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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lucky 7

We spent all of 4 minutes on the impending baby. I really thought Stella would take the news of the baby quite hard.

I was 180 degrees wrong.

She literally jumped out of her seat with joy and enthusiasm. 

Yippee! Does that mean the baby will come live with us?

That's not the plan. The plan is the baby will live somewhere else.

Is that because a baby might be a lot of work? When will the baby be born? Is it a girl? Is my mom's belly really big? Will we get to see the baby? Oh yeah! 7 kids in my family!

I'm not even sure how to wrap my head around the excitement and joy she had. I am really worried that she is going to grieve hard when she realizes that this baby really isn't going to be in her life. 

Simon kept saying "maybe it's twins".

Sarah had a few questions and shortly after had a mini meltdown over something else.

Smiley had no reaction but I suspect she was jealous. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


So we told Caseworker#3 that we would not be taking the baby if asked. She commended us for our honesty. She praised our solid reasoning and applauded us for not being selfish and taking on more than we can handle because it's a baby. It made me feel better and I'm sooo glad that she didn't try to make us feel guilty. The CASA worker even validated my anger and said how wrong it was for is to even have to be thinking about a baby and how unfair it was.

Bio Mom has been given a more intensive domestic violence program to work. It sounds like the plan would be to place the baby in a traditional foster care placement. (And no one believes she will successfully complete her case plan.) We can't, at this point, take that risk and sign up for that. (The baby gets visits but you don't..and the baby in a car for over an hour? Um I'll pass thanks.) What would happen to my kids if their sibling got to go home and they couldn't? And the loss of a sibling after living with that sibling? 

We may still have to do sibling visits if the adoption isn't finalized. (Which it won't be.) I totally understand why the rules are written this way- siblings who aren't placed together or have aged out of care have the right to visits with each other and also to know certain information about where their sibling is living.  But really what are my 4 kids going to do with an infant for several hours twice a month with no parents there or some other foster mom? Once the goal changes to adoption, visits with Bio Mom stop. What would those visits even look like? 

I mean they don't have to do visits with Bio Dad's baby since that child isn't a ward of the state. We also found out that he may have had another child recently. So that should be babies....

I found some literature from DCFS that said if the visits are in the childrens' best interest they have to take place. I don't think they are in my kids' best interest. And as backwards as it is, I think we have to advocate for no sibling visits....

Then Caseworker #3 told me I should come work for DCFS as an investigator since I found the phoney name Bio Mom has been using and all the Bio Dads. She had been looking and couldn't find the profiles.  You want to find the info out? Ask a foster Mama. We can Facebook stalk with the best of them! 

It's funny because Stella has been on this kick of asking to "track down" her Bio Dad. Telling me we should call the FBI. I finally asked her if she knew what the FBI was and she said no. So when I explained that's who the president calls when he wants to find someone she backed off a little. I wanted to say to her - honey you don't need the FBI. You have me! 

We tell the kids this week that Sheila is pregnant. We'll see how they react.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Filed Under Stupid $#%+ People Say

We were out to dinner as a family this week and we had one of those incidents where a stranger said something incredibly stupid in front of my kids.

We are all guilty of this. A phrase, opinion, stereotype, example that has become so ingrained as no big deal that out of our mouth it goes and no one really bats an eye unless of course they are somehow connected to said thought.

As adults we learn to ignore other people's insensitive statements. We agree to disagree when beliefs are opposing. But how do you handle when your kids are watching? And the statement might affect them? And you have a family member who is also witness to said conversation?

Well right or wrong here is what I did:

The waitress was trying to be friendly. Having no idea that I was a foster mom or that I had parented kids from hard places she shared that she was also a proud Mama to a son, now in college, who had spent time in a behavioral school. We commented on how busy she was at the restaurant and she said:

"Yes! I feel like one of those kids that was adopted from foster care and then had to do all the cleaning for the family."

Exact words. True Story.

Most of the kids weren't listening. Sarah was but I wasn't sure she heard the words.

In that split second I had decided to change the subject by asking for a refill. And then pull her aside as we were leaving to ask her not to use that phrase again in case a family like ours was in ear-shot.

My Dad felt the need to start to explain.

So I jumped in with "Let it go." And he of course got mad. His grandchildren were just attacked. This lady just said something incredibly rude! My Dad isn't as practiced about how much to share and I had no idea what about to come out of his mouth. (He thought he was whispering but my Dad had never whispered once in his life.)

I didn't want this lady to know my kids were in foster care because it was none of her business. I especially didn't want to share in front of the kids. Not because I'm ashamed or trying to hide it but because it's unimportant in the context of who is serving our dinner. I didn't want to give the words any power*.

I also knew that she was the type that would feel really bad about what she had said and my goal isn't to perpetuate hurt. (Also I'm pretty sure she would have been the type to lay the "angel/saint" speach on us and that would have perpetuated the inappropriate conversation.) She was a front of the battle lines Mom too. And she was really sweet to the kids so I know she had a great heart.

