#NationalAdoptionDay

I just found out that tomorrow is National Adoption Day. Seeing as how we’ve been flung (joyously but unexpectedly) into this whirlwind that is adoption, I feel as if I should write something about it.

Often times people think that adoption is expensive. We get that question regularly, and it was something that even we were in the dark about. When we became foster parents, adoption was NOT our end goal so we never even asked those questions. Fact is, though, that if you adopt through the foster system (at least in San Diego) it is FREE! Private agencies charge a lot of money, but not the county. I did a little research and found that throughout the US this is the case, though they can charge you small fees for various things like fingerprinting and background checks.

It’s not an easy path if you instantly want to have the promise of a baby. Usually the wait list for adoptable infants through the county is long, but if you are willing to take on a child that’s toddler age or older there is a huge need. There is also a HUGE need for foster parents, and this is a less direct way to end up with a baby. This is the route we took, though our end goal was initially not adoption. Fostering is an amazingly rewarding, guaranteed to be bittersweet and a little heartbreaking, experience that is not for the week of heart. I encourage you to check out a Foster Family Agency (just Google it!) in your area for good info that’s relevant to you.

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Our super cute, almost-adopted foster son checking out the scenery.

So, really and truly, you can adopt a child that is in terrible need of a forever family for FREE or almost free. You might have to pay for livescan and/or some other nominal fees, but it’ll all be less than a few hundred bucks. In fact, depending on the situation, you might even get PAID by the government for the foster care phase and even after adoption up until the child turns 18.

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The case of the pending adoption

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I’m antsy. This week is the first big court date we have for our foster son. It’s the date where the court will decide if they should terminate services for his biological parents or continue. Really, it’s probably a no-brainer because they’ve been completely MIA since the beginning, but it’s still nerve wracking for us because it’s the first real step that brings us closer to becoming his legal parents. Man.

When we began this journey, we were sure we didn’t want to adopt. Our goal was to love on a child that needed it, to help them through a rough patch and to mentor some young parents along the way. We were pretty happy with our two middle-school-age daughters and our new found freedom as a family on the move. I was enjoying being out of diapers and bottles with kids securely in a good school. The thought of starting over with another baby made my palms sweaty. We had, however, heard that this was the way the cards tended to fall. When the foster parents really don’t intend to adopt, they come up with the adoptable kids. It’s Murphy’s Law. The parents who would love nothing more than to grow their family end up with placement after placement that gets reunited. The universe is funny like that.

So, here we are, 9 months almost to the day of when our journey began and I couldn’t imagine life without the little guy. That’s how they sucker you in. You get eased in by this thought that it’s not permanent, and by the time the option for permanency presents itself you are totally on board with the idea! In reality, it’s been a little bit of a roller coaster. You spend the first few months guarding your heart against becoming too attached, and then the inkling of the idea that this baby might actually end up yours presents itself. No matter how hard you try to protect your heart after that, you can’t stop the hope from wriggling it’s way into you. In the end, this case can still go either way. I’ve seen potential parents put all of their hope into a baby, only for that baby to be reunited or placed with a biological family member that shows up at the last minute. I don’t know how the cards will fall for us, but I know that in the end it will all be okay. I hold onto the optimism that God is so much bigger than me, and that doors open and close as they should. Life will inevitably march forward and we will grow, no matter which way this journey takes us.

Stealing Time.

I know I’ve been absent here for a long time, but I think I’m finally ready to come back. See, we signed up for this little thing that has been sucking away my time and energy, and I’ve been using it as an excuse for not writing. We thought about jumping into this project for a while, but we finally decided to pull the trigger in January and become foster parents. Yup, you heard right. Along with two preteens of our own, we now have a 1 year old baby. It’s been a crazy beautiful and intense 8 months, but I feel like we’ve finally settled in to some sort of rhythm. It helps to have the girls back at school.

I still dream of finishing a novel one of these days. Actually, I think I’ve finally found a way to help me stay on track! I bought a notebook and have been writing the traditional way, pen to paper. It seems like my writing time is always stolen between appointments, while waiting in the car, or on family trips. My laptop sucks, and honestly sometimes it’s just tough to be creative when Facebook keeps beckoning me away. Oh, you. You know what I’m talking about. Another perk to writing longhand is that I can’t go back and delete everything I wrote the next day because I think it sucks. It keeps me moving forward, and I wish I would’ve just started doing this a long time ago. I still think everything sucks every time I re-read it, but I am determined to make it all the way through the story line and wait to edit until I am typing it up. It feels really nice to be unstuck.

