Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mental Snapshots

Mom, J and I went for a walk this afternoon.  It was very overcast and occasionally drizzled on us, but overall it was very pleasant outside.  We just walked up and down a few blocks near my parents' house.  We've done this before.  Mom and J do it very often when they're hanging out together.

We always have fun choosing which direction to turn at each choice and about turning left or the kitty cat across the street.  We talk about different yards and flowers and birds that we see.  I always enjoy seeing how her mind works and hearing the questions she asks.

Towards the end of the walk, it's pretty obvious she's getting tired.  Not just from the walk but from a busy day.

She asked Grandma to skip with her, and they began to skip and race and do fun little jumps and twirls with their hair bouncing out behind them.

I took a mental picture, and my heart smiled.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Mindset Shift

When C first came, I knew within 12 hours that she wasn't going to be here long.  So, when my bed room looked like a Goodwill donation center and the paperwork piled up, I just said to myself, "I'll take care of that after she goes."

And I did.

When J came, I first thought it would be a short period.  Not as short as C, mind you, but still short.  I took care of clothes as needed.  I kept my apartment cleaned and the refrigerator stocked and cleaned out, as needed.  Some of this happened while she was there.  Some of it I scheduled for when she would not be there.  I gradually became used to shopping with her and having her try on clothes and sharing her, very opinionated, thoughts of clothing.

However, there were times I thought, "It's okay to go without sleep or to stock pile the DVR.  I'll have personal time again soon."  I had that same thought about paperwork.

Except part of the problem was that I didn't always realize that was how I was thinking.  It helped when I stopped expecting to sleep through the night.  It helped when she started falling asleep earlier, and I still had some energy, so I could get some things done after she went to sleep.  I could have some "me" time...which is like gold, I tell you!

However, I just realized yesterday that the paperwork has still piled up.  I have a 4" binder that is full and is piled with another 2" of paperwork on top.  I got an email today that a bill is due today.  (I was able to call and pay it over the phone.  Thank goodness!)

My mindset needs to shift.  My life now includes an active 5 year old.  Period.  Not "for a time, it includes an active 5 year old".  I need to be able to, and now feel much more confident that I can, handle paperwork with her there.

What other things do I need to shift my mindset on?

Do you have anything you need to shift your mindset on?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

How can awareness be raised without sharing?

I've struggled with something off and on over the last few months.  Awareness is being raised for so many things: good things!  I see Facebook posts and commercials for breast cancer research and leukemia research.  I see posts to raise funds for international adoption or sponsoring a child.  I see people signing up to walk for 3 days or ride for 150 miles.

Through all of these awareness campaigns, people share their story.  They are a survivor of ______ or a family member died with _______________ or they know a cure is needed for ________________ or a child needs food, water, shelter and clothing.  They don't just give a snippet.  The ones that bring a tear to an eye, stir the heart strings and actually RAISE awareness are the ones that include pictures, lengthy stories of heart ache, lessons learned, grief felt or victory celebrated.

How can I do that for fostering?  How can any foster parent raise awareness?  I've really been struggling with this.  Because, awareness NEEDS to be raised.  But how?

I can't post pictures due to safety and security.

A huge part of foster parent training includes the privacy of the child.  It is not MY story to share, but HERS and therefore, I have no right to share it.

I can talk about some of the activities we do together.  But that's what any parent does.

I can talk about SOME of the successes.  There are SO many I cannot share, due to privacy.  I can't share our schedule or even all of our activities.

How?  How does a foster parent raise awareness?  I don't mean for me.  I don't mean for any one specific foster parent.  I mean for the hurting.  I mean for the innocent.  I mean for the casual organization that is foster parents.  There are support groups.  We are a tight knit bunch, but anyone is welcome.  We trade clothes, toys, cribs, babysitting and bounce chairs.  We need formula and toys for fine motor and gross motor development.  We would be greatly appreciative for you to sacrifice a few hours to get CPR certified and help us out with babysitting occasionally.  I would love for someone else to teach her how to ride a bike, because she thrives under the attention of safe adults, and I want to show her that adults can be safe.  

How does a foster parent raise awareness?
The heartache.  The success.  The lost of innocence.  The giggling innocence.  The smiles and the tears.  The frustration and the victories.

Believe me.  There are MANY!  Daily victories.  GI-NORMOUS victories.  There is daily heartache, too.  Daily.

Sometimes someone tells me, "I know exactly how you feel.  I know exactly what you're going through." when they don't have a clue.

Sometimes someone asks me a question that is none of their business, and I don't know how to answer them politely.

Sometimes someone tells someone else, "This is Alyssa's foster child." and the LAST thing any foster parent wants to do is call attention to the fact that this little one is different.  NO child wants to be singled out.  It is NO one's business!

How?  How do I raise awareness of what it means to foster a little one that is hurting and in need of a safe and secure place to live?

I can't tell her story.  But believe me, it is a beautiful story.

I've learned a new definition for beautiful.  Beautiful can be hard.  It can be gross.  It can be painful.  It can be carefully, painstakingly woven together.  It can have aesthetic beauty, but it might not always.  Christ's death on the cross was bloody and messy and gory and downright gross.  But, His sacrifice was beautiful.  That is the best picture I have for the word beautiful.

Fostering is beautiful.  It is messy and filled with excitement.  It is joyous and filled with heartache.


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Mini Rant on Disney

I remember people being "Um, why are these called "KIDS' stories?" when talking about Disney stories, and I would always think "Yeah, I guess...but they're kids' movies, and I grew up on them, and they're great!"

Ok.  Seriously!?  Let me just tell you, in my own words, the story we read last night.

A young maiden is HATED by her step-mother. (Hello?  A LOT of our culture has a step-mother.  It's hard.  Do we really want to make it harder by having them read a story/watch a movie in which the child is HATED by the step-mother?)

The step-mother so hates this young maiden that she sends someone to KILL the young maiden and bring her the maiden's heart as proof.

WHAT?  Gross!  As in, truly sick.

But the huntsman can't do it and lets her go.  The wicked step-mother eventually finds out about this and then poisons an apple. (Does it HAVE to be an apple?  A fruit?  Something GOOD for children?  Do the writers of Disney stories have any idea how hard it is to get kiddos to eat fruit?  Couldn't the step-mother at least have poisoned a Starburst candy!?)

The young maiden is hiding with kind and caring dwarfs.  (Well, at least this is one redeeming quality.  People that are "different" are shown to be kind and compassionate.)

But, they come home from the diamond mines one day to find the young maiden LIFELESS on the floor.  (HEL-LO!  Scary!  These are little kids, here!)

But, of course, a prince comes by and kisses her, and they ride off to his kingdom.  (He only kisses her because she's beautiful. (Great.  I'm TRYING to teach her that she is valued for more than her beauty.  This is NOT helping!)  Not every girl gets a prince and gets to ride off to his kingdom and never work again.  And by "not every girl", I pretty much mean it does not happen.  Ever.  I know.  I know.  It's a fairy tale.  Except for all the SCARY stuff, you know!?)

Ok.  Mini rant over.

Does anyone have Beauty and the Beast on DVD that we can borrow between now and Halloween?  Because Little Miss is Belle this year.

Thursday, October 03, 2013


I used to read my blog list every night.  I liked Google Reader, then moved to Blog Lovin' when Google Reader went away.  I would lay in bed and read my favorites and chuckle and groan and sometimes cry.  I'd laugh seeing the pictures, rejoicing in the progress of an adoption story, or mourn a loss or heartache.

I cannot think of the last time I read a blog post.  No clue.  I think it's been since my little one came.  Surely? Maybe not, though?

I write blog posts.  Because I love this outlet of emotion and creativity.

But I haven't had time to read them lately.

We do seem to be in more of a school routine.  Routine is necessary for all children, but it's a magnified need for kiddos from hard places.  The transition from summer to school was a bumpy ones, but it does seem to be smoothing out.  She's falling asleep about 7:30-7:45, which means I have a couple of hours of an evening to decompress.  Sometimes that's a laundry list of "MUST DO THIS!" and sometimes it means I can curl up with a book or watch a favorite DVRed show.

But, at least for right now, blogs aren't getting read.

Maybe some day...


Sunday, September 22, 2013



I'm looking for some new hair and skin products.  My hair has been limp lately, and it doesn't seem to matter what I do.  Since my hair is already dry, and of course, curly, all three of these together aren't good!

I don't want to look like I'm back in the 80s, but a little volume would be nice!  Suggestions?  Because my hair is so dry, I don't use shampoo.  I use wash out and leave in conditioner.  Right now, that's it.  Mouse or Gel suggestions?  Something else?

Any other products or styling techniques you love, feel free to shout them out!

Ok, what about make-up?  I use a mixture of Clinique and Mac products.  I have fair, pretty flawless skin (don't hate me) so I rarely wear foundation.  However, the shadows under my eyes are becoming more pronounced.  (I'm purposely ignoring any reasons for this.)  

Also, what about cleanser?  My skin is dry, so I am very good about moisturizing, but don't cleanse as often.  I need a moisturizing cleanser.  

I'm also open for lipstick recommendations...just because I feel like I could use a new one. :)  

Any other products or application techniques you love, feel free to shout them out!  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I need vision

The Village had a Night of Worship on Friday night.  It was amazing!  I am blessed every time my church gathers together.

