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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Are you asking me?

So walking out of daycare today we were stopped by another Mom. She has a daughter in Mr. Mohawk's class and a newborn.

"Do you know if this is normal?" she asked as she held her daughters arms out and pointed to a red spot between 2 band aids.

Several things went through my head: Normal? How the F would I know what's normal?!? I live in flippin chaos

Oh wait she's talking about the marks. She thinks I'm really the Mom of 4 kids. I come across as experienced! Yeah! Focus, focus.

They look like shots. Think, think what did that sheet say when you took Gabby- oh yeah

"I think there could be redness. It's not swollen and isn't painful or itchy. I would put some ice on it and check it in the morning. Also if you think the redness is getting bigger you can mark where it is and check it before bed. If its still there tomorrow then I'd call the pediatrician."

Relief crossed her face. "Thank you so much I just wasn't sure."

I feel so inadequate and inexperienced most of the time that I forget that that may not be how OTHERS see me. I can't recall if this woman knows about our foster family status but today it didn't matter, I was just a Mom. She has no idea what a boost her question gave me. I feel like such a wanna be at times in real life. I don't get to wear my blogger badge of trauma land around town. People I see daily don't get a glimpse into my head and heart like those of you. And honestly I'm so guarded all the time I've stopped being surprised by others.

I'm looking forward to next week when I get to start school with all the other kindergarten Moms and move up the ranks like most people experience it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Handling Updates

As we gear up for school to start I'm trying to take a more laid back approach to how I normally document what's going on in the case. Generally, every Monday when things are rough I send an update. If things are going ok I will send an update every two weeks

Since lately I feel as if no one cares what I have to say I'm not sending an update this week. I kind of want to see if the CASA worker will reach out to me. She has only called a handful of times and really hasn't asked me much and I'm wondering if that is because I send the updates or if she doesn't care what my opinion is. The kids don't report her asking any questions beyond getting to know you type stuff and I know that she calls Mom. Which I'm sure gives a totally skewed version of whats going on but she's been a CASA for like 15 years so I'm hoping she knows what she is doing.

Normally, I would have emailed and said that both Jelly Bean and Mr. Mohawk wet the bed the night they were told visits in Mom's home were going to resume. I also would have recapped the discussion the kids had about 2 of them missing their visit this weekend for birthday parties and not feeling bad about it. Gabby going as far as stating she still doesn't want to go to ANY visits. And Jelly Bean's response that visits are more important than birthday parties which sounded pretty rehearsed considering her normal view of the world. (Perhaps she really does feel that way - she does have a pretty strong need to protect her Mom from her sisters and their "meaness".)

But since no one listens (except you guys) I'm taking a break. I've asked that the visits be set up a week before school starts as if school were in session and that no more changes be made until the end of September. Since visits will continue mid-week during the school year I want to get a pretty set routine in place so that we can see how this is all going to flow.

We attempted to get homework completed with Mom during visits on Saturdays last year but that was pretty much a bust.  The kids either 1) lied to us that they didn't have homework 2) lied to her that it was finished 3) claimed they needed help and 4) that their Mom could not help them (which we discovered meant they didn't ask her and just assumed she couldn't help them).  Homework is a GIGANTIC stessor in our home and so it will be interesting to see how the kids and Mom handle it. Since it will be mid-week they will have no option but to finish their work. Perhaps this will break them out of the "sunshine and rainbows" cycle of visits being all fun and absolutely no semblence of normal activity. For example - Do you paint your daughters nails every 3 days (In a Chinese Buffet). Park daily? I took the four of them to the store to get school supplies and they nearly drove me off a cliff.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Night

Concert and movie in the park. The glowing spots are the kids. Lol

Made it to Friday

This week was long. It was full of farewells and the summer is wrapping up. I'm emotionally overwhelmed. Saying goodbye for now to the girls' trauma therapist was hard for me.

She was a support to our family. She knows and shares their history. Not seeing her means our Thursday nights are free but it also means the end of guaranteed alone time with the girls. this makes me a little sad. I realize I can always schedule time with them but as they get older they get more and more homework. LOL

I also had to say goodbye to my boss today. While I have only worked with her for 15 months I've learned a lot from her and I respect her and I'm sad to see her go. She's another person who cared about my kids and also was a support to our family in that she gave me flexibility. I held back years all day. I refused to say goodbye. I'm stubborn like that. When I hugged her I told her to knock em dead. I hope our paths cross down the road.

