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Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Letter to Gabby, On Your Birthday

Dear Gabby,

This week marks your 16th birthday.  The enthusiasm and zeal for life that you have is just as strong as it was when I met you six years ago. The 9 year old that came into my life demanding to know if I knew the song "I Will Survive" is still there and it warms my heart.

I appreciate that you make the effort to continue to include me in your life.  You've always been special that way.  I'm enjoying watching you become an independent young woman and I can't wait to see what you accomplish as you become an adult.  A few weeks ago you included me in your choir concert where you sang the first part of "Tears in Heaven" as a solo. I cried in the audience. We've always bonded over music and I remember hearing this song shortly after you moved home to your Mom and feeling a new connection to the pain of the song.  I feel blessed that I didn't loose you, but I do understand the pain of wondering what it would be like to come across your child after they have left you.

You made sure I didn't loose you. I knew that was one of the things I could count on, that you would find me even if I couldn't find you. Its a privileged to be in your life. I know you have wondered if I miss you or think of you. And I do. I miss you so, so much. There are days I wish you could still be a permanent part of our family. I long for when you are an adult and can choose to spend as much time as you wanted with us. I know watching my children live the life you had with us, is sometimes very hard and hurtful.  But I so love you for accepting it and not rejecting us because of it.

I hope you have a very happy birthday. I will be thinking of you.

Love,

Mom

"Tears In Heaven" by Eric Clapton


Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?

I must be strong
And carry on
'Cause I know I don't belong
Here in heaven

Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven?

I'll find my way
Through night and day
'Cause I know I just can't stay
Here in heaven

Time can bring you down
Time can bend your knees
Time can break your heart
Have you begging please, begging please

Beyond the door
There's peace I'm sure
And I know there'll be no more
Tears in heaven

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you be the same
If I saw you in heaven?

I must be strong
And carry on
'Cause I know I don't belong
Here in heaven

Friday, March 10, 2017

Success

I ordered my cap and gown last week.  I can't even begin to tell you how amazing it felt.  I got a little teary about it. I am almost done. The late nights and weekends writing, reading, and watching lectures are almost done. I have 1 more month of real work and then a month later, my graduation ceremony.

Pretty often in my life people have told me aim lower in my goals. They were afraid that missing the mark, would mean heartbreak for me.  And I have. I have missed the mark a few times. I've failed spectacularly! But I like to think those failures have allowed me to accomplish so many other things.

15 years ago I failed at being able to apply for medical school. Then I failed at applying to law school.  The two failures were related, my GPA was so low from the Organic Chemistry, and Math I bombed that even though I did decent on the LSAT I was rejected from all 7 law schools I applied to. 

In a few months, I will graduate with a masters degree from one of those law schools. With a 3.967 GPA. While working full time AND mothering 5 children.

So what does that tell us?

The measurements others use to gauge the ability to succeed might be way, way off.

Sounds familiar doesn't it?

On paper my kids seem to be in really rough shape. Reactive Attachment Disorder. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Multiple placements. Exposure to Domestic Violence. Neglected. History of anxiety and depression.  We have IEPs and 504 Plans.

None of that measures our ability to succeed as a family.

It has been (and will be) hard, hard work to keep them stabilized and healing. We've had to learn an new way of parenting. We've had to be vulnerable on a daily basis. We have made mistakes. At times we fail, spectacularly.

But my kids are doing phenomenal and unless I pointed out the signs of their trauma history, you would likely have no idea. (Well maybe you would as fellow parents of kids with trauma...)

Don't be afraid to aim high. When I walk across the stage to receive my diploma in two months, the family I aimed for will be in the stands cheering. Its just as much their success as it is mine.




Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Guardianship

It was 11:45pm. All the kids were asleep. Hubby was out with friends. My phone rang and showed it was Solana's Dad calling. I thought maybe he accidentally dialed. I answered yellow and on the other end was shouting, crying, panic. I thought he was being raided by immigration. I've been really fearful of that lately.

"Foster Mom R! Something is really wrong with me. I feel like I'm dying. Please! You have to take care of Solana. Please. Please promise me you will always take care of her and tell her how much I love her and that I'm sorry I couldn't always be there. I need to know she will be okay."

So of course I'm trying to figure out what the Hell is happening while also trying to get him to take breath and calm down. I managed to determine he had called a friend who was on the way and he wasn't having a seizure. It was 3 minutes of fear and promising I would take care of her and tell her that he loved her. A woman picked up the phone and told me she called an ambulance and then the phone disconnected.

An hour and a half later the phone range again and it was Solana's Dad talking about how he needed to see his daughter and the friend got on the line again. He was at the hospital and the doctor was examining him. I waited up until about 3 AM but didn't hear anything. Finally, at 1 Pm he messaged me to thank me again and apologize for worrying us. He said was so worried about Solana and was talking with God before the paramedic revived him.

He was discharged today but has no explanation of what happened. Solana was here for the weeekend and he asked that we keep her a few extra days to make sure nothing else happens to him.

This person trusts me so much, in his final breaths on Earth he called me to beg me to take care of his daughter. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. (And like they could stop me from fighting for her....) But I'm not sure how many other people in my life would use their last phone call on me. It's both an awesome and sad statement. Some strangers who adopted his ex-girlfriend's kids are now the people he trusts the most with his daughter.

The court granted him custody last week and reserved decision on whether Sheila made progress or not as they were waiting on the parental capacity report and because the outcome of Dad being granted custody would have been the same.

The preliminary information is that Results of the parental capacity were not in Sheila's favor. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Returned Home

Monday was hard. Probably the hardest Monday I've ever had. Like ever. In my life.  I was trying to remember the last time I felt so emotionally drained and I can only come up with the night my Grandmother passed away and I spent all night awake, sobbing.  Which was pretty much what I did after Solana left with Caseworker #4. 

We played and snuggled in the 30 minutes we had between the Licensing Worker and CW#4 showing up. I wrapped her in her blanket whispered I love you and I'll see you Friday and handed her over.  I sobbed behind the window as I watched the car pull away. 

I sent Hubby a text that she was gone and then I called my Mom.  She offered to bring me lunch and said she'd be over in a few hours.  I tried to get some work done and when I couldn't see through the tears decided a cat nap was necessary. I ended up asleep by 9PM, after video chatting with the dancing queen.

Here we are almost at Friday and I have to say I'm fine. Re-charged even.  I woke up Tuesday to a really sweet message from my BFF and decided that my next role as advocate was equally important. I went to a meeting with a local Child Advocacy Center to see how my company could partner to volunteer and spoke about our situation with, dare I say, poise, and enthusiasm. Because you know what? I can't come up with a single reason not to share our situation with EVERYONE involved in the system.  I want to point and shout and say see, SEE what happens when adults act like adults and the kids come first? From Bio Dad to Foster Parents, to Caseworker, to the Judge. This is what a team approach is. And it CAN work.  It doesn't have to be broken. 

I told CW#4 that this, their 1st case, will be the best case they ever have. After all, I have been a foster parent for 6 years and have watched a lot of horrific stuff.

The kids are doing good.  They have all commented that they like talking to her each night and agree that it doesn't feel any different being "official".  They like having her here on weekends and while at first they were angry, its now okay.  We've not seen too much acting out behavior and I think what we are seeing isn't related to Solana going home.  We do have some family bonding time scheduled this weekend for our family tradition of watching the Superbowl and a few family trips scheduled in March. Hubby and I also have a trip planned just the two of us in May and I'm counting down the days to that one!

I am still planning on going to the next court date. They don't have to let me in, but given my support of Bio Dad its not likely anyone will kick me out. Sheila is back in town and has requested visitation so we will see how that shakes out.

Thank you all for your kind words, prayers, and positive energy these past few months. Our family appreciates them.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Last Night

I didn't hurry home. I had gone to a wake with my Mom and Grandpa and we met my Dad for dinner afterwards. It was a local place from my childhood and I was safely ensconced in the people on this planet who have loved me the longest. We sat and talked about a lot of nothing. My Mom's new obsession with LuLaRoe, bowling with Simon, what we will do for the Super Bowl next weekend. My Dad drove me back to their house to get my car and we talked about vacation plans for this summer. It was mundane. It was normal. It was avoidance.

I arrived home to find that Solana was asleep already. Even though I was avoiding it, I was instantly sad. Hubby said she had just gone down and was probably still up but when I knelt beside her crib, she was sound asleep. I missed rocking her to sleep on the last night she was "ours". 

I spent a few minutes there on the floor, next to her crib, silently crying. I can't explain why this seems so incredibly sad. She'll be back this weekend and the ones after that and she's going back to Disney World with us and her Dad has already said I'm still her Mom. All signs point to nothing changing except the paperwork of where she resides. 

It's just a piece of paper. Oh how many times have I said a piece of paper doesn't matter? Oh but it does...

 I don't understand the reaction I am having. I know it's going to be fine. I'm not worried she is unsafe. I'm not worried she'll disappear. This is the best possible solution. But I'm so, so sad.

Maybe this is the feeling you get when the last bits of hope leave your heart?

The baby we never wanted, the one we didn't know we needed. The one who won't stay but will. My Sunshine. My Solana. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

When the Doorbell Rings

Just when I think I'm going to run out of stuff to Blog about, the Universe comes in and goes "NOPE".

I'm sorry to bum everyone out with my grief posts. It's the way I process all of the feelings so that I can go back to my every day responsibilities of mothering my family.  I purge it here and then I can muster up the composure for my kids.... who seem to be doing okay by the way.  When I mentioned the new schedule will be pretty close to how it will be after Solana officially leaves Sarah responded "oh, well then I don't care that she is moving because this is fine." She clarified that she does care, but it's not this big thing that they were worried about and that she would disappear from our lives like her other family. Solana left for her visit earlier this week and for the 3rd time when the doorbell rang she immediately started to cry, and we weren't even one the 1st floor of the house with our coat on waiting. It was heartbreaking.

If you've been following along on Facebook you know that Sheila has left our state and gone back to where the kids' other 2 siblings are. She's not been back there for 4+ years.  She believes she can go help her youngest child there because they are "sick in the head" like Simon was and "since [Simon] has been with you he is fine...he just needs attention".  I responded with his actual diagnosis of PTSD, extreme anxiety, a suspected physical abuse history, and a rule out for RAD but that of course didn't mean anything to her.

What I thought in my head: Simon is healing, but he is not fine. He will probably struggle with these things his whole life. And its because of intense therapy and a ridiculous amount of structure and consistency that he is doing so well.  

She tried to explain to me why she left the other kids behind and I think she believes being there now somehow makes up for that abandonment.  Of course we know that isn't going to fix anything and I worry that she will decide to bring them back here and it will become another decision for us to make. I'm hoping she went out of state to give birth (if she is pregnant) and that she will stay there*.

She did send amazing pictures of the kids that we will treasure and cherish. We also got videos of some family members and she decided to have a call with the kids.  These were appreciated and I told her so. It almost made up for her popping into our lives with this other drama. Almost.

I'm not sure how long she will stay there but she did not acknowledge or ask about Solana in any way while she was on the phone, even though Solana was screaming in the background. After she spoke to the kids she thanked me for taking care of "her" kids and said that she knows "four is a lot" and "thank you for doing my job basically" and that I'm a strong woman she looks up to. It felt very much like the things she would say to me when we had just become the foster parents.  And I wanted to scream: FIVE. I HAVE FIVE OF YOUR KIDS. AND THEY ARE NOW MINE AND I AM DOING YOUR JOB BECAUSE I AM THEIR MOTHER.

I don't know how much her family knows about the adoption but maybe someone was having a heart to heart with her?  Regardless, I'm over here watching her walk away from her baby and I just can't even wrap my head around it. I only arrive at the answer that she must be in some major denial. I'm sure this has to do with the timing of Solana's case and return home and maybe she will get some support but a cross country trek and then a side trip the other direction for a day or two just seems like she must be in some sort of episode.

So we have birth sister leaving, birth family coming out of the woodwork, and Stella has a family tree project that she misses for school.

Special instructions: If you are adopted you are special. You may choose either family.
Yeah...I re-read the sentence a few times so I could make sure I wasn't reading into it the wrong way. It really is as offensive as it seems to those of us in fostercareland. But people don't understand that. ::sigh:: Okay, I guess I'll educate everyone.

We are not choosing. ALL of these people are family. They make up the whole child.  Would you tell a bi-racial child they needed to pick either their white family or black family to include? No? Okay, well same goes for adoption. And while yes my kid is special, she isn't special because she is adopted. Just like she isn't special because she has black hair. The implication there is "different". Now perhaps my kid doesn't want to explain to everyone she is adopted, but certainly the traditional family tree model doesn't work for the majority of families anymore either?  What about divorced or deceased parents? (Or your biological sibling who has a different father and isn't related to either your mom or your dad!?!) Its crazy making. We can't be the ONLY adoptive family in the district .And the saddest thing is I love the ancestry and family make-up projects. Stella missing the deadline for it meant we didn't get to sit down and really go over and share about the people she was naming on her tree.

Oh well, I guess we do it with Sarah in two years. Hopefully, by then, the alternative format will be available.

*Sheila in the other state means that we are not put in another impossible position. If she is pregnant and she has a baby, then we don't have to make a choice. I don't want her to be pregnant and I don't want the baby to be in harms way if she is, but I don't want to have to follow her down the rabbit hole of poor choices.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

January 1, 2017 - A Letter to Solana

Dear Solana,

Today you and I had time just by ourselves.  Just you and I.  Its such a rare occurrence given that I'm the Mom in a house with 5 kids, a Dad and a dog. This was more than our 15 minutes alone in the car together where you either fall asleep or scream your head off.  We played. We ate lunch together. We snuggled. And I got to whisper to you "I love you" over and over again. I told you how smart you are. I told you that I was proud to be your "Mama" and you pointed to me and repeated "Mama" and then I said "Solana" and you pointed to yourself. And then you gave me a kiss and squealed in delight. And inhaled your sent, the baby detergent and the fine curls on your neck and I tried to burn the memory of how you felt in my arms deep into my brain.

This New Years Day marks time for us.  Time that will fly by. A blip in your life, really, but likely a turning point in mine. In 30 days you will officially cease to be my responsibility and Caseworker #4 will come for their last visit with us and take you to live with your Daddy.  I know your Daddy loves you and that you will be safe.  I know that he will continue to let us see you and that you won't know anything has happened because you will live at his house and at ours.  But that visit means you won't be our daughter and you will become the baby that we had to let go. The baby we never thought we wanted and had no idea that we needed. You completed our family in ways that I never could have imagined and its hard not to fear what a big gaping hole we might be left with.

But you were worth every moment. They will ask me how we could say goodbye? And I will say because she was worth it. Knowing that you will always know what a loving family felt like, what comforting touch and kisses were, that you flourished in a safe home, will be worth any amount of pain I feel about you leaving. They will ask "Didn't you get attached." And I will say, "Yes, that's what she needed. And I would do it again. I would crawl through glass to make sure she had the proper attachment." And they will say things like "I don't know how you do it" or "I could never do it" and I will simply shrug because you gave us such a gift, I can't imagine not doing it.

I didn't know we needed a baby. I had no idea how quickly love could come into my heart. I didn't know it was possible to love Daddy more until I heard him singing about turkeys while changing your diaper on that first day. I had no idea how helpful seeing a baby crying and parents caring for that baby would be to your siblings piece together unconditional love or at the very least, trust in parents who signed up for forever.  I didn't know I could find joy in something as simple as watching you experience music. Even as you leave us, you are still teaching us to be better versions of ourselves, freer in our emotions and feelings, and generous in our compassion.  It's been a privileged to be your Mama and its a privilege to be a part of your Daddy's support network. Only a special girl like you could make such a difference in so many people's lives.

You are destined for great things my little one. Great things.

All my love sweet pea,

Mommy R