One song we sang really got my attention.

Some of the words are:

God I look to You
I won't be overwhelmed
Give me vision to see things like You do
God I look to You
You're where my help comes from
Give me wisdom, You know just what to do

I admit, my thoughts immediately went to my little one.  I want His vision to see her like He does.  I need more wisdom.  I definitely do NOT know just what to do.  But He does.

I want to see the brokenhearted and have compassion for them.

That might mean my little one.  It might mean my students.  It might mean my friends.  It might mean someone I am around in a restaurant or grocery store.  I want to see the brokenhearted the way Christ sees them.  I want to acknowledge they're hurting and smile.  I want to have a more compassionate heart.  

God, I look to you.  
You're where my help comes from.
Give me wisdom, You know just what to do

Yes, Lord!

Monday, September 16, 2013

College Week

This week our school district is promoting college attendance.  Students have a fun schedule of things to wear each day.  Today was college t-shirt/jersey day.  J is proudly wearing an "OU Girl" t-shirt while displaying her "Hook 'Em Horns" hand sign.  Ha!  This girl cracks me up regularly!  Hey, as long as she's college bound, I'm over the moon!

Sunday, September 15, 2013


We had a major breakthrough today!

While I can't go into details, it was huge.  And I'm very excited and exhausted.  But mostly excited!

Celebrate with me! :)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Routine is Key

I know routines are important for everyone.  I know they are especially important for children.  I even understand that are KEY for children coming from instability.

I've been to the trainings.  I'm a college educated EDUCATOR for crying out loud.

We worked all summer to build a stable routine.

I failed to connect the dots that starting school was going to be a major upset to her routine.

I mean I knew her life was about to change.  She's 5.  She's starting kindergarten.  OF COURSE, her life was going to change.  She'd never been in school before.  Duh!

I didn't realize.  I didn't connect the dots.  I didn't see how much this would impact her overall life perspective.

Y'all.  It rocked her to the core.  Duh!  Of COURSE IT DID!

I always try to prepare her when anything is going to be different.  If my mom is going to pick her up instead of me, we talk about it.  If we have a doctor's appointment, instead of going straight home, we talk about it.  The days we have gymnastics, we talk about it.  If we're going to run errands on a Saturday, we talk about it.

She wants to know what her day is going to look like.  So, we talk about it.

I talked to her about school during the summer.  We toured the campus ahead of time.  We went to Meet the Teacher night.  We talked about going every day.  (She wasn't sure about that.)  We picked out a lunchbox and backpack.

I didn't talk about getting up early.

I've sat here and stared about my computer screen for a full minute.

How DO you prepare a child for Kindergarten?

Should I have told her she'd see me a lot less?  No, that wouldn't have been good.

We did talk about eating in the cafeteria, but unless a child has seen it before, how can she picture that?  How do I prep her to eat, surrounded by noisy 5 year olds, in 30 minutes, when she's never finished a meal that fast in a quiet environment?

Should I have told her she'd be exhausted?  Actually, we did talk about that some.

I mean.  Should I have done anything else to prep her?

Her world ROCKED.  Hard.  Not only did her world rock hard, but my world is CRAZY BUSY at the beginning of the school year, which means I am beYOND exhausted each night.

So, her world is tilted on an axis.  I'm not around as much and when I am, I'm tired and not the same.  She's tired, too.

It finally occurred to me this week how much simply the change in routine had affected us both.  I knew we were both tired.  I was thinking some things were a "phase", when in reality what is going on is both of us getting adapted to a new routine.

Lord, thank you for Your presence.  Thank you for opening my eyes to Your love.  YOU are stable.  YOU are constant.  YOU are steady.  Thank You for Your unfailing, unwavering love.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Time Saver that Wasn't

Sometimes she takes a little more time to buckle up, so I was using that time to dig out the 1.08 I would need for the large diet coke from McD's I was planning to stop for on our way to school.  I pulled out one dollar bill and found a nickel.  I dropped the nickel between the seats and the dollar bill separated and was two dollar bills.  So, I then had to put away the extra dollar bill and look for another nickel and then the three pennies.

Yeah, that didn't really save time like I thought it would.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

After School Commitments

We've had several after school commitments this week.  She had something at school on Tuesday and at home on Wednesday.  I had something Wednesday at school and HAD to run an errand on the way home, so we were finishing up dinner when our Wednesday at home appointment arrived.

I started tutoring after school this week, so Mondays and Thursdays have consistent commitments now.  Wednesdays are occasionally staff meetings, but so far they've been every week.  We're waiting to hear back on something, and then she might have a commitment EVERY Monday and Wednesday afternoon.

Next week, she'll have gymnastics on Tuesday night, because I didn't understand they required a 30 day notice before cancelling, so now we're trying to fit in 4 paid sessions.

She has started eating a school lunch, which means I can sign her binder when I pick her up from after school care, and then leave her backpack in the car.

We've been finishing dinner about 7:00 and then start her bedtime routine and she's out about 7:45.

Whew, those hours after school pass by fast!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Day to Remember

I was in my college apartment when my phone rang.  Todd was calling to let us know airplanes had flown into the towers.  I was a little groggy and didn't understand the severity of the circumstances.  He told me to wake up Julie and I said, "She doesn't usually care about world events."  He said she'd care about this and to go wake her up.  We didn't go to chapel that morning.  We sat in front of our TVs.  The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur.  Both towers had already been hit when I found out about it.  The plane crashing in Pennsylvania's field came later.  I remember hearing about President Bush being rushed to Air Force One and then no one knowing where he was.

Looking back, I was usually more adept at figuring out the nuances of situations.  But, I remember not understanding the severity.  I remember thinking it was weird President Bush was hopping all over the place.  I wasn't really all that concerned about what would happen next.  I certainly wasn't fearful for my life.

I called the hospitals a day or two later, wanting to donate blood.  None of them were having a special blood drive or anything.

Our college had a special prayer time that night.  Student led, we gathered on the lawn and prayed for our nation and the families of those that had died.

Everywhere we walked, televisions were showing news coverage.  Those pictures of the smoke billowing out of the towers and the Pentagon with a huge piece missing.

Conversations about what had REALLY happened on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.  Questions about any other planes out there.  Airports shutting down.  Families in search of their loved ones.  Missing persons signs being put up on any surface in NYC.

I remember the next time I traveled, which was sometime in October, there were soldiers holding very large guns in their hands walking around the airports.  I didn't feel safer.  I respected them.  I appreciated them.  But their very presence made me feel uneasy.  We hadn't needed them before.  But, our world had changed.  People in charge had made a very real decision that more security was needed now.

In the coming days, books would be published, songs would be sung, counselors and psychologists would be interviewed and the pictures would come off the television.  We didn't forget.  We did begin to move forward.  Some had gaping holes in their lives.  Some minor tears in our internal fabric.  We have all been changed.  We all live a different life now than we did before that fateful day.  I think the pictures are a good reminder of what happened that day.  We don't want to forget.

I'm an American.  I'm blessed to live here.  I love being a Texan.  Toby Keith's song makes me smile.  I'm not typically like this, but it kinda feels like a good "chest beating" song.  Stand up and hear us roar, so to speak.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Shout Out to My Support System

I can't tell you how many people I have in my life that are a wonderful support system.  Many that I have met in the last two-three years that have become a fabulous network of the fostering journey.  Some of them I haven't actually met!  (The Internet can be a wondrous thing!)

Shannon: Oh, Shan.  What would I do without you?  You check on me regularly, sometimes daily.  You are a prayer warrior that I go to with any "little" thing and know you'll pray!  You told me it was okay to mourn that my birthday was not the same.  That it was okay to feel taken advantage of.  That it was normal to be exhausted and to cry with little warning.  You told me I was NORMAL.  You made me feel NORMAL.  Shan, you're a dear friend, and I'm so glad you're mine!

FAM group: You ladies know your stuff!  I remember being slightly overwhelmed at my first meeting because everyone was talking at the same time and babies were being passed around and people came and went as their schedule allowed.  There might be five or six conversations going on at once, and all across the room from each other.  It's hilarious!  By the time J came, I was jumping into those conversations and asking questions and sharing information.  It's great!  I love y'all!  Thank you for answering text messages and calls of "What do I do with ____________?"  I love our network of information and SO appreciate y'all!

Kristin: WOW!  What a knowledgeable, sweet, giving, God-loving woman!  I am blessed to know you!  Thank you for your listening ear.  Thank you for opening your home!  Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the fostering system, our agency, parenting in general, parenting a foster child in specific and conferences around us!  You are a blessing!

Bledsoe family: Not a day has gone by that someone hasn't checked on me.  I truly think not one!  I have received text messages, facebook comments, emails, hallway conversations and hugs.  I am blessed to call you family and so glad to be a part!  Thank you for opening your heart to my little ones.  Thank you for holding open your arms and saying, "Come on in!"  You've opened your homes, your classrooms, your closets, and your bookshelves.  I remember one teacher sharing an anecdote from her son, "Mom, we're teachers' kids.  We're famous!"  I smile to think of my little one being famous and knowing how good that will make her feel!

