Wednesday, December 30, 2015

resolution ideas

1. make it to level 3 in my exercise chart
2. read my scriptures daily
3. write in my journal # times per week
4. write in a gratitude journal # items per day, # times per week
5. only eat dessert every other day
6. get Instagram or Twitter?
7. make #happyconfession a thing
8. become a Youtube sensation
9. earn a million dollars
10. paint our bedroom
11. finish reading and return the library books that are currently $9.50 overdue

...The longer I think about it, the wilder they get...

cue Batman narrator voice:


(or, y'know, whenever I pick one. It might not be tomorrow.)


Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
Marcel Proust

Friday, November 13, 2015

a spoonful of sugar

These are my favorites of what I'm listening to this week.  Put them on while you're cleaning or driving around this weekend!  They're so good.

"Somebody Loves You" - Betty Who

"Sort Of" - Ingrid Michaelson

"When We Were Young" - Lucy Schwartz

"Little Dancer" - Leroy Sanchez


Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not.  Remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


No, she's not a child.

She is, in fact, a bed.

So, Joel and I have been wanting a new mattress for a long time.  Ours had a HUGE dip in the middle, and we've both been waking up sore for at least a year.  We went mattress shopping a few times, but it's so hard!  They all were good, better than what we had, but not "perfect enough."  We weren't willing to commit to any of them.  I don't remember why, but one day, I started looking online and discovered that buying mattresses online is a thing.  What?!  I read about it for hours - how to buy a bed without trying it first, return policies, reviews of certain mattresses... and what started as, "Haha, wouldn't that be hilarious and weird if we bought a bed online?" became, "Alright, shall we do it?"

Here's what we learned:
Buying a mattress online can be less expensive because there's no middle man.
Most online mattress companies have 1-3 firmness levels, making it easier because you don't have to test a million beds, but a little scarier, too, if you like to try out the mattress first.
All online mattress companies I read about produce a pretty firm mattress - what's "average,"  or about 6-7 on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the cushiest.
Every company I researched had a 90-101 night return policy - if you don't like it, you can return it for a full refund.  They all have a free pick-up policy.  One company's policy was to pick it up and then donate it to a shelter.  (No restocking fee because they never restock a mattress.)

Ours is pretty foamy, as opposed to having coils.  It came in this box: 

It weighed 96 pounds.  Never have I been so excited to see a package on our front porch!  And never have I been so disappointed to hear the "you have a package" knock on the door that came two days earlier...

The mattress was vacuum-sealed in the box, so the instructions were that we position the box where we wanted the bed to end up, open it on its side, pull out the mattress, and cut the plastic enveloping it.  Then we just watched!  Five minutes later, we had this: 

a beautiful, super soft (to the touch), firm mattress...


I never would've thought I'd enjoy a firm mattress, but man.  It's so nice.  We love it.  We budgeted for the possibility of buying a $100 mattress topper if we hated the firmness, but we didn't have to.  This particular mattress has a thin layer of soft foam on top of firm foam, so it feels cushy but firm... if that makes any sense.  We're still far away from our 100th night, but I can't imagine our opinion changing.  Would we buy a mattress online again?  Definitely.  Would we buy a Leesa again?  Also yes.  If you need a new mattress and want to lay on ours to see what Internet beds are like (and if I'm friends with you in real life...), let me know!  


In life, the hardest decisions often have to be made more than once.  But each time, it gets easier.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Airheads FHE

I'm a member of a website called Smiley360 that gives free samples in return for reviews.  This last week, I got a box of Airheads and was asked to make something out of them and then show off what I made, so... 


I made a tribute to Harry Potter.

I'll be honest, I'm not the world's biggest fan of the taste + texture of Airheads.  (Except their new rainbow strips, Airheads Extremes.  They're really good.)  I do like, though, that they're pretty allergy-free.  (They don't have gluten or peanuts.)  We don't have a lot of allergies in our family, but I appreciate companies that make foods that are more universally accessible.  As a teacher, it was hard sometimes to find treats that all of my 600 students could eat.  

This was, by the way, a really fun Family Home Evening activity / treat!  All of us had a blast.  The Airheads were pretty easy to mold with, and they come in really fun colors.  Kind of like sculpting with edible, stiffish clay.  The kids didn't compare their creations to ours, either (which they do with stuff like carving pumpkins), because if they were disappointed with how something was turning out, they'd fix it, change it into something else, or eat ate it.  

Also, because I'm supposed to include step-by-step instructions on how to make what I made, imagine these instructions set to the "tune" of a BopIt game:
1. Roll it!
2. Slice it!
3. Cut it with a roller!
4. Mold it!
(musical interlude)

If you're interested in checking out Smiley360, click here!

1 - Little Boy's polar bear face
2 - Little Boy's dumbbells
3 - Little Boy's letter A with buttons
4 - Little Girl's train / ice cream cones / lollipops/ ...
5 - Joel's scenic hill


Let no one ever say that a poor tailor cannot do great things and win high honors; all that is needed is that he should go to the right smithy, and what is of most consequence, that he should have good luck.
"The Glass Coffin"
Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales

Friday, October 30, 2015

music mania!

