Saturday, May 28, 2011

Is she sick?

I spend a LOT of time watching Pumpkin -- trying to figure out if what she's got going on is baseline "normal" for her or if it's seizure behavior. Parenting a special needs child is difficult enough. But I've got to answer to so many people about her health. I've got a Medicaid nurse that calls once a month to go over all the day-to-day details. I've also got her family doctor, her neurologist, our agency SW, CPS, CASA, and all the lawyers. Despite my usual amounts of confidence when it comes to parenting young children, I find myself second-guessing my decisions with Pumpkin regularly.

Take today for example...

I slept in this morning. I was uber tired. Mr. Amazing and Herman are gone on a weekend excursion together. I had the bed to myself. I was all sprawled out and comfortable. The fan was blowing and it was good sleeping I say. Good sleeping.

At about 9:00AM though I figured I had better get myself up. My littlest cherubs had been up for a couple hours. They can get themselves breakfast and watch TV all on their own. As for Pumpkin though, I knew she was still just in her bed. I never know when she wakes up. I know that she likes to sleep in some on the weekends. But when she wakes she never does anything to get my attention. She doesn't even get out of bed. At best, she'll reach over and get some books off the shelf that is next to her bed. But, for the most part, she just lies there.

I went into in Pumpkin's room this morning and she hadn't moved at all. No books or toys were in bed with her. For all I know, she had just woken up. I got her dressed and did her hair without incident.

TT & Bart were watching SpongeBob. This just happens to be Pumpkin's absolute favorite thing in the whole entire world!!! She did not indicate any desire to eat breakfast. She crawled up on the couch to watch TV. Rather than take her away from her favorite thing, I got a bowl of dry cereal for her and handed her a sippy cup of milk. Pumpkin seemed fine as she sat there. She even ate the whole bowl of cereal.

I turned off the TV at 10:30. By 10:45 Pumpkin was crawling up on the love seat like she was tired. She was turning her face towards the cushions. She seemed rather "out of it". This is where the guess-work comes in. Why was she doing this? Was she mad because the TV got turned off? Was she simply tired because we were up late the night before? Did she have seizures all night?

I took Pumpkin by the hand and directed her to our guest bedroom downstairs. I covered her up with a blanket and tucked her in for a nap. I left the door open though so I could easily check on her. I also didn't want her to think she was being forced to stay in the room.

Pumpkin fell fast asleep and was out for around an hour. At noon I noticed she was awake and asked if she wanted to get up. She told me no.

She stayed in the bedroom until 5:00PM. I went in about every 30 minutes to see if she wanted to get up. Each time she responded with a "no" and then pulled the blanket up over her head.

For the first hour or two I was OK with this. By mid afternoon though I started to get worried. It's not normal for a child who is almost six to simply go into a dark bedroom and lie there by themselves all day doing nothing. She didn't have a fever. I never saw her have a seizure. She couldn't tell me what was wrong. She doesn't have those kinds of language skills. It was just plain weird.

But it wouldn't have made sense to take her to the doctor either. What would I say? She wants to lay in a dark bedroom and do nothing???? That's not exactly a medical emergency.

At 5:00PM I asked her if she wanted to eat. She popped right up and got out of bed. Of course, when I tried to fix her ponytail she got very upset. But this is typical for Pumpkin. When I offered her some yogurt she gave me a dirty look. But again, this is typical for Pumpkin. She ate the yogurt without complaining along with the rest of dinner. When she was done, she got down from the table and went in to her toys.

Right now she's in the living room playing with her toys. You'd never know anything was out of the ordinary today.

I never quite know how to handle these situations. They tell me she never wants to nap at school. But I see Pumpkin get "tired" like this almost every day she is home with me. I've been making notes on a calendar that I'm going to bring with me to her next neurology appointment. But everything is so vague. Her doctor only seems to want to know about actual seizures. And I see so few of those that all I can do is shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't know for sure". And since Pumpkin can't tell me a single thing about her health, does anyone know?!

It's complicated. The judge isn't going to let bio mom have unsupervised contact with Pumpkin until mom has been "trained" on Pumpkin's condition by a doctor. Pumpkin is never going to be normal though. The seizures aren't going to go away. Pumpkin isn't going to suddenly burst out with meaningful language. I wonder if a judge will ever trust that mom can actually manage her condition. And from what's happened so far with this case, all those people involved in deciding what should happen to Pumpkin, keep asking for my thoughts. Which is why I start second-guessing myself on days like this. Things I say about Pumpkin's condition are going to determine when (or worst case scenario...even whether or not) mom gets another chance at parenting Pumpkin. So how note worthy are today's events?

Of course I'll tell her doctor. And I'll tell any of the rest of the crew that asks. But I'm never going to get used to this level of special needs parenting.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Behavior mod -- Round 2

I'm thinking I'm going to have to do another round of behavior mod on myself. I'm getting triggered just a little too easily.

Tonight at supper, Pumpkin fed herself. THIS is a good thing! When she was done, she actually said, "all done". It took us over four months to teach Pumpkin this skill. But...she learned it. She can spontaneously tell us whether or not she wants "more" or if she is "all done". Not only did she learn the words, but she can sign them as well. This is wonderful progress and should have made me feel good.