Sara and Jana:  I would not have survived this summer without y'all!  Play dates, swim dates, shopping trips, text messages, phone calls... Whenever I was questioning something, you'd tell me it was normal.  My feelings were normal.  Our days were normal.  Reactions were normal.  Yes, I'm feeling frazzled.  No, we're not sleeping.  Yep, it's normal!  It's funny to me how knowing that what I'm going through is NORMAL made me breathe a sigh of relief.  Y'all are awesome!

My family: I literally would have lost my mind if not for the help of my parents.  Mom and Dad have supported me through this decision 100%.  They are my primary short term care providers.  They provide baby sitting when I have a work meeting or am desperate for some time at the gym.  They work puzzles and teach ABCs and how to use scissors.  They bake salmon and stir fry green beans and the kids gobble it up.  They go shopping for clothes and put gas in my car and don't expect to be paid back.  Mom has said more than once, "Alyssa, you feel called to fostering.  Our ministry is helping you with your ministry."  I LOVE that!  We're a family.  That means we do things together.  My cousins call or text to see how things are going.  They've provided school supplies, CD players, CDs of silly kids' songs, child medicines, DVDs, knapsacks and fun toys.  Our family is in this together!

My Home Group:  I bawled my eyes out in front of these ladies on Sunday.  I needed prayer and support and they came through!  Kathy prayed for me Sunday night.  Meredith has already filled out the forms to be another babysitter.  Jess invited us over for a play date.  Jen texted on Monday to tell me she was praying for me.  Val offered to run errands.  Pam and Lauren gave me sweet hugs before I left.  I am blessed to be in this group and SO glad we're back from summer break!

Veronica: I have loved our swim dates with "our" girls!  I love getting to know your family and love that we live close enough to be able to do it!  I'm thrilled you've moved closer to me, too! :)  I haven't been the greatest at keeping in contact, but you're awesome at touching base and setting something up.  I look forward to our fun times with our girls as well as our adult times out, too.  :)

Missy put me in contact with Kim who put me in contact with another mommy group up here.  Facebook is incredible at bringing people together, no matter their physical distance!  I love that I can read blogs, see status updates and know what is going on through various journeys.  Thanks, Missy!

My Houston sisters:  Y'all rock!  I knew our friendships were deep.  I've depended on them for years.  I wondered when I moved if they would change.  And sure, they've changed in that I don't see y'all regularly.  But the love and support hasn't diminished one iota.  AJ calls regularly, and I always get off the phone so very encouraged and motivated and convicted.  Melody drives to Plano at the drop of a hat to help.  The simple knowledge that she's coming changes my entire outlook on life.  Katherine emails regularly and texts scripture.  I love having scripture has a reminder of God's goodness and faithfulness.  Jamie asks good questions that make me continue to think about my next steps.

I am blessed.  I am not walking this journey alone.  God is good.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

A Journey and a Learning Process

Right now, life is hard.

The balance of school and life is hard.

The balance of work and life is hard.

Certain behaviors are more difficult to deal with than others.

The decision of which battles to choose and which to let go is a constant process.

I don't like being a Debbie-Downer.

I don't know what to say when people say, "How's it going?"  When I respond with, "We're transitioning to find a balance."  or I smile and say, "It's a journey and a learning process."  That's my polite way of saying I haven't pulled my hair out yet, but there have been many tears, much heart ache, and a lot of agony.

I'm a communicator.  The people that I need communication from do not think waiting several days or weeks (or months) is a problem when giving communication.  No, I'm not exaggerating.  I received a phone call today after I requested information 7 weeks ago.  I have followed up almost weekly via email or phone since my initial request.

One person met with us 2 months ago today.  I still have not heard any results.

Our schedule might explode soon.  Two meetings will happen next week.  Depending on the outcome of those meetings, we might have several meetings every week, filling our evenings.  I'm exhausted just THINKING about it.

I had enrolled her in a gymnastics program for the month of August, then found another one through the city that was 1/3 of the price.  I hadn't given the 30 days notice though, so I'm paying for another 4 sessions and now have the joy of figuring out when to go use those.  Again, exhausted just THINKING about it.

We're doing fine.  Really.  We are.  But, it is still a journey and a learning process.  Starting school meant a new routine.  Another transition.  We're both tired at the end of the day and have to work hard to continue to build our relationship.

It occurred to me on Tuesday morning that right now, what I'm craving the most is a moment alone.  I'm an introvert.  (Yes, I really am.)  I gain energy from being by myself, and I haven't had any time by myself...good, solid time, in a long time.  It's not going to happen any time soon.  I get that.  I still crave it.

Randomly....coming up with a blog post title is always the hardest part of writing a blog!

Monday, September 02, 2013

Our Labor Day Weekend

Last Thursday night was a little rough.  And by "a little" I mean, I was kind of at the end of my rope.  And by "kind of", I mean I could no longer SEE the end of my rope, I was so far past it!

The first week of school was going well, but it was beyond busy.  I'd never done it as a parent before and everything was adding up to be more than I felt I could handle.

Friday, I called my mom crying at lunch.  I'd put something on FB that morning about the struggles of being a single parent and a friend offered a phone date.  I also emailed some good girl friends to tell of my struggle and to beg for prayers.

My mom was calm and helpful as always.  She had one, strong word of wisdom that I'm going to be clinging to in the days ahead.  She had some encouragement as well, which I oh, so needed to hear!

All three of my girl friends responded to my email immediately.  One with several scripture verses she was praying over me.  One offering a couple points of advice of how to walk in wisdom and with success as a single parent.  One offering to move her weekend schedule around to come visit.  And she did!

My family offered to come over for cards Friday night after J was asleep.  This is something we used to do quite a bit and it did my heart good to actually have some family conversation!

Jill and I had a phone date during J's gymnastics lesson on Saturday morning.  It was wonderful to catch up with her!  She's been a parent for 4 years and we have the same outlook on a lot of life's situations, so it was great to hear her perspective and wisdom!

Melody arrived Saturday night after J was asleep.  We had a chance to chat for a little while before we crashed.  J slept all night (Hallelujah!) and the three of us went to church Sunday morning.  I actually cooked lunch (which I LOVE to do, but hadn't had the time or energy in several days to cook a meal) and then J went to my parents house for the REST OF THE DAY.

Melody and I went shopping.  I bought a new watch and some make up.  Then we headed for the nail salon.  I need a pedicure and Melody got a manicure.  Pampering at its finest!  From there, we headed home for a bit, before meeting Becca, another good friend from Houston who was in town for the weekend, for dinner at Chuy's.

J slept all night again Sunday night!  (I think two nights in a row has only happened once before, so this was AWESOME!)  It meant we were up before 7:00 am Monday morning, but I'll take it! :)

Melody pretty much kept J entertained all day trying on shoes, painting toe nails and finger nails, building birthday cakes out of Legos and singing Itsy Bitsy Spider.  While they played, I was able to do 5 loads of laundry, decorate the house for fall and clean out the Harry Potter closet.  Fantastic!  In cleaning out the HP closet, J came into a LOT of clothes, too!  Hooray!

Melody hit the road around 2:00, and I dropped J off at my parents' before hitting the gym.  Then Mom, Dad, Angela and J came over for dinner.  AND, J fell asleep at 7:34 tonight, which means I have time to actually lay on the couch and breathe for a few minutes.

This was an excellent weekend!  One I needed very much!

First Week of School

Last week was BUSY!  First weeks of school are always chaotic for teachers.  Throw in moving into a portable and being a new mommy to a new kindergartner and life was a little out of control.  Monday she fell asleep in the car on the way home, which made bedtime that night a little difficult.  I've been told by other kindergarten mommies that Ks fall asleep in the 6:00 hour during Kindergarten.  I was looking forward to that, because that meant I could have some "me" time and of course, the first week of school I go to bed early, too!  Nope.  8:15.

Tuesday, she was HY-PER.  And yes, capital letters are necessary.  They'd had birthday donuts to celebrate a student's birthday and she was still bouncing off the walls when I picked her up.  But, she crashed and was asleep by 7:45.

She goes to after school care, which is in the cafeteria at our school.  They go out to the playground, which I like and she loves, so it's great.  However, she comes home sweaty-gross and in desperate need of a shower!

7:45 is now about the time she falls asleep.  It's working well.  I've been crashing not long after her, but am looking forward to the days when I have the energy to stay up a little bit longer.

As we drive to school each day, she chatters about what she's learned.  It's fun to hear about building bird's nests at recess with a new little friend and good choices and bad choices and "bubbles" in the hallway.

On Friday, her teacher showed me a worksheet they had done.  J had traced the word "am" and then written it herself FIVE times!  We've been working hard all summer, but writing letters or numbers on her own hasn't been something she's been able to do UNTIL NOW!  I am SO proud of her!

My Little Miss is smart and a hard worker and she WANTS to do things right.  She's strong willed and learning to compromise and a silly princess.

We're having fun!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

First Day of School?

I have traditions for my classroom on the first day of school.  But now, I've got a little one that will have a "first day of school" and not just "ANY" first day of school, but the first day of KINDERGARTEN!

I know it won't be a tradition in her life.  Traditions build over time.  But, I do want her first day of Kindergarten to be special.

We had a special breakfast on the first day of school growing up.  Mom fixed Bubble Bread (I think most people call it Monkey Bread.)  I don't remember anything else about the first days of school.  I know I wasn't allowed to wear my school clothes we bought over the summer until school started.  (Check)  I remember going shopping for my school supplies and the fun and excitement of choosing the supplies.  (Check)

A bubble bread breakfast would be WAY too much food for just the two of us.  Also, since I'm a teacher and have to get to work really early on the first day, a super special breakfast is hard.

