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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Name Calling

LM is spending the week with my Mom. I met them for lunch and while at the salad bar she said, "Mom, what is this?"

I hate to admit it, I got teary eyed. It felt so good to be called Mom. Even over something as silly as a spinach. 

It was never a question for the Fab Four. We were Mom and Dad before they moved in. It was easier to remember than the myriad of care givers they had in foster care. It didn't have any special meaning. It came to mean the same thing as the rest of the world knows it: love, protector.For these kids it's different. The foster mom of the youngest two prefers her name. The other foster parents used Aunt and Uncle.

I hate it! Last night I got called "Miss R". In my own house. Ugh! I'm the Mom in this house. I take care of you every day. I handle all the bodily fluids and bath time and dinner and homework. And since I have a feeling these kids are going to be here at least two years, I'm having a hard time adjusting to being "R" to them for that long.

The kids should be comfortable. I believe that. And I won't force them to call me Mom. (I will refer to Hubby as Dad and secretly hope that they change their minds.) I know often the argument is that "Mom" may have a negative connotation but they really seem to love their Mom and they call her "Mommy". 

I guess I just feel like if I'm doing all the heavy lifting of a Mom, it would be nice to get the credit.

Although yesterday at day care one of the kids called me by the Fab Fours' last name. Hi Mrs. Four! Which was kind of funny to me. These kids all have different last names although one of them is the same as ours! (It's been interesting to be back at day care. The kids who were friends with the Fab Four have been cute. Telling me how much they miss them. The parents not in the know seem puzzled. Like i look familiar but aren't sure why. Everyone else wants to know how I shrunk my kids! LM came with me to pick them up tonight and she told people these kids were her cousins and siblings!)




Sunday, December 29, 2013

Now Starring

So I'm going to call the oldest of the new brood Stella. She is a dreamer. Her mind is always in the clouds. This child has the biggest imagination of any kid I have ever met. As in, if she could have one wish it would be to eat Santa so that when she dies all the gifts go to heaven. Yeah, we are going to have a tough time reining this girl in and channeling all that creativity.

The next eldest is going to be known as Sarah, as in Sarah Bernhart the actress. This child is all drama all day. And for a kid who acts timid and shy most of the time when she wants to throw a fit she really puts on a show.

I'm hoping these two fall into the fold of our family as quickly as Simon and Smiley. They fit right in and haven't had much trouble adjusting. I think coming from a home with very similar rules was a big part of that. Sarah fell apart tonight when I asked her to get her pajamas ready for her shower. She told me that she only ever had to get her panties out of her drawer. Everything else was always laid out for her. She is 7! The 4 year old is able to do it so should the 7 year old. 

The crying at the drop of a hat is getting old fast. Simon did this tonight when discussing the hate mail he sent his Mom at his visit today (he told her he hopes she eats dog food- which I can't even fathom coming out of his mouth much less written on paper). But he did calm down quicker than previously and mentioned to me that Hubby told him he was proud of him for being able to calm down. The positive praise is really important to him.

And my little Smiley. She's whip smart. And she's funny. She cracks me up. Tonight she told me I could go to bed and she would watch TV with Hubby. Gee thanks kid!




Saturday, December 28, 2013

Riding a bike

Oh.my.goodness. I seriously just had a flash back to when Gabby and LM moved in and Gabby fell apart at the dinner table. This time though, it was my new oldest middle kid and she went full on Jelly Bean. As in, stomped up the stairs. Told me no and then screeched at me that she needed tissues. Yes darling. I can see the snot coming from your nose but screeching is not going to be how you get what you want. Neither is stomping. It will, however, get you sent to bed earlier than your siblings. 

Apparently therapeutic parenting is like riding a bike. This time around I don't have to ramp up to the skill set so that's a plus. I am however hoping that the crying at the dinner table is a short lived thing. One of my favorite parts of the day is sitting at the table talking with my kids about our days. The eldest dropped into tears instantaneously when she was teased about a boy. Yeah. The tears at dinner need to go.

Oh and have that pesky Foster Mama Drama going on. (Yes still. This time we were accused of being hurtful regarding our lack of contact compared to the other foster mom- even though the kids hadn't moved in with us. My last kids had a saying. Nunya. As in Nunya business.) She can go also. This is one of those times where I wish being the petty, vindictive person was an option. I'd really enjoy telling her where she can stick her thoughts about this situation. BUT, I was not raised that way, I wouldn't want that to be the example I set, and I do understand where she is coming from. So I will put on my big girl panties and allow the kids to call her if they ask. And delete the equally forward and not very nice email I prepared in response to hers.   And repeat to myself that I will kill her with kindness and be the more fabulous foster mom because this isn't about me. It's about the kids. And the kids might need her still. 






Friday, December 27, 2013

Tears on Christmas Night

These big brown eyes looked up at me. The bottom lip quivered, she bit down on it. What's wrong I asked? Are you missing someone? A nod. Who?

The tears spill and she says in this small voice, my sisters.

Two more nights kiddo. Two more nights. 

*************
Tomorrow my sisters are going to live in my room, right?

Yes sweet pea, tomorrow.

***********
Tonight my sisters are going to live with us? 

********

She may have asked Santa for a princess bike but I think her real gift comes tonight.

I will remind her of this when she complains about having to share a room with said sisters....

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Official

When Willow handed me the paperwork for Simon and Smiley this week I got teary. It was pretty surreal that 11 days before the year was to end she was sitting on my couch. I really thought when the Fab Four left in April I would never see her again. And yet, there she was handing presents over to me. Meeting with the kids. Discussing a Mom. 

I have know for months now that the Fab Four were not going to come back into my home. That's what I wanted. I wanted them to succeed. Their Mom is doing well. But actually filling our beds up, still shook me more than I was expecting. I instantly missed them. 

I feel myself being a little guarded. This new case is going to be a long road due to the history with the System. So far we've had some tears and normal pushing boundaries stuff. We've slipped right back to being parents.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A New Take

A friend and foster parent posted the following on my Facebook page:

I know it gets old hearing "you guys are amazing", so I'll just say: you guys are on the good side of average.

Made me laugh.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Grrrrr

So this week I was the target of another adults emotions. I don't enjoy that role. In my personal life if that happens one time too many, I just avoid you. In this instance though, I can't avoid that person for a few weeks.

One of the foster moms of the kids is having a really tough time with the decision her family made to 1) not take all 4 kids 2) have them move sooner than later. And while I am glad that she came to the decision to move them sooner than later to my home, I'm really tired of hearing "we would have gotten there eventually" "I really wish we could have taken all 4" "had you not come along" and variations on that theme.

Now, I get that she is grieving. If you've been reading my Blog you have an understanding of how hard I grieved this past year. But I did not take that grief out on the mom my kids were going to. I did not lash out at her and tell to stop pushing me into letting them go too soon. I did not try to take them away from spending holidays and birthdays together (I did make a stink about an overnight visit starting on Christmas but the judge agreed and I suggested they just have a long visit that day instead.). I did not learn of a family celebration and demand that the kids be late to it.

This person has said I've made plans and extended invitations, when in fact, I did not. I'm not sure if she's trying to convince herself, or convince me she's not heartless, or what but she went so far as to tell me she could have filed an appeal to keep the kids but she believes this is best for them.

Seriously, it's exhausting keeping up with the up and down. And I really bit my lip because I came very close to telling her, no way on Earth would you have won that appeal. You've had the kids less than 6 months, don't meet the cultural requirements for the kids, and are not willing to take their siblings even though you've been asked time and time again.

I don't have time for her bullying and I can't be responsible for her emotions. If you have to keep apologizing to me for your behavior then perhaps it's time to evaluate how you are acting. You can't ignore someone in person and then call them up the next day and act like their best friend. And she's not even the bio parent. I refuse to put up with it from another foster parent.

But if she can't land in one space where she can at least suck it up an pretend that I'm an ok person to spend time with for the sake of the kids, we are really going to have to evaluate if a continued relationship is the best for everyone. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Growth

Often times we talk about progress and growth in terms of our kids. Being able to cope with a birthday or an outing. Today I have my own progress in mind.

Yesterday was a tough day in terms of transition planning. The other family came back and said they wanted to keep the kids longer than Christmas. As their new request made it hard to give the kids a good chunk of time to adjust before school started we presented a plan that we felt was accommodating and fair to everyone.

Apparently, that was pushy of me. And it went on from there and got pretty ugly. I took the high road. I didn't take the bait of an argument. We calmly asked the case worker to make the decision and despite the fact that she still threw what I would equate to a temper tantrum, we still offered up the fair version of the plan.

Three years ago I would have been the one throwing the tantrum. I would have written this long email about how unfair this woman was being. I would have made a demand, given an ultimatum. But not now. I simply said, further contact can't improve the situation. I want to be the bigger person here and I let the  case worker handle it. 

I can't believe what perspective I gained this year. Reunifying the kids really allowed me to step back and learn what it means to our them first. Hubby and I did a great job this week of making it about the kids and not us! Yeah us!

The transport service will be bringing the kids for the weekend instead of the foster parents as originally planned. Court should be real interesting on Tuesday. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Not Legally Free

Anonymous asked: Are the kids legally free for adoption? 

The answer is no. The goal is reunification. They are still visiting with bio parents. 

There was talk of expedited termination a few months ago when we were first approached. I don't know if that was looked at yet. I do know that this family has already been reunified once by the same judge and that intact services were in place and failed. I also know that Mom does not seem to be doing much and missed her last court date. Dad is only showing up 1/2 the time to his visits. Both were involved in DCFS previously with their kids. And in our state before termination can be discussed kids need to be in an adoptive resource home.

The other foster families are convinced this will lead to adoption. There is a greater chance that it will, given the history. We were chosen as a good foster placement because if the case turns that way, we are willing to adopt all four children. We've also brought back together children who were separated and had a history of sexual abuse. If they moved the kids so they were together, they wanted it to be their last move in foster care. (We will be their 3rd and 4th homes (yes, again).)

I cannot go into this with the idea of adoption in my head. It was a mistake I made last time. Actions were taken the wrong way and I believe that being honest about our wish to adopt may have hindered others to see our legitimate concerns. 

I am glad that the other families could see us as a forever family for these kids. It allowed them to be placed together. No doubt we will make the same promise as before, our house or her house. I signed up as a foster parent and my job is to protect, advocate, and support the goal.

If I'm being honest, I am also guarding my heart a bit. I couldn't think of these kids as only mine if I were to be working with these other foster families or their biological families. I spent a great deal of the previous two years thinking of another Mom as my enemy and in the end that did me more harm than good. Maybe I feel like I owe it to Maria, with all she has taught me, about what it's like to be in her shoes. Quite frankly, I might still be worn out from all of that. Arms length of the thought that these could be the Final Four is much more comfortable right now. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Today is Brought To You By The Number 4

Two years ago today, I was having what I believe to be, the 2nd worst day I ever had with the Fab Four. JB was being admitted to the mental health hospital and LM had to testify at a pre-trial hearing. 

Today just may go down as one of the best days I ever have as a foster mom. I learned today that all four children will be coming to live with us by the end of the month. The foster mom of the oldest two decided it was in the kids best interest to move them now and not risk a mid-semester move. Her only request was that they get to spend Christmas with their family. 

I recognize the difficulty in making the decision she did. It's a heartbreaking thing to say: these kids need to be together and they are not meant to be mine. I know because I made a similar decision last March. I said the back and forth is insane and we have to do what is right for the kids. 

It was an act of a mother. My prayer today is for that mother. That she can find some comfort knowing she did the best she could for those kids if it wasn't in the cards for her to adopt them. And that she gave our family a really big gift, if it turns out that it is in God's plan for us to adopt them.

We felt it was best for the girls to spend Christmas with them. Coming to our family Christmas would have been overwhelming for everyone.  The next few weeks will be a flurry!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Mom

I need to brag about my Mom for a moment. Because not only did she drive over an hour to see Gabby's band concert this week,she also exchanged a dress for Maria, and picked Gabby and LM up.

I remember very clearly the week before the kids went to overnight visits for a week my Mom swearing up a storm that there was no way she could ever forgive this woman. She called Maria every name in the book and prayed for her to fail. She  told me she had no idea how I could be in the same room with her. And I told her I needed her to at least talking about that around me because it wasn't helping me move forward.

Now look at her! My Mom is amazing. She shows up for me no matter how crazy my idea. Walk a 5K with 2 new foster kids in the freezing cold? Pick me up at 7 am. Dinner with 6 kids? As long as they are showing the hockey game. Quality time with a woman who speaks a different language? What's the word for good, is all she has to say! 

My village is pretty amazing! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

FAQ

The questions I've been getting often are- What about the other kids? And - How are they doing?

What about the other kids is in response to us taking on a new placement. And it's becoming annoying pretty quickly. It's annoying because it implies that somehow we've abandoned or forgotten the other kids. It's a different twist on the "don't you get attached comment". Kind of like, "didn't you get attached?"

I know the question is well meaning. I know it's mean to be of concern. But it comes across as a dig at times. I want to say, "What about them? They have moved on. I need to do that too. This is how it's supposed to work. What am I supposed to do? Quit because my feelings got hurt?" But I feel like I owe it to the kids to give a better explanation.

The other kids are excited for us. They've met the new kids and had a great time with them. We are still here to support them as much as we can. We are here to support Maria as much as we can. I feel comfortable moving forward because I believe that they have enough resources and done enough healing that me as foster mom, will not be necessary. It's time for me to open my home and my heart and help a different family.

And how are the Fab Four? They are doing ok. The girls have hit the teen attitude phase. LM got some tough love from me and an evaluation from a psychiatrist for depression and that was enough for her to adjust her attitude. JB is doing great at school and is slightly more stable in her mood swings. She is still tantruming but not as frequently. Gabby included us in her school concert this week. She is as moody as can be and hormones are to blame. MM is on meds for ADHD and he seems a little more focused. He is still not always listening but he doesn't seem to be in the middle of every issue anymore. Maria got hired full time at her job and will begin accruing vacation time. She was actually paid for Thanksgiving off this year. I told her how proud I was of her and that now, I see that she did work hard to get her kids back and she shared the judge sent her a letter to the same effect. We get to seem them every couple of weeks. They still call us Mom and Dad. We are still important in their lives and I have a feeling we may always be. 

As we move into this other case I feel wiser. We've really come a long, long way in a shorter period of time than I expected. I feel like I have a lifetime of foster care experience and I'm prepared to put it to use. In 2 weeks we will have kids living in our house again. And I'm sure this case will have quite a few blogable moments.




Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Very Good Day

Here was the order:
Little Mama, Simon, Mr. Mohawk, Gabby, Smiley, Jelly Bean, Maria, Me, and Hubby. All nine of us at the movie theater. It might have taken two cars and three booster seats to get us there but we went. And even though all six kids were seated next to each other, no issues.

I missed the initial meeting but I guess all the kids were excited to meet each other.   It was another of our "either this is brilliant  or this a spectacularly stupid" ideas. Brilliant was the consensus.

After the movie we went to lunch. Split an egg nog milkshake between us girls and then headed back to hang out at our house. 

If you had told me last year that in 364 days I would have driven 40 minutes to pick up the gang, happily paid for a movie and lunch and then invited everyone back to hang out at the house and eventually end up watching the Blackhawks game with us nine plus my parents, I would have told you, you were out of your Ever. Lovin. Mind.

I was blissfully happy today. Everyone was smiling. Laughing. Giggling. Playing nicely. Maria felt so comfortable she actually fell asleep on our couch. (Everyone falls asleep on it. It is the black hole of couches.) 

After dropping the Fab Four off I came in to check on Simon and Smiley. Simon was still awake. He was laying there smiling. He told me the reason he was smiling was today was a really fun day.

Yes it was. This is the part where foster care doesn't suck. Moments and days like today when kids get to have fun. Where parenting is a joy. When the system really puts back together a family and they become successful. When the adults decide to let the kids be the focus and something great becomes of it.

I'm sure to the people who came across us today we looked like an odd group. We got a few stares when we walked in with six kids. Go ahead and stare. This is what true love looks like. 

Hubby

I don't write much about Hubby here because, well because he doesn't really get my need to purge my thoughts and divulge my feelings to the world. So I respect that and try not to share about him.

However, last night while we were checking in and discussing the new case and trying to understand the differences he said something pretty great.

"A wall full of pictures of families we've helped is not a bad way to spend a life."

I love that man. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Media Part I

Have any of you seen the online commentary about the Brooke Mueller/Charlie Sheen DCFS case? 

Take away the celebrity and it seems based in the media reports this is a pretty common DCFS case. Divorced parents, both with addiction and domestic violence histories, a concerned relative caregiver who has other siblings of the kids in care living in their home. 

Seems Mom is having issues getting clean. System isn't allowing the foster caregiver to get the supports she needed she gives notice. 

Could you imagine if you were the foster parent who got the call to take Charlie Sheen's kids?

What strikes me as most interesting is the commentary from the public. The outrage. The total misunderstanding about the timelines. The complete bafflement that an ex-wife would take in her daughter's half brothers. The disbelief about a phoney hotline call against the foster parent. A birth parent not taking active interest in their case plan? Doing just enough to get visits but not enough to get custody. The automatic outcry for termination of parental rights.

People! This is a front row seat for how foster care can suck at times. How frustrating and messy it looks from the seat of a foster parent. Trust me, the vast  majority of people would take in loosely related children needed you to. And they would do so until it became too hard to keep the other kids in their home safe.

How about you take the energy flaming the Sheen family and spread the outrage to your local DCFS office, legislation, and create change. The status quo can only stay in place until enough people decide its no longer acceptable. And we need you to get involved. Us foster parents would love to do more of that, but we are too busy caring for children and dealing with the system....

Next post on Media: the recent attention called to the increase in DCFS involved child deaths in Illinois.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Search

It amazing how much information you can find out about people using a search engine and Circuit Court Records. Was able to find out that one of the older sisters does indeed have the same last name as us and shares the middle name of one of my nieces.

Simon & Smiley

So Simon is the name I will bestowing on the little guy who is coming to live with us. He has glasses and is very smart and reminds me of Simon from the Chipmunks.

The kids were real troopers today but I can tell that the road will get bumpy as these kids are sensitive! Smiley likes to freeze up when you ask her a question but is also capable of being quite loud. Today I heard about last weeks visit with Mom and that she was mad because her sister took her food. I mean the outrage a week later was impressive.

Simon burst into tears at nap time today because he didn't answer a question truthfully. He wasn't lying. But rather trying not to be a burden. When I called him out on it (and nicely, as in its ok if its nit dark enough in your room) the tears came quickly and it took a while for him to calm down enough to talk about it. He was mad at himself for lying. Poor kid! 

We are going to have to work on feelings for sure.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Random Thoughts

Gabby called today! Inviting me to her band concert. I so love that I get to be included still. And she called me Mom! It felt good to hear.

I'm not sure if the new kids are going to call us Mom and Dad. They seemed hesitant last weekend. We shall see.

I think I've landed on a blog name for the caseworker and the little girl.

Officially caseworker shall become Willow and my new little girl will be Smiley. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

1st Weekend

We survived having new kids in the house! They were a joy. They just smile all the time. I see these kids just sliding right into our family.

We had only one meltdown per kid, and they found out we will follow through. (And that both Hubby and I will react the same way.) Their foster Mom thanked me for giving out time outs! And We've decided we must be personality twins! 

I can't help but compare and contrast. I know all kids are different and at their own level but these two seem so much more advanced to me. And so giggly and so sweet. It was so much easier with these two at their meltdowns than with Jelly Bean in a "good" day.

I feel like my heart got bigger. All that pain made room for more joy, more love, more kids. Who knew foster care would mean I'd get to fall in love over and over again.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Preperation

When the Fab Four came I had no time to prepare. We were out of town when we got the call for the 1st two and had 4 hours notice for the 2nd two.

This time I'm going to have 6 weeks and potentially 6 months. We spent this week continuing to purge and re-organize. I can't believe how big the rooms look without the added furniture. And the boys bunk bed got put back up with the bedding originally bought when foster care was a big unknown. We happen to have two bunk beds set up at the moment and a spare twin bed frame in the basement. This will allow at least one more bed for when we have visitors. At some point I expect the Fab Four to spend the night and I'm going to need to put 8 kids some place!

There are three girls and one boy in this family also. The two youngest are coming to live with us and they're ages 4 (girl) and 6 (boy). I'm still not clear on the exact ages of the oldest two but they are around 7 and 8.

These kids will be moved in by Christmas. Which I am sure was my Grandma's doing up there in Heaven. I made the mistake of telling my Mom I wasn't going to decorate the house for Christmas this year. With no kids and no family or holiday party hosting to do, I didn't see the point. I said the same thing the year we got married. My Grandma wouldn't hear it. So she bought me a 2 foot pre-lit tree and a bunch of frog ornaments (story for another day). Well over time that tree was outgrown and the frog tree is now 4 feet and is one of the four trees I usually put up. (The 2 foot tree is now the Chicago themed tree). But now the kids are coming and we may be hosting family so next weekend when I have the kids by myself (while Hubby is out of town) we may start decorating.

The plan for Friday is for them to meet some family that we will see again inSaturday. We had tickets to a church function and since it can be kind of loud and full of stimulus I want to make sure they are comfortable with other people. And since we will be seeing the same people over the holidays I felt this would make the holiday less intimidating.

Here we go!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ready, Set, Go

I was standing in the birthday card aisle at the grocery store. Hubby squeezed me with excitement. I said, "Who would have thought this would be our life seven years ago." 

We were picking out a birthday card for Maria. We had just come from meeting two of the most adorable kids I've ever laid eyes on, who I will have the good fortune of mothering. We were on our way to spend the afternoon with the kids I never thought I would see again, just six months ago. It was surreal. 

Crazy. Amazing. Beautiful. Foster Care.

We did meet all four kids and it went fairly well. We made a photo book about our family for the kids to take with them and that was a big hit. (Not a sponsored post but we did a 1 Hour book from Wal-Mart for less than $16.00. It was awesome.)

The younger kids were excited to meet us and seemed happy to spend time with us. The older two didn't spend much time with us as they were chased away from the table and told to play, but they weren't really aware of who we were or why we were there. Although I believe the boy did tell his older sister he was coming to live at our house and she would be too.

We spent Sunday rearranging furniture and purging items from the house. My parents came to help. My Mom is so excited she can hardly wait until Friday when they will come spend the weekend.

As we were putting the bunk bed back up, I remarked that I couldn't believe we were already becoming foster parents again. My soul feels ready. And I feel prepared to start to be an advocate for a new set of kids.

And oh my word are these two stinking adorable!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

As It Unfolds

So after receiving one of the most passive aggressive texts, ever, I found out we will be meeting all four kids this weekend.

And the more I think about it, the more I feel like the kids should be together on the holidays. Sure we are strangers but isn't that better than not being with your siblings? I'm really torn on this. I would be pretty ticked if I were the every day care giver but if there is anything I learned this past year it is- it isn't about me. It's about the kids. And if they could be together with their potential forever family wouldn't that be best case scenario?

It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds. I didn't take the bait of the passive aggressive text. I sent a cheerful reply as I am determined to rise above. It come from a place of grief and the unknown. I get that. But it irked me anyway. Luckily, I have experience with passive aggressive personalities. I'm going to plaster on the smile and kill them with kindness. 

Repeat after me: It's about the kids.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Foster Care Land

This was an interesting weekend Foster Care-wise. Friday the caseworker called me to ask if she could share my information with the other foster families that have the kids that we agreed to take.

Lets just say the transition with these two different families is going to be very, very hard. If the initial conversations we've had are any indication. And we are all going to need lots of prayers of healing and patience. And I feel really bad for the one foster mother because she would really like to be the resource for these four kids but her family  situation prevents it. And today I really feel like she took it out on me. I'm very worried about the current plan to leave the one half of the sibling group in that home to finish the school year.

On the other hand the other family with the kids who will be transitioning to our home first said, "No I don't think they should be with us for Christmas and Thanksgiving. I think they should start making those memories with their forever family."

Talk about blown away. The goal is return home. Mom has already been involved with the system 2 times. No one seems to think these kids are going home. But I'm very concerned that the other foster mom is holding on to hope that they will somehow let the two stay with her. She's sending some very mixed signals about all of it.

I get it. I really do. But she didn't want to hear that. She was offended by the empathy I was trying to put out there. I'm already frustrated and kids aren't even living with me yet.

Did I really forget how frustrating foster care could be in only 6 months? I want to shout: I did this, with 4 kids separated, with a Mom who struggled, and the same case worker. I really am not the clueless thirty something you think I am. I am not the enemy. I know it feels like I am and if you keep this up I will be, but I'm a good foster mom just like you. And I'm really sorry you can't be these girls forever Mom but that means God has a different plan.

I know she needs time. I know she is grieving. My hope was that we could help this be easier for her, but maybe that's not possible. And maybe it isn't my responsibility either.

Meanwhile, the Fab Four couldn't have been more awesome about kids moving into their old rooms. Mr. Mohawk was so excited to learn the boy will be his age he begged for a sleepover. 

In other news we got asked to speak at PRIDE training as foster parents who have worked towards a positive relationship with a birth parent. I asked LM if she had anything she'd want to make sure the almost foster parents knew and she said,"Be understanding and prepared for everything. A tantrum can happen at any time!" 

So in 7 weeks I'm going to be a full time Mom again. And in a few days I will get to meet two of the kids. And we will have a whole slew of blog names to come up with. 

Strapped back into the roller coaster...


Monday, October 28, 2013

Dear Kids

Dear Kids,

I missed you today. I though of all the fun things we did on our trips to Disney World. I pictured your reactions to the new things we tried and brainstormed a way to afford for us to do them all again. This time with your Mom included. 

I took a step towards healing today. I realized that I no longer refer to you as my kids. You are now Maria's kids or The Kids. I spent a good amount of time wondering what the next kids will think when they join our family and if they will enjoy our trips as much as you did.

There is a place in my heart that still longs for you. But mostly it hopes that you are alright. While I am confident that you are where you should be I still worry that you are ok. That your Mom is ok. I wonder if that will ever really go away. I had no idea how deeply I could love. I no longer worry that I don't have enough to go around.

Love,

Foster Mom R

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sadness

This was a rough weekend for me emotionally. I found out my friend passed just as I was sitting down to lunch with one of the Fab Four's former therapists. 

It's awkward to cry in the middle of a Cheesecake Factory. 

My friend was an amazing person who shaped the lives of many many people through her musical gifts. She's one of the people who influenced the Mom I became. My heart hurts when I think about her son and her husband. 

I also struggled with some jealousy regarding those around us who are expecting. I try so hard to push those thoughts away but I'm really having a hard time with it this weekend.

Patience is not my virtue today. And all I really wanted to do was curl up and cry. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Busy Week

Two months ago we got a call about a sibling set of four that have the same caseworker as the Fab Four. (She really needs a blog name.) I got an email last week from the licensing worker and asked if we'd heard from the CW. Apparently the Spanish speaking foster home that was going to take all four (they have been separated two different homes for 6 months) fell through. 

So the email was circulating that the CW was looking for a place that would take all four. So our liscensing worker got in touch. And we had another discussion about taking the case.

The goal is return home. However, this is the Mom's third go round with the system. And has lost custody to at least one other child. (There is a 2 year old with a friend that isn't in the system.) that's a total of 6 kids. And a failed reunification and failed in tact services.

One of the current foster moms got in touch with me and gave me the scoop from her perspective. When the two move out of her house the other sibling of another group of kids she has will move in. And once again I bang my head against the wall. Moving two kids to a family that has said yes twice means two different groups of siblings get to be together and you are worried about finding a bi-lingual home for kids who speak English? Just makes no sense to me. (And reinforces my idea of an exchange of sorts where foster parents plan placements.) the main goal is reunification. Sibling sets need to live together in order to return home to bio parents. If Maria had had the behaviors I had when all four of the Fab Four moved in she would not have made it. 

AND in our state prior to petitioning for termination, the kids have to be in a preadoptive home. 

We will see what happens. They talked of winter break being the time to move them but the CW supervisor said something about exhausting reunification efforts prior to placing with us. My response was that we are ready to take a traditional foster placement.

In other news, I saw my Sarcoidosis specialist today. Her first words to me when she saw me were- you were in my dream a few weeks ago. Not often do you have a doctor who knows her stuff but also openly shares her faith. She recently moved to a less prestigious medical institution with a lower class population of patients and she couldn't be happier. She likened it to her "foster care work". In that, these patients really need her expertise. And here she was making a big deal about me being a foster parent when she's the person who made it possible because she worked towards getting me healthy and recognized when I needed more help.

We talked about the infertility and pregnancy risks for me. It really gave some things to think about and of course - I have a ton of testing to do. 

We leave Tuesday for Disney World and I can't wait! I so need a break and I think this trip really will be relaxing. When we went the week after the kids left, I was too numb. And while we had fun, I never really relaxed. I cried into the t-shirt I picked for Gabby in the middle of the store. It was bad.

And if you have a moment- I have a special prayer request. My friend who was a second Mom to me, is in the ICU in a coma. Please pray that she wakes up on her own this weekend. She makes the world a better place. Thank you.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Losing Isaiah

It's been a long time since I've seen the movie "Losing Isaiah". I remembered that it was a movie about a black child being raised in a white foster home. 

Since I became a foster parent movies like this are seen through a different lens. I have a different perspective of the characters, the children, the circumstances. I was reminded of this when I caught the last 15 minutes of Losing Isaiah tonight.

WARNING SPOILER ALERT:

The scene I caught was the birth Mom taking the baby home. Then the foster parents are shown in their home. The foster dad tries to put a toy away and the foster mom tells him to leave it. He wants to move on, she wants to stay stuck in a world where she doesn't have to move.

And it felt like someone had stabbed my heart. I had lived several moments just like the one on the tv. The emotional reaction to the scene was immediate.

Hubby wanted to move out all the kids' stuff and I wanted to hang on to it. Deep down my hope was that they would come back. And we had a heated moment that ended with me crumpled on the floor in grief just like in the movie. The foster mom crying out she didn't know it would hurt so much to lose him. Words I uttered more than once.

I'm still crying 20 minutes later. Grief bottled up, spilling back out. This time I'm crying because of what will never be. The kids aren't coming back, although, they have not disappeared as I feared. In fact, we will be seeing them tomorrow. But my dreams for them, for us as a family are gone. And the fear of the unknown hanging over me. 

A few months ago I was ready for sweeping change, now I'm craving stability. Or a plan. I'd settle for a plan. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Reach Out, I'll Be There

I got a phone call from Maria this evening. She asked to talk to me in person because she is having some issues with the kids. 

It was a little hard to understand her because it was on the cell phone and her English,when talking about emotions and relating events, is hard to understand at times. Just like I use the wrong tense in Spanish, she uses the wrong tense in English. 

For instance she will say "the child say me" instead of "the child told me" or "she said to me". 

For the beginning part of the conversation which started with her telling me she had to call the police on Monday because the child wouldn't go to therapy, I thought she was talking about Jelly Bean. Then I picked up some details and I realized she was talking about Little Mama. 

Recently, LM told my Mom that she wanted to come live with me. That being at her Mom's house was hard. I think she had some unrealistic thinking about the way things were going to be when she returned home.

Then Maria talked about how she was responding to lying and attitude. She said the therapist reminded her that LM is 13. And though Maria didn't work through the reasoning the same way I did, she wasn't buying the therapist's explanation.

Those of us with traumatized kids come up against this all the time. We hear, "that's normal teen behavior", "my kids do that". Sure. Yes. I'm sure it is. I'm sure they do. 

However, was your kid sexually and physically abused? Does your kid disassociate when scared?  Does your kid live in a state of constant chaos? Hmm well maybe it's not quite the same. And looky, looky, a therapist who isn't trained in trauma and attachment issues treating a child with those problems.

And even if it was "normal" that doesn't change the fact that this kid is crying out for help. Nor does it change that this Mom needs help too. On my best day, with my college degree in psychology, and my husband, and my Mom, and the army of therapists and my network of other parents who had walked this path before me, I still got it wrong. 

I repeated to Maria tonight. It is hard to be the Mom of your kids. Because it is. She may not recognize all the time that its their trauma that often adds a layer of challenge but she knows "it's normal teen attitude" doesn't seem like a good enough answer. 

I praised her for reaching out. Assured her she wasn't alone. Offered to come tonight if she needed but reminded her we could talk on Sunday when we pick the kids up as planned. Reminded her she could have LM call me if she needed.  I also reminded her that she was the Mom and LM will love her even when she enforces the rules. (I suspect that Maria is letting some things slide by with an apology and LM is running with that.) Maria is also concerned LM is suffering from depression and I agree an evaluation is in order.

Such an unlikely partnership. One I couldn't fathom six months ago. But here we are....



Monday, October 7, 2013

Support

Through this wonderful blog-o-sphere I have been able to connect with some local women who share the hills and valleys of parenting traumatized children through adoption, foster care, and guardianship. 

I was fortunate to get to meet with some of them on Sunday. It was great to know I'm not alone in real life. It was great to be able to hug another Mom who "gets it". Who wasn't going to tell me all kids "act like that" or try to urge me to "try IVF" as if it was a new nail polish color. These were strong women who have been battered at times, just like me. These are women who have cried buckets of tears and fought long, hard battles for their kids. 

And I was able to share where I'm at, without tears. Without getting choked up and without feeling phony. My intro to the one Mom I had not previously met went something like this:

I'm a foster parent. We had 4 kids who had been with us for 2 + years who were returned home in April. We are supporting them post re-unification and figuring out what that is supposed to look like. Meanwhile, we are waiting for our forever kids to find us.

And I impressed myself with how far I've come!

One of the Moms asked me how I would feel if God's plan was simply for me to be that support role in several families lives. It was a really good question. My quick answer was, that very well could be what's in store for us. We'll have to see.

Could I be that support? I'm sure of it. I'm learning how to be suggestive without being overbearing. To assist but not meddle. To be concerned but not too judgmental. But would I want that to be it? My answer would have to be no. 

One of the Moms said, "I don't know how you did it with four! You are a saint! All that noise!" Ahh. I LOVE the noise. I miss the noise the most!

So here is my wish for those of you reading: I wish you find the support you need. From your faith, your family, your friends, or the community. I wish that the blog-o-sphere allows you to find extra support especially when it is needed.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Moms

When I signed up to be a foster parent I agreed to help families. I had no idea that in a few years I'd be sitting in the audience of a school musical of a former foster child. But tonight that's what I did. My Mom and I each drove nearly three hours round trip to see a 45 minute show.

