Thursday, August 3, 2017

Another Josh Post

It has been quite some time since our last update and a lot has happened. Much of what has occurred we can’t share due to HIPPA, but we can give you a overview of how we’ve spent our time since our last update. 

Angie and I took the kids to IKEA to pick out their bedroom furniture. I have to preface the rest of this paragraph with the following disclaimer. I hate IKEA. I really, really, really, hate IKEA. There’s one way in and one way out. It’s always packed with more people than should reasonably want to be shopping. You have to go and actually get your stuff off of the shelf. Worst of all, you have to build it. I really hate IKEA. We gave the older two girls a budget and told them that they could pick out what they wanted so long as it fit in the budget. The younger two are simply too young to understand how to work within a budget so Angie and I helped them out. Despite the fact that I really hate IKEA I can think of few things that have brought me more joy than watching the kids pick out their furniture. This was all made possible due to your generous donations. 

Making the furniture turned out to be a great joy as we were able to do it with the kids. Angie, another of our friends, and I were able to build all of the furniture by Wednesday morning. We spent a lot of our time building furniture with the kids which lead to some pretty fun/funny memories.

After a lot of leads the lead to nothing but dead ends, Angie and I were able to find a van to purchase. Right now we own two cars that seat up to five which would mean that we’d have to drive two cars anytime we wanted to go anywhere together. Thankfully, the generous donations made the financial burden of purchasing another vehicle much less painful. We plan to sell our second car in the coming days to ease the remaining financial burden. 

Finally, I’d like to address some of the concerns that we saw on twitter and Jillian’s Facebook page. Many people were concerned that we are not financially able to take care of four kids because we’re asking for donations. Especially considering we’ve been so open about the fact that Boys Town has closed. These are all valid concerns and questions that I am sure that I would also be asking if I stumbled upon our GoFundMe. 

As most stories are, ours is very complicated. There are laws that prevent us from sharing detailed information about the kids situation and, frankly, if there weren’t laws we wouldn’t share any more information than we have on the internet. The internet can be a wonderful place as we’ve recently experienced, but it can also take a dark turn pretty quickly. This maxim also applies to Angie and I as well. We’ve shared what we we feel comfortable sharing. We can say this. We are naturally cautious people who would not take in these kids if we could not afford to do so once we figured out how to cover the initial start-up cost. Angie and I stick to a strict budget that includes an emergency fund. The thing is, our budget and emergency fund did not account for taking in four kids in less than 60 days. That’s not something that normal people budget for. So we asked for help. Initially, we asked for help via the GoFundMe from our family and friends after many asked how they could support us. We didn’t anticipate that Jillian would share our story which would lead to wide-spread support outside of our family and friends.

We are so very thankful to Jillian for sharing our story and to the people who don’t know us and donated. It is not hyperbole to say that we could not have made this work without all of the support that we’ve received. So to you kind internet strangers who stepped up in our time of need, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Monday, July 24, 2017

house rules

Today we got to hang out with the kids. As official Foster Parents (capitol F, capitol P!) we call them "visits". Each "visit" gets easier and more comfortable, and always leave us knowing this is probably the best decision we've ever made.  

Snapshot of the day:
We had to stop by the office for a little paperwork, and when I got our lease out to sign and scan, the kids all asked what I was doing. I explained it was the paperwork for our house so we all had a place to live  together and the youngest immediately chimed in, "Can I sign too?!", which then lead to everyone getting paper and pens. I started dictating their own leases which went something like this: 

Dear house, 
        We can't wait to come live in you!

And then we started writing down our house rules, which (so far) are as follows:
1- If someone's bedroom door is closed, you must knock if you want to come in.
2- No yelling (out of anger) ((and yes, that's a necessary qualifier in any home I live in.))
3- Say "OK".
4- No touchy! (which is their way of saying no hitting)
5- Don't pick up the cat.
6- Don't sit on the dog.

There were many more after this, but they got progressively silly, which, to me, is perfect.

After that, we went to lunch, and just went out-and-about to spend time together. We ended up at Barnes & Nobles where we bought a couple books to read before bed (Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls!!) and just enjoyed spending time together. And holding hands. Lots of holding hands. And if that wasn't enough to make my heart explode right there, we posted our gofundme page and received such an amazing outpouring of love and support that I'm dizzy. 