I'll take a morning picture for sure.

Any other suggestions?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Update on Her New Experiences!

These are just a few more things we've done this summer!

Swimming Lessons:
She has finished her 3rd session of swim lessons and she's doing great!  She still LOVES jumping off the side.  I showed her how to do a cannonball (I've told her I will only jump when we're the only ones at the pool! ;) and she's so cute trying to hold her knees and THEN jump off the side.  She LOVES doing a belly flop.  She is proud of her "airplane arms" and "ice cream scoops" and will show them off if you ask her.

"Wha's my teacher's name?" is the constant question.  I tell her we'll find out soon.  "Meet the Teacher" night is two weeks from yesterday.  She doesn't understand weeks, and I know to her it seems like forever, but it will be here before we know it!

Wet Zone:
A friend and her niece live in Rockwall/Rowlett area and met us at a fun, neighborhood water park there.  She absolutely LOVES a lazy river and the water spout things.  She REALLY wants to ride the tall slide, but she's about four inches from being tall enough.  There were some slides that she could do though, and she loved those.  She liked being able to turn the wheels to turn the water spouts on and off.  She especially loved it if she could turn them on when some unsuspecting person was walking by. ;)

Indoor Safari Park:
We went with Sara and her girls, E and A.  The girls had fun sliding down into the ball pit and playing in the "city" of buildings that was their height.  There were some areas for jumping and some for climbing and the entrance fee included a train.  All in all, she enjoyed it, but it wasn't much different than McD's and she LOVES McD's.

Public Swimming Pools:
The Parks and Rec has beefed up their pools since I was a kid!  One that is really close to us has a lazy river!  There are fun slides and water spouts and all sorts of things.  Most of the pools have inside/outside options, with one only being outside.  We've been to three total and go pretty regularly.  She just LOVES swimming!  The lazy river is still a favorite, but she likes just standing in the outside shallow pool and splashing, too.

Friday, August 09, 2013

A Recap on the Week

See this post.  It was fun! ;)

Somebody (not me) dropped a HUGE ball of communication.  Something was supposed to happen, and we didn't find out that it was NOT happening until it was too late.  LOTS of schedules had been moved to make this happen, so it was frustrating.  I can't even begin to tell you how much.

There have been ants in her bathroom sink off and on for awhile.  The pest guy has come before and the ants were gone for 2-3 weeks, but they're back today.  They're the little tiny ants, and she's not scared of them (thank goodness), but they're annoying and cause "time to brush your teeth" to be an adventure.  "What if there are ants?"

She saw a tiny gecko in her shower and wants to keep it as a pet.  I'd rather that reaction than scared!  A little hard to explain why we are not adding a pet to our home.

I dropped an egg while getting it out of the fridge, thus having a fun mess to clean up.

Sidewalk that leads up to my new classroom is torn up, with dirt and rebar the only access for some of the day.  (Which was totally accessible for walking, just not bringing the flatbed to move the rest of my classroom items.)  Then, they poured cement, making getting in and out of the room interesting. :)

I decided that expecting this week to throw curve balls was a good plan, because then I wouldn't expect things to go the way I planned. :)

Something else was supposed to happen today, but did not.

Emailed my principal asking for a door between the two classrooms.  I seriously thought she'd laugh a little and be like, "Alyssa.  Come on now, hon.  Let's be realistic."  I thought this was a "pie in the sky" type of request.  Cut a hole in the wall and put in a door!?  Um, her reaction was "I've already handled it.  It'll happen before school starts."  Wahooooooo!

A tutoring kiddo cancelled.  It was for a really good reason, but since this particular tutoring kiddo owed money today...and paying bills is a positive was a little frustrating.

At some point, I drove over a nail, flattening my tire.  Traded cars with my dad, drove my little one to swim lessons and home again.

Except, while getting in the car after swim lessons, I dinged the car next to me.  I walked to the group of boys and men that were having football practice on the lawn next to the parking lot and asked if the Tahoe belonged to any of them.  (We've been going to swim lessons for 6 weeks.  Long enough to know the football team's coaches park as far towards the grassy area as they can, so I had a pretty good hunch.)  The man just said, "It's old.  Is it a big scratch?  Thanks for being honest!   You have a good night!!"  I literally choked up a tad, told him thank you and walked with my little one back to my dad's car.  

Picked up Angela, dropped her off at Zumba, dropped my little one off at VBS (found out today was "water day"....great!  She's not really in "let's get wet" type clothes and her shoes have been worn all of three times.  Sigh...), met dad at Discount Tire, traded cars back and he left for work.  Waited at Discount Tire for them to replace the tire...which only cost me the price of a new roadside hazard.  LOVE Discount Tire.

Went to school and moved the final four loads...but it's all just sitting in a pile in the middle of my classroom floor, because I don't, currently, know where it's going to go!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Today's "Oops" Moments

I locked myself out of my new classroom, and since it's a portable no one on campus has keys to it yet.  Yay, Me!

I wore a pair of pants that have a hole in a bit of an embarrassing place and are now in the trash.

Swim lessons are cancelled for today and tomorrow.

I was supposed to be one place at 1:45 (briefly) and the next place at 2:00.  I made it to the first place at 3:00 and the next place at 3:30.

I forgot I left my teacher cabinets totally full of random things...not packed at all...because I was planning on having kid helpers and they could just carry the things to my new classroom, so it wouldn't be a big deal that they weren't in boxes.  Except, right now kids can't be in the new room, so I'm going to get to cart it all out there myself!

I got on the HOV lane, not realizing that I would need to get off the highway before there was an HOV exit, which meant I had to go 2 miles past my exit and then u-turn and get in 5 o'clock rush hour traffic.  (I'd been previously going against that traffic.)

I'm hoping no other "oops!" happen today!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

New Experiences

I can't post pics, and I know that makes blogs WAY more fun, but I'm going to try little synopses instead.

I realized I'd been posting a lot about MY perspective of life right now.  Today's post is all about HER perspective of various things we've done.

I was going to try to do this chronologically...but please...that's too much brain work! ;)

The Dallas Zoo:  LOVED it!  Went with a friend and her two girls.  I have a PRECIOUS picture of J and E holding hands while walking to the crocodiles.  It was REALLY hot!  She'd been asking to ride a pony, practically daily, so we made that happen.  She thought the pony should be smaller than it was.  We fed a giraffe!  I think I was more enthralled with that than she was.  It was COOL!  She fed goats and touched a box turtle and a pot belly pig.  She saw a zookeeper holding an owl and feeding guinea fowl.  She did not understand why she couldn't touch the flamingos or the tiger.  She still talks about "When I rode the pony yesterday?" and "I touched it?"  when talking about almost any animal we saw.  (We're still working on timing.  We went about two weeks ago.)

Rode the DART Rail:  She'd been wanting to ride a train.  This was okay and all, but why doesn't it "choo choo"?

The Perot Museum:  She had a BLAST in the Children's Museum exhibit.  She put on a construction vest and went through the farmer's market with a basket filling it up with fruits and vegetables.  She got to "drive" a farmer's truck.  She also enjoyed the conveyor belt that hauled foam triangles, rectangles and squares up and then dumping those same shapes down the appropriate chute before loading them on the conveyor belt again.  She didn't really care about the dinosaur bones, though she did want to feed one of them. ;)  She liked the machine room (my idea what it's really called).  She was able to build some things with plastic-y, lego-type pieces.  She really liked that.

Swim Lessons:  When we first went swimming at my apartment complex pool, she showed ZERO fear.  The first day of swim lessons, though, she was a little nervous.  However, she's now half way through the third session, so 5 weeks total.  She's doing great!  She loves jumping off the side of the pool.  She knows how to hold her breath and go under water.  She can swim "free style" for about three or four strokes on her own before she wants to be touching something.  She can float on her back.  She LOVES wearing goggles, but she's okay without them, too.  She's having a blast!

Enrolled in school:  I gave her a tour of her new school.  She wasn't sure about the cafeteria or the gym, "Alyssa, I don't know how to play basketball."  "I know, honey, they'll teach you.  And, it's not JUST basketball.  You'll have races and hula hoops and jump ropes."  "Races?  Hu-a hoops?  Jum ropes?"  :)  We walked into the Kindergarten pod and saw the computers and the bathrooms two of the classrooms.  We even got to meet a Kindergarten teacher!  Her favorite part was the library.  We've been to the public library a few times and she loves reading stories every night and even will pick them up some during the day.  (I LOVE that she loves books!)

Oklahoma:  We've been to visit my family in Oklahoma twice.  The first trip was super short, just one day, but the second trip was for the weekend.  She had a blast!  She got to hold guinea pigs and catch a frog and play dress up and be tickled silly.  We went to my cousin's little league game and she enjoyed nachos and a pixie stick.  She was taught the downward Longhorn sign that Sooners do, but she gives my cousins a hard time, by doing the correct Longhorn sign. ;)

Gymnastics:  We went to an introductory class today to see how we liked it.  She LOVED it!  She did a FABULOUS job of following directions.  Today's theme was Barnyard Bonanza, which thrilled her since she loves animals.  She got to bounce on an air trac and learn to do head rolls and swing on a low bar and do the beginnings of a cart wheel.  It's all about gross motor skills.  It's great!  We're enrolled for the next month.  She's going to have so much fun!  On a side note, they had Legos and Lego animals out for the kids to play with before class starts.  She knew exactly how they worked and how to attach the train pieces and began building a great train to carry a plethora of animals off somewhere fun!

