Halloween Links!

PHOTO BY  ERIN

PHOTO BY ERIN

Happy Friday!  Fall is in full swing and Halloween is right around the corner!  Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, here are some fun links from around the web.

Here's a great read about making Halloween fun for birth families and foster families...

...and another with some helpful tips about Halloween as a foster family.

Have some great barely used Halloween costumes?  Or are you just looking for a way to give back to the foster community?  How about donating costumes for foster families to use?

Littles will LOVE these free Halloween color pages.

We do a hand print craft every season, and I love hanging them up for each year and comparing the growth!  Here's this year's fall hand print craft.

An absolutely beautiful photo of a pumpkin patch.  Let's all go visit Erin!

Do you follow us on Pinterest?  You should.  This board is full of crafty autumn inspiration.

5 Tips to Surviving Your First Month as a Foster Parent

by Candace

Considering our first month of being foster parents ends today, this has got to be the most newbie "advice" post ever written. Believe me, I still know so little. I still have so much to learn. That being said, the growth our family has experienced these past weeks has been remarkable, and I don't want to forget these early days. So, I'm writing for myself. I'm writing for those of you about to embark on your foster journey. I'm writing for those who are well into the adoption process. And, I'm writing for those who are just plain curious.

1. Cry. Cry a lot. Those first few days I cried over everything. It was not dissimilar to the crying I had postpartum. Worse in the evenings. Better by morning. Lots of anxiety followed by lots of tears. Most of the time, I had no clue why I was even crying. The day could have been relatively easy (all things considered) and guaranteed, once 5pm started to roll around, I would start getting all weepy. And I am the furthest thing from weepy. Anyway, cry away. Let it all hang out. All your ugly feelings. Get 'em all out in the open so you can start tackling them head on. It will make you feel better, trust me. Besides, holding it all in or pretending like you have your crap together will only make things worse, and it only prolongs the inevitable breakdown.

2. Change your perspective. This was so key to my coping with our huge life change, and the realization came from my mama. Of course it did. Mama Chap is a regular fountain of no-nonsense and wisdom. I believe I was crying to her about how hard it was and how I literally was never going to be able to do anything for myself ever again. (An exaggeration. And um, shall we say, a pity party?) Enter my Mama Chap in true Mama Chap form: "Candace. You have three small children now. Of course it's going to be hard. Everything has changed. It's not bad. It's just different. This is the way life is now. You're going to have to change your perspective and expectations, and if you can do that, you'll make it just fine."

3. Change your expectations. I've read/heard a lot of people who say "Don't have any expectations going into Foster care!" In a sense, they're right. In another sense, that is total garbage because expectations are inevitable. You've been dreaming of this for months. You've discussed and researched and prayed and hoped and wondered. You will have expectations. Some things may go exactly as you thought, while other things feel like a swift kick to the gut. I didn't anticipate how hard night time would be, or how much I would cry those first few days or how impossible it would seem to keep my house clean. I didn't anticipate how difficult it would be to stay compassionate to the biological family of our boys or how hard it would be even considering them leaving us forever. So I've changed a lot of my expectations of myself, my house, my boys, my husband, and others.... Lots of change. Lots of rolling with the punches. So have your expectations. Then, be prepared to change them.

4. Laugh. Laugh a lot. Laugh with your kids. Laugh at them. (You know, if they're toddlers and wouldn't mind). Laugh with your husband. Laugh at him. (You know, if he's the good-natured kinda guy who will take that well.) Laugh at the mess and at the three ringed circus that is now every family outing. Laugh at the people who stare and ask inappropriate/rude questions. When you get over the crying phase, laugh it all off. Once all the crying is over with, laughing feels so much better anyway.

5. Finally, be patient. Your kids may/will take time to warm up to you. You may/will take time to warm up to your kids. When our boys came, I felt an instant desire to love and protect, but I still didn't know them. I didn't know what they liked or disliked. I didn't know how to help them sleep at night or why our 7 month old was still waking (at least) every 5 hours at night or why our almost 2 year old wouldn't get in the bath tub and had nervous breakdowns when it came to food/snacks/etc. I didn't know why he panicked in the car if he decided he wanted something to eat and I didn't have anything to give him right that second. I didn't know why he was waking up every hour screaming. Was it just being in a new home? Was it past trauma? Was it all of the above? Would he be like this forever?! A lot of those things we have gotten answers to. And some of them are a work in progress. The point is, we are getting to know them and their stories and understanding/loving/liking each other more every single day. I can't believe how far we have come in a month. A month ago they were total strangers and all I could think was, "But what do I do with them?!?" Now? It's honestly like they've been here forever. After 31 days, our pre-foster life seems like a distant memory.

