December 23, 2015

DIY Christmas: Stockings

Last year I posted about several DIY projects that I did for our Christmas decorations.  I haven't added a whole lot this year, but I did make us some new stockings.

Since we added 2 new stockings to our home this year, I figured it might be a good time to try to make them.  So I bought all of the fabric and got to work.  I actually made these right before the kids were placed with us, but we already had their names so I was able to get them done before the craziness started!  I followed this tutorial and made the letter appliques using my Silhouette!

The first 2 I made were mine and David's.  And this picture is when I realized that they were facing opposite directions, which I knew would make me crazy.  So I cut another D and added it to the other side of David's so it could face the other way too!  These stockings were very easy to make and only took me about an hour to make all 4.

Here are our stockings hung in our house (of course there is one for Lily too, but she didn't get a new homemade one)
It's so fun to have new stockings up in fun patterns!  They are a little bit smaller than I would like, so I may experiment with a new pattern next year, but I really love the contrasting fabrics and how well they go together!

December 22, 2015

At Home "Projects"

The kids are always looking for something new to do/play with, so I've been trying to keep several crafts and activities on hand for when they need a break from playing with their toys.  The very first time we made a craft, our 4 year old told David that he made a "hovercraft" so I now refer to them as projects instead :)

One night last week we had some sick kiddos who woke us up around midnight and I had a hard time falling back asleep, so I spent a few hours on Pinterest and found several new activities that we've tried out this week.  I took some of the ideas I found and adapted them to best fit our kiddos.  We pulled out a few this afternoon to try out.

The first one is putting buttons on Snowmen.  I saw this idea for Gingerbread men and adapted it to snowmen.  I wrote the number at the top and then put that many velcro dots on the snowman.  Then I put velcro on the back of the buttons.  Our 4 year old is working hard on counting, but still does not recognize numbers, so it's a great activity for him to figure out the number as he counts how many buttons he put on.

 And for the 2 year old, pulling the buttons off the velcro gives some good fine motor work :)

I usually pull out 2 activities at a time and they each work on one and then we switch.  So while one did snowmen, the other sorted beads.  The original idea I saw was sorting different colored jingle bells into an egg carton.  But I couldn't find different colored jingle bells, so we did beads.  And an ice tray seemed to work just fine.
 I put one of each color bead into a spot in the tray and the kids sorted a cup full of beads into the right places.  And we worked on naming the colors as we went.

And even when I walked away to work on dinner and she decided she didn't want to sort anymore, it was good use of her hands and fine motor skills (yes again, she definitely needs some help with them!) to get all the beads back out of the small spots and put them back into the cup.

We also worked on some color sorting with clothes pins.  For the 2 year old, she showed me where they went and I put them on because she didn't quite grasp how to open the clothes pin.  The 4 year old did them by himself and then we counted how many pins there were of each color.

We also did a name recognition activity similar to this one:
But since I can't share their names I'll just post the sample from Pinterest.  We worked on letter recognition and I would tell him to find a certain letter (whichever one came next) and he would match it up.  

We've also been having lots of fun with playdough.., making shapes with cookie cutters and then decorating them with googly eyes, sequins, buttons, and pipe cleaners.  And we've done some cookie decorating (and eating) too!

I love being able to offer some new activities that keep them occupied for a while--especially as we get close to dinner time when they are getting tired and I am needing to get a few things done.  And it doesn't hurt that they are learning some new skills along the way!

December 15, 2015

Pinterest Cooking: Chicken Enchiladas

So I'm finally back to cooking a little bit.  We've been eating off of our freezer meals that I made as well as a few my mom made us.  And several nights we make something easy for the kids and then one of us will go and grab dinner out for us once they are in bed.  But tonight I decided to actually make dinner.

I made the Chicken Enchiladas that I had mentioned in my freezer cooking post last month.  I had cooked the chicken in November when I made the other meals, so it's been in our freezer ready to go.  I thawed it out and made 2 batches of the enchiladas--one for dinner tonight and then I stuck one in the freezer.  David and I both really liked the enchiladas tonight when we had them and I look forward to having them ready to go another time we need dinner!

I'm pretty used to this sidekick sticking close to me as I make dinner, but now she's got a 2 year old friend along with her and that is taking some getting used to for all of us as we navigate making dinner at night.  

I thought I'd also update about a few of the freezer recipes we've made and have tried.  David and I have been eating on the Brown Bag Burritos and Southwest Roll ups for lunch and they've been a good easy go-to lunch (or dinner some nights).  The crockpot chicken pot pie was not a success--I did not love how it turned out.  I have really liked the freezer pizza dough that I made and am glad to have a dough recipe to accompany my homemade sauce.  We do lots of pizza nights and it's nice to have this as a ready to go option without spending money to order out!

We're slowly settling into our routine and getting dinner going when kids are crazy and everyone is tired from the day can be really hard, but I'm glad to have a chance to try out some new recipes along the way!

December 8, 2015


Hello blog!  We are currently getting settled into our new normal and our new routine with 2 kiddos.  We've had a crazy few weeks learning our new normal, visiting family, introducing the kiddos to a lot of new things, celebrating my birthday, and trying to figure out this parenting thing.  The kids are adjusting to us more and more each day and we're starting to settle in.  I can't share a whole lot of stories about them and I can't share any pictures, but I thought I would give you a peek into things right now and share what we're doing for Advent.  

Since we got the kiddos right before Thanksgiving, we had to figure out pretty quickly how we wanted to handle Christmas (preparation, decorations, presents, etc.).  Since our oldest is 4, he already knows about Santa Claus and talks about him allllll the time, especially since we decorated our tree.  So we talk about Santa, but also wanted to find a way to make sure we're helping focus on Jesus this season as well and bring the focus to Him and His coming.

I had scoured Pinterest for advent ideas for kids.  I liked the idea of the Jesse Tree, but thought it might be a little over their heads and seemed like a lot of preparation to do it how I would want to.  But I kept looking and was determined to try it... until I found an advent reading plan based on the Jesus Storybook Bible and I was sold.  We already have a copy of it that was gifted to us and we had been reading through it some at bedtime, but this was an intentional way to read through the stories each day.  We've used this Bible some and one of the things I love about it is that every story from the beginning to the end ties the Bible story to Jesus and his coming.  And someone figured out that there are 24 chapters from the beginning through the telling of Christ's birth, so it makes it easy to read one each day leading up to Christmas.  

Since we were asked about 10 times a day when Santa was going to come (or if he was coming today) I thought the first thing was to get an advent calendar going.  Again, I looked all over Pinterest and decided to try to make a Happy Birthday Jesus Cake Calendar.  The only ones I could find that were printable had the numbers all out of order to find them, but since we are working on counting and learning the right order of numbers, I figured one that actually went in order was better... and it's easier to see how many days are left.  So this is my version I put together during naptime one day

Nothing fancy, but it's an easy visual for them.  We hung it up on the door to the kids' bedroom and every night we read our story and then mark off the day.

One of the best parts of the post with the reading plan were all of the additional links including this post that has a hands on activity for every story in the Jesus Storybook Bible.  So cool!  The kids love to color and do projects, so I wanted to try to incorporate as many as we could into this month and that way we talk about the story while we make the craft and then again later with David when we read the story.  Several of the activities on that post are too advanced for our kiddos (or they wouldn't find as fun), but they were a great starting place for me.  So I've used some and then searched Pinterest (yeah again) for ideas for the other ones.  

Here are a few of the things we've made:

For the creation story, I used these printable coloring sheets.  There is one for each day of creation and inside the number is a picture of what God created that day (so inside Day 1 is a picture of light/dark and so on).  They colored a lot and got tired of coloring toward the end, but it was a great way to talk about the numbers and they did a good job remembering what God made each day.

For the story of the Garden and Adam and Eve, we made snakes out of pipe cleaners and followed the idea of having them hold them as we read the story and hold up the snake anytime we said the word "snake" in the story.

When we talked about Noah, I found a rainbow craft idea on Pinterest.  They love to glue so we glued cotton balls onto half a paper plate for the cloud and then glued on strips of paper for the colors.  I gave them each their colors and told them which order they went in, so they had to find the right color when I read it.

We skipped  a few days over the weekend since we were busy with other things, but yesterday we talked about God sending the Ram to Abraham to save Isaac, so we made a ram.  This site had the printable sheet and we colored them and then glued cotton balls on for the fur.

We've had a lot of fun working through these projects and still have several to go!  It's been a fun way to prepare for Jesus' birthday and talk about Bible stories.

November 20, 2015

Foster Care Fridays: First Placement

Well, it's been a whirlwind week.  We found out last week that we would be getting our first placement early this week.  After a crazy mix-up of dates, we had 2 kiddos placed with us on Tuesday evening.  This week has been fun, exhausting, exciting, overwhelming, joy-filled, and heartbreaking.  We've been so grateful to friends reaching out to us, for being covered in prayer by our community, and for making it to Friday night!

So as we just finished tucking our new kiddos into bed for the fourth night in a row, I thought I'd share this excerpt from The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care.  I've only read the first chapter of the book, but as we prepared and waited and talked to people about this next stage for us, I felt like this summed it up pretty well.  I had lunch with my best friend on Monday and we talked about the fact that they were excited for us, knowing that this was the culmination of a lot of prayer and work for us, but they also knew that for these kiddos it's not an exciting time.  And that's the heart of it all--it is beautiful and it is broken.  I'm thankful to have a God who can make broken things beautiful.

Everything about foster care is equal parts good and bad, joy and sorrow, beauty and brokenness. It’s a good day when a child is placed in your home. It represents safety, security and an opportunity for a child to be loved and cared for in a way they likely would not have had available to them otherwise. It’s indeed a good day when a child is placed in your home – it’s also a really bad day. It’s a day marked by hurt and brokenness, although so much gain has been made available to a child, it’s ultimately loss that has led them to that point. Generational cycles of brokenness within families have perpetuated themselves now into the next generation – abuse, neglect and abandonment have become a part of their stories. They didn’t ask for this; it was unjustly handed to them by those who were responsible to protect them from the very things they’ve now been harmed by. While the opportunity to love these kids is good, no doubt the circumstances that brought them to us are probably very, very bad. This is where the call to foster care begins and the perspective it demands we keep in order to rightly and lovingly care for vulnerable kids well.

As excited as we may be about fostering kids, they certainly aren’t excited about being foster kids. Our personal sense of excitement does not drive our efforts. Their personal tragedy does. Heartache does. A desire to see good come out of bad does. A willingness to embrace what is broken and do whatever it takes to bring healing does. There may be days that aren’t exciting. Quite frankly, there will be days that aren’t exciting at all. They’ll actually be very, very hard. You will be forced on several occasions to step back and ask yourself an important and necessary question – “Why are we doing this?” ... It’s in moments like these that you must press more deeply into your belief that the gospel is nothing if not a demonstration of Jesus’ ability to bring great beauty out of tragic brokenness. That’s why you’re doing this. This is why we do foster care. It has to be. Our personal level of excitement cannot sustain us in this. The gospel can. …the gospel is nothing if not a demonstration of Jesus’ ability to bring great beauty out of tragic brokenness. Foster care is interceding into dark stories in order to bring light into them. It’s advocating the cause of the helpless, seeking justice for the defenseless and maintaining the rights of the oppressed. This is what Jesus has done for us. We, therefore, are compelled to do the same for them. What you are doing is beautiful, not in spite of the brokenness that surrounds it but because of it. It’s upon the backdrop of darkness that light shines the brightest. Know that if it’s for just a few days or for an entire lifetime, you’ve been given the unique opportunity to offer a child something very, very beautiful in the midst of their brokenness – love. God is using you, a mere human, to solve a seemingly insurmountable human problem. Confusion, frustration and exhaustion are inevitable and unavoidable – but God is faithful and good and right there with you.
From The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care by Jason Johnson

November 15, 2015

Pinterest Cooking: Filling up our Freezer

So last week was pretty crazy.  I finished up my job after 8+ years at ECI working with the same team of people.  And on Tuesday we went to the PCHAS office to sign off on everything and become officially licensed.

So we are now officially licensed to be foster parents.  And now that I am done with my job, we could get kids placed with us at any moment.  So we will likely have our first placement in the next couple of days!

In trying to prepare, I decided to make some freezer meals to have some easy dinners as well as some lunches while the kids and I are home.  I had pinned several sites on Pinterest and started planning.

Friday night we cleaned out our freezer and then headed to Sams.  I bought a Groupon for a Sams Membership a few weeks ago, so David went with me to activate it and start stocking up on ingredients for the make ahead meals as well as other things we might need.  This is half of our freezer that we completed emptied out by either cleaning out what had gone bad or combining it all on the other side.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early and got to cooking!  I had compiled recipes from several different sites and these are the ones I ended up making:

One of the pins I found was called 7 Kid-Friendly Freezer Meals, so I decided to look into that one.  From that list, I made the Cheesy Tortellini with Ground Beef (I used ground turkey) and the Easy Chicken Pot Pie.  These are both recipes that you combine most ingredients in a ziplock and freeze them, then just thaw and cook in the crockpot when you're ready.  Very easy and I loved that she had a PDF of all of the recipes and a shopping list!

The second pin I found was 21 Meals for $150 at Aldi.  I do a lot of shopping at Aldi and love their prices, but this time we stocked up at Sams.  From this site I made the Spaghetti Sauce and added in some ground turkey.  I have all of the ingredients to make the Chicken Enchiladas, but I ran out of room in my freezer, so I froze the chicken and will make the Enchiladas for dinner sometime and double the recipe to have one batch to freeze.

The other recipes came from Money Saving Mom's 4 weeks to fill your freezer.  I made the Brown Bag Burritos (again with ground turkey instead of beef) and the Southwest Roll-Ups.  She has several freezer recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so I am looking forward to trying more of her freezer ideas!

The last thing I made were Make Ahead and Freeze Homemade Chicken Nuggets.  I realized that in addition to all of the dinners I need to prepare, I also now have to make sure we've got some lunch foods ready to go.  I figured these, along with the Burritos and Southwest Roll-Ups would all be options in addition to the regular sandwiches and meats and crackers.

Here is a look at our freezer at the end of my cooking yesterday.  I finished everything in about 3 hours, including a run to Kroger to get one item I'd forgotten on Friday night.

When I sat down at the end of October and made goals for November, I tried to keep them fairly simple since 2 of my main goals were Finishing at ECI and Getting Licensed.  But one thing I wanted to try to do was to make at least 5 freezer meals.  Most of these things will make at least 2 batches worth so I think we've got at least a few things to get us started when we need a quick dinner.  They all seemed pretty tasty as I was making them, but I'm looking forward to actually trying them out.

November 13, 2015

Foster Care Fridays: The Lingo and Resources

So there are a whole lot of terms in the foster care and adoption world.  One of the things that PCHAS introduced in their first Meet and Greet night are examples of positive language vs negative language in this realm.  And I thought some of the examples they gave were very good.  So I asked them to share their list with me so I could share it here and they graciously obliged :)  So I thought I'd pass along some of them

POSITIVE LANGUAGE                                            NEGATIVE LANGUAGE

Birthparent........................................................................Real Parent 

Biological Parent............................................................Natural Parent 

Birth Child.........................................................................Own Child 

My Child......................................................Adopted Child; Own Child 

Born to Unmarried Parents..................................................Illegitimate 

Terminate Parental Rights.......................................................Give Up 

Make an Adoption Plan.........................................................Give Away 

To Parent................................................................................To Keep 

Waiting Child......................................Adoptable Child; Available Child 

Parent..........................................................................Adoptive Parent 

International Adoption................................................Foreign Adoption 

Child Placed for Adoption..............................................Unwanted Child

Court Termination......................................................Child Taken Away

Child With Special Needs...........................................Handicapped Child

Was Adopted.......................................................................   Is Adopted

This list is not to make people feel bad if they use the terms on the right, I think we all at some point in our lives have referred to different cases in those terms.  And they aren't necessarily wrong, but there are better ways to say them.  This whole process is very emotional and there are a lot of emotions attached to some of these words.  Who ever would want to be known as someone who was "given away?"  What child wants to live in a family where there is a distinction between parents' "own children" and their "foster children?"  They are all our kids, even if they aren't permanently ours, and we plan to try our hardest to never introduce them as our foster children but just as our children or by their names.  I've read a lot about the terminology of "is adopted" vs "was adopted" which again can seem to be mincing words, but one feels like it's a constant need to earn approval and adoption and one is the idea that this is permanent and forever, it happened and nothing will ever change the child's place in the family.  I don't put any of this out there to be petty, but I think it's important for us to think about the value we're placing on people by how we describe them.  I wrote a post several years ago about People First Language and all that I've learned in my job about how we describe people with disabilities.  Again, it may seem petty, but the way we describe people can be hurtful even when we don't mean it to be.  And as an advocate for these kiddos I want to use positive language to describe their case, their parents, and their place in our family as much as I possibly can, so I wanted to share the information with our people in case you want to do the same.

I also wanted to share some of the books I've read in the past year or so as we've been exploring this world a little more in case people are interested in checking any of them out.

I mentioned last week that one of the most influential books I read this year was  One: Impossible Starts Here by Suzanne Myernick and Gwen Oatsvall.  Between these two authors and their families they have adopted several children both domestically and internationally and they share about their family's journeys into this world and what they've learned through it.  They also have an organization called  147 Million Orphans where they provide ongoing support to other countries in a variety of ways.

Last year I read several books by foster parents that just talk about their experiences.  The first was Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison (also the author of One Small Boat).  I wrote about this book in my book reviews for last year, but if you want to a glimpse into the lives of foster parents this one is pretty good.  I've also checked out several books from the library by Cathy Glass.  She is a foster parent in the UK and has written several books about her experiences.  

One of the books I read earlier this year was Adopting the Father's Heart by Kenneth Camp.  I took away a lot of quotes from that book that I really liked and it was good to hear their story in the foster care world.

In May, David and I read through Ready or Not: 30 Days of Discovery for Foster & Adoptive Parents by Pam Parish together.  It walked through lots of different verses and devotionals about foster care and gave specific ways to pray each day.  It was a good way for us to talk through a lot of those things as we prepared to begin the application process.

The most recent book I read was Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting by Johnny Carr.  In fact, I just finished it this morning.  I didn't agree with all of his points, but I thought he at least brought up a lot of interesting things about the connection between orphan care a whole lot of other realms  of social justice (Human Trafficking, AIDS and HIV, Racial Relations, etc.).  If nothing else, it gets you thinking about how the church responds to a lot of different things that can all be tied back to orphan care.  Oddly enough, his chapter on foster care was probably my least favorite, most likely because I've read so many other things and the way he portrayed a few things I wasn't a huge fan of.  Again, I didn't necessarily agree with everything he said, but I felt like he gave a comprehensive look at ways that the church can be involved in orphan care beyond just adopting.  

All of these books I either own (paperback version or on my Kindle with the ability to loan them out) or I checked out from the library if anybody wants to look into them.

November 6, 2015

Foster Care Fridays: What can You Do?

Obviously, foster care is something I am very passionate about.  I've been interested in it for several years and the more I heard the stories, heard the statistics and encountered the system I knew it was something I was called to take part in.  But I know that's not the same for everyone.  I do believe that the church is called to take part in "orphan care" and there has been a bigger "movement" to do so lately.  But that doesn't mean everyone is called to adopt or foster.  So I thought I'd share a few ways that people can be involved if they are interested in helping these kiddos but aren't in a place to become foster or adoptive parents.

1. PRAY.  Every list starts here.  Because this need is bigger than any one of us.  It is bigger than any church or community can feasibly handle.  So we take it to the One who can handle all of our burdens.  We bring their burdens to Him.  We pray for the kids who are in the system.  We pray for the kids who are awaiting adoption.  We pray for the caseworkers, judges, CPS, CASA, and everyone else who is involved in making decisions about the future of these kiddos.  We pray for biological families--that the cycles of poverty, abuse, and dysfunction would be broken and that they can be equipped to parent their kids.  There are a whole lot of things to pray for.  I follow The Forgotten Initiative on Facebook and now Instagram and they will frequently post different ways to be praying.  This Sunday is designated as "Orphan Sunday" and there is a prayer vigil set up where people can sign up for different time spots to spend praying over all of these needs.   

