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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.