3 cans of chicken, drained (feel free to use chicken breasts because you can use the broth)
3/4 c. butter
3/4 c. flour
1 c. heavy cream
Saute up the cut up onion and garlic in butter. Once sauteed, add in your flour and cook that down a bit. Get your whisk out and add 2 c. water. Whisk that all in really well. Now, I wish I could tell you how much chicken bouillon I used, but I used that paste. I think I did about 2 Tbsps. Sprinkle with your seasoning.
Once that is incorporated, add more water and just keep stirring. I did this in my Instant Pot on saute mode, by the way. You will notice your “roux” is getting thicker. I think I did about 5 c. water. You can adjust accordingly. Add your chicken and parmesan.
Let’s talk pasta, real quick. I used bowtie pasta. In my pot (not the instant pot), I brought my water to a boil. Once it came to a boil, I seasoned it and added my pasta. Drain and then add to your roux.
Next time, I might use a couple of boxes of Ditalini pasta or maybe cut up fettucini. The bowties were fine and good, but I think I want a smaller type…like a small rigatoni. Ugh, I just need to go and look at all the types or maybe make my own. You know what would be good? Putting in cheese tortellini. Cause, yum!
Once I got all of that in the pot, I added the heavy cream. If you cook this in an instant pot, you have to keep stirring because it will start to burn on the bottom. Baby it! At the end, I added about 2 cups (I know, I know) of mozzarella. Keep tasting to adjust the seasoning. Now, remember, you can always add seasoning but you can’t take it out if you put too much in there. Start small and add as you like!
Dang this was good. Had my Oak been here…I would’ve slapped her face 🙂 Then, she would have slapped me back LOL.
Hot on the heels of yesterdays post, these are my Meals for the Week (or More). As I clean out my food areas, I do some “spring cleaning.” This is where I make my spice mixes, if I am running low. I make “cream of” soup mixes (mushroom, chicken, etc). Also, I make packet mixes. This can be Lipton Onion Soup Mix, Spaghetti, Chili, Taco, Fajita, Stir-fry, Ranch, or Italian mix. I store all of these either in baggies or small mason jar.
More Upon More
Combining condiment jars is always fun (enter sarcasm) because my kids cannot seem to see an already open thing of ketchup. So irritating. I fill up the cereal canister, the snack cracker canister (we occasionally have mice so I try to keep things in airtight areas). When I do this, I also make my grocery list. This method just works for me.
I cook 5 nights a week, most weeks. Sundays, I do not cook and Thursdays my husband makes me pizza. The rest of the time is me cooking. Occasionally, my husband and son in law will grill, make steaks, or chicken strips. Let me tell you, I do not complain. So for the next week or so, this is what I have already on hand when checking my food areas.
Thursday (writing this on the 21st): Pizza
Friday: Hamburgers/hotdogs/fries (it is treatment day for Hunter, so I don’t cook)
Saturday: My son in law is making his chicken strips and we will probably have leftover vegetables and mashed potatoes
Sunday: I don’t cook
Monday: The men are grilling out.
Tuesday: Brunzi Baseball Casserole, corn, green bean Casserole
Wednesday: Chicken Alfredo Soup and Minestrone
Friday: Baked Spaghetti and french bread
Saturday: Tenderloin, mac and cheese, Italian potatoes, and Lima beans
Sunday: I don’t cook
Monday: Parmesan Crusted Round Steak, baked potatoes, green beans, corn
Tuesday: Martha’s Tacos and probably Shiro Wot
Wednesday: Baked Penne with spinach, bread, and salad
Friday: Freezer meal, broccoli casserole, corn pudding, green beans
Saturday: White Chicken Chili and Chicken Noodle Soup
I will need very few things to complete these meals, so in reality, I’m saving money by not going to the grocery store! This makes me so happy because that “extra” money can be spent stockpiling on something or house repairs…which we need many.
I challenge you to cook with what you have! Limit your grocery budget to $100 or less per week. Save the leftover money and then either put it in the bank, use it to had to a debt to help reduce that bill, or do repairs. You can do it!