After I got the table cleared up though, I wanted to cut Pumpkin's finger nails. They are too long and she's a picker. In fact, she picked a sore on her leg until it bled during occupational therapy today.

Anyway, I sat down with the finger nail clippers over by my desk and told Pumpkin to "come here". She got up from her toys and started to walk over to me. She came into the corner of the room where I was. I used physical prompting and told her several times to come over to me. But, because this is so out of the norm of her daily routine she did. not. understand. me.

She just stood there. Confused.

I got triggered.

I got up, took Pumpkin by the arm and walked her over to my desk. She was confused. She was crying.

Then I sniffed.

Oh gross.

I checked her diaper.

Now I was really triggered.

I did not have the most stellar parenting moment ever.

I think I'm going to have to break out the stickers again. I've got to get my own behaviors under control. By next Friday I'm going to be doing this all day every day without a break. As much as I can't wait to have my cherubs home with me this summer...I'm a little nervous about the amount of care Pumpkin is going to require and what that's going to look like.

Hopefully the stickers -- and the margaritas -- will help.  :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

CPS responded

CPS responded to our concerns about letting Pumpkin travel with us this past weekend. Of course, the supervisor's response came after we secured respite care and actually took the trip. I'm still not happy with their answer either...

CPS (my worker and I) really appreciate that that you are trying to provide Pumpkin with this opportunity of going on a trip but we still have to follow certain requirements that are not specified in Minimum standards.  You are correct about the 72 hour trip; however, our Judge requires approval for the child to travel outside of his legal jurisdiction no matter the amount of time.  In addition, another requirement is that we allow the parent to consent to trip as the Department only has TMC of the child.

I'm trying to decide exactly how I want to proceed with this. I'm furious!! The Judge in our county makes all sorts of rules above and beyond minimum standards. For example, ALL children have to attend EVERY court hearing. The only excuse he will give is if the hearing is during standardized testing week at school. (Though he did excuse Pumpkin because of her medical concerns.) This whole "staying within the jurisdiction" thing really has me in a bunch. I do not like being made to feel like a prisoner. I haven't done anything wrong!! I'm the one that has taken hours and hours and hours of training. I'm the one that has to answer to CPS, my agency, CASA, lawyers, etc. etc. Can't I be trusted to do anything?!

I'm not even sure if we will go on another trip while Pumpkin is in our care. We don't have that much disposable income lying around. It's not like we're jetting off to a hotel every other weekend. But it's the principle of the matter that really gets to me. Foster parents have to follow so many ridiculous rules. And this is just another layer of the puzzle that complicates things.

I'm going to start with an email to my agency. If they will give me the next person "up" in the chain of command, I will continue to complain. If they basically tell me it's a lost cause, I'm going to drop the matter. Here's what's going off to my agency director and my SSW this morning:

These policies really bother me! I was never told during training that I had to have permission from the judge to leave his jurisdiction. Exactly how far does his jurisdiction stretch?

I don't believe that these rules are necessarily in the best interest of the children in care. And, they add another layer of difficulty for the foster parents. Like I've said before, I fully understand NOTIFYING the State of where we will be if we decide to take a short trip. But getting permission seems over the top as long as we are following all the rules and aren't missing any visits or scheduled appointments. And by giving this kind of power to the parents (the ones that LOST custody) they continue to have the ability to deny their children. It doesn't apply in Pumpkin's case...but imagine a parent who was vindictive to their children and neglected them prior to coming into care. They could continue this pattern of abuse by telling them they aren't allowed to be included in trips with their foster family either.

Is there anyone else I could take my concerns to?  I don't want to complicate things for ***the agency*** or myself. But if my concerns are valid, I would like to pursue a change in the rules. Please give me your thoughts on this.

I'm anxious to hear their reply. I'm so frustrated with "The System" it's all I can do to hang on and keep on doing this. It's so difficult when all I want to do is help children and families. I'm tired of being at the bottom of the totem pole. This is crazy!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

the super-awesome weekend was a success

We had fun! Oh did we have fun! It was a super-awesome weekend!!

It was wonderful to reconnect as just the five of us!! I enjoyed getting to play with my kids and not have to worry about "The System" watching my every move.

I know "they" aren't there all the time. But I usually do have that Big Brother sort of feeling. Especially if I do something I know they would frown on. Ya know, like let my 6yo go to the bathroom by himself or my 14yo take off to ride a ride alone. Voluntarily putting my family so close to a system that subscribes to rules I don't always agree with keeps things very interesting in my brain.

We are home now. I will go to pick up Pumpkin in about 5 hours. I'm going to relax now for a few. Feed some junk food for supper. Probably fry our brains on mindless television. Tuck my cherubs into bed and then go get Pumpkin. Lord willing I'll maintain this level of relaxation for another day or two. Despite all the hassle and stress it took to make this weekend happen, it was worth it all!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Super-awesome I come!!

CPS still has their head in the sand. My agency worker has emailed them. The supervisor at my agency has emailed a supervisor at CPS. Still no reply. Grrr.

I wasn't able to secure respite care until last night at 9:15PM. A wonderful family that is also licensed with our agency is taking Pumpkin for the weekend since we do not have permission to take her with us. They are going above and beyond to help us out as they are already very booked this weekend themselves. But, they've cared for Pumpkin briefly while we attended a training session so they know what it's like to have her around. And since she's unable to go with us, we ended up picking a destination that would be beyond Pumpkin's comfort zone anyway. (With temps in the upper 90s and potential rain, camping was nixed.) We're going to an amusement park! (Cheap tickets available through May 29th! Gotta love a bargain!)

