Friday, July 19, 2013

Just do it~

This is the view I have each morning- isn't it beautiful?  Back in May, I began running again so that I could get back into a healthier lifestyle, and it's jumpstarted my transformation from frumpy to fit.  I don't run far- only 1.5 miles, but it's enough to get my blood pumping and has helped me lose 6 lbs so far this summer.

I also included what I call my Toner program, which I try to do every day as well.  It consists of various exercises that I researched that focus on abs, arms, legs, and butt muscle groups so that I can firm up as well as lose weight.  Usually by the time I get done I'm pretty worn out, so I'm hoping that it's working!

One of the on-line adoptive moms that I've connected with put together a work-out support group of other moms, and we've been able to communicate via a Facebook group set up just for us.  We've shared weight loss ideas, offered work out challenges, and provided a supportive fellowship of women that has really helped me to keep my momentum going.

To keep me running, I went and purchased a new pair of tennis shoes for running.  Two reasons-The first is I only had one old chore pair that wouldn't have lasted long once I started running. (And they were stinky :-(  )  The second reason is that I'm so stinking frugal that I knew if I spent money on shoes that I would MAKE myself go out to run just so I wouldn't feel as if I had wasted that shoe money!

My goal is to lose 12 lbs by the end of the summer, so I'm half way there!  Besides, I'm a 52 yr old mother with a 3 yo and 4 yo, so I've got to stay in shape so that I can keep up with them!

Wish me luck!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What we're up to...

It's a myth that with summer comes long, lazy afternoons and time spent reading a good novel. Our summer so far has been constant motion, either with farm projects that are waiting to be done, kids activities, the endless task of trying to grow food, or social obligations.  So many days I have thought "I should blog about this..." and I never stay awake long enough to make it happen! 

Food Supply: This summer will be the second year on this garden spot, so I am working extra-hard on keeping the weeding a priority this year.  Today we began enjoying strawberries that we have grown, and have been enjoying lettuce and radishes for weeks now. This week I made our first batch of rhubbarb blueberry jam.

 We planted 13 fruit trees and they are doing beautifully, and added to our raspberry, strawberry, and asparagus patches. My goal is to provide a majority of our fruit and vegetable supply for this year, and the best part is that it's all organic.  We also have our first batch of meatbirds ready to butcher, but every time we set a date to do it, it rains!  (And a wet chicken is just gross, so we keep postponing!)

Farms Projects- We continue to plug away at the to-do list for the farm.  Added a second stanchion for our newly freshened Jersey, Nipper; worked on fencing repairs, and cleaned up all the piles of junk laying around left over from the move (mostly branches and rocks), cleaning out buildings, and scraping up dirt from the cattle yards to put around the house to cover the clay and grow some grass. 

House Projects- Loren did a killer job on the mudroom, putting up cupboards and coat stalls to hold all the coats, chore clothes, boots, and a storage area for mittens and such.  LOVE IT!  I was so proud of him, because he's the first to admit that he's not the handiest guy on the block, but he did a great job on this project. (See the pull out baskets for the hats and mittens?  I guarantee you they will pay for themselves!)

I'm working on turning our old canning room into a room for Quinn and Godwin- it's painted and the border repaired and cleaned- now working on getting some of the water stains out of the wood flooring, then apply a coat of varnish and I can begin moving the kids in.
For Loren's birthday, Bri and I put together Loren's office and got him a new chair for his work area, framed and hung pictures of his family, and made it a nice little work haven for him.
Loren's office
Personal: Both Loren and I noticed that we were getting a little out of shape, so we've  incorporated a morning run into our daily schedules, along with some toning workouts.  I love the feeling after I've exercised, but fitting it into an already tight schedule can be a challenge.  But, we know we need it if we want to stay around for a long time and to be healthy while we are on this earth, so each morning we get up and do it.  You know, just like the commercial says :-)
Loren and I don't really have hobbies- our kids are our hobbies.  And with summer comes alot of activity with them- we've been doing Horse 4H practices, Boy Scouts, 2 Vacation Bible Schools, basketball camps, sleep overs, violin lessons, yadda yadda yadda...  It only gets worse as the summer progresses- coming up: swimming lessons, volleyball camp, County Fair, more 4H activities, mission trip for Bri, and I'm sure lots of trips to the pool.  I'm so blessed to be able to be home in the summer to supervise and chauffeur our kids to all of these events, and to be part of their lives in a way that I couldn't be if I was still working outside of the home.  (Notice I didn't say "if I was a working mom?"  Haha- we are ALL working moms!)

