Cascade, cookie dough, & Coconut Tea

I’ve been reading this blog lately. My cousin sells Scentsy & works with this lady, Allison. They’re foster parents & she blogs daily, just a short blurb about her day. I love reading her thoughts on fostering. It’s probably why I’m not blogging much, because she puts into words how I feel generally every time she writes.

But I LOVE how her posts are short, sweet, honest, real, etc. They’re not these big posts about how she’s an expert on something. I don’t do well with blogs like that. & I don’t want my posts to be like that ever. Because even though we’ve been fostering for 4 years & have had 16 placements, I learn something new with every placement. & still don’t understand “the system”. ANYWAYS, so I’m going to attempt to blog every day or few days, just little posts. so here’s my first one.

We got home from the gym this morning. The DJ & the toddler were playing outside while I was doing a quick couple things in the kitchen. I look up & DJ has the cascade (Ok, actually it’s Palmolive, but I wanted to go with the C theme). before I knew it he had taken it outside & poured some on the back porch. After putting the bottle back under the counter I look outside & the toddler is bending down licking it!! WHAT on earth?!!

Why do they do things like this? Especially this toddler. Anything that is NOT a toy has much more appeal to him than a real toy.

These 2 things make my day so much more enjoyable:

1. Coconut Flavored Tea (I use black tea bags-CAFFEINATED!, about a tsp of coconut extract & a few squirts of liquid fake sweetener) yum.

2. cookie dough!!! this is M&M cookie dough. a quick tsp of it when babies are going wild helps me de-stress.(I didn’t actually have any this morning, it’s more of my evening guilty pleasure)

My life is really NOT stressful. I am SO thankful for my life. what on earth could I gripe about?? But coconut tea & cookie dough (or a HOT fresh cookie) help me choose to relax, & let go of how I want things to be, & just enjoy the kiddos, screaming, soap eating & all.

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Oh, International adoption….

Sometimes my heart LONGS to adopt internationally. It started when I was 15 & babysitting for my favorite family, the Winterrowds. I was watching a report on Romanian orphanages.

We both feel God’s led us to adopt by foster to adopt…..

but there are kids….

just sitting in rooms without enough people to even care for some of their basic needs. so they lay in beds, silent. because no matter how much they cry, they have learned no one will come. SIGH.

I get so excited when I see people adopting…in all ways, but especially internationally. One of my friends from college has adopted 2 boys from South Korea & just got word they have been matched with a little girl in China. Another friend has adopted 2 from Vietnam & 1 from the foster system. She’s currently on a mission trip in Vietnam & has been blogging about her time there. How there are so, so many children in orphanages, but Vietnam is closed to American adoptions right now. AHHH!! & like many of you, I read Ashley Ann’s blog. They have 4 bio kids & are adopting a little girl from China.

Maybe one day down the road God’ll open that door for us.

So my only update on our current situation is that I’m not meeting the parents anymore. after 2 times it because obvious it wasn’t helping the situation any. They’d walk as S…L….O…W..L…Y as they could towards me after visits. & they’d have something to say about what brand of diaper I was using, etc. I feel like a big ‘old chicken. I wish I had the balls to be confident & look them in the eyes & in LOVE say “I am here to take GOOD care of your child, not to take them away from you. Please know I’m praying for you to all be together soon.  So focus on doing what needs to be done, & don’t worry about where your kids are.” Maybe when I’m older I can do that. I did write them a letter that kind of said that. The foster mom of the older sibling is where she meets them at the front door at every visit. which is a flip flop because she did NOT want to meet them the first few months.

Anyways, I do love these kiddos, but hope their family is able to be back together soon.

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Adoption Day!!! Meet our little DJ (#10)

YAY!!!!!

Today we officially welcome our little DJ into our forever family.

He’s been with us for 2 yrs & 1 day now. I will never forget Feb 5, 2010 at 3:30. I had just walked in the door from picking big kids up from school & the phone was ringing. “Mary Lynne-would you like a baby today?” YES! YES I would!!

