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Recipe Fakeover: Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip Recipe Fakeover

I’m so excited to share this happy accident I stumbled upon! Last week, my husband shoved a bowl in my face and said “Try this.” Naturally, I was skeptical. We don’t have matching taste buds and I frequently find myself screwing up my face and saying “Gross” when he describes some dish he wants to try. But this time, I found some courage and tried it.

“Hmmmmm, this tastes like something…”

What was it? In the bowl was a mixture of cottage cheese and Frank’s Red Hot sauce. Now what he had concocted was cold, but it had the distinct taste and texture of a local favorite at potlucks and Super Bowl parties, Buffalo Chicken Dip!

We decided to try it out for real with some chips. Here’s the super simple recipe, if you can even call it that:

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  1. Put a glob of cottage cheese in a bowl. Maybe 1/2 a cup for yourself, a whole container if you’re making for more, like a party.
  2. Shake some Frank’s Red Hot sauce into the bowl to taste. You’re going to want to start with a conservative amount, taste, and add more.
  3. Add some shredded cheddar cheese and stir.
  4. Microwave for about a minute at 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval
  5. (Optional) If you want to get fancy, you could add some bleu cheese crumbles and/or top with extra cheese and broil that baby for a few minutes.
  6. Choose your favorite chips
  7. Dip and enjoy!

Dip

What I like about this happy discovery:

  • It’s super easy. Not that the original is a big timekiller or anything.
  • You can make it for yourself and not waste any ingredients.
  • This is probably stuff you have on hand.
  • It’s way less calories than the original since you’re not using cream cheese and chicken. I’m no vegetarian, but I like to skip meat when I can.

What are your favorite recipe “fakeovers”?

DIY Fairy Garden & Dragon Lair

As I hope you read in my last post, I’m about to become a Girl Mom again! I’m so excited about Firefly joining our family, whether it’s for a short time or forever!

She’s coming for a weekend “respite” visit tomorrow before she moves in and even though there’s plenty to play with at our house, I wanted to make something for her that would combine her love of playing outside, her great imagination, and her need to play alone at times. I had seen these on Pinterest and decided to try my hand at making our very own fairy garden!

Our DIY Fairy Garden

Fairy Gardens are just miniature play settings that can be in a garden planter, a backyard, or really any setting. You can use “found items” to furnish the garden or there are tons of miniatures available, some specifically for fairy gardens, at craft stores.

I decided to make ours in elevated pots because we have dogs :) They like to pee on everything! I started with one in a medium sized plastic planter and set it on a metal plant stand on the back porch. However once I started putting it together, I realized it wouldn’t be big enough and bought two more plastic pans. When the boys saw what I was making, S insisted that he needed one too – not a fairy garden, but a dragon garden. We call it a Dragon Lair.

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Here’s what I used to make our Fairy Garden and Dragon Lair:

  • 1 medium sized plastic planter – $5 (Family Dollar)
  • 2 short plastic pans (I think they’re for catching motor oil) – $1 each (Dollar Tree)
  • Potting soil – $3 for a large bag (Family Dollar)
  • Small terra cotta pot – $2.00 (Jo-Ann’s Fabric & Craft store)
  • 1 sitting fairy – $8 (Jo-Ann’s)
  • 1 fairy on a swing – $9 (Jo-Ann’s – both of these fairy items were 30% off)
  • 1 bag of dark rocks – $1 (Dollar Tree)
  • 1 bag of small multicolored rocks – $1 (Dollar Tree)
  • A few ceramic stars from a paving stone project when M was a baby – $0 (Found around the house)
  • Green mosaic pieces from the same paving stone project – $0 (Found)
  • 1 marble hotglued to a golf tee to make a gazing ball – $0 (Found)
  • Tiny dog toy/statue – $0 (Found)
  • 1 “pond” made from a painted salsa lid filled with blue glitter glue – $1 (Found)
  • Various artificial flowers and succulents – $1 each (Dollar Tree)
  • Plastic butterflies on stakes – $1 for two (Dollar Tree)
  • Small string of colorful flower lights, battery operated – $1 (Dollar Tree)
  • Plastic dragons – $0 (Found)

About $33 to make three little gardens but you could do it for less if you have these items around your house!

Putting them together is pretty easy and you have to remember that if kids are playing with it you’ll be constantly fixing it back up. For the planter, I started by putting some rocks (roughly fist-sized) in the bottom of the planter so I would be using less potting soil and make it heavier/less likely to topple over. Then I added the soil and placed the items. Same for the others, just minus the rocks on the bottom.

Here’s our setup all put together on a little table on the back porch.

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Spencer's Dragon Lair :)

Spencer’s Dragon Lair :)

I sent a photo to Firefly’s current foster mom and she said “Oh wow she is going to love that!” so I’m excited to see her reaction to it tomorrow!

Do you have a fairy garden at your house? What would you add to my fairy garden?

Welcome, Firefly!

I have big news, people!

Firefly

We got The Call yesterday! Almost two months after hearing about her for the first time, Firefly is coming to live with us!

IMG_3091 We had an overnight visit with her over the weekend, after completing two “playdates” with her where we got to meet her and learn more about her personality and her needs. She is currently in a loving foster home and they are going to miss her a lot. They have already done so much with us to make the transition as smooth as possible to honor her time with them.

We don’t yet have a timeline, but it looks like Firefly will move in within the next two weeks! We had already tentatively planned a full weekend respite for this coming weekend and we had talked about the following weekend being Move In Weekend if that got approved.

We told the boys about Firefly coming to live with us and they were so excited! We had discussed the
previous day about the possibility of her coming and that she might become open for adoption and that we would be pursuing that if/when it happens. They really like her and she seems to like them. When we were talking to the boys on Monday about her coming and what that would mean, we used way too many words and finally M stopped me and said “Okay. I think that’s enough, Mom. We get it.” :) But last night after we IMG_3096 had celebrated a little bit, Mr. Playdate Crasher prayed for our dinner and M said “I’d like to pray also” so he prayed about Firefly coming to live with us. So so sweet.

We are so thrilled to become a part of Firefly’s story! She is already so loved and we desperately want permanency for her. We pray that it can come with us and it looks like things might be headed in that direction. We’re coming in near the end of Firefly’s foster care story, but unfortunately this story is far too long already. She has been in foster care for over half of her life and she deserves a family that means FOREVER.

We really appreciate everyone’s kind words and prayers for us and we continue to ask for them!

And We Wait…

This week might be the longest week of my life.

My husband and I have once again found ourselves in a season of waiting. As I wrote in my last post, we are in a matching process for a foster-to-adopt placement. That process is still ongoing, but is (thankfully) wrapping up now.

The way it has worked for us, since this is kind of an unusual way to get a foster placement, is that this child is approaching a Termination of Parental Rights hearing after being in the system for a very long time. The social workers believe that her next placement should be her forever home. She cannot remain in her current home for several reasons. So we found out about her about 6 weeks ago when the foster care team leader at our agency said ”I’d like to tell you a little girl who needs a placement. We’ve been trying to figure out what to do with her, and everyone around the office says ‘You need to talk to Krista about her.'” So she did. I sat in her office and got the scoop, then met the little girl’s foster dad about an hour later and heard even more about her.

I went home and told Brandon everything I had heard and we discussed our thoughts and concerns. The next week, we met with the foster mother, the state/DCBS worker, and the foster care team leader for a very long time and heard in great detail what this child has endured; how she has been failed by her family and by the system. We asked lots of questions about her struggles and also about her strengths.

And then we met her.

She was at the office for an appointment and as we were wrapping up our conversation, she came in to see her foster mom. She walked in, wearing this lavender dress and a little white sweater, and she peered at us from her big brown eyes under her messy brown hair. It’s a surreal feeling to look at a stranger and know that one day she might be your daughter.

By this time, the worker knew we were interested and she had narrowed her search to us and one other family. At that meeting, it was decided that each family would get two “playdates” with her, in the same relative location under the same circumstances, and the girl’s foster mom will get to judge our interactions and fit. She doesn’t technically get to decide, but her opinion and observations will take on great weight for the worker. We set up our first playdate immediately because that’s how we roll. We met at a local Chick-fil-A for two hours one Saturday and had our second one a little over a week later at a park. The other family finally had their second playdate yesterday, this process being dragged out weeks longer than anticipated.

During the past 6 weeks, I’m sure I’ve driven our worker and the foster mom absolutely bananas with my questions, but it’s all because I’m trying to prepare for this child as much as I can. This kiddo comes with a lot of “baggage” and it will absolutely be a big adjustment for our family.

At this point all we can do is wait and pray. Both families have done all they’re supposed to do, so the foster mom will deliver her report to the decision makers and we wait for the phone call or email that will change our lives.

I feel at peace. We couldn’t have done more than what we did. I have to remind myself that I’m not in control, I’m never in control of this. But I don’t believe in coincidences and I don’t think it’s an accident that our lives have intersected at this time.

So we wait. Not exactly patiently, but I’m peaceful. God is sovereign. He has never forgotten this child. He has never forgotten us. And He’s got this.

Apps I Use as a Foster Parent

May is National Foster Care Month! If you’ve been wondering if foster parenting is right for you, take the next step TODAY and contact a local foster care agency! See the bottom of the post for a quick update on our foster parenting!

You don’t have to be perfect to be a foster parent, but it sure does help to be organized! Now here’s a little secret for you:  I like the idea of organization, and every few weeks I will declare that “We’re getting organized around here, people!” but honestly? I’m a slob. I’m terrible about returning things to their rightful place and don’t even get me started on the piles of “I need to sort through those” papers that collect around our house. It’s hard, y’all!

So while home organization systems are great in theory, I find that I rely on my phone quite a bit. And not just for organization, for the scheduling, the phone calls, and more! Here’s a list of apps we frequently use as foster parents:

Apps I use as a foster parent

Cozi (iOS/Android, Free)

I’ve written a standalone post all about how Cozi saved my foster parenting sanity, but it deserves another shout out! We use Cozi every day to keep track of the appointments coming up for all of the members of our family. We also use it to keep up with lists – shopping, To dos, etc. I use it monthly when preparing our financial statements for our agency. What did we do this month and where did we go? If it’s not in my calendar, it didn’t happen!

Sunrise (iOS/Android, Free)

So I have my Cozi calendar and also my Outlook calendar at work, but I needed them to all come together nicely. It required a little bit of a workaround – subscribing to my Cozi calendar with a Google calendar and then syncing the Google calendar with Sunrise, which is a Windows/Office product, but finally I have everything all in one spot! The standard iPhone calendar just wasn’t doing it for me.

Here’s another awesome thing that I love about the Sunrise calendar – you can use it to add the Meet keyboard to make scheduling with others an absolute snap. Read more about that here: https://sunrise.am/meet/ 

Google Voice (iOS/Android, Free)

Just like Cozi, my love for Google Voice has its very own post here about how and why we use it. Basically we use Google Voice because it’s free (unlike a Tracfone) way to have a separate/anonymous phone number to be used only for birth family contact. You can schedule Do Not Disturb times or just turn it on and off to keep from getting calls outside the appointed times. In short, it’s great and you should try it if your foster kiddos have contact with birth family members!

Tiny Scanner (iOS/Android, Free*)

We live about 30-40 minutes away from our foster care agency and while we’re there pretty regularly, it’s usually more efficient to email items to our workers. Obviously this means that things need to be made digital, so a scanner becomes important. Most of our forms cannot be filled in electronically; they’re written on by hand. So I can either scan them from work OR use an app to do it. My husband found the Tiny Scanner app, which produces high quality PDFs that you can email right from the app! This is perfect for reports, receipts, school excuse notes from the counselor, and more!

*The free version has some limitations on its features. We found it worth the few dollars for the full version!

Outlook / OneDrive (iOS/Android, Free)

In my attempt to keep our digital lives organized, I use OneDrive for our family’s Outlook account. I create folders for everything – behavior reports, financial reports, receipts, etc – and attach items to emails from the app. So simple!

Podcasts (iOS*, Free)

Last but not least, I need to give some love to the Podcasts app (iOS). I’m a long time podcast listener, and within the last 2 years, I’ve found several foster parenting or adoption podcasts that have given me invaluable information and inspiration. The first one is the appropriately named The Foster Parenting Podcast. There are at least 120 episodes – you can follow T & W’s foster care journey all the way through. I won’t “spoil” the podcast, but it has a very happy ending! And I don’t think they’re exactly done, but they aren’t podcasting regularly. However, listening to the back catalog will take you some time. I listened to all episodes last year while we waited for our first placement and I’ve started listening to them all again as we are in yet another season of waiting! Another great podcast for foster parents is the Honestly Speaking Parenting Podcast with Kristin and Mike Berry!

*While Apple’s Podcasts app isn’t on Android, there are plenty of podcast service apps available for Android devices!

What apps do you use regularly as a foster parent? Share in the comments!

An update on our foster parenting “journey”:

The girls left our home in December and February. We miss them terribly! We took a short break from placements because we had a vacation planned for Spring Break. When we arrived home from vacation, we learned about a little girl needing a foster-to-adopt placement. We are midway through the matching process for her, as of May 5th, 2016. We should know something in the next few weeks!

Review: Plackers Dual Grip Fruit Smoothie Swirl Flossers

We all want to do everything we can to keep our kids safe, happy, and healthy. While we, as parents, understand the importance of dental health, our kids are typically reluctant (to say the least!) to develop good dental hygiene practices.

Here’s how the conversation usually goes at our house:

Me:  “Okay Miles, it’s time for you to shower! Be sure to brush your teeth before you come out of the bathroom!”

Miles:  *grumbles* “I don’t wanna brush my teeth.”

Me:  “It’s important that you brush your teeth! Brushing your teeth keeps your mouth clean and your breath nice and fresh!”

Miles:  “…Okay.”

*Miles showers*

Me:  “Did you brush your teeth?”

Miles:  “………………………………….”

Me:  *sighs, points to the bathroom* “Back in there.”

Repeat ad nauseum

And that’s just one of them! There’s at least one other kid in our house at any time who “doesn’t wanna”

Plackers Flossers and Plackers Flosser Friend

Plackers Flossers and Plackers Flosser Friend

brush their teeth. So yeah, dental hygiene is a touchy subject in our house, especially after Miles, our 7 year old, had to have several cavities filled recently.

We were given the opportunity to try Plackers Dual Grip Fruit Smoothie Flossers for kids, a new product with your kids’ oral health in mind!

Introducing new kids flossers from Plackers. The new Plackers flossers are designed to promote healthy oral habits for kids—not an easy task. Our new kids flossers feature a dual grip handle and angled head to make it easy to use for different ages, and the “Hi-tech” floss cleans more tooth surface. Check out the new Plackers “Flosser Friend“.

  • Reduces tooth decay and promotes healthier gums

  • Removes plaque and food

  • Provides fluoride

  • Fruit Smoothie Swirl flavor

  • BPA Free

  • Available in 75 count


The boys allowed me to help them floss their teeth and though they were cautious of this colorful contraption, they were pleasantly surprised! “It doesn’t hurt!” they said! And “Oh! It tastes yummy!” Indeed it does – don’t just take their word for it, I tried them myself and they certainly do taste yummy! The Fruit Smoothie flossers have a subtle fruit taste to them that really leaves your mouth feeling clean and fresh.

Spencer tries Plackers Flossers for kids

Spencer tries Plackers Flossers for kids

Spencer tries Plackers Flossers for kids

Spencer tries Plackers Flossers for kids

But the good people at Plackers don’t just want moms and dads to floss their kids’ teeth, they want kids to learn how to floss as well! Here’s a great video about how to get your kids to floss:


With Plackers Dual Grip Fruit Smoothie Swirl Flossers for kids, my kids are on the road to better oral health! Pick some up wherever you buy dental products – packs of 75 are at a great price, and teaching your kids healthy habits is an investment I can get behind!

Plackers Flossers for Kids

Plackers Flossers for Kids

To make things even more fun and convenient, check out the Plackers Flosser Friend, which stores your Plackers Flossers in a clean, adorable container in your bathroom. Having the flossers available for your kids in a visible location will help remind them to floss regularly (so you don’t have to nag!).

Disclosure:  This is a paid review post. I was compensated for this post and received complimentary product to facilitate my review.

Book Review: The Adventures of Camp Nana Papa

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There are some things in life you should never take for granted. Hot showers, indoor plumbing, smartphones, and Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter, to name a few. But more importantly are the relationships that you should value with everything you have.

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I feel extremely blessed to have a great relationship with my parents. I grew up with my mom and dad – he was a preacher, she was a teacher – and my sister. While we had our issues with one another, our bond was strong and continues to this day. My parents were involved in my life growing up; they were a source of comfort, comfort, and love. They were there for me through school, my wedding, there for the birth of my children (Mom was in the delivery room with Spencer!), and now live within 30 minutes of our home. We worship together at church and my mom volunteers at the school where I work.

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We have not had the opportunity for such a close relationship with my mother in law, who passed away at a young age, right after our oldest son was born. While we do have a good relationship with my father in law and my husband’s stepmother, it has taught us not to take people for granted. You never know how long the people dear to you will be around.

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I was asked to receive and review a children’s book, The Adventures of Camp Nana Papa, written by Donnie Cranfill (illustrations by Jeffrey Ebbeler).

From the Publisher

The Adventures of Camp Nana Papa™ is the book grandchildren love! We introduce you to Nick and Sarah and their amazing friend Flash the Firefly™ as they enjoy a wonderful weekend full of activities and fun with their grandparents at Camp Nana Papa! The hard back book comes with a dust jacket and rich illustrations bringing Nick’s, Sarah’s, and Flash’s adventure to life. Follow them as they swim, run, play, go to the zoo, roast marshmallows and much more! Written by Donnie Cranfill with illustrations by Jeffrey Ebbeler. The book is 34 pages long including 6 pages of fun activities to make each copy personal and special for each grandchild!

This adorable book is all about the lasting relationship between grandchild and grandparent and the fun adventures this family has together. My kids have been fortunate to spend weekends and even week-long stays with Grandma and Grandpa, where they go to museums, parks, fun events, and more! My mom, a veteran teacher, even plans activities so they can have themed “Grandma School”! It’s adorable.

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The Adventures of Camp Nana Papa would be an excellent gift for a child who is planning a getaway to Grandma and Grandpa’s home, or a Grandparents Day present for a loving grandparent in your life! We love this book for the bright illustrations and warm storyline. Visit www.CampNanaPapa.com to purchase the book and get other great ideas for your family’s own Camp Nana Papa!

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Disclosure:  I was given a complimentary copy of the book to facilitate my review. I was not paid for this review.

Book Review: Wally Wuzzlemoore Makes New Friends

As a child, I was painfully shy. Just the thought of having to speak to a stranger was enough to make me cry. Not only was this difficult for me in general, we also moved several times when I was a child. Making new friends was NOT easy for me, and I know it’s a tough thing for many kids.

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Tom Shinderling‘s delightful new children’s book, Wally Wuzzlemoore Makes New Friends, is a great resource for families experiencing change or children who have social anxieties. In the story, Wally Wuzzlemoore and his mother, both charming little monsters, move to a new town and Wally sets out to make friends. Along the way, he discovers that other people are different from him, and that’s okay! He also learns that while his peers might not all have the same interests and abilities as him, he can still be friendly and nice to them.

WallyWuzzlemoore2I love this book because it teaches kids valuable lessons about friends and classmates. Every child doesn’t have to be your best friend, but they still are owed your time and kindness. There are lots of types of people in this world, but we can learn from one another and get to know what we want and need in a friend – that’s a lesson even adults can use!

This book is wonderful for kids who are new to a town or school, and in my job at a private school and as a foster parent, I can think of many ways I will use this book. I know lots of kids who do not make friends very easily and could benefit from this lovely story about a monster going through the same thing!

You can pick up Wally Wuzzlemoore Makes New Friends or other titles from Tom Schinderling on his website or at online retailers Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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**Disclosure** I was offered a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid for this post.

New Year’s Resolutions Are Going To The Dogs (Literally)

FEFB2682-9605-4071-A125-E4DE8D602774 With 2016 finally here, I’ve already been planning about how to make this new year the healthiest one yet. Although there are numerous ways I could improve myself and my health, what if I could also get my family involved including my furry family members, too?
Milk-Bone (the makers of my dogs’ favorite dog treats) recently conducted an original survey of 3,000 pet parents nationwide to find out which healthy habits families are pledging in the new year. Here are the results!
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Bauer is super excited to try his Milk-Bone Good Morning Daily Vitamin Treat!

Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Pets and Their Pet Parents

(% of pet parents who are interested in each pet-oriented resolution)
1.  “I will spend more time with my dog.”  52%
2.  “I will help my dog to have better health and wellness.”  42%
3.  “I will take my dog on more trips with me.”  34%
4.  “I will brush my dog’s teeth regularly.”  31%
5.  “I will help my dog get more essential vitamins, nutrients, and supplements.”  30%
6.  “I will help my dog become less anxious and stressed.”  29%
7.  “I will not feed my dog food from the dinner table.”  25%
8.  “I won’t leave my dog home alone for quite as long.”  23%
9.  “I will help my pet lose weight.”  21%
10.  “I will take my dog to dog training class.”  15%
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Of course, old habits die hard — which is why Milk-Bone has also fetched the best ways to make sure these resolutions stick.
Top Tips for Keeping New Year’s Resolutions
>> 1.  “I will spend more time with my dog.”  52%
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Mr. Monk eagerly awaiting his Milk-Bone Brushing Chews Daily Dental Treat

According to the survey, 44% of pet parents say that having a dog brings a family closer together.  Whether it’s taking Fido to a new dog park or adding a few minutes to your daily walk, you can easily increase quality time with your pup.

>> 2.  “I will help my dog to have better health and wellness.”  42%
In addition to plenty of play and exercise, consider providing your pup a daily vitamin supplement, such as Milk-Bone Good Morning Daily Vitamins, which promote well-being, longevity and overall good health.
>> 3.  “I will take my dog on more trips with me.”  34%
Taking your pup on vacation not only adds fun, but it also alleviates the worry of not knowing what’s happening wth him while you’re away. Be sure to bring his favorite toy or something he loves to keep him calm during travel.
>> 4.  “I will brush my dog’s teeth regularly.”  31%
Weary about brushing your canine’s canines? Start a new daily routine and try a dental chew, such as Milk-Bone Brushing Chews — which clean teeth, remove tartar and fight dreaded doggy breath. This daily dental treat also comes in a new ‘Fresh Breath’ flavor (in stores Feb. 2016) for an even tastier clean.
>> 5.  “I will help my dog get more essential vitamins, nutrients, and supplements.”  30%
Vitamins provide beneficial nutrients not found in regular dog food — which is why it’s a good idea for both of you to start the day off right with a daily vitamin supplement. Milk-Bone Good Morning Daily Vitamins support your dog’s immune system, brain, heart, and digestion.
>> 6.  “I will help my dog become less anxious and stressed.”  29%
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Bauer enjoying his Milk-Bone Brushing Chews Daily Dental Treat!

If you have a timid dog, the key to reducing his stress is by building his self confidence. Start by teaching him to respond to basic commands — it will make him feel more comfortable in his environment.

>> 7.  “I will not feed my dog food from the dinner table.”  25%
Every dog loves (and often begs for) tasty table scraps. Next year, resist the urge and provide tasty pet treats instead. These Milk-Bone treats are ones that not only taste good but are (actually) good for them.
>> 8.  “I won’t leave my dog home alone for quite as long.”  23%
If you can’t leave work early, consider providing a new furry companion for your pup.  Or perhaps you can arrange for a friend’s dog to make a house call.
>> 9.  “I will help my pet lose weight.”  21%
Just like us, some pups could stand to lose a few pounds. Next year, make Fido your accountability partner and commit both yourselves to eating healthier, along with plenty of play and exercise.
>> 10.  “I will take my dog to dog training class.”  15%
Experts are experts for a reason. Accredited dog trainers have tons of experience in teaching both pets (and pet parents) positive reinforcement techniques that are safe and effective.
Bauer and Mr. Monk’s New Year’s Resolutions for 2016
Of all these resolutions, the one that resonates with me is ‘brushing my dog’s teeth regularly.’ According to the survey, 40% of dog parents do this… and I’d love to do this more regularly.
Of course, brushing your dog’s teeth is one of those things that’s a lot harder than it sounds.  Thanks to Milk-Bone Brushing Chews, however, I don’t have to lift a finger.  (Well, maybe that’s all I have to lift.)  Basically, the Brushing Chew does all the manual labor in keeping my pup’s teeth clean and breath fresh.  Double win!

Readers, what resolution are you planning to make for you and your dog in 2016?

Disclosure:  I was sent complimentary samples of Milk-Bone products in exchange for this post.

Why (And How) We Use Google Voice for Birth Family Contact in Foster Care

Why (and How!) We Use Google Voice for Birth Parent Contact in Foster Care!Before we became foster parents (around this time last year), the aspect of this whole system that intimidated me the most was birth parents. Now, there’s much to be said about birth parents, and I won’t be able to say it as well as others, so I’ll just leave a few article links at the bottom of the post and you can read for yourself. But suffice to say, I was worried, even scared, about how birth parents might treat us, talk to us, and otherwise intimidate our family while we care for their children.

So far, I can say that we’ve had none of the scenarios play out that I had envisioned – no spooky encounters of people driving by our home, no situations where I’ve been cussed out over the phone, etc. And we have pretty frequent contact with our kid’s birth family – weekly visits, weekly phone calls, one of them had twice-weekly Skype.

Google Voice Logo

All of that being said, there’s one easy solution we have used to keep birth family contact within the foster care guidelines set forth by our case worker, and that is Google Voice.

If you are unfamiliar with Google Voice, it is a service offered by Google (obviously) where you can make and receive phone calls, voicemails, and texts at an anonymous number – for free! There are lots of ways you can use it, but here are the basics of how we use it as foster parents:

  1. Birth family members only get the Google Voice number – Social workers are instructed to NEVER give out my personal phone number. So far, that has worked. I’ve heard from many foster parents whose personal numbers have been given out and it hasn’t been a good experience for them, so I’m hoping Google Voice continues to help us.
  2. I have several phones set up that Google Voice will forward to. I have my phone number, my husband’s phone number, and even my mother’s phone number. That way, depending on who is watching the kids, if it’s time for a scheduled call, we are set up for calls. It just takes a few quick clicks on the mobile site to select the appropriate phone for the call to ring at.
  3. We enable Do Not Disturb on Google Voice and ONLY turn it off when a call is scheduled. THIS IS KEY. Without using Do Not Disturb, all Google Voice does is block my phone number. But using it preserves the boundaries that have been established for us with the birth family.

So that’s the HOW, here’s the quick version of the WHY:

  1. Privacy – I don’t know about you, but I don’t share my phone number with just anyone. I don’t like to get unwanted calls. This one is pretty simple. Also, we have a Connect-To-Cell phone at home (basically a cordless phone that our cell phones ring to when we are home), so anyone in our home could pick up the phone. Our kids don’t answer the phone at their ages, but if they did, I feel the need to protect them.
  2. Boundaries – Even when they are told what the “rules” are, people will still try to make contact when a phone call is not scheduled. I have no desire to receive multiple calls that I have to silence or ignore throughout a day, let alone listen to hateful voicemails. The Do Not Disturb feature lets me have a small piece of control in a system where we have very little. We preserve the relationships are asked to preserve, but we still respect and maintain the boundaries that are put into place.
  3. Cost-effective – Google Voice is F-R-E-E! Unless you need to make international calls, there’s no cost whatsoever. We started out using a TracFone in foster care, as suggested somewhere on the countless blogs, Pinterest Pins, and podcasts I scoured as we started our foster care journey, but it quickly became a hassle. Making sure we had the phone, that it was charged, that it had minutes available (and those can be $$!) – it was just too much. Having access to a semi-private/secure line from my own cell phone was a much better option.

That’s the short version of how and why Google Voice works for us in foster care. Do any of you foster parents use Google Voice or can you see it working for your family?

If you need help navigating this feature or want to learn more, here is the official Google Voice Help page, which should get you started!

Looking for those articles I mentioned about birth families? I’m so glad you asked! :)