Feeding a family of 10 on a budget.

(Many foster children are picky eaters only because they’ve only had boxed prepared foods such as Top Ramen, boxed mac n cheese, corn dogs, frozen dinners, etc and getting they to eat some of the things we prepare is often difficult. When we get new placement we try to incorporate some comfort type foods into our meal plans.)

Step one: make friends with your grocery butcher. I’m get a phone call or text when bonless skinless thighs go on sale for .47lb or red meat for .99lb, they usually set aside 40-80lbs for me.

Step two: do not meal plan. Yes. I said it. Meal planning is for people who have extra time and I simply don’t. I work full time and I mom full time…quality time with my family is more important than planning a damn meal. You’ve got to be able to plan dinner on the fly. I typically have things in mind when I’m grocery shopping; it truly depends what’s on sale. Also, I always plan to make one childs favorite meal a week and I’ll buy the items needed even if they’re not on sale.

Step three: you’d better have a ton of spices and staples at home. Milk, cheese, heavy whipping cream, butter, bread, boxed pasta, and garlic are critical.

Step four: have a backup plan for the days you had to rush out and forget to fill the crockpot. Breakfast for dinner is always a quick oops dinner or ‘Snacky Dinner’ is one of my backups. A Snacky Dinner is pretty much fend for yourself; leftovers, cereal, mac’n’cheese, ramen, salad, sandwiches, etc. This isn’t a mom fail, it isn’t a defeat. It’s real life and you made sure the kids were fed.

Step five: cook in bulk if you have free time. Every now and again Husband and I will prepare food together on his day off, seal it up, and freeze it. This usually means grilling chicken, making spaghetti sauce, boiling bone in chicken to make stock and chicken enchiladas, preparing lasagna, etc. Having these things on hand also makes dinner easy if you forgot to pull something out of the deep freeze in the morning or forgot about dinner in general. It’s not ideal but whatever.

Step six: buy produce every few days. Yes, I don’t have a lot of time to meal plan but I always do my best to have fresh fruits and veggies in the house. Gimmie that fresh stuff! If apples are on sale the kids snack on apples or bake a pie, if strawberries are on sale they’re a breakfast or a dessert topping, bananas are usually a grab and go breakfast. Also, we like to have salad every night with dinner. I don’t necessarily like the bagged stuff as it’s expensive and poorly portioned for a large family. We have a local store in town called Food City, lovingly called Food Shitty because their produce is super cheap on Wednesday’s. We eat about 40-60lbs of fruit and vegetables a week.

Step seven: fuck meatloaf, that’s nasty.

Step eight: always have the peanut butter and flour at home, whipping up peanut butter cookies or pound cake by scratch is extremely easy and who can resist a tasty impromptu dessert?!

Step nine: don’t be afraid to start up the grill, having bratwurst or hot dogs for dinner isn’t my favorite but it is quick and easy. You can make potato or macaroni salad in a jiffy.

Step ten: remember that it’s not about the food served; it is about the quality time spent preparing a meal with your family and conversations at the dinner table.

I spend around $100 per person a month. This allows me to buy each child a ‘treat’ each week when I go to the store, it also allows for Pizza Hut every other week, and weekly treat money for school (snow cones and whatever the PTSO is pushing.) USE COUPONS. Stack them, get paid to grocery shop. Go to Kmart for shampoos and conditioners, use their ShopMyWay rewards. Most of the time I get toiletries and such for 65% off. Pay attention to sales. I use Amazon Subscribe and Save for dog/cat food, multivitamins, cat litter, toilet paper and laundry goods. You can lock in prices at Amazon when you subscribe. The deals are out there, take the time to find them. Buy in bulk. (My husband sometimes fusses because I buy 10 12 packs of Cottonell toilet paper because they are $2.99 a package and we have ‘no where’ to put it.) Also, hit up the .99 Cents Only store or Dollar Tree. Those places have a lot of cool stuff and Dollar Tree accepts coupons! Cha-ching!

I spend time finding the deals on household items and food because it gives me a high, I feel good saving money. It also allows me to pocket grocery money to put towards travel and vacation expenses! The more I save the more we can go places and do things. And in case you haven’t noticed…we go a lot of places and do a lot of things. I cut corners everywhere and use my resources. My husband does not, he goes to every store and pays retail. Talk about frustrating!

