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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Quiet

When the Fab Four went home the house became quiet. To use the cliche, deafeningly quiet. I missed the giggles immediately. This past weekend as we sailed past 24 hours gone and inched towards the first 48 hours without Solana, the missing laughter is what I noticed first.  Not just from her, but also from my kids.

She's just a funny little being.  She discovers new things daily, and she has this soft little voice and this loud buzzer sound she makes, that you can't help but smile at them.  She only knows the words: up, please, no, Mama, Dada, and hello, but each one seems so meaningful.  We all dote on her and squeal with delight about the new things she does. Having wrapped pretty much the entire family around her tiny fingers, there was a big void this past weekend.

I tried to give latitude to everyone, including myself.  I got up to work on my thesis for grad school and the kids tried to get the rest of their homework done from our trip.  I ignored bickering. I granted lots of snack breaks and blessedly Hubby took them outside. First to do yard work, then on a hike with two stops at Starbucks. I've explained that I was focusing on getting my school assignment done but I'm also hiding a bit, knowing that I am having a hard time and would likely be short tempered.

Court went as I expected. Monday. The department asked for custody to be granted to Dad but the judge granted discretion to the Department To return home.  I think Dad is as ready as he can but, but this gives Solana and us more of a transition. I'm not in favor of a long drawn out process and told the judge that. I know that it doesn't work this way everywhere, but I almost always say something in court. Generally this judge will ask questions and this time he asked if we had a good relationship with Dad. It gave me an opportunity to praise him, explain why he has our support, and demonstrate that we are willing to work with the team. It was slightly easier to do this because Sheila didn't show up until court was over (45 minutes after the call time.) so a few more weeks of overnights and we will move her home.

As of now, Dad has stated he wants us involved.  Likely, we will be helping him on weekends when he works, as childcare could be problematic.  Weekends are also easier for us as we can actually spend quality time with her.  I don't know if it will be every weekend, but we've said we think at least two weekends a month would be best for Solana as once a month seems too infrequent. The 1 1/2 hour drive will also be more easily managed on weekends.

Several readers have asked what we would do if Solana came back into care.  We would absolutely take her as a placement, although I think that scenario is unlikely unless something happens to Dad. Although his illegal status could become problematic as the political landscape changes. Our hope is that we are a support to Dad and he can reach out to us for help when he needs it. He has completed every service in a timely manner, participated in every meeting and did not miss any visits.  The only thing he missed was court, and since his attorney was there, it wasn't held against him. He has no prior involvement with the Department and stepped up to acknowledge his daughter when he didn't have to and family told him not to. This will not be an easy road for him, but he has family support and us as support and I have no reason to believe he won't succeed.  This is foster care working at its absolute best.

It's still hard and sad. We are seeing some really frustrated behavior by Solana and she ignored me for a solid 5 minutes when I saw her at court. Then she wouldn't let me out of her sight.

Simon announced he has a new student coming tomorrow in his class. So there is me- remember how hard it is to be new and make sure you are a friend and nice tomorrow. (Of course he would be, my sweet Simon.) and then he told me her name is also Solana. (Which is strange because her name is not common and is sort of a made up name. It has no language origins.) Great. Hello trigger city....

We are treasuring these last few weeks as we pivot towards our new normal. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Happiest Place on Earth....

Unless you have a sister in foster care who is about to be reunified and will no longer be allowed to live with you.  That's the status of our trip for Simon. Last night he came and found me requesting a hug. About 5 minutes later he came and told me he was really sad. Did I mention we are in Disney World? For the last week? After getting off a Disney cruise? All he should be worrying about is what time the fireworks start and if he can have more cotton candy. Instead, this crappy thing is about to happen in two weeks and it scares the crap out of him. Brings my sweet boy to tears. In Disney World  It broke my heart. I'm trying to focus on the fun and the memories. Trying to memorize all of the fun things and adorableness that is Solana (she literally waves her arms around to every song and shouts "Mimi!!!" When she see Mickey or Minnie. She also learned the words No and yes this week and I swear to God she said "Hello Simon" this morning. I tried to snap some extra pictures of just him and her today and give him a little more time with her. He was sitting next to me when she fell asleep on the Haunted Mansion ride.

I've texted her Dad every day and he recently friended me on Facebook so he has seen all my posts and pictures. He said he missed her but knows that she's having fun and that was all that mattered.

I have to admit though, I cried during the beginning of the Wishes fireworks. There was something about finally being there with my forever children listening to the song "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" while also holding a snugly baby who calls me "mama" who will never remember living with us or this trip that caused the dam of tears to break. We are having such a fun time but the thought that this time is so finite, is never far away. A Dream and a nightmare.

