Beware: I’m a terrible friend.

Beware: I’m a terrible friend and I don’t plan to change. 

I could never understand those women who became moms and who had no close friends. Wouldn’t that be lonely? It doesn’t take long to answer a text, pick up the phone. I mean, can you not get away for an hour to have coffee? Don’t you want to get out of the house?

Until I became that Mom. 

Now, I know not everyone is like me, thankfully. I’m really not all that fantastic, especially at being a friend. And you know what? I’m okay with that. I’m not in the market for real life best friendships. Why?

I don’t have time. 

Simple as that. I don’t have time for long conversations about only Lord knows what and quite frankly, I don’t likely have the mental capacity for it either. The thought of having to get together child care for an afternoon out is exhausting. Sometimes I don’t answer text because I’ve got only one hand available at that time and it’s hard to text one handed with these iPhone 6plus #firstworldproblems or I want to give a better response than the quick one that is at my fingertips. And then I forget because, well, kids 🤷🏼‍♀️ 

If you’re looking for someone to be you’re best internet gal pal, I’m your girl. If you’re looking for someone to have some GIF fun via text ... I’m your girl! If your looking for someone to spill your secrets and life problems to... you may want to look elsewhere. 


I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, motherhood defines me. I’m more than okay with that. My husband is my best friend, and I’m more than okay with that. It works for us. It works for me. Consider yourself forewarned. I suck at friendships. 

Man, foster care is hard.

I say this every time but it's very hard for me to talk about foster care, especially on social media. I never want to upset anyone or give more information than I should. I am sure someone is always reading and I am awaiting that slap on the wrist phone call. However, I do my best so I can give y'all a window into our journey of foster care. I wanted to document this.

I received a phone call from our caseworker today. The 2 month mark of baby Simba being apart of out family, around the same moment in time that I received the phone call. What she said made my heart drop.
"Good morning Mika!"
"Hello Mrs. {Caseworker}!"
"I just wanted to call and let you know that we have located family for {baby Simba}. Of course, its nothing definite but just wanted you to be aware."
Heart. Pit of stomach.
 This is great news! Isn't it? It is, yes, yes. It is. Great news for baby Simba! YAY!
But what about me?
Wait, it isn't about me. Its about him. Yes. That's right, its about him. That could be so wonderful for him.
But what about us?
The number one goal in foster care is reunification with the birth parents. Until that happens the children will stay in foster care at a foster home until reunification or a family member steps in and is able to care for the child to either foster or adopt them, if needed. Family with blood family is always best. Well, most of the time, but you know what I mean. This is all great news. It really is, but I realized something today... I expected him to stay with us. Maybe not forever, but I expected him to stay here. He is mine. But he isn't.
I knew the chances of handing him over to bio parents or an adoptive home was great, but I hadn't allowed myself to think about it. In my mind, I had at least a year. A whole 12 months before I had to open that compartment and deal with those emotions. And I still may, but its very possible that I may not. You know us women, we always have those tabs open and waiting for when its time to pull it out the one needed (If it already out bouncing around in all our hot mess glory).
Man. Foster care is hard.
We went into foster care because it was a strong calling. We wanted to help. We are able to help. The number one reason why people say they could never foster is because they could never give them back. I understand that. I really, really do. Not everyone can or wants to foster and that is 100% okay. However, to that statement above I say... I don't want to give him back. Handing him back over to his birth mother or adoptive family is going to hurt like a mother. But I can handle it. We can handle it. We can shoulder that burden, for him. He would have been in foster care whether we fostered or not, I am just so thankful we were his for now family. I am thankful I got to love on him, bond with him, nurture him, respond to his cries and more. I am thankful for him being apart of our family, for now or for always. He will forever be apart of our greatest adventure.



"I dont know how yall do it!"

We have been asked this question several times. Every time we answer with... “We don’t know how we do it either. We just.... do.”

I have been working on this post for several weeks now. Some days I feel I’ve got it together and some days I don’t. Some days I feel like I’ve got tons of advice and experience, other times I think “who am I to give anyone advice?!” I've sat down and really asked myself, how DO we do it..? What is that secret formula that we possess 75% of the time, because the other 25% we are losing it. I kept coming up short. No answer sounded good enough, sounded right... and then it came to me.

