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Friday, December 30, 2016

3 Years

I went back this week and read the December 2013 posts I wrote.  It was 3 years ago that my kids moved in. I find it helpful to peak at what was going on as it's a good reminder of how far we have come. In doing so, I was reminded that December has been a pretty trying time for us and for me. It also happens to be busy season at work as I write contracts that mostly begin on the first of a calendar year. We had Jelly Bean's hospitalization and Solana's arrival in Decembers past and its no wonder I've been totally out of sorts. I hadn't realized how anxious and stressed I felt until Christmas ended and my to-do list was only 15 million things long compared to the 30 million it had seemed to be.

We've become a family in three years and have weathered some pretty life changing events - the losing and gaining of jobs, moving houses, switching schools. Adoption. Welcoming a baby.  We aren't the same people from 3 years ago. We have grown so much! If I could go back and tell myself 1 thing - it would be to try to be patient with everyone, myself included. It was a battle to get here and we should be proud of who we have become.

If you have been here this whole time - thank you.  I know how invested I get in reading other blogs and so I appreciate that many of you wonder and pray for us and pull for us when we are struggling. I say this knowing that one of my favorite blogs (Fosterhood) seemed to be deleted in its entirety today due to the potential that information shared could be used against the author. I found Rebecca early on in my journey, and her willingness to be open and a source of connection to birth families, and her voice as an adoptee were very influential in shaping my approach. I will miss her writing and hope that the situation with her daughters and their siblings comes to a quick resolution in their favor.

That being said, its a reminder to me that when we share on the internet we open ourselves up to the risks associated with it.  I've tried to keep this blog anonymous for many reasons but the first being that the majority of what I write about would be considered confidential. I've been careful, but you may see some posts edited in the coming weeks to ensure that I'm not giving too much of our identity away.  The other reason I keep it anonymous is that I write in a brutally honest manner at times and I might not be so forthcoming if my name were attached.  (For instance if Maria were to go back and read some of my old posts, I would be mortified.  It doesn't make them less true, but it would hurt her tremendously.) I've toyed with the idea of creating a new blog in my real name so that I could share my thoughts and feelings but that hasn't come to fruition yet. And if it did, I wouldn't be able to tell you!

Incidentally, I did hear from Maria this week asking when she will see us to celebrate Christmas. I admit, I've been putting off sending their Christmas gifts because I'm upset with both Jelly Bean and her obsessive and rude behavior back around her birthday and Little Mama - who has blocked me on Facebook since she decided I abandoned her.

I also heard from Sheila yesterday who shared she left the state to help figure out what is wrong with her youngest son (between Smiley and Solana) who is now 6 and unable to use a bathroom and may be "sick in the head". She has been gone 4 years and has decided that because Simon is now fine, and had been "sick in the head" that perhaps he just needs some "attention". She said again that she knew the caregiver for Simon was mistreating him and that is why she took Simon and not the baby with her when she moved out of state.  Makes me so sad for the other kids she left behind. I saw a video and its clear that the other sibling has some sort of delay but what he needs is an evaluation not an absentee mother swooping in to "fix" everything.  (We will set aside the idea that Simon is "fine" because extreme anxiety and PTSD are not things that go away.)  But for some reason she did finally send about 25 pictures of the kids including some from a birthday party that the girls have talked about. Some I had already found, some were new.  I'm hopeful that there will be more - I offered that if others had pictures of the kids they wanted to share she could have them send to Facebook.  (And to send she had to Un-block me so I guess I have that going for me.) So as annoyed as I am about her dragging me into her drama, thus occupying more of my thoughts, I am grateful she finally sent the pictures.

And finally, we got to video chat with Solana while she was on her overnights again this week. Her Dad sends plenty of pictures but I mentioned that I missed her today and he offered right away to let us chat. When we appeared on the phone she squealed with joy! She's such a happy kid. Knowing we can still see her and talk to her while she is gone is helping us feel more comfortable about her move. And also knowing that she is largely protected from all of the Sheila drama is also helpful. I doubt she will be back prior to court and that means the case will close with no contesting of the custody (at least for now).

2017 should be interesting.....

 
























































Sunday, December 25, 2016

Dear Sheila,

You've been on my mind quite a bit today. I'm not going to lie, that really annoys me. I don't really want to think about you. But today as I watched the children you birthed delight in the magic of Christmas I couldn't help but include you in my thoughts. I've had a few hard conversations this week because of your choices and I just want to say I think its incredibly unfair of you to occupy space in my mind today.  I'm writing this letter knowing it will never reach you but hoping it quiets my thoughts.

You cancelled your 4th visit in a row and you told Caseworker #4 you were going out of town.  Visits are stopped until further notice and even if you wanted to see the kids, I would have to exclude Solana from that visit.  I have some theories about why you might be going out of town. Several of which have to do with giving birth in another state where you won't be on The Department's radar. Maybe you are going home to see your family but I wonder what, if anything, you have told them about where your children are. In any event, the 5 children sleeping upstairs were left in the dark and I had to have a conversation that went something like:

We have the date Solana is moving.  She will add an extra day to each week of visits starting in January and then move on a Monday. She is not having visits with your Mom.  I have not heard from your Mom. I know so of you may be wondering about a phone call for Christmas and the upcoming birthdays.  I have no idea if she feels ready to have a call.  Right now, there is no plan for a call so I wanted to tell you that in case anyone was wondering.

Because they were wondering. Because they love you. Because they don't understand how you can walk away from them and Solana.

I assured them that you were probably thinking of them and that maybe since the adoption is final and Solana is going to her Dad, that this Christmas was too hard.

I have to admit I'm struggling with empathy for you. Its easier when I think that something is so broken inside you and you are so devastated from loosing your kids that it just hurts too much to see or talk to them. I don't quite understand that because I would crawl through glass to get to them, but that's the difference between me being their Mom and you being their Mom.

I'm not sure where we go from here. We made it pretty clear that you needed to be consistant or We would have to have a relationship at a distance. I'm not going to solve that problem tonight. Right now I'm going to go to bed before 10pm for the first time in months in hopes I get some sleep because I have a sick baby and a disaster of a house that will need my full attention tomorrow.

~ Foster Mom R

Sunday, December 18, 2016

FAQs

I had some questions asked of me recently that I thought I would answer here:

1) How do you keep doing this after so much crap?
I actually had two different foster moms ask me this. One dealing with a false allegation and one in a kinship case with a pregnant, unstable bio mom.

I'm not sure I have an eloquent answer to this question. I think I've reached a point where I see the bigger picture - the kids.  That's not to say this stuff doesn't drive me nuts or make me emotional. I would be spitting fire if we had to deal with a false allegation. I'm really upset about the potential of having to make a decision about another baby. But if not me, who? We are good at this. There are kids that need me. And I probably need them. I am a caretaker by nature.  What would I be doing with myself if I didn't have 15 different obligations all at once? I have no idea because I've always been this way. And right now all of the current drama is related to my children. I signed up for them so I feel I need to continue dealing with the other stuff.

After 5 years of actively foster parenting I've seen all of this work out to the benefit of children.  The Fab Four have been with Maria for 3 1/2 years. The system ultimately helped them. Except for that whole Jelly Bean being molested by a foster parent thing, they are a foster care success story.  Solana got to be raised with her siblings and will continue to have a relationship with them.  My kids found a forever family and are healing from their trauma.

I have also gained from these experiences.  I have an empathy I wasn't capable of before. I have an understanding of the experience of others that I would never have bothered to pay attention to, had I not become a foster parent.  My soul is full knowing that I helped families, that I did something important with my life. If I die tomorrow, that would be enough for me to feel like my time on Earth was important.

I think there is a certain filter that gets applied after a certain amount of experiences where you can kind of step back and go - yeah, that's really not that big of a deal. I was wrong a lot at the beginning. I'm probably wrong a lot now too, but I try to view things through that lens now.  "The bio parents aren't evil they need our help" lens. And man after participating in some of these public forum with lots of foster parents, the bio parents really need our help.  I can't believe how much hatred there appears to be towards the parents.  I mean sure I recognize it, I was there once too, but I grew from it. Its really scary to me sometimes.

2) How are we doing?
We've been better and we've been worse. I don't know how much is holiday related and how much is just normal craziness with our lives.  Hubby and I are both slammed at work and are juggling very full plates. Somehow though we have managed to get to a really good place, maybe the best we've ever been in, in terms of sharing feelings, concerns, and listening to each other.  One of my biggest fears of Solana going home was that we would end up where we were when the Fab Four went home. We almost ended our marriage. It was ugly. Right now our struggle seems to be staying therapeutic. It seems our response to stress is to revert to old patterns of parenting that don't work.  So we are trying to get back on track with that. The next week marks three years that the kids moved in with us so some of it could be traumaversary related. Stella and Sarah don't seem to remember their initial reluctance to let go of their previous foster family but it was a really difficult transition for them.

I think we are seeing anxiety manifest itself in different ways from the kids and I'm hoping that being on winter break will help reduce some of their stress since they don't have homework and tests to worry about. They've gotten through 3 weeks of Solana being gone for overnight visits and I think they have seen how this might make things easier from time to time.  I think we'll probably have another 4 weeks before she officially moves. Hopefully by then our therapist's contract with the state will be signed because we haven't seen her in a month.

I think we will probably take a break for a while. I know I wrote on Facebook I sent an inquiry email about a kiddo but they found them a placement. And really, we have a lot coming up through June that I wouldn't want to add a child to.  Perhaps once Solana has been with dad for 6 months we will be ready to make a decision about continuing to foster. Smiley has said a few times "we should get another baby we can keep". I guess at this point I can't rule anything out. Seems a shame to waste these skills, LOL.

How is everyone else? Are you hanging in there? How do you keep going after all the crap?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Mother of the Year.

As I mentioned on Facebook, Monday was a rough night. It was my fault because I wasn't staying patient. Wasn't being therapeutic and was definitely PMSing. It was ugly. I, was ugly. 

I admit that because I'm not perfect. I think its a helpful reminder to read about other's admissions of imperfection, especially during the holidays when everyone is wearing matching sweaters, building insanely cute gingerbread houses, and sharing pictures of holiday gatherings.

Not us.

Nope.

I screamed. I yelled. I swore. 

And I didn't want to be near my kids. And they weren't really even the reason I was feeling out of sorts. Sure I was mad that once again a bowl of milk was left sitting on a table all day and that no one did the dishes or took out the garbage or fed the dog. But if I were being really honest, I was just really beat down by the stress of work, school, and foster care. And I was dreading my period and the disappointment that would come with it, after opening another Christmas Card announcing someone else's pregnancy. Because with the turn of the calendar my baby is leaving. And I'm not pregnant with a baby who can't leave because I am their mother.

All of those complex feelings swirling around and no real outlet to place them wasn't a good thing.

But I repaired. I apologized. I told them I loved them even if I was disappointed. I told them that it was okay if there were disappointed in me. And I ended with tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start.

And it was. 

We headed to a friend's bar to watch the Blackhawks win. They happily ate quesadillas bigger than their heads. We cheered and danced and just spent time together.

We took advantage of no homework tonight and watched Fuller House as a family.  At some point Sarah realized that Solana wasn't home.  I reminded her she was on her visits until Friday and she broke down. "When she moves, will we ever see her again?" 

"Yes. Yes, we will." And the confidence I had in that statement reassured my daughter who has probably been working up the nerve to ask that question for weeks. I reminded her it was okay to be sad and then she got a hug and went back to her night. 

Also I totally ordered pizza and let my kids eat in front of the television. There. Hope that makes someone feel better about themselves!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

It is a process

It's a physical ache. A pain in the middle of my chest.  And it causes hot tears, the kind that sting my eyes.  It settled over me today and I couldn't shake it.