My intent was to discuss with Sarah later on if she had heard what the lady had said and go from there. Given that she loves the song "Hard Knock Life" and the cleaning scene from Annie I'm sure that's the context she gave the statement and not the one our adult brains applied. (That once adopted she would be doing all the cleaning. Okay, that is true but not after she was adopted. Kids in my house have to clean. Foster, adopted, or just visiting.)

We spent a lot of time talking about adoption this week and none of the kids asked a single question about cleaning. (Sarah wanted to know "if we could get a snack or something" after the adoption hearing.)

My Dad did pull the lady aside after we left and to her we were a foster adopt family. She felt awful as predicted and I hope she will educate herself on the topic. 

*Words do have power and simply not repeating them does not make them any less real nor does repeatedly brushing them under the rug. There is a time and a place and I had determined this instance was neither, nor was the statement so offensive that I felt a need to openly defend my kids situation so they could witness me doing so. Had she said something like "I feel like one of those abused foster kids, ripped from their real parents and chained in the basement " I would have it handled differently. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

It's Not My Problem

Those were the words spoken by Hubby in regards to Sheila's pregnancy. And he's right. This was her choice. Not ours. Only in an tangential way is this our problem. In that my kids will have another loss and another sibling out in the world.

I know of at least 3 other siblings that they have and I suspect there are more. I'm not sad or concerned about taking them. Why is this sibling different?

I spent some time mulling that question over. And the only answer is that it's a baby. And that stirred up all of my feelings and emotions about being unable to have a pregnancy. Not necessarily being the Mom to an infant but rather having the whole experience from start to finish. It was grief I thought I was done with. And it hit me rather unexpectedly. But it doesn't define my ability to be a mother. 

I'm already a Mom. In every sense of the word. I have piles of laundry, a sink full of dishes, and a project on Beethoven to supervise that say I'm a Mom to four amazingly talented, beautiful children. In fact, I just heard Smiley say "Oh my! Not again!" Which is something she picked up from me. I'm incredibly blessed and they are enough for me. 

I need to be enough for them. I need to have the sense to say we have a full plate and I can only stretch myself so far physically, emotionally, and financially. Just because their Biological Mother doesn't make that decision does not mean I have to follow in her footsteps. In fact, laid out that way it seems down right idiotic to go down that path.

My four kids with trauma need me. They need a family willing to take all four together (because that is the family they know) who are willing to advocate for them and help them heal. 

This baby does not need me.  This baby needs a family and there are no shortage of families ready and willing to take a baby who's parental rights will be terminated on an expedited basis. And what a blessing to another family who is hoping and praying for a baby. 

That isn't us. We aren't that family. And so we have decided that if asked, we will say no to the placement of this baby. 

I grieve for my children. I grieve for this baby but I know that at this moment, if I were to say yes these 5 kids would not get the Mom that would be enough. They would get the "good enough" version and all of them deserve better. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Permanency Hearing

We had a permanency hearing today. The goal remained Termination Pending Determination of Termination of Parental Rights. The judges found no reasonable progress or effort on all of the parents. 

Sheila's attorney tried to make a play at admitting evidence that she was making progress by attending a few therapy sessions (in the last 3 weeks) and keeping suitable housing.

The judge pointed out that she was pregnant as a result of an abusive relationship and that it was clear that whatever services she had completed clearly hadn't set in.

Everything went as expected (bio Dad was a no show but his attorney was there) but it left me angry and frustrated. We should be done.

I want to be done.

The kids deserve to be done.

I was assured that the TPR trial will be  scheduled at the hearing next month and that it should go quick from there.

I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Seeing Red

After 8 hours of studying I came home to melted red crayon all over my dryer.  Its just as well.  Everything else in this house is just a little broken so the dryer might as well join the list.

Just a little broken? Yep.  Like the mirror in the bathroom hung about 2 inches below the top of my head.  Light switches on the outside of a room. You know enough to drive you crazy but not noticeable enough when you bought the house.  We got so frustrated with the door to our bathroom we just took it off the frame.

I love this house and we are so happy here but I am over the fix it list that gets additions on a daily basis.  I always knew this was a great house and it just needed a little love.  I intended to write this post by drawing the parallel to foster care but you know what? I'm too tired.

So while I was sorting the melted crayon spotted clothes from the ones that escaped the meltdown (Oh 'cmon, it was funny), I was giggling at all of the stuff that gets thrown at you as a Mom.  Crayon in the dryer falls under the "typical" child rearing experience. Which feels like a win somehow... 

