Content

The End of a Journey. The Start of Something New.

Sometimes the greatest miracle in your life... takes time. -- Todd Mullins.

I've been having posts pop up in my Facebook timeline from last year. Posts about seeing our trial getting moved the third or fourth time (I lost count). I referenced it to Baymax chasing the soccer ball or Charlie Brown & Lucy with the football.

Right now, our church has been going through a series on miracles: seeing God move in our lives and accomplish great things. As part of my weekly schedule, I volunteer each week pulling out quotes to make graphics for our church's social media. Last Sunday, the quote above came out of our pastor's mouth and I almost began to cry.

See, in September 2014, we were told the boys were coming back into care and would be placed into our home for the third time. We were also told that this would be an "Expedited TPR" -- which made it sound like this would be quick, considering permanency is supposed to happen within a year when a case isn't "expedited."

Well, whatever my expectations... they were wrong. VERY wrong.

For those who know us well, for those who have heard us rant and vent... you know this path has not been easy. Our journey has been incredibly rough. Some who have heard the stories asked "why? or "are you sure you want to do this?" I can't blame them. They've seen us cry. They've seen me shove my face while stress eating. They've watched us beg and plead for help when no one believed just how bad some of it was. But these are our boys. These are our sons. They have been since the first time they were placed in our home. Recently, Elisabeth and I stood back and simply watched the boys. A smile crossed our faces as we said to each other "they've come so far." You see, these boys are our miracles.

1050 days. That's how long it took. This does not even include the back and forth that happened with them coming and going in and out of our home. Like I stated earlier, it felt like us that it took forever. Court dates set. Court dates cancelled. Court dates set. Court dates delayed. Then, FINALLY, a trial... and an appeal. Ambiguity as to when we'd ever ever hear the words: "You can adopt them." So often it felt like we were living in a state of limbo. Would this ever happen? When the boys came to us they were 2. Now they're 6. 4 years. 1050 days in our home. 3 or 4 trial delays. An appeal process. Lots... and lots... of time.

So here we stand today. 5.15.17. Proud to finally announce Jacob & Anthony Neumann. Four years ago, as we took the Orientation, I never imagined we'd be here today. But, as Pastor Todd said: Sometimes the greatest miracles in your live... take time.

Mini Star Wars Notebook

SUBJECTS:

Supplies needed to make Mini Star Wars Notebooks:

Directions:

  1. Measure the size of the Star Wars Trading Cards.
  2. Cut a strip of ribbon the length of the Trading Cards
  3. Use the ruler to draw rectangles (the same dimensions as the Trading Cards) on paper.
  4. *I have typically used 20-30 rectangles, but you may try more or less, depending on how thick you want your mini notebook to be.
    **You can also just trace along the outside of the trading cards to make the rectangles if you are short on time, but this will cause the paper to be slightly larger than the trading cards.
  5. Cut out rectangles, then (using the binder clip) clip together the rectangles between two Star Wars Trading Cards.
  6. Generously apply glue to the top long edge of the paper/cards.
  7. Wait until the glue dries, then apply a second (wait to dry) and third coat of glue.
  8. After the third coat of glue dries, apply a final [lighter] coat of glue, and stick on your piece of ribbon to provide a "binding" for the notebook.

Our Foster License

SUBJECTS:

So really this post is a day late, but I would argue that does not make it a dollar short.

Yesterday morning (August 19th), I received a text from our support specialist from our licensing agency that we finally got our license to foster! (It would be nice at this point to have some sort of picture of a license to show you, but alas, we haven't received an actual copy of our license.) I don't blame you if you're thinking holy cow, didn't they just decide to do this less than three months ago? I thought this process was supposed to take forever, but really, we've been done with our end of the process for two weeks! Basically, we've just been waiting on DCF since then. I think sometime during those two weeks when I reached the point that I was getting home from work and feeling like I didn't know what to do with my life (because I didn't have any paperwork, homework, cleaning, organizing, building, buying, or other preparations), I was ready for kids.

I will admit I was a little surprised when I asked our support specialist if she knew if small sibling groups [of the same sex, since we only have the one room set up for kids] were common, or if she thought we'd have to wait a while, and her response was, "I think I already have two for you!" This was no more than 30 minutes after I found out we were even allowed to accept kids! With that being said, they should be being brought to our house in...about a half an hour.

Stay tuned for pictures and stories!

The Kids' Room

SUBJECTS:

For anyone who may be wondering where we were planning to "stick" the children, we thought this post might be of interest. After all, if you've been to our home before, or at least seen pictures on Facebook, this is what our spare bedrooms last looked like:

I now present to you the kids' redone (as much as we could, being renters) bedroom:


I'm quite pleased with how the closet turned out! Though seeing it in pictures does make me realize a couple slight changes we need to make.

Well, what do you think?

Letter "A"

Books:

  • ABC Animal Jamboree by Giles Andreae
  • Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington
  • Apples and How They Grow by Laura Driscoll
  • The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle

Gross Motor Skills:

  • Using shaker eggs, sing, shake and dance to the rhythm of the song ABC Disco, found on Jack Hartmann's CD I've Got Music in Me.

Snack Time:

  • Serve apple cider to your children. Chances are, they're plenty familiar with apple juice, but may not have yet been introduced to cider.
  • Young children may only be aware of red apples. Buy different colored apples for your kids to try in connection with Apples and How They Grow.

Arts & Crafts:

  • Introduce even the youngest children to art by letting them be finger painting artists!
  • We made an alligator out of the letter A, found here at Artists Helping Children

Why Fostering?

In January of 2005, a friend of mine named Tim Miller went on a weekend event for one of his college classes. He came back from that trip completely changed. He would talk to me (pretty vaguely, since the weekend was supposed to be a secret) about WHY he was different. That his entire perspective on life and ministry had changed. I was so intrigued, I chose to sign up for the same class for the fall of 2006.

Enter Dr. Jeff Cook.

Dr. Cook (or Papa Cook as we called him) taught my Urban Ministry and Contemporary World Missions classes. Honestly, I could probably write several blog posts just on Papa Cook and the nearly uncontested impact that a single human being has had on my life. This man LIVED Christ. His desire was for us to be transformed to the heart beats of God... and he was really good at it. It was the first time that the realities of injustice, poverty, and my blindness to them even remotely entered my mind. He changed my world view and filter.

You see, before taking his classes, pretty much every vision I had involved the suburbs, a wife, 2.5 kids, and a dog (clearly, that would now be 3 cats). Poverty? Injustice? Clearly that was something for "special" people with a "special" calling. But then we started to dissect scripture, it was amazing just how overwhelming the entire Bible bled the proclamation that God's heart broke for the poor, the needy, the orphaned... anyone suffering injustice. As the prophet Jeremiah puts it:

"He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; Then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?" Declares the Lord. (Jer 22.16, NASB)

That is a pretty humbling claim. That God would say that caring for the afflicted is WHAT IT MEANS to know Him. Of course, there's always a New Testament classic:

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1.27 NASB)

Holiness and caring for needy. It's seen hand in hand both here and throughout Scripture as benchmarks of what it means to be a child of God. I'd argue that if James were writing in modern day, you'd see foster children placed in verse 27. You see, this is not a "special" calling for a select few of the Church. No. These things are aligned with Holiness. To say "Well, I'm glad you're called to care for those in need, but that's not for me" is as out of line with Scripture and knowing God as saying "Well, I'm glad you're called to sexual purity, but that's not for me."

If you read my wife's first post a week or so ago, you might remember that if ONE family in each church or other religious institute (that's right, ONE family per church) took in ONE child... there would be a waiting list in Palm Beach County to care for foster children. The afflicted and needy. Waiting to take part in what it means to KNOW HIM! My heart breaks at this reality. The funny thing is that then not everyone would have to foster. They could care for the afflicted and needy in other ways. Petitioning courts for change. Setting up classes or educational programs for the parents to get them on their feet.

Why Fostering? It boiled down to this: I could make a laundry list of reasons I don't want to do it, how inconvenient it might be right now in this stage of our lives.... blah blah blah. To be honest, it seems like a LOT to take on right now. But then I remember that the cross was inconvenient for Christ. He looked down on children afflicted by sin and in desperate need of a Savior. And He adopted us. He took us in. He gave us a home. No wonder He says it's what it means to know Him. It's His character. It's who He is. It's the story of Salvation.

"Babies"R"Us Threw Up In Our House"

SUBJECTS:

I didn't think very generous people really existed anymore, and the last place I expected to find them was online. So imagine my surprise when I joined a Facebook group for buying, selling, and/or trading and posted a "WTB/ISO" (want to buy/in search of) ad for baby and kids supplies and had responses of "we want to GIVE you stuff"! As my co-worker would say, oh. my. cow. The result? It looks like Babies "R" Us threw up on our house! (The latter quote is courtesy of Konrad. :))

Our entryway screams BABY, doesn't it?

This is a snapshot of what we have purchased so far. All of this, plus a bunch of clothes, crib, cube organizer, and other various things not pictured here has only set us back about $605. According to Baby Center's Cost Calculator, this should have cost us over $1,600 (not including clothes).

These are all of the clothes that have been donated.

And these are the other donations we have received. One word: WOW! Konrad and I walked through the baby section of Target and we (Konrad especially) were in awe at how much money we saved through these donations! Again, according to Baby Center's Cost Calculator, about $1,200 to be precise (not including clothes).

Oh, and I should probably mention...this is only the stuff we collected from May 30th - June 11th. Since June 11th, we have had more donations!

If anyone is interested in why we're collecting/buying so many clothes, it is because children usually only come into care with the clothes on their back. We are hoping to be able to send kids back to their parents with some of these clothes when it is time for them to go home.

Any donations we receive that we do not expect to be able to use will be re-donated to FAPAPBC (Foster & Adoptive Parent's Association of Palm Beach County).

So, all of you professional moms out there - what are we missing? :)

Little Mouse

SUBJECTS:

Little Mouse is a great activity for kids when working on color recognition.

Supplies needed:

Directions:

  1. Find a mouse and a house you'd like to color and use for the activity.
  2. Print out and color the mice (however you'd like) and the houses (whatever colors you want your children to learn and/or practice).
  3. Laminate your print outs for a longer lifespan.
  4. Attach magnets to the back.
Little Mouse Game

When you're ready, use a cookie sheet, the refrigerator, or any other magnetic surface to "hide" Little Mouse (as you can see, we have two mice - Little Mouse and his sister) behind different color houses. Let the kids pick a color to search behind, and have them ask:

"Little Mouse, Little Mouse, are you behind the _____ house?"

This activity can also be adapted to work on a flannel board by changing the materials to felt and flannel instead of paper and magnets.

Monopoly Deal

SUBJECTS:

Monopoly Deal: This is a card game for 2-6 players ages 8 and up. The box says games take 15 minutes, but I would definitely suggest allocating more time than that until you become familiar with the game. The object of the game is to collect 3 full sets of [3] properties using money, new "action cards" (anything from "Pass GO - draw 2 more cards" to "Deal Breaker - Steal a full set of properties from any player"), and of course a little Chance. I'm not going to begin to try to explain the rules, otherwise you'd be here all day. You'll just have to go over them yourself if you decide to buy the game. :)

Pros: Much shorter than the original Monopoly; Less clean-up required; Appealing to a wide age range; Easy to travel with.

Cons: Very complicated directions.

If your kids are tired of playing traditional Monopoly and want to learn something new, or if they just don't want to spend hours on one game, this may be a good alternative. I enjoyed playing this game (then again, I won); however, my co-workers who I played with did not seem to enjoy it as much until we played long enough to gain full understanding of all the rules. I would not suggest using this game with an impatient group, and a practice round wouldn't be a bad idea either.

One final note, while I love Amazon Prime, I wouldn't recommend buying from them until their price drops back down to less than $10.

Foster Parent Orientation

SUBJECTS:

I can't believe I'm typing this, especially since wasn't even on the radar when Konrad started designing this blog for us, and now we have a whole section devoted to it: We're going to be foster parents!

On Thursday, May 30th, we attended the foster parent/adoption orientation at Place of Hope, a local faith-based and state-licensed Child Welfare Organization that was started by our church's founding pastors. We went thinking, this will be great information for the future, we might as well go now and get it out of the way, since attending the orientation is a requirement. We left thinking holy cow. We can do this. NOW. As of right now, this is what we know:

Palm Beach County statistics (as of 5/30/13):

  • 954 kids are currently displaced from their families. 87 kids were taken from their family in April 2013, and the number has been increasing every month since the beginning of 2013.
    • 482 kids were able to go to a relative or close family friend.
    • 472 kids are in some sort of foster-esque home, whether that is an actual foster home, a group home of sorts, or other forms of shelters.
    • Due to the shortage of foster homes/parents and the capacity at shelters, 93 kids have been sent outside of Palm Beach County to find care. (Currently, the closest shelter that has openings is in Jacksonville.)
  • There are over 700 churches, synagogues, or other religious establishments in our county. If ONE person/couple from each of these establishments acted as foster parents and took only ONE child (NOT one child PER family at EACH church), there would be a waiting list to get a foster child.

How can that NOT get you thinking?

Maybe you are thinking, or even have been thinking. Maybe you're thinking like we were, fostering sounds nice; maybe some day; but I (if you're single)/neither of us (if you're married) can afford to quit our job(s). Imagine our surprise when we found out, we don't have to! Now, I have no idea if every county, or even every agency is the same, but at Place of Hope, foster parents are eligible to receive vouchers for free day care (if the child is not yet school aged) or free aftercare (if the child is school aged). If you're still thinking we can't afford the extra expenses of a child even if I/we both keep my/our job(s)! Guess what? You're still probably wrong.* Foster children are completely covered by Medicaid for any medical/health incidents. We shouldn't even have to cover the cost of a co-pay. Also, while I know this does vary depending on your area, we were told that we would be getting a minimum of $17/night per foster child. Using BabyCenter's Baby Cost Calculator, you can see that even if you choose to foster a baby (probably the most expensive age when you take into consideration that schooling is already paid for by the foster system), you can pay for diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, clothes, toiletries, and even an occasional babysitter, for under $17/night.

So, what's stopping you?

And I'm really and truly curious, if you're one of those people who say you're waiting until your kids are older, could you do a little soul searching and tell me the root of why? I guess I understand this being a legitimate reason if you don't have room for another child in your house. But if it's because your child's computer/toys/TV is in the way of them sharing a room, I think your priorities are a little off and I'm wondering what that teaches your child. Is it because you're worried about the affect it could have on your child? Potentially making a friend to have them taken away (sent back to their parents)? Because if that's the reasoning, isn't setting this kind of example the best thing you could do for your child? Who else will they learn from, if not you? I promise you I am not trying to make anyone feel attacked, I am just trying to understand, while at the same time, offering something to consider.

The next big part of our adventure (MAPP -Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting- Class) begins June 22nd! We'll keep you posted. :)

*If you already can't make ends meet, you shouldn't try to bring a child into that situation. This statement was made assuming you are making more than you need to spend on housing and monthly bills.