It has come to, almost the end, of our meat. We bought a whole cow last summer and it is dwindling down. It makes me sad. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to buy stuff in the market. It is so much healthier to know what your cow has been fed before you feed it to your children. Anyway, back to the topic of me Stress Organizing Food Areas.
When I had 3 kids, I would buy in bulk. I would always have 2 flats of different vegetables, canned goods, seasoning, etc. Now that I have more than the average amount of children AND my children are enormous…life is different. If I had space, time, energy, and money, I would still be stockpiling. Alas, I don’t any of those things.
Pandemic Changes Things
Now that the pandemic is rampant, things are limited. Whether that is toilet paper, cleaner, or food. It really does make you take stock in what you have and becoming a bit more inventive. Also, less likely to waste food or throw things out.
I had these thoughts after the ice storm as well. We did make some changes in some areas. Now is the time to make changes in other areas too. Luckily for me, I was raised by frugal parents and grandparents. I’m not afraid to try something. Making bread, cakes, muffins, rolls from scratch is normal. Alfredo sauce can be made and not bought. Spaghetti sauce, seasoning combinations…it is all trial and error. My next goal is to learn to make my own pasta. My mother in law did that and she gave me a contraption. Now is the time to use it!
In Cleaning Out and Organizing
Refrigerator, everything has a place. I can easily see what is what. Our fresh veggies, I can make a side dish out of. Fresh spinach, I can put in anything. It really takes on the flavor profile of what you are cooking.
I had a MASSIVE influx of baby carrots. There was some I had bought and then the school brought food for the week. Lots of cherry tomatoes, fresh broccoli, celery, and carrots. The broccoli, I stockpiled till I had a good amount. Last night, I made Chinese stir-fry with a couple of packs of round steak (from our cow), the broccoli, and I even used the cherry tomatoes. Big Daddy is not fond of those, at all. If you chop them up smaller and saute them, he didn’t even notice.
Sadly, the celery, I can’t get anyone to eat. Not even with peanut butter on it. We did not waste them. A couple of kids tried to eat them but we had so much that it was almost like torture for them. We fed those to our chickens, which in turn, gives us eggs. Does that count?
As for the Carrots
We all eat them on salads. Also, the kids like to eat them by themselves with a bit of ranch. I will snack on them. Still…we had so many. A couple of days ago, I made some carrot cake muffins. I could have made a cake or a loaf of bread but muffins freeze well and the kids have been eating them for breakfast. It is a super simple recipe that I have used for years. I will try and remember to post it by Monday. That used up a ton of carrots and I still have a bunch more. I may make more and freeze it.
For my freezer, I have the one that pulls out from my fridge, a big chest freezer, and then our old refrigerator we use out in the garage. The kitchen freezer, I utilize the 2 big bins and then the pull out drawer that has the ice maker. Up there, I put ice packs, Berbere, Tumeric, Yeast, or sweets. In one side bin, I put meat for super. For instance, when I buy sausage, shrimp, fish, etc. On the other side, I have all the kids frozen lunch items.
In the freezer in the garage (the refrigerator one), we keep extra bread, french bread, buns, or things that I bake. My big chest freezer is where we have our beef. Then the little rack has odds and ends. For instance, we have the 2 other packs of round steak, stew meat, steaks, etc. The base of the freezer has our patties and ground beef.
In recyclable bags, that is in there is where I organize all the other things. I don’t like it when things fall to the bottom because they end up freezer burnt and wasted. 1 bag has all our frozen veggies, another has our bulk chicken that I have broken up into baggies. There is 1 bag that has some odds and ends. My son in law has a few bags stored up in there. I think the last bag has meat that I have cooked and refrozen for another meal. We also have a little shelf area that has freezer meals on it.
My pantry has 5 shelves. The top shelf, I have broken up in 2 different baskets and some clear canisters. I think I got them from Dollar Tree. One basket has junk food/sweets/things my son in law buys and hides here. Another basket has all my leftover flour, sugar, almond flour, teff flour, and such. Then, in the canisters, I have open bags of flour, sugar, etc.