Want to know how we do it? How we survive the sleepless nights? Having a very active middle school-er, 2 rambunctious toddler AND a newborn? AND have let our caseworker know that we are ready for another placement? all while maintaining a home and jobs?

We wing it. Everyday. We wing it. 

That’s our secret. 

We give ourselves room for meltdowns (child and parent), we give ourselves room for mistakes and to grow. We give ourselves grace and promises to do better tomorrow. We work together, as a team. Not one parent does more than the other. We attempt to stay as organized as possible and always on the same page. 
However, there are a few tangible objects that help us manage this chaos.....
 

My Life Planner
Seriously, this thing is my saving grace. I have finally broken down and purchased an hourly planner because all of our craziness is appointments and time sensitive. I block out our time with colored pencils (adults like to color too!) so I don't overbook and can see, at a glance, how crazy this day is going to be. We block out time for free time. Everyday. We schedule family time, several times a week. There will become a time that I will overbook us again, it will happen. But as stated above, we will push through and do our best and learn from it.

Command station in our kitchen
Its nothing fancy at all, just a huge dry erase board and a dry erase calendar. The dry erase board is our catch all. Grocery list, meal plan and daily/weekly reminders. The calendar has monthly info like field trips, practices and weekly family outings. 

We attempt meal planning but I pretty much suck at it. We wing it. I attempt to get all of my home duties done in between all life's little events (Vacuuming, dusting, laundry, bills etc). We prep every night for the next morning; lunches, clothes laid out, coffee made and bags packed. We attempt to do some laundry every day but always go to bed with a clean kitchen. My kitchen table is a catch all for all the things that come out of my van, but it is quickly cleaned off and things in their place. All littles have their scheduled bath times (morning or evening) and we attempt teeth brushing daily. Don't judge me. 

So, yeah. Moral of this story, we wing it. Life, events, dinner... Everything. We work together and we have fun. 
You can too.
Life, is an adventure.


What we have learned about foster care in our first month.

One month ago today, we had been an approved foster home for 1 week. We had already said yes to a placement who never came into care and no to a placement for various reason. One month ago today, me and the toddlers had drove over an hour to a play date with some new awesome friends, who are also new foster moms. One month ago, we received a call that resulted in our first foster care placement. 

What we have learned about foster care in our first month.

(And this is just our experience with our DFACS. I can not speak for every foster parent or every agency) 

  • People are very interested about how foster care works. Also, a lot of people don’t understand how foster care works. Generally, children come into state custody (aka, foster care) due to some sort of negligence by their birth parents.... whether it’s unsafe living arrangements, alcohol or drug abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse or abandonment due to arrest mainly.... to name a few. The number one goal of foster care is reunification between child and parents. The biological parents get a case plan, which basically state what they need to do to get their child(ren) back in their custody. Until then, they have visitations with their child(ren) weekly, to keep in contact and keep the bond. There are various court dates, phone calls, visitations, team meetings, more phone calls, more court dates and paperwork, paperwork, paperwork for foster parents, caseworker, bio parents and all involved. Nothing that a mom can’t handle ;) 

  • People/friends come out of no where to help, check in and bring food! The support by phone/text/in person has been nothing short of amazing and completely inspiring. I’m so thankful for the understanding (from most people) that life has gotten crazy, busy and overwhelming at time, and have shown us grace, love and support even when we have been a bit frazzled and slow to respond. So thank YOU. You know who you are.
  • Caseworkers are overworked and frazzled. I know that feeling and it sucks. I have sympathy. I have patience. I have understanding. Visitations get canceled or moved at the last minute. Go with it. Be flexible. Be like water. & thank your caseworker. 

  • They (the caseworkers for the bio parents/kids) really can not tell you anything about the case. Not a thing. They will tell you what you need to know, regarding the best interest of the child. They can not tell you why child is in care, if the parents are working their case plan to move towards reunification, if they slip up etc... Most information is public knowledge, so if you are very curious of the charges, case plan etc... you can go to the court hearings. Which is your right, as foster parents. You just make sure you find out when it is. Again— frazzled caseworkers. Dont be afraid to reach by phone call/text/email to check in.

