Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 is Going to Kick 2010's Butt

Posted by Mandy at 12:02 PM 1 comments Links to this post
Seriously, it's 2011 tomorrow? That doesn't even sound like a real year. Welcome to the future.

As I made my rounds last night looking at all of our sleeping kids before I headed to bed, I had a moment of "wow." This year is going to be something else! I can't believe we've made it to this point... we're really doing this!

Having these two boys is sort of like having two infants. Things that I don't recall ever having to teach my children, I'm having to teach. I think the most exhausting part of fostering this pair is answering questions from the 6 year old that constantly remind me of where he's come from.

"Why do I have to brush my teeth every night AND every morning?"
"Wash my hands? Why? They're not even sticky!"
"I have to take another shower? Didn't I just have one yesterday?"
"So, Mr. Clayton goes to work every day except for weekends?"
"Why are you throwing that food away? We could just save it for later!" (crust of bread, orange peels, etc)

The boys are doing REALLY well. We had one day of some behavior issues with the oldest. It wasn't unexpected since it came on the heels of his first visit with Mom and Grandma. No kid is perfect... bio kids or otherwise. Yet, it seems that people want to know more about these kids' behavior than anyone ever dreamed to care to ask about my own kids'. The boys actually act better than a lot of kids I know that have been in "good" homes... we'll see if it lasts!

The toddler is finally learning basic things like how to sit in a high chair and shopping cart. Have you ever tried to bend a 19 month old into that position when they had no clue what you were trying to do? Getting them out.. that's even more fun! Taking a bath is finally enjoyable now, too. At first he didn't understand why he couldn't stand up. He still doesn't know how to tilt his head back when I wash his hair, so we do that very last right before I get him out. Oh the drama! ;)

They both LOVE to cuddle. Books before bed is their favorite time of day. Each of my kids (yes, all 5) get to pick out whatever book they want to read to me, or want read to them.

The little guy calls me "mama" and it sort of breaks my heart.

Our bio kids are doing great. Everyone is now used to each other, and everyone has their own place they like to go to get away if need be. Gosh I'm so glad we have this house for this reason!! I don't feel like it's taken anything away from them having the boys here, only for the first few days as we all got adjusted. Now, it's just life as we know it.

Outside playtime has never been so fun for my kids. If one sibling doesn't want to go out with you, then go ask someone else. It's awesome! One of the perks of having lots of little ones around to grow up with for sure!

Next on the agenda is to enroll Big Brother into school... he seems fine with the idea of going here. He's visited there once before when I took them all to Carter's Christmas party. I'm praying that he isn't too terribly behind, and that with some help at home he can catch up quickly.

We have a full van, an almost full house, and full hearts around here! I'm tired, yes. But also, more content than I think I've ever been in my life. It's amazing when you finally get to where God's been trying to lead you how he lets you "feel" that you've arrived. I'm a little terrified to see where he leads me next! 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

And, We are Plus 2

Posted by Mandy at 2:19 PM 10 comments Links to this post
So, we've gone from 3 kids to 5 kids. Yep, all of that stuff we went through is finally paying off.. we are officially foster parents!

Two weeks ago I got a call from a county several hours away asking if we could take in two boys, ages 6 and 1. I quickly called my husband, and then called her right back to say, "Sure!" A couple of hours later, two exhausted, filthy, scared, and sad boys showed up on our doorstep. Well, one was all of those... the other, the 1 year old, seemed as happy as he could be.

I had wondered how that moment would be ever since we first decided to become foster parents. I spent countless hours daydreaming about different scenarios and how I would react to each emotion children might show when they first came to our home. Nothing could prepare me for the reality.

I will not be disclosing much information about the boys and why they were taken. What I will say is there was a "neglect" issue. I will say that my heart was not prepared for seeing a truly neglected child in my home, and the pain I would feel for them. My heart was not prepared to watch a 6 year old walk into my home so dirty that he had to take a bath before I could put him to bed, at 11:00 at night. My heart was not ready for the pain in that 6 year old's heart. All I could do was sit and stroke his then clean hair as he cried into his pillow, asking when could he go home, and could his baby brother please sleep with him. The exhaustion from his 14 hour day with DHS took over very quickly, and within minutes he was sound asleep. As I walked out into the hallway to tend to his baby brother, I just burst into tears. There are pains that I cannot heal. The pain of "I want my mommy" is definitely on that list.

I headed to the living room to help Clayton with the little guy. He was sitting very contently, cuddling with his foster dad. He drank several cups of water, and definitely found it an odd experience to have his teeth brushed. A fresh diaper, a warm blanket, and a short lullaby sent him right into dream land. I layed him in the pack 'n' play that I had moved right beside his brother's bed, so that big brother could keep his eyes on him at all times.

To my amazement, they both slept soundly all night. It was nearly 10:00 the next morning before they started waking up. I was so worried about how the 6 year old would do that first day here. Would he cry all day? Would he be angry that he was with us? He came out of his room, smiling. He snuggled beside me on the couch, and was amazed at his breakfast plate. He ate heartily, and then suddenly stopped saying he was full, and he would just save the rest for his brother. After much reassurance that his brother already had a plate waiting, he quickly ate the rest of his food, and then asked for seconds.

That was two weeks ago... and today everyone has adjusted very well. They had their first visit with their mom and grandmother yesterday, and it went well. I was very surprised when the baby cried and held me tight when the grandmother reached for him... He cried as I walked away. I felt like I was abandoning him. I thought he would be thrilled to be with them! Poor little guy. What on earth must go through his baby brain about all of this? A tearful goodbye with mom and grandma one hour later, and many thank-you's from them to me about taking such good care of them and we were all back at the house. Shockingly, everyone walked in and just started playing as usual. As if nothing at all had happened. The 6 year old is happy that he gets to see them once each week. The baby doesn't seem to care at all.