The next shelf has my suppers organized. When I make out my grocery list, I always look to see what I have on hand and work my suppers around that. So, on that shelf (for the next 10 days or so), I have my suppers planned out and put together on that shelf. For instance, I am making Brunzi Baseball Casserole, green bean casserole, and corn. I have all the ingredients for that in one area. Then there is pizza where I put all the ingredients for that, etc. This helps me use up what I have and not overbuy.
The next shelf, I keep a container with packet mixes (when I buy premade packets), our bread box, and our extra canned stuff for me to use for the next round of meals. That way, I will always know what I need to use up and incorporate every week.
The Rest of the Pantry
The third shelf is all things kids and paper products. They know that if it is on their shelf, it is free for all to eat, just not in excess. There is always a variety of breakfast stuff, lunch stuff, and protein snacks.
The fifth shelf has some appliances, a little basket with sauces and condiments, and oils. On the floor of the pantry houses, canned drinks, water, lunch boxes, and such. Everything has a place and most times all things are in their place.
I Hope This Helps
Hopefully this helps you get some ideas on how you can utilize the areas of your food storage. More importantly, to not overbuy. Just buy what you need. If you want to stockpile, that is great. Buy 1 thing for now, if you are a smaller family and 1 for later. For our family, I buy 3 now and 3 for later…when I stockpile.
Be creative with your menu and be open to adding things in that might be ready to go bad. If you don’t have chickens, use the leftover food and compost it for your yard! Also, if canned foods you KNOW you are not going to eat, donate it to a local food pantry!
Have fun! Be safe. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. It’s a germy jungle out there!
Repeat after me: I am NOT a Failure. Those words still resonate in me after a late-night chat with one of my closest friends. After a particularly hard evening, I texted my friend and said: “can you talk?” She has as many kids as I do and her life is not easy. My friend is raising these kids from hard places and trying to maintain a farm. Inspiration. She is my inspiration.
What’s Going On?
That was all she said. Not even a “hello” just a statement. In fact, I don’t think we ever say “hello” when we call each other. It is rare when we get a few minutes, within a month or so, to dedicate to chatting. Yet, when it comes to me needing her or her needing me…we make time in the chaos.
Last night, she made time. I am forever grateful to my friend. She means the world to me.
I couldn’t even get words out…all I could do was sob. There was a sentence I mustered about a life-altering decision that we have to make in regards to one of our children. Instead of instantly telling me all the things I already know, she sat, silently, and let me cry. Throwing in phrases, between the sobs, of “I love you. You love your children. He is not a failure because of his mental illness that I did not create. I am not a failure because I did above and beyond what needed to be done in order for him to live a successful, safe life.
You are not a Failure
She said that over and over. I repeated it and then I let it sink in. He is not a failure. I repeated that and it is sinking in. We are not failures. He just needs more help then maybe I can give him. That doesn’t mean I’ve failed him. It means I have loved him enough to get the help that he needs. In having to do what we may have to do does not dictate my love for this child. If I didn’t love him, I wouldn’t fight so hard for him to succeed in life.
Yet…who does what I’m doing? Who does what he is doing on a constant basis? Why can’t love just fix everything? What about God…where are You in the chaos? I know He is there. Yet, I can’t hear Him through the storm.
My Support System
Is very small. I mean, I have my husband. The love of my children (whom I try to shield from all that swirls in my mind). I know my mom loves me and supports me. There is my sister who never waivers, never judges, never gives advice without me asking, faithfully prays for me…what would I do without her? I simply don’t know. Also, I have a couple of faithful friends that I can bear my soul with and never be betrayed or judged.
There is some serious trust issues that I have always had but have peaked the last few months. I’m battling with anger (which is fear and/or sadness). I can easily identify the fear that no one believes me, that I have no self-worth, no confidence, that love comes and goes like the ebbs and flows of the ocean. Feeling like a failure because my dreams of raising kids is not what reality is. Honestly, feeling like all the things wrong is my fault and that I can’t fix it. Sadness because of the loss of what I thought I knew…I’m not sure it is even there. Maybe it is there but buried deep inside and doesn’t want to appear because of fear. Such sadness at the choices of a child. Sadness for an uncertain future.