2. LEARN.  Another way to get involved is to learn about foster care and adoption.  Learn the statistics.  Learn the stories.  As we hear the stories of these kids, a lot of the misconceptions we have are broken down and we see the great need in front of us.  Learn about trauma-informed care and the attachment and connection needs that typically accompany kids who are coming from hard places.  Again, I get the weekly blogs from The Forgotten Initiative and they often have really good posts about all aspects of foster care.  They also link to lots of other people's posts.  Just yesterday I read through a whole series of blogs about Adoption and the Church that looks at several different aspects of how the church can get involved.

3. SUPPORT.  I read a post last week about how one of the reasons not everyone is called to foster or adopt is because every family needs a huge support system and needs people who are not exhausted and weary from this battle.  I loved this post because it also went through a whole lot of practical ways that this family's church has been a support to them during their journey--things that seem simple and things that seem hard, they've walked alongside this family as they reach out to kids from trauma.  There are a ton of ways to support families--prayer, meals, becoming approved babysitters, being a listening ear, learning about and understanding the world around them-- there are a lot of ways to be involved in this cause beyond fostering or adopting. 

There are lots of really great resources out there for ways to get involved in foster care and orphan care.  Several posts that give practical ways such as this one and this one.  I just wanted to share a few ways that I have seen people get involved.  As it is something I'm passionate about, it can be hard when everyone around me isn't passionate about it, but I know that's not a realistic expectation to put on people and I know that there are a whole lot of things that Jesus wants us to be passionate about and I have a lot of awesome friends and family who are pursuing those.  It's also easy to get overwhelmed with the bigness of it all.  There are hundreds of thousands of kids that need foster homes.  There are also a thousand other needs that we can help meet in other missions, but we can't do it all.  One of the biggest things that God has been pressing into me over the past year is the idea of just taking one step.  Sometimes I worry so much that I make the right decision and take the right step that I take a really long time to act, and sometimes I think He just wants me to take a step in obedience and know that He is going with me as I seek to follow His will.  One of my favorite books I've read this year is One: Impossible Starts Here.  The point is that there are a whole lot of steps that we can take to follow God, and it starts with one.  Helping one child.  Reaching out to one ministry.  So we are taking a step to welcome a child into our home.  We can't help all of the kids who need a home in this city, but we can help one (or maybe even two).  So we're going to do that.  If you feel a pulling to get involved in this same mission, then above are a few ways to do that.  If you feel pulled to pursue a different calling, then go and do that.  For each of us it starts with one step.  What is one step God is asking you to take?

October 29, 2015

Pinterest Cooking: Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

When it was pouring down rain last weekend, I started browsing Pinterest for some soup recipes and found this one so I decided to try it out.  Monday night our friends Lucas and Yali came over for dinner.  We hadn't seen them in a while, so it was nice to catch up.  I started this soup in the crock pot before I left for work and it was ready to go by the time I got home--I just had to shred the chicken and dinner was ready!  Lucas and Yali brought some homemade dumplings, so we had dumplings and enchilada soup for dinner and it was delicious.

I have several different taco soup recipes and I really like all of them.  This one was nice because the chicken cooked with the soup so I didn't have to do anything ahead of time.  And it isn't spicy at all--I did leave out the green chiles, so I'm sure that's why-- but the non-spiciness is a huge plus for me.  Even when I strongly limit the spices I use, I feel like the soups still end up spicy, so I was glad this one wasn't.

This soup was so easy to make!  I will definitely be making it again as the days get colder!

October 28, 2015

Getting Ready for Foster Kids: The Rest of the House

Because we don't know the specific ages of the kids who will be living with us, we've tried to buy things that would work well for all ages.  One thing I've been searching for is a little table and chairs for kids to eat at or do crafts/color at.  I figured this table could work well for lots of ages.  I searched Craigs List and other sites for the past few months and couldn't find anything I liked, so we finally decided to buy something new.

I bought this table and these chairs from IKEA.  We rearranged our dining room a little to put the kids' table closer to our living room which also helped open up the space between the dining room and living room.

We have steered away from buying many toys right now since we don't know what will work for the kids we have.  I've bought a few puzzles and blocks at garage sales, and we've stocked up on books, but we planned to wait and buy other things once we had a better idea of what would work for our kids.

