right? I’ve used this weekend to help me compile a list of fun tips for camping with children.

When I was a child my mom would always claim she “just couldn’t get it together” to take our family of 6 camping, so my camping experience was limited to girl scouts. That was just fine though. The troop leaders provided a wonderful experience complete with campfires, s’mores, and merit badges.

Now that I’m a grown up, I have no idea how they did it for all of us. I finally understand where my mom was coming from. Camping is hard yo! You know that feeling where you get super excited for a nice relaxing vacation? Perhaps you’re going to visit your best friend or your old college roommate? You’ll go out to dinner, sit on the couch and talk, introduce your delightful children. Everyone will be so happy, and there will be rainbows. Well that’s kind of like camping. Except without the house. And you’ll be doing all the cooking. And there won’t be a couch to sit on. And your kids will turn a little bit lord of the flies and start running around with sticks and their shirts off.

8funtipsforcampingwithchildren

1) Bring someway to tether your small children/infants to your body or campsite. Be it a stroller, a baby carrier, or even a pack and play to deposit them into. 

Since I’m such a together mom, I forgot to bring Hazel’s baby carrier and stroller. Actually I only forgot the carrier. I considered the stroller but didn’t think it necessary since I wouldn’t be able to roll it around on the terrain. Our friend with a baby the same age smartly brought her stroller and used it to strap her baby in place so he wouldn’t crawl off into the wilderness. Since I brought neither carrier nor stroller, the only thing I had to hold my child down all weekend was my own two arms. Naturally Hazel did not want to be held, and spent a good deal of time trying to roll/crawl in the dirt or climb into the fire.

I cleaned her face for this shot

I cleaned her face for this shot. Originally it looked like she had been eating chocolate cake. We didn’t bring chocolate cake.

2) Dress your baby in brown clothes.

If you forget to bring brown clothes, you will come home with brown clothes. See number 1.

3) Make an excel spread sheet for all participating families so you don’t bring overlapping items

We did this and I think it really helped. I took it upon myself to sign up for the dish soap, sponges, and paper towels since I can’t cook. Other people signed up for things like Chili and Mac N Cheese (pre-made to be heated over the fire Friday night). When I tasted their delicious dishes I felt a little guilty about having only brought the napkins. But at the same time I think it’s best that we let everyone do the jobs that really make them shine. The place I shine is clearly bringing the s’more fixins*.

4) *If you sign up for s’more fixins DO NOT grab Hershey’s with almonds just because they are out of regular Hershey’s.

The adults in your group won’t mind, but the kids in your group certainly will. And you will be subjected to many a stink eye.

5) Try and talk your friends into using reusable plates, dishes, etc.

When that doesn’t work, write everyone’s name on their cup so they can reuse it. Otherwise you will lie in your tent every night feeling guilty about the giant carbon footprint your weekend in the woods is causing.

6) If you plan to leave for camping after work on Friday, don’t forget to change your shoes.

Casual Friday ballet flats don’t make for comfortable outdoor footwear. And also they kind of clash with the yoga pants you intend to wear all weekend.

7) For extra camping fun, make it a screen free weekend!

You all know how much I hate video games, so we gave this a try on our campout. I was really happy to see all the kids running around together. It reminded me of how they used to play a few years ago, before every single one of them owned more gaming systems then pairs of shoes. Just a word to the wise if you do this, when all the kids disappear and you notice things are eerily quiet at your camp site, assume it is because one child snuck a cell phone out of the car and they are all watching the fine amusements of Temple Run.

WillCamping

8) If you are camping with a bunch of 9 year old boys, do not suggest going round robin on ghost stories.

Otherwise you will spend the next half hour listening to something like this:
Boy A: Once there was a man who was walking around in a graveyard, and then he farted.
Boy B: And then the fart brought all the zombies out of their graves!
Boy C: And then all the zombies started farting at the exact same time. And it smelled SO BAD!
Parent: Can we cool it with the fart jokes in this story?
Boy D: Okay fine. And then they started throwing up, and pulling their eyeballs out, and having diarrhea! There was diarrhea everywhere! All over the graveyard! All over their shorts! Vomit and diarrhea!

Monday Morning Coffee Talk: First Birthdays

Good Morning friends!

In addition to October being Halloween, it’s also a birthday month in our house. In just two and a half short weeks my little Halloween baby will be celebrating her first birthday. According to Will it’s actually her second birthday, and her first birthday was the day she was born. Either way, Hazel will be turning 1. The Big One.

