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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Yours?

Serves me right for thinking that thus far, people hadn't really commented on the fact that I'm white and my kids are tan. Always a hot topic in Foster Care and Adoption are the things that people say to families that look different. I imagine this applies to families that are made up of two moms or little people or those with physical disabilities as well. But people really have no idea how to mind their own business.

Often the questions or comments come from a place of genuine curiosity or admiration. People are impressed with a family of four children since large families aren't as common. And my kids are beautiful and have adorable personalities. And because they have had multiple caregivers and attachment issues, they are also very outgoing towards strangers.  So people can't help themselves. 

While at the wholesale club tonight we had our first encounter with a stranger exclaiming, "Are all four your kids?" in front of the kids. Now the Quartet doesn't seem to mind telling people they are in foster care. I've heard them explain in very simple terms that their Mom needs help and they live with us, their foster parents, until she gets better. But it isn't something we publicize or share with strangers.

I watched as Sarah turned to look at me after the well meaning woman asked the question. I smiled and said, "Yep. They are all mine!" The woman replied that they were all so beautiful! Such cute kids.

She's right, they are. They have jet black hair. Sparkling brown eyes. Dimples and smiles that are infectious. It's meant as a compliment. I take it as one. I ignore the idea that she can't believe I could birth such cute kids. Or that I could have four. And I ignore the obvious, that our skin does not match. I simply said thank you and moved on. Because really, who wouldn't be in awe of the Mom in the club store with four children in tow? Sometimes, I amaze myself.

Sunday I had a different experience. The person was being nosey. And I try to forgive that because I am nosey by nature also and I'm sure the comment wasn't meant for me to hear. It reminded me that at times others can be rude about the make up of our family and I hate having those reminders.

I ran a 5K on Sunday in honor of my Grandmother. As I rounded the corner towards the finish line the kids were standing there waiting for me. I waved and they came running towards me to grab my hand and run with me to the finish. 

It was an awesome moment for me as a Mom. They were excited that I was coming and I was proud to be the example of setting a goal and completing it. As we ran past the spectators cheering the runners in their final leg, I heard a woman say to the person next to her, "Is that their Mom? Can't be can she?".

I wanted to go back and say, "As a matter of fact, yes I can. Maybe you mean, biological Mom? But I can assure you I am their Mom in the truest sense of the word. I may have only been their Mom for four months but I show up for them every day and do all the things a Mom is supposed to do."

For a second or two that comment stole my thunder. But then Sarah squeezed my hand and said, "Come on Mom! You can finish!". She held my hand all the way to the finish line. 

I'm sad for families that can't be as unique as mine. We have some pretty spectacular moments...


Friday, April 25, 2014

Chicago Blackhawks

It's Stanley Cup Playoff time. And last year it saved my sanity. Last year as I tried to figure out how the heck to move on after losing my kids, we met up after work to drink beer and watch hockey. Okay, I drank whiskey too. I was tucked safely in a bar, now regulars, at a table with my parents and their neighbors and we had something to cheer about. 

I got to yell. It felt good. I got to drink without raised eyebrows. I had something to look forward to. And then they won. Win the Stanley Cup for the second time in my life. 

Hockey was a family event growing up. And it's a family event now. We've been following the team. The kids have team gear. We watch together, with my parents and their neighbors. I got a parenting compliment last week. Do you know where? The sports bar. (And before you start flaming or judging its a neighborhood family friendly place and my kids were working on math workbooks and spelling flash cards in between periods.) The compliment? How much I interact with the kids. How much we cuddle while watching together. How interested the kids are in the sport.

Tonight was an important game for the Blackhawks. We let the kids stay up to watch the rest of the game with us. And there they were, all piled on the couch asking questions, wanting to learn all about this important family sport. 

As much as the Hawks saved my sanity last year, they are building my family's attachment this year. I chuckle as I field questions like: Is everyone in the team friends? Why is the team taking a time out? What did they do? Do the people in St. Louis speak English? 

So a big thank you to the Chicago Blackhawks. Thanks for the family time. Let's keep going! We want the cup. And my kids request overtime as then they get to stay up later. (But Mom doesn't because you guys give me a heart attack when you do!) I don't want the season to end. I love moments like tonight! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ouch

We are in the process of starting therapy. The kids are all undergoing a full blown trauma assessment, complete with questionnaires and activities designed to show their response to stress. Simon and Smiley completed theirs a few weeks ago and now Sarah and Stella are undergoing theirs. 

The assessment is going to take longer for the older girls. They have been slower to open up about their feelings. They are each reacting very differently which means we are going to have the same at home when they start attaching and healing and feeling safe with us. 

To be honest, I'm not really looking forward to that. I know that angst will be directed at us. And a large amount at me because I'm the safe Mom. I'm not the Mom who isn't working her case plan. I'm not the foster Mom who ceased contact. I am the stable Mom. The one who shows up every day. 

As we were waiting for their session to begin Sarah was playing "Guess My Favorite" with Stella. She asked, "Who's my favorite Mom?" Her answer was Sheila. 

For 1/2 a second my feelings were deeply hurt. And then after a proper internal chiding, I was grateful it wasn't the foster mom who asked for no contact. (Who had now requested contact again so I'm sure ill be blogging about that at some point.) And then I felt bad for thinking that as well.

