Turn It Up Tuesday

Nothing limits achievement square

What’s that saying?

“You aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time?”

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You CAN Adopt…

Adoption GirlFIday brothers PINTEREST

Not everyone gets my humor.  I think I am hilarious; my husband will tell you the intensity of my belief in my own hilarity has zero correlation with whether or not I am, in fact, hilarious…

With that in mind, I scratched several possible titles to this article before settling on this one – You CAN adopt.  Front runners were How We Got a Bunch of Babies for Free, Need Babies – We Got Babies, How to Adoption-Hack – Adopt for Almost Free…..yeah….none of those would have been good and I am sure others, a bit more sensitive than myself just might have been offended.  So, I used my better judgment – it’s not always a whole lot better, but it’s always better than the alternative.

Here is something that is true, and not in the least but funny, and that is there are a bunch of kiddos out there, in this very country, in your city, and likely near where you are this very moment, that need love.  They need families – they need YOU!

Just the other day, a foster-adoption momma friend was asked if she could take a 14-day old baby, that would otherwise stay the night at the CPS offices.  No one else would take the baby.  UGH.  If this does not make your heart hurt, go check your pulse.  This momma, with an already full house, including two babies, opened her home so that this little angel would be safe, secure and loved, until CPS could find a placement.  And Friends, this happens every day.  Every.Single.Day. Everywhere. And it is 100% preventable.

…..Exhales, does a whoosa….and steps down from soapbox…

We are six years out from our first adoption and since that time, we have now adopted four little boys.  It’s been a crazy-wild ride and if you want to hear the whole story, it’s pretty amazing.  If you’re interested, I wrote about it here .  Though, hands-down the biggest, and most scary adventure of our lives, it is one we would do all over again.  In a heartbeat.

One might think, how could you have adopted four children? Adoption is so expensive!

My response, is, yes, it can be – depending on which route you choose.  Not every route is right for everyone, but for those open to adopting from foster care, you might just find that a door you thought was closed to you – is WIDE open.

There are typically three types of adoption, private domestic, private international and adoption through the state.  We are only going to cover state adoptions here.  We know several other adoptive parents that have chosen both private domestic and private international, each one has their own risks and processes.  If you want to learn more, I may not have all the answers, but I am pretty good at finding where to point you to get them.

But if your hearts are open and you are a brave and courageous soul, read on…

Step One

Step One is to find out your state’s requirements to adopt from foster-care.  Every state has its own requirements.  We adopted in Arizona.  In Arizona, DCS (Department of Children’s Services, formerly CPS) offers free information, no obligation, sessions that are held all over the state several times a month.  Your state may offer the same.  Contact your state agency to see how you can get more information.  Another great resource is the North American Council on Adoptable Children, they can be found here:  https://www.nacac.org/

Step Two

Choose your agency to assist with licensing.  Arizona requires 30 hours of training (called PS-MAPP).  Again, each state is different.  Attending this training is so important.  You learn some of the special needs you may encounter with children who have been placed in foster care.  It is also a really good way to know, for certain, if foster-care or foster-adoption is right for you and your family.  These classes were critical to our understanding of what we should expect; we learned so much.  It is true, you don’t know, what you don’t know.  The best part of our classes were the people we met.  We met grand-parents, single women, single men, relatives, families struggling with fertility, all different walks of life and cultures.  It was amazing to be surrounded and supported by people on the same journey as we were.

Our agency was with us through the entire adoption process and helped us keep moving forward.  There is a ton of paperwork and other steps that must be completed, a home-study for instance, and, in all honesty, at times the process was over-whelming.  So, it was comforting to have a someone by our side the whole way.

Step Three

Costs. In some states and with some agencies there is no cost whatsoever to adopt from foster-care (except for small fees like fingerprinting fees).  In our case, our agency charged $800 for the home-study, but that fee was reimbursed to us after the adoption was finalized. (Making our adoption FREE.)

Step Four

Get licensed.   Once you are certified to adopt, you will be put on a register to accept placements.  This is the moment you have been waiting for!!!!  (What I am giving here is a SUPER pared-down explanation of process, so please understand that and make sure you have done your own research for your state, to make sure you understand all that is involved in getting certified.)

Your license will determine how many children you can have placed with you.  Prior to being certified you will have filled out a questionnaire to inform your state agency the type of child you believe would fit your family circumstances best.  Some of the factors include age, gender, and whether or not you would be willing to have a child with special needs placed, as well as the extent of needs you feel comfortable with.  (There are special requirements for adopting children with more severe needs.)

