Thursday, December 11, 2014

anxiety issues

TT's story really does belong to him.

But I also think that his story can be used to help other people.

Until I started reading blogs, I had NO IDEA what mental illness really looked like. It is only because other families shared with brutal honesty that I had a clue of what it means to parent a child from the hurt places. And it is because of that honesty and sharing that I was able to do some things as a foster parent that otherwise might have been impossible. I learned from those stories and it helped me.

That is why I share what I do about my kids.

It's also why my blog is reasonably anonymous. TT doesn't need the whole world knowing about his issues and being able to relate his story directly back to him. I trust the people that I know in real life that read this blog to respect his privacy and I don't "advertise" to most that I even write.

Anyway...I'm going to share what it's been like since TT started the Prozac one week ago for his significant anxiety issues.

First, and I know I've said it before but it's worth repeating, TT doesn't have normal levels of anxiety. TT also doesn't look to most like he suffers from anxiety at all. He will hold it together in public or when he's with friends. But behind closed doors, there are many things that come easily to most kids that are nearly impossible for TT.

It is because of this that I decided all of our OTC methods, if you will, were no longer working well enough.

I have taught TT every calming technique in the book. I'm acutely aware of his sensory needs and he is as well. We also pay crazy close attention to TT's blood sugar levels. Where most kids would be fine eating a "healthy" protein bar and a container of yogurt for breakfast in the morning, TT is most definitely not. He HAS to have food in as close to a natural state as possible and he has to have protein. Processed food spikes his blood sugar and the resulting crash is never pretty!!

But all the measures we have in place to help TT with his anxiety haven't been enough. He can't sleep through the night at home. He also wants (desperately) to stay overnight at friend's houses but he simply can't. He gets too nervous. And any mistake he makes while doing school sends him down the road of horrible frustration and shame. Any new situation spikes a level of anxiety that he can't escape. And really, life shouldn't be that hard for an 11 year old.

One week ago today TT started on Prozac.

It takes 2-3 weeks for the effects of Prozac to really kick in. By this morning though, I put together some changes I've noticed, connected them to the Prozac, and called his psychiatrist.

For the past couple days, TT has not been able to sit still. He has been twisting and turning and rolling all over the furniture and floor during school time. He also seems much more agitated and restless in general. And, sleeping through the night (something he has always struggled with) is more problematic again. (He had been sleeping through the night in his own bed for about two weeks prior to starting the Prozac.) The change in personality started around 2-4 days ago. Looking back, it was gradual at first. But yesterday was perfectly horrid. And today, when I was reading out loud for literature, he started wiggling again. This behavior is so unlike him that I sent a text to my favorite doctor, My Genius Brother.

My Genius Brother told me to call the psych because these "symptoms" weren't going to go away.

Thank God the psych handles stuff like this over the phone. We didn't have to kill another 3.5 hours waiting in her office for a visit. She went ahead and switched his med immediately. Starting tonight, TT will be on Lexapro.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

criminal charges

Sometimes, when I'm avoiding work that needs to be done, I stalk people online. For months now, I've wanted to know what Daisy's biological father is up to. After all, Daisy went home on October 2. Is he in prison? Is he seeing her?

So I stalked him tonight. I found a website that I hadn't stumbled on before. I looked up his criminal case.

Miss Daisy suffers a LIFE SENTENCE because of what he did to her. Granted, she's healing quite well. But she is going to suffer for the rest of her life because he got high and shook her (more than once).

Daisy is significantly visually impaired.
Daisy suffers global developmental delay.
Daisy has a shunt in her brain.
Daisy has a seizure disorder as a result of her traumatic brain injury.

Even if she heals perfectly (which she won't), she has to wrap her brain around the fact that she almost died at the hands of her father.

Well, I found the results of his criminal trial.

The man that nearly killed Miss Daisy has been sentenced to: 7 years probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $1000 fine for a 2nd degree felony. Charges were dismissed on the 1st degree felony.