And with that note, I'm heading off to bed.  Gotta haul our 5 youngest to VBS tomorrow morning bright and early...after a good run, farm chores, packing a lunch, serving breakfast, and making sure all the kids are fully dressed with shoes as we run out the door.  Better not forget the swimsuits and towels- it's Water play day tomorrow.  :-)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Native children in Foster Care

Recently our state held an ICWA Summit in Rapid City to discuss the issue of Native American children in the foster care system.  ICWA stands for Indian Child Welfare Act, and it was established to preserve the Native American culture by keeping these children in Native homes connected to their culture and their families.

I watched the news coverage and was frustrated by what I heard.  The only people interviewed for news coverage were two grandmothers who wanted to get their grandchildren placed with them instead of being in foster care.  They need to raise their grandchildren because their children are unable to, whether it's due to alcohol, drug addiction, or other situations. 

Now I haven't walked a mile in their shoes nor do I assume to understand the nuances and struggles of life as a Native American in today's culture.  But I do have over 10 years as a foster parent in South Dakota, where more than half of the children in foster care are Native American, so I can speak to the experiences that we have had.

First let me say that as a child, I watched the Lone Ranger, and it was one of my favorite shows.  However, it wasn't the Lone Ranger that I admired- it was Tonto.  He could follow any trail, ride bareback, and was as loyal as the day is long.  I wanted to be an Indian in the worst way, and many of my pretend play included mylself as Tonto's best buddy.

 I had such admiration for the Native Americans, so when I began fostering, I was looking foward to helping the children from this proud community.  What I discovered was not at all what I was expecting.  Between our foster care system and the Tribal personnel who have authority over Native children who have membership, we are doing a huge disservice to these children.  Let me give you a few examples.

Our first Native girl, Isabella, was 2 years old- found at attending a party with her mother one night, who by the way, had already lost 2 children to termination (meaning her parental rights had been taken away and the children placed with relatives or adoptive families.)  After 3 months with us, the foster family who had adopted her older biological sister was located and Isabella was moved to that home.  After almost 5 years with them, she is still in limbo and has not been released by the tribe for adoption, even though her mother has written a letter asking that this foster family adopt Isabella so she can grow up with her sister.

Our second Native kids were a sibling group of 3 boys- their 2 older brothers were placed in VOA due to gang related activity, and we took the  boys who were 5, 8, and 9 years old.  Their mother was a Meth addict and after placement, she disappeared and they never saw her again.  These boys were with us for 9 months.  Each boy had a different father, and they couldn't pick their dads out of a lineup if they wanted to.  They had learned to shoplift for food and wash their clothes in the bathtub. They had witnessed an uncle put a gun into his mouth and pull the trigger in their kitchen.  They doodled "Native Pride" on their notebooks, but were clueless when I exposed them to Lakota culture.   DSS wanted to keep all 5 boys together, and thankfully a prison guard and his wife were up for the challenge, so they adopted all 5 boys.

Next came Echoe, a child frought with attachment issues so severe that I couldn't leave her sight or she would scream. She almost died in an apartment fire because her mother and mother's boyfriend had passed out with cigarettes burning.  The boyfriend died in the fire, but neighbors were able to tell the firemen about Echoe, otherwise she would've died too.   She was with us for 4 months, then the judge threw her case out.  Echoe's mother is a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome adult and doesn't make good choices.  Echoe screamed in the van all the way down our driveway as the caseworker drove away.  Police found Echoe alone in an apartment clear across the state 2 weeks later, and last I heard she was still in foster care.

Our next Native sibling group was a 6 yo, 3 yo and 6 month old removed because their parents and grandmother were arrested in a drug bust. ( Apparently this isn't the cookie-baking kind of grandma).  Because these kids were enrolled in a tribe, we knew they would be claimed eventually, which they were about 5 months later.  The tribe has members who will keep the kids, then the kids are returned to the parents when they get out of jail.  DSS has no jurisdiction on the reservation in these cases.

