Monday, March 2, 2015

Emergency trip to Iowa

I imagine that most of you know what's going on due to my Facebook posts. In the event that you don't follow Cherub Mamma on FB, here's a super quick update...

My daddy hasn't been well for many years. He has suffered multiple heart attacks and strokes. The last four and a half years have been very challenging as he didn't recover well from his last stroke at all.

On Monday of this week he fell. My mom took him to the ER and he got six staples in his head. His condition deteriorated rapidly this week.

Because his behaviors were EXACTLY like what happens when he gets in a depressive state, it didn't seem necessary to go back to the doctor right away.

However, on Thursday it got worse. Much worse. He was admitted to the hospital. The wound on his head was very infected.

I started communicating with my agency on this Saturday as my dad continued to get worse. I wanted them to make preparations for my Neverland Kids to go to respite care. Initially they told me this wouldn't be a problem.

My sister called me early this morning to tell me that my daddy was being moved to hospice. I knew I had one day, today, to get all my affairs in order.

Over breakfast I told Pirate and Captain that they were going to respite care...a babysitter...for a few days with, but that they would come back to my home as soon as I was done seeing my daddy, mommy and the rest of my family. I showed them on a map how far away Iowa is. I told them I wanted them to come with me but that the social workers and the judge said, "no". I told them they were coming back to me though and that we'd be together again.

Rainbow let me know in the middle of the day that we were going to have to disrupt instead. They had no luck finding respite that CPS would approve. Again, I don't know all the details. I was just told this is the way it is.

Rainbow told me to go to the school and sign the paperwork to un-enroll Captain.

I went to Captain's kindergarten room and talked to him. Through tears I told him that he was going to have to say goodbye to this school. He cried too. I told him that I wanted him. I told him that this wasn't my idea. I told him I was so very sorry but I wanted to give him a chance to say goodbye to his friends.

I spent the day trying to tie up all the loose ends. I've filled out paperwork, finished filing paperwork from February. Freelanced. And folded all the laundry I did over the weekend.

I also packed everything the Neverland Kids own up for them.

Captain got off the bus at 3:40pm. We went and picked up Pirate from daycare. They came home, ate a snack and watched TV. I couldn't muster up anything else. Pirate clung to me a lot. I could tell he was scared. I told him I loved him and I loved being his "Mamma L***".

Rainbow came at 5:00pm to pick up Captain and Pirate. Another worker came at the same time to get Tinkerbell. The kids are going to emergency respite tonight with homes in our agency. These homes can do respite for the kids for a night or two. I don't know why they can't keep them the whole time I'm gone.

The last thing I said to the boys was, "I love you, even when I can't see you."

And then, they were gone.

I believe that CPS is going to move all three kids from the emergency respite homes tomorrow to place them together in a home licensed through a different agency. They won't be coming back to my home.

I messaged Kori today and found out that her girls are no longer in a shelter home. They won't be coming back to The Crazy House either.

I will be leaving for Iowa first thing in the morning tomorrow (Tuesday). I don't know if I'll get there in time to say goodbye to my daddy or not. My family has told him I'm coming but I told them to tell him not to wait for me.

Mr. Amazing and Herman will drive up separately. They can't leave tomorrow due to work and school but they'll be in Iowa soon.

This is particularly hard. On so many levels. Loosing four people you love all at once isn't easy.

I have no idea what we're going to do next.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times

Long post.
Crappy writing.
I'm super tired and worn out but I'll word vomit this to try and capture all that happened today.

At 9:00am I got a text message from the company that will be supervising visits with Captain, Pirate, Tinkerbell and their bio parents. I didn't know anything was being scheduled for today so my afternoon had to get rearranged a bit. I started preparing myself for the emotions that come with the first visit. I'm not a robot. It's never easy for me. I have to trust that the kids I've been caring for are going to have their needs met by the very person (at least partially) responsible for their neglect and/or abuse.

At 12:00pm I got an unknown local phone call. I answered and heard a familiar voice. It was Emilia, Ricky's old caseworker from CPS. I knew she had transferred divisions at CPS and was in the department that handled the monitored returns. I even knew she was the worker over Daisy's case now that Daisy is back home with Kori. But I didn't make the connection until she asked me if we have room in our foster home.

Daisy...and her newborn baby sister...came back into foster care today.

Everything I knew about Kori and Bio Dad has been true all along. They have been in constant contact and Kori was letting Bio Dad see Daisy despite court orders against such contact. Also, Kori hasn't been cooperating fully with all the therapies that were court ordered to continue. Court was held today. And while most of the evidence was circumstantial, they had enough that the judge ordered immediate removal. They also decided there was enough concern to go to the home and remove baby Dandelion. (She's a cute little flower that popped up out of nowhere...LOL. And yes, both girls have the same daddy.)

I had to tell Emilia that our home is currently full. I cried.

She immediately apologized.

I told her not to apologize. I thanked her for calling me. Then I asked if I could have a few minutes before she moved on to calling anyone else. I said I wanted to call my husband. Immediately I thought that maybe we should disrupt our current placement so that we could take Daisy back.

Yes - disruption is bad. But here is my take. I have a longer bond with Daisy than I do with the new cherubs. I also believe that any "normal" foster home can provide adequate care for Captain, Pirate, and Tinkerbell. But Daisy needs a seriously special home that can effectively manage her special needs. There are more adequate homes than there are special homes.

So, I called my agency to see if a disruption would even be allowed. Rainbow put a call in to the director who was in a training up in Dallas.

Then I called Mr. Amazing.

I ruined his day.

Mr. Amazing still misses Miss Daisy with every fiber of his being. He misses her the way I miss Dude and Dolly. It's a full body ache.

And to know that she needs us now but we aren't likely going to get to be there for her?!

Heart breaking!

Then I just had to wait.

At around 1:30pm Rainbow called me back to let me know that the director was not in favor of a disruption. Everyone's hands were tied. There was nothing anyone would do to.

I called Emilia back. I told her that we wanted Daisy and Dandelion. I said if she could work a miracle I was all for it. I told her to talk to Kennedy, our current cherubs' worker. I said that Daisy needs a home equipped and ready to meet her special needs. I said we were that home. I said that if she could even get a waiver we'd keep our current three and take the two new ones.

At 2:15 I left to go pick up Captain early from school. I dealt with that crazy mess. I went to day care to get Pirate. (I had hoped to actually accomplish a lot of homeschool today. I miserably failed at that endeavor.) I took the Never Never Land Kids to Burger King to their visit.

Wendy (Bio Mom) showed up at 3:00pm. The transition to the visit went well. I warned the supervisor of the visit that Tinkerbell doesn't know Schmee (Bio Dad) and that there might be more difficulties during his visit. She took my number and I left.

I then killed the next two hours blowing up my Facebook Cherub Mamma page, calling my mom, calling my sister, texting people, and trying to process all of my day. For fun, I even answered the phone when Kori called me.

Yeah. Kori called me.

The summary on that?! I let her have it. I told her that my home is full and I can't take her girls. (Yes, she wanted her girls to come to me.) I then proceeded, because the conversation led this way by her direction, to tell her that she needs to leave Bio Dad! I told her that her child almost DIED and that's a pretty serious thing. I said many things that I had told her before but I didn't censor myself at all this time. I told her she could forgive the man as a Christian woman because that's the right thing to do. But he hurt Daisy more than once and he has no business being in her life.

She listened. She cried. She tried to defend him. She tried to defend her decisions to stay with him.

I told her that now, because of her decisions, her innocent newborn baby is gone. And because Daisy can't come to me where she would at least have some continuity of care, she is at risk for mental illness...attachment disorders. I said that little kids can't have that many primary care givers. I said it's really, really bad for them!

She listened. She cried some more.

I actually told a white lie and said I had to go. I couldn't stay on the phone with her any longer. It was too hard for me. Kori needs a friend right now but I'm not in a place to be that friend. I listened and talked with her for at least 20 minutes. I'm not going to buddy up with Kori now though. I can't help her with her children. And I'm not going to listen to her defend that man without telling her how wrong it all is.

The whole situation made me so sick.

I ache for those girls who need their mommy. Why can't that mommy recognize what Bio Dad did to Daisy?! Why is she in such denial?!!

Mr. Amazing came home at 5:00pm. We went out to dinner with TT and Bart.

Big feelings were everywhere!

During dinner Kori called again. Out of curiosity I answered. She wanted to know if I knew anything about an emergency foster home...group home...or something. She was hard to hear over the din of the music in the restaurant. I deduced that the girls had been placed in a shelter. Kori hadn't been told where and I told her I knew nothing about it. She cried. I was pissed. I messaged Emilia to see where in this state the shelter was. I can't do anything about it but I was curious.

At 6:45pm we were headed down the road to pick up Captain, Pirate and Tinkerbell. I got a phone call from the visit supervisor. She said that Schmee wanted to end the visit early. Tinkerbell was crying. I laughed a little as I told the supervisor that the visit is over in 15 minutes and it's going to take me that long to get there.

Ugh.

I really hope Schmee flakes out soon if he's going to flake out.

The kids transitioned to me better than I thought they would. Tinkerbell even stayed awake in the car on the ride home. The boys showed off their new toys that Wendy had bought them. However, when I asked if they liked the visit, both boys said, "No."

Everyone handled the bedtime routine well. I was honestly incredibly surprised!!! I showered Pirate and Captain, read a story and tucked them in. Captain even used his strong words (something we're seriously working on now) to ask for Mr. Amazing to come up and tuck him in to bed too.

Oddly, both boys started calling me "Mom" or "Mommy" tonight. It was strange. I've always been Mamma L*** to them. I've also made it clear that they can just call me by my name. But after the visit I was Mommy.

There were hugs and kisses and no tears as we tucked them in and said goodnight.

Tinkerbell was exhausted. She took a bottle (something we dropped about a 7-10 days ago). I could tell she needed something and I wasn't sure if she had eaten or not. Since she can't talk, I thought offering her a bottle would be a good thing. She drained it and then fell asleep on my shoulder. I put her in bed without a fuss.

Late tonight Emilia texted me back. She said there is a new shelter in our local area. Both girls are there tonight and will remain there until a suitable home can be found. She tried to make me feel better by telling me the director of the shelter is an RN.

I said, "That's good to hear. I guess. But they need a FAMILY."

She responded, "Of course they do. But babies are difficult to place. Especially babies with special needs."

"I know!" I responded. "Which is why my heart aches right now. My family can do it."

Her hands are just as tied. She agrees that it would be in Daisy's best interests to be with us but "systems are systems" (her words).

I told her to let me know if anything changes...or if she finds any miracles up her sleeves.

Emilia said she's going to take a picture for me tomorrow when she visits the girls and brings them their medication. (Daisy has bad eczema again and is crawling with lice.)

----

And that was my day.

I think I got all the highlights.

Now to answer the questions that are sure to come up:

No. We can't have more than six children. The State of Texas only allows six total children in a home. Any more than that and you have to be licensed as a group home. And in my county, group homes have to have in-home sprinkler systems.

No. They won't make any exceptions to this rule.

Daisy's case still has the goal of reunification. Visits are going to take place in the CPS office two times a week. Kori gets another chance.

No. I won't be allowed to disrupt on my current cherubs. There is no way that I can see for Daisy to come back to me right now.

Yes. God is in control. Miracles can happen.

Emilia has assured me that she will give my contact information to the foster family that gets Daisy. Hopefully I'll be able to help them fully understand her needs.

And now I have to go. It's been a long day. I'm up way past my bedtime. This is probably full of typos. But Tinkerbell is crying and it's probably going to be a long night.



my thoughts on visits

The goal of foster care is (almost) always reunification. Even if the State determines that the biological parent(s) is not safe, a family member is always preferred over non-relative adoption. The goal is to keep families together.

Most of the time that is a very good goal!!!

Please don't go in to foster care if you're not willing to support reunification. Because this stuff is hard. Super hard. Crazy hard. But it's necessary.

Here are my thoughts on visits. A metaphor if you will. And I don't take credit for this idea, but for the life of me I have no idea where I heard it first.

Visits are the equivalent of ripping a band-aid off a wound so you can keep it raw.