That is what my counselor said that I was. When we got off the phone, I told my husband and he AGREED. Then, I called my sister and told her…guess what…she AGREED as well. I have a hard time expressing my needs, feeling safe, accepting help, and just being vulnerable.
I am not emotionally stagnant. The emotions are there, I just pick and choose who sees me have a moment. Emotions, to me, instill weakness and if one is weak, one doesn’t think clearly and can be overtaken.
That’s how I perceived my father growing up. He is not the emotional kind of guy (forever police officer). I rarely remember him yielding to emotion. He did, I guess, just not where us kids could see him.
My mom, however, is free with her emotions, for the most part. I just took more after Pop.
What People Don’t See
Is when I’m alone, in my room, crying my eyes out. People don’t see me taking long drives down roads I don’t know…crying my eyes out. Screaming. The poison gets so intense, inside me, that I just scream. So, I’m emotional, in a controlled environment. If I were to say to the people who have hurt me, how badly I feel wounded…they will not respond well. Many things can be said. Also, those things that were said cannot be unsaid. If I did say them, they would no longer love me.
Fear of not being loved or belonging…that’s a big one.
You call me out upon the waters The great unknown where feet may fail And there I find You in the mystery In oceans deep My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name And keep my eyes above the waves When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters Your sovereign hand Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name And keep my eyes above the waves When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders Let me walk upon the waters Wherever You would call me Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander And my faith will be made…
In the everyday chaos and uncertainty, He calls me to walk out on the waters, where it is completely unknown and my feet will fail in the deep ocean. Yet, He says I will stand on my faith. When I call upon His Name, He is faithful to keep my eyes above the waves. He is calling me out on the waves to confront, in love, the people that I need to confront. One of those people is me!!
I need to know that I don’t depend on anyone’s love but His. My battles are not for me to fight according to Exodus 14:14. “The Lord will fight my battle. I just have to be silent.”
I won’t look around at all the things going on around me and the struggles that I am facing. My job is to step out on the waves, in the deep ocean, where His grace abounds. I am always loved, always believed, always worthy, in His eyes.
Is it a secret that I love soup? I don’t believe it is. So, without further ado, here is my Pizza Soup Recipe. It’s a keeper! Bart says it is tied for first for his favorite soups. This soup is tied at first. The other being White Chicken Chili. I did this all in the Instant Pot but you can do it on the stovetop!
2# ground beef
**Can add any meat you want here or combine your favorite meat toppings in this soup. Also, if you like a lot of veggies on your pizza, chop them up and add them here because you want to cook them down a bit. I would like to use peppers, but my husband doesn’t care for that. Mushrooms would be good!**
1 jar of pizza sauce
Water (I believe I filled up the pizza sauce jar 3x and put it in there. Eyeball it.)
2 cans of Tomato Soup
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
On the saute mode (Instant Pot), combine the meats, onion, minced garlic, and seasoning. Cook until done, drain if you need too. Once done, put back in the pot and add your Italian Seasoning and Rosemary.
Next, add the sauce, water, and soups. Stir well and then place the lid on, seal, manual, for about 8-10 minutes. Everything is cooked, so you just want to meld the flavors. Once done, use the quick release. Stir in your mozzarella. Again, put as much in there as you want. I think I may have used 2 cups cause we like cheese!
**Oh, my original plan was to add a box of Ditalini noodles in it. I would have boiled them in saltwater on the stovetop. Then drained it and then added it to the instant pot. For me, I have found that if I cook noodles, that small in the IP, they get mushy.**
Good gracious, I have been So Very Sick. What started out with a bladder infection, ended up with a co-vid19 scare (other people scared of that, not so much me). Honestly, I have never gotten a bladder (or kidney) infection until about 2 years ago. Since my bladder sling, I’ve had 3 and they suck.
