Thursday, December 23, 2010

The house I've always wanted

It was a good day today!

I had six kids at my breakfast table. Pancakes and sausage.

A couple more came over on and off in the morning.

I had eight kids for lunch. Sandwiches and chips.

More kids in and out all afternoon. Video games. TV. Dart guns. Coloring. All the good stuff.

I had seven kids around the dinner table with my hubby. Chicken fajita spread with all the fixins.

All I've ever wanted was to be "that house". The house kids wanted to come to. Yes, there were more video games this week than normal. Kids stayed up later than normal. (They had fun watching the lunar eclipse.) Yesterday we went to the roller rink with a van full. And the TV ran way more all week long than it usually does. But it is Christmas break. And it was a lot of fun.

The two boys we did respite for this week have gone back to their foster home. Cherubs 2 and 3 are actually in bed on time. And, Lord willing, Cherub 1 will come back home on time tonight so he can start catching up on sleep too.

We road the anxiety roller coaster. TT got nervous three days before the boys came. Then he was nervous after they got here. Then, this morning, he freaked out because they were going to be leaving. But he learned he can do this. He can be a foster brother.

Bart is terrific therapy for everyone. The two boys here on respite were worshiped during their entire visit.

And Herman got to make a couple new friends. He opened his social circle up to include two kids that needed something to do for a week. He shared everything he owned with a smile on his face. I'm really proud of that kid.

And me - I got to have the house I've always wanted. I got to love on a whole neighborhood of kids all week long. It's kept me from feeling horribly homesick with the rest of my family so far, far away. I even managed to handle wearing shorts and turning on the air conditioning as the temps reached 85° and higher without going completely insane. And, whew, my cooking isn't as "nasty" as our last group of guests insisted on. Nothing like a houseful of teenage boys to make you feel good about your cooking!

It was a good day today! I'm thoroughly blessed! And I'm ready for that next phone call. Somewhere, a child is hurting and needs a safe place to call home for awhile. Our home can be that place.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Anxiety

We talk about his big feelings.
We talk about his big feelings.
We talk about his big feelings.

He's always allowed to stay close to us if he's feeling particularly anxious.
We do everything we can prepare him for changes in routine.
We puke on perfection.
We stomp out stress.

We talk about his big feelings.
We talk about his big feelings.
We talk about his big feelings.

Yet, I still feel very helpless.

I know that ultimately he has to own this. I can't feel the anxiety for him. I can't take it away.

We talk about the fact that God is the only one that can actually take it away.

This morning he pretended to reach into his belly button to grab the anxiety and throw it to God.

He knows what to do. But it is so difficult for him.

How do we continue to follow through with our calling to foster without sending Cherub 2 into an anxiety fit every single time the phone rings?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Random thoughts

Christmas break has started off nicely. I'll be honest, this is more of what I thought (hoped anyway) fostering would really be like.

When we fostered back in Iowa, we really only had one placement. (I don't count the adoption of our son. That one was just too unbelievable to count as a foster placement.) But the little two year old that lived with us for 6 months was "real" fostering. It was easy though. Amazingly easy. It hurt to say goodbye. But even that part was cushioned for me due to the fact that I was pregnant and about to have another baby in the house.

Then we got the girls.

Wow!!

That experience really threw me for a loop. Nothing like getting pulled into the deep end of mental illness within the first 24 hours of fostering! Those were 8 very long weeks and several more difficult weeks of healing after they left.

Now we're doing respite. Easy stuff really. Only a week. Two boys - ages 16 & 14. (They aren't related.) My heart is broken in two for these boys. As they share snippets of what they've lived through, well...my heart just breaks. I'm glad to be able to help out their foster family right now and show the kids that they can trust adults. That they are safe. That they will be taken care of. This is what I want to be a part of.

Now I'll go all random...

I'm starting to wonder what kind of therapy cameras are for foster kids. It's only happened twice now - but to me I see a pattern starting. The girls LOVED playing with my digital camera and my flip video camera. They would take picture after picture of themselves. They would simply video themselves walking around the house giving commentary on everything they saw.

The subject of my camera came up today with one of the boys. He asked if he could borrow my camera and I said yes. It was just like the girls. He immediately started walking around the house talking about everything he saw. As I rounded the corner while he was playing, without even thinking he said, "and there goes mommy".


My heart broke into about a million pieces. (I managed to keep it together though so I didn't embarrass him.)


