Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas vacation in Iowa

We're still on vacation. It's going well – all things considered.

• Dolly got a cold right as we were getting ready to leave. Couple a lot of congestion with some anxiety and possibly a little bit of car sickness...and the vomit filled car seat wasn't exactly a surprise. Thankfully I had packed an extra one. (Long story. But I was thankful. And we just left the vomit filled one on the side of the road. There was NO way I would have been able to clean it and I wasn't about to drive 24 hours with that stench in the vehicle.)

• Dolly kept me up all night in the hotel on the way here. She was sick. She was scared. It was awful.

• When we got to Granny and Papa's Dude went down for the count. He barely moved all day Sunday and he didn't talk at all.

• The first night in Iowa Dude kept me up all night. He was sick. He was scared. It was awful.

• Thankfully both cherubs are sleeping much better now. Sleep is quite crucial to me. Without it I'm a lousy therapeutic parent!!!

• Both little cherubs are still fighting a NASTY cold. But they've settled in. They're having fun at Granny and Papa's! They do need a lot of reassurance though. They check a LOT to make sure we are going back to Texas.

• It's harder than HELL for me to continually reassure these cherubs that we are going back to OUR home in Texas. Of course I do! We talk about this just being a "visit" a lot. But in the back of my mind I get a little sick to my stomach because I know what happens 6 days after we get back. They will most likely be leaving my home right after court. (I'm still praying for a miracle but I'm certainly not counting on it.)

• Christmas day was fun. Santa came. The cherubs also opened their presents from us. It was simple and the cherubs enjoy their new toys. We still have two more celebrations to go to. Today we are headed an hour and a half north to Mr. Amazing's parents' house. Then on Saturday we will do "Christmas" with my side of the family back at Granny and Papa's. (There will be 13 grandkids here - think it will be a bit chaotic?!) Sunday is a big family potluck at my parents' church after services are over. (The count is up to 40 family members – some of whom I haven't seen in a long, long time.) It's also Dude's birthday so he'll be appropriately spoiled.

• TT's anxiety is off the charts this morning. He hasn't been to Mr. Amazing's parents' house in well over a year. He's nervous. Thankfully I saw to the root of the problem right away.

• There have been more tears out of Dude and Dolly than I have seen in a long, long time! The little ones are having all five senses completely attacked. I'm trying to be as sympathetic as I can. There have been TONS of phantom pains. Most redirection of Dolly (even the most calm) results in tears. They have been manipulative and, when stressed, they spend a lot of time trying to get Bart in trouble so they can watch the "fireworks". But really – can you blame them?
• How many time were Dude and Dolly taken to a relative's house and just left before coming to us?
• Are they comparing visits to Grandma N's in Dallas to this visit?
• They both got nasty, nasty colds. Being sick is no fun. Being sick while traveling is even worse!
• They have never been this cold before in their little lives. They've never seen snow. Even just a simple drive to go out to eat is a reminder they are somewhere foreign to them. The landscape is completely different than anything they've ever seen before!
• The house looks different. The toys are different. The smells are different.
Amazingly enough though, the more they realize it's not too different from home, the more comfortable they get. Granny and Papa have TONS of toys and there's plenty of room to play. They really are having fun overall.

I'm trying really, really hard to not think about the next couple weeks. We've got to finish our trip up in Iowa. Then school starts back up for my three oldest. Court is January 7th. Most likely the little cherubs will end their time in our family. Abandonment issues will abound. Then Mr. Amazing is going to leave for a work detail up in Wisconsin. Y'all can look forward to several "Mr. Wonky" posts I'm sure. TT will feel like his world is collapsing around him.

In the meantime though I'm going to live in the present and try to enjoy it all. Posts will be sporadic at best I'm sure. I'll let y'all know what happens at court though. Either way it'll be through tears.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Family

We are almost all packed for our trip to Iowa. A blizzard hit the Midwest today so we are guaranteed to have snow. All my cherubs are super excited. I cannot wait to see my family!!
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I haven't heard anything from anyone about Bio Mom not wanting Dude & Dolly to go to Dallas. I'm betting she didn't end up calling her lawyer. I'm done worrying about this case right now. I'm not even going to try and contact the cherubs' lawyer again. I'm just plain done. I've tried to advocate for them as best as I can. They are either leaving me in a little over two weeks or they aren't. I just have to do my best to enjoy what is happening right now as much as I can. I'm going to try and pretend they're staying. But they'll probably go. Family trumps foster 9 times out of 10.
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We got a phone call today about a case on the other end of the spectrum of Dude and Dolly. His name is Woody. He's 19 years old. Parental rights have been terminated. He's been in Care since (at least) the year 2000. He's a good kid but Rainbow doesn't know a lot about him. (She was very honest with me when we spoke but didn't have many details.) He's been in his current home since 2008. Before that he was with a different agency. Right now though he and his current foster family are clashing. Rainbow was honest and thinks that both sides are guilty of not handling things as best as they can. He's on his way to visit some family members over the holidays. But for day to day care, he's got no one here in the Valley. He's a college student and he's active in his church. After he gets back from his trip, they are going to have a sit down meeