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. ❤

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 Blue

It’s hard to imagine life before you, it seems as if you’ve been here all along. You were ment to be part of our family, although, I wish it weren’t in a such traumatic way. You may not have seen the trauma but everyone around you did and you, Blue, are resilient. You have flourished into something spectacular, and I hope you feel as proud of yourself as we all are of you.

You were clumsy like a fawn, when we met, and now you are this graceful giselle who walks with pride. Despite all of lifes challenges you continued to excel in school and figure out who you were as an individual. You tried new things, you made friends (yes, I’m aware that I overstepped my boundaries as a mom when I match-made you a friend and I’m truly sorry about that,) and you learned to accept all of the flaws that made you who you are. In addition; you stopped with the mac n cheese comfort food thing. Thank God, I swear you only ate mac n cheese for an entire year!

Blue, you are wise beyond your years and a compassionate person. You have the ability to make each person in our family feel special every day, what a gift! You do it nonchalantly and with a smile, it’s your natural state being. I love that you’re eager to help in every situation and I’m forever grateful for you being the ying to Biscuits yang. You are a gift and I love you.

Thanks for choosing me to be your mom, I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Three.

I’m suffering this weird partial empty nest syndrome. Flower has left for college, Hair has gone to live with family members, and Biscuit and Blue have gone to Colorado. I have 3 kids at home, it’s really eerie around here. After 8pm it’s a ghost town… no teenaged girl nonsense makes a boring evening. In addition; watching TV has gotten significantly easier as there are less interruptions when the younger kids go to bed. Husband and I watched an entire movie last night with not one interruption. I can’t remember how long it’s been since that’s happened. It was a pretty good movie too, the plot twist was insane! If you’ve got some free time watch Extinction on Netflix.

Husband and I went grocery shopping today. Less people equals less food, it was hard for me not to buy massive amounts of food. Our grocery bill was significantly less than usual and I left the store feeling like I was forgetting something. AND unloading the car was a breeze, I had less than 25 bags. I did buy 100 granola bars because they were on sale and old habits die hard. The kids typically go through about 100 granola bars in 2 weeks. I wonder how much it’ll change?

Today I went back to work, that was fine.

I’ve dropped 7lbs, that’s pretty cool.

I stole a lipstick out of my daughters bathroom today. It feels good to be bad. 🤣

In closing I’ll leave you with these few pictures, one of Lemon hogging the bed lookin’ 10 kinds of cute and the others of Blue and Biscuit in Colorado. They’ve been there 2 days and they’ve already found boys to hang out with. Damn kids.

I love my life. I love my family, undoubtedly. Things are changing constantly and I’m excited to see what the future holds for our family. Until then… hasta a la pasta!

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 Boychild

(*Before you were born I was told that you had Edward’s Syndrome (Trisomy 18.) I was upset as your middle name was supposed to be Edward and after that moment it seemed cruel. I had gone to Albany and New York City to talk with specialists about the condition and had extensive testing done. Children with Edward’s Syndrome often die during utero, birth, or within the first year of life. I was given 2 options and both options were morbid; I opted to keep you in my belly for as long as possible and ride it out for the long haul. About 2 months prior to your due date I went to a routine visit and during the 3D scan the doctor said that the fluid around your brain had filled in and looked pretty good. I brushed the doctor off, you had a diagnosis. I knew your fate. I booked a flight to California and met with some doctors on a military base and figured out my birth plan.*)

You came into this world hard and fast, so fast that the epidural was null. You were bright red, wrinkly, and had no visual deformities. There wasn’t a single thing wrong with you…you were healthy and had no signs of any chromosomal abnormalities.

However, you had a penis. I’d never dealt with a penis when it comes to child rearing. It was terrifying. I’ve since come to terms with having a child with a penis… sometimes I giggle when I revisit my thoughts about a baby with a penis. In retrospect a tween with a penis is WAY more concerning than an infant. You’ve taught me that you can injure your penis, and balls, in a variety of ways among other things.

I was set up for failure as I had high expectations that you would be like your oldest sister who was a boarderline savant. It took me a long time to figure out that your sister was advanced and you were my ‘textbook’ kid. You walked when the books said you would, you talked when the books said you would, you played the way the books said you would. BUT you were potty trained early, near your second birthday. That is EPIC in the mom world and I’m very thankful that you weren’t textbook in that area. Time carried on and you were a textbook student as well, I couldn’t be more proud.

