Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Riding the roller coaster

I don't even know where to start. (Warning...this will probably be a long one.)

Part of me wants to give only the most vague of details. Technically I am not allowed to write this blog. The details of foster care aren't legally mine to share. (I'd get in huge trouble if my agency or someone at CPS knew I wrote this blog!! I'd probably end up in legal trouble!!)

Part of me wants to give y'all a full script of my afternoon. I feel somewhat obligated to show what foster care REALLY looks like. 'Cause it's nothing like the training. Nothing can prepare you for the roller coaster until you climb aboard yourself.

So...since I want to warn y'all about the giant hill ahead and the resulting ride that might make you lose your stomach...here's how court went this afternoon:

I had to bring Pumpkin. In the state of Texas all children over the age of four are required by law to attend all of their court hearings. (At least this is how it was explained to me. And from the internet searches I've done, it appears to be true.) In fact, the judge in our area requires ALL children (even infants) to come to court.

Pumpkin did OK and went straight to her mom when we got there. Her mom seemed to handle things OK in the waiting room. Pumpkin didn't get all wound up. She just sat on her mom's lap and drank a soda that her mom bought her.

CASA had called me this morning to get the current details on Pumpkin's case. Pumpkin's actual CASA volunteer has completely dropped the ball and has only visited Pumpkin one time since coming in to care in January. However, the CASA supervisor is required to follow up if the volunteer doesn't. Since we had already spoken on the phone, I didn't have to go over anything in the waiting room with her.

I sat and waited. I tried to not get nervous. But the waiting room is such a cesspool of anxiety. Parents are tense. Some are crying. Children are everywhere. Some are confused. Some are happy. Some are crying. "Suits" are everywhere. And there is NOWHERE private to talk. So if a "suit" needs to talk to a client, a child or a foster parent, they are literally sitting next to someone else or standing in a corner going over the most private of details in the most public of settings.

Pumpkin's GAL (guardian ad litem -- her lawyer) never showed up today. <<sigh>>

The CPS attorney came over to speak with me before court. It went something like this:

LAWYER: So, how is Pumpkin.
ME: Fine. What did you want to know? (I absolutely HATE that generic question. How am I supposed to answer that?!)
LAWYER: (hesitating due to my lack of an answer) Well...how are visits?
ME: Fine. What did you want to know? (ugh)
LAWYER: (thinking even harder on how to ask a question that could really generate an answer) Well...how does she respond after a visit.
ME: Pumpkin does OK enough. Granted, she does show a lot of regression. But it's hard to quantify.
LAWYER: Does she get aggressive?
ME: No!
LAWYER: Does she get passive-aggressive?
ME: Um...Pumpkin doesn't have the ability to be passive-aggressive. (Despite meeting Pumpkin several different times, I do not think this woman understands how developmentally delayed Pumpkin is!)

I went on to explain that it's more of a depression really. That Pumpkin stops engaging with the family. Certain skills will seem to disappear. She won't play. She withdraws a lot.

LAWYER: Does Pumpkin talk about it? What does she say about her mom?
ME: (taking a deep breath) Pumpkin can't talk.
LAWYER: What?!

I had to explain to this woman AGAIN that Pumpkin is not able to communicate. I explained in detail what she's able to do. How she can make choices when offered two things that she can physically touch. But for the most part, Pumpkin does not express her needs and wants. She might point to something (like the soda machine in the waiting room when she was with her mom). I explained that I think she communicates better with her mom than she does with me. I tried and I tried.

But this lawyer heard only what she wanted to hear.

She thinks Pumpkin has some kind of a dissociative disorder. She explained to me that she's worked with lots of special needs kids. She said that in her experience they all communicate.

I wanted to smack the woman!

Pumpkin has a laundry list of diagnoses. She's been seeing a neurologist for many years now. He gave me a list. She saw a psychiatrist when she first came in to care and he gave me a list.

But now some lawyer that doesn't even know this child has become an expert on all things "special needs" and thinks that Pumpkin needs a new diagnosis. This lawyer that isn't even Pumpkin's lawyer!!

