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Thursday, December 31, 2015

So Long 2015


I have this quote on my desk at work and it sums up how I feel about heading into the new year. There are years that ask questions. 

This year we asked where will we live, what will the goal be, should we take the baby, no really should we take the baby, and what will happen with our jobs, why is my face on fire?

Not much in my life looks the same as it did a year ago. That's not a bad thing. But it did mean quite a lot of stress. But you know what?

We survived. We are stronger. We are together. And we have a bonus kiddo too! 

I think 2016 will be a year that answers questions. Or at least closes a few chapters. I say bring it on! We got this.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Zen...

I'm trying really hard to stay calm through the chaos that is: 1) Christmas 2) Christmas Break 3) Christmas Shopping 4) my busiest time at work when 1/3 of the things I worked on in a year are due back signed and everything is an exception and on fire 4) we added a baby 5) a move anniversary.

Oh and Hubby- he's doing a consulting gig for a company he hopes to get hired for and so he's getting paid hourly and can't take random time off. So I'm trying to stay calm with him also.

So last week when at 5:22pm he called and asked me to get the baby from her daycare instead of him, I agreed. Then I picked up the other four kiddos and we ran home to let the dog out. Hubby was still now anywhere close to being home, so I decided to take the kids to the store for the errand I had to run because I needed some addition teacher gifts for today. (This is the part where I kick myself for not going the night before after a work function, but I didn't want to deal with the largest mall in the state and it was too late to go to the store in the local strip mall center.) 

So I throw the stroller in the car, you tube how to connect the car seat to it, and take 5 children to Bath and Body Works.

If you have ever been in one, you know it's got lots of sensory going on- smells, colors, testers and their tables are piled high and close together with product. My kids love this store. They love all things good smelling and they could spend an hour testing the scents out. 

I had managed to get the extra hand sanitizer and hand lotion I was after and was over in the candles picking out something for the aunts in the family. The kids were standing quietly next to the stroller at the next table over. Just as I was turning to walk the 4 feet back over to them I heard a giant crash. And saw  glass all over the floor. Sarah had knocked over a glass candle and was now frozen and dissociated.

I felt all the eyes in the store turn. Im sure all the other shoppers were thinking "of course it's the lady with 5 kids. Who brings 5 kids into a store with breakables? A Sales Associate appeared (weird because none of them wanted to help the lady with 5 kids who was clearly buying stuff) and was all like it's fine, don't touch the glass. I managed to stay calm and tend to my kiddo experiencing a PTSD trigger who was beginning to cry. Assured her it was ok. It was an accident. We got to the cash register and got out of the store. 

We were all hungry and I made the decision to treat the kids to hot dogs and cheese fries (and myself to chocolate cake) which took an insane 30 minutes in the drive through (this is where I kick myself for not just saying we are having cereal for dinner.)

We got home, fed the baby, ate dinner, and then the girls asked to help wrap the teacher gifts. Trying to stay in my zen mom state, I agreed. I would not say I'm a perfectionist but when I have a task to do, I try to be efficient. It was now 8:30pm, I hadn't peed since 4pm and I was exhausted. I asked Stella to cut some ribbon to length and gave Sarah a task and then Simon wanted to help so I gave him the task of knotting the ribbon. Except that he couldn't because it was too short.

"Stella, when I said cut the ribbon this long, did you use the example to cut the rest?"

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"I mean did you use the example I gave you of how long to cut the ribbon, did you measure the new cuts of ribbon against the example? Because you cut the remaining ribbon.

"No."

And this is the part where the zen Mama took off. I didn't yell but I started explaining that I give directions for a reason and it's very frustrating when those instructions are completely ignored. And it's fine that you made a mistake but we wasted all this ribbon and I was hoping to get this done quickly. 

So she started crying and then Simon started crying. Did I mention I wasn't yelling? And now two kids are crying? I got up and left the room and realized that it was now 9 PM and I had not peed since 3 PM.

So I go back downstairs and sit back at the table and baby Solana is cooing in her rock and play and I say "maybe Mommy will just stop talking. If I don't say anything then everyone will actually be listening". This of course was met with giggles. 

Zen didn't happen on Saturday when I discovered that Sarah took the hand sanitizer out of the shopping bag from the ill fated trip above, and then proceeded to leave them about the house. And then her siblings discovered it and no one told me. There was lots of yelling upon discovery. And a call to my Mom and a call to Hubby to come home. And tears, for all of us, except the baby who slept right through my tantrum. 

This is hard. I don't think it's harder because of the baby (except for the lack of sleep) but it's hard to manage the sabotage, and anxiety, and expectations we put on ourselves to make this time of year special.






Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Loss

I finished reading the kids' adoption subsidy packets and flipped over to Facebook to vent about it. In my feed was a post from a friend of mine that is going to the hospital tomorrow to have their baby who has a genetic disorder and will not survive very long after he is born. I'm so sad for their family. And it makes me even angrier that people are able to have multiple babies that they neglect and abuse. My Mama Bear is roaring under the surface. So wrong. So unfair. 

Will you say a prayer for my friends? Their entire family is about to go through a loss that many of us understand all to well. Pray they get supported through this and have space to talk/or not talk about the loss of their son. 

What the Kids Understand

Smiley's teacher let me know that she told her "we adopted a baby but I don't know why" last week. So we sat down to talk about Solana's placement again and then the next day in family therapy.

I forget that the kids need to hear information over and over. So even though we explained the day she came why she was coming, they need us to repeat it. We also needed to correct some of their assumptions like: she's getting adopted, she's leaving soon, her arrival will slow down their adoption, she lived with Sheila.

We did explain that Solana is in foster care and that the judge in her case has made the goal return home to "Mommy" or Solana's Biological Dad. We did tell them that when Solana was in Sheila's tummy she made some choices that were unsafe like being in a relationship with someone who hit her and not doing her "homework" that the judge gave her so Solana never lived with "Mommy". We told them that Solana's Bio Dad has never had any children and so the judge gave him things he has to learn. We explained that the friend of Mommy's who was caring for Solana decided she couldn't take care of her anymore and that we wanted Solana to be safe and we knew she would be safe and lived at our house. The kids of course wanted to know if she will be adopted so we and the therapist reiterated that we don't know yet but that if we are asked to we will definitely adopt her. We left it that Solana will either live here or will go to a safe parent. 

Sarah began to cry during our session. She was trying to hold it in but I noticed. After a little while she to us they were happy tears that her sister was safe with us. That kid loves this little sister something fierce and it's a quality I adore in her. It's one I recognize in myself and it reminds me that she is mine, no matter who birthed her.

It's 2 weeks in. Too early but this is the right step no matter what comes at us. But 2 weeks in and Sheila has cancels her visit this week and it wasn't a cancellation that will allow it to be made up. From Facebook I see a new boyfriend and while it disappointments me so much I hope that Solana will find permanency much more swiftly than my other kiddos.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Family of 7

This year has been full of change. New house, new jobs, new names, new baby. And while I was worried that the baby would send us over the edge, (that I felt very close to tumbling over during the emotionally charged summer months) everything looks different now. Despite 5 kids and change still at work, there is some calm. There is peacefulness. There are happy kids and a sense of everything being as it should.

We didn't do stockings with names on them last year. To be honest, I did very little decorating because of the move. So I filled generic stockings with stuff for the kids and added a name tag. This year I decided it was going to be coordinating ones that were personalized. So I ordered some from Walmart.com and I was pleased that when they came they were actually from Personal Creations (which was twice the price). So the quality was great. (I'm overlooking the fact that they messed up the color of one.) they of course came the week before Solana arrived.

So when I hung the new stockings and left the spot for Solana, Hubby asked me what I was doing about hers. I replied "it's on it's way, I ordered it this week." Then he said "maybe we should get an extra in case we change her name". Which was a thought I had had that very morning. And then both of us looked at eachother and were like, but what name? 