You became your own person, you liked things a certain way, you were great when it came to motor skills. While you’re sensitive and sometimes shy you can also be boisterous and annoying. Boychild, you have this uncanny desire to make me proud all the time. You are loyal and forgiving when sometimes you shouldn’t be, especially after I’ve lashed out. Make no mistake, you are a pain in my ass but you’re my favorite pain in the ass. HA! I thought your sister taught me patience, boy was I wrong. YOU DID.

You can assemble and disable all the things! You have a knack for motors and how things work, it’s awesome because I can count on you to fix just about anything that needs any type of handyman service. In fact you just taught your sister how to use a ratchet the other day and that’s pretty cool. As you get older your impulsive and argumentative nature is slowly diminishing, thank God. You are learning to be a man, responsible and thoughtful. You will make an excellent husband someday as you have so many sisters in your life. Husband makes sure you know how to treat a lady by showing you positive ways to interact with me and your sisters. Keep shining, my star. I love you.

Adopt Us Kids

In the last 10 weeks I’ve inquired about 20 children.

9 states

3 of them we weren’t a good fit after reviewing our homestudy.

2 were listed as no longer available.

2 I was never responded to at all.

13 have had my homestudy sent to them and I’ve yet to hear anything from them.

I understand that many adoption units review homestudies the 1st and 15th of each month. I’m not sure why but it has been very common across the United States. In any case, in 10 weeks I’ve got nothing but air silence. In mid April I inquired about a child and the case worker has been on vacation 3 times, I wish I were kidding. I’ve gotten automated responses bounced back to me 3 times and the 3rd was just last week letting me know that the case worker would be back July 30th. I will cease contact, I can’t keep trying with no one trying in return. This reiterates the broken system post I wrote several days ago.

The hardest state has been Pennsylvania; they have an entire division that is sends information to you instead of the child’s caseworker. BUT first you have to send paperwork that you download off of their site, fill it out, send more paperwork to your licensing worker, then you both send in your paperwork to the unit. It is a pain in the ass. I still haven’t completed it all and honestly I’m at the point where I don’t want to jump through hoops anymore. Why can’t they just accept a homestudy sent from a licensing agency like everyone else?!

In addition to using ADOPT US KIDS I’ve made inquiries to individual profiles in various states too. I’m striking out, y’all. This isn’t doing good things for my self esteem. I’ve got 2 theories; 1. God is making me wait for the right kid or 2. I really suck and my homestudy is shit.

A friend of mine works with the state (WA) and she has let me know that she is very thorough sending her potential adoptive parents’ homestudies to supervisors, therapists, interns, etc and manages to have a turnaround in less than 3 weeks. Can I get a round of applause for this hardcore caseworker?! I love hearing that children are priorities, are truly being looked out for, and have excellent teams to help find them permanent homes. It helps because I was feeling really down, about the system in general, and this friend of mine gave me a glimmer of hope. Insert ‘faith in humanity restored’ meme here.

I need to keep my chin up, remain optimistic! I’ve got a broad range of ages, no racial preference, and a big heart. Our family will be expanding again…we just don’t know when. Don’t hold your breath friends… we certainly aren’t.

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.

Time doesn’t stand still.

We’ve got new placement. Another teen female, surprise! We are headed to Thailand at the end of the week and once we return our new foster daughter will arrive. There was talk about her coming before we left but I feel like it would be tough to hop into a family when your parental units are gone. Our new placement is called Trambi, she’s band girl who has excellent grades and a sunshine-y disposition. She has a good head on her shoulders and is a lot like Hair, she is serious about school and her future.

Hair is currently trying to decide if she wants stay here or move away to live with family members. I’m okay with whatever she chooses, I’m here to help the kids in my home. While Hair may be different with her emo-goth facade…I don’t care. I’ll teach her the best that I can and help her achieve her goals. She wants everyone to believe she is different and interesting; hair color and dark clothes will not define you nor set you apart. You aren’t a special snowflake, you are YOU and once you accept that you will go as far as your allow yourself. I get it, I WAS the goth kid in school. If I could go back and tell myself one thing in High School it would be ‘Drop all this I’m special and different bullshit, you’re making life harder than it should be.’