Exhale

Things have calmed down a bit with the new placements. Loud is still working on self regulation, accountibility, and following rules. It is getting better, I feel like he is understanding cause and effect. Lovely is doing well too, she is kind and helpful. Lovely spends her time helping out around the house; picking up the bathroom or asking me if I need help. It’s awesome but I’ve been working with her to try and be more of a kid. I encourage her to play and give her praise for doing kid things. Tata is a well rounded girl, she could use a little help with her impulse control and she needs to work on her volume control.

Boychild spent the weekend with friends, doing boy stuff. He went to a birthday party/sleep over on Friday night and Saturday he stayed over with his friend from school.

Bunny has been hanging out around the house with Tata and Lovely. Today shes going to a birthday party, shes excited!

Biscuit and Blue went to Homecoming last night, they both look so grownup.

Lemon has been caught up reading this Emily Woo book, as soon as she wakes up she runs to her book and drives right in.

Pretty celebrated her 19th birthday a few days ago.

Flower is doing the college thing.

I’m going to make sure to get to the grocery store soon, I’ve still not gone. Although a friend of mine had mercy on me and dropped off a few cases of Diet Dr Pepper so I could still function. I’ve gotten my schedule worked out a little better, I’ve arranged to have my lost checks reissued, I’ve gotten some cleaning done at home, my Amazon Subscribe & Save arrived, and I’ve gotten a handle on my emotions. Now I’ve got to meet with the mental health team for my placements and get my CPR renewed, both of which are scheduled for Monday.

That’s a Dandy Lion, because I’m fine and dandy. ❤

Life is hard, y’all.

My kids are pretty good kids, they know the basic rules and typically abide by them. Yes, they occasionally get excited and run in the house or slam a door on accident due to excitement or being chased by said running kid in the house.

New placements sometimes struggle with standard household rules. Simple things like when you parents ask you to do something…well, you should do it. Or don’t run in the house (about 35 times in 10 minutes.) Maybe even don’t yell in the house (every 40 seconds) or stop slamming doors (every time you enter or exit.) Listening is critical; it’s a fact. Most younger placements come from homes where structure is null and rules are nonexsistant as long as you don’t bother the adults. Teaching younger kids is EXHAUSTING. These 3 placements remind me why we primarily work with teens.

I took Lovely, Tata, and Loud to buy new clothes, undergarmets, and shoes as they arrived with nothing. THAT was interesting. And, you see, I’ve got this problem with buying my placements anything other than what I’d outfit my kids in. I don’t buy my kids Wal-Mart shoes (sometimes I buy the girls sandals there) and I don’t buy their clothes there either. My placements didn’t approve of the Nike’s we had looked at online, they didn’t like the Jessica Simpson sandals we looked at online, they didn’t like anything I suggested. In fact they asked specifically to go to Wal-Mart to shop. I suggested Ross and they declined. I bit the bullet and went to Wal-Mart and bought them every tacky Minion/Ninja Turtle shirt, every Geranimal top and legging they asked for, and even the tennis shoes that they loved. I even sprang for some hair bows and bathing suits. Guys, I spent about $500 and bough ALL the things. Socks, underpants, toothbrushes, soaps, hair brushes/combs, and other odd and ends. I don’t typically shop at Wal-Mart, in fact I’ve probably only been there 3 times this year. If I spent $500 on the things I had been looking at the kids would have gotten a few outfits each, pjs, and shoes. Okay, that’s irrelevant, the fact is they felt like superstars and couldn’t believe we bought all of that stuff for THEM. As a savvy shopper I know that you get what you pay for, these items that we have bought will be destroyed in a month or two. I’ll now have the opportunity to slowly replace their items with better quality things.

The girls are pretty well adjusted. They understand that good behavior means we can go into the community and have ice cream or visit a park. The girls understand consequences of their actions and they’re both eager to please. Lovely, Loud’s older sister, has the victim mentality. She has repeatedly told me she was being bullied at school and I went to the school today to find out that she is NOT being bullied. She says she is bullied anytime someone isn’t nice to her. I could write an entire post about bullying and victimization. I’m so over the hyper sensitive people who, clearly, have no idea what actual bullying is. I’m not talking about placements or children in general; adults can be just as ignorant. Tata is well rounded and funny, she does her homework and takes her chore seriously. She enjoys quality time with me but needs to work on her reading. I have a feeling that her reading skills will improve as we have scheduled reading every night prior to bed.