I'm still quite upset with CPS over this whole mess. Again I say -- if the trip we want to take keeps us within our state's boundaries, lasts fewer than 72 hours and does not interfere with a family visit or doctor appointment, we shouldn't have to jump through hoops to be able to go. Pumpkin should be included. That's only fair to her. She's a part of our family right now and needs to be treated as such. She should not get dumped off every time we want to go somewhere.

I sent an email to CPS this morning giving them the details of respite care of Pumpkin. It went a little something like this:

This issue is something that I'm going to need to address before we get too far into summer vacation. It was my understanding that there weren't as many hoops to jump through if a trip was to be within the state of Texas for under 72 hours (making sure the trip doesn't conflict with scheduled family visits or doctor's appointments). Finding respite care for this weekend with such short notice was incredibly difficult. Especially since I tried to get permission for a family outing starting two weeks ago. It doesn't seem right to punish Pumpkin by making her stay with "strangers" when we want to include her in our family's activities. Isn't that one of the goals of successful fostering? To give the children as close to a normal life as possible with lots of positive experiences?

I haven't heard back. Don't think I will. I'm going to up the ante next week when we get back. CASA will be getting a phone call from me. I'm betting they'd like to know what reason CPS has to involve the bio mom in decisions like this one. I'm sure they'd much rather that Pumpkin stay in our home rather than go to respite. I hate turning into a nagging foster parent but I refuse to be held captive in my own home.

To clarify, I have no problem with using respite care.... when I truly need a break. Honestly, that's why I pushed so hard for it this week when CPS dug their heels in. It will be nice to get away and not have to consume myself with all the little rules that we have to follow all the time. I know that Pumpkin is safe and I'll get to reconnect with just my immediate family. (No diaper changes - yippee!!)

But for the most part, I want the simple freedom of being able to decide that we want to go somewhere without having to get permission from every Tom, Dick and Harry. Especially since giving mom the say in this trip is not part of our state's "minimum standards". (Notifying the State that we're leaving makes sense to me. Pumpkin is in the care of the State and that makes sense. But there is a difference between notifying the State where we will be and getting permission to take a short trip like this.)

My cherubs will be home from school in about 1/2 an hour. Mr. Amazing will be here around 4:30. We're taking off as soon as we can and I can't wait!

Have a great weekend y'all!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mom gets a say?!

On May 5th I asked our CPS worker for permission to bring Pumpkin on a camping trip with us May 20-22. Her worker said she would ask at court on the 11th. I seriously didn't think it would be an issue so I didn't worry.

Due to all the drama at court, the question didn't get asked. So, I posed it to our worker again last week.

Yesterday I finally got a response. She said that because everyone in court was concerned about Pumpkin's recent seizure activity, she needed a safety plan from me. I took this as an opportunity to further her knowledge about Pumpkin's condition. This was my response:

It is highly unlikely that Pumpkin will need emergency treatment for her seizures. With the additional drug of Clonazepam that has been prescribed for "break through" seizures, most everything can be managed at home. As it was explained to us by her doctor, Pumpkin is (most likely) never going to be seizure free. Her condition is life-long and will require close monitoring forever. The goal of her medical care is to control the number of seizures so that she can maintain as normal of a life as possible. But at our last appointment, it did not appear that it will be realistic to expect that Pumpkin's seizures can be completely eliminated. Per doctor's orders, we are not to take her to the hospital or doctor every time she has a seizure. As best as we can, we are figuring out the differences in her behaviors to determine what are actual "events" and what is just part of Pumpkin's baseline behaviors. The only time it is now truly necessary for Pumpkin to go to the doctor when she's seizing is if a seizure compromises her ability to breathe or if the Clonazepam is ineffective after two doses.

In the event that something became life threatening while we are away, there is a community hospital in ***** just outside the state park where we will be staying. (***** Community Hospital) Of course, we would seek emergency care immediately if it was necessary.

I truly thought this should do it. But, I began emailing our agency worker asking for assistance with respite care for this weekend. My boys are looking forward to this family time and I don't think it's fair to punish them because of "The System".

I just got a response from CPS this morning...
I spoke to Pumpkin's mother as she is not in agreement to allowing Pumpkin to travel and take part in the trip. Please seek respite care and provide me with the caretaker information.

What?! Now the mother gets a say in what I do on the weekend with her daughter?! I thought this mother lost custody. No visits were being compromised. I just needed permission to sleep in a tent. If I wanted to spend the entire day at a campground no one could do anything about it. I thought I was supposed to give Pumpkin as normal of a life as possible! I don't rank shoving a child into respite care "normal" at all!! Exactly why was the mother contacted on this?!

I'm so frustrated I can barely see straight. I'm not sure what to do. As a family, we were considering not going camping now after all as there is a chance of rain and highs in the upper 90s. I'm thinking I'm still going to push for respite anyway though. Maybe we'll go out with just "our" family to a hotel and do something together in air conditioning.

Is this how my entire summer is going to be? Every time I want to go overnight somewhere I have to get permission from the mom? Of course she's going to say "no". It's the only power she has in this entire situation. She's going to exert it every time.

