Filling up the minivan...

First of all, no, I'm not pregnant. I just had to get that out of the way.

BUT...we are trying to fill our home up a bit more. Today we did the last walk-through and homestudy visit in the licensing process to become foster parents! Our fingers have been printed, our backgrounds checked and we have been official declared licensed to parent.

It will take day or so for the paperwork to go through their system and then we'll be open for placements. We're really excited to see how God uses us in the next few months/years.

We've always wanted to adopt and talked about it even before we were engaged so after my really rough pregnancy with Norah, it just seemed like that would be the natural plan for any additional kids. We looked at domestic, we looked at international and we thought we had an idea of where God was leading us but no decisions were really made and we weren't planning on beginning anything until Norah turned two anyway so we had time. The only thing I remember saying to a friend was that I really had no interest in the foster care system....why don't we Christians learn not to think things like that?! It wasn't very long later that God clearly called us to this path. And no, Norah is not two yet. Oh, the plans we make.

Feel free to ask any questions. We're new to this all so I don't know if I'll have the answers but we've been blessed to know a few families that are/have been foster families and their openness about the process was one of the ways God led us to this place and I've love for someone else to say that about our family down the road. It's quickly becoming a passion of mine and I love to talk about my passions, especially when it comes to processing emotions. And there are already so many emotions here. Because whatever excitement I feel is tempered by the idea that it comes from a place of hurt and loss too. Foster care is messy!

That said, I still can only tell our side of the story. So please don't get hurt if you ask a question and I flat out say "sorry, I can't talk about that." But at least until we get a placement, our story is the only story. And it's not very long! A few other questions you might have:

Why Foster?
Well, because this talks about our area. As does this article. It's bad. And as crazy as our life can get with the little people we have already, this is something we can do and I think we can do it pretty well. And I memorized James a few years ago so I can't even pretend that I'm not aware of James 1:27. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their afflication, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. Plus, I really love babies.  

Are you gonna adopt any? The goal of fostering is reunification so I'm going to be trying to love each child in our home with 100% of my heart while they are here, while also wanting them to return home. I don't say that lightly. This will not be easy but its what we are signing up for. That said, we do want to be available as a permanent loving home through adoption if reunification isn't deemed possible. This is often called foster to adopt but we've been asked not to use that term, so we won't be. And if adoption does become an option, we have no idea of when that might be. Maybe placement #1, maybe placement #10.

When will you get a placement? We don't know! We hope sometime in the summer months. We're anxious to start loving on some babies. But I'm trying to trust that God will put the children in our home that he wants there in his timing.

What ages/sexes/races/etc will you take? As far as age, we're asking to keep birth order so under Norah's age. We've heard the family dynamics of that are easier so we want our bio kids to keep their place in the line even if other members of our household change. In terms of other aspects, we're open to a lot so we'll just have to see what phone calls we get.

Will your posts be full of blurry faces now? Maybe? The law has recently changed so we don't necessarily have to blur out faces but we do need to make sure everyone's privacy is protected so I'm just not sure how that will play out. But if you see any unfamiliar faces pop up in family pictures of us at the zoo or hiking, please just make a good guess and don't ask who it is. Because I won't be able to answer. And if you are local and happen to meet me in the grocery store, I'll probably just introduce any newbie by their first name and leave it at that.

As you can tell, even my hypothetical questions don't have clear cut answers. But part of me thinks that's a good thing. If God had told me what I'll I'd be facing over the last 10 years (or frankly, even the last month!), I'd be terrified and think I couldn't do it. But I could and I did. We don't know what road God has before us. But we know He goes before us and will lead us where he wants us to be.


There's an App for that...3 things that make my life easier

Oh my goodness, guys. Why do I fight technology so much when it comes to planning?! There must be some little Wendell Berry living in my soul fighting against the technology that exists to make my life easier because I fight and I fight and then I try something and bam - my life is changed and I wonder why I waited so long. Because I've got three smallish kids and I homeschool and Norah just slept through the night for the first time (like a real sleep through the night, waking up at 7am sleeping through the night!). I'm tired. My brain is mush. And if there is something I can do to keep things running smoothly, well, I do not need to be fighting it.

YNAB - Y'all should know I love YNAB like crazy. I wrote all about it here just because I wanted to share it with y'all. So when they announced an affiliate program, I knew I could do that and feel good about it. Because affiliate or not, I love to talk to people about YNAB. I also love my new (to us) minivan that YNAB helped me save for and I love not having student loan payments anymore. Also, I've had to use their customer support (because of a silly error on my part) and I was very happy with the quick response I got and the fact that they didn't laugh at the silly error that was messing me up. (I'd share what it was but honestly, I'm too embarrassed. It was a blonde moment on my part).

Plan to Eat - This one is newer to me but so far, I'm in love. I have been struggling with meal planning lately. I'm done a weekly meal plan every week for the past 10 years so you'd think I'd be better at it! But far too often lately I'd just sit and stare at the blank paper, feeling uninspired. I also have a bad habit of writing my grocery list on the same piece of paper as my menu but then losing (ahem, recycling) the list after I finish shopping and there is no way I can rely on my memory these day.

Craig had encouraged me to look into some meal planning services several times but I didn't like the idea of someone else picking out what we'd fix. With fluctuating dietary needs and kid's taste (mine aren't picky in the traditional sense but they have weird tastes. Like Lucy doesn't like pasta and they both love fish and soup. Jonah's also decided he no longer likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which seems like a cruel trick but that's a different story), I felt like I'd be making too many adjustments for it to be worth it. So I brushed off the idea.

