Tuesday, June 30, 2015

7 Ways to Support Foster and Adoptive Families

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As Fost/Adopt parents, we feel like we're walking through a crazy journey... often it can feel like we're walking alone.  But we're not alone.  We have a wonderful community of friends and family who have chosen to walk this road with us.  Each of them have taken the time to invest and learn with our family in a variety of ways.

If you know a foster or adoptive families, your support is invaluable.  These are just a few ways you can make a difference in their lives:

1. Ask Questions-- Asking lots of questions allows you to enter into their world just a little bit.  We welcome questions as it shows that people really do care about how we're growing our family.  Just as you would ask questions about a mother's pregnancy, asking questions about an adoption shows your interest and support.

2. Donate-- There are lots of great adoption grant foundations out there helping families bringing their children home.  And there are lots of families in our own communities putting time into fundraisers hoping to bring their children home.  Adoption can be very financially taxing.

For foster families there can be financial strain as well.  While the state helps pay for those costs, the monthly checks come at the end of the month.  So unless the family has some savings, the initial cost of taking in children can be daunting.

Ask families for specific items they can use.  Bedding, school supplies, backpacks, shoes, gift certificates are all wonderful ideas.

3. Drop off Dinner-- Adopting into your family is a lot like giving birth.  Parents are learning to juggle more children.  Children are learning their parents' personalities.  There are a lot of emotions and not a lot of sleep.  Sometimes dinner is the last thing on their minds as the days is coming to a close.  And a meal can go a long way in bringing perspective.

4. Call--There have been many a time where my day has been saved by someone just calling.  A phone call and the willingness to listen and empathize can go a long way in providing some perspective.  Foster care is very draining, emotionally and physically.  Having someone call and just listen while you pour out your frustrations, knowing they're not going to judge you or minimize your struggle, really allows you pour it out and move past it to face tomorrow.

5. Offer to Babysit--Often times foster children need to go to a lot of appointments.  Visitations, assessments, evaluations, extra medical appointments can add up quickly.  And if you're a foster family with other kids that can mean moving multiple children around to various appointments.  If you know a foster family who has a lot on their plate, offer to take the other kids on an especially busy day.  Just knowing that my kids were playing at the park or enjoying some ice cream went a long way in easing my mind so I was able to focus on my foster child.

6. Provide Respite--Not ready to become a full-time foster parent yourself?  Go through the classes so you can provide respite for a family you know.  It's hard to invest time and energy in a child and not know the family that will be providing respite if, and when, you need to step away.  Be the safe family to provide respite for others until they can step back in as Mom and Dad.

7. Pray--None of us can do this on our one.  Foster care has tested everything in us.  If it weren't for all the people praying for us and praying for our kids, we wouldn't have the mental strength, patience, endurance we need to continue doing what we do.  So thank you!

There are so many ways to support the Fost/Adopt community.
We need you and value you.

What step can you take today?

Monday, June 29, 2015

10 Tips for Planning a Stress Free Disneyland Vacation

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We love Disneyland if you can't tell.  My kids have been spoiled to land in, not one but, two families that love vacationing there.  So we've traveled with big groups and small groups, grandparents and cousins, quick trips and longer trips, and have loved every minute of it.  These are just a few of the tips we've learned along the way for Planning a Stress Free Disneyland Vacation:

1. Choose the "best" time-- I personally love traveling in the fall.  School is back in and the crowds are thinner.  My in-laws like traveling in mid-spring.  I have a friend that swears by the week right after Thanksgiving.  Whatever you do, avoid summer and Christmas, and be prepared for heavier crowds around school holidays.

2. Choose the "best" hotel-- We've never stayed on-site and yet we've had good experience with all the hotels we've stayed at.  Look for hotels within the first couple of blocks as the blocks are loooooong.  Other things we look for are continental breakfast, free parking, and shuttle service.  At the end of a long night, shuttle service is pretty incredible.  :-)

3. Consider a travel agent--  Travel agents can often find deals that the rest of us can't.  Plus if you have a good agent, they'll keep an eye out for fluctuating prices and can get you a better deal as your vacation approaches.

4. Consider a dining experience-- Booking one or two Character Meals will ensure that you get to see several characters while you eat, maximizing your time.  We've dined at Goofy's Kitchen and Minnie's Breakfast and loved every minute of it.  It's a great way to see several characters and they come to you!