I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Get Organized!

There was so many good things in our new eBook, Being Strong in the Wait, that we just couldn't put it all in the same book.  Here is some great practical advice from Austin on how to prepare for your foster/adoptive children during both pre- and post-placement waits.

On the practical side, one thing that I have done that has made everything more tidy, organized, and all in one place is purchased the following:

  • a 3-ring binder (probably 2-3 inches depending on how many foster children you have)
  • dividers with pockets
  • sticky notes
  • blue and black pens
  • pencils
  • a hole punch
  • a composition notebook

Let's explain…

  1.  Binder: You are going to want to keep overeating in one binder. It makes it easier to throw the binder in a bag for doctors visits, court hearings, review meetings, etc. Keep it all in one place.
  2. Dividers: Color coordinate them according to child, that way every child has a specific colored divider and each child’s personal paperwork stays separated in your notebook.
  3. Sticky Notes: You will need to be able to write quick notes when on the phone or in meetings and stick them in the child’s section and then go back later and document in detail what you wick wrote on the sticky notes.
  4. Blue and Black Pens: Most mileage forms and other specific forms for your agency will require you to ONLY write in blue or ONLY write in black. Make sure that you ask if their office has a required color when filling out paperwork. I learned this the hard way, so you are welcome.
  5. Composition Book and Pencils: The composition book is for logging your mileage. I have a page a month and when that month is over I move on to the next page. Also, fill out your mileage in your composition book in pencil because usually you will have to erase and start over. It just keeps it all neat and prevents a lot scratches all throughout mileage on your pages.
  6. Hole Punch: You will get tons of information in the mail and given to you during meetings, etc. None of these pages will come with holes and in order to put them in your binder immediately to prevent loosing them or your dog from eating them, you will need a hole punch right then and there.

You've never seen paperwork like foster care paperwork, so we hope this helps you stay organized (and busy!) when it seems like all you're doing is waiting on someone or something.

To find more practical tips and solid encouragement, purchase Being Strong in the Wait here.

The BEST Things to Say to an Adoptive Family

by Caitlin

If you didn't catch the last post on what NOT to say to an adoptive family, well, you should go read it, especially if you know a friend or family member that is going through the adoption process.  It's three parts educational and one part plain hilarious.  All that to say:  don't be that person!  

But enough about what NOT to say.  There's plenty of wrong things to say.  If you're wondering what we most want to hear, well, here's four things to say that will be welcomed by a foster/adoptive parent.

What beautiful children you have!  Don't focus on whether our children look like us or not, the fact is our children are beautiful to us, so reaffirm that fact to us.  Even if our children are being heathens in that moment.

What can I do to serve your family in this transition?  One of the best things that ever happened to our family was a two week meal train set up for those first few days after our kids were home.  Not only did a friend take the time to set us up, she also made sure to note our family's allergies so we wouldn't be getting foods we couldn't eat.  Bringing older kids home is a lot like bringing a newborn home.  They suck the life out of you that first month or more.

What parts of this process are you most looking forward to? Trust me when I say, we know this whole thing is going to be hard.  You don't need to remind us that these kids are going to bring some major baggage masquerading as behavioral problems into our family.  We already know that.  Instead of talking about how hard this is going to be, let us gush about all the parts we're looking forward to!  Even if we do get a little bit naive and start imagining this perfect scenario.  You've made us sit around and gush about how many teeth your kid is cutting, so let us imagine our perfect impending families with just as much patience we gave you.

You are so lucky to have these wonderful kids.  Here's the thing most people don't realize:  we are not our child's saviors.  We are not awesome people.  We yell just as much as you, our house is just as messy as yours, and we definitely don't have our act together.  We would never say our kids are lucky to have us because we're not their saviors and half the time we're winging this whole parenting thing so much we doubt our own selves. But one thing is for sure with any foster/adoptive family you're going to come into contact with--we are absolutely the lucky ones here.  Foster care is so very hard, but at the end of the day, these children bring so much joy and wholeness to our lives.