I know almost nothing about this kid other than some paperwork that his current foster mom left when she dropped him off. He's probably been in dozens of foster homes. I know he's been hospitalized. He's been in a residential treatment center. He's got six brothers and sisters but he's not living with any of them. In fact, he has no contact at all with three of them. Parental rights have been terminated. He's placed on the "specialized" level due to all his past problems and diagnoses.


I've seen no negative behavior at all!
(I know. I know. Honeymooning. I know. I know!!)


To me he's like a seven or eight year old more than anything. He's just a little kid!!! He's been very well behaved. You can tell he really worked on some manners while in therapy. Every time I have to tell him no he responds, "I understand". (Actually, compared to the way my own cherubs have been behaving, he's a breath of fresh air.)


But this camera thing has me all interested. I think there's a connection between multiple disruptions and a lack of a past that you can hold on to and wanting to capture the place where you're at right now. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this connection other than make sure I let kids play with my camera and video recorder. I think it's healthy for them. I'm going to burn the videos he made today onto a DVD for him to take when he leaves. I'm not sure if he'll ever get to watch them, but at least I will have validated something that was important to him this week.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Goin' with the flow

CPS never called our agency back last night about the placement. I just have to assume that they found a home that could take the entire sibling group of four. Sure would have been nice if someone could have called to let us know we weren't being affected.

So, for right now anyway, it's just our family of five and the two respite boys that are staying for the next week. (a 14 year old and a 16 year old)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Still waiting...

CPS still hasn't called our agency to let us know if the boy is coming to our home tonight or not.

Huh?!

I realize paperwork takes forever. But we were called five hours ago. You would think they could let us know if we need to stay up and wait or if we can go to bed.

The two boys are here for respite. That's all I know so far.

This fostering stuff is a trip.

See if you can follow this...

1. It all started with just Mr. Amazing and our three kids. No fosters or respite. December looked like it would be an easy month.

2. Got a call for respite for two little ones. Said yes.

3. Got another call for respite for the following week for four teenagers. Said yes.

4. The first foster family called on their little ones. Said they wanted us to take their adults instead. Didn't give us enough notice. We said no. They decided we didn't need to watch their little ones either. We ended up with a "free" weekend (last weekend). I managed to fill the house with cookies and chocolate covered goodies.

5. For this weekend, our agency said that we couldn't take all four of the teenagers for respite. Our license only allows us to take a maximum of three. They decided to split the four kids up two and two. No problem.

6. I called the foster family of the teens we are doing respite for and spoke with their foster mom this morning. I wanted to find out what time the kids were coming this evening. Through the conversation she informed me that I was taking three of her kids. It seems the other family that was going to take two of them accepted a placement of a teenage girl this week. (Which incidentally is probably the teenage girl that we turned down earlier this week.) Anyway, if that other family took two kids for respite, it would put them over capacity. So they had to split the four teens up three and one.

7. At about 4:30 this afternoon our agency called again. A sibling group of four was removed from their home today. Three girls and their older (12 year old) brother. They are also from our same town so keeping them together is going to be difficult if they stay in our county. (Remember, our county requires homes with more than three foster kids to be licensed as group homes. And said group homes need to have full sprinkler systems.)

I informed the intake worker that I was going to be at capacity for the next week. She said it would probably be easier for her to find a respite home for one of the teenagers than it would be for her to find a placement home for the brother that was removed today. They're probably going to split up the sibling group with the girls going to one home and the boy to our house.

So now we wait.

Our agency was able to locate another respite home for one of the teenagers. So we are down to only getting two of them tonight. CPS approved our home for the placement of the 12 year old boy. However, they are still trying to locate a placement home that would be able to accept the entire sibling group of four.

I'll keep you posted.  :)  This is going to turn out to be a very interesting Christmas!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

I almost called the cops

10:00PM: Mr. Amazing and I turned off the TV after watching my absolute favorite show Burn Notice. He went upstairs to get ready for bed. Me, I turned on the computer one more time. Christine had a new blog post up. New people had commented. It seemed just natural that I should click through the comments to new blogs and read even more. (It's a compulsion. I'm going to work on it. Just not yet.) Besides, Charlie the dog was outside and I needed to wait for him to do his business and then let him in. Mr. Amazing called down and asked me to bring him some eye drops. I went upstairs with the eye drops.

10:38PM: I put my book down (I'm reading The Shack again), turned off my reading lamp and went to sleep. Ahhhhh....sweet sleep.

3:30AM: Oh my. There is a dog outside barking its fool head off. Somebody should shut it up.

4:00AM: That stupid dog. I should get out of bed and call the cops.
It's just not OK to let your dog bark all night long.

4:15AM as I'm drifting in and out of sleep: I should call the cops.
But my bed feels so good. I don't want to get out of bed. I'll put a pillow up over my head. Oh, I just want to sleep.

4:37AM: Cherub 2 startles me awake again. He was upset because he had had a bad dream. Really, I think that stupid dog woke him up. I think I should go look out the window to see where that noisy beast is at. I got out of bed and put on my glasses. Walking over to a window in the playroom I looked into our backyard first.

4:39AM: Oh holy sh*t!

4:41AM: Hey Mr. Amazing, guess what... it's probably a good thing I didn't call the cops.
Charlie, where he usually sleeps.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Constantly changing

I got a call from the respite coordinator at our foster care agency again today. It seems the foster parents of the little ones we had agreed to watch this weekend wanted to change things. Instead of having us watch their 2 and 3 year old foster kids, they wanted us to watch their 19 & 20 year old foster kids instead.

I think it's pretty cool that there are 20 year old foster kids in our area. One of the many problems of foster care is the issue of kids aging out of the system with nowhere to go. By not getting kicked out the minute they turn 18 down here, it gives them a chance to become more mature. It gives them somewhere to go. I'm sure it makes it easier for them to continue their education. (I believe Texas offers up college assistance to current foster children and all children adopted out of foster care in the state.) I think it's terrific.

As much as I think it's terrific to have older kids getting the support they need, it sounded like a pretty big change for us with almost no notice! Little kids to adults. Changing a few diapers to totally rearranging the meal plan and having to go grocery shopping so I've got plenty of food for two more big people. I've got enough on my plate that changing things up like that didn't seem like a good idea. So, I said no. Then the foster parents decided to not leave the little ones with us either. I'm not sure what's going on, but it looks like my weekend will be completely free to work on Christmas crafts and baking.

Things had to be switched up with the teenage boys that are scheduled to come next week too. We are only licensed for three foster kids. Our particular county has determined that any more than three makes it a group home. Those guidelines would require us to have a full sprinkler system in our home. That is not going to happen -- waaayyyyy too expensive of a remodel! I thought they'd make an exception with the four respite care kids though because it's not an "official" placement.

Turns out they can't bend those rules. So, only two of the teenagers are going to be coming. That's not going to change things up much at all. Should be pretty easy. For what it's worth though, I've already got the meal planning done. And since I won't have two little ones underfoot this weekend, I'll get a start on the muffins, cookies and snack food that I want to have on hand for the extra kids.

One thing is for sure when you're a foster parent (or any kind of parent for that matter), things are constantly changing!

Monday, December 6, 2010

So much for that pregnant feeling

My land line almost never rings. Most everyone calls my hubby and I on our respective cell phones. We keep the land line though because when the cherubs are home alone (with the oldest babysitting) we want them to be able to reach us at all times. It's also the number we use for local contacts.

So...when the land line rang this morning, my heart skipped a beat. Somehow I just knew.

Sure enough, it was our foster care agency. They wanted to know if we'd be interested in taking a respite placement.

I quickly got in contact with Mr. Amazing to check with him but it was an easy "yes".  We're going to be caring for a two year old little girl and her three year old brother from Thursday morning until Sunday afternoon.

Then, this afternoon, the phone rang again.

More respite care. This time we would be needed from the 17th through the 23rd for...get this...four boys ages 14, 14, 14, and 16.

This one took a little bit more conversation before we came to our conclusion.

Four boys. All teenagers. Plus three boys of our own. One of them a teenager as well. (I'm outnumbered for sure!) Three "basic" foster kids and one "specialized". (Though their current foster mom says we won't have any problems at all.) Tons of groceries. School will be out. How will we entertain everyone? (I'm sure there will be too many video games.)

I consulted with Cherub 1 first. This respite placement will affect him the most. He seemed almost excited as he said yes. I had to remind him that they may not want to have anything to do with him. He's convinced though that he'll have four more people to play football with.

The littler cherubs weren't quite as excited but seem OK with the idea.

Mr. Amazing and I weighed out the pros and cons and couldn't come up with anything too negative. So, we agreed to say yes.

Their foster mom nearly jumped with excitement on the other end of the phone when I called her with the news. From what I could gather, she hasn't had time alone with her husband and their two bio-kids in over two years. This is a well needed (and well deserved) break!! I'm glad we are able to help.