I saw a comic once illustrating the idea that there's so much music you'll never hear that you would've loved.  I looked everywhere and tried to remember where I saw it, but was unsuccessful.  It looked something like this:  

I'd never thought about that before!  That idea has been stuck in my head lately so I've been on the lookout for new music instead of just depending on the radio or Pandora.  And guess what!  Some of it is really good.  So if you, like me, are interested in hearing new stuff, you should check these out!   Put them on while you're cleaning the bathroom or driving home from work!  They're my favorites this week.  

"Waiting Outside the Lines" - Greyson Chance

"Oh, Darling" - Plug In Stereo

"Brave" - Moriah Peters

"No Matter Where You Are" - Us The Duo


At last, only the Weasley twins were left singing along to a very slow funeral march.  Dumbledore conducted their last few lines with his wand, and when they had finished, he was one of those who clapped loudest.  
"Ah, music," he said, wiping his eyes.  "A magic beyond all we do here!"
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

evolving faith: one year

*Note: This is written about all our foster kids - past, present, and future.  It's not referencing any particular event or case, but is rather a culmination of thoughts I've had during the last year.  

When I encouraged you to ask your questions about foster care a couple months ago, one of you asked what we've learned and what has surprised us since we started.  I answered all the questions then, but these two stayed in my mind because I knew I hadn't learned all I would.  One thing I've been thinking about a lot lately is how my faith has evolved.

We've been licensed for about a year.  In that time, we've had four children.  For the first... nine months or so, I had faith in the legal system.  I prayed that the best thing for our kids would be done, and then I had faith that the attorneys, judge, etc., would be inspired.  Sometimes mistakes happen, but I really trusted the professionals working on our cases and had faith in them.  When I told a friend once that I believed the best thing would happen, she said, "You must have a lot more faith in the legal system than I do."  As I thought about her comment, I passionately agreed.  Of course I do!  I have to.  Because if I don't, all I will feel about the future is fear.  Having faith in those involved was the only choice I could see.

During the tenth month, my faith changed.  In fact, I was talking to Joel about it one night and said, "I still have faith that Heavenly Father can prompt people to do the right thing, but I don't necessarily believe they'll listen."  I went to bed that night and prayed that, as I read my scriptures, Heavenly Father would lead me to a verse that would restore my hope.

And then I read 1 Nephi 9:6 - "The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fullfilling of all his words.  And thus it is.  Amen."  

Heavenly Father knows the past, present, and future.  He's not surprised by anything.  He is all-powerful and knows how to make sure the best things happen.  People's choices don't trip him up - He already knows.  He has a plan.  That's just how it is.

That being said,

Sometimes the best things don't happen while we're on earth.  He knows that, too.  And therein lies the evolution of my faith.  I still believe the parents and professionals involved in our cases are good people.  I still believe they want what's best for the kids.  But I no longer rest my hope and faith on them.  I feel peace, knowing that the best thing will happen to my kids.  In this life?  Maybe.  But as part of the bigger picture, definitely.  The Atonement makes everything right.


Certainly people who were only born yesterday know very little.
"The Snow Man"
Hans Christian Andersen

Friday, October 9, 2015

A Tale of Two Pinterest Projects

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

The best: 

We were having trouble with the kids getting up as soon as they woke up, even if they woke up much earlier than normal, so we decided to try this out.  The hope was that they would still let themselves get rest even if they were awake early, and it's totally worked!  Red = Stay in bed.  Yellow = You can get out of bed, but you have to stay in your room quiet.  Green = Feel free to play outside of your room.  White = Breakfast time, if it hasn't already happened / Wake us up, if we're not already up.

The worst: 
There's a recipe out there that calls for 1/2 - 1 bar of grated soap, one tablespoon of hot water, and food coloring.  Mix them all together, press the soap into a cookie cutter, freeze it (to set it), and voila!  You have a homemade bath crayon!

Each kid made one.  In both cases, the crayon started falling apart with the first line "drawn" - and it didn't actually draw anything, unless you count leaving behind colored chunks of soap.  Maybe I used too cheap of soap?  These are the remains of his after one bath (most of which time was spent sitting in the soap dish):

It started as a gingerbread man.
The moral:
It can be fun to try out Pinterest ideas, even if they don't work out.  But be prepared for them not to work out, just in case.  :)


There is always a reason that people do things a certain way.
Jennifer Riding

Friday, August 28, 2015

how to believe in Santa Claus

I just found out Christmas in July exists on the Hallmark channel, and I'm really sad I missed it.
I love Hallmark Christmas movies!  They're romantic comedies minus the one scene, plus Christmas!  They're so fun to watch (and make fun of).  Every Christmas, Dish lets us have the Hallmark channel for a month, so I record as many as I can and watch them throughout the year.  Now that I've just about finished watching all the ones on our DVR, I've decided to share with you...