Imagine if you will...their family tree. Each member is a branch. When the children were removed from Wendy (Bio Mom), their branches were cut off their tree. They were separated from what kept them alive. My family welcomed them into our home. They're Red Delicious. We're Granny Smith. But we're all apple trees and my tree can keep their branches alive.

However, the goal is for their branches to get grafted back on to THEIR tree. They aren't supposed to attach to our tree forever. So we have to keep the wounds raw. We don't want the kids' branches to dry off and die. They do have to attach to us. But they can't attach permanently. We have to continually keep the end of their branch wet and raw so they can attach back to their Red Delicious tree (or at least to a tree in their orchard) when it's safe.

Every visit keeps that wound open and raw so the ultimate goal of reunification can take place.

These cherubs came to my home a month ago. We've had one month for them to get used to our orchard. We've nourished their branches and given them all they need to be strong, healthy and to grow.

Today we get to rip that grafting tape off and send them back to their original tree for a visit.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

tooth brushes, vegetables & car seats

As a foster parent, I understand that despite the sometimes horrific situations that bring children to me, those children still desire their bio parents. They love them. They want them back.

Under no circumstances should I ever talk bad about the bio family. These children identify with their family of origin. If I say something bad about their mom, I'm saying something bad about them.

I will speak truth. I tell Captain that his mother didn't keep him safe and that's why he's living with me. But I don't tell him that she's a self-centered person who only keeps posting about missing one of her children on Facebook right now and went and got a face tattoo last week. I don't tell him that his mother is a bad person for not keeping him safe. I don't even talk against the evil perpetrator in this case.

However, I do have to do things like help Captain brush his teeth.

He came to me with six silver caps in his mouth. I watched him brush his own teeth at first and he spent more time playing in the water with his toothbrush than he did brushing his teeth. So, I told him to start brushing and I'd finish up. Boy did he look at me funny when I stuck my fingers in his mouth and made sure his back molars got brushed.

He didn't understand.

I had to explain what cavities are. I told him, because it's truth, that his teeth weren't being taken care of the right way before and that's why he has silver teeth. I told him I need to help him brush to make sure he doesn't get more.

I didn't say a single bad thing about his mom. But how is Captain processing this?

Either his mom is bad because she didn't take care of his teeth. Or I am bad because I'm brushing his teeth for him.

That's hard for a five-year-old to process.

It's the same with vegetables. Every time I tell Captain that it's my job to keep him safe and healthy, I'm sure he thinks about how his mom didn't keep him safe and healthy. This is hard to comprehend. As a result, Captain spends a lot of energy trying to convince himself that he's eaten vegetables before.

I don't know if it's right or if it's wrong, but I call Captain out on this one. He doesn't like vegetables at all! He also hasn't recognized a single vegetable except carrots and green beans. And both of those came with an immediate announcement of, "I don't like those." So when I ask Captain what foods he ate for breakfast with his mommy, because I'm honestly trying to figure out what this kid likes to eat, and he answers, "vegetables," I call him out. I tell him, "Captain, I know you didn't have vegetables for breakfast. When you're ready to tell me what you did have, I'm here to listen. I want to feed you foods that you like."

Captain knows he should be eating healthy food. He's heard it at school and now from me. But his little soul has to process why his mommy never fed him healthy food. If he is supposed to eat vegetables, how come his mommy didn't feed them to him? One of us must be right and one of us must be wrong.

Without saying a negative word, I'm sending him a very strong message about his life before foster care. Imagine how he feels when I tell him every single time we get in the car that not only does he have to sit in a car seat, but he also has to use his seat belt?

I'm pretty sure that seat belts weren't a priority in his old home. With so many children five and under, there are few vehicles that would have accommodated everyone. I haven't tried to sleuth this one out, but I have to assume that they just rode in a regular car sitting in the seat not buckled up. Especially since he still doesn't understand that he has to buckle up every single time he gets in the car!

So when I tell Captain it's the law for him to be buckled up, he realizes that his mommy broke the law every time he didn't fasten a seat belt.