Thankfully, we got called into the courtroom before I did or said something stupid. Pumpkin sat on her mom's lap. I sat in the back.

I'll spare you the play by play here. But this is what has to happen within the next month:

I have to get an "official" diagnosis for Pumpkin. (I guess all the other official ones I have aren't official enough.) No one can tell me exactly what to ask or even what doctor to go to. I have to figure this out for myself.

CPS has a few task items on their list that probably involve continuing to find a relative that will take Pumpkin.

The trial to terminate parental rights will be January 4th at 9:30AM.

And yes, Pumpkin has to attend the trial where they will terminate her mother's rights! (Don't even get me started on this one. My heart breaks for all children that have to do this. It's trauma brought on by the court system. It is so many shades of wrong it makes me sick to my stomach!!)

Pumpkin will be in my home through Christmas for sure. After that, I have no idea what will happen. I'm not sure how the judge is going to choose a new home for Pumpkin. My gut tells me that he's going to factor in her disability a little bit more than they have been thus far through this case.

If they can't find a relative placement for Pumpkin I don't know what will happen. My family is not in a position to adopt Pumpkin. But she is welcome to stay in our home until they can find a safe permanent home for her.

Another fun filled day

In about six hours I will be sitting at the tiny driver's license office with Pumpkin. This tiny office building also just happens to hold the county court room for DHS cases. The waiting room doesn't have enough space for all the people that need to be there. The last time we had court at this location there were at least 12 people standing around outside. Most every chair was filled inside. I can hardly wait. (boy I wish there was a font for sarcasm) There is no privacy when the lawyers come to talk to me. It's horribly uncomfortable.

I really have no idea what is going to happen. I have been led to believe that Pumpkin's case is not going to move towards reunification again. But I don't know if "termination" is going to be discussed yet.

Hopefully I'll get to go into the court room. I'd like to hear what the suits and the judge have to say this time around. I pray they use wisdom and keep Pumpkin safe.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not your mamma

I think it is important to keep my role straight in the lives of my foster children. Yes, I am a mommy. However, I am not THEIR "Mommy". These children are going to be in my home temporarily. It is not my goal to diminish the other relationships they have. And since my own kids usually refer to me as "Mom", I try to keep the name Mommy reserved for their Mommies.

I call myself Mamma L***. In fact, every kid in the neighborhood calls me Mamma L***.

The conversations usually go like this...
Dolly: "My mommy bye bye."
Me: "Yes baby. Your mommy is bye bye. You miss her. It is sad. But Mamma L*** will take care of you and keep you safe."

So the other day Dude said something to me. I don't remember the entire conversation but it ended with me reassuring him that I am, in fact, HIS Mamma L***.

Dolly looked over at me and said, "No! You not Mamma L***. You MY MOMMY!"

All I had the emotional energy for was a quick response of, "Yes. I'm your Mamma L***".

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hooping

As you read through attachment blogs, many of them talk about hula hooping. It's an awesome activity for so many reasons!! Most of all, it's a fun way to connect with your kid. You're both doing your own thing, yet you're playing together! I also read a blog that made mention of the idea that many neglected kids have weak core muscles because they weren't held and bounced around as infants and toddlers so they didn't develop these muscles like a typical child. Hooping strengthens your core.

It is important to note that if you want to take up hooping I strongly recommend that you make your own hoop! Simply put, the ones you buy in the store aren't big enough. They are also very light which makes them harder to use.

If you make your own you can expect to pay about $30-$40 to make a whole slew of them. (I got 11 hoops out of my first batch – keeping in mind I made several for small children.) Cost varies depending on the size and PSI of the tubing you choose and whether or not you need to purchase a PVC pipe cutter.

My backyard is now full of hula hoops.

I'm not kidding. I think there are around 8 of them – all different sizes!

I decided that I prefer the 1" 100# PSI for me best. The 3/4" 100# PSI works well for my kids – though they can all keep up the 1" size too.