1 hour later the caseworker was dropping off this tiny thing at our house. He was like a big head with little stick legs sticking out. He was a little over 2 months old & only weighed 8.5 lbs.

The last 2 years have been quite a journey! God has taught us so much & worked in my life through DJ’s case in amazing ways.

we love you soooo very much DJ!! & are incredibly thankful that we get to have you as part of our family forever & ever!!

(most of these pics are in chronological order. some are slightly out of order. sorry. & um…sorry for SOOO many pics!! after 2 years I’m beyond excited to be able to share pics of our FULL family!)

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(PS-DJ is the name his biological parents told us to call him. We are going to continue calling him DJ, but the initials will stand for something else. His first name is after his grand-daddy & grandpa (they have the same first name) & it’s also part of his biological dad’s last name. our last name starts with J, so that’s the J.)

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Freezer Meal Tips/Advice/Random notes

Update from yesterday about the possible adoption placement…

They found the little one a home!
I asked my cw to call & make sure as I couldn’t get it out of my head. It wasn’t a phone call where they were in desperate need right away, they were gathering home studies of families that were interested to pick the best one. My cw texted me back that they did find a home for little one. YAY!

She also texted that she went to court for 15&16 this morning & parents are doing well, so they shouldn’t be with us much longer. no clue what “not much longer” really looks like, but that’s ok. I felt so much better after hearing both of those updates. I even got a strand of excitement over what God has for us next!

Tips/Advice/Random notes about freezer cooking…

you’re gonna get funny looks & comments when you go shopping. we completely fill up 2 shopping carts. this time the cashier said several interesting things to us…the first (after we had put a lot of stuff on the big belt) “Aw man, I saw y’all walking back & forth & hoped you wouldn’t come through my line.” Seriously??!!! how rude is that! oh well, it was W-mart at like 9pm on a Sat night. can’t expect much better. But overall she was nice to us. She seemed so confused about why we were together, why we were buying so much. She asked if we were roommates, then sisters, then finally got it that we are friends. her response “I never see older friends out together” OLDER FRIENDS!! HAHA!! didn’t know we were in the “older” category, but there ya go. then she (& all the other cashiers each time we’ve shopped) asked what we’re making. Then we went to B’shires for cheese since it was on sale. & the teenage guy bagging our food asked if we were having a cheese party. HA!! yes, we did buy THAT much cheese.

some tips, in no particular order:

  • pick people who cook & eat like you do, or close enough.
  • make sure everyone is onboard for the same serving sizes. we had been doing 4-6 portions, but our families seem to be growing & needed to do more like 8 servings each.
  • speak up if there’s something someone is going to make that your family will not eat. you might not be the only one in the group. that person can pick a different recipe. OR-you can trade where they get 2 of that dish & you get 2 of some other dish. there will probably never be a round where your family LOVES every single dish, but if you can get most of them where most
    of your family will eat them, great!
  • make decisions before hand about things your families don’t eat. if we do onions in recipes we puree them, & use a LOT less than called for since several of our families don’t like onions very much. same for peppers. Most of our families don’t like mushrooms, so besides cream of mushroom soup, we don’t cook with them. Or make them big enough they can easily be picked out.
  • most things can be frozen. you don’t have to pick meals just from freezer books/blogs. we have found that there are a few things that do better baking from frozen instead of thawing first. like anything with corn tortillas in it. also most pasta dishes.
  • a lot of pasta dishes can be partially made, but not all put together. measure out the dry pasta & put in a baggie, & measure out all cheeses in other baggies. put the sauce together & put in another baggie. put all those baggies in a large gallon baggie & freeze. then you can thaw it all out & prepare when you’re ready to eat it so it’s fresher than freezing it all together.
  • as for pans/baggies…Glad makes some black pans that are wonderful for freezing & baking in. Wmart carries them in 9×13, but not 8×8 size. we’ve mostly used the 8×8 size. they’re on the isle with the foil & paper goods at B’shires. they also have them on Amazon, so if you get a good size group together buy them that way & divide the cost. it’s much cheaper.
  • we use gallon & Qt freezer baggies for soups & pastas, & really almost everything now. I bring mine home & put them flat in the freezer so they freeze even & can stack. often with things like soups we double bag, just to be safe.
  • we use good ‘ole masking tape & sharpies for labeling everything. If you put it on the baggie before the food goes in it stays on & even doesn’t come off in the freezer. the best is the extra wide masking tape. I found it on the spray paint/duct tape isle at walmart.
  • don’t pre-bake casseroles. put them together & freeze. best thing is usually to bake from frozen, but then it takes a lot longer. BUT it tastes fresher that way.
  • crock pot meals are great! we do several of them each round. it’s more like you prepare the ingredients in baggies, so you can dump together. more like prep work & not as much pre-cooking. If that makes sense.

