Monday, October 31, 2011

Next Monday is going to suck

We have to be in the city Dude and Dolly are from at 11:00 next Monday. CPS wants them to get a visit with Mom before we have court that afternoon. Grandma is also going to be there. She is making Greyhound arrangements right now.

Court isn't until 1:30. And, due to how things work down here, we won't really have court for at least a couple hours after that. I'm going to have very nervous, very scared, very tired and very dysregulated children by the time court actually rolls around.

Grandma has been informed that this placement is likely to be permanent. She is OK with that.

CPS has assured me that the children will not go to Grandma's immediately after court. (Thank God for Greyhound.) As things stand right now, CPS will be flying the children over to Grandma's on Thursday or Friday next week.

Thankfully everyone has been considerate of my feelings. In fact, I think their CPS worker was crying on the other end of the phone today as I was talking with her. I personally waited to cry until about 10 minutes later as I was tucking the cherubs in for nap.

Emotionally I'm a wreck. But I'm not surprised. This is how The System works. I'm not even mad. Because...this is how The System works. Children do belong with their family. And I have to trust that this grandma is going to love them. It's not fair for me to assume that she isn't.

Oh yeah, I was also told that it is likely that Mom will be arrested once we get to court. That ought to be very interesting. (I was told they are trying to figure out a way to shelter the cherubs so they don't have to witness the actual arrest.)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Anxiety

Cherub 2 has horrible issues with anxiety. I've never seen a child with as much anxiety as he has. When he was a baby he would cry if you weren't in the exact same room as him. His level of separation anxiety was off the charts. I'm not talking about the typical stuff that the parenting books talk about. I'm talking about the fact that he could work himself up to vomiting when he got upset. (He barfed on me one time when I tried to leave him in the church nursery when he was two years old.) If his schedule got mixed up (say my parents came to visit) he literally got sick. Fever and everything. He truly was sick. Even though the people visiting were people he knew and loved -- and wanted to be with -- the change in schedule increased his anxiety to levels most people can't understand.

We've been working with TT for years so that he can learn to self-regulate when his anxiety is peaking. He's doing much better. School is less of an issue. In fact, he joined the UIL team this year. (My kid stays after school to do math for fun and then competes every now and then with kids from other schools. Weird. LOL) He had his first UIL meet yesterday.

When he got home though, we all paid the price. TT had to get up early to get to school on a Saturday. So...he was tired. Then, he had to "hold it all together" during the meet. This was a brand new experience for him so I know his anxiety was probably off the charts. But he has learned to keep his emotions in check (until he gets back home where it's safe to explode). When he got home from the meet he was tired and hungry and exhausted from keeping it all together at school. He began whining. Fussing. Carrying on.

TT does things that I'll read about in blogs that deal with attachment issues. He'll pick fights. He'll whine and complain about trivial things. He'll overreact to the smallest of stimuli. He'll "forget how to walk". When asked to go somewhere he'll crumple to the floor and act like he tripped or something. He'll try to get up and then he'll fall again. It looks quite intentional. But really, it's his anxiety wrecking havoc on his body. (This can also show itself in forgetting how to do lots of things -- like sit in a chair, get dressed, eat, etc.) It is so frustrating when he gets like this. My first response is to scream at him to get his attention. To physically hold him or help him up (depending on what my expectation is of him at that time.) But I know my first responses are always wrong!

I've been learning how to meet the need first. Instead of freaking out on him while he is freaking out, I try to stay calm. It sounds so easy to do on paper. In reality though, whew...I really stink at it sometimes! I'm getting better though. And because we've been working with TT on this for so long now, we're pretty good at knowing what his need is.

Usually it's food. At least that seems to help him the most. When his blood sugars are the least bit low, he cannot self-regulate. He has learned when he feels like things are spinning out of control that he needs to eat first. He is supposed to eat a protein. Often, this helps.

Yesterday he was hosed though. After he got home from school we had only a couple hours until we were going to leave again. We went as a family to an outdoor Christian music concert. Unfortunately, we had never been to this event before so we couldn't answer any questions about it for him. Everything he wanted to know (that would have helped calm his anxiety) was answered with an, "I don't know."

He never did get regulated.

I tried to enjoy the concert. But TT was whiny and upset the entire time.

It hasn't gotten much better today either. We were up late last night so he's still tired. And now it's almost like he's in a pattern of anxiety. It's testing my therapeutic parenting skills for sure.

This week isn't going to get easier. I'm not going to focus on it, but court for the little ones is Monday the 7th. This could be our last week with the babies. And since Grandma has to show up at court in order to be awarded custody, odds are they will be swept away from us right then and there (if they go that is). Their CPS worker wanted to give us ample time to say goodbye. But the logical side of me says that they will give Grandma the kids there at court rather than schedule a day for a social worker to drive half-way across the state to drop the kids off. I'm going to try like crazy to not get anxious this week. But I'm human. And unfortunately, TT will feed off my anxiety! (Do I pack their things? Or do I wait until court? Do I prepare everyone in the neighborhood for their goodbye? Or do I wait until court? etc. etc.)

I will try to keep him close to me all week so he knows he is safe. This fostering stuff really messes with his brain. It's hard enough for him to understand his own adoption. But to witness other kids going through confusion and sadness because of their removal, visits, reunification, etc. it's really hard on him. I'm going to go have a talk with his teacher and the counselor at his school. I need his teacher to understand that he's got some potential triggers that could send him flying this week. I know the counselor will meet with him and give him an outlet to talk.

All in all though, I've got to just let go. I can't focus on his anxiety. I can help him. I can try to not make it worse. But I can't obsess. Wish me luck.

Friday, October 28, 2011

When the behaviors start

I read a lot about therapeutic parenting. There are some amazing blogs out there!! In fact, those blogs are where I really learned about how to be an effective foster parent. (See the sidebar for some of my favorite blogs. I highly recommend Welcome To My Brain!) In fact, those blogs have helped me be a better parent in general. Therapeutic parenting doesn't have to be reserved for kids with a trauma background.

Pumpkin doesn't require therapeutic foster parenting. I'm quite convinced that her trauma history has significantly contributed to her language issues. But she is so severely retarded that there is no telling what caused what within her sphere of delays. She can't talk about her past. She can't talk period. I feel like I am able to do little more than meet her physical needs and offer her plenty of opportunities to learn new things. (And of course love on her as must as possible.)

Cherub 1 is a pretty typical kid. Not the easiest to parent. But not too difficult overall I guess.

Cherub 2 lets me stretch my therapeutic parenting skills pretty regularly. He does not have what most would consider a "trauma background" because he was adopted at birth. But honestly, I believe ANYONE that is adopted – no matter the circumstances – has baggage they will deal with for the rest of their life. He has some triggers that I have to be aware of for sure!

Cherub 3 just drives me nuts (usually in a good way). I haven't figured out how to handle some of his wackiest behaviors yet. I'm working on it though. He's a high energy kid!

That leaves Dolly and Dude. When they came the only "issue" we had (other than the whole language barrier) was sleeping. And really, could you blame them?! When the lights go out the big feelings get bigger. They were scared. They were sad. They missed the familiar.

Then we settled in.

It was nice. They are good kids. They are easy kids to care for. Redirection was minimal and pretty easy to handle when required.

It's safe to say the honeymoon is over.

They warn you about this in foster parent training. But I really didn't expect anything to change with Dude and Dolly. They're so little. They weren't horribly abused if you compare their life experiences to the awful things you see on the news. They're resilient, right?!

Well, the short answer is, "yes," they are resilient! But they also have a history of trauma. Kids don't end up in foster care because their parents took away their lollipops.

Dude and Dolly have started in with a few strange behaviors. They are having a much more difficult time getting engaged with the toys we have. It's almost like they came into our home, spent a few months getting to know the overall layout of things and they're bored now.

From what I understand about their past, they were probably bored a lot before. It's my understanding that they didn't have a constant caregiver. I believe they were passed around between different friends and family members. They didn't have any toys at all. (Amazingly enough, they don't watch TV either. Not at all. Not even when I'd give my right arm for them to sit down and be quiet for half an hour.)

So I play the foster parent crystal ball game.

Looooooook into my crystal ball. Seeeeeeeeeeee into the past.

What did they act like when they were stuck in a motel room with a mother that was getting drunk and doing drugs? What did they do for fun? How did they get attention?

I'm betting they looked a lot like they do now when they can't seem to get engaged on their own.

It's hard to describe. I've seen it before with our foster daughters MissArguePants and TurtleTurtle. The only way I can explain it is that they flit around. On the outside it looks "normal". They look like a brother and sister being silly and giggling. They sort of move from room to room. They don't seem unhappy. I mean...really...they're laughing.

But there's something under that laugh that is quite unsettling.

With MissArguePants and TurtleTurtle, whenever it happened I knew...I mean I really knew...they were getting completely dysregulated. If I couldn't put a stop to the giggling I knew we'd be in a full-out rage of sorts within a short amount of time. I used every therapeutic trick I knew each and every time the girls acted this way. They had so many triggers though, due to the severity of their abuse, that I never did get too far. Besides, they only stayed with us for two months. (There was NO honeymoon with these girls.)

When Dude and Dolly start it's so difficult. How do you tell two seemingly perfectly normal little children that it's not OK to giggle?! But this giggling almost always elevates into behavior that is undesirable. It's mild with the little ones compared to the older girls we had before. But they will end up climbing on things they shouldn't. Or getting physical with each other. Or being mean to Pumpkin. Or messing with our dog in ways that aren't nice.

I'm still working through how I'm going to respond to this. But I have decided I'm going to call the behavior "goofy goofy". I'm quite confident that they aren't familiar with the word goofy. And it's not a horribly common word so I know they won't hear it from other people. That should help me be able to use it exclusively to describe the behavior I'm trying to eliminate. We still have English/Spanish issues so I have to keep redirection simple and consistent.

I want them to learn to self-regulate. They're awfully little though. And, unfortunately at times, I work from home so I can't always drop everything and play with them. Besides, I do want them to learn to self-regulate. Really though, stopping everything I'm doing and playing with them would probably be best. I just can't every time. (This behavior is also becoming quite common during mealtime. Especially if I'm in the room with them but not sitting at the table with them. I have no idea what to do when they're doing this at the table!)

My hands are tied at mealtimes. (I welcome any and all suggestions.) Other times of the day, when they're supposed to be playing and they're flitting and giggling instead, I can't just send them upstairs to play in their room or somewhere else in the house. It doesn't make sense for me to send Dude and Dolly away when they're acting like this. I need to keep them close for several reasons. First, I'm responsible for checking on them every 5-10 minutes. (I have to have monitors if they are out of eyesight or not within earshot.) Also, I know that they need me around to help them get regulated. They need me to help them feel safe.

I've tried to get them to pick a specific activity to do. I've had them choose said activity and then, if they didn't get engaged in it and instead just continued to flit and giggle, I sit them down in a chair. I've gone through this process several times until they figured out they need to actually get engaged or they will be spending a lot of time just sitting.

This has worked. This has also miserably failed.

The other day I told them they had to go outside. (I can see the kids in the backyard from my desk so it's a perfect place for them to be if I don't want to hear them giggling and flitting.) This worked perfectly. They immediately began playing again. I'm sure the actual physical nature of the play helped tremendously. (I'm also very lucky. Our weather is still in the 80s and 90s so playing outside is still lots of fun.)

I don't have all the answers yet. Never will. I'm having to remind myself more and more often that Dude and Dolly do have quite the background. And this background affects their behaviors now. And I can't parent them the same as the traditional parenting books might suggest. The behaviors have started.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Riding the roller coaster

June 15, 2011 the babies arrived. I fell madly in love quite quickly. (We ALL fell in love quite quickly!)

August: I had to leave them in respite care for 3 weeks because a judge wouldn't let them go on vacation with us. Already it was apparent that Mom wasn't too interested in working a case plan. She hadn't pursued having a visit with the cherubs yet and all visits scheduled by CPS were missed.

September: The home study for a grandma half-way across the state came in approved. I started preparing my heart for them to leave. Mom still wasn't working any kind of a case plan. In fact, she tested positive for drug use. (And not just weed either – she's moved on to the harder stuff.)

A CPS worker also dropped the "termination" word during a home visit. My heart did tons of little leaps. I promptly looked at said worker and told her, "I fully support reunification with family. However, if this placement with grandma is not going to be long term, or if it doesn't work out, I want everyone involved with this case to know that we would LOVE to adopt these two kids." The worker totally took me seriously. I also told my agency worker who said she would advocate on our behalf and make sure any necessary paperwork was taken care of should this become a possibility.

October: I've really, really been working on maintaining boundaries in my heart. I love these little cherubs with everything I've got. But I've got to be ready to let them go. This is how "The System" works. Family first! Then close family friends. Then foster parents. It is not a surprise to me, nor should it be one, that they will leave and go to be with family long term. Mom still doesn't have an address or phone number. She's not working her case plan. The children will not be going back to her any time soon (if ever). They deserve to be in a stable environment long term. And, the first choice for that environment is family – as it should be.

However, I just found out today that no one has even discussed with this grandma half-way across the state that caring for Dude and Dolly is going to be a very long-term, if not permanent, situation. My agency worker discussed things with their CPS worker. I guess CPS kinda went, "duh...I guess I should ask her about that".

I also learned today that CPS finally tracked down the biological dad of the kids. I do not know his story at all. But, his wishes are now going to be factored in to the long-term decisions being made.

This opens up a SLIGHT possibility that the children might stay instead of being moved in just a couple weeks.

I'm trying to not get my hopes up. But the selfish person in me would like for them to stay in our home where they are very comfortable now, with friends and "family" that care for them deeply...instead of being moved somewhere to live with "strangers" again.

I pray that God's will is done here. He knows so much more than I do what is best for these kids. But if there's any way they can stay...for now or forever....that's what I want.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Home visit

I experienced another home visit with a CPS caseworker this afternoon. These are some of my least favorite parts of doing foster care. In sweeps a worker that acts like the children shouldn't be freaked out by their presence and thinks they know all about the kids.

This particular worker was different though. I'm not exactly sure where she falls on the food chain - but she was here to see Pumpkin. Only, it wasn't Pumpkin's usual worker. She said she's just helping out this month. She didn't even ask to see Pumpkin when she walked in the door. She hadn't read ANYTHING about Pumpkin's case before arriving at our doorstep.

I didn't care who the worker was. My only goal with this visit was to clarify something that was said in court when Pumpkin was reunified back in September. A lawyer that day told the judge Pumpkin has only mild MR (mental retardation). That bothered me immensely at the time. It's just not true. (According to Pumpkin's psychological evaluation she has severe MR and he even recommended ruling out "profound".) But because all parties wanted Pumpkin to be reunited in court that morning (me included), that particular detail didn't matter at the time.

Now though, I think it's important that the judge pay attention to ALL the details in the case. This judge needs to know that Pumpkin can't communicate to anyone about whether or not she's being abused.

Thankfully this worker took a lot of notes. She copied things from my files. She even sat down to talk to Pumpkin. As I pointed out that Pumpkin couldn't answer the things she was asking her, she reminded me that she has to have a specific conversation that she can document. It's all about the documentation.

My biggest beef with this afternoon was that the worker was an hour late. (I hate it when the workers mess up dinner time with my family!!!) She assured me that she's going to write up everything quite clearly and make sure that Pumpkin's file has all the necessary information documented. I have no idea what that will actually mean. But at least I know that I'm advocating for the truth. It's all up to the judge what he does with it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I'm glad I waited

I haven't done anything about Pumpkin's incredibly absurd report card yet. I'm glad I waited. I received an appendix today from her speech pathologist.

Her goals in speech therapy are MUCH more realistic. For example, her first goal listed is: Verbalize 1-2 word utterances.
Objectives being used to reach this goal include:
-- Establish and maintain eye contact with others.
-- Imitate/produce single words expressing "all gone"
-- Imitate/produce single words expressing "more"
-- Imitate/produce single words expressing verbs "wanna"
-- Imitate/produce single words expressing prepositions (up, down, etc.)

At best the pathologist says that Pumpkin is "in progress" toward all of these goals. In fact, on the preposition objective Pumpkin is only making "slow progress".

No new teacher has been hired yet for Pumpkin's classroom. But I think I'm going to go in to the principal and ask to speak with her. I'm quite confident I'll be blown off. But I sure would like to know how a kid that can't consistently communicate with one word utterances is capable of understanding how English is written and printed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Elbow

Some you might remember my nickname story.

Well...after that little episode Dude thought that talking about his penis would be a fun thing to do. He seemed to really enjoy the word quite a bit. He especially liked to tell me all about it every time I changed his diaper.

I tried to do the "right" thing at first. "Yes Dude. That is your penis."

But one day I finally got exasperated and pretty much just chewed him out.

"Dude. It's your penis. It's not that big of a deal. Get over it will you?! I mean really. We don't talk about your nose every five minutes. You have feet, hands, shoulders, a tummy and so many more body parts. Honestly, I don't run around yelling 'elbow, elbow, elbow' all day long do I?!"

Now, every time I change his diaper he looks up at me and says, "Elbow!"
(Thankfully he holds up his little elbow at me when he does this.)

He totally cracks me up!

Monday, October 10, 2011

I want to wallow

The court date in November is coming up closer than I want it to. November feels like it's so far away. But when I think about the two littlest cherubs leaving it's entirely too close for my comfort.

Dolly & Dude had a visit today with their mom. This is their third visit since removal in June. Thankfully Mom showed up all on her own today and was on time. However, Mom is not working ANY of her case plan and it is quite apparent that her children will not be going home to her.

Mom does not want her kids in foster care. (understandable) But the only family that can take them is a grandmother that lives quite far away. Mom is OK with this and even talked with the kids about it during today's visit.

I hate thinking about the permanency hearing. I know the judge is going to send the kids to their grandma. That's the way the system is supposed to work. This is all going exactly as I learned about during training.

But that doesn't make it any easier for me.

I hate knowing that no one will read them their favorite stories (they won't be able to read the books in English). I hate knowing that no one will sing their favorite songs with them. I hate knowing that they won't even understand when the kids ask for "mommy" that they're actually asking for me sometimes. (Especially Dude. He has a VERY strained relationship with his mom!!)

Their social worker is pretty cool. She assured me that she's going to stall the time between the hearing and when the kids will actually leave our home. This is an easy stall for several reasons. She wants to make sure the kids get a proper goodbye with us. She knows the kids have friends in the neighborhood that she wants them to be able to say goodbye to. She wants to make sure the kids get all their things. And she also has to coordinate the actual transfer halfway across the state. So I can take comfort in knowing that I'll get to say goodbye and they won't be shuffled away from me straight from the court room.

I have to live in the right now and not wallow about the goodbye. I know this to be true. But these family visits are hard on me. The kids have come back each time so confused. Dude got out of the car today, practically glued himself onto me and wouldn't let me put him down. Dolly keeps looking at me so confused about the relationship. She knows she has a mom. But she has chosen to call me Mom now too. She loves her mom. And she loves me. She's just a mess after a visit. I'm not trying to diminish the pain the kids are going through. But trying to keep a straight face and not burst into tears on their behalf is hard. They didn't get back until nearly 6:00PM and they were in bed by 8:00PM but I am worn out. It was hard to keep it together for those short two hours.

I just want to run into a dark room and bawl my eyes out. I hurt so bad for the kids. For what they went through today. For what they're going through every day. And for the transition that is coming that won't be any easier.

Excuse me?!

At a church picnic last night...

Nice man: "So, which kids are your real ones?"

Me: "Um...(insert uncomfortable pause) all my kids are real."

Nice man: "Um. Yeah. I mean...which ones are your biological kids."

Me: "Well, that doesn't apply to our family either."

Ya know, I'm aware conversations like this happen all over. But this was my first time. It made me just a little sick to my stomach.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Crying in the corner

It's been one of those days.

I don't typically do "time out". Especially not with my foster kids. With Pumpkin it would be completely pointless. With Dude and Dolly it's hardly necessary. They're generally very easy to redirect. The only thing I don't allow is crying in the same room as the rest of everyone else. Therefore, if a kid feels the need to throw a fit, I direct them to the "Crying Room".

Said Crying Room is simply our guest bedroom. There are even toys in there. So really, it's hardly any kind of a punishment. They just have to stay in the room as long as they are crying. They are welcome to come back and join us as soon as the screaming has stopped.

This typically works quite well for me. However, I've run into problems when I've been unable to use the Crying Room. One time, while waiting at the repair shop for my vehicle I had to come up with another solution for (ridiculous) fits.

Cry In The Corner was born on that day. (It worked remarkably well by the way. I was amazed that Dude would just stay there until he was done crying and not fight to get out.)

Today my oldest son chose to do school (online high school) in the Crying Room.

Today was a day when I really needed the Crying Room.

I didn't want to kick Herman out though. So, Cry In The Corner it was.
Needless to say lunch was early. Nap time commenced promptly at Noon. And Mamma laid down on the couch for a break.

And yes, that's a rat tail. And yes, I hate it. And no, I'm not allowed to cut it off.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

First report card of the year

Pumpkin's first report card of the year came home in her backpack. Literally, I'm beyond words. So, in an effort to see if any of my readers are familiar with special needs kids and their IEPs, I'm just going to post some of her progresses.

GOAL: In 36 instructional weeks, using check for understanding and frequent breaks, Pumpkin will understand how English is written and printed. Success will be measured using daily work and teacher observations at a rate of 7 out of 10 times.

OBJECTIVE: Pumpkin will identify upper- and lower-case letters.

RESULT as of 9/30/11: Based on current progress, Pumpkin is on target to master this objective by the next annual review. Pumpkin traces upper and lower case letters during our daily routine. She listens to the phonics song from the Sing, Spell, Read and Write program.

OBJECTIVE: Pumpkin will recognize that spoken words are represented in written English by specific sequences of letters.

RESULT: Based on current progress, Pumpkin is on target to master this objective by the next annual review. Pumpkin reviews printed words accompanied by a picture. She repeats the printed word when spoken to her.

OBJECTIVE: Pumpkin will sequence the letters of the alphabet.

RESULT: Based on current progress, Pumpkin is on target to master this objective by the next annual review. Pumpkin completes puzzles that require her to order the letters of the alphabet with support from her teacher.

I could go on and on. They are making it sound like Pumpkin can do oh so much more than she can. According to her IEP she can measure length, capacity and weight of objects using nonstandard units. She can apply grade level mathematics to solve problems connected to everyday experiences and activities in and outside of school. They also say she can understand the origins of customs, holidays and celebrations. (They say she mastered this goal because she colored a picture of the World Trade Center in remembrance of September 11.)

I'm absolutely beside myself!!

As a quick refresher I suppose I should let all my readers know that
Pumpkin DOESN'T TALK.

Granted, Pumpkin will occasionally choose between two things when asked to. Of course both items have to be physically in front of her. And she doesn't name the item that she wants by name. She simply points to it and says, "this one". By and large she is not capable of answering questions. Pumpkin mimics some language. Sometimes, and boy this is rare, Pumpkin will say something with meaning all on her own. But honestly, this happens so infrequently we celebrate when it does. For Pete's sake...Pumpkin will sit in her own shit for hours if I don't check her frequently!

So to say that Pumpkin recognizes printed words is absolutely insane! To count putting a puzzle together with help as sequencing the letters of the alphabet is nothing short of crazy!

Along with this report card came a letter stating the Pumpkin's teacher will be done as of this week. They hope to have a new teacher in place within a couple weeks. I'm left to assume that the aides will be running the classroom in the meantime.

I feel like my hands are tied. The goals in Pumpkin's IEP are not written in a developmentally appropriate manner. However, I'm just the foster parent. It's my place to advocate for Pumpkin -- but to what level?! I really don't want the hassle of trying to open enroll Pumpkin to a different school. I would have to involve her CPS worker, CASA and her guardian ad litem I'm sure. I know that her mother (should Pumpkin be reunified again) won't do anything more than the bare minimum (ie. enroll Pumpkin in the school closest to their home). What do I do?

Most likely I'm just going to leave things as is. I'm not up for rocking this particular boat. I hate confrontation. Especially against all those people that think they know so much more about special education than I do. Especially when I'm the temporary parent that has almost no legal rights to do anything major. Especially since I have no idea how long Pumpkin will be here and it might not be worth it to rock said boat due to the time line alone.

I will probably have a conference with the new teacher should they get one hired while Pumpkin is still in my care. Not to rock the boat per se. But at least to find out if she's as big of a nutcase as Pumpkin's old teacher.

What every foster family needs

Don't hate me. But I now have what every foster family needs and wants more than anything right across the street from my house!

About a month ago we got some new neighbors. In a very old-fashioned sort of way they came over with their kids to introduce themselves. (I always tell myself that I should do this when we move somewhere but I never really do.)

Anyway, the mom and I bonded almost immediately over our disdain for this part of the country. (Which is doubly hilarious because she's Hispanic and so everyone would just assume she's lived here forever and loves it.) Almost immediately her kids and my kids started playing together. She's got a boy in fifth grade. He falls smack dab in between my Cherub 1 and Cherubs 2 & 3. All of the neighborhood boys like to play street football so he hangs out with the crowd of testosterone that lives around here.

Their other three kids are girls -- a 10 year old and 4 year old twins. The oldest girl likes coming over because we have so many art supplies. The twins think it's fun to do whatever their older sister is doing. They also like to play with Dolly.

Well, one day a few weeks ago I had to drop Dolly and Dude off at the daycare so I could go to the doctor. Dude NEVER handles this well. He screams and yells his fool head off. It's positively horrible for me but my hands are tied. I didn't have anywhere else to take the cherubs when I have "adult" appointments and this particular daycare is located very close to our home. While I was there that morning, I saw my neighbor (let's call her Daphne). We chatted for just a bit and then I went on my way.

I saw Daphne later that afternoon. She was interviewing the daycare as a possible option for her twins (after she finds a job in the area that is). I expressed my dislike for the daycare. She told me that Dude cried (and practically tried to escape) for over an hour. Then she looked at me and said, "Why didn't you ask me to watch them?"

I smiled and told Daphne that I appreciated her offer, but in order for her to watch Dolly and Dude she'd have to fill out a ton of paperwork, go through a background check and have a home visit. She laughed and said, "no problem".

I don't turn down help so I got her the paperwork.

Well, not only did she fill it out, but she went through the entire process to become a babysitter. Then, all on her own, she and her husband went through a thorough home visit and a training session so they could do respite for us.

Now, when I have a dentist appointment or something that is otherwise difficult to bring cherubs along to, I can work something out with my neighbor across the street!! And let's just say that this situation makes Dolly and Dude much, much happier!!!

As for me, I can actually schedule a date with my husband sometime in the near future. I miss hanging out with JUST my husband!!

Even better, no money is exchanging hands. She has agreed to let me watch her cherubs periodically so I can return the favor. I had fun yesterday with a houseful of preschoolers for a few hours while she went to the bank and got groceries..

I'm blown away by their outpouring of generosity. My neighbors certainly didn't have to open their home up to that kind of scrutiny just for some people they barely know. But I'm grateful beyond measure that they did! Now all I have to do is not abuse the privilege.  :)