Part of me really wants to hate their family. From the stories I'm being told by the 6-year-old, and the case file on them... as a mother.. it's hard to sympathize with their mom. The bigger part of me hurts too much for her. Her black eye said it all when I first saw her. Her obvious shame when she saw me, in my nice clothes, with my beautiful children (hers included), in my van, having all of the things she needs to get her children back, but probably feels she can never obtain, breaks my heart.

The baby says please, thank you, and many other words. He gives kisses, hugs, and is so sweet. The 6 year old cries for his mom from time to time... it is obvious that she loves them. I know that love. And, I know it's by God's grace alone that our lives are not swapped. How easily it could be me, or anyone. As I sit and watch the baby play pat-a-cake, I know that I did not teach that to him. As he lifts his stuffed giraffe to kiss me on the cheek, I know that I did not teach him that. As he cuddles deeply into my chest, I know that someone has shown him how nice being held is. It wasn't me. It was her. And I pray for her everyday that God will grant her strength, courage, and the ability to do what she needs to do to get her babies back.

As I take pictures of them reading, riding bikes, and drawing pictures... I think of how incredibly heartbroken... heart sick.. I would be if I were her. I wonder if she worries for them as I would if my children were living with a strange family, in a strange town. I hope so. And I hope it motivates her to get her life in order for them.

Fostering is not what I pictured. It isn't as hard as I imagined work-wise... at least not so far. Adding two children to the mix hasn't been that much more work. We've gone to church, grocery shopped, and had people over - God is granting much patience and strength I suppose. Emotionally, it is hard. I worry about the boys a lot. I worry about their family. Then, I remind myself that God loves them so much more than I do, and he is taking care of them. That's why he made sure they were placed here - he knew it would be a great fit. So I just must put my trust in him... and hand their lives over to him. I'm doing all I can on my end... what else can you do, right?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The New House

Posted by Mandy at 7:20 PM 4 comments Links to this post
Hello Blog-World! We finally have internet, and are getting kind of settled. As settled as you can get while you are still painting and making plans for more and more painting. I have tons of family and friends that live away and are constantly asking me to put up some pics - so here's what we've got going so far. I didn't clean before taking these... we put up the Christmas tree tonight, so whatever... overlook any mess if I captured it.

Here are some before and after pics:

BEFORE: Originally names "The Skeleton Room" due to blood red walls and what is probably supposed to be zebra print but looks like spines to me.

seriously... tell me that isn't a skeleton spine

Looks like a crime scene

Oh look! More skeleton details!

After: Now the boys' room

Okay, bad picture... but both boys' beds fit very easily in here and they still have a lot of floor space! Awesome! Better yet, no more remnants of the bleeding walls from Amityville Horror!

BEFORE: Known as "The Creepy Hand-Print Room" by all that entered. Dark brown walls, blue handprints EVERYWHERE. For the record, the hands were bigger than mine... not cute.

AFTER: For now, this is Madison's room. In the future, it will likely be a nursery/toddler/small child room for foster children. It's the closest to the Master bedroom. I'm still working on the other bedroom.. which I'll show you in a bit. Nothing fancy at the moment but it is no longer dungeon brown with handprints.

BEFORE: Known as the ugliest of the 3 bathrooms.. original to the house pink tile, hot pink cabinets, and dark, dark, DARK brown paint EVERYWHERE else. Even the face plates for all of the outlets and switches were hot pink.

But nothing made me say "Oh Lawd" like this. Oh. No. They. Didn't.
AFTER - pink tile still there... but cabinets now white, and walls lighter. Major gutting of this bathroom will occur in the future. Standby for more pics after that...

BEFORE: Super ugly black, peeling, gross paint in kitchen. And this is just one section. Yikes.

AFTER: So far just paint... paint is a beautiful thing.

BEFORE: Nothing majorly wrong with this... this is our 'sitting' area.. meaning totally wasted space that I have big plans for in the future. It was just very "blah."

AFTER: New paint, trim is now white, instead of that yellow-toned "egg-shell", and the black trim is gone from the dining room. (the crown molding in the dining room was also black.. dear God.. why oh why?)

BEFORE: Living room. With the blah color on the walls that ugly fireplace really stood out. Again with the black? To each their own!

AFTER: New paint, and that's it! Everyone thinks we've done "something" to make the fireplace look better.. but nope. We will be doing "something" to make it look better, but hey, I'm STILL painting, okay!


This is the "extra" room that I've just finished the first coat of paint - it was the darkest brown known to man... lightening it is quite the process. I am thankful it has no carpet right now!! It's easier to paint when you don't have to use drop cloths!

This is the playroom... love the desks, love the storage... but it needs a lot of beautification. It makes me feel like the kids did in The Cat in the Hat. "This mess is so big and so deep and so tall! We cannot clean it up, there is no way at all!" (or something like that.. I don't know where that book is. In a box somewhere..)

There are two other bathrooms that we've not done a thing to, but they don't even come close to comparing to the, umm... creativeness of the one I pictured. The office as well, but we just painted it, and it wasn't quite a disaster either. The sunroom... love it, but not much to speak of right now. A big room, concrete floors, TONS OF WINDOWS. It will be one fine room one day!

I do LOVE my new house. I LOVE my neighborhood. I LOVE the nature trails out my backdoor and the woods and the sand and that kids ride their bikes around. That people walk their dogs. That there are SUPER nice lamp-posts up and down the street... that there is no thru-traffic at our house b/c we're the last cul da sac. I could go on and on... I am so thankful! I really pray that this house is a major blessing to MANY.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Houses and Renters and Jobs.. Oh My!

Posted by Mandy at 9:07 AM 2 comments Links to this post
Dorothy thought lions and tigers and bears were horrifying... but that's because she never had to buy a new house, while already being a home owner.

Selling our current home isn't looking likely, wrong time of year, not enough time for us to wait. So, we think we've found the ideal renter. If all works out by the end of today, we'll be good to go on that. It is really scary to think of us owning two houses at the same time, but sometimes you've just got to put on your big girl panties and do what you've gotta do.

