Monday, September 27, 2010

My little angels

Well, things got pushed to the edge tonight. Instead of just talking to the on-call social worker (SW) while the girls were flipping out, I went ahead and asked the worker to come to the house. I felt bad having the worker drive almost an hour to get here. But I just didn't see things going well at all and I wanted to enlist some support.

It's an insanely long story that I won't bore you with. Besides, I'm probably not supposed to talk about much of this - if any. I am a little fearful of discussing the fostering details. I've seen blogs that had to be shut down due to legal issues, people suing over the content and things like that. So, you'll just have to trust me when I say that things were not going well.

The final straw was TurtleTurtle's refusal to eat supper. I knew that if she dug her heels in and refused to eat, MissArguePants would ramp up in ways I wasn't prepared to deal with. The several hour long fits really do damage to everyone in the house. In fact, Cherub 2 told me tonight that this is the worst thing ever in his life. It breaks my heart that he's having such a hard time being a foster brother. But deep down I know he's going to be OK through all of this. He will learn first hand what it's like to help those truly in need of genuine love. I'm not going to throw in the towel on these girls who so desperately need our help. I'm just going to have to clone myself so that all five cherubs get the love and attention they need I guess.

Anyway...back to topic. TurtleTurtle refused to eat so I called the SW and said they really needed to come to the house tonight. During the phone calls to get this all arranged, TurtleTurtle managed to regulate enough to come to the table and join us for dinner. She even ate without complaining. However, like always, MissArguePants had to get in on the action. I decided that since the worker was on her way here, I wouldn't stop her. I kinda smiled when I looked at MissArguePants as she refused to do something (I don't even remember what it was). I said, "That's OK. I'm not going to fight with you darling. You can take that fight up with the worker when she gets here." Boy did that feel good.

But oh my - you should have seen my angels after the SW arrived. Initially they were fearful and didn't want to talk to her. It didn't take much though for MissArguePants to show the SW her room where they went to talk. Then, with the biggest, sappiest, drippiest smile on her face, MissArguePants came back downstairs and asked me which bathroom would be best for her to take a shower in. Ya know, the shower she insisted she didn't need earlier. The shower she refused to take when I told her it was time to get ready for bed. Ya know, the shower every other cherub needed to take. But now I guess she was ready to obey with the most pleasant of attitudes.

TurtleTurtle went and talked with the SW while MissArguePants cleaned up. Then, the girls talked with the worker together. Then, with those same sappy smiles, they asked if we would come and tuck them into bed. What?! Go to bed without a fuss?! Go to bed without having to fight about something completely unrelated?! Go to bed without messing around in the kitchen to get a water bottle?! Actually go to bed instead of running all over the house and insisting you're not tired?! What?!!!!

Of course we smiled and said that we'd tuck them in. Mr. Amazing took the girls upstairs and started the process with the agreement I'd follow behind as soon as the SW was done talking to me. I'm sure that this worker thinks I'm nuts. The girls were so polite. You would never have known there were any issues with them today. They even drew her pictures while they were upstairs talking with her. (I think they figured out a long time ago to use pictures as a manipulative tactic. So many people just melt when a kid draws them a picture. Of course the pictures are nice. I've got all the ones they've made for me hanging up around my desk. But I've noticed that they draw pictures for every adult that they meet. It just seems a little fishy to me. Not bad. Just strange.)

Thankfully the SW was quite gracious and said it was a pleasure and an honor to meet our family. (Really?! You WANTED to come all the way out here at night after working all day?!) I'm grateful we're with an agency that offers up as much support as we've gotten so far. I'm actually beyond grateful - whatever word that may be. It is nice to know that someone is going to answer the phone every time I call and I'm going to get the help I need when I need it. It's truly a blessing. Now all I have to do is make sure all the support staff can get the girls the help they need. If they don't start therapy soon we all just might go nuts!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What should I say?

Here's one I haven't figured out exactly how to respond to yet.

A neighbor lady said "congratulations" to me because of the girls.

My first thought is... Congratulations?! Really?! These wonderful, beautiful, marvelous girls have lived through HELL. They trust no one because of all the hurt they've had in their young lives. The ONLY reason they are in my house is because someone finally figured out the Hell they were living in and reported it. But I'm going to be told congratulations?! This should have never happened. In a perfect world they wouldn't be in my home. They wouldn't have been hurt. And I certainly don't deserve any congratulations because I've opened my home to them. Despite the fact that this is entirely The. Most. Difficult. Thing. I. Have. Ever. Done.... I've got it easy compared to them.

I know the neighbor is just being nice. But it doesn't seem right. These beautiful girls had to get hurt before I could be told congratulations.

Of course I said thank you and I smiled. But inside, my heart was breaking.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What do you do?

Every time MissArguePants closed her eyes last night at bedtime she saw the "bad people" who showed up at court yesterday -- who WEREN'T supposed to be there!

I ached for her. The loss and abandonment she was feeling was overwhelming. The pain was so obvious.

So was the disrespect and disobedience.

This is where foster parenting has got to be the hardest kind of parenting ever. I didn't know what to do. Somehow the deliberate defiance needs to be addressed. Even if all you do is let them know you're cutting them some slack because of all they've been through. I ached for her and I was angry all at the same time. I don't ask for much at bedtime. Only that cherubs stay in their bed and don't disturb others. You are welcome to turn on a small light and read books or simply sit quietly in your bed. The point is, people that want to sleep should be allowed to sleep.

MissArugePants had other ideas last night. So did TurtleTurtle for that matter. They were so incredibly scared.

If MissArguePants truly was MY little girl, I would have climbed into her bed with her and forced her to have some safe human contact. Or I would have picked her up and put her in the bathtub hoping that the feeling of warm water would help calm her body down. But she's only been in my home for 2 weeks and that would so not be appropriate in her case. Not to mention the face that legally I can't force her to do anything. If she says "No, I am not going to take a bath" I can't do a damn thing about it. I can try to come up creative consequences. But everything I was thinking of last night wouldn't take effect until today. She was so deep in the pain that she couldn't have cared less about today.

Right now the only thing the girls care about is whether or not they can play outside with their friend from across the street. I hate tossing out "you're grounded" for every infraction. I've got to become more creative somehow. It's so difficult though. Because again, I can't force them to do anything. If they don't want to do extra chores or write sentences the only thing I can think of is to say that they can't go outside. Neither girl is defiant enough that they would go outside and in a sense "run away". (At least I don't think they are.) So keeping them in is the simplest thing I can do. TV isn't that important and we don't watch it that much anyway. Video games are OK, but again, we don't play them that much anyway. I've got almost nothing that I can take away from them. As for adding things, I'm not a huge fan of behavior charts or things like that. I suppose I could give them a try. But how do I quantify something like disrespect (that they don't really seem to understand) so that they can put a sticker up for just "being good"? I hate the way that sounds. I'm spending all my energy trying to convince these two lovely ladies that they already are good no matter what happens!!!

Creative discipline ideas would be much appreciated.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Three ring circus

Today was a three ring circus at court. The "bad people" showed up - despite everyone being told they were no longer involved with any custody issues.

The girls were sent home with us and will be with us for at least one more month. From there, we'll have to see if the bio family is going to do what they need to do to be able to keep the girls safe.

Incredible feelings of abandonment are running rampant in our house. I kept them home from school all day today. It just didn't make sense to send them to a classroom for two hours on a Friday afternoon after all they had been through in the morning. I'm hoping our evening doesn't completely blow up. Though, they have good reason to lose it. Court was very stressful for them.

The girls do have incentive to use proper coping skills as they process through all the crap. And...so far...so good. Since moving here, they have made friends with a girl across the street. If they can treat everyone at home with respect and not be hurtful to each other, they can continue to have privileges to play at their friend's house or have her come over here. Right now they are out walking the puppy from across the street and having a blast.

Things are good. They have processed some about court and seem OK with what happened. Hopefully this isn't the calm before the storm.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I feel like I'm getting beat up

I have been naive. Over and over I am amazed by my naivety.

I've read plenty of foster and adoption blogs (mostly adoption blogs). In these wonderful blogs, moms would often talk about the physical exhaustion of therapeutic parenting. I usually read too much into this I think. I just assumed they were talking about restraining the children or other physical acts that would wear them out.

I had no idea!

The two beauties that have moved into our hearts and our homes are wearing me out. It's not their fault really. Like I said before, you don't undo 9 years of trauma in under two weeks. But I swear...everything in the house is an argument! They just want to test OVER AND OVER -- exactly how safe is this house?! This afternoon MissArguePants and TurtleTurtle were playing upstairs with two of the cherubs. TT and Bart both came downstairs to tell me that MissArguePants was pulling her pants down around her bum and dancing around.