Coconuts:  Every night at bedtime, we read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  (If you're not familiar. all the letters of the alphabet try to climb a coconut tree.)  Today, my parents bought a real coconut and we busted it open and she drank the milk, "Is GROSSSSSS!" and tasted the coconut.  It wasn't her favorite, but she still had fun!

I'll try to do this every so often so it won't be as many next time! :)

Thursday, August 01, 2013

A Couple Things I've Learned Recently

1.  I remember being on the phone with friends who are/were mommas of young children.  They'd constantly be interrupted and sometimes I couldn't even tell who they were talking to.  They didn't say "just a second" or move the phone away from their mouth.  They didn't tell their child(ren) to wait because they were interrupting her phone conversation.  It was constant and sometimes almost pointless for us to be talking.  I was okay with it, but not great with it.  In my head, I'd be "Um, why'd you call me?" or "Why are we still on the phone when it's been a five minute phone call and we've exchanged two sentences?"  Mainly, I thought, "Please train your children to not interrupt you.  Manners are important." or at least I thought something along those lines.

To some degree, I still think that.  If the interruptions are constant, I just schedule a time to call the person back.  However, if you and I are talking, and I need to talk with her, I've probably already asked her to wait at least five times with nonverbal signals of some kind.  I've tried to handle her needs/wants quietly while we're talking and still attempting to follow our conversation.  I do talk with her about waiting until I'm off the phone, but this type of training takes time and she's not there yet.

I promise I'm working on it.  Please keep calling me!  I WANT to talk to you!

2.  I have been embarrassed by "my" child's behavior in stores or when meeting someone new.  I want her to be polite and talk to someone I'm introducing her to.  I want her to walk quietly and not touch everything.  I want her to know her manners and use them.  I want her to not be silly when talking with you or the cashier or when I'm trying to talk with a store employee.  My first thought is, "She's only been with me ____ weeks!"  My next thought is "I'm TRYING to teach manners and appropriate behavior.  She's improving!  But we're not there yet!"  Of course, I can't say ANY of those thoughts.  My pride is taking the beating.  I've seen the store employee's eye rolls.  I can practically hear the muttering under the breath when our back is turned.  I've done it before, too.  I know!

I've learned to judge less.  Realize more often that I DON'T know the circumstances.  Sometimes, in all reality, that person with the whiny, silly, lacking-in-manners child is doing the absolute best she can.  I will give grace more often.  I will offer a helping hand more often.  I will smile when a momma is tempted to turn away in shame more often.  Sometimes, it just takes a little understanding.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Favorite Grilling Recipes

Kelly over at is continuing with a great Show Us Your Life schedule!  This week's is Favorite Grilling Recipes.

My all time favorite grilling recipe is super simple.

It's marinating chicken breasts in a bottle of Italian dressing and grilling them.

Yep, that's it.

I marinate for at least a couple hours, but pouring the bottle of Italian dressing over 'em just before I walk out the door to work is great!

Throw a salad and some yummy fruit with it, and you've got yourself a fabulous meal!

One bottle of dressing to about four or five chicken breasts.

Visitation Days

If you know of someone that is a foster parent, and they tell you, "Today is visitation today" please take a moment and pray for them.

I promise you it is needed.

I promise you it is appreciated.

You won't know details, but you can still pray.  God knows EVERY detail.

Specific things to pray for, no matter the situation:

Wisdom for all involved.

Peace for the little one and the foster parent.

Discernment for the decision makers (FYI: This is not the foster parents.)

Abounding love and patience for the foster parents to be able to shower on the little one

Thank you, in advance, for your prayers.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Favorite Charities/Non Profits

Kelly is continuing with Show Us Your Life over at and I'm linking up today.

I've actually changed my opinion of giving in the last two months...for two pretty major reasons.  Well, let me amend that.  I haven't changed my opinion of GIVING, just my opinion of HOW to give and to WHOM to give.

1.  I helped out a tiny bit the weekend after the May 20 tornado in Moore.  It was devastating to so many.  Money and goods were POURING in.  And, they were needed.  However, the churches and Red Cross and other non-profits couldn't house it all.  Couldn't store it all.  Couldn't get it out to people fast enough.  Also, the Red Cross has a lot of overhead: salaries to pay and office supplies to purchase and travel and lodging for employees to pay for.

2.  I'm a foster parent.  Money could go to shelters or adoption agencies.  However, they also have the same overhead that Red Cross has.

So, in the last two months, since I became a foster parent and helped with the tornado relief, I have changed my opinion about HOW to give and to WHOM to give.

I'd rather give straight to someone in need.

I don't want to give to the Red Cross.  I want to give to someone that lived through the tornado and now needs to buy new clothes for their children and the insurance check hasn't come through yet.

Some of the absolutely most encouraging moments on this road of fostering as a single parent is when someone, out of the blue, says "I want to help you.  Here's a Target gift card."  or "I'm going to pay for her swim lessons."  or "I will buy a zoo membership for you."

I know the responses to this way of thinking.  "What if I don't know anyone?"  and "How can I know they will use it responsibly?"

In answering "What if I don't know anyone?", I say Facebook, Twitter and other social media are awesome at this exact thing.  You might not know someone.  But someone you know will know someone.

The other question is a little harder.  You might not know if they will use it responsibly.  You might be able to send them a Target or Wal-mart or Kroger or McDonald's gift card.  Sending a check they can use anywhere isn't the wisest, but sending gift cards that you know will buy groceries, clothes or food, is a safe decision.

On a completely different note, I sponsor William through Compassion International.  I absolutely love getting letters and pictures from him!  I like Compassion because they are a Christian organization that works to feed, clothe, educate, doctor, and teach the love of Jesus.  I like that I can send him a $25 gift and get a letter from him telling me what all was bought...and y'all, it's a LOT!  I like that ALL the children get Christmas gifts.  It doesn't matter if the sponsors could afford to send money for a Christmas gift that year.  I like that Compassion has blogging trips and I can read other bloggers' stories of traveling to countries, and I feel, a tiny little bit, like I was there.

I plan to sponsor William until he turns 18 and graduates from the program.  I chose him as a little 9 year old boy that didn't look like he knew how to smile.  I chose him because I taught 9 year olds and I liked the fact he was the same age as my students.

I like Compassion International because they're legit.

I like giving directly to people, because I know my gift is being used.

If you think that's a little contradictory, I'm okay with that, too. :)

Packing to go out of town

I'm always a low key packer.  I make sure laundry is all done ahead of time and then the night before I leave town, I just throw some stuff in a bag.  I even share a suitcase with my sister sometimes.  

It hit me yesterday that it might not be that simple this time.

Two of us for two days that includes swimming.  Shouldn't be too hard, right?


I'm nervous!

Wish me luck....I'm heading to our closets!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Night terrors vs Night mares

I think I heard of night terrors for the first time a year or so ago.  I didn't have any inkling what they were or how they were different from night mares.

I have now been our pediatrician.

HUGE difference folks, so this is my PSA.

Night terrors:
The child does NOT wake up fully.
The child does NOT remember anything the next day.
The child WILL scream bloody murder.
The child WILL calm down and go back to (all the way) sleep fairly quickly.

Night mares:
The child DOES wake up fully.
The child DOES remember the bad dream VIVIDLY.
The child might or might not scream, but will definitely be afraid and tears are probable.
The child will take a LONG time to calm down and go back to sleep because the child is scared to have the bad dream again.

Let me tell you that NEITHER one of them are fun at all, but they're VERY different experiences.

Monday, July 15, 2013

That Certain Summer

Sometimes blog posts take awhile to percolate...this has been one of those.

I read a book by one of my favorite authors, Irene Hannon.  It isn't her "typical" book.  At least, not like the action, suspense, drama thrillers I've read of hers in the past.  I knew that going in, so it wasn't a surprise, though I wasn't sure what to expect.

Surprisingly, I really connected with each of the two main female characters in very different ways.  I say surprisingly, because while I usually fall in love with the characters Ms. Hannon develops, I don't necessarily connect with them.  I might want to be more like them.  I might sympathize with them for their hurt.  I might get angry on their behalf.  But, I don't always connect with them because I have that same emotion or hurt or baggage or perspective.  However, I very much connected with Karen and Val from That Certain Summer.

Some of the details were very different, but the main core was the same.  I was impressed and pleased that Ms. Hannon chose to address such a weighty topic that is so real in our culture.  That of low self-esteem and self-worth.

Karen struggled with feelings of low self-esteem.  She constantly tried to please every one around her, to the point that she was a bit of a door mat and no one really wanted to be around her, because she never voiced her opinions or stood up for herself.

I don't think there is anyone that would say I don't express my opinions.  In fact, there are many times I need to SHUT my mouth instead of open it.

However, I can very much relate to the low self-esteem.  Karen even marries a guy simply because she likes the attention he bestows on her.  I didn't get that far before I called off one particular relationship, but that has always been a concern of mine.  An internal, private one.  If a guy shows some interest, am I going to fall head over heals before I realize he's NOT a nice guy?