I'm sick to my stomach.

Because as soon as CPS is done in this case, I'm quite confident that Kori will be back with him instantly and Daisy will have to grow up with her bio dad and bio mom together.

My only solace is the fact that Bio Dad WILL face the ultimate judge.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Welcome to the Roller Coaster

Most of my readers know all about Dude and Dolly. They were my everything. We fostered those cherubs for 27 months of their very young lives.

Their mom dropped out of the case almost immediately.
(And now, 3.5 years later, she's still not involved. At all.)

Dude and Dolly needed permanency and the State wasn't doing much to give it to them. After living with us for two years, we finally hired a lawyer to intervene. 

Lawyers are expensive.

My friends banded around me. One friend started a puzzle fundraiser on her blog. People from all over the world donated money. I was very humbled.

Another friend said, "Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't we write a book?"

A book?!

Yeah, a book.

With no thought toward personal gain, fourteen women poured their hearts into their stories. Several more people took those stories and spent hours editing them and laying out said book.

All the while we continued to foster and adopt more cherubs in our group of mammas.

As you all know, Dude and Dolly didn't get to stay with us. And eventually, I told our lawyer we were done.

But we kept working on the book.

And today, I'm very proud to announce that the book is officially for sale.
It is a collection of the good, the bad and the ugly of foster care. Each story is personal and written in the voice of the mom that lived that story. If you want to know more about the roller coaster that is foster care, this book tells it like it is.

Welcome to the Roller Coaster is available for sale at WelcomeToTheRollerCoaster.blogspot.com. Copies of the paperback are $14.99 plus $3.99 shipping. Orders for the first printing are being taken today, December 8, through Sunday, December 14.

On December 15, our first run will go to the printer. After about a week, we will have all the copies in our hot little hands. At that time, we will start personally filling all the orders. If everything goes right, the first printing of the book should be in people's hands before Christmas.

As time progresses, an Ebook version for the Kindle will be made available. (I'm the graphic artist designing this book though and the Ebook version has taken quite a bit of my time. I'm getting to it. Life is a little bit easier now that I'm not chasing Miss Daisy around anymore.)

Speaking of Miss Daisy...
Her mom sent me a picture yesterday. I teared up almost instantly. Daisy is standing in every picture she sends me and her smile is straight from her heart. Not just any smile. But one that shows Daisy is full of joy in her soul. As much as it pains me to say this, and as much as I still worry sometimes, I think Miss Daisy is probably exactly where she belongs.

I told Kori that we have a gift for Daisy. I asked if we could get together at my place? Her place? Or somewhere neutral?

Kori said absolutely yes! She just needs to look at her schedule to come up with a day that works for her.

This foster care stuff really is a roller coaster. As cheesy as that title first sounded to me when we started putting the book together, it honestly does fit.

We're just a group of foster mammas that thought the proceeds from a book might help two cherubs trapped in the clutches of foster care unnecessarily. Now we know that this book is so much more than that. It tells the stories you don't hear when you sit in your first class of training. These are the stories of real foster care. Maybe you've been fostering for a long time. Reading this book you'll know you're not alone. Maybe friends and family can read the book to better understand what you're going through as a foster parent. Maybe licensing agencies can make it available to open the eyes of brand new foster parents.

Our only advertising is going to be social media. It would mean a lot to me if y'all could share about this book. Welcome to the Roller Coaster has a Facebook page and a blog page. Any help you can give us promoting the book is much appreciated.

Thanks!
~ Cherub Mamma

Saturday, December 6, 2014

I went to another B.A.C.A. meeting

I submitted my fingerprints for FBI processing several months ago. I can't do anything with B.A.C.A. children until my fingerprints have cleared. My State clearance came back right away. And even though I was a licensed foster parent (that had obviously passed Federal background checks), B.A.C.A. requires I pass a Federal check for them.

