What do you get when you mix two hurricane days, a full-time job, and a relatively new foster placement? Insanity. You get insanity. In case you missed my panic-stricken Instagram story, we were notified Sunday afternoon that school would be closed on Monday due to Hurricane Irma. I’m not gonna lie – we were exhausted after our first weekend as foster parents, our foster son had just thrown a tantrum, and the thought of an extended weekend nearly left me in tears. School was cancelled again on Tuesday, but we survived both Monday and Tuesday just fine thanks to Netflix and puzzles (for him) and VPN and my laptop (for me).
Monday, September 11, Personal training – deadlifts: I had plans to run on Monday, but Mother Nature thought otherwise. The “hurricane” (really a tropical storm by the time it got to us) started overnight, so it was pouring and windy when I woke up. I snuck out of the house on my lunch break (AJ was working from home, I’m not an animal) to work on deadlifts. They’re not my best lift thanks to my back, but I always enjoy the stretch I get from working the backbody. I did 15 sets of 10 in various styles, but the mental reset was the best part. I felt like I had the clarity to tackle the rest of the day!
Tuesday, September 12, personal training – chest/triceps: It’s weird, but I haven’t done heavy bench press in a long time, and I’m not sure why. Today was no different. I’ve noticed since I came back from the Tour du Mont Blanc that my trainer has backed off a little on constantly increasing my weights. At first, it annoyed me, but honestly? I’ve felt better and been able to give my full effort more often. It’s almost like he knows what he’s doing or something! The most significant thing I did during this workout was 5 sets of hanging tricep dips with no weight assistance – which is a lot for me!
Wednesday, September 13, 5 mile run, personal training – back and biceps: Yay!!! Finally, time to run! I was so excited to meet Pearce for 5 glorious miles and fill her in all about the crazy four day weekend. It felt great to get out and run. My workout at the gym was great, too – my back is starting to get noticeably stronger. I hate doing chin ups, though. They are the worst. I make sure my trainer knows it, too – he loves me.
Thursday, September 14, 4.5 mile run, personal training – legs: I’ve gotta say, on the days when I need to wake up at 5 am to run (the days when I take our foster son to school), I’ve been hopping out of bed. There’s something about knowing that it’s the only time I have to run that day – rather than it just being the time I “should” run – that makes me a lot more willing to get up. Starting my day with a little mental clarity and “me” time makes a huge difference in my mood! Of course, what better way to follow up two days of running in a row than with leg day? I got to the gym super late after work and ended up working out with a different trainer. It’s amazing how just doing a few different movements (every trainer has their favorites, right?) makes such a huge difference in your soreness level. Thanks for the 100s of weighted lunges, Kevin!
Friday, September 15, personal training – full upper body: A light full upper body workout was just what I needed to finish off the week of training! I did do some bench presses, but just really light stuff – low weights, high reps. Nothing too exciting, just a good all around upper body workout! It’s nice to go light sometimes.
Saturday, September 16, 7 mile run and barre3 class: First thing’s first – long run! I am tentatively training for the Spinx Half Marathon with Pearce, so we headed to the Swamp Rabbit Trail for the week’s long run. It felt fantastic! The beautiful crisp weather and flat path always makes for a great run. If you ever make it to Greenville, SC, hit up the trail. It runs through downtown and it’s gorgeous! Right after we finished running, I headed to a class at Barre3! I haven’t been in a long time – since I taught my last class in April! – but this weekend was the 2nd anniversary of the studio opening, so I wanted to say hi to everyone. I got my butt kicked and sufficiently sweated all over the place! I was back home by 10 am and ready to start the weekend!
Sunday, September 17, OFF: Finally, a well-earned off day! AJ and I took our foster son up to my parents’ house (they live on a lake in North Carolina during the summer) and had a blast hanging out with them and my grandmother, who is here visiting from Florida. Lots of time on the lake kayaking, going out on the boat, and just enjoying time with family! It was a great end to the weekend.
LEAVE A COMMENT: Who else is training for a fall race?