IF you have any questions let me know & I’ll try to answer as best as I can. we’re still doing a lot oftrial & error in this freezer cooking thing. but overall it has been AMAZING!!

  • it eliminates that “uh-oh, it’s 4:30 & I have no clue what we’re having for dinner!”
  • it helps the budget: our cheapest was about $6.75 per meal, & most expensive was this most recent round, which was around $10 per meal which is still not bad!
  • you can pick healthier ingredients! so you know what you are eating each night.
  • If you make enough it’ll be great to pack for lunch the next day, or serve to the toddlers for lunch (which I do a LOT!)
  • Or you can save your leftovers & have one night a week where you pull out all the leftovers & everyone gets something different. we do that a lot as well.

Have fun!! this has saved me so much time & I LOVE it!

every night my kid’s first question is “who made this?”
so funny. I don’t feel stressed about meals anymore.

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Freezer Meals

Yesterday we had to say no to a possible adoptive placement.
A HEARTBREAKING, STOMACH CHURNING Experience.

we would have said yes, but we don’t’ know how long 15&16 will be with us.
it could be a few weeks or a few months. we probably could handle one more, but it’d most likely be even more of a zoo around here! 4 kids 2 & under…um. WOW!
& we’re kind of fond of routine & simplicity. (to which you might be saying HAHA!)
the little one they called us about is the gender & race that I’ve been
wanting for so very long. since the parents rights are already terminated, this 99% will end in an adoption. SIGH. Yesterday they looked at home studies & today they hoped to move the little one to a permanent foster/adopt family. It sure would be nice to have said yes to this little one. To know that we wouldn’t have to go through up to a year (or more) of visits & wondering what was going to happen sure would have been nice.I hope & pray they found a family out there much better for the little one than us, & vice versa.Even though I’ve said no to more placements than I’ve said yes to (I think, I’d have to re-count)
it’s still hard to say no.

every single time.

seriously, every time.

SO…..onto the main topic: freezer meals.
I’ve been doing them for about a year & a half now. the first 9 or so months
there were 4 of us. we had 5 categories of food & we’d rotate between them. so
it’d look something like this:

Mexican-ML
American-JW
Italian-HW
Soups-MS
Breakfast or Ethnic

Each week we’d move down a category. if someone wanted to take the empty category you’d justtell everyone else, then go back into your spot in order the following week. Every week you’d make 4 of the same dish in your category. then we’d meet once a week & swap meals. It was a pretty good way of doing it. more often than not I’d be doing my meal that morning, or even right before we swapped. we had several different girls join& leave the group for various reasons.

When it got down to just my friend Jerri (we started
doing it together when she went back to work full time) & I , we completely re-organized. we each picked 5 recipes, made one mega shopping list, shopped together & split the cost. we then spent a whole Sunday afternoon & evening cooking all those recipes. A few other friends saw our FB posts about it & asked to join. Now there are 6 of us!! we meet about once a month. sometimes there’s just 4 of us, & other times all 6 of us make it. each person emails out their
2 or 3 recipes (depends on how many total people we have). I create a mega shopping list. Then Jerri & I go shopping the Sat night before. we generally try to have 14 or so meals each round. enough that we don’t have to do it again for awhile, but not so many that we’re cooking very late.