Well, I found out last night that my first round of fingerprints got rejected. (I was worried that the ink wasn't dark enough the first time around but the gentleman taking my prints said it was fine. Sadly, it wasn't.) Anyway, I had the pleasure of paying another $20 and getting inked again last night at the meeting Mr. Amazing and I went to. Hopefully this second set of prints will process better. I was told that we should know within the next two months or so.

Until that time, all I can do with B.A.C.A. is attend training meetings and go on rides without children. There is a Level One (described below) being done locally next weekend. I'll be able to ride with the group to the meeting point but I won't be allowed to go to the actual Level One with the child. I think I'm going to go though. Becoming a patched member isn't a guarantee. And B.A.C.A. requires that once you are patched that you attend at least one "child event" every single month. It looks good to attend a child event before the background check comes back because it shows you're dedicated to the cause.

Since most people aren't fully aware of B.A.C.A. and how it works, I'm going to describe the process of bringing a child into the organization. Their mission is very defined and how they go about functioning is also defined within an organized series of events that are really very structured.

Things start happening for a child when B.A.C.A. receives a referral. This referral can come from the family/guardian of the child, through CPS or other State or local agencies. However, B.A.C.A. doesn't accept every child that has been referred into the group. The first thing B.A.C.A. does is have an initial contact meeting with the child and family. Around six B.A.C.A. members go to the home to meet with the child and their family/guardians to assess the situation and see why B.A.C.A. has been called.

Most of the time the referrals are legitimate. B.A.C.A. serves to empower children that are frightened. B.A.C.A.'s role is to, by their very presence, help the child overcome their fear so that they will be able to testify in court against their abuser(s). However, sometimes B.A.C.A. will receive a referral from a family member that is looking for vengeance against an abuser or something like that. Retaliation is not the role of B.A.C.A. Members of B.A.C.A. stand to help children and no one else. Cases have to be legitimate. If laws have been broken (by an abuser), B.A.C.A. won't get involved unless the authorities have been notified and the case is being processed in the legal system.

After the initial contact, and after the case has been determined to be legitimate, B.A.C.A. arranges for a Level One ceremony. Members of B.A.C.A. from all over the state will ride in to the ceremony. Primary B.A.C.A. members (2 of them) are assigned directly to the child. The child is given a biker vest and a road name. (No one in B.A.C.A. goes by their "real" name...not even the children.) There are also other parts of the ceremony that can be done differently by each chapter. Sometimes the child is given a stuffed animal or a blanket. Sometimes the child will elect to go on a motorcycle ride themselves. The ceremony lasts roughly an hour. When it's done, the child knows exactly who they can call, at any hour of the day or night, if they are afraid. In fact, the children are often told to test their Primary contact by calling them at 3:00AM to see what happens. B.A.C.A. Primaries are supposed to pick up the phone each and every time their child calls – no matter what.

The B.A.C.A. chapter then works to maintain contact with the child at least two times a month until the child goes to court to testify against their abuser. Most of the time the contact is via the phone. However, when appropriate, the Primaries to the child can meet with them in person and go out for ice cream, or pizza or play at the park. This type of contact is very much led by the child though. The role of B.A.C.A. is not to become a close friend, confidant, or therapist. The role of B.A.C.A. is to empower the child to not be afraid. Anytime the child feels scared and feels the need for the presence of his new B.A.C.A. family, the child may call upon these bikers to go to the child's house and provide the necessary reassurance to feel safe and protected. B.A.C.A. members and supporters also support the children by: providing escorts for them if they feel scared in their neighborhoods; riding by their homes on a regular basis; supporting the children at court and parole hearings; attending their interviews, and; staying with the children if they are alone and frightened. The B.A.C.A. members never go to the child's house alone and never without the knowledge or permission of the parents. Their mission is not to be permanently engaged as the child's power. The mission of B.A.C.A. is to help the children and their families learn how powerful they can be.