You know those trips where there’s so much to say about them that you don’t even know where to start (aka every trip I ever take that’s more than 3 days long)? Well, that’s how I feel about my experiencing hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc. Called the TMB for short, the trail is a 110-mile loop that circles around the Mont Blanc massif and passes through France, Italy, and Switzerland. Mont Blanc is the tallest mountain in Western Europe at 15,781 feet.
I’ll be doing a series of posts about the TMB and my experience on it as I try to put it into words. First up – what it’s like to hike the TMB!
Many of the photos (pretty much all the good ones, and definitely any picture including me) in this post were taken by the amazing and talented Allison Dobbs of Allison Dobbs Photography. She lives in Denver does incredible portraits, weddings, lifestyle, landscape, race photos, and obviously, strenuous hiking trips, so check out her website!
If you research the TMB for more than about 5 seconds, a couple of things will stand out to you. First, you’ll note that it’s one of the most popular trekking routes in the world – about 10,000 people head to the TMB each summer. Second, you’ll read that most people spend 7-11 days hiking the trail. If you’re like me, you assume that that means that most people complete the trail in 7-11 days, but that’s not what it actually means. More on that later. So, Allison and Bobbi and I decided that since we are in good shape and experienced trekkers, 8 days on the trail was a reasonable amount of time to complete the trail.
Most hikers start in Les Houches, which is a small town about 5 miles from Chamonix – the main “hub” of the TMB. Thanks to a misunderstanding, we actually started in Chamonix itself and hiked to Les Houches, adding about an extra 5 miles each way to our TMB experience. As we heard a thousand times on the trail, no one does this. If you decide to do the TMB, just take the bus to Les Houches and start from there.
Our trek would require us to hike about 15 miles a day on average – sometimes more and sometimes less – to complete the entire circuit on time. There’s a very helpful website that allows you to reserve your accommodations online and plan out your entire trek based on how long you’d like to spend hiking each day. It even shows the estimated time it will take to get from place to place! This was how we planned out our entire trek. It should be noted that many people also pay private companies to book all of their accommodations for them. There are benefits to doing it this way (such as a luggage service that takes all your gear from place to place so you don’t have to carry it), but you can expect to pay 3-4 times as much for that type of service.
One thing we did not know is that many people (the vast majority, in fact – about 90%) do not hike the entire trail. Most utilize the bus system that is active along the route and will take a bus from their hotel each morning to a given spot on the trail, then hike the rest of the way to their next destination. There are lots of reasons people do this – to skip the hardest parts (of which there are MANY), to skip the “less scenic” parts (of which there are few), to get some extra rest time, and to just avoid hiking insane distances every day. We really had no concept of this prior to actually getting out on the trail. We steadfastly refused to use any type of transportation besides our own two feet, but after completing the entire trail, I kind of understand why people do. It would have been a lot easier and a lot less painful!
Oh, Mont Blanc. Where do I begin? Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc was the most physically challenging thing I have ever done, hands down. I’m not alone in that assertion – Bobbi (an Ironman) and Allison (who just finished a 50-miler in June) agreed. So, what makes it so difficult?
There are a host of factors, several of which had to do with choices we made about the hike. First of all, hiking 15 miles a day on average is pretty challenging in itself. Our longest day was 22 miles and I believe our shortest was about 11. Second, we did not ship our luggage (which the vast majority of people do), which meant we were carrying about 25 pounds each in our backpacks, including water. I’ll do a packing list in a few posts, but just know that we only brought 2 hiking outfits each and our packs still weighed that much. So yeah.
But there are plenty of things about the hike that make it challenging on its own, regardless of what you are carrying. First, you are hiking in the Alps, and there is no such thing as “flat.” We heard a similar joke in Nepal when our guide would tell us we were coming to a flat section and we’d get there and it was still a challenging climb. “Well, it’s Nepali flat,” he would say. Same thing in the Alps. There’s no such thing as flat, just “Alpine flat.” Based on Allison’s Garmin data, we had about 5 miles total of the trek that was not a significant incline or decline. We climbed one mountain with a grade of 41%!
What’s crazy is that for as hard as the inclines are (and they were very hard, even though our elevation was usually only around 7,000-8,000 feet – I still really struggled with my breathing and heart rate), the descents were often more painful. All of those steep climbs meant steep descents, too! Each climb and descent was several hours long, and somehow, we almost always ended the day on a descent. This meant that our exhausted legs and feet were being slammed down into our boots for the better part of several hours to end the day, and quite frankly, it sucked. There’s no other way to say it. We had trekking poles, of course, but there’s no trekking pole in the world that could have stopped that pain. It’s just brutal.
For all the pain the mountains bring, there is so much beauty, too! Depending on whether you take the main route or add on some of the alternate portions, you will climb about 11-13 significant passes overall. These passes offer some of the best views of the entire trek when the weather is good, and they are worth the climb. It’s also at the top of passes that you cross into new countries along your route, and there’s something pretty exciting about climbing a mountain in France and getting to the top and being in Italy!
The trail is not considered very technical, but it is still challenging because it is generally pretty rocky in many sections. For me, that meant that I spent most of my time looking down at the trail because it seemed like every time I looked up, I tripped over something. A more coordinated person might not have this experience. This really just meant that we had to stop to take a lot of pictures and look around and soak it all in, which was fine by me – it gave me a chance to breathe!
One of the other fun aspects of the trail is that it occasionally winds through some tiny but beautiful alpine towns! I use the term “town” loosely because it was typically more like a cluster of a few houses, but seeing the alpine architecture was so much fun. There are a few more major towns along the way where there are restaurants and some sports stores, but for the most part, you’ll pass through little villages!
While the majority of the trail is pretty exposed (hello, sunscreen applications every 2 hours on the dot), there are also some beautiful wooded portions. I would say that we passed through woods at some point each day, but most of the time, we were on the sides of mountains. We made a point to leave early every day (usually about 7:30-8, depending on what time breakfast was served) in order to get in a few hours of hiking before the sun came up over the mountains.
One of the truly unique aspects of the Tour du Mont Blanc is the lodging situation along the trail. The accommodations are mostly mountain refuges and lodges, with the occasional small hotel thrown in. The trail is famous for the many dormitories that people stay in along the way. To this end, we didn’t really know what to expect. We had been told there were rows and rows of bunk beds in large rooms, and that was…sometimes true. Sometimes it was tons of bunk beds in tiny rooms! No matter what, the bunks were all literally touching, with no space whatsoever in between – basically one long bed. You could literally be sleeping inches from a stranger! I will say that the lodge owners were generally very conscientious about who slept where, and they kept groups together, kept women together, etc. We never felt unsafe at any point and got really lucky with our placements each night!
As a traveling group of 3, we usually didn’t have the option of booking private rooms, but many people traveling in groups of 2 are able to do this. We had a private triple room on 3 of the 8 nights of our trip and stayed in dorms on the other nights. One dorm had probably 30 people in it, while the smallest had 4. It’s all just a matter of the place you’re staying! Whether we had a private room or a dorm, there were hot showers each night, which was a game changer
We booked all of our accommodations using this TMB planning website (the official website of the TMB) and honestly enjoyed all of the places we stayed! Some are definitely more spacious and luxurious than others, but each was a really unique experience. We didn’t expect the TMB to have a strong cultural component, but the lodges are actually a legitimate cultural experience. We noticed differences between the French, Italian, and Swiss lodges – especially the food! – and enjoyed learning about each. One recommendation: even if you are creeped out by the idea of staying in a dorm, I definitely recommend doing it at least one night. Some of our favorite nights of the trip were spent in dorms, and it was all part of the experience! Only two of the places we stayed required us to pay in cash, while the rest accepted cards – this information is available on the website. It’s important to know, because many of the lodges are in isolated areas and you will not be able to withdraw cash if needed, so check beforehand!
