Friday, November 29, 2013

Give Away Christmas

Well, Thanksgiving weekend is well underway.  Today many people will head into stores looking for all those good deals.  We will also do some of this.  However, as you search out all those deals then I pray you take a moment to focus on how you will spend your money this Christmas.

Each year Americans spend BILLIONS on Christmas.  Take some time to watch this video by Advent Conspiracy and then take some time to check out the three amazing companies below.

Ornaments for Orphans:
"Ornaments4Orphans exists to bless these precious children by connecting their needs with Christmas tradition.  Ornaments4Orphans sells beautiful Christmas items hand-crafted in impoverished communities, then uses the proceeds to enrich the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children. Ornaments4Orphans also strives to combat the global orphan crisis through orphan prevention. The local artisans employed by Ornaments4Orphans experience a reliable income which enables them to provide for their families.  They put food on their tables, enroll their children in school and purchase the medications which will hopefully lengthen their lives."
We bought our kiddos ornaments, teachers gifts, and parents' ornaments (sorry for the spoiler alert) from here.  They are gorgeous.  We will probably by our kids' ornaments from here next year also.

147 Million Orphans:
147 Million Orphans Foundation
"The 147 Million Orphans Foundation was created to impact the lives of children through the provision of food, water, and medicine. We invest directly in projects that help provide these basic needs to those who desperately need it, and most of our projects occur in Haiti, Honduras, and Uganda."
147 sells beautiful clothing, jewelry, bags, and more.  Started by Gwen and Suzanna, who were united for their love for the fatherless around the world.  

Claro Candles:

"Every candle purchased through Claro has a different giving outcome that fights social injustice in our world.  Whether your purchase plants a tree, provides a meal, sends a child to school, or fights for the rights of abused women, your purchase has a lasting impact in the life of someone in need.  Burn a candle.  Bring light."
 Each month Claro focuses on a different ministry by which to distribute the money they have made through the sale of candles.

What was your most memorable Christmas gift?  What was it so meaningful?
What is your favorite "reaching out" company to invest your money in?  Share the information in the comments section.  If you  have a blog post that shares great Christmas ideas please link it below.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Super Mom and Being Ok NOT Being Her

Our foster kids qualify for free/reduced lunches.  At first I really struggled with this, not because I had a problem accepting the help (when you go from feeding one little mouth to four over night it can take its toll on your budget) but because it meant I wasn't the one making Big Brother's lunches.

"Why do you have to make them?" Tony asked me one day.

"I don't know.  It's what my mom did.  I always liked that my mom made my lunches.  I felt bad for the kids who had to eat at school.  It seemed like there parents were too busy to make them lunch."

"But that's not how Big Brother feels.  He thinks its cool to eat at school and making him lunch is taking up a lot of time that could be used for other things."

That was the moment it hit me.  I couldn't and shouldn't be super mom.  There are so many things that I've had to humbly step back from and realize that I can't be those things for my kids and my family, whether that's for a short amount of time or forever.  It's not healthy or good for me to try and be a super mom.  Instead of doing a few things very well, I will be stretched so thin I will do nothing well.  So here is the "super" mom things I have had to let go of.

*Couponing: I used to coupon a LOT, and it saved us a LOT.  I have no time to coupon anymore.  I do still shop deals and sales.  I do still hold price points on things that I won't buy until they reach that point.  However, my Aldi shopping list grows bigger all the time.

*Emotional Problem Solver: I had a vision of being the mom who always had the words to say.  The one that had the lap to sit on.  I've come to realize I CAN'T be that for my kids.  We've had to seek a lot of outside help and support to deal with the many emotions our kids are feeling and in turn that help is helping me get better at being the one to help my kids.

*Put Together Kids:  Most days my kids show up to school with breakfast still on their face and snot running down there noises.  And typically I don't have the wipe to clean it up with.  I don't have the time to spot check each of my kids before they run out the door.  It just doesn't happen.