It started with news that more people in our lives are expecting and today, I just couldn't muster the happiness.  I heard complaints of not feeling well and my ability to plaster the smile on my face just vanished from my body. I left the house to "run an errand" but really I just needed an escape.

All week I've been able to communicate and tell people about Solana leaving without any trouble.  I probably sounded like a PSA for "How to be the role model foster parent".

People were asking:

So will you get to adopt the little one? Is she staying?

Well no, actually.  She is going home in a few weeks. That's the goal of foster care. We are really happy for her dad. He really gets it. We've built a relationship. I'm so glad she doesn't have to go through the pain of adoption or languishing in foster care. 

Isn't it hard?

Well it is. And of course the kids are taking it pretty hard but we have more support this time around and we have a better understanding of what to expect.

I don't know how you do it! God Bless you. I raised __   kids and they were my own!

Well my kids are my own.

I bopped along same busy Foster Mom R. Smoothing everything over. Happy for everyone.

And then BAM.

More people who you have to be excited for are expecting and your baby is going home. And all the feelings about infertility, and failings as a mom, and frustration with the system, and loss, deep, deep loss hit me.  And I'm feeling the memory of sitting in another baby shower, smiling and pretending that everything was fine, when nothing was fine - and I just couldn't hold it back any longer.

And then tonight she just wouldn't go to sleep.  She's been doing this all week. Screaming at bedtime. The same primal scream she uses at daycare when I drop her off.  And without fail the teacher murmurs - "I know, Mommy is best. Mommy will be back. Mommy always comes back."

Except I don't. And she knows it. She knows her weeks aren't the same. She knows she's been disappearing and staying somewhere else. And I have all this guilt and the real mind f*ck of it is -

I DIDN'T CAUSE ANY OF IT.

I didn't do this. Her mother did. The same mother who called in sick to her visit last week.

CALLED IN SICK. She gets 4 hours a week and she opted out.

W.T.F!? Parents don't get sick days. In fact my work "sick days" are typically used when my kids are sick. My ass was at a 7:30 AM meeting to discuss potential support services for a child she neglected - but she wasn't feeling well so she went ahead and cancelled?

I must have missed where that was an option when I signed up for the things I'd have to do as a parent.  Must have been under the check box of catch puke in your hands, clean poop off of hand towels, argue about why "we won't be going to Starbucks at 9:15 PM on a Sunday".

And YO! It's the Christmas Season! The month where everyone you haven't seen for like the past 10 months decides you need to be at their function for festiveness. And your kids have several layers of trauma and some teacher decided that the Elf on the Shelf was great fun and now your child won't shut up about it. She only wants an Elf on the Shelf or an iPad. Heads up child - you must be on the "fantasy list" because neither one of those things are going to happen. You will be lucky if Mom gets the darn tree up. And I'm not so secretly excited for next year when we can stop this whole "Santa" thing because I don't agree with your father that Santa gifts should be wrapped and I just spent a small fortune taking you on a flipping cruise.

So clearly, I'm just a tad bit out of sorts and not very "foster care positive" on this night before Solana's next overnight visit.

So I did some self care.

1) I shared with all of you.  We aren't alone. I know that. I appreciate everyone of you who take the time to read, comment, and like my Facebook posts.
2) I bought some LuLaRoe today and I ordered a fun petticoat for underneath it for one of the obligatory parties I mentioned above.
3) I watched TV tonight even though I still have "real" work to do and some thesis writing to wrap up for the semester.  I watched "This is Us" hoping it would make me cry so I could get it out, but the mid-season finale was so good I was just left on edge. - If you have not seen This is Us, I urge you to check it out. Bi-racial adoption, reunification, body issues, family drama, grief. It's all in there.

Tomorrow is a new day. As I hit save, I will recommit to my heart that going home is best for Solana and that her address doesn't matter. I will stop the timer on this grief, and I will resolve that others' happiness does not have to trigger my pain, nor do I have to feel guilty that my pain is triggered by their happiness.