But there it was. Both of us on the same wavelength. Both of us fallen hopelessly in love with this chubby baby. Both of us ready to be her forever parents should she need them. Both of us hoping that's God's plan. Both of us feeling that she completes our family in a way that we had no clue about because it already felt complete.

I have to remind myself that, as of now, she is only ours temporarily. I have to trust that it will work out like it should. Like it has. Until we understand what that is supposed to look like we will just be us. A family of 7. Happiest when we are together. Gathered round a table or piled in the minivan driving to our next adventure. 



Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What's the longest river?

Answer: Denial.
It's ok. You can chuckle. Forgive the slap happy humor of a Momma with 4 sick kiddos who is sick herself.

But denial is where Sheila is living. I sent Solana with her visit bag and the notebook today and she wrote nothing and sent nothing back. She made a bunch of noise to the driver/supervisor about her stuffy nose and how she wonders if we have pets because Sheila herself has pet allergies.

When the daycare relayed this message I actually laughed. Um her other kids have been talking about our dog for 2 years. She bought the dog treats previously. She knows we have a dog. It's not dog allergies, it a cold. A cold that 4 other people in the house have.

I shared this with Caseworker #4 and he was like, the previous home had dogs and there is nothing in her medical records that indicates she has allergies.

I'm not surprised by Sheila's lack of response to our reaching out to communicate. But it is still disappointing. You still want the Bio parents to show up because all kids deserve that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Week 1

I announced our new addition on my personal Facebook Page yesterday and I may need someone to knock me down a few pegs because I'm being accused of being "amazing" and an "Angel" and it feels really uncomfortable... Just doing my job as a Mom and a person who has a passion for kids. And honestly, if you could see Solana's face, you would not have said no either.

We survived the weekend and our first few school/work/daycare day. She is sleeping between 4 and 6 hours and we have been able to stick to our routine pretty well.

There is a cold going around the family and I think Solana has caught it too. Simon, Stella and I all have it and Smiley thinks she might be getting sick also. Swear to God I walked into the daycare and 4 hours later my throat was sore....

So far no regressive behaviors. Simon and Smiley have been bickering but that's been happening. Sarah was stuck like glue to Solana and when I finally said to her "she'll be here tomorrow" she responded "that's why I want to be by her, I'm afraid she won't be here tomorrow". Ugh. But yay for my kiddo for voicing her fear.

Solana had her 1st visit with her Bio Dad. He wrote a nice note in the notebook I sent in the bag and sent back a bunch of baby clothes, blanket, and bath stuff. He thanked us for taking care of her "while he finishes all his things". I realize it's day one and that's an uphill battle he has to fight (very young, not much family support, illegal, on probation) but it's his right to parent her and we have to support that goal. But it will suck if that's the case because we have completely fallen in love with her. All of us. Even the dog seems to be adjusting. He gave her a kiss when she was crying yesterday. It's a long road though and too early to tell and we will be supportive so that the kids always have a relationship. 

In what I consider a victory for my kiddo, the visits are in our town library and not 45 minutes away where the parents are. They have to come to her. I'm still annoyed that the transport company is calling to remind the parents of the visits but a 4-5 hour ordeal for the visit does seem like more work than bringing her to their house for 2 hours. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

And Then There Were Five

After the last 48/72 hours (my brain is fried and I have completely lost my ability to do math, which was pretty shakey before...) I feel like I officially earned my Foster Mom stripes. I got the call about 11:30am Thursday that she was coming that afternoon. I was a ball of nerves. My Mom dissolved into tears. Hubby had already made plans for that evening and since we were about to take on a 5th child I told him not to cancel. 

And it was Caseworker #4 who was handling all this, not #3 as I stated in my last post. So Caseworker #4 called and was like "So can you take her today? Foster Mom is not happy and I'm heading over there to remove her now."

He had paperwork to do and they had at least a 45 minute drive so I told him just to call when he was like 30 minutes away and I would leave work. At about 2 pm he said he would be at the house about 4:30pm.

Somehow I managed to finish a large chunk of my work. I had purposely worn a "career" outfit to help me feel like less of a basket case. I knew that I would have to find daycare but left that task to Friday so that I could focus and then planned to work from home the next day.

I left at 4pm and picked up the kids who were all- why are we getting picked up so early? I got them into the car and told them the news and they cheered and jumped up and down making the mini van look like it had hydrolics. We drove home to meet my Mom and then about 15 minutes later Caseworker #4 and Solana arrived.

I handled the paperwork with CW #4 while Grandma and the kids played with the baby who did not fuss once. #4 shared a little more info on the case including Sheila's admission to using marijuana "once" while pregnant. He shared that the Foster Mom had really been attached to Solana and that the relationship with Sheila soured and the incident that made her call to threaten to have her moved wasn't even about the baby. Apparently the Department met Friday morning and made a staffing decision that she was to come here and when he called her back she tried to withdrawal the notice. That of course does not fly with the Department when they have a sibling home lined up. So they told her no, she gave her notice and she hung up the phone on them. They got no info from her about Solana's schedule and she came with only a small bag with some summer outfits and 2 fall outfits. I did get a bag with a can of formula, a bottle, some diapers and wipes, and a blanket. We also can use the car seat until we get our own.

We finished up the paperwork and then I left to do a Target run and grab dinner for the kids. My Mom had gone earlier and gotten some Dreft, wipes, baby shampoo and lotion, and diaper cream plus some clothes. We had been told she was 4 months so she bought 3-6 outfits. However, my little Solana is a porker and the 6 month clothes were too snug so most of that stuff had to go back.

I didn't want to buy too much at Target because my sister in laws were already on top of hooking us up. My one sister works for a major retailer and her friend is the buyer for the baby department. So she mentioned she was getting her 5th foster niece and the woman just started throwing stuff in a box. The box was coming after I went to Target but we ended up getting crib sheets, blankets, bottles, rattles, onesies, toys, pacifiers, a shopping cart cover, booties, and a nice diaper bag. It's probably the closest thing we will ever get to a baby shower! My other sister in law who is a pediatric NICU nurse and has a 1 year old and another due this spring gave me a list of essentials and told me we could have the Rock N Play and Jumparoo and that she would pull some clothes too. She also texted me periodically to check up on us as she works 3rd shift.  We went last night to pick that stuff up and we actually had to go back through the clothes because most won't fit Solana, who weighs almost the same as my nearly 1 1/2 year old niece! In fact, I picked her up and she felt lighter! (It was comical because her pregnancy brain and my sleep deprived one could not keep the keep or put back piles straight!)

By the time I got to Target, I was shaking from the emotions. I was feeling very overwhelmed because- you know, I know NOTHING about babies. It finally hit me that we became a family of 7 and I was feeling sad for my new kiddo who was caught in the pettiness between "adults" which I have no patience for. Oh and I was hungry. 

At Target they had a few Pack and Plays and I picked the standard/middle option. It doesn't play music or vibrate but it did have a bassinet/changing table. I also grabbed some swaddler blankets, pacifier clips, wipes and diapers. And by some miracle also remembered that we needed cereal. I had a 20% off coupon but it did not start until the next day so when I got to the register I asked if they would do the price adjustment if I came back with my receipt after explaining why I couldn't wait to get the crib tomorrow and the manager took pity on my frazzled state and gave the 20% to me early. I picked up food for the kids and by the time I got back my sister in law was arriving with the box of awesome. She helped me put the pack and play together and I got the baby laundry started. 

Friday was kind of a blur. She woke up at 5:30 am and decided she did not want to go back to sleep so we got up and I started working. I managed to get a lot of stuff done and my boss emailed me about how the baby was doing, twice! I am feeling very blessed for the flexibility I have. I sourced a bouncer chair and a nice changing table from the local Facebook Garage sale website and was able to pick that up Friday. My Grandma had stopped by and since Solana fell asleep in her lap I was able to go pick those up and grab the kids while she watched her. We hung out as a family Friday night and then I went to take a little cat nap in anticipation of being up all night. 

Hubby came up to our room with her to make sure he changed her diaper correctly and he was singing this ridiculous song about "Daddy's little turkey" and in that moment I fell in love with him all over again. He worked 7 days this week so when he offered to get up with her, I told him to sleep. She and I actually slept in the living room last night but she slept for 6 hours so that may not be necessary tonight. 

We will get an equipment reimbursement but only from Burlington Coat Factory. I ventured out there yesterday with the girls while Simon was at a birthday party and their selection was lackluster. But we were able to get a Boopy pillow, a changing pad, a bather chair, and a stroller and car seat system. I'm going to see if the other store nearby has a better selection. It's just hard to do that with kids in tow.

I will say this, my kids have been awesome. And my ability to be patient has grown overnight. I'm giving them a little extra space for feelings and I've been very calm and so far we are handling this pretty well. Sarah is especially attentive of her sister and had opted to play with her when she had the choice to do something else. Simon seems the most standoffish but he also is coming down with a cold so it could just be that. Stella has not turned into the little mother and that has been awesome and little miss Smiley has been excited to hold her and was trying to get me to buy out the baby clothes section at the store "Mom! I have to show you this! This is so cute!". If anything, the jealousy has come from the dog who is not impressed by the baby in his room. 

Thank you all for your kind words, support, advice and prayers. Keep it coming, please! Because this is, of course, foster care. I have yet to hear from Sheila who I'm sure is not pleased that Solana is here. CW#4 said he told her she was being moved but he didn't think she heard him say that it was to our house. I then had to explain to him that I'm sure she heard you. That's an act she does when she doesn't want to believe something. She pulled the same thing when they told her she wasn't making progress and then walked out of the meeting. He looked flabbergasted. I do believe he wants Solana here forever. He did tell me that he pushed back some on the legal screening and because her Bio Dad has never had any involvement with the Department, they have to give him a chance. So far both parents are in compliance with their case but its really early yet. 

And then there are the questions from the kids that only foster mothers get asked. 

"Mom? If my Mom couldn't take care of all of us then why did she choose to have  another baby?" Stella wanted to know at lunch. 

I told her that was a good question and one that I'm sure a lot of people have asked and one I don't have an answer for.

 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Phone Calls

Sometime early afternoon I got a call from Caseworker #3 calling to follow up on some adoption paperwork and my email about Stella's concerns over her sister, Solana. I tried to get information about the progress that was being made in that case to help us decide if introducing her would be beneficial or long term but he was like "it's too early" "can't really say". Boo. 

A few hours later he called back. "I have some news. It looks like the foster mom is giving her 14 day notice. It's not official yet but it's very likely to happen. So you are my 1st call. Will you take the baby?"

We've gone over and over this scenario and decision. All the reasons we said no before are still true. She could go home. She will have visits my kids won't. This is a foster care case and could be years before it goes to permanency. She's 4 months old and we have 4 kids.

But...

We don't have TPR looming. The adoption is under way. And the likelihood that she will actually return home seems pretty small. The kids are worried about their sister and at least we know she is safe with us. We can prevent any further trauma in the event that she does need a permanent home, which we have already agreed to do. 

It boils down to two things- does the fear of the loss trump the fear of trying to heal the trauma?

We decided that it did not and we said we would take Solana. At least the kids will know we tried to help their sister if she does go home. And they have lost siblings before and we have reunified children also and we all survived. It will hurt and there will be fallout but that seems easier to handle than the alternative of missing Solana's 1st 2 years until the courts decide that they've given Mom enough chances for the 7th kid and she comes to us after multiple
moves. 

Now this is foster care, so it is possible that this will not happen so it's not official. But I did say that it was likely this placement would disrupt. This was a "friend" of Sheila's that only knew her a year. She has grown kids and didn't sign up for foster care. I totally understand how you could agree to "help" not realizing that this is way more than watching someone else's child. 

I was told she's fed up with bio Mom, and the state. It also sounds like the visits  used to be in the foster mom's home with her supervising and have changed to a supervising agency at Bio Mom's house. I predicted that the relationship would sour pretty quickly when she was setting boundaries. I'm sure we will get a text from Sheila about how glad she is that the siblings are together but I have a feeling she will  be pissed and pretty quickly start giving us more attitude than we already are getting. Maybe she'll remember to call her kids? 

So we are strapping in and heading back into foster care land. With a baby, which is also a little scary since we've never had one. We expect the kids to have mixed emotions. I also expect some backslide in behaviors from Smiley and Sarah. And some parentified behavior from Stella. Simon, my sweet Simon, will be great because in my sea of girls he is the anchor. 

I should mention we got calls about 6 other children today. Say a prayer for those we said no to.

Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Alphabet Soup

I was late. This is not unusual but I try very hard not to be late to pick up my kids because their experience is that Moms and Dads aren't reliable and sometimes don't come back. I was complaining to Hubby that is had a really hard day. I was anxious about all the new changes at work. I had a bad headache that was turning into a migraine and I was really tired. He told me I should bow out of therapy and escape to our room for the night and he would handle life. (I did that for him the day before as he was starting a new job today and he was feeling anxious.)

When I pulled up and saw the fire truck outside the building I knew it was going to be a rough night and there would be no break. I was right.

The fire alarm went off at daycare. The firefighters and police showed up. The kids were ushered to a safe place and there was no danger but that doesn't matter to the brain of a kid with PTSD. Nope. She was terrified. The minute I showed up I could tell she was still in dissociative mode. The new teacher was, of course, oblivious. 

Of all the days to be late, I pick the day where the authorities show up with their sirens and lights and loud noisy alarms have been ringing. And the minute I locked eyes with Sarah I knew she was struggling to keep it together. Because that's what kids with RAD do. Her eyes started to water immediately. On and off from there until bed time she alternated between crying and not crying. 

She asked right away to play Sad, Mad, Glad at dinner. Each person goes around the table and names one thing from the day that mad them feel each of the emotions. I knew it was her way of trying to tell us she wanted to talk about what happened. That's what kids who are healing do. 

She went first and said she was mad that the fire alarm went off and then she started to cry again. It was so hard for her to talk about. She was mad she felt scared because she knew she was safe. Once again, we explained her PTSD. We explained she has no control. We explained that at some point her body reacted like that to unsafe situations. We demonstrated that Simon and Stella were also worried and scared when it happened. (Smiley of course was just fine because in her world that's the  way it is.)

Then we discovered that Stella is being bullied by a kid in her class. The "that other kid is my friend and I don't want you near her" variety. And this kid is at daycare and was also mean to Sarah when she stood up for Stella. So of course that brought tears. So did the math homework and the spelling practice. 

Of all the nights for a migraine....But we kept calm. We stayed patient. We got therapy, dinner, and homework accomplished and everyone went to bed. Including me, at 10pm which is something I never do.

It was a win for us today. It took a lot of work, but it was a win.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Baby Mama Drama

Just when I'm all "openess is awesome, I can work with bio parents" reality trips me and I fall on my face. 

So Sheila failed to make the phone call we scheduled. 12 hours after the scheduled time I got a text asking if I forgot or if she was supposed to call me. 

I responded the following day that I expected her to call but if she wasn't sure she could have called anyway or texted. I reminded her the importance of consistency. 

Her response was of course to say I called last time (so of course I screwed up) and that she couldn't remember (say what?) and it's not like she doesn't call on purpose (refreshing). Oh and the gem at the end stating that she's "trying really hard to keep things good between us" (because of course I'm trying to be difficult by setting the boundaries). 

It's my own fault really. Once again I bought into the facade that she's going to do her part. 

How do you tell me you really miss your kids and you want a relationship with them and then you forget to call them.  Especially when you asked for the call and I reminded you a few days prior? 

Am I wrong to expect her to call? Should I, for the sake of my children, carry more than my share of the relationship and call her? Should I insist on emails.

