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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Spoke too Soon

Oh.my.goodness. We are back to ignoring directions. Asking the same question over and over and over and letting the siblings play Mom and overrule what THIS Mom says.

Por exemplo:

Me: Jelly Bean please get up and get dressed. You have your visit today.
25 minutes later-
Jelly Bean why are are still in your pajamas? What are you doing in the basement? The driver will be here in 5 minutes?
JB: LM told me to go get this for her.
Me: Excuse me?
JB: LM told me to go get this.
*************************************
Me: Jelly Bean, leave those boxes alone.
Jelly Bean, I said leave those alone.
JB: Mom can I open this?
Me: Not yet. You can put it to the side and when all the other presents are in the car you may play with that one.
JB: mom, I want to open this.
Me: JB I already told you my answer. Ask me again and it goes in the car too.
(A few minutes later as I'm trying to consolidate the gifts my mother loving picked out for all of us I hear a package opening)
JB What are you doing?
JB: Opening the box.
Me: The one I just told you to wait to open?
JB: I just asked you and you said yes.
Me: No I did not. You asked me twice I told you to wait. Now the box is going in the car.
**************************
When we'd both calmed down I went over that this Mom does not say things she does not mean. This Mom will follow through each and every single time. ALWAYS. That she could go ahead and test me by asking me the same question over and over but that was going to have the opposite effect of what she wants to have happen.

I'm exhausted by this testing behavior. And knowing that she's doing it because of the increase in visits with her Mom doesn't help with the frustration that I feel because we've been here before and overcome it. I know that Mom threatened to take away the cable from the bedroom JB goes into to watch TV all day while she is at the visits but Mom didn't do it and still let her continue to watch TV after she threw a fit, made a mess and called her a B*tch.

I feel bad for Mom. She's going to get eaten alive by her children. They are going to walk all over her.

And because Mom didn't follow trough, LM did. She walked into the room and turned the TV off on her sister. Which caused Gabby to call me out that night on not spending enough time with her. (Stay with me in the logic here. JB got the attention both at the visit and her behavior at home. Gabby got mad at JB for not listening to her Mom because Gabby's biggest fear is that Mom can't handle JB and that they will do all this work, get home and get taken back into the system. I'm the easy target to be mad at because I can handle her telling me she's angry. And really she knew if she confronted me I would sit and listen and talk with her. For an hour. At bedtime.)

I know I could probably call the caseworker tell her it's too much and cut back a visit this week but I'm not going to. Mom needs to understand what it feels like to have her kids every day. Today's visit is 9 hours. 9 hours is a long time to watch TV. And they were already having issues this morning. She has to see the behaviors they are capable of in order for them to be addressed. It will be very hard to shove behavior under the rug or blame it on being tired, the foster parents, the therapists, or school after 5 days of visits.

And while this is going to make home life suck, I'm hoping this at least gives us some momentum towards and end.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas

We had quite a lot of attention seeking behavior leading up to Christmas but we all survived. The kids got to see their Mom on Christmas Eve and returned home without too much incident except for Mr. Mohawk who was acted incredibly ungrateful and left me very disappointed in him.

They have a visit Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week which will give them a good dose of each other and hopefully allow them to feel more prepared for overnight visits. They will begin mid- January and it seems a plan will actually be in place.

The kids received a bunch of nice things for Christmas and our friends and families astounded me with their kindness. We ended up getting Jelly Bean an iPod shuffle with the stipulation that she had to earn our trust and when she opened it, literally, breathed a sigh of relief and said, "It feels so good to be trusted."

Therapeutic Parenting at your service!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jelly Bean

Dear Jelly Bean,

I know I could have handled things better this morning. I know I could have handled things better this evening. But for the LOVE of Pete can you please stop driving me crazy with the questions. And the fighting with your siblings. And the "never mind" when I ask you clarification questions to try and figure out what the hell you are talking about.

And please, when I ask you to give me a few minutes to walk in the door and shove food down my throat so I don't pass out because its 8pm, do just that. Give me space. It's not a trick. This mom says what she means. This Mom hated having to remind you that if I've already answered a question twice I will ignore the third time and you will not get what you are asking for. You can try to ask me the same question 15 ways I have my answer and it is the same: No. N.O. And really after 2 years you can't tell when I'm crabby and you should leave me be? Grrrr.

Let's try not to break anything in the morning ok? And perhaps avoid bruising your siblings? And maybe not give me a migraine BEFORE I get to work?

Love,

Mom

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's a Good Thing That I Don't Have A Swear Jar

Because if I did I would be bankrupt....." The amount of cursing I've been doing has been on the rise the last few weeks. Are you flipping kidding me? - the favorite.

Because its Christmas and we live in foster care land. Ridiculous abounds. We have attention seeking behavior including plate throwing at siblings heads at 7:00am. We had a caseworker visit until 9:00pm on Tuesday where we laid all the cards in the table and actually asked "what were you thinking with the first overnight ending on Christmas Eve". Sure enough I was right and it was, "They haven't spent a holiday together..." Um BS. What about Christmas Eve last year? When they didn't even celebrate Christmas?

Apparently my angry email stopped the stupidity (or at least slowed it down) so a plan could be put in place. Why we had to explain that this was necessary and wasn't going to happen in 12 days is beyond me.

Oh and then there is that family member who I unfriended and have no desire to talk to ever again. The things she said to me were beyond unacceptable. I don't have time for that junk, nor the energy.

And them there is my job- which I love but is crazy and I'm overwhelmed. And Christmas Eve is 4 days away. I'm in trouble.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Our Happenings

As Christmas is fast approaching I'm seeing an increase in attention seeking behavior from the kids. Interrupting. Constant questions. Helplessness. I have not seen these behaviors in quite some time.

Mr. Mohawk came home Friday from his visit covered in what I believe were hives. I have him an antihistamine and it was much better. By Saturday afternoon- post visit he was itchy again. He called the cow spots because that's what they looked like and they were all over his body. Today- no rash. Anyone want to take beta on if it shows up on Wednesday for the next visit?

Jelly Bean has been a pain in my butt. I know she's scared about this idea of overnights and return home but I so wish she'd take it out on her Bio mom instead of me. (Yes, I know I'm the safe Mom. But the court is going to send her home and she deserves to feel safe.)

LM has been asking some really interesting, tough questions. Like why do you and Dad take us places? Turns out that a cousin she's been seeing at her visits has told her that foster parents tried to buy her love by buying her things and she told LM to be suspicious of our affection too. So she coped an attitude after her Saturday visit. I called her on it and she came clean and confronted me in a safe healthy way. (Via notebook from the backseat of the van.) It was actually a really good conversation. She asked me if we were buying her love. I asked her if her love could be bought. She told me no that Dad and I earned her trust and love. Tomorrow she tries out for basketball. We'll see if her Bio Mom let's her play since some of the games will fall on visit/family therapy days.

Not much going on with Gabby. She's letting the other 3 take over and go nutty. I think she feels relieved that they are also struggling with the upcoming changes.

Hubby started his new job. He loves it. Work is fulfilling for him again. I'm really proud of him and glad he is happy.

I had a rough week at work. I'm overwhelmed at work and home. So I decided to put some more effort into me. I met up with some other Moms who parent traumatized kids that were adopted or in care and had a really lovely breakfast. We have very different backgrounds and kids but the threads of understanding run through. I immediately felt better knowing that I could say what I was really feeling and thinking and that they would understand without judgement. They understood without me having to educate about trauma or mental health or how screwy the system is. They've walked this path and I've walked theirs. We talked for almost 3 hours without any awkward pauses or silence. Complete strangers. It was the pick me up I needed to get through the next week.

No update on the overnights. Caseworker comes to the house Tuesday so that should be interesting.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Angry Eyes

I actually own a Mr. Potato Head shirt that says, "Don't make me put on my angry eyes." I also own the ladies version of Mrs. Potato Head that says, "I packed your angry eyes just in case."

Which is why it was funny that someone at work today tried to guess the anger level I was at this afternoon. They then told me that despite my smile my eyes give me away.

My grandma used to tell me my eyes were like looking into my heart.

I was a 9/10. Work sucks right now. Foster Care sucks (didn't hear from the caseworker about my email or Hubby's). And we have some family drama going on.

I don't usually talk about the family issues on here but it ties into foster care because it is our perception that this family member can't accept the kids. Somehow their presence detracts from her daughter. And she's angry that we didn't pitch in for a present for her daughter that she was going to also benefit from but not pay her own way. The kids have picked up on her treatment of them and to be a good Mom I have to limit that exposure.

So she's not coming to Christmas. It's sad. And beyond selfish. But after the way she has acted and the things she's said, I'm not sure I can forgive her. (I suspect some of the behavior is driven by jealousy that we are married with a big family and we can give of our love freely. This family member is in need of some attachment therapy of her own.) I'm sure it will blow over but it's going to create unnecessary tension and I hate that. I'm saving the drama for the other mama.

