Wednesday, March 27, 2013

If you ever want to do something with your life....

Do not be misled.
The title of this post is not the beginnings of friendly advice from me to you.
The title of this post is the beginning of an actual sentence that was actually spoken to me by someone that I had actually met only about thirty minutes prior.
The advice was neither solicited nor responded to. Of course now I can think of plenty of things to say in response to this unbelievably unbelievable statement. But at the moment I was so stunned I simply smiled and nodded as she listed her suggestions.
What I meant to say was:

"Thank you so much! Between caring for my home and family, educating my children and all of my volunteer work, I haven't had any time at all to come up with ways to do something with my life. I am so glad that I met you!"

The truth is, there always will be an ongoing debate between the Stay-At-Home-Moms (SAHMs)  and Working Moms (WMs). I think that I have a unique angle on this debate, because in my 5 years of motherhood I have spent 2.5 years as a WM and 2.5 years as a SAHM.

When I was a working mom, I felt that my time at work made me appreciate my time with Man Cub more. I also felt good about all the extra trips and "stuff" that my additional income allowed. But, I felt guilty every time I left him. I hated missing dinner time and bedtime several nights a week. I cannot even describe to you what it is like to hear that your first born child did all of his first milestones with a babysitter instead of with you. That was by far the lowest low of being a WM.

Now that I am a Stay-At-Home-Mom, I love the time that I spend with my kids. I love that I am their first source of care and comfort and I am the one they spend the bulk of their time with. I love that I never have to miss bedtime or dinnertime or story time. But, just as with being a WM, being a SAHM comes with it's sacrifices. The most tangible one to identify is the loss of that second full-time income. We made changes and adjustments, but it hasn't always been easy. And I have to admit, there are some days at home when it would simply be easier to be at work. There are times when I miss that individual identity. And there are certainly times that I miss all of the adult interaction.

No matter what side of the debate you are on, the point is that being a good mom is doing something with your life. This is your primary job, even if you have another one outside of the home.
 This is your mission field and your family is your ministry.
And that's about all I have to say about that.....

Monday, March 18, 2013

Clean It Like A Social Worker Is Coming Over

Today is the day.
It is the day that we will check the very last step off of our "Adoption Certification To Do List."
Today is our last home study visit!
In case you have never gone through the foster/adopt certification process, let me fill you in a little bit on what we have had to do to get to this point. Beginning in September 2012 and continuing [mostly] steadily through the past 6 months, we have:
  • Made original intake phone call. Answered approximately 15 minutes of intake questions.
  • Filled out initial application (containing all the same questions as the phone call, of course)
  • Attended 2+ hour orientation seminar
  • Were fingerprinted and background-checked through 3 different national registries
  • Filled out huge application packet (including 30 pages EACH of autobiography), turned in with copies of entire family's birth certificates, SS cards, drivers licenses, marriage license, passports.
  • Each of us and our children underwent an extensive physical exam (at our own doctor), including blood work for the fella and I
  • Our friend (staying in our upstairs bonus room until August) had to be fingerprinted, background checked through 3 registries, and get similar physical exam
  • Attended 2 separate 7 hour foster care training classes
  • Insert positive pregnancy test here.
  • Attended 6 hour adoption training class
  • Home inspected by Fire Marshal and Health Department
  • First home study visit with home inspection and interview
Each of these steps came one at a time, and none was too stressful or overwhelming. Until those inspector people started coming to my home. Now, please don't get the wrong idea about me. I maintain and mostly clean, orderly, safe home. I mean, we live in it, so it isn't perfect, but it's more than sufficient.
If you have never gone through this, the only way I can describe it is this; Imagine you are in your third trimester of pregnancy. 3 different people are coming to your home to inspect it and determine if it is a safe and comfortable place for your child. And their opinion determines whether or not you get to deliver your baby.
While it is admittedly irrational to think that whether or not my baseboards have been scrubbed will determine whether or not we get certified, these were the types of emotions and thoughts that ran through my head.
Before the Fire Marshal and Health Department came, I went insane with cleaning and organizing. Days upon days, from sun up to sun down, I cleaned every crevice and organized every closet and cabinet. The fella dutifully installed the fire extinguisher, hung our fire escape plan in the children's rooms, and put safety latches on all of our cabinets. Comically enough, the visits were extremely short (no more than 20 minutes each) and the things I most worried about were not even checked. (Glad I spent an hour organizing my bathroom closet, they didn't even look in the bathroom let alone the closet!)
You would think that those experiences would have calmed me for the home study. Nope. The 24 hours before the social worker came for the first of two visits, I once again entered "nesting" mode. This time my mania was focused on my kid's rooms. If the rooms don't look clean and fun and stimulating and safe and......they won't trust us with more children. Once again, irrational, but that is how it went down. The visit went smoothly and I really had nothing to worry about, yet again. Now here I sit, 7 hours and 50 minutes until our last home study visit. It has not been even a week since my last cleaning frenzy. The house just needs a quick FlyLady-style Home Blessing Hour. Will I do those 7 simple tasks and calmly wait for our lovely worker to show up?
 Well...what do you think?