I replied back that we made the kids available and that she didn't follow up for 12 hours. That's she needs to take responsibility for her actions and her relationship with the kids. Her response was simply "OK".

Apparently being right is more important than re-scheduling. Which honestly, I don't know what I would have agreed to. The kids knew we had a call scheduled but they didn't seem to notice (or at least haven't asked) that it didn't happen. 

I sent the screen shot of her response about not being able to remember to the therapists and Caseworker #4 and asked for a team meeting about the best approach. Stella has some big feelings about baby Solana being in foster care. (She is very worried no one will protect her if she goes home to Sheila.) Caseworker #4 can't do much about the phone call but it made me feel better to tattle that she still can't remember to, you know, call her children.

If you can't remember a phone call on a weekend, how are you going to take care of an infant? 

The answer is of course- she isn't. And that kiddo will likely be in foster care for 2 years before anyone does anything about. 


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I Said Screw the Secret Santa

Every year my family does a Secret Santa. We usually set the limit at $20-25 and each of the adults picks another's name. We have a smallish family so we usually end up with someone we are already buying for (like my sibling) or the same person year after year. It often ends up like a gift card exchange and there have been years that people forgot who they picked and someone got left out (no fun). Since we have an ultra competitive family, a gift swap would be hazardous.

The past few years the Secret Santa felt more like a chore. And I thought maybe we could put our money to better use. I suggested we screw the Secret Santa and pick a cause! 

We decided to do a Sweet Case drive with Together We Rise, a great organization that supports kids in foster care by providing bicycles, wish lists, and trips to Disneyland. They also provide Sweet Cases, or duffle bags filled with goodies for kids in foster care so they don't have to travel with trash bags. And as a super fun element, they encourage you to decorate the bags so that each one is unique!

What could be better than family craft time? (It sure beats the disgusting Jelly Bean game we played last Christmas that caused my cousin and I to throw up. Moldy Cheese flavor is not pleasant.)

When I made the suggestion my family jumped on board. Each adult is going to donate the $25 for their Sweet Case to donate but we are trying to fundraise 5 additional so each of the kids can make one too. If you are interested in making a donation please either PM me through Facebook or send an email to 
rloveisastateofmind(at)yahoo.com.

If you can't donate now, please think about donating to one of their campaigns in the future. This organization directly supports the kids and has a special passion for teens and siblings. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

November- National Adoption Month

It's November! Which means it's National Adoption Month. The President signed a proclamation and everything. But I'm struggling with how best to honor "adoption". I'm especially struggling with the "Happy Adoption Month" sentiment.

If there is one lesson I've learned about adoption- it's that it isn't the happy greeting card commercial our society likes to view it as. And it's a deeply personal experience. What might make one person feel happy and grateful might make another experience shame and rejection.

Sure it's a good thing to give children permanency and fulfill the dreams of people who want to be parents. But there is pain and grief behind that joy. A sense of loss- of roots and connection and sameness that we all crave. Both child and parent alike. 

Adoption has come a long way from where it was - secretive, shunned, hushed, coerced. There is more openness and dialogue about the impact of adoption but we still have a long way to go. Our vocabulary, our insensitive phrases, the files still closed to the person they belong to, it all needs to continue to change.

Will you be part of that change? Will you support adoption positive language.  Will you listen to adoptees share their story no matter if it makes you uncomfortable? Will you share your own experiences no matter how hard?


"November 21 marks National Adoption Day, when we unite as families, advocates, and communities -- and as a country -- to raise awareness of the barriers to adoption and recommit ourselves to moving more of our young people into permanent homes." Barack Obama

Sunday, November 15, 2015

My Dearest Stella

The other night we were talking about college and you were asking about schools for singing. I said "but I just got you here, I'm not going to rush you to leave for college" and you responded, "I know."

Oh I hope you do. I hope you know how much I cherish whatever years we have with you here at home because they don't seem to be enough. I feel like we were cheated. I weep for the little girl who spent so much time in an uncertain place with scary people and sub-par care. 

But I cheer for all that you have achieved inspite of those experiences. My helpful, kind girl, with an imagination and slow, sure smile. Though you be little, you are mighty.  You are brave and courageous.  You jump at the chance for new experiences and I love that about you.  I love you.

Mommy

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Like a fix to an addict...

Information. Information is to a foster parent like a fix is to an addict.  They need it. they crave it. its never enough. You always want more. It makes you do crazy things.

  • Stalk stranger's Facebook, My Space, Instagram, Twitter.
  • You learn the circuit clerk on-line records search, checking it multiple times a month.
  • Comb through stacks of papers hoping something was missed in the sweep for confidentiality.
  • Read the caseworker's notes upside down.
  • Scribble down everything the judge says in court as if you were the court reporter.

At the most recent ACR, I was handed the kids' current case plan. I usually have to beg for these and it's usually several months after the ACR that I receive it. Normally the case plan is redacted and pages of information are missing as it deals with the "family history".  I think that kind of makes it hard to take a team approach and generally creates more issues. Personally, I don't think that everyone should get to hide behind "confidentiality" because really why is it confidential? Certainly nothing in my home.  If it happened to the kids, I should get to know about it even if it was witnessing Mom get beaten up. (See point 2 above. I already know about the charges and case outcome.  My life would be way easier if you just coughed up the details, thank you very much. And certainly, the records belong to the kids.  Shouldn't they have access to their own history?)

Caseworker #3 handed the packets to me with a smile and said "there is more information on here". (CW #3 appreciated my addiction resourcefulness. She understood.) Since the goal is now adoption I got to see more. I also got the benefit of having an office close to our home so I was able to attend my first ACR in person in 5 years.

Early on, the therapists told me we probably won't know all that happened to the kids.  They also said it didn't really matter.  We would treat the symptoms and assist with healing the unspecified trauma and focus on how they were progressing.  As a Mom, that is very, very hard for me.  They are my kids.  I'm supposed to know.  I'm the keeper of their lives.  How can I help them if I don't know what happened to them? How can I absorb the awfulness if I don't know what it is? I'm the adult, I need to carry the heavy stuff for them and let them be kids.

I didn't read the Case Plan until I got home. The information Caseworker #3 was referring to was a new summary of all of the indicated events that brought the kids into care. There wasn't just one. There were more than 4 at different periods of time. I learned the names of different boyfriends that abused her. I learned the last name of one of the other siblings. Failure to protect or prevent harm. Over and over again. I cried.  Just this little piece of information and I couldn't understand why it took so long for them to be protected from harm. Clearly these kids needed help.  It was like reading the newspaper articles about the department when a kid in care dies. 

I'm going to need a stiff drink when we get their subsidy packet back.  I have a feeling there is a lot worse in the files. 

20 Thoughts I Had During the Homestudy

1) Sh*t she's early. Oh well...
2) A redacted birth certificate? It's their birth certificate. They should get to know what was on it.
3) Sexual abuse history!? WTF. 
4) Changed placement due to sexualized behavior? WTF.
5) No, this was their 4th placement. You are DCFS. Shouldn't you know this?
6) Need to move this information. The redacted birth certificate is making me angry. 
7) Why is the mental health n/a box checked? Um they have PTSD and RAD. I think that's applicable.
8) You are missing a sibling in the listing.
9) You want me to fill out a sibling contact agreement but you won't tell me their names? But you give us their birthday? WTF?
10) Did she seriously just ask Hubby his weight? 
11) "You can describe me as curvy".
12) Perfect, another maternity leave to hinder my kids' permananecy. 
13) Did she really just ask me to explain the difference between foster care and adoption?
14) Do people get that wrong?
15) How do I know I'm attaching to the kids? It's a feeling. Can I say "I'm attached because if you don't get this moving along soon, I'm going to go all Mama Bear on your ass?"
16)Yeah...probably should let Hubby answer that questions first and come up with a different answer.
17) "We will support their curiosity about the circumstances that led to their adoption by having an open, age appropriate dialogue their entire lives."
18) The family that isn't supportive of their adoption isn't family anymore, that's how we handle that.
19) Did Hubby just admit to being a champion of therapy? 
20) 3 hours worth of questions. I need a nap.


