Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Criminal charges

I know some foster parents that blog don't go into specifics about their kids' cases. Their reasoning is that the story belongs to the child and their parent(s) to tell.

I take a slightly different approach. I feel that I am pretty anonymous. Yeah, y'all have a pretty good idea of where I live. But no one in my area knows that I blog. I don't reveal any names. I try to be vague when I need to be. And I certainly don't tell the entire story. The odds of anyone piecing together my story online with who I am in real life are pretty small.

I feel like part of my purpose for blogging is to let other new or potential foster parents what it really looks like. So, I'm OK with sharing more intimate details.

That said, Pumpkin's CPS worker came over tonight for a home visit. "Amy" gave me some more insight as to where Pumpkin's case might be headed. (Key word...might. The judge down here is horribly unpredictable!!!!) Pumpkin's mom has done just about everything CPS has required of her. To my knowledge, the only real mistake thus far has been missing the one doctor appointment she was supposed to attend. Granted, given Pumpkin's medical condition, that's a pretty big mistake. But when you look at the big picture over the past 8 months, Pumpkin's mom is certainly trying!!

However, Amy shared with me that Pumpkin's mom's criminal issues have finally been dealt with. At the time of Pumpkin's removal, Mom was charged with felony child abandonment and medical neglect. (Pumpkin was found wandering outside her apartment building in a diaper, t-shirt and socks. She had also taken Pumpkin off of her epilepsy medications.) As it turns out, Mom plead guilty to the abandonment charges. It was either that, or the case would have gone to trial. That outcome could have easily been 2-10 years in prison for her mistake. Mom chose to plead guilty in order to avoid prison. (I can't say that I blame her.)

Now that Mom has this guilty charge though, Pumpkin's case becomes stickier. CPS can't just ignore the charges and continue forward easily. Pumpkin is going to be in care for a long, long time!!

Amy said that some uncle has come forward to care for Pumpkin. My first thought is...really? Eight months later?! But, I guess he's ex-military so maybe he just got out. (I honestly don't know!)

We are all waiting until court on Thursday this week. The judge is extremely unpredictable so the case could still move forward. Or it could get ugly. Who knows?! Amy said that depending on the outcome she'll decide whether or not to move forward with investigating the uncle as a viable placement option.

I'm sad thinking about how long Pumpkin is going to be in care. When I asked if the judge would move for TPR (termination of parental rights), Amy even hesitated a little. I hate to think that TPR is a possibility right now. Anything could happen though. Hopefully I'll get to sit in on court Thursday. I have to be there with Pumpkin but that doesn't mean I'll get in the courtroom. It will all depend on Pumpkin's behavior.

Oh yeah...my agency has given us permission to supervise visits with Pumpkin and her mom. Amy thinks it is a good idea too and passed the request on to her supervisor. I'm waiting for a response from the supervisor as we have to have something in writing from CPS in the hands of our agency before we can supervise any visits. I do hope the supervisor uses her head and allows this!!! However, this is the dingbat that asked Pumpkin's mom if we could take her camping though...so I haven't been impressed with her yet!!

I'll let ya know how this all shakes out. It certainly is a mess!

Bye...I'm going to work

Dolly is walking around the house with one purse over each shoulder and an empty stroller in front of her.

She keeps coming up to me saying, "Bye. I'm going work. Love you." Then she asks for a hug and a kiss.

This is how Mr. Amazing says goodbye every single morning before he leaves for work. Obviously it's made quite the impression on Dolly.

Dolly then walks around a loop downstairs and comes back to me. She says goodbye again and asks for another hug. Then she tells me she loves me.

This is quite endearing. I think it's so sweet.

Though...I'm about done. I think I've told her "goodbye" now at least two dozen times. Three year olds are a trip!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mr. Amazing is just that...again

We decided to ditch the beach this weekend. Honestly, it's too hot. That, and we've decided to try and get some homeowner projects done around the house. Besides, we've still got a couple more beach-going months if we want.

The reason I'm singing Mr. Amazing's praises though is because he let me sleep in today. Most of the time I get up with the kids. He's terrific and all. But with so many little ones, and the fact that I'm used to their routines because I'm home with them all day, I usually take care of the morning stuff.