Why? Because I agreed to help families. I agreed to support reunification. I agreed to love these children like my own and that doesn't stop when their address changes. And also because her Mom couldn't be there. 

It was quite a beautiful moment for me. While I was sad that Maria couldn't make it, I was happy to be her stand in. I am still a Mom. Perhaps not THE Mom, but "A" Mom, at least at this event. 

As I sat there watching, her worried face turn to relief when she realized she had people in the audience. i sat there thinking how lucky I got. Not only to have this awesome responsibility of being a support for this child and her family but also that the woman sitting beside was who I learned how to be "A" Mom from.

Of course I showed up. She always did. And still is. She didn't chose to become a foster grandma. I chose it for her. But that doesn't matter to her. 

I say we are going to take Maria and the kids on vacation for the weekend- she says I'll make dinner for everyone.

I call panicked because I'm being sent for a psych intake with a suicidal 8 year old she comes and gets the other kids.

Meeting with the district attorney - she scoops the children up for school.

Headed on vacation for my Mother-in-law's birthday. She moves into my house for the week. 

I called her less than 24 hours from the time we needed to be at the show, she didn't hesitate. I knew she wouldn't. I have the benefit of knowing that my Mom will ALWAYS show up. Jelly Bean has not.

But she does now. A Mom and a back-up Mom and a Grandma also.

I sat there with tears in my eyes hoping for at least another 10 years of school moments like this. And all the other moments in her life. Grateful that I was included. And relieved that I don't have to wonder about her. And then the singing began. 

Lucky for Jelly Bean she was exposed to all kids of music in my home. And despite her being new to this school (as in a few weeks - she was moved to a special class) she knew all the songs. Even "Lean On Me" which we used to sing along to in the car all the time. We did a little twist on it. When the lyrics say, "for It won't be long"  you sing (for) FIVE (it won't be long) TOO SHORT. Complete with hand motions. So as Jelly Bean was singing I did the hand motions and she giggled at me from across the room.

I posted a picture on Facebook. Maria commented thanking me for my support and asking God to bless me and my family. 

Not bad for a back-up Mom. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

I'm Rusty

I forgot how stressful redirection can be. It was constant this past weekend. Jelly Bean just could not get it together. Over and over and over and over again.

The minute they got in my car Friday we went over the house rules. We went over the activities and then I answered to Mom a gazillion times. But that didn't matter because she basically broke every.single.one. And I know its testing. But it was exhausting. I mean been there. Done that. Bought the T-Shirt. There were no major incidents just a constant need for negative attention.

The really big thing was she left the door to the garage and the house wide open. So of course the dog got out. I have no idea how long he was outside and thankfully he stuck close by because when Gabby went outside to look for him he came right to her. But I was so upset I told the kids they needed to find a separate corner of the house where I couldn't see them. Ok. I yelled it. So the oldest two were crying and I couldn't find the youngest two when I came back to get to the bottom of who left the doors open. Apparently, Get to a corner where I can't see you meant hide to them. So we called them they came out of  - you guessed it - separate corners.

There is no road map for this. And I admitted to myself this weekend that this is hard. And I can't expect them to respond and act the way they had been because its been 5 months and there are in a new world. And at this point, I'm glad they are. Mr. Mohawk told me how he had to draw a really good picture for school. He drew his family. He drew me, Hubby and "my other Mom". Which made me smile.

There were lots of really great moments in between the redirection. So all was not lost. In fact, we had a fun weekend. And we laughed. A lot. Which is probably what I miss the most. When I dropped them off and no one cried (including me) and Maria gave me a bag full of fresh from the field corn (seriously I don't know who she thinks I'm feeding) and her friend was bringing in pumpkins for the kids to carve everything seemed like it was in the right place. And thats really all I can ask for.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Unprepared

This weekend was the first time we've taken the kids to a non-family party since they moved home. A friend was having a house warming and we ran into one of her friends that stood up in her wedding like I did. And she asked me when did I get so many kids.

Folks. I was totally caught off guard. In five months I have not had to think about how to answer that question while near the kids. And I honestly wasn't sure how to answer. Since the kids have introduced us as "their Foster parents they used to live with" I decided to tell the fluffy version of the truth.

Well, we are foster parents and these four used to lived with us for two years but are now living with their Mom and they get to visit. Their Mom has been great about letting us see them and she has been so gracious. Really we've just become a big extended family.

Thankfully, she didn't ask why they were in foster care. She just kept saying I couldn't imagine. That must have been so hard. Which is a new twist on the, "I couldn't give them back" response that is so popular. I usually confirm that yes, it was very hard. But we've seen the best case scenario- a family that desperately needed services receive them and kids that are doing well and still supported in our lives. 

My friend told someone I "basically have the biggest heart ever". I would usually be quick to downplay that but maybe there is some truth to that. Maybe each time your heart gets broken, and you put it back together, you make more room?

Aside from it being in my nature to care for people, there is nothing that makes me more qualified than anyone else. I've learned some pretty unique skills, but most anyone can do that. You would do this if you knew the rewards that come with it. Which doesn't make me selfless. It makes me human.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fab Four

So I picked up the kids last night. Maria told me that since the kids were not helping her clean this weekend they were to be put work and help at my house.

I might love this woman!

She also told me to call more. She doesn't want me to be worried about calling. "You are family. The kids ask when you will call." 

Point taken.

The 45 minute drive was just a constant stream of Mom, Mom, Mom. Giggling. And a discussion about who gets to massage Dad's feet. The answer was me because "you married him". 

And that dog of ours. Happy as a clam.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Who's Bright Idea Was It To Let Me Make Decisions?

Because when given the option of maybe going on a cruise, I'm going to have to go with yes please. And I'm going to green light a Disney Cruise. And it will visit the Disney private Island, Castaway Cay. And we will get extra shipboard credit because I'm a savvy consumer. 

Bon Voyage!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Follow Up Call

Yesterday was a bad day. Tough day at work. Tough day when I got home. I had an unusual crying jag that lasted several hours. So I welcomed today which seemed to be much better.

Until 5:15 PM rolled around and my phone rang. It was the case worker from a few weeks ago who had the three kids who needed an adoptive home. And true to his word he called me back. (Which is interesting because just this morning I wondered about them.)

He told me that there was family across the country that they were working in moving them to and that the kids were going to be placed in a short term foster home a few towns away, that was willing to take all three. He told me he knew we weren't looking for a temporary placement and so he felt this was best.

It was nice that he called me back. And he has such a positive vibe to him. "It just means someone else's babies will be in your home! Great foster parents are always in demand!" 

But I was pretty deflated. Another phone call to tell me someone else was chosen. And it's a great problem to have. That means kids are finding homes. I just wish they could find their way into my home.

And I repeat: My kids are out there. They will find me.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hey Grief! Haven't Seen You In A While

I forget sometimes that I am still grieving. And it whacks me it of nowhere.

Hey Foster Mom R! Haven't made you cry in a bit. I think today would be a great day to remind you that you are no longer a mom, have no real prospects at becoming one, and oh yeah foster care sucks.
 A friend of mine lost her foster children of more than 2 years this week. I watched in horror and heartbreak as the Facebook updates came in after court. And unlike the Fab Four, there is no birth mother who has earned custody back. There is no hope that she will get to keep quality contact with them. They left the same day within hours of the court decision with no transition.

My blood boils that we live in a world with a court system that seems to consistently fail children. That chooses to create more heartache where there is already so much. That asks strangers to lend a hand and then walks all over them, time after time.

And I found myself sad. Bummed out. And then I arrived home tonight to an empty house. And I instantly burst into tears. There it was. The grief. Watching as another Mom was being dragged down the same awful path. Feeling helpless about the amount of hurt her family will endure. And then I realized I'm not done hurting. And I had no idea that I could be so deeply affected by someone else's pain. It still really hurts that the kids went home. And its ok to admit it. Man, do I miss being a mom. And if I'm being perfectly honest, I am so scared I won't be a permanent one, EVER. Because at the moment I don't want to volunteer to be crushed by the Foster Care System again.

Its just a bad day. I know that. I know that its one step at a time. And I just never expected it to be so hard. I'm confronted with just how badly I want children. And how hopeless that dream seems at the moment. I'm not even sure if its the Fab Four I'm grieving for. Perhaps its my fertility. Perhaps its that it seems so darn hard to get to the end goal. Maybe its all of the above.

Authors Note - Should my friend decide she wants to be a part of this post I will link to her website. But at the moment I won't ask because she has enough going on and it is her story to tell.

UPDATE 9/29/13 - Cherub Mama has given permission to link. Please see her comment below.


 

Lost in Translation

Working with biological families can be hard. Doing it in a language you don't speak fluently adds what I like to think of as "expert level" challenge.