Now all my friends who have older children have informed me that your supposed to go real crazy when your baby turns one. I didn’t know this because I’ve never had a baby turn one before, and also because apparently I usually live under a rock. My plan was just a casual cake at home, most likely handmade by my older two who love helping in the kitchen. And when I say helping I mean accidentally dropping eggs on the floor and secretly consuming half the batter. As you can see, I didn’t exactly have plans to go all out. I went ahead and told this to the extended family when they asked about a party.

Well if there’s one thing you never want to let a big brother and sister hear, it’s that you plan to gloss over their baby sister’s birthday with a simple homemade cake which probably has eggshells in it. Will and Nariya would not hear of this and started lobbying for a BIG party. I agreed that maybe we could invite a few friends over for pizza an hour or so before Trick or Treating. A nice little low key gathering.

Naturally the kids have taken this and run with it. While at Target the other day Will found a cute little ghost Piñata that we just had to buy. When I pointed out that it was covered in a gooey brown gunk that didn’t look intentional, he found a cute little spider Piñata that we just had to buy. Pretty soon we had a shopping cart filled with pumpkin table clothes, spider plates, and Halloween party games. So much for a low key gathering.

What are your thoughts on first birthday parties? Did you celebrate your child’s with a big party, or a low key family only thing? Do people go a little over the top for something that won’t even be remembered? Or do you enjoy a giant celebration? Ever been to a really wild first birthday party? Talk to me on this Monday Morning!

How to be a cool mom: The Scooter

I think we’re finally getting into a routine with the whole dropping off kids to 3 separate locations thing since Will started a new school. Rob takes Hazel and the car in the morning at 6:45. He’s been doing this most mornings since I went back to work from maternity leave in February. Her daycare is in the opposite direction of the school and Subway, so that works best. Nariya, Will, and I leave the house at 7:45 and scooter as quick as we can with all our might to arrive at Nariya’s school by 8:00. She leaves her scooter in the basement and heads to class. Will and I then scooter as quick as we can with all our might to arrive at his school by 8:15. We can’t leave the scooters there (it’s against school policy) so I then lug the two scooters to the Subway, drag them onto the train where I generally accidentally knock a few people in the shins, and carry them into work with me. I’m clocking almost 3 miles with our scooters in the morning, Will is clocking just under two, and Nariya is clocking 1. Nariya is used to it since we’ve been scootering her to school for years. Will and I are both a little tired from the distance increase.

All of this has taught me an important lesson on how to be a cool mom: If you want your kids to think you’re cool and they are under age 7, ride a scooter to school with them. The second we pull up at Nariya’s school she’s all like “Hey guys look! Here’s my mom! Her scooter is just like mine and she’s so fast!” And all the kids stand by to marvel at my shiny red Razor and ask if they can have a play date at our house. If you want your kids to think you’re cool and they are over age 7, DO NOT RIDE A SCOOTER. I repeat, DO NOT RIDE A SCOOTER. Do not go near your child’s school with a scooter in your hand. Do not talk about your scooter in front of your child’s friends. And also, definitely do not wear a helmet during drop off when you ask if there is anyway they could please please please fit these scooters in a supply closet so you don’t have to drag them 10 more blocks, and onto the Subway, and into the office where your coworkers will giggle at you.

Now one thing about Will’s school is that he has a bit more freedom then he had in the old one. The old school was very Crunchem Hall (minus the Chokey and mean principal) and the new school is a little more lax. For example yesterday Will said “Mom you are not going to believe it! We were about to say the pledge of allegience and the teacher said ‘Clear your throats gentleman!’ and all the boys started going AHEM! AHEM! AHEM! It was so funny! And also at lunchtime we can sit with our friends and talk about whatever we want!” I guess Will is not used to being able to clear his throat for entertainment purposes or speak his mind at school, and he’s been taking some liberties since discovering this new found power. Either that or he’s just acting like a typical 9 year old boy with the sassiness. This morning on the way to school we had the following conversation:

Will: Can you wait here and I’ll walk the last two blocks myself?
Me: No, I won’t be able to see you when you go around the corner.
Will: Please! Your being overprotective!
Me: I’m just worried about all these other parents I don’t know yet judging me for letting you out of my sight.
Will: But you’re not worried about looking silly on a scooter?
Evil, evil glare from me.
Me: And also what about stranger danger? I would probably spend the whole day at work wondering if you ever made it inside.
Will: Come on mom. I’ll make it inside. There’s no one even out on the street that could take me.
Me: Well if there is no one out on the street to take you, there is also no one out on the street to see your embarrassing mom.
Will: But they could see us out their window. Obviously mom.
Me: Hmmm the window. Good point. They could also see you out their window and come take you. Obviously Will.
Evil, evil glare from Will.
Will: I have a good idea! We can leave the scooters here and you can come back for them.
Me: No. Then someone might take the scooters.
Will: Mom! There’s no one even out on the street that could take them!
Me: But remember the window? They could see them out their window.
Will: Oh dear God….
Me: I’m so embarrassing you are now praying to God?
Will: Ugh. Fiiiiine. Let’s go.

I arrived at work this morning to find an email from a friend CCed to myself and all the other moms in the neighborhood with children at Will’s new school. She kindly offered to drive him some days and arrange a carpool for everyone to take a turn.  I’ll be going back to my old schedule of just scootering Nariya and leaving the scooters at her school, and Will will begin participating in what looks to be a very complicated carpooling schedule. My friend must have either seen us on scooter and really pitied us, or God has answered Will’s prayer and saved him. Either way, we’re both feeling pretty grateful.

Relegating these guys back to the closet when I get home today

Foster Care License Renewal – It’s Time

Every single fall we get a call from the office of licensing about our foster care license renewal and every single fall I jump through a couple of hoops to get it done. Not big hoops or anything. Little hoops. Like needing copies of everyone in the houses immunizations. Which means taking the animals to the vet, and getting my kids that flu shot I’ve been putting off. It also means taking an afternoon off work for the licensing agent to come by and remeasure every room in the house just to make sure the house hasn’t grown in the last 12 months. It’s not terribly difficult, just a little yearly annoyance.

Will and Nariya’s adoption has been finalized for 2 and a half years now, yet I can’t seem to give this little annoyance up. There is this voice inside my head that tells me to hold on to my license in case one of their birth siblings is ever in foster care, or in case I suddenly get the urge to foster again. I realize neither one is incredibly likely. The birth siblings all seem to be in stable situations, and if one did come into care, the system isn’t always the best at matching them up with siblings anyway. Plus I’m happy with my family the way it is. I’m not sure I want another child*. 3 is hectic and crazy and I love it. With 4 I fear it might just be hectic and crazy.

So why can’t I part with my license? Why do I have this urge each year to renew when I don’t really plan to use it? I think it’s because it’s hard to know that part of my life is over. In fact I have trouble admitting that part is over. Is that part over? Really really over? Technically I haven’t been a foster mom for 2 and a half years. The second the pen left the paper at the court house I stopped being a foster mom. I am so happy to have my children’s adoption finalized, and so glad that particular part of their lives is over. But at the same time, I liked being a foster mom. I liked the happy, driven, loving attitudes of the caseworkers. Though it didn’t work out in our kid’s case, I liked the idea of helping a family get back together. If I’m being really honest, I liked feeling like I was making a difference. I know “The Savior Mentality” well and I try to avoid it. I really do. But feeling like you are helping a family feels good, it’s the truth.

I keep thinking of the phone calls we turned down over the years… or the messages we didn’t answer.

 “We’ve got a 23 month old who would be a perfect fit in your family. Rights are terminated but we can’t find an adoptive placement. Call us back if you know anyone…”

“Can you take a 3 year old boy? PLEASE. He’s been sitting here all day and we’re closing soon. We can’t find anyone to take him home. We could even look for another placement in the morning if you could just keep him overnight…”

“Any chance you would be interested in taking a parenting teen mom and her baby? I feel like I’ve called the entire state and gotten nothing but no’s. Really don’t want to have to separate these two.”

“We’ve got a little girl in the burn unit. We’re looking for a foster family who can start visiting her now so that when she’s healthy enough to be discharged she knows the people who are taking her home.”