And humbled. 

I'm so humbled to have spent the day with four kids that are so willing to let us in to their lives and their hearts, and to make a new family with us in it. I'm so humbled at the kind and wonderful words of our friends and family who have shared our story and given us their endorsement and donated. Truly and deeply humbled.

Tomorrow is another busy day of paperwork and packing and all that necessary boring stuff, but I just can't wait until wednesday until we get to be with the kids again. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

ode to a planner

Since moving to California, I've been using a planner pretty religiously. I started using a simple moleskine before the move and found it so helpful in keeping everything straight. I started to get a bit of a reputation as someone who never went to meetings (or really anywhere, for that matter) without my little notebook. A couple months ago I switched to a mini happy planner because, well, to be honest, it was just too cute to pass up. So when all of this* started happening, I told Josh I absolutely needed to get a larger planner. I, of course, expected him to say this was an unneeded expense in a time where we need every-single-little-dime we can spare, but he immediately said "Yes, this is an investment in our future". ♫ Have I told you lately that I love [him]?!?!♫ This man gets me. And understood when I literally just grabbed the keys and headed to the craft store.
 ::insert image of cartoon character leaving a cloud of smoke behind them here::
Thank goodness for 40% off coupons and great sales that made it a satisfying but very affordable trip! And the fact that I found a planner sticker pack labeled "mom" was just icing on this crazy wonderful cake.

All this to say that despite the simple joy that my planner has brought me, today I opened it and had a mini panic attack. Seriously. Our "to do" list is out of control, and we are doing visits with the kids almost every-other-day which really cuts down on my "getting stuff done" time. But no worries, I marked the crap out if it (the planner, that is) scheduled everything possible, and am feeling more in control. Let's just be clear- I don't expect to be able to stick to it all, but just knowing we have a plan, seeing that it's completely do-able, and most importantly seeing the kids so much, has made me feel much better. And really, when you have a partner like I do, it all seems so much easier.

*Hopefully by now everyone understands that "this" is just my new short-hand for Josh and I being laid off simultaiouslyt and agressively pursuing foster four siblings.

 Enjoy this bonus look at the inside of my planner cover, with photo booth pics!

Monday, July 17, 2017

from josh

This is Josh the other half of “Josh and Angie”. A lot has happened since our last update. Unfortunately, much of it we can’t share quite yet. I can, however, share what we’ve been up to. Angie and I have approached this entire situation with the mindset that we’re going moving forward until we find a door that is firmly closed. So far, each door that we thought might be closed, has just needed a little elbow grease. Much of that elbow grease has come from our support network.

One of the most daunting and significant challenges that we’ve been faced with is getting our Foster Care License. To get a license you can go through the state or through a private organization. We’ve chosen to go through a private organization because we’ve worked alongside Olive Crest in our current jobs. The process is lengthy and requires a lot of training, interviews, and time commitments. From what we’ve been told, the process typically takes couples between two to four months to complete. We started just under three weeks ago and are over half way done.

One thing that we could not be exempted from was the “Foster Parent Pre-Cert Boot Camp” which was a series of trainings in Riverside (about an hour away) this past weekend. On Saturday we were in training from 9am until 5pm and then on Sunday we were in training from 1pm to 5pm. Needless to say, it was a very long weekend after what was already a very long week. Fortunately, we got to meet a lot of other like-minded people who are interested in the doing similar things which was really good for us.

Early in one of the trainings we watched a short video called “ReMoved”. It’s one that I had not seen before but Angie had and it hit me like a freight train. If you have 12 or so minutes to spare please take the time  to watch it. After I had emotionally decompressed and had some time to think about why it hit me so hard I had a jarring realization that I was now a recipient of social services. I had to ask myself why that idea was so unsettling to me.  After all, Angie and I have worked in social services in some capacity for around eleven years. We started working at Salvation Army camps, YMCA day camps, in schools, and finally with Boys Town in their Family Home program. In total, we’ve had over 50 kids live and grow with us. Some went on to do great things. Others have had a difficult go of their lives. One is no longer with us. Most recently, we’ve worked in administration with Boys Town. We get social services. We get what it means to be a cog in “the system”. Why was it so strange to for me to picture myself as the recipient of social services?