We chose half-board at each lodge, meaning our breakfast and dinner was included in the price. Meals are served family-style and each lodge has assigned seating in a large dining room. I requested gluten-free meals well in advance (by booking online) and was accommodated everywhere, with only one exception. Does that mean there were always amazing gluten-free options? No. I ate lot more cheese and a lot fewer carbs than normal. But still, with the exception of the one place that did accidentally give me a dinner with gluten (rendering me violently ill for the entire night and half the next day), it was really much better than I expected. Vegetarians and other dietary restrictions were common on the trail, too! One refuge, in Italy, even made me gluten-free pasta and a gluten-free cake! It was the best pasta I’ve ever had, but maybe I was just carb-starved by that point.
Breakfast is light and simple – honestly, much lighter than you might think given that everyone is about to get up and go hiking. Most places offered some bread or pastry, fresh yogurt, and granola or cereal. They do not eat eggs for breakfast in the summer (which is oddly specific, if you ask me), so I was frequently out of luck when it came to breakfast. I had brought a protein bar for each day in preparation for this exact situation, so it was ok, but my stomach definitely suffered for not eating my usual full meal. I also drank an inordinate amount of hot chocolate, all of which was delicious.
Lunch costs extra and is packed in a picnic style. A typical lunch consists of a sandwich, a piece of fruit, possibly a hard-boiled egg, and some type of dessert or pastry. For me, this meant I got the inside of the sandwich (meat, cheese, etc) in a bag, plus some fruit and an egg. It was actually hilarious and really quite delicious. Some days we didn’t buy lunch and subsisted on protein bars and Snickers, and some days we did – it just depended on how far we were hiking.
Dinners are typically carb-heavy and featured a lot of pasta or rice. We were served pork at every single lodge except for one, where we had chicken. If you don’t like pork or don’t eat it for religious reasons, I highly recommend you request vegetarian meals, because it was literally pork all the time. I generally do not eat pork but did on this trip because, well, otherwise I would have eaten nothing but cheese and Snickers bars. So, plan accordingly!
Well, this post has already been plenty long enough (sorrrrrryyy), so I’ll leave it at that! Next up: stories from the trail and what I learned about myself during this experience.
LEAVE A COMMENT: What’s the most physically challenging thing you’ve ever done?
Whew! What a week! In case you missed it, AJ and I welcomed our first foster care placement last Tuesday night. I recapped what the first 48 hours were like, so check out that post here in case it somehow slipped past you. Becoming parents overnight did throw a little bit of a wrench in my workout plans at first, but I’ve done my best to keep up – with some modifications, of course! Let’s get to it.
Monday, September 4, 4 mile run, 3 hours kayaking: Labor Day was definitely welcome around these parts! We wanted to take advantage of our day off and use it to do something different, so we headed up to Lake Jocassee to go kayaking. I ran in the morning prior to leaving, and the weather was nice and cool. It wasn’t anything special, but a good way to start the day! Kayaking was beautiful. Despite living here for two years, we had never gone up to Lake Jocassee before, so we spent 3 hours rowing around and exploring different coves. We ended up going about 7 miles and getting plenty of sun – I frantically applied sunscreen multiple times and still got sunburned. SAD!
Tuesday, September 5, OFF: I was literally pulling into my gym’s parking lot when I got the call about our placement! Since he would be arriving shortly, I ended up needing to leave and go buy a few things to prepare for his arrival. No workout, but my intentions were good!
Wednesday, September 6, personal training – full upper body: After getting literally zero sleep Tuesday night thanks to a migraine I had had since that morning, trying to figure out the logistics of getting the kiddo to school, and everything else, I wasn’t super confident in how well the gym would go, but I knew it was important to try and workout. Gotta keep something normal, right? I made it to the gym at lunchtime on Wednesday and was able to do a full upper body workout. When I do these types of workouts, we typically focus on chest and back. I haven’t done the benchpress in awhile and didn’t on this particular day either, but I still enjoyed it. It was nice to take an hour out of a crazy day and get those endorphins going – plus, I hadn’t been to training since the previous Friday due to the holiday!