I'll describe more about B.A.C.A. in future posts. Feel free to ask any questions that you might have about the group now though. I'm anxious to get my background clearances finished so I can start having contact with the children. It will take at least a full year for me to prove my dedication to B.A.C.A.'s mission before I receive my back patch and become a full member myself. Until that time I'm considered a "supporter". Once fully cleared, I can attend Level One ceremonies and I can go to court to support a child. But until I get my back patch, I cannot be a Primary contact.

I had to smile last night during the training. There are a lot of similarities in the emotions of a foster parent and a B.A.C.A. member. The leader at last night's meeting discussed the role of the Primary contact in great detail. After a child has attended court, verdicts have been made and sentences against abusers carried out, contact with B.A.C.A. is to become less frequent and then eventually stop. Of course the child can initiate contact whenever they want. And if for any reason they are afraid, B.A.C.A. will be there for them immediately. But if B.A.C.A. has done their role correctly, they will have empowered the child and the child will no longer be living in that crippling fog of fear.

The leader at last night's meeting said he misses the kids he has been a Primary to. Sometimes when he's out and about it's all he can do to not stop by and say "hi". But it's not appropriate and he has to be OK with the final goodbye. He looked at the crowd of potential B.A.C.A. members (our chapter here is still forming so there are no full patched members yet) with a look in his eyes that screamed, "You don't understand. You'll have to say goodbye. Goodbyes hurt."

All I could do was smile back. "My heart understands goodbye. I get this."

I really can't wait til I can say "hello" though. I'm missing being a foster parent and I'm anxious to be involved doing something.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Never tell the universe you're ready for things to settle down

I may or may not have had a conversation with the universe wherein I may or may not have told the universe what I thought life should look like now that we've closed our foster home.

The universe hasn't been listening.

Monday morning we went to the library to do school. Sometimes school goes better when we're in public.

It didn't.

We packed up our bags, I checked out two books for the boys but left behind the movie they wanted out of spite.

Sometimes I'm a brat. 
 
Once home neither boy could comprehend anything about the last couple lessons we had gone over in math and neither boy wanted to sit still long enough to let me help them with the concepts.

Fits were thrown.

By everyone.

Including me.

Repairs were made.

Life moved on.

TT picked up a box stuffed under a table behind my desk. It just happened to be the birthday present I sent Dolly back in September. The birthday present that didn't get delivered because her grandma lives in an apartment building and her mail box is very small. All packages get left at the main post office and grandma wouldn't go pick up the gift from me to Dolly. It was returned back to me. TT asked if he could have the gift. TT is sentimental like that. The gift was a small box of Lego's. I decided that TT could have the Lego's because keeping the gift for years wouldn't do anything to prove to those cherubs how much I love them. But every time TT sees the dolphin Lego set he'll remember Dude and Dolly.

I got glitter on my face from the wrapping paper on the gift. I couldn't wipe it off all day long. I swear the glitter just multiplied like a bad STD. So every time I looked in the mirror, I was reminded of the gift that never got delivered.

I was sad.

I also spent the morning calling the psychiatrist office. I called at 9:30 to see if there were any cancellations for today. There weren't. They told me to call back at 10:00. So I did. They told me to call back at 10:30. So I did. Then they said there was a cancellation and TT could come in for an appointment at 9:30 on Tuesday (the only day the doctor takes new patients).

The afternoon sucked about school too. But I don't really remember what happened. We eventually got through math.

I went to bed early last night.

Tuesday started off better. The boys started math early and there were cheers in the living room as both boys instantly figured out how understanding the greatest common factor of a set of numbers will help them when they need to reduce fractions.

We left for the psychiatrist's office at 9:00am.

When we walked into the waiting room it was filled with people. Several of those people were young men. All about the same age as Ricky and Herman. All of them were wearing dark blue sweatsuits and full shackles.

It makes me sad to see teenage boys in handcuffs.

I checked TT in and filled out new patient paperwork. We left to go eat some breakfast. I had been told to expect a LONG wait at the psychiatrist. They said they'd call when we had one person left in front of TT.