Loud, well…he is developmentally behind a bit. While he is 7 years old (8 next month) he is currently behaving around the age of a standard 5 year old. It’s not uncommon for placements to be developmentally behind. Loud is EXHAUSTING. Loud has a difficulties flowing simple commands, he whines, he has virtually no self control and has the victim mentality (don’t get me started on this again.) He cannot go into the community for outings as he is unsafe and often wanders off. Guys, that’s some scary shit. Loud will need some intensive therapy and definately some STAR services. STAR is a respite program that teaches youth how to behave in social settings and community settings.

But, despite all of my fussing I need you to know that Loud told me he loved me today…twice. And all 3 placements decided to call me ‘mom.’ Those 2 things are better than drugs, sex, and fancy handbags. Love is my drug. I’m exhausted, frazzled, and supervising nonstop 24/7, but it is SO worth it. These kids want love, affection, and time.

I have to sacrifice a lot, I understand in the long haul that it’s for the best. I’m wiped out, I’m tired, I’m stretched thin emotionally and financially, and I’m annoyed as all get out. I’m human. I’m allowed to feel this way. I will make it work. I lost 3 checks that I had planned on cashing 2 weeks ago. I keep forgetting my food when I go to work. I forgot laundry in the washer and now it smells funny so I’ve got to dry it then rewash it. I’m out of Diet Dr Pepper. I need to go grocery shopping (I’m dying for fresh produce) but I’m not dragging my nerd herd out to the store. My garbage disposal took a crap and a repair person won’t be here until Monday. My CPR certification expired. Where the hell are my keys? Ugh, the adjustment period is the hardest. Pray for me.

Unrelated to my fussy post: I’m going to post about a budget friendly meal plan for a family of 10.

Sometimes…

Sometimes I’m sad because parents lie to their children and because children are loyal to their parents, despite how they’re treated, they believe their every word. I’m not talking about white lies, I’m talking about gargantuan lies.

Sometimes I’m sad because adults talk to their children about their financials. I’m not suggesting that parents not tell their their children they can’t afford something, I’m stating that I’m sad that children often know that their parent is short on rent or the electricity will be shut off because the parent hasn’t got any money.

Sometimes I’m sad because children are forced to take care of their drug or alcohol dependent parents.

Sometimes I’m sad because children are forced to be the adult in their household and take on adult issues such as making sure there is food in the home or getting siblings ready for school.

Sometimes I’m sad because parents truly feel that they’re doing the right thing and don’t recognize their ignorance. (I could preach all day on the victim mentality regarding the ignorance.)

Sometimes these things aren’t just happening to kids in foster care, this is a normal way of life for people around you…people you know.

We need to improve the ‘norm’ and do better, parents. Let the children be children, we can all afford to be a little better.

Remember just because your child turned out ‘okay’ so far does not mean that you, as a parent, have not embedded their core values in them. It doesn’t mean that all the times you’ve embarrassed them with your words and actions that it’s made them resilient. You are not doing your child any favors by exposing every detail of your life with them, you are a parent not their friend.

With this being said if you know a child in your community who has things like this going on, reach out to him or her. A childs success is one caring adult away, put in a little extra time with the child. Be that adult, step up, time is the most valuable resource available.

Remember this?

I last shared, prior to getting my placements, that my interest was piqued in regards to a 12 year old girl that was seeking a large family and that I had been contacted regarding to placement and adoption. Well, that was complete crap. It it a pretty shady ordeal, they can only disclose very small pieces of the case during the inquiry while letting you get emotionally involved. During a 6-8 week process they can pick you apart as the family who wishes to adopt but you get minimal information… but not medical or behavorial stuff.

I indicated to the the CSR specialist to call my licensing worker and disclose all of the information to him as there is a loophole in the process. Although he isn’t allowed to disclose any information to me, he can get the nitty gritty. I trust him to make the call for me, he knows my family dynamic and what I’m willing to have in my home in regards to placement. The CSR specialist called my licensing worker, disclosed all the things, he knew it wasn’t a good fit and it was closed down. I hope that anyone who is looking into a CSR child can find this information helpful and time saving, not to mention avoiding yet another emotional rollercoaster.

It was a CSR ordeal which pretty much equates to kids that are EXTREMELY hard to place due to behaviors, multiple placements, etc.

I’ve learned enough about photolistings, CSR’s, and adoptive searches in general. The masses are correct; it is a waste of time and pointless. Despite my initial feelings about everyone else failures being a personality flaw or getting emotionally attached to a picture of a child, everyone was right. It is complete garbage. I’m objective, even during my emotional bit during this journey.