Overnight Visits

Oh my. Was I heated at midnight last night. I saw the email the caseworker sent about her plan for overnight visits. Can you guys when she thinks is the optimal time to start them?

Yep. The Sunday leading into Christmas Eve. It's the holiday after all and the children should spend some time with their Mom. She knows we might have plans on Christmas Eve so she can have the service drop them off wherever we will be at. Then she asked me for my thoughts.

My response back was not kind. It was not calm. And at this point I don't care. The idea that they want to rush this and not have a solid plan in place makes me so angry and the fact that she didn't consider how anxious the holiday makes the kids anyway and then wants to add the stress of the first overnight to it mystifies me.

But have no fear- we'll drop them off in whatever condition they might be in at your family function? What about behavior? What about their response. What if Mom totally fails and it ruins Christmas? Where is their chance to decompress after that? What about the judge's request to take it slow an plan this out while listening to the kids? How do you go from 5 hour visits with the kids still having issues and fear to 24 hour visits on a major holiday that stresses most adults out to begin with.

Just further confirmation that this person truly does not look at it from the kids perspective. She honestly had a meeting and though: wouldn't it be great for them to wake up and spend Christmas Eve with their Mom who they haven't lived with in 2 1/2 years. I bet that will just make their day. I bet everything will go perfect and we will be able to move them home soon.

I told her if they wanted to plan a regular visit Christmas Eve that that was fine and that I felt it was appropriate. But the rest of my email used words like horrific, terrible, shocked, and set up for failure.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

And Action!

If only it were that simple. The idea that I could make something start or finish by saying so is my dream right now. Instead I'm directing all the drama surrounding me. Well trying to deflect at least....

So after the judge stated that she saw no evidence of the foster parents sabotaging the case Bio Mom goes and tells LM (during the visit) that her foster parents are trying to keep her from her. That we are trying to keep her for ourselves. And then she brought up the trauma therapists alleged statement about "God shouldn't have given her these 4 kids because she doesn't deserve them".

It's exhausting these conversations about the same make believe issue over an over. The kids haven't even spoken to that therapist on 6 months. What does that possibly have anything to do with anything?

How about you take that energy and focus it on your kids? So LM confronts her in family therapy and she tells her she's entitled to her feelings. And then it comes out that its not so much Hubby as it is Foster Mom R. Because Hubby told her how much fun the kids seem to have although we are having some issues he sees some positives.

But Foster Mom R? She only talks about Gabby throwing up and JB raging and wetting and MM's nightmares and detentions and behavior at school.

I. AM. SO. TIRED. T.I.R.E.D of being the punching bag an the fall guy. The kids don't feel safe with their Mom so they take it out on me. Mom doesn't get the full story from the kids and takes it out on me. Instead of trying to figure out why I keep reporting the issues the approach becomes Foster Mom R is making this stuff up. Can't be true.

My evil ways must be the reason the kids punch each other. And I require such little sleep that I must place the nightmares in MM's head so he can wake me up at 2:30am several days a week. And I prefer chaos so I provoke JB to the point of rage and then demand she cry due to the shame.

I mean honestly. The level of ridiculous we just entered is a new proportion. And I get it. It's hard. And because the kids really haven't worked out their fears an built enough trust with their mom things are bound to be rough when the overnights start. And I get that it's hard to see your kids love another Mom. But you don't put that on them.

I also suspect she's laying the groundwork for blame in case this doesn't work out. It's much easier to say I lost my kids because the foster parent stole them. But that's simply not what's going on here. I'm doing my job to advocate for the kids. If she can't see it that's her problem. She can't see that she's only losing trust with her kids by accusing us and that makes me very sad.

And we spent time tonight processing, encouraging, and supporting. And reassuring that we are supporting the goal but if they don't work on it know with their Mom their issues won't be fixed. And that will mean that they won't feel safe on these visits or moving home.

And after all that the thing that brought me to tears was Jelly Bean. After processing. After struggling with her feelings and fear she very earnestly and with tears in her eyes said, "Mommy? Are you ever going to have kids that are yours forever?"

My answer was one I don't often accept from her. "I don't know." "I don't know what God has planned for me. What I do know I'd that I will always have a kid named Jelly bean, MM, Gabby, and LM right here in my heart."

Tired. Very Tired.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Good Day

I felt the need to write tonight because a lot of this blog is venting for me. Its spelling out the trials (literally) of foster parenting and the challenges my kids and I face.  I wanted to take a moment and celebrate the good.

Today was just a nice day.  Despite the hellish we had with having kids testifying at a criminal trial against an abuser, a permanency hearing, therapy, a mental health staffing, school, and my husbands last week of his job of 10 years, we had a great day with little issue. Little misbehavior. Little refereeing.

You know what we had lots of?

Laughter. Giggling. Smiling. Family time.

Do you know what we did?

Shopping.

That's right. We took our four children (and Grandma) to an outlet mall and went shopping. For clothes for Hubby and a few Christmas presents. And the kids? They were angelic. No, really. They sat quietly. They helped carry shopping bags. They stayed together. No one wet their pants. We came home with all the hats and gloves we left with. I only once had to give "the look". And at the end, when we were teasing each other and giggling, I caught more than one stranger smiling at our family. And can I just say? It warmed my heart.  Truly, I felt so blessed.

We came home and more giggling ensued.

If only I could bottle that......

We are so far from last December that I hate to even think about how rough it was. I realize how fortunate I am to have kids who are regulated right now. So many of the other families parenting trauma are struggling due to the holidays. Please know I am keeping all of you in my prayers. 

 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Verdict

So the judge in the foster care case granted overnight visits Thursday. And the states attorney defended us from the accusation that we were trying to sabotage the goal. I'm not clear on what the issue was but the idea is ridiculous. 1) I don't need to help mom screws up just fine on her own 2) it would not score me any points with the kids 3) the only issues I raise are ones that have to do with the kids. I don't know how advocating for safety for them could be viewed as sabotage but I suppose someone has to be blamed. Might as well be me. The judge and states attorney defended us and actually stated that they feel "blessed" to have such supportive, loving, dedicated foster parents.

I didn't go. Hubby went. It's probably best. I was pretty upset afterward for a number of reasons but mostly because I love them and I have no idea how to start to say goodbye. And while I can admit that she is trying very hard, I still question if she's got enough tools to meet the needs of her kids. I guess we'll see when the visits start. The new plan includes Jelly Bean's therapist meeting with the family therapist and Mom and kids so that their feelings get brought up.

The criminal trial against the former foster parent was this week. The kids did great testifying and my little Jelly Bean set a precedent in the county. Never before have they allowed a victim to testify via closed circuit camera so that the victim isn't re-traumatized. But we gathered the right documentation and the states attorney made the right argument and her therapist testified on her behalf and the judge allowed it!

The experience was empowering for her and she handled it like a champ. LM also did fantastic. I was able to be at the reading of the verdict and I am happy I say that it was GUILTY. I watched him being taken into custody in handcuffs. It felt great to tell Jelly Bean that she and other kids were safer that night. We will also have a chance to write a victim impact statement for sentencing. He is also likely to be deported as he is a permanent resident and a class X felony will cause him to lose his status.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Court

So we got through the prosecution portion of the criminal trial against the former foster parent who abused Jelly Bean. I didn't get to hear any of it because they may need me to testify as a rebuttal witness tomorrow.

From what I was told the kids did a phenomenal job. It was a long day filled with lots of waiting but we managed and now my kids are tucked into bed. They are exhausted and I'm really glad that the case worker granted my request to have the visit for this afternoon rescheduled.

Jelly Bean did a fantastic job of processing this experience. For the first time ever in the county they allowed a witness to testify via closed circuit video so that she would not have to come in contact with the abuser. I prayed that the judicial system would not fail her and no matter what the verdict- I consider this piece a win. She set a precedent and hopefully this will mean less victims will be subjected to the re-traumatization of facing their abuser. Especially kids.

Of course tomorrow is the permanency hearing so life may be a mixed bag tomorrow. We'll see if the judge in her juvenile case steps up and stops the madness of limbo.

At dinner tonight Jelly Bean finally asked - why wasn't her Mom there. Then said her first name an asked why she wasn't there. Isn't this important? Then Little Mama asked: Was she supposed to be there?

Fan flipping tastic questions kids. I wonder the same thing. Same as when she misses your mental health meetings. Same as when she missed your school functions we included her in and the visit last week.

Somehow I managed to sensor my response and came out with a "I'm not really sure." That was not accusatory. I'm sure though, that tomorrow she'll show up and tell the judge how much she loves you and how she's ready to parent you full time and how she has the ability to do so.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Buckle Up

Happy December! We kicked off our holiday season with our 10th annual wine party. Last year, it fell the weekend Jelly bean was in the mental health hospital and I managed to have a very real meltdown in front of my husband's best friend and his then girlfriend (she is now his wife and I consider her family). The year before was the day of my Grandma's funeral and ended at 4 AM with a whipped cream fight in my kitchen.