I'm nervous about what lays ahead. I know my new boss and I think she'll make an excellent addition to the team but there will be change and that isn't always easy.

We also will be having some visit changes with the kids (next week she can have them in her home again) and with school starting I feel like I need to shut the hurricane shutters or something. I've already noticed that Little Mama has been getting extra moody on Friday nights and she didn't used to do that. Her anxiety surrounding visits has started to rise.

We had a nice night outside tonight at a concert and movie in the park. Our friends brought some wine and we talked and relaxed while the kids played and watched a movie. It was perfect weather and not the hot and sticky we've had around here lately. I actually got to snuggle in a fleece tonight. With the fresh air and nice buzz I'm heading to bed!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A diversion of sorts

We had our monthly meeting with our caseworker and one of the therapists is here so I'm sure I will have more foster care centered posts to come.

But I thought tonight maybe I would venture off topic a bit. Something has been bugging me even though I know it shouldn't. Even more silly it's because of something I read on Facebook.

Now I love Facebook. I have family and friends cross country who I've been able to stay in touch with because of Facebook. But I can't stand the drama. Cryptic messages which scream "ask me what's wrong" or pot shots at people disguised with a generality. I'm all for venting at times or asking for prayers or support but not every post. Not all negative. Generally, I unfriend those people.

But what happens when Un-friending that person is going to cause MORE drama?

So instead of taking to Facebook and posting my own cryptic comments about keeping private stuff private I decided to take to my blog an give everyone an opportunity to safely tell their Facebook drama queens what they are thinking. So please I invite you to leave a comment, cryptic, direct, whatever so that you can keep your life drama free- or as drama free as foster care and trauma parenting can be...ok less drama filled.

I'll go first:
Ok. Enough already. No one cares, we are sick of hearing about it. You think you are this person who reciprocates support and concern but you've really been a sh*tty friend since I became a Mom and I can no longer read these posts without rolling my eyes. I have news for you if a mirror was held up the reflection you give out is exactly what you are complaining about. And if you don't want input or questions about here's a tip- STOP posting on Facebook. I no
Longer refuse to feed into the drama or participate in your chaos. It's a shame because really you are losing out on some really cool people in your life. All that said, I pray you find the happiness you seek.

Ok Go-

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why was I teary eyed?

Yesterday we attended a birthday/going away party for the foster family that had Mr. Mohawk and Jelly Bean before us. The kids had a great time and enjoyed themselves. As we were saying our goodbyes I couldn't help but feel really sad and teary eyed.

I couldn't understand why the kids seemed happy and I was feeling sad. Was I sad for the kids because it is more people they've had to say goodbye to? Was it the fact that we were loosing the only other foster family we hang out with. Was I sad because this budding friendship we were forming was in essence ended? Was it because this was the only other person who knew what it was like to live with Jelly Bean and all of her special needs?

Probably the answer is all of the above. I know with face time, Skype, Facebook, and travel it possible for us to keep in touch and see each other again. Although they are moving cross country so it will not be an easy thing to see them in person. But I'm still sad this morning.

I am grateful to this family for fighting for my kids. For protecting them after a different foster family further abused them. If it weren't for their choices the kids in my home would not be mine. They will always be a part of my foster parenting journey. They will always hold part of Jelly Bean and Mr. Mohawk's life stories. There is no we without them.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Thankful

Often I read posts about the loss of a support system to foster and adoptive families. Friends and families don't understand the chaos and confusion. They don't understand behaviors or mental illness and that often the best way to deal with these difficulties is the opposite of what makes sense to the majority of parents. They don't understand why you can't break routine "just this once" or why a babysitter may not be a possibility. Or they may not feel they can let the children into their lives to watch them walk away. We've been fairly lucky in this reguard. I had already lost the people who would have bailed when I went through my depression. The family that hasn't really understood what our lives are like now had already started to grow away from us. The hurt and confusion of people you love walking away had already been dealt with before the kids got here. We also have some pretty wonderful people in our life that cheer us on and worry with us and I wanted to take a moment to say how thankful I am for their presence in our life. I understand how rare that can be in foster/adopt land. We were with two of these people on Friday night. They called spur of the moment to see us and the kids. We went bowling. We sat outside near a campfire with some live music, great food, and a few drinks and laughed. Really laughed. I can't remember the last time all of us sat around a table happy and relaxed in our home town. These friends of our love our kids. They sat with me a few days after Jelly Bean was hospitalized. I was tipsy and the emotions of the week had gotten to me and I was crying. And they were crying with me. At two in the morning. So I wasn't by myself. I was grateful for the reassurances they gave then and they have been true to their word still. They are at every birthday and celebration and my kids love them back. They are an aunt and uncle even though we are not related but I wouldn't have it any other way. My Prayer tonight is that other families have good friends in their lives too. Especially when Things get rough. So that they feel supported and so their children can see what good friendships look like.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