Friday, November 13, 2015

20 Random Thoughts Prior to a Homestudy

1) I probably should clean the bathrooms. She might need to go if she will be here 1.5 hours x 4 kids. However long that is. I don't multiply decimals.
2) Everyone has told me that's a way overestimation. Maybe I don't really need to clean them.
3) Holy Hell, yes I do. 
4) Good God children, how do you get pee under the seat? How is this possible? I don't even know how to lecture you about stopping this because I have no idea how this can happen.
5) Next week I am giving bathroom cleaning lessons and you are all going to take turns on a weekly basis.
6) Gross. 
7) Still not as gross as lice.
8) Do I need to serve treats? Would baking something be too contrived?
9) Definatley. The kids would tell on me. "This is the first time Mom has made cookies in our new house! ever!" So would Hubby.
10) Why do I care? She's already been here. 
11) Because it's foster care and crazy sh*t happens and how many horror stories have you heard? It's not final until the order is entered. 
12) Need to hire the attorney.
13)Is she the one I tried to interview with and she hired the person before me without meeting me? 
14) Can't find the email. I guess it doesn't matter since I don't know what she looks like. 
15) Let it go R. Let it go.
16) Should I write down the issues? We need to make sure we capture anything pre-existing. Must remember Smiley's IEP and Sarah's 504 Plan. And Simon and Stella's glasses.
17) Just make sure the fresh fruit is visible on the counter.
18) WTF are these pencils doing on the floor.  Where do they come from. Why is it I find them by tripping over them but when I actually need them, nowhere to be found?
18) Why did we tell her 9:00AM?
19) Because you had just given your "how do we expedite this process" speech and you didn't want to look like you were stalling.
20) Screw it. We live here.
 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Can he use your last name?

That was the gist of the email I got from Simon's teacher today. Can he use your last name? He wants to change his name tag on his desk to read his adoptive name. He told his teacher he wants it to say "new last name". 

I love that my kid has grown so much that he can articulate to others his feelings about what is important to him. 2 years ago he couldn't tell me what he wanted to eat for fear he would offend me or it would be something no one else wanted to eat. He acquiesced to everyone. And don't get me started about the way his sisters pushed him around. (This is only slightly improved. He's still incredibly patient with his sisters- way more than me.)

So for him to ask to have the name he feels is his- is HUGE. 

My response was - if he feels this way, we should listen to him. Change it in the yearbook too. 

He has claimed our family as his own. He is demanding to be included in it. Court delays be damned. Legalities don't matter to him. In his heart he belongs with us.

His new name IS his name. I want to ask all the people who told us we didn't have the right to give him a new name- what they make of this? 

He wants the name we have him. The one that honors, past, present, future. The one that cements his place in our family.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Am I Really?

I had Sarah's 504 plan meeting last week. It was the annual meeting to qualify her for classroom supports based on her PTSD diagnosis since it had affected her in class. (Which Caseworker #4 actually said he was "surprised it was necessary for her to have a 504 plan"....let me clue you in- don't say sh*t like that.)

Her amazing therapist came and reminded everyone just how far my kid had come. Somewhere along the way I missed actually hearing her diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder but it's in a report somewhere. While she has basically fallen off that spectrum (not exhibiting signs) her therapist reminded us that we must keep working with her as if she still had RAD as to not backslide in our progress.

When the meeting concluded the very well meaning staff applauded our family for being a foster family and adopting. It was the usual - you are amazing/the kids are so lucky.

And as I got in the car I thought, am I that amazing?  I was 5 minutes late to the meeting. I had no idea what my kids wore to school as I was in the shower when they left. I assume they ate breakfast.....And then again later that night when I blew up at my kids. Totally lost my cool at being asked about a snack before dinner (because hello I was a neglected kid and didn't always know where food was coming from). Then resented that I have to be so very careful all the time because of all the hurt caused by others. And then of course there was the adorable pregnancy announcement from a sibling and a baby shower thank you card that came in the mail today. 

Yeah. I'm a real wonderment. Sobbing in my room because I feel guilty for wishing that this was an easier road while also knowing that there is no such thing.

What qualifies people to tell strangers they are amazing parents? I could be total crap. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Foster Care Land

I've had foster care on the brain the better part of this week. I know, I know- "well duh!? You ARE a foster mom." 

Some days that fact barely registers. With no visits I can sometimes get away with "forgetting" that we are in this weird limbo place where we are a family but not quite legally. We handle school, work, dinner, and bedtime. Rinse. Repeat. At least on days where trauma doesn't rear its ugly head....

I've missed the Fab Four tremendously this week. I found out that Solana's (baby sister) bio dad accepted a plea deal and got out jail. So I'm wondering about the case plan and visits. Sheila texted me and I read another book by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, Three More Words. It's the sequel to her memoir about growing up in foster care. In this book, she shares her experience as a foster parent navigating the system and also incorporating her biological family into her life. 

I feel so helpless to help the other 400,000 kids in foster care. While I realize being the foster mom to the 8 I've had in my home has been critical to their lives- what about the rest? There aren't enough foster homes, let alone, quality foster homes. The court system is bound by regulations and not common sense and I'm just totally frustrated by it all. I'm sure a lot of this has to do with Solana because I can't help but worry about her.

How do we change it? How do we make it so we help the kids and families that need it efficiently, and expeditiously, with quality? How do we move the kids through to permanency who have no hope of reunification without the additional traumas? How do we stop them from getting hurt in the first place?

How do we get the states with the most asinine rules to reform? After reading about stuff happening in New York, Florida, and Texas, Illinois almost looks like it has its act together. 

And I feel sad for all the kids and families living in this alternate universe of foster care. The rest of the world going about their business while families in crisis scramble for peace. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Adoption Coordinator

We met with the Adoption Coordinator that was assigned to our case. Caseworker #4 and CASA were also there. I was pretty frustrated by the end of the meeting because some of this process seems very inefficient to me. The entire meeting could have been handled with a brief phone call and paperwork in the mail. Why she had to wait nearly a month to meet with us is beyond me. 

I was hoping to hear- you guys have been waiting so long and we dropped the ball so we are going to do everything we can to expedite this process. Instead I heard- I have no idea why it took so long but this could take 6 months because there is a lot of paperwork and there are four kids. 

Then the taxpayer in me got frustrated because part of the process is to hire ANOTHER GAL to write a report in support of the adoption. Um they have one. She is sitting next to you. The best interest hearing resulted in a judgement that adoption by the foster parents is in their best interest. Why on Earth do we need yet ANOTHER person who knows even less about the kids to write a report except to spend money? What is the purpose.

Then I had to laugh because she asked us if we wanted to take the subsidy. Why would you decline the subsidy? And it wasn't "you are entitled to receive the board rate until the turn 18 or graduate high school which ever is later." It was "did you want to decline the subsidy?"  It's my tax dollars coming back to me. Of course I want that payment.

We went round and round about orthodontics- first it was we don't pay for them. Then I pushed and it was well if you can find someone who takes the medical card. Then she felt the need to inform me that college isn't covered either. Then she laid the "Post Adoption Sibling Contact Agreement" on me.

(I'm a paralegal. Specifically, I am a commercial contract paralegal. I draft contracts in the tens of millions of dollars range. On a daily basis. Sometimes several 100 million.)

So she hands me this blank form with questions about sibling contact and a place for signature. So I of course ask- what is the purpose of this agreement? How will it be used and who will see it? Who are we agreeing to contact with? 

Well, it's so DCfS can document that we've talked to you about the importance of sibling visitation. It has to go in your packet.

Ok. But how will it be used? 

It goes in their file.

For what use?

It's just part of the packet.

So Bio Mom won't see it?

No! She has nothing to do with the adoption. The Agreement isn't legally binding.

How are you defining sibling? They have several.

