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!

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.

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.

Five.

5. 5. 5.

Soon, I’ll have only 5 kids at home. Biscuit, Blue, Boychild, Bunny, and Lemon. I’m freaking out, how do I cook for only 7 people?! What will we do with the copious amounts of leftovers?! There will be extra time, room, and finances. Weird. There will be less stress, chatter, and traffic.

We will enjoy our time together until we are needed. I love my community, I love children, I love foster care. There are lessons to be learned about humility, compassion, and pain. My kids understand the importance of helping people and also, witnessing me fail, has shown them that even though you can desperately want to help it’s okay to say ‘enough’ and have a child removed. My kids have helped transition foster kids to our home and comforted them in times of need. They have also disagreed and fought with them. It is all give and take, understanding others circumstances and remembering how blessed you are to be taken care of in a standard in which society deems normal. My kids don’t take much for granted these days because they understand that things change in the blink of an eye.

I’ve been sifting through adoption listings, looking for potential matches. I’ve sent in several inquiries and have gotten very little feedback. Our system is flawed; caseworkers are busy prioritizing and adoptive kids are being pushed to the backburner. I understand that the removal and reunification are high on the totem pole, they are critical to child safety, but having a child wait in limbo for months or years just isn’t right. My licensing worker has assured me that my homestudy has been sent to all of the inquiries that I’ve sent in and even he says he has gotten very little feedback. It shouldn’t be this hard to find an older child, in the United States, who is legally free for adoption, to find a match. It shouldn’t be this hard to help.

On the other end of the spectrum I’ve gotten leads on some foster placements. Unfortunately, they weren’t a match for our home. I do have a strict criteria that I follow as my children are my number one priority. I do not want to expose them to some things nor have them possibly become victims in any way. It’s hard. Often times it breaks my heart but I’ve developed a firm understanding during my years of foster care of knowing when to say yes to a placement and when to say no.

Luckily, when you seek out adoptive children via photolistings or through your agency you can get every detail of their case/life since being in the foster care system. That makes finding a fit easier for families and agencies. I’ve gotten a few responses stating we weren’t a good fit for a child and I’ve sent responses saying we wouldn’t be a good fit for a child. I’m okay with that, I’m all about the best interest of the children. My older girls have taken an interest in looking at potential siblings online, Blue loves to watch the videos and Biscuit wants to see their faces.

Only God knows what will happen next, we may stay with the 5 kids and be done. We may foster more. We may adopt. Until then…we wait.

Coolsculpting?

Yeah, Coolsculpting. It freezes the fat cells, they die, then your body discards it naturally. There is no downtime and you can have no physical restrictions after the procedure. It’s like liposuction but better, I’ve heard. I’ve had several friends get it done and they’ve shown beautiful results. What’s the catch? Well, it is not 100% immediate. It’s said that you’ll start seeing results in 3 weeks and after the 8 week mark you’ll see the final results are evident. BUT lots of people have seen results a day or two after the procedure.

Well, I had the pleasure of meeting Summer and having Coolsculpting done here in Lake Havasu City at Innovative Health and Wellness Centeron Saturday. The office is super cute, their staff was kind, and everything was explained very thoroughly. I was outfitted with this funny bra; it looked like a face mask but for my boobs.

Oh boy, don’t I look great? Ha! Then a series of before photos were taken on the backdrop just behind me. We got all of my angles, I can’t imagine it being anything other that disappointing to anyone that sees them. With that being said, I was assured that no one would see my pictures.

I recently had emergency surgery, February 27th, so the problem area beneath my belly button was a no-go due to not being healed fully. If you look closely you can see the incision scar on my lower stomach, the side where I’m holding my phone. I decided to do my under boob area, I’ve got stubborn fat that I cannot get rid of. It just lives there now, my under boob fat roll. We’re old friends now, I call her Noreen.

The top photo is where Summer marked me, that’s where she placed the barrier (which was a sticky piece tissue-ish paper) and she placed the suction piece on top of marked area. We did one area at a time, she placed it on me and it sucked right on. It felt cold but not uncomfortable. The second picture shows the device velcro’d on me. After a few minutes it the area had gone numb and I attempted to watch a movie, I ended up distracted by my phone instead. The first area was 35 minutes and then the suction coolsculpting device was removed, the barrier paper was removed, and I was wiped down. The barrier paper was sticky and sweet smelling. Then Summer massaged the area, BOY did that feel weird! It wasn’t painful… it was a different sensation; one I’ve never felt before. That’s when she was breaking up the ice crystals, the massage was short and enjoyable. Repeat for the second area. Quick. Painless. Cool.

I left the office and proceeded with my daily life, very little discomfort was felt and I had no issues sleeping at night. This morning I woke up and the two treated areas were sensitive to touch. The two areas were a bit sore too, comparable to muscle soreness after working out. I have a follow up appointment scheduled several weeks out, I’m anxious to see the results! I hope Noreen will vanquish.