I have discovered that taking Cipro is like eating a tic-tac. A tic-tac that makes your pee orange. #GoodTimes As luck would have it, I have a dear from who is a Physician’s Assistant and when I contacted her, she was ready to help. Since I knew that Cipro didn’t work, we moved to Macrobid. Take it 2x a day, with food, for 12 days and it will clear it up. I did as I was told. Considering I trust only a handful of humans…she is one that I trust.
Do You Have a Doctor You Can Trust
It is easy, for some people, to trust those in authority, especially when it comes to our health. Me, however, not so much. I have an amazing doctor, that I have known for a long long time (think probably 10 years) personally and professionally. He has heard and seen some really difficult things in my life and the lives of my family. I have been known to show up at his house LOL. He’s a good one. When I can’t see him, his associate is a PA and is as brass and ballsy as I am. We have a good relationship and I’m sort of honest with him. The nurses there, I have an amazing friend/professional relationship.
I say all of this to say that I’m perfectly happy with my health care providers. Yet, there are some things I never ever talk to them about. They will never get near my girl parts and I will not discuss those parts with these men. I mentioned it once and I giggled at the beads of sweat forming on his forehead. He would do whatever I needed…I just wanted to make him squirm. We both got a good laugh out of it.
Girl Parts Doctor
I did meet a great dr who did my hysterectomy and my bladder sling. So kind and I used about 80% of my words with him. He was good and did a great job on my surgeries, but he left that practice. Then, I remembered my friend who dabbles in a little bit of everything. One, late night, we were texting about a book I wanted her to read. I divulged my pain and some other “girly” issues I was having and she was a wealth of knowledge.
She is just who I needed at that moment. God is good like that. She fixed me up. With my bladder infection, she prescribed Macrobid. She knows my drug allergies and this is not one of them. We thought it was safe and would take care of the issue.
Here’s the Thing
Since I went to our holistic dr in St. Augustine, my body is different. I have had more sensitivities to meds then I have EVER had before. These are meds I have taken for years and now, they make me feel “off”. Also, my hair falls out, I am lethargic, grouchy, and so on. The anti-depressant I took made me throw up for about 9 hrs. This is a med I had been on for several years before going to the holistic dr. So. Freaking. Strange.
With this going around, every single time I sneeze or cough people duck for cover. Listen, I have allergies. Really bad allergies…to cats…I have 12 cats, so 1 + 1 = 2. This time was different. I was down with the bladder infection, but it was manageable. I took my first dose and I started feeling nauseous. Almost like morning sickness. I powered through that moment. Honestly, I was just thinking that I didn’t take my meds with food. I was diligent after that.
I took it on a Wednesday night and Thursday morning I was dry heaving for the next 6 hours. It was awful. I had nothing on my stomach and couldn’t keep anything down. There were no other symptoms until my fever hit. That’s when my mom, other mom, and husband got worried. I had been nowhere, so I could not have been exposed. My symptoms were not consistent with Co-Vid19 symptoms and I was too sick to move.
I contacted my EMT friend, who has been treating a ton of these cases and my PA and neither of them had a concern. Plus, I was fine the next day. Tired, but fine. Then Saturday, I was great. I didn’t take the meds on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday morning. I did take it Saturday night.
Come Sunday morning, everything returned. Dry heaving, stomach ache, and fever. This time, I added in shortness of breath. When I inhaled, I whistled. Once I could keep liquid down, I took a zofran and a breathing treatment. Also, tylenol every 4 hours. Sunday was horrible. Monday I was simply exhausted and by Tuesday, I was fine. It has taken me time to get my appetite back up.
We checked and I have all the symptoms of having a Macrobid allergic reaction. So, on a bright note, I had suffered through enough of the meds for my bladder infection to be gone. Also, I lost about 4 lbs. On a crappy note, I don’t really know what to do if (when) I get another bladder infection.
I’m going to get some cranberry gummies, I have been taking probiotics. Also, I’m drinking more water with lemon and cutting down on sugar. I don’t know how helpful that will be but it can’t hurt to try to prevent it. I’m very thankful it is not Co-Vid19. I have had friends that have had it and it is no fun.
Wash your hands, wear masks, be mindful of elderly, immuno-compromised, and young people. Take care of yourself. I am on the mend and I’m thankful for that. Still, I’m resting more and really trying to listen to my body.
Hopefully, I can get back into blogging. Got lots on my mind…just a matter of if I can get it eloquently out my fingertips.
Shelf-Cooking Co-Vid19 Style. With Co-Vid19 rearing its ugly head, I have not been out of the house. I lied. Twice. I have been out twice. Both of these times has been to take Hunter to treatment in Nashville. So, grocery shopping is through pick-up, when my son works (at a grocery store), or my husband picks it up. Also, the school has been bringing food, for the week, for 3 kids. That helps tremendously.
There are some things my kids will not eat, by itself. Now, they are not picky eaters, but they prefer it to be cooked in something. So, what I’ve been doing is separating out the breakfast foods, lunch foods, snacks, and fruit. They eat all the breakfast stuff throughout the week. Also, they eat most of the lunch food throughout the week. Yet, there are things like raw broccoli and cherry tomatoes that they will not eat unless I use it another way.
I do not waste food.
Plain and simple. I am not a short order cook and I do not throw things away. That is how I was raised and that is how I raise my kids. With all that being said, I stockpile the carrots. For one, my kids do eat those. Secondly, I can cut those suckers up and put them in any casserole. Thirdly, carrot bread or carrot cake. Yes, please. Fourthly, soup. Put them in any soup. Fifthly (I’m starting to giggle now because what do I do when I get up to tenthly? Is that even a word?), put them in a saute pan with some butter and brown sugar. It’s a good thing.
Next up, cherry tomatoes. Once I have a baggie full, I either give them to one of my older daughters who both love them. Also, I juice them for chili or soup. I chop them up and saute them in any pasta dish. You can do a multitude of things with those things.
Now, onto this recipe and broccoli. My big girls love raw broccoli. Sadly, my other 5 kids do not. My son-in-law calls them “the trees of the devil.” He is a bit extra. You can make broccoli soup or Chicken and Broccoli Braid. Also, you can use it to make beef and broccoli stir fry. Lots of things.
Odds and Ends
Today, however, I had a 1/2 bag of a lot of things. Noah had brought home some leftover hamburgers and cooked bacon from work. I had a couple of bags of this and a bag of that. Then there was a 1/2 a bag of another thing. I put all those together and I made 2 casseroles. Honestly, I didn’t think it would make that much. I’m cooking one casserole for tonight and I’m freezing the other for another night. We also have leftover breadsticks from the pizza we ordered last night, so that is a side dish. I think I have a couple of cans of corn. Voila. Dinner is served.
Beef, Broccoli, & Extras Casserole
2# ground beef
Brown all of this together, drain if needed.
In 13×9 dish, grease it (preheat oven to 350). On the bottom of the dish, place the meat mixture.
**Now, this is what I had, on hand. Tweak this to what you have. Just have fun with it. If it sucks, you will remember what not to add!**
2 c. chopped fresh spinach
carton of fresh mushrooms, chopped
fresh broccoli, chopped
cooked bacon, chopped
Layer each of these components on your meat mixture.
In bowl, add 2 cans cream of mushroom (can use chicken or celery) and 16 oz. sour cream. Once combined, spread over casserole.
Next up, add cheddar cheese (any cheese will do, this is what I had).
Lastly, I had a 1/2 bag of leftover tater tots. I lined them on top. Mainly because I wanted to get rid of the bag. Another reason was because I had no potatoes to cook up.
Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, covered and then another 12 minutes or so, uncovered. Really until your tater tots are done. Now, I did not pre-blanch or steam my broccoli. I was afraid it would get mushy.
On freezing this dish, I did not cook it first…again, the broccoli issue.