Clearly, we don't ever cancel the party...

It was cool to look back over the years and see how much our lives have changed. My girlfriend had her 16 month old there and shared news that she's expecting a boy in April. Everyone at the party was married or engaged. We had a babysitter upstairs with the kids - who I babysat when I was in high school.

I managed to blow off some steam without turning into a weepy mess. And despite my 3am bedtime we got up and had a nice day as a family. Which is good because this could be a long and defining week for us.

It begins with a 7am meeting for me at work. (Which I think should be against labor laws.) There is not enough Diet Coke for that kind of early meeting!

Then the trial against the foster parent who hurt Jelly Bean begins. Wednesday JB and LM will testify. Thursday is the next permanency hearing. It's also the anniversary of Jelly beans hospitalization and the anniversary of their uncle's murder.

Oh and DCFS is going to be asking for overnight visits to begin.

It might get bumpy. I'll be fastening my seat belt.

I reached a new place in this nonsense that is limbo. I actually visited one of the waiting children websites. I guess I opened myself back up to the possibility that these kids aren't meant to be my "legal kids". (They will always be "my kids". No judge can tell me otherwise.)

I guess this was a positive thing- Hubby said he was glad when I told him I did the search. He mentioned that if the kids go home at least they have a Mom who loves them and is trying. Which is a point I had to concede.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

For Good

This evening took place a few weeks ago. I delayed posting so that I could link some things but also because I felt it was too sad for the week leading up to Thanksgiving.

So clearly, I'm in a sad place. I was also PMSing in the last week so I was probably more weepy than I am the rest of the month... Maybe.... I cried at Gabby's musical this week so that probably counts as weepy. Both my Mom and Dad teared up too, so I blame my genetics.

The kids performed several Broadway songs. Singing in the Rain, You Can't Stop the Beat, 76 Trombones. Then they got to a song from Wicked. The intro to the song talked about performing in a Broadway show and it being life changing. I performed in show on Chicago's Broadway when I was a freshman in high school and it did, indeed, change my life.  I had no idea how much the song coming at me was going to hit my heart, or I may have tuned out some of the lyrics.

They performed For Good.



I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made from what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?

But because I knew you

Because I knew you

I have been changed for good

And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I've done you blame me for

But then, I guess we know
There's blame to share

And none of it seems to matter anymore

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a bird in the wood

Who can say if I've been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

Because I knew you...

Because I knew you...
I have been changed for good...
( From: http://www.elyrics.net/read/w/wicked-lyrics/for-good-lyrics.html )

I tried so hard to keep it together. I thought I was going to bite through my lip. But as I was sitting across the gym from my sweet Gabby, watching as she sang her little heart out, I just couldn't keep the tears in.

And when this verse came up I was sobbing. I mean full on, fat tears, rolling down my cheeks.

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made from what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...

Yeah. Pretty much sums up where we are right now.  The fear of never seeing them again. Knowing how much we've changed each other. Feeling so much love for them. They are my story....

My Mom reached over to grab my hand. Jelly Bean and Little Mama were asking my Dad why I was crying. Then he listened to the words and began to cry. (Let me say that my Dad can get emotional and he used to do it in public quite often.) So the kids thought it was pretty funny. Gabby saw me from across the room.

I stewed for a bit. Stung by how unfair it seemed that the other parents in the room were not wondering if they would ever see their kids again. I only briefly wondered if anyone I knew could see me and then I decided that if they did, I didn't care.  This is hard. Really, really hard. And if someone wants to think less of me - they can go right ahead. Five minutes of our story and I guarantee I'd be getting the "I don't know how you do it, you must be a saint speech". (And these days my response to that is "I'm not sure either, guess we'll find out if I can do it".)

Then they sang Seasons of Love which I wrote a post on here and I thought I was going to need someone to carry me out of there.

 I'm really trying to get out of this funk. To focus on the good. Because there is so much of it. And so much happiness in our home (when the trauma decides to give me a break). And this may well be our last Christmas with the kids and I want it to be special. Full of laughter and wonder. I want the kids to learn from me that you can deal with the bad, turn the stumbling block into a stepping stone, and find the good. Even if the situation appears to suck. Those are the moments that change us for the better. I have to remember that if I'm not there as they journey through life that the lessons I have taught them are there.....for good

My Own Trigger

I have a few posts on pause because I deemed them simply too sad for the week of Thanksgiving. Wednesday morning as I dropped the kids off and still couldn't shake the urge to cry I realized that perhaps, I was experiencing my own trauma anniversary. Which makes sense. My Grandma passed the day before Thanksgiving two years ago and I miss her terribly.

Today is the actual anniversary date and I'm handling it fairly well. I think for me the day before Thanksgiving is my trigger. I was a mess. I volunteered to make the turkey at her house and spend the night to keep my grandfather company. And as I was opening every drawer in her kitchen, trying to familiarize myself with the location of everything, I prayed that I could recall the lessons she taught me about her secret to amazing stuffing. Then I had to laugh because at 31 it was really the first time I was allowed in the kitchen while cooking was going on and no one was telling me to move.

It did a little introspection. I checked in with my emotions and feelings and I think the one I'm feeling the most is anger.  I'm angry that I'm still grieving. I'm angry that I'm preparing myself to grieve more when the kids go home. I was even angry at mass on Thanksgiving. A couple got up to talk about what they were grateful for and the spoke about adoption. The thanked God for giving them the means to adopt internationally, then have biological children, and now are bring another child home through adoption. Then I was angry at myself for being angry that God was seemingly providing for them and not me.

And I'm letting the little things make me angry. Like the fact that the kids Mom wasn't home on Wednesday when they kids showed up for the visit. And that after 30 minutes of driving around her town they brought the kids back to daycare ( 45 minutes each way) and then picked them up ten minutes later when they finally got a hold of her and drove them back to her house. I'm angry about her new iPhone 5 (because I'm sorry if the court changes your permanency goal just so you can qualify for a housing grant I don't think that means you should be out buying the latest technology in smart phones). I'm angry that she bought Little Mama very expensive fashion sneakers when Mr. Mohawk and Jelly Bean actually need every day shoes. I'm angry that I'm being judgemental and petty. I'm angry that the kids are still having nightmares and wetting the bed and throwing up on days they see her and I'm angry that it doesn't matter.

So I did what I do best when I get angry -  I cleaned. I organized. I shampooed my carpets. Then I got a little creative and painted the kids' Christmas ornaments. Because sometimes I just need to get crafty.

If I'm working through the stages of grief, I believe bargaining is next.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Grateful

I just wanted to take a moment and thank you guys, my readers. Seeing the page views and the comments has helped me get through the last few months.

I realize that my posts seem sad and frustrated and I thank you for putting up with my pain. Like many of you, we don't have a real support system that gets what it's like to live month to month. To live and have your future be hinged on someone else's choices. I'm so thankful there are so many of you who get it. You give me hope.

And let's face it, you allow me to get a grip! So in this month of thanksgiving I am thankful for all of you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November is Adoption Awareness Month

I knew it before today but the 3 emails I got today told me so. It also said 1700 kids were adopted through foster care in our state last year.

I had a rough day with foster care today. Long story short the caseworker still can't seem to remember to inform us ahead of or nearly after major changes and doesn't seem to think its a big deal because "I observed the were happy. I was pleased with their reaction."

Fan flipping tastic for you. Unfortunately, trauma behaviors came at me and I had no idea why. But as long as you think it went well then I guess no need to let the foster parents know until 5 days later. But a kid fell at family therapy and bruised her knee and that warrants an urgent text message? Seriously? We are so far off the mark in what constitutes important I can't even discuss it anymore.

So Hubby fired off a response basically stating that if the common courtesy of a heads up letting us know something changed cant be extended, neither can we. So you will need to take notes during our monthly meeting. We will no longer be summarizing for ease of reference. It was somewhat out of character for him but I'll take it.

I also told the case workers boss that they only thing that has stopped me from disrupting is my commitment to my kids and the only reason I have not filed a complaint is that I do not want to give more credence to the complaint Bio mom filed as its a totally separate issue.

Thank you and God bless those of you who made it through this process to adopt treasures of your own. I have a sincere respect for you. I pray that you have found joy and that those of you struggling or trying to help you kids heal have an easier time doing so.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

It's Like Giving Up On a Dream

That's what it feels like to start to let go. To realize, that perhaps, you were wrong. That this isn't really the life you are meant to have. That despite how right it feels, it isn't really yours and because you love it so much you have to let it go.

And man it is hard. So very hard, to put on the brave face and cheer on the things that should have been happening all along. That should have been completed before you ever became a part of it. For the sake of those that you cherish, you must be the better person. And twice in the last week I've not been able to do that.

I know that it means I'm human. It means that I'm sad. It means that I felt love in a way I never thought I would- as a Mom. And I know deep down I will get through this because I have to. Because life is not going to stop for me to grieve. I know that because it never did in the past.

I have given up on dreams. A few of them in fact. Because I couldn't hack the schooling to become a doctor. Because I decide too late that law school was something I was interested in. And now I work in the medical field as a paralegal which as it happens is a fine conciliation prize.

But this time I don't want a conciliation prize. The blow of having an illness that isn't curable and doesn't respond to treatment should surely come with a grand prize? An amazing family? Seemingly hand picked by fate. I don't want to be just the former foster Mom. I want to BE the Mom. And it really sucks to watch everyone around you tell you that isn't meant to be and that you have to stick a smile on your face and pretend to be happy about it.

Hubby asked me how I was doing yesterday as the kids were going off to their visit. Through my tears I whispered "it's like giving up on a dream".

The difference with this is that when I was done with those dreams, I was done. My dream is still living in my house until someone else tells me they should go. Someone who hasn't wiped their tears. Someone who never got woken up by scary monsters. Someone who has never rubbed their back when they were sick. Or fed them breakfast or had to leave them at the hospital or accompany them to court to testify against abusers.

The Mom they are returning to doesn't know their favorite colors. She doesn't know that one of her children doesn't like chocolate milk or red grapes. She still doesn't know their clothing sizes despite seeing them 3 days a week. She can't tell when her children are dissociating or scared. And they continue to act out nearly each time they see her.

I just want it to be over. For them. For me. For her. This is no way to live. And really we aren't living. We are waiting. For what? We aren't sure.



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Soap Box

I'm standing in a line of more than 100 people. I have been in line 20 minutes. I have another 45 minutes to go and only 29% battery left on my phone.

I have opinions. But I don't feel well versed enough about any of the hot bottom political issues for any candidate to spout off about them their campaigns, or the consequences of them being elected.

The issues I do care about though don't make the news. I didn't hear any of the candidates, national or local, make a plea to the overworked foster Mom. I didn't hear anyone talk about the issues my kids and my family face. I'm in a state full of budget cuts. Heard nothing about how DCFS is supposed to do more with less. Heard nothing about how congress and county representatives are going to work for the children in their districts. And I'm not in the same county as my kids case so I can't vote out those who didn't prosecute their Mom.

There is lots I'm sure I should care about. I work in the medical field I'm not sure that either candidate is good for me. I believe the government shouldn't be able to weigh in on my choices with regard to healthcare. I also don't believe them staying out of it makes me pro-anything. But I have respect for those that do.

The mudslinging pisses me off and it got so bad last night that my husband watched DVR and I went to bed. He doesn't vote. It's something we don't discuss much. My parents instilled in me a sense of civic responsibility. And it drives them crazy that I identify most with the other party. But they also taught me to be a free thinker so I'm not sure how they don't understand.

My only hope tonight is that SOMETHING gets accomplished in our state and federal government in the next 4 years. I know programs drag and legislation takes time but should it take so much time?

Us foster and adoptive moms would have everything organized in a year. Seriously with the amount of negotiating, navigating and analyzing we do in a day we could teach congress a thing or two. Some of us are averting crisis every 10 minutes across party lines.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

6 Years

6 years ago today I married Hubby. We were 25 and 26 and had already spent 5 years of our lives together. The weather was very much like it was today. We spent the day surrounded by friends and family soaking in the support and love.

It was one of the best weddings we'd ever been to. The dance floor was packed. The food was delicious and our guests had a blast.

We stood in my childhood church and promised God and our family that we would be true to each other in sickness and health, in good times and bad. I had no idea that day how soon we would test our vows. Less than 6 months later I lost my job.

We also promised to accept children lovingly from God. I had no idea that those children would not come from my womb. Or that there would be 4. Or that they wouldn't necessarily be permanent. But we accepted them lovingly. They have brought us much closer. We have solidified ourselves as a team. A family.

Which is why today we spent the day together. We went to a family birthday party. We went ice skating. There are years ahead we'll celebrate this day just the two of us but while we are this unit of six, I'm happy to spend November 4th, our 6th anniversary, a family of six.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I Wish You Could See

How calm and content my family is at this very moment. We settled in for our family night of pizza and a movie.

When the kids first came an that first day they weren't enrolled in school yet Hubby ran a Disney movie marathon. This is something we have continued. We hang out together while laughing and cuddling.

When they first moved in we could never had done this. We were too busy handling the fall out from visits and the behavior that went with it. Tantrums would last hours. Kids couldn't sit still. Kids couldn't be in the same room. Tears would be falling and everyone would be too wiped out. But over time we've settled.

And tonight I'm listening to kids giggle and talk. And discuss our family trips. Which is beautiful and hard all at the same time. But I'll take it. For however long we have it...I'll take it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why do they always pick THE worst day?

So after running around for 10 days straight I of course got sick. Like really sick. Like I had to actually go to the doctor today. I avoid the doctor. I spent so much time in their offices when I was first diagnosed with sarcoid and neurosarcoid that unless I'm sure there is something wrong I don't go. (I am the woman who dealt with nerve pain in my head for a year before mentioning it.)

I called in sick to work. And then everyone needed me. Umm hello people! Mom is sick. Didn't matter. Gabby left her flute. So I run to the school and drop it off but not before she called a second time to make sure I was coming. No sooner do I get home but the phone rings from the school for a third time.

Hi Mrs. R. It's the principal Mr. L. My automatic response? What did he do today?

Because my Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday phone calls weren't enough.

"He bit another student during gym class...on the butt. I know you work but I need to send him home for the day. I have to suspend him."

Honestly, I'm at a loss as to what to do. I mean he's 5. He can tell you that he should keep he's hands to himself. He can tell you it's not ok to bite people. And everyone seems to say he's not malicious in this. That it is impulsive. That he almost can't help himself. Today I was asked if he was ever evaluated for ADHD.

And here is the thing. I suspected that. But 5? It's so young. And then you review- 1 who has extreme PTSD who dissociates, 1 who has extreme anxiety, 1 with PTSD and ADHD who I suspect will be diagnosed with bipolar later on in life, and another with ADHD.

And here is the thing. These kids were so much younger and had less trauma before coming into care. How is bio Mom going to handle this? Has she learned enough tools to manage all these behaviors?

So I go pick up the Kindergartener. And my yelling is ineffective, largely because I have no voice. And I feel like death and I'm brought back to Jelly Bean's rage during the worst headache of my life and I'm like- why do they always knock you over when you're down. Do they have some 6th sense that Mom's not at her best and therefore will not be effective?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gems from the "Team Meeting"

- Mom needed to be told that she needs to monitor TV watching. Apparently letting her child with sexual abuse history watch a show that depicted rape and dismemberment of a young girl didn't register that it might not be ok because after all "Well she turned on the tv and chose the program." We'll just overlook the fact that the kid had nightmares and wouldn't pee at school. Mom's been told now she needs to monitor television.

- The bio dad with no legal standing and a history of violence against Mom popping up at visits is "a situation being monitored". Yes let's monitor that.

- Selling food out of your home and customers showing up during visits and inviting them in is totally ok. We'll just ignore the fear the kids have and pretend to be shocked when something goes wrong.

- Unsupervised Wednesdays can't begin because the visit supervisor helps LM with her homework while Mom takes the other 3 elsewhere in the library. Wednesdays are going fantastic though. No problems reported. Really? Because I would think the fact that one child isn't anywhere near her Mother during these visits is an issue.

I kept my lips zipped for the most part. I let the therapist raise her concerns. No one listened to her of course because they just want to get the kids home and heeding the advice of the therapist or concerning themselves with the stress the foster parents have to handle will just slow them down.

Visits will be moved to Mom's new apartment in the coming weeks with unsupervised 5 hours with pop ins.

Also we will begin prepping Jelly Bean to testify against the foster parent who abused her.

Good times....

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How do you do it?

Cherub Mama recently posted about juggling a crazy schedule when both foster parents are working after a reader posed the question to her. I was honored to be included in a list of bloggers to check out.

The reader asked "Can it be done?" The simplest answer is yes. Yes, it can be done. It is done every day.  But I think what she was really getting at was how can it be done? How with a full work schedule and all the responsibilities of adulthood and the responsibilities of a relationship could we fit in children, doctors, caseworkers, licensing workers, family visits, sibling visits, school, etc. Its a great question and one I get asked constantly. (I'm not going to touch on therapeutic needs or disability in this post.  That's another piece of the puzzle left for a different day.)