Damn the system stinks!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A day...

6:20AM - Turned on the light in the hall to hopefully wake Pumpkin up in a gentle sort of way so maybe, just maybe she won't scream her head off at me.

6:30AM - Went into Pumpkin's room to get her dressed for school. Surprised to have her get out of bed without screaming. Unfortunately, I was also greeted with an exploded diaper full of diarrhea. Yippee. More sheets to wash.

6:45AM - Fed Pumpkin breakfast. She didn't eat. I encouraged it a little but certainly didn't force things. She took a few bites on her own. Questioned whether or not to send her to school but ultimately decided that the diarrhea is relatively normal for her anyway. As is the not eating.

7:15AM - Took off Pumpkin's bib. Dumped her cereal out in the sink. Turned around to see a mess of vomit all over the table.

7:16AM - Decided that Pumpkin is not going to school.

7:30AM - Put Pumpkin in the car with all the other cherubs. Gave her a bucket and hoped like crazy she'd know what to do with it if necessary.

7:47AM - Called pediatric rehab center to let them know that Pumpkin would not be in school today.

8:02AM - Sent an email to CPS asking if Pumpkin could be excused from her visit this evening.

Times get fuzzy from here on out so I'll just bullet point things...

*** Pumpkin played like normal most of the morning.

*** Talked with the SW from our agency. Went over court proceedings from yesterday. 

*** Got email back from CPS. Was told to take Pumpkin to the doctor. I responded that perhaps if Pumpkin isn't puking, she could just go to the visit then. CPS said that would be fine. (It's more than ridiculous to take a kid with a simple stomach virus to the doctor!!)

*** Tried to schedule an appointment with Pumpkin's neurologist. CPS wants mom to get some "training" from the doctor. They won't allow extended visits until this happens. CPS wants the appointment to happen Monday. The neurologist office just about laughed at me and said the best they can do is the already scheduled appointment for June 6.

*** Got an email back from CPS concerning my need to have a monitor at tomorrow's kindergarten graduation ceremony. I do not want to be there to keep an eye on Pumpkin's mom myself. I want to enjoy the ceremony with both kids -- Pumpkin and Bart. I was told that a CASA worker would be there. Whew!

11:30AM - Pumpkin stopped playing and simply sat in the living room. I checked on her a few times. She was just sitting there.

*** Over the next 1/2 hour I watched on and off. Her eyes fluttered a little. She seemed to be zoning out. But she also seemed to respond to me speaking. I couldn't tell if it was a seizure or not.

12:00PM - Pumpkin crawled up on the couch and fell asleep.

*** Spent the next hour strategizing with my sister about how to handle the potential seizure activity and the family visit tonight.
  • I have been giving medication to give to Pumpkin if she has break-through seizures.
  • I am NOT to take her to the doctor for every little seizure!!
  • Pumpkin will probably have seizures for the rest of her life. This is who Pumpkin is.
  • So...should she go to her visit or not?
  • In order for her to get out of it, I have to take her to the doctor.
  • But I'm not supposed to take her to the doctor for every seizure. Besides, I'm not sure she even had a seizure.
  • Decide that Pumpkin will go. Pumpkin's mom has to deal with the fact that Pumpkin is not a typical child. She is going to have days like this. The visit does not put her in a position where she is not safe. I'll bring a blanket and pillow in case Pumpkin wants to sleep. I'll bring a seizure education handout to give to the monitor so they can be aware of Pumpkin's situation. Seizures aren't contagious. And she's not puking. And her diapers are fine. This is what it's like to parent a special needs child.
  • Know that CPS is going to think I have lost my mind when I try to drop her off and explain why we didn't go to the doctor. Decided that CPS is just going to have to realize that they aren't going to be able to get Pumpkin "stable" and then send her back home. Monitoring Pumpkin for seizure activity is going to be a lifelong chore.
1:30PM - Pumpkin woke up from her nap.

1:40PM - I asked Pumpkin if she wanted to eat. I bent down to kiss her forehead. Damn. She's got a fever.

1:55PM - After getting all my things I need to take Pumpkin to the doctor, I do just that...cussing all the while that I have to. No normal kid should have to go to the doctor just because they have a fever. Aren't we supposed to treat foster kids like normal kids?! But...I don't want Pumpkin to have to go to the visit tonight if she's feverish. It's not fair to the couple dozen other kids there. They don't need to be exposed. So, off to the doctor we go.

2:00PM - Call CPS to tell them that Pumpkin is going to the doctor and that she won't be going to her visit tonight. Also discuss the neurologist appointment. CPS indicates that they'll just get a court order so we can be seen sooner than June 6. Oh joy. (There goes another 4 hours of my life. We'll be a walk-in patient and they don't move those through very quickly.)

2:10PM - Rejoice because the front desk help at Pumpkin's doctor is so awesome!! They were honest that the doctors were still out to lunch and would be behind on schedule. I politely asked if there's any way we could get in and out by 3:15PM when my cherubs get home from school. They said no. From there though, they offered to give me a same-day appointment for later this afternoon. (Something they don't usually do!) They also said that they'd have Pumpkin's chart pulled and we'd get in and out quickly when we come back.

3:15PM - Finish typing up this ridiculously long blog post that says almost nothing.

I will spend the next hour or so praying that the doctor we see really does use her head and that Pumpkin does not need to be hospitalized. Because she doesn't! (But, some people like to overreact.) Hopefully we will be in and out quick enough. I'm so damn tired of the doctor's office.

Thank goodness Pizza Hut was already on the menu tonight. Too bad I'm out of margaritas.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I still haven't seen the judge

Court was at 9:30AM today. That meant I was supposed to show up no later than 9:00AM so that I would have a chance to meet with all the lawyers. (Pumpkin can't talk so they all have to meet with me.)

Pumpkin's mom came on time. (Good!) I'm sure she was nervous. I personally am always a little out of sorts when at court. Pumpkin got off my lap and went over to her mom while we waited. Once all the lawyers started talking to me, Pumpkin's mom got upset. She didn't like it when I explained that Pumpkin does not let me know about her wants and needs. That she doesn't ask to eat. Or to get a drink. Or let me know if she's got a messy diaper. She jumped in to the conversation to say that when Pumpkin was at home she could do all of those things.

Well, we kept on talking and didn't give any attention to Pumpkin's mom (the lawyers totally blew her off!). She got up and walked Pumpkin over to the vending machines. I really have no idea if she was buying candy or not for Pumpkin. It's not how I would have handled things (buying lots of candy that is). But when I'm in a room with tons of lawyers and social workers -- I know that I'm at the absolute bottom of the totem pole! So, I didn't say anything.

Well, one of Pumpkin's lawyers didn't like it and told Pumpkin's mom to not give her any more junk food. I didn't hear the conversation. But the next thing I knew, Pumpkin was crying.

This is where it got weird. Pumpkin's mom didn't move her away from the vending machines. She just stood there in front of them and told Pumpkin she couldn't have the cookies. This made Pumpkin freak out. Then, and only then, did Pumpkin's mom move her over to a chair.

During all the waiting time, the lawyers kept questioning me about Pumpkin. They had initially been planning on moving towards unsupervised weekend visits. However, as I explained what happened less than two weeks ago in the ER when Pumpkin had a day full of seizures, they decided that weekend visits weren't a good idea. Pumpkin is in care for several different reasons -- one of which is medical neglect.

Of course, Pumpkin's mom's lawyer (say that three times fast LOL) thought weekend visits were still OK. And I think even CPS did too. But Pumpkin's AL, GAL and CASA workers all thought otherwise. They were willing to compromise and said that extended unsupervised visits on a Saturday (from 9AM to 6PM) would be OK.

Well, when they finally got around to calling the case, I didn't get to go in. Pumpkin was still screaming her fool head off so I got to stay out in the waiting area with her.

Court went fast. The judge made no changes to the case. Mom still only gets two supervised visits a week. She is court ordered to attend Pumpkin's next appointment with the neurologist so she can become educated about Pumpkin's condition.

I spoke quickly with the CASA workers right after they let everyone out of court. Pumpkin wouldn't stop screaming so I left without talking to anyone else.

Pumpkin seems emotionally drained. I didn't take her back to school. Strong emotions can trigger seizures and I want to be the one monitoring her. It will be good for her to have some down time I believe. She may not have understood anything that happened this morning. But I'm sure she sensed the anxiety from her mother and was aware enough that we were completely out of routine today.

The rest of the week should be interesting. Pumpkin has a visit tomorrow. I'm sure Pumpkin's mom blames me for not getting overnight visits. But...that's her problem, not mine. And there's kindergarten graduation on Friday at school. I doubt that Pumpkin will cooperate with the program. But, she's supposed to be included. I've already sent an email to CPS telling them that someone has to come along with Pumpkin's mom if she's going to be there. I will not monitor the situation by myself.

For now, I'm going to try and get caught up with my work. I'm finally healthy enough to function in an upright position today. Though, I think I'd like to join Pumpkin in a nap. Unfortunately, my other cherubs that are home sick today are too noisy. it is.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Court tomorrow

The kids we did respite for brought the stomach flu to our home. I have spent the last four days dealing with sick people. (The carpet cleaner is still out on the floor in Bart and TT's room. Shhhh....don't tell CPS that it's not locked up.) Both Mr. Amazing and I went down for the count at the same time Sunday night. Not good I tell you. Not good at all.

Providing Pumpkin doesn't succumb to the bug tonight, we will be at court tomorrow morning. It should be interesting. I have yet to actually get to attend court since we became licensed down here. With our first girls, we were to attend...but while waiting outside the courtroom for their case to be called, the abuser showed up (in his orange jumpsuit no less). The lawyers shuffled us back to a conference room where I simply waited (and waited and waited) with the girls until the case was handled. Their second court date got pushed back a few hours so the judge excused the girls after we waited for over an hour in the foyer of the courthouse.

With Pumpkin she has been excused because of her seizures. Silly reason really. She's never had any issues on court days. But, the judge wants to meet her now so we'll show up.

I'm praying that wisdom will prevail tomorrow!!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day with 6 kids

I birthed the 14 year old, Herman. He's mad at me right now. I wouldn't let him go to the skate rink last night with his friends. He's been tired, belligerent and all around obnoxious lately. He's such a teenager!! But oh, how I love that kid!

I adopted the 7 year old, TT. He's intelligent, thoughtful, and a wonderful part of our family that I can't imagine being without. Oh how I love that kid!