We used to get so many calls, but felt we wanted to focus on the placement we had. Where are all those children now? Children we could have gotten to know, children we could have even loved, but whose lives never ended up crossing ours. Are there other children out there who are meant to walk through our lives? Or is our family officially done? I just don’t know.

fostercarelicenserenewal

Monday Morning Coffee Talk: Halloween

Will Coffee Talk

It’s October which means we’re having some big discussions in our house about who is going to be what for Halloween this year. My older kids have gotten to an age where they completely pick their own Halloween costume with no insight or suggestions from me. Being 9 and 6 they have a lot of grand ideas which are often A) Expensive B) Not age appropriate C) Impossible. Last year was a bit easier. Will decided he was going to be George Washington. Nariya decided she was going to be George Washington. I decided she needed to think of her own idea. She settled for Barack Obama since he was the only other president she knew the name of. Simple.

When I was a child my mom usually said “go pick something from the dress up box” and the 4 of us would rummage through and come up with whatever fit that year. I was “an Asian person” for about 4 years in a row. The cultural appropriation and idea that being a certain ethnicity for Halloween could count as a costume now pains me.  But the ease of sending my kids to the closet and telling them to come up with something is very appealing.

After a great deal of negotiating, I think that Will has pretty much settled on being some kind of zombie. This is good because it’s an easy, homemade costume (ie free). After a great deal of negotiating, I think Nariya has pretty much settled on being Elsa. This is good because my mother bought her an Elsa costume (ie free).

So here’s the conundrum: Nariya is dead set on Hazel being Anna to her Elsa. Cute right? Except that *I* want to pick Hazel’s costume. In a child’s life you get 2, maybe 3 Halloween’s to dress your child adorably. That is it my friends! Then, no matter how much you protest, or suggest an Amelia Earheart costume, it’s all pink princesses (or in this year’s case blue princesses). Princesses eventually give way to hippies and pop icons, and then the utterly too soon appearance of scantily clad maids or sexy vampires or whatever horrifying thing your teen tries to sneak out of the house in. Sorry moms, it’s coming.

I figure I have several options: I could have Hazel go as Anna because it would make Nariya so incredibly happy. I could have Hazel go as Olaf because it’s a little bit cuter then Anna, and Nariya has deemed it a decent compromise. I could pick my own adorable costume for Hazel, and break Nariya’s sister loving heart. Actually no I couldn’t, just typing that felt mean. I could call the whole week Halloween week, and send her off to daycare in a different costume each day with Friday being the Anna costume, thereby satisfying my desire for cuteness throughout the week, and my daughter’s desire for companion costumes, but also really really complicating my life and budget, and forcing me to type a run on sentence. Obviously a tough choice.

 

What are your children going as this Halloween? Any costume decision drama in your house? Do you make a big deal out of deciding what to wear, or just send them off to the closet for whatever is handy? Any thoughts on our current predicament? Talk to me on this Monday Morning! 

10 Ways I’m Actually Winning

Do you ever have those weeks where everything seems to be going wrong or life just seems particularly stressful? When this happens to me I tend to turn in to a list maker. So here we go:

10 Ways I Failed This Week

1) I was either late to work or out sick every day this week. If there is one thing I NEVER do it is show up late to work. And that isn’t sarcasm.

2) Last Spring my son’s baseball championship was postponed numerous times. I didn’t hear anything all Summer, so I assumed they would never finish and got rid of Will’s uniform. They randomly decided to finish their final game this week. I was forced to tape a Brewer’s logo on a blue shirt and have him play in that.

3) I sent my baby to daycare with a stomach flu, possibly infecting an entire classroom full of infants.

4) I have spent more then the allotted budget on many items this week including but not limited to lots of eating out (because it’s been so hectic), lots of Starbucks (because a sick baby who can’t sleep will make you tired), as well as school supplies and clothes for a new school (because his old school supplied supplies and he wore uniforms).

5) I had the following conversation with my kids while studying.
Me: Nariya, can you please give me an example of voting.
Nariya: We are trying to decide what to cook for dinner. Will and I vote for pizza. Mommy votes for pasta. We have pasta.
Will: Nariya even though that’s a true story, use the president as an example on your test. I think your teacher wants to hear about a vote that’s fair.

6) Will’s principal at his old school sent me a heartfelt email which brought me to tears and also made me question if I’m doing the best thing for him by switching his school.

7) Nariya’s teacher left me the following note. Two weeks ago. Since I don’t clean her folder ever nightly I just found it.

NariyaFolderClean

8) My printer did this with our last 4 sheets of paper for a package I desperately needed to mail out last week.

PrinterJam

9) I had a chocolate bar and a coke for lunch which I know is an excellent choice when you are getting over a stomach flu.