I get asked the question "How do you do it?" every time someone finds out I'm a foster parent. Then I get the shock when they find out both Hubby and I work full time (and lately more than full time) while parenting 4 older foster children.  The kids are currently in grades 7th, 5th , 3rd  and kindergarten. This would be hectic enough if the kids were not in care.  But they are and so that makes our lives 100 times more hectic and complicated. 

The first thing I had to learn when we took this on, was that I needed to give myself a break. The idea that I would be the perfect mother with a gourmet meal on the table and kids who were impeccably dressed with darling hair and a floor you could eat off of had to go right out the window. 

Then I had to get organized. I am still no where near where I need to be as evidenced by the nearly missed field trip to the state capital last week, the storage boxes of holiday decorations sitting next to me and the fact that my Mom spent the last week re-arranging my stuff. I devour the tips in the magazines each month on "organizing and decluttering  your life".  With 4 kids, 2 adults and a 60lbs dog in a 2 bedroom loft townhouse there aren't enough tips for us!

We have cubbies by the door with a spot for shoes and a spot for backpacks.  We have a coat rack labeled with everyone's names. We have a rack for keys. We  have a central calendar on our garage door where I keep notes about school information and the kids keep their "bonus bucks" that they earn. When the kids first moved in we color coded them. Each picked their favorite color and that was what I used to determine who's toothbrush, towel, washcloth, etc was not where it was supposed to me.  Now that they are a bit older and have lived with us for so long this isn't as necessary but it avoided a lot of confusion in the beginning.  (It also gave them a sense of "this is mine" which I believe helped them heal and bond.)

My life is in my planner which is called a Momagenda.  I looked and looked and looked for a planner that could fit all of our stuff and this one does. It has a spot for each child and for dinner.  It also shows the week Monday to Sunday. And the pockets and calendars are great.  I keep a copy of the kids medical cards, business cards of providers and update my notes section at each meeting.  I've even used it to document behavior for each child which allows me to also see what their visit schedule was like that week.

The schedule is tough. We have a serious lack of communication and since there are so many providers we are often left out of the loop.  (I know backwards! I have the most people to get to where they need to go and the most schedules to consider but after complaining for nearly 2 years about it I'm not sure how else to get it across to everyone.) I always feel guilty when the pediatrician asks me about sports for the kids. Sports? I wish. Tuesday and Wednesday there is therapy. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday there are bio Mom visits. Add homework and activities: ice skating, band, art club, science club, scrapbook club, student council and then the monthly case worker and psychiatrist appointments not to mention court (every 3 months in this case), family meetings (every other month), administrative case review (ACR) and finally school meetings there is little left in the way of down time.

Its a lot.  The first step to being able to handle it is admit it and try to unschedule whatever you can.  I try to have appointments on the same day.  For instance both therapists for the kids come on Tuesday and whenever possible the case worker comes that day too.  Thankfully our pediatrician and psychiatrist have Saturday appointments so those go there.  If I can't make the meeting I request it to be a conference call. Family meetings and ACR are usually this way.  I also fight for down time for the kids. I resisted Saturdays for as long as possible so that the kids had a break. We also get away a few times a year as a family which has helped us break out of the "foster care routine. We have also been assigned a provider to help us manage the stress. The kid's therapists were assigned as a resource to prevent another disruption of the kids. (They have lived with 7 other families between them before coming all together in our home.)

The next step is to divide an conquer.  If I do drop off Hubby does pick up. Each child gets a chore. If he needs support Monday then I get support Tuesday. Errands need to be run - you take two kids, I take two kids. It helps that both of our employers are extremely flexible but this also means often taking work home or staying late. 

I also recommend a back up.  My Mom fills this role as she is currently not working. I'm not sure we would be able to manage without her. She does pick up for activities, watched kids when they are sick, and has picked them up after being sent home for bad behavior.  We also have some amazing friends and other family members who check in and pray for us.  And a few fantastic babysitters to call when we need a few hours of peace or adult beverages.

Logistics can be figured out. And if you had kids naturally it often would have followed a progression and wouldn't seem like such a shock. With foster care its different. Its "Hey I'd like to become a Mom" on Tuesday and Friday "Great! here are your grade school aged children and a tween. We are closed for the weekend. Good luck." In my opinion, The biggest obstacle is handling everything emotionally.

Like I said earlier, I had to learn to give myself a break. This means saying no to events and people as well. (I even said no to the two oldest girls coming to live in our home the first time we were asked.)  Saying no is hard. Especially for a Type A person like me.  It is also hard for others to hear and understand "no". It was hard to cancel plans last minute when something went haywire and big feelings needed to be dealt with.  The simplest thing was to just say no up front. This has caused issues with family and friends. They were hurt we declined. We were hurt they couldn't or didn't want to try and understand.  Learning to let go has helped us accomplish the big task at hand.  Adjusting my expectations of the kids and others has also gone a long way to helping us with the "how".  It's kind of a "good enough" attitude.  And while that makes me sad sometimes it goes along with the "it is what it is" mentality we have had to adopt. 

Many foster and adoptive parents participate in their own therapy. Many are on anti-depressants. I myself take an anti-anxiety pill when I get super stressed.  Self-care is super important. If you aren't cared for you can't care for anyone else. Making time for hobbies and downtime is also important.  This is something Hubby is very good at but I am not.  I'm working on this part especially.

I am not perfect.  I write here so that I don't go bonkers. What works for me may not work for you.  And my ability to manage this level of crazy took a lot of trial and error. A lot of yelling and tears.  There are days that I'm not sure I would sign up for this life again. There are days where I know it was totally worth every frustration. Its why I often answer the question "How do you do it?" with "It's not for everyone." Because it isn't. Nor is every child for every family.  I wouldn't recommend this level of crazy to my worst enemy. (Although I would love for some people in our lives to spend a day doing it so that they could understand it better.)  Living in limbo for nearly 2 years is crazy. Even crazier is that we expect the kids to do so and keep getting up every day.  This brings me to the last piece of my "how".  I remind myself that if they can do it, so can I.
 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Home

- I am even more convinced after the last week that I do not need a piece of paper to tell me that these kids are mine.
- This does not mean I won't fight for them or their permanency.
- I spent the better part of the day hanging out with my family. Lounging in pjs, napping and watching movies together. The snuggles were unbelievable.
- We had a blast at a "old Hollywood glamour" wedding yesterday. The kids wore pill box hats, fedoras, and I got to wear a wool hat that belonged to my great grandmother. It was awesome.
- More nonsense happened at the visit this week. I really am tired of being the tattle tale. But alleged bio Dad showing up at the home during and unsupervised visit is somewhat shady.
- The kids spun out of control at family therapy while we were gone. I don't think bio Mom knew what to do.
- I am looking forward to a long weekend away from the kids in a few weeks.
- Someone told me this morning that they were shocked to learn we were not a family bound by blood. Even more so when they found out we were a foster family.
- I will make time this week to write some helpful posts on how to stay organized as 2 parent full time working family with 4 foster kids.
- Welcome to the new followers this week! As always feel free to ask questions or email me with topics you'd like me to write about.

Monday, October 22, 2012

3 More Days

• Bio Mom went back on permission to LM about being in an activity at school where she was going to miss the next 4 Friday 2 Hour visits. She claims LM never talked to her about it.
• LM took her turn to cry tonight. We ended up video conferencing with her.
• When we hung up hubby says to me "I love that LM kid. When she smiles it just makes me so happy." I melted.
•JB had a great conversation with me. (She refused to talk to Dad). She was able to tell me very clearly that she missed us and used great feeling words including jealous, scared, worried and sad. She told me one reason she wanted me to come home early was that we are going to miss her school concert. I told I ordered the DVD. That made her feel better. It was a great conversation and I told her so.
• Gabby was short with me and sassy/sarcastic with Hubby. I'm worried that she'll be ticked off when we get home and take it out on us when we return.
•Mr. Mohawk got another red card. I'm not sure what we are going to do with him... My Mom says he seems oblivious to the fact that we are gone. I'm glad he's not suffering like the girls but it makes me question his attachment.
• I'm enjoying my time away. But I too am ready to go home. I'm also ready to spend some time with the kids and plan on us doing nothing but watching movies Sunday with the kids. I'm declaring it pajama day.

Vacation

Sorry for the break everyone. The last few weeks have been a little crazy at work and at home. And now hubby and I are on vacation sans kids so I'm taking a little break from therapeutic parenting. Well mostly.

Being away after some drama that happened with the kids Mom has really stirred up the fear. Day calls from Jelly Bean telling us she wants us to come home today have been heartbreaking and amusing. This is after all, the child who routinely leaves hate mail on my doorstep.

I was giving tapping instructions and deep breathing walking into the fireworks in Disney World.... It doesn't end.....

