Friday, May 27, 2016

6 Ways to Support Foster Families

I didn't want to end foster care awareness month without talking about the families who are taking care of those sweet kiddos! It can be a very hard, tiring and trying job! There are so many families out there doing amazing things and I think because foster care is so unknown and foreign to so many people, many of them don't get very much support. We have been very blessed to have so many people actively involved in our foster care journey, and we are very grateful for the support we have received! Not everyone should foster. Yes, there is a HUGE need for more families, but it's not for everyone! However, many people can help support these kiddos and families in other ways! Here are a few ideas, in case you want to help a foster family you know, but aren't sure what foster families need!
1. Bring meals
Much like having a newborn baby, having foster kiddos come to live with you can mean sleepless nights and lots of emotions in the beginning. It is often done with little to no planning or preparation, which can make it even more stressful! As foster families are trying to get to know the kiddos and vice versa, they are usually focusing all of their attention on loving them, making them feel at home and safe & secure. Meals are very helpful during this time! It is just one less thing that the foster parents have to think about. And let's face it-everyone's got to eat! 
2. Donate items
We were lucky to have a few days to prepare for our foster kids, but many people get as little as a 30 minute notice before kids are dropped off at their home. You can be somewhat prepared ahead of time, but you don't always know what age and gender of child you will be taking into your home. Many times these calls come in the middle of the night where you can't just run out and grab things, and the next day you are too exhausted to do so after pulling an all nighter with your new little love! If you hear about a family adding new children to their home, it is SO helpful to offer items you might have sitting around that they might need! Some examples would be cribs/beds, car seats, clothes, baby items, toys, books, etc. Not all necessities, but for many families, they've never had children in their home before and have none of this! Many children are brought to foster homes with little to no items. The foster family then has to find time to run out and get all of these things while taking care of the child(ren) during this huge trauma for them. It can also be a large expense for them. Many first time parents have 9 or more months to prepare for many of these items, and many times much of the items are gifted to them! Foster parents often go from having nothing one night to needing diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, an entire wardrobe, some toys, a crib, car seats, etc. the next night. That is a huge expense up front! 
3. Bring lunch/coffee/reinforcements
Asking your friends if you can stop by with lunch or coffee, or heck, even bagels, is so helpful during those sleep deprived nights. Even if they are fostering older children, the first few weeks/months can be very rough for everyone while they are getting adjusted. Coming over to entertain the kids or take the parents' mind off things with some mindless conversation + coffee is always helpful! Shout out to Raylene and Jenna for bringing me coffee and reinforcements a few weeks ago!! 
4. Become a respite provider
I am not sure if every state has respite, but in our state, if you are going to leave your foster children overnight, it must be with a licensed family/person. There is HUGE need for this! It is terribly hard to find people to do respite. We have found it especially hard to find it during the week because most respite families seem to work and since I stay home, our foster kids don't have child care for during the week. In our state, the process to become a respite provider is the same as becoming a foster or adoptive family. You do the background checks, take the classes and do the home study. Yes, it is a lot of work to go through to provide respite, but it is so needed and appreciated! If you have a heart for foster care, but can't become a foster family for whatever reason, consider providing respite! This is also a great way to get a feel for foster care on a temporary basis and see if it would be a good fit for you. 
5. Don't forget about foster families
Again, very similarly to having a new baby, foster families receive support in the beginning, but it quickly tapers off after the dust settles. Foster care is still very trying and emotionally and physically draining and the families continue to need support throughout the months/years depending on their situation. This could be offering to take the kiddos so they can go on a date or just get some housework done, this could be becoming a respite family, this could be bringing an unexpected meal or ice cream or coffee! Even just checking in with the family to see how things are going is so appreciated! Foster families cannot share many details about the case, but it is nice to know that people are thinking and praying for the situation and children. 

6. Help with childcare/appointments/transportation
If you are able to transport or help out with foster kiddos for childcare or other kiddos in the home, it is super helpful! It seems like often times foster kids have a lot of different appointments for a lot of different things and it can be very time consuming for the foster family. At one point, my husband and I figured out we were averaging about one appointment every week for our foster kids, and I actually think that will be increasing soon! Often times, those appointments will be for one at a time and depending what it is, sometimes we can't take the other 3. I know this is very common in foster care, so it is helpful to have people who are willing to help out in those ways! 
If you are a foster family or have supported one, what other things would you add?! 
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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mexican Build Up

This was my late grandma's recipe and I grew up eating it made by my mom on a semi regular basis. Every time I make it it reminds me of my mom and grandma. So good. And really easy to make, which is the kind of recipe that I love! 

Mexican Build Up
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 small onion, chopped (optional--I omit)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 6 oz. can tomato paste 
3 tomato paste cans of water
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano 
1 tsp cumin 
1 tsp salt 
2 tsp sugar (I use 2 tsp of  honey)
2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of cooked rice (this is the rice we buy)
Cook beef (and onions if you are using them) & drain.
Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, rotel, water, and spices. Stir. Then add cooked rice. 

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes until it thickens. 
The reason it's called Mexican Build Up is because you then put it on a bed of chips or fritos and add other toppings!

 Here are some ideas...
shredded lettuce (or you could put it on a bed of lettuce)
Shredded cheddar
Sliced green onions
Black olives
Sour cream 
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Friday, May 20, 2016

Week in the Life: Friday

Friday, May 20, 2016
My husband works 80 hours in a 9 day period instead of 10, and has every other Friday off. That's just how his team does it and half take off one Friday and half take off the other. Today was one of his Friday's off! 
(We spent a lot of time outside today, so I didn't pay very close attention to times, so most of it is approximate for today.)