I usually text Maria. I write fairly well in Spanish and there is always Google Translate to help. I also will call to confirm before I head out to the kids as its a good 40 minute drive. When we speak its mostly in English.

Here was the exchange Saturday:

I call Maria's phone- it goes to voicemail.
I call LM's phone-

Me: Hello? 

LMP: Hello?

Me: LM? It's Mom. Are you guys ready for me to come get you?

LMP: Actually, it's Gabby. Mom? I think my Mom forgot. We are all still sleeping. 

Me: Can you put your Mom on?

Maria: Hello? Foster Mom R?

Me: Morning Maria. Are the kids ready?

Maria: I thought you were coming next weekend. 

Me: I suppose I could.

Maria: Oh. OK. That would work better for me.

Background: Kids screaming and yelling yeah! Next weekend.

Me: OK. I'll come get them Friday night at 6:00 after work. 

Maria: That would work better for me. I think the judge is going to give me the babies in October.

Me: That's great! So happy for you.

******************************************
Somehow I managed to keep the frustration and annoyance out of my voice. The swapping of the weekend was going to work better anyway but it was disappointing that there was an issue. The text messages were pretty clear but scheduling and organization are not Maria's strengths. I think we need to go back to scheduling a few visits ahead of time. This seemed to work better.

But I didn't blame. I didn't argue. I just accepted it and moved on.




Thursday, September 19, 2013

Twitter

Just a reminder- I've joined Twitter. Find me @FosterMomR

What topics would you want to read tweets about?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Working With Birth Parents

If you have followed my blog you know that I have not always been easy on birth parents. In fact, I have been critical, judgmental, tough, frustrated, and angry. And then this amazing thing happened: I learned to work with and form a relationship with the Birth Mom of my former foster kids. I would NEVER in a million years have believed that I could do that with any birth parent, particularly this birth parent.

I thought I would share how I got enough perspective to reach this point. It was not easy. And it was definitely a process. And I'm not sure if I read someone else's story that I would have followed their advice. But I did read about other foster parents who had openness with former foster placements and I found it helpful to know that others managed to make it work (even if I thought they were crazy).

1) Realize that the Birth Family comes from a completely place.

Not just a different city or county but a different culture, set of experiences and lifestyle. I know that this is discussed in most foster parenting classes. But take everything you know and throw it out the window. I had no reference point of where Maria came from. 

It became painfully obvious how different we were the time I took her to a burger place and she tried to order soup. Why did she order soup? Because she wouldn't dream of paying $8 for a hamburger and couldn't read anything on the menu. Could you imagine living in a world where you only understand a teeny bit of what is going on around you if you leave your house? What if your house changes every few months? When you move every few months you don't have "things". No lamps. No dressers. No plates or silverware. 

2) Realize that the birth parent, at some point, has also had trauma and has likely been a victim.

It was really easy for me to hold it against Maria that she was in an abusive relationship even after she had been arrested for domestic violence against her children and in therapy for a year. A year? This woman had had 20+ years of trauma and violence against her, much of it at the hand of her own relatives and people who claimed to care about her. A year of therapy (with the wrong therapist IMO) wasn't going to make a dent.

As I watched her with her kids, a lot of her actions reminded me of the traits in her kids that needed healing. And healing takes time. And healing can be exhausting. Then add having every move you make analyzed and documented. And no one there every day helping you. In fact, in some instances she had people working against her. There was no therapeutic parent working with her daily like her kids had. Seeing her in this way allowed me to stop vilifying her and see that she really needed my help.

3) Remember your role and where the bar gets set.

My role as a foster parent is to help reunify a family and advocate for the children in my home. Sometimes those two responsibilities conflict. And sometimes you believe they conflict. At the end of the road, it became clear that I needed to do a better job of remembering my role is also to help reunify a family ahead and put aside my own feelings. 

Those are my kids. Even now, 5 months later, it is hard for me to think of them in any other way. But the aren't really my kids. They are hers. And while I believe it is my job to love and protect and act as Mom to any child in my care, I'm not their forever mother until a judge tells me so. That means sometimes you have to revisit your purpose and your role. That means that if the case has made it to the point where overnight visits are happening and the judge moves to move the children home, you have to trust that everyone did their part just as well as you did.
 
In the end, being able to say to a biological parent, "These kids need to go home to you. Back and forth doesn't make sense." allowed me to stay in their life. It allowed her to begin to see me as someone other than the enemy.
 
It also helps to remember that the bar of acceptability gets set at good enough. Minimum parenting standard. And while it stinks because every kid deserves better than the minimum, this isn't the way it works.
  •  Can the birth parent clothe the children? The answer is yes if the clothes are clean and acceptable for the weather. They do not have to match. They do not have to fit nicely. They do not have to be permanent stain free.
  • Can the birth parent shelter the child? Sharing a room with mattresses on the floor is acceptable to the state. Matching bed spreads and bunk beds with guard rails need not apply.
  • Can the birth parent ensure the child gets an education? Are they showing up to school pretty much? Are they mostly doing their work? Then the birth parent has been successful. 3 grades behind? Perhaps they kind find a tutor at the library.
  • Can the birth parent feed the child? Did they sign them up for the free breakfast and lunch? Did they eat dinner (even if it only consists of eggs, beans, and tortilla)? Are they malnourished?
  • Can the birth parent keep the child safe? Do the kids have access to a phone? Is there a lock on the door? Is the birth parent at least attempting to keep away harmful people? If so then this standard is met.
 
Post reunification both of us have really worked to respect the other. She has tried to share her children with me and I've tried to share my knowledge with her. We have not really come to blows over an issue or a disagreement and I think that's because we are both really trying very hard. I remember that just because her way is not my way does not mean it is wrong. I have nearly forgotten the things that made me crazy in the past because now they won't do me any good.
 
I hope that the above helps. It is not easy. Foster care and foster parenting never is. but it is so rewarding. And there are so many families that need our help.
 
 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Murphy's Law

I sent Maria a text to ask if I could get an item I lent her back next weekend and if I could see the kids. Her response was that the kids had asked if they could spend the weekend at our house.

Hubby and I discussed. My first reaction was no. I have things I want to get done and I felt like the kids would hinder that. His response was I really want them to come stay for a night. Then was also considered that maybe Maria needed a break and didn't feel like she could ask. So we said yes.

Of course this means Murphy's Law will kick in and we'll get a placement call this week. Especially since I've now put it on the Internet and sent it out to the universe today during an earlier discussion with Hubby.

9/16/13 UPDATE: Got a placement call tonight. Missed the actual case worker but the message was there was a child he was trying to place.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sarcoidosis

It's been five months since I've had to juggle appointments and deal with doctors. But those were for others. I hate to admit it but I have not been a good patient. Being Mom allowed be to focus on something other than my chronic illness and I believe motherhood played a big role in my illness becoming stable.

But last week I had a scare that sent me to get checked out. And while what sent me there turned out to be ok, my blood work came back and seems to indicate a "flare up" of my Sarcoidosis. Here's a tip: if one test is abnormal that usually means there are more tests in your near future.

I didn't do much about my disease while the kids were here. I didn't have time and my symptoms were not bothering me. Well, things bothered me but they were not Sarcoidosis related. And there isn't much I can do about it aside from take pills. Doctor have always said stress is bad for my disease but foster kids or not, life is stressful! Is it a coincidence that the kids left and I'm on the brink of illness? Probably not.

The days after the Fab Four moved out were dark. And painful and ugly. And it's been a few years since my blood work showed so out of whack (which is about right for my illness). In short, I was probably due.

So I went about the process of finding my doctors who have moved health systems and have left the area. And as expected, I will have to wait 3/4 weeks to see those specialists. 

I feel fine. Rundown but I don't feel sick and I'm not in anymore pain than usual. Sarcoidosis can affect any organ but is commonly found in the lungs, eyes, skin, and heart. It can also be found one the central nervous system or brain. I have had it in my lungs and my brain. Common treatment for Sarcoid is steroids and other immunosuppressants. I have tried nearly every medication that is used to treat recurring Sarcoidosis. In the past, there have been instances where we have chosen not to treat and let the disease resolve on its own. And by resolve I mean go into remission as there is no cure for Sarcoidosis. (Why would I chose not to treat it? I react badly to steroids and there are risks associated with prolonged use of them. IMO the side effects of the steroids have always been worse than my disease itself. 

Maybe ill get lucky and someone will call me with kids available for adoption tomorrow (and won't decide to give them to another family) and motherhood will kick my disease into remission! :) 

Friday, September 13, 2013

O'hana

O'hana means family. It's also a way that families live in Hawaii. Extended family in one house. We did our own little family trip and lived as one family for a weekend.

