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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Waste of Time

In the months that we had no children living with us, I did not use my planner once. Not once. Any appointments I had we're easily put in my phone. Why? Because there were hardly any. One universal truth of foster care is that there are tons of appointments. 

Bio Mom Visits
Bio Dad Visits (maybe more than one depending on if there are multiple children)
Case Worker Visits
CASA Worker Visits
Administrative Case Review (ACR)
Court
Family Meetings 
Training

Then you add services such as therapy (possible multiple kinds), school, and doctor visits (well child, dental, vision). And that's if no one is sick. Fortunately, we don't have to transport to everything (although I believe it's unacceptable to use transport to medical and therapy visits).  

Needless to say, I've been faithfully been carrying my MomAgenda everywhere again. (This is not a sponsored post. I love this planner and while the initial purchase might be pricey, the refills are reasonable.)

Our full schedule had been shaken up with visit day changes and we have to add therapy in to the mix. 

Willow found a place close by that takes the medical card. So we go. Sarah and Stella and I meet with the therapist. I vacillated between not likening her at all and appreciating her ability to connect with the girls. I stood up for myself when my comfort level about the questions she was asking in front of the kids was on red alert. And then she explained confidentiality to the kids and stated that if a judge required her to, she would have to share their secrets. She then looked at me and said,"which I always encourage parents to leave me out of because then your child will never trust another therapist again".

Um, big problem here lady. This is an active foster care case. Reports to the judge are required. I need your documentation to help get these kids permanency. Turns out the office doesn't take active foster care cases due to the "burdensome reporting". 

It's not Willow's fault. She said who she was when she called. The intake coordinator didn't know. But I've been waiting weeks to get in to this office and now it's back to square one. 

I'm hoping this works in my favor. The judge is not going to be happy at the permanency hearing if the case plan states therapy is a service and the kids have no therapist. My traveling therapists are willing to come back but DCFS won't approve the travel. They my have to make an exception if another provider isn't located.

Tough Day

We had another tough day. It started with discovering that the kids had been putting poopy toilet paper in the garbage can instead of the toilet. Sadly, this is pretty common in foster care. Some families don't have good plumbing and this is how kids are taught. We have a dog that likes to dig in the garbage in the bathroom and I don't enjoy finding poop all over my carpet.

Willow met with the oldest girls and told them the visits with the former foster family would not be happening. The kids were sad and angry. Sarah cried and cried. Then she decided to battle us over 1/4 cup of spinach at dinner. She cried her eyes out for over 30 minutes. We stayed calm. We explained her choices. Eventually, she realized we weren't going to cave and she ate her spinach.

The tantrum had nothing to do with dinner. She was feeling the loss of people she loves. Add to that 2 weeks of no visit with Mom and another missed phone call and you can see why she had to let it all out. We just went about our meal. The other kids finished their spinach and got dessert. She controlled the environment for a good while and then realize no one was giving her the attention she was seeking. Even when she escalated to blood curdling screams. (I just calmly said. Do that again and you will be writing 100 sentences.) we all sat at the table with her and did our best to ignore the crying.

Willow told us that neither parent is making satisfactory progress on their case plan. If things stay as they are, she believes that they may have enough documentation to start termination proceedings in the summer. We were shocked. That's still a ways away. They were able to move visits with Sheila to a week night so that will make my life a little easier. The permanency hearing in March should be interesting. 

Tough Day

We had another tough day. It started with discovering that the kids had been putting poopy toilet paper in the garbage can instead of the toilet. Sadly, this is pretty common in foster care. Some families don't have good plumbing and this is how kids are taught. We have a dog that likes to dig in the garbage in the bathroom and I don't enjoy finding poop all over my carpet.

Willow met with the oldest girls and told them the visits with the former foster family would not be happening. The kids were sad and angry. Sarah cried and cried. Then she decided to battle us over 1/4 cup of spinach at dinner. She cried her eyes out for over 30 minutes. We stayed calm. We explained her choices. Eventually, she realized we weren't going to cave and she ate her spinach.

The tantrum had nothing to do with dinner. She was feeling the loss of people she loves. Add to that 2 weeks of no visit with Mom and another missed phone call and you can see why she had to let it all out. We just went about our meal. The other kids finished their spinach and got dessert. She controlled the environment for a good while and then realize no one was giving her the attention she was seeking. Even when she escalated to blood curdling screams. (I just calmly said. Do that again and you will be writing 100 sentences.) we all sat at the table with her and did our best to ignore the crying.

Willow told us that neither parent is making satisfactory progress on their case plan. If things stay as they are, she believes that they may have enough documentation to start termination proceedings in the summer. We were shocked. That's still a ways away. They were able to move visits with Sheila to a week night so that will make my life a little easier. The permanency hearing in March should be interesting. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

You Know It's a Bad Day When....

The only child who didn't cry at dinner is the 4 year old. Sarah cried the first time trying to explain why tomatoes made her mad at dinner. What I think she was trying to say was she was mad that Dad asked her to try the tomatoes. But she got stuck, dissociated, and then picked a new sad, mad, and glad for the day. Her mad then became that Simon was kicking her in the grocery store. So of course when we turned to look at him, he burst into tears. Terrified he was going to get into trouble. I mean, truly, this boy was terrified. We calmly explained that during Sad, Mad, Glad, we are only talking about feelings and that no one will get punished for someone else sharing (and in effect, tattling). Then Sarah took a bite of the mild, pickled jalapeño that she asked to try and burst into tears.

Her reason: she was scared that the jalapeño was too hot.

Full on flight or fight mode. Now, I've seen this child eat an entire bag of Hot Cheetos without so much as a sip of water. So I didn't think twice about the mild jalapeño slice. We were stunned. So after some deep breathing we began talking about big feelings. She admitted she was sad again during school and that she missed Stella. I asked her if it was only Stella. She then confided it was really her Mommy and we began the dialogue about her missed visit, Mommy getting help, and that it was ok not only miss her Mommy, but to talk about her as well. And I said a silent prayer of thanks that I had scheduled the new therapist for this week. 

Then Stella had math to be checked and was having trouble with telling time. So she had to re-do some of it. So she was crying. Her I understand. I spent most of my childhood crying over math homework....Hubby was great and walked her through it while I "supervised" Smiley's "bath by myself". Which of course ended with me rinsing her hair after she had her pjs on because she missed an entire section of shampoo. But hey- anything to build her confidence. 

And that, folks, was an hour and half of my Monday night. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Missing

The Quartet's Mom, Sheila, is struggling. She's missed 1/2  of her weekly phone calls and last week and this week she missed her visits. Her excuse was a new job that she started. 

Yes, yes, it's great that she is working. But she switched her work schedule to when her kids were visiting. I don't know if this was a choice in a new job or if she was fired from the last. I realize she has bills to pay but I'm getting inpatient with the fact that she doesn't seem to be taking responsibility for her actions.

Last week they actually confirmed her visit and then two hours later they called to cancel because "she has a new job". Huh? So over a week ago she knew her visits as scheduled weren't going to work but it wasn't until Wednesday that she tried to resolve. Of course there was no supervisor available and now they are waiting to try and find a new schedule for her. 

This annoys me. I get that visits are crucial. I understand I am not the priority and no one cares about my weekends or my schedule. But Saturday morning visits mean the kids miss out on so much! Add to that, Dad's visits Sunday and I'm pretty much tied to my house all weekend with kids who have no extra curricular activities and visit behavior. Lovely.

So in an attempt to support Sheila, when she asked if she could call today I said sure. She was supposed to call at 6:00. She called at 7:30. She was at a party and it was hard to hear her. Her battery was going to die. And the conversation she had was, shall we say, painful.

In the middle of Sarah crying she asked her why she was crying. After Sarah told her it was because she wasn't going to see her, Sheila asked again what was wrong. Then she asked her about school and if she was being good. She then picked that moment to ask her about biting her sister last week. Then came the promises of a surprise and a call tomorrow. I'm not so confident that she will call and so I'd rather her not tell them. But that's her choice and I can't save her from herself. 

We talked for a few minutes. She expressed that she was sorry and asked why Sarah was upset. I told her I was a poor sustitute for her. That I can be the best foster mom in the world but she's always going to want her mom. Sheila told me she's overwhelmed by all her appointments and that she wasn't able to make any of them. She complained that she had all this stuff to do and "then I have to get the visits in too". There was no responsibility taken for her actions or choices. It was all the systems fault. I gently reminded her that these are services that are supposed to help her and that she needed to remember the goal is to complete these things so that she can have her kids back. I empathized that she is stressed and that I can't imagine what it's like to have all those requirements. I reiterated that we will support her kids while she focuses on getting the help she needs.

I took all of my patience to keep the iciness out of my voice. To not say to her: "Well how the hell are you going to work and raise 4 kids if you can't make it to three appointments a week?" Or "Please just let me adopt them. Well put a visitation agreement in place." 

She's not equipped. I understand that. But she has to be willing to do the work to become equipped. Two open DCFS cases in two different states, previous custody lost, and the second time in foster care for two of the ones with me doesn't leave me very confident. And that breaks my heart. These kids pay the consequences of her actions. 



Friday, February 21, 2014

Sweet Dreams

I wish I could record the kids sleeping and share it. The snoring going on is hysterical. And they all wanted to share a bed! I decided to let them figure out sleeping arrangements. The way they paired up was interesting. 

MM and Simon of course were together. I heard MM say to Simon "I'm going to call you my brother from now on". I'm not sure if that was because he couldn't remember his name or if he really felt like he added a sibling!

Jelly Bean and Stella decided to share. I'm sure one of them is going to end up on the floor as Jelly Bean tends to move in her sleep. Sarah and Smiley begged Gabby to share the full size bed with them. I'm pretty sure she only agreed because that's the bed the dog sleeps on. I ended up waking her up and moving her to the top bunk that somehow ended up empty. LM took the top bunk in the boys room. I'm going to bet she asks to sleep on the couch tomorrow night.

