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Friday, May 30, 2014

Foster Parent Week

I had no idea there was such a week, but this week apparently is it. I would imagine that most foster parents overlook it because life is so hectic.

For example, this is my calendar. Anything red, gray, or purple is foster care related. Green is related to the four of us.

So you can see, we're busy. By the time the boys go to bed at night, it's all I can do to get the cork out of the bottle and drag myself outside to sit until the mosquitoes start to bite, and it's time to go to bed and do it all over again. The 836 emails in my inbox, and stacks of papers will just have to wait.

For this reason, we're not licensed yet. We went into this as a relative care situation, meaning that our foster child is related to one of us. Because of that, we were able to take him without being licensed in foster care, but we have the option to do so to receive financial assistance and to accept other children (in the future).

Getting licensed requires us to go through the same process we had to before we were approved to adopt Isaiah and then some. There would be three Saturday orientation classes plus the home inspection, background investigations, and psych testing. And I'm just not sure where to put all of that on the calendar. So our already tight budget, is gasping for air. Not only is there a financial aspect to this, but the interpersonal aspect is what is threatening to take me under.

But this isn't a post about my life (yes, it is); it's a post about all foster parents.

Having experienced this for just over two months now, I can tell you this: When Isaiah was born and I quit my job to stay home, I thought that was the hardest job I ever had. Then he left the newborn stage and then that was the hardest job ever, and I was so tired. Around a year I started to feel a little more confident in my abilities, but I was still so tired. Now, I don't even try. I know for certain that I don't have my stuff together, I know that the Honey Nut Cheerios are the reason we have ants, and I know that my teeth are turning purple from the wine, but I can't even care. I don't even try to count the ounces of milk they drink per day and I'm not sure either one ate a vegetable yesterday. I'm not even sure I ate a vegetable yesterday.

What I'm trying to say is, if you know a foster parent, let them know that this is their week to be appreciated, because I would bet they don't even know. And give them a hug and a bottle of wine because they earned it.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mom to Two

We went out with some friends for our birthdays in early February this year. Around 10pm I was fading fast, and that became the topic of conversation. I was so tired because I had a nearly one year old, and I had been tired for a whole year.

Then shortly after that conversation, I became responsible for two. I quickly realized that I didn't know what tired was.

These two are close in age, just 2.5 months apart, and lucky for me, started mirroring each other and seeing who could scream louder. Of course, it doesn't stop there. The crying became louder, the unhappiness became unhappier, and the hunger somehow became a near-death experience every single time. One day I had one sweet little baby, and the next I was elbow deep in two toddlers.

I had a long conversation with my friend Mettie, mom to twins, about the struggle of trying to be everything to everyone. She gave me some really great advice, and I knew that I needed to be better about taking care of myself.

Here is how I cope:

1. I made myself start exercising again. I started with a Couch to 5k app on my phone, and then started to realize how much I missed lifting weights. I finally (after a year) made getting in to the gym a priority to myself once again, and realized that I hadn't lost as much strength as I feared.

2. I made myself start reading again. I love to read, but that suffered when my responsibilities doubled. I picked out a few books from the library and took the boys with me to pick them up. They love getting to see the fish, and we all love getting out of the house.

3. I made time for visiting with friends. I have a block of time during the week where I drop one child off for a visit with family, and the other stays with my husband, and I meet up with friends for coffee. I cannot tell you how this has made me feel like myself again. Occasionally, I'll run an errand during this time, but I'm pretty good about reserving it just for me.

4. I have grandmas on standby. My mom and my mother in law are great at helping me when I need a break. One night a week after the boys are in bed, one is usually available to let me go get done what I need to do, or just go do something I want to do.

5. Wine Friday. And sometimes Saturday, and Sunday.

These might sound selfish, and you know what, they are. I've found though that I need to be a little selfish to be the type of mom I want to be, and to keep my sanity.

Do you have any additional tips to help handle two at once? (I know, I know, ask my mom.)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Backyard Chickens: The Basics

This is part one of a series I'm putting together about raising your own chickens.

From what I'm reading, getting chickens is the cool thing to do now. With the eat local movements and growing your own food, chickens are really the perfect way to get on board. You can eat their eggs, they can eat your scraps, and well, if you're not too tenderhearted, you can eat them.

Before you decide to go to the feed store and pick up half a dozen, here are a few things to consider.

1. Check your local ordinances and home owner's association bylaws. Chickens aren't allowed everywhere and it would be a huge bummer to get into it and then find yourself in a bind.

2. Start small and decide what you want. We have egg layers and meat birds, but started out with just egg layers. One word to the wise though -- if you're going to have meat birds, don't name them. It's probably a good idea to not name any, but with names like "Hennifer Lopez" who can resist?

3. Figure out where you will keep them. If you're getting chicks, you'll need somewhere to keep them until they're old enough to go into a coop. Chicks poop a lot, and it smells. While they're in the brooder(a crib for a chick), you'll need a heating element, chick food, and a waterer. Then, when they outgrow the brooder, they'll need a place outside with shelter. The nice thing is that it doesn't have to be a store bought coop. If you (or someone you know) is pretty handy, you can build a simple coop yourself. If you're not, farm stores, Sam's Club, and Amazon all sell coops. You'll need to keep in mind that there are predators outside that you don't see during the day. We've had an issue with opossums, but they're not the only critters that like to have a winner winner, chicken dinner.

4. Your time. Chickens take less time to care for than a puppy, but there is still time to consider. You'll have to feed and water them every day, and collect eggs. If you're like me, you'll also spend time just watching them because they're pretty cool to observe. My husband has spent quite a bit of time building runs (outdoor pen) and things for the chickens, so it isn't just a set it and forget it kind of thing.

5. Decide if you want a rooster. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to have a rooster. However, if you want to hatch your own chicks from eggs, you do. If you have all hens, you'll still get eggs from them and they'll still be delicious. The only way a chick can come from an egg is if you have a rooster and fertilized eggs. I know that sounds super common sense, but I've been asked so many times if I've ever cracked open an egg and found a chick. If you collect eggs every day, this will not happen to you. Roosters are helpful in protecting the hens from predators. They are noisy though, and can get...well...cocky. They watch me when the hens all have their backs turned to get water. A downside though is that they can be a little aggressive with the hens when they fertilize their eggs. That is a conversation for another time, but they aren't very gentle then.

An ISA Brown hen and ten week old Buff Orpington (yellow) and Rhode Island Red pullets.

6. The breed of chicken(s) you want. Check what is good in your area, and for the purpose you want and go from there. We live in Indiana and have Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, ISA Browns, Welsummers, and Cornish Plymouth Rock Crosses. All of our chickens lay large to extra large brown eggs, but the Welsummers will lay chocolate colored eggs when they start laying. You can expect about an egg a day per chicken once they start. Keep in mind that hens are usually six months or older before they start to lay (our first ones were closer to 9 months) so this isn't a quick replacement for putting eggs on your shopping list. A female chicken who has not started to lay eggs yet is called a pullet. Some breeds lay bluish/green eggs which are pretty, and I'd imagine kids would get a kick out of green eggs.

7. Keep in mind that they are birds, and some do die. It is just kind of one of those things that sometimes happens. We had 10 Welsummer chicks and 8 died, but we haven't lost any of our Buff Orpingtons. If you order online (yes, live birds can be shipped to you) the hatchery will often refund you if there is an issue with your batch. Make sure to check into that before you order though.

8. Ask yourself if you're only doing it because they look cool on Instagram. Don't do it if that's your reason. I know, that sounds silly, but people do it, and it's bad. But if you're interested in seeing some, look up #backyardchickens.

So, anyone still interested?


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