Renting our house will allow us to move into our new house.. here is the pic I snagged off of the real estate website. Not a great angle.. but if you can pretend that you have Superman vision and look through the tree, then you can have a good idea of what the new casa looks like.

On top of a new renter and a new house... I'm also preparing for *another* new job. I know, I know... I just can't stop, right? This one is super cool, though. AT MOST I can only work 8 days a month, which rocks. And, the work is fast-paced, exciting, and fairly familiar. Dispatching at the police department.

Now, when I was first approached about becoming a fill-in for the PD, I literally laughed... out loud. I also immediately said, "NO!"

Most of America can't appreciate this job... it's the unseen job. The voice behind the cops, the firemen, the ambulance, the wrecker... and in our city it's ONE voice. One person sitting in what's referred to as "the hot seat" waiting for the 911 phone to ring, waiting for a wreck to happen, waiting to tell pretty much everyone that needs to go somewhere quickly, exactly where to go. Yeah.. no pressure at all, right? Hence why my initial responce was to say "No way, Jose! Ain't gonna happen!"

I finally agreed to just go sit in and watch for most of a shift.. and what-do-ya-know... I was hooked.

I sat in for two shifts before I felt comfortable enough to even try to answer the regular PD phone. Three before I would answer the 911 phone and talk on the radio. Last night my great "teacher" Tricia basically forced me to sit in what I deem as her seat, and do all of the work. I was so scared! Thankfully she guided me through every step at first and then slowly walked away and let me handle it. I did okay - but wow, there is so much to learn!

Speaking in 10-codes is basically like learning a new language. I feel like I'm stuck on a small island and everyone speaks Polish except for me - and they're all looking at me waiting for instructions in THEIR language. Slowly but surely. Very thankful that I know 90% of the cops already from hubby because I think our friendship helps them not get uptight if it takes me 3 hours to look up and call back the requested driver's license number they called to me. So, I'm exaggerating, but seriously, this stuff is hard! I do love a challenge, though!

In between all of the hub-bub our kids are doing awesome, and we should soon be open for foster care. I'm pushing to get Emily with us as a foster placement due to her not doing so well where she is right now. Looks promising - so we'll keep our fingers crossed on that one. 

Life is going along swimmingly! God is showing off like crazy, which is always cool. Just when I start to freak out about something, he just comes to my rescue. He's definitely the most amazing knight in shining armor!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Don't Fret - I am Alive

Posted by Mandy at 7:15 AM 3 comments Links to this post
I had to laugh at some of the recent emails I've gotten from my blog friends that never see me in real life.

"Are you okay? Are you alive? Where are you?!"

Yes, Yes, and I'm here.

With the kids starting school, and me hitting my writing job hard, I just have little time or brain power left for blogging. When you write for a living.. it can make it very tough to write just for enjoyment.

I figured it would be appropriate to start back after my bloggy break to let everyone know the crazy stuff that's been going on for us lately.

1. Foster Care Stuff - we found out yesterday that the much awaited finger prints are now sitting at the DHS office in Little Rock. Apparently they've been there for two weeks. Just sitting. That's all we're waiting for.. and they're just sitting around collecting dust. Apparently getting foster homes approved are not a top priority to everyone in DHS.

2. House Stuff - Our house is for sale, and we have someone trying to buy it right now! This totally rocks because we've decided to forego building for now, b/c a great house is on the market that we'd like to buy. If this works out we'll be moving from our 1513sqft, 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom home into a 3,000 sqft, 5 (or 6) bedroom, 3 bathroom home. Yes.. I know. That's quite a drastic difference.

When I first saw this house I just thought, "This is EXACTLY what we need to foster children. EXACTLY." Great neighborhood, in town, big lot (almost an acre), and BIG SPACE. It's a definite fixer-upper... which I'm hoping scares everyone else away. As long as the major things turn out okay, I can live with ugly. We can remodel a little at a time... I don't need to be glamorous. I just want to make sure that we're able to say "yes" to fostering if we feel led to, and aren't limited by bedrooms and square footage. If we say 'no' I want it to be b/c we don't feel led at that time... not because we can't.

Everything else is pretty much life as usual. Proud of my kids and how well school is going for them, enjoying work and still shocked that I got hired for this gig, and I'm really excited about everything God is doing right now. If our house sells this fast (it's only been for sale for like 2 weeks) then it will no doubt point directly to God. I've basically thrown my hands in the air with this... "God, if you want us to have that other house, then you make it happen. I can't handle stressing about this right now!" We'll see where he directs our path.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dancing Queen

Posted by Mandy at 7:18 AM 6 comments Links to this post
Well.. maybe not, but I'm trying my best every Monday night. Several of my girlfriends meet up to do Zumba together 5 days a week. I can only get there on Monday night usually, but it's a blast!

If you don't know what Zumba is, it's basically a latin dance-based workout. OMG. It's hard. It's also really fun! (minus the older guy that leads the class.. he's fairly creepy.. and when he speaks in Spanish he uses a really low voice that makes me think he probably used to be a star in a Latin soap opera.)

Can I just say that latin women must be freaks of nature with the way they can shake their hips. It just isn't natural. My non-latin heritage shows.

Since it's Wednesday, I braved the scale this morning. I was 133 last week... and... 132 today! Another pound dropped. I'm really excited, but man.. I'm working so hard! The other day a friend said, "Hey! You look great!" and I said thanks, but was really wishing she'd have said, "Hey! You look so hungry!" Because I am. It's so much more enjoyable to eat all you want and be as full as you want. I keep reminding myself to eat to live, and not live to eat. I'm doing my body a major service by feeding it properly instead of feeding its never-ending hunger with trash.

The water drinking is better, but still isn't where it should be. *sigh* I'll get there.