I don’t like being this pessimistic but the proof is in the pudding.

TL;DR

Don’t bother looking at photolistings ot CSR’s. It’s a lost cause or a trap.

Oops. I did it again!

New placement! Tata has moved in with us, she is a pretty sweet kid. Tata is 8 years old and was in the same class as Bunny last year. We have a full house! With Tata, Bunny, and Lovely sharing a room it’s comparable to a itty bitty sorority. They’re a great group of girls and my only complaint is my aching wrists from all of the braiding in the mornings. It’s really great for me and the girls, the morning hair bonding. Both Lovely and Tata have told me that their bio mothers never did their hair and they let me know how pretty and happy it makes them. It truly is the little things that we do for one kids, like their hair, that let them know we care about them. Please, don’t take that for granted. It’s something that most parents do for their children daily and never think twice about it, it’s just what we do. Many children don’t have that luxury, bizarre… right?

The new placements are getting along well, Boychild is really doing exceptionally guiding Loud into making good choices. He is taking his job as big brother very seriously, it is wonderful to see him being compassionate and understanding. I’m incredibly lucky to have taught my children to be kind and helpful when we have new placement. Speaking of Boychild; he has really stepped up his game lately. He has been responsible, he has wonderful grades, and he has improved quite a bit overall. He is a sweet and sensitive boy and 6th grade is doing him well. Although he had a minor setback for fighting at school (he did not start the fight, another child hit him first) he took full accountability for his actions and accepted the consequences with no fussing. The most important thing about Boychild is that he is no longer medicated for his ADD. We had a rough couple of years but the hard work and dedication is paying off. He is a good boy who loves to skateboard and ride his dirt bike, protect his sisters, and read. Yes. I said read. Holy shit.

I’ve received progress reports for all of the kids, all 8 of them. I’ve got some bright kids as they’ve all got A’s and B’s. Yes, it is the begining of the school year so it’s a given that they all are doing well. I hope I can keep them all on track and keep it up, we all know that a childs success starts at home.

I’m ready for the whirlwind of life, let’s see where this group of kids leads us!

Loud and Lovely.

We received placement, we have 2 new friends! Loud is a boy who is 7 and Lovely is a girl who is 10. Loud is just that, loud. He is well behaved, does well in school, and a pretty good listener. Loud is a typical 7 year old boy, rambunctious and eager for words of affirmation. Lovely is a complete joy; she is respectful and helpful. She just got her progress report and she is a top notch student as well. Lovely is parentified but not as parentified as some placements that I’ve had.

I’m back to having kids all over again, all the different schools! Back to the scramble. Luckily next week I’ll have it all squared away and we will get into the swing of things, appointments, pick up/drop off, activities, etc. The first few weeks are the hardest when we get new placement, the race is on! Teaching kids the new rules, gauging personalities, likes and dislikes, and getting the kids to trust us.

We are getting another placement, short term from what I understand. But what exactly is short term? It could be 2 weeks or 5 months, it’s a loose term as far as I’m concerned. I should know more about her later today.

I’m at the High School for parent day today, yahoo!

Whirlwind!

If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that we have been on the quest to find another family member, someone looking for an adoptive home. You’ll also know that the search has been an emotional, and fruitless, adventure. I’ve sent out more than 20 homestudies and I figured my door would be beaten down by all of the responses. But…no. Recently, I dealt with the disappointment by fooling myself into thinking the ‘1st and 15th’ rule (homestudies are typically reviewed the 1st ans 15th of each month, not as they trickle in to the DCS caseworkers hands) applied to us. The 15th came and went, in the last week I had only received 2 calls, both in Arizona. WTF. The first child was not a match per my criteria and the second one was a courtesy call letting me know the the child would only be placed in the Phoenix Metro area. Oh, and shortly after this disappointment I was notified that my agency would begin charging me a flat rate or or per word rate, depending on which option I chose, to send out my homestudy to other states. Fabulous. Now I’m being penalized for attempting to find a child a forever home. This whole adoption search is a pain in the ass.

I am no longer seeking out a child via adoption listings or CSR’s. I feel like it is emotionally drained me, changed my outlook on adoption via foster care, and made me more of a pessimist that I’ve ever been in my adult life. In fact, I feel a lot of negative feelings regarding the foster care system and how the adoption sector is managed in general. I found myself saying, for the first time since I’ve become a foster parent, some things negative about foster care. That’s unheard of! I’m a huge advocate for children, how the foster system works, etc. And there I was, bad mouthing something I truly believed in.