I’ll continue to update about my fat freezing journey and post some of the unflattering pictures. If it works I’ll definitely go back and have my other problem area, my lower stomach, done as soon as possible!

Full speed ahead

Aaah. Blue’s bio mom decided to appeal the severance. This is an adoption setback. Seeing as both of her bio parents showed up to the severance trial, spoke to their lawyers, then left the court house without attending the trial…I thought an appeal was out of the question. I guess I was wrong. I think they’re just dragging things out. The bio parents had done only one thing required in their case plan when it was a reunification case. Severance was ordered after 1 year of Blue being in our care. Bio parents STILL requested a trial even though their participation was minimal. Then, as stated above, flaked on the trial. And now bio mom wants to appeal the decision?! This makes no sense at all; it’s bizarre. And for whatever reason bio mom is, presumably, lying about her whereabouts to Blue and boy does that make her angry. This is foster care.

Flower is doing well. At the end of this month the publication will be complete and she will be legally free for adoption. Luckily, I’ve got a rad lawyer in Phoenix and he is familiar with all of this foster care/adoption stuff. Let me know if you need a referral and I’ll hook you up with him, he comes to Mohave County regularly.

Pretty is well, she’s starting a new job next week and she’s confident. Financially she struggles and it terrifies me to send her off to college at the end of the summer. I know she is a survivor, I’ll pray for her. She’s also moving out in March, get it girl!

Biscuit is great, she’s doing her regular classes in high school and she’s also taking 2 classes online. She is on two cheer teams and doing a special performance with one team at a community event in a couple of weeks.

Boychild is well, he qualified for spelling bee at his school. He was very proud of himself, he ended up bombing it on the word ‘pesky.’ He said he added an extra ‘e’ after ‘k.’ Boychild has been playing basketball and football quite a bit. He had excellent grades this last quarter too. He spends his time playing the Switch, making remixes, and riding his dirtbike.

Bunny has expressed interest in football and volleyball. Unfortunately, gender roles are preventing her from trying out for football. Her friends think it’s a ‘boy sport’ and it’s definitely put Bunny on the fence about it. Bunny has exceptional grades and is ridiculously funny.

Lemon will be 5 at the end of the month, wow. The only thing that she talks about is being able to cheer again. She is an excellent reader, she enjoys make up, and is loud. Really, really, loud. All. The. Time. Singing, talking, playing, etc…she’s always at maximum volume.

Lemon’s reading skills.

We are silly.

Boychild’s jam station.

Husband recently had a procedure done, he’s had 6 inches by 1.5 inches of skin removed from his back per the dermatologists findings. Life is scary, just roll with the punches. He is still cute as hell and I love him more than I love air.

I’ve made a decision; I am doing the challenge. I’ve got an application and written the essay of sorts. Now, I’ll be making a video. I’ll post more about the challenge in the next few days. I’m a little apprehensive but I know, deep down, I need to make time for myself. This could be the push I need for a healthier lifestyle and help me get a handle on this self love journey.

And scene!

Our standard cheer season is complete! Our gym has 5 teams attending the Summit in Orlando in 19 days, our other teams aren’t eligible. Hello Disney World! Our last competition was in Las Vegas, all of our teams placed first with the exception of our mini team– they placed 3rd. It was an exceptional season and I’m proud of all of our athletes and coaches. All of their hard work made for a successful season, kudos! 

I’m excited to go on this trip with Biscuit, it’s a fun time for her and I to bond and have fun all while making memories. I enjoy the time we get to spend together because I know these times will soon be a thing of the past as she gets older and would rather be with friends than her weird mom. Biscuit has been fundraising for this trip and I’m proud of her for working hard, I’ve noticed it’s not something a lot of kids do anymore. Parents are burdened with huge expenses and kids often feel entitled; I expect my children to work for things in all areas of life.

Just as soon as this season’s ends another begins, it all happens quickly. It’s a blur. A lot of our coaches and athletes will be graduating high school and heading off to college, it’s bittersweet. 

My life is a Sitcom

Is this really my life?! Am I on Punk’d?! My life is hilarious. Seriously, our household is FULL of laughter and strangeness, I often think to myself “Is this even real?!” My kids say insane things out loud and I don’t think other families are like ours. I’m going to make up movie titles and a plot teaser to give you a sneak peek into my life that sometimes I feel isn’t real. These are all things discussed at the dinner table,  FYI.

The Dry Tampon: A story of self exploration and pain of removing a dry tampon before reaching puberty.

The Dirty Rap Song: A blossoming relationship based on singing a song with the word ‘p*ssy’ in a crowded hallway at school.

Pregnancy 101: You won’t get pregnant if you take it in the butt, but you can still contract gonorrhea and other life lessons from tweens.

Playground Battles: A story based on true events where a playground moniter has had enough of the kids crap and flips them the bird.