Finally, pants are starting to fit better again! That's what helps me keep pushing through. I used to live like this and it was easy... it's amazing how a few months of letting it all go can really make it hard to go back to what used to be normal.

Hope you're working towards some healthier goals this week, too!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Updates All Around

Posted by Mandy at 7:17 AM 1 comments Links to this post
I sat and tried to think of something clever, witty, or interesting to blog about this morning... but my brain refused to cooperate. Sorry. Here's a few updates on all that's going on around here right now.

1. Foster Care

Nothing. Grrrr. We are still waiting for finger prints to come back. One would think that my husband's job as a Trooper would indicate to the powers that be that we are, in fact, not felons - but what do I know? I keep hearing from friends that do foster care about the calls they're getting, the kids they're seeing, and I'm becoming increasingly frustrated. Arkansas is probably one of the last states on the planet to deal with actual paper work. If things were done via computers.. I have no doubt this would've been done much, much faster.

2. School

With all of my heartache over sending the kids to school this year, I am happy to report that they are loving it! They don't miss their mommy... they don't want to be home. I know because I asked...

Madison is in 4th grade and she now gets to change classes for Math and Science. Carter is in 1st and he is in love with his teacher. We've known her for a few years so it made going back to school exciting for him. She's a first year teacher and she seems to be very full of energy and ideas! She has young children herself, and it shows with how well she deals with her class. I couldn't be more pleased!

Even Samuel is going to school this year. My best friend is a certified teacher and she opened her own little preschool in her home. Super small class size which I love, and Samuel loves her! He only goes 3 mornings a week, until noon. He's never ready to leave - and he's mad at me when I don't take him on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Humph. "But I want to go to school, Mommy! I love Mrs. Kim's school!" 

I made the comment the other day that the only person in this house that wants to home school is me.

3. Other

It just seems like life is doing nothing new.. yet changing very quickly right now. This leaves me with a feeling of excitement, and distress. I feel like I have no idea what will be waiting around each corner. Will we get a call today about taking a child? Will we make plans to move soon? So much big stuff, for nothing to be really happening.

Life is busy but good right now. I can't complain! I hope life is being good you to all, too!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Weight Check

Posted by Mandy at 10:18 AM 3 comments Links to this post
The health kick continues! This past week I took the kids to the grocery store and we nearly cleaned out the produce department. After watching Oprah's episode devoted to Food Inc. and other healthy eating books, I realized that I've really got to be more deliberate about what I feed not just my kids, but myself.

We filled our cart with 100% whole wheat products (bread, crackers, flat bread, etc) along with healthier cereals (no Marshmallow sugar puffs allowed) and, as I said, tons of fruits and veggies.

When I got home from the store I began the dreaded process of putting things away. This time, however, I took Rachel Ray's advice and cleaned, cut, and stored my fruits and veggies so that they would be easy snack options. Like so:

fruit bowl - everything washed and ready to grab

small portion of the fruits and veggies that I washed, cut up into snack sized pieces, and stored in tupperware. (stick a papertowel under everything to keep them fresh and avoid sogginess.)

Lunch for ALL of us - celery sticks, strawberries, healthy trail mix (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, cashews, almonds) and the only unhelathy thing - cheese crackers per kids' request.

So, the health kick is going great. I'm really feeling a lot better! The kids have better behavior.. which is an amazing side effect of proper nutrition. (hear that schools?!) My energy is up, which is great because of the exercise routine I'm doing. Running some nights, Zumba with the girls one or two nights a week, power yoga, weight training... just to name a few.

I weighed myself this morning - the last time I weighed I was 135 pounds. That was about 2.5 weeks ago. This morning.... 133! Down two more pounds! Woot!

My biggest struggle has been drinking enough water. I'm really having to be deliberate about it. I'm thinking of sticking several prefilled water bottles (not the disposable bottles.. but the reusable kind) in the fridge and making sure I drink them each before the end of the day. Anyone have any tricks they use to make sure they drink enough water throughout the day?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Another Year - Another Round of Uncertainty

Posted by Mandy at 7:40 AM 6 comments Links to this post
Each new school year brings a huge mixture of emotions in this house. The kids are anxious and excited - they're ready to see their friends again, ready to meet their teachers, and ready to get back to that familiar routine. I, on the other hand, am constantly combating feelings of uncertainty. There is always an uneasiness that takes over.

"Is this what's right for us?"

My kids have always gone to public schools. At age 4 they start the awesome Pre-K program we have and the they continue on year after year. I have to say, we've had great experiences. Amazing teachers, great friends made, fun activities, no getting into trouble, getting left behind, or anything like that. The kids enjoy school - especially Carter. There are no tears when it's time to go, no one whines to stay home. They really, honestly, enjoy it.

So, where does this feeling in my gut come from? Why do I always wonder "should I look into bringing them home?"

I called a good friend of mine, that's done home schooling and public schooling, and has settled on home schooling this year, to talk out my issues. I was amazed when she said, "I never know what's right either... I question myself just like you do."

Wow.. really?! I assumed that if you made the choice to home school, you'd feel sure about it. But, I'm finding more and more moms that honestly say, "I really don't know if this is best for them... or best for me. It's just the decision we made."

What's a mom to do?

For me, there's no question my kids are starting school this Thursday. We'll see how the year goes. I really feel like we're just taking it a day at a time, a month at a time, a year at a time. Maybe they'll start, love it, and I'll love it, too. Maybe this will be the year that doesn't go so well... and things change around here. I don't know - but it feels awful to question such a big decision.

Is anyone else on the fence about public school vs. home schooling - even though you've had children in school for years? (my oldest is going to 4th.) I know it's the socially acceptable way to do it... kids just go to school... but I can't help but step back and wonder if MY kids are getting the best they can from school, or if they'd get more from home. Could I teach them as well as their teachers have? Would I turn them into the stereo-typical "weird home schooled kids"? (please don't think I think home schooled kids are weird.. I know a whole herd of them and they are NOT. But, you know how people think..) I honestly don't know the answer to these questions.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mommy Rehab Monday

Posted by Mandy at 5:35 AM 8 comments Links to this post
Ready to let go of some guilt today? Oh, come on.. you've got 6 other days of the week to tell yourself, and everyone else, all of the stuff you do wrong - let's use today for the exact opposite! Find one good mommy moment, share it on your blog, and then link up with B in Real Life to join in on the fun!