4 of us just did a round this past Sunday. here’s a list of the things we made it ended up being$156.85 per family for all these meals. This is the most expensive round we’ve done. BUT, the last few had been short on portions, so we beefed up portions this time. so double the cost, but double the amount of food as well.

  1. Home made pizza rolls
  2. Mexican Chicken Casserole – we had this a few times back & it is so good! & only 7 WW points plus a serving (at 6 servings per pan) we try to get all low or fat free ingredients.
  3. Zesty Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken
  4. Broccoli Supreme – we’ve had this a few times. it is one of my favorites!
  5. Tomato Basil Soup & Ham/Cheese Rolls
  6. French Toast Casserole
  7. Chicken Enchiladas
  8. Sausage Egg Breakfast Casserole
  9. Lawnmower Taco (a taco meat/chips casserole)
  10. Shish-K-Bobs
  11. Chicken Pot Pie
  12. Easy Ranch Pork
  13. Shredded Beef Tacos
  14. Crockpot Ravioli Casserole – this was good. but it made a TON. & I like my pasta with LOTS of sauce. this one the sauce all got absorbed so it was kind of like pasta & meat. but it was good & had enough for several leftover lunches.

For more ideas to get you going here’s what we did last time:

  1. Southwest chicken wraps – these were one of everyone’s favorites.
  2. Breakfast Burrito – These are great!! the kids can just pop them in the microwave in the mornings before school. we made an assembly line & you could make yours however you wanted. w or w/o onions/peppers/hashbrowns. etc.
  3. Meatloaf Minis – baked in muffin tins, then just thaw & reheat! I also have a recipe where we don’t bake them until the night you want to eat them. i’ll put that on here sometime as well.
  4. Skinny Sloppy Joes – from skinnytaste.com, which is one of my favorite healthy cooking sites. she has all her recipes w/ WW points & Pnts plus listed.
  5. Bourbon Chicken  & rice – um, this was WAY not enough for each family. sad. the recipe said it served 4, try like 2, maybe. but it was pretty good. we measured out uncooked rice & put in a baggie to go with it. yep, you can freeze uncooked rice, or you can just leave it in your pantry. but I like mine all together so when I pull it out it’s all there.
  6. Cheese and Chicken Shells
  7. Chicken Chili
  8. Pizza Casserole – YUM!!
  9. Cranberry Catalina Chicken-
  10. 3-2-1 soup
  11. Meatballs-pre-cooked. so you can do whatever you want with them
  12. Chicken Noodle Casserole – good!
  13. Taco Calzone-taco meat, cheeses, salsa, etc…in a dough. ready to bake (here’s my fav pizza dough recipe. it makes 2 doughs.- yet again, we didn’t do enough for each family. 1 calzone is not enough for a family of 4-6. we’ll do 2 next time. completely assemble, then wrap in saran wrap & freeze. you can thaw in fridge then cook, or cook from frozen.

this is my freezer & fridge the night after we cooked. there are 3 shelves in the freezer PACKED with meals, & 3 of the meals are in those big baggies on my second from top shelf of the fridge.

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Meet the parents update

I met the babies parents after their visit today. Almost didn’t do it. Soon as the CW aide took kids back to them she came right back bc they wanted to know what caused a small scratch toddler has. Then she came right back bc they wanted to know about another boo-boo. Real CW walked in the door right then & told me that they griped LOTS about the foster mom of their sibling. Enough that just passing on their concerns made her cry!! CW was great & took my side. She said all parents do this. They look over their child like crazy & overly critique. She told me to not worry about it or let it bug me. & I know I shouldnt, but man it just gets under my skin!! Being criticized & questioned on my parenting skills by someone who had their children removed is not fun. I hope that some point it won’t bug me. One day!!

Anyways….so I prayed about it & still felt like I needed to let them meet me & see me, face to face. It was a simple hand shake, “hi, I’m Mary.” the dad was kind. Smiled & looked right in my eyes. Mom said hi & her name but wouldn’t really look at me. They walked babies & me to the back door & said goodbye. Grandpa was there. He was kind too. Toddler did not want to leave him. I wish they could have seen that 30 sec later he was happy & fine with us. Hoping that maybe them see me face to face will give them more comfort & they won’t be so over critical. Big sibling have me a hug in front of them too, so that was nice.