Meanwhile, people are asking me for the kids' Christmas Lists and I just want to answer that all they want is to keep their baby sister in our home. I have zero desire to celebrate Thanksgiving next week.And feel crabby about having to Christmas shop.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Lemons Into Lemonade

Although we are barely holding it together, I can say that we are growing in the pain. I heard Smiley say to us tonight "I don't want to talk about that" when someone brought up a time she got upset (that we as a family thinknis particularly funny).  Sarah admitted that she was overwhelmed at school and decided to ask to go to the bathroom "for a break". Stella has articulated that while she is sad, she is happy for her sister to be able to have a parent she can count on. And then there is my Simon, who has perhaps grown in his ability to connect to us 100%.

My son, who can't stand to be held has requested extra hugs. He is suggesting conversation topics at dinner. He asked me how my day was. And he asked me to come and lay with him in his room tonight. For the second night in a row. And we talked about all kind of things I've never heard him mention before. Memories of his time in the other state he lived in. Memories of his brothers. Things he misses. Places he remembers. "You know how we are going to make a book about us for Solana? Can we make a book about her so we don't forget?"

Leaps and bounds type growth in attachment and communication over here for my children.

Because let me tell you, the lemons kept coming my way this week. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Counting Down...

About 8 years ago, I learned to never walk away from a conversation that would bring me closure.  I was called into a meeting at my side gig (at my church). The writing had been on the wall that I was not long for the position and that there was a fundamental difference of beliefs happening.  We were parting ways and I had the opportunity to say exactly what I was feeling and thinking and so I did.  In a calm, clear voice, I said everything my heart needed to say and I walked away from something I loved dearly, with zero regret.

Today was kind of like that.  The writing is on the wall that reunification is happening, and soon, and I had the opportunity to put everything my heart needed to say, out on the table, so that when Solana leaves, someone I love dearly, I will have zero regret.

Through tears I explained to her Dad that I believed in him.  That I was proud of how hard he has worked and I believed he was ready. That I didn't fear for her safety. But that my biggest fear was that this special bond that our children have would be broken and that my kids would be hurt and not be able to grow up with their sister and that Solana would be hurt and grow up without her siblings.

And through tears he replied that he has siblings he hasn't seen in almost 10 years and he wouldn't do that to his daughter. That he loves her and he knows we love her and she loves all of us and he wants her to be around that.  She could spend one week with us and the next with him and if he was free he would drive her the hour and a half to our house to see us.

I told him we would have her as often as he would let us and that we want to be a support to him.  I asked him about the incident that landed him in jail and he told me he took the plea (even though it sounded like she may have made a bunch of the story up) to get out sooner so that he could visit in person with Solana.

Guardianship or any kind of shared custody isn't possible in this case and its likely Sheila will try to fight for custody and visitation in Family Court. But we worked out a plan so longer visits and several overnights will happen with Dad before the next court date. They will ask for return home and try to get us some sort of transition/ability to let the kids say goodbye. That's if the judge allows. And if he doesn't delay the reunification.

I felt good about this most of today. It's the right thing for Solana.  Her Dad gets it.  He wants us to be a part of her life.  This is the best possible outcome in foster care. It's what the system was designed to do (see it works sometimes!). And many people could only dream of this kind of scenario.

But it still sucks. And tonight when Solana was being smart and adorable the countdown began in my head.  I'll admit when she didn't want to let go of her book at bedtime and wanted Mommy snuggles, I cried. I whispered to her that I loved her and that I always would.  And I tried to memorize the way she smelled and how soft her hands are.  And I curled up in Hubby's lap in our room and sobbed. A big ugly cry, bordering on a panic attack. I'm still crying as I type this.  But that's because we do Foster Care the right way.  We love without strings. We go all in.  We put our hearts into everything. We leave nothing on the table.

I have zero regrets about deciding to take Solana. Or saying no the first time we were asked. I have no regrets about how we approached the relationship with her Dad or the year she will have spent with us. This part at least, makes all the rest of the raw emotion just a little bit easier to deal with.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

It's OK to Say No

I've got several posts started about how we are struggling. There has been so much crying and tantruming that I opted out of family therapy last week. I just couldn't do it. And that's ok.  For the last 2 + years I've sat with my kids and tried to listen and understand and learn. And in the years before them I spent all kinds of hours talking kids through therapy (remember the 2x week therapy with the Fab Four?). But I just couldn't take another session about the importance of telling Mom and Dad the truth or answering a question when asked. And its not their fault, and its not mine.

None of us asked for the trauma. And its okay to say, I need a break.

I've been practicing a lot of self-care. Even simple things like having a cup of tea. Crafting. I gave into the migraine I had and laid down. (Not easily done with 5 kids.)

