Monday, May 22, 2017

One Day of Seconds

As Piper's last day of preschool approaches (well- approached- it's today!) we're gearing up for a new season (both literally- yay summer!- and in the larger more figurative "seasons of life" sense). This Summer she'll be back at daycare with her siblings, so we'll once again have a new rhythm and routine to adjust to. But before we move towards the future, you know I have to pause for a second to appreciate the now. And by "a second"...I really mean, a compilation of seconds...


You see I knew I wanted to document what life looks like for us right now before we shift to something new, and I figured it'd be fun to anniversary a project from last year: a day in the life video of seconds from one of our days. So Friday, I cleared some storage on my phone, and went about capturing little snippets with the 1 Second Everyday app. I didn't come close to recording everything that goes into a day..but for me, the meaning of these tiny slices is bigger than the sum of their parts. So much of life- now, and maybe always- can seem like a string of mundane moments, it's so easy for me to see monotony. But when I take just a second to pause and really take everything in, I remember how extraordinary our ordinary really is.



Notable notes from Friday, May 19th, 2017:
(For some reason, as I made this round of video, I focused a lot on the sounds of our days...I take a lot of pictures- understatement?-, so much of our lives are visually documented, but I love that video allows me to preserve another sensory memory. There are so many little noises that have become woven into the routine of our day- and I love how hearing them can transport me back to that moment in time.) 
  • This was a "shower day". I have a pretty steady "shower every other day" thing going on over here...and while I feel mildly self-conscious about admitting that, it's just what works for me right now. (And by "works" I mean, allows me to sleep-in as much as humanly possible at least 3 days a week, which makes the morning routine grid feel somewhat bearable). Dustin, bless his morning-rising, exercise-loving, servant-leading heart, gets up early, works out, showers, and is still ready before the rest of us. Plus he makes us all breakfast. Never leave me, Dustin Bowden. I'll even shower an extra day here and there if you want me to. 
  • I get the job and privilege of getting Miller up each day. He's always awake before I get in there, but never complains. He's happy to play on his own, but also thrilled to see me. The best 2 minutes of every single one of my days is going into his room, chit chatting with him, and looking out the window together. (Note- he does not stay this happy all day...as evidenced by the frequency and magnitude of his crying at various points in this video- and in soooooo many moments not captured. That guy feels big, I'll tell you that.)
  • Fin would have been watching TV with Piper, but due to a truly epic fit the night before, she lost her screen time privileges. Taking away "shows" seems like some of our only motivational leverage these days, so we pull that lever probably more often than we should. 
  • This was a pretty decent example of us having our sh*t together in terms of lunch prep. Thankfully daycare takes care of lunch for the littles, but we have to pack for Piper, (and Dustin and me, unless we want Jimmy Johns...again). Her lunch is almost always done the night before, but Dustin and I are usually eating breakfast with one hand, while cobbling together some sort of salad or leftovers for ourselves with the other. (and wiping syrup off of every kid/surface in sight, with any other hands we have free). 
  • Dustin and I ride to work together about 3/4ths of the time (based on whatever's going on at work that day), but due to the schedule and childcare situation, Monday and Fridays (thank goooooodness) are the only days we have to take all three kids to their two different schools (and Friday is the only day we have to pick them all up). Days when we're all together, and have to make all the stops are easily the most hectic...the fact that Dustin and I both had to be in the same 9AM client meeting added to the chaos/pressure of it all. But we made it...pretty much...
  • Fin is basically a backseat DJ, shouting out endless, extremely repetitive requests. Our current rotation consists mostly of anything from Trolls or Moana, plus VBS songs, and Stitches (which she- for some reason- deems as my favorite song...it is catchy). 
  • I ate one of those donuts. But I only took half first, as a bit of a wishful thinking lie to myself, before nearly immediately devouring the other half.
  • Our office allows dogs, and I borrow any and all of them for desk-side snuggles when they let me.
  • Is there anything better than the sound of a mid-afternoon soda pour? I'm straight up Pavlovian when I hear a can open...
  • I'm physically incapable of dialing into a conference call correctly on the first try. I don't even try anymore. 
  • That gumball was totally for show. I don't ever get them, but having grown up with a gumball machine in our kitchen my whole life makes that noise another one of my happiness triggers. 
  • Ok, the kids greeting me after school with breathless yells of "MAMA" is pretty much the best sound ever. 
  • We had no plan for dinner (like many Fridays...) and would have gone out if not for the torrential downpour (ain't nobody got time for buckling three carseats in the rain). So- frozen pizza to the rescue. 
  • That fire alarm. Every. Time. At this point it's less of a fire alarm and more of a "you opened the oven" alarm. I'm a little nervous about how well the kids have learned to completely ignore it.
  • It was raining like the apocalypse all afternoon, but the minute it stopped, you better believe I shuffled everyone outside. They're all usually pretty wiped from a long day/week, but a little time and space to spread out and work off that post-dinner ice cream buzz does them all (and me) good. 
  • Bedtime read aloud is in the running for my favorite moment of each day. Give me a snuggle-ready, jammied-up kid and I'll read allllll the books. 
  • Post bedtime hustle...is real, and exhausting. Friday nights used to be time to party. Now they're just another (too)short kid-free window to either knock out some to-do's, or bail on everything and watch Netflix. Or usually- a little bit of both.
What. A. Day. 