Now, you can change up your cheese. Also, you can add in zucchini, squash, cauliflower, or carrots. You can change up your soups. Instead of tater tots, use instant or regular mashed potatoes to put on top. If you don’t want to do that, on the bottom of the dish, add egg noodles or rice. The sky really is the limit.
The above graphic on Becoming a CASA Worker might give you an idea of what one does. This is a volunteer program, for the most part. Social workers are tired. They are overloaded with work and laws that really do nothing in the grand scheme of things. It is sad. I have known (and know) some amazing social workers. Then, I have known some “out for blood” people that turns people away from this important work. Social work is a thankless job. Honestly, I have such respect for these men and women going in and trying to do their best to help these children.
A CASA worker, again, is a volunteer job. When I was a worker, it was about 9 years ago. We were waiting for Jude’s adoption to go through. I needed something to feel like I’m doing something to help someone.
There was a lady that I answered too. We had meetings and classes. Also, I would go with her to court and observe to see how things were handled within the courtroom. I have never been one to shy away from a courtroom. They are actually peaceful to me. It can be frustrating when you see something so clear and then another decision is made by the judge. Once done with the classes and following my boss, I was swore in, by the judge. Then I was able to testify if needed.
What I Did
I was the voice of the child. That is the whole point of being a CASA worker. We advocate for the child. Sometimes you take the stand and sometimes you don’t. Each person has someone working for them and being their voice. There are the attorney’s (for both parties and the who represents the state), guardian ad litem (represents the child as their attorney), social worker (works towards reunification and closely with the parent(s), R&C worker (the foster parent’s advocate), and a CASA worker (the child’s advocate).
It sounds intimidating but it really isn’t.
Yet, it is a responsibility that you have to take seriously. You have to look the part, behave the part, and know your stuff. There was a situation, where a certain social worker, who didn’t care for me, put me on the spot. It is no great secret there is no love loss between us but I tried to remain civil. She had a hard time with that and refused to take the stand. In fact, she said I “knew it all” and that I would handle it.
Well. He called me up to the stand.
I handled it in direct opposition that this worker wanted it handled. This is not a sparring match between two people who can’t play well together. Honestly, this is about the child(ren) and helping them keep their core family together if we can.
I Loved the Job
For real, I would have done this permanently had Jude not been with me. When he came home, he was my 100% focus. Maybe one day I will get back in the groove. I’m sure things have changed in the last 8 years. So, it is best that you call your local agency and find out what you need to do in order to be a CASA worker. It is totally worth it.
Call to Action
We are not all called to adopt BUT we are all called to do something. Is this your something? Shadow a worker and see if what they do fits into your idea of what a CASA worker does. Seeing positive family reunifications is so rewarding. There are other things that you will see that will hurt your heart, to the core. Yet, we are placed in that position for a reason. Spread the love of Jesus in all that you do.
May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. Foster Care…scary words, huh? It was for me and Big Daddy when we started this journey many many years ago. I have so many thoughts going through my head when I even utter that phrase.
When we began our journey, we went in SO naive. I mean googly-eyed and just eager to “fix,” “save,” and “help.” Oh, my goodness. We learned, quickly, that that was not the case.
Please remember, this is OUR journey. These are OUR feelings. This is OUR story. Your story will be different. That’s the beauty of life and different perspectives. I’m PRO foster care. I just wish we were better prepared for what we went through.
Before I Begin…Look at These Facts
The Lakes. These numbers are staggering. Across the board, staggering. Every child deserves a home. Also, every child deserves a last name. Every child deserves safety and their basic needs met. Bless…every child deserves love and a chance. Every. Single. Child. Whether they are fresh from the womb or 40 years old…EVERYONE deserves a family.
My Feels are Feeling
We were so naive. I think I mentioned that. We were eager. First, we had our PS-MAPP classes. 10 weeks, 3 hours a week, sitting through classes re-learning how to parent. We were not completely welcomed. Judged, if you will. There were people there that were older, older couples, younger couples, singletons. I remember looking across the room and this one couple flat out asked us what we were doing in that class. That we had no business being in there because we already “had” children. It wasn’t fair for us to take available children when some people in this world “can’t biologically have” children. Bear in mind, in this class, I was there by myself. Big Daddy had to work and did one on one classes. So, I fielded some of the hate all alone.