Hello, my name is Mandy, and I'm a Mommy Guilt-Oholic. But, here's a good mommy moment - in my quest to cure this icky-feeling syndrome.

This weekend I left my kids with my mom and ran laughing went off into the sunset with my husband for an adults only mini-vacation.

We met up with two other couples (the men-folk are detectives like husband - so they work together and we've known them for-evah) and headed to the hills and the lake! We spent two nights and three days boating, eating out, laughing until we cried, dancing and singing karaoke at the VFW (yes... really.), and RELAXING. No one asked me to cut up their food, no one demanded breakfast at 6:30am, and no one broke out into fights 5 times a day that required me to lose my mind and send everyone to their separate  corners. Bliss! **and of course I forgot my camera.. so I don't have a single picture!!**

How does this weave into this "good mommy moment" stuff? Well... getting away WITHOUT the kids helped me miss them.. as in the first night we went to bed I was already wondering how on earth I'd stay away ANOTHER night. (it was the first time we've ever left them for two nights.) I was so ready to get back to them Sunday, and was ready to handle the trials that just happen to go along with having kids. That get-away turned me into a great mommy! And, it gave husband and I some much needed "us" time, and what's more important than providing a stable and HAPPY marriage for your children? The kids are already asking when we'll go away again so they can stay, without us, at Nana's house. Win-win situation if you ask me!

What's your good mommy moment? Go link up and support some other recovering guilt-oholics!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Operation Loved and Lost Pants

Posted by Mandy at 8:14 AM 12 comments Links to this post
I have no fewer than 5 pairs of jeans, pants, and capris in my closet right now that I cannot fit my behind into. Well, my behind and my belly.

I am trying to prevent this. You're welcome

They fit as few as 8 months ago... and then somehow my dad dying and my work exploding, going through all kinds of crap to become foster parents, and my battle with depression all took a toll, and now.. they don't fit. Humph.

I don't know if any of you have ever battled real depression before... but it totally sucks. Within two weeks of my dad dying, it hit me. The immediate hyperventilating, shock, omgosh what just happened feelings started to go away, and a new, deeper, darker "I'm here to stay and I'm your new best friend" feeling took its place. That feeling is numb. It's almost a complete void of feelings.

For me, this led to a lot of mindless eating, mindless sitting around, and the inability to give a diddly-squat about much of anything. I even, many times, almost closed my business. I didn't want to do anything, and it seemed overwhelming.

Fast forward, because I know this is getting depressing to read in itself, and I'm feeling a lot better! Hallelujah and praise Jesus! *said in my best Mrs. Sister Christian voice*

If you can look at this picture and not laugh - we cannot be friends.

Now I'm left with what I did to myself - when I wasn't caring about diddly-squat.

I finally stepped on the scale about two months ago, for the first time in 8 months. I knew it wasn't gonna be pleasant. I knew my clothes didn't fit. I knew my one chin was really trying to become two... but hey, if you don't see the scale - you can really convince yourself "it's just water weight."

I stepped on.. held my breath and sucked in as much as I could.. you know.. because the air in your lungs offsets the fat in your thighs.... *drum roll please* 140lbs. "O-M-G"

It was only one cupcake..I swear!

Okay, I know the average woman now a days weighs much more than that, but for me, this is A LOT. This is a size or two bigger, and I see FAT FORMING where it's never formed before. "Why did I let this happen?!"

So, I got back to work. On top of running with dogs all day, I got back to my power yoga a few nights a week. Weights have been dusted off and used. I'm drinking water again - instead of living on pure Coke Zero all day. (Kidneys.. I'm sorry for the abuse you've suffered..) I'm hungry.. ugh. And, don't give me the "oh you don't have to be hungry" crap. Yes I do... you just don't know how big my appetite is. If I'm never hungry, I'm not losing. Three smaller meals and one snack a day - this sucks but it's working.

A week or so ago our good friends brought over their Wii Fit (and their super adorable baby boy) and I bravely stepped on, and let it weigh me, in front of everyone. Who cares, right?

**Drum roll please** 135. I had a mix of "Thank God... 5 pounds gone!" and "Seriously? That used to say 125!!"

So, slowly but surely I'm getting back to where I once was. It's hard when you're not officially "overweight" and you, to you, aren't at your goal weight. Everyone wants to convince you to just chill out.. but when you know how good you DID look - and how good you CAN look - you just don't want to settle for anything else. Type A personality.. right here.

Do the tree pose 40 times a day and eat nothing but carrots
 and you too can look like us!

Is anyone else in this boat with me? Trying to just drop those last few "vanity" pounds? Isn't it hard?!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

If We Have So Many Christians..

Posted by Mandy at 7:52 AM 5 comments Links to this post
Why do we have so many that are lonely?

Why do we have elderly people dying from heat each summer because they cannot afford to pay their bills?

Why do we have families that go to bed hungry?

and don't be fooled - WHITE American families go without food, too!

Why is there so much hate, anger, and judgment? (I don't like you because you're not the same color as me, you don't wear the same clothes as I do, you have a weird accent, you pray differently than I do, you work and you should stay home, you stay home and you should work...)

Why do we have churches that are more hung up on their denomination than on serving Christ and serving others? Loving Christ and loving others?

Why do we have churches that have not even ONE foster or adoptive family?

Why are there outcasts?

Why do we say "we can't afford to help" one minute and then spend $80 to get our hair done and $150 on new tennis shoes for our kids so they can be cool at school?

Why is there so much suffering in the world?

Why are orphans STILL orphans?