Whatever siblings they have a relationship with.

This went on for a while. It was misleading and frustrating and I was assured we could change our minds later and that if we put no contact we would still get called if the baby came back into care (if she were to go home). 

It's a form for the sake of a form and that drives me batty. The fact that they call it an agreement and nowhere state it's not a legal agreement makes me angry. (I googled it and found a better explanation for the form and it's uses.)

At that point I had trouble keeping the negative thoughts out of my head and teared up as she talked about the process. It seems like this is going to take so long. And I'm tired of limbo land. 

She left without meeting the kids which disappointed them. I am trying to focus on the fact that we at least are in the adoption unit and the process has started. But I didn't get warm fuzzies and that makes me worry about potential mistakes. 

It is what it is and this is outside my control and so I have to let it go. I'm allowing myself one more day to stew about it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Viral Videos

One of my friends shared a video to their Facebook timeline today that was recorded by a parent while she was being investigated by Indiana CPS. 

Apparently CPS sent a male investigator out in response to a hotline call made after the parent "whooped" her 10 year old daughter in front of the police officers who brought home from school after she was expelled. 

The parent is clearly upset. The entire 13 minutes she is ranting at the CPS investigator and the 2 additional female workers who show up to examine her daughter after she requested a female.

She goes on to tell us that she is aware that she can't leave a mark due to a previous case is slapping her child in the face because she beat up her brother. We find out that her son is also not doing well at school. Meanwhile, she blames societies' problems (specifically children murdering each other) and a lack of respect for authority on the fact that she is "not allowed to beat their ass" because they can call CPS and they will intervene. She later admits to using a belt on her child. 

She tells the investigators that only one woman can examine her daughter and when they announce there are no marks (and can therefore leave) she refuses to sign the safety plan.

I'm not linking the video because I'm appalled.

I agree that sending a male caseworker to examine a 10 year old girl is not right. But 13 minutes of shouting obscenities at CPS investigators is also not right. 

All I kept thinking was: your children are learning their lack of respect for authority from your actions. Your children are getting expelled at 10, how about you spend the energy you are spewing at CPS to figure that out. Maybe the fear they feel at home is driving their behavior? Because if she is willing to beat them with a belt in front of the officer what is she doing when no one is there? 

The scary part- she claimed to have a degree in human sciences and said that she had the same degree as the investigators....

The CPS investigators remained calm and professional. As I was watching I was thinking- dear lord I hope the kids are safe but I pity the foster mom who has to attend a team meeting with that parent. 

Disciplining your child should never be accompanied by the following descriptive words: belt, whoop, beat, whipped.

I hope this family gets the interventions they need not to prevent an incident that does result in a major CPS finding.

Even worse, the comments on the 4.2 million views advocating for a parents' right to beat their children.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

$100,000 Worth of Sick?

I've been wrestling with where to put this blog post. Here, my anonymous blog aimed at foster care and adoption or my public one aimed at my health. For two reasons I've decided here. 1) This one has more readers. 2) I think that ultimately it falls under the fertility issue and reason we went into foster care.

I have a chronic illness. An immune disorder called Sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis can affect any organ and there is no known cause and no known cure. There are treatments that can make the disease go into remission but I will always have it. For some people it flares up over and over. This is true for me. Most people get it in their lungs-which I have had. Other people get it in their eyes, skin, liver, and heart. About 10% get it in their brain. I'm the lucky 10%. 

Sarcoidosis causes granulomas (hard cells) that, over time, can cause scarring. My sarcoid or Neurosarcoid (since its in my brain) is on the trigeminal nerve. It's a bad place to have it since that's the most painful nerve branch to aggrivate. Right now if I have active Neurosarcoid or permanent scarring is up for grabs.

This disease is what lead us to foster. Like most autoimmune diseases the medications to treat have harmful side effects and patients are counseled to use birth control while on them. 

I went to see my specialist after waiting 2 months for an appointment and she again counseled me that the treatment of my symptoms mean that I need to be on birth control.

My heart sank. I felt really, really tired when she said it. I'm tired of fighting with everyone for everything. I fight for my kids and my family and my job and my relationships. And then I wait and I wait for those things that everyone promises with their "you're such a good person good things will come your way" speeches. And then I wake up to my face on fire and I have to fight to be well again.

If you've never been ill or had a chronic illness it's hard to understand how exhausting it can be to be the sick person. I walked out of the office with orders for all kinds of tests so that we can do more tests based on the 1st tests' results. I have to do the testing before I can go on the medicine. 

There are some new treatment options. One of which is a $100,000 drug. The brochure says they will help you with copay assistance up to $25,000. I was blown away. Am I $100,000 worth of sick?  Could I actually inject myself with a drug that costs that much? I'm not dying. I'm in pain. Is pain prevention that necessary? It seems so extreme. Couldn't that money be used for other things? 

It's an option down the road and I guess it's good to have options but that freaked me out quite a bit. And then of course I got the "no babies for you" speech and my heart cracked just a bit. 

Meanwhile I'm surrounded by pregnant women and had to give the 2nd oldest in a sibling set of 7 a talk about puberty today.

I really just want to say f-it and go to a beach by myself for a few days where I can cry as loud and long as I want to. 

This is one of those moments where becoming an adoptive mom seems like a never ending process. And if I'm being totally honest, today I resent it. All of it.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

More Time

We are on a family vacation this week and Stella was watching Hubby running around and being silly with Smiley. At 10 1/2 she feels too old to do that kind of thing. Stella and my Mom were having a conversation and my Mom said something to the effect of "you were meant to be a part of this family".

Stella replied:

"I know Grandma, I just wish I had come to you when I was younger so that I could have more memories with you."

So powerful are her words. How safe and attached she feels. The longing to have more of our family. The sense of belonging and identity. Some powerful emotions being shared easily. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Listening Circle, My Foot

I received an email yesterday (10/9) with an invitation to "join the rapid response team to give valuable feedback" about how better to serve Foster Parents. The "listening circles" as they are being called are scheduled for 10/14 from 9-11 or 11-2.

I shot back an email to the person who sent me the invite- "it would be great if there were times when working foster parents could attend."

Seriously, on top of all the time off I have had to take off for court and ACRs not to mention umm mothering 4 kids who could easily eat up a week of vacation because the share all their germs with each other....now I'm supposed to take a 1/2 day to participate in "a listening circle" with 5 days notice? Seriously who has all this free time? And I need like 2 weeks notice for meetings like this- I need to dig my sit-upon I wove in girls scouts out of storage.

 I desperately want to give feed back but this is just silly. Makes me think this is one of those - we offered you a chance but made it impossible for you to attend scenarios. 

You want to help foster parents- make these meetings meaningful. Give us an actual chance at providing you with some great ideas. I have a long held believe that foster parents and their resourcefulness could solve a lot of the problems in "the system" if given a chance. But I can't do that if you schedule meetings 1) at the same time my children have to be dropped at school and I have to be at work or 2) in the middle of the day at an office nowhere near mine. Have one in the evening and when I say evening I mean like 7 PM not 4:30pm because that doesn't solve my problem. Oh and have child care there. You have all of these extra drivers and visit supervisors, pretend I'm a bio parent and give me some extra help. (A little mean spirited but the gazillion chances and the exceptionally high standard I'm held too are making me kind of salty.)

I'm going to email the organizer anyway. You know in my free time....

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Right before the deadline...

You know how when a court date is coming up and a bio parent does aome stuff to make it look like they are working their plan but they really only did the stuff so that they can point and say "I'm making progress! I did x! (Because there is no y or Z. Let's be real.)

Well the Department did that to me this week. We had our Administrative Case Review or ACR which is where a 3rd person looks at the case plan and rates the progress on each action item as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. They happen every 6 months and at our last one the reviewer was like why don't you have an adoption worker yet should have been assigned 6 months ago ( I'll do the math for you- that's 12 months from today).