Our last Native placement was a little 3 yo boy named Marcus who was placed with us as an adoptive placement- he had been in care almost 18 months, but the current foster family did not want to adopt.  His parents were unstable and the father looking at some serious jail time for sexually abusing his daughters, and meetings with relatives had come to a standstill, with no one willing to raise this little guy. Since DSS was looking at termination, Marcus had been placed with us for the 6 month prerequisite time prior to being able to adopt him.  Well, once an elder Auntie who had been asked repeatedly to take him and refused, found out that a White family was going to adopt him, she told the caseworker she wouldn't let that happen, so she begrudgenly stepped up at the last minute to take him. This woman had a record that intimidated me, including embezzling funds from the Indian Health Clinic where she had worked, and charges of blackmailing employees to get what she wanted.  When you are a Native child, the only prerequisite for claiming you is to have a family connection, or to be a registered member of the same tribe.

In all of these cases, the birth families did not have the abilities to provide a safe environment for these children, whether it was due to addiction or dysfunctional lifestyles.  In each case, the kids had been living in situations that no child should have to be in.   NONE of these situations were providing these children with anything close to the lifestyle and culture that the ICWA advocates keep saying are waiting there to wrap these children up in it's arms and raise them.  These homes are not "Native American Culture" homes that they preach about and say these children are being taken from.  These kids are growing up with drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, gang activity, incredible neglect and abandonment, and a less than stable family unit.  THIS is what ICWA wants to preserve?

So when I hear these people demeaning placement into foster homes for these children, as if we are the bottom of the barrel home/family situations option, I tend to get a bit incensed.  And when they insist that Native kids be placed into Native foster homes, we all wonder how the hundreds of Indian children could fit into the whopping 3 licensed Native homes here in the Sioux Falls area. 

 I won't go on about the things we provide to these kids, but I can say that I find alot of satisfaction in seeing them begin to relax and breath again, knowing that they are in a safe place with plenty of food and parents who watch over them with care.  They need their basic needs met first before they can begin to worry about whether they are staying in touch with their culture.

Now I know that the ICWA advocates have a lofty goal for keeping these kids attached to their culture, and I fully support that goal.  However, they are going about it in ways that won't provide results.  Most of these families are already so far detached from this elusive "culture" that the foster families often provide more cultural experiences for these children than their birth families ever did. 

I truly don't know what the answer to this dilemma is, but I would like to hope that DSS and ICWA can begin to work together more peaceably to come up with a solution.  If the goal is to retain a time honored culture and it's traditions, the children need to be able to grow up first into functioning adults so they can pass those traditions on to their children.  If these kids never get that far, then the goal is lost.

Focus should be on the family issues that are putting these kids into care in the first place so that it never gets to the point of removing the children.  Then, if it does get to that point, for these elders of the Native community to see foster care for what it's intended to be- a safety net for these children.  Work together with the foster families to keep these kids connected to their culture, recruit stable Native families to be foster families, and focus on the best interest of the children.  They are the future.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Frugal Friday~

“I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.”
John Stuart Mill

I have a confession to make....I have no problem putting consignment clothes on my children. 

Seriously- have you all watched how your kids play, with total disregard for their clothing??

We are big outdoor lovers and spend much time outside among the livestock, manure, and dirt.  My goal is to have them clothed,  but mainly I'm just looking for clothes that are inexpensive and will last.  (Of course, my second goal is to pick out clothes with their favorite movie characters on them because how fun is THAT?!)

To buy the "better made" clothes, I need to go to consignment stores to find the brands that I know will last, and because they are used, I pay less.  Win-Win!!

I hit Once Upon a Child and this is what I came home with. 
For Quinn:  1 dress, 2 capri pants, 8 shorts, 9 tops
For GW: 4 shorts and 5 tops.

All for under $90.00!  Many of the clothes were Gymboree, Levi, Gap, and Childs Place, so I know they are made to last.