Why are widows struggling to make it? Why do they cry each night all alone?

I try to avoid posts like this. On one hand, I get that we all come to understand things when we do, and at one time, I didn't understand many things I do now. Years from now I'll understand things I don't yet grasp. This is not a post in judgment of individuals. It is a post in judgment of us as a whole. WHAT ARE WE DOING?! If we're doing what we are called to do as "Christians" then why do we even need DHS? Why do we need food stamps? Why do we need Obama Care?

People complain (myself included) about being taxed like crazy in order to financially support everyone in this nation. Guess what - if we as individuals did what we were supposed to do to help each other, the government wouldn't be trying to force us to do it now.

A blogger friend of mine in Pulaski County reported once that there are around 500 churches in her area. If only ONE family from each church fostered a child - there would be NO children in Pulaski County waiting for a place to go. Do you hear me? NONE.

In my area we have TONS of churches. We have more churches per capita than probably any other place I have ever been. Pages of listings in the phone book under "church." Yet, as we go through this journey to become foster parents, all I hear are excuses from others.

The most common: "I couldn't let them go.. it would be so hard."

It isn't supposed to be easy. Life that is. It isn't supposed to be about us. Our happiness. Our comfort. What WE want. Because most people I encounter tell me this when foster care comes up, I have two responses.

1. Do you think it isn't going to be hard for us? Do you think we won't be attached to these children? Do you think I've not ALREADY shed tears for the children and babies I've never even held, at the thought of having to let them go back? IT ISN'T ABOUT US. None of this life is about us. It's about HIM.

2. Think of it this way - your broken heart over having loved and loss is NOTHING compared to the daily pain and suffering these children face because they are NOT loved. They are NOT cared for. NO ONE is going to be sad about them going or staying. No one cares. It's easier for us to look through our rose colored glasses than to take them off and see the truth. To see their faces. To hold them as they cry, wipe their tears, see their bruises, help them heal while we have them, and then let them go. Praying that the time they were with us will forever impact them. That, if only for that month, that year, they felt love.

I know this post is going to come across as me judging everyone that isn't a foster parent. Yes and no. I do not come out of judgment - but out of CONCERN. Concern for the state of our churches. (and if you're a Christian, attending church or not, YOU are the church.) Concern for the condition of our nation. Our world.

We all take our own journeys as God leads us. If we listen to his leading, I have no doubt he will lead us to do things outside of ourselves. Taking care of our little families is not why we're here. It's a big part of it - don't get me wrong. Raising Godly children that will help spread the word is hugely important. But, what else are we doing? How are we serving others?

I've often reminded myself that most people are GOOD... they just don't know what to do. I understand! I have been there, and on many subjects I am quite positive I am STILL there. Some really easy ways to be a blessing could be:

* leave a gift card to Walmart or other Supercenter in someone's mailbox that you know needs financial help. Don't let them know it was you - the last thing you would want is for anyone to feel that they owe you something or that they have to thank you. We want them to praise God for that unexpected blessing! :)

*call your local DHS and see if there is a way you can help a family that is struggling, or support a foster home, or become a foster family yourself.

*donate to a food pantry REGULARLY. Here in our town Cavalry Baptist Church has a great ministry with their food pantry. They partner with DHS to help feed needy families right here in our county. What if we all donated to this cause each week? Can you imagine the impact?

*Help a single parent. Whether they are widowed, divorced, or whatever. Their stresses are huge. Take the kids to play, clean the house, help financially... just be there to talk and help combat loneliness. Loneliness is a huge problem. It shouldn't be. All are welcome with Jesus - so why are they not welcome with all of us?

*Donate needed school supplies to a class or school. Do you realize that teachers end up paying for anything that they don't receive out of their own pockets? Many parents simply CANNOT afford to buy all requested supplies for their children - can you imagine the blessing of not having to? Of having CHURCHES just provide?

*Financially support children's homes. Right here we have Vera Lloyd Presbyterian Home and the Arkansas Baptist Children's Home. I can tell you from being involved with the ABCH that they rejoice in giving souls!! What if they could focus completely on caring for these children emotionally, without having to stress about how they will clothe them, feed them, and afford new shoes for the growing ones every 3 months?

These are just a minor few ideas. You can see my heart is on helping children - but where is God leading you? What IS your calling if not to help foster? If you aren't sure, pray. Seek God daily. Desire to serve and I can assure you, he will show you what he wants you to do. Then, be a leader. Tell everyone! EXPECT your church to serve. EXPECT others to act. Wonder what on earth is wrong if they don't.. and don't be AFRAID.

I see on Facebook constantly the things you can 'like'... such as "Don't tell God how big your storm is, tell the storm how big your God is." Do we really "like" this? Do we show it? Or do we sit in fear? Do we say "It will be too hard." or "it will hurt me too much to do this"?

Fellow Christians - it is time. Now is the ONLY time. Tomorrow may never come for any of us. What are we waiting for? What are you waiting for? I want to encourage you to just start somewhere. If you take even the tiniest step forward, wanting to do God's will, I PROMISE he will guide you. He will sustain you. When you say "I can't!" he will. He WILL. And, if you will - HE CAN.

I pray today, and each day, that our nation will change. That "Christian" will not be used loosely anymore. That we won't have to say it - we will show it. I pray this for myself, because I fail so much. I am the last person to preach a sermon - to point the finger. I assure you that anything I say to anyone else, is because I feel convicted of it myself. What am I doing? What are we doing? Let's BE the change we want. We can do this because our God is with us!!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Bad Mommy Rehab

Posted by Mandy at 11:28 AM 8 comments Links to this post
Hello, my name is Mandy, and I'm a Mommy Guilt-oholic.

But, I'm in rehab - if only for today.

Every Monday feel free to join in with Mommy Rehab! We spend enough time bashing ourselves, feeling guilty over every little thing, and comparing ourselves to other moms. Just for today, let's say one good mommy moment we've had!