I started looking into some novel writing software – do any of you folks have experience with this? The prices range a lot. What are the things I should really make sure to look for? Any great recommendations? I am looking most seriously at Write it Now and Write Way. Also, still looking for a critique buddy…

Last thing for you all. Just came across this blog by Chuck Wendig and really like it! He’s got great insight for any aspiring writer, but he’s kind of a smart ass so avoid it if you don’t like sarcasm. I especially like this one and this one. That’s all for today, folks! Have a beautiful one.

Rant of the Day

I had to take my child to the Dr. today. She had an earache that wasn’t going away with warm drops of tea tree and coconut oil. Yes, I use these hippy medicines as my first line of defense, mainly because of what I am about to tell you. Are you ready to be floored, people? Get this – I had to pay $90.48 for them to tell me that my daughter had swimmers ear and for a prescription of antibiotic ear drops. The real clencher? We already pay somewhere in the ballpark of $14,000 per year in health insurance to make sure our perfectly healthy, relatively young family of four has health coverage.

If this was a one time thing, I wouldn’t even care that much. I would pay the money and wash my hands of it. But guess what? Back in July my other daughter had a sore throat. It wasn’t going away, and when I peaked back at her tonsils with a flashlight after a few days I could see the white spots. Damn. No hippy medicine for this, I was going to have to take her in. Check out this bill:

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American insurance bill – Kaiser Foundation

At the time, we paid our $50 copay. Thank God she didn’t even have strep throat, so we didn’t have to front the money for the antibiotics. I thought we were all done with everything, but a month later we got the above bill. Turns out a NON-URGENT, same day office visit is $346.00. Phew – glad we only have to pay $75 of that out of pocket. Also note that it was ANOTHER $62 for them to “directly observe” her tonsils at the office visit, of which we only had to pay $15. Oh, and that last part? It was $44 for them to swab and culture her to make sure she really didn’t have strep. We paid $11, but they charged our insurance company (which, essentially, is themselves – the Kaiser Foundation) that other $33. To culture bacteria in a petri dish. Seriously, people. Our total out of pocket expenses for our daughter that day were $151. FOR THEM TO TELL US SHE DIDN’T HAVE STREP THROAT.

So, back to my poor Estelle’s ear infection. I expect we will get another bill for the rest of the costs in the next month. I’m 34 years old, and my kids are 9 and 10. My husband has been a public school teacher for the last 9 years (another rant, another day) and I can honestly say that this is the first year that I’ve felt raped by our healthcare system. I’ve known its been bad for a long time. Working in the public sector has not paid well by any means, but at least it’s always given us healthcare. Over the years, my mind has been blown by the percent increase in cost every year when open enrollment comes up. The district always has paid $1,000 every month for us toward health coverage. Nine years ago this gave us really good insurance, actually. Slowly, though, we’ve had to opt for less and less health coverage because as the cost of premiums increased, his salary did not. The school district covered the same amount, and this last year we had to pay an extra $200 or so on top of that thousand just to give us the bottom rung that they offer.

This is the first year that I’ve been afraid to take my kids to the doctor. I do everything I can to wait it out, to make sure they REALLY have to go before I take them in. I get ill thinking about how much I’m going to have to pay, and I pray that nobody gets really sick. We are considered middle class America, and I am worried about what this means. It should be a right of everyone here to not fear taking your children to the doctor. I don’t know a good solution, but I know something needs to change. I paid for our prescription yesterday and when I walked outside with my daughter I cried. I feel so dirty. But hey, it’s good to know that the VP of Architecture at Kaiser Permanente gets paid 200k per year. Because that, folks, is an extremely important job. (See more salaries at http://www.glassdoor.com)

Shifting the Tangent

I had the strangest thing happen to me today. As many of us do, I was perusing Facebook and came across an old friend from high school. I added him, of course, and he quickly accepted. Within a few minutes, he sent me a chat message to say hello. I reciprocated, as any well-mannered Facebookie would do, and what transpired after that kind of floored me. His next insta-message said, “Hey, this is so impersonal. I know I haven’t talked to you in, like, 15 years but do you have a minute? Give me a call – here’s my number.”

So, my initial inclination was to pretend that I had shut down facebook and didn’t get the message until later, at which point I could send him a message and say something like, “oh, sorry, didn’t work out maybe next time!” Instead, I went against my knee-jerk response and said ok. “You mean right now? Let me grab the phone…”

It was so uplifting to have a real conversation with an old friend on the other end of the line. We too often hide behind the guise of our cyber-personas and find excuses to avoid each other in real life. Technology is great at creating a disconnected falsity of connectedness among us, one that makes us feel as if we are more in touch than ever but really just allows us to pretend that it’s true. More often than not, I find myself dreading picking up the phone when it rings or meeting face to face with old friends. At first I blamed it on getting older and having kids, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t an affliction of age- it’s a symptom of society.