14 Things I've Learned from Hallmark Christmas Movies

1. If a man grows up to look like Santa Claus, he can get a job at Hallmark or Lifetime.
2. "Washed up" seems too harsh a phrase... but all washed up actors/actresses can also get jobs at Hallmark or Lifetime.
3. Up also shows Christmas movies.  They're not as good.  
4. All kids with a divorced or dead parent just want their remaining parent to be happy.  They will be happy with almost anyone you choose to marry.
5. If you go on vacation and like it there, the best choice is to quit your job (or get fired) and get a new one in your vacation city at a corner store.
6. Corner stores can be saved from bankruptcy by creating an online presence.  This success will most likely come overnight.
7. Progress is bad.
8. Business people are workaholics and evil.  Most of them grew up not celebrating Christmas because their parents were also workaholics.  None of them believe in Santa (or the Spirit of Christmas).  
9. Small-town people are wonderful and have good priorities.  They grew up celebrating every single aspect of Christmas.  All of them believe in Santa (or the Spirit of Christmas).  
10. (Except for the one person in the small town who didn't get what s/he asked Santa for - a dead parent to come back to life, or a boyfriend - when they were six)
11. It only takes between two hours and two days to fall in love.
12. Love often starts as hate.
13. People who were friend-zoned in high school usually wait twenty years to get married... to the person who friend-zoned them!  Sometimes it takes that long to realize you loved your high school best friend all along.
14. It always snows on Christmas.
15. Put the word "Christmas" with any word, and it's probably already a movie.  The Christmas Secret, A Christmas Wish, The Christmas Shepherd, A Cookie Cutter Christmas, Christmas Lodge, A Christmas Visitor, The Christmas Blessing, The Christmas Heart, Summertime Christmas, The Christmas Choir, Christmas Miracle, The Christmas Card, Christmas Grace... I could go on and on.

Also, a lot of the Young Women in my ward love Hallmark Christmas movies, and it made Girls Camp really fun.  "Oh!  I know that one!  Is that the one where the girl's stuck in a snow globe??"


“Who could ever learn to love a beast?”
Beauty and the Beast

Friday, August 21, 2015

by popular demand... video proof!

You asked!  And here's the video proof I mentioned in my last post.  Also, my family's Christmas card from a few years ago.  (Isn't my family the greatest?)  You're welcome.  Enjoy!

Explanation for the videos:
My best friend (and roommate at the time) and I both love HSM.  One day, it was such perfect weather, we decided the best thing would be to have an HSM dance party in the volleyball court.  (One thing we liked to do was sync up our ipods and have dance parties with our headphones in.)  So, the first video shows how we'd sync our ipods.  The second video shows one of our favorite parts of all the songs, all the movies.  The third video is my brother recording us from his apartment.  We didn't really think about how other people could see us or might've been paying attention, so we were completely surprised when he showed us the video he took. :)  We might be crazy, but you have to admit, we're also a lot of fun.


She's just a teenage maniac [with her] heart out on the dance floor...
"Frequently Baby"

Friday, August 14, 2015

High School Musical and me

"What?" some of you may be thinking.  "How can this even be a post?"

Oh, it can be.  

As some of you may know, I love High School Musical.  All three of them.  I own a shirt, lunchbox, dishes, board game, jacket..... with HSM logos on them.  I own all three soundtracks and movies.  The first movie came out when I was a junior in high school.  I remember there being a ton of hype on the Disney Channel when it came out, and when I first saw it, thinking, "That was fine."  Then as the weeks went by and I watched it more times, I fell in love.  You better believe I was watching when High School Musical 2 premiered on the Disney Channel during my senior year.  I went to see High School Musical: The Ice Tour when I was a freshman in college.  High School Musical 3 is the first movie I ever paid full price to see in a movie theater twice.  The first time was at midnight.  I will never forget how exhilarating it was when the beginning of "Now or Never" started, screen still black, and then all of a sudden Zac Efron's face popped up.  The entire theater screamed.  We were the oldest ones there who weren't chaperoning.  It was AWESOME.  My dream is to see a high-quality High School Musical 4 come out.  

Anyway.  When I was at Girls Camp last week, I learned that many of the girls shared my love for High School Musical.  It was so great.  Impromptu HSM singing, dances, skits, quotes... We spent the entire car ride back listening to the soundtracks - yes, I had them all with me.  So.  Girls.  This post is for you.

My best friend and me during intermission of HSM: The Ice Tour, right after we bought these SWEET jackets.
I'm telling you.  It was so exciting.  It was the only time I've ever been thankful for obese children.  Without them, we could never have bought size 3XL in this jacket designed for young children.

We kissed the tour bus.  That's real love.
Also, Kenny Ortega is so great and his name was on the bus.

Check out that jacket.  IT'S SO GREAT.
We dressed up on High School Musical Day: The Day HSM3 Came Out.
(Remember in HSM3 when Zac Efron's wearing an exclamation point shirt?)

I also took an HSM lunchbox to school that day.
I've never claimed to be good at nail art.
It says, "Go Wildcats."