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Friday, May 19, 2017

Mom-life Podcast

Last week I was a guest on Jen Hatzung's show: The Mom Life Podcast. I met Jen years ago, at my first blogging conference, and have kept up with her various projects since then. She started a mom-centered podcast earlier this year, talking with "moms who are leaning into finding their direction" and after checking out the first few episodes, I knew I wanted to get in on the fun!

I've done a podcast before, but just once, a few years ago, so I'm hardly a pro. But Jen is so easy to talk to, I kind of forgot wasn't just a chat with a friend. (Well, it was a chat with a friend. A chat that was recorded and then published on the internet).

To prep, Jen sent over some prompts to get me thinking...It was so helpful to start get my thoughts down on paper before we talked, and it was interesting to see how much my perspective has changed over the years. Sometimes (most times) I can't believe I've been a mom for over five years...or that I have three kids. I still vividly remember the early days with just one, where I felt like I seriously might not make it. There's no way I could have imagined the life I have now, or felt like I'd actually have wisdom to share with others! Now of course, I don't have all (or many), (or any?) of the answers to motherhood's mysteries and challenges, but I loved being able to look back on my experience thus far, and feel like the things I've learned along the way could help encourage someone else. I'll never feel like "I've made it" as a mom...but this was a little bit of validation that I'm come a long way as a mom, and a reminder that I can be used in big and small ways even while I'm still a work in progress.

A little peek into our chat: 

Differences between early motherhood and today:
Early motherhood was SO STINKING HARD. The first time around, my world was rocked, physically and emotionally, and there were about 8 weeks where I muddled through everything on a roller coaster of "this is the best thing that's every happened to me!" and "why do I feel so inadequate/broken and why can't I stop crying?"

AND THEN? I had another kid...which I thought was going to be SO easy (I mean...we're already doing all the things...how hard could it be to do it x2?) I was SO wrong. Going from 1 to 2 kids for me was like going from 1 to 100. I was outnumbered and exhausted, (and always sweaty! Summer baby and no A/C in our house? Mistake.)

Both times I eventually found my groove. But with kid number 3 it was BLISSFULLY different. I don't know if it was actually easier...I think it was a combo of a good baby, lower expectations, and a little bit of experience on my side. This time I knew it was going to be hard, and I braced myself differently. So I still had hard days (/minutes/hours/weeks) but it doesn't feel all consuming or hopeless like it had with the others.

Any of my "success" now, I attribute to revisions to (and lowering of) my expectations. When all three of them are wailing at the same time, I'm better able to let it ride, because OF COURSE they're all crying. What do you expect with 3 small kids? Things are a mess (figuratively and literally) with us a lot of the time, but I'm much more ok with that. I have less to prove, and my pride has been eroded over time. (in a good way...mostly...I think...) I figure a family of five, with two full-time-working parents is going to run somewhat on a wing and a prayer. So we are winging it and praying a whole lot of the time.

Your biggest motherhood challenge these days:
I struggle with the juggling act that our life currently requires. My husband and I are constantly switching off; he travels, I travel, he watches them while I go out, I cover so he can volunteer. Et cetera, et cetera, infinity. It seems like we're always handing off and coordinating. It gets exhausting to feel like everything has to be orchestrated so precisely...I miss spontaneity, and the ability to do things together (without figuring out a babysitter!)