Val goes so far down the road of regret that it's difficult for her to see her worth.  She punishes herself, withholding life's joys from herself, because she doesn't think she deserves it.

Oh, the ways I have done that!  Oh, the heartache I have heaped on myself because I don't acknowledge the One who created me!

Each evening, I read my little one the story of Creation from a Children's Storybook Bible.  When we get to the part about God creating Adam and Eve, the sentence is "They were lovely because He loved them."

YES!  I get choked up a little reading it sometimes, because she is lovely because God made her and loves her.  I am lovely because God made me and LOVES me.

It doesn't matter what America's standard of beauty is.  I am lovely because God loves me!

A Picture Says...

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Day at Home

There was absolutely nothing on our calendar today, and I was looking forward to our day at home.  For several reasons, we slept in and took the morning slowly.  Also for several reasons, I'm VERY thankful it's summer.  But that's another story. :)

Rest time for her is, of course, when my high motivation hit!  I could have taken a nap!  Oh, well.  Much more progress on my closet has been made!  Still some work to do, but LOTS accomplished today!

Pretty quickly, I realized we were going to HAVE to run one errand, and therefore might as well do two more.  After rest time, we pulled on our bathing suits and cover ups and headed out for our errands.  We hadn't gotten out of our pj's yet, and all our errands were drive thrus, and we were going straight to the pool when we got home, so it made the most sense! :)  One errand took us to my parents' neck of the woods, so we stopped there briefly, too.  Always fun to be able to just drop in.  A major benefit to living closer! :)

We got home and ran inside to grab our towels, floaties, make a snack, drinks for both of us, and sunscreen and sunglasses.  Um, "ran inside" sounds like that was quick.  Well, quick is relative, right? :)

We walk across the parking lot to spend the next several hours splashing til our hearts content and the gate was....dun, dun, dun....LOCKED!  :(  The maintenance guy was on the other side of the pool and chatting on his phone, but he managed to communicate it would be closed all day.


Promising a 5 year old an afternoon of swimming and then not going swimming is not an option.

So, we went back to the apartment and called the public pool to make sure it was open.  Score!

We spent about two hours splashing and jumping and practicing her kicks.  She's doing great with her arms, too!  She went down the little slide, while constantly asking for the big slide.  (She's about 6 inches shorter than required.  Brave girl is ready to go, though!)  They had fun shower, squirt things that just shoot out of the ground randomly, which she LOVED!

Then home for breakfast for dinner...her new fave...and an early bedtime.

And, that was our day at, not?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Girls' Night Out!

I love spending time with my little one.  There's been some ups and downs, but I still love being a mommy!

However, every mommy needs a break and I had emailed Veronica a few days back craving Mexican food and adult conversation.  She was happy to oblige. :)

It was so much fun!  We talked.  We laughed.  We shared our hearts.  She challenged me.  We shared prayer needs.

I love having a friend that challenges me, prays for me, laughs with me, shares her family with me, shares her heart, her joys, her past, enjoys my little one and is always willing to meet for Mexican food! :)


Expel breath.

My soul needed that!

Love you, V!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Explaining the Seasons

When a little one wants snow...and it's currently summer in Texas...

Monday, July 08, 2013

An Evening at Home Means a Conundrum

Clearly, it's been a busy few weeks! ;)

My parents are always willing to help out and I asked them to have fun with my little one at their house, so I could have a few hours of absolute downtime.  My plan was to lay on the couch and watch DVR, I mean, I was going to go all out lazy!  But when Dad came to pick her up, he also dropped off an organizer I'd bought on Saturday that Mom and Dad had tweaked for me.  That meant, I had a conundrum.

I seriously sat on my couch for 24 minutes and thought about what I should do.

Should I rest?

Should I clean out my closet and organize?

Should I get a handle on the toys and clothes in her closet?

Should I rest and then organize?

Should I organize and then rest?

I finally decided to head to the closet.  I'd been wanting to do it for awhile and having the organizer was a blessing!  I folded up sweaters and sweatshirts and long sleeve tees and jackets and they are now neatly organized and out of the way.  I cleaned out VHS movies that I'd been holding onto for sentimental reasons I guess.  I threw away a bunch of hangars.  I have a couple of items for Goodwill.  I even have two pockets of the organizer that aren't full!  Plus side pockets to hold accessories!  All my purses went to the shelf that used to hold the VHS.

I still need to clean out the cookbooks and face facts that the new red shoes hurt my feet and I don't ever wear them, but for the most part, my closet is organized.

Little Bit's closet organization will be for another time.  We have a meeting soon where I will find out a lot more information, so I'm waiting until then before doing anything major.  But, I'm pretty sure that closet will be getting this organizer shelf, too.  It's fantastic!

After I cleaned out my closet, I headed down for the DVR.  I still wasn't sure what to do with myself.  One thing about single parenting is that it's pretty difficult to run errands, especially if I have a late night hankering for _______________.  I mean, that's just not going to happen.  Now's my chance!  Ice Cream!  Chuy's!  Chili's!  The sky's the limit!

I wasn't hungry.

Can you believe my luck?

I did watch Pioneer Woman and the beginnings of a Criminal Minds re-run.

It was weird.  It was like I didn't know what to do with myself.

I went and picked her up and helped out my parents with a couple things around the house.  When we came home, and snuggled in "our" chair for stories and prayers before bed, things felt right again.

Don't get me wrong.  I enjoyed the little time a part, but it was good to reunite, too.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Being an Adult: Budgeting for a House

I have wished to buy a home for a very long time.  I've tried 3 times, once seriously moved through the process of making an offer.  It's never worked out.  It's never been the right moment.

I haven't ever actually had the finances for buying.  Realtors and Brokers and even friends have told me, "You don't have to have a down payment.  Now is the time to buy.  Do it!"

Except, cash is necessary for buying a house.  And not having a down payment is flat out stupid.

20% of the final price is the wisest down payment to have.  That means AT LEAST 20,000.  30-40 is probably closer to accurate.  Closing costs are another $3-4,000 and of course there is decorating and then furniture needed for a larger space and moving expenses, etc.  It adds up fast!

Um, yeah, I'm a teacher.  I can't just cut back here and there and have 30-40k saved up.  It takes awhile.

My goal is to purchase a home by the time I'm 35.  That's in two years.  I'm not changing my goal, but I'm not sure it's realistic either.  However, I'm working hard to make it happen!  Pedicures are now only via gift certificate (hint, hint, if you need a gift for me!)  Movies will be the dollar theater and restaurants are via gift card or a place where a little one can play.  (More good gift ideas!)  I'm constantly looking for free activities for a little one and I to participate in and we're learning to love some play days at home with a friend coming over to play.  The library has been great and we're looking forward to story time there this week!  I'm not just cutting back, I'm also working hard to increase my income.  I'm tutoring twelve students this summer and would love to add another Baking Class of two kiddos if I found someone interested.  I have one student for sure lined up for fall, and I think two of my summer kiddos will continue as well.  I would love another two, and those will happen naturally, but the school year just can't have as many tutoring sessions as the summer can!

We land ourselves at Mom and Dad's dinner table a couple of times a week, and due to Kroger discounts and filling up several cars at once, Mom and Dad buy me a tank of gas once or twice a month, which is helpful! :)

I'm not trying to be naive, but I think I can probably start handling 2 kiddos after this little one's permanency plans are figured out.  However, I will need bunk beds...or a home with more rooms.  I'd love to be able to love on more kiddos, but for right now, I'll love on the ones the Lord gives me!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

I'm Learning...

I'm learning to ask for help when I need it.

I'm learning to accept help when it's offered.

(Those are two different things!)

I'm learning to majorly celebrate and appreciate small steps forward.  No matter how small, just the act of moving forward is monumental!

I'm learning it's okay to cry more often.

I'm learning about my own expectations of others, and how they're not always fair.

I'm learning why parents are excited when school is almost out for summer, but they groan a little bit, too.

I'm learning small breaks are important for sanity.

I'm learning that it really is possible to survive on a LOT less sleep.

I'm learning organization is HUGE, and I can learn from others who have walked these steps before me.

I'm learning that some moments are more difficult than English words can describe, but when she reaches for my hand or climbs into my lap, physically showing her trust of me increasing, those tough moments become bearable.

I'm learning the routine she needs.  We all need routine, but each of us need something different.

I'm learning sacrifice is sweet and I don't (usually) mind it.

I'm learning to see the excitement and anxiousness of life through her eyes.

I'm learning I absolutely LOVE being a mommy, and a tiny part of my heart is sad I'm just now becoming one and that it doesn't look a little differently.

Same, but DIfferent

My little one is a precious 5 year old.  She is the same as all young 5 year olds in many ways.

She likes swim lessons, but they make her a little nervous.
She loves green grapes and asks for them all the time.
She always wants input on her clothing options and hairstyle for the day.
She has a tooth-filled grin.
She talks to herself when she plays.
She likes to pull all her toys out at once, but will clean them up when I ask her to.
She wants routine.  She wants to know what's coming next.
She likes cereal for breakfast.
She says, "I want to help!" a lot.  (It makes me smile!)
She needs assurances that she is loved, cared for and safe.
She loves to play at "Donuts" (McDonald's), but when she's tired, she wants to leave now.
She loves to draw and color pictures.
She wants a night light on when she sleeps.

