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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.