You guys.  Get a best friend who loves High School Musical.

If you're working at a movie theater the night High School Musical 3 comes out,
shouldn't it be a requirement that you can take a good jumping picture?
I was Gabriella for Halloween.  Check out my necklace!  It's Carrie's.
She's David Bowie, by the way.
That time our best friend sent us HSM paraphernalia from his mission in Denmark for Christmas.
Isn't this what you look like when you're singing "Bet On It"?

My scrapbog.  (It's Danish, remember?)

I have videos, too, but I think I'll save them for another day.


"Maybe we're being punked.  Maybe we're being filmed right now...  Maybe we'll get to meet Ashton!"
High School Musical

Saturday, August 8, 2015

six is the number that's on my mind

It's our anniversary!
Or, it was recently.  When our internet was down.
But, happy six years, Joel!
You're the best husband for me ever.

I would write more, but that's for a love letter and not a blog.

For those of you curious,
It's pretty great. :)

(Photo credit to Little Boy)


If I have something I want to say that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children.
Madeleine L’Engle

Friday, July 31, 2015

10 favorite "calm down" songs

I'll offer the same intro as I did to my last list of songs - This isn't a comprehensive list of "calm down" songs I love, but these are all really good.  Give 'em a listen.

1. "Easy" - Lionel Richie + Willie Nelson
2. "Sort Of" - Ingrid Michaelson
3. "Oh, Sweet Lorraine" - Green Shoe Studio
6. "The Call" - Regina Spektor
7. "Little Wonders" - Savannah
8. "If Love Were All" - Rufus Wainwright
9. "Fire and Rain" - James Taylor
10. "Rope Swing Over Rogue Valley" - Rogue Valley


Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.
Charles Lamb

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

10 favorite "good mood" songs

Let it be known that these are not my top ten, nor is this anywhere near a comprehensive list of my favorite "good mood" songs.  I'm still trying to regather the favorites lost when Grooveshark disappeared.  But these are fun. 

1. "Shut Up and Dance" - Walk the Moon
2. "Popular Song" - Mika + Ariana Grande
3. "Rockstar" - A Great Big World
4. "Black and White" - Royal Tailor
6. "Blonde" - Bridgit Mendler
7. "Elle Me Dit" - Mika
8. "You Make My Dreams" - Mêlée
9. "Fun, Fun, Fun" - Pharrell Williams
10. "Do You Believe in Magic?" - The Lovin' Spoonful


“Why is it that so many of us blame ourselves for things that we can’t ever fix, but we blame others for the things we can?”
In the Land of Second Chances

Friday, July 17, 2015

the day the tower fell over

I wrote this a few months ago and it's been sitting in my "Drafts" box ever since.  I was afraid to publish it, not because of embarrassment, but because I didn't want to get - as weird as this might sound - encouraging comments.  I purposely waited until months after the day passed to even think about posting it.  I've always been a very dependent person, and while I do ask for help when I need it, I didn't want this to sound like a desperate plea.  I'd rather it sound like "I have bad days, too."  It's also a little more personal than I sometimes post, and that was another reason I held back.  But the idea of being authentic keeps showing up in what I've been reading and listening to lately, so now's the time.  There are wonderful, wonderful things about my life.  There are also intensely difficult things.  My life is a beautiful mix of both, and my blog's pretty representative of how I really am.  But here's a taste of the harder side of my authentic.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

play dates

When you become a mom, you learn the phrase "play date."  What is a play date, you might ask?  Just what it sounds like - a set time for 2+ kids to get together and play.  Parents call / text other parents and set up times for their kids to play with each other.  

Every time play dates come up in conversation, part of my brain does a little freak-out and thinks, "Play dates.  This is so dumb.  My mom didn't set up play dates for us.  We just went to our friends' houses!" (or called them, which can be weird now because so few friends have home phones.)  Let's be clear - my mom did set up play dates if the friends lived far enough away that we needed a car to get there.  But if you lived in the neighborhood, we usually just showed up.  

I get that the world is a different place now.  People are busier with sports, dance, gymnastics, and other classes; more paranoid about kids walking around alone; and often more involved in their children's lives.  But that doesn't mean I don't wish I could say, "I don't know if your friend can play, go knock on his door and find out."

But watch out, world!  We're bringing it back.  Spontaneous playing, I mean.  Meaning, if you've ever told me, "Stop by anytime!" I just might.  We've already done it to a few of you.  We'll come at a normal time of day.  We'll probably stay an hour or less so we don't accidentally become rude.  Maybe we'll bring donuts, like we did today.  Maybe you won't be home or you'll be in pajamas, like also happened today.  I'll probably apologize because I'm afraid some of you will think I'm rude instead of awesome.  But someday when we're feeling bored and ready to play, don't be surprised if you get a knock on your door!  If you don't want to play or you're busy, tell us so (or just don't open the door).  No hurt feelings.  I get that people are busy.  But I also know that we're not the only ones who sometimes need a spontaneous change of routine.  And who knows!  After we leave, you might just go buy your own pack of UNO cards and start taking it around the neighborhood.  :)


For it so falls out, that what we have we prize not to the worth whiles we enjoy it; but being lacked and lost, why, then we rack the value, then we find the virtue that possession would not show us while it was ours.
Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

#happyconfession time!