As I drove off I didn’t know what to think or feel. Of course my over active imagination went all places. So I tried to just pray. A song about how all our hopes are in the Lord came on. That was definitely what my heart was saying. All my hopes in meeting them are in Him! That He would use this small thing to intervene in their lives.

I & 2 Thessalonians both have verses of prayer asking the Lord to give purpose to & fulfill the things we do in faith. That’s my prayer!

Big sibling’s coming over again this weekend; if we cross your mind please pray for our time together. Maybe even that we would have time to talk about spiritual things. That our conversations would be full of grace. That the interactions with our kids would go better than last time. & that my kids would be gracious & yet firm, but kind, when they need to. Thanks!

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Meeting the parents

I’ve decided to meet our new little one’s parents.

I think.

I mean, I still have to talk to the caseworker, but I think she’ll be all for it.

so there’s several reasons for this..

  1. Possibly quicker pickup after visits.  They had a visit yesterday. I got there right on time to pick them up, but it was 10 min before the cw even came to the back door, then asked if I wanted to meet them. not because they want to meet me, but just because it helps her get the kids out faster. (yesterday I said no)  20 min after the visit was supposed to be over before I finally drove out of the office driveway.  So a big part of this is selfish. I want to get in there right when the visit is over, & get out to the van & head out.
  2. Part of the reason I generally don’t meet the parents is because I want to be able to hold a grudge against them. to think badly of them. Isn’t that horrible!! It makes me sick when I actually admit that to myself. When I do meet parents I realize these are real people. people really hurting. messed up. lost. without good support. who don’t know how to change or what a good life even looks like. (I’m over-generalizing here, but have yet to meet a birth parent who has gotten their act really together & has gone beyond just stopping the dangerous behavior that got their child removed & radically changed their life.) Why do I like that yucky feeling? When I do what’s right, & pray for them (or meet them)  I feel more in-line with Christ.
  3. BSF. (Bible Study Fellowship).This past week was on 1 Thessalonians. Wowzers. I’ve read it a lot, but this time it really got to me. It talks about what a life that pleases the Lord looks like. so #1)I made some changes to what TV shows I watch (4:3 Abstain from sexual immorality= no more old episodes of Friends. & no more Big Bang Theory for me) & #2)I have a deeper desire to love the unlovely. the book doesn’t directly talk about that, but look at the Thessalonians, they were major idol worshipers. but they turned to worship the one true God & they did it well!! People can change when the true & living God moves in their life. & He often does that through other people. But I have to meet these people to be in their lives. I want to love these children, & their families in the Way God would have me to. Check out the way Paul felt about the Thessalonians…& why/how Paul’s ministry was so effective there 1 Thess 2:1-12
  4. Having their oldest daughter over…since she’s been coming over I feel like she might at least be telling them about us. the babies & toddlers we have had can’t do that. but she can. she can tell them how we interact with them, what our home is like, & what we’re like. so why not meet them. I would think it’d give them more peace knowing what the family who has their children is like.

So I need to meet these parents. Not every parent of every foster baby we have. because some aren’t safe.

It may sound like such a silly thing to make a whole post of, or to even put much thought in. but for me it’s God softening my heart & calling me to obey. & this is way outside of what I thought we’d be doing when we signed up to foster! we got into it to adopt. then realized we love fostering. & now caring for the parents? WHAT??!! what does God have next!

Obedience is costly, but has great rewards. (BSF)

for me the cost is my comfort: keeping distance. just dipping my toes in the water. & I may never dive in deep with this family, but I’m walking out into the water now. we shall see what happens. the rewards will hopefully be eternal. even if I dont know what they are until I see Him face to face. Eternal rewards

(OK, now I’m thinking of Aladdin where Jafar says that to him at the cave of wonders “giving you your reward..your eternal reward….[evil guy laugh]”….time to sign off for the night)

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