Of course her biological Mom is her favorite Mom. It's her mother. That's why her answer should be. And this beautiful little girl had no idea how little her Mother is doing to get her back. And she is not aware, that after only four months, I love her as if she were my own. That I think of her as my own because the case looks like its heading toward adoption. In her eyes, I'm a poor substitute for the Mother she longs to be with every day. 

Stella, ever the oldest child, said to her "well maybe you need two favorite Moms" in an attempt to spare my feelings. I said nothing and did not react. 

I forget how real this gets. But it was that moment today that I realize how much I do care about these kids. How I think of them as mine. That is how I will advocate for them but also how my heart gets broken. It's scary to be here again. But I survived it before.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

We are still here...

So I've been a tad neglectful of my blog here. We are in the mundane, "every day is work and the kids are trying to express themselves and I might go crazy" phase of this placement. We are starting therapy and we are heading into trauma anniversary season for the kids and our typical everyday life is busy.

I'm not writing much about visits for a few reasons. The first is they are only four hours so not much can go wrong. The second is that the kids don't discuss them. I can't tell if its because they've been coached not to or because they really dissociate that much from Sheila. I also am not placing much value on how they are going in terms of reunification. Sheila's parenting skills are to placate and please. Which is a step up from the neglect they suffered. And she has so much other stuff to accomplish the visits are the last place they will start caring.

I was annoyed that the answer to one child's upset stomach last week was a snow cone, which of course, she threw up on the way home. But it wasn't my car and she was fine after. So I guess I look at that as progress on my part. If I nitpick everything I will lose sight of the big picture. I'm also trying to remember that this could be her last six months with her kids. It doesn't cost me anything to let her have that (so long as the kids are relatively safe). 

The phone calls we have are something I've never experienced before and have bordered on looney and so those I'm documenting. This week Simon looked at me while she was talking and his face read: WTF? And I agreed with him. She's distracted. Hangs up in the middle and walks down memory lane with them. After the third time she asks the same child what they are doing (talking to her) or how school is going (same as five seconds ago) I suggest a new topic. They are only 15-20 minutes but they are painful. Smiley has decided she doesn't want to talk to Sheila so she gets on the phone and tells her that. Her therapist told us that was a good sign of healthy processing. It cracks me up though, because she is 4 and she has this quiet little baby voice. 

Tonight everyone was needy. And sad. And cried (except Stella who won't cry in front of us). Simon described his day to me and we landed at overwhelmed. He said he felt like he had too much work at school and he helped a friend with a project and he felt sad all day. My poor little guy is only in Kindergarten. So we did extra cuddling and lots of little kisses. He also got some Benadryl for his "itchy all over" which I believe is psychosomatic. In any event, more than one medical professional has told me Benadryl is helpful for anxious kids because it helps them relax and sleep. 



  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Year

Thursday marked one year since the Fab Four lived with us. I called Maria to congratulate her and tell her I thought she was doing great! We chatted about our upcoming trip to a water park. 

It was strange. I cried buckets of tears before, during, and after this day last year but there was only one brief moment that I felt sad. And then I thought about how differently the year turned out from what I expected, and I felt joy.

Reunification for the Fab Four worked. Their Mom learned what she needed to keep going. Is it hard for her? Yes. But she is working through it and reaching out when she needs too. The kids are all speaking Spanish and doing ok. I'm so glad they didn't have to lose their family.

We went from wanting to close our home to being foster parents to four new kids. Hubby and I have a must stronger relationship. We feel better prepared for what is ahead.

And in what I consider a pretty big deal, I managed to wrap Baby Shower gifts tonight without feeling jealous or sad. This is a big improvement from 3 years ago! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A call from daycare at 5 pm is never good

Today was one of those days were all hell broke loose right around 5 pm. Simon fell at daycare and was bleeding enough that stitches might be in order. Stella and Sarah were to be at their trauma assessment at 6:30 and I couldn't reach Hubby to switch who was picking up which kids. (I was originally headed to the therapist office and he was getting the other two. Generally, I handle everything medical.) 

But when Hubby did pick up his phone he volunteered to handle the ER visit. I arrived at daycare to check on Simon and was told that he didn't cry. And that's when the trauma stuff hit me square in the face. A six year old falling on concrete and breaking his glasses which cut his face, should induce some tears. 

I then sat in on the initial get to know you session with the therapists and heard Stella very clearly tell the therapists that she doesn't feel she has anyone to ask for help and if she woke up in the middle of the night because she was scared she would just lay awake. It broke my heart. Meanwhile, Sarah had the biggest case of the Sillys I've ever seen. The car ride home was exhausting with the nonsense questions. They were amped.

We walked in to find Simon excited about his matching bandage and Smiley in bed early due to a tantrum. I found her wide awake and upset and sad. So I gathered her into my arms and rocked her to sleep. For the first ten minutes she wouldn't close her eyes. She just stared into my face. When she did close them and nestled into my chest she fell asleep in less than a minute. 

My heart breaks for these kids. They have all these feelings and no way to express them. They have to do so much work and that makes me angry. I am grateful we will be able to get them the help they need but the process is going to be painful.