The crayon is almost off the inside of the barrel.  The clothes are finished soaking.  And I've got to read another 3 chapters of Administrative Healthcare Law issues.  Fun times at Foster Mom R's house. Fun times.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dear Sheila

Dear Sheila,

I'm writing this post because my heart is full and I need a place to put it. I can never tell you any of the things I am about to write because they wouldn't be appropriate. That's how this whole foster mom thing works. Everyone else gets to do whatever they feel or want and I have to sit by and watch with my mouth shut only opening it occasionally to express carefully phrased statements mean not to  rock the proverbial and precarious boat.

As I sit tonight helping our son with his report on monkeys I was sad. Sad that you missed out on such a special moment. You wouldn't have known that his handwriting has improved a ton. Or watched his toothless grin creep up as he decided that monkeys eating bugs is funny. You also would have missed the meltdown when I discovered that he hid the assignment from me. So afraid to disappoint it's easier to disappear. So worried I will not have time that he just assumes he has to do this 1st grade project on his own. That's on you and your choices. 

I sat at the table at 9pm exhausted. Both physically and emotionally. I spent the entire evening at therapy helping our kids navigate the life skills they will need to handle and hopefully overcome their trauma. While Hubby read and played games with the kids in the waiting room I was invited into session to play a game with Stella. A game designed to help her learn how to handle stress and disappointment. She's 10. Her biggest disappointment should be not getting to watch tv, not trying so hard to be perfect because if she makes a mistake no one will love her and ask her to leave her home.

I spent last night meeting with the same therapists until nearly midnight discussing the kids' progress and trying to explore the feelings I have about being asked to take your next baby if the state decides you will not parent the baby.   

You know how I'm feeling? Pretty flipping mad at you. How could you put us in this situation? How could you do this to our kids? They will be crushed if you keep the baby. They will be crushed if we don't take the baby. And in the third scenario I might be crushed by taking the baby. I can't win here. And neither can you. 

And you know what? My full time work, grad school attending, 1/2 marathon training, mother of four ass is too gosh darn tired from moving to deal with this right now. I hope the sex was worth it. I see you re-friended him on Facebook now that the restraining order expired. I really want to shake you until you realize that you are doing the exact.same.thing that caused my four to be taken from your custody. Maybe then I won't have to be the one to fix it. Or feel like a hypocrit and failure because I decide I can't handle fixing it. I know that should be perfectly ok to set a clear boundary and limit. I know that it's healthy but it all feels wrong. 

Sadly, you likely don't understand any of what is about to happen. You think your rights will remain intact. You have no idea how much grieving our kids are doing and will do. You have no idea how much I resent that we have another permanency hearing next week and the goal will not be changed to adoption. They have not lived with you for more than 760 days. And of this anger further hurts my heart because I don't want to feel this way.

I want a positive relationship. I envision a bigger family that includes yours. Wonderful cultural traditions and birth stories and "when you were little" stories.  I want to share our children's hearts and in order to do that, I have to lighten mine about all this.

I hope you understand,

Foster Mom R

Monday, March 9, 2015

Birthday Parties Are Hard

Sarah was invited to a birthday party this past weekend. I RSVPd yes because I'd love to see her make friends but if I'm being honest, I hate going to these things. 

Turns out my kid does too.

1) I don't know the other parents. Sure it would be a good way to meet the other parents but that's only if they are friendly. 

2) We don't really know the kids. It was the majority of her class but she really didn't have a group. There is a little girl who she was paired with the first week as her buddy who happens to share her last name. She tried to get Sarah to join in but Sarah was glued to my side.

3) I had to stay at the party. I have a billion things to get done but I knew this wasn't something I could drop her off for. 

I'm glad I stayed because I practically had to I peel her 8 year old self off my lap. She cried when I told her refusing the glow stick was rude. 

That's a hard thing- trauma parenting to kids' comfort while also teaching them things like manners and commitment.  And then guess what- you have to plaster the smile on your face and appear like you don't hate every minute of being there.

But they opened the door to the inflatable arena and after doing a lap around the options she joined in. She got all sweaty and while I stayed within eye sight she only came to me with her sweaty sweater, to take her to the bathroom and after she conquered the rock wall. Even though it was dark and loud.

(She had no idea Mom knew anything about rock climbing so when I gave her some tips she used them on her next turn to climb higher.)

After the running around part we went into the party room for pizza and cake. The whole thing is chaotic and it makes me anxious. It's got to make her edgy too.

While sitting there another Mom got to talking with me. When she realized I was Sarah's Mom she to me I must know this other little girl in the class. When I have her a completely confused look she reasoned it was because we have the same last name.

Along the lines of:
You know, because all the Hispanic people are related....

Face palm.

I almost wanted to tell her I have four kids with different last names just to see what her reaction was.....

She was well meaning and she didn't know better but sometimes people say some dumb stuff. 

We also had some Wow! You were busy comments.

All in stride now. All in stride.

Sarah might have been terrified of the party but she was brave and went for it anyway. I love that she tries really hard to make the best of the situation. She inspires me. If she can handle the birthday party so can I.