The 6 year old, Bart, came from me. He's the happiest person I've ever met (except when he's ticked off -- then...oh then...he's nasty). But 99% of the time he just bubbles over with a contagious excitement that makes me smile. Oh how I love that kid!

The 5 year old girl, Pumpkin,  has been living with me since January 2nd. I've had to learn to love her. And it hasn't been easy. She's severely mentally retarded and it's difficult to make a connection with a kid that can't communicate. But, she's found a place in my heart. And I do love that kid.

The 5 year old boy, Cashew, came into my home Friday night. He's leaving this afternoon so this is just a small stamp on my life's story. He doesn't speak English. Yesterday, he got sick and puked all over everything. That's quite an experience to stretch my mothering skills. I had to go across the street to get a neighbor to translate so that the little guy would understand why I wasn't going to feed him a full supper. The last thing I wanted was this poor dear to think was that I was refusing him food because I wanted to hurt him. I'm not sure he understood but I did the best I could. And when he asked me if I loved him at bedtime last night, I answered yes.

The 2 year old has been in my home for respite before. He's easy to care for and is generally just a happy little Peanut. He's fun to have around and I love that kid.

My house is a mess. I've got laundry everywhere. My playroom looks like a toy store puked. I'm going to chase kids all day and not worry about it too much. Maybe I'll clean this week. Maybe I won't. The next few days are filled with foster parent training, court, and kindergarten graduation.

Most of the time I don't feel equipped for this adventure. I argue with God that I'm done. That I don't have the energy to take care of all these extra kids. Then I get convicted. If not me? Who??? The need is so great and I just love how it's molding my own kids too. We are all learning compassion and patience. I'm learning to lighten up on the little things. And it's OK if I bribe my youngest cherubs with money so they will clean the playroom that Cashew completely trashed out.

Happy Mother's Day!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Language barriers

I said "yes" to doing respite care again this weekend. (Two boys. One is a 2yo, Peanut, that we have cared for before. The other is his 5yo brother, Cashew.)

Deep down, I had a pretty good idea that Cashew wouldn't speak English. (Last time when Peanut's older sister came with him, she spoke very limited English. Peanut spoke both when he was here last time - but he's just barely two so there wasn't a whole lot of language overall.) I knew if I asked the family though, they would probably tell me that English wouldn't be a problem.

Since this is going to be a quick stay, I figured we'd just muddle through. (Dagnabit! I wish I would have taken Spanish in high school instead of French. My sign language vocabulary isn't much help either.) If I absolutely have to understand something from him, there are plenty in our neighborhood that can translate. And, generally, once kids hit school down here they learn enough English that they can understand it -- just not necessarily speak it.

Well, this little guy wants to talk. He keeps saying lots and lots of things. And Cashew's English skills are almost non-existent. However, I can tell that he understands a lot of what I'm saying to him.

He's been here for just 2.5 hours. (Oh yeah. He was supposed to come this afternoon. But, for reasons I'll never understand, his foster family didn't call or let us know. They just didn't show up until nearly 8PM.) I let him have a little bit of transition time. (But honestly -- no five year old needs to stay up until 9:00PM...the bedtime his foster family says he keeps). I didn't want to throw him in bed too early so we played for a bit, then he got in his jammies. (They didn't pack pajamas or toothbrushes AGAIN!! Thankfully I kept the PJs I bought for Peanut last time and Cashew could fit in my son's. I keep a stash of toothbrushes on hand too.)

I tucked Cashew in just shy of 9:00PM. Then I held Peanut until he fell asleep in my arms. He was quite upset and cried himself to sleep. Personally, I think he was just trying to tell me that foster care really sucks and respite sucks even more.

Cashew isn't asleep yet. I went in to check on him. Of course, there wasn't much of a conversation as I couldn't understand a thing the poor dear was trying to tell me. However, as I was leaving the room he held out his arms and said, "hug?" Of course I turned around to give him a goodnight hug. He then said, "I love you."

Of course I'd like to think that this is a good thing. That he feels safe in our house. But I know better than that. (If I had time I'd write a huge post about trauma and attachment issues to insert here. But let's just say no kid should so comfortably tell a stranger that they love them within minutes of meeting them.)

Dammit. Foster care sucks!

Slapping myself on the forehead and saying "DUH"

I read several different blogs that address adoption and attachment issues. And while I think it's important to point out that my adopted child is fully attached and did not come from a background of trauma -- it's evident he is always going to have "adoption issues".

By reading these blogs, it helps me stay aware of trigger issues. It can also help me understand "wonky" behavior.

For example, my middlest cherub had been acting wonky for awhile. Really wonky! He had been stealing things (toys from a friend, an autographed football of his dad's, his brother's iPod, etc.) in a bizarre sort of way. Every single time he got caught. In fact, it looked like he wanted to get caught. I knew there was more to this than met the eye.

I gave him lots of opportunities to talk about things. And, after a particularly difficult session, I thought we got to the root of the problem. Deep, deep, deep, deep down he was dealing with shame issues.