I've been blabbering on about no adoption case worker for a while. Everyone was like- I know? So slow. Shrugged their shoulders and promised to follow up. I believe they did follow up because following up means no more blabbering on from me....

So we had the ACR and just as I'm getting ready to tell another person about no adoption case work, I'm informed one was assigned in the last 48 hours. 

Just in the nick of time where the Department was going to have to rate themselves unsatisfactory....

We scheduled the next ACR for the end of April. The hope is it gets cancelled because the adoption should be finalized.

Who wants to take bets? 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Stella

My Mom took Stella and Smiley shopping for pants yesterday. They came home with some cute things and as my Mom laid the items out in the couch to show me, I was struck with an unbelievable sadness and yearning.

The jeans looked so big.

A reminder that the kids grow a little more every day and I feel like I missed so much of Stella's childhood. I feel like she missed her own childhood and I started to cry. She is going to be 11 soon and I just feel like we got short changed. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Forgive Me, My Face Hurts

I have not written as frequently as 1) there isn't as much foster care/adoption related stuff to report 2) the kids are doing pretty good (shsssh don't tell the Universe that because then it will come back and bite me) 3) my face hurts.

My autoimmune issue has flared up with a vengance in recent weeks and my latest symptoms go beyond the nerve head pain and have spread to my face. My whole left side of my face feels like I've got really bad sunburn. My hair brushed my cheek today and I almost cried. The neurologist prescribed some medication but it's the kind that makes you incredibly drowsy. It's also a mood stabilizer so maybe not all bad....

I can barely keep my eyes open at times and have gone to bed at 9:30pm this week which is VERY unusual for me. I'm hoping my body will get used to this medicine but my online research tells me most people experience this level of tiredness for 6 weeks or more. 

The kids have been really great. Tonight there was a social event at school but a parent had to stay with them. I came home and the kids were like- it's ok Mom I didn't really want to go. I got pretty lucky in the awesome kid department! 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Caseworker #4

So we met with CASA and Caseworker #3 who introduced us to Caseworker #4. The new supervisor never showed - something about a miscommunication. 

Whatever.

I actually cleaned the house. So I guess the supervisor missed it. (Like up until 1 am type of effort.) I NEVER clean for DCFS people so I guess the bonus is a cleaned house before the weekend. 

Anyway, Caseworker #4 was just as young as I imagined him.  If he was 24 I'd be shocked. He also happens to be good looking and have tattoos. Bio Mom is going to eat him alive. Exactly the kind of guy she goes for. (Except this one is employed and presumably has no criminal record.) He seems smart so I'm hoping he is. As long as he protects my kids we will have no issues.

Smiley was smitten. "I'm going home with Mr. Caseworker." Not until you are 30 kid- go get your pJs on.

The monthly visits are kind of silly. We are fine, no one has anything to add. No news on the adoption or the baby. The kids are doing fine. We would have been done in 15 minutes if we weren't trying to reiterate to the new guy how long a history the case has. 

I also told him listen- we will be so easy because we really won't bother you unless we have to. So answer my emails in a timely manner and we will have no issues. You know, but slightly nicer.

I'm over my initial annoyance. It is what it is. The kids seemed unphased by the change so that's what is important. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dear Fab Four

Dear Fab Four,

I think of you often. Probably daily but so entwined in my heart, you are, that I don't notice the thoughts as special. Today Sarah said something just like Jelly Bean or Gabby would have and we told her so. 

Our visits are becoming less frequent. I think that is okay. I think that's how it should be. Maybe the reminder of us is painful at times, LM has said as much. We will be here for you always, whenever you need us. We love you. That will not change. We look forward to fulfilling our promise to your Mom to become your God Parents. 

But I think it's time for me to let go a little more. When we moved I packed everything away as it was. The moments of your time with us frozen in frames.  2 1/2 years of pictures that decorated our home to make sure it felt like yours. As the Quartet came we added to what was there. 

But those walls are not the walls in this house. The home that belongs to the Quartet. This is their forever home and their pictures should hang on the walls. Not added to make them feel welcome but hung because this is their forever family and that is what families do.

It took me a long time to consider taking out your photos and replacing them with theirs. More than 2 years. But it's time. Time to let their photos and our frozen memories be the focus of the walls in our new home. I hope you understand. I hope you see that you are represented too, just not as prominently. 

With love,

Foster Mom R

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Birthday Call

The call with Sheila went pretty well. She told each of the kids she liked their new names and made an effort to use them. She told each of them she loved and missed them. When she said that to Smiley, Smiley looked up at me and said "I don't know what to say". I told her just to say I love you back. I think their conversation maybe lasted 2 minutes. 

We have to come up with some talking points because asking the kids if they like school and what there are doing produce one word answers and "standing in the kitchen talking to you". 

Sarah was happy to be remembered on her birthday. Simon smiled the entire conversation but also didn't say "I miss you" back. Stella was most excited but when she actually got on the phone, she was laying on the couch and mumbling and acted like she didn't care all the much. Sheila said to her she could go back to playing if she wanted and Stella said "I don't want to, well I kind of do". Which surprised me a bit. 

When the kids got off the phone Sheila and I spoke for a good 20 minutes. She said she is glad they are here and when she finds herself sad about it she remembers how happy she was when she found out there was a home that would take all four. She also tells herself how great they are doing here and it helps her get through the moment. 

She also told me that BioDad was making noise to his family that he was going to fight to get the kids back. I haven't heard an appeal was filed so I don't know if he was saving face or serious. Sadly, he didn't call us to talk to Sarah but "liked" the birthday post on Sheila's Facebook Wall. 

We had a rough week leading into the birthday, mostly over homework. But the actual weekend was nice. We kept things low key and I think that helped. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

More New People

Let me say this- as much as Caseworker #3 and I had a rocky start, I actually really like her. She laughs at my comments, cares about the kids, and tends not to be up my ass about stupid rules.

I'm sure she found my snark funny. After her response that she understood and we set the date, she emailed back asking if we could schedule another week out because Caseworker #4's supervisor would like to come meet everyone.

(Insert forehead smack here.)

Apparently this was a supervisor on the case when they had Caseworker #2 (which I didn't know and at the same time, it doesn't surprise me.) I suppose it's good that she wants to meet us but I can't figure out why. In 5 years I think we've only ever had 1 supervisor meet with U.S. And that was on our request because we were having issues. 

I'm trying not to read into it too much. But it did cross my mind that maybe they want to see if we really are serious about being an adoptive resource for the sibling. Let's also hope these two new people won't be up my ass either. 

Meanwhile Sheila texted to ask to call Sarah for her birthday. We talked withSarah  and she was excited to have the call. I'm glad Sheila reached out and I think this will be a good step. We did share that the kids were going to share their new names and while she did ask if it was all four she didn't comment about it at all. Fingers crossed that we don't have major behavior response to this call. (If we do its Hubby's problem I'm going to book club tomorrow afternoon!)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Snark

I maaayyy have been a taaadddd too snarky today. I actually sent a response to Caseworker #3 to the question "When can I come this month and introduce the new worker" that read:

How about never because I don't want a new one.

Then I realized that could be construed as unproductive so I sent a follow up: 

Under protest because really this is ridiculous seriously 4 caseworkers in 2 years for kids waiting for adoption? It's not their fault Mom got pregnant again by some dude who doesn't fluently speak English. 

It may have been a tad too honest. Even what I sent was somewhat censored because I really wanted to write "knocked up".

It's just like come on! 

So of course then I go to my therapy session all riled up. I'm seeing this therapist and giving commitment and acceptance therapy a try.  As I understand it, it's similar to cognative behavior therapy except that instead of trying to move past feelings, you acknowledge them and sit with them and let that be ok. You aren't accepting the behaviors that make you feel a certain way but rather allow yourself to have a feeling and decide that it's ok. 

My therapist pointed out that maybe I could have stopped at "this change is really annoying" and not feed the fire of "this stems from the unprotected sex that Sheila had that keeps resulting in added stressors for my family".