We decided to skip church, and I slept in 'till 10:00AM this morning. It was blissful!

Mr. Amazing reported that Dude and Dolly were quite confused. Dude kept asking, "Where Mamma?" Dolly was quite concerned about getting her hair done. (I did it last night after bath in a style that wouldn't have to be re-done this morning.) And when I got up, Dolly had to give me a rundown on everything that had happened so far this morning. She let me know that she was dressed and that she ate cereal. It was quite adorable.

I've been in quite a bit of arthritic pain lately. (I've got psoriatic arthritis.) Getting this extra sleep helps with the swelling. I really should take care of myself and get more sleep on a regular basis. This first week of school was a bit taxing though and I had to stay up late to work on freelancing jobs because my daytime hours were booked.

I've eaten my breakfast and now I'm going to go shower. The children are all playing. And Mr. Amazing is working on some projects around the house. Even though we're not at the beach, it's going to be a great day.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gripes...and some happy thoughts

I so desperately want to write happy things on my blog. Honestly - I really do!

I swear though, The System is messed up. And I seem to be knee deep in System drama all the time. This week has been chock full of school issues, doctor appointments, dentist appointments, neighbor drama (that could end up being official System drama) and family visit drama. It's hard to write happy things when there's so much drama.

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Dude and Dolly got picked up this morning and driven an hour away to their "home town" so that their social worker could better facilitate a visit between them and their mother. Mom must be a real piece of work. I was told this morning by CPS that while Mom has blown off every visit with her own kids... she has been showing up at visits with a friend of her's to see those kids. (What?!)

CPS had to call Mom this morning to get her to come to today's visit with her own kids otherwise even this one, right in her home town, would have been blown off too. I guess the visit was full of drama as well and many, many conversations had to be redirected by the worker. Mom was trying to get the kids to tell her where they are living. She was also trying to tell them that no one else loves them – only her. If I understood correctly, I think Dude told his mom otherwise in no uncertain terms. This too was not appreciated by Mom and resulted in more drama.

Thankfully the kids transitioned home well. Dolly had one meltdown when she caught me throwing away a package of fake fingernails. I'm sorry, but a three year old that chews her nails is not going to be allowed to wear fake nails in my home. Just not safe. But other than that, we were able to process things as best as a 2yo and 3yo can.

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Pumpkin has regressed horribly since we got back from vacation. No language at all. No playing -- she simply sits on the couch and stares. And no eating. Literally. I've had to force feed her. As always, the origin of the regression is unknown. Though, she was diagnosed with an infection in her mouth so that could be the culprit this time. (I'm sure it's what's behind the food issues anyway.) Thankfully she's starting to feel better and is responding to her environment a little bit. I'm still having to feed her but it's being met with less resistance.

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The first week of online high school has gone well for Herman. He's been able to fully learn how to navigate the website. He's attended many different virtual classes where he can hear the teacher and chat along with the class. He seems to really enjoy the flexibility. I do know that he loves rolling out of bed seconds before having to sign on for class. He also thinks it's fun to stand up, walk around, get something to eat and more all during his virtual classes. The actual online work has been very easy for him this week and he's been able to finish his studies quite quickly.

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TT's anxiety is in full swing now that school has started. We're seeing a huge increase in crazy lying and wild stories. But, he's keeping it mainly verbal for the freak outs. This is nice...I guess.  :)  In comparison...I spent his first year of school having to restrain him almost daily when he got home. I feel so bad for the kid. And I think part of his big feelings are jealousy that Herman is home with me all day. But honestly, I'm not called to homeschool all my kids! I will only do it if I feel the public system is not going to do a quality job. But I sure do wish I knew how to help him better manage his overwhelming anxiety.


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Bart is his usual bouncing off the walls happy self. He loves school. (Though he says he's bored because they aren't teaching anything yet.) He's my social butterfly. As long as his teachers don't crush his spirit, he will be just fine. And I pity anyone that ever tries to crush him. I will Mamma Bear the situation and make sure they understand how to treat my baby!! Bart has the happiest spirit of anyone I've ever met and I never want anyone to take that away from him. (Even if that means he literally bounces off the walls when he gets home from school.)


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My happy thoughts for the week though...
  • I love watching Herman play with the little ones during the day. He's not preoccupied with his iPod or a gaggle of friends...so he'll turn to Dude and Dolly in between lessons and play with them. It's awesome!
  • Herman and I haven't argued all week! This is a very good thing as Herman and I are entirely too much alike. For us to have spent an entire week together and not argue is a very good thing.
  • I watched a neighbor girl for three days this week and Dolly was in heaven. More than anything Dolly loves babies! She absolutely loved having a real honest to goodness baby in the house.
  • As for me, I'm glad that I'm done watching said baby. Taking care of a 1yo, 2yo and a 3yo all day long is a bit exhausting.
  • Pumpkin giggled tonight when I tucked her in. She has been so unresponsive that it's been troubling. I was happy to see her smile.
  • I'm not too horribly worn out and it's Friday night. In fact, I think I'm going to go grocery shopping right now.
  • If all goes well and it's not too blasted hot, we might go to the beach this weekend. I'm happy that I live close to a beach. We haven't been all summer because of the new little ones. But I think I've got this "6 kid" thing pretty much under control. I also now own 5 life jackets (Herman doesn't need one). I'm ready to tackle the beach with our brood of cherubs.
Overall life is really good. I know I tend to focus on all that is wrong with The System. But really, I navigate most of it pretty well. I freak out on my sister. Gripe with my hubby. And spill it out on here. But there are parts that are good. I love the smiles from Dolly. Hugs from Dude. And working with Pumpkin's mom so that Pumpkin can go home. I can actually say that I like both of the CPS workers that are handling our cases right now. And I love our agency worker.

There will be more drama next week. It never goes away. The visit schedule changes. Pumpkin has court. And I'm sure there will be more. But I'm in it with a smile right now.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Family visits

Due to budget cuts and other garbage like that...all visits in the area of Texas where I live are being changed to ONE hour only ONE time a month!!

I can't begin to explain how wrong that is. Families that are working on reunification need more than one hour of contact a month. My Pumpkin will become horribly upset when this happens. She noticed when visits were taken from two times a week down to only one time a week. She became noticeably anxious every afternoon – especially if someone needed to leave the house to run an errand. I can't imagine how difficult it will be for her to only see her mom once a month for one hour. It's soooooo not fair!

I'm in the process of trying to get permission to supervise visits outside of the "official" schedule. Originally I had been told that my agency doesn't allow this. However, I'm going to push for permission. I'm not in a position to supervise visits outside my home multiple times a week. I'm not even sure I can do once a week consistently. (I don't have that much free time to sit around watching Pumpkin and her mom.) But I'm going to try. Mr. Amazing and I are in agreement that it would be best for Pumpkin. The relationship we have with Pumpkin's mom has been pretty good lately. In fact, Mom did very good last night with Pumpkin at the doctor's office and that's usually a scenario that Mom complicates by getting Pumpkin all worked up.

I'm waiting to hear back from my agency. From there I have to clear things with CPS. I'm sure it will have to be in writing and be all formal and official and involve way too much paperwork. But for Pete's sake -- the kids deserve it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Too much paperwork!

Can I tell you how much I enjoyed just being a parent over my vacation?! I didn't have to answer to anyone else. No lawyers. No CASA. No social workers. No paperwork to fill out if my kid needed to take some meds. No logs to keep track of. It was very, very pleasant.

But I'm back now. Back in the land of too much paperwork. In fact, in order to keep from going insane, I do have to compartmentalize this part of fostering. I have to think of it as my "job" and the per diam as my "pay check". The parenting part of the children I do for free. But the paperwork...oh the paperwork...

We had a home visit this morning from our agency worker. We went over the details of life and swapped paperwork. I gave her some med logs and paperwork from doctor appointments. She gave me copies of Dude & Dolly's ISPs (Individual Service Plans). Then she handed me a new form.

Our agency is now requiring a DAILY recreation log. I'll let you read what Mimi had to say on the subject. I particularly liked her response. Thankfully I wasn't told that I have to list the therapeutic value of each activity. But I do have to say what each one of my kids did for recreation each and every day.

It was not a good day to spring this on me. I'm frustrated with "the system" in general. I think I enjoyed being away from it enough that I'm now in a place where I'm weighing out how much longer I want to deal with all the BS. Don't get me wrong -- I LOVE the children. I want to take care of them. Help them. Play with them. Advocate for them. Expose them to new things. Get them the services that they need. Show them what family can be like. Support them in the reunification process.


But I am tired of feeling like I can't be trusted to do any of that without having a form to prove that I'm doing it.

I looked at my worker and told her I had heard about this. I told her I think this is ridiculous. I then told her that I'm going to fill them out a month at a time. They will say little more than "played with toys". I told her that this last piece of paperwork might just be the piece that pushes me over the edge. If they get too nit-picky we might just be done fostering.

I knew I was preaching to the choir. I made sure to let her know that I'm not frustrated with her. I know these forms weren't her idea and she's just the messenger.

She can take my message back to the powers that be though. Paperwork sucks!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Homeschooling Adventure

Cherub 1 starts his freshman year of high school on Monday.

Aacckkkkkk!!!

My BABY is in high school!!!

Here's where it gets really, really interesting though....he's going to start his freshman year of high school sitting in our kitchen at a laptop.

Nine years ago if you had asked me if I would homeschool, I would have laughed and laughed and laughed. I never even entertained the idea. But, right now as I type this, he's next to me in the kitchen taking a beginning of the year standardized test.

I have no idea how much I'll say about out homeschooling adventure on here. But it certainly is going to be an interesting part of my life starting Monday. I'm going to be spending a lot of time with my oldest. (Prayers would be appreciated!!)

For what it's worth, this is why WE are homeschooling....

  • There are at least 70 known gangs in the county that we live in. I'm not worried at all about Cherub 1 wanting to get involved with a gang. However, it does create a climate that I don't believe my son needs to be immersed in. There was quite a bit of violence in his middle school and that's not going to get better in a high school environment.

  • Cherub 1 is a very, very bright young man. He tested and was accepted into the gifted program at school a couple years ago. However, Cherub 1 doesn't like to do his homework. And in middle school, despite my best efforts, the teachers did nothing about his absent homework. They would give him a full six weeks to turn in all of his assignments. So, Cherub 1 slacked off for 5 1/2 weeks at a time and would then turn in the bare minimum of homework in order to keep his grade "high enough". This approach is unacceptable to me. I want my child to suffer the natural consequences of not doing his work. I wanted my child to fail! In my reality, if a client asks for a proof on a job on a Monday, I don't have three extra weeks to get that proof turned around. I want the school to hold my son to that same level of accountability.

  • And last, I'm not a fan of the Texas education system. No Child Left Behind was born here and it has wrecked havoc on the school system. The amount of testing and the overall emphasis on testing has destroyed any level of quality learning. Cherub 1 spent too many hours literally sitting at his desk doing nothing in eighth grade because the school was taking a test that day and he wasn't allowed to do anything when he finished. School started at 8:20. The test would start at 9:00 (or so). He would be done at 10:30. He would be forced to sit at his desk and do nothing until 1:00. Then, after lunch, they might let him read a book. -- This didn't happen just once or twice. This was a regular occurrence.

We aren't homeschooling in the traditional sense though. After much research, we have decided to enroll Herman in an online high school. So, technically, he's still enrolled in a Texas public school. He's still going to have the standardized testing requirements. But there's a level of flexibility that I think is going to be great for Herman. I'm going to know what is being assigned and whether or not he's doing his work. And if he doesn't do his work, he will fail. I will NOT let my kid slip through the cracks and just slide by. He will work up to his potential. (dammit!)

I'm looking forward to this. I know there will be screaming matches and power struggles. Herman and I are waaayyyy too much alike and we tend to butt heads. Ultimately though, I think it will be the best way for Herman to actually be held accountable for his work. If he wants the freedom and flexibility that an online education can offer, he'll actually sit down and get his work done in a timely fashion. (Sounds good on paper anyway.)

For what it's worth, the other cherubs are still going to attend a traditional brick and mortar school. Pumpkin will be in the same (lousy) special ed self-contained classroom with the same dingy teacher that knows very little about quality special ed. Texas foster care laws state that children have to be enrolled in the public school system so I have no choice.

I'm going to try and get Dolly into a Head Start program. I attempted to do this before we left on vacation and was given the run-around. I tried to call while on vacation and was told I had to come in person to sign her up. It's on my agenda for tomorrow but I'm afraid she may end up on a waiting list. Due to the fact that she's in care of the State though, and the fact that she has a speech delay, I'm hoping she'll be at the top of the list. I think preschool would be good for Dolly.

Dude is too little for anything formal so we'll hang out at home together.

TT will be in second grade and Bart is going into first grade. And as much as I still detest the Texas school system in general, testing doesn't get completely out of hand until third grade. If we are still in this location next year I will entertain the idea of homeschooling all my cherubs. But for now, I pray they get quality teachers and I'm going to let the public system do the formal educating.

So that's it in a nutshell. School starts Monday. Should be interesting!!

Home

I just spent over 21 hours in a car driving South. I am exhausted!

The menfolk unloaded the truck while I sat down to print out directions to the where the littlest cherubs were staying at. (Couldn't find them from when I dropped the kids off. And without directions, I could get lost inside a paper bag!) I wagged my finger at my boys and told them to behave as Mr. Amazing and I dashed back out this afternoon to pick up Pumpkin, Dolly and Dude.

We made it to Dolly and Dude's respite home first.

The only way to describe their response was confusion. They knew who we were. I think they even knew they were leaving the respite home with us (their bags were all packed). But they were confused.

It's really hard to explain foster care to a two year old and a three year old!

Unfortunately, their respite provider kept telling the kids to give us hugs. That made me really uncomfortable. I don't like forced affection. Dolly and Dude needed a chance to warm up to us on their own!! We said our goodbyes though and loaded the kids up. We took off across town to go get Pumpkin.

When I walked into where Pumpkin was staying she immediately started screaming and throwing a fit. She was hollering out, "No! No!" and "Mommy!" The respite provider said that Pumpkin has been throwing A LOT of fits for the past three weeks. Anytime something doesn't go her way, Pumpkin has a hissy.

Oh joy.

I'm trying to think positively about this. Perhaps this means that we might have hit on a more "correct" drug cocktail that actually has her seizures under control. Immediately before leaving on vacation Pumpkin's neurologist made a med change. It just might have made a real difference. Maybe Pumpkin will now actually be able to communicate some of the thoughts that run through her head.

Or, on the flip side, Pumpkin might have been working those around her to see what she can get away with. She is a totally different (read that "very bratty") child around her mother. I have a bit more of a no nonsense approach and I won't let Pumpkin talk to me that way.

So tonight at dinner, when Pumpkin started screaming, I very calmly moved her away from the table. She wanted to go over to her toys but I put her in a little chair and faced her to the wall very close to the dining table. I let her sit there for just a bit and then I gave her the option of coming back to the table. She tried screaming several different times but realized she was just going to have to look at a wall so she calmed down and sat at the table for dinner. Pumpkin was mad and wouldn't feed herself. But she did cooperate and let me feed her.

I know it's going to be an adjustment period for all three cherubs. None of them understood why they had to go to respite care. None of them really understand why they are back here now.

Bedtime went well. (Can I have an Amen?!) Hopefully Dolly and Dude won't have too many problems sleeping tonight. I did a late night shopping trip to stock up the kitchen. We needed EVERYTHING and there was no way I was taking the entire crew with me to the store tomorrow. I'm going to go crash in my own bed for a few hours before the craziness of tomorrow is my reality.

My vacation was wonderful. But it does feel good to be home.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Still on vacation

I'm having fun. Just spent the last three days with Mr. Amazing's family. We're going to relax this weekend and then take in the BEST state fair in the US!

Then I will anxiously race back home to the three cherubs I'm really starting to miss. Granted...I don't miss the diaper changes. But I am missing the hugs and kisses.

There will be a whirlwind of activity when I get back. School registration, doctor appointments, therapies, orthodontist appointment, court with Pumpkin and more. I'm hoping I can stay rested enough as vacation winds down so that I've got enough energy to tackle everything when I get back.

Oh yeah....and there's that whole cross-country potential move looming in the background. Never a dull moment I say.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Second hand details

Because we are on vacation, I didn't "get" to go to court today with my littlest cherubs. And because they are in a respite home over two hours away from their county, our agency worker had the pleasure of picking them up for court and staying with them. (Our agency is pretty good about helping out!)

At about 4:00PM today I got a call from our worker letting me know what happened.

She said the kids recognized the town as they drove into it. (duh) She said they also started asking about Mommy a lot when they got to court. (double duh -- the only time the kids have seen their mom since removal was at the first court hearing)

Mom didn't show up today.

The kids got antsy. (duuuhhhhhh -- maybe they needed a nap?! Maybe they needed to not have to go to court to begin with?!) Our worker said they were running all over the place and didn't want to sit still. (can you blame them?!)

At around 3:30 or so our worker asked the CPS worker for permission to leave. Mom had been contacted by CPS but indicated that she wasn't going to come to court. They were waiting for Mom to make any new decisions on the case overall. CPS gave permission for the kids to leave.

Our worker assures me that she'll contact CPS tomorrow to see if anything happened at court in the end. She indicated that they are still working on a homestudy for a grandma up in a different part of the state. She's going to let me know if there are any changes as soon as she can.

I took all of this in. I thanked our worker for keeping me in the loop.

Then I went upstairs to a dark bedroom and cried my eyes out.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Chillin' on vacation

My littlest cherubs have been in respite care for 8 days now. It feels strange to only have three kids.

Oh...who's kidding who?! It's a whole lot easier!!!

Sometimes it feels just right having only five people in our group. Other times, it's like there's a giant black hole. There's so much going on with our vacation though that I'm staying busy and having a blast! My kids are enjoying every minute with family and all that was Cousins Camp. I've certainly enjoyed seeing my parents, siblings and their crews. I'm not too fond of the humidity. But...that's Iowa in the summer.

We're exploring a very good job lead for Mr. Amazing. The kind of job lead that will take us over 1800 miles away from our littlest cherubs. The kind of job lead that will bring an end to this season of life and fostering. (And, if you wanna know the math, I'll still be nearly 900 miles away from "home" if we actually make this move.)

Sometimes it feels just right having only five people in our group. Other times, it's like there's a giant black hole.

In a way, I think it's probably good that the littlest cherubs weren't given permission to come on this vacation with us. I'm going to be able to go back, love on them just as much...but I'll guard my own heart a little more carefully. (Because somehow I think the courts would frown on me stealing my two little brown babies and bringing them with.)

I've spoken with Pumpkin's respite provider twice. Pumpkin got sick not too far into this transition. She ran a fever and vomited once. If I had to guess, it was her body's response to stress. However, she's communicating well with the respite provider. In fact, the mom claims that Pumpkin signs after she fills her diaper. She's convinced Pumpkin is almost ready for potty training. (Me...I'm not convinced and it's highly unlikely that I'll potty train her as long as she's in my custody.)

I haven't had the guts to call the respite provider for Dude and Dolly. They're too little to talk to me on the phone so I know it wouldn't benefit them. And me...I don't think I really want to know (until I pick them up) if they're having a difficult time at respite or not. Because if they're crying at bedtime and not sleeping at night, there isn't a damn thing I can do about it from 1250 miles away. And it would just make me feel like garbage.

So, I've spoken with our agency worker a couple different times. She assures me all three cherubs are doing fine. I'm just going to stick with that for now.

I did get an email saying that Dude and Dolly have to go to court on Monday. Their CPS worker wants to arrange a visit with their mom afterward. Ya know...'cause otherwise mom isn't going to see these kids ever. (She bailed on the visit last week too.) grrrrrrr

I'm trying to not think about the drama of fostering too much while we're away. It's difficult as I've been surrounded by the most adorable two and three year olds that belong to my brother and sister. I would have loved to have included mine in the bunch and shown them off all over the state. But it wasn't to be.

We've got a few days at my parents' house yet this week. Then we're headed north to see my husband's family. Then back to my parents' for the State Fair. Then, we'll head home. 1250 miles south to home. Where...we might be for a couple more years. Where...we might be for only another month.

My life is nothing if not interesting! I'll let y'all know how this shakes out.