Many adopted kids feel extreme levels of shame. They internalize the abandonment feelings and then they twist things around. They begin to think that they are bad kids. This isn't a simple feeling. These children feel like they are BAD. (Not that they made a bad choice. Or a bad decision. But that they themselves are bad people.) This is especially true with children that have suffered serious trauma. And although my son was never abused or hurt in any way -- he joined our family at birth -- he will forever have to process the abandonment issue of being adopted. It will never go away.

Some children, as I've learned, manifest these feelings of shame by making poor choices. That way, they can "prove to the world" that indeed, they are bad. It's almost like they are saying, "Look what I did. I must be bad because I did these things."

Well, back to Cherub 2....

We processed. We cried. I reminded him yet again that he is not a bad kid. I gave him permission to talk about his first family any time he wants. I told him that even though he doesn't remember them...he can still miss them. I gave him permission to have these feelings. I told him that he doesn't have to worry about hurting my feelings if he wants to talk about his biological mom.

I thought we had made it through this hurdle. Things seemed to sail pretty good for a few weeks.

But things have gotten wonky again. This time he's lying. Strange lies. Big lies. Wonky lies. And when we confront him with the inaccuracies of his stories, we fesses us immediately. So again, it's like he wants to get caught.

I knew it was adoption issues. I just knew it. But I couldn't figure out the trigger that should have been smacking me in the face.

It's Mother's Day.


So, I just grabbed my little guy after school and took him in to our "big feeling room". (The guest room where we go to talk about the heavy stuff.) I told him that I had finally figured out why things had been so wonky lately. He looked up at me with hope in his eyes. He really wanted to know why too.

When I told him he seemed so relieved. It was like a huge weight had been lifted. He cried. We processed. I gave him permission again to talk about his first family any time he needs to. I told him it's OK to have feelings where he wishes he could have stayed with his first mom AND feelings of being happy that he's in our family. I reminded him that having both of these feelings all at the same time is really hard, but it's part of who he is. We can't go back and change the fact that he was adopted so these feelings will never go away. He's just going to have to learn the best ways to handle them. And, because of his age, we're simply in the stage of making him aware of his own triggers.

I'm sure it's been hard for him at school this past week. I can't believe I didn't make the connection earlier. I feel like such a doofus! He's been working on his Mother's Day present all week at school. So even though we haven't talked about it much at all at home, he was constantly being reminded of his unique situation every single day. (The poor kid!)

He already looks like a totally different kid. It's amazing how anxiety and stress can affect even the youngest of kids. He was so proud to give me his Mother's Day gift. I've now got an awesome pencil holder on my desk. And I'll wear the flower pin the very next time I'm in something other than a grubby t-shirt.

Happy Mother's Day to all you awesome moms out there!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

More minimum standard issues

I've got about three different posts rolling through my brain. I can't seem to stay focused long enough though to make a single blog post that doesn't ramble on and on. So, while I try to sort through my own thoughts, I figured I'd ask a question...what kinds of minimum standards do YOU have to deal with? I don't mean the ones that make sense (like providing enough clothes or keeping a clean house). But I'm curious about the odd ones or the ones that make things more challenging to maintain a "normal" family. (Locking up the dishwasher detergent. And no, I don't mean putting a child lock on your cabinet. I mean keeping the dishwasher detergent under lock and key.)

Our state is in the middle of a lawsuit now. To make a very long story short, some kids got hurt in foster care. Horrible horrible horrible stuff that never should have happened did. Our state is responding by adding mandatory trainings for all foster families.

I found out TODAY that my husband and I have to attend nine hours (five separate classes) of training over the next three weeks. Most of them are being offered twice. The discipline class is being offered three times. It's going to be a bit difficult to coordinate this into my already packed schedule! I don't have a problem with mandatory trainings. Honest. I don't. However, I do have a serious problem with being told I have to drop absolutely everything with little time to plan so I can attend five different training sessions in such a sort amount of time.

I learned today that there are still a few places in our home that don't meet minimum standards. I find this interesting as I've had TONS of social workers in my home. I've even been under investigation once and had a walk-through from a licensing worker. Nevertheless, I dropped $100 on two more lock boxes so I can lock up even more things. <<sigh>>

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A foster mom's thoughts on Mother's Day

Everyone is working towards reunification for Pumpkin. Pumpkin's mom is working all the parts of her case plan. It is obvious that Pumpkin loves her mommy very much. It seems obvious to me the Pumpkin's mom loves Pumpkin very much.

Mother's Day becomes a sticky subject when you're a foster family.

Pumpkin cannot acknowledge this day on her own. So, it's up to me. And let's just say picking out a card for Pumpkin to give her mom was no easy feat. It's not exactly like she could be nominated for Mother of the Year or anything. I'm not trying to be mean, but I didn't feel right buying a card that spoke of all the things the child and mom do together. Or one that went on and on about how wonderful of a mom she is. Let's face it, when a mom loses custody of a child – it's a pretty big deal and there isn't a card out there thanking mom for showing up to all the visits.

After a lot of searching I found a simple card that says, "LOVE" on the front. On the inside it says, "one word says it all. happy mother's day." I'm going to let Pumpkin scribble on it and then she can give it to her mom at their visit tomorrow. It seems like the right thing to do.

I'm stuck though with a school project. I'd love to hear how you would handle this.

Pumpkin's teacher sent home a sheet of paper that is requesting a picture of her mom at the top. Then there are several things to fill out:
Name of Mom
Mom's Job
Mom's Favorite Food
Mom's Favorite Color
Mom's Favorite Thing to do for Fun

If Pumpkin could communicate, I would simply have her give me these answers and, whether the answers were right or wrong, the focus would stay on her bio-mom for this project. I would turn it back in to the school without a photo and they could go from there with it.

But Pumpkin can't communicate. She can't answer questions. And I don't have the ability to give this sheet to Pumpkin's mom for her to fill it out herself. Pumpkin missed her family visit on Monday because of the seizure issues and the reaction to her medication.

So, should I avoid the project all together? Let's face it, I'm NOT Pumpkin's mom. They are working towards reunification. It's not my place to force myself into this role on the holiday. Besides, Pumpkin doesn't know the difference so I can't ask her preference.

Or, should I go ahead and fill it out for myself? Pumpkin will do whatever is being done with the project and the end result will come back to me?

There is a dance to be done balancing the fact that Pumpkin is a part of our family. I am "Mamma L***" to Pumpkin. I don't encourage her to call me Mommy at all. But right now she has two moms. The one that gave birth to her and the one that is doing all the day to day mommy-ing. Of course, if Pumpkin could communicate I would let her direct how she wanted to handle these relationships and how she wanted to acknowledge Mother's Day. But she can't. I'm curious to do you handle Mother's Day and Father's Day as a foster family?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Med changes for Pumpkin

Mr. Amazing spent a large portion of Sunday camped out on the couch watching sports on TV. All of Pumpkin's toys are in the living room so he got to spend most of the day with her close by. I'm glad for this because he was able to observe numerous seizures all day long.

They were short! Oh so short! I never saw a single one myself. He said she'd be sitting on the floor playing and she'd just crumple forward and face plant in the carpet. She'd stay like that for just a second or two and then pop back up. He said that she seemed a little disoriented afterward but for the most part, her day was incredibly typical. She played, walked around (though her balance was off more than normal) and ate like normal. But when these episodes picked up in the afternoon – and they happened while standing up – it became more obvious that they were seizures and not just bizarre behavior.

Pumpkin has been diagnosed with psychomotor disturbance. Her neurologist added this diagnosis after I described how jerky her motions are and how she will seem to twitch for no obvious reason. It's because of this that I have a hard time determining whether or not bizarre behavior is "normal" for Pumpkin or if she's having an actual seizure episode.

We went to the ER on Sunday afternoon. The heavens opened and God Himself shined down because we were in and out in less then two hours. They gave her a crushed up pill of something called Ativan to help "reset" her brain and stop the seizures. Then they sent us home.

Ativan is supposed to be a sedative but it had the opposite effect on Pumpkin. She was in bed at 7:45PM and was still awake at 10:45PM. Needless to say she was not a happy camper when I had to wake her Monday morning to take the other cherubs to school and then to go to the follow up appointment with her neurologist. There we had a two hour wait for our appointment. (sigh -- such is life where we live)

It seems that many children become quite agitated after receiving a dose of Ativan. Pumpkin was not an exception. After about an hour of waiting Monday morning, Pumpkin started crying for no reason at all. This is quite abnormal for her because Pumpkin can sit and do nothing for hours at the doctors office. I've given up bringing things to entertain her because she shows no interest. She usually has no problem waiting for extended periods of time. However, she cried yesterday. A lot! All day. A lot!! And did I mention?...all day.

Her neurologist added another anti-seizure med to what she's currently on. I'm a little scared of this one. Even the doctor warned me that we could see changes in her behavior and mood. When I used my Google Degree to learn more after I got home, it seems that many children become agitated, depressed or have other changes in their mental health status. Hopefully this won't manifest itself by increased amounts of crying or fits. I'm not sure I could handle much of that. Sometimes the only reason I feel like I can manage this placement is because Pumpkin is generally quite mellow and easy going. If she starts freaking out all the time....

I don't want to think like that.

Pumpkin's neurologist also gave us a script to have on hand in case Pumpkin has "break through" seizures again. I'm grateful for this. I don't like going to the ER for every little thing. And, thankfully, he gave us something other than Ativan.

Pumpkin stayed home from school yesterday and today. And tomorrow, when she goes back in, I'm going to have to grow a bit of a backbone and INSIST on better daily log reports from her teacher/aides. With this new drug being added, she may be more tired, disoriented, dizzy, agitated, depressed, etc. I can't do a thorough assessment of her reaction in the few short hours before and after school. And if she doesn't tolerate the meds well, I have to know sooner than later.

With all the drama, I had to say "no" to another placement request yesterday. An 8 year old boy was being moved out of his foster home because the current foster mom thinks she has too many kids to handle his behaviors so she gave her 30 day notice (but they wanted him moved immediately). My heart broke when I heard his story. He and this 3 siblings entered care in January because his mom was using drugs. Then, sometime in February his mom died in a car accident. Think maybe he'd have some problems dealing with that level of trauma?!

But with the amount of time that Pumpkin takes, I didn't think it'd be fair to bring another one into our family if I couldn't devote enough energy to him and his "behaviors". My middlest cherub is also having a challenging time with life in general right now. Bringing in another boy just a year older than him would have probably sent his anxiety into a tailspin.

I hate saying no. It's so hard when my heart breaks for all the children in state care. My list of specific kids to pray for keeps growing and growing.