After breakfast we went back to the doctor's office. All the boys in shackles were out of the main waiting room. The receptionist told me that "people" were uncomfortable seeing the boys in cuffs so they went ahead and started all their appointments first that way those boys wouldn't be in the waiting room with the other patients.

At 10:45am TT was called back to get his vitals taken. The nursing tech also sat us down to fill out an intake questionnaire. She had a real problem understanding why I wouldn't give her my family's medical history. I told her it was irrelevant to tell her if there is a history of heart disease in my family because I don't share the same genetics as TT.  She didn't understand but eventually gave up.

We were told the doctor would be with us shortly. I didn't let TT play any more video games. We sat in a tiny room filled with old, shabby, mismatched furniture and waited for the doctor.

She finally came in over an hour later.

Five and a half hours from when I left the house this morning, I returned. TT is going to start the medication Prozac. It's commonly prescribed to help with anxiety in young children. We should know in about 3 weeks if it's going to help or not.

The boys cooperated with a little bit more school in the late afternoon.

After supper I told my hubby something my mom said on the phone earlier today. Mr. Amazing didn't respond with great love toward having family pictures done with everyone. He thinks it's impossible to get 19 people to look at the camera and all smile at once. He promises he'll cooperate though, Mom.  :)

Then, out of the blue my phone rang again.

It was Great Grandma P.

New readers probably don't know who Great Grandma P is.

Old readers probably just gasped a little.

GGP called to tell me that her daughter died.

She called just to talk to me. Like a friend. Like a family member.

I told her I was sorry. No parent should have to bury their child.

Even if their child was all the sorts of trouble that her daughter was.

GGP has been in Dallas the past few weeks taking care of her daughter before she passed.

I couldn't let the conversation go without asking about Dude and Dolly.

GGP said she hasn't seen them but she's heard they're doing well.

GGP reports that Mommy C (Dude & Dolly's birth mom) is living in Houston and doesn't have custody of Baby Zippy either. Mommy C has no contact with Dude and Dolly. And GGP says that she won't have anything to do with Mommy C anymore because of the way she's walked away from Dude and Dolly.

I told GGP that if she sees Dude and Dolly before she leaves Dallas, she needs to tell them that I love them.

GGP gave me the name and address of her granddaughter in Dallas. I believe it's where GGP has been staying to care for her daughter that just passed.

GGP said that her granddaughter, Cousin Melissa, has contact with Dude and Dolly because she a daughter the same age as them. She said that Cousin Melissa threw Dolly her last birthday party.

I told GGP how Grandma N wouldn't go to the post office to pick up the present I sent for Dolly's birthday.

GGP says that I can send packages to Cousin Melissa and she'll see that Dude and Dolly get them.

I hung up the phone and cried.

Hard.

Oh yeah, and while I was on the phone, my husband got a call. My father-in-law is back in the hospital. Again.

And my own dad hasn't been well. At all.

But my kids might hear that I love them this week. They might get that whispered in their ears.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I went to my first full B.A.C.A. meeting

I'm on my way to becoming a member of B.A.C.A. (Bikers Against Child Abuse). I'm looking forward to being able to help abused kids from an angle different than foster care.

I'll be honest, I'm no biker. I don't even know how to ride a motorcycle yet. But I'm going to learn. And then I'll be able to ride with Mr. Amazing. In the meantime, I'm eligible to be a member of B.A.C.A. because I "have access to a motorcycle".

It takes at least a full year from expressing interesting in B.A.C.A. to the time you receive your back patch and can have a relationship with a child directly. For now I can attend meetings. And after my background checks (both State and Federal) come back, I can attend child centered events - like the ceremony called a "Level One" when a child is welcomed into the B.A.C.A. club. (And yes, I have to go through all the background checks all over again.) I submitted my fingerprints about two months ago so I should have Federal clearance soon.