Bottom line is...WE ARE READY FOR SUMMER!!  BRING IT ON :-)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Happy Adoptive Mothers Day

I read this and wanted to share it, because it speaks for so many of us that have traveled this journey of adoption~

Dear Mom of an Adopted Child,
I met you in adoption education class. I met you at the agency. I met you at my son’s school. I met you online. I met you on purpose. I met you by accident.
It doesn’t matter. The thing is, I knew you right away. I recognize the fierce determination. The grit. The fight. Because everything about what you have was a decision, and nothing about what you have was easy. You are the kind of woman who Makes.Things.Happen. After all, you made this happen, this family you have.
Maybe you prayed for it. Maybe you had to convince a partner it was the right thing. Maybe you did it alone. Maybe people told you to just be happy with what you had before. Maybe someone told you it simply wasn’t in God’s plans for you to have a child, this child whose hair you now brush lightly from his face. Maybe someone warned you about what happened to their cousin’s neighbor’s friend. Maybe you ignored them.
Maybe you planned for it for years. Maybe an opportunity dropped into your lap. Maybe you depleted your life-savings for it. Maybe it was not your first choice. But maybe it was.
Regardless, I know you. And I see how you hold on so tight. Sometimes too tight. Because that’s what we do, isn’t it?
I know about all those books you read back then. The ones everyone reads about sleep patterns and cloth versus disposable, yes, but the extra ones, too. About dealing with attachment disorders, breast milk banks, babies born addicted to alcohol, cocaine, meth. About cognitive delays, language deficiencies. About counseling support services, tax and insurance issues, open adoption pros and cons, legal rights.
I know about the fingerprinting, the background checks, the credit reports, the interviews, the references. I know about the classes, so many classes. I know the frustration of the never-ending paperwork. The hours of going over finances, of having garage sales and bake sales and whatever-it-takes sales to raise money to afford it all.
I know how you never lost sight of what you wanted.
I know about the match call, the soaring of everything inside you to cloud-height, even higher. And then the tucking of that away because, well, these things fall through, you know.
Maybe you told your mother, a few close friends. Maybe you shouted it to the world. Maybe you allowed yourself to decorate a baby’s room, buy a car seat. Maybe you bought a soft blanket, just that one blanket, and held it to your cheek every night.
I know about your home visits. I know about your knuckles, cracked and bleeding, from cleaning every square inch of your home the night before. I know about you burning the coffee cake and trying to fix your mascara before the social worker rang the doorbell.
And I know about the followup visits, when you hadn’t slept in three weeks because the baby had colic. I know how you wanted so badly to show that you had it all together, even though you were back to working more-than-full-time, maybe without maternity leave, without the family and casseroles and welcome-home balloons and plants.
And I’ve seen you in foreign countries, strange lands, staying in dirty hotels, taking weeks away from work, struggling to understand what’s being promised and what’s not. Struggling to offer your love to a little one who is unsettled and afraid. Waiting, wishing, greeting, loving, flying, nesting, coming home.
I’ve seen you down the street at the hospital when a baby was born, trying to figure out where you belong in the scene that’s emerging. I’ve seen your face as you hear a nurse whisper to the birthmother that she doesn’t have to go through with this. I’ve seen you trying so hard to give this birthmother all of your respect and patience and compassion in those moments—while you bite your lip and close your eyes, not knowing if she will change her mind, if this has all been a dream coming to an abrupt end in a sterile environment. Not knowing if this is your time. Not knowing so much.
I’ve seen you look down into a newborn infant’s eyes, wondering if he’s really yours, wondering if you can quiet your mind and good sense long enough to give yourself over completely.
And then, to have the child in your arms, at home, that first night. His little fingers curled around yours. His warm heart beating against yours.
I know that bliss. The perfect, guarded, hopeful bliss.
I also know about you on adoption day. The nerves that morning, the judge, the formality, the relief, the joy. The letting out of a breath maybe you didn’t even know you were holding for months. Months.
I’ve seen you meet your child’s birthparents and grandparents weeks or years down the road. I’ve seen you share your child with strangers who have his nose, his smile … people who love him because he’s one of them. I’ve seen you hold him in the evenings after those visits, when he’s shaken and confused and really just wants a stuffed animal and to rest his head on your shoulder.
I’ve seen you worry when your child brings home a family tree project from school. Or a request to bring in photos of him and his dad, so that the class can compare traits that are passed down, like blue eyes or square chins. I know you worry, because you can protect your child from a lot of things — but you can’t protect him from being different in a world so intent on celebrating sameness.
I’ve seen you at the doctor’s office, filling out medical histories, leaving blanks, question marks, hoping the little blanks don’t turn into big problems later on.