Through the generosity of our friends though, we actually have accumulated a lot of fun stuff!
 A few weeks ago an old co-worker of mine posted a picture of this play table and toys asking if anyone wanted it.  So I jumped at the chance and Erin went to help me pick it all up and get it settled at our house.  I love all of the Little People toys and she gave us a house and a city with roads from that.  We also got Rapunzel's tower from my friend Amy!
And my co-worker Jill had asked if we wanted this play kitchen (with lots of play food) that her kids have outgrown.  She bought it for her youngest son a few years ago, but he doesn't play with it much now, so she asked him if he minded giving it to some kids who don't have any toys of their own.  And he happily obliged :)  We've got it set up in the kids' room right now, but might move it around depending on how much use it gets!
In addition to the books we've been stocking up on, we also have been stocking up on kids movies and music.  We already had several Disney movies, so we moved them to one of the bottom shelves of our entertainment center so the kids have easy access to the movies they are allowed to watch.  And we've added some Veggie Tales movies (I found a great deal on a box set on Groupon) as well as some Christmas movies from Half Price Books since we'll likely get our first placement in the middle of holiday season.

 And I've been having lots of fun trying out different crafty things as we get ready for kids.  I loved making the signs for their bedroom and I've been keeping my eye out for other projects.  Through Pinterest, I found this blog that has a ton of patterns for hooded towels.  The blogger made a basic hooded towels but has also made several characters and animals (owls, puppy dogs, super heros, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, sharks, monsters, etc.) and shares the patterns and directions for all of them.  I decided to try my hand at a Minion Towel for a friend, but David liked it so much he wanted to keep it for our kids, so I made 2--1 to keep and 1 to share.  I was so happy with how it turned out and it was pretty easy to put together.  I'm looking forward to some more sewing projects very soon!
Our sweet friend Laura bought this sign for us as part of our shower gift and I love it so much.  It's a good reminder for us as we enter into the craziness of the coming months (and years).  I decided to hang it in our living room, next to our entertainment center, so then I needed something for the other side to make it all symmetrical.

I searched online and found several quotes and David picked this one for me to make into a sign:

I love the way it turned out and love having it up in our living room!  

So those are the last of the changes we've made to our house so far.  It's fun having a few things set up and we know we will probably end up with some of this stuff in storage for different times, but it's nice to have some things to get started with in the next few months!

October 27, 2015

Getting Ready for Foster Kids: The Kids' Room

This is the most fun part of getting ready for kids--getting a kid room ready!
 Over Labor Day weekend, I decided to paint our empty bedroom to get it ready.  We needed something that would work well for a boy or a girl and I wanted something that was bright and fun.  I tend to just pick a color and go with it instead of trying out different paint samples and spending a lot of time deliberating.  So we looked at several paint chips, picked a color and bought a gallon of paint.

 I spent the Sunday before Labor Day painting the room and knocked it out in one afternoon.  Once I was done, it was much brighter than I was expecting, but I really like the way it turned out.  And with furniture in the room it's not quite so bright!
This is a view of both of our beds.  We will be licensed to take 2 kids ages birth-5, so it's pretty hard to prepare for that.  We decided to start out with a twin bed and crib that converts into a toddler bed. as well as a pack and play, since those will most likely cover most of our bases at least temporarily--and then if we need to run out and buy another crib or another twin bed, we will do that.
David's parents generously bought us a crib and we picked out this white one.  We spent a few evenings putting it all together and love the way it turned out!
 The twin bed took a little longer to assemble, but still came together fairly quickly.  We bought some plain bedding from IKEA and then will add additional blankets that fit our kids' preferences and personalities once we know them.

 I made these signs for the wall between the beds and I was very happy with how they turned out!

 We found this dresser on Craig's List and bought a changing pad for it.  It has a hutch that goes with it, but we decided to start with just the bottom part and then add the hutch later if we want to.

 We've also been stocking up on lots of books.  We've hit up Half Price Books a few times and I went to their big sale downtown where all books are $2 or less and bought several children's books.  I've also ordered a few books on Amazon that are recommended for Children in foster care.  I printed out this sign with a Dr Seuss Quote to add to our bookshelf.