Thursday, September 7, 4.25 mile run, personal training – legs: I was able to get a bit of sleep Wednesday night and woke up feeling like a new woman! I jumped out of bed at 5 to meet my friend Pearce and run. I am not an early morning runner – I hate it – but I have come to realize that I’m just going to have to go super early right now if I want to go. Our placement’s schedule demands it, so out the door at 5:30 I shall go. The run went really well – we have had beautiful, cooler weather – and catching up with Pearce was great! It was AJ’s day for school pickup, so I went to the gym after work and did legs. I think my trainer had me do about 200 squats, but leg day is my favorite, so I never complain.
Friday, September 8, personal training – upper body: Thanks to a lunchtime appointment with our social worker on Friday, my only option to workout was once again super early on Friday morning. If you think I’m bad at running really early in the morning, you should see me try and lift weights. It is atrocious! I worked out with a trainer I’ve never worked with before because he was the only one on duty that morning, and it was a tough workout. He had me do lots of different movements than the ones I’ve done with my trainer (like chest presses with cables) and I was worn out by the end! Still really proud of myself for getting it done, though.
Saturday, September 9, OFF but also #momlife: I’ll be writing another post about this later, but let’s just say I now understand people who say things like “I don’t work out, but I’m really active because I run after my kids all day.” As a judgemental person in general and one who does not have kids of my own, I was like “OK…right.” UM, I NOW GET IT. And I’m sorry for judging. Saturday was non-stop. We walked the dog twice, went to the zoo, went to the park, went to another park, rode bikes (while I walked)…we never stopped moving. Don’t kids ever get tired? I’m tired! OMG. So no workout but also, a major workout.
Sunday, September 10, 6 mile run: Waking up early on a Sunday to run when I’m not training for anything? Normally not something that happens. But this is my new normal for right now, and I am embracing it. Heading out for 6 miles in the perfect weather before tackling the day (which included a family road trip to Columbia) honestly made me feel like superwoman. Calling it a “long run” seems ridiculous, but I haven’t run more than 5 miles in a while, so that is what it is. And the fact that I got up and did it early, after an exhausting past few days? That makes me feel like I can conquer the world. I hope this newfound discipline sticks around!
LEAVE A COMMENT: How did your workout routine change when you had kids/adopted kids/started fostering?
Oh. My. Gosh. You Guys. I apologize in advance for what is undoubtedly verbal vomit. You’ll just have to bear with me. We received our first foster care placement 48 hours ago. Where do I even start?
I woke up on Tuesday with a horrible migraine that wasn’t going away, but I headed to the gym in hopes that it would help. I was in the middle of Googling “How long between getting licensed and receiving first foster placement” (seriously). Our house had been open for nearly a week and our social worker made it seem like we would be getting calls right away, but…nothing. Radio silence. And as I was reading on various message boards, the phone rang. It was a local number that I didn’t recognize. It was South Carolina DSS’s Placement Department. They had a 5-year old boy needing a foster home, and he would be coming that night. I asked them as many of questions as I could possibly remember from a list I found, and told them I’d call them back after talking to AJ. It sounded like a good situation, and he agreed. We decided to accept the placement!
The gym went out the window and I headed to Wal-Mart right away. It was an emergency placement, so we needed to grab a booster seat, some clothes, and a few toys. I probably went overboard and just threw everything that seemed remotely necessary into the cart. Then, we waited. We were told it would be about an hour before he arrived, but it was more like 4 hours.
Our first foster placement walked through our door at about 9 pm. “Where’s the toys?” he said. “Can I see my bed?” He was not concerned with knowing our names, eating a snack, or seeing the house. He just wanted to know where the toys were. Easy enough! He was thrilled with the room and the toys and couldn’t believe the bedspread had dinosaurs on it. Looks like I chose wisely! After a quick conversation with the social worker, we played for a bit, then took a bath, read a book, and went to bed.
He popped right out of bed in the morning with a smile on his face, and AJ and I took him to school. The day was a whirlwind of paperwork and phone calls while still trying to get all my normal work done before picking him up from aftercare. We played Legos until AJ came home, and this was when I realized how much I a) suck at playing Legos and b) do not like Legos. We have a giant tub of Legos from AJ’s childhood, which is great, except that they are not at all organized and there are 10,000 of them. Add in a child who wants to build everything based on the books that are so helpfully included, and you basically have a nightmare that consists of spending hours searching for one tiny piece in a seemingly bottomless bin of tiny Legos. Obviously, our foster kiddo’s number one thing to play is…Legos.