I don't heed most expiration dates.  Last time I made pumpkin waffles, I prayed that our three-year-expired pumpkin wouldn't give us botulism.  (Note: This is NOT true if I'm cooking for someone outside our family.)

The last couple times sour cream went on sale, I thought we were out.  I now have five pounds of sour cream in my fridge.

The day after we watched Space Jam, Little Girl called a black woman in our ward Michael Jordan.  I was equal parts embarrassed and proud.

A couple weeks before I got my hair cut, Little Boy asked if a ponytail was the only way I knew how to do my hair.  The day after I got my hair cut, Little Girl almost started crying because she didn't want the same haircut for herself.  Whatever, Little Kids.  MY HAIR IS AWESOME.  

I really like a lot of music from young boy bands.  One Direction, Five Seconds of Summer, R5, Ross Lynch (ok, he's just one person), MKTO, Before You Exit... They all have some pretty good ones.  


“I know that evil hides here, but I cannot be the one to uncover it.  Neither can any of you.  Time will do that for us.  And how I fear that day, for I know that when I look into my betrayer’s face, I will see someone I thought I knew.  And I will still love them.”

Thursday, June 4, 2015

I love April Fools Day.

There were so. many. pranks.  And it was really awesome.

We started by turning the furniture upside down and freezing their bowls of cereal.  Once they discovered the frozen cereal, I gave them new bowls but with food coloring under the cereal, so the milk changed colors when I poured it.  

I also saran wrapped the toothpaste tube and squeezed dish soap on the inner rim of the toilet so it would fill with bubbles when they flushed.  There were a couple other gems during the day, but the last one was our backwards dinner/dessert.  It was so fun!  Dinner was "grilled cheese" - slices of cinnamon swirl pound cake with orange-dyed icing in between.  Then I buttered the bread and grilled it like a grilled cheese sandwich.  Dessert was "cupcakes" - meatloaf with mashed potatoes on top and a cherry tomato.  The kids loved that we got to have a treat before dinner. :)


We cannot let our suspicions and our doubts run wild, or else we will destroy ourselves.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Easter eggs

(I just uploaded the pictures off my camera for the first time since.... March-ish.)

Look how awesome!  Dip your egg into one color of dye for just a little bit.  (30 seconds or so)  When the dye has dried, put on some rubber cement.  When the rubber cement has dried, dip the egg in a different color and leave it for a longer time.  Take it out, let it dry, and rub off the rubber cement.

I've always just done white crayon, but look how cool when you use a colored crayon!


You cannot trust anyone once you’ve had to trap them in a cage.

Friday, May 29, 2015

the circle of life

When an acquaintance dies: 
Isn't it a weird feeling?
That feeling, when you just saw someone a couple weeks ago at the park who was fine, and now they're not?
That feeling, when you keep hearing his voice in your mind over and over, "Let me tell you a war story," and the rest of the group chuckling, because that's what he does.  And, even though you didn't know him very well, you'll miss that part of Sunday School.
That feeling when you think, "Man.  I was always kind of hoping I'd get to know him better."
He just turned 90.  If you make it to 90 looking and acting like you're 75, how can you just be gone?

when you saw a sign on the counter last time you were at IHOP that says one of their waiters died that weekend.
You didn't know him and had never been served by him.  but he was only 20.  

I know this isn't how death of a loved one feels.  I've felt that, and that post would never be written so casually.  This wasn't, either.  But you know what I mean.

Death makes more sense when it happens over time.  When you know it's coming.  
But when it just happens.  When it just happens, it doesn't even seem real.
Until you think about the wife.


Until now, I thought only of what stories could do in their moment.  I was the ploughman, turning the hearts of my audience like soil, thinking I could bend the earth to my will.  But stories have a quieter and more subtle power than that.  Now I see that I am also the ploughman’s wife walking behind him, dropping seeds into the earth, leaving them to grow in meaning.  I realize that every story I have ever heard is a part of me, deeply rooted, whispering behind my thoughts.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

foster care: part 9 - the final installment (unless you ask more questions:)

"Tomorrow" turned into "next month"!  Life has been over here.  :)

How long did it take for all of you to get into a groove?
Our first placement was only five days long, but I'd say we were in one by the time they left.  They still had tantrums, nighttime was full of waking up, and one of them still had some trouble with liking Joel, but things were pretty smooth overall.   They seemed to feel comfortable in our house within about... a minute of arriving.  One had a hard time adjusting to Joel, but after a day or so she wouldn't scream when left with him.

It took Joel and me a few days to come up with a routine because we'd never been parents before, and we made some changes with our second placement.  With our current placement, things were a little weirder because one started school after a week, so we got into a routine and then things got changed up.  They were comfortable with us almost immediately, though.

