As I mentioned last time, the home study has way more to do with breaking you down emotionally and psychologically than it does with your home. Nevertheless, putting together a home—especially a “legal” foster home—was an important part of the process of putting our family together.
I actually have the adoption process to thank for buying me a house. This doesn’t mean, unfortunately, that the county or the agency provided any money or offered to make a down payment. Instead, the training I received made it very clear that, as much as I loved it, my little cottage under the big tree was not going cut it as a foster home—the nagging thing about separate bedrooms. So I started looking for a bigger—or at least more-roomed—option. What I found was that, in response to the housing boom in the late 90s/early 2000s, rents had gone through the roof as well. The tech boom did have a downside after all.
Being smart, I figured, “Well, if I have to pay this much for rent, I might as well have a mortgage.”
So I did. And do.
Our house is a shoebox—my mother calls it a dollhouse. Those of you who live in the Bay Area and have family elsewhere will appreciate this fun fact: I have four sisters back East, each of whom has a husband and kids. For less than two-thirds of what I paid for my shoebox, they have large houses with two-car garages, big front and back yards, and, in most cases, a hot tub or pool. We have a garage fit for a Vespa (if you drive in very, very carefully to avoid scraping the walls), and a side yard that might qualify as a regulation bocce court on a good day.
As you might expect in a shoebox, the boys and I fit much better in our house when most of us were under five feet. But it’s home, and will be for the duration, barring any emergency. Because dad is not a pet person, our extended family has been limited to anything that can stay in an enclosure: fish, rabbits (which Mark begged for and then promptly decided he didn’t want to feed), and, on and off for many years, hamsters for Daveon.
Our house has gone through three phases of upgrade:
- The work I had to do when I moved in to fix all the things the prior owner’s contractor had done wrong. That guy was either a crook, or inept, or both. His crowning touch was—after much grumbling—replacing a cracked window in the back of the house with a horizontal sliding window. Which he installed vertically.
- The work I had to do to get the house up to “foster home” code. This meant installing a lot of locks on drawers, as well as putting up drywall with the help of my cousin John (by which I mean, he did all the work and I helped). And finally, finding out at around noon on December 23 that the kids would be coming to spend Christmas starting that afternoon, which led to Aunt Leigh—who earns a large star in heaven for her effort—and I trying to build an IKEA bunk bed in about three hours. I hear that the Swedes are a peaceful people, but that afternoon we were cursing them loudly as our most vile enemies. We finally resorted to hammers (for the bed, not the Swedes).*
- The ongoing, endless work we’ve done to adjust our shoebox o the kids’ ever-growing bodies and lives—constantly rearranging walls and closets, adding shelving anywhere we can squeeze some in, moving furniture. If they ever do a reality show on “how many times can you remodel the same 1,000 square feet?,” our place will be in the premiere episode.
If you go the fost-adopt route, prepare yourself for a lot of tweaking to get your home into “legal” shape. Or move to one of my sisters’ towns and buy a big house with a lot more rooms than you think you’ll need. You’ll need them.
*In one of those coincidences that seems to happen all the time, last night I was over at Leigh and Marty’s helping them … build an IKEA bunk bed for their two boys. No lie.
Next: Finding My Kids