We own a timeshare (This is how I can afford to travel as much as I do. Afford being a relative term as if we didn't have a time share I wouldn't have to work.) and all of our resorts are set up like condos. Separate bedrooms, kitchen, laundry, living room. It's a great way to travel with friends and family and we often will take family with us when we go places. 

Hubby had long suggested that maybe we would get to the point where we could go up to Wisconsin Dells with the kids and their mom. I always thought he was crazy. (I think my exact words were: Are you on crack?) She hated us. We hated her. She would then tie strings to letting the kids see us. I just felt like it was too risky. 

Maria (I've landed on a blog name for the Fab Four's Mom!) really seemed to reach out. And as she was generous I figured we could be too. I'd long since felt she needed a parenting coach and since its was hard to do this over the phone I figured, why not? What's the worst that could happen? 

I figured the worst would be boundary issues. Or maybe she would hate us. She really got on board with allowing the kids to see us so I figured we'd just go for it.

I'm glad we did. It was a great weekend full of learning. Us learning about her. Her learning some more parenting skills, and the kids learning that we were a united front. I actually felt kind of bad for the kids. With so many adults all on the same page it was hard to be sneaky.

Gabby and Mr. Mohawk didn't have too many issues happening. They seemed to just enjoy being with everyone. Gabby did complain about JB but that was mainly because she was being pushed out attention-wise and it was easier for her to be mad at JB than it was for her to be mad at LM. 

JB had been having a particularly tough time. She had made some false accusations against Maria (How do I know they were false? She claimed there was no food in the house. Problem being that LM gained like 15 pounds since the move. And I'd been there and seen the food.) and had been throwing tantrums so severe the police were called. Three times.

We had seen the kids the Monday before we left and set the consequences for the week that they would miss pool time for issues until we left on the trip.

Apparently this was still not enough for JB as she managed to steal laundry money to buy ice cream. Unfortunately, Maria didn't connect this incident with a consequence and when JB asked for a milkshake on the way up she gave it to her.

So there was a lesson about logical consequences. If the kid steals for dessert she gets no dessert. And when she lies about it when asked the punishment gets doubled. There was no dessert the rest of the weekend for JB. She ended up with almost 2 hours of sitting watching the rest of the group go off to the pool. And we left her with Grandma who gave her a second lecture. 

Very quickly we sized up one major problem that Maria had asked for help with.  Why was JB acting out so much? Little Mama. LM was attached at the hip to Maria. Literally. Maria went left, LM went left. Vigilant watch of her Mother was taking place and the moment any other child needed her, LM edged them out.

LM has been having stomach pain. Maria has taken her to the doctor and none of the tests show anything wrong. The first night we got up to the resort at bedtime and LM complained of pain and asked to sleep in Maria's room.

Maria asked if I was okay with it because she was worried about her during the night being in a strange place. I told her it was her decision but ok because she felt LM was sick. (I did not believe for a second she was in that much pain. And I wasn't about to point out the kid had been to the resort 5 times previously.) and it was midnight and we still needed to go to the grocery store so I wasn't about to argue. I reiterated that it was not appropriate for adults and children to sleep in the same bed except on occasion like vacation or illness (guidelines from our state). Since this was both she allowed it.

The next day LM was fine. We discussed with Maria that now all the kids were going to expect to sleep in the room with her. She was shocked that within 20 minutes ALL of the kids in some way asked about the sleeping arrangements. From that point she hung on every move we made. Asked for help. And then put it into practice.

I also told her she needed to protect her own privacy and alone time. The poor woman was sleeping on a couch for months with no space of her own and here was the biggest bed she'd ever seen and she couldn't even enjoy it. In fact, I lectured LM about allowing her Mom space and respecting her time.

Maria couldn't believe I stood up for her and how important that made her feel. In fact, she attributed the weekend with us as the turning point in her being able to parent better and gain control of the household. She got to see that we could be strict and the kids would still love us. She also got to see the kids try to work the other adults and how they all backed us up.

We spent a great deal of time learning more about each other. And while the language barrier at times was hard to overcome, we managed. It was a relief to us that Maria was willing to trust us. And it was great for the kids to see they would still be included.  My Mom refers to that weekend as the "great experiment" as it could have failed miserably. But it didn't. In fact, is was one of the top five most important things we did as a Foster Parents to the Fab Four.

I have to brag on my family again because they went right along with our crazy plan. Pretty much didn't bat an eye. They also went out of their way to make Maria feel welcome and included. I am grateful for all of them as without them, us being foster parents would not be possible.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Stop Mailing Me Marketing Products

Normally, I'm a sample wh*re. I LOVE sample/travel size anything. Hand lotion, lip gloss, cereal, shampoo, etc. I even purchase the gift with purchase products from Mary Kay (even though I don't do classes any more) for my personal use. 

But a while back I started to receive American Baby magazine and infant formula samples in the mail. Monthly. 

I suppose that IF I were expecting/nursing this would be welcome. But I'm not. In fact, I lost my children this year. It was confirmed that I have a fertility problem, and people keep calling me about kids for adoption then call me back to tell me someone else was chosen.

Someone sending me formula was just further reminder that my minivan is empty. And it really irritated me when I came home today. Why couldn't it have been a sample pack of chocolate or razors. Something useful?

I will be donating said formula. And in the grand scheme not a big deal. I'm going to have to get over the pity party. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My Prayer

All weekend I was in this beautiful place. A place I ran to when I couldn't bear the memories within the walls of my house. A place healing began for the Fab Four and their Mom. And as I laid in a hand-woven hammock and looked up at the trees and sky I prayed.

I mean really prayed. Prayed to let go. Prayed to be open. Prayed for my kids to find me.

Then at 4pm the next day I got a phone call from a case worker. He'd heard great things about my family from his supervisor. He worked with the Fab Four's case worker. Would we be interested in 3 kids who he needed to move back to Illinois as legal screening was complete and the department was going to be terminating rights.

Yes. A non-legal risk pre-adoptive placement. 2 boys and a girl ages 3,4 and 7. No abuse history. And while that does not mean no trauma, it probably means less degree of trauma than I am used to.

The only hesitation we have is that the kids are African American and we previously had not felt prepared to handle that aspect of adoption.

So I opened a door. And started to peer into our culture, our nation, myself. 

I have a lot to learn. But we decided to move forward to find out more about the kids. And as I typed those words he called me back to tell me there was some family that came forward. There would be a motion filed. Other avenues would need to be pursued. He'd call me in a few weeks when he knew more.

I had called my best friend this morning. She like me had a degree in psychology. She is always able to "hear" my heart and  provide perspective that I would give myself if I weren't "in" the situation. She happened to be on a plane waiting to take off. Not the best place to have a frank conversation about racism in America. But she did say, "You know R, God doesn't put opportunities in front of us unless he wants us to really consider them."

My response: "Funny you should say that. I prayed for my kids to come to me. It's just that God doesn't usually have someone literally call and answer your prayer."

And so I wait. Repeat the mantra- if it is meant to be, it will. Remind myself there is a big picture. And meanwhile educate myself on what a transracial family would mean. Perhaps this was meant as more of a learning g experience than anything else.

I can also rest easy that I do not have an infamous reputation with the department. The case worker reiterated that we came highly recommended and if this case does not need us, he would definitely keep my number for future use.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Classifieds for Placements

I got a call this evening from a case worker looking to place a 5 and 8 year old brother set. Again probably not what we were looking for (kids removed because Mom failed to adequately supervise them) and we are busy for the long weekend. But she picked me out of the list because she lives in my neighborhood. (Easy monthly visits and initial drop off.)

Which got me thinking about how much I wished I could post a foster parent classified: Committed, Experienced foster family seeking sibling set of up to 4, age range 4-10ish. Will accept Hispanic, English speaking children. Hoping for long term potential adoption placement. beat time to call 3pm. Available after 9/2. At County Line and State Line roads.

I realize there is some pleading and guilt tripping required but if we started this way wouldn't the matching process be a little more efficient and perhaps cause less disruptions? 

I said no but told her if she had a similar placement next week to put me at the top of her list.

So how'd it go?

I realized today that I didn't blog about the Fab Four's visit. In short, it went well.

It was funny to listen to Mr. Mohawk discover that his room had been completely cleared out. His exact words when he went upstairs were:

Whoa! Hey guys, you gotta come check this out!

None of them took the changes poorly. Which was good. We hung out. We went to my Mom's house and saw family and then Sunday went to the movies. Aside from a sugar crash/worn out episode with Jelly Bean and a mystery item that was found in the grocery cart there were no issues. 

We returned them to their Mom's with no tears and everyone happy.

I'm so grateful that we have worked to get to this place of mutual respect and extended family. For once, it's the best case scenario and I couldn't be happier about it.