But aside from his Lego affinity and my complete ineptitude (AJ is much better, of course, given his extensive experience), everything has been running quite smoothly. There is a lot of paperwork and many appointments to set up, but our placement himself has been wonderfully sweet and easygoing. He’s the quintessential 5 year old boy – tons of energy, lots of questions, lots of stories, and lots of silliness. He has definitely made us laugh a lot over the past 48 hours! When I put him to bed the first night, I told him I would come back and check on him in a few minutes. “Why?” he said, looking at me like I had two heads. Well, nevermind then!
It’s a little funny to go from a very quiet house with a lot of free time to one with a busy 5-year old and basically no free time! He has been such an easygoing kid, but it’s obviously different than having just 2 adults in the house. Especially since we are still getting to know him, we feel like we need to interact with him all the time. It’s pretty tiring, to be honest! As we settle into a routine, everything will get easier, but we really couldn’t ask for a better first placement.
I didn’t sleep at all on Tuesday night thanks to my headache, but I got to bed at 9:30 on Wednesday and woke up at 5 on Thursday for a run! I almost couldn’t believe it myself. I made it home in time to wash and dry my hair, get the kiddo up and ready for school and out the door with the dog in tow. Kiddo made it to school on time, the dog made it to his bath on time (the two of them sat in the backseat together sharing snacks, by the way), and I made it into the office early. I honestly felt like Superwoman! AJ had pickup duty today, so I hit the gym after work before returning home to…play Legos, of course.
All in all, the first 48 hours have been a total whirlwind. Our placement is really about as easy and sweet as he could possibly be, and we are adjusting as best we can to being parents overnight. I will probably never watch TV again and I have no idea when I’m going to find time to blog, but…stay tuned. And follow me on Instagram, because 15 second videos for my Instagram stories are probably going to be the best I can do regularly for awhile!
In case you haven’t figured out from the title of this post, AJ and I have a big announcement! Probably the biggest announcement in the history of my entire blog. We will be opening our home and becoming foster parents at the end of this month! We started the licensing process back in April 2017 and figured it would take about a year to complete, giving us plenty of time to wrap our brains around the prospect of our entire lives changing. Spoiler alert: it did not take that long. I have a whole separate post coming on all of the nitty gritty details of the licensing process, in case you’re curious. But today, I want to tell you about what led us to this decision, how our feelings about it have changed, and what we think about it now. Brace yourself, this is a looonnngg post.
As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to adopt children. I guess you can say I feel “called” to do it. I would consider having biological children if it was important to my partner, but the one thing I knew for SURE was that I would adopt someday. I didn’t know from where or what ages or genders or races, but adoption was non-negotiable. I have made this abundantly clear in every relationship I have ever been in. Over the years, I’ve been very intentional about checking items off my bucket list (like trekking in Nepal, visiting New Zealand, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, seeing Victoria Falls, and going on safari in Africa) because I knew that I did not want to start a family feeling like I had missed out on something I really wanted to do. As I’ve now checked most of the HUGE things off my list, I’ve started feeling more settled and a little bit more ready to slow my life down, so AJ and I started tossing around the idea of starting a family. Without getting into every detail of the conversation, we decided to start by becoming foster parents.
Talking it Over
I’m not going to lie – there were mixed feelings about this decision at first. I feel extremely called to foster/adopt, whereas AJ came from a place of what would best be described as ambivalence. He wasn’t a hard no, but he also wasn’t super excited about it. We decided that it would make sense to start the licensing process, go through the required training, and see what we decided at the end of that process. If we were not both fully on board, we would not go through with it and would explore other options instead. To make a long story short, AJ got on board pretty quickly. Once he saw the statistics and numbers, started hearing what these kids go through, and started learning about what we could actually expect (versus the extreme horror or unrealistic success stories you usually hear), he agreed – we have to at least give it a try.