Now, that's not to say either placement thought of us as parents right off.  The first group thought we were a sleepover.  That was rough.  The second group had some issues with dishonesty at first because they didn't know whether they could trust us.  That lasted a few weeks, and we're still (six months later) working on always keeping an open dialogue so they know they can talk about what they're feeling.  But we definitely feel like a family.

Is anything easier than you anticipated?
- The kids are!  In the training classes, we were prepared for the worst.  In fact, towards the end of the classes, we were told that a lot of what we were being prepared for was more difficult than we were even licensed for.  That's not to say all Level 1 kids are as "easy" as ours have been, but ours have been great.
- Also, consistency.  I've found that, with specific goals and reasons for why I say / do what I do, consistency in many areas is pretty easy to maintain.
- Potty training was.  It only took Little Girl three or four days.
- Grocery shopping with kids is not as difficult as I anticipated, although there's still one I prefer not to take with me.  Haha :)

Did anything surprise you about fostering?
- how quickly we loved them and mourned losing them - Our first placement was only five days long, but I couldn't believe how much I missed them when they were gone.
- how demanding parenthood really is - Before we started fostering, pretty much all of my time was my own.  I thought I'd mentally prepared myself to give it all up, but man!  The day Joel went back to work after getting our first placement was a BEAST.  It was much harder than I'd anticipated.  I was thankful they left after a short time and then we had a couple weeks before the next (longer-term) ones, because I got to actually prepare myself for what was coming. 
- how great Joel is at handling tantrums - He taught me how to do it!
- how God sends the right kids at the right time - When you have a biological child, you can be fairly positive that the right child is being sent to you, right? :)  When you do foster, you get a phone call that asks if you want someone and you have to decide if s/he's the right child or not!  It's felt (to me) like a lot of pressure.  But every time we've prayed about a placement, it's amazed me how clearly we know whether to say yes or no.  
- how nervous I was to meet biological parents at the first couple visits.  Also, how nice the parents have been.  (We've been told ours are some of the most polite.)
- how many times they wake up at night - I expected this with babies.  I did not expect it with older children.  With both placements, we were getting up consistently every night about eight times a night, usually to screaming.  Thankfully that only lasted a couple weeks with our current placement, although there are occasional regressions.
- that I don't beat myself up about my parenting - From everything I've heard and read, I fully expected this to be something I would struggle with.  The reality is, I feel happy and proud of the parent I am.  I truly (and not pridefully) feel like we do a pretty great job.
- Our schedule is busier but the middle of the day is much less busy than I expected.
- how little TV we watch
- how much I have to censor myself, others, and media - I don't talk crudely, I don't swear, I don't listen to music that does, I don't watch inappropriate things on TV.  But one of the first dinners we had with another family after getting foster kids, someone told us about a hilarious episode of some show... that was all about someone hiding drugs around the house so they wouldn't get arrested.  Wait!  Stop!  Our kids know too much about that exact drug!  This isn't funny!  (2) I've always talked with my friends about how much I love darker skin.  I still love dark skin, but I'm much more conscious about how I say it now that I've had four children with dark skin.  I don't want them to feel weird or so different.  (3) I took the kids to a PG-rated movie during Spring Break.  In the movie, a family member died.  I almost had to take Little Girl out of the theater twice because of how hard she was crying.  

What have you learned?
- After our first placement (and first time as parents), we decided not to sing kids to bed.  They were up SO MANY TIMES per night, we were singing all night long!  Now we use a CD.  Haha :)
- I feel like we've learned pretty well how to deal with tantrums.  Our first placement was pretty volatile, and we had to learn that quickly! 
- how to get pee smell out of carpet, even when it's old
- Weekly visits can double as free babysitting for weekly dates!  if you're okay with your weekly date being 50 minutes long. :)
- I LOVE kids (as opposed to babies).  When we first started, we thought we'd only want infants.  Now, we're so in love with kids who can interact - and say why they're upset - that I think an infant would be hard.
- The support system - both for us and them - is so much bigger than I realized.
- how to let go of "perfect" when it comes to asking the kids to help clean
- that "play alone time" is important for my happiness and really good for them
- how little I smile when I'm needing to be efficient, even if I feel happy
- how to let Joel take over after work - and that he's happy to do it and wants to
- Reading novels sometimes doesn't make me the best mom.  I live so much in a cloud when I'm in the middle of a good book!  It's hard for me to not resent having to stop reading to help someone.  I've been practicing being better about this.
- how to do hair - Little Girl has thick hair that goes down past her bum + fringy hair around her face, and she hates having hair in her face.  I've learned a LOT about braiding. :)

Would you do it again?
100%, yes!

Would you recommend it to others?
Not to everyone, but I would recommend it to many more people than do it.  People always tell me , "Oh, I couldn't do that," or, "You're so much better than me," but I think many more could do it and would love it than realize.  So if you've ever had an interest, take a look!  Call a DCFS office!  You can also foster through other agencies (not government), although I don't know how that works, so if the government isn't your cup of tea, explore your options!  If you're waiting for the "right time," by the way - for things to be perfect at home before you bring in extras - things will never be perfect.  