Just like all children are unique, she is unique in many ways, too.

She likes salmon, as long as you don't call it "fish".
She enjoys pink chicken (pork chops).
Cooked spinach and broccoli and "salad" (lettuce) are asked for pretty regularly.
Pink is her favorite color.
She can play for a long time by herself, but she wants me to be nearby.
She has a tender heart, but a pretty tough head.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Traffic conversations
J: Why you stopped?
A: Because the light is red.
J: You have to stop at a red light?
A: Yes
J: Why you going?
A: Because the light turned green.
J: You can go at a green light?
A: Yes
J: Red means stop?  Green means go?
A: That's right

Repeat every red light or green light or highway driving with no lights.

Another day:
J: Why are THOSE cars GOOOO-ING?  The light is red!
A: Our light is red, honey.  Those cars have a green light.
J: Huh?
A: There are two streets.  The cars on that street can go.  The cars on our street are stopped.
J: Those cars can go?  We have to stop?
A: Yes
J: Why?
A: Because that's how traffic stays safe.
J: Why?
A: Because these cars stop so those cars can go, and then it will be our turn to go.

Repeat several times

J: Our light is red.  Why are you going!?
A: I'm turning right.  It's allowed.
J: Oh, I see an airplane!
A: (Mentally) Whew!

J: Why you not talking to them? (Pointing to people in the cars on either side of us.)
A: They're in their car and we're in our car.  We talk to each other.  They talk to the people in their car.
J: Why?  Why you not talk to them?
A: I don't know them.  We don't talk to people we don't know.
J: Why?
A: Because we need to only talk to people we know.  That's what's safe.

Repeat at every red light

Swim Lesson Conversations
J: Why you not swimming?
A: This is a swim class for kiddos.
J: Why?
A: Because the teachers will teach you how to swim.  You're going to learn lots of fun things.
J: Why?
A: Because swimming is fun!
J: You come in the water pool with me?
A: No, I won't come in the swimming pool with you this time.  I'm going to watch from up there.
J: Why?
A: Because they don't allow the adults down here.  I'll be right up there.  You can see me through the window.
J: Why they don't let people down here?
A: That's their rule.  (Mentally...I think it's a dumb rule, too and I don't understand it either, but I'm not going to tell you that.)
J: Why?
A: They want everyone to be safe.

2 minutes later
J: You come in with me?
A: No, I will watch you.
J: Why you not come in with me?
A: Because this is a lesson for kiddos and you're a kiddo.
J: What's that over there?
A: That's a water aerobics class for adults.  It's exercise.
J: You going to that?
A: No, I'm not going to that.
J: Why?
A: Because I'm not in that class.
J: Why?  
A: Because I'm here with you.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


I once had a life where sleeping occurred.
I'm not sure if I'm dreaming, but I think sleep is a word?
Sleep is not currently my friend, nor my little one's it seems.
I'm not sure the problem, though I'm problem solving like a fiend.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Single Parenting

Oh, single parenting.  Y'all.  It's hard!  Like, harder than I thought x 1000.

I remember friends telling me about parenting.  They'd always say, "You don't have even one minute to yourself."  And I believed them.  I mean, I heard it enough, and they were my friends.  Why wouldn't I believe them?  But, at the same time, I couldn't in any way, shape or form imagine a life where I didn't have a moment to myself.  I've lived by myself for the last several years, but I've lived with roommates, too...and I still always had time for myself.

I remember my friend, Mary, saying, "Everything about your life will change when you have a baby."  Her specific example was, "Even the way you brush your teeth will change!"  I laughed because I believed her, and it was a fun anecdote.  And I smile now when everything about life changes.  Because SERIOUSLY, everything about life changes.  Except I couldn't visualize it or in any way comprehend how TIRED I would be when I became a mom.

I knew single parenting would be hard.  But, I've never been married or in a serious relationship to need to look at life from two perspectives or with two sets of helping hands, so parenting was just another thing to do by myself.  I don't mean that to sound laissez faire.  I just mean I'm used to being single, so, while I knew single parenting would be difficult, I didn't have the option of a husband to co-parent with, so I didn't think too much about it, since I couldn't change it.  (Any gentleman that is a God-honoring, single that wants to change that, by all means...feel free! :)

Until I started living and breathing single parenting, though, there was no way for me to know HOW hard it would be.  C lived with me for a week.  And don't get me wrong, it was hard.  Excruciating at times, emotionally.  But I knew fairly early on that it was going to be a short placement, and, in hindsight, that made the single parenting aspect of it easier.  It was also during the school year, so she was in school and I was working.  Normal schedule.

J arrived a week and a half ago.  I'm out for summer, so every day's schedule is a little different.  Coming up with enough activities in the day to keep her occupied, entertained and learning is a CHALLENGE.  She doesn't sleep great at night.  I'm hoping that smooths out as she becomes used to living here.  Tired is becoming normal.

The timing of getting things accomplished is the hardest part.  I mean running to the grocery store or Target.  I'm getting much better at accomplishing these with a little one, but sometimes I have to go get her from VBS or time my tutoring around her activities, and just the actual scheduling of everything, while trying to keep her busy so she doesn't nap so she will (maybe!) sleep through the night, is exhausting!

If you're a married parent and reading this, think about every time you run to the store and leave your spouse with the kids.  Or one is putting the kids to bed, while the other goes to get gas or an oil change.  One takes the kiddo to swim lessons, while you make next week's menu, a corresponding grocery list, do two loads of laundry, and vacuum.  One makes breakfast and grabs a shower while the other wakes up the little one, helps brush teeth, do hair and make the bed, then you and your spouse trade spots so both have time to get ready.  Get the gist?

I don't have that option.

Not only do I not have that option.  Add in the legal element of fostering.  If I do want to grocery shop, clothes shop, get an oil change or run the myriad of other errands, I have to fill out paperwork regarding the short term child care that my parents are providing.  It's not hard.  It's just an extra step.

I have had one full night of sleep in the last 12.  Tonight is the first night I've had an hour to myself, that wasn't packed with MUST DO ALL OF THIS BEFORE I PICK HER UP (and yes, the capitals are necessary, because that is the pressure I feel!)

I'm not complaining.  I love her.  She's learning how to cuddle.  She's learning how to count.  She's learning her ABCs.  She's learning how to bake.  She's learning how to sing silly songs.  She turns her sweet tooth filled grin my way, and I can't help but smile back.

But, it's hard.  And unless you've been a single parent,  you absolutely cannot understand.

I didn't.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Healing in the Heartland

Blake Shelton hosted a wonderful concert in Oklahoma City, geared towards raising support for the victims of the May 20 tornado that ripped through so much of our heartland.

Almost my entire extended family lives in Oklahoma, and half of them live in Moore.  It was devastating to hear from a cousin via text that afternoon, as I'm lying in bed, home sick from work that day, that a tornado was ripping through just south of Oklahoma City and headed straight for Moore.  I cried out to the Lord to protect my family!  He chose to do that.  I don't know why.  He chose to protect them from this tragedy, and I am oh, so grateful.  Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

I was encouraged to see the entertainers host and participate in a wonderful concert to promote support for Oklahoma.  I know America came through, because I saw that this past weekend when I was there.

One thing I've learned in the past few days is that organizations are there to help.  But they're also helping a lot of people.  And there is a lot of paperwork.  And they have a lot of employees to pay and a lot of expenses to cover.

I'd rather my money and supplies and support go straight to the source.  I'd rather be able to give someone a hug.  Wrap my arm around them and pray for them right there, after knowing their specific story.  I'd rather organize canned goods and unpack boxes and sort toothpaste and shampoo.  I know I can't always go.  That isn't going to be possible every time there is a disaster.  But to help in a tangible way is always going to be my preference.

I've been to Moore so many times over the course of my life, it's like a second-home.  Talking about the Warren theater and crossing I-35 and even that new 7-11....I know those places.  I've been to those places.  I've driven past them.  My cousins attended Plaza Towers Elementary school when they were kids.  There are so many connections.  So many ways that my family knows people that are hurting.

One of the little boys killed was in Greg's 3rd grade Sunday School class.  One of the families that lost everything without insurance has a little girl on Madeline's softball team.  Rhonda had 14 first grade students in a tiny bathroom stall singing songs and playing rock, paper, scissors to keep distracted.  She had the forethought to turn off the lights and "practice" seeing your hand in front of your face to help the kids focus on something else and not be scared when they lost electricity.  They turned it off themselves.  Greg pulled his son out of day care across the street from the elementary school he coaches at and went to Madeline's classroom, where they were all singing camp songs.  They heard the air conditioning unit pull off of their roof and clatter across the building.  They heard the slam...POP...of the doors and the air pressure changed and all the doors sucked in.  He used his body to protect his son and his daughter and thought he was going to throw up as he waited for the roof to lift off the building.  A first grade teacher from Briarwood shared her story at the memorial service the governor organized.  She passed out musical instruments and had her children play and sing as loud as they could.  She told them she knew it was going to be noisy outside and she still wanted to hear their music.  They played Jesus Loves Me at the top of their lungs.  At one point, when the tornado hit, she told them they'd been screaming their music and now they'd be warmed up to scream for their heroes to hear them and find them.  One little boy said, "KD is coming for us!?"  (Kevin Durant is a hero to many little ones in Oklahoma. ;))

There are stories like this all over the city of Moore.  I am blessed to have heard them.  I am blessed to be from a legacy of Oklahomans.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Disaster Relief: My Perspective

My grandma survived the May 3, 1999 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, but it was finals week of my freshman year in college, and I could not go and immediately help.  By the time I made it there, several months later, much had been accomplished and the devastation was not as harsh or visible.