This is not a decision we came to lightly. We have thought through and discussed every aspect of this change that we can think of time and time again. After all, our lives are pretty cake right now – we travel whenever we want, go out to dinner, have expendable income, etc. It’s easy, you know? But then I think – how can we not take this opportunity? We have the time, the means, and the space. How can we turn away from these kids, just so we can travel more and go out to dinner whenever we want? There’s nothing wrong with making that choice, and of course, nothing is that simple. I know we will miss the way life was before, probably a whole lot. But I feel like we have to try, because there are kids suffering and not enough good foster families out there. We feel like we can be a good resource for kids and families in need.
At the beginning of the licensing process, we (although mostly me) were extremely nervous about what we might be getting ourselves into. Part of that was just having no experience with parenting in general (what do kids even do these days?), but another part was a deep-seated fear of being totally ill-equipped to handle behavioral issues that might arise due to trauma that the kids have faced. We (and again, mostly me) wanted this to work so badly – we see fostering as a long term thing – and I was terrified that we would become parents to a child with behavioral issues well above our pay grade and we would fail them. After reading more books on parenting kids from trauma backgrounds and attending numerous training sessions, I can now say that we don’t really worry about that anymore. We believe we have the tools and resources we need to help these kids unpack their emotional baggage. That’s not to say it won’t be hard, because of course it will! But now, it seems possible. Now, we (and again, mostly me, because AJ worries about nothing) worry about things like not knowing how to register a child for school. Does anyone know how to do that, by the way?
One thing I’ve noticed over the course of my research and attending the trainings is that we have come to foster care a bit differently than many families in our area do. There are all sorts of reasons why families foster children, but here in the Upstate of South Carolina, there seem to be two big ones based on our experience: Christians feel called by the Bible to do it, or people struggling with infertility hope to grow their families through foster care and adoption. Neither one of those apply to us since we’re not Christian (AJ is Catholic, but that’s not Christian in the south – seriously) and, as far as we know, we are not struggling with infertility. So, that has left us in kind of an awkward spot. We have entered foster parenting with the simple intention of helping children and families who need it – nothing more, and nothing less. We are not fostering with the intention of adopting, although we are open to the possibility if the right circumstances presented themselves. The reality is that something like 50-70% of children who enter the foster care system are reunited with a biological family member at some point, and reunification is the goal of the foster care system, as it should be. We view foster care as hopefully a long term commitment on our part and not something that will end when our family, adopted or biological, reaches a certain size.
There’s a whole lot that happens when you begin the licensing process to become foster parents, but one of the big things is that you decide what ages and genders you would like to foster. When we started thinking about it, we had absolutely no idea! Our application initially said we were open to kids ages 0-18 which, needless to say, is a pretty big range. We had no clue what was right for us! After talking with our licensing coordinator and doing a lot of soul searching, we ultimately decided to open our home to boys and girls ages 4-11. Basically, elementary school age (kids here can start kindergarten at 4). Our primary reason for choosing this age range had to do with a couple factors. First, with both of us working full time and the logistics of the day care system as it pertains to foster care, we felt that we could not reasonably care for children that were below school age. Second, given the fact that we are relatively young (31 and 29), we felt that taking on teenagers would be challenging with no parenting experience whatsoever. We definitely see ourselves working with teens in the future (there is a huge need!) but we wanted to get some experience under our belts first.
After deciding on an age range, gender, and the number of kids (we are starting with 1 but will eventually bump up to a sibling set) you are willing to accept, you then fill out an expansive checklist that talks about a huge range of medical issues, behaviors, and more that you are willing or unwilling to accept. So, for example, the checklist might ask if you are willing to accept a child with a learning disability or a family history of learning disabilities. If you say yes, you then have to say whether you are willing to accept mild, moderate, or severe forms. The list covers everything from cancer to hearing loss to food hoarding issues and mental illness and everything in between! This list helps the licensing coordinator write your home study (the giant report that talks about what you would be like as parents), which the Department of Social Services uses to match a family with a child. Of course, there are many times when a child may come into the foster care system and have issues that are not immediately known about or discovered, so there are no guarantees, but the list helps frame what you do and do not feel comfortable handling.