About 8:30- The girls wake us up. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! They haven't slept in this late in awhile! We actually get a show started for the girls so we can lounge around and wake up slowly. Littles are still asleep (not sure why they are all such sleepy heads today, but I will take it)! I check my email and see that the littles visit with their mom was cancelled today due to the provider having a sick kiddo. We discuss our plans since we will have to rearrange them a little based on them being home during the morning now. 

Around 9:30 we are finally starting to get going on breakfast and everyone is awake by now. Honestly I am blanking on what all the kids had because my hubby took care of their breakfast. But I made a chocolate cherry smoothie and had salted avocado and honey on an Ezekiel english muffin. It was amazing. 

After breakfast, everyone gets dressed and we head outside by about 10, or a little after. Our plan was to get our backyard under control but we aren't sure how well we will be able to mow/weed eat/etc with the littles around so my husband decides to work on the garden with all the kids and I start mowing. We hadn't mowed the back yet this year and some parts were out of control. I was only planning on mowing the back because I mowed the front and side last week and the grass hasn't grown that much, but I did see that it needed it so I ended up mowing everything. When all was said and done I think it took me about an hour or hour and a half. Meanwhile, the kids and Daddy were rocking the garden. I have a black thumb, so that is their thing! Everyone was having so much fun planting and playing in the dirt. The kids took lots of play breaks to run back and forth between the back and front yards and play in their play house, cozy coupes, and all the other outside toys. 
{Showing me one of the many worms they dug up in the garden}

A little after noon, we head in for lunch. I get the littles wiped down because they are covered in dirt and my husband is fixing their lunch. Then, he makes us tuna melts while the kids eat. Everyone is hungry and tired so it seems like they all just eat a ton. We finally get done and I get the kitchen cleaned up, we take everyone potty, clean everyone up, etc. and start getting them down for naps. The littles go down about 1 and the girls about 1:15. We are hoping and praying for good naps since they ran around outside so much this morning! 
So, we have kind of a problem in our backyard. We live in a new subdivision, but the house behind us has been there for 40 some years. The sweetest elderly couple lives there (seriously, the sweetest. They mail the girls cards for every holiday, gave them cash in the cards for Christmas, give us baked goods often, etc. They are so precious) and so they have a huge tree on the side of their house which leans over into our backyard. It is a huge and beautiful tree that gives us amazing shade in the mornings in the summer. However, it drops billions of acorns into our yard and we can't get them under control. This year, tons of little trees are coming up and we can't stop them! Last year about 10-20 trees started to grow, but this year you can't even count them there are so many. Besides that, the acorns are everywhere. I seriously think there are tens of thousands. SO I decided to google what we can do about it. Picking them all up isn't an option because we would be out there doing it for weeks...there are just too many. In the morning I raked some up but it also took up a lot of grass and again, it would take forever to do that and I would still miss a ton. I googled about the trees and apparently if you mow over them enough times they'll stop growing, so that's not a huge deal. But the acorns. Oh, the acorns. When I was raking them, I said to my husband that we need something the opposite of a leaf blower that will suck them all up for me! So when I'm googling I come up on a few videos of people using a shop vac to get them up! Duh! All this to say that after all the googling, I went back outside while the kids were napping and started sucking up acorns. 2 hours and 8 GALLONS...yes EIGHT.GALLONS. of acorns later, the yard is mostly cleared of them! 
I came back in about 3:30 (my husband had been out trying to fix our weed eater that wasn't working right and doing some other yard work and went in around 3) and the girls were awake and playing. Littles were still sound asleep and worn out from the morning. 
At about 4 or 4:15 I started the rice for tonight's dinner and finished thawing the beef the rest of the way. The girls went outside to wash their playhouse and play outside. 
About 4:30 I started cooking the meat and assembling the rest of the meal until the rice was done, then added that and let everything simmer by about 4:45. 
At 5:00 I finally heard the littles waking up. Incredible! We got them and started Facetiming with my mom for her birthday! The girls "took" her out front and were chatting about who knows what, so we all eventually ended up out there until dinner about 5:20. 

5:45ish we are finished up with dinner and heading back outside to play. The girls are "washing" Daddy's car (hosing it down) and the littles are playing in the garage. After a bit we head back to the backyard and the kids all play. For awhile they all play in the playhouse together and it is super cute. I should have gotten a picture. They are all running around barefoot now that the yard is all cleaned up and are basically filthy between the morning, the water play, gardening and now running around the yard. It feels like summer!! My husband and I actually get a chance to just sit on the steps and talk because all the kiddos are having so much fun together, which is always so nice. 

About 7:15 we head inside and my husband bathes the littles and I start a shower for the girls in the other bathroom. Then I get a bedtime snack ready for everyone. Everyone gets out of shower/bath and we get jammies on, hair combed and they eat. They play for just a few minutes after snack and just before 8 we put the little ones to bed. We start snuggle time with the girls around 8 and they are in their room about 8:15, but my husband sings them a few extra songs and he is out of there by 8:30. He showers, then I shower and dry my hair and am done with all that around 9. We talk for a few minutes and then I start on this post about 9:15 and he leaves to go to a going away party for a co-worker of his who is deploying for a year. I am planning to finish this up, read my Bible and then get things together for some pictures I am doing tomorrow. 
It was such a great family day! We have had kind of a busy week so we haven't had much time together as a family and it was so nice to spend the whole day outside! The kids were all so worn out and sun kissed and dirty and it just made me smile.

 Seeing the ring of dirt and grass around the bathtub when they got out made me laugh and think that summer is definitely right around the corner! I can't wait for more days like this over the summer!! 
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