Yeah maybe I could try that...because harping on it isn't really helping me. 

So I processed some stuff and then came home to a bunch of girls crying about homework. Hubby had run out of patience about math homework and despite the fact that I was told yesterday that "you are not my real Mom" I really, patiently, helped breakdown the steps to rounding. I would have called it a day 30 minutes into the tears but we skipped it yesterday due to the monster fit she threw so I felt like we needed to work through it.

When Simon came to say goodnight I asked him if he was sure he didn't want to cry since he was the only one. He smirked at me. Love that kid!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Worry Monsters

A few months ago when the kids were really anxious due to Sheila not signing, they made Worry Monsters in therapy (we do a ton of art during therapy).

I thought I'd share because they are so easy to make. The kids can write their worries on paper and feed it to their Worry Monster. You can decide together if they want you to clean them out or if they want to.

Materials:
Empty Kleenex box or small box
googley eyes, feathers, magazines, foam, glue, paint, permanent markers, string, stickers- whatever you can use to decorate.

Simon made teeth out of green foam and added a bunch of eyes. The feathers are hair.

This is Sarah's. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Tears, tears, and more Tears

Buy stock in Kleenex people....our household is using it up. Partly because the kids are all out of sorts and partly because despite my tutorials on how to blow your nose more than once per tissue, it has fallen on deaf ears....

I can't figure out if it's the start of the school year, the one month mark of saying goodbye to their bio parents or something else.

But the crying about everything is getting old...fast.

Did you do your homework?

Tears.

Did you feed the dog?

Tears.

Why is the backpack on the floor?

Tears.

What shoes do you have on? 

Tears.

Oh.my.word.

A reader on Facebook asked how the kids were adjusting. 

I think ok- except the tears. Could be that they are letting some of the walls come down and they are letting us in more. I know the therapists would tell us tears are a sign of attachment. 

But it sucks. 

Everyone seems to like their teachers. The school social worker has been in touch about Sarah's 504 Plan. We've hit curriculum night for the 3rd and 5th grader and next week is curriculum night at the Primary School. (Our schools are k-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9&10, 11&12.) 

Most importantly the kids are talking about making friends. This makes me incredibly happy. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Holy Meltdown Batman!


We came home from curriculum night to a Sarah who could not stop crying. And of course now we were armed with the information that she has a spelling test tomorrow and she has to read 15 minutes everyday and have her assignment book signed.

Bad combination.

The tears were quick. The snot was spraying. Even grandma when trying to say goodbye managed to make her melt down further. (And I'm over here trying eat my salad and through bites of spinach I'm calmly like- she thinks you are making fun of her when the crying got louder and my Mom's face turned worried.)

Hubby was trying to help her but she just kept crying harder but kept trying to do the work. So I called a time out to try and do guided deep breathing with her.

FAIL- because apparently when I say close your eyes and relax your face that means blink your eyes exaggeratedly and scrunch your face. And when I say deep breath in and blow out that means hyper ventilate- but whatevs.

By some miracle I managed to stay calm and keep working with her. Eventually we got the deep breathing and her rational brain back but it took a good 10 minutes and a lesson on how to blow your nose more than once per tissue- but hey I solved the great mystery of why there is never any Kleenex left, so there's that.

I never did find out what the hell happened that made her go off the rails. And we did manage to get back to studying spelling. I normally would have said forget it but it seemed like she was trying to hide the spelling from us and we are working on that issue so I didn't want to give it any power (as in "your reward for hiding your spelling test tomorrow and crying about it is - No more studying!")

3rd grade is tough. Tears on the first full week of school means we get it out of our system now right? Please tell me it's now....

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fictive Kin

Illinois recently passed some legislation that makes expands the definition of "fictive kin". Fictive Kin allows people who are close to a family but not related by blood or marriage to be considered a placement and adoption resource for kids who come into care. A non-relative God-Parent or step-parent are examples of fictive kin. 

The baby sister, Solana, is placed with a friend Sheila named as a "God parent" and is considered fictive kin. She isn't a licensed foster parent but she is in her 40s and has biological children of her own. I have no idea how they met but I looked up an address for her name and she lives very close to Sheila. (And the Alcoholics Anonymous building is at the intersection. You'd think it would be easy for Sheila to get there...)

The legislation also expanded the definition to include adoptive families of siblings. In fact, because siblings are higher in the pecking order we would have standing to adopt before biological family would. No one at the Department thinks that Solana should go back to Sheila but the judge assigned to the case is a wild card and used to be a defense attorney and tends to favor the parents. (Which is the only explanation I can come up with as to why anyone would give her Another chance.)

Truth be told, I'm worried about Solana. Allowing Sheila 2-3 years to work a case plan and then decide to find another permanency goal just seems ridiculous to me. Might as well diagnose the kid with PTSD now to save time. Sheila is doing the same things she did with the kid that caused her to stop making progress. She also had a dirty urinalysis 2 days after Solana was born. She never did the Aa meetings that were part of her case plan before, I highly doubt she'll do it this time. 

We told Caseworker #3 that we would be willing to be the adoptive placement. We also said if the goal changed from Return Home to Pending Termination that we would accept her as a foster care placement since visits would drop down to once a month. Meanwhile, they are trying to get the case combined with my kids' case since that judge has all of the history.

Time will tell. For her sake, I hope that it's not a long drawn out thing.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Name Update

I sound like a gosh darn owl.  I'm asking "who" said this, "who" did what? All.the.time.

Who, who, who.

I don't know a (fill in the original name here).

We keep checking with the kids. They keep telling us there are excited for their new names.  Its just hard to remember. 

Its especially hard to use their new names when speaking about past events.

We will get there. 

Stella and I had a long talk about being able to tell me its sometimes hard for her to remember her name.  She was afraid I would be upset.  I reminded her I understood, I changed my name when I got married.  I had been Foster Mom R Maiden Name for 25 years. 

Then I shared the story about Hubby sending me a postcard from Europe to my Maiden name a few years after we were married.  And Grandma having my Momagenda personalized with my old initials.  The lesson being that name is always apart of us.  We just need to make space for the new one too.

The school was great.  They added their new names to all of their class lists and name plates.

The hardest has been....family.

We got a lot of flack from the grandparents.  Both sets.  My Mom understood more because she hears more about the process and had time to get used to what was happening. My Dad was grumbly because that's how he is about change.

Hubby's parents reacted the most strongly.  Hubby called to tell them about court and the name change and he got a lecture about their names being their names. Then he was told that Sheila was their "real Mom" and we couldn't take that away from them.

Hubby fired back - "Foster Mom R isn't any less real as their birth mother. I'm not any less real than their birth father.  If anything, we are more "real" because we do the every day stuff that makes you a parent."

I can't tell you how proud I was of him for that moment.

Can I just say its August and I'm already dreading the holidays a bit....


 

Open Bed

When we moved, our license was upped to 5 beds for children 0-18. We didn't ask for this. The licensing worker did it because of the baby and because we have the space but we had asked her not to. 

I decided to leave it because secretly I had hoped that the baby would come to live with us. Since that isn't the case, we have 1 open bed which means we are still getting placement calls. Right now the calls are coming to our home phone. Since we are rarely home, the calls are mostly messages asking us to call them back. I simply delete them. We haven't had any that we would be willing to take due to age and also we have our hands pretty full. 

Tonight I knew there was a message waiting for us when we got home as a plea had been posted in the county foster parent Facebook page.

A 3 year old Romanian girl who need a place until her Dad was able to get here tomorrow from out of state. She doesn't speak English and she needed a place until Monday in case the Dad didn't get here in time. It was 9:45pm. 

My heart broke. Could you imagine being 3 and being alone and not being able to communicate.  It was the first time I really wished we could say yes. We have a family (ticketed) event planned tomorrow that she wouldn't be able to go to and we can't cancel.

I'm so sad for her and I will be praying for her comfort tonight.