*The Clean Van Award: One time my Dad went to vacuum out my van and I told him I had vacuumed it since I last saw him.  He said he could tell.  Yes, it's that bad.  My van is pretty much a disgrace.  We live in our van.  We have so many appointments and meetings that we often eat in our van.  Sometimes it's a meal and sometimes just a snack, but either way it gets dirty.  There their are the toys the kids bring in the vehicle, the numerous paper work we pick up, and a ton of other random things.  I usually cringe when I show someone the inside of my van.

*Discipline Extraordinaire:  Every counselor and therapist we have ever had has commented on how "great" I do with the kids.  I have to laugh to myself as I think, "Yeah, because your here, it's easier to hold it together when someone else is here."  More often then not I hear a harsh, snippy, and impatient tone from my mouth.  I have a vision of the get down on one knee, in a calm voice, mom I want to be, but I am far from it.  The other day, after I had snapped at the kids, Baby Girl looked at me and said, "Mommy, I think you need to take a deep breath."  Gotta love how God uses what you are trying to drill into their heads to come full circle into conviction.

*Top Preformers: Sometimes Awana isn't studied till the day before, sometimes I forget to give Big Brother his spelling tests, sometimes I do what Little Man's therapist asked me to do that week 5 minutes before she arrives, and sometimes we are late for an appointment because I had to fill out the paperwork (that I've had for three weeks) in the car before we went in.  And that should probably be a be a little (or a lot) more then sometimes.  Three counseling appointments, two therapy appointments, school, work, Awana, and just general life gets in the way of being on top of things like we should be.

There you go.  My confession.  I fail miserably as a mom.  But that's ok.  And I need to be ok with that.  I can't be perfect (thank you God for your Grace that picks up my mess and loves me still).  I just pray I can show my kids who they should turn their messes over to, who can be the super hero in their lives.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

10 Fingers, 10 Toes

"Do you want a girl or a boy?"

"All we care is that the baby is healthy and has 10 fingers and 10 toes?"

It's a phrase many parents use when they are expecting a child.  We used it when we were expecting Sweet Pea.  It's the dream every parent wants, to raise a "normal" child.

I'm not sure what every foster and adoptive parent believes about the children they are bringing into their homes.  I think most know that their will be delays and issues.  Some are welcoming children who they know are already diagnosed with special needs.

However, I think most, when they look the full reality of their child's needs in the face, have a grieving process.  There is a process of saying good bye to childhood and adult hood for their kids.  A time of looking at the future and wondering; what is it going to be like.

I have not held Little Man since the day he was born.  But I do, as his mother, have so many hopes and dreams for him.   I want him to live a full and productive life.  I want him to be successful as adult.  But I also know there are so many things I am saying good bye to. 

Each day brings something of joy and success but it also brings a harsh reality of the future we may face.  I love my Little Man, and I will fight hard to help him live life at his very best.  And while he is not "healthy", he is an amazing creation of God.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bragging on My Man

I just have to take a few minutes to brag on my incredible husband.

The other day a discussion (which we have often) about things we needed to buy for the family (ie clothing, school needs, etc) led to me mentioning a distaste for my wardrobe. 

"I feel like I'm 40 and I'm NOT, I'm 25!" 

(Did you guys know I'm 25???.....almost 26.)

My hubs encouraged me to use the household money to buy myself a few things every moth.  I thought That was sweet but not practical.  We use every penny of the household money every month and I usually have a list going of what we need for the next month.  Also, going shopping with our four kids and our crazy's just not going to happen.

A few days later my husband handed me some cash and explained how he had rearranged our budget a bit.  All for me, to feel a bit closer to my age.

Yesterday we drove to the mall and I spent over two hours, by myself, shopping.  While he watched the kids.

I could NOT ask for a better guy.

Thanks Babe for spoiling me!  I love you!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thankful Leaves

I always look forward to November.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming which means time with family, fun with my kids, and most of all remember Jesus Christ's birth.  One of our favorite things to do in November are Thankful leaves.  Each night we take a leaf and write one thing that we are thankful for.  Then we hang them up in our dining room.  It is a great way to put into perspective all of the things we have.  The kids LOVE watching our leaf trail grow around our room.  Six family member giving thanks 28 times equals a lot of things to be thankful for. 