5. Book it-- Book those character meals several months ahead.  As soon as your travel agent gives you the green light, book them to get the best possible times for your family.  Be mindful of your child's schedule and your energy level.  We booked one for the beginning (while we were fresh) and one for the end of our vacation (when we needed a chance to sit).

6. Keep trying-- If you're preferred times are booked, keep trying.  Cancellations happen and you just might get into your time slot anyway.  Also check into your meal a few hours ahead and see if there's been a cancellation that you can get into.

7. Rent a stroller-- Even if you have older elementary aged kids, you will not regret renting a stroller. Disneyland vacations can include some really long days and even older kids will get tired.  Last time, we took our double stroller and even the 8 year old rode once in awhile.

8. Check the weather before packing-- Weather patterns change.  We once went in January and found ourselves running to Target to get t-shirts and shorts.  The weather had changed in the days leading up to our trip and I was caught unprepared.

9. Know the park schedule--Disneyland's park schedule is posted with hours, parades, fireworks and more.  Planning a few of these things ahead of time will help you prioritize what you want to see and what you're willing to miss.  It can help you plan what part of the park to enjoy throughout different parts of the day.

10. Be flexible-- While all this planning can help you enjoy a stress free vacation, you also have to remember to be flexible.  Traveling with kids will keep you on your toes and being flexible is key.  If someone needs a snack, veer from your plan.  Everyone will have a better time with a full tummy.  Flexibility is important in any vacation and will ensure that everyone has a more enjoyable experience.

What are your tips for Planning a Stress Free Disneyland Vacation?

For more Disney tips and tricks, check out our Disneyland tag.  You'll find everything from ride info to bucket lists to ways to save money on food.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

No Bake Eclair Cake

This is the perfect dessert for sharing on a hot summer day.  Easy and no-bake, this dessert will impress without heating up your kitchen.  And your guests will never realize how easy it truly is.

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No Bake Eclair Cake

1 box graham crackers
2 small boxes vanilla pudding
3 1/2 c. milk
8 oz cool whip
1 container chocolate  frosting
  (or your favorite frosting recipe)

1. Mix pudding and milk until completely combined.  Fold in cool whip.

2. Warm chocolate frosting until spreadable.

3. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with non-stick spray.

4. Layer graham cracker, pudding, and frosting, ending with frosting on top.

5. Refrigerate overnight or 24 hours to soften graham crackers.

6. Try not to eat the entire pan. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Healthified Chicken Salad

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Summertime is here and the temperatures are heating up.  With these hotter temps, I'm really looking to lighten up our meals.  And this chicken salad is one of my all-time favorites.  It's ridiculously easy and full of flavor.  Plus if I swap out the red onions for green, my kids love it too.

This is the way I like it, but it's so adaptable.  Switch the craisins for raisins, almonds for walnuts, or celery for apples.  It's the perfect food for a light summer lunch and so quick an easy.  Enjoy!

Healthified Chicken Salad

1 can chopped, cooked chicken
2 stalks finely chopped celery
1/3 finely chopped red onion
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
2 tsp lime juice
slivered almonds
dried cranberries
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Finely chop onion and celery.
2. Combine all ingredients.
3. Season to taste.
4. Serve on sandwich, wrap, or salad.
5. Don't eat it all!  :-)


Monday, June 22, 2015

Power Salad

Well, it's getting HOT, HOT, HOT here and I'm turning more and more toward filling our menu with salads.  This salad in particular is a crowd pleaser in our house and one that's asked for on nearly a weekly basis.  It's quick, easy, and has something to please everyone.  More an "everything but the kitchen sink" salad, these simple serve as guidelines for developing your own Power Salad.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

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Power Salad

Lots of Salad Greens (We love spring mix)
Tomatoes
Red Bell Pepper
Carrots
Avocado
Sunflower seeds/slivered almonds
Dried Cranberries
Feta
Cooked Chicken (lightly seasoned with salt and pepper)

1. Cook and season your chicken.  We like our just seasoned with salt and pepper to keep it light, but you can season however you want.

2. Chop/shred your veggies.  I'm coming to liking my carrots shredding in everything.

3. Top with seeds, cranberries, and feta.  Add your favorite dressing.  I like Lighthouse's Blueberry Pomegranate while my husband just likes his dressed with Balsamic Vinegar.

4. Dig in!
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