Punch in the Gut
That statement took the wind right out of my sails. I have many friends who cannot “biologically” have children. Some have remained “childless” from society’s perspective. Yet…they are just as much a parent then I am. They love, deeply. Sacrifice for others whether that is for their stepchildren/nieces/nephews/cousins/god-children or animals. It is beautiful to witness. There is beauty to be found in the ashes.
I have friends who have chosen to adopt BEFORE they biologically had children. That is how they wanted it all along. Some women can easily conceive and then make the choice to “prevent” conception in a permanent manner. Then, they regret “playing God” and move towards adoption.
However, you come to the cross in how your family is structured…it is YOUR journey. Yours. No one should judge another for having no children or 1000 kids. It is simply none of your business. Gracious. There can be so much hate, judgment, and condemnation.
Ways You Can Help
Not everyone is called to adopt, but we are all called to do something! Here are so tangible ways to help a foster child(ren), foster family, adoptive family, or a child you see that may need a little extra love.
Pray. For the child, their parents and bio family, the foster family and extended family, judges, attorneys, guardians, social workers, counselors. Can you even imagine, going from the chaos of unsafe home, the only home you know, and leaving with a stranger? Then, being left with a stranger. Sleeping in a strange bed with people that you don’t even know their names or where the light switch is. I cannot even begin to imagine.
Respite. Provide a weekend, afternoon, or just a drive for the foster family with this new child. Respite is a paid position if you so desire, it is basically babysitting. Believe me, everyone will welcome a short break.
Meal or Errands. Provide a meal or errands for the foster/adoptive family. Cook one for now, and have one extra ready for the freezer for later. What a help. Running errands helps to contain the chaos. It is so hard to get out and about sometimes. There are just moments when we need someone to run to the bank but due to a crisis, we just can’t get there. Be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Other Ways To Help
Help Around the House. Mow the yard. Do a load of laundry. Come clean while people nap. Oh, if I had that…people to go to the doctor’s appointments with me. I was wagging 5 kids, by myself. I had no help.
Be a Non-Judgemental Ear. I never had that either. Just listen. Listen to all the words, even if they are un-Scriptural. Don’t try and fix it. Just listen and love. Pray. Point to Christ.
See a Need. Meet a Need. No questions asked.
Volunteer at a Boys and Girls home. Big Brothers Big Sisters. Youth facilities.
Become a CASA worker. Be the voice for the child. Worth it.
Donate to Moses Basket or Bags of Love (these are specific to our area). You can call your local DCBS office and find out who you can donate items to help children coming into care.
Love. Be Jesus with skin on. Be His hands and feet.
I may share the story of our first placement. It was a hard time, personally, during my life. Then these children blew life into my life and I was renewed. Only to be devastated a short time after. I know what satan’s eyes look like. Met him, in person. Still struggle, after all these years. Today is not that day that I want to revisit that pain.
My OCD dictated my Tater Tot Casserole with Cheese. On a good day, I’d just sling them on there. Tonight, they each had a place and frankly, that makes me happy, I do believe I’m going insane. Insane, people. It’s fine. I am fine. We are all fine.
Tater Tot Casserole with Cheese
2# ground beef
Lipton onion soup mix
1 can cream of celery (normally I use cream of mushroom, but that’s what I had)
Sour cream, 1 c.
Brown beef with seasoning. Drain if necessary. Add in some Worcestershire sauce and the Lipton onion soup mix. **I have a gluten-free, copycat lipton onion soup mix recipe.** Once that is done, add in your chopped spinach and mix well.
In greased 13×9 dish, place the meat/spinach mixture on the bottom. Next, in a bowl, mix the sour cream and cream of celery together. Pour that over the meat. Then add a layer of cheddar. End with the tater tots and be sure and season the tots.
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. You might want to add a few minutes if you put frozen tots on there. Mine were already thawed out. Again, it was good. My crew gobbled it up.