Friday, September 30, 2011

Oh my Pumpkin Pie

For reasons that I'm never going to know...the past week has been radically different with Pumpkin! She has actually been pleasant to care for. Almost easy if you will. (Hopefully I'm not jinxing myself here!)

All the positive growth we had seen in Pumpkin went completely away during the months of June and July (most notably in July). She stopped talking. She stopped playing. She stopped doing everything. And when we got back from vacation in August, it was apparent that she was having a difficult time. She cried a lot. She threw way more fits than normal. She didn't want to cooperate with simple tasks. When school started she avoided that change by trying to sleep at school every day. (Despite going to bed at 7:30PM and getting up at 6:30AM she still was taking naps in the morning at school.) After reunification, I heard that she was still horribly upset. Her therapists reported to me that she didn't want to separate from her mom (understandable) and cried constantly during her entire therapy session. I also heard that she cried a lot at her new school and didn't want to cooperate there.

When she came back into care 11 days after reunification, the crying didn't stop. She seemed so depressed I was starting to wonder if there would have to be another medication change. Pumpkin didn't want to have anything to do with her toys. She spent every day after school sitting on the couch doing nothing.

But everything changed last Friday. Boy do I wish I knew why.

Pumpkin is talking again. Pumpkin is playing again. Pumpkin is engaged with the family activities around her. For the first time EVER...she wants to go outside with the other kids. She's actually aware of where they are and what they're doing!!

It's hard to explain how different she is. The differences are subtle. But there are so many of them. For example...

Yesterday when she got home from school I was playing with her. Pumpkin really enjoyed tickle games and acting like you're going to chase her when she first came. "Rough" play usually made her laugh. Lately though, she had acted oblivious to interaction like this. (Completely oblivious. She would just stand there and not respond at all if you spoke to her. Or tickled her. Or tried to play with her. She was so far inside herself she was like a shell of a person.) Yesterday, I was tickling her and she was laughing. She threw her arms up in the air and kind of bent over as I was playing with her. Well, I helped her bend the rest of the way down, tucked in her head a little and pushed her over into a somersault. She cracked up laughing, stood herself up as fast as she could and threw her hands up in the air. She wanted to flip again. This in and of itself is nothing short of amazing for Pumpkin...but it gets even better. She went into the living room and tried to flip all by herself. She tried to learn how to do a somersault!!

This afternoon she initiated going outside. She actually communicated a want. Up until this week I would have told you that Pumpkin did not have the ability to communicate her wants or needs. Granted, she would choose between two different things if you gave her a choice. But if I didn't give her a choice, she never acted like she cared at all. Tonight, when no one else was outside, she took it upon herself to try and open the door and go out and play. All. by. herself.

I must say, I'm pleased as punch with all the changes. Pumpkin is easier to take care of. I've decided her apathy was one of the most difficult parts to deal with before. Sometimes when I was triggered (read that as angry for no reason) it was because Pumpkin was so apathetic to all that was going on around her. At least now she's actually got a bit of a personality.

These changes could be because of the medication change back in July. (It can take awhile for seizure meds to really go to work and for side effects to subside.) These changes could be as a result of being reunified and then coming back in to care. (I do believe that we interact with her more here than in her bio home environment.) Or these changes could be as a result of something else. Honestly, I don't care! I'm just praying these changes last. For Pumpkin's sake!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Family visits are difficult

I'm grateful that Dude & Dolly's CPS worker is willing to actually tell me what's going on with their case. She shared with me details of today's visit.

For lack of a better way of describing things, I guess Mom has been a little bit "better" lately. She's not hanging around with some of the bad influences she has associated with in the past. In fact, she called yesterday to set up the visit today. She even spoke with the case worker right away this morning. However, Mom ended up being nearly an hour late anyway. And when she showed up she brought with her a whole slew of different family members.

The visit was somewhat awkward. (That's how the CPS worker described it.) Different family members were thoroughly inspecting the children and calling into question every single scratch or bug bite. They twisted around everything the children had to say. For example, when the kids talked about playing the adults in the visit got upset?!!?? Not even the worker understood what the issue was. But she explained to everyone that we've got a swing set in the backyard and toys in several different rooms in the house. The worker had to go in several different times to redirect conversation that was inappropriate.

It broke my heart to hear how Dude was confused and then somewhat aloof during the entire visit. I spoke with the kids this morning and told them that they were going to go see their mommy. I was confident that Dude understood what was going to happen. However, when he went in the room, Dude literally went looking for me. They had to explain to him who his mommy was. I guess he was OK with things but stayed to himself most of the visit. Thankfully I sent him with a bag of toys so he would have something to do. (Unfortunately not all the toys made it back to my house. Hopefully Cherubs 2 & 3 won't miss their things that didn't return.) Their worker said that the kids actually seemed more attached to several of the other family members that came. It appears that Mom hasn't actually cared for them much and that they were passed around a lot before coming into care.

When it was time to leave both kids handled the transition OK. They just said goodbye and left without issue. However, both kids are particularly clingy to me this afternoon. I recognize that visits are necessary and important. But they are so emotionally draining on everyone. (Especially when they happen so infrequently!)

I asked the worker what she thought (looking into her magic crystal ball of course) what would happen next. She's confident the children will go to their grandmother across the state. The mom wants her kids out of "foster care". I can't wrap my brain around this kind of thinking. With her kids all the way across the state there will be no way for her to see them. In fact, I guess some woman in the visit commented that if the kids do go up there Mom will never get them back. Mom just shrugged this off but I'm sure there's a lot of truth to that statement.

I'm trying to prepare my heart for these cherubs to move on. I'm not thrilled to death with the idea of them going to Grandma. Whether it's right or wrong for me to feel this way, I'm sad. I'm not convinced that this is the best move for them. The kids don't know Grandma at all. They have no established relationship whatsoever. And, to top it all off, the grandma doesn't speak English. The little cherubs still know some Spanish. But it is no longer their language of choice. It breaks my heart to know that they will not only have to move in with a stranger, but they will have the whole language barrier again. They won't be able to tell Grandma anything about their time in our house so basically, they will be starting all over.

CPS is trying to get a picture of Grandma for me. I've introduced her as a character in the cherubs' lives. When we pray at night we pray for all the family members in our home, plus Mommy and then Grandma in D***. (I've identified her by where she lives as the children don't know her by anything else at all.) I'm hoping I can help the children with the future transition by at least giving them a face to the name. A photo will help if CPS can get me one. It's just a little thing but I only want to do right by these kids.

Nothing is happening right away. Court isn't until the second week of November. In the meantime I'm just going to love on them as much as I can. My heart is going to be in a million pieces when they leave though.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dolly and her baby dolls

Dolly's birthday was this past Saturday. Dolly's two favorite things in the whole wide world are baby dolls and books. Needless to say, I ensured that she received copious amounts of both.




Dolly has been playing with her babies almost exclusively since Saturday. (I bought her babies when she first came here. But now she has all the accessories she could possibly want.) They get pushed around in the strollers. They swing. She gives them baths. She changes diapers complete with pretend powder and lotion. It is adorable!! (Even Pumpkin is getting into playing house. She has been doing absolutely terrific lately!!)

Today Dolly's babies needed my attention several times. One time a baby went "pow-pow". (That's what Dolly calls bumping yourself or falling down.) One time she had to show me how her baby got dirty and she had to clean the baby's face.

The one that broke my heart was, "My baby no see her mommy. My baby sad."

All I could do was agree with her. It's very sad when you don't get to see your mommy.

I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing...but I got a call late this afternoon letting me know that Dolly and Dude ARE going to see their mommy.  I guess their mom finally called for a visit and did whatever she needs to do to cooperate with the system and get one. CPS does need to do their best to ensure that Mom gets her 1 hour a month with the kids. (Plus, when Mom actually shows up they can make her take a drug test. And, from what I was told, Mom's choice of poison has gotten rather extreme.) Anyway, CPS is dropping everything and driving to pick the kids up in the morning. (I'm very grateful that I don't have to do this transportation as Mom lives over an hour away from us.) Tomorrow should be quite interesting.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'll find out more in November

Tons going on...but there's little to report.

Everyone is settling back into routine. Pumpkin has stopped crying. In fact, she's even started smiling. We're getting some mimicking and interaction. It's been pleasant.

Dolly and Dude have adjusted well. At first Pumpkin coming back was a bit of a trigger. Dolly would say, "my mommy bye bye" many times throughout the day. (Pumpkin was crying for her mom and it would upset Dolly.) But, since Pumpkin was only gone for 11 days, it wasn't too big of a transition for everyone when she came back. Emotionally it was draining for me. But all in all it was pretty easy.

The hardest part of fostering is not knowing AT ALL what is going to happen next! The case workers, supervisors and lawyers share little about what their plans are. I have to just sit back and wait. (and wait and wait and wait)

I emailed Amy (Pumpkin's CPS worker today) about the neurological appointment that Pumpkin has on Monday. I asked if she and Pumpkin's mom would be joining us. She responded by saying no. Pumpkin's mom won't be going along to any doctor appointments. This surprised me and has me wondering. What are they planning for Pumpkin and her mom next?! Court will be held again sometime in November.

Dolly and Dude's mom has been making lots and lots of poor decisions. I know very little overall. But I know enough to know that reunification is not going to happen unless there are multiple major miracles. There is a homestudy that has been completed on a grandma. Grandma passed if you will. But details there are somewhat vague and nobody is jumping for joy about sending Dolly and Dude to live with her. I have to wait until court in November to see what will happen next.

Our family has decided against any cross-country moves right now. Details about the job came to light and we decided it wouldn't be a good fit for us. We're going to stay put for at least six more months. I'm sure Mr. Amazing will have a hard time not looking at job postings for that long. But I begged him to hold off as I'm tired of the cross-country moving roller coaster.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Forgiveness

I like to pray in the car. It seems to be a good time for me to actually "listen". Here's what I heard this morning on the way to court...

God doesn't differentiate between sins. That means me yelling at my kids and getting angry because of stupid stuff is the same as Pumpkin's mom pinching her.

(I really wanted to argue with God about this.)

God forgives me when I screw up. It's called mercy and grace. It's how He does things.

(And Lord knows I need abundant amounts of grace and mercy.)

If I'm going to show God's love to others, I have to forgive them.

(And not just the easy stuff like someone cutting me off in traffic.)

Oh crap. That means I have to forgive Pumpkin's mom.

I've wrestled with this concept before. Forgiveness is a choice. It is active. And I have to choose to do it. I might have to choose to forgive over and over. But I have to do it.

I have to forgive Pumpkin's mom and show her God's grace and mercy.

This does NOT mean that Pumpkin has to go back home in order for this forgiveness stuff to work. Pumpkin needs to be safe. But it does mean that I have to have the right attitude.

I was nervous about being with Pumpkin's mom today. In my little world things had changed. For some reason (and not a valid one) this physical abuse became worse to me than felony abandonment and medical neglect. I didn't want to trust her (even though we were going to be in an incredibly public place). I didn't want her to be near Pumpkin (even though that's all Pumpkin would want). I wanted to punish her.

But I didn't. I put Pumpkin in her stroller and walked up to the courthouse where her mom was waiting out front. I was pleasant and made small talk. We rode the elevator together up to the floor where court was going to be at. While waiting I talked about the beach on Saturday and told her how much fun Pumpkin had. I also asked if the CPS worker had given her the most recent set of pictures of Pumpkin.

It wasn't easy. I didn't come out and "tell" Mom that I forgave her. And like I said, it's something I'm going to have to do more than just one time. But I tried this morning. And it wasn't nearly as awkward as I thought it was going to be.

What a waste of time

I was at the courthouse at 7:30AM with Pumpkin today. They were supposed to squeeze her case in at 8:00. Showing up early ensures that everyone will in fact be there and any lawyers or other professionals will have a chance to talk to me if necessary.

The entire gaggle of legal professionals was there before 8:00AM.

We waited.

And waited. And waited. And waited.

They all went into the courtroom to wait there. No one even told me when the case actually got called. I just sat out in the hall with Pumpkin. (No one told me to go into the courtroom.)

At about 9:00 everyone walked out and said that they'd let me know when the next hearing is.

That's all there was to it.

I know nothing except that Pumpkin is going to stay in care and we'll go to court again in around two months.

Needless to say, I'm not too keen on supervising visits with Pumpkin's mom right now. So, it looks like we'll settle into our routine at home. Pumpkin will get her court appointed, CPS supervised, one hour visit per month. And we'll go from there.

Monday, September 19, 2011

They're squeezing us in

Tomorrow morning is going to be crazy!

The judge is squeezing Pumpkin's case in first thing. We have to be at the courthouse at 7:30AM. Honestly, it's pointless that we attend. Pumpkin is going to be a mess and will do nothing but cry for her mother. I'm quite confident I won't actually get to go into court. But...per the stupid laws where we live...we will be there.

Mr. Amazing is going to take the morning off to help deal with the other cherubs. I really don't want to send Dolly and Dude to daycare tomorrow. (They're going to have to go on Thursday when I have my dentist appointment.) And Cherubs 2 & 3 need to get dropped off at school at 7:30. Mr. Amazing will hold the fort down til I get back from court.

I'm more uncomfortable now about being around Pumpkin's mom. I'm not going to want to let Pumpkin sit on her lap or even go to her. I hope that there are case workers around to help guide this situation. It's not like I think Pumpkin's mom will hurt her in court. (I'm still reeling that she hurt her period!) But it's just too weird and I don't think she deserves to hold Pumpkin and be with her unsupervised. This is where I'm still awfully "green". The case workers aren't going to be phased by this at all. Me, I'm just going to want to protect Pumpkin. And I don't know what that will look like in a waiting room outside of court.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Replacement phrase

I might be guilty of trying to replace Pumpkin's repetitive phrase of, "Mamma L*** coming" with "Mamma L*** is a goddess."

I haven't been successful...yet.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Puzzle pieces

Pumpkin keeps saying "Mamma L***" over and over and over. (Honestly...it's like Chinese water torture.) It's got a little cadence to it. And the repetition is very autistic-like.

She'll mix it up some. Sometimes it's just my name. Sometimes it's, "Mamma L*** coming".

This is weird. This is very, very weird.

So I'm talking to my family members about it all. My genius sister (I really should make a tag just for my genius sister) might have just unlocked it for me.

Now, everything I'm thinking here is purely speculation. I have NO IDEA why she's really saying my name over and over. However...

Pumpkin speaks almost entirely in echolalia. Usually she will repeat the names of all the Sponge Bob characters. Sometimes she'll repeat phrases she's heard us say around the house. For example, she'll say, "I love you" when we leave to go somewhere. It's not a true feeling of Pumpkin's most of the time. It's just repeating what we say. I've also heard her say, "disgusting" as I changed her diaper. And yes, she learned that one from me. <<sigh>>

So, this repeating of, "Mamma L*** coming," had to come from somewhere. Some deep dark part of me wondered if her mom had told her that she was coming back to my house. Initially the twisted thought was that Mom got caught on purpose and had maybe told Pumpkin ahead of time that this is what was going to happen.

My genius sister unlocked a more plausible answer to the puzzle though.

Pumpkin has been crying A LOT lately. Since July she's been more challenging to care for. She throws more fits and doesn't cooperate with all requests. She was doing OK enough in our home. But the respite provider had a somewhat difficult time and once she started school she cried a ton during the day. Her teacher had contacted me several times about it!!

What if....
What if Pumpkin had been crying around her mom constantly since reunification.
What if Pumpkin's mom got fed up and threatened Pumpkin. Something along the lines of, "You had better stop crying or Mamma L*** will come again."

Pumpkin is deep inside herself. It's hard to describe but she is NOT the little girl that was here before. She is dealing with a level of depression and the only way she can manage it is to cry or repeat these phrases over and over.

Tonight, while getting her ready for bed she was talking constantly. I couldn't understand most of it. But it involved my name (to the point of driving me practically insane). She also said something about, "no go outside". But mainly it was my name over and over. She can't make eye contact. She doesn't even seem aware of anything else around her. It's bizarre!

The investigator for Pumpkin's case came to the house tonight. I couldn't read her at all. She looked over Pumpkin. She didn't really react at all to any of the marks. She had seen Pumpkin just a few days ago in the home. She said she'll use the report the doctor writes up for me.

Thankfully this investigator is the same one that has followed the family for awhile now. Pumpkin's mom had the Family Services side of CPS "watching" things prior to Pumpkin's first removal. The investigator is not impressed with Pumpkin's mom's ability to parent. I'm confident she's worried about what will happen to Pumpkin should they be reunited again. But she didn't come across as confident that these new allegations will hold up in court as much. She started talking about sending Pumpkin to a dermatologist to diagnose something for Pumpkin's dry skin. She basically said in a sense that the scenario would require Mom to have to follow up with another specialist. It would give them more weight in court if Mom isn't able to maintain all the appointments.

Personally, I think that's a lame way to get a kid removed. I should think the evidence is strong enough right now.

I have to wait and see.

Oh the drama.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

She is so sad

Pumpkin has been crying almost solid since coming into our home again last night.

Thankfully she went to bed and fell asleep without problems. But she is sooooo sad. She keeps crying for her mommy. From there she asks for her sisters. Then, for reasons I don't know, she'll just cry out my name. I'm guessing in her own way she thinks that if she says my name maybe I'll take her back to her mommy.

We went to the doctor today. Even though she's only been out of care for less than two weeks, I was required to get a communicable disease screening done. I made sure to schedule the appointment with the doctor that saw Pumpkin on Monday though. She took pictures of all the scratches and bruises on Pumpkin. She's going to draw up a formal document for me to present to CPS, our agency, lawyers, CASA, etc. I have to go back to the office on Monday to pick that up.

Court will be within the next two weeks. The first hearing is always to determine whether or not the removal was valid.

I have a feeling this is not going to go well for Pumpkin's mom. I'm not convinced as to how Pumpkin got all the marks on her body. But I'm willing to give her Mom the benefit of the doubt on some of them. Pumpkin does have a difficult time walking. She does fall easily. She also bruises easily.

However, the doctor doesn't like Pumpkin's mom at all! She's not going to give Mom the benefit of the doubt. It will be interesting to read her report. It will be interesting to see if CPS takes it seriously. This drama sure is going to be interesting.

Nervous

I'm feeling just a little more nervous this time around 'cause Pumpkin's mom knows our address.

Not that I really think she'd do anything stupid.

But then again, I didn't think she had it in her to physically abuse Pumpkin either.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Suspicious

Pumpkin is NOT happy!!

She screamed. And screamed. And screamed. And then screamed some more during the intake process. Granted, it was good to hear some mimicking and language. But it also broke my heart.

I saw the bruise that was made when her mom pinched her at the doctor's office yesterday. It's on her chest. It had to have been a pretty hard pinch! I also noticed a few other suspicious scratches and bruises on her legs.

When I gave her a bath before putting her in bed, I saw even more weird scratches and bruises.

Granted, these aren't huge...my mom was beating me...kinds of bruises. But I know what Pumpkin's legs look like when she falls and gets a bruise. And this isn't right!

She also has some scratches on her shoulder blades. When she came into care the first time in January, there was deep tissue discoloration and scaring there. I took her to the ER to have her looked at because it looked suspicious to me then. I called the Hotline and reported it. Mom said that Pumpkin got a rash there and scratched herself. Nothing ever came of my concerns at that time.

During the 8 months Pumpkin was in my care I never saw her scratching her shoulders more than once. She never left marks on herself. (Not on her shoulders anyway. Pumpkin is a "picker" but it's usually only on things like mosquito bites or scratches that scab over.) However, Pumpkin currently  has two spots of scabs on her shoulder blades where it looks like she was scratching herself again.

I'm going to document all the marks on Pumpkin tomorrow. (I just put her in bed tonight so she could rest.) I think I'm even going to take pictures so I have them ready if necessary. I haven't decided if I'm going to contact CASA or her GAL right away. We'll be having court in about two weeks though and I think both parties need to hear what I think about the potential of physical abuse before we get there.

To add to the weird factor too...

Pumpkin had a drug that was to be used only for breakthrough seizures. The pills were individually sealed in blister packs. I sent 44 pills home with Pumpkin on the 2nd. CPS wanted Mom to have the pills in her home so that eventually a home health nurse (that was going to assist with caring for Pumpkin) could train Mom on the use of these pills.

Pumpkin's mom decided to pop almost all of the pills out of their blisters. It appears that she kept them all. But she told CPS that she wanted "to have them ready". Keeping in mind, CPS had told her NOT to use this drug. And I had told Mom that you only give one pill during a major seizure.

After discussing this with my genius sister, I'm thinking that maybe Mom wanted to try and sell them. Either that or she was going to take them herself? Or maybe give them to Pumpkin to make her sleep? Either way, it's a weird twist to the story. I've already disposed of the pills. I'm going to get a refill tomorrow so I can be sure the meds I have on hand are safe.

My house is drama filled again. I'll keep y'all posted.

They took it seriously

Pumpkin will be back in my care in just a couple hours.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A little gossip

I just got a phone call from the pediatrician we use. It seems that Pumpkin is there in the waiting room with her mom right now. The doctor wasn't sure why as they hadn't been seen yet. However, I guess Pumpkin was crying. I guess Mom was pinching Pumpkin in an attempt to get her to stop crying.

The doctor wanted to fast-track her call to CPS. She wanted to know Pumpkin's case worker and called me for the number. I encouraged her to call the hotline number as well.

I have no idea how this is going to shake out. They could simply talk to Mom and tell her not to pinch Pumpkin.

Or...I will get a call asking if we would be willing to take Pumpkin back into our home.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

First placement flashback

One year ago today our first (Texas) placement joined our family. Our first placement was two beautiful, but very mentally ill (RAD) little girls. I hadn't made the connection all day until I stood over Dolly and Dude while we were praying tonight. Mr. Amazing was holding Dolly and I picked up Dude. It was a total flashback to when we had Turtle Turtle and Miss Argue Pants. We used to hold them at bedtime for about 10-15 minutes every night. It was the only way they could go to sleep. Anyway...I teared up tonight remembering those two girls.

I'm pretty sure they are still in care. I tried to follow their case after they left our home. The first place they went to upon leaving our home was an emergency respite home with our agency. They would have been able to "permanently" stay there except CPS got their panties in a wad over visits and wouldn't compromise with the foster family.

Then they had to leave our agency. Despite the fact they were moved to a home over an hour away, I saw the girls at their family visits a couple times. I heard they were going to be reunified with their mom. (A young woman who, to the best of my knowledge, raised Turtle Turtle for about a year. Her behavior after that time period led to both girls being in some kind of care for the rest of their young lives.)

Then, right as school was getting out, I heard the girls were being separated. My best guess says their behaviors went incredibly wonky, reunification was put on hold and the girls had to be put in separate homes.

I pray for them every time I read a RAD blog. Then I turn and pray for all the RAD moms and dads out there. I did it for two months and it nearly killed me.

As part of this flashback, I'm posting my first blog entry after Turtle Turtle and Miss Argue Pants joined our family.

---------------

I don't even know where to begin.

We said yes to our first placement last Friday night (September 10th). Two beautiful little girls who have suffered things I can't even imagine have come to live in our home. Things have been so incredibly busy I can't even think of clever blog names for them. I guess, for the time being anyway, one of them will be Miss Argue Pants and one will Turtle Turtle. I'm not sure how well these names fit but I've got to keep things as anonymous as possible.

Miss Argue Pants is eight years old and Turtle Turtle is nine. They are bio sisters and both are in third grade.

The honeymoon period has been incredibly short. I'm hoping that's because we're actually doing some form therapeutic parenting. I'm not living day to day - but hour to hour. It's not all bad or difficult or deep and therapeutic. There are times when it's actually quite pleasant. But the times when it is difficult - it's beyond difficult! You just don't undo 9 years of trauma in one week. This I know.

The God I serve will see us through this. I'm on my proverbial knees 24 hours a day. In fact, I'm leaving the Christian radio station on all day today. One: it keeps my focus where it needs to be. Two: I'll do anything I can that might help keep Satan out of this house!

Miss Argue Pants is spending almost every minute of her existence trying to find inequities between herself and Turtle Turtle. She is convinced that everyone loves Turtle more than they love her. She has incredible amounts of shame and literally has told me she doesn't deserve good things. You know...things like lunch, or a bed, or clothes. If she can't find an inequity, she'll pick a fight. It is exhausting!!

Turtle is quite concerned with keeping the peace. She's much more of a pleaser and strife makes her very nervous and uncomfortable. However, she too wants everything to be fair.

I've had to "out crazy the crazy" many times already. Every time I hear "it's not fair" the child who says it is instructed to do a dance. There has been LOTS of dancing from all five of the children in our home. (Because...of course...Cherubs 1, 2 & 3 have to see if they can get a rise out of me too!) During a fit/MAJOR meltdown yesterday Miss Argue Pants purposely farted on me. After reading so much of Christine's blog I decided to use her approach (when her cherubs spit on her she rubs it in). I waved my hands around and said, "Oooooo good...now I smell like YOU! And I love YOU!" I was actually surprised how quickly that response helped de-escalate what was happening.

Both girls, since last Saturday, say they never want to go back to "the house they were living in before." (Yes, that's what they call their home.) In fact, Turtle has said many many times that she just wants to stay here until she's a grown up.

It's only been one week and I'm most definitely not the same person I was before. I pray that we're given all the patience, knowledge, skill, etc. to see these girls through this season of their lives.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Minimum standards stink

I love my agency worker. I love the fact that I can be completely honest with her and she doesn't even flinch.

She half-heartedly said that she should probably double check how I store our cleaning supplies today. I smiled and said that I'm breaking one rule. I can't bring myself to store the dishwasher detergent anywhere but under the sink. Putting it out of reach in our laundry closet wasn't practical and keeping it on a shelf in my kitchen cupboard above the sink ended up being too messy as the box would leak.

She said she needed to see where I do our laundry to I took her to the laundry closet. The laundry soap is on a small shelf above the washer and drier where my own mother has a hard time reaching. I showed her the lock boxes that I purchased for things such as toilet bowl cleaner and the like.

Our worker then informed me that the laundry soap is supposed to be locked up too. Not just out of reach. But completely locked up. She couldn't confirm if this is a State standard or something our agency is doing that is "above and beyond".

I looked her in the face and said I understand -- but I'm not going to do it.

We then went into the bathroom where she told me I'm supposed to have paper towels for the children to dry their hands on. I said I'm too environmentally conscious to allow that in my home. She seemed to think that if I had a separate towel for each kid that I would be under minimum standards. I smiled and did not indicate I would be changing my single hand towel out for any other system.

Thankfully she agreed that our home would not be shut down for the "violations" if we were to be inspected. Then she went on to say that she's had to shut down two of her homes recently. She said that you just "know" when a home isn't right. Then she apologized for always having such short visits when she comes here. But she knows that we're OK and not doing anything wrong. I'm glad she trusts us.

We both agreed that these silly rules don't prevent abuse or neglect of children. They are just a pain in the neck for all parties involved!!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Telling the truth

Despite the fact that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy visit our house, I'm a HUGE believer in telling my kids the truth...always! (I think those childhood characters transcend "truth" and can be a fun part of growing up.) But telling the truth isn't always easy.

Navigating how to tell Dolly and Dude why Pumpkin is gone was something we thought through quite a bit. It was important for me to tell the truth. But I really didn't want to focus on the "mommy" side of things too much. Yes, Dude and Dolly are eventually going to deal with the harsh reality that they aren't going to see their mommy. But I don't need to rub it in their faces that Pumpkin was going home to hers.

I didn't want to simply say that Pumpkin is "bye bye". Honestly, that's how we describe where their mommy is. Several times a day (though it is less frequently now) they ask, "Mommy bye bye?" I respond, "Yes, Mommy is bye bye. That's sad. But Mamma L*** will take care of you."

I didn't want to say that Pumpkin went "home" either. Just yesterday, as we pulled into the driveway, Dude looked out the window and said, "My home". It made me feel good to know that he feels like he belongs here now. But I'm sure it would be confusing to Dude and Dolly if this is what they know as home and I tell them that Pumpkin went home.

So, I enlisted the help of my genius sister. I felt like I was damned if I do...damned if I don't. I explained to her the dilemma. And, like always, she was pure genius.

She asked what town Pumpkin was moving to. And while this will mean very little to Dude and Dolly, it gives me a concrete way to explain where Pumpkin has gone to. I'm not going to lie -- I have told them that Pumpkin is with her mommy. But then I put the focus on, "Pumpkin went to her home in S**J***." Bye focusing on the town, it draws the emphasis away from mommy and home in general.

This explanation has worked so far. They seem satisfied with the answer. And while they have confirmed that Pumpkin is indeed with her mommy, and that they are not...they seem OK.

I did a couple more things right away to help them understand that Pumpkin is gone for good. I took the sheets off Pumpkin's bed last night. Then I took the set of drawers that housed Pumpkin's clothes and moved Dolly's clothes into them.

They have been fine all day. Part of me was really worried that this transition would upset them. It's not like they were Pumpkin's best friends...but Dolly did play with Pumpkin quite a bit. (Read that as Dolly would sit Pumpkin down and make her be the patient and Dolly the doctor. Or Dolly would lead Pumpkin over to the art table and make her color. Or Dolly would set up all the dolls around Pumpkin and tell Pumpkin how to play house. Pumpkin didn't do much but she almost always cooperated with Dolly. In fact, even her speech therapist noticed a difference and improvement with Pumpkin's ability to "play" after Dude and Dolly arrived.) It is a pretty big change when someone you shared a room with is suddenly gone. But they are doing OK.

As for me, I looked up a couple times expecting to see Pumpkin walking around the corner. And I did a little mental happy dance at 6:30 when I remembered that I wasn't going to have to prepare all the medications. And then I prayed a prayer for Pumpkin's mom hoping that she was getting those meds ready herself.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Reunification

Pumpkin smiled and played along at bedtime last night. I'm glad I got one more chance to see her in a playful kind of mood. She had completely shut down since we came home from vacation.

I went through the morning thinking...this is the last time I have to prepare all these medications. This is my last time to brush her teeth. This my last.... (Pumpkin did me a favor today and didn't even poop her diaper so that "last" happened a couple days ago! Yeah!!)

Today proved to be very interesting! I had offered for Pumpkin's mom to ride along with me to Pumpkin's appointments today. She thought that sounded good. When I sent her a text this morning at 7:00 she said she'd call me when she got close to my house. She was supposed to meet me at 10:00.

Well, sometime between 7AM and 9AM Pumpkin's mom completely forgot this conversation and drove herself to Pumpkin's first appointment. When I called her at 10:00 and asked her where she was (because we needed to leave to make the 11:00 appointment) she said she was already there.

That shook me a little. In just two hours she forgot what time Pumpkin's appointment was and how she was going to get there.

On a positive note...I did get to spend most of the day with Pumpkin's mom. I was able to talk to Mom about some of the details she might need to know...as so much as changed with Pumpkin since she cared for her last. And since we were together for so long, I peppered the conversation periodically with this information instead of overwhelming her with it all at once.

I had to laugh when Pumpkin's mom asked me how I do Pumpkin's hair. She wanted to know how I brush it when Pumpkin is throwing a fit. She said that Pumpkin doesn't let her brush her hair either. I just smiled and said that I keep on brushing even if Pumpkin cries. Getting ready in the morning is a non-negotiable. I told her that Pumpkin used to complain to me all the time but now she just sits there like she's supposed to. I really wanted to give Mom a "lecture" about how she is the parent and Pumpkin is the child. But I knew most of that would probably fly over her head so I bit my tongue. Besides, Pumpkin having nice hair is the least of my concerns now. I'm praying that Mom will brush her teeth...even though Pumpkin complains. And that Mom will make sure she goes to school...even though Pumpkin complains. And that Mom will take her to all the necessary appointments...even though Pumpkin complains.

Mom and I parted ways after the last appointment. All in all things went well. I made sure to tell Mom that I'm a resource for her if she needs anything. I even offered to babysit if the need arises. She truly seemed grateful. We're not best of friends -- but I'm sure she's not threatened by me and understands that I only want what is best for Pumpkin.

Pumpkin and I came back home. I had to finish folding and inventorying all of her things. I called CPS to let them know I was ready. Her worker came over right away.

The transfer was non-eventful.  Pumpkin muttered a quiet goodbye as they buckled her into the car. She seemed completely unemotional overall. But...this is Pumpkin. It didn't hurt my feelings.

Explaining things to Dude and Dolly will take another post. That in and of itself has been a unique challenge. They seem to be handling things OK so far.

I'm not happy. But I'm not sad either. Everyone keeps asking how I'm doing. I'm not sure how to answer them without sounding cold-hearted. I smile and say I'm happy for Pumpkin and I'm praying for her mom.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

I was wrong

I just got out of court with Pumpkin. The way I thought things were going to go was totally not what happened.

Pumpkin is going home to her mom tomorrow!!

Her mom has done everything in her case plan. And, quite honestly, nothing will change if Pumpkin stays in care. Today...6 months from now...or even 2 years from now...Pumpkin's mom just has to say that she will not drink or do drugs, that she won't leave Pumpkin alone, and that she will give Pumpkin her medication and meet her medical needs. These aren't things that are tangible. It's not like she needs to find a place to live, prove she can keep her utilities on, maintain employment or other things that some parents have to prove. Mom has been clean every time they've drug tested her. (I don't think she ever did have a drug problem. I'm pretty sure her vice is alcohol.) Mom has attended her substance abuse classes, personal therapy, and parenting classes. Nobody is going to know if Mom is going to maintain Pumpkin's therapies, take her to school or give her the medicine until she's given a chance to do that.

So, Pumpkin is going home.

The lawyers wanted to keep the case open for 90 days. The judge made it 120. I'm not sure what that means exactly except that CPS will be monitoring Mom (hopefully rather closely).

I took Pumpkin back to school so they could say goodbye and gather up all her things. She'll come home on the bus this afternoon. I want to go get a family picture done with Pumpkin tonight. It's been on my "to do" list forever but I have to make it happen now!! I'll count all her clothes, fill out the paperwork, and pack them up this evening along with her toys.

Tomorrow Pumpkin has a couple medical appointments. Her mom is going to join me. Then, sometime in the afternoon, CPS will make the transfer.

I am very, very surprised that Pumpkin is going home without ever having any unsupervised visits. But everyone seems surprised by the judge down here in general. I pray that the right thing was done.

I'm not as cool as Rebecca at Fosterhood in NYC. I'm not going to try and visit Pumpkin after she goes home. I don't know if visits after reunification would mean anything to Pumpkin. However, I am going to make sure that her mom knows I'm a resource and if she needs help I'm here for her!! Maybe we'll get together...but I highly doubt it.

This has been a very interesting 8 months. Pumpkin entered care on January 2nd and she's leaving care on September 2nd. I can't say that I'm heartbroken about this move. Caring for Pumpkin is challenging. I'm not going to miss the special ed program at school, the random crying, nonsense babbling, the lack of communication, feeding her and changing those diapers. I do pray that all those still involved in her case will advocate for Pumpkin as strongly as I have.

I know that Bart is going to be sad (eventually). I saw both TT and Bart at school when I dropped Pumpkin back off. Bart seemed happy when I told him. But I know Bart and he's quite fond of Pumpkin. He too is a huge advocate for her. If he sees her crying at school, he always tries to make it better. Her absence will affect him eventually. TT was thrilled when I told him. Honestly though, I think that's because he truly wants reunification. As an adopted child, he has a different outlook on these relationships. Herman is too cool to care. 14 year old boys don't get wrapped up in things like this. He's stayed rather removed from Pumpkin as her disabilities made him uncomfortable.

I'm glad Pumpkin stayed with us. Mr. Amazing and I had never cared for a special needs child. We both learned a lot about ourselves. I definitely have a deep amount of empathy for full-time parents of kids like Pumpkin. My children learned how to share and be patient in ways that were brand new. Even Dude and Dolly learned that kids like Pumpkin are OK. Herman was forced to relate with someone with disabilities and that was good for him.

I know that we won't take another placement soon. We are still waiting to hear about Mr. Amazing's potential new job and subsequent cross-country move. Also, Dude and Dolly keep me hopping and it would have to be just the right age and circumstances for us to bring another child into the mix.

I feel strange right now. Not happy. Not sad. I have prayed all along for Pumpkin's mom and I'm going to have to let go and let God now. I will have little more than prayer on my side. Thankfully I serve a very big God!! His plan is always perfect, even if it doesn't make sense to me.