Here is what you will need:
*Clip Art from the internet in different leaf shapes, put into a word document.
*Colored construction paper (we use one color for each family member).
*Painters Tape

1. Print off your word document as many times as you need.
2. Cut out leaves
3. Each night write something you are thankful for
4. Take it onto the wall in a fun pattern. 
5. Take some time to reflect on the incredible blessings God has placed in your life.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: Held: Learning to Live in God's Grip

Recently, I was given the chance to review Held: Learning to Live in God's GripHeld is a Bible Study for Special-Needs Parents by Lee and Sandra Peoples.  Lee and Sandra have three boys, one of whom his Autism.  (For those of your interested-The Peoples are also in the process of adoption with their third son.) Lee is a Pastor and their church has sought be create a wonderful Special Needs ministry.

When I heard of the opportunity to review this devotional I was very excited as Little Man's diagnosis is still very fresh.  It came at a perfect time as we walked away from a difficult IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting.  Things had gone about opposite of how we thought they would go and it was (still is) a real struggle.  The People's talked honestly about many of their own struggles with Doctors and family and church.  It hit close to home in so many ways.

Lee and Sandra did three things that I love in this book. 1. They focused the whole study on God; how we relate to God as we go through the struggles of raising a child with special needs, the truth of who God is in our lives, and how God expects us to respond in difficult situations.  2. The present the gospel message very clearly, declaring the truth of who Christ is. 3. Everything they say is deeply rooted in God's word.

I do wish that they had placed the scripture references at the top of each section of reading for quick reference and reading.  Some scripture is quoted within the text and others are just mentioned.  I would have been nice to have it listed at the top though.

This book was a quick and easy devotional.  Great for the family who is hopping from appointment to appointment and meeting to meeting.  It would also be a wonderful study to do as a group.  I would personally love to do this with other special need parents and build that community, bond, and support.

Overall, I really enjoyed Held: Learning to Live in God's Grip.  It is definitely a gift I would give to a parent going through the process of diagnosis or a worn out parent tired of therapy and meetings.

Check out Sandra's Blog or (in)able Special Needs Community (part of the (in)courage network) where Sandra contributes. I truly enjoy reading what she writes and I know it will bless you also.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Journey Through the Court System Part 2

Last Friday I took you up to a change in a child's goal.  You can read that post here. 

Return Home-5 Months
If a child has this goal then the courts have oked them to return home anytime in the next five months.  Children begin increasing visits, eventually doing overnight visits.

Substitute Care Pending Termination
In order to terminate a parents rights theymust go through a trail.  The courts will first have a "Pre Trial".  At this the parents are "charged" with termination of rights and ordered to do services.  It's typically a simple, 5 minute session.

A Termination Hearing is LONG.  It is typically all day, possibly longer.  It rests on the State to provide proof that the parents' rights.  A Termination Hearing is broken into two parts: Fitness and Best Interest.  In Fitness the Judge is trying to decide if the parents are "fit" or "unfit".  Like a trial you would see on tv both sides will call witnesses and question them.  Next is "Best Interest".  Basicly they are trying to decide what the best interest of the child is.  Just because a Judge finds a parent unfit does not mean that they find the best interest of the child is adoption.  If the parents are found unfit and the best interest is adoption then the Judge will found grounds for termination. 

The parents do have 30 days to appeal this ruling.  This does not add another court date.  The Appellate court will go through the court transcripts and make sure nothing was done wrong that could affect the ruling.  The Appellate Courts are expedited for these cases.  In our area expedited means 6 to 8 months.

Most estimations for adoption in our county is about a year.  There is a TON of paperwork, for the caseworker mainly.  When all the paperwork is done you then have to wait on the courts to set the adoption date.  If a child is NOT in a home that is adopting them then that adds a bit of a kink.  A child HAS to be in a home for six months before they can be adopted.

So there you have it, the Illinois court system at it's finest.  We are so fortunate in this county.  A Judge holds ALL the power in the decision making.  We happen to have an incredible judge in this county.  We also have a great States Attorney and GAL (Guardian Ad Litem-the kids attorney).  And whats most amazing for me to watch is the parents attorney's.  They have some tough clients, but they fight incredibly HARD for them.  We are beyond blessed to live in this county.