I had a good mommy moment this morning. Go me!

It started with no less than 30 minutes of total "in-your-face" time with the kids. I admit that I planned this super-awesome quality time because I needed no less than 30 minutes of "not in my face" time to follow. I have all kinds of facts and quotes to sort through to write my next article. I have enough trouble with my train of thought derailing without having my shoulder tapped every 2 minutes.

So, what's the good mommy moment you're wondering?

Midway through reading a very important sheet for work, and just getting my wheels a'turnin as to how I'd present all of this stuff in a good read.... tap, tap, tap.

"Moomeeee...???" - Samuel (3yr old)

"Yeeesssss??" - Me

"Will you please read me this book?" - Samuel

I took a moment, fought my annoyance with the interruption, and said, "Well... okay!"

One book turned into about 15 (yes, really) and we had a grand time snuggling on the couch. He's so darn cute. :)

So - I put my sweetie-pie above some really important work today. Go me! Can't always do that... I do believe in teaching kids that the world doesn't revolve around them, but for today it just felt like the perfect time to abandon work to cuddle with my little guy.

Read the origin of this movement on B in Real Life! Get involved! Let's put an end to the mommy guilt!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Top 3 Things My Kids Have Learned - That I Wish They Didn't

Posted by Mandy at 9:47 AM 11 comments Links to this post
Thing #1 - How to spit - from their dad
Nothing like walking into church on Sunday, and having your 3 year old bend over and spit into the bushes before he enters the doors.

"Hey Sam, bet I can spit farther than you."

Thing #2 - How to incorporate unnecessary vowels and consonants  into words - from everyone
Yeah, we're in Arkansas. I don't mind a good "Y'all" or "fixin' to" but when simple words like "bed" turn into "beh-yed" then I'm raising an eyebrow.

Thing #3 - That someone bending over equals they need a smacked bottom. - from their dad. (are we seeing a bad influence trend here?)
Me - "Carter! Why did you hit me on the rear?!"
Carter - "Well.. that's what daddy does!"
If you're around a Moss boy - don't drop necessary items.

I'm sure I'm the only one that has kids that have picked up things I wish they wouldn't have... but in case I'm not.. feel free to share your top 3! Make me feel better about my parenting, would ya?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Samuel Wants a Baby

Posted by Mandy at 11:35 AM 12 comments Links to this post
This afternoon has been full of baby questions from my kids! I keep trying to remind them that the first foster child we get may NOT be a bundle of sweetness that you can wrap in a blanket and cuddle all day. None-the-less, they are suddenly baby-crazy!

"Can I hold the baby?!"
"Can the baby sleep in my room?!"
"Can I feed him bottles?!"

To my shock, my most baby-obsessed child is my youngest. Mr. Baby himelf, Samuel. I decided to take this interest and run with it.. why not have some fun and learn some baby basics while he's in the mood, right?

We wrapped up a favorite toy turtle as our baby. Madison said, "I hope the babies we get are prettier than that turtle.." Yes, I'm doing a fine job of teaching her what's really important in life. Thank you very much.

He loves "feeding" his baby.

He loved burping the baby!

Other moments I failed to capture were walking around the house patting the baby on the back while saying, "Shhh.. it's okay baby..." and putting the baby in the bassinet. Super cute!

Madison said she's practice with her real baby - Cooper. He's spoiled absolutely rotten!

Maybe we should start practicing what to do when a 2 year old has a meltdown, or a 6 year old for that matter. I'm pretty sure my kids would be in shock to see that... but I've assured them it will happen. So we should ALL get ready!

My Arch Nemeses

Posted by Mandy at 5:49 AM 6 comments Links to this post
Few things in this world really make me angry. Few things can make me nearly come to tears on a daily basis. There is one thing, however, that succeeds in this quite often. What is this you ask?


Is it just me, or is carpet a mom's worst enemy? Sure, it's great when you have little tots learning to crawl or falling from learning to walk, but I'm fairly certain it isn't worth these tiny moments in life.

When we moved into this house, my request was "PLEASE, no carpet in the living room!" My dear husband, being more price conscious than I am, and also LOVING carpet himself, convinced me that carpet was the way to go.

"It's so much more comfortable!"

Yeah.. well... five years later, there ain't no way I'm laying on this mess!

Leaking sippy cups, spilled food (and always something like pizza or fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies), sick kids that couldn't hold down their stomach contents to make it to the bathroom, and one very determined baby-of-the-family have managed to make me hate my enemy that much more.

I don't know if you're aware, but the carpet people that convince you to spend an arm and a leg more to buy "this carpet with the 25-year Dupont Master Stain warranty" are liars. All of them. Big. Fat. Get a thrill from knowing you'll be spot cleaning more often than changing diapers - LIARS.

The worst messes on this carpet have included spilled candle wax, an entire container of ranch dressing AND the pizza in which it was cohabitating, PERMANENT marker (and yes... it is really permanent), full glasses of Coke, and lots, and lots of big, muddy footprints. (thanks to a German Shepherd that knows how to open the front door and let herself in if we forget to lock her out.)

At this point, it seems too expensive to now put in hardwood floors... but, perhaps I could just pull the carpet up myself and enjoy gray concrete. It would probably cut down on our cooling expenses in the summer, and, it must be a lot easier to upkeep than this. Surely I could just find some matching pillows for the couch and call it good.

Is there anything in your house that daily makes you NUTS? (not including your husband)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

We're Just Cool.. Umm... Hot Like That

Posted by Mandy at 12:25 PM 3 comments Links to this post
I heard on the radio this morning that yesterday Arkansas was the hottest place IN THE WORLD. (not always... but just for that day mind you.) Wow.. I definitely believe it! The heat index for my city was 120 yesterday. Is that even a real temperature? Did I fall asleep and wake up in Iraq?

No, but these poor guys did. Stay strong, Troops!