10) I decided to put the Halloween decorations up for the first time in two years and banged my leg into the prickly pear cactus. Now I’m not sure if you’ve ever gotten prickly pear splinters, they aren’t terribly painful, but are rather itchy. They are small and hair like. Now this may be a little TMI, but I’m a busy lady and shave my legs less often then I should admit. Each prickly pear splinter looked exactly like a leg hair. Let’s just say pulling out the splinters involved a lot of painful mistakes.

I realize this list is a little bit of a downer. After completing it I decided perhaps I should try and look on the upside for all you half full people. So here we go:

10 Ways My Failures Are Actually Wins This Week

1) My boss was extremely understanding and placed a bottle of Purrell on my desk.

2) The other parents claimed from the bleachers 25 yards away they couldn’t even tell the difference. Also, he was a little bit more shiny then his friends on account of all the packaging tape.

WillBaseballChampion

3) No upside to spreading the stomach flu. I apologize for the parent’s lost wages and miserable infants.

4) The Sushi was really, really delicious.

5) My children now understand what a dictatorship is.

6) Will had an amazing 4 years at a great school which we will definitely miss. And now we don’t have to pay tuition.

7) Nariya’s teacher has learned what to expect from me this year. Plus I assume she already thinks we’re crazy.

8) My eBay ship time reviews may more accurately reflect my actual ship time.

9) It was so good. And Self care. It’s important to practice self care.

10) My husband can enjoy a patch (albeit small) of smooth skin on one of my legs. Which hasn’t happened for awhile.

 

Will’s first day at a new school

Things have been pretty wild and crazy in our house ever since returning from Seattle. For starters, each child returned to a stack of homework nearly as tall as they are (we brought work with us, but they inevitably still missed a lot). Right as we got it all finished, we decided to go ahead and switch Will’s school. Yes it was a sudden decision.

Let me start this with a little back story. Most of the public schools in our area are not decent. They have gotten better lately, but 6 years ago when our children were placed with us they were not so decent. Will spent one year in a public prek4 program, and that was enough for us to start searching out other options. He ended up starting kindergarten at a private school and Nariya started a 2’s preschool program at the same place. We LOVED the school. Although it was a private school, the foster care voucher covered all of tuition for Nariya (counted as daycare) and part of tuition for Will (counted as aftercare). This left us a very affordable small payment for two kids in private school. Because this private school accepted the voucher given to low income parents and foster children, their private school had a great collection of socioeconomic statuses and races.

After the adoption was finalized, when Will was in first grade and Nariya was in prek3, we no longer continued to get the voucher. Because we loved the school, we did what we could to keep the children there (and were also graciously assisted by the school). But there’s one thing my dad always said, “a discount on a lot of money is still a lot of money.” Now with a third child, and the high cost of daycare, and me working less, it has become super hard to pay for their school, even though the school has been generous with us. In fact it’s actually not possible. Every month we’re spending just a little more than we are making. As a die hard saver, this bothers me.

We started entering the yearly lottery for the good charter schools in our area awhile back. I’m not sure if you’ve seen Waiting For Superman, but if you haven’t let me tell you. Winning the charter school lottery is equivalent to winning the actual lottery (especially if you consider what we pay in tuition). Now I know this is a failed system, but that’s a conversation for another very, very lengthy post….

Anyway, Yesterday morning Rob and I woke up with the stomach flu. Will was also appearing lethargic. The girls were fine, so Rob deposited them at their respective educational institutions. I fell asleep on the couch, Rob fell asleep upstairs, and Will fell asleep on his bed. For about 7 minutes. At which point he “woke up” and “felt better” and “wanted to play Wii.” I banished him to his room so that I could nap in peace. While napping I was awoken by THE CALL. He had won the lottery (and when I say “won” I mean finally made it to the top of a long wait list). Will, being the very sick boy that he was, overheard the conversation and started jumping up and down. He has wanted to go to this school for awhile as many neighborhood friends attend, and the school doesn’t give homework. The school requested that I bring Will in that day to fill out paperwork. Guess it was pretty lucky we were both home sick after all.

Now one of the weird little things about enrolling in a charter school is that you have to have a withdrawal slip from your zoned public school. Since Will didn’t attend public school I would need to enroll him, and then immediately un-enroll him. By phone it was promised to be a 15 minute ordeal. I can hear you laughing. I antibacterial soaped my hands (in an attempt not to spread my germs), grabbed my son’s life documents, and headed off to begin the enrollment process.