I also got the test results back from the doctor. The doctor did confirm that I have a medical issue and referred me to a specialist. While I was bummed about the diagnosis, it also confirmed that heading down the foster/adopt road was the right decision as we are that much further and prepared for that scenario. I took the news pretty well. But it hit me later in the week while at the home store. I hit the baby cribs and pretty much bolted from the store. But this was the day of the placement call in the middle of the night so I think it was more about kids in general vs. giving birth. 


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sibling Calls

Anonymous asked: How old were the kids and commented that we get a lot of Sibling Group calls.

The kids were 9,12 and 13. Which was out of the range we are looking to be placed with but it sounded very temporary. 

We have four open beds on our license. And can have up to 3 kids in the one room and though not ideal, we could put another in the loft if we had to. 

My understanding is that not a lot of foster homes can take more than 2 kids at a time in our area. We are only one of two foster homes in our town. 

We firmly believe kids should be kept together if possible and so we are willing to take a group of kids. A child with siblings in care in our state is considered special needs simply because those kids are harder to place together. I would hate to take one child in and then have a sibling group placed separate. That would break my heart.

That being said though, it's been suggested we take two sets of kids to increase our chances of being able to adopt. And while I understand that is math, that's also double the appointments and court dates and providers and issues to deal with.

So for now I will answer the phone and wait until my kids find me. Because they will.

Friday, August 23, 2013

4:15 AM

These all hour placement calls really bother me. And while I was annoyed that my cell phone was buzzing at 4:15 AM, I was more worried about the three kids sitting in an office somewhere that needed a home. Neither of us could take today off of work. (My Mom was already coming to wait for the delivery people for our new bed. No way I could surprise her with watching three kids as well!)

I laid awake for a good 40 minutes wondering about the kids. Praying for their Mom who was in the hospital.

There has got to be a better system than going down a list of people. Like a text alert or email blast (similar to the school district) with a link to check if the kids had been placed. And 4:15? I would imagine waiting two hours until 6:00 when some people would be getting up for work or to get kids off to school would have been more effective. 

One of these days the phone will ring and it will be a placement we can take.




Monday, August 19, 2013

This is what other Mom's Blog about?

Since stumbling into Foster Care Land three years ago, I've been plugged into the Blog-o-sphere. I had dabbled in Blogs at the suggestion of a friend while going through an illness. I didn't find many blogs devoted to my condition and I manage an update on that blog maybe once a year. (Sadly...)

When I began this journey into researching adoption and adoption through foster care, I pretty much stopped reading blogs that didn't pertain to some facet of the adoption triangle. 

The other day a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to Mommy Blog. Ya know, a blog written by a Mom. That's it. Not Trauma Mom or Adoptive Mom or Foster Mom or First Mom. Just a Mom. With good advice about focusing on the important things.
 
And as I read I thought, huh? What would life be like just being a Mom, no additional title. Would I have a blog? Would I have enough interesting things to say as a Mom without a Pre-Fix? I concluded- probably not!

I've not written very much about fertility on this blog. I've struggled with if I want to share this piece of my puzzle with the world. Right now it seems important to share it as I've met many people who come to be foster parents and adoptive parents due to fertility issues. And its one of the more complicated pieces for me and I imagine a lot of others out there.

I've never explored my fertility. No doctor had ever told me I can't have children. We had held off because we wanted to have a solid marriage to add children to and then I got sick and the medication I was on was very dangerous and we were counseled on preventing a pregnancy while I was on it.
The ironic part is that a pregnancy may send my illness into remission. (Right now it is stable meaning not getting worse but also not gone.) It could also cause a flare up. Somewhat of a scary proposition for me.

So after a year of irregular cycles, possible chemical pregnancies (a very early miscarriage), and no actual pregnancy I decided to explore what is going on. I really feel like I just want to answer the question rather than always wonder if I could have had a pregnancy if I decided that it was really important to me.

Thus far, I'm not sure how I feel about having a pregnancy. I just want to be a Mom. I have a really hard time believing that it would make a difference in the way I would love a child if I birthed a child verses adopted one. I don't say that to mean there aren't differences in biological and adopted children or their experiences. Just that I believe my heart and my ability to be a parent would be no different.

Several people in my life have asked me if I would go the fertility treatment route. Well meaning friends and family seeing the sadness and stress of us being foster  parents suggest this as if that would be less stressful or sad. I feel like its trading one kind of stress for another. And what if it doesn't work? At least when I'm not really worrying about it, I have some sense of control (ok it a false sense, but its a sense). That's not to say that I'm opposed to it or judge others. Each person's decisions about what kind of family and how they want to create it is just that, their decision. I'm just not sure I want to decide anything. Or sign up for medication.

Its hard to explain the experience of being chronically ill if you have not been through it. Its a type of trauma. It was not severe trauma but definitely stressful and left residual triggers and emotions. I was seeing seven specialists at one point. I had a medicine cabinet full of pill bottles each with their own side effects. I had to feel worse to get better. And while I am grateful that I had physicians who were willing to work together to get me to a place where I could function again, I dread being back in a specialist office. I don't know if I will be able to get over that. Luckily Hubby is supportive and has allowed me the space to come to terms with all that is swirling around in my head.

The doctor feels there is something going on and that its not attributed to stress like I thought. At the same time though she didn't seem super concerned about a serious problem so I'll take my cue from her. I go this week for some further testing.

Friday, August 16, 2013

All Tucked In

And at 5 to midnight the phone rings: Can you take a placement of a 2 and - 5 year old....

Sorry. I'm truly out of beds!

The Fab Four Are Coming

To spend the weekend! And already the tattling has started (and I haven't even picked them up yet). Time to brush off the parenting skills....

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hubby

As I was making dinner tonight for Hubby and I, it dawned on me that today felt normal. Like how it felt before we became foster parents. That somehow in all the stress and loss and sadness we managed to find us again. Perhaps a better version of us, but  us. A couple who loves each other. Who quip with silly one liners simply to make the other person laugh. Us who have clearly divided chores that the other appreciates. Us that have grown together in the past 12 years to adults who can communicate and compromise.

Today did not feel sad or empty. In fact, the only trace of the past two years and the kids was us getting in the minivan to go to a BBQ. And on the drive home we had a great "check in" conversation about how we are feeling about some decisions we will need to make. 

I guess I wanted to put it out into the universe how grateful I am for my husband. And how much I love that he does laundry and dishes but pretends not to know where the Tupperware is kept. And how hard he works to support our family and the fact that he can make me laugh. I love that he gets giddy when talking about Disney World and that he is generous with both his time and with gifts. When I think of all the choices I've made in my life, choosing him was the best by far.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Friday Night Visit

I took LM shopping for her birthday last night. There was a misunderstanding and I think I let her down because she didn't get to spend the weekend with us. She did manage to thank me several times and I think she enjoyed the one on one time. As did I. 

When I arrived at their house JB was in the middle of a tantrum. She instantly tried to get me to see things her way and complained loudly that her Mom was ignoring her. When I told her her Mom was doing the right thing she tried to escalate the tantrum.

Somehow, my magical meltdown powers were still intact and after a few minutes she calmed down. She tried 1) you are not my mother (to which I replied, "Correct but I am an adult and you will be respectful to me.") 2) My Mom doesn't want me to learn about God ("You can't learn about God while you are crying") 3) No one listens to me ("I'd be happy to listen and help you talk with your Mom when I come back but I have some rules. 1- this mess you made needs to be cleaned up 2- you need to be respectful. We all have choices. You can choose to calm down and use your tools or you can choose not to, but if you choose not to, I can choose to go home.") she stopped crying by the time we left and when I came back the mess was cleaned up and we had a nice chat.

She was triggered by school starting Monday. LM had told me what was going on before the tantrums started this week (she hadn't been trantruming every day) and it was getting ready for school. So we talked about it with Maria and went over what she can do to keep calm. Then we made plans for a phone call next week.

The language barrier is sometimes hard. I think Maria was trying to ask me to take the kids for an overnight visit. I'm not sure she feels comfortable asking but I want to be able to respect her role as Mom. So I think we are going to over taking them next weekend.

I cried while I was there when I was talking to JB about the possibility of another placement in the future. She told me it would make her sad and I was overcome with emotion about my love for her. I had no problem having the same discussion with LM she told me she would be happy for us that there would be kids in the house but sad because they had so much fun and the other kids would then be having fun and not her.

When I got in my car a flood gate opened. I cried for them. I cried for the kids they would have been in my home. I cried for the things I was missing out on. I cried because as I walked in I thought about how depressing the building was and then as I sat across from Maria how jealous I was of her for being able to be a Mom.

Hubby called and he was missing the kids too. We both agreed that while the situation is fairly ideal, in that we still get to be part of their lives, it's still really painful. It was a way more productive way to manage the emotions though. 

I finished throwing my pity party and am going to focus on the things I love about this. I have this giant family full of unconditional love- and I wouldn't imagine it any other way.