It's no big deal. I am forever telling the oldest cherub to pull up his pants. (Why must teenagers have such an aversion to belts - or even to adjusting those tabs on the insides of their pants?!) I just don't want to see anyone's underwear.

Of course MissArguePants had to follow the cherubs downstairs as they were tattling on her. Of course she had to immediately get defensive.

I'm not a fan of tattling. However, I did think that I should briefly address the issue. All I did was look at her and her sister and told them to keep their pants pulled up. No big deal to me. But obviously this was a big deal to MissArguePants. She had to immediately tell me that her pants weren't pulled down. Then she promptly turned around and said, "See, all I did was THIS" as she pulled her pants down a couple inches and shook her rear end at me.

I told her to pull her pants back up because obviously she had pulled them down a little. The most illogical argument started from there. Somehow me telling her to pull up her pants equated with me loving other people more than her. Somehow I didn't want her around anymore. In a huff, she turned and stomped off to her room back upstairs.

When MissArguePants stomps - she wants to be followed. The louder the stomp, the more she wants to be followed. In fact, if you don't follow her she'll come back to where you are, pick another fight and stomp off again. So, this time...I followed.

She was in her bed crying her eyes out accusing me of more inequality. I don't even remember all the details. All these arguments are starting to roll together in my brain. This time though I wanted to quickly get my point out and then go away so she could be angry alone. I'm pretty sure she hollered out the standard, "You don't want me anymore" phrase.

I took a deep breath and very sternly taught her a new truth. I tried to be calm, but I was ticked off and I said, "MissArguePants...you are going to experience something new right now. You are going to experience an adult being angry with you and NOT hurting you. I am angry. But I am not going to hit you, take anything away from you, or hurt you in any way."

I got through.

She stopped her craziness long enough to listen to me. I reminded her that I loved her and all I wanted for her to do was to keep her pants pulled up. It was no big deal. She wasn't in any kind of trouble. And then I walked out of her room.

Thankfully, that was the only fit from the girls for the day today.

Anyway...back to my naivety.

Today was an easy day. Yesterday...not so much. By the time I got the ladies in bed for the evening, I was exhausted beyond belief. Both girls were in a funk...dysregulated...throwing a fit...whatever you want to call it...for over two hours. I didn't have to restrain them. But I couldn't really leave them alone either. I still had to do the typical household chores like clean up from dinner, help with homework, get the boys ready for bed, etc. In and amongst that I had to keep two little girls from going completely off the deep end. I can't even really describe their fits in writing. It's not like they're violent...but they could be. They aren't running away...but it's awfully close. They like to run and hide all over the house. What's to say the wouldn't go out the front door? By the time I collapsed on the couch to watch a show about Parenthood ('cause I guess I'm just not getting enough of it in my own home) I physically ached.

It's not the first time either. After MissArguePants' first BIG fit I felt like I had been in a boxing ring. Trying to be logical when two children from horrific pasts see no logic is like taking care of an infant. They're crying and there is little you can do about it. I try to love on the girls but they push me away when they're really upset. I try to leave them alone but they follow me around picking more fights so they can have my attention. I'm damned either way.

Overall though, the girls are displaying behaviors that are perfectly normal for what they've been through. I just keep praying that I can not take the disrespect so personally. The more calm I stay, the better things really are. Even if I keep on getting sucker punched in the gut.

Another blog that I read answered the question today about whether or not she regrets fostering. It got me thinking. Do I regret turning my family upside down like this? The answer is no. As we prayed over the girls before bed tonight I thanked God for all the blessings He has poured out onto our family. Our three boys are learning to give, share, love, and care for others in a very personal way. The two girls are learning that not all adults are going to give up on them, hurt them, or walk away completely. We are blessed beyond measure.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Adrenalin rush...

I'm a sucker for baby animals. A total sucker. My husband and I got our first dog in the middle of a fight. I did not want a pet yet. He did. We argued all the way to the shelter that he was trying to talk me into visiting. I was mad but went anyway. Sure enough, when we got there and I looked at that little ball of black fur my heart melted. We came home with a puppy.

Ten years later that puppy had to be put down. She was very sick. It made me sad. We were at a place in our lives where a new pet probably wasn't the smartest idea. I told Mr. Amazing that we should probably wait awhile before we got another dog.