What about you?  What's the best thing that's been said to you?

Caitlin is the founder and creator of Respite Redefined.  She is a wife and mother of two daughters through adoption from foster care.  Caitlin loves to read, to write, and to dream of the places she'll go and the sights she'll see and the new kids she'll one day meet.

Self Care for the Foster-Adopt Mom

by Caitlin

Real Talk.

I don't know about you but I have about zero time for myself, especially those first 6-9 months after our girls were placed with us.  Yeah, sure, the husband could watch them.  But often I was called back en route because of major meltdowns that we needed to tag team.  You can forget about dates:  not only did our babysitters need to be background checked and fingerprinted, leaving our kids with strangers was more of a punishment for all four of us than was worth it.

I would read these mom blogs or see these instagram posts about women who would promote this things called "self-care."  They'd post pics of their lone trips to Target or sitting in a bookstore with a book, or going to the movies alone, or getting a massage.  The captions would read something like, "My life is so hard with my 2.5 children and husband that I've dropped the kids off at a babysitter and eat dinner out with a friend before I catch a movie alone.  All you moms out there should do the same.  It's called self-care.  You should take care of yourself before you take care of everybody else."

Most of the time these posts made me laugh out loud.  I howled, I laughed until I cried.  Because girl, please.  You don't know me.  There is absolutely no way I'm able to get out of this house.  If I leave, my kids think I'm never coming back. 

As time went on, though, I realized there was truth to these statements.  If I want to be a good mom, I have to be good to myself.  If I want to meet the needs of my kids, I have to meet my needs, too.  It's like, I spend my day filling their love buckets but I need to fill my own bucket, too.  But let's be honest.  A spa day or a movie alone was never going to happen.

Here's where the definition of self-care took a turn for me.  I may not be able to flush the toilet or take a shower in the morning (old plumbing means it woke up my kids who were already terrible sleepers) but I could wake up a few minutes early to finish a chapter of my book.  I might have to be quieter than a mouse at nap time, but painting my nails isn't a loud activity and I could do that sitting at my coffee table.  I started wearing headphones and listening to music during a bubble bath after the husband came home.  Then I was there at the house, I was there if anyone needed me, but I had an hour to myself.  I could walk around our condo complex by myself and still be nearby.  If I thought creatively, there were so many things I could do to get some "me" time--to refresh myself, to take care of myself, to shake off the "Mommy" and put on the "Caitlin" for a while--to remind me that I was a real person before two tiny humans drained the life out of me.

You should do the same.  I don't care if it's the first month of a hard placement or 5 years post adoption. Do a little self care.  Here are some of my favorite things.

Paint your nails.     
Take a bubble bath.     
Make a smoothie and don't share it.    
 Take a shower with eucalyptus leaves.     
Braid your hair.
Buy super soft sheets for your bed.     
 DIY a face mask.      
Paint with watercolors with your kids.     
Order some comfy tees and good fitting jeans.     
Bake a cake.      
Buy some flowers on your grocery trip and put them in a pretty pot.     
Skip the chicken nuggets and eat healthy.  (Might I suggest this recipe?)
Take the dog for a walk.
Jump on your kids' trampoline when they're not watching.  Or maybe when they are.
Take some iPhone pictures of something besides your kids.
Eat more cake.

And can I give you some words of encouragement?  20 months in we still have a whole lot of #adoptionproblems.  But there's a whole lot I can do on my own now.  Like flush the toilet at night.  And get up early to go to the gym.  Or leave the house on to walk Target alone.  Or go to the movies with a friend.  I wouldn't say that adoption or parenting gets easier, but I will say that your kid will eventually stop panicking when you leave the house and your husband will be able to handle meltdowns without you.

What are some of your favorite ways to take care of yourself???

Need some help?  Take a look at our Pinterest board for a whole lot of suggestions.

 

Caitlin is the founder and creator of Respite Redefined.  She is a wife and mother of two daughters through adoption from foster care.  Caitlin loves to read, to write, and to dream of the places she'll go and the sights she'll see and the new kids she'll one day meet.