One of the biggest needs for placements is that of sibling groups.  Even if you initially do not intend on adopting more than one child, one thing you should be aware of is that it is not uncommon for later born siblings to come into care after your adoption has been finalized (and sometimes even before then).  In our circumstance, three of our children are siblings.  We started our journey intending to only adopt one child….and now we have four!  How that happened is told here, here and here.  So even though our original license was for one child, we had to get our license amended so that we could accept our son’s brothers into our home. (They ultimately did not stay with us and is part of our story.)

Step Four

Depending on your license and the preferences you have stated in your questionnaire, your placement will be a child who is already available for adoption (parental rights severed) or not.  In our circumstance, we initially asked to have a child placed with us whose parental rights had already been severed; initially we felt, like a lot of people who consider foster-care, that we could not “have a child placed with us and then lose them.”  However, during the process, our hearts were changed – we took a risk – and, had we not we would not have been given our Jake.   You can find how we arrived at that decision here.

From the day of Jake’s placement with us to his Forever Day, the process took thirteen months.  During the time he was a foster child, we received a small monthly stipend and clothing allowance to assist us while he was in our care.  He also received free medical care and other assessments.  We felt very supported during the entire process.  There were required medical visits and other appointments we were responsible for, and for a time, there was visitation with his birth mother.  This is not always the case, and other times a child is returned to their parent(s) or it is determined a kinship placement is more appropriate.  These are all risks to consider if you choose this route.

The one thing I try to help people understand when considering foster-adoption is this.  There are risks with foster-children.  Risks of being heart-broken (we’ve been there – it’s the hardest pain we’ve ever experienced).  Risks of having a child with mental health and/or other medical issues due to the actions of his/her birth parents.  Risks that you may be asked to care for more children than you anticipated….These risks are the SAME with naturally born children.  When our children are born – there are so many unknowns.  This is the nature of parenthood.  Parenting is a wild ride…whether your children have the same DNA or not.

These same risks are present with private adoptions, domestic and foreign, as well.

Step Five

Your Forever Child. Every Halloween and Every March 25th, we celebrate the adoptions of our four boys.  Jaycob was our first adoption and Halloween is always a super special day for us.  Our other three boys were all adopted on the same day, March 25th.  Both days are a celebration for us – much the same as any of their birthdays.  Our children have been the greatest blessing in our lives.  We never expected how they would change us.  Change our whole family.

Step 6

After the Adoption. Once your child(ren) are adopted, one of the best parts is that the state is no longer part of your daily lives.  These are now (officially) your children!  While this is cause for celebration, you should also know that some of the support you once received will no longer be there.  You are 100% responsible now for your child – just as any parent should be.

Some services you may have received for the child(ren) as well as some of the financial support terminates.  This includes the monthly stipend and clothing allowance, as well as daycare allowances.

However, one benefit that your child may qualify for is a small monthly subsidy to help offset additional expenses you may incur by adopting a child that is considered “at-risk” and/or “special needs”.

Former foster children also may be eligible for ongoing healthcare, which is a huge benefit.  If you have primary coverage, this benefit will become secondary, which is extremely helpful if your child has ongoing medical needs.

A more thorough description of these benefits can be found on the NACAC website listed above.

There are additional one-time benefits described there as well as a one-time tax credit for each child. (Consult your tax professional for further information.)

I could spend an entire day, or more, going into more detail…if you haven’t noticed, I am super-passionate about foster-adoption.  There is SO MUCH MORE to know if you are considering it.  My hope is that this post has helped you understand the basics and to know that, if the expenses of adoption is what is stopping you from adding to your family, there is another way. There is a path to adoption – that will not derail you financially. You CAN adopt!

And if you simply want to know more….LET ME KNOW.  If I cannot locate the answer for you, I will find someone who can.

Love and Prosperity, 

Your Girl FI day. 

Friday Night Under Five – Personal Pizzas

Friday Under Five Personal Pizzas PINTEREST

Photo by Carissa Gan on Unsplash

 

Pizza Fridays have become a tradition in our house.  It started when my husband was coaching football, we would pick up pizzas for after the game to watch the local “Pigskin Report”.  Then when we adopted all of our boys, they couldn’t wait to eat until 10:00 pm (go figure), so pizza was an easy and cheap dinner on our way to the games.

Now that the Hubbs has taken some time off from football, Pizza Friday has stuck and we just order the pizza. The kids know that if its Friday – there will be pizza.  We usually keep it cheap by ordering with coupons or by picking up at Costco – but sometimes to change it up, we make them at home.  It’s a fun change for the kids and, frankly, it’s better for us.

