Driving the morning carpool

I’ve been feeling a bit guilty lately about how much help I am getting from others with the carpool thing in the morning. Our neighborhood friends have set up a carpool for James where someone drives him every single day. All I have to do is drop James off at their houses in the morning. It’s extremely generous and I appreciate it so very much. Since Rob takes the car in the morning I don’t really have an opportunity to reciprocate. Which often leaves me feeling guilty and worried that I am taking advantage of other’s generosity. Well yesterday I had a day off. Yes a lovely, beautiful, relaxing day off. I had great plans for the day. Rob would ride his bike to work and I would keep the car. I would get the grocery shopping done. I would return a pair of sneakers to the mall. But most importantly I would relieve my conscience be a good mom by driving the morning carpool.

Those of you who know me know that I absolutely hate being late. Those of you who are parents know that most children tend not to care one little teeny tiny ounce about being late. I mean mine claim to care. Yours probably do to. When we show up 15 minutes late to soccer practice they often marvel “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe we’re late again!” But when I say things like “Hurry up! We’re going to be late!” They usually look at me and say “I am hurrying” while sauntering around the house at a sloth like pace on the hunt for their missing shoes. Due to scenarios like the one previously mentioned, my carpool driving morning had us running a few minutes behind schedule. My plan was to pick up our neighbors, drop Mariyah off at school, drop everyone else at James’s school, and head to the grocery store with Violet. Being in the city there are a whole lot of one way streets. The one way street in front of Mariyah’s school that I usually take, sends us on a loop away from James’s school. Since we were running late I came up with the bright idea to drop Mariyah off on the corner by the crossing guard instead of turning onto the school’s street. This would avoid the loop and a few extra minutes of traffic.

My plan seemed genius to me. I pulled over to let my child out by the corner. Mariyah was less then thrilled about the drop off location. It put her in position of having to cross the street and walk 15 yards unaccompanied, which according to her, was not safe. I argued that the crossing guard would help her cross the street, plus I could see her the entire distance to the front door. Nope. She wouldn’t get out. She wanted me to pull into another spot which was a little bit closer and didn’t require her to cross the street but did require me to parallel park.

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Now I consider myself a fairly good driver. I’ve never caused serious damage to another car or even gotten a speeding ticket (where is the wood?). I did get pulled over once. Thankfully one of my kids started crying in the backseat about how mean police officers were. The officer, who was actually very nice, and clearly also very concerned about the reputation of police officers everywhere, let me off the hook. Although I have pretty stellar driving skills, my parking skills may be a bit “subpar” if you will. My main problem is that I just can’t manage to get the car parked straight. Ever. Also parallel parking can only be done on my left hand side and generally takes 7 or 8 attempts. “Practice makes perfect!” You might be thinking right now, but this isn’t always accurate. Sometimes practice makes for a scratched up bumper. Being a bad parker may just be my lot in life. That’s okay. I’ve accepted my fate. I’m a good roller skater. And life is all about the give and take.

Anyway, I figured it would be okay if I did a shotty job of parallel parking. I just needed to let Mariyah out of the car, and then be on the way. You probably know where this is going.

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Yep. Hit the curb. Hard. Well not *that* hard. I was only going like 2 miles per hour. But hard enough for one of the kids in the backseat to hear the tire pop and exclaim “Oh my gosh! We’re in a car crash!” and for me to spend the next several seconds assuring everyone that we were not. I sent Mariyah into school and ended up calling our babysitter for the other kids. She usually drops her grandson off at school in the morning and thankfully agreed to stop on her way.

It wasn’t long before the crossing guard recruited a couple of men to change my tire for me. I had no more than stepped out of the car when she presented me with two sturdy fathers who had come to drop their children off at school. They were both on their way to work and dressed in business suits and ties. One of them carefully looked under the car to locate our spare. The other one gingerly took off his Armani jacket and hung it on the fence. I could feel the guilt creeping up in my throat as I added another thing to the list of ways people help me that I am unable to reciprocate.

Thankfully just as one of the father’s was about to cover his hands in grease while attempting to lower our spare tire (which turned out to be rusted solid to the bottom of the vehicle), our babysitter arrived and we called AAA. The kids excitedly exclaimed to her grandson “We got in a car crash!” and skipped merrily off to get a ride the rest of the way to school. I’m estimating they were only 10 minutes late. Not too bad considering everything. James gave me a pat on the shoulder last night and said “Don’t worry mom. Next time you drive the carpool I bet you’ll make it all the way to school without any damage. It’s only two miles. You can do this.” I love how he always believes in me.

Monday Morning Coffee Talk: Music

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I’ve spent the last several years trying to shield my children from popular culture without much success. No matter how much time they spent in my car listening to Christian music or in my living room listening to the Alan Menken Pandora station, they still seemed to be getting a heavy dose of trendy music from outside sources. When James was in prek-4 he announced his favorite song was “I Got My Money” by The Black Eyed Peas (better known as “I Gotta Feeling”). He would sing the refrain of this song everyday, despite never having heard it on the radio. It was one of those songs that just kind of gets played everywhere, and sung by everyone, and somehow he learned it.