I believe that a successful foster parent will always let the child in their care know that they are supported, care about their feelings, and truly want them to go home. A successful foster parent will fight for what the child wants (older children) or what is in their best interest (younger child.) A successful foster parent will never badmouth the system, the immediate working staff, nor the parents of the child…despite how much we dislike their parents choices or treatment of the child in our care.

Foster care works, reunification happens. Oftentimes parents don’t do the things required to regain custody of their children; adoption via foster care works too. Family is family, blood or bond. I need to remind myself of these things because I feel sad and let down about this adoption photolisting ordeal. Maybe this is part of my plan, God is pushing me elsewhere because it’s where I’m supposed to be. Maybe I’m not to be adopting via photolistings and God has called me to only provide temporary care for children in need. I hate to be a pessimist, but I should have heeded warnings about photolistings and other people’s personal experiences. For some reason I thought I’d do better… I was wrong. I didn’t do better, I am not better.

Onto a brighter note! My licensing agency forwards me CSR’s (adoption flyers from in state and in house) I have struck out there too. I’ve inquired and gotten responses fairly quickly BUT often times the children in these CSR’s have severe behaviors or are sexualized in some way/shape/form. I’m not equipped to deal with that, or a plethora of other things that our household had deemed unacceptable. Anyway, our homestudy had been dropped onto a desk, a desk of a coworker within our agency in the Phoenix office, and we received a call about a child. A child that has not been listed yet on any adoption sites, that currently lives in a group home nearby. I had played phone tag for a week or so with a stranger, unfamiliar number = no answer. There was never a voicemail left, I never thought twice about it. That is until Husband had called me and let me know that this adoption recruiter was looking to communicate with us regarding placement.

Placement is the operative word. This child is not legally free for adoption but the state and case team anticipate rights to be terminated. I was given very little information regarding the child and then a host of proceedings, including a 2 hour phone interview set up for Monday evening.

The information I was given is as follows: female, 12, wants a large family. My interest was piqued, I like kids and I have a large family.

Once the phone interview is completed and they feel we could be a potential match they will disclose all the information regarding the child during the same phone call. I wonder if they’ll let me see a picture of her? Not that it matters much, I’m merely curious. After the interview and information exchange my homestudy and interviewers opinion will all be presented to a board of people who decided if it’s a good match. If it is a good match we can facetime/phone chat with the child then move onto meeting her in person shortly after. If things go well transition to our home happens.

I also received a placement call around 1am regarding a sibling set. Naturally, I was sleeping at 1am! I returned the call this morning and the on call placement person referred me to the DCYS, I’ll likely hear from them tomorrow unless they’ve found placement already.

What a ride it has been.

Ode to Bunny

I am certain God gave me you to teach me patience. You have the uncanny ability to fuss and cry until the cows come home. You are my most emotional child; I’m often bewildered by your displays of emotion. From hot to cold in .02 seconds, it’s quite impressive. You’ve taught me how to handle a series of emotions that I’d never imagined I’d have to deal with in my life.

Bunny, you are the most popular and well traveled child that I’ve had too! You have a charming personality and the confidence that some adults don’t often acquire. Bunny, you traveled all summer with your family and friends to amazing places because you are so willing to go on ANY adventure. It’s not often that you say no to an invite, in fact you’ve only ever said no to an invite because you were under the weather. Bunny, you are a Jill of all trades but a master at them all. You fish, you bowl, you dance, you cheer, you ride dirt bikes and drive side by sides. You love to learn and you definitely enjoy being good at what you’ve learned.

You are a great role model to your your little sister, both showing her and telling her she can do anything. You radiate joy and love, you have taught me not to take life so seriously and live for the moment. Bunny you are a true J.E.M. and you’re truly outrageous just as I had anticipated before you were born. I love you.

Responsibility

“Do you know what responsibility is?

It is a word made up with 2 words.
The word response and the word ability.

We all find ourselves with abilities, and given our abilities, what will then be our response to those abilities?”

This. This. This SO hard. People often misunderstand what a responsibility is; it’s not just taking care of things that need to be done in your daily life. It is your ability to respond. How are you responding to things in your life?

Be a leader…get someone to believe in themselves.

Also, I have unfinished Ode’s in my draft folder. I need more hours in the day!