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Little Brother

Yesterday was a no good, very bad day- that ended a no good, very bad week. It started with Jelly Bean deciding that the outfit she had on was not acceptable to wear so she changed. While everyone else was getting in the car- thus making everyone wait for her. I know it is about control but I swear that this kid is going to end up with exactly 5 shirts and 5 pairs of pants in her dresser. Hubby was not happy when he came back in the house to find her changing at the pace of a snail.

This led to a phone conversation between he and I that started to aggravate me simply because we were going over all the nonsense that happened this week. From sleepless nights to 200 ft of toilet paper pulled off the rolls at school resulting in the 3rd week in a row of Wednesday phone calls from the principal.

Then I arrived at work where upon everyone decided to blatantly ignore direction and pester me about deadlines and cause me so much stress and irritation I ended up in tears - twice.

So after leaving work at 7pm I arrived home to be told that 3/4 kids would not be getting the ice cream my brother and sister-in-law were taking us to get because 1) was hitting people in the car 2) were beating up the dog with pillows.

I decided a healthy dose of reality was in order and demanded to know what had happened at their visit. "Something happened. Everything was fine and you were comfortable then you wouldn't have come home and acted like this." (Because after 26 months in foster care and seeing your Mom 2-3 times a week we still have behavior issues nearly every single time?)

Apparently Jelly Bean though he saw her Dad in the parking lot of the restaurant. And she actually did what I told her to do when she felt scared and told an adult. She is scared because he believes that her Dad tried to kill her Mom. In fact, her Mom has taken a series of restraining orders out on this person, as recently as December of this past year. Mom's response to Jelly Bean: "Your Dad has changed. He goes to my church now." And then she proceeded to lead a discussion about fathers. Regular readers of this blog will recall that one of the fathers is in jail for criminal predatory sexual assault on one of the other siblings. And is a big issue and causes lots of tension and uncomfortable feelings. You know. typical dinner conversation.....

So that led to interrupting. Which was allowed. Which led to misbehavior. Which led to no ice cream by the time they arrive home. Additionally, the kids believe the driver was "yelling" at their Mom because at the end of the visit when Mom was talking to the driver she was crying. So Hubby pointed out that maybe she was sad that they were leaving. I pointed out that Gabby complains that anytime she tries to tell her Mom something's he doesn't want to hear she tears up. That perhaps she wasn't in trouble, she just didn't want to hear what the driver said.

So then my brother rang the doorbell and I just hugged him for a good 2 minutes. My little brother is a 6'2" Army veteran. He's like a giant teddy bear. And while he is witty and sarcastic most of the time - he's one of the bet listeners I know. He can also be very concerned at times. I started to cry and he was like what's wrong and I'm like - I don't know if I can do this and he was all of anyone can it's you.. And he said it in such a matter of fact way that I knew he had total confidence in me. Because my brother would be the first to tell me if he thought I couldn't - I gained the strength I needed to keep going for another few days.

So we drove an hour to get ice cream in 46 degree weather and 8:30 at night where a bunch of hilarity ensued. It included not 1 but 2 calls from our parents. The first a major worry that their email had been "compromised" and my brother trying to explain that it was probably just a spoof email. But his explanation was just so funny that it had me rolling. Then a second call about some family gossip that "should not be put on Facebook" because ya know my first thought when bad things happen to people in my family is to embarrass them on Facebook....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Addiction to TLC

I LOVE The cable channel TLC. I've been watching for years and a good chunk of our DVR is set to programs on TLC. We as a family watch "The Cake Boss" and "Long Island Medium" religiously. I'm fascinated by families and how they operate. We loved Jon and Kate and their 8 and were sad to see them go off the rails. (And now as a parent of 4 I understand the stress a tad bit better.) we're rooting for "the Little Couple" as they realize their dream of becoming parents. I was especially interested when the show highlighted special needs international adoption. TLC- if you ever want to come to my house and document the reality of foster care and foster parenting I'm game! (Especially if it means college for 4 kids could somehow be paid for because as of right now I got nothing....)

I digress....

So in feeding into my TLC addiction I looked into the Long Island Medium touring. I saw The Cake Boss live and loved it so when I heard Theresa Caputo was coming to Illinois I got really excited.

I've always had an interest in mediums and connecting with the other side. Believer/Non-Believer I'm not here to debate or argue either side. It makes me feel better to think my loved ones surround me. I talk to God, I believe in Angels this seems a natural extension to that.

But the tickets were nearly sold out. Through a Facebook message my Great Aunt told me she is going to see her but gave me the name of a different Medium she has seen on several occasions. So tonight I reached out to schedule an appointment.

A little out of the ordinary, I know. But really what in my life is "normal". I spent the better part of the night trying to convince a 7th grader that the character from CSI was not going to attack her in the bathroom at school and fielded a call from the principal for the (3rd Wednesday in a row) where I was informed that ANOTHER of the children I'm in charge of will now be required to use the nurse's bathroom because he unraveled 200 feet of toilet paper in the hall bathroom. And there I am at work all, "Do we do that in the bathroom? Is that a good choice? What did I say about being on Red?"

Parenting Tips From Foster Mom R

1) CSI is not appropriate tv for the under 12 set. Even less appropriate is watching it with your child. Most inappropriate is leaving it on and walking out of the room while a victim's rape and dismemberment are discussed while your sexually abused child is still sitting there watching.
2) Real glassware should be put out of reach of the child throwing said glasses after the 1st and 2nd glasses are smashed on the ground. This will prevent the 3rd glass from being broken.
3) it is wise to take the advice of the professionals and keep your mouth shut about impending change. This will allow your children to sleep better and perhaps cause less drama at your visits.
4) Donuts for breakfast when you plan to let 6 children stay inside and watch TV all day is perhaps a poor choice.

Please start sending me the cases of Diet Coke now. I have a lot of nights of interrupted sleep coming at me.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Visits

We have some family functions coming up in the next month or two that require the kids to miss their regularly scheduled visits. So we have 2 make-up visits this weekend in addition to their regular Saturday visit.

And in a change of events- I actually PUSHED for these to occur the same weekend. Close together. They will have 5 hours today, 5 hours Saturday, and something like 8/9 hours Monday.

And I just got a message that the case worker is off until Wednesday. Ha!

I'm prepared for some crazy behavior over the next week. This will be the most visitation she's ever had. The kids will be totally off their normal routine. And there will be no therapists to help process.

***********

I wrote the above Friday but it didn't publish. I'm waiting for the kids to leave. They are going to plant trees today. No doubt part of Moms community service requirement for her probation. Not sure how I feel about bringing the kids you beat to working off your debt to society. Oh who am I kidding. I think it's ridiculous. But I also know that trying to get the 4 of them to engage in planting trees is going to be near impossible. Especially since as I'm listening to them wait to go and they are totally amped up and bickering.

The nightmares and tears have been sad to handle. But I also have to recognize how far the kids have come. We've gotten lots of journaling and notes articulating feelings. Fear chief among them.

I'm not sure how to navigate the next few months. They keep telling us this is a crucial time in the case and it should tell us where the end point will be. I'm not sure I believe that. I just pray we survive it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Some More things I'd Love to Say

- I know that your Mom told you you were going home in six months but she's said that before. Several times over the last 2 years, in fact. So I wouldn't worry too much. She's also got to get a job and a house and it's hard to pay for a house when you don't have a job. And since you Mom has no skills and is here illegally it's not likely she will find one.
- Oh really? Your Mom promised you BOTH cell phones? Are they the fake kind because real ones cost money and she was unable to call from the hospital because she could no longer pay for hers.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sometimes, You Need Your Mom

Thirty one year old women are no exception. After a very, very trying week where everyone took a piece out of me I reached my breaking point. And at lunchtime I called my Mom.

I really just needed a hug. The warmth if her cheek next to mine. Hands rubbing my back, reassuring me that I was not alone. I needed encouragement that I was doing good. That I was serving a purpose. That this feeling of unbelievable helplessness would go away at some point.

She was nearby my office and her and my Dad met me for lunch. The minute I pulled into the parking lot and I spotted them I started to cry. It was like a dam broke loose. All of the feelings came pouring out. The fear right at the very front.

I'm watching everyone around me start to break apart and close off and I don't have the luxury of doing that. I'm not built that way.

After listening to my Dad telling me I have to approach it simply and understand the kids are going home and remind me that no one would blame me if I decide to move on without them because "you've done a thousand times more what most people do"and my Mom tell me I'm a much better person than her for my commitment to not vilify the kids' Mom, I felt a little stronger. But still I was questioning all of the decisions we've made.

My Mom, in her infinite wisdom, reminded me to rely on my faith and listed all the people praying for our family. She suggested I "go back to church". Even if to "just sit in the building and meditate."

Feeling that perhaps that would help, I decided first to journal and soul search. I had no intention of blogging it because I felt that this would be a personal moment just for me. However sometimes you have to share how God works.

