Why We Chose Adoption from Foster Care

Why We Chose Adoption from Foster Care

I feel like we’re a bit of a minority in the adoption community.

We have our own biological children.  We could probably have more any time.

We are only 30.

We work with kids and teens every day (we’re educators.)

So why did we decide to adopt from foster care?

Our "Why" - Adoption from Foster Care

Let’s begin at the beginning, eh?

I’m adopted.  Now, I was adopted privately, as an infant, to parents who were almost 40 with infertility struggles.  So not really the same.  But at about 8 years old, I suddenly realized that adoption was a thing any adult could do, and I knew I wanted to adopt children.  I didn’t even know at that time if I wanted to marry or have biological children, but I was 100% committed to the idea of adopting some.

I chose adoption because my life was forever changed.

Fast forward to the ripe old age of 18, right before high school graduation.  My (now) husband and I are in my childhood living room, having a very sincere discussion about our future.  In this conversation, we established that we were going to marry each other, acquire a dog, and I came out of left field with, “You know I’m going to adopt some kids, right?”  To which he replied, wisely, “Okay, sure.”  Followed by, “And you know, if there’s several there, they’re all coming home with me, right?”  “That’s extreme, but yes, I know that.”

We chose adoption together.  It was foundational to our marriage.

So adoption has been in my heart for 20 years, and was put fully on the table right in our discussion of marriage.

5 years into marriage, we happened to have a baby.  And then another one.  And we talked about adoption this way: “When we have saved up the money, say around 40, we’ll be able to adopt those kids.”  It was never an “if,” always a “when.”

Then the story takes a sharp turn.  I made a friend in college to whom I am indebted for other reasons, but he and his wife added 3 children to their family from foster care.  We get together socially with this family, we love their kids, heard about their experience, enjoyed knowing a family who was adopting, but thought no more of it.  One day, we were involved in a conversation on Facebook with some other mothers, discussing how some of us thought someday adoption might be affordable for our families, when my friend uttered these fateful words:

“What we did was free.”

Free.

I had no idea.

I dove immediately into research, contacting, discussing with my husband.  It was a matter of a month before we were attending our first of many meetings and seminars and filling out paperwork.  And just 6 months later, we are only waiting on the office work at the agency before we will be approved for placements.

We chose adoption from foster care because we could afford to help children sooner.

As educators, there have been many incidents where we work closely with neglected or abused children, and wish we could take them home with us.  We want to change our students’ lives for the better, and some of these students need clean clothes and consistent adults and a hug before we can worry about their academic skills.  Of course, it isn’t legal to snatch up your students and take them home with you!

We chose adoption from foster care in order to help children on a more basic level than we can do at work.

I know everybody who chooses to adopt comes from their own set of experiences and desires, and I can’t claim to understand any other parents’ motivations.  For our family, our desire to adopt had nothing to do with nurturing an infant – we are very blessed to already have begun our family with two infants born to us biologically.  Because of this, we couldn’t think of any reason why we needed to undertake private adoption, or infant adoption.  We love being around older children and aren’t fearful of the speed bumps that come with adolescence or having a transracial family.  In fact, I find myself quite excited to jump into parenting an older child.

We chose to adopt from foster care because we, personally, are impartial about age or ethnicity.

If some of these reasons resonate with you, check out foster-to-adopt programs for your state!

Share your adoption stories or blog links below! 

mostly caffeinated mom why we chose adoption from foster care parent and child

5 Ways KonMari Minimalism Improves My Life

5 Ways KonMari Minimalism Improves My Life

I can’t claim to be an expert minimalist.  I don’t count my possessions, I can’t fit everything I own in a backpack, I don’t have a spartan tiny home.

But goodness, do I have less stuff than I used to.  I aspire to minimalism.

I applied the KonMari method to my entire home when pregnant with my second baby.  Call it extreme nesting if you will.

I did it again as we were packing up that house to move.

And I’m doing it again right now in my new home (how did this stuff even get MOVED here?!)

It is the best homemaking decision I’ve ever made, and here’s why:

birch trees. Text: Minimalism Changed My Life

1 – Minimalism forces me to think deeply about purchases and gifts

Before I buy anything for my husband or kids, I think seriously about whether it is amazing and going to be used frequently.  This results in usually buying one joint large gift for Christmas – and this last year we skipped in entirely.  We went on a 2-day vacation with our dear friends instead, and it was so much better than a gift!For our children, we follow the 4 gifts principle – something to wear, something to read, something fun, and something they need.  (Clothing, a book, a toy/game/ticket to somewhere, new sheets, dishes, etc.)  Since they have grown up this way, they don’t expect anything more lavish.  My 3 1/2 year old still gets excited when we put his “new” sheets on his bed, and talks about how he opened them on Christmas.

2 – I am more motivated to finish the laundry and the dishes.

I only have enough sippy cups and coffee mugs for two days.  I also only have enough kid dishes, good knives, and pans for two days, so if I’m feeling unmotivated I can only possibly let the dishes go for a day before we run out of necessary items.  (Sippy Cups and Coffee Mugs would make a great blog name – feel free to borrow that one!)Likewise, we have pared down our wardrobes to the point where I can’t skip laundry.  Maybe this doesn’t happen to everyone, but before KonMari I could skip laundry indefinitely.  I had SO. MANY. CLOTHES. that it didn’t matter if I washed them or not, the closet just kept giving!  Now, my boys only have 6 pair of pants, so I have to wash them.  I use a capsule wardrobe, so I actually wear every piece in my closet and need to wash them to have options for the next week.

3 – Broken items rarely bother me

Fact: Kids break things.  Little Known Fact: My husband, somehow, breaks even more things.This used to bother me immensely, but the process of decluttering and reducing my possessions has definitely changed my mindset about material possessions.  Minimalism functions under the theory that possessions are not important, period.  Because of this, I’m not going to get upset at a person who accidentally ruins one.  I actually say, “Well, there’s one more thing I don’t have to own!”  It helps me let go of even one more item – it has been decided for me by being broken.

4 – Less guilt

This is a problem I didn’t even realize I had until I became familiar with the KonMari method of minimalism.  I had no idea how much guilt I was inviting into my daily life by keeping possessions around that I didn’t love.

“I should really be using that, _____ gave it to me.”

“Forgot I had that.  What a waste of money!”

“I need to go find _____ and set it out so _____ thinks I’m using it.”

“I should dust.  Haven’t touched that shelf of things in months.”

“Here’s the box of ugly things I have to keep around.”

“Let’s sort the Christmas ornaments: Ones we like, ones we can get rid of, ones we don’t like but can’t get rid of.”

“I need to find a place to put _____ where nobody will really see it.”

These are true.  Not exaggerated.  I actually had to think these thoughts routinely about possessions in my home.

I heard it so many times, but didn’t truly believe it until I decluttered objectively: The people you’ve loved don’t cease to exist just because you get rid of “things.”  I didn’t need to keep around heirlooms, gifts, greeting cards, what-have-you from deceased or faraway relatives simply to remember them by.  I’m not going to forget them!  I do have some heirlooms and gifts that I really, truly love and use almost everyday.  I enjoy that those particular items happen to have come from people close to me.  Beyond that, I’ve learned to let go.  And now I don’t have to hear those guilty thoughts inside my head anymore. (Katie from The Decluttering Queen wrote a great post about “keepsakes!“)

The same goes for money spent  You already “wasted” the money.  Having the items staring at you all the time isn’t going to help the situation – it’s just going to make you feel bad daily, instead of once by decluttering the item.

5 – Ease of cleaning, dressing, packing, etc.

Less clutter on surfaces = easier to wipe or dust.
Fewer toys = even if the kids empty out the whole playroom, it’s not that much to pick up.
Capsule wardrobe = just count outfits to pack.  Everything goes together, everything fits, everything feels good to wear.