What you would tell your new mama self about motherhood:
Oh girl. You are going to be bad at this.

I am hard-wired with a need for achievement and significance. So I've spent my whole life chasing both. Motherhood is nearly impossible to feel accomplished at, so it's been a struggle for me...to struggle. I still feel like I'm doing everything wrong at times, but I'm less surprised or rattled by my incompetence. It's been huge for me to not only learn how to mother, but to learn how to do something that will never be finished.

You can listen to my episode here, and if you get hooked- you can check out the whole show.
And if you can't get enough of audio-Courtney, feel free to listen to my episode of the Sarah R. Bagley Podcast, (or read my recap notes from that show).

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Black and White and Quilted All Over

Guess what IIIIIII maaaaaaaaaaaaade......
OK, that wasn't a hint, as much as it was the full, visible answer. BUT- if you said- ANOTHER QUILT! Then BINGO, you're right! 

A little while back I was feeling like I was a in a bit of a rut, creatively. Somehow I found out about Stash Builder Box- a subscription service for fabric, and I thought maybe getting fabric delivered every month would provide me with inspiration (and motivation) to start making things again. I had no real need for more fabric, and no real clue what I would want to make, but the collections they put together are so cute, I knew I'd figure something out without too much trouble. Plus, 20% of their proceeds go to making quilts for kids in need- I love the idea that my hobby could benefit others too! (I even signed up to be a Heart Builder, so soon I'll be making a quilt top for them!)

But...back to today's project...

My first box arrived in March, with three yards of Cotton + Steel Sleep Tight collection fabric. and I was giddy (side note: Does Cotton + Steel make anything I don't love? No, no they do not.) The prints were so cute...and bonus: it was my fav color palette, black/white/grey. I knew immediately I wanted to make a baby quilt (how could I not, with all those cute little woodland creatures/smiley faces/ice cream?) Only slight problem...I don't have a baby who needs a quilt. But that seems like a minor detail. After all, if you quilt it, they will come, right? (Dustin is starting to get nervous when the sewing machine comes out. It's bad enough that I hoard quilts, but we're getting really close to collecting humans to go with them.) 

So with no plan and no purpose, I set out to make something adorable just for the fun of it. It was new for me to not really have an end use in mind, but it felt right to break my quilting dry spell (I haven't made one since Miller's over a year and a half ago) with something just "for the love of the game". 
I had pinned a quilt idea a while ago, that I thought would be fun to try (where else, but the Cotton + Steel Blog?!) so I adapted that a bit to fit the fabrics I had on hand, and the size I was aiming for. (I was thinking somewhere in the 36"x48" range, so that it wouldn't take forever, or require a lot of extra yardage). 

Here's the big TA-DA and then I'll backtrack on the winding road it took to get there. 


I laid it out in Illustrator first, to make sure I liked it...I was originally planning on doing the 3-piece squares with white background, just like the inspiration quilt. But to mix it up a bit, I decided to add a little square to each group, so that there are 4 fabrics in each one of the squares ( I had 3 prints from my box, and a matching black dot print left over from the girls' quilts.) 

There was probably an easy way to do this, sewing long strips together in sets of 3 and just cropping to the length square I needed...but alas, I never make things simple, so I'm sure I ended up cutting and piecing things much more than probably necessary. But, what's done is done. I figure I learn something in the process of each quilt (ok...I actually learn about 90 things, but I'm lucky if I retain a lesson or two) so as inefficient as my process may be, I still get the job done. (Though I'm sure "real" quilters would cringe at some of the things I do- they probably know a standard way to make all these blocks that would save me time/money/fabric. If you are one such person, call me! Help me!)

Once I made all of my diagonal squares, I laid them out again to determine what background fabric I should use. I had a few other black/white prints in my stash, but it was looking pretty busy, so in the end I just picked up a solid grey to coordinate and calm the whole thing down a bit. 

From there I pretty much just kept winging it. The pattern I was loosely basing it all on had all of the finished squares just being sewn together, but I thought it would be fun to add a border between them. Plus it would allow me to feature more of my favorite fabrics. The pieces in the squares were pretty small, so long strips of fabric showed of the prints a bit more.  After that, the choices kind of snowballed from there. Once I had borders between the squares, I pretty much had to do a border on the outside too to make it feel balanced. It was definitely more work this way, but in the end, I really like how the layout worked. (It also extended the finished size of the quilt, so it's still great for a baby, but with a little more room for snuggling!)

