Maegan’s Living Room Tour (Before + After)

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetGussied Up and Glitzed Living Room Tour43.jpgWe’ve made a lot of updates to our living room in the last year and I’m so excited to show y’all what we’ve changed. This post has been a long time in the making and your probably want to grab a coffee or a pumpkin spice latte and settle in. It’s taken a while for this room to come together and my original design plans ran into snags along the way—see below about the mantel art—that worked out in the end. But before we get started let’s take a little walk down memory lane.

This was what the living room looked like when we first moved moved in years ago. We had been married only a couple of years and were still in college so we didn’t have much furniture. I wanted to paint the back wall a cool accent color but I hated it—why I thought I would love flat, grey paint is still beyond me. As I stood there staring at the grey blob telling Sam how much I hated it he literally grabbed a paint sample from the garage and painted our initials over it. It’s was hideous but I loved that he’d inserted himself creatively and tried to make smile so I left it that way for a long time–to my mother’s horror. Gussied Up and Glitzed Before Living Room Tour2

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After several years and the glue oozing up between the seams of the linoleum we asked  our apartment complex to replace our carpets and old linoleum with a lament hardwood. We had to move all our furniture into the garage ourselves but it was worth it! Sam and I were so grateful and excited! They replaced all the flooring downstairs except for the bedroom. Gussied Up and Glitzed Before Living Room Tour6

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These chairs were being used in our dining room and I decided to move them back to the living room where they belonged so we had more seating. I also found this cute rug at Tuesday Morning for a great price. It wasn’t big enough for the space but I loved it just the same. We need a coffee table so I took a palette and cut it in half and used extra slats from the opposite side for legs. I had some left over paint so I painted it blue and then distressed it. I loved that coffee table and everyone who ever came over always commented on how much they liked it. You’ll notice that by now the grey patch has been painted over but it’s not the same color as the wall. The apartment complex gave me the wrong paint color and it it would stay mismatched for a long time. Gussied Up and Glitzed Before Living Room Tour7

I took these photos of the living room last August and it was the last time I really photographed our living room. There were a few new furniture items such as the coffee table, the hammered brass side table, the pouf, and the 8 x 10 rug I found at Tuesday Morning for a whopping $38.94! The huge discolored paint blob was still on the wall. Gussied Up and Glitzed Before Living Room Tour4

And after an entire year of scouring Pinterest, tweaking my ideas, and waiting for sales, this is our living room today!Processed with VSCO with m5 presetProcessed with VSCO with m5 preset

The biggest changes we made were; painting almost the entire downstairs white, new furniture, new art, and a new rug—basically everything. I’ve wanted white walls for years now, and even though this wasn’t my preferred shade of white, I’m never one to look free paint in the mouth. I asked our apartment complex if they would be willing to swap out paying for our carpets to be cleaned in exchange for repainting the walls and they said yes! Again, we had to move our belongings ourselves and tape a few walls off but it was totally worth it. Sam was the most excited because although he willingly helps me every time I ask he really detests painting. They ended up repainting the living room, the fire place, the dining room, the entryway, the stairwell, loft wall leading down into the living room, laundry room hall, and garage entrance. What a difference. Paint is so transformative y’all! The whole apartment looks light, bright, and airy!(Leanne Ford would be so proud!) It’s definitely more cohesive and the ceilings all look a foot taller. I think out of all the changes we made this was the most impactful. You can really feel the difference when you walk into the house. And bonus, no more giant blob of paint on the wall! My mom was cheering from Nashville so loud I could hear it in Dallas. Gussied Up and Glitzed Living Room Tour47Processed with VSCO with m5 presetProcessed with VSCO with m5 presetProcessed with VSCO with m5 preset

Lets talk about this couch. Oh my sweet goodness, I’ve been dreaming of owning this couch for years and I better get a good decade’s worth out if it too! It’s the perfect balance of Sam and I’s aesthetics. The leather is a warm butterscotch(which I live for), but it’s a masculine texture(Sam) with great midcentury bones(me), that’s deep/long enough for Sam (6’4″) to lounge on comfortably, and bonus, it’s great for cats(who knew cats don’t like leather)! Sam was actually not convinced about the leather because he thought it would get hot and sticky like the inside of a car during the summer, but it’s actually very cooling and durable.Processed with VSCO with m5 presetProcessed with VSCO with m5 presetProcessed with VSCO with m5 preset

And a note about cat’s and leather, cats aren’t drawn to leather like they are woven fabrics or velvets. They have never even expressed interest in taking out their natural scratching instincts on the couch like they do our two chairs. Cats are kind of repelled by leather so it’s an excellent furniture fabric choice if you have cats. Though, if a cat is bored and has no other alternative but your leather furniture I’m sure they would go to town.Gussied Up and Glitzed Living Room Tour4Gussied Up and Glitzed Living Room Tour42Gussied Up and Glitzed Living Room Tour30

The blue Strandmon chair(the blue is discontinued but the yellow looks real fun!)we bought earlier this year and was supposed to be living in the library. Sam loves it so much it kind of made it’s way downstairs and never went back. It sits alongside a beautiful vintage velvet wingback chair that the cats LOVE. Shocker. I’ve got to give a big shoutout to Ikea for making a quality product here. I know Ikea sometimes gets a bad wrap for it’s couches but this chair is really comfortable, durable, and the perfect depth for the tall husband in your life. I understand now why they are so popular! Raise your hand if you have a hard time getting your husband to come around to the pretty couches and chairs with great aesthetics because they aren’t comfortable for him? This chair is the perfect compromise! It comes in great colors and will suit the pickiest of couch potatoes.Processed with VSCO with m5 presetProcessed with VSCO with m5 presetimage

The horse photo. Where do I even begin? You know when I was talking earlier about design “snags”? Well, this is more like a design pot hole from New Jersey. (I’ve been there and the pot holes are like next level–no offense to anyone from New Jersey) 🙂 Back to my design pot hole. So I’ve been staring at this art print on the Urban Outfitters website for like a year I just wasn’t sure where I wanted to hang it in my house. The artist name is Kevin Russ and I really love his photography and it just fits my personality and aesthetic so well. I decided one fated day–to be sure–that it would be perfect over our mantel, but it would need to be a massive print. UO carries prints in massive sizes at a very reasonable price point, but there was no way I could afford to buy it pre-framed. Without a second thought I bought a 44×44 print sure that I could just skip down to Hobby Lobby and use my 40% off coupon and get it framed for cheap. I was so sure of my genius, I reassured Sam it was no big deal and shushed him for worrying about it. Trust me, I’m a professional bargain shopper and I got this! My, oh, my. Maegan, Maegan, Maegan. I did skip on over to Hobby Lobby a few weeks later only to find out they don’t custom frame anything that large. Wait, what? And oh, the price for their largest custom orders is $350-$400 after coupon. WAIT, WHAT!? I was horrified. Here I thought I was so smart buying this huge infrared print at a really great price only to find out I wasn’t going to save any money at all—quite the opposite. I left Hobby Lobby with my huge cardboard tube in a fog. What was I going to do? Sam was with me and thank God he was laughing about it–laughing at me really. I mean he wasn’t happy about it but in retrospect it was funny. So, I knew how much regular framing places cost and I just couldn’t afford that.Gussied Up and Glitzed Living Room Tour16.jpgimageGussied Up and Glitzed Living Room Tour22.jpg

There’s a Michael’s Craft Store down the street from our Hobby Lobby(God’s Craft Store and affectionately referred to around our house as the Lobby of Hobbies) and I called them in a last ditch effort. And shock of shock, they do costuming framing for even bigger pieces that 44 x 44. Wait, what?! So we hurried over there and it was really one of the Jesus things where in His omniscience He knew how bad I was about to mess it up and He made a road for me in the desert. The nicest lady was working at the custom framing counter and the framing I was considering just happened to mislabeled for a much cheaper option and she gave us the cheaper price AND she lets us use a coupon. But we were still over what both Sam and I were comfortable paying because the 44 x 44 frame needed acrylic instead of glass—which by the way, is crazy expensive. So we compromised and by trimming the two inch border off the ENTIRE photo–which was so nerve wracking–and using the wider discounted frame to create the “new boarder”. And because we dropped the size two inches all the way around we were able to use glass instead of acrylic! Sam and I were elated! We left the photo there and expected to pick it up the next week.Processed with VSCO with m5 presetGussied Up and Glitzed Living Room Tour11

Well, I’ll spare y’all the gory details but the framing didn’t go well and we had to take it back three times before the actually got it right. But you know, Jesus is so good, because even though it was a hassle they ended up refunding us half the price of what we paid for the framing so by the time we got it home and hung it up we payed a tiny fraction of the original framing price. See, giant New Jersey design pot hole. But I learned two very valuable design lessons. Framing art is never cheap. No matter how cheap that giant beautiful art you want that costs pennies at that flea market, just know it’s going to cost big bucks to get it framed. And second, never shoot from the hip when dealing with a big budget item because it could cost you three times the amount in the end. Always do your research. Lesson learned. For sure. Also, Sam banned from buying anymore horse art for a long, long, time. Many, many, moons–his words. I humbly acquiesced.Processed with VSCO with m5 presetProcessed with VSCO with m5 preset

And finally the new rug. I bought this soft jute rug during the Labor Day sale at Rugs USA and it just arrived a couple days ago. I’m in love! It added a texture to the room that it was missing and it’s very thick and soft. We’ve never had a rug big enough for this space and this massive 9 x 12 did the trick. The yarn tassels on the end are really fun too. Surprisingly the cats haven’t messed with them much—I’m waiting for it though. They’re more into chasing each other up and over our wingback chairs lately and we’ve got to get that cactus cat scratcher finished soon. They are driving us crazy with all the climbing. Cats are weird wonderful creatures.Gussied Up and Glitzed Living Room Tour37Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

I love everything we’ve done so far and I’m really happy with the progress we’ve made. We still have a few furniture pieces I’d like to replace like our TV console and the end table with one that actually has a functioning drawer. I also want to figure out a better lamp/lighting situation–specifically a floor lamp–and just better ambience lighting over all. I’d also like to try my hand at layering rugs and would really love a cowhide to go under the coffee table. Gussied Up and Glitzed Living Room Tour49Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

We finally made it to the end of my living room tour and I hope you really enjoyed it! Thank you so much for hanging out with me today and if you made it to the end of this really long entry bless you! I know it was crazy long but worth it! Have a super happy Monday!

Oxox

Maegan

 

Home Library Progress Update

So months and months ago before my back went out I started turning our loft into a home library. I thought I would share how I’ve updated the space so far! I mean it’s pretty much done, sort of, except for the desk and the filing cabinet which are being replaced–eventually. I still need to repaint the yellow chair and I’m not sold on the rug. So, I guess it’s not almost done but whatever. I’m rollin’ with it.The pink walls I painted last fall or summer–last year was kind of a blur and it’s all running together at this point so I don’t really remember when I painted them. Why pink? The better question is why not pink? I tried to choose a pink shade that was a bit more subdued and adult. I mean, I wouldn’t go so far as to claim Baby Blush is sophisticated, but I was going for glam anyway. The pink walls casts a soft glow in the second half of the day that filters the light in the living room below. It’s heavenly.

I made a mood board on Pinterest where you can see the vibe I was going for–It’s kind of a 70’s Texas glam. I kind of went ham sandwich with color in this room. I felt it was a space I could really go all out with color but I tried to keep it away from being bitsy and juvenile. Sam of course, is a good man and encourages me do as I please when it comes to design. I’ve found that as long as I don’t let form come before function too often(especially when I want to spend $ on the big stuff) he usually loves it–even if it’s pink.I do plan on painting or changing out the filing cabinet. I mean I have to have some sort of filing system for bills and my manuscripts but I don’t know that it needs to be a filing cabinet. If you’ve got any ideas I want to hear them. Tell me! I mean there has to be an aesthetically more pleasing way to store paper. Another issue I have to tackle is all the server and its trimmings but that’s a blog post for another day.

I made the shelves out of these steel double mount tracks and these brackets that I painted rose gold. I went with raw Plywood for the shelves I had cut into 12in x 8ft pieces. I used nice plywood because its cheaper than buying boards by the ft and I liked the industrial look of the raw plywood edges. This was a really easy and self explanatory DIY. Basically figure out how wide and tall you want your shelving to be and how far apart your wall studs are. That determines how many wall tracks you’ll need. Then figure out how far apart you far want your shelves and that will determine how much wood you will need. I also didn’t have to go through the hassle of sanding and staining each piece, but if that’s your thing then I say go for it!The #shelfie is a still a work in progress but for that’s the most fun part anyway! I went with the traditional method of cataloging–alphabetical by genre–so books are easy to find and file. At the end of the day it’s form over function–besides the books themselves are so beautiful they don’t really need much flair. I have really enjoyed taking my time finding the perfect book ends and nick-knacks. It’s just a perfect excuse to buy one more horse lamp.

Like I said the desk and filing cabinet still need work. I’m also not sure about the black and white striped rug. I wish it was bigger. I’m also considering putting a sisal or jute rug beneath it to give the space more oomph. As I write this I’m also trying to figure out how to integrate a standing/sitting desk for Sam up here. It’s just more motivation to find a smaller desk for me and fix the paper filing problem for good.I hope you enjoyed the under construction walk through. Once I get the living room finished I’ll get to throw all my energy into this room! If you want a more in depth explanation on how we built the shelving leave a comment below and I’ll put a blog post together.

Also, this is kind of random, but since I change out my decor pretty often I have a Facebook Market Place that has a fairly steady rotation of home-goods and furniture that I either no longer want or just don’t work with my design style anymore. I don’t ship but if you live in the DFW area it’s worth taking a peak at!

Maegan

 

Changes

Right off the bat, I’ll let you know that this a casual ‘this is what’s been going on in our neck of the woods’ kind of post and not some super duper dramatic thing. I struggle with writing these posts because every time I start them they just feels so serious and ugh, just no. I can’t stand that. I’m trying to find a way to be a more open blogger and express my thoughts and feelings more with you guys but I struggle with that. So much. I just haven’t found that sharing boundary line–you know sharing enough but not too much kind of boundary. I’m  just telling it to you like it is and I hope that you appreciate my honesty and straightforwardness.

OK! So, we have a had a lot going on the last six months and I thought I would share! I’ve already told you about Lemon and my back stuff and those were some really big changes. My brother got engaged this spring and is getting married in September and we’ve been preparing for that. Part of all this physical therapy and pushing myself so hard is so that I can travel to Nashville for the wedding.acs_0900

The biggest change has been on the work front. Sam, who has worked at the same company for the entirety of our marriage(twelves years people) moved jobs to a new company. We are so excited for this new chapter but whew has it been a doozy! It’s a totally new schedule/work setup that we are adjusting too–one so far, that we both love. Sam went from working at an 9-5 office job to working from home. Oh, and did I mention he will be traveling too?acs_0901

Honestly, I love having Sam work from home. We haven’t figured out the work space issues yet, but honestly it’s going pretty smoothly. I try to stay out of his hair, though I catch myself talking to him when he’s trying to work. Overall, I love it, he loves it. He hasn’t traveled that much yet, but that’s sure to pick up soon. I didn’t think it would be good for me to be in an empty house while Sam is away and we went back and forth for a while about the best solution for the issue.

I really want another dog. I miss Lemon something fierce but trying to take care of a puppy right now just isn’t the best idea. I’m still working on my day to day endurance and strengthening my body and taking care of a puppy would be too much strain. I think we will eventually get a dog when I’m in shape to chase a puppy on my own. A cat wasn’t my first choice, not because I don’t like cats, it’s just a litter box issue. We have a small apartment and I don’t have a laundry room to stow a little box in. But we figured out a solution and went to Operation Kindness(whom I highly recommend) and adopted two cats.

Originally, it was just supposed to be one cat but you know how that goes. We ended up looking at two kittens from the same litter(we didn’t know that before we looked at them)and Sam we couldn’t bear to separate them. May I present the boys Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brandybuck–Pip and Merry for short. acs_0840I’m a writer and I couldn’t pass up this golden once in a life time opportunity to name two male sibling CATS after the cousin hobbits from Lord of the Rings(underline). The names fit them perfectly by the way.acs_0879acs_0878acs_0880The Hobbits as we call them have been a handful! They were sick and had to go back and forth to the Operation Kindness vet for a few weeks until they were well enough to come home permanently. And they are into everything like kittens usually are. But it’s been fun and we’ve really enjoyed watching them chase each other and rip around the house. It’s been joyful. Pip is the golden boy but Merry is the snuggler. They are adorable.acs_0897acs_0898Our apartment got repainted last Friday and I could not be more excited! I’m in the middle of redecorating our living room and it’s been like going to Disney World! That’s how awesome it is! I’ve been staring at that same beige paint for the last eleven years and I was so so so ready for a change. We also got rid of the red couch we’ve had for an equal amount of time. It was a good couch for a long time but it was time for it to be put out to pasture. I’m really looking forward to show you guys our redecorated living room in a couple of months–once I get it done.img_6407

For the last month or so–since I could climb the stairs again–I’ve been working steadily on my middle grade manuscript. It’s been incredible the progress I’ve made. I really really hope to have the first draft soon. Like, so so soon. I want to make a living writing books and I’m determined to see it through. I’m so passionate about this manuscript. I come alive writing for children and I’m really good at it–and I understand what an awesome thing it is to be able to say that. Not many people can write for children and even less of those people love it and are as passionate as I am. I love writing for children. It’s the best audience I could imagine. I confess, my dream is to get my manuscript signed with a publisher this year. So there’s been a lot going on for me.acs_0885

Trying to translate what my day to day looks like to non-writers is difficult because from the outside it looks like I just sit all day. Sit and write, sit and read, sit and research, repeat. But from the inside I’m running around in a complete and totally different universe; orchestrating, observing, cataloging, asking questions, adventuring, and feeling. When I get done at the end of the day I’m exhausted most of the time–but in the best way. I’m trying to find better ways of sharing that side of my life with “the outside world”.

So that’s a little bit of whats been going on with us. Soon, I want to share our loft we turned into a home library. It’s not complete because my back went out in the middle of it, but I’d like to show you the progress we’ve made and my ideas for the rest of it.

We have plans for the Fourth of July with friends and we plan on watching the fireworks at KaBOOM town. I hope y’all have a fun and safe Independence Day. I’ll be back soon with more DIY projects and my summer reading list. In the mean time check out this adorable blow up sprinkler I’ve been trying to find an excuse to buy, and these gold sandals that I am living in this summer, and this artist I’m dying to work with.

Maegan

An Autumn Recap

Where did fall go? I feel like it was just here and now tomorrow is December 1st and the Christmas season is already in full swing. I have missed you guys so much! It’s completely inexcusable how long I’ve been absent and I can’t wait to catch up! So much has happened in the last few months and I can’t wait to get you all caught up on what’s been going on in my life. And I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. This is going to be a long one so you’ll probably want to grab your favorite beverage and a snack.

So the last in-depth post left us back in September right before my birthday. I made the decision to take a quick break from social media during my birthday weekend this year and a lot of you were wondering where I went. To be honest, I was dreading my birthday this year, but it ended up being one of the best birthday’s I’ve had in a long time. It was low-key but in the best way. Sam custom ordered unicorn cupcakes from Gigi’s for my birthday and then took me to Kendra Scott for some birthday shopping. Then we went to see Crazy Rich Asians at the Alamo Draft House–best place to see a movie–and it was so good! I loved it so much I put it on my Christmas wish list.The next day I got to meet Alicia Yoon at a local Ulta–she and her team have been on tour throughout America since she launched her line of skin care with Ulta–and I got to check that off my bucket list. And she told me I had beautiful skin!!!! OMG. I about died in the floor. That is such an incredible compliment coming from someone who’s skin is the MOST flawless, beautiful skin I’ve ever seen. Like glass skin perfection. It was unreal. And she was the most down to earth, sweet person. There’s a saying about never meeting your hero’s because you’ll be disappointed but that’s not true because meeting Alicia in person was more wonderful that I expected. It was the best!Sam and I rounded out my birthday weekend with a trip to the Dallas Zoo the next day. The weather was cool and overcast so we didn’t melt and I got to feed the giraffes–which is pretty much why I go to the zoo–several times because there were no crowds to fight. It was an unexpectedly happy and eventful birthday. I was relieved.Then the next few days Sam and I spent packing for our family trip to Gulf Shores, AL. I’m telling you, I checked a lot of things off my bucket list this year. I’ve always wanted to visit Alabama ever since Reese Witherspoon’s Sweet Home Alabama movie. And I fell in LOVE with Alabama! Honestly, I think I could live there. We were supposed to be spending a lot of time off shore fishing but then hurricane Michael came in. And though hurricane Michael missed Gulf Shores it still affected the water so we weren’t able to get out into the Gulf. But we still tried our hand at fishing in the few surrounding bays. We didn’t catch much but we did have a lot of fun! For a Texas girl it was odd to see all those big trees growing right up to the banks of salt water. I loved it though. It felt more like lake fishing in a way until a porpoise or stingray would surface next to the boat. We went down to the beach the last day we were there and I got to experience my first ever hurricane up close. We could see the edge of the hurricane swirling just off shore–it was eerie. I’ve never seen the ocean so angry either. The waves really did roar and thunder and beat against one another. It was fascinating and frightening. The last day I started to feel like I had a cold coming on. And I was really miserable on the drive home. We got home and went to the doctor for medication and was sick with a bad virus for two weeks. Then Sam got sick and overall it took about a month for the both of us to get over it. The week after we got back Sam’s parents came to visit for the weekend and after they went home they both got sick as well. We spent most of the month of October just trying to get over our illness.Meanwhile I had been brain storming whether or not I wanted to start a beauty YouTube. I have so many people text, snap, and insta-message me about skin care and makeup that I had decided to start a YouTube. I did my research on how to get started, what equipment I would need, etc and made my announcement on insta-stories. But then three days later as I was waiting for equipment to come in the mail and working on my book Lemon got attacked during an evening walk by a dog at a local park. Our Halloween plans were canceled. We took Lemon the very next morning(Halloween) to the vet and it was an ordeal. Lemon had to have surgery and then be in a cone for two weeks before she could get her stitches out. She also had to adhere to strict bed-rest which meant my constant supervision–unless I kept her in her kennel. I felt so heartless making her stay confined. And besides that, she was in a drunken stupor for several days after her surgery and she kept us up half the night crying the first night–very anti-Lemon behavior. We think it was the disorientation from the anesthesia. So I got pretty much nothing done for two weeks.Meanwhile, I tried filming my first video for my YouTube channel twice and both times the film was unusable. I had no idea how complicated trying to film would be. There were a lot of user errors and then some of the equipment I was using just wasn’t working–like my battery wouldn’t stay charged and my SD cards were too small. I got really overwhelmed. I was also trying to work on my manuscript as well which pretty much got pushed out of the picture. I thought I would sit down and film for an hour and be done but the very first time I filmed it took me six hours. Yes, six hours. That’s insane. YouTube is no joke people.As I was trying to figure out the YouTube stuff I realized I had let the October and November go almost completely by without posting any pictures of my fall decor or talk about the improvements we made to the loft. I also needed to start prepping for Christmas and our upcoming trip to Denver.

Then I had a dentist appointment to have my implant measured for its crown that went’ dreadfully. It put me out of commission for several days and had to be rescheduled. I went again a few days ago as of writing this and found out that the implant is good so we can proceed. It’s been an ordeal. All the dental work I’ve done this year has been ridiculous and really time-consuming in a way that I can’t really show on social media. I still have another appointment in December and let’s just say I’ll be so relieved when this is all over.We alternate holidays with our families and this year Sam’s family decided to forgo getting together for Christmas and to meet the first week of December in Denver. So that meant Sam and I would be alone for Thanksgiving and I needed to get a menu prepped for that as well. But as we rolled into the week of Thanksgiving we got last-minute tickets to see the Cowboys play on Thanksgiving day. There are people who plan and save their whole life to get to be at a Cowboys game on Thanksgiving day and I am so blessed to have gotten to do that. And if you saw the game or watched it from home you know it was an awesome game! The Cowboys played really well and they won! It was a spectacular Thanksgiving day. Another thing to check off my bucket list

And somewhere in the middle of all that I missed my one year blog anniversary! I have officially been blogging for one year and I’m so very proud of myself. I hope to have many years of blogging ahead of me!

As I type this Sam and I are getting ready to go out of town to Denver for our late Thanksgiving with family. I don’t remember a year that Sam and I traveled so much and I am grateful beyond measure. We have so much fun activities planned for our Denver trip I can’t wait to share them here when I get back. We will have very little time between this upcoming trip and Christmas in Nashville. I’m hoping for a white Christmas this year!

I hope you all had a yummy, satisfying, and thankful Thanksgiving. Thanks for hanging out here until the end of this post. Thanks for hanging in there and waiting for me to return. I appreciate your investment.

Maegan

Our First Month as Foster Parents

I struggled with how to begin this blog post. How do I even begin to describe the whirlwind of life-changing events that was the last thirty days? Being first-time parents and foster parents has been a dream come true and overwhelming at the same time. It has involved all the emotions, struggles, and triumphs of being a first-time parent with the added stress of meeting the demands of foster care.

The Takeaway

I would have to say what I have learned the most from my first month as a foster parent is that the stress of foster care doesn’t come from actually taking care of the children. It’s not the crying, or the sleep deprivation, or the fact that I sometimes have nothing clean to wear and I haven’t taken a shower in three days–though those things pose their own challenges. The stress and the ‘negative’ that is the dark cloud hovering over foster care stems from meeting the demands of the actual foster care ‘system’.

Baby E

In the first month of Baby E’s life, she went to four doctors visits, four visitations with her bio parents, one visit from her lawyer, a court hearing (she did not attend), two visits from our agency, and a home visit from her CPS case worker. That is so so much to do for a regular adult–much less an infant. It’s taxing on her and it’s taxing on us–not that we are complaining. Our agency properly prepared us for what was ahead and it is a responsibility we gladly accept. It is hard to watch her struggle with such a demanding schedule, and though there is only so much that an infant can take, it doesn’t matter if she is having a rough day or if it would probably be in her best interest to stay at home and rest, she is obligated by the state to be at whatever visit or appointment they say she has to be.

I’ve also learned that is doesn’t matter what age a child is when they come into foster care, they ALL struggle to cope. I can only imagine how much harder it is for children who are old enough to understand what is happening around them. For Baby E, we all hope this is just a blip in her life–no matter what the outcome–and that she never remembers any of her foster care experience. On the other hand, just because she will most likely not remember, she still experiences the effects of going through the process of foster care. It doesn’t exempt her from how hard it is.

If I could get each person reading this post to come to the CPS office just one time with me and you could see the brokenness, the darkness, the sadness, and the hopelessness of that place, you would all be lining up to be foster parents. Not to mention, it is physically one of the filthiest places I have darkened the doorway of in my life–and I have been on mission trips to impoverished countries where people were grateful to have cardboard boxes to live in. Dropping Baby E off at the visitation office is the most gut-wrenching, stress-inducing, heartbreaking experience. I’m not going to sugar coat it for anyone. It is miserable. I’m not allowed to stay during the visit so I have to occupy myself for two hours until she can be picked up again–and we do this once every week. It is important for her to see her bio parents every week and I know this.  But, it doesn’t make it any easier on me to hand her to CPS and walk away. Each time, I have to remind myself that this is not about me and that no matter how afraid I am, God is in control. Sam and I are here to help Baby E because she needs someone to help her. If she didn’t have us, who else would be able to take care of her?

There are hundreds of kids who come into foster care every month just like Baby E. It is not some far-off distant imaginary thing that happens to someone else. Can you see how much these kids need you to help them? If Sam and I hadn’t decided to be foster parents, who would Baby E have right now? If not us, then who? It just breaks my heart to know how many children right this minute–not tomorrow, not ten years from now–have no one. Are you hearing me? They have NO ONE to be there for them. And guess what? That doesn’t mean that they still don’t have to do EVERY. SINGLE. THING. Baby E is having to do. Are you hearing me? These kids still have to go to every visitation, every court hearing (children four years and up have to attend hearings), every CPS visit, and every doctor appointment on their own. ON. THEIR. OWN. Are you hearing me? There is not one excuse for why every person reading this is not involved directly with a child in foster care. If you’re a Christian, then you really have no excuse. James 1: 27.

As the Foster Parents

I would say for us the struggle has been watching Baby E cope with her situation. She is a really easy baby with a sweet disposition and is not really prone to crying or fussing. And in the beginning, when she would come back from visitation, it was like they handed me a totally different child. She was a total emotional wreck when she would come home from visitation. Hours of crying and whimpering and needing to be held constantly. Constantly. Once I could get her calmed and soothed, she would be OK until I would try to lay her in her bassinet so she could get some rest or so I could go to the bathroom. Instantly emotional eruption. She would cry so hard all day long that she would make herself hoarse. The first month, I was the only one at home with her after a visitation and I was really just winging it on my own. A few weeks ago, Sam was able to be home with me on a visitation day and he was really blown away by how rough it is on her. It is rough for many reasons and thankfully it is getting better as we have figured out how to help her transition, but is it still something no child should have to deal with on her own.

Sam and I have had to learn how to manage her schedule in a way that takes some of the burden of this whole process off her too. She is definitely the victim of her circumstances and even though she didn’t put herself in foster care, she still has to abide by all the state rules and do as she is told. So, we have learned that there are just certain pre-visitation and post-visitation activities that we do or do not do. This has helped to reduce a lot of stress for her and us. We are learning there are just certain things that trigger her and certain things that soothe her.

I have also learned that our agency is an invaluable resource and support. I have no idea how anyone is fostering without the help of an agency. I really don’t. They have really guided us and helped in ways that I never could have anticipated. To me this is such a big deal I’ve written an entire blog post dedicated to this topic. If you are considering becoming a foster parent please, please, please find a great agency. Your experience will be so much better. I promise.

People’s reactions to Sam and my new life has been quite educational. People have one of two very distinct reactions–they either think what we are doing is amazing and inspirational and they are in turn very supportive, or they are very negative and distrustful of our decision. For example, the supportive person uses words like, what a blessing, thank you, I’ve always wanted to know more, how can I help, I’m so glad you can help Baby E. The negative person uses words like, I don’t know how you do it, don’t get too close, it is probably not going to work out, foster care is such a broken system, I have a friend (usually quite distant and removed and this person is truly ignorant and has no first-hand knowledge of the actual foster child or their situation) and it was a nightmare for them, just don’t get your hopes up.

Surprisingly, I haven’t been upset, but rather enlightened, by people’s opinions. And it’s very telling about what kind of person I’m dealing with. The person that uses supportive words unconsciously tells me that they look at foster care from a selfless place seeing the needs of others before themselves. The person who uses negative words unconsciously tells me how selfish they are. Foster care is about them and what they can get out of it. If it is too hard, or painful, and not all about them in the end, they have nothing positive to say.  So just know that I know who really supports Baby E and what Sam and I are trying to do, and who doesn’t as soon as they open your mouth.

And even after all the hard stuff I just shared–and I have just mentioned a lot of hard things–we have gotten to take care of Baby E and that has made it ALL worth it. Seriously. It is worth it. Sam and I get to take care of this precious sweet child who God knew before she was born and called her by name. We have already made so many wonderful memories with her. So many wonderful memories! And, it feels good knowing that I am making a positive life-changing impact on another person’s life, and in turn, on the world.

Foster care has also been a balm to my mama soul because it has allowed me to be a mother–despite all the hardships. I feel better now than I have in several years. I’m in the middle of writing a big blog post about this topic because I want people–especially women–to know how being a foster mom has changed me and empowered me and given life to my bones. I want you to know my experiences. So more coming on that soon!

I’m excited to see what the next month holds. Baby E is growing like a weed and is the sweetest, cutest little girl ever! If you would like to know exactly how to become a foster parent,this blog post has everything you need to know. If you missed her latest hearing update, you can find ithere.

Maegan

The Call

I sit here writing this at a very late hour bleary eyed and incandescently happy. Friday afternoon we got a phone call for our first placement– a little girl fresh off the press. In a matter of hours CPS brought her to us and after a mind boggling two and half hours of paperwork our agency case manager and CPS packed up and left us alone with a precious, tiny baby girl. My head is still spinning a little.

We actually got our first phone call for a placement the day before; Thursday. That was such a nerve wracking phone call, mostly because of the unknown. The unknown is the hardest part of this entire journey to be sure. I was a nervous jittery wreck by the time they called us back. I just felt so much anxiety about the whole thing. It was definitely a learning process as we were under the impression that once they called us we would have a definite placement–this is not the case as we soon learned. What really happens is our agency is contacted about a placement, Upbring goes through their database for suitable families, they choose families and then start making phone calls. Upbring calls and ask if you are willing to take the placement and then they tell you they will alert CPS you are a willing candidate. Upbring alerts CPS and then CPS looks through the list of families and then decides which family is the best match for the child. Then your agency calls you back–eventually–and lets you know if you’ve gotten the placement or not.

So, Thursday we got a phone call, and when they called back to tell us we didn’t get it I was really really disappointed. I cried a little. I was more upset that I had misunderstood the process and I felt, understandably, that we had been misled about the process. But Sam was quick to point out that Upbring just can’t tell CPS that we will take the child–we have to give consent. That means they have to call us, and then update CPS, and then call us back. We just misunderstood.

We weren’t expecting another phone call so soon after our first. We were actually on our way out the door to IKEA on Friday when my phone rang. This time I felt completely at peace after they called. I think because I really knew what to expect I was much more calm and relaxed. They had a placement needing a family, we said yes and twenty minutes later I got a text from our case manager that our placement would be happening that day and the CPS agent was already at the hospital discharging the child. Things moved so quickly we didn’t even have time to go to the store and buy clothes or diapers. In a few hours our agency case manager was here, and then the CPS agent and the little girl.

It really did take about two and half hours to get through all the paperwork, the introductions, and then all the information they had to relay from the hospital. Once that was said and done, the CPS agent left and then our case manager made sure we were comfortable, answered all our questions, reminded us to call her if we had any questions or concerns and left too.

It was late at night by this time, but we still had to go to the store to pick up things Baby E (that’s what we are calling her) needed right then. So we–unbelievably–put this baby we’d known for a few hours in the car and went to the store. Yes, it seemed nuts to us too. But, it went beautifully. The next morning our case manager text me to check in and see how we were doing. Just one of the many reasons fostering through an agency is the best way to foster.

So far things are going very smoothly. She’s already almost back up to her birth weight, and she’s eating and sleeping well. What the future holds for Baby E is unsure but for right now we are enjoying her! She is the sweetest, cuddliest thing ever. Lemon loves her too! We have been so so so blessed to have so many family, church family, and friends be so excited and supportive of us and Baby E! She is already loved by so many people.

The next couple of weeks will go quickly and her first court hearing will be in about two weeks. Please keep us in your prayers as we transition into parenthood; for Baby E and all the important decisions being made that will impact her for the rest of her life; for her bio-parents; and for every person who is involved in the decision making process for Baby E. Whatever is decided we want what is best for Baby E.

It did take me a couple of days to get to a place where I had the time to write this post–I didn’t sleep at all the first night so welcome to parenthood–but that is already getting easier and easier as we establish a routine.

Maegan