There was an ad in the paper. Pure bred labs for $50 each. They didn't know which male sired the litter and they weren't going to do DNA testing - thus the incredible price. Mr. Amazing just had to go out to the farm to visit. There just happened to be this beautiful almost red colored Yellow Lab. I didn't fight with him this time. But I kept telling him "no" all the way out to the farm when he said I needed to go to at least look at the puppy.

Sure enough that red colored lab was the most beautiful puppy I'd ever seen. And then this little yellow ball of fluff climbed up in my lap and fell asleep. This time we walked away with two dogs. I just can't say no to a baby animal. I'm a total sucker!

I think I'm going to be worse when it comes to children. When we fostered in Iowa before, I never had to say no. Our first placement was our beautiful son that we adopted. Our second was a wonderful 18 month old little boy that lived with us for six months. I never had to say no.

Fast forward a few years to where we are at now. We've got a lovely five bedroom house with more square footage than we need. We are licensed for up to three children. (If we want more than that we have to put in a sprinkler system per our county's regulations.) We are currently using three of the bedrooms for our family. The extra room downstairs is designated as a guest room for when my parents and other family members come to visit. The new room that we just added is large enough for four children but will comfortably house the three we are licensed for. I thought we were set. We've just been waiting for "the phone call".

Per the regulations in place for foster children in our state (and probably many others), children of different sexes cannot share a room unless they are quite little. In my perfect world, we'll get a call needing placement for a sibling group of two or three - all boys or all girls. Everything will sound like a good fit for our family and we'll say yes.

Well, a phone call came just a couple hours ago. An emergency home was needed for a 9 year old little girl and a 7 year old little boy. Immediately my heart went out to them. They need a home. They need to be safe. Their parents were about to be arrested. I saw images of young, scared children flash through my mind. I didn't want to add to that fear. What if another family couldn't be found? I just thought we had to say yes.

With the social worker on the phone I asked Mr. Amazing if he'd be able to move some things around in the guest room to get it ready for a foster child. (The boy and the girl would not be allowed to share a room so we would have to have two bedrooms ready for children.) I know that my parents aren't going to be coming for a visit any time in the immediate future and I just couldn't say no to the children. Mr. Amazing was just that - amazing. He said of course we could move things around to take this sibling group.

So, just like that, my perfect world is all mixed up. We got started moving things around right away. I had quite the adrenalin rush going.

Then, just as fast as it came, it all ended. The social worker called back to let us know that the placement was only going to be for five days as the grandmother had been contacted and would be handling their care. I was told that our particular agency doesn't do emergency respite care like that so our services wouldn't be needed just yet.

I'm quite sure I'm going to have to practice saying the word "no". I really don't want to have foster children in the only bedroom on the main floor. It would just be too complicated. All the other bedrooms are upstairs. If the kids are older, it's too much of an invitation to leave when they aren't supposed to. If they're little, the kids are just too far away from us during the night.

The social worker said it'd be great if we kept both rooms available. She also mentioned that it's a long holiday weekend...another phone call within the next few days is quite a possibility. I'm not sure what we'll do. I'm going to practice saying "no". But...I'll keep the room ready just in case.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Waiting...

I haven't posted in ages. Things have been crazy busy around here. My dad had a massive stroke and I flew back to Iowa with the youngest two cherubs to visit family. It was a very stressful couple of weeks right before the start of school. (Side note: my dad is doing better now. He's home but still requires full-time care that my mother currently provides. I hate being so gosh darn far away.)

All three of my cherubs started school last week. I've got one in Kindergarten, one in First Grade and one in Eighth Grade. My season of having little ones at home all day long is over. (Unless of course we end up fostering a little one.)

Which brings me to the title "Waiting". Our homestudy is complete. All of our training is complete. We have been officially verified in the state of Texas to foster. All we have to do now is get THE phone call.

We were told by our foster agency that it will probably be slow for a week or two. With school starting up the area judges actually spent the last few weeks trying to get as many children back home as possible. Having a "slow" time just sounds awful though. I really wish things would never "pick back up". I wish there wasn't a need for foster parents.

But...there is. So we continue to pray for the child(ren) that will come in to our home. I've still got some last minute items to go shopping for. Since we don't know what age to expect, I'm trying to not go overboard. We live close enough to shopping that a quick trip for diapers in the middle of the night won't kill me. But I do want to get some more hampers, an alarm clock for the fifth bedroom, and various other extra items. I also continue to take advantage of any down time that I've got right now. I know that I'll be horribly busy after we get our first placement. A busy that I won't mind at all - but busy nonetheless.