Biscuit is having an amazing summer so far, she is taking the summer off. She has cheer and she’s happy. She isn’t doing summer school, college prep, camp, etc. She is currently considering studying abroad her junior year in Switzerland. I fully support this choice, I’ll happily pay for boarding school. Biscuit really wants to Colorado this summer and has asked to visit California as well.

Speaking of boarding school, Boychild wants to attend school in Hawaii this year and attend a boarding school. What?! He wants to learn Hawaiian culture, surf, fish, and paddle board. I’m on the fence about this…I was considering retaining him in the 5th grade and switching him to a private Christian school this year, I enrolled him earlier this year. Then I talked to a friend who has raised 3 successful, and amazing, children into adulthood who all went to public school. I’m on the fence about education at this point. Boychild has no interest in theater, karate, nor swim this summer. He wants to play Fortnight, hike, and ride jet skis. He is attending a Glorietta camp next month.

Bunny is excited about next school year, she knows a lot of kids at the private school. Again, I’m on the fence about education. Do my kids REALLY need private school? Parenting is hard. Bunny is participating in cheer and will soon be in a hip hop dance class to see if she likes it. Bunny has joined a bowling league this summer and a ballet camp. She will also attend Glorietta camp next month.

Blue has recieved her birth certificate, it’s SO cool! It lists me and Husband as her birth parents. I feel really good about that. In addition to this news, Blue is attending summer school so she can take the same math class as Biscuit next year. Sisterhood, it’s the real deal. Blue is on evaluation for a cheer team and we hope she makes it. If not she enjoyed participating in track and is open to other sports next school year.

Flower is trying to adult. She struggles continually when it comes to family, loyalty, and the future. Unfortunately she’s put too much time into her boyfriend (of one year) and prioritized him. It’s not uncommon for young girls to do this; I thought she was smarter, she almost had me fooled with her self hype and responsible actions regarding bills and such. I anticipated that she would cultivate her family and deticate more time to her family, family is forever. Instead she’s practically dragging her boyfriend along for HER journey and completely disregarding his ambitions. She’ll always be my daughter even if she wants to be absorbed in her herself and new love life, I get it… love is exciting and blinding. Flower is an arrogant girl, she believes what she wants and whatever we try to tell her it’s preposterous. It’s the struggle where she wants adult privileges but lacks the mature mindset. As parents typically are, we are the bad guys…we have the experience and want to teach our kids but they’re reluctant. She’s a stubborn girl and I haven’t got much time left to teach her. The entitlement is REAL with this one. She’s attending U of A this fall and then I have to sit back and watch her figure it out. I believe in her, undoubtedly.

Pretty is moving to Colorado in the fall. I’ve got mixed emotions as I want her to follow her dreams, I’m scared that she’s leaving me. She will ‘cultivate’ her dreams one way or another. I will support her in every endeavor…even if she wants to be a hippie and potentially live in a VW Bus.

Lemon is back into cheer, she’s on the same team as Bunny. Lemon is truly excited to be back on a team; she feels helpful and big. Lemon is attending a theater camp and a Glorietta camp.

Me? Nothing really new on my end. I’m anxious about leaving my humans for a little over 2 weeks, I know they’ll all be taken care of but my mom anxiety is through the roof. I’m a bit fearful about this Thailand trip because last time I had gone somewhere with Flower I didn’t see her except for a few hours at an event and at cerfew. Is it going to be like that again? I hate feeling this way. I feel betrayed, used, not worthy, and not like a mom. Yeah, you read that right, Mohavecountymama is vulnerable. Moving along…I’m taking the summer off, as teachers usually do. I’m going to see if this ecommerce thing takes off and then become a millionaire. 😘 Ha, if only! I’ll presumably spend the remainder of the summer shuttling my kids to all their activities, parties, fundraisers, etc.

Husband, well, he’s a Type-A personality. He wants to plan, plan, plan, this trip to Thailand and I’m more of a go with the flow type. I’d say he is a bit stressed about leaving his business behind, leaving the kids home, and trying to plan an itinerary. I’m screaming ‘Husband, focus on the 18 hour horror flight and wing the rest.’ Husband is not concerned with the flight…not one bit, hes got to be some sort of sociopath. I really love and admire this guy; he has the patience for all of our kids and rolls with the chaos. I’m lucky we have eachother.