  • Privacy is HUGE- I have taken necessary steps to start ensuring a bit of privacy. Laugh if you must, at this social media loving mom but as previously written about in another blog post, privacy is huge. When we first started this journey I had every intention of sharing all I could (within reason). It’s easy to not give a second thought to issues with out a face or a name, but once you have that child in hand and have met their birth parents, you are not only protecting yourself and that child, you are protecting that birth parent too. I know that may sound crazy to some, but as stated above, some kids are in foster care because their parents have made mistakes, as some of us have. They are living the only way they know how, the only way they were shown as kids. Throwing stones at them is not necessary, we hold out helping hands. Protecting their privacy and their rights is crucial, as well as ours. So sharing “everything I can” is no longer a priority. 

  • After 3 kids, adding more really doesn’t add much more craziness. You are already used to be outnumbered and having more kids than hands. I pride myself on knowing my limits and what I/we can handle. Sometimes it works out, other times, not so much. I have meltdowns, hell, we ALL do. We get overwhelmed but the difference is.... the difference is, we embrace the chaos. •Be on the look out for a post about “How we handle it all.”•

  • I’ve read this a few times and it proves to be true... after the first 2-3 weeks you fall into a routine and everyone usually has adjusted. Throwing a new child in the mix is hard on everyone involved. You have to find a new normal and a new morning & nighttime routine. After a few weeks, everything becomes second nature and you become a family of {6} in our case. 
  • You learn what “take it one day at a time” truly means. Will this child likely be reunified with his mama? Yes, he will. Will it break my heart? Yes and No, both for obvious reason. But do I worry about that? Not right now. Right now, I’m worrying about how much sleep we are going to get tonight, if my kid hates me now because I just yelled at him and what’s for dinner. We take it one day at a time. 


Interested in becoming foster parents or a {single} foster mom or dad? Feel free to private message me or email me. You set your parameters, not the other way around. Only want/can foster boys or girls. Perfect! Only want 1 placement/child at a time? Perfect! Only want baby’s, toddler, school aged kids or teens? Perfect! Think you can’t afford it? If you can afford to live now, you can afford fostering. Work full time? Perfectly fine! They can work with you. If foster care is calling at you, screaming from the rough tops actually, answer the calling. We need you. 


As always, thank you for reading. 

Foster care and the biological parents.

 
Its easy to judge someone when you don't know their story, their struggle or what keeps them up at night. It is easy to assume or think the worst about people. That's what our generation does best. We don't give people the benefit of the doubt anymore. We don't offer a helping hand, only a hand holding a camera directed right at you at the worst moment.

I'm talking about the biological parents of our kiddos in foster care.

Some of them have done the unthinkable, the unfathomable. They don't deserve these precious souls. They don't deserve their smiles, their laughter or their love. But the other ones, they have made mistakes. They have lived their life the only way they know how, the only way they were shown. They have fallen in with the wrong crowd, the only ones that would have them. They have made mistakes and they are paying for them. Ideally, this would be an awakening, jump starting their will to live. Ideally.

When we decided to become foster parents, the whole system was very intriguing. We paid attention in every class, talked with numerous foster parents and discussed how we thought it would be. No one can prepare you for how it really is. No one can prepare you for meeting your first foster child. Waking up at night with them, bathing them, clothing them and nurturing them. No one can tell you how you will adapt to the change, or if you will adapt at all. Or furthermore, how your biological kids will adapt, or will adapt at all. They can not prepare you first meet with the biological parents, whether its by accident or on purpose. It will not prepare you on how those feelings will make you feel. 

After every training class, BJ and I would talk about that nights topics and how we felt about them. The thought of exchanging phone numbers with a biological parent, having the chance to meet them and even the thought of supervising visits ourselves felt foreign and absolutely insane! I mean, these people were crazy, right?! Dangerous, duh! They (DFACS) promote and encourage partnership parenting: biological parents and foster parents working together. "Yeah, okay. Sounds good but yeah, not so sure about it." was our thinking. Of course, everyone is an expert and has an opinion on things they know nothing about.... we were no different.