For those of you unfamiliar with B.A.C.A., I thought I'd post their Mission Statement today:
Bikers Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A.) exists with the intent to create a safer environment for abused children. We exist as a body of bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live. We stand ready to lend support to our wounded friends by involving them with an established, united organization. We work in conjunction with local and state officials who are already in place to protect children. We desire to send a clear message to all involved with the abused child that this child is part of our organization, and that we are prepared to lend our physical and emotional support to them by affiliation, and our physical presence. We stand at the ready to shield these children from further abuse. We do not condone the use of violence or physical force in any manner, however, if circumstances arise that we are the only obstacle preventing a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Reader question...RE: Mr. Amazing's employment and our future in foster care

I'm still answering questions from grkanga:

When will your Mr. Amazing know if he will be transferring job locations? And, how does that work ~ is it like military where he would have an idea of where he might go and have preferences he can express or is it just arbitrary and out of the blue?

Will you, assuming new location, look at fostering again or just CASA.
My husband is employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He's currently the assistant manager at a National Wildlife Refuge on the border of Mexico. We will know when he will transfer job locations because he has to apply for, interview for, and be hired for any new job. He has full control over what jobs he applies for and where they are located. He is, however, limited to what pay grade he can apply for. He's currently a GS9.

There aren't a lot of jobs open right now. They seem to come in waves as Refuges across the country retire people, promote people and hire new staff to fill the openings. And sometimes when jobs are posted, the Refuge doing the hiring already knows who they are going to hire. (They post the job for legal purposes but don't intend on actually looking at the other applicants.)

My dream job for Mr. Amazing would put me right back in Iowa with him running the Refuge in my home town. However, that position is a GS13 so he's going to have to wait awhile before he's eligible to even apply for that position should it ever become available.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service typically doesn't promote you where you are currently employed. Well...that's not exactly right. When Mr. Amazing was applying for his current position, he was a GS6. The position here in Texas is considered a GS5-7-9. He was hired on as a GS7. After Mr. Amazing was here one year he was eligible for his promotion to GS9. But he can't be promoted any higher than that. So, in order for him to advance, we will have to move. He's currently looking at GS9-11 jobs or GS11-12 jobs. Those are the only ones he's eligible for.

We have no idea where the next job will take us. We have no idea if we'll be able to do foster care or not. There are too many variables. Some jobs are too remote and would make doing foster care incredibly difficult. Some jobs require that you live on the Refuge and our home might not be large enough.

But caring for children from the hurt places is very important to us. I'm positive we will continue to do something. I just don't know what it will be. We know that right now we have to take a break from actual foster care. We never wanted Mr. Amazing to apply for any new jobs when we had placements because we always made a commitment to see each placement all the way through. (A job opened up in Louisiana a couple months ago that Mr. Amazing is wishing he would have applied for. But because of Miss Daisy, he passed on the opportunity.) We can't take kids in now because we can't commit to seeing their cases all the way through and we don't want to disrupt placements unnecessarily.

I am not opposed to doing foster care again. I would definitely consider becoming a CASA. And we are both on our way to becoming patched members of B.A.C.A. (Bikers Against Child Abuse). B.A.C.A has chapters in almost every state in the country so it's likely we could stay involved with B.A.C.A no matter where we live. We will continue to leave this part of our lives open for God to move in. I'm sure He'll tell us what He wants us to do next. (He always has before!)

For now, I'm enjoying helping other foster mamma friends. I went to Mississippi to help out a friend of mine last month. And later on this week (or whenever she gets approval from the decision makers over her cherubs), my friend J-Mamma is going to come stay with us for about a month. J-Mamma's husband is employed by the military and was deployed today. She's busy at home caring for her Little J, who suffered abusive head trauma similarly to Miss Daisy, and also Little J's sister, Jazz, who was born addicted. That's a LOT to parent alone. J-Mamma is going to stay with us and let us help her with the babies so she doesn't have to be alone.

God will keep me busy as long as I listen to Him I'm sure.