So far everyone has been good. They had a nice time at the dance. The kids who were friends with the Fab Four were excited to see them. The Quartet proved that they are dancing queens. All in all it was a lot of fun. Maria and I both danced with our sons. It was a really cool moment. 

I realize this is one of my really crazy ideas. I'm approaching all of it with a very large dose of patience. I'm just so happy that they are all under one roof. And for one brief second I thought- wouldn't this be fun to have all of these kids? And then I remembered all of the other issues and dynamics...And the joy I feel for Maria that her kids don't need me to be their Mom on a daily basis. 

She gets a much needed break, I get to be loved by 8 kids. And the dog has this grin on his face. I swear if he could talk he'd say, "My kids! My kids! I'm so happy they are here!". 

A day like this is truly a blessing from foster care. If you had told me three years ago I would plan to have 8 kids in my home for the weekend I wouldn't have believed you. But they are all here. Sleeping soundly in a home where they all feel safe. That's a pretty amazing thought. In this rare instance, I'll admit we are a pretty amazing family. 

Three Ring

So the daycare had a Valentine's Day Dance for their families every year. We didn't get to go last year because of visits but had gone the year before. This year we are able to go and they invited the Fab Four to come as well! And since they were going to be out our way, they are spending the weekend with us. 

8 kids. So naturally I bought tickets to the circus. Maybe they will add us to the show!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Self Care

People often talk about Self Care. But what does that actually look like? 

My first go round as a foster mom I wasn't very good at it. And I paid for it and so did my kids. When you are giving and giving and giving its really hard to fill your tank back up to give more. My Mom offered to help, I didn't take her up on it. I had this idea that I had to be the June Cleaver of foster moms. And then we added the level of need of my kids to all that and I was totally spent. 

This time around I'm not making that mistake. For one, I'm taking the help people are offering. My neighbor baked a dish for me? Happy to take it off her hands. My Mom willing to take the kids Sunday night instead of Monday morning? I'll drop them off at 6:30pm! 

Two weekends ago I went up to the spa and spent a night with some girlfriends. I splurged on a facial and a pedicure. I had 24 hours of adult conversation. It was great. Last weekend Hubby and I had a grown up dinner in a romantic restaurant.  

Do I feel guilty? Sure! I miss the kids. I want the bonding to continue. But I know that at the end of the day, they need me to be me. The patient, therapeutic Mom. Not the screaming and yelling crabby Mom because she can't even get to the bathroom in peace Mom. And it's a lot easier for me to be the Mom they need when I take time for myself.

Perhaps the biggest thing I have been doing for myself is setting a fitness goal. My fitness goal is to run a 1/2 marathon in June. I've been training for the last three weeks and I feel great. I've been using the fitness center at work and when I can't get there, I've been dancing with my Wii, Just Dance game. 

I set a big goal on purpose. I needed something that I had to work for but also something I could do for me. Something I could control. So much of my life the past year was out of my control, I needed something no one else could impact. I decide if I'm going to back my bag for work. I decide if I'm going to run or do yoga. 

What are you going to do for you this week? Leave a comment and let the readers applaud you!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New Challenges

It's been a while since we had full blown tantrums happening in our house and I forgot how exhausting they can be. Sarah and Smiley each had issues this week. Sarah because her burrito had tomatoes in it and Smiley because her mittens wouldn't go on her hands. 

Well okay, maybe it's not as simple as that. Sarah's tantrum was one of the first nights that Hubby had to handle pick up and dinner without me. I walked in from yoga no less, and found her screaming and him trying to de-escalate. iPad instantly back in te daily tantrums of Jelly Bean as the cadence of her cries are Rey similar. 

It's a primal sound because its fear based. She is not at a point where she can verbalize her fear or at the point where we can approach her. Both Hubby and I stayed within a few feet of her room as we tried to eat her unstuck. 

It ended with us telling her because she was still crying she must be tired and therefore needed to go to sleep. To which she answered with yelling and scream "I'm not tired". My answer- you don't have to sleep but you are going to lay quietly in that bed. She of course was snoring within a few minutes.

Smiley picked the snow storm to scream in all the way to school. I didn't do a good job of staying calm like I did with Sarah. It was a rough morning compounded by the fact that I just wanted her to stop so I could focus on driving in the snow. When we got to school I asked for a do-over and we moved on.

It's really hard to have kids who won't ask for help in the home. The Fab Four used to drive me crazy with their neediness. These kids would rather suffer in silence. We are trying really hard to overcome this with extra time spent hanging out and conversing. 

The other hard thing is that the kids don't know how to read facial expressions. Simon especially. Tonight I noticed his hands were cracked and raw. I exclaimed "what happened to your hand" and he started to get worried an year up because he thought he was in trouble. He couldn't tell worry from anger. My heart broke. We've gotten in the habit of telling the kids "this is my _______ face". It's a whole new set of challenges. 

Identifying them is 1/2 the battle, right?