It's important for me to not talk bad about Captain's family. It's also important for me continue brushing teeth, feeding vegetables and fastening seat belts. So it's REALLY important for me to continue to tell Captain that he loves his mommy and that he misses her. He needs to have his honest feelings validated and he's having to process so much right now. If he did seem mad at her, I would validate that too. But he needs to know that it's OK to love his mommy each and every day and he needs to know that even though our worlds are incredibly different, my home is a safe place to talk about loving his mommy.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Foster care and education

Everyone knows that kids in foster care have a harder time in school. They tend to fall behind academically. Trauma makes it nearly impossible for information learned to transfer to long-term memory.

I would like to bring up the realities of The System though. Foster care is part of the problem itself.

Captain was removed from his family on January 22. The social workers literally told me they didn't think he attended any school while placed with the relative he went to immediately upon removal. They didn't do anything about it at the time either. I honestly don't know what happened, but that relative placement fell through and Captain came to me on the evening of the 26th.

I couldn't put Captain in school immediately. I needed paperwork. I also had several appointments that had to be taken care of. Granted, some of these appointments were rather important. I understand. But the quantity of appointments does lend itself to explaining why kids have so many problems with every move.

I was going to start Captain in school on the 29th but was instead informed that he had to be interviewed at a child advocacy center that morning instead. I was able to enroll and start Captain on the 30th. That was six days out of school from when the "incident" happened.

On February 2nd I was required to bring the cherubs to the doctor because when the State took them on the 26th they didn't do a vision test, hearing test, lead test, or TB test. Another day of school missed.

On February 5th, Captain missed school because he was required to attend court.

On February 10th, Captain missed another day because of the required dentist appointment. He also missed the following day so he could participate in a psychological evaluation.

And today I was just informed that Captain is now required to attend a Family Group Conference with his bio family and all of his siblings next week. CPS assures me that he only has to stay for the "Hopes and Dreams" segment of the meeting. They scheduled it for 8:30am though so Captain will be missing another day of school. I'm quite confident that this meeting is going to be quite traumatic as it's not a "visit" but he'll see his entire family.

And let's not forget...therapy for Captain is starting March 4th and his appointment is scheduled for Noon. I have a feeling he'll have to miss some school (a partial day anyway) every two weeks for therapy.

And no, visits haven't started yet. Somehow those have to get factored into his schedule as well. The judge ordered two 2-hour visits a week with Wendy (bio mom) and two 2-hour separate visits with Schmee (bio dad). I have no idea how it's all going to work.

Foster care keeps kids crazy busy. Not only do they miss school. But they also lose time where they could play and just be KIDS. I'm doing my best to help Captain acclimate to his new life. But I know this has been a serious shock to his system!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Captain and the sandwich

3:50pm: Captain saw Pirate eating a peanut butter sandwich. He informed me that he did not want one. He proceeded to watch TT and Bart play on the computer for a bit.

4:05pm: TT and Bart put away the electronics. Captain said immediately that he wanted a sandwich. I looked at him and replied, "But Captain, you just told me you DIDN'T want one." I stood up though to go make him one.

Captain started crying.

I calmly explained to Captain that sometimes when you tell a grownup no when they ask if you want a snack, the offer doesn't stand for later. Sometimes you have to wait for supper. I then asked him, "Do you want just peanut butter or do you want peanut butter and jelly?"

Captain cried.

I told Captain that it's OK to be mad. It's OK to be sad. It's OK to not want to be here. He told me he wasn't mad or sad.

But Captain kept crying.

I couldn't convince him that I would make him the sandwich. I couldn't convince him to talk. He just sat on the couch staring straight ahead trying as hard as he could to keep the tears from falling.

I told Captain that I would be mad if someone took me from my mommy. I told him it would make me sad. I also told him it's OK to like it here AND miss his mommy at the same time.

Captain wouldn't talk. Finally I got up and went back to work at my computer.

Captain came to the kitchen table. He still said he didn't want that sandwich. I told him again that he's got a lot of big feelings and that he can talk to me about them. (He was still very visibly upset.) Captain then opened up. He told me he doesn't like it here because of vegetables.

It was hard to hold back my smile.

Instead I shook my head and told him it's my job to serve healthy food. I told him that I don't make him eat a lot of vegetables but that I am still going to keep serving them. I then asked Captain what foods he likes.

