Monday, June 20, 2016

Parents for a weekend

Yesterday was Father's Day , Steve's very first one as a dad, and our last day of a three day visit with our kiddos.

Overall, it was a fantastic visit. There were some moments where I found myself going "this is NOTHING like teaching/babysitting" and feeling a little intimidated. But I think that must be pretty normal.

We watched a couple movies throughout the weekend and spent a lot of time at the pool. The kids wanted to hang out at the house rather than go to the park or out anywhere, so we had kind of a chill weekend.

My parents (the newly dubbed Nana and Pop) came for a visit on Saturday. They got a chance to meet the kids and spend time with us while we were at the pool. Seeing my parents interact with my kids was surreal and awesome all at the same time. They were acting like little kids again. My dad kept doing canon balls into the deep end and my mom was busting out the diving sticks and other pool toys.

We even got my dad to try one of the Mexican candies the kids love. It's a peach and chili candy. Seriously good, but very spicy.

Our last day together we took the kids to church which proved to be quite interesting since both of their foster placements go to Baptist churches and Steve and I are Catholic. They were so curious about the different areas of the church and then the various parts of Mass. As our son put it "That dude up front is cool looking, but I don't like having to sit on my knees so much."

By "that dude" he meant Jesus on the crucifix. lol

After lunch we loaded their stuff into the car and began what became the road trip that would not end. Our son was heading to camp for the week and our daughter was going back to her foster placement. Little did we know those two places were four hours apart. And the camp was 2 hours away from our house.

Long story short... after factoring in traffic we spent 10 hours in the car to get everyone where they needed to be and make it home again. I loved the time with the kids, but I was definitely happy to be back in my bed at the end of the day!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Important encounters

If you don't believe in love at first sight then I am here to tell you that you are wrong. It exists. I know it does because I have been lucky enough to experience it with three different humans (and two ridiculously spoiled dogs). 

The first human was my husband. He walked into the party in his purple dress shirt and Regis Philbin tie straight from work and my heart said "That's him. That is the man you are going to love for the rest of your life".

The second and third humans were my daughter and my son. Their caseworker pulled up to our meeting place, the kids stepped out of the car, and my heart said "That's them. Those are the kids you've been praying for and dreaming of since you first realized you were meant to be a mom".

Steve and I have met our children.

In fact, we spent a morning with them and then, a week later, an entire day. On Friday morning I am picking them up to spend the weekend together. They are spending three days and two nights here. In their rooms. 

The first time we met the kids was a brief 2 hour meet and greet type thing in a park near their foster placements. Super casual (in theory) so everyone can make sure we don't hate each other right off the bat. I was so afraid it would be awkward. Like: Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy, but I wanna adopt you. Call me Mama maybe?

Despite my own highly awkward and weird personality, the first meeting went so well. Steve was a complete natural at being a dad. The time together FLEW by. 

I genuinely think there is some sort of parent-child time warp thing going on because time without kids seems to go at a reasonably normal pace. When the kids are around I blink and it's dinner time and they are leaving.

I hate that part. The leaving.

When they spent the day with us on Sunday I very nearly cried when they left. I held it back only by thinking of move in day and the fact there will come a day very soon when I won't have to send them back to their foster placements. They will be home to stay. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Adopting an Older Child: setting up their bedroom

Welcome back for the second installment of my series about preparing for an older child adoption from foster care!

Steve and I have been doing little things here and there for our kids' rooms since we began our homestudy. We knew we wanted to adopt a sibling group, so we began preparing both of our guest bedrooms to accommodate up to two children each. Now that we know the specific children that will be moving in, we are making more specific changes.

We went in with a strategy of keeping things pretty gender neutral until we had reason to do otherwise. considering the number of failed potential matches we went through before finding our kiddos, I am so grateful we went that direction. Everything we acquired is still able to be used.

I think this may be easier to explain in a list form so... here you go. Our process for preparing a room for an older child adopted from U.S. foster care:

step 1: Assess your furniture needs based on your homestudy - We were approved for up to 4 children, so we needed beds and clothing storage for up to 4 children. Both rooms have closet space, and we already owned one spare dresser, so really it was just a matter of finding one more dresser and 4 kid friendly beds.

Our first option we pursued was friends and family. My brother was moving in with his fiancee so we got his dresser and she gave us the twin bed from her guest room they no longer needed. My parents also had a spare twin sized bed they said we could have. Then we turned to Craigslist. We live in a large metro area and we can typically find furniture on that site without a lot of wear and tear for not a lot of money.

Luck was on our side and we managed to get two XL twin beds with necessary equipment to securely stack them into bunk beds. Add in mattresses still in the plastic from the factory and we managed to furnish the rooms for less than $100.

step 2: Make the walls presentable - Our two spare rooms had been kids rooms when the previous owners of our home lived here and extra storage for us since then. It's safe to say they needed some TLC. We put putty in the areas that needed them and then gave each room a fresh coat of paint. One room became a greenish-grey color. The other a cheerful blue. Both were colors my husband and I both liked so we figured they were gender neutral enough for now.

**Note** We do intend for our kids to redecorate once they get closer to their move in date. We just painted because the walls had been well loved and needed it. If your walls are in good shape already then you can skip this step.

step 3: basic necessities -  Older kids have a very different set of needs than babies. They don't need storage for diapers and a changing table, but they do need study space to do homework and store their backpacks. We decided to add some personality and extra functionality to our rooms in addition to the basics so the kids could sense a bit of our excitement to have them move in but without making them think they can't change anything later.

Here are some things we added:
- curtains and shades
- comfy chair for reading
- small shelf with age appropriate books (I'll go into more detail about the books we got for them in another post)
- reversible comforter/ bed-in-a-bag type thing
- solid color jersey sheets
- throw blanket
- desk/ study area
- cork board/ photo and memento holder
- one cool wall hanging or piece of artwork (my daughter's room has tissue paper pom poms hanging over her reading area. My son has comic book art I found on clearance)
- picture frame with a picture of my husband and I
- empty picture frame for a picture of all of us together

The important thing to remember is that many of these objects should be basics. Good quality items that can be used in concert with more specifically chosen items once the child moves in. We got our comforter sets during the Bed Bath & Beyond Memorial Day clearance sale for $15 each. If the kids love them and want to keep them then that's awesome! But we (and our bank account) won't be sad to put them away as back up if the kids would rather have something different.

step 4: Personalized project - Don't do this step until after you have met your kids. Once you do, choose one special project or item to place in their room that they can keep no matter how differently they want to decorate. I chose to do a decorated initial to hang on the outside of their doors. My daughter is a bit of a girly girl and loves greens, blues, and nature. So her initial will be one of the super popular floral letters I've seen all over Pinterest. My son is an avid xbox player, so his initial will reflect that.

Your kids may not be a good fit for a door decoration. That's fine. Maybe you aren't really a DIYer with art projects, but you love to sew or crochet or knit. Use that talent to make them something to use in their room! Maybe you are a musician or a graphic artist. Maybe you are more into technology and gadgets. Whatever your talent is, find a way to use it to do something unique for your kids BEFORE they move in.

A note about clothes and toiletries - My kids are in a situation where they have an adequate number of clothes and toiletry items that we did not feel the need to purchase any additional supplies prior to their first visits to our home. From what I understand, that is not always the case. Your kids may need socks, underwear, toothpaste, etc. We have a jar of travel sized toiletries in the kids' bathroom for their use if they forget something, but we know they have items available to them to bring when they travel. We will also be going clothes shopping with them closer to the start of the school year so their clothes are more likely to still fit them.