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

3 Must-Buy Items from Dollar Tree

I am a Dollar Tree fanatic. I always check them first, no matter what it is that I am in need of. I buy everything from party supplies to home decor at this fantastic place. When shopping at Dollar Tree, there is always a chance that you are going to compromise quality, but many times I come across an item that is as good as or better than the full-priced counterpart.
The 3 items I am going to talk about today are products that I always get at Dollar Tree, and I usually buy a pretty large quantity. I like them so much that I won't buy the "real" thing at all anymore!
"Quick Erasers"
These things rock my world! They are just as effective as a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, they come two in a pack for $1, and they have a regular sponge on the opposite side from the melamine foam. The sponge is awesome for wiping up the little pills of foam that come of when you are scrubbing with a melamine eraser. I have a whole bin of these things under my sink. I use them for cleaning baseboards and doors, getting scuffs off of tennis shoes and about a dozen other household chores.
"Static Duster"
For years I have purchased these disposable-type static dusters from Pledge or Swiffer brands, until I found this treasure. They work the exact same way, and for $1 you get the handle and two refill duster tips. Dust your whole house in record time, pick up even the finest dust and pet hair, and then throw the whole thing away. This is another one that I have a whole bin of! Having dogs in the house means that I have to dust at least twice a week and these are not only super cost effective, but really awesome too!
"Swavitel Fabric Softener"

This is my most recent, and probably my favorite, Dollar Tree find. The Morning Sun scent smells ahhhh-mazing, and the powerful fragrance lasts and lasts. Most Dollar Tree stores sell this in a small bottle that says that it will do 9 loads. However, I use 1/2 of one cap-full and this very concentrated formula still works wonderfully. That gives you 18 loads for $1, or  less than 6 cents per load.  I washed my bed linens with this and my whole room smells wonderful! I also use this product to make my own Febreeze, which is not only super simple but way cheaper than the commercial product. In an old Febreeze bottle, combine 1 cap-full of this fabric softener and 1 tablespoon or baking soda, then fill the rest of the bottle with water. Shake before each use.
What treasure have you found at the Dollar Tree?