Because we keep a well-stocked pantry we typically have all the supplies we need on hand to make them.  I buy whole wheat pita bread at Walmart and freeze several at a time.  They do not need to be thawed before making the pizzas, so I pull them out right before we are ready to start dinner.  I use spaghetti sauce, which is always in my pantry, for the pizza sauce and I top the kids’ pizzas with shredded cheese we also always have on hand.  The kids are simple – they prefer to just have cheese.

For the grown-ups, we keep several different items in our pantry and refrigerator to make our pizzas super-yummy and fun.

My absolute favorite is sundried tomatoes.  I keep a jar in the fridge or the pantry at all times.  The julienned ones in oil are the best. You can also top with other fresh veggies you might have on hand; onions, peppers, mushrooms, as well as any protein or cheese you want.

We no longer eat meat (not that it was not delicious) but were meat-eaters for several years so most of our suggestions have meat/protein options.

Salad is a good side for this meal as well.

What you will need:

Whole wheat pitas. Papa Pita brand is the best. They are not hard and dry – but thick and chewy. (Walmart for about $2 for six)

Spaghetti Sauce (I usually buy the canned Del Monte for $1, but you could use a homemade sauce or any other sauce you prefer.)

Shredded cheese

 

Optional toppings:

Feta cheese

Olives

Mushrooms

Peppers

Onions

Chicken (use a BBQ sauce instead of tomato and cheddar cheese, with red onions or bacon – so good! From what I remember. LOL)

Pepperoni

Bacon

Sounds delicious doesn’t it?  The Hubbs, who is known to be persnickety at times, has even remarked, “these are better than take-out.” Hubbs approved – score!

Love and Prosperity

Your GirlFIday

Holey Chonies & Black Flip-Flops

Holey Chonies&Black Flip-Flops.Pinterest

My wardrobe is pretty simple.  There are no 30-minute wardrobe changes or rummaging and trying on 10 different pairs of shoes in my morning routine.  The only question that runs through my mind is, if at all, is it too cold for flip flops?  They sit at the bottom of our staircase and, except for when I am upstairs on the carpet, they are just about a permanent appendage.  I do own other shoes, of course.  I have boots for when it is really cold – which is rare in San Diego.  I have tennis shoes for when I work out which, admittedly, I should do more.  I also have several pairs of dress shoes for when I need to appear professional.  But those days are less and less and I sometimes ponder if I still need all of them.

But even before now, to a time when I had to dress-up for work most days, I was still fairly simple and optimized my wardrobe budget.  I had a few classic suits, in conservative colors, black, blues, and browns.  I also kept a few shells and camies for under my suit-jacket, and shoes to match.

As we have journeyed closer  and closer to financial independence, I have come to realize that being a bit more thoughtful about our wardrobe has been a significant source of savings in our budget.  We do not frequent the mall – and shopping is not an extra-curricular sport in our household.  Malls (and let be honest – Amazon) exist to separate us from our money.  It’s not that we are weird or that we “look” as frugal as we are.  We are just a bit more conscious of our spending choices.

There are several strategies you can implement to trim your wardrobe budget and maybe pocket a bit of cash to ramp up your savings in the process.

SURVEY.  First, take an honest look through every closet in your home.  Your closet, your partner or spouses, your kids.  Determine what is needed for the season.  If you launder weekly, there is really no reason for you or anyone else in your family to have more than a week’s worth of clothes.  I keep just a few more than a week’s worth for my Little Ones, because they still have accidents and seem to be really attracted to dirt! For me and my husband, we each have a couple pairs of jeans.  We do not need more than that, because we do not wear them every day.  You can usually get more than one days wear out of a pair of jeans as well.  I also tend to wear the same style of dress – so when I find something I like, I buy them in multiples.  This keeps my wardrobe pretty uncomplicated.  For instance, leggings, a cami and a large comfy shirt/blouse (and, of course flip flops) is my go to outfit these days.  And if I want to dress it up a bit, I switch out jeans for leggings and wear a nicer pair of shoes.  Set aside the items you do not need.  Also box up anything that is needed – but out of season, label, and put them away for the next season.  This keeps things uncluttered and easier to find.

PURGE.  With what is left, I typically create 3 piles.  Toss. Donate and Sell.  Selling items you no longer need or want is a great way to make some extra cash to throw into savings.  I have found that clothing, even when sold for $1 a piece, adds up and I can usually bring in a nice sum.  For bigger priced items, like a barely worn pair of tennis shoes, they might be worth selling on an App like Offer Up to fetch a better sum.  I do not spend much time selling – a few minutes to upload the pictures to the app and then to communicate with the buyer.  Easy-peasy.  For anything that does not sell, I immediately load it up and donate it.  (Don’t forget your receipt for taxes!)