So now I get to do a quick "nest" to get the house ready. It looks like I've got to put away all the empty Christmas decoration boxes that are currently scattered all over our guest room. And I've got to get the clean sheets back on all the beds. So much for that pregnant feeling. The kids are coming.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

No, I haven't gone into hiding

It feels like I've disappeared the last month. I stopped doing the book reviews for The Connected Child. (Though, I tell myself every week that I'm going to catch up!) I haven't been posting much at all. But I don't want to go into hiding. I got so much support when the girls were here. I don't want to lose that community.

I feel like I've been on something of a roller coaster. The girls left on November 6. That made me rather depressed. As a family, we cycled through some interesting behaviors as we began to heal. The girls were only in our home for eight weeks but they sure made an impact! At first we seemed to almost revel in the fact that the huge weight of unending stress was gone. Then, it seems, all three of my boys had to "try out" some of the behaviors the girls so readily displayed while they were here. It was almost like all three of them wanted to see what would happen if they acted that way. I had to learn how to not overreact (again). I found myself tightening up the minute something stressful would begin. I had to remind myself that just because an argument was going on didn't mean we were going to be in for hours of dysregulation. The boys had to learn that the rules hadn't changed.

After a couple weeks of healing, we began to get excited for the company that came to visit us over Thanksgiving. We were blessed to have my Mom, Dad, sister and her kids come for the holiday. It was positively wonderful.

Then, even more wonderfully, Mr. Amazing came back from his 3 1/2 week long work detail that had him all the way across the country from us. We had missed him and it was terrific to have him back home. He came home the day before Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, my stress level didn't dissipate completely. On the last day of my family's visit here, my dad suffered a TIA (mini stroke) while we were on our way home from South Padre Island. I was driving and watched it all happen in the front seat right next to me. At first I could see it in his face, though he wasn't saying anything. Something just didn't feel right. Then his speech got all mushy and hard to understand. Then he said, "Something's wrong." We pulled into the closest hospital and Dad was monitored. Thankfully he began to recover almost as quickly as the symptoms had started. So, just a couple hours later he was released and we went back home where they packed up that night. The next morning everyone took off for the 1255 mile drive back to Iowa.

I'm always depressed the day after my family leaves. I absolutely hate living so far away from everyone I know and love so deeply. The TIA didn't make things easier for me either! I was doubly depressed. My dad told me "goodbye" before he left. Not..."Goodbye, I'll see you soon." But "GOODBYE". It really messed me up in the head! (Thankfully he's agreed to talk to a therapist about his depression.) I know my dad is not well and isn't going to be here forever. But I'm not ready for goodbye just yet.

So, that was Monday last week. On Tuesday, Cherub 2 had surgery. Minor surgery (tubes in his ears)... but surgery nonetheless. I woke up at 3:30 that morning and never fell back asleep. Nothing is worse than being depressed and tired. Needless to say, I was a mess on Tuesday. I did try to take care of myself and went to bed just after 8:00 that night. Wednesday was better. I drug myself to Bible study and church and actually had a good time. I'm an extrovert by nature. I have to be around people if I'm going to snap out of my funks. Unfortunately, Mr. Amazing and I had a disagreement of epic proportions on Thursday. I was still pretty ticked off all day Friday. (Thankfully we kissed and made up!)

This weekend has been pretty good. I am bound and determined to NOT stay in a funk. I even managed to decorate for Christmas with the family and didn't get grumpy during the process. For me, that is progress. I don't do well with the putting up and taking down of decorations. I enjoy them enough once they're up. But I'm just not a fan of all the hassle.

Mr. Amazing went on a motorcycle fund raising ride for licensing agency. We are also members of the Christian Motorcycle Association and they take part in this big annual Christmas fund raiser for the Foundation every year. Yesterday they raised thousands of dollars plus collected many, many toys to donate to the foster children in our region. While at the party after the ride, Mr. Amazing got to talk to the director at our licensing location and the SW supervisor. He let them know that we're "ready" for our next child(ren). So, I'm back to having that pregnant sort of feeling.

The house is ready. All I have to do is put clean sheets on the beds. We've got room for up to three kids. Any age and sex BUT middle school girls. (We just don't need those hormones in the house with our middle school son.) We aren't ruling out anything. We're just going to wait to see what God orchestrates. It's quite a ride to be on.

Keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times. Here we go....