I'm so happy I got so many questions and could clear up a lot of misconceptions!  I'm also really happy that a lot of you came back and kept reading!  I'll check the survey answers every so often to see if I've gotten any new questions, so please feel free to ask more if you have more!

Read other posts on this topic:
Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3 -- Part 4 -- Part 5 -- Part 6 -- Part 7 -- Part 8

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“Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do!  Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress?  All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back!  Voldemort is no different!  Always he was on the lookout for the one who would challenge him.  He heard the prophecy and he leapt into action, with the result that he not only handpicked the man most likely to finish him, he handed him uniquely deadly weapons!”
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

foster care: part 8

What are the rules about religious exposure?
They (DCFS) really want you to treat foster children as your own.  If you go to church, pray in your home, have family scripture study... you involve them the way you would involve your own children.  If you have a parent request that you not take them to church, we were told you can still take them but stay with them in the foyer (or switch off with your spouse).  That way you don't have to miss church every week.  You don't need to ask permission to take them, but you stop taking them to class if you're asked.  

Neither of our placements came from LDS homes, but we still take them to church and do Family Home Evening and everything.  We have had parents request that they not give talks in Sharing Time or the Primary Program.

Are you infertile?
Okay, just so you all feel better, I wasn't actually asked this question (by any of you).  It is, however, something that people assume ALL THE TIME.  I can't tell you how uncomfortable it is to be held after Sunday School for 15 minutes to get advice from old women about how I need have to wait for the Lord's time to have children.  Anyway - the answer is no, not that I know of.  :)  

Are you allowed to get a babysitter?
Yep!  We get this question all the time, actually.  Any babysitter you would get for your own children, you can get for foster kids UNLESS they'd be overnight.  Then you have to have them with a licensed respite caregiver.

What about the process is probably different or the same in other states?
I'm waiting back to hear about this answer.

How do you help your kids deal with trauma?
The easiest way I can think of to explain this is to say, we try to always make sure they know we're there for them and aren't going anywhere.  Like at night, where we might say, "Suck it up and go to bed" to some kids, we say, "I'll stay until you're asleep" to these ones [sometimes].  Or, when it's been a really rough day socially for her, one of us will stay home from the family dinner or sit in a separate room with her until she's ready to see anyone.  When we get babysitters, we make sure we get ones they know and/or have them show up a half hour early to just hang out with us.  

As far as other issues that come with trauma: Our therapist has said that issues like dishonesty tend to be tests - Will we stick around?  Will we get super mad?  Will we be honest??  She counseled us to say, "Oh, I bet the person who did this was thinking, '______,' but at our house we ___," instead of, "Who did this and why are you lying about it?"

When they play aggressive shooting games, we say, "Remember, we only shoot when we're soldiers or policemen, and we only shoot bad guys," or, "Okay, that's enough of that kind of game.  Let's play grocery shopping."  If they're aggressive toward each other (which almost never happens), we have the offender do something nice for the victim, "so s/he knows how much you love him/her and you know how to be nice."  We talk a lot about well we need to treat brothers and sisters, too, in hopes that they'll grow up being able to help each other.

How long did it take all of you to get into a groove?  What surprised you about foster care?  and some more. :)

Previous posts on this topic:


“DON’T —” screamed Snape, and his face was suddenly demented, inhuman, as though he was in as much pain as the yelping, howling dog stuck in the burning house behind them — “CALL ME COWARD!”
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

foster care: part 7

How long do you think you'll be a foster parent?
No idea!  Until it's time to be done. :)

How do you help foster kids deal with the trauma they've experienced?
Man!  I've been working on this question for half an hour!  This is a really hard one to answer.  Trauma shows itself in so many different ways.  I think a lot of people equate trauma with sadness or something? - I did before we became foster parents - but it's so much more.  It comes as aggression, lying, sadness, mistrust of adult figures, attachment disorders, ... And all of those are dealt with as their own issues.  but.  not the same way you would deal with them if they belonged to "normal" kids.  Our kids have a play therapist, and that helps.  She gives us things to talk about at home, like how to deal with emotions so you don't explode like a volcano.  But we also do other things differently.  We have more allowance for  certain behaviors that we wouldn't with biological kids.  

Okay, I need a little more time to think about how to explain this clearly... I'll try to do it justice tomorrow.

How do you talk to them about what's going on with their parents?
Sometimes the kids have bad days / nights / times when they just really miss home.  When she cries, "I want Mommy" (or some variation), we usually respond, "I know, honey.  She's not here.  I'm sorry."  If she's out of it, we leave it at that.  If she's pretty coherent, we usually follow up with, "Where is she?" and she answers, "At court."  OR We follow up with, "Why isn't he here?" and she answers, "Because he made a bad choice."  With this particular placement, that's enough to calm them down.  