I Hurt my Vagina: A warming tale of a girl injured by her bike seat while trying to mimic her brothers ‘sick moves.’

Riding the Wall: An epic thriller where a toddler on a Strider knows no boundaries, is careless, and wants to die. She proves to her family that the gene pool is, in fact, shallow.

I Need a Bandaid IIV: A true story based on real life events. A blue eyed girl is on a mission, to gain grace. Bikes, mountains, and sidewalks always win in this award winning Sundance film. 

What is that Smell?: A horror film based on the smell if a young girls feet. PG13

My Penis Hurts and Other Boy Related Genitalia Stories: How often do your penis and balls get hurt? Not nearly as much as this young boys; an intriguing story starting with BB guns and ending with fence posts.

This is my life. This is real. This is hilarious. 

48 hours and Oreos.

In the last 48 hours every child in my home has cried. Pretty cried because she and her boyfriend broke up, Biscuit cried because she hurt someone’s feelings, Blue cried because she’s on a religious venture trying to figure out where she belongs, Boychild cried because he wasn’t allowed to play video games, Bunny cries about everything, and Lemon cried because she was left behind on the cheer floor by all her teammates. 

So. Many. Tears.

Imagine 3 teenage girls emotionally distraught, in my room/on my bed, while Husband and I are trying to watch 13 Reasons. We REALLY wanted to watch this…we were on the Clay episode, people! Husband was lost, he had no idea how to help with the emotional disturbance. You could smell the fear on him, he looked like a cat backed into the corner by a pack of hungry coyotes. We paused the show, begrudgingly, and dealt with our teen crisis.  

So. Many. Feelings. 

I love my girls, no doubt, but holy shit, estrogen overload or something. I hate to see them cry, hurt, or be uncomfortable. I want to protect them from everything and everyone…sometimes even from themselves. I want to protect them and steal their pain, even if it is petty. So, like any good parent I dealt with the crisis accordingly; cookies. Birthday Cake Oreos and standard Oreos. You’d be surprised how many problems can be solved with a couples of packs of cookies. Apparently the Birthday Cake Oreos are better than standard Oreos and that can be an ice breaker for teens who are falling apart emotionally. 

Lessons were learned, tears were shed, and forgiveness happened. All in a day’s work of a Mother of 6…sometimes 7. 

Sonics news!


The bid reveal was really exciting for our gym!

Our Level 5R team, Odyssey, had already recieved a bid at a prior competition but the team was honored to be awarded again! And our Level 1 team, Secret, was absolutely ecstatic. AND Biscuit’s Level 4 team, Matrix, was awarded a bid too! The kids are all extremely happy and proud of themselves; as they should be! This means 4 of our gyms 7 teams have bids to the Summit in Orlando! Well, 2 of the teams aren’t eligible…Tinys and Minis don’t compete at The Summit. We need just one more of our teams to snag a bid at the next few competitions. I have faith in the kids on all of our teams. C’mon Junior 2!!

Odyssey, Obsession, Matrix, Secret! 

Summit bound, I am extremely proud of these kids!

It still blows my mind, our gym is in a small town primarily know for partying or geriatric folks. Our gym has under 100 athletes on our all star cheer teams. We win at huge events, like Duel in the Desert, and recieved bids! I am truly thankful for our coaching staff at the gym, they’ve taught my daughters self confidence and amazing skills. 

Now we prepare for The Summit!

Wait. Maybe you’re still trying to figure out what the heck just happened, what is the Summit? What is a bid? How does it all work? I’ve snagged a few excerpts from Heart of Cheer to help my readers clear up any confusion. 

What is The Summit, what is a bid?

The Summit is an annual event, and it is held by Varsity All Star. It was first introduced in 2013, and is also held in late April at Walt Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida. This competition includes Youth, Junior, and Senior teams of all levels 1 through 5.
…competitions require teams to earn bids. A bid is an invitation to compete, and must be earned through competing at an event that offers them. A team cannot compete at either competition without earning a bid.

What type of bids are there? 

A Paid bid to The Summit… Expenses are paid for the team to compete, and it is not necessary for teams who earn these bids to compete in the preliminary round. Only the highest scoring teams at the largest and most prestigious events are awarded paid bids to The Summit, and getting one of these is a high honor.

At large bids, again, offer the opportunity for teams to compete at The Summit, but without any expenses paid. At The Summit, however, teams who earn at large bids do not have to compete in the preliminary round.

Wild card bids… are awarded at select one day competitions to the highest scoring teams. Teams that earn wild card bids must compete in a preliminary round to earn a spot in semifinals. Only the top teams in each division will earn the chance to move on.

I bet you’re curious to know what the teams win at The Summit, it’s a ring. But what’s worth even more than the ring itself is the experience! 

Congratulations to all of The Summit bid winners, we will see you in Florida this May. ❤