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Friday, March 8, 2013

10 Rules for Dating Your Husband

If you have ever been to any sort of marriage conference or seminar or if you have read almost any marriage book, you know that you should be "dating" your husband. But what does that look like exactly? If you are like most married women, especially if you have kids, you probably do not clearly know how to date your husband. I'm just figuring it out for myself. I have decided that a "date" cannot simply mean that we did something without our kids. If we went together to a doctor's appointment and then grabbed some lunch on the way home, that is not a date. It could be a date, if you followed some simple guidelines. So here are my "10 Rules for Dating Your Husband"
  1. Let him plan the date. This does not mean that you give him absolutely no input, but if you were in a real dating relationship, you probably wouldn't call the fella up and say "Saturday night we are going to see Twilight and then eat at Outback." Of course not. You would let the guy ask you, and then he would plan where to take you and what to do. Since you are a married couple, you will obviously have to help pick the day and plan for childcare, but leave the other logistics up to him. Don't make it a chore or put pressure on him. That is a recipe for a disastrous date night. Just convey that you are excited to go out with him and would love for him to plan the night. And make sure that he knows that you are going to be happy with whatever he plans. If you have made a habit of criticizing his plans, don't be surprised if he is reluctant to plan your date night. He is probably just afraid of rejection.
  2. Dress yourself for a date. I don't care if you are going to CiCi's Pizza, fix yourself up. Take a shower, put on a cute outfit, perfume, make up, and style your hair. Again, when you were in the early stages of a dating relationship, you did all of those things even if just to watch tv on the couch with your guy!
  3. Be a good sport. If your guy plans a bowling night or takes you to an action movie, get into it. You would if you were newly dating, right?
  4. Don't talk about "married stuff" the whole night. This includes: your to-do list, your kids, your house, your finances, your schedule. This may be a great time to talk about some of that, but don't talk about it the whole night. My fella and I always have a really good time talking about our hopes for the future. Of course, sometimes those hopes do involve our kids or schedule. But our best conversations are about things like how we hope to be more fruitful as a couple and family or where our dream vacation spots are.
  5. Make him feel special. Especially if the majority of your time and attention is spent on small children, I encourage you to make your date a time that your husband can feel special. He is the center of your world during your date. Talking only about your kids, or gossiping about your friends, or checking your phone repeatedly will not serve to make him feel special. Ask questions about him that get him talking!
  6. Pray. On your own before your date and together during your date, ask God to bless your time together and to use it to benefit your marriage and family. We usually do this as we bless our meal.
  7. Don't take it too seriously! If your guy isn't the "romantic type" or you can't afford to go to a fancy restaurant, still take the time to have a date (see my post 10 Ways to Spend Quality Time with Your Husband (On the Cheap!)). If it doesn't go perfectly, that is okay!
  8. Step out of your comfort zone. My favorite dates are dinner or a movie, but sometimes you need to shake it up and do something different. Going to a sporting event, heading to a park for a picnic, or checking out a museum or historical site are all great ideas but there dozens more!
  9. Be affectionate. You are on a date! Hold hands, kiss, wrap your arms around each other during the movie. Be that couple that an observer would never assume is married with kids!
  10. Make dating your husband a regular occurrence. This probably will take some planning and commitment. Sit down with your calendar and plan at least 2 dates per month. They may not both be dinners out on a Saturday night, but maybe you can meet for lunch one afternoon while the kids are at school or turn the previously mentioned "doctor's appointment" scenario into a purposeful, meaningful date. Maybe you can plan to put the kids to bed early one evening and have a special dinner and movie night right in your own home. The point is to put it on the calendar and stick to it. Get with another couple and plan to trade off babysitting on alternate weeks so that you can both have date nights without so much expense! On birthdays and Christmas, ask for gift cards to movies and restaurants so that your family can effectively "sponsor" your dates.
I have heard it said that the best gift you can give your children is a strong marriage, and I could not agree more! Investing in time alone with your husband is an investment in your whole family! 

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Monday, March 4, 2013

A Little Update


Here I sit, 16 weeks into my third pregnancy, and 6 months in to our adoption certification process. What a ride it has been, what a life-changing shift of plans and priorities.
Yesterday I was angry. I heard about a couple that is further along in the process of certification then we are, despite starting later than us and having done less of the "To Do" list than we have. Up until that moment, it was easy to say "God's timing is perfect," yet suddenly it all felt so unfair. Yes, I know that life is not fair. I know that the 6.1 million women in America that are diagnosed with infertility would look at my life and say "That's not fair." But I had a little pity party anyhow. And then I sent an email to our case worker, asking what the hold up is. And then, finally, I prayed about it. Probably not the correct order of events, but that is how it happened.
The surprising thing is, our worker responded first thing the following morning (there is usually a 2 week turnaround time for an email response). She had a very rational, reasonable explanation for the delay. But I was not satisfied. I responded back again, and again. I will spare you all the details, but will sum it up like this: at the beginning of the conversation I was told it could be another 120 days before we were ready to complete the home study. By the end of the conversation I was told that my file was in a supervisor's hands and ready to go to an investigator to complete the home study. I call that VICTORY!
So here is what I know:
-You have to stay persistent. These people have the best intentions, but they are simply overworked and overwhelmed.
-You can get a lot accomplished by asking questions. No more "I guess that is the way it is." Instead, ask "Why is that the way it is?"
-Don't mistake patience for complacency. I thought I was just being patient with the process, but I needed to be following up (and following up some more!)
-Sausage and potato casserole is the yummiest comfort food on an emotional day (okay, that might not be adoption-related but I'm sure it is in some way applicable).
The photo above is from It is a great website with lots of free resources, all related to foster care adoption!

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