"Why did you take me away from my family?"
"I didn't take you away.  Court took you away.  But it was because there were some bad things happening at home.  You know how Mommy ____? [or] You know how Daddy ___? [or] You know how ___ was at your house?"
"Those things make houses scary / not safe / not healthy for kids, so Caseworker asked if you could stay here until your house is safe for you."

"When will I get to go home?"
"When the judge has decided that Mommy / Daddy has made enough good choices."

"Why did you decide to take care of us?"
"We got a phone call from Caseworker one day, and she said, 'The two cutest, best, most fun, most awesome kids in the whole world need someone to take care of them.  Can you do it?' and we said, 'YES!'  And she was right!  You are the cutest, best, most fun, most awesome kids in the whole world!!"  

Those are all real-life scenarios that we experienced multiple times per day at first and now experience weekly-ish.  When the case changes, Caseworker tells us and it's our job to tell the kids.  That's a little harder.  I can't say exactly how we handle it because it would give away what's happening right now, but generally, we say that parent/s made a good choice (if the case improves) and what the good choice was or a mistake / bad choice (if it goes downhill), usually without saying what the bad choice was.  

They know that they're here because of bad choices.  We've talked about what those bad choices were and why they were bad (so hopefully they don't get perpetuated).  We encourage them to pray that their parents will make good choices, and we talk about how people can make bad choices without being bad people.  We also remind them how much their parents love them.  

We refer back to the judge / court all the time so they don't think it's our choice or the caseworker's that they're not home right now.  When court dates come up, we tell them a few days in advance and then, every time they / we say prayers, we pray that the judge makes the best choice.  

What route should I go if I'm looking to adopt through foster care? + If you wanted to adopt through foster care, how long would it take to get the child?
Sign up for foster care!  Let the agency know you either want kids who are already legally free or who are headed that way.  And then be patient.  Some cases go really quickly.  For example, if I'm a mom who's already had several children removed permanently and I just had a baby, it's possible that the baby be taken immediately and my parental rights terminated.  I know of a family right now who had DCFS call and say, "We have five kids ready to be adopted.  Will you take them?"  So, some cases can be quick.  The majority, though, are not.  I've heard of cases taking 2-3 years, sometimes up to five.  Tons of second chances to the parents, appeals... It can take a couple years to get to the point where parental rights could be terminated, and then some parents sign away and others fight.  The time really all depends on the parents and the judge.  Overall, don't plan on it taking less than at least a year.

Do you feel like you're really able to help the children in the long run?
I sure hope so!  We teach good habits like we would to biological children, but there are other habits we teach a little more aggressively because of the situation.  For example, I don't know how I feel about allowance normally, but we give it to these kids.  Money management can be linked to family life situations, so in an effort to help stop the cycle they're a part of, we give them a little bit each week.  Then if they squander it all at McDonalds, they did it with $5 instead of $5,000.  We also help them put 10% into savings and 10% toward a charity of their choice.  This morning, one decided to spend his money on breakfast at McDonalds.  As we were driving away, he was ECSTATIC about his purchase.  We all celebrated with him - it's fun to spend your hard-earned money on things you love!  About ten minutes later I said, "Your chocolate milk cost $1.  Do you think that's a good price?  There's no right or wrong answer, I just want to know what you think," and also talked about his hash brown ($1) and sandwich ($3).  He decided that the hash brown and chocolate milk were totally worth $1, but $3 was a little too much for a sandwich.  And then we talked about how it's good to recognize that but also know that it's okay sometimes to pay a little more for something you really want.

When the kids say something nice about one of us, we say, "Make sure you marry someone like that when you grow up, okay?  Someone who's (whatever they said nice about us) and makes you feel safe."  

We probably talk daily about who's in charge of whose body, what to do if someone does something you don't like, and that it's not your fault if that happens.  Our kids don't have personal experience with that, but you just never know.  

We've also introduced them to religion, and they're passionate about it.  One loves praying so much that the idea of forgetting when he goes home worries him.  We teach a lot of religion generic-ly ("read the scriptures" instead of "read the Book of Mormon"), since we don't know whether they'll go to church or to which church when they grow up.  

Basically, we try really hard to parent offensively, if that makes sense.  Probably moreso than we would normally, even, because I think it's easier to assume (even if mistakenly) a safer future for bio children.  And we're praying that they'll remember something of what we're doing.  Maybe they won't save or donate 10% of their paycheck, but maybe he'll remember that he doesn't want to spend $3 for a sandwich every day.  If nothing else, they'll see temples during the rest of their Utah lives and now know what they are.  Or in 20 years when they're remembering that they were in foster care, maybe they'll think of a family that had fun together, loved and helped each other, went to school every day, got angry without yelling, cleaned up messes, and played Mario Kart instead of Grand Theft Auto.

the rest of the trauma question, What are the rules about religious exposure?, Are you allowed to get a babysitter? and some more :)

Previous posts on this topic:


Neville and Luna alone of the D.A. had responded to Hermione’s summons the night that Dumbledore had died, and Harry knew why: They were the ones who had missed the D.A. most . . . probably the ones who had checked their coins regularly in the hope that there would be another meeting.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince