Thursday, March 27, 2014

Homemade Yogurt

When I first thought about making my own yogurt, I was scared out of my mind. How long does that take? What all do I have to buy? Would I have to order special ingredients online? It probably costs way more than the store bought tub of plain yogurt. And it is probably a complicated process to make yogurt.

After adopting a sweet, little girl, who could eat a gallon of yogurt all by herself if we let her, I’ve decided to figure out this yogurt making business. After researching lots of recipes online and spending way too much money on store bought yogurt, I have finally converted over to making my own.

It is so much cheaper than store bought. And it is really EASY to make. All you have to do is turn your crockpot on and off. That simple. If you can’t do that, then you have other problems.

Click here for the recipe that I use. This recipe is plain and unsweetened.

If you can’t stand plain, unsweetened yogurt like I do, add some sugar (or splenda) to the yogurt before you let it sit for 8-12 hours. I would start with a ¼ cup and work your way to a ½ cup of sugar, depending on your sweetness preference. And you could even add a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract to give the yogurt more flavor.

After the yogurt chills in the refrigerator, I spoon individual serving sizes into small plastic containers and add a couple of tablespoons of pie filling to each container for flavored yogurt.

Here is the break down on the cost of plain yogurt:

Store bought (generic brand, in the pint size container) plain yogurt for 2 quarts: $3.76
Homemade plain yogurt for 2 quarts: $1.90
-I can get milk at Sav A Lot for $3.80/gallon. I only need a half of a gallon for this recipe.

Using the homemade version, I saved $1.86 on plain yogurt. And I make this recipe twice a month. Let’s do some simple math to see how much I could save in a year by making my own yogurt:

Storebought plain yogurt:  $7.52/month or $90.24/year
Homemade plain yogurt: $3.80/month or $45.60/year

That’s $44.64 a year that I am saving just by making my own yogurt at home. I know it doesn’t seem like a whole lot of money that I am saving by making it myself, but every little bit helps, especially if you are trying to get out of debt or save up for your adoption. We have a limited amount of income each year because my husband is in school, so if we want to adopt again-debt free, which we do, we have to save every penny!

Ok now let’s talk about flavored yogurt, because I’m sure half of the people reading this hates plain yogurt-like I do. Once again, I really don’t know how my daughter can eat plain, non-sweetened yogurt.

You obviously can’t buy pints (1 qt.) of flavored yogurt, unless it is in Vanilla. You have to buy the individual serving sizes, which wastes a lot of space in your refrigerator and cost a small fortune in your grocery budget.

Here is the breakdown on the flavored yogurt:

Storebought flavored yogurt (for 2 qts.): $5.50
($.50 per 6 oz. of flavored yogurt, generic brand) For 2 quarts you would need roughly 11 containers of flavored yogurt.
Homemade flavored yogurt (for 2 qts.): $3.89
 (I can usually get a can of pie filling for $1.99, but some can be more expensive than this.)

*If you do not want to use pie filling, you could puree your favorite fruit in a blender for a more “natural” yogurt. Frozen fruit can also be a cheaper alternative than fresh, especially if the fruit is not in season.

With using pie filling in the homemade yogurt, I have saved $1.61. I could switch over to frozen fruit and probably save even more. But sometimes I can find coupons for pie filling, which would make my homemade version even cheaper.

Wow, look at these savings! The cost of homemade, flavored yogurt is almost the equivalent of the store bought plain yogurt. And after reviewing these numbers, I am considering switching to the frozen fruit to help save us more mula!

If you are a greek yogurt fan, there are a ton of recipes for homemade greek yogurt. If you find a good one, send it to me and I’ll post it.

For more homemade recipes like this, click here.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Update on the Social Security Number

Wow, so apparently I'm not the only one with this issue. I have gotten some responses via email about how many people this is happening to.

If those of you are just tuning into this blog, please read this post first.

I really don’t have that much of an update on getting our daughter’s social number, but I did receive a call from Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office.

The Social Security office is not processing foreign born adopted children’s social security number applications if you are using only U.S. documents. There was a recent bill that was passed (and I couldn’t find which one) that the Social Security office is having trouble interpreting on how they should process foreign born adopted children’s social security numbers, using only U.S. documents. It also involves Homeland Security. They don’t know how long this hold will be, but it has been going on since February 20th. If you are only using/submitting U.S. documents with your child’s social security application, then expect to wait. But, if you are submitting your child's birth country documents, then you should be ok. You might want to tell the social security office, where you are applying, that the "hold" on your adopted child's social does not apply to you.

Ok, so here is the update on my current situation. Obviously, we have Polish documents that we are submitting to the Social Security office. They should have processed our application. I guess they decided to not process ALL foreign born adopted children’s applications. If they do that, contact your senator or representative. Our local office should have processed our application because we are using Polish documents (birth certificate, court decree, passport). The only U.S. document that we submitted was the Certificate of Citizenship. Senator Mary Landrieu’s office told me that they are in contact with the department head at our local office and that it should have been processed. The nice lady also informed me that that she will ask then to expedite the process because a) they lost my application b) we didn’t submit only U.S. documents. This sounded like great news, but we will wait and see what happens this week.

And thank you anonymous comment:
 Go to the IRS website and file the paperwork for a ATIN. It says allow 8 weeks, ours came much sooner than that. You can then file using that, for up to two years. Good luck!

 That is great advice. But the social security office will mail the new social security number to your house in 2 weeks, so I'm hoping this matter will be resolved this week. And I'm not sure if we would be eligible for that because I think it is for pending adoptions and ours is completed. But of course, I could totally misunderstand their website. Any thoughts?

For those of you who are able to obtain a temporary social or need to get one for your child, here is the website where you can apply:

Wow, too much drama for me...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How hard is it to get a social security number for your adopted child?

Answer: Not that hard. Just fill out some paperwork, send in important documents, and wait a couple of weeks till they mail your child's card to your home. Or bring all of your documents to a local office and wait for a couple hours till they call your number. Then hand them the documents and they make copies, then you go home. That's not very hard at all.

You can read more about that here.

Ok, so maybe I'm just venting on this blog post, which I try not to do on my blog. But this is the straw that broke the camel's back!

We applied for our daughter's social security number 4 WEEKS AGO. They said it takes 2 weeks to get, but I gave them an extra 2 weeks (I'm gracious). So, what's the problem?

Called them on the phone yesterday (spent 1 hour). They couldn't help me because they can't give out any information, especially since I don't have her social security number. Not even application status.

Ok, I went into the local office today. I got my number. Waited for 1 hour. My number was called. The lady couldn't help me because that wasn't her specialty. She said that they would call my number again. Waited another 1 hour. (At this point it had been 2 1/2 hours) Got called again. Explained my situation to another lady. She seemed hopeful. She apologized. They had lost my application. What? How do you loose that? Where are my child's sensitive documents? Filled out another application (good thing I brought all of my documents with me, or I would have to pick another number again on another day!).

After spending 1 hour with that nice lady (not sarcastic, she was really nice), she told me that our application can't be processed right now. Just breathe. Breathe some more. Take another breath before I speak. I asked, very nicely and calmly, "why?". Here is the answer: because they are waiting on more instructions from the government on processing foreign-born adopted children's social security numbers. Basically, they are not processing foreign-born adopted children's social security numbers. The lady couldn't tell me why. She said that she will put the application through and will call me if I need to submit any additional information. At that point, I wanted to say (but I didn't) "yea, you will put my application through if you don't loose it first!" Then she apologized again to me because the last person that submitted our application (Feb 18th, the one that got lost), failed to mention that they are not assigning numbers to foreign-born adopted children. So this has been going on for at least 4 weeks??

On getting our daughter's social security number, this is the amount of time I've spent so far:
Feb 18th: Submitting the application at our local office = 2 1/2 hours
March 19th: Phone call to check application status = 1 hour
March 20th: Local office to check status = 3 hours

Total = 6 1/2 hours (not including driving time)

Does the story end here? Heck NO! I am furious, still am. This is nonsense.

I called Senator Mary Landrieu's office (she is pro-adoption and in Louisiana, total win!). They were so nice (not sarcastic, they really are). I explained my situation and of course, got transferred, explained everything again. At this point I'm on the verge of tears. The nice lady said she would have to call me back. She did call me back. Spoiler Alert: It's still not good. She said that there's some problem with legislation that was recently passed regarding assigning foreign-born adopted children's social security numbers. The legislation is unclear on processing them and some social security offices are waiting for further clarification, then they will process our application. She said she will call me back with any updates and that there are other cases of adopted children not getting their social security number. Great, I'm not the only one.

So the "instructions" that the social security office is waiting for has to do with legislation!!! Oh my! I guess we will have to file an extension on our taxes. That will give us 6 months. But what if nothing is fixed with foreign born adopted child social security numbers in 6 months?? Will they be back-logged? How many people are in front of me?

Bigger question: I see other families that have adopted internationally, roughly the same time that we did, and they got their children's social security number? Why can't I get my kid's social?

Any thoughts? Are there other adopting families out there that are having the same problem as I am? Is there a "secret" social security office that I can go to that will assign my child's social? I am willing to take a airplane, train, car, boat, whatever. I just want my kid's social. Open enrollment for Obamacare ends March 31st. Taxes due April 15th.

Apparently, it's very hard to get a social security number for your adopted child. An act of Congress.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Homemade: McAlister's Sweet Tea

I love, love sweet tea. I grew up in Mississippi where sweet tea was literally at every restaurant. In New Orleans it is hard to find a great place that makes it (if they make it at all) except for McAlister's or Chick Fil A. My favorite (insert sarcasm) when you order sweet tea at a restaurant, the waitress/waiter says, "I'm sorry we have unsweetened tea and I can bring you some sugar". Ummm.... NO! That is NOT sweet tea and I don't want your sugar. The sugar doesn't even dissolve in the ice. Ok, so maybe I'm getting a little over worked up over a drink. Any of you sweet tea fanatics out there? I bet you understand.

For one gallon of McAlister's sweet tea is $5.99! Wow! And between the 3 us, we drink about a 2 gallons a week. We could potentially spend $12 a week on tea if we bought it from there. So I have searched the ENTIRE internet to find the perfect sweet tea recipe. And for my critics, yes, we do drink water throughout the week and we all are not over weight.

Sweet Tea Recipe:
Boil 2 quarts of water and set aside. Put 2 family sized tea bags in the boiled water, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes. Add 1 cup of sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a gallon pitcher. Then fill the rest of the pitcher with cold water (2 quarts of cold water).

Easy as that! And you have great sweet tea. Sweet tea is so much cheaper than buying cokes or pop or whatever you call those carbonated drinks.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Adopt Debt Free: Affording Adoption Group

Become a groupie! Ok, so maybe not really a groupie in a literal sense. But if you want more ways to save for your adoption join this group at Adoptive Families Circle. Anybody in the group can post ways that they are saving for their adoption. And if you have a question about saving/funding your adoption you can post that too. People who have joined the group can comment on your questions. It is a great way to share information and help everyone out who wants to save for adoption.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Grocery Store Shopping in Poland: Ethnic Foods Aisle

Earlier this morning I was reminiscing about our stay in Poland. We were staying in a small town outside of Warsaw. There really wasn't much to do on Friday nights except go out to eat or watch T.V. Like any other small town in the U.S.A., you might venture off to Walmart on Friday nights, because you want something to do on FRIDAY night and not stay at home.

On one of those trips, I've discovered the ethnic foods aisles at Tesco (it's very similar to Wal-mart and they are probably the only grocery store open on Friday night). This discovery was the BEST thing ever! They had Tabasco sauce (from Avery Island, LA), tortilla chips, salsa, and cheese dip! Yea, foods from home! And I'm sure they had some others items, but these stuck out to me the most. These items were ridiculously expensive, but we would treat ourselves every other week or so.

If you are traveling to Poland or if you're in Poland right now, check out the ethnic foods department at Tesco. And please post anything great that you find in the comments.

On a side note, does anybody know of any ethnic foods stores in Poland? Or a great restaurant or grocery store that has American comfort foods?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Adopt Debt Free: Don't Neglect Your Retirement

While on our adventure to adopt debt free, we had three thoughts in the back of our minds. 

1. Retirement
2. Adoption Fund
3. College savings

The first thought, retirement, is something that Wes and I constantly remind each other. If we don't get into the habit of putting money aside right now, we know time will pass by us quickly and we will be knocking on 50s door without any money saved for retirement. We don't want the excuse of "life got in the way". After all, when our children grow up to be adults with families, who is going to pay for my nursing home (and I want a nice one, too).

When we first started saving for the adoption, all of our extra income went to our adoption fund. We went a WHOLE year without putting any money in our retirement fund. Big mistake. We were so focused on our short term goal of adopting, that we forgot about our long term goal, retirement. And retirement is going to cost a whole lot more than one adoption.

It wasn't easy to figure out how to save for retirement and adopt debt free. Unfortunately, we are not millionaires. We want all of our saved money to go to our adoption. It's a tough call to make, or so I thought. Looking back I realized how much we missed out on our retirement by not setting some savings aside for a whole year. That is a lot of compounded interest that we needed to take advantage of. That is a whole year of saving for retirement that we can never get back.

Do I beat myself up for it? No, of course not. Do I regret it? Yes. No. Maybe. I don't know. I can't really say because in the end I got a daughter who is very special to me and that you can not compare to anything.

But what I can say is for our next adoption, we will be putting some savings aside for retirement while we save up for our next adoption. Yea, it will be hard because we like to live in "the now" and not think about "the later". And it might take a little longer to adopt debt free. Ask me in 30 years if it was worth it to put money aside for retirement in my 20s.

If you are thinking about adopting, take a look at your financial situation. Are you putting money aside each month for retirement? How much money do you need to save right now to be able to retire? Dave Ramsey has a great tool on his website that can help you figure out how much you need to save each month for your retirement. Click here for a direct link to it.

In the mean time, while we are saving for our retirement and next adoption, we will be working with the foster care children in our city. We still very much want to take part of the children who are not able to be with their mom and dads. Just because we don't have the money right now doesn't mean we do nothing for the fatherless. 

What are your thoughts on retirement? Are you saving now? Or are you waiting till later?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Parenting an Adopted Child Resource Blog

OK, I am sorry I have been posting a LOT of links to other websites, but this week I keep finding really good ones. And I better post them before I forget about them.

If any of you out there has read the Connected Child book, adopted/foster care, and then realized that the Connected Child is a great resource but I still need more help with my child's behavior. Here is your answer. This website gives great advice and techniques for all kinds of issues your adopted child may be facing. Anyone who has adopted a child from a "hard place" needs encouragement, support, and education on how best to deal with strange behaviors. This website has been a life saver for our family.

Here it is:

This website acts as a blog. It has posts almost everyday from adoption professionals. Every Friday they post a "weekend reading list", where you can read articles to encourage and educate you about your adopted child. They even have a place where you can ask questions to the adoption professionals, which will be posted. This is one blog that I will be following. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Poland Travel Website and Blog

While browsing the web for Poland travel tips and resources, I came across this little gem of a website. The website has up to date information on attractions, hotels, and Polish holidays. This website also has a blog you can subscribe.



Saturday, March 1, 2014

Adoption Letter to the National Adoption Center in Poland

The Polish government does not require you to fill out a specific application to adopt. Instead, you write them a letter asking them to let you adopt. When we first was told of this, we thought "what do we say, 'please let us adopt a Polish child?'". We took to the internet to see if there are any letters out there from adopting families to governments requesting to adopt. And sad to say there was not a lot that we could find. Luckily, our agency gave us a letter that someone else had previously done.

Here is our adoption letter to the Polish government (Society of the Friends of Children). Please use it as an example:

Dear Society of the Friends of Children,

For the last few years my wife and I have wanted to adopt, and about a year ago we decided that it was the right time. We investigated the different options available for adoption and felt that adopting from Poland was best for our family. We are writing to introduce ourselves to you and tell you a little bit why we decided to adopt from Poland.

I am _____ years old, and my wife is _____ years old. We met ______ and have been married for over ___ years now. Ever since being married we have lived in the New Orleans, Louisiana metropolitan area. We enjoy playing games and sports, like _____, together and spending time with family. I enjoy working with ______ and Sarai loves to ______ and _______. We are also both involved in our church. We like animals and have one cat. Sarai currently works for a _______ full time, and Wes is employed ________. We live in one of the beautiful suburbs of New Orleans in a spacious two bedroom apartment.

The New Orleans area has plenty of opportunities for children to grow and have fun. Several great schools are in the area as well as parks and museums. We have many festivals throughout the year in our city. Additionally healthcare is readily available including Children’s Hospital that includes many pediatric specialists.

Sarai and I discussed the possibility of adoption before we were married and knew that it was something we would pursue in the future. My ________, _______, and three of my ______are adopted, some from cultures outside of the United States. We believe that we can be loving parents and care for a child or a sibling group of children. We also believe that we can provide ways for the children to meet and integrate socially with other children. Because we live in a big city we have access to large shopping malls, a zoo, an aquarium, major sports fields, and many more advantages of a big city. One of the reasons we are excited to adopt from Poland is that it is a Hague Treaty Country. Additionally we have developed a love and appreciation for the history, culture, and people of Poland through studying its history. We even started cooking Polish dishes and have started learning a little of the Polish language. We want to educate our children about their cultural heritage and develop an appreciation about where they came from and the great things that the Polish people has overcome and accomplished.

Again, we are excited about adopting from Poland and this chance to make a difference in the lives of these children. We look forward to visiting Poland and continuing in this process.


Wes and Sarai

Be positive and honest. You are letting them know who you are and what your family likes to do. They will possibly try to match you up with a child that enjoys your same interest. 

If you have a similar letter (to any country, not just to Poland), please post your example in the comment section so others can see how you formatted your letter.