One thing that is super important to note is that there are very strict rules about sharing identifying information online or on social media about the kids in our care. Namely – we can’t do it at all. So there will never be identifying photos, names, or stories on this blog or any of my social media accounts. I will share some of the ups and downs with you as I can, and I’m happy to answer any questions about the process, but if you are looking for juicy stories about the biological families and why the kids are in care, you won’t find them here.
As I mentioned, we’ve been reading, training, watching videos, and more for months now to get ready. Are we really ready? No, definitely not. But at this point, we feel as ready as we possibly could without having any parenting experience. We have got the kids’ room ready and are slowly accumulating all the gently used clothes, toys, and books we can find. After all, 4-11 is a big age range! We will be opening our home at the end of August but have no idea when we will receive our first placement or how long it will last. We know it will be a whirlwind trying to adapt to becoming parents overnight, so we are trying to enjoy the calm before the storm for now.
The Answer to the Question You’re Asking Yourself Right Now
“Are you really prepared to give up travel?” Of the few people who knew we were becoming foster parents prior to me publishing this post, every single one of them has asked me this question. It’s a fair question, to be sure. And the answer is “sort of.” I am fully prepared to give up traveling the way I do right now, which is constantly and by myself to crazy places for weeks at a time. I’m ready for that because, as I mentioned, I’ve checked the big things off my bucket list already – that was intentional and planned with parenthood in mind. However, one thing we believe we have to offer kids is the opportunity to see and experience the world, and we are hopeful that we will be able to take trips with our foster children as often as the circumstances allow. There will be some kids who are not in a place where they can handle the stress of a changing environment, so in those cases, we won’t. But when possible, we fully intend to take them with us, whether it is to a wedding in New Jersey or Washington DC or out to Utah for a marathon. That said, we also plan to take breaks between each long term placement in order to take a breath and regain a sense of “normal life” for a while – probably a couple months. So, I’ll do big trips during those breaks. Don’t worry, your favorite globe trotter is not giving up the travel lifestyle anytime soon! It just might look a little different.
What about running?
To be honest, I have no idea what my workouts will look like once we become foster parents. I know that my days of two-a-day workouts are probably over. I know I’ll likely be doing early mornings and lunchtime workouts only. But I also know how important working out is for my body and my mind, so I plan to make it a priority to the extent that that is possible. It will depend on the child in our home, but I know I will be healthier mentally and physically (and a much better parent) if I can workout regularly. So, we’ll just have to wait and see what that ends up looking like!
Yup, it’s happening.
At this point, we’re just ready to get started and figure it out as we go. We vacillate between feeling ready and excited and completely terrified and like we’re making a huge mistake. I think that’s probably normal. I don’t know how long we will last or how good we will be, but we’re ready to give it a try. I look forward to taking you along for the ride!
LEAVE A COMMENT: I’d love to hear your questions or thoughts about foster care. Have you ever considered becoming a foster parent? What information do you want to know about the process?
Whew! What a week! In case you missed it, AJ and I welcomed our first foster care placement last Tuesday night. I recapped what the first 48 hours were like, so check out that post here in case it somehow slipped past you. Becoming parents overnight did throw a little bit of a wrench inRead more
Oh. My. Gosh. You Guys. I apologize in advance for what is undoubtedly verbal vomit. You’ll just have to bear with me. We received our first foster care placement 48 hours ago. Where do I even start? I woke up on Tuesday with a horrible migraine that wasn’t going away, but I headed to theRead more
Ever wondered what it takes to get licensed to become a foster parent in South Carolina? I had so many questions when we first started thinking about going through the process. I vowed that I would record every step of the journey for posterity so that anyone else interested in becoming a foster parent throughRead more
In case you haven’t figured out from the title of this post, AJ and I have a big announcement! Probably the biggest announcement in the history of my entire blog. We will be opening our home and becoming foster parents at the end of this month! We started the licensing process back in April 2017Read more