I'm very happy with how the room turned out!  It's crazy to think that very soon there will be kids sleeping in these beds!

October 26, 2015

Getting Ready for Foster Kids: Meeting Minimum Standards

Included in our training manual are 167 pages of Minimum Standards for Foster Homes that are licensed by the State of Texas.  There is a lot of information and luckily our agency helps give us the rundown of what all we need to do to get our house up to par with the standards.  So here are a few of the things we were required to do to our house to meet these standards.

In order to pass our fire inspection, we had to install some additional smoke detectors.  Our room and the kids' room already had working smoke detectors, but we installed 2 more in our office and in the hallway leading to the bedrooms.
We also have to have a fire extinguisher mounted to our wall in the kitchen.  We found the fire extinguisher at Home Depot, but had a hard time finding a mount for it--luckily I found one on Amazon and my mom ordered it with her Prime Account so we didn't have to pay for shipping (since the shipping on this particular mount costs more than the mount itself!)

 If you have any children under the age of 8 in your home, you are required to have all outlets covered.  So we went to work covering the outlets and I bought us a few power strip covers for the power strips we keep in our bedroom and office.
 We also have to keep all chemicals out of reach.  Luckily we have high cabinets above our washer and dryer where we can store most of our cleaning products.  I put the ones we use most often and the dish detergent on top of our fridge.

There are a lot of rules about medication storage for foster homes.  We had an hour of training on medication storage.  All medications (prescriptions, over the counter, vitamins) have to be locked up.  And some medications require that they be behind 2 locks, so we have to have a lock box inside our medicine cabinet.  You also have to keep medicines for external use in a separate container that is clearly marked.  You can't use a regular child lock--it has to be something with a lock and key--but luckily they allow the magnetic child proof locks since the magnet counts as the key.  So we turned the upper cabinet in our in-kitchen pantry into our medicine cabinet.  I installed the magnetic lock on there and it is ready to go.  We've got a few more magnetic locks we can put on other cabinets as we figure out which ones need to be off limits, but for now our medication is locked up so we can pass our inspections.

The other thing there are a lot of rules about?  The Pool.

 We are incredibly fortunate that our pool already had a fence around it when we moved in.  If not, we would have had to add one.  Our agency said whenever they have a prospective foster family who says they have a pool they always panic a little since there is so much added cost.  So we are grateful we didn't have to add that.  We did had to add a lock to our pool fence...

 ...and we have to have 2 life saving devices.  We have this ring that we got from one of my mom's friends who has been a foster parent and no longer needs it.  And we also bought a hook that we have hanging on our fence.  There are also a lot of rules about adult to child ratios when swimming with children in foster care, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out next summer!
 There is also a requirement that there be a lock that a child under 10 years of age cannot reach on the door leading from the house into the yard with the pool.  Believe it or not, this lock was the most difficult thing we had to add to our home.  We went through 3 locks before finding one that would work.

First we tried a flip lock that had to be installed onto the door jamb.  But then the door wouldn't close because the lock took up too much room on the jamb.  Then we tried a sliding lock--but the door and the jamb aren't as flush as they need to be, so that wouldn't work either.  We finally settled on a chain lock and it works perfectly :)

In addition to these changes, I also added furniture straps to our entertainment center to keep it from tipping over.  We also have our China Cabinet bolted to the wall.  

One of the first things I did was change out all of our interior doorknobs.  Stated in the fire inspection checklist is: No foster home may have any interior door used in a path of escape that can be locked.  All of our bedroom and bathroom doorknobs had the turn locks and we tried unlocking them from the outside but it wouldn't work for us, so I figured it was easier just to change out the doorknobs.  So we bought 6 new doorknobs with no locks and I changed them all out.  When he came out, the fire inspector told us that we didn't actually have to do that on any but the bathroom, but oh well--I'm glad that's taken care of!

A lot of these things are safety things that we would have done no matter how kids were coming into our home and family.  But I've had several friends laugh when I tell them what all we've done saying that they've never even thought about most of those things with their kids.  But being a licensed foster home means being held to a higher standard and we're definitely okay with the added safety measures!