We arrived at the public school at 10 till 3:00. We had been told we could be helped up until 3:30. This is the same school Will attended for prek4 that once threatened to call child services on me for abandonment when Will’s caseworker forgot to pick him up for a visit with his birth mom. In other words, they threatened to call child services on me when child services forgot to pick Will up. So there’s that. Anyway, we arrive at the public school to get the form,

Lady in the office: Can I help you?
Me: Yes I need a withdrawal form for my son.
The school is used to charter school transfers so I know they understand the process.
Lady (in a brand new snotty tone): It’s nearly 3:00. This should have been done by 2:45.
Me: Oh I’m sorry, on the phone they said I had until 3:30.
Lady (in a continued snotty tone): Well you don’t. The woman who processes these isn’t here anymore. She leaves at 2:45.
Me: Oh okay. Well it’s 2:50, sorry we’re late. Is there anyone who can help me today? He’s supposed to start tomorrow.
Lady: Who are you anyway?
Me: Uhh, I’m his mom. Erin. My name’s Erin. This is Will.
Lady: Are you his real mom? Or his guardian? If you’re his guardian I need to see proof.
Me: I’m not his guardian, I’m his real mom.
Lady: Well I’m going to have to see proof of that.
Me: Proof that I’m his mom?
Lady: Yes. Like his birth certificate and a photo ID.
And pictures of the birth? As if random people like to go around enrolling and un-enrolling children they don’t know in their local public schools.
Me: No problem, I have both of those here with me…
I start to rummage in my purse
Lady: And I need his adoption decree.
Me: His paperwork says I’m his mom so I don’t generally carry his adoption decree
It also wasn’t listed on the necessary documents list.
Lady: Well you need to.
Me: No I don’t. Your only doing this because he’s Black and I’m White. If we were the same race you wouldn’t have asked for it because you wouldn’t have assumed he was adopted.
The woman spends the next few minutes ranting about my rude behavior and how she refuses to help me and how I need to come back to be helped by the proper person and to make sure I bring the proper documents. As much as I want to respond, I am aware of my child standing next to me and know better than to start a fight in front of him. So I bite my tongue and smile.
Me: Okay. I’ll be back tomorrow morning with the necessary paperwork.

This was my plan for this morning: Have Rob ride his bike to work so I could take the car. Drop Nariya off at school. Drop Hazel off at daycare. Stop by the public school. Get the form. Drop Will off at school with the form. Drop the car off at home. Walk to the Subway. Get to work no more than 10 minutes late, focused and ready to give 100%. A flawless plan!

This is what actually happened: Nariya was mad she wasn’t starting a new school and refused to get dressed. I spent several moments trying to reason with her. I realized it was a loosing battle and bribed her with art classes. Which for the record I’m steadfastly against. The bribing that is, not the art classes. I finally got her to school just a mere 10 minutes behind schedule. We arrive at daycare. I think about how stoically Hazel is sitting. I pick her up. She pukes on me. In my rush I forget that we’ve all just had the stomach flu, and assume it’s one of Hazel’s normal pukes. Because she pukes a lot. I bring her in to daycare, change her clothes, and explain she just puked (they are used to it too). I get back in the car. We’re 25 minutes behind. We arrive at the public school with me still covered in puke. Guess who helped me? Yep, that same lady. Guess who DID NOT ask to see an adoption decree? Yep, that lady. We get the form surprisingly quickly. We start to leave. We run into Will’s old prek4 teacher. She spends a few minutes asking how we’re doing and then goes bug eyed for a minute when she notices the vomit. She doesn’t comment on it. I don’t comment on it. Will and I get out of there and run to the car which is parked 3 blocks away. I run by a tree which rips my sleeve and snags my hair. Will nearly falls over laughing. I arrive to drop Will at his new school. He wants me to walk him to his classroom. I decline the offer. He begs. I understand he is nervous and try to put his fear of a new school ahead of my fear of looking like an intoxicated homeless person. I walk him to class. I drive home. I park the car. I change my shirt. I brush my hair. I leave for the Subway. While on the train I get a message from the daycare that Hazel is sick. I arrive to work an hour late, distracted and on the search for a babysitter. Oops.

A friend is volunteering in the school today and sent me this. She said he seems really happy.

willfirstday