And this has been enough to help me get my wits about me and get back to quality therapeutic parenting. And it must be working because we managed to go the whole weekend without any tantrums or rages.  Or maybe its October and whatever traumaversary was happening has ended.

Then of course there is the stuff happening with Solana's case. (And maybe the kids have picked up on our stress and sadness about that.)  This week some Facebook sleuthing led me to information that Sheila is pregnant.  She has missed several weeks of visits and a few months ago had ended visits early because she wasn't feeling well. If that was morning sickness, then I think she's probably due in the spring.  About 18 months from when she gave birth to Solana, which is about the spacing between the other kids. So she's ducking the caseworker, sabotaging her case, and putting our family in another impossible position.

How do I explain to my children that their Mom has walked away from their baby sister for another baby?   Or diminish their worry? Or answer the question- will you take the baby?

How do you make the decision to stop helping the siblings of your children?

And why the Hell isn't their mandatory birth control or pregnancy prevention counseling? I mean Heck, I'll pay for the birth control.

A friend of mine said it best, "Who has THAT much sex?" 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Oh Man

Sometimes I feel guilty because the kids have healed so much. I listen and read about others who are really struggling with big, giant, behaviors and issues and I feel like an outsider because we don't deal with it on a constant basis. I'm relieved that we aren't living in that level of chaos daily and guilt ridden by the relief.

And then we have an episode like the one a few Fridays ago that rolled into Saturday and I feel silly for letting myself believe we were in such a great place.  We can't be. The trauma will require life-long adjustments and healing. We always have to be prepared to deal with the triggers and the false sense of stability sometimes knocks me on my ass. When it was daily I felt like I was always at the ready. But when the rage and tantrums come out of nowhere, I feel like I'm totally unprepared. And for whatever reason, those really great trauma parenting skills I've learned are hard to tap into at those moments.

Sarah is struggling right now. She's watching Stella get some responsibility and freedom since entering middle school. There is a major case of envy. Add to that a parent visit day at school and her birthday and mine and we have all the ingredients for a triggered kiddo.  So of course the logical thing for my Sarah to do is just start doing what she wants.

For example:

Me: Where are you going? You are getting on the bus to day care. I will pick you up there after I run my errands.
Sarah: I know

Me: Hello?
Hubby: I got a call from the principal. He said Sarah got confused and started to walk home from school. She said you told her she was going home with you. He told her Mom would pick her up from day care later but he was worried about the wording being triggering that you weren't picking her up now.

Later that day I notice a car driving up and down the street slowing in front of our house. Sarah and Smiley ask to go outside and two girls get out of the car. I go outside and the Mom waves to me and says: "I'll pick my daughters up at 7:30."

I'm sorry?

Me: Sarah?
Sarah: Remember I told you about my friend? I told you she was coming over.
Me: Excuse me? You told me!? I have 15 people coming over for a party in 30 minutes.  I certainly did not give permission, nor did we discuss it. After I get done explaining that to this Mom in my driveway you have some major explaining to do.

Commence Tantrum.

Stomping up stairs, throwing things off the bed. Trying to shut the door on me. Pounding on the floor so loudly the people below setting up for the party could hear. Screaming and yelling. "You're not the boss of me. I don't have to listen. You aren't my Mmm....."

She stayed in her room all night and woke up in much the same space the next morning. When I asked her to sit on the floor for her safety and she iron gripped the bed frame, I called our therapist, something I've not done in the nearly 3 years they have lived with us.

She coached me through the technique. Directed no consequences. Helped me get out of my "typical parenting brain". By the time I went back into Sarah's room, she had gotten unstuck and started with "I'm sorry.". 

She wet the bed that night.

And then it was like it was out of her system.  We even managed a visit with Sheila the next day. No issues.



Welcome!

Hi there! I think my post about Sarah's birthday story got shared on Facebook (thank you!) and we have some new visitors. So if you are stopping by, I first want to thank you for taking the time and say welcome.

A quick run down: We are a family that adopted 4 children from foster care this past June. Additionally, we have my kids' 1 year old sister living with us as a foster placement with a goal of return home which is likely to happen by the end of the year.  Topics I've been writing about lately have been: the adoption process, biological family relationships, foster care, and the behaviors of my children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety, and past depression.  I also write a lot about my feelings on infertility and saying goodbye to kids who have lived in our home.
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My hope is that the honesty I share makes you feel like you aren't alone in your own feelings on your journey. I also hope that our story shines through as one of progress.

Outside of parenting 5 children, I work full time as a paralegal and am wrapping up my masters degree. My husband and I have been married 10 years this year and are living a life we never imagined being so full.