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I love love but I hate Valentine’s Day

02/14/2012

This is the first year that I completely, whole-heartedly am relieved that we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. And not just because Jason is out on tour. A few years ago he mentioned that he felt like the holiday was forced, putting unhealthy expectations on couples, becoming a competition, and setting a lot of people up for disappointment. We never really did much to celebrate the day—usually dinner at home to avoid the restaurants—and maybe a few candles, some chocolates, flowers, the usual. But we’ve moved away from that to not doing anything at all. I’m sure that sounds really cold and unromantic to some people. The truth is, we go on date nights several times a month, we show and tell how much we love each other everyday, we surprise each other with random gifts—we’re both very affirmed in our love and we have a healthy marriage. So take that, St. Valentine. Or Hallmark. Or whoever… And if I feel I’d enjoy some chocolates or fresh flowers in the house—GASP–I buy them! The random delivery of fresh flowers at work just because he knows I’m having a crappy day or the specialty chocolate from some exotic location just because he was thinking of me—those things mean way more to me than anything Jason has ever given to me on February 14.

Valentine’s Day IS a really important day for another reason, though. It’s my dear friend, Laren’s birthday! Precious says Happy Birthday, Aunt Laren! Fun fact: Laren and Precious both have heart shaped birthmarks.

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Gifts for New Foster Parents

08/11/2011

Let me make it clear: THIS IS NOT A PLEA FOR GIFTS!

(The baby doll and stroller was a gift from my parents.)

Today marks 2 weeks that Jason and I have been foster parents. I mean, technically I guess it’s been longer since we’ve been certified, but it’s been 2 weeks since we welcomed our first placement into our home, our precious little Ladybug. That means we’ve survived our first 2 weeks of parenthood. Yay! A lot of people asked us right away what we needed and how they could help. We were in a whirlwind of exhaustion…physical from carrying around a big toddler, but more so mental and emotional exhaustion. All we really wanted was a nap and people were offering us play dates and toys and clothes. We initially turned down offers for clothing (and toys and play dates) because we weren’t sure if L would be with us longer than a week. What we really wished someone would have offered was to bring us a meal or to come and sit with Ladybug for an hour so we could clean the house or run to the grocery store—things that we would have done before her arrival had we known when it would be. Thankfully, a few people said “Let me know if you need anything!” And I sheepishly responded, “Could you bring us a meal?” We were so drained at first, all I could muster the strength to make was pasta for several days in a row. Thankfully, two friends brought us 2 meals each, which really turned out to be enough food to get us through a week. Praise the Lord! After we found out we’d have L at least several weeks, I started accepting offers for clothing and toys since she really didn’t come with much of anything. So with my limited experience, here is my list of suggested gifts for new foster parents, should you happen upon some in your circle of friends:

• meals! Have I made this point clear already? Gift certificates for take out or pizza would be nice ideas too

• a date night. My parents offered to babysit one night after we put little Ladybug to bed, around 8pm. My mama said, “The best thing you can do for your child is love your spouse.” We went out for dinner and then went clothes shopping for her.

• toys. Ask the parents what they need or want though, because some kids might come with a lot of things or the parents might already have a big collection. Kids music, DVDs, book, games, Target and Amazon.com gift cards, are all great ideas.

• clothing. This is a sticky one. Some kids come with a lot of clothing. Ours came with a random hodge podge of items with hardly any matching outfits, some of it 2 sizes too small, some of it a size too big, no pajamas, no socks, no long pants. If it had only been for a week, we would have been fine. However, once we knew we had more time with her, we definitely needed some more items. (With toys and clothing keep in mind that anything you buy for the child, belongs to the child.)

• gift certificates for photography or getting prints made (Snapfish, Kodak, etc.) to capture and keep memories for the parents and for the kids to take with them

• offer to babysit, even if it’s just for an hour or two while the kid is napping. Figuring out when to clean the house, mow the lawn, etc. can be challenging for new parents.

• space. Visits with close friends and family were great but bonding, building attachments and trust with new parents take a lot of time. Meeting tons of new people can be really overwhelming for a child. For children who haven’t learned healthy attachment with adults, meeting a new adult that is instantly kissing you and telling you he or she loves you is not teaching the child healthy, normal relationship boundaries.

After writing this post, I realized I actually wrote about this before… from the other side of the fence. No contradictions but there is are also some ideas for gifts before the first child arrives.


Gift Ideas for New Foster Parents

05/12/2011

A lot of people have been asking us what we need and how they can help. A group of my closest friends even threw me a little “baby” shower. (That deserves it’s own post…as soon as I can track down some decent pictures! I did take this one of my awesome niece. She’s not so sure about that camera I’m sticking her face. Don’t mess with her, she’ll punch your lights out.) So, in case you know some new foster parents and are looking for ways to bless them, I’m sharing what I’ve learned. Please note: this is NOT a plea for more stuff. We have almost all we need already covered. Also, this list is slanted toward newborn-5, our age range.

Before the first child arrives, what to get:
books, books, books
kids CDs for the car, for dancing around the house, for night time
games
car seats
child proofing safety items (outlet covers, medicine lock box, night light, cabinet locks, etc.)
kids tableware
rocking chair
infant and child medical kit
bath toys
staple toys (blocks, cars, dolls, puzzles, instruments)
stroller
movies
bedding
towels
booster seat
shopping cart / high chair cover

Before the first child arrives, what NOT to get:
gender specific items (this mainly applies to sparkly pink and purple things)
items with a limited age range (mainly infant items)
big toys (take up too much space)
clothes

Child-specific gifts / After a child is placed, what to get:
attachment building helpers (photo albums, snapfish gift cards, vouchers for outings)
child specific clothes*
child specific toys*
age specific equipment (lots of fancy gear out there for newborns, for example)
thoughtful, encouraging card
offer to babysit
meals
duffle bag, suitcase or backpack (to keep personal belongs in if moved to another home)

*Foster parents are given a stipend specifically intended for clothing and allowance for children. With our agency, we’re required to spend at least $1 a day on clothing and a $1 a day on fun things for each child. Some children come with a lot of toys and clothing already, especially if they’re moving from one foster home to another. Sometimes they only come with the clothing on their backs. Check with the parents to see if clothing is a need. Same goes for toys. Keep in mind anything purchased for the child after his or her arrival belongs to the child and goes with him or her if reunification happens. Gifts purchased before a child arrives are considered family gifts and stay with the foster parents.


Treats from Scandinavia & the Faroes

08/26/2010

Because he is a thoughtful sweet husband, Jason brought back some presents from his travels! In Sweden he went to H&M and bought me this lovely dress:

Sidenote: Whose husband buys her dresses? Mine does! Jason has a great eye for fashion and he always picks out really pretty things for me that I’m not brave enough to choose for myself – but I always end up getting lots of compliments on his selections! (Skirts, dresses, shirts, sweaters … even a bikini, once!)

I love hats, especially warm hats in the winter. This one Jason got me is more of an ear-warmer or headband I guess but it’s really wide, almost like a topless stocking cap. It’s hand knit with local wool from the Faroe Islands, where sheep out number people 4 to 1.

And CHOCOLATE! I loooove European chocolate. (I only eat Hersheys chocolate under desperate circumstances. I think it tastes waxy.)

Hazelnut chocolate bars are my favorite and I was informed that this one from Sweden is all for me. 🙂

Jason also got himself a few things. Several shirts from H&M, not pictured, and some new kicks from the Faroes.

Hooray for functional souvenirs!