Of course Dude and Dolly each got their own hula hoops. They had no idea what they were but they wanted to be included and I wasn't about to leave them out.

A little over a week ago Dolly came running up to me while I was working in the kitchen. The conversation went something like this:

Mamma, mamma! I no go like this. (shaking hips from side to side)
I go like this!! (shaking hips from front to back)
Mamma! I hoop!!

She figured it out all on her own!!!
video 

And yes, that is one head of hair. And yes, I'd like to cut a few inches off. (Four year olds shouldn't have to worry about getting their hair out of the way when they go to the bathroom.) And no, I'm not allow to trim even one hair on her head.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Looking for a few good...

Do you bring home the bacon...from home?

Do you do start your work day when the cherubs' heads hit their pillows...from your living room?

Do you balance the jobs of mother (sister, aunt, wife, etc.), housekeeper, chauffeur, doctor, counselor, etc. etc. and BUSINESS OWNER all from the confines of the address where you sleep?

Mama Foster wants to help!

She's putting together a networking group to help small businesses grow.

I am looking for moms who are working on building their small business, much like the etsy shop I mentioned here, that want to join me and other people trying to do the same thing to get your businesses some EXPOSURE! I want to network and probably use facebook to try to push these smaller businesses into the next level of success!

No money is involved. This isn't some strange scam of sorts. She really just wants to help promote some small businesses.

So if you run your own etsy shop, make your own adorable stuff that you sell, run a business that produces something people might give as a gift, ect. click on over to Mama Foster and leave her a comment. As we're moving in to the gift giving season, a little exposure for these types of businesses is a good, good thing. (Like they're saying all over the TV...shop small this year. It's good for business!)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Meeting another minimum standard

Alright -- see if you can follow this...

I am required by the State to enroll Dolly in preschool. She turned four at the end of September. She did not meet the cutoff for enrollment in the public school program.

So, I took her to Head Start. Filled out tons of paperwork. Had to get a little huffy with the manager at the center when I explained that I was not going to provide my tax information. (Dolly automatically qualifies because she is a foster child.)

Dolly was put on the waiting list.

I met the minimum standard. Whew.

Head Start called me right before the last court hearing to tell me that a spot had opened up for Dolly. I explained that she was (most likely) going to move to D*** to live with her grandma. They agreed to hold the open spot for Dolly though and told me I could call after court and let them know.

Court came and went. Dolly stayed with us. I called Head Start to get her officially enrolled.

There was no one there to take my call. They told me I was going to have to talk to some supervisor.

"Some supervisor" never called me back. So, I called again. Eventually I got to speak with this person...who then explained there was no opening. I got a little tense and wanted her to explain why she had told me there was an opening if there wasn't!! I got this strange song and dance that literally made no sense. Then she asked me, "Does Dolly go to speech therapy?"

I answered yes. This supervisor said something along the lines of the fact that they can only accept kids who need "services" right now. I told her I would get the evaluation from Dolly's private therapist and I would bring it over.

I showed up at Head Start today with an evaluation that clearly shows Dolly's need for speech therapy. However, the manager said that what I have doesn't qualify. I have to have something from the public school showing that she needs services.

But Dolly isn't hold enough to go to the public school! That's why I was trying to enroll her at Head Start!!

So round and round we went. Dolly needs services. Dolly isn't old enough to go to public school. Head Start won't take her though because they only want kids that have been evaluated by the public school. I'm not even sure the man I was speaking with understood all that was going on. (Quite often I feel like conversations like this are limited because I speak English. Granted, his English was fine but he seemed to struggle for the right words to say.) I made sure that Dolly was still on the waiting list. I took her by the hand and we walked out while I explained again that she has to wait to go to school. (She wants to be like her big brothers and get homework too! LOL)

Bottom line....I'm totally OK with this. Even though the man at Head Start said I might be able to enroll Dolly in public school because she needs speech therapy – I don't want Dolly in the 4 year old program at the public school. She's too young and the program is severely lacking in quality. I haven't been impressed with anything I've seen out of the pre-K programs down here!! Also, I don't really want Dolly in Head Start either because I don't think she needs to be in a full day program. I want her here at home with me.