I have a Devotional Journal that has daily writing prompts, scriptures, and poems. I never keep up with daily journaling on paper. So I've used this journal on and off for 9 years. I only write a few sentences and leave space in case I happen upon the same date in the future.

September 28th was blank. The page was titled: It Can't Be Done.

The passage was Galatians 6:9:
Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

God's way of telling me not to give up. To give it some more time. Acknowledging that I feel weary. Everything I needed to hear so that I can continue on.

Nicely done God. Nicely done.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Questions

How do you explain to a 5 year why his other Mommy was asking him where he wanted to live when he doesn't know living anywhere else?

How do you clear up his explanation that he can live with you because "your babies got lost"?

How do you reassure him that people are trying to protect him and won't send him anywhere until they are sure he will be safe, when you, yourself, aren't convinced?

How do you give him e a hug goodnight and ignore the death grip he has on you because now he is worried that his safe Mommy is going to send him away?

How do you explain to a 12 year old why you are sitting in the basement crying alone wen she comes down to talk to you?

How do you explain to her how proud you are of her that she could come talk to you, especially since the very thing she's going to tell you is that she couldn't talk about what was bothering her with her "real" Mom a few hours before?

How do you respond to being told that she's not ready to talk to her Mom about living with her when you know everyone is pushing for that to happen and to happen quickly?

Where do the words of reassurance come from? How on Earth was I able to look at their worried faces and do the right thing?

How do you put yourself together when your heart is cracking daily?

How do you reconcile your ultimate commitment to a return home goal when it goes against ever instinct to protect you have?

How do you handle wanting the very best for them while also praying that they get hurt so that this entire thing can be over? (I'm not wishing it - I believe it's a matter of time and I'd rather that time come now.)

I got nothing. All I'm left with at the end of this day is tears. Lots and lots of tears.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

When Failure Makes the News

The following watchdog article was posted in the Chicago Tribune this past Sunday Fatal Flaws.

It is an investigative article on how DCFS failed properly intervene in the deaths of at least 8 children.  I cried as I read the article. Discussion of how investigators found claims unfounded.  How time after time people in positions of power told those who questioned that everything was fine or checked out.

I will say that I don't think our caseworker has falsified any information or acted negligently. However, the system HAS failed my kids. It hasn't protected them from further abuse or harm. The length of time in care is entirely too long. Everyone is fatigued. By the number of providers, appointments, people, issues.....So now the approach is push it until it works or it breaks. Which still isn't the best way to go about things but no one wants to continue on in this manner for the next 5 years.

My biggest fear is that these kids will go home and I will read about them in the news.  The only thing they have going for them is that they are older and so more than likely will survive any additional harm or at least be able to tell someone about it.  But not for one second do I believe that if they return home - they will remain safe. The stressors are still their. Their needs are higher. Just by virtue of their age they are louder.

As I made dinner tonight I pondered the noise level.  I must have heard "Mom" at least 100 times.  I cherished the laughter and the squeals of silly as I know they can be fleeting.  And I paused to think "am I trying to take this away from her?" And I came back with the answer that I was trying to keep it for them.

Please pray with me that they safe in the coming weeks and months.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday Morning

So Gabby did go to the visit this morning. I could tell she was nervous but she said her stomach was fine.

Jelly Bean woke up in a foul mood and then dragged, and I mean dragged, in getting ready. I have never seen someone take so long to tie their shoes.

Mr. Mohawk seemed happy. He was the first one ready. I hope he doesn't kick her today like he did Wednesday.

Little Mama was finding reasons to be angry at me. She asked to take a board game knowing full well I would say no. My standard: "Your Mom is working on being prepared. That's a great suggestion. You should tell her that's a game you'd like." only served to provoke the silent treatment.

I'm not responsible for providing entertainment for 4 children at an in home visit. In the past, I might have considered it but the training wheels have to come off. The kids have to adjust to what life without me is going to be like. What life with her will be like. She doesn't have the capacity to plan ahead or draft a schedule. Despite the request to do so. Despite the kids need for rigid structure. This will likely be to their detriment in the end but I can't stop it. She has to learn what works for her. And she can't do it with me interfering.

She has no desire to enter into a co-parenting or mentoring relationship with me. We are the same age. She has been a Mom for 12 years. I've been a Mom for 18 months. She doesn't believe that the kids I describe or talk about are the same that she sees. She still views the incident that brought them into care as isolated. This is a belief system that she's created in order to protect herself. I understand it. It sucks. We had hoped to build a relationship. And perhaps down the road we can but right now stepping back feels right.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Things I'd love to say

I'm sorry. I'm not picking up your call because: I worked 60 hours this week while juggling disregulated kids, principals calling, teachers calling, meetings interrupted by meltdowns, a visit, therapy and court. I've sat down for the first time all week with my family and they are actually calm which may only last for the next 15 minutes.

I realize you are calling to check up on the kid who missed her visit today because she was sent home for throwing up. I'm pretty sure she's just fine and that her throwing up had more today with her visit today and the plan to start unsupervised visits tomorrow since you haven't really convinced her you're a safe parent. Don't worry. I'm sure she'll be there tomorrow because if she isn't she'll have to miss a birthday party and I'm fairly certain she really, really wants to go to the birthday party.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Goal Change

So we had the 2nd 1/2 of the permanency hearing today. The goal was changed from return home in 12 months to return home in 5 months. Apparently, this qualifies Mom for some housing grant. The state is concerned that in light of her not currently being employed (yep) that she will be unable to maintain the housing.

The judge didn't seem convinced as she shot down the departments request to be able to grant Mom custody down the road.

Thankfully, it was pointed out that 1)the kids need room and that is a concern with her history of sharing a room in a house 2) the kids are not the same that lived with her previously - their expectations are WAY different 3)the deserve to know that their supports will stay in place.

We left court feeling a little more comfortable that perhaps the state sees that there isn't a long term solution here an they are trying to document it. And we know that they will probably be here for Christmas.

We have another hearing in November to see if she's been able to get the housing and employment figured out. Considering this is at least the 5th job and the 6th home I'm not real confident that this grant will be the magic ingredient to turn it all around.

Plus we get the sense that everyone believes they will implode before then. Which, if the kids behavior transfers over to her home (I had a kid punch someone today and another who chose bad words then raged at day care) shouldn't take too long.

And despite taking 4 hours off work today I ended up being there 7 hours. I am wiped. I feel like I got hit by a truck. My anxiety medication wore off about 2pm and then my body crashed from the adrenalin. I sooo need a break. Saturday morning can not come soon enough!


Monday, September 17, 2012

If you teach a man to fish

Hubby was going to use the "teach a man to fish;feed him for life" phrase when trying to clarify why the team was going to gather the resources for Mom to find homework help for the kids but figured it would get lost in translation.

It was a good call considering that Gabby tattling on Jelly Bean to her Mom about the "kick me in the balls" post it note resulted in an email to me and a therapist that JB was telling boys to hit her in her privates...

Today we actually went fishing. We caught nothing but plants but we had a nice time. The kids made really good decisions. Everyone had fun.

Days like today I cherish.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apparently Yelling Worked

As did my no nonsense email about MY expectation regarding homework- it will be done on Wednesdays if it is not I will direct the teacher to the caseworker who can work with Mom.

I remember reading advice from somewhere (I can't remember or I would credit the source.) that case workers don't change until they feel your pain. Seemed like having the caseworker potentially contacted by 3 teachers would be a great way to spread my pain.

Because it prompted a call from the case worker's supervisor to "do damage control".

Yep.

And I vented. Expressed that we are tired of being the doormat. Not sure how long we can continue like this.

She stroked my ego. You are doing a great job. Don't know how you do it. Yada yada. But we need to push them if we are going to get them home by Christmas break.

As in three months from now.

So I've gone back and forth between being grateful for finally having a date to work with and understanding what the Department has been thinking and being scared and angry.

I've landed at resolved. Resolved to help them push us to an end point. If she can do this she should be able to do it by now. If she can't we need the proof so we can move on.

What is meant to be will be. If I'm meant to be their Mom- that will happen. If they are suppose to move on and go back to their family then we've accomplished what we set out to do. Perhaps God ha to move them for other children we are meant to help.

So today I sent an email requesting that the group take advantage of some upcoming days off school to add time with Mom. Solid blocks of time. The email came back- a large chunk would have to be unsupervised. How do you feel about that?

Umm. Well the kid who was the most anxious is now feeling more comfortable. If she feels ok with it and Mom feels ok with it, it doesn't really matter how I feel about it. I won't be there. It's not my goal. It's theirs.

She has every piece of paper and approval stating she's ready to parent unsupervised. I can't stand in the way of a moving train. I've done all I can to help heal and take care of these kids and their family. It's time to let them go for it.

Do I think she can do this long term? No. Does that matter to anyone? No. Will it help me to keep saying it? No. You can't keep doing the same thing and expect to get a different result.