During our 2nd visitation for the babe, I was not prepared for love I felt for this woman standing before me, for my desire to help her and be a support system for her. It did not prepare me for the need to grab her into the biggest bear hug and tell her I was rooting for her, we all are. It did not prepare me for the tears between her and I as she handed her baby back to me, to care for while she got her life together. 

You guys. Foster care is no joke. You want to feel alive? Foster. Make a difference in not only a child life, but an adults? Foster. Leave your best mark on this world and leave it a little better than you found it? 

Foster. 


*Fostering is not for everyone. Its truly a calling because it is not easy. If you, or anyone you know is interested, feel free to hit me up. Want to help but can't foster? Contact your local agency to volunteer. Help educate by sharing post and learning more. Knowledge is power and kindness makes the world go around. 
Thank you!

Blood Mountain, Georgia. Our 10 year wedding anniversary hike.

 
"In every walk of nature one receives far more than he seeks." -John Muir 

 
HELLO! HELLO!
 
FINALLY, we are going to attempt to catch up on our hiking adventures on the blog for all you locals wanting a place to get outdoors! First up on the list...
 
BLOOD MOUTAIN , Georgia.
Elevation 4,458
Apart of the Blue Ridge Moutains
One heck of a view! Highest peak on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail and the 6th tallest mountain in Ga.
 
Hike- Moderate 2.1 miles to the top.
 
There is a store called Mountain Crossing at Neel's Gap that runs through the AT towards Blood Mountain. Parking for the Blood Mountain trail is a 1/4 of a mile from there, on the left.
12471 Gainesville Hwy
Blairsville Ga 30512
 
We have done this hike before with the whole family, (including an 11 year old, 3 year old and 15 month old at the time) The hike is fun and definitely not boring. There is flat sandy trail, boulder field, stone steps and lots of trees/flowers and ferns to admire on the way.
 This view is priceless and worth every bead of sweat and scream of a muscle
"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness." -John Muir
 





 




Make sure, while passing through the bolder fields, that you follow the white trail markers to stay on the trail!
 

 
 Hiking with kids is totally doable, just know your child and know your limits. Our 3 year old loves to be outdoors and explore, but hates structured hikes. He will ride in a backpack toddler carrier or on Bjs shoulders. The 18 month old rides in a toddler carrier on my back. Of course, this particular hike was much more enjoyable and went much quicker when it was just us two, as oppose to having all the kiddos but we love making those memories and watching little minds explore.
 
There are 3 balds (clear places for the view) before you reach the summit, so keep going!





 
Summit! This is the shelter at the very top of the mountain.



There is a hiker sign in sheet in a protective Tupperware.

Married 10 years on 9/8/2017!

We found this letter in there as well. I thought it was very special. Of course, we aren't sure if its been placed there before the proposal or maybe an anniversary hike like ours.
 

Boulder hoppin' on the summit.
.

"The mountains are calling and I must go" -John Muir
 
 
"Keep close to nature's heart.... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." -John Muir
 
 
 
'Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." -John Muir
 
Happy 10 years babe! I love you.
 


Foster care is an inconvenience.




While I was laying in bed with my 18 month old while he breastfed, the 3 year old was pacing the floor and our newborn foster babe screeching in my husbands arms I realized, foster care is an inconvenience. 

And as people, we rarely like to be inconvenienced. 

You never know when you are going to get called to duty and you always will have plans to cancel. Baseball games or date night will be missed due to new placements, sleep will be a thing of the past because these children are in brand new places and scared out of their mind. They will need reassurance, especially at 3am. Caseworkers will call, stop by and need documents sealed, signed and delivered. Visitation with biological parents will occur with no regards to your schedule. False information about the child placed in your care will be given, hopefully unintentionally. It's a HUGE inconvenience. 

But guess what I'm going to say? 
It's worth it. So far, it's worth it. Any love and safe haven we can give a child is worth every tear, every heart break and every inconvenience. 
This newborn baby, that has thrown us for a loop, needs love, skin to skin and a bond that our family can give, for however long it's needed. Today, we are family. Today, it is worth it.