And this is why I continually look to minimize our home even more.  It has brought such a relaxed, peaceful mindset about possessions and really helped me curb my attachment to them.  There is so much more mental space and time in a day to work at things that truly matter, because I’m not devoting time to shuffling items around (physically or mentally!) picking out clothes, avoiding housekeeping, lingering over decisions about keeping or storing.

What benefits are you hoping to see from your minimalism journey?

What positive experiences have you already had along the way?

Review: Natural Toothpastes

I love a good natural product.  I’m a moderately green person like I’m a moderate minimalist: I enjoy it if it’s easy to implement and not much more expensive than the regular way.

So I ordered several different natural toothpastes, inspired by the lack of children’s toothpastes that weren’t artificially fruit flavored.  My three-year-old has serious morning breath, and “mild fruit” is not cutting it.  Natural toothpastes don’t have the ingredients that shouldn’t be in children’s toothpastes, with the added benefit that many of them may help reminerialize teeth, and they’re more eco-friendly, to boot.

I’m not an expert on toothpaste ingredients.  I used the internet to help me – the basic lowdown is:
1) Glycerin coats your teeth, keeping the helpful ingredients in toothpaste from penetrating
2) Kids shouldn’t ingest flouride.
3) It might be possible to remineralize teeth using natural toothpastes with certain ingredients.
4) I like to pronounce the ingredients in what I and my kids use.

Mother’s Vault Natural Toothpaste – Soothing Peppermint

 tube of toothpaste and box, bamboo toothbrush and boxblack toothpaste on brush

 

 

 

 

 

 

Initial use: 100% honest, this does not taste good.  The texture is what I expected from natural toothpastes – non-foaming, a little gritty. (Like a true “paste.”)  But the taste is pretty much like brushing your teeth with dirt and charcoal.  It’s unpleasant. (Update: I did try mixing this 50/50 with Peppermint Earthpaste.  Much better – will use it this way!)

That being said, after rinsing, that taste is completely gone and you’re left with a minty fresh feeling/taste.  This minty feeling/taste does not interfere with food or drink like you might expect.  So that’s cool!

Kid use: I highly doubt I’m going to attempt this with my kids (3 and 1).  If I could hardly stand the taste while brushing, it’s not going to work for them.

Skeptical husband use: See above.  This is not for the green-faint-of-heart.

 

Redmond Earthpaste – Cinnamon

Earthpaste cinnamon toothpaste and boxEarthpaste cinnamon toothpaste on brush

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Initial Use: This one tastes less of dirt!  There is still, obviously, no foaming, but the earthen taste is faint.  The cinnamon taste is  not overpowering.  Left teeth feeling very clean and smooth.  Cinnamon flavor lingered after rinsing – like your mouth feels after chewing cinnamon gum.  Did not interfere with tasting food and beverages!

Kid Use: My boys (3 and 1) used this one, and I had no complaints.  Still working on the mechanics of spitting properly.

Skeptical Husband Use:  This is the first one he agreed to use, and is probably his “favorite” because it is the most like a traditional toothpaste in dispensing and texture.

Redmond Earth Paste – other flavors

wintergreen Redmond Earthpaste peppermint Redmond Earthpaste lemon Redmond Earthpaste

Initial Use: I really enjoyed the Wintergreen flavor, and even convinced Skeptical Husband to try it.  He said nothing (translation: it was an acceptable experience.)
The Peppermint is good – because the flavor is from essential oils, it’s a little “sharper” than regular toothpaste.
The Lemon has a flavor like lemongrass, which could come off as “Mr. Clean” -esque to some people.  But it’s not a situation where I won’t finish the tube.

Why on earth did you get so many flavors of the same toothpaste?! : I couldn’t get just a mint.  The mint was only available in the four-pack.  I have enough Earthpaste for years.

Native Essense Botanicals Remineralizing Whitening Toothpaste – Peppermint Orange

 

 

 

 

 

 

Initial Use: This is hard to get to stay on your toothbrush.  It fell off on me twice before I really mushed it down on there and it stayed.  The texture is pretty pleasant thanks to the oconut oil – it feels pretty smooth in your mouth.  The flavor was pretty strong, and I found out that orange-mint is not my personal favorite.  It did not ruin the flavor of my food.  Was not quite as good at cutting the morning breath as the others.  (This one has the best texture for brushing.  Will continue to use, just isn’t my favorite!)

Kid Use:  I had to help them get it on their brushes.  This is the only one that my 3-year-old described as “spicy.”  I don’t think they were fans, but then again their teeth don’t need remineralizing, so that’s fine.

Skeptical Husband Use: He didn’t care for the flavor, and thought it was silly to have to scoop and scrape the paste onto a brush.  (He is one of those no-cavities-ever people, so I guess this will just be my personal toothpaste!)

Primal Life Organics “Dirty Mouth” Tooth Powder – Peppermint

primal life organics tooth powder primal life organics "dirty mouth" tooth powder

Initial Use: This is very dry when you first stick it in your mouth!  That sensation quickly dissipates, but it’s a bit jarring at first.  Flavorwise, this is VERY pepperminty, but still doesn’t interfere with food.  It’s a little messy to use, but this might be due to the small container size (this is a travel size, the “regular” jars are much bigger!)

Kid Use:  Too messy for the kids to use themselves.  They both are partial to minty flavors, so they had no complaints.  I was sure to wet their toothbrushes very well first.

Skeptical Husband Use: He wasn’t a big fan of the dry factor, but felt that it tasted good and cleaned well.

(I wonder if I could mix coconut oil in there myself?  I chose this toothpaste specifically for the remineralizing claims, so I’m going to use it no matter what!)

Why didn’t you say anything about the cleaning abilities, Juli?!

Because they all cleaned the same – quite well.  My teeth felt smooth, and clean, and my breath was neutralized/freshened.  Much like regular toothpaste, just no foaming.  By far, my favorite characteristic of all of these natural toothpastes was that the flavor did not interfere with immediate eating and drinking.  I have NEVER found a regular toothpaste that actually freshens breath but doesn’t ruin your breakfast.

My favorite and the easiest to use was the Redmond Earthpaste.  I will continue using each of these and will update this post if I notice any long term pros or cons.

 

There you have it!  Have you tried any natural toothpastes? Which one do you recommend?  

 

(Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links.)

Book Review: Grace Based Parenting

couch, coffee table, cup. text: Book Review: Grace Based Parenting

Checked this book out from the library mostly as it pertains to my current parenting of two little rambunctious boys.  It turned out to be one of the best parenting books I’ve read to date!  I really enjoyed the writing style as well as the overall message, and the more specific advice.

I will admit that I don’t know anything about Dr. Tim Kimmel – I was drawn in 100% by the title.  Who doesn’t want to base their parenting in grace?  Goodness knows I lose my patience daily, and usually feel like my overall attitude could stand a heavy dose of more grace (both from the Lord and to my kids.)

This book is very definitely from a Christian point of view, about Christian parenting. I believe it has some ramifications for any family, but it is heavily aimed at the family looking to infuse their daily interactions and overall parenting and homemaking philosophy with more of God’s grace.

book cover - Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel

First, let’s talk overall theme.  This book is, in a nutshell, about how to show your children boundless grace without sacrificing structure and moral standards, or falling into permissive parenting.  Initially I assumed that it was going to go in those directions, and that I would just glean what I could but not swallow the whole theory.

I was wrong.

Dr. Kimmel repeatedly admonishes parents not to flex when it comes to true moral issues, or true physical danger.  He encourages parents to show a graceful response whenever possible, without jeopardizing the spiritual health of the family.  One example that I think about daily is of a child who insisted on sleeping with a chair on his bed.  This is a silly request that seems inconvenient and unnecessary, but it’s not harming the child, it isn’t a moral issue, and it will likely blow over eventually.  I think about that example when my son wants to nap with his shoes on, or put his placemat on his head as a “hat,” or wear mismatched clothes, or dig in the dirt.  If it’s not harmful physically or spiritually, let them do them.  Let them be unique creatures.