We still continued to try and keep our kids away from popular music. At James’s old school they did a Winter and Spring show every year. Each teacher would choose a song for the class to sing along with a dance routine. I remember at James’s very first kindergarten show being absolutely shocked when Moves Like Jagger came on for the first performance. Rob and I kind of gave each other a look like “What? Kindergarteners dancing to THIS?” And before you comment about how old I’m making myself sound, we were both 23 at that time. We were the young cool parents and it was music we listened to. But I guess we had thought there was some kind of unsaid parenting rule that we weren’t supposed to let our kids listen to it.

Slowly over the years I have started to lighten up. I hate to admit part of this was because every time a friend of James’s would hop in the car they would immediately ask me to change the radio station to Z100. Which would leave me in the awkward position of sounding like my 80 year old grandma by announcing “No! You’re too young for that garbage!” and then hearing them mutter to James in the backseat “Your mom never lets us listen to anything!” After a lot of feeling guilty for being so old fashioned, I started to let myself off the hook by figuring the real problem with trendy radio stations was actually the banter back and fourth between the DJs. I decided to let my kids listen to the popular stations and just change the channel for commercials or inappropriate songs.

This worked really well most of the time. But we had a few “mistakes” if you will. For example this passed summer while driving a few kids in the carpool to summer camp we witnessed a woman being hit by a car. I immediately threw the car into park and ran to the woman. Since my keys were in the ignition the radio remained on. Although a song was playing when I exited, I returned 10 minutes later to a rather vulgar conversation by the DJs. I silently hoped the kids were so entranced by the blood all over the street that they weren’t listening. But of course as they were hopping out of the car at camp a few minutes later one of them looked me in the eye and asked “Have you heard of a shit head before?”

When I was a child my parents listened to classical music and oldies. I think I got a radio around 5th grade and started listening to whatever I wanted. The thing was, none of the inappropriate stuff stuck in my head.  Was radio cleaner back then? Or was I just so young I didn’t notice it? Who knows. James has been asking for a radio in his room lately and I just think I’m not okay with that yet. But maybe I’m being too overprotective. I can control the car radio most of the time, but in his room it’s free listening which worries me.

What are your thoughts on popular music? Do you let your children listen to it? What kind of restrictions do you have? What did you listen to when you were a child? Talk to me on this Monday Morning!

How do adopted siblings get along?

A few years ago I attended an interesting series on Transracial Adoption hosted by Families With Children From China. Each month their was a different topic discussed between an adult transracial adoptee and an unrelated adoptive parent. As you can probably guess, it was fascinating. Honestly it was one of my first experiences getting to hear adult adoptees speak and I feel like I learned a lot about parenting from them.

On one particular evening a young woman who had been adopted from Korea was on the discussion panel. She mentioned that as an adult, when people find out she is adopted, they nearly always follow up with a question about her current relationship with her adoptive parents. Like that is literally their first comment. “Oh you’re adopted? Are you close to your adoptive parents?” Which seems so absurd, because who asks an adult that? I certainly have never asked or even wondered about this for the majority of non-adopted people I meet. Her comment has stuck with me. It actually pops into my head fairly often. Why do humans feel the need to ask prying questions of adoptees? Adoption makes people a family. Most of the time it’s just a regular old family. Some adults who were adopted are very close to their adoptive parents, some are not. Just like some not adopted adults are very close to their biological parents, and some are not. Yet we don’t wonder about people who aren’t adopted. In fact this is a question that never crosses our minds.

Since Violet was born we’ve begun encountering a more child centric version of this question. When people hear I have both adopted and biological children one of the first questions is, “How do they get along?” As if somehow because some of my children are not biologically related their relationships between each other becomes an acceptable topic to discuss. Now I know the topic of sibling relationships is a fairly normal parenting topic to discuss between friends, I’m all about it when it comes up in an organic manner with people I know. But I wouldn’t look at a random person on the subway with two kids and ask them “How do your kids get along?” Yet that seems to be happening to us with more and more frequency as Violet gets older. People walk over to us, make a pointing motion back and fourth between my kids and ask “How do those two, get along with her?”

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I’m never entirely certain of how to respond. Usually I slap a big smile on my face and reply “Great! They get along GREAT!” because they do get along great. Violet is a baby so she isn’t exactly stealing their toys and causing fights yet. James and Mariyah are both excellent with her and love “taking care of her” for me. But does answering with “Great!” indulge the curiosities of nosey people? Does it make them think their prying questions are okay to ask? Why ask an adoptive family you don’t know how their kids get along? Why ask an adoptee if they get along with their parents? Some family members are best friends. Some family members fight constantly. Most mix it up between the two. I mean we’re all family. We all just get along like family.

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 Violet 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 Violet 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: James’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 James 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.

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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.

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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 Violet’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 Violet 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.

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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 James it’s actually her second birthday, and her first birthday was the day she was born. Either way, Violet 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. James and Mariyah 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 James 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 James started a new school. Rob takes Violet 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. Mariyah, James, and I leave the house at 7:45 and scooter as quick as we can with all our might to arrive at Mariyah’s school by 8:00. She leaves her scooter in the basement and heads to class. James 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, James is clocking just under two, and Mariyah is clocking 1. Mariyah is used to it since we’ve been scootering her to school for years. James 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 Mariyah’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 James’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 James 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 James 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:

James: 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.
James: 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.
James: 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.
James: 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.
James: 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 James.
Evil, evil glare from James.
James: 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.
James: 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.
James: Oh dear God….
Me: I’m so embarrassing you are now praying to God?
James: 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 James’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 Mariyah and leaving the scooters at her school, and James 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 James’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.

James and Mariyah’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