Captain just sat at the table staring straight ahead.

I told Captain that I'm trying to serve foods he likes. We've had pizza and grilled chicken. I asked him again, "What foods do you like, Captain? Do you like spaghetti, or tacos, or what? Tell me the foods you like to eat, Captain."

Captain cried.

I told Captain that if he can't tell me I don't know. I told him I'm trying the best I can.

Captain stormed off to his room.

Captain came back down. (He really, really wanted to talk but he just couldn't put into words all that he's feeling.)

This time I asked TT for permission to use his story. TT granted it. I told Captain, "Hey, I bet you didn't know that TT has two moms too. I'm not TT's first mommy. He has another one too. TT, how does that make you feel sometimes?"

TT responded, "Sometimes I'm sad. I miss my mommy."

Captain left the room again. (This was almost too much for him but boy was he curious.)

Finally, at 4:38pm Captain had enough courage to ask for that sandwich again.

While eating he said, "Mamma L***,  look at this." He wanted to show me his little skateboard and a trick he could do with it.

I took this as a quick opportunity to tell him that he doesn't have to call me Mamma L***. He can just call me by my name. He thought about it for a minute and then did call me just by my name a few times to see if I'd answer.

Captain finished his sandwich and the tears dried up. I'm back to being "Mamma L***" again and he's running around the house playing. It seems all is back to normal.

I cannot fathom all his little heart has been through.

Foster care sucks.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Compassion Fatigue

The cherubs have been here long enough that it's time for my obligatory post on compassion fatigue.
Studies confirm that caregivers play host to a high level of compassion fatigue. Day in, day out, workers struggle to function in care giving environments that constantly present heart wrenching, emotional challenges. Affecting positive change in society, a mission so vital to those passionate about caring for others, is perceived as elusive, if not impossible. This painful reality, coupled with first-hand knowledge of society's flagrant disregard for the safety and well being of the feeble and frail, takes its toll on everyone from full time employees to part time volunteers. Eventually, negative attitudes prevail.
I hit a brick wall on week two. I showed up at church last Sunday, saw that Daisy was still listed as a family member in the computer there, and just about lost my shit. I sat in the back of the auditorium and cried.

I was mad that I had already asked the staff at church to remove her twice and her name was still on our family list. I was triggered because I remember what it felt like to ask the church to remove Dude and Dolly after they left. And I was exhausted from caring for the three new ones that needed to be added.

I don't care how much I feel "called" to do this thing called foster care...it still drains me terrifically. It is no easy task to invite strangers into your home and have them wear out their welcome. I'm wiping the butts of children that I barely know. I'm tending to crying in the middle of the night because these strangers are confused, upset and miss their mommy and their other siblings. I feel physical pain when I try and process in my own mind the horrors my newest cherubs have seen and experienced.

When Daisy came there were things to "fix". Daisy needed to see all her specialists. She needed therapies and medications. I could physically do things to help her get better. The weight of her story was crippling to bear. But in some twisted way it was a little easier because Daisy's brain was so mixed up when she came, that she had no idea what was going on around her.

My new cherubs know. They know they aren't at home. They know everything is new and different. New foods. New rules. Bedtimes. Vegetables. Less TV. More books. Everything is different. I don't have anything tangible to fix. 

Sometimes it feels like the weight of their story is three times as hard to bear. Not only are there three new cherubs in my home, but I can't "do" anything to help make them better. I can only love them and safely care for them.

It hurts.

It physically hurts.

When Tinkerbell is crying in the middle of the night because she is very obviously looking for someone...and that someone isn't there...I cry. I cry for all she has lost. We cry together in the dark.

When Pirate is crying mournfully for his mommy I want to badly to scream, "She is gone! She really f'd this whole thing up. She didn't keep you safe!!" Instead I have to validate him and hold him while he cries. 

When Captain is turning the corners of his mouth down and his eyes get all glassy because something didn't go his way, I have to tell him it's OK to be mad. It's OK to be sad. I have to give him words for what he's feeling. I have to tell him it's OK to not want to be here. 

All this pain is hard for me to handle. I can only imagine how my cherubs are feeling. But this post is about me. I'm writing this post to help other foster parents recognize what they're feeling. It's more than just physical pain and fatigue. It's deeper than that.