Considering that a lot of my work involves being outside - running outside - walking outside - and taking dogs to potty outside... the heat index has not been my friend. Even the most rambunctious dogs I keep for daycare are eyeing at me with a serious look of  "yeah right" when I grab leashes and expect them to get up off of the cool floor.

Lady, it was 90 degrees when I got here at 8am - that afternoon walk ain't happenin'.

I tried to take the kids to the pool yesterday, because it's too hot to go outside, and too torturous to spend even another second in this house together. After suffering for an hour and a half, I had to pack up and leave. The pool felt like a warm bath. Not refreshing in 115 degree temps, but thanks for trying.

This is not what we use for pools in Arkansas -
just to clear that up

Back home for more TV and video games. Yeah. I did just say that.

I don't remember ever being "too hot" to play outside when I was a kid, but this seems to be a common phrase spoken around here lately. Are our kids turning into pansies or what? I mean, it's bad when you use outside time as a THREAT to get your kids to stop fighting.

"If anyone yells again, you HAVE to go outside to play!"

Mother of the year.. yep... right here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Chelsea's Getting Married - And Everyone's Ticked

Posted by Mandy at 8:20 AM 4 comments Links to this post

Imagine your special day. You've waited your entire life to plan this event. You found the perfect man, the perfect dress, the perfect venue... it's magical. Now, imagine this. Everyone in America is totally mad at you over the way you're planning your wedding.

"You're spending HOW MUCH on flowers?!"

This is exactly what's happening to Chelsea Clinton.

I don't have the energy to look up exactly what this wedding is reported to cost by the end (that would require opening a new tab, Googling the info, and reporting back... do you know how much brain power that would take? Okay.. not much.. but more than I've got right now.) but I can't help but want to scream to the world, "It's none of yo' biz-nez!" (thank you Salt 'n Peppa for the inspiration)

I do believe I read that the wedding will cost between 3 and 5 million dollars. It was reported that more is being spent on flowers than security. (well, duh. I can think of a lot of places and uses for flowers... can't be quite so creative with the armed guards.)

This is just a classic case isn't it? Everyone waits to point fingers at the super rich - criticizing where and how they spend their fortunes.

"You could feed every person in Africa for a year with that money!! You selfish, brat!"

Yeah.. and you could send a child to school in Africa for a year with what money you spend on McDonald's each day. Hello pot.. meet the kettle. And, how do YOU know how much money they give away?

I heard one of my favorite sayings ever on K-Love's radio station during one of there telethons. It was when someone called in to give $20 a month, when they were seriously struggling financially. The family stated "we know it isn't much, but we really wanted to help."

"It isn't equal giving. It's equal sacrifice."

That $20 a month to that family, was quite possibly more special in God's eyes than the one time pledge of a major companies $20,000.

Chelsea's family spending millions of dollars on their daughter's wedding is likely equal to the typical amount we average folks spend on ours. It's equal with what we make verses what we spend.

What I'm trying to say is - what's it to ya? Why does everyone care? This wedding is likely putting lots of NEEDED money into people in the wedding industry's pockets. Wedding planners and florists have children to feed, too. You support the economy by spending money.. right? If you can spend, stimulate, pay your bills ON TIME, and not go into debt.. then rock on!

In closing, I'd like to say, hey.. congrats to ya, Chelsea! I hope you and your hubby end up being like Brad and Angelina and adopt like 8 kids from all over the world - just to stick it to the folks that are up your rear right now. That'll show 'em... ;)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I've Lost My Touch

Posted by Mandy at 8:24 AM 7 comments Links to this post
I got a call this morning from my BFFs that they needed spur of the moment child care for their ridiculously precious baby boy. "Umm.. yes. Bring him - NOW."

He arrived at 8am, and here we are two hours later and this is all he's done:

He's just hanging out, sleeping, and looking adorable. My kids are mad because I won't let them touch him or otherwise wake him up.

In all honesty, I need him to wake up so that I can get some baby practice in. I have completely lost my ability to hold a baby and do anything else. When I hold him, that's all I do. Hold him.

How is it that I used to cook supper, bathe kids, put on kids' shoes... and basically save the world all with a baby in my arms? (Well... not that I would ever cook supper with a baby in my arms... I mean.. that would be dangerous...) Now, I need BOTH hands on this real-life doll to keep him from falling to his doom. The good news is.. there are 6 other arms just begging to get a`hold of him. Poor kid.

I'll either learn to get stuff done with this cuttie pie around or I'll just sit and look at him. Either way.. I'll call the day a success.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I am Completely, Totally, Clueless

Posted by Mandy at 8:08 AM 7 comments Links to this post
Over the past couple of months, the husband and I have been looking at house plans. I thought this would be a really fun experience, but as I sit and look at this book of "the 425 best-selling home plans" I feel very, very, small.

One would think you could figure out what your family needs in a home. How many bedrooms, bathrooms, one-story or two. An office? A playroom? Do we need a formal dining room or is an eat-in kitchen sufficient? I. Have. No. Idea.

So far, my favorite "on paper" house plans are laid out with the master bedroom and main living areas downstairs, and the other bedrooms upstairs. I've been told by a few people that it's a lot cheaper to build up than out, so to get the most space for your money, two-stories is the way to go. That sounds appealing.. but does walking up and down stairs to put away the 13 loads of laundry a day I'll be doing speak to me? Not in a nice way...

"I'd love to go for a walk today... but I can't move my legs after climbing 10 miles of stairs. Sorry."

My biggest debacle is bedrooms. How many should we have? At first, I thought 4. One for us, three extra. Kids can share... that'll be fine. Now, 5 is looking better. Someone may NEED their own room. We fill up 4 bedrooms with just the three kids we have now. Oh I don't know. It's a good thing this isn't a time-sensitive issue... we have tons of time to try to figure this all out.

Have you ever built a house? Done a lot of house hunting? What would you want if you could pick and choose your ideal home with a large family? Help a lady out!

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