Friday, July 29, 2011

The big, ugly cry that DIDN'T happen

I've been preparing myself all week for dropping my cherubs off at respite today.

Initially I was just sure that the family taking Pumpkin was only doing it for the paycheck. And since the family taking Dolly and Dude had to change last minute, I knew nothing except that the new one is recently verified and had not had a placement yet (only respite kids).

I met the mom at Pumpkin's home. She had nice things to say and asked good questions. Pumpkin handles transitions fine so that was not a problem at all. And, after meeting the mom, I am sure Pumpkin will get the kind of care she needs. All is well. (Whew! Thank goodness my initial reaction was wrong!!)

I was most worried about dropping off Dolly and Dude. The kids and I (especially Dolly) had talked about it some starting Wednesday. I got out the suitcases and put a few outfits in each one. As I finished packing clothes yesterday Dolly and I chatted for quite awhile. I kept it very simple and just said that she was going to have to stay at a different house for a few days. I told her over and over that we would come back!! I reassured her that Dude was going too and they would get to stay together. But since Dolly and Dude get so upset at day care, I figured they would both go nuts when I had to drop them off with their clothes at a new house.

Thank God I was wrong!!

In fact, I felt the presence of God in the home. The mom was kind and compassionate. Dolly and Dude didn't even get stressed out. They didn't cry at all.

It helped that Dolly had her favorite toys (her dolls and baby stroller). And I gave them some special books after we got to the respite home today. Mr. Amazing and I recorded our voices on these neat books I found at the bookstore. Dolly and Dude will be able to carry their books around and open them up whenever they want to hear our voices. We told them how much we will miss them, that we love them and that we are coming back. They latched on to the books right away.

I had a calm about myself when I drove away. I was sure that I was going to do a big, ugly cry complete with multiple tissues and lots of snot. (I know...gross! But I was just sure it was going to be painful.) The calm I felt was a pleasant surprise.

After dropping off all the cherubs I needed to pop in to our agency to drop off some paperwork. It felt good to be reassured that everyone there will keep an eye on my cherubs. My worker told me I could call as much as I want to check on them.

I'm going to miss them like crazy! (Especially Dolly and Dude!) But I can tell I'm not being saddled with unnecessary Mother Guilt.

God is good. I love it when prayers get answered so clearly like this!!

Vacation...here I come!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nicknames

We tend to be quite silly at our house. Nicknames abound! Everybody ends up with one. We went with a theme for our oldest son's friends. One of them is Reeeeeeky, one is Smelly Cat and one is Fish Head. (Teenagers smell bad LOL!) Pumpkin is also known as Princess Pickle. And of course all of our other children have various (multiple) nicknames as well. In the end, if you actually get called by your own name you had better pay attention.

Dude and Dolly have been fascinated with this. They will repeat all the nicknames and the person they belong to. They were particularly interested in Bart's nickname PeeWee. Over and over they would say, "Bart...PeeWee"...and then laugh.

I should have known.

I really should have known.

The other day, as Dude was getting dressed he grabbed hold of himself, said "PeeWee" and then cracked up.

I really should have known.

So, in my best instructional voice I tried to educate him that his parts are called his penis.

PeeWee is just a nickname.

Now Dude will look at me and say, "Bart = PeeWee. Dude = Penis."

I can't do anything but laugh.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What will happen next?

As far as I know, Pumpkin's mom has done everything she's supposed to since Pumpkin was removed.

Until this morning.

Pumpkin had an appointment with her neurologist today. Our CPS worker (let's call her Amy) arrived on time in order to monitor the "visit". (I won't be alone with Mom in public. It's too much of a liability for me.) Mom was supposed to be there. Part of the reason Pumpkin is in care is because of medical neglect. (Mom had taken her off of her epilepsy medication.)

Mom didn't show up this morning.

At our last court hearing, Mom was not allowed unsupervised visits because nothing had been done to ensure that Mom truly understood how to take care of Pumpkin's medical needs. To satisfy the courts, Mom was to begin attending Pumpkin's neurological appointments. (Personally, I think Mom should have to attend ALL of Pumpkin's medical appointments. But what do I know?!)

Mom "forgot" about the first appointment Pumpkin had after court. However, the Amy called her the morning of and Mom managed to show up before we were called back to see the doctor. As far as this morning was concerned, Amy said that she had spoken with Mom last Monday during their family visit. She told Mom to "write it down" because she wasn't going to call and remind her.

As we were sitting in the exam room waiting, I asked Amy if she knew the date of Pumpkin's next court hearing. We made some small talk because she didn't know the exact date and had left her planner at work. Then I asked if she was going to ask for unsupervised visits? She shuffled a bit so I said, "It's complicated now because of this, isn't it." Without her saying anything it became apparent that Pumpkin's mom just made a pretty big mistake!! Amy isn't going to be able to say with confidence that she trusts Mom to take care of Pumpkin's medical needs.

I sure wish I had a crystal ball so I could see what is going to happen next. Caring for a child like Pumpkin is very challenging!! I'm getting increasingly frustrated with her wonky behaviors. Six children is hard enough. When one of them has special needs it can be overwhelming.

I'm hoping that our upcoming vacation will help me recharge. School starts only five days after we get back. I'm counting on the routine of school to make a difference as well. I don't want to give up yet. But I sure wish I knew what was going to happen next.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Only five

The judge didn't give us permission to take Dolly and Dude on vacation. They have to go to a respite home instead. I'm sad for them.

I spoke with the respite provider for Pumpkin. (She's going to a different home and won't be with Dude and Dolly.) I'm not too thrilled. They own a day care and are very busy with all sorts of summer activities. They aren't going to include Pumpkin in their comings and goings – she will be spending the entire time in their day care center (going first thing in the morning and coming home around 8:00PM or later). The up side to that is it is less likely she will be parked in front of a TV all day. (I can hope can't I?!)

Despite all the respite drama, I'm still looking forward to our vacation!!! We will have a chance to bond once again as a tight family unit. The children will have a blast at Cousins Camp and Mr. Amazing and I will get some time ALONE!! I won't have to lock up any medicine. I won't have to change any diapers. I won't have to wipe any noses. And everyone around me will speak English for a change.

Only one more absolutely crazy, insane, off the charts, I can't believe I choose this as my life...kind of a week ahead until we leave.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

They're clueless

This morning I drove everyone over to meet the family that will be doing respite for our littlest cherubs (in the event the judge does not allow them to go on vacation with us).

The dad is retired and will be staying at home with the kids. I didn't get to meet the mom but I'm sure she's a terrific lady. They have a lovely home and the three kids who are there on respite right now seemed comfortable and settled in.

However, they are a brand new foster family. They've never had a placement. The dad is very "pie in the sky".

____

I got back home and needed to talk to our agency worker about some other issues. While on the phone she asked me what I thought of the respite family.

I laughed and told her it's obvious they are brand new. They have no idea what they're getting themselves in to.

My worker laughed and said, "Well...don't tell them!"

____

And that is why I do love my agency worker. At least she's real!

Quote

Why in the hell doesn't their mom want to see her kids?!

~ Cherub 2 upon learning that Dolly & Dude's mom didn't show up yet again

And no...I'm not exactly thrilled with the language. But I do share in his frustration!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More vacation drama

Dude and Dolly were supposed to have a visit today.

No one knows where Mom is. She didn't show.

I can't begin to describe how I feel.

The closest thing I can think of to describe it is physically ill.

Their CPS worker just happened to be in the office as we were there waiting for the visit. I very politely begged her to let us take the children with us on vacation. She beat around the bush telling me that she just got the case. The judge already said no. And other worthless excuses.

But I could tell she was warming up to the idea, so I didn't back down. She admitted that she has to go in front of a judge tomorrow to get paperwork signed allowing Dolly to have the dental surgery that she needs. I begged her to ask the judge again.

As we left the CPS office I called our agency. Our worker there said that she would write a letter for CPS to present to the judge. She recommended that I write one as well.

I'm praying tomorrow that the best interests of the children will be taken into consideration. This is what I sent:

_________

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

To Whom It May Concern:

My husband and I are requesting that our two foster children, Dude and Dolly, be allowed to go on vacation with us starting July 30, 2011. We will be driving from our home in E***, Texas to visit our families in Iowa. We will be returning to E*** on August 17, 2011.

The bulk of our time will be spent staying at my parents’ home in P***C***, Iowa. My parents have already passed their FBI fingerprint screenings and full background checks. The first five days after we arrive the children will be participating in Cousins Camp. All of the cousins on my side of the family will be coming to Grandma & Grandpa’s for a full camp experience that includes activities like swimming, a trip to the zoo, picnics, art projects, cooking, and more.

On the 10th of August we will be driving to C***R***, Iowa to visit my husband’s family. We will be staying in a hotel for two nights. We will be visiting with family and attending the party for my brother-in-law who is returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan at that time.

On August 16th our entire family will be attending the Iowa State Fair. The next day we will leave for Texas.

We fully support family reunification for Dude and Dolly. That’s why when our request for the children to go on vacation with us was originally turned down, we understood. However, their mother has not been making attempts to see the children since they entered care. The only contact they had was when Mom attended court on July 11. She has not been in contact with the CPS worker. She has also missed all of the scheduled visits.

Dude and Dolly are very young. They have a limited understanding of what has happened to them. They have bonded with us as a family though. They are familiar with our expectations and routines. So while they will miss out on any opportunities to see their mother while they are away with us, we feel it is in their best interests to stay with what is familiar instead of being placed in respite with strangers.

We will do whatever it takes to assure the court of our return. We continue to support family reunification. If you have any questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact me directly. I thank you for your consideration!

Cherub Mamma
###.###.####

Monday, July 18, 2011

In preparation for respite care

This is a really long post! I'm putting it out there to solicit your opinion.

Our agency is having somewhat of a difficult time finding respite care for Pumpkin. She has severe mental retardation and epilepsy so not just any family can "handle" her. In my attempt to make things easier, I've written out a long explanation of a typical day for Pumpkin. I'm hoping that our agency could forward it to someone considering watching Pumpkin. It might alleviate their fears to see what caring for Pumpkin looks like. Otherwise, this will be what I attach to the respite care forms. They give us three whole lines to spell out a normal day's routine. I'm going to need a little more room than that.

What I'd like to know is...
If YOU were doing respite for Pumpkin, does this answer all of your questions? Is there anything else you'd like to know? I don't want to write a book. But I do want to hit all the major high points. Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated.

Thank you!!!

__________



Caring for Pumpkin is much like caring for an infant. She can do very little on her own. A typical day for Pumpkin looks something like this. It is important to note though that Pumpkin handles transition well and doesn’t get upset if her schedule changes. She will need lots of physical prompting though (i.e.: taking her by the hand when you need her to go somewhere specific) as she won’t be familiar with your home or routines.

Pumpkin wakes somewhere around 7:00AM. In general she just lies in bed until someone comes in to get her. She will not purposely try to get anyone’s attention when she wakes up.

Diaper change, get her dressed, put on her braces and glasses.

When putting on the braces, be sure to make them snug. Not too loose or too tight. It is a fine balance between the two. However, they do need to be snug enough that her feet can’t wiggle inside them. Too much movement will cause bruising that becomes painful for Pumpkin. Too tight causes the same problem. When you take her braces off check every time for new red spots or bruises. Any mark that doesn’t go away after 20-30 minutes means that the braces were not put on her correctly. If that happens, depending on her level of discomfort, simply remove the braces until she heals.

Pumpkin prefers cereal for breakfast. I have fed her eggs before but she tends to refuse them more often than she eats them. She isn’t too picky on her cereal preferences. She will need her medication at this time. When finished, she needs to have her teeth brushed. She is pretty compliant with the process but might need physical prompting in order to actually spit in the sink as opposed to all over the counter. (I push her head forward so that she’s over the sink.)

Pumpkin will play with her toys all morning. She doesn’t require much to keep herself entertained. The other day she literally sat on the couch for nearly three hours holding her birthday balloon bouquet. She does best with infant/toddler toys. I stay away from toys that make noise (battery operated). Pumpkin has some autistic tendencies and will simply push a button over and over (and over and over and over) doing nothing more than making sounds. She does well with small puzzles, stacking toys, Duplos, blocks, etc.

Pumpkin does not let you know when she is wet or soiled. She generally uses 4-5 diapers a day. It depends on how much she drinks really. She does not have a bowel movement every single day.

In general, Pumpkin does not let you know when she is hungry or thirsty. At best she might walk into the kitchen. She usually eats lunch sometime between 11:00 and 12:00.

Pumpkin isn’t a particularly picky eater but she does often need verbal prompting in order to eat. Even with food that she likes we will observe her sitting at the table and doing nothing for a long period of time instead of eating. It can take her 1.5-2 hours to eat a meal if left completely on her own (no prompting). To work around this we do give her verbal prompts like, “Pumpkin, take a bite.” We will also put a timer in front of her and set it for 30-45 minutes (depending on what is being served and how much time is available for the meal). Pumpkin is learning that when a timer is in front of her she has to eat or else her food will be taken away. She will not starve herself! There are meals in which she eats very little. We have also found that Pumpkin can be overwhelmed when others are at the table with her. She often eats best after the rest of the family has finished and has left the room.

Pumpkin plays with toys in the afternoon. We do limit her TV watching because she was so addicted to TV when she came into care. Also, she does a very good job of entertaining herself without the TV. However, if you are inclined, she does enjoy Sponge Bob (it’s her absolute favorite!). She also likes Dora and the Disney Channel. In general, we limit her TV time to less than 1 hour a day.

Pumpkin doesn’t usually snack much in the afternoon. It really depends on how much she ate for lunch and what time supper is being planned. Pumpkin particularly likes yogurt and often has that for a snack. She also likes Goldfish, applesauce, quesadillas and other snack foods.

Supper is usually around 5:30PM.

Pumpkin plays for a little bit and then we do the bedtime routine. She takes her meds. She gets her teeth brushed. She takes a bath (usually every other day for this depending on how messy the diapers have been). Pumpkin needs full assistance during her bath, as she cannot perform any level of self-care. I recommend that her hair be braided before she goes to bed. If not her hair tangles quite tightly in her sleep and it is difficult to manage the next morning. Pumpkin does not need to wear her braces in bed.

Bedtime is between 7:30 and 8:30PM. Again though, Pumpkin is really flexible with things like this and can handle just about any routine. She doesn’t seem to get cranky if kept up late. She may just take it upon herself to nap the next day if she’s tired.

Identifying Pumpkin’s seizure behaviors:
For the most part, Pumpkin’s actual seizures are obvious. It’s taken a long time to figure this out and I’m still not 100% sure we catch all her seizures. But there appears to be a difference between what is part of her “psychomotor disturbance” condition (in which she randomly twitches and shakes) and her seizures. During an actual seizure she will fall to the floor and shake. This can last anywhere from 10-20 seconds to longer than 5 minutes. Most of the time though, her seizures are very, very short. After a short one she will often call out for “Mommy”. This is actually how we identify the difference between a seizure and her “normal” shaking behavior.

Any seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes needs to be treated at home with the drug Klonopin. Simply put one of the quick dissolving tabs in Pumpkin’s mouth. It should stop the seizure within a minute or two. If after 5 minutes it hasn’t stopped the seizure, give her another tablet. If that still doesn’t work, go to the ER. (We have only needed to use the Klonopin once and it worked right away!)

Call 911 if any seizure appears to be causing problems with her breathing. As long as we’ve been caring for Pumpkin, this has never been an issue! However, during a bigger seizure she will seem to lose the ability to swallow and she will drool a lot. (This has only happened twice.)

We have also observed seizures in which she seemed to stop and somewhat crumple forward. For example, she was in our living room standing up. She stopped what she was doing and put her face down on the arm of the couch. About 5-10 seconds later she popped back up again but appeared to be somewhat disoriented. The day she did this she had nearly 2 dozen seizures.

Pumpkin’s medication has been increased since the day she had seizures like this. However, if Pumpkin was to have several seizures in a row, she can be treated with the drug Klonopin. This is more complicated to explain because the short seizures aren’t causing additional brain damage. The seizures in and of themselves aren’t dangerous. You have to determine if the seizure behavior is difficult for Pumpkin to deal with or not. If she simply has 1 or 2 in the morning and then 1 or 2 in the afternoon, she doesn’t really need the drug. However, if she has 5 or 6 in less than an hour, giving her the Klonopin would be a good idea.

Klonopin will make Pumpkin want to sleep. She may sleep for several hours – even missing a meal or two. This is normal. Her brain is basically “resetting”.

Often, after a seizure, Pumpkin will sleep more. This happens even if she hasn’t been given the drug Klonopin. That’s why I keep track of any naps Pumpkin takes. She may have a seizure that no one notices but the extra levels of fatigue can be monitored. Please just write down any naps she takes, when she’s choosing to nap and for how long she sleeps. I need this information for her neurologist.

The third kind of seizure I think Pumpkin has is called an absence seizure. This is similar to “spacing out” but is actually a seizure. This kind of seizure does not require medication of any kind. I just want to add this, as there are times in which Pumpkin will appear to be staring off into nowhere. This is normal for Pumpkin and requires no intervention.
___________
Did I miss anything? Is there anything else YOU would want to know if you were providing respite (for nearly three weeks)?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Where I rant about our upcoming vacation

Those of you that read regularly may remember our camping fiasco with Pumpkin. So, with that in mind, I began making vacation preparations well in advance.

Initially we were going to try and bring Pumpkin with us. We're that kind of a family. The foster kids become part of US. I don't like excluding them. However, knowing that we would still legally have to follow all the supervision rules we began to have second thoughts.

Mr. Amazing and I will get several days child-free while we are home visiting family. If Pumpkin would come along, that time alone would not be possible because there is no one in Iowa legally allowed to supervise Pumpkin except us.

Knowing that, and knowing that Pumpkin's mom would never allow Pumpkin to travel out of state with us, it seemed pointless to even try. She wouldn't let us take her two hours away for two nights. She'll never agree to out of state for almost three weeks!

Our vacation is going to happen. I rarely get to see my family. My kids are looking forward to Cousins Camp more than you can imagine. (My mom and dad get ALL of the cousins on my side of the family age 2 and over and host a full-blown camp experience sans parents for one week each summer!!) My brother-in-law is returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. We want to be there when he comes back. We're going despite all the foster care respite hassles. Our agency is going to find a respite home for Pumpkin.

Even though we don't have enough "official" respite days to cover a nearly 3 week long vacation, we're still going. The family that will be caring for Pumpkin will end up getting full reimbursement for a majority of the time we are gone and we will receive no per diem. We're not in this for the money so that's not an issue. I think it will also make it a little easier for our agency to secure respite care for Pumpkin.

Our agency was not going to put any new placements in our home until after vacation. But, on the very day they told me that, they practically pleaded with us to take Dolly and Dude. They promised they would figure out the respite problem if it became an issue.

After much thought and prayer, Mr. Amazing and I decided that our time alone during Cousins Camp was not as important as maintaining a sense of familiarity and consistency for Dolly and Dude. They had a bumpy transition into our home (sleeping through the night did not happen for weeks). And now that we're doing great together, it didn't make sense to break up what was working so well.

I spoke with all parties involved about bringing Dolly and Dude along. Foster kids are supposed to be allowed to go on vacations. That's what all the fancy paperwork says. We're supposed to include them. Give them a normal childhood. Make them a part of our family. And when Mom didn't show up for her first visit, I thought that might make it a little easier for a judge to give us permission.

I don't know what happened at court on Monday. I had to stay out in the waiting area with the kids (again). (Why the hell do the kids even have to attend court?! It's such a joke!!) I don't know if CPS even asked the judge. I was told that CPS was not in favor of the kids coming with us. And when I asked their lawyer prior to court, she practically laughed at me. She said it's a legal nightmare to get kids back if something goes "wrong" and the kids are out of state. She indicated that they don't really "allow" out of state trips. (Because yet again, the foster parents can't be trusted to do anything right. Even though staying with what they are familiar with would probably be best for such young children, we must assume that something bad might happen so let's prevent that at all costs.)

So...Dolly and Dude will be taken from our home in just a couple weeks. They will go stay with strangers. (Of course I will take them over to the home to introduce everyone prior to us leaving -- but that's hardly going to cut it for the kids I'm sure.) They aren't going to understand why Mamma L*** and Poppy S*** are gone. But there is nothing I can do about it.

I sure as hell hope Mom makes every one of her visits while we are gone. Preserving their relationship with Mom is important. I don't even want to think about how messed up these cherubs are going to be when we get back. I'm sure it will be just like the first three weeks of their placement all over again.

I'm looking forward to my vacation. It's going to be so much fun. And I am going to enjoy getting Mr. Amazing all to myself for a few days. But in the pit of my stomach I'm going to be sad too. I feel so bad for all that Dolly and Dude have already suffered. I feel like I'm failing them now.

(Pumpkin is so developmentally delayed that I don't think our leaving will phase her at all. My guilt level with leaving her in respite care isn't quite as high.)

Undies are slightly un-bunched

First I called our State office concerning this new medical standard that would require all foster children to have an exam EXACTLY one month after their birthday. The very nice lady let me have a hissy fit and agreed that it sounded ridiculous! She said I would need to talk to Medicaid as these kinds of standards can be explained by them. The office I was speaking with only handles licensing standards.

So I called Medicaid and spoke with Pumpkin's case manager. She too agreed and let me rant on about all the things that have been ticking me off lately. She transferred me over to Member Services.

There it was explained to me that Medicaid requires all children receive their annual well-child check "on or soon after" their birthday. They don't have a magic number in which this exam has to take place on. It just has to be "on or soon after".

So...I called our agency. I was put on the phone with the director herself.

Back in March when DFPS (Department of Family and Protective Services) renewed their contract with our agency it was put into writing that these well-child checks have to take place within 30 days of each child's birthday.

This makes sense.

All they are doing is giving you a 30 day window in which to get the kid's annual exam done. Instead of "on or soon after" it has to be done within 30 days of the birthday. Of course this means that some children will have to get two exams close together because a physical is required within 30 days of coming into care. But I have no problem with the powers that be giving a deadline in which kids need to get their annual exam done. It's a bit of a pain. But that's foster care in a nutshell. Everything is a bit of a pain.

I was able to schedule Pumpkin's well-child check for next week...before we go on vacation. (Which, by the way, will be another rant post coming up soon.) I'm still an emotional wreck from all the crap that is The System. But I'm a tiny bit better now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My undies are in a bunch

I am so damn frustrated with The System I barely know where to begin today. I swear...I'm one more stupid rule, or meeting, or social worker away from throwing in the towel. The kids....oh, I LOVE the kids. But The System...it sucks!!

I was told today that there is a new minimum standard.
All children in care have to have a physical one month after their birthday. Not 3 weeks. Not within one month. But, what I was told today, EXACTLY one month after their birthday. The physical has to happen even if they just had one three weeks ago because it was time for their well baby check.

To me, this is a waste of time and resources. There is already a system of checks and balances in place with children in care. All of their doctor appointments are recorded in Texas Health Steps. (oops...now you know where I'm from. Please don't hold it against me!) Medicaid requires that their appointments are already recorded. Medicaid will chase you down if you are missing necessary appointments. Our agency keeps track of all the appointments. They too make sure all appointments are kept. What is the purpose of adding in a check one month after their birthday?! I can't wrap my brain around this! There is no purpose to it whatsoever!!!

My undies are in a bunch. I ended up having banana cake and a Diet Coke last night instead of a margarita. Tonight, it WILL be a margarita. I'm spent!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

I survived

Bart & TT enjoyed basketball camp. Herman even got to play some because he was there – and he's charming like that. I managed to handle the noon appointment disaster quickly enough and got to basketball camp only 15 minutes after they got out. And since I had left the children with a cooler full of Gatorade and some PB&J rollups, everyone was hydrated and the blood sugars were stable.

Dolly and Dude's mom showed up to court. She rolled in about two minutes before we were scheduled for court. But...she showed up. Dolly was surprised and didn't exactly know how to respond. She quickly went to Mom though. Dude was pissed and climbed up on my lap instead. Awkward. However, when Mom reached into her bag to presents for the kids, Dude got down to go get his. He never really warmed up to Mom though. I had to tell him to say goodbye when the time came.

Both children were out of sorts the entire hour ride home. It was normal. Heartbreaking. But normal. They giggled nervously. They screamed. They cried. They just sat there...silent. I can't imagine what they were thinking and feeling. Foster care is so difficult for all parties involved.

Pumpkin made it to her family visit with just 2 minutes to spare. Her mom was happy to see her and Pumpkin was thrilled with all the birthday balloons Mom brought.

To be safe, the four littlest cherubs and I went and bought balloons for the ENTIRE family while Herman was at counseling. That way Pumpkin won't get her balloons "stolen" tomorrow. Besides, after a day like today balloons are a very good thing.

Once home from too much drive-through crap and more stress than a body needs, all the children got ready for bed. There were just a few tears. Far fewer than what I expected. I just hope that everyone sleeps through the night because I need enough energy to get up tomorrow to do it all over again.

Thankfully we only have a couple appointments tomorrow. I'm praying Dolly and Dude's mom makes it to this week's visit.

Now...I do believe I have earned a margarita.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Schedule nightmare

What it looks like when you've got six kids...
(this is my Monday)

4:30AM: Mr. Amazing leaves the house for a conference all the way across the country. I'm is flying solo all week.

6:00AM: I'll wake up, shower and get ready for the day.

7:00AM: Hopefully the cherubs will have slept until now. I will then proceed to get everyone up and dressed. We'll all eat breakfast.

8:30AM: Dash off to basketball camp for Cherubs 2 & 3. They are really looking forward to this!

9:15AM: Leave cherubs at basketball camp in order to get Pumpkin to her therapy sessions. Dude and Dolly will come along for the ride.

11:45AM: Pick up Pumpkin from therapies and drop her off at day care.

In a mad dash where I will scream at every vehicle in my way, I will race from day care over to camp. There is no way possible to pick up Pumpkin, drop off Pumpkin and make it to camp in only 15 minutes. Herman is going to be at camp though with the cherubs so they don't freak out as they have to wait a bit for me to arrive.

Continuing the mad dash around town, I will pick up some perfectly worthless fast food for all the cherubs. Herman will be babysitting TT & Bart so they will wait to eat their lunches at home. I will get Dude & Dolly set up with their lunches in the van so that they can eat right away.

I will drop off the three oldest boys at home and begin the trek over to the county Dude & Dolly are from (an hour away). Court is at 2:00PM but they have to be there by at least 1:30PM. We have yet to meet with any social workers from CPS since the removal. And no lawyers have attempted any contact.

2:00PM: Court with Dolly and Dude.

We need to be out of court by 3:30PM at the latest in order to facilitate the next round of appointments. If for some reason things are horribly behind and we cannot be excused, our agency social worker is going to pick up Pumpkin. Otherwise, it's up to me.

5:00PM: Pumpkin has a family visit. Her mom will finally get to celebrate Pumpkin's birthday with her.

Somehow I've got to grab dinner for all the cherubs. I'm still not sure how that's going to work yet. I have a feeling it will be more worthless drive through crap.

6:00PM: Herman has a counseling session. He's only meeting with his counselor every other week so I didn't want to reschedule this appointment. Besides, what's one more thing when the day is already so messed up?!

6:50PM: Pick up Herman from counseling.

7:00PM: Pick up Pumpkin from her visit.

Race home. Give out medications as necessary. Brush teeth. Get in pajamas. Deal with cherubs that will probably be freaking out from court.

Collapse.

If I'm not too dead...drink a margarita.

If you're the praying type, I'd appreciate it if you'd toss one up for me when you read this. The rest of the week isn't much better.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Aaaahhhhhhhhh

Sleep!

I know it probably won't last forever. We've got court on Monday and a family visit on Tuesday. These types of things are stressful for all parties involved. And when kids are stressed one of the first things affected is their sleep.

But for now anyway...my newest cherubs are sleeping through the night.

I believe it has been a wonderful combination of:

  • Consistency. Despite their protests, bedtime came every night and my expectations were the same every night. I do things in the same order every night. We read the same books every night. We pray every night. I sing the same songs every night. I play the same lullaby CD for them every night. 
  • The right night light. These kids were taken from everything familiar and plunked into our home. I believe that part of the nighttime issues had to do with them waking up and not knowing where they were at. It's a balance though. Too much light and it's hard for anyone to sleep. Too little light and they stay disoriented when they wake.
  • White noise. I bought a "sleepy sheepy" that makes four different white noise sounds for Dude. He has become quite attached to it. Even though he's only two, and we've got a bit of a language barrier, I think he understands it's to help him sleep. Before Mr. Amazing and I go to bed at night I go back into his room and turn the sheep on again. (It's got a timer so it goes off after about 45 minutes.) I think this extra white noise, on top of the fan I keep running, helps him stay asleep as the house settles down into complete silence.
  • Location. I pushed Dolly and Dude's beds right up next to each other. Dude is somewhat blocked into the corner by his sister now. They are staying in their own respective beds as they sleep at night. But I think having his sister closer to him has helped. I'm quite confident that Dude was sleeping next to someone, most likely in the same bed, before he came into care.
  • Time. As is often the case, time heals. When nighttime came it was a reminder that their world had been turned upside down. They are adjusting to our home. They are adjusting to our routines and expectations. They feel safe enough now to stay in bed when they wake up in the middle of the night.
Just when I thought I had hit my breaking point...that my level of fatigue couldn't get any more unbearable...they have started sleeping. Hopefully the pattern will stick. I'm sure there will still be nights when I'm up multiple times. But they have slept through the night all week. Praise God!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

When a toothache reduces me to tears

Dolly and Dude had their dentist appointments today. Both did well given the circumstances. I think dentists are scary for a lot of kids.

Fortunately, Dude's teeth look fine. He was given a clean bill of health.

Dolly on the other hand is a different story. Even I could see the huge gaping holes in her teeth. She's been complaining of pain since she came into care. It hurts her to eat most of the time. The dentist did a quick exam and let me know that he will be scheduling her for a hospital procedure to fix everything. She's young. The decay is extensive. And she is uncooperative.

So, just like Pumpkin, I have to get a judge to OK the procedure. Thankfully court is Monday so we should get everything taken care of then.

I called Dolly's CPS worker to let her know and double check to see exactly what paperwork they need from me prior to the procedure. Because we haven't had court yet, our worker is still the one that handled the removal. Because the case will switch departments within CPS on Monday at court, our current worker directed me to the new SW that will be taking over.

I called the new worker while I was still in the car on the way home from the dentist. On a positive note, she answered her cell right away. (I like workers that answer their phones!) She said she needs a letter explaining the amount of damage and what the dentist is planning on doing (caps, extractions, etc.). Then she muttered something along the lines of, "Send me that letter as soon as you can. Email or fax would be fine. We can take care of it at court on Monday. We can get Mom for medical neglect too."

I shuddered a bit at that.

Yes, Mom is responsible for the fact that Dolly's teeth are so rotted away. But it sounds so callous to say we can "get" her for something else too. I guess I'm still so new at this that the realities of the system still smack me upside the head sometimes.

I brought Dolly and Dude home and tried to feed them lunch. Despite the fact that they seemed "fine", both kids were quite out of sorts from the dentist appointment. Neither child wanted to eat. Then Dolly started crying and holding her mouth.

She cried and cried.

I grabbed her up and held her on the couch for awhile. But, as she sat up and pushed away from me after a few minutes, it became apparent that the crying had deeper meaning. Yes, her teeth hurt. But there are bigger hurts she's feeling and they started pouring out. She didn't want to sit on my lap. She didn't want to be comforted. And she kept crying harder and harder.

I couldn't give her more medicine for the pain. I had given her Tylenol before the appointment and it hadn't been four hours yet. She asked for medicine and I had to tell her no.

When her brother decided to join the crying party I scooped them both up and determined it was nap time. As I held Dolly in her bed and prayed over the children, I joined her in the crying. She just wants me to fix things. Despite the children asking for Mommy repeatedly, I don't seem to be able to come through on that one. I keep saying, "Mommy is bye bye" over and over. So Dolly asked for medicine because her teeth hurt. I couldn't do that for her either. I felt so helpless.

Foster care sucks.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cherub 2 and the missed visit

I had to load up five of my six kids to go to the visit that didn't happen this afternoon. (My largest cherub is volunteering two days a week at the wildlife refuge Mr. Amazing works at.)

I had been smart enough to know not to tell Dolly and Dude what we were doing. No need to let them down if it's not necessary. Of course they will figure things out eventually. But for today, that seemed like the best plan.

My two cherubs knew what was up though. They were wonderful and actually kept their mouths shut. (And if you know Bart you know that's a difficult thing for him to do!)

Anyway...the visit came...and went. After waiting in the lobby for about 15 minutes, a worker came out and let me know that Mom had canceled. I packed up the five kids (ie. herded the cats) back into the van and we headed towards home.

On the way, Bart and TT really got into it in the back of the van. I didn't think too much of it at the time. They are only one year apart in age and they were sitting right next to each other. Of course they're going to hit each other. Bite each other. Yell and scream.

Once home though, after a thorough chewing out, Bart seemed to settle down. (Again, if you know Bart, this is a difficult thing for him to do! LOL) TT seemed to still be having problems. In fact, it was almost like he was seeking out conflict.

Then...it hit me.

Their mom didn't show up.

Duh.

I did a quick once over in my brain of what to say. I decided to go ahead and give him the words for what I thought he was feeling. This is a little too complex and I wasn't sure he would be able to figure out the trigger himself.

Me: "Hey TT, I think I know why you're so upset."

TT: "Really?"

Me: "Yeah. It involves some really big feelings. Come over here. Let me see your beautiful eyes and we can talk about it." I walked closer to him and he came over to me. I knelt down to his level.

Me: "I bet you're upset about the fact that Dolly and Dude's mom didn't show up. I bet you're pretty mad. I bet it makes you think about your mom and how she 'doesn't show up' either."

Side note...
We don't have an open adoption with TT's first family. They relinquished him at birth voluntarily. It was something of an unconventional adoption plan. So, it's not like TT ever expects his mom to "show up". But I knew that the feelings were connected and he would get it if I worded things this way.

TT burst into tears. It seems I hit the nail on the head. I asked him if he wanted to go somewhere private. He said yes so we went to the guest room, our Big Feelings Room, just off the kitchen.

I wrapped my arms around TT and we talked for a bit. I wanted to make sure that he knew I wasn't trying to put words into his mouth or tell him how he feels. I always walk a fine line between just giving him an open forum to tell me what's going on and guiding him if the feelings are a little more complex. However, every time I guide him I make sure to tell him that he is supposed to let me know if I'm wrong. He is in control of his feelings. I usually phrase it like, "some kids might feel this way if such and such happened". That way I'm giving him different possibilities and he can let me know how HE feels about what's going on.

Through the tears we talked about how his mom chose not to parent him. That's a scary feeling to have to process over and over. (Adoption feelings never go away. He will continue to process this loss for the rest of his life!!) He looked up at me and said, "But their mom could parent them if she does what she's supposed to." His heart was broken both for himself and for Dolly and Dude.

It was a profound conversation. I wish I could remember more of it in better detail. My kid is amazing!! We talked about how this fostering stuff brings up lots and lots of big feelings for him. And, like always, once we put words to the big feelings that were festering below the surface, he snapped out of the funk. We hugged. He got up and we went about the rest of the evening.

I will be intentional about keeping TT close to me for awhile. He will need the extra attention. Especially if their mom doesn't step up to the plate. This is going to be really difficult for TT to process. However, we talked about the fact that even though it's hard to deal with now, it will get a little easier. At least I hope it does. I know the feelings he has about adoption aren't going to go away. But I do hope that by giving him freedom to feel whatever he wants to about it all will make it easier for him in the long run.

No-Show Part 2

Mom was a no-show too.

At least for this first visit the kids had no idea. They just think the crazy white lady drove them across town to sit in a waiting room for 15 minutes.

Court is Monday. Mom will get to see them then if she shows.

Damn foster care sucks!

CPS No-Show and A Birthday

Twice now I've had a no-show from Dolly and Dude's CPS worker. (grrrr) She was supposed to be here before lunch today. She never even called to let me know she wasn't coming.

So, yet again, I called her. I wanted to make sure that the family visit is still scheduled for this afternoon. I wasn't going to drive across town for nothing if that's been rescheduled as well.

I guess no one knows where Dolly and Dude's mom is. The only phone number they have is for a grandmother (not sure if it's Mom's grandmother or Dolly and Dude's). Mom doesn't have a phone and she hasn't been sleeping at home. I don't think Mom has a car either so CPS is unsure of how Mom is going to get from where she lives to the visit that is scheduled an hour away.

Needless to say, I'm not telling the littlest cherubs where we are going this afternoon. If Mom doesn't show up I don't need them disappointed. Eventually they'll figure things out I'm sure. I'm sure tons of other foster parents have navigated these territories; but this is new to me. I've never had a parent that didn't work their case plan. (Of course, Mom hasn't screwed up yet. I just don't have a good feeling about this afternoon.)

----

Today is Pumpkin's birthday! We got her a few presents and the cake is baking now. I've sang Happy Birthday about half a dozen times so far today. Of course Pumpkin has no idea it's her birthday. But she does love the song. Dude and Dolly are excited though!

Unfortunately, Pumpkin is acting very wonky. She came home from occupational therapy and went straight to the table to eat lunch with the rest of the kids. She did OK until she was done. At that time she seemed very disoriented and confused. She kept saying "my toy" over and over instead of "all done". We've worked six long months to teach Pumpkin "all done" and she's able to do this consistently every day. She can even do it when she's done with other activities like coloring or playing with play dough. But today -- I'm not sure what was up.

Eventually she did repeat it after me and I got her down from the table. She immediately went into the living room (where her toys are) and started crying. I hugged her for a bit which proved even more that something was wrong. (Generally she wouldn't soften for that kind of touch but she almost snuggled into me instead.) I laid her down on the couch and covered her up. She's been asleep for over an hour now. Hopefully the nap will help "reset" things so she can enjoy her cake and presents later.

----

And now I must go wake up Dolly and Dude from their nap. I hate having to work my schedule around a visit that might not happen. But they deserve to see their mom. I do hope she shows up!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Anniversary

Yesterday was the 6th month anniversary of Pumpkin joining our family. Unlike many other anniversaries, this one does not make me happy. While I feel our family is called to do this fostering stuff, it's not an easy calling. At its root, fostering is about hurt and loss and really big mistakes. I'm not happy that Pumpkin's mom didn't keep her safe. I'm not happy that Pumpkin had to come into foster care. I'm not happy that the progress towards reunification is so painfully slow.

I don't know when Pumpkin is going to be going home. I don't know what's going to happen next. This is fostering. I'm just a foster parent. Low man on the totem pole. I know nothing except that Pumpkin is in my home now.

Anniversaries like this make me sad.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Help me!!!

I wish there was a magical drug that social workers could keep in their carpet bags for when they drop off the little cherubs. Ya know - something wonderful and marvelous like Mary Poppins had. Something that kids who were just removed after suffering Lord knows what could be given to help them sleep at night.

But there isn't.

So, bear with me as I complain a little here. I'll try to capture all that I've done to help the little bugger sleep. I'm hoping someone with prior experience with this can see between the lines and offer up a possible solution that I haven't tried yet.

I promise I won't be a brat and say that it won't work without trying it first.

Here goes....

Dude has been here for 16 nights now. Every single night there have been tears. These tears have ranged from violent upset to typical snot-nosed two year old "I don't wanna". I would say the actual going to bed process is working just fine now. For the past couple nights Dude simply fusses a little but then lets me tuck him in without issue. Routine is a beautiful thing and usually works wonders.

The bedtime routine is the same every night. The only variable is whether or not they get a bath. I turn on fun music in their room while I get all three of the little ones ready for bed. After all three are in PJs I read stories. Then we tuck in. I pray. I sing a couple songs. I turn on the lullaby music and I say goodnight. And like I said, this process has been working quite well now that Dude has recovered from his nasty virus that had him so sick. Even Dolly has decreased her level of distress and gets in bed without getting horribly upset.

There is a nightlight in the room. After trial and error it seems that Dude sleeps better with a considerable amount of light in the room. He seems to get much more scared when he wakes up when it's dark. (There has always been at least one nightlight. He just seems to need it brighter. I'm now using a small tap light that utilizes a nightlight bulb. It sheds quite a bit of ambient light across the room without being too bright to sleep in.)

Dude likes lots of blankets on him. I would think this would help if he's used to sleeping next to his mom in the same bed (which is a strong possibility). He even leaves these blankets on all night long.

He has a couple stuffed animals that came with him. I also bought him a baby doll that he seems to like a lot. He goes to bed with all of these.

I have tried running a fan in the room for white noise. I've tried turning the fan off. Neither seems to make a difference.

I put a gate up in the hallway outside their room. This is to discourage Dude and Dolly from wandering the house when they wake up. It seems to work. Dude gets up in the middle of the night and just stands at the gate calling out, "Mommy". (I'm unsure if he's calling for me or his mom. During the day I'm just "hey" LOL.)

Here is the sleep schedule that would work well for a 2.5 year old that I am trying to implement:
afternoon nap from approximately 1:00 to 2:30
bedtime between 7:30 and 8:00
wake in the morning around 7:00

All of my other children have kept schedules similar to this. And Dude seems to respond well to the actual schedule. He's tired at nap time and has been going to sleep well. He's tired at bedtime and goes to sleep quickly.

The problem is that Dude wakes up about every 1.5 to 2 hours ALL NIGHT LONG!

We're past the horrible few nights where he screamed for hours and wanted to be held. But he's still waking up and needing me to tuck him back into bed. And did I mention he's doing this every 1.5 to 2 hours?!

I'm so exhausted I can barely see straight. I've got no pregnancy hormones surging through my body to help me out with this kind of a sleep schedule. I've got too many kids to be able to "sleep when the baby sleeps" in the afternoon. I can't swat the little bugger's butt and tell him to stay in bed. (Not that a swat would be effective! But I can say that the thought has crossed my mind.) I can't lock him in a padded room and let him cry all night. (But oh how I've thought about modifying the guest room downstairs to do just that!)

What am I missing? Is there anything else I can try? Even if it sounds simple or silly I'm game at this point. I need a little bit more uninterrupted sleep. Last night Dude was up at least 5 or 6 times and Dolly was up once. I'm going to struggle to get through the day. Thankfully Mr. Amazing gets out of work early. He's planning on being home by 2:30 and I'm planning on taking a nap. I welcome any and all thoughts on the subject.