RESIST.  Now.  Don’t defeat all of your progress by purchasing more STUFF.  You don’t need it and I strongly believe you will find it refreshing to not have a closet or dresser overflowing.  Simplifying your life and paring down your wardrobe can be extremely liberating.  Freeing.  It is deciding to care more about the long term than the immediate and fleeting emotions that an overflowing wardrobe closet brings.

Lastly, if buying retail, always use sales and coupons when making purchases.  While working in retail years ago I learned a couple of things.  1.  The price on the tag is sometimes marked up on purpose and the item is “on-sale” the moment it hits the floor, and 2. If it is not, it will be next week. 3.  Comparison shop.  We have the internet for a reason.  There are also several APPS available to tell you the best price on items.  (CamelCamelCamel is one that comes to mind.) I know several people that buy at resale/thrift shops (I admit – I should be better about this) but don’t forget this is an alternative to retail.

A word of caution largely based upon experience.  During my most recent purge of my unmentionables, I was looking through my underwear drawer and found I was holding on to several pairs that had holes in them.  Without much thought, I examined them and then folded them back up and was about to put them back in the drawer. What the heck!?! It was truly a moment. I found that I was resisting purchasing myself something I truly needed because I was fearful of spending the money.  I turned to my husband and had a good laugh at myself – so did he.  This life is not about deprivation.  This road to financial independence is not about frugality at the expense of caring for ones needs.  And you are not a bad person for replacing your holey chonies, your back flip-flops, or even buying that really cute shirt in 3 different colors because you really, really like it and know you will wear all three of them at some point this week.

(And, I did go out at buy myself some new chonies.  They were on sale AND I had a coupon. 😉 )

Love and Prosperity,

Your Girl.FI.day

Friday Night Under Five – Tostadas

Friday Night Under Five Tostads PINTERESTPhoto by Natasha Bhogal on Unsplash

A big part of saving and reducing our food budget, particularly with a family of 8, is to get our per person per meal costs as cheap as possible.  But this doesn’t necessarily mean living on rice and beans every meal.  Although, rice and beans ARE delicious and do make an appearance on our menu quite frequently.

Going forward, I hope to share with you easy, quick and inexpensive meals that have helped our family control our food expense.  I am not a chef.  I am not even an amateur chef.  I sometimes enjoy cooking, but more often than not, it is a task I must complete.  So, you should not  expect to find any culinary masterpieces here.  What you will find are simple and practical meal suggestions – that will hopefully make your life easier and your wallet a bit fatter.

There is nothing glamorous about this dinner suggestion I am sharing, but I am sharing it because several years ago it was new to me and it was shared by a dear friend whose family, just like ours, exploded overnight via foster-adoption.

When you have lots of mouths to feed and both mom and dad are exhausted and you just need to get food in the bellies, it is always good to have a quick, filling, nutritious meal than you can slap on the table and check off one of your momma and daddy boxes at the end of the day.

Bean and cheese tostadas does that!  You can get both the tostadas and the beans extremely cheaply at the dollar store.  And they both keep in the pantry for extended periods of time.  My kids are simple.  They like just the beans and cheese.  But for the grown-ups, or older kids you can have a little fun and load them up with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, sour cream or a protein.  These take minutes to prepare and literally will feed the whole family for close to $5.00.  For us, it comes to less than a dollar per person for dinner.

What you will need:

Tostada shells (you can pick up at the dollar store for a dollar apiece, or big box stores for about $2.)

Canned refried beans  (usually less than a dollar at most stores)

Shredded Cheese (we buy cheese in bulk at Costco)

Options:

Ground beef, turkey  or sofritas* (I season myself with chili powder, cumin, paprika, onion, garlic, salt and oregano to taste.  No need for those taco packets that are full of chemicals and additives.)

Corn

Whole black beans

Avocado

Olives

Tomatoes or Salsa

Lettuce

Sour cream

You can pair with a quick side of Spanish rice or a simple green salad, or my FAVE – coleslaw – to bulk up the meal without much additional expense.

Simple, right?  Give it a try – your food budget and your bellies will all say THANK YOU.

Love and Prosperity

Your GirlFIday

*sofritas is made with drained and browned tofu and then seasoned with spices.  One of these days I will share my recipe (wink).