This philosophy is based in an absence of fear.  Dr. Kimmel speaks out directly against fear-based parenting – the type of home where everything that could potentially cause sin is strictly off limits.  Where the rules are many and rigid to try to protect the children from everything unsavory.  He expresses what I already felt to be true – these types of environments have the opposite effect from what was intended.  By not allowing children self-expression or exposure to other human beings and their ways of life, the children don’t learn to rely on God or to stand up for their moral standards because they never have to.  They can’t function in regular society because they have entered atrophy by being in such a “cloistered” environment.

He encourages parents to parent from a place of ultimate trust in God.  That if we truly trust God to help us guide and protect our children, we needn’t put innumerable rules in place, and won’t feel compelled to do so.  We can let them chose things like hair colors or music or tennis shoes without fearing that they’re headed for their ultimate demise.  The author is actually quite hard-hitting here, which I appreciate.

This style of parenting, naturally, lead to acceptance of our children’s unique gifts and quirks, and a stronger relationship with adult children who have felt valued and relevant to their family from little on.

Writing style -wise, I enjoyed the balance on anecdote, secular quotations, Bible verses, and actual parenting advice.  I don’t tend to like books that are too heavy on anecdote, or refuse to include any quotations or examples that are not straight from Scripture.  It was easy to read, structurally, but very direct and held no punches.

And the author referenced Mr. Holland’s Opus, so that’s an automatic win in my book!

I feel like, overall, I enjoyed this book because it resonated with me.  The author stated (much more eloquently than I could) what God’s grace looks like in parenting.  He expressed many truths that I already feel are very important, but coming from an outside perspective this seems more poignant.

10/10 would recommend! 

Click the book cover to find it on Amazon.  (Affiliate link!)

 

 

Going Back to Work (for two days)

Recently, I “went back to work” by substitute teaching for two days.

It was wonderful, for so many reasons.

walking picture with coffee cup and bag. Text: Going Back to Work

I knew, with very strong intuition and conviction, that I needed to stop teaching full-time and stay home with my boys.  It was such clear wisdom from God, honestly, that I didn’t waver about my decision.

I also LOVED teaching.  Sure, my years of professional teaching were far from easy.  There were many challenges in regards to time, patience, personal and professional drama… the list goes on.  But the actual act of teaching – the helping, tutoring, guiding of young people, the crafting of lessons and experiences, the presenting of information – is part of me.  Like a limb.

Going back to work for two days did not change these two truths, but it was so important to my mental health.

  • It proved to me that I am not unhappy being a stay-at-home / professional parent.  Not once during my hours working or my evenings at home did I think to myself: “Why did I leave teaching?!”  “Ugh! I can’t believe I have to stay home again on Saturday.”  “I wish I could do this every day.”  “I made a horrible mistake.”
  • It proved that do want to go back to work when my children reach school age.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself!  The energy I got from being in a school, with a faculty, around children, running a classroom… it was like an I.V.  Refreshing, stimulating, filled me up, in a way.
  • It reassured me that I did not stop working out of a lack of skill, true burnout, or anything of that sort.  Working felt like I’d never stopped.  (I would say “like riding a bicycle,” but honestly I’m terrible at riding bicycles.)  This mini work experience was  substitute teaching, so I was working with someone else’s routines, content, and materials.  I was also down with a virus (interrupted sleep, completely lost my voice between Day 1 and Day 2).  But still, I didn’t find the teaching difficult.  Teaching is tiring, significant mental work, and requires a lot of skill, but I wasn’t experiencing stress or struggle.

In short, I’m really glad I took this little assignment.  Sometimes certain opportunities or experiences can reassure us by confirming that we’re on the right path.  Sort of gives a renewed energy by sparing you from any lingering uncertainty.


Have you dabbled in working outside the home since becoming a full-time parent?  Or had a different experience that has given you important feedback about your decision?  Feel free to tell your story in the comments!