Because I can love on these kids. And I do love on these kids. And I'm glad they're here and they're safe.

But it takes a toll on me. 

I'm tired. Physically tired from the increase in demands on me. I hurt. My chest hurts sometimes when I think about everything (literal physical pain). My mind gets foggy. I feel myself not wanting to interact with everyone. I long for solitude. I worry that I'm not giving enough attention to my forever kids and my husband.

Oh the worry.

All the professionals will tell you to "take care of yourself".

What exactly does that look like though?!

I mean really...I just added THREE young children to my family. That makes SIX kids total. Take care of myself?! How?! My shower lasts a whopping 5 minutes if I take a long one because these new cherubs wake up before the butt crack of dawn. I can't pee alone anymore without hearing my name half a dozen times hollered out by the 3yo. And bedtime can drag out forever because of crying cherubs. I wouldn't dream of using respite or babysitting yet because these cherubs need to attach to me and my core family. I can only go out alone when Mr. Amazing is home to watch the brood.

I'm trying though. These are some of the things I have been doing:

First and foremost I'm clinging to my "word of the year". Before these cherubs came, I chose the word enough for this year. It couldn't be more appropriate. I am enough. I am a good enough mom. I am a good enough wife. When I worry that dinner isn't nice enough because I don't have a fruit and a vegetable, I remind myself that we have enough food and the meal is enough. When I worry because I didn't get some paperwork filled out instantaneously, I remind myself that I have done enough and I'll get to the paperwork eventually. It's not a cop out. It's a valid reminder that I am enough and I am doing enough. If the baby wants to hold her own bottle and lie on the couch, that doesn't make me a bad mom if I don't try and force her to cuddle. I wear her. I interact with her all day long. I do enough.

Second, I'm trying really hard to eat healthy and get enough sleep. I've been crashing out (or at least going to my quiet, dark bedroom) early every single night. I put the little ones to bed. I spend some time with the bigger ones and put them to bed. Then I go retreat to my room by myself. I've stopped watching a few TV shows with my husband (and that's OK because I am a good enough wife) because relaxation and sleep are important too.

Like always, I'm relying on my personal "therapist", My Genius Sister. She's awesome! She'll give me a pep talk when necessary. She'll just listen when I need that. Or, when it's called for, she'll tell me to put on my big girl panties and just get over it. It always bums me out that she lives 1255 miles away. But she always answers her phone for me and for that I'm incredibly grateful.

My blog and FB page are also a form of therapy for me. I do enjoy immediate feedback when I post about my day or my kids. Just knowing I'm not alone in this journey is helpful.

I'm not candy-coating anything when it comes to dealing with social workers or my agency. If I think something is wrong, I'm not keeping it to myself. That too is almost a form of therapy. It feels good to just be blunt and honest with everyone.

And this past Sunday, when the emotions were overflowing and I felt like I was going to burst...I said something to my pastor. He took my number and had another staff member call me this week. Just spewing the burden of the cherubs' story to a safe person was a healthy release for me. She prayed with me and I've got a plan to set up a time to get together after visits start. (Lord knows visits aren't going to be easy and I'm going to need some extra support!)

I don't have the time or the money right now to go get a massage. I don't have a local friend I can drop everything and go out to lunch with. And my days are busy enough with homeschool and appointments that having someone just "pop in" to say hi to me might be too overwhelming. Self care can be as simple as making more eye contact. Preparing dinner at 2:00pm instead of 5:00pm. Playing my favorite music while I clean. Paying my kids extra to clean for me. Little things can make a difference.

I'm trying to do those little things so that the big stuff doesn't keep me down.

The heaviness of this case will eventually lighten to a manageable load. (Thank God!)

But in the meantime, I've got to take care of myself.

We foster parents carry the burden of our cherubs' stories. We smile and love on these kids during their darkest hours. It's not easy work. My faith is my rock. But that still doesn't keep me from feeling the compassion fatigue.

Take care of yourself. Recognize that this isn't easy and be easy on yourself.

Because in the end, foster care sucks. We're just here to make it just a little bit better.