Close your eyes and picture someone who receives social services. How old are they? What is their gender? What is their race/ethnicity? What is their socio-economic status? What was their childhood like? What were their adolescent years like? Did they graduate from high school? What about undergrad? Do they have a Master’s degree? If you’re like me you probably pictured a person from the film “ReMoved”. But you know what, we have an Olive Crest Case manager who is assigned to us. We have to work closely with a social worker not as a provider but now as a consumer. We are receiving social services and that’s a hard pill to swallow.

Three weeks ago I meet with the kids’ social worker and offered to become a placement for the family. Two days later I followed up with an email. A day later I was sent a reply that was not an overt “no” but  was certainly not a resounding “yes”. And then we waited. While we waited we took classes, interviewed for jobs, went house hunting, but most of all we hoped. Hope is a tricky thing. Hope can lead you to doing superhuman things, but it can also lead you to crushing defeat and despair. It’s impossible to plan your life around hope alone and even more difficult to hold your life in limbo for three weeks at a time when you have job offers that would take you out of the state. But that’s what we have done.

I’m not going to pretend to say that I understand the mindset of people who have been in the system for years. I’m not going to pretend that three weeks has given me deep insights into the way that people are chewed up and spit out of the system. I am, however, going to say that it has given me a profoundly different perspective than the one I had previously. For those of you who work outside of the field you should know that rarely, if ever, are there definite answers. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve told clients, “If you do x, y, or z you’ll be more likely to get a positive outcome”. Or heard parents told, “Take these classes, do your visits, and then provided that you find a home you can get your kids back”. Kids are often told, “If your parents do x, y, and you do what you have to do you’ll be able to go home”. On the surface, these seem like straight forward requests, but life happens. People get sick, cars break down, buses are missed, and classes are canceled. What then? You can’t plan your life on “ifs and maybes”.  So you hope. 

And that's the one thing keeping us going. But it’s not just our hope that has sustained us, it’s been the hope of our family, friends, and colleagues. When we felt like it was time to throw in the towel we were given encouragement. When we just needed someone to listen, people were there. When we fell down, we were picked up. If it were not for our support network we would have given up two weeks ago.

If you’ve watched the “ReMoved” film this will hopefully make some sense to you. (If you haven’t already, please take a minute to watch it so this next part makes sense.) I feel like if I were the mother in that video I probably would have given up too. 

There, I said it.

It has taken more strength that I have (or we have) to help sustain Angie and I through this process. And we've only just begun. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

how to pack like a pro

I was reflecting this week about how much I've moved, which has been every two years (although often more frequently) for the last 15 years. Four of those moves were long-distance. And of course that doesn't factor in the major moves as a kid with my parents. Needless to say, I've become some what of a packing expert (just don't confuse "expertise" with "enjoyment"). Therefore, I only think it's fair to share my packing tips.

STEP ONE: Pick out a great movie to watch while you work. Even better- a movie series or TV show. Nothing will help you lose track of time and forget how long you've just been sitting around in a room full of boxes like a good movie! This week I'm going with Jane Austen. I've already made it through Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and two versions of Sense and Sensibility. So it probably goes without saying that I've been crying a lot, which brings me to my next point:

STEP TWO: Get the kleenax out. Chances are you're going to be stirring up a lot of dust (if you have two shedding animals like I do) and/or crying the whole time. Either way, you need a good supply of tissues near by. Just remember that even though it may seem like a good killing-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of idea at the time, used tissues do not make good packing materials.

STEP THREE: Think positive! Just keep telling yourself this is the last time you're going to move. (Although you've told yourself this so many times now it's hard to take yourself seriously, so make sure you keep all your empty boxes when you unpack).

STEP FOUR: Start with books. They're the easiest and least likely to be needed before your move date.

STEP FIVE: Clear a space in an out-of-the-way corner so you can start putting your packed boxes there.

STEP SIX: Repack your first box of books after realizing that the box was way too big and therefore way too heavy.

STEP SEVEN: Grab some Ben & Jerry's or a good beer. You deserve it after a hard day of work! After all, it isn't easy making such a mess.