So if Mom can't be on time the best solution is to cave to her demand for a later time and move the visits to her home so that there is no travel time, right?

Back to visits that consist of eating, watching a movie, and finger nail painting. With an 1 1/2 hours of travel for the kids.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stolen Chips, A Visit and a Thunderstorm

As predicted the visits are going to be moved back to accommodate Mom's schedule. I had to laugh though because the same day I got this news Gabby came home with a birthday party invitation for a Saturday afternoon. When asked what she wanted to do she told me it was a really hard decision. Apparently visits the park don't have as much appeal as a gymnastics party.

Jelly Bean presented me with a co-parenting opportunity by stealing chips, bringing them to day care, getting caught, and calling the teacher an idiot and running her mouth. Of course the chips that she took were the kind her Mom sends home weekly so I sent her a text told her what happened and asked her to not send chips with her this week. Of course she sent a text back about a different kid.... Did I mention these texts are in Spanish? And her grammar and spelling are so bad Google Translate doesn't work?

The visit they had today was later afternoon and unfortunately Mom was late by 5 minutes. Just long enough to freak the kids out. Their uncle, his girlfriend (Mom's roommate) an the girlfriends kids were all at the visit. I'm glad the kids are seeing additional family but again she's supposed to be learning to parent. She can't do that if there are other children and other adults there to distract them. But again that's probably a part of the reason they are there.

Little Mama and Jelly Bean came home pretty sad. Little Mama because the visit didn't start well and Jelly Bean had a very strong reaction and cried real tears for the first time in months. The pressure of trying to be perfectly behaved, the fear of getting hurt, of being forgotten, and the fear of not returning home.

I rocked her. I acknowledged her fears. I listened. She processed and then was able to take a shower and get into bed with no issues. Then the thunderstorm hit and it was Little Mama's turn to meltdown.

Thunder and lighting upset most kids. But I have children that actually dissociate when they happen. A few weeks ago we were in the car when a really bad storm hit- think uprooted trees in the middle of the road. That storm actually scared me too but when I looked over at LM she was literally white knuckled.

Tonight I heard the clap of thunder and then crying. I initially thought it was Mr. Mohawk but found out it was Little Mama. The sound triggered her to her "scary place" or dissociative state.

As a parent this is very alarming. You walk into a room and see your kid literally shaking, crying and when you come near she recoils. I have learned to walk softly and slowly and not move towards her. Her therapists have taught her a tapping technique but we took that one step further and have started EFT Tapping. (I'll link to some great sites - thanks Lisa when I have time.) So I walked her through the tapping and got her back in less than three minutes. Even the dog seemed calmer.

About 15 minutes later the storm had started to move on and LM started to look like she could try to fall asleep. Such a brave girl.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cancelled Visit

So the drama that is foster care visits continued. 15 minutes after the visit was supposed to start I got a call from the driver. Mom hadn't shown up. They have a 15 minute rule. If she didn't show up in the next few minutes she was bringing the kids back.

15 minute rule? This was new. She's been late before. In fact just a few weeks ago that was the explanation I was given as to why they came home so late. I had never been told that a visit could be cancelled for punctuality.

So the kids were brought home very upset and sad. Then I got a call and a text from Mom. Did I know what happened to the visit? I told her what I knew then she said she was going to call the case worker. Great idea. I texted the case worker. Who then texted back that she just found out visits were going to start at 10. Umm no. In fact, the visit provider confirmed 9 little more than 16 hours before.

Then the texts and messages began. Every. Two. Minutes. How are the babies. I need to speak to the babies.

Well I was not with "the babies". I was out running my errands. They were home with Hubby. Who talked with them about their feelings which consisted of fear that Mom forgot about them, then anger at the driver because as they were driving away they saw her car pulling in and the driver refused to turn around.