Am I scared? Yes. Terrified, in fact. Terrified that they will go home and I will never see them again. Terrified they will get hurt in the process. Saddened by the fact that it's now best for me to step back and let them feel what living with their Mom will be like. (For instance, the conversation about Halloween tonight and if their Mom will take them or not.) But they have to get comfortable with the differences in order to not implode when they do go home.

And if all Hell breaks loose, like I suspect it will, then at least we all gave it our best shot and hopefully the state will have the proof they need to give the kids permanency. I always said if they stayed I always wanted to be able to tell them I did EVERYTHING to help them keep their family in tact. And we are confident we are doing just that.

It's time. It's past time, actually. And at least this way we will be out of limbo. It will hurt no matter what happens but we have to work through that too.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

In a Dark Scary Place

I soo totally want to throw in the towel. I want to protect my heart. I want to bottle up the happy memories, forget the ugly ones and walk away knowing I gave it my all.

I'm in a place that scares me. And I'm not sure if I'm more scared that their Mom CAN actually do this or if she's going to do "good enough" to get them home and we'll have to start all over.

And really I'm not mad at her. I'm ticked off at the casework and family services something fierce. There is a major lack of respect for us as equals and I'm just tired of being the doormat.

I was already pretty ticked Friday when Mr. Mohawk came home with a haircut (it's not about the haircut) and found out no one told me for the last two years that I need a bioparent's permission to cut foster children's hair. When expressing my frustration the caseworker texted me to "hang in there" "she knows it's hard" and to "not be so negative".

And I'm being honest when I admit that yes, I am negative lately.

Try having someone call you every other day and TELL you what you have to do and when and it's different from what you discussed.

So Saturday as I'm shopping for my birthday with my Mom I get a call from the transport service- Jelly Bean is claiming she didn't take her pills today and is being aggressive. We will not transport her when the visit ends in 2 hours and you will need to go get her.

So the assumption was that I didn't do MY job and give her medication (which I did) and that Mom was handling everything perfectly fine.

Oh really? Because if she was she should be able to calm her down in the next 2 hours. And the medication is not magical. She is perfectly capable of raging fully medicated. So something must have set her off.

And I'm sorry it's not my job to transport. I'm not driving an hour to go get her and possibly put myself at risk. Get another driver or call the caseworker.

Apparently, the caseworker actually made the call and the decision (without our input or consent) go get her. Easy for her. No thought whatsoever about is.

This was the last straw. We will be consciously stepping back to prevent further burn out. You want to know what's going on- you will have to call me. You want to see them - sorry I need 2 weeks notice. I will not be going on extra visits with Mom or participating in family therapy. We will be taking time out to breathe.

Sorry if it makes your job harder. The kids have all lived with us for more than a year. You want to try and take them away because I'm going to become a pain- you will be discussing that with my attorney.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Not Enough Words

Lord, have Mercy. There were not enough words to express my frustration today.
- Apparently, expecting homework to be completed when the kids come home from their mid-week visit at the library is too high of a goal and unrealistic. Guess who was asked to find them a tutor to be there with their Mom during HER visit?
- I got a call from daycare that LM told the teacher "I don't give a shit , what you said."
- the email from JB's teacher said she got a red card yesterday for writing "kick me in the balls" on a post it and sticking it on a boy's back.
- a bunch of stuff happened at work too.
-hubby is working late tonight.
-there is a therapist here tonight so opening up a bottle of wine is out until she leaves- then it might be too late to be worth my while.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Random drug store adventures

Returning a lice comb tonight I bought the following: diet Pepsi, Funions, 3 Carmel Milky Way bars, and a box of pregnancy tests.

The more time I spend as a mother the more random this stuff gets. Interestingly, the lady checking me out struck up a conversation about what I do for a living.

I almost said- buy random sh*t at the drug store 10 minutes before closing.

Seriously, almost as bad as the night I purchased condoms, butter, and Hormel Chili No Beans.

And I'm sorry, can someone please explain to me how on earth pregancy tests can cost so much. No major break throughs in the science and I'm peeing on a stick and a single generic test costs at least $9?

I'm pretty sure they are manufactured in China for like 50 cents. Is it so you can get used to paying through the nose for your future children?

I'm not pregnant. Apparently, my period has gone MIA for 45 days with no sign of returning. Which is good because I drank whiskey yesterday and I Sony want to feel guilty about it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Little Help From My Friends

I started this journey two years ago. Ironically, just as my kids were beginning it. They came into care on 6/30/2010. I called the Illinois Center for Adoption on 7/1/2010. I wrote this post about the photolistings we were stalking reading. And here we all are, nearly 26 months later, living a life of answered prayers with kids who pretty much found me. And as questioning and hopeless as my last post was, I feel a heck of a lot stronger than I did at the beginning of this journey.  And while our life looks nothing like I pictured, (Where are all the sundrops and rainbows?) I wouldn't change it for anything.

I didn't get here by myself. I have a whole cast of people to thank for helping me along the way.  The funny part is that I have not met a S.I.N.G.L.E. one of them in person.  I care deeply for their families. They have made me laugh and cry and hope. They have made me a better wife, woman, and most of all mother. But none of them exist in my "real" life. They only exist in my computer. I have scoured their blogs and forum posts to absorb the wisdom that they have. I use their advice and remember how they have handled situations daily.

I spent some time today updating my blog.  I've added some blogs I read.  This is not a comprehensive list and I will continue to add (so please don't feel bad if you aren't up there yet).  I started with those blogs that have been the most influential in my foster parenting journey. Those who write often or who helped me the most at the beginning of my journey.  (Also if you'd prefer not to be linked please let me know and I will take you off the list.) Please visit these bloggers and support them. I owe them so much. A shout out was the least that I could do.

Happy Reading!

J's blog - Stellar Parenting was the first blog I read about adoption.  When I began reading, she was dealing with poop issues with her boys. Now she's added a third child, a much searched for daughter and I'm so excited for her. I've gained so much from her and use some of the discipline techniques she's blogged about.

Jen's blog over at A Nickle's Worth of Common Sense is all about her family which is made up of interracial adoption, biological children, and a guardianship. She's also battled cancer and is hilariously funny.  Her explanations and view points of adoption have helped me tremendously. While she doesn't write as often she's a fantastic resource.

Diana over at From Survival to Serenity connected me with some local Mom's who have adopted children with trauma.  She has had a hard road and still manages to make sure to help others.

I read Last Mom daily.  She's a talented writer and her Princess is so very much like my Jelly Bean that sometimes I think she has a portal into my living room.  Her ability to help her daughter heal has given me soo much hope. Go check her out and while you are at it send some colorful socks to help foster kids!

Rebecca at Fosterhood in NYC is single foster parent who is supporting a former placement post return home. Her commitment to co-parenting as much as she is allowed is inspiring.  Plus she's freaking funny!

 Cherub Mama is a great support. She's a frequent commenter on my blog even though she's had a hellish summer!  She's come out the other side of a false allegation and is a special needs foster Mom who has an even crazier court system than me.  She loves her kids and you can tell.

Jen over at Dreaming With A Broken Heart suffered the heartbreak of losing a child, adopted an older child, and is now expecting a child. Her writing is beautifully honest.

Sophie writes about her NINE children at Hope Love Acceptance.  Seriously, I don't know how she does it.  Her faith and love are amazing. She shares her heart whenever she can and she reminds me that I can too.

Mimi will crack you up! Go check her out at I Must be Trippin . Another great support of a post reunification family. She's writing a great "Foster Fridays" series with guest writers and everything. A great resource for all of us.

Lisa at Life In The Grateful House has seriously changed our life introducing us to tapping.  Videos, scripts, and help for anyone who would like to feel more calm and relaxed.

Mary the Mom Mayhem writes Muddling Through Mayhem . She adopted older children in addition to her biological children and has shared the realities of what that can mean for a family. Her honesty about mental health has helped me through some of the darkest days at my home.  She just posted a bunch of great reviews on books an techniques for parents. Trust me - you'll want to check this out.

Christine Moers Welcome To My Brain has a fantastic blog. She also has You Tube videos that will change your life.  No joke.  She's artistic and fun and beyond creative. She also does parent coaching. People pay her to tell them what to do. You can't go wrong reading her stuff.

Finally, the last two links I have included may be considered a little controversial.  Don't read these blogs at work due to their honest content and graphic pictures.  That being said, these women are incredibly brave writing so honestly and openly about their lives after suffering many, many abuses.

LT, is a young woman in her early 20s who aged out of foster care. It can be hard to read her posts because she has really struggled. Her ability to put you in her shoes is uncanny. I Was A Foster Kid

Butterfly is a mother who is a victim of incest and sexual abuse. Her marriage recently ended and she is writing about navigating the changes in her life. Reasons You Shouldn't %^*^ Kids can offend people but as she explains - its meant to shock and grab your attention.