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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...