I’ve seen you answer all of the tough questions, the questions that have to do with why, and love, and how much, and where, and who, and how come, mama? How come?
I’ve seen you wonder how you’ll react the first time you hear the dreaded, “You’re not my real mom.” And I’ve seen you smile softly in the face of that question, remaining calm and loving, until you lock yourself in the bathroom and muffle your soft cries with the sound of the shower.
I’ve seen you cringe just a little when someone says your child is lucky to have you. Because you know with all your being it is the other way around.
But most of all, I want you to know that I’ve seen you look into your child’s eyes. And while you will never see a reflection of your own eyes there, you see something that’s just as powerful: A reflection of your complete and unstoppable love for this person who grew in the midst of your tears and laughter, and who, if torn from you, would be like losing yourself.

~~~ Through all the fostering, adoption paperwork, travel, attachment struggles, and worry, it's all been worth it, a thousand times over.  And I would do it all over again.
Love you, girls!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Frugal Friday

“There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important as living within your means."  - Calvin Coolidge
Home Repairs
Me texturing the stairway down to the basement.

As you know, we moved our farmhouse from our acreage to Loren's family farmstead about a year ago.  Since then, our home has been a running series of This Old House reruns.  Lots of finishing work to be done to the new basement and added mudroom, and repairs on the cracks created by the move.

Home remodeling is an area that can get fiscally out of hand very quickly.  Once we had refinanced our mortgage to include the added basement and mudroom structure and the expense of the move, we didn't want to add to our debt for the additional tasks of texturing and taping, painting, carpet laying, trim staining and application.... you get my drift. 

To combat this, we knew we had to follow a few guidelines:
  • We would only do future finishing work as we could afford it.  This explains why there are still rooms that are still waiting to be worked on, even ones that we really need, like the downstairs bathroom. :-(
  • We would do as much of the work ourselves, with the exception of electrical and plumbing work, because of something is going to go wrong with that, I want someone else to take the blame! 
Truthfully, this extra work has been a blessing as well as a curse.  As much as I dreaded working on the house each weekend, it has been a good bonding experience for all of us.  Once you've tackled texturing a room together, with spackling in your hair and your arm feeling like a dead weight from the roller, you are bonded for life.

Not to mention the skills we are picking up- I like learning new skills and I take pride in learning how to do a fairly good job with some of these projects.  However, there is a learning curve with all things, and the walls I textured last look WAY better than my first few attempts.  Oh the house character. 

I like that we are also modeling self sufficiency for our kids and teaching them a few of these skills- hopefully they will make use of these new talents when they have homes of their own.  There is nothing more attractive than a handy man in my book, and I'm trying to impress that on Luke so that he sees the advantages of learning how to do his own home repairs. 

Someday, his wife will thank me.

I hope our family is also learning a little about delaying gratification.  Yes, we could've had all of these things done right away, paid someone else a bundle for it, added to our debt load, and our undone house wouldn't be inconveniencing us now.  But maybe this is teaching them some patience?  Maybe it's showing them that they don't have to live in a house right out of Better Homes and Gardens, with everything in it's place and arranged shabby chique. 

I believe there is merit and a feeling of self worth in working to create something, especially when it's your home. Working together as a family to build a home- it's what kept the pioneer families together, right?  And if it was good enough for the Ingalls, then it's good enough for the Johnsons. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Frugal Friday

“he who will not economize will have to agonize”

These two inconspicuous ice cream pails hold the wastefulness of my family's eating.  After every meal, any food left on a plate or scraps from meal preparation are diligently placed into the chicken bucket (on the left) or the cat bucket (on the right). 

With these scraps, we supplement our chickens' feed, and in return, we get fresh eggs!  Nothing goes to waste, and it reduces our feed bill for our laying hens.  It also gives me great satisfaction to know that we aren't creating waste and we aren't wasting food , which in my universe is a sin :-)

As for the cat bucket, those scraps feed the many barn cats that seem to migrate to our farm.  Table scraps might not seem like much; a spoonful of pasta, a crust of bread, or the milk left from cereal, but they add up during the day.

Now, if you don't have chickens or other pets to feed your scraps to, you can always compost them.  Other than meat, table scraps will compost really well and can be put into your garden once they have had a chance to decompose.  Food scraps can be mixed with lawn clippings, leaves, or other "green" refuse to produce rich, dark soil, and it's another way of making use of those scraps instead of throwing them away. 

Look at you...being all Green and Planet Friendly and all!  Now you can tell your friends that you are "reducing your Carbon Footprint", and watch them be impressed :-)