I didn't answer the messages for an hour. Then she texted could she talk to them to explain. They were calm and had moved on to the things we needed to accomplish in the day so Hubby and I decided not until tomorrow. Which I texted back. And then I got a text from case worker asking the same question.

If the kids had asked I would have let them talk to her but simply so she could relieve her own guilt- um nope. You should feel bad. Your kids need to depend on you. You keep making these mistakes and all these people have given you pass after pass. I was glad that someone finally held her to the rules.

Most interesting was while the kids were sad for like an hour after that- they were fine. Well behaved. No squabbling. No issues.

They talked to Mom the next day when she called. She explained she had to work late but I don't remember her actually apologizing. She asked Gabby what she wanted to do at her visit Monday and told them shed see them Wednesday. Jelly Bean made mention at that time that she was sad about not seeing her Mom and then again after dinner when she was trying to get out of reading. (classic manipulation of the situation).

We shall see what happens today... Any bets that visits get moves back because she has now proved she can't make 9?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Planning Ahead

So Mom needs to start proving to the kids and the state that she can take care of them. She was granted multiple visits per week. Saturday and Wednesdays she has all 4 kids for 3 1/2 hours supervised. The point is to practice parenting skills and build trust. Unfortunately, Mom is too paralyzed by fear and does everything she can to avoid situations in which she actually has to discipline. This is starting to backfire though as now that she sees them more frequently she is failing to plan the visits and communicate so the children are prepared.

I got a call from the visit supervisor confirming the time and asking the kids to wear flip flops as there will be a sandy beach there. So I tell the kids. Little Mama's first question - should I bring towels? No. Your Mom should take care of that. Can we swim? If you can your Mom needs to call and tell me you need to wear your swim suits.

We wake up this morning- thunderstorms. Cant be outside in the rain. My guess is they will end up at the Mall were Mr. Mohawk will be bored out of his mind and the girls will beg their Mom to buy them things they know I will say no to like they did on Wednesday. (Jelly bean got fake nails Gabby told her Mom they aren't allowed so Mom admonished Jenny for getting her to buy them and returned them and bought her something more expensive.)

Hopefully they come home in a good mood we have plans this afternoon.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Apples to Watermelon

I had a comment yesterday (thank you! I LOVE comments!) that bio mom sounded like a jerk. And while I agree and can see why she sounds like a jerk I feel it necessary to point out that measuring her against the people who take the time to read and learn about foster parenting and trauma is a lot like trying to compare apples to watermelon.

Sometimes they are both green. Sometimes they both have seeds. They are both fruits. That's about it.

I don't think Mom is trying to be a jerk. I think she truly doesn't know any better. She's not ever had someone model for her appropriate behavior. She is a victim herself and as such she has put protections and walls in place for her to survive. And these survival methods are what come across as jerkiness to the rest of us - including her kids.

It's hard to keep this in mind in the moment because answers, decisions, and responses can be quite maddening. Asking someone to VOLUNTEER their free time to your cause and then turning around and telling them that you don't care about their point of view would seem pretty ridiculous to most people. But I really believe she has no idea that this would be unacceptable to most. She's not had a lot of experiences where people have helped her.

Then there is the fact that she is trying as hard as she is. My concern is that not much is changing. And what is changing is at sub a small pace that no end is in sight. If she was a jerk I don't think she would be trying as hard.

She comes from a completely different background with polar opposite values. She grew up learning it was ok to beat your children and steal for food. To walk away from financial obligations. To sleep with men for shelter. To allow men to hit you. Kindness, compassion, boundaries, give and take are not concepts that she is familiar with. Those things are as foreign to her as beating children and stealing are to me.

On my way to work this morning, I was thinking about our training classes. How they drove home the idea that sometimes a family needs a break in order to thrive. I have to remember that this is what we are trying to do. I have to remember the videos of the grateful parents post RU that understood how important the foster parents were in keeping their family together. Perhaps that will be this Mom one day. (And if they RU and she still doesn't understand then I will let the jerk comments fly without defense!:).) I have to re-focus to stay sane for the kids and for me.

We saw an increase in behavior issues post mid-week visit yesterday. If this I any indication we are about to start falling apart and quickly. I need to get some strength and focus back of we are going to survive it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I took a little break

From blogging this past week. Truth be told I have some serious emotions going on and blogging while upset only leads to complaining. I don't want to complain.