The May 20, 2013 tornado is currently being classified as the worst tornado in the history of America...maybe even the world.  Here are just a few pictures of the destruction.  I had them rotated the correct way, but the first one is uploading sideways for some reason.  Sorry about that!

The first picture was a brand new 7-11.  You may have heard on the news that a mom and her daughter hid in the freezer during the tornado.  They are two of the victims of this tragedy.  The final two pictures are from the back of Southgate Baptist Church's property, facing the back of the Plaza Towers neighborhood.  That is whatever is left of the neighborhood.  

Two of my cousins are members of First Baptist Church of Moore.  It opened up Monday night at 9:00 after the tornado at 2:56 pm...and eventually became a fabulous area with First Aid, showers, cots, a "shopping" area for victims to come through for canned goods, baby needs, clothing, blankets, pillows, dog food, gloves, tarps, totes, produce, etc.  

My aunt is a member at Southgate Baptist Church.  As you can see from the pictures above, they are VERY close to the devastation of the tornado.  They still do not have electricity.  They are running their gym on two generators that were donated.  Someone else donated the diesel.  Tyson showed up with two 18-wheelers and have been cooking meals for volunteers, victims, just whoever needed a meal.  Mercy Chefs is parked out back cooking meals as well.  I ran into the head chef at Houston's First Baptist Church!  He was serving with Mercy Chefs.  Awesome to see some of "my" people serving "my" people!  
Many youth groups and college groups have volunteered to come this summer, but where would they stay?  Someone donated 4 bunkhouses, with 12 bunks in each and a sleeper sofa.  Each bunkhouse has 2 refrigerators, 2 bathrooms/showers and a sofa.  This is a HUGE blessing! 

Angela and I drove up Friday afternoon and worked at FBC Moore and Southgate.  It was an eye-opening experience for sure!  I had never worked a disaster before, and it was such a learning experience.

On Friday, when we arrived at FBC Moore, many people coming in for supplies were still in shock.   They were quiet as they moved through the facility, looking for an item or two.  One lady came in.  She currently lived in Moore and her home had seen some destruction, but her hometown is Carney, a town of less than 1,000.  She was headed to help her grandparents and didn't think Carney had any supplies or donation site set up yet.  We loaded up her car with as much food, diapers, towels, gloves and other supplies as would fit....and it was a lot!  It's amazing how many crannies you can find in a Nissan!  She was in tears to know that others were willing to help.

Each day brought learning to the volunteers.  Each day the victims were beginning to come out of shock and into a stage of feeling overwhelmed.  Where can we find our insurance company?  (They're in the parking lot on the other side of the church building.)  Where is FEMA?  (At the back of this parking lot under blue tarps.)  I don't have power yet...or have no home to even worry about do I feed my family?  (We have MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) that heat up themselves.  We also have peanut butter and jelly, apples, oranges, bananas, chips and packages of cookies.)

People drove in from around the country with supplies.  One MAJOR thing I learned is that there is NO possible way to coordinate disaster relief, because there are so many people that come to help, but let no one know they're coming.  One man showed up at FBC Moore on Friday in the early evening.  He had left Maryland at 5am that morning and driven straight to Moore.  He had a trailer full of supplies.  FBC wasn't currently taking donations, but he had already been to two places that weren't taking donations either, so we accepted what he brought.  Yes, the supplies are needed, but where are these buildings supposed to store them?

Holy Cow, the water!  I've never seen so many bottles of water in my life.  FBC probably had 50,000 bottles...and that might be an UNDERestimate.  Southgate probably had 15,000 bottles.


That's a LOT of water!

I know of a couple of families that didn't have insurance.  I can't even fathom the amount of pressure on a mom that works for a school cafeteria and a dad that just graduated as a paramedic to provide for a family with no home and no insurance to rebuild.

My family was able to hear stories of heartache.  Everyone wants to share their story.  It's a part of the grieving process and I'm so glad I was able to hear them share their horror.  When asked why we were there, our family said, "My grandma survived the May 3 tornado, but lost her home.  We've been on that side.  Now, it's our turn to help."

Praying for the people of Oklahoma.  Proud to be from a legacy of Oklahomans.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Oh, Mother's Day...What can I say?

As most of you know, a little girl moved in for my first foster placement the Monday before Mother's Day.  That night when she moved in, Mother's Day was not on my mind, but as the week progressed, it did occur to me.  :)  It never once crossed my mind that I should be celebrated.  I've always celebrated MY mother on Mother's Day.  I already had the gifts purchased.  I had an idea of the menu.  However,  C needed to be priority and celebrating Mother's Day would not have been the best thing for her.  In our family, we ignored the day.

My family has been coming over for Sunday lunch for a couple of months now, and they still did that day, but there was no specific mention of Mother's Day.  I had checked with Mom ahead of time and she was completely fine with postponing.  At that point, we knew C would probably only be with us until the next day, so it would be easy enough to celebrate Mom the next Sunday.

The first day C was at Bledsoe, there was a Muffins for Moms event for her grade level.  She simply hung out with me at the beginning of the day and we walked down to class a little bit later.  Let's not highlight the fact she isn't with her mom on her first day at a new school. :)

Mother's Day was the first (and only) Sunday she was with me, and dropping her off at Sunday School went better than I expected.  But, the adults there said, "Mom will come back for you in a little while, okay?" I don't think she heard them, because she was so busy with new toys.  But I heard them.  And my heart ached.

I'm not her mom.  I was acting as her mommy.  I was doing all sorts of mommy things: making breakfast, rocking her to sleep, kissing her boo boos, brushing her hair, reading her stories, giving "bunny noses" and "butterfly kisses", helping her make friends and feel comfortable in her new class and a plethora of other things mommies do.  I was filling the role of mommy, but I'm not her mommy.

I sat in service, knowing she was probably leaving the next day.  She was already fully ensconced in my heart.  I felt alone.  I felt oh, so single.  I felt oh, such a single parent.  There IS a difference in those two feelings.  And, being vulnerable and honest here, the feelings both stink...but the feeling of being alone as a parent is beyond any emotion I can even begin to explain.  It's beyond the feeling of alone.  It's the responsibility of a child's welfare.  It's the love that explodes in your heart, yet the explosion is gradual and takes place over time.  Until all of a sudden it's there, and I don't remember it not being there before.  It's waking up in the middle of a night of already restless sleep, because I'm worried about her or wondering how she'll do with _________ event coming up.  I'm constantly thinking I could have done something differently.  I need to start doing something else differently.  And with all of these thoughts...I'm the only one responsible.  My parents are PHENOMENAL and they are Oh, So, Supportive.  But the final word.  The final responsibility.  Is mine.

While I'm sitting in the sanctuary, a few minutes before service begins, a friend leans over to say hi, but I'm already teary and can't really explain it.  It's Mother's Day and my heart is hurting.  Hurting for C.  Hurting for me.  Hurting.

At the beginning of service, a man is making announcements and he addresses the excitement and the heartache of Mother's Day.  He didn't specifically hit fostering and the "love and let go" that is oh, so hard, but that's okay.  He really did try to hit all the aspects and emotions of this wonderful, painful, heartfelt day.  He asked the mothers to stand to be recognized.  I could have stood.  I'm a foster mama.  I had every right to stand.  But, my body did not get up.  I don't know any other way to say that.  I sat there, and I sobbed.  It hurt.  How much I want a child.  How much I want to parent WITH a husband instead of by myself.  How much I want C to have a forever home that is safe and teaches Jesus' love.  How much I love her and I knew she was leaving.  My body was wracking because my heart was breaking in slow motion.

It was 10:30a when we're in the car, headed home.  I was emotionally exhausted, with not much left to expend of physical energy either.  But, I was still filling all the mommy duties.  C wasn't tired.  She was full of excitement and joy to have fun another day.  Mommies don't get a break.  There is no rest time.  It is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year responsibility that is met with joy and heartache and worry.  It doesn't get "left at the office" because it's constant, no matter if you're a SAHM or a working mom or if it's summertime or during the school year.  I understand that so much more now, than I ever could have comprehended before. I'm sure there is even more I will learn with my next placement.

Mother's Day was hard.  I'm not sure it could have been easier.  It was emotional.  It was my first Mother's Day.  Except I'm not a mom.  But I am.  But, I'm not.  Mother's Day can be a day of celebration.  If I had just birthed a child.  If my husband was beside me and we'd tried to have a baby for awhile and the Lord finally blessed us with a child to love and hold.  That was not my experience for my first Mother's Day.  It was painful and full of heartache and wishing for something different, not just in my own life, but in hers, too.

Prayers for moms that are hurting on this day.  You are not alone.  Even when Satan tries to convince you that you are.  You are NOT alone.  Jesus loves you.  I am praying for you.  You are not alone.