But a little while ago, I stumbled upon Plan to Eat and after dismissing in 2-3 times earlier, I actually stopped and looked at it. Plan to Eat is different. I use my meals, either imputing them manual or using their url input feature to get them easily from websites and then I can plug them easily into the calendar and it makes my shopping list for me. I did the free 30 day trial and wow, game changer! I can also tag them with things standard tags (crock-pot, quick, vegetarian,etc) but I can make my own. The kids are doing an cooking class this semester so when I find a recipe that they can do most of themselves, I can tag it.

Make your own pasta salad night. Jonah peeled the veggies and cut the mozzarella (knife) and pepperoni (scissors), Lucy made the Italian dressing and cut up the peppers and carrots. All I did was cook some pasta and opened a can of beans. They picked what they wanted and we shook it all up - and then they actually ate it! Even the bell peppers! (But no, Lucy didn't eat her pasta. I'd sigh but she ate her beans and cheese and veggies so it was still a win)

I'm also starting up a sourdough starter so I've saved a few recipes and tagged them with sourdough. I'll be honestly, I've never succeeded in my sourdough attempts in the past so that may be unreasonable ambitious of me but its growing really well so far and I'm just days away from being able to bake with it!

Baby Sourdough. So cute! Okay, not really. But bubbly - which is even better!

 I'm excited about meal planning now. It also includes my prep automatically on the calendar so no more scrambling to come up with a different dinner because I forgot to take the meat out to thaw or soak the beans. I think one of my favorite features is the freezer list though. It tracks what I put in the freezer! I love to make doubles of meals and stash them away but too often I forget what I have and its not exactly easy to dig through my deep freezer in the basement to look around when I've also got 1/4 of a cow in there.  Basically, I'm in love. I'm back to spending my time in the kitchen cooking and baking, which I love, instead of  deciding what to feed all these people that don't want to starve, which I don't love. at all. So I'm paying for it now and I've signed up to be an affiliate for that as well. It's only a couple of bucks a month and for me, it's definitely worth it.

Cozi - Okay, this one doesn't cost anything (for the basic one which is what I use) and I'm not an affiliate. I just like it. Cozi is an app that you share with someone. It has a shared calendar, to-do list and groceries list. We only use the shared grocery list although as the kid's get older and involved in more things, I can see using the shared calendar. It makes it so easy for me to let Craig know what he needs to bring home. Gone are the days of my texting him over the day with "can you get this" ...oh, and this...but nevermind about that." We can also both add to our running Costco and Home Depot lists so whenever someone gets there, we get it all. Or most of it all. You still have to remember to put things ON the list which has occasionally been an issue with me and apparently neither Craig not Cozi is a mind reader. But it does help.

I got the baby pool at Target but didn't get the sippy cups (the take and toss straw cups which they were out of. I rarely do the toss part but Norah's become a straw bitter and we use them twice daily for Jonah's meds so I really need enough.) I forgot to check it off but I actually did get the manly cough drops (as opposed to the breastfeeding safe "mama cough drops" :-)

Now, there are some areas I just can't hand over to a program. Like, as I said, my calendar. I've tried. I have. But nope, doesn't work for me. I need to write it down. And my to-do list. Clicking a box or tasks completed does not give me the same thrill as using a pen and marking in complete. So for that stuff, I love my bullet journal, I love my bullet journal. So much love for one little notebook.
It basically contains my mind and I feel lost and confused without it. And I actually lose it less frequently than my phone so its still a good thing all that info isn't on my phone. So, I won't ever be going all digital with my planning and organization but I'm learning to try. I attempted Evernote last year but gave up on it. It just wasn't my style. But I've been hearing good things about Trello from some homeschool moms and I'm not sure if it is different enough that it might be worth spending some time on. Hmm...

What about you? And tried and true technological ways to make my mama life easier you want to share?

Both the ynab and plan to eat links are affiliate links. I can earn a discount on my plans if you use them but both programs are ones I pay for because I think they are well worth the cost.  


Small Town Parade

I just love a small town parade. This one is a favorite of our kids. I love how we can get there 10 minutes before it starts and still find a great spot for our chairs within easy walking distance from our car. At first Norah was kinda confused but it didn't take long before she had the candy picking up drill down flat. I will admit that yesterday I let the kids pick 10 pieces and then we got rid of the rest. But that's still plenty.

Hope you had great 4th of July as well!


Classics Challenge - The Good Earth

I'm having a hard time determining how much I liked this book. I definitely didn't hate it and I would recommend it. I loved the simplistic style of writing and how it seemed to add to the world the author was creating. It's not flowery, which I generally dislike in a book, but it paints a vivid picture. I felt like I was in the world she created. I could feel the hot dusty path our main character, Wang Lung, took when times were rough and I could hear his content sighs as he took as step back and looked at his rich fields when they weren't. Not just of the land and the physical surroundings. The book follows Wang Lung's life over a period of many many years without feeling draggy and it's interesting to see where his choices take him. You get an interesting view of the the whole culture and choices.

Which might actually be part of the problem. I felt like I understood that world - but I didn't really. I HATED some of the main character's choices and try as I might to put myself in his shoes, I just couldn't. So my feelings for this book seemed to go up and down as Wang Lung's decision making ability did as well. But I couldn't hate him. He was a well developed character with many flaws but enough virtue that kept you hoping in him. There are several other great characters in the book but I feel like it would be too spoilery to mention them as you don't know always who will play a large role in his life when you meet them. It's part of a trilogy and I do own the whole thing so I might read the rest down the road. For now, I'm still pondering my feelings. Which is probably a sign that it's a good book.

The Good Earth is my Back to the Classics Award-Winning Classic. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.