I realized that being in limbo has started to really scare me. I'm frustrated. I'm tired of going up in down with the roller coaster. Its hard to put on the brave "everything is going to be ok" face every day for my kids. Some days it's even harder to do it for myself.

I went to family therapy with Mom this past week. Her and I and the family therapist translating. The case worker was there to observe. I'm not sure what I expected but I did not expect to come out upset. I'm not sure WHY I didn't expect to get upset. My kids come home upset - but they are confronting their abuser, their fears. Maybe it was because their abuser was confronting me.

Mom asked if I had ever spoken badly about her. She told me she felt I was over protective of Gabby after the incident that stopped visits. She told me she wanted to spend as much time as possible with her kids and could we please get these outings with all 7 of us going.

I got a chance to respond. I got a chance to tell her I'm not like the other foster parents. I got to tell her my job WAS to protect her kids. (Maybe she should pay attention to what that looks like.) I told her that pushing her kids isn't the answer and that this isn't their fault. That we are the adults and sometimes they are going to hurt our feelings. I registered the pain in her face when I explained that sometimes her kids yell at me too but it doesn't mean that they don't love me.

Then she laid on me that she moved 45 minutes away and that Saturday visits were going to be smack in the middle of the day because she needs to get home and "prepare for them".

An then the real honesty began. Prepare for them? "You need to do that the day before. It unfair to take away my entire weekend because you can't prepare for them ahead of time and you need another 1 1/2 hours. Which means i have 4 anxious kids until 10 am who return at 3 who might be able to handle life by 5. Every time you move or change jobs we've accommodated your schedule. It's not fair."

"But I need to get home and shower."

I about lost it. "Shower? I'd love to come home and take a shower. Heck I'd like to come home and pee without being interrupted but that's not how it works when you have 4 kids. You have to come home from work and be Mom. I don't get a chance to prepare. You don't either."

I asked her to explain it to me. She works a factory job. It's for health reasons. Ok so why do you need 90 minutes? Don't you see instead of the 1 1/2 days of a weekend your kids are getting now they get 1 day. 1 day off from foster care. And do you care at all that it also means Hubby and I get only 1 day off then?

Ultimately, she didn't. She ended up saying that she was the Mom and she gets her time with her kids and she didn't care if it upset me.

I understand why the kids get so frustrated. I pointed out that she just got done asking me to spend extra time with her so she could see her kids more but she couldn't knock off an hour of shower time? Where is the working together. Where is the flexibility? And I walked away feeling two could play at that game - which isn't how I want to feel or approach the situation. And in the end it won't be because it would only hurt the kids.

In the end the visit supervisor took care of the schedule issue as she told Mom her visits will start at 9 and she'll have to make it work. Even though I had no input and this person didn't know about the issue I'm sure it will be blamed on me.

Working through relationships is hard and I've just has so much hard lately. I'd love something easy. Like a trip to the bathroom without interruption...



Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July

I'll write some this week about all that's going on but for today I have some pictures!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Other Foster Parents

Today we spent the afternoon with Jelly Bean and Mr. Mohawk's former foster family. I feel so blessed that we have been able to continue that relationship. It's important that the kids learn that people in their lives don't have to disappear forever. It's been really cool to see the bond that MM has with his former foster sister is still strong. It's cool to see this gaggle of kids running around having a blast and thinking of each other as family. Even the older girls who never lived with them treat this family as if they did. Happy to see them, feel at ease in their home, hugs goodbye. Very cool. We had some rare time to talk without little ears. It was nice to talk to another family going through the same things we are. And understand me as they lived it with the same kids too. We also got to discuss some of the guilt they feel for giving notice on the kids. I get it I do but I thanked them for making the choice that they did. If they had not these four would likely not been together. It was also nice to hear that They were glad that the kids got to be with us. This family is very much apart of our journey. I will forever be grateful for the love they gave my kids before I came along. They took in a very scared little girl and got her started on a journey of healing. It's nice to be able to share the kids with them and I hope they will always be part of our lives. Interestingly enough the Foster Mom has the exact same birthday as me - year included. No wonder we get along! As we create this life of ours I'm so thankful we've been able to add all these people we would never have met to our family. Our lives have been enriched and I am so very thankful.