I fear a little bit for my golden age and the future that my kids will live in. I am unsure that we’ve done a fabulous job of handling the exponential cyber-growth we’ve gone through over the past 15 years. I fear a breakdown of friendships, of face-to-face conversation and real telephone calls. I hope my children and grandchildren learn the art of mingling with real people and experience the joy of hearing people laugh at their jokes. My kids and grand kids need to learn how to deal with confrontation face to face, to see peoples emotions in real life and to spill their heart to someone with words instead of text messages.

I am unsure how to shift this inevitable tangent we seem to be on, but I have faith that there is a way to tilt it just enough. We have to start now by picking up the phone instead of sending a text, of making that dinner date and opening our homes to old friends. Our future generations learn from us. It’s up to us to hold on to the value of interpersonal relationships and teach our kids how to navigate them, too. I’m not trying to persuade anyone to shutter their social media pages — by all means, keep using Facebook as a way to connect with old friends. Then, step outside of your box and pick up the phone.

See the weekly writing challenge on The Golden Years at: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/weekly-writing-challenge-golden-years/

Random Ramblings

I got another article accepted today that was a total blind submission. YAY for that! It’s the little things in life that keep you moving forward sometimes. I’ve also been thinking a lot more on the direction I’d like to really take with my writing. I quite enjoy family travel adventure stuff, on a budget with kids, etc. I think this is what I am really going to focus on submitting to various places and see where it goes, along with reviews of certain things that pertain when they come up. I feel good about this, I think it suits me. I really ultimately want to write books, but bills must be paid over the course of however long it takes me to actually finish one.

My husband and I have this idea in our head that we are going to take our family on a crazy 30-day Amtrak adventure. We used to travel a lot when we were in college and kid-less. I think we always were sure that our children would be well traveled by the time they were 10, but of course we didn’t take into consideration the cost of actually buying 4 plane tickets anywhere. We’ve lowered out idealistic parenting expectations since they are now 8 and 10 and have barely been to Mexico (we live 10 miles away,) but we are really enjoying this age range and love taking them on low-key adventures around the city. While 4 plane tickets to anywhere seems prohibitive, Amtrak actually offers half price fares for kids and they have these cool US Rail deals. Essentially, you get 30 days of almost limitless travel with one ticket AND you can take bicycles on the trains for free. This is just the type of adventure our bohemian hearts are yearning for. Now, we just need to figure out how to save the cash to make it happen. Keeping my fingers crossed for a writing gig that actually pays decently! Hey, I’d even settle for consistently.

Following The Mantra

Write every day! We’ve heard this over and over again, and I am just attempting to fulfill this promise to myself. I’ve got a house full of kids and no room for solitude unless it’s in my head. All you parents know what I’m talking about. It’s impossible to buy a moment. I find myself agitated that my kids are disrupting the imaginary world in my head, then realize how out of order my priorities can get. I received an email yesterday from the studio I write for letting me know that all of us writers can expect no work for at least the next few weeks, at minimum. Another stark reminder that I need to find other outlets asap. I think I really enjoy writing articles on doing things that are fun and unconventional. Travel articles with kids, local travel, local restaurant stuff (kid-friendly, of course) and anything on-a-budget. Where is a good place to submit these? Can I just go in blind, or do I need to query, or is there a list of suggested article topics I can pull from? Is this just whaImaget happens when you are actually hired as staff somewhere? Am I delusional in thinking that maybe I can just waltz in and submit unsolicited articles like this somewhere? Throw me a bone here, people. Let me know if you have insight into any of this stuff. I know some of you write for a living.

I hear children giggling behind closed doors. I wonder if I intervene too much or not enough. I wonder if it’s always a parent’s nature to question if they are doing this right. We only get one chance. It’s so strange, this transition between milestones. It happens regularly; I remember distinctly different times, like when I couldn’t figure out why C kept crying in her car seat when she was a baby. I realized, finally, that she was squished in there with that stupid little infant pillow and she couldn’t turn her head. One day it just occurred to me to take it out, and she was so happy. She was growing from infant to something bigger and I wasn’t realizing it. As soon as I did and modified my end, she was fine and able to be happy in the skin she had grown into. It’s like, you find balance together as a family and then your kid decides to jump onto that next rung and family life is thrown into upheaval for a moment until we can find our equilibrium again. I think we are hitting that phase right now, fast and hard. We can figure out how to grow and climb to that next precarious step together, parents balancing kids, or we parents can refuse to move and throw the entire thing of kilter. I guess it’s time to figure out the best way to step up and take that next pillow off.