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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