Once the top was all assembled, I realized there were a few areas where my squares were (way) less than perfectly square, so there are some wonky spots where the borders don't quite line up right. But short of taking some rows apart, trimming them down, and reattaching them (which is even more work than it sounds like) there wasn't much I could do, so I decided not to let it bother me (too much). Again- I learn something each time I quilt, so perhaps the lesson on this guy was "close enough, probably" isn't the same as "actually square". I'll be more precise next time, but the good thing is, the consequences on quilts are pretty low. Yeah, I'll always be able to look at that part of the quilt and know I messed up, but there's also an argument to be made that it's part of the charm of a handmade project. Each quilt ends up being a bit of a time capsule of my skill level at the time, and a physical memento of my growth along the way.




For the back I kept it simple. It seems most people tend to just do one plain fabric on the back of quilts...but I've always preferred to have at least some interest on the reverse side. But this one already had so much going on, that I thought doing a whole lot on the back would be overkill. I had just enough of each of the fabrics left to do big horizontal stripes, so I whipped that up lickity-split.

When it came time to actually quilt it, I was a little hesitant. For some reason I have it in my head that quilting on a regular domestic machine is too hard, but if you believe Pinterest (which, really, you only sometimes should...) it appears people are quilting all kinds of things- even king size quilts!- on their home machines. I had done two other baby sized quilts on my machine though, so I figured I could do this one too...but I wasn't sure about what type of pattern to do. The only thing I really felt comfortable with were straight lines, but that felt like a bit of a cop out, since that's what I've done on all of my quilts (including the longarm version I did, and the ones I had sent to a professional!) Maybe I'm boring, maybe I'm scared of a risk, or maybe I just like what I like (and know what I'm capable of). In any case, I went simple again on this one- just doing diagonal lines in wide, regular intervals.


I thought I would dread the quilting part (I think the design phase is my favorite...or maybe just sewing the pre-cut pieces together) but it was actually kind of fun. I'm starting to look into more complicated techniques, and might even try free motion quilting at some point. Right now I pretty much rely on what I already know about sewing, and just apply it to the world of quilting, but I think I'm probably going to have to start putting some effort into learning more "professional" quilting techniques. There's nothing wrong with being self-taught, but right now I'm more "experimental" than taught, some YouTube tutorials couldn't hurt.

After that all I had left to do was bind it. So that might actually be my favorite part. There's something so satisfying about the last step in the process, knowing that when that's finished, you get to actually enjoy this thing you slaved over forever. Plus machine binding is quick and easy, so it's kind of a no-brainer task that is fun to cruise through. (and I adore the black and white striped binding I have- I bought a huge spool for the girl's quilts, and it's still going strong!)


Then I popped it in the laundry to fluff/crinkle up, and voila...another Bowden quilt is complete.



I still don't really have a plan for it, but that doesn't mean I don't love it. I assume we'll use it for any foster placements we may have. Or I may end up being able to part with it as a gift (Doubt it. I get pretty attached to these things...) But in the meantime, just the experience of making it was worth it for me.

Sweet Dreams, indeed.



P.s. Check out more Quilty fun on the blog, or instagram

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sister Act 2

It's been about a year and a half since we did a tour of the girls' room, and a whole lotta playing/sleeping/crying/giggling has gone down in there since then. I thought it would be fun to share some updated pics, to show what we've changed, what's still going strong, and what's a hot mess (we keep it real around here...even with our decorating).

The biggest change is that Fin is no longer in a crib. I honestly can't remember when we switched her to her "big girl bed" and I've already spent far too much time combing through my photo archives month by month to find evidence of the crib...but it was sometime around her third birthday. Piper crawled out of her crib when she was around 18 months old, so she was transitioned (in a hasty and hilarious- in hindsight- way) earlier than we expected, but Fin never had an issue with her crib. I figured as long as she's happy, I'm happy, so we didn't force a transition on her. But eventually she started to like the idea of sleeping in a bed like Piper, so we flipped the bed over and transformed it into a mini bunk bed for both girls.





Since the bed was designed to be a canopy bed or a bunk bed, it was an easy transition...Piper's mattress just moved to the top, and we got Fin a new mattress for the bottom. For a little while we had Piper using the ladder, but she was having a little trouble getting up and down in the dark (even though it's a really short bed) so we took the advice of a friend and got a storage system that doubles as a staircase. (That allowed us to rotate the bed around so that the ladder is against the wall, leaving the whole front/side of the bed open).


The storage has been awesome. It's so nice to have extra bins to store all their random junk treasured possessions. The first step is a little tall (it's more of a climb than a step) so we put a little step stool at the bottom to make it easier (and reduce the amount of jumping/thumping they do in the middle of the night.

And Fin loves her big kid bed (aka mattress on the floor), which also has rope lights installed. We found we were reading books a lot under there, so the extra light helps, but also...it just looks cool. The rope light plugs into the wall, and after some failed cord clips, we just zip tied it around the bed slats. (and fear not for her safety...these pictures were taken a while ago, and show the cords/outlets more accessible than they are now. We've since scooted the bed over so the frame is blocking both outlets. The girls know not to touch them anyway, but the new set up prevents it from even being an option.)

And after all those wins...now for the not-so-good update: the bed paint job. Turns out somebody *cough, rhymes with Shmiper, cough* likes to pick at the bed rails, so the top of her bed is now sporting a two toned effect. Ugh. (my only consolation is that she at least wasn't eating the paint...) We've taught her not to do it anymore (now her worst bedtime habit is using 87 tissues per night and leaving them all over her bed) but now we'll have to sand portions of it and repaint. Not exactly easy when the bed is always in use. So for now it just looks a little janky (and we look a little negligent).



In the corner where the crib used to be, we put a little storage bench we already owned, but once we got the "stairs"/bins we really didn't need it, so it was a short lived option.




It's a pretty big amount of space, so it was shame not to use it...and we really needed a better spot to read books as a family (it was getting a little crowded piling in Fin's bed) so we decided to set up a beanbag corner! The girls each got a beanbag chair for Christmas, and we've spent pretty much every night since then cuddled up there together reading 17 library books in a row. (I'm a sucker for "just one more...")



So that's about all the updates...we did swap out a lamp (our entire house is pretty much a constant game of "musical decorations" with things migrating from room to room depending on our need at the time) And of course we accessorize with only the most sophisticated pieces: Frozen tissue box, alllllllll the nightlights, and a handmade sticker chart to encourage a certain little weasel to STAY IN HER BED FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. You know...the essentials.






I love these sisters, and their pretty, messy, pretty-messy space. And despite some recent complaints that they "didn't want GREY walls...it's so bo-rrrrrrring, mama!", I hope they grow up with fond memories of time spent in here together.

Sources: 
Cubbies/stairs: Ikea Trofast storage system
Bed: Ikea Kura
Bedside pocket: Ikea Stickat
Rope light: Home Depot
Bean Bag Chairs: Target Pillowfort
Turtle Nightlight: Cloud B
All other sources are linked in the original tour.

P.s. Check out more home related posts, here or here.
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Little Pip-Speaks: Volume 28

Do I still blog anymore? Who knows?! But do my kids still say adorably ridiculous things? You bet your sweet bippy. 

Take it away, Pipster and Sister...

http://bowdenisms.blogspot.com/search/label/little%20pip-speaks

Pip-speak #1:
Piper {trying on a new dress}: Too big. And also too drowny. 

Pip-speak #2:
Mama {praising Piper after an impromptu Take Your Daughter to Work Day}: Everyone thought you were SO good today
Piper: Yeah. And cute. I saw an old lady and she said: "Ah-dorable". 
Mama: Is that so? Well, you did a great job. We were in meetings I didn't even want to go to, so...
Piper: Actually I liked the meetings. But- I didn't think they were that needful. Like...you didn't really need to be there. You just talked and talked. And I don't think that's that important. 

Pip-speak #3:
Piper: Did you know I have my boyfriend already?
Mama: No. who is it? 
Piper: It's Liam. He's also my friend. And my boyfriend
Mama: What's the difference?
Piper: I don't know. {long pause} And one thing: I also love him. 

Pip-speak #4:
Piper {while playing "pretend mommies" with Fin}: Tomorrow is a Friday and my baby doesn't have school so I'm gonna work from home. 

Pip-speak #5:
Piper: You are kind, daddy. I bet you'll make a great grandpa someday. 

Pip-speak #6:
Piper: What's that noise?
Mama: Daddy's putting air in my tires. 
Piper: Oh. It sounds like when air comes out of your private parts.  Like...in the back. 
Mama: You mean a toot?
Piper: Yeah. But I didn't want to say it because it's a private word. 

Pip-speak #7:
Mama: Today I'm going to an event for moms who have jobs
Piper: But you don't have a job. 
Mama: Of course I do! 

Piper: No....a job is like a pet store owner, or a firefighter. You just work for the cats. That's work, but it's not a job. 

Pip-speak #8:
Piper: Finny, try and not spread that cough and get it mixed up with mine. 

Pip-speak #9:
Piper: Mama? When will my nipples have milk in them?
Mama: Ummm...when you're a mama.
Piper: Yeah, but what time?

Pip-speak #10:
Piper: Can we listen to "I can't stand it"?
Mama: What's that? 
Piper: You know- the gorilla's song...from Sing!

Pip-speak #11:
Piper {Seeing a Yuengling display at a store}: Dad! Here's your chance to get Eagle Soda! 

Pip-speak #12:
Mama {explaining why Dustin and I were wearing matching, personalized t-shirts}: If you got a shirt with three things about you, would it say? 
Piper: My shirt would say: Helpful. I'm five. Love my family. Miller's would say BANANAS, because he loves them.

Pip-speak #13:
Piper {trying on old clothes}: I'm getting bigger. Everything is growing out of me. 
G'mi: Are you sure you're not growing out of everything? 

Piper: Yes, I'm sure. Everything is growing out of me. 

Pip-speak #14:
Piper: Soup is like a bathtub for crackers!

Pip-speak #15:
Piper {watching Fin do a craft putting all of her sticker letters all upside down}: G'mi, sometimes Mama and I just shake our heads at Fin.

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Finnish #1:
Fin {watching Lady and the Tramp}: Piper, don't worry. During the scary parts we can snuggle.

Finnish #2:
G'mi: Girls, you need to speak nicely to each other.
Fin: Ok. I will use ironing {honoring} words to God.  

Finnish #3:
G'mi: Will there ever come a time when you're too big to sit on my lap? 
Fin: Never.
G'mi: Well your cousin Ali promised me that she would never be too big to sit on my lap, but now she is!
Fin: Did she pinky promise or regular promise?

Finnish #4:
Fin {trying to earn a sticker by sleeping through the entire night}: I can make it to the green light. I believe in me. 
{the next night}
Fin: Mama...what if I don't believe me that I can sleep all night?!
Mama: You can do it! 
Fin: No! I don't believe me!
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Dynamic Duo #1:
Fin {to Piper}: We went to the doctor and she weighed me and I weighed so many pounds. Mama, do you know how many?
Mama: 30
Fin: I was 30.
Piper: Well I bet I'm a higher height than you because I'm older...
Fin: No! I was really 30!
Piper: ...And the bigger you are, the heavier you are. 

Dynamic Duo #2:
Piper: I can clap with my eyes closed. 
Fin: I can clap with my eyes closed too. 
Piper: Finny, you're not having the rhythm with your eyes open. How can you have the rhythm with your eyes closed either?
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Foster Care: Home Study Tips

If you watched our latest house tour, then you saw we're deep in the throws of prepping our house for foster care certification. Well actually...we were, but Saturday was our official home study walk-through, and we passed! Yay! So we still have to finish a little paperwork before we'll actually be certified, but we made it over the big hurdles of approval.

Throughout this whole process, I've been craving info from others who have gone through all of it before. I follow a few foster parents on Instagram, subscribed to a couple podcasts, and I've been pinning relevant things...(check out my Foster board for a few resources) all in an effort to learn some tips and get more insider info on what it really takes to foster. Someday I'll sit down and write more about our journey so far...the emotions, the conversations, our hearts behind the whole thing. But for now, while it's all still fresh, I figured I'd share a little about the little logistical details I highlighted in our tour. Hopefully it helps make the process a little easier for someone else!

(p.s. if you missed the tour you can watch the video here)







So the first disclaimer with anything foster care related, is that the rules and regulations range wildly depending on your county, state, agency, etc. So certain things we had to do may not apply to you, or there might be things other states or organizations require that we didn't have to do. And because I have a 3 inch binder full of info and requirements, there's no way to have one blog post actually cover all the things we had to know and do...But I'll give a couple tips and sources for the basic stuff at least.

Scroll to the bottom for full list all in one spot. 

Locks
The purpose of everything within the home study is making sure kids are safe, so a big part of that is securing anything that could be harmful. We were required to lock up any chemicals, cleaners, sharp tools, etc. And childproof locks didn't count. 

So we got some magnetic locks for our cabinets (for underneath each sink), and a new lock for the entry door from the garage (which allowed us to keep all of the paints, chemicals, and tools in the garage- basically making that whole space function as one gigantic cabinet). 


Medicine
Guess what? More locks. 
All medication...alllllll medication (prescription, over the counter, mine, the kids'...all of it...) has to be locked up. So we got a new lockbox to store all of that. I had to root through about 5 spots (hall closet, kid's bathroom, our bathroom, the kitchen, my purse...) to find all of pills (turns out we still have random bottles of tums stashed all over the house, from my pregnancy with Miller) and it all just barely fit. Space is at a premium in this thing...we might need to chill out on the bulk sized bag of cough drops for a while.


Organization
Ok, I'm not exactly going to blow your mind with unique info here, but I at least want to be honest about how much paperwork and scheduling is involved with foster care...and this is only the training phase. I know it's only going to increase as we go on, so I'm trying to get my game right from the beginning. For now, I've got a binder with copies of all of our forms and training packets. I'm sure once we actually receive a placement, I'll have to get a more elaborate filing system, but for now at least everything is in one spot and not, say....crumpled on the floor of our van like too many of our other papers.



 In a related effort to control the paper chaos, - we've set up a "command center" in our laundry room, with our calendar and a place to house any important forms. We're required to post our escape routes (hand drawn and color coded!) so those have a spot here too.







The dry erase calendar has been a game-changer in terms of getting info out of my already too crowded head. We have a color coded system for that too which helps us keep things straight (Divided into: Kids/Family, Dustin, Me, Dates/Couple stuff) Sometimes if I'm really on the ball, we jot our meal plans in here too. And by "sometimes" I mean I think I did that for about 3 days a month or so ago. I have all of our actual commitments in the google calendar on my phone (Dustin and I make appointments and invite each other, so we always know what's on each other's schedules) but having it all written down helps everything live in one common place, and serves as an "at a glance" look at what's going on. We take a peek at it each morning and evening to make sure we're prepped for what's ahead.




Family Rules
Ok, this one is actually technically optional, but with all of the boring things we had to check off the list (fingerprints, physicals, lead paint waivers, etc. etc. etc.) I had to find my fun wherever I could. So when the agency told us it would be a good idea to post our "family rules" (it helps us identify what expectations and goals we have, and helps new kiddos understand our values) I knew I wanted to formalize it a bit more than just jotting some things down.

I spent some time drafting our list, which was a bigger undertaking than I thought. I used this post as a starting point, checked out inspiration on pinterest, and tried to land on things we felt passionate about without getting too strict, or too cheesy (easier said than done). Once I had the list finalized, I laid it out in Illustrator and printed it out. (There are a ton of great printable options on Etsy if you just want to add your name to an existing layout...my design was based on this one).







I'm proud of how it turned out, and while we don't always embody all of it perfectly (you'll notice perfection is not on the list!), it's a great tangible reminder of some of the things we're striving for.
(text version below in case you want to steal any of it for a draft of your own...)
The Bowden Family  
We work hard & play nicely
Always apologize & forgive
Learn from our mistakes
Speak kindly & listen patiently
Serve one another
We are first-time listeners
We use our manners
Take good care of our things
Share & take turns
Tell the truth & keep our promises
We are passionate, honest, grateful, curious, persistent and so very, very loved.
And a few things I didn't talk about specifically, but are still super important:

Carseats
You have to have car seats ready for the age range of your certification, so since we're open to ages 0-5, we have to have options that can work for kids in that range. We have 1 infant seat, 3 convertible carseats, and 1 booster, so we're pretty much set. But we've found it's super helpful to have more seats than kids, so we can have some in each car (saves us having to switch out all the time). So depending on what placements we get, we may need to get another seat or two. (And while the Dionos seats aren't cheap, they're rated super high, are great quality, are suitable for a wide age range, and are just about the only thing we've found that can fit three across in the back seat, So: worth it.)

Beds
One of the things that's different about foster care compared to adoption, is that you have to have the room set up at the time of your home study (adoption has a different timeline, so you can get things once you're matched, or even after you bring the child home). Our certification will be for 1-2 kids (we're open to two in the case of a sibling set who needs a home together), so we had to get approved beds for two kids. Again- our certification is for ages 0-5 so we have two cribs that can transition to toddler beds. (We only had to have one set up because the other one is brand new in the box. Both had to be approved to make sure they meet safety standards).

Random other stuff:
  • Not technically foster related...but I'm proud so it gets linked here again: DIY Toy Hammock
  • Family favorites: Jellycat stuffed animals. If you're going to be a Bowden, for any length of time, these are practically required.
  • We have these cameras in each of the kids' rooms, and I love them. We can watch them anytime from anywhere, which is awesome if we want to play outside during naptime, or even check in at night when we have a babysitter. 
  • Our agency recommends having nightlights no matter what the kids' age, but the ones we currently have are just so-so (the sound/light is great, but the projectors- to cast pictures on the ceiling- broke forever ago). I might try out a new one...how cute is this little owl?
  • I've been looking for foster care related books, and haven't found a ton, but You Matter looks so sweet (Check out the hashtag #charliethestork for a few peeks inside) and has a good message for any kid. (They're out of stock right now, but I pre-ordered mine anyway!)
And....that's about it! As I said, this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the things we had to do or buy, but it's the biggies (I'm assuming you can choose a fire extinguisher without my help). If there's something I didn't cover that you wish I had, please let me know!
Resource list: 
Cabinet Locks
Door Blocker
Medicine Lockbox
Dry Erase Calendar
Family Rules Sign
Infant Carseat
Convertible carseats
Booster seat 
Crib
Jellycat Bunny
Camera Monitor
Nightlight/Sound Machine
You Matter Book

P.s. If you just can't get enough of my baby gear related advice, check out some more lists of must-haves baby guides
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Saturday, March 18, 2017

House Tour + Prepping for our Foster Care Homestudy

Can you believe it's been a year and a half since I posted our last house tour video? Can you believe we've made nearly zero changes to our home in that year and a half? Well...believe it, because those are both facts. I wanted to do an updated tour so I watched the last video just to see what changes I should highlight...and...well...there wasn't much. (Fun fact...I actually accidentally wore the same shirt today that I wore in the last video, so literally nothing changes around here. Not even my clothes.)
It's astounding how long half-done projects can sit around, how many things stay on the to-do list untouched, and how much all of that fades to the background with all the happenings of regular life. So if this was purely a decor showcase, you'd all be rightfully underwhelmed.  But, today's tour serves another purpose- we were prepping for our final foster care home study. The home study was actually three in person visits where they interviewed Dustin and I (separately and together) as well as Piper. (Full story on that someday, because it was as hilarious as you would think an interview with a five year old would be). This last installment included a full tour of our house, with the assessor checking to make sure we had everything in order (so many little requirements and checklists) had everything filled out (more forms...always more forms), and were meeting all the safety standards (locks, locks, locks on everything).

So since our house was actually clean, and semi-put together I thought I'd take a quick spin through to document the progress/chaos (the assessment thankfully does not record if there are dot stampers all over the place, or if a certain three year old is in the background crying about receiving the wrong color tie-dye fruit roll up, whhhhhhyyyyyyyy?! Those are bonuses for your viewing pleasure.) 

And because I'm obviously totally on top of my scheduling game, the assessor actually showed up right at 10, rather than 10:30 like I was expecting, so the downstairs was filmed pre-study, and the upstairs was post-study. Spoiler alert: we passed (I'm not even sure it's called that...but we met all the requirements, which feels like a big fat A+ to me!) So now she'll write up our full report, turn in 87 more documents we prepped (exaggerating? maybe by 1 or 2) and the agency will send it all off to the county (or state? government of some kind) for final approval, and we'll officially be licensed.

So now on with the show:

House tour/prepping for our foster care home study from Courtney Bowden on Vimeo.

I'm planning a follow up post with more details on the foster care side of things, as well as some more shots of the changes we've made to the girls' room. So check back in if you're curious about all that. I'm starting to get my blogger groove back (I think...maybe...until I don't...)

P.S. You can see all of our house updates on our "home page", view #houseofbowden pics on IG, or check out the homestead archives. 
And foster care updates are on IG as well: #thebowdensfoster (though those may be few and far between as we continue to take our time and pray about how/when to move forward). 
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