I called my agency to talk to our worker. She's going to pass the information along to the CPS worker. For all practical purposes I'm still within minimum standards because Dolly is on the waiting list. It's not my fault they won't enroll her.

I'm glad she gets to stay at home with me for now! For once it doesn't break my heart that all these programs won't play nice with each other.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rolling over

I haven't said much about Pumpkin lately. Figured I'd toss out an update of sorts.

Pumpkin is...Pumpkin.

Things haven't changed much. Despite my best efforts, Pumpkin isn't all that different from the first day she arrived. Her dirty diapers still frustrate me more than they should. She's still fickle about whether or not she will feed herself. She doesn't talk much at all – it's still baby babbling for the most part. Almost all of her language is echolalia and doesn't have real meaning. Every now and then she will communicate a need or a want. But those moments are few and far between.

She has made progress. But the differences are so small that I struggle to get excited about them. Actually, that's not quite right. I get excited right away when I think Pumpkin has mastered a new skill. But because the skills don't always "stick"...and because the growth is so damn slow...it's hard to stay excited for long.

For example, I have been working with Pumpkin to learn the command "roll over" since she arrived in January.

Doesn't that sound awful?! It sounds like I'm treating her like a dog.

I'm not treating her like a dog though. I needed her to learn how to turn over on to her tummy so I could wash her bottom in the bathtub. Have you ever tried to wrangle a 42 pound naked little girl in the bathtub who won't turn over for you? And honestly, she has to turn over or else I can't get her bottom clean. I never really feel like she's clean after she has a dirty diaper until she has a bath.

For months I tried to teach her "roll over". I would say it calmly and then roll her over myself. This was usually met with resistance. Then I would get frustrated and...well...not so calm.

I tried to do it outside of the bathtub on the floor of her bedroom. It was usually met with confusion and then crying.

A few weeks ago I tried to get the littlest cherubs to model it for her. In their bedroom, after a bath where Pumpkin cried when I rolled her over, I played with Dude. I told Dude to roll over on the floor. Dude gave me a funny look but then rolled on to his tummy. Pumpkin completely avoided what was going on and literally looked the other way. I praised Dude like crazy hoping that Pumpkin was secretly paying attention. Of course Dolly wanted to play the game to so I had her roll over as well. Pumpkin just looked ticked off.

But I kept on trying. Three baths ago I asked Pumpkin to "roll over". I stayed calm and waited to see what she would do. I nearly dropped over when she complied! I quickly washed her backside and praised her over and over. She didn't acknowledge any of my reaction and just sat there in the tub while I finished washing her.

I didn't allow myself to actually think she learned the skill. Pumpkin will do things once and then...never again.

But since then I've given her two more baths. Each time when I told her to roll over she did!! (happy happy rejoicing!!)

Tiny amounts of progress. But progress nonetheless.

So, that's Pumpkin in a nutshell. She's been in my care for over 10 months now and she learned how to roll over on command. I have my days where I'm not sure I can continue to care for her. (She still gets mad and screams my name over and over like she did when she returned to care back in September. Acckk!) I have days where I just don't feel cut out to deal with this level of special needs on a daily basis anymore. But then I'll go to tuck her in at night and she'll light up when we read her favorite books. She'll sing along during the songs. She'll actually hug me before I walk out of the room. It's still difficult. But I can't imagine letting anyone else (except her mother of course) care for her.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Placing my order

I think I'm more in shock today than I was yesterday.

I actually get to make plans. Not the kinds of plans like I used to make (for years in advance)...

But, I get to go Christmas shopping. I get to plan a third birthday party for Little Dude. I get to love on them for three more months and that seems like forever.

Of course my mind is playing in the dark corners it shouldn't.
What if...
What if they terminate?
What if they don't send the kids to Grandma's?
(They did say in court yesterday there are no other possible relatives to take these cherubs.)
What if they let us adopt these beautiful children?
What if...

I know I'm not supposed to think that way. And until yesterday I was totally ready for them to go live with their Grandma. (I didn't particularly like the idea – but I was as ready for it as I could be.) Now I'm not so sure that living with Grandma would actually be best. Maybe that's the selfish person in me. Maybe it's because that's what a lawyer and a judge said yesterday. Maybe...oh who knows?!

I put an "order" in to God several years ago. I told Him I wanted to adopt two more kids. I told Him that a little boy and a little girl would be just about right. I wanted a sibling group. I didn't want infants. In a perfect world they would be younger than my youngest.

I'm trying to not get ahead of "The System". Please know that I fully expect these cherubs to not be with me forever.

But I'm not canceling my order with the Big Guy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Three more months

Wow.

Just. Wow!

Dude and Dolly will NOT be going to D*** to live with their grandma. CPS was unable to prove to their lawyer or to the judge that they would be in a safe place.

It's long. It's complicated. I have NO IDEA what is going to happen next. But I do know that court isn't scheduled again until February. I get to continue being their mamma for three more months.

Most importantly, the babies were sheltered from all the unnecessary drama of today. Mom was arrested after the hearing but the children and I stayed in the courtroom and didn't witness a thing.

The children are very tired. They are hungry but don't really want to eat. They are very, very aware that today was not a normal day. But they will get through this. They are loved and they are safe. And honestly, that's all that really matters to me.

I'm holding it together...so far

Backpacks with toys have been packed.

A diaper bag with drinks and snacks has been packed.

A route has been mapped to the CPS office noting where the closest fast food joint is so the kids can actually eat lunch.

Children have been prepared as best as they can. (Poor Dude thought that his grandma was going to come to our home for a visit. It broke my heart to tell him otherwise.) They are excitedly anxious. They know when their backpacks actually get packed by me that they are going to see their mommy.

Prayer requests have been made. I am petitioning the Good Lord that the children be spared from unnecessary drama. If an arrest is necessary I pray that the children don't have to witness it. I pray that court happens in a timely fashion and we aren't trapped waiting there for hours. I pray that the judge sees all that is true and rules in the best interests of the children.

CPS just called me to make sure we are going to be there at 11:00 for the visit. (As in, she called me while I was writing this.) She told me that Mom actually showed up for the Permanency Planning Meeting that took place last Thursday. Mom is planning on being at the visit this morning. She knows that Grandma is going to be there too. All is going as scheduled.

I'm going to try to continue to hold it together. Prayers are appreciated!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Little mirrors

You know how our children mirror us? Both the good things and the bad?

I nearly died laughing the first time I saw Dolly throw her hands above her head and shake them in disgust. It was a little brown version of me. Not me in my best moment. But me nonetheless.

This morning Dolly is playing with her babies. She pushed her baby in its stroller over to me and announced that she has to do paperwork for her baby.

She's going to make a wonderful foster mom someday.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Giggles

Things I don't want to forget...

Our bedtime routine is pretty set in stone. First everyone brushes teeth. Then baths (if necessary) and jammies. The three littlest cherubs sit next to me while I read stories. Dolly and Dude love story time more than just about anything. They would let me read to them forever!

After stories everyone climbs in bed and I go around the room tucking everyone in. While I do this I sing. I always sing Jesus Loves Me. From there it's whatever strikes my fancy; but I've got a list of songs that they all seem to enjoy. (Pumpkin can even sing along with all three verses of God Is So Good. Which, by the way, is the kind of echolalia that doesn't bother me!!)

Then I pray over the children.

Last, I sing one more song – a somewhat personalized lullaby that I've been singing for 14 years to any child in my care.

After that, I kneel at each child's bed and talk with them for just a minute. Tonight Dude wanted to talk about my "shot".

Every seven weeks I have to see my rheumatologist to get an infusion that helps keep my psoriatic arthritis under control. Dude and Dolly went over to Daphne's house while I went to the doctor today. The infusion makes me rather sick so when they came back home I did little more than lay on the couch and bark orders to the older kids. (Thankfully the sickness wears off by the next day.) Anyway, Dude and Dolly were quite impressed with my bandaid. They kept asking me if I got a shot. To keep things simple, I answered, "yes".

Dude wanted to talk about it at bedtime tonight. He was very, very impressed when I told him I didn't cry. So as I was tucking him in he said again, "Mommy got shot. Mommy no cry."

I answered, "Yes. Mamma got a shot." (I try to always refer to myself as Mamma even though the kids call me Mommy. I feel it's important to differentiate myself from their mommy even if they can't.) Then I added, "And no, Mamma didn't cry. Mamma's a big girl."

Dude has quite the sense of humor. He looked up at me with the most innocent smile and the cutest dimples you can imagine and said, "Mamma grande niño." (Niño is Spanish for boy – and yes, he knew what he was saying!) Then he busted into a fit of giggles. The absolute best kind of giggles out there. I'm convinced nothing is better than a two year old in the middle of a fit of pure happiness.

He was so proud of himself. I cracked up and insisted that I'm a "grande niña" (big girl). It went back and forth for quite awhile. I had to eventually just kiss his nose and go about talking with the other two cherubs. Of course there was a case of Monkey See Monkey Do and I had to play the game with Dolly too.

I never want to forget the giggles. They are part of what makes all of this so worthwhile!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The awesomest neighbor!

I know I've bragged about Daphne before. She's my awesome neighbor that moved in across the street just a couple months ago. She's the one that took it upon herself to go get all the training, home inspection, background check, etc. so she could babysit my cherubs. In fact, she went above and beyond and can actually do respite for me.

She. Is. Awesome.

She came over this morning to just sit and chat while I worked. It's so incredibly nice to have a friend. I feel isolated enough in this part of the country. And being a foster parent doesn't help. So many people aren't willing to join you in all the drama that fostering brings to your life.

Anyway, at 10:00 I was waiting for Dolly to get back home from speech therapy. I also had to leave for an orthodontist appointment for Cherub 1. Daphne looked at me and said, "Why aren't you leaving the little cherubs with me?!"

I laughed and said that I'm perfectly capable of watching my cherubs. I can take little ones along to the dentist. It's not that big of a deal.

Nonsense she said as she grabbed Dude's hand and said, "Come on Dude. Let's go to my house!"

At that very moment Dolly pulled up in the therapy transport van. She eagerly ran with Daphne across the street to her house. Dude and Dolly love playing over there!!

I got to go sit in the waiting room at the dentist without having to corral two little cherubs. I got home and Daphne informed me she had fed them lunch. I was able to simply tuck them in bed for their naps.

I'm so blessed! So truly blessed to have a friend like Daphne right across the street!!

She's going to be (almost) as devastated as I am next week when Dolly and Dude leave.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hurting

The hurt I will feel when they leave is far smaller than the hurts Dolly and Dude suffered that caused them to come in to care in the first place.

I'm trying to keep a smile on my face and love them right through all of this. Despite the fact my eyes well up every time their arms wrap around my neck and they say, "Mommy, I love you." It's my job to stay strong. I can't really prepare them for next week. They are too little to understand. I just keep reminding them that they are surrounded by people that love them. Especially their "Grandma in D***".


I'm thankful that my parents came to visit a couple weeks ago. Before their visit my parents were simply a photo on our bookshelf. We talked about these people because Dolly and Dude were curious. They like to know people's names. So we talked about Granny and Papa even though they had never met Granny and Papa.

Then Granny and Papa came! They became real people to Dolly and Dude. And Dolly and Dude fell in love with Granny and Papa. The picture of strangers became people they knew – people who loved them.

I'm hoping that the same thing will happen with their Grandma in D***. To the best of my knowledge, Dolly and Dude have never met their grandma. To them, she is little more than the picture CPS was able to give me. But I keep talking with the cherubs about their grandma and how much she loves them. On Monday this "stranger" will become a real person to them. I'm hoping that my preparation will ease their fears.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Just because

Just because this is what I agreed to when I signed on the dotted line – doesn't mean I have to like it.