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!

Just breathe.

Tomorrow we will officially be a house of 7. Then we dwindle down to a family of 5 as Biscuit and Blue are leaving on their trip to Colorado too! I’m going to be lonely, I think. Husband is going to suffer because he spends a lot of time with Biscuit and Blue after our younger kids are put to bed, every night it’s a full blown chatter fest topped with ‘bean dips.’ 🙄

Flower is off to college; its bittersweet. Hopefully this move can help with her maturity level, the whole entitlement thing is not my favorite. Flower doesn’t think she is anything other than perfect in her eyes, I’m just going to roll with it because I can’t stand any more guilt trips. No matter what I say or do she thinks I’m mad at her, it stinks. I’m all about living and learning; tough love. If my kid can’t get out there and learn by trial and error she will end up being 25 years old, living at home, expecting me to take care of her. Experience matters, failure matters. I do these things because I love her and expect greatness from her, I am not an enabler… I am raising the future leaders of the world.

Hair is moving in with relatives. That was to be expected and this is exactly why I do foster care. I want my placements to go home and if they can’t to home I want them to live with their extended families. If that’s not an option I always support whatever decision my teen placements want… sometimes it’s to be emancipated, move to a group home, or even moved to a different foster home. I don’t always agree with what the older kids choose but I always support them; that’s my job. I want kids to be happy, safe, and feel loved. I am relieved that she is moving tomorrow as recently she has had behavioral changes that I’m not keen on. No one in the home is keen on them, to be honest.

In other news, I’m seeking out recipes for large families. Do you have any great dinner recipes that I could double for my army of children? I truly feel like we live off of chicken and avocados at this point. I’d like to switch that up.

Ode to Biscuit

You have been one of lifes best teachers; you were my first born child. You had toughest lessons to teach and one of the crappiest pupils. You taught me what unequivocal love is, how to be patient, and how to mother in general. Without all of the trials we have been through, the mistakes I had made, and the amount of times I cried…there is no doubt that I wouldn’t be half the mother I am today without you.

You’ve always set the bar high, walking at 7 months and being potty trained by 18 months to being an early reader and starting school early. Everything you set your mind to you have conquered, you’re a badass. You may cry, fuss, and say you’re going to quit but you always muster up the courage and strength to push forward. I’m envious of this gift as I’ve never had any feeling like that, well, with the exception of mothering. Prior to being a parent I was blaisé.

I was always told some version of ‘You always fuck up the first one.’ comparing a child to a pancake of parenting. Luckily for me you were an excellent first child, full of character and lessons. You made parenting easy as you have this personality that made it fun and interesting. I always seemed like an over braggy mom when I talked about you, casually, to other mothers. All of your achievements at an early age made me seem like a bold face liar, I wasn’t. You were a little hulk baby that was so fat that you looked like a busted can of biscuits. I love you.

I’m sad

I’m sad because there are many children and teens in foster care.

I’m sad that sometimes their parents cannot overcome the obstacles to regain custody of their children.

I’m sad that there are many children looking for their permanent homes and families.

I’m sad because I cannot begin to imagine how that feels, it’s impossible for me.

I want every child to have a safe home to live in, safe doesn’t mean the cleanest or fanciest it means just that…safe. My parents didn’t have a fancy house, they didn’t have a lot of money, in fact I believe that my family is profoundly (and irreversibly) screwed up. But we cared for one another, we never went hungry, and we always had some sort of home.

I heard about people being investigated by the Department of Child Safety unjustly all the time, how stressful and debilitating it can be, and how violated people feel. I’ve heard cases of children being removed from their homes for asinine things such as: dirty shirts worn to school, torn shoes, and a rogue bruise. That could easily happen to you or me, we could be investigated at anytime. I’m so torn; how can I support something so fiercely but be on the fence about it too? There are children being removed for things that simply don’t make sense. There are children being removed for all the right reasons too.

I’m mostly sad because I, personally, cannot help every child who needs help. Who needs a family. Who needs to feel loved. Why can’t I be the Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe? I’ll tell you why; I can’t help my kids at home feel loved, valued, cared for if I’m hung up on helping everyone else. I need to do better in my family, I need to make sure my kids know they are loved (and by who) instead of being selfish. I can do better. I will do better.

In the meantime please consider adoption via foster care or even foster care in general. It opens your eyes, your heart, and your mind. At the very least you can become licensed and foster family members or close friends children in the event it arises. Be prepared because we simply cannot predict the future.

Hug your kids, your spouse, your family, your best friend, your pet…love someone or something. Most of you reading this probably understand what love and being loved feels like. Don’t take that for granted.

Countdowns!

In just 17 days the adoption will be finalized! Our entire family is excited. Blue will be ours, forever. Adoption is tragically beautiful in our case, Blue had to suffer a tremendous loss to be in this position. She has grown, processed, and achieved all of her goals like a pro, this girl is resilient. I’m grateful that she was placed with us, I simply cannot imagine my life without her in. She wants a pet lizard to commemorate the day.

46 days until Orlando with Bunny and Biscuit. ESPN, Disney World, The Summit.

49 days until Husband, Lemon, and Blue go to Disneyland and the beach.

67 days until Flower’s graduation.

In 77 days Husband, Flower and I will venture to China then off to Thailand and Flowers birthday.

I have many things to figure out in the next 70ish days. Summer school, travel plans for the kids over the summer, summer camps, fundraising, change of schools, plan our family trip to Mexico before August, cheer financial forecasting, plan Boychild’s trip because he didn’t want to go to either Disney Parks, in addition to everyday life and all the activities, I’m overwhelmed.

I’ll hunker down over the next few weeks and get it all figured out.

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.

Marshmello

Boychild LOVES Marshmello, he’s a DJ. Boychild is really into EDC (electronic dance music) and makes his own mixes on his turntable and laptop. I’m into it too, and when Boychild makes his songs I feel proud and I enjoy it. Boychild wanted to see Marshmello live… I found one show with a 16+ admission age. Everything else was 21+, he was definitely bummed out. Last night Husband and went to see Marshmello in Las Vegas and live streamed it for my boy. I love Marshmello too, I had a great time!

A short video clip of Marshmello.

Husband and I had a great weekend away.

Marshmello 😍

Never happier, I love spending time with this guy.

Boychild is happy, he got to see Marshmello live… well as live as a 10 year old can. I definitely enjoyed myself and can’t wait until he is older so we can go together. In the meantime I’ll take him to Supercross and other age appropriate concerts, we are thinking of seeing Demi Lovato and Khaled in a few weeks with all of the kids.

Shift

Things are constantly changing. Freedom is having a hard time adjusting, she is stressed out quite a bit. Freedom will be leaving our home soon, it’s for the best. She’s not disruptive or mean; she’s a sweet girl with a fun attitude. However she needs a higher level of care, I cannot give her the time or level of care she needs. We have a large household and and I’ve only got so many hours in the day…when I’m using all of my time and resources on a single person it’s a problem. It’s not fair to my other children or husband. It’s not fair to Freedom. It makes me sad to know she’s leaving due to the circumstances but with this shift there will be serenity; she will get the help she needs and my household will go back into it’s normal orbit.

Pretty is having a tough time adjusting to her new schedule. Work, school, life… apparently it’s hard. She fails to have meaningful relationships with her peers and she’s been really disrespectful to me lately. She’s pushing, trying to get me to give her a reaction. I’m still going to love her no matter what…keep pushing kid, I’m not giving up on you.

Blue is hanging in there, her case is getting sloppy. She stood up for herself to her bio parents about what she wants and needs, I believe she feels proud of herself. Sometimes she has emotional days, as she should, and sometimes she has fantastic days.

Flower is screwing off at school. I’m disappointed. She had a presentation due today that she failed to finish, I’m hoping she’s completing it now. She is repaying debt and trying her best to move forward.

Biscuit is moody and happy. She’s still hot and cold. She’s struggling to be organized and balance extracurricular activities and school.

Boychild is well, he’s back on the responsibility train. His chores are done, his school work is solid, he’s doing great.

Bunny is well too. She’s an exceptional student and a super emotional kid. She knows she gets attention from people if she fusses, unfortunately between home and they gym…we’re onto her. It’s people like distant relatives, school personal, etc that she capitalizes on. Suckers!

Lemon is also well! Kindergarten is fun for her, she enjoys gymnastics, and she loves being with her BFF.

Everything isn’t always rainbows and butterflies around here, there are trials and tribulation. One thing that always remains is love, we’ve always got that.

5 things for Blue

Dear Blue, 

     I hate getting documents in the mail regarding your case. I wish I could hide them from you and act like they don’t exist. I understand that you have a deep desire to go home, I want that too. It hurts me to give you details of your case and see your eyes well up with tears, you don’t deserve this. I will find a positive, I will reassure you that there is still a possibility that things can change, and I will always say positive things about your bio parents. I know that your parents love you and I hope you know that too. People make mistakes everyday and we can’t define people by their mistakes, I know you have mixed feelings about your case and you consistently ask me ‘Why did this happen to me?’ Blue, this didn’t happen to YOU, it happened to your parents. Your situation is a direct result of their choices. Sometimes when we make choices and don’t think through the consequences are atrocious, it happens to me often. In fact, I’m sure it happens to everyone regularly; we get impulsive. I know how hard it is on you to fit in at school, I know that you often feel socially isolated, I know that you struggle with maintaining relationships as you fear of establishing bonds with people because you fantasize about going home and don’t want to hurt anyone when you leave. I get it, I respect it. Everyone has a life story, some have easy lives and others have hard lives…you get what you get. These things are what shape our character and make us who we are, don’t feel isolated, every person you have ever talked to has had their own series of struggles and victories. 

Here are 5 things I want you to know:

1. You are beautiful, inside and out. You’ve got a bubbly personality and you are a complete knockout, boys and girls alike notice how gorgeous you are. You make people smile with your silliness and you are on the fence of being hyper conservative and mildly liberal…we can tell and it makes you genuine. You are helpful and kind, your talents are amazing, and your klutziness is cute. You are worthy and I know you’re going to do great things with your life. 

2. Your family loves you. Yes, they do. Your siblings, your parents, your grandparents, all of them love you more than you know. I understand that you get discouraged sometimes with the changes happening within your family, love never fades. You parents will care deeply about you forever…no matter what. Please remember that when you feel like your siblings are slipping away.  You are loved.

3. MY family loves you. You offer this calming and reasonable personality that our home needs and respects. You are so bright and glittery; you make my day better just seeing you in the morning for that brief 3 seconds when you tell me goodbye on your way to school. All of the kids constantly tell me how great you are, you play with them, and they remind me that you’re nice to them. Husband often tells me how much he adores you, he says you are funny and super smart. To be honest, we’re going to be devastated when you go home. You are a wonderful young woman and we are all honored to know you. 

4. You can achieve your goals here or with your parents. Just because you’re here doesn’t mean you can’t move forward. You aren’t betraying your parents by having fun, experiencing new things, or working toward your future. I hope you know that I want you to successful just as much as your parents do. I will help facilitate any dream you have, I’m here for you. 

5. You often feel like your world is crumbling right before your eyes, right now your life is in shambles and you just want it to go back to normal. I want you to remember that this will be a small, insignificant, blip in your life. Once you’re an adult you will reflect on this time and realize what you’ve taken from this process. You will realize that you had 2 families who cared about you, you will realize that I was right about a lot of the stuff I talk to you about, and you will learn to be thankful for this time period of your life. I know you don’t see it now, you will someday.   

Work on your confidence, Blue. Someone as awesome as you should shine like a diamond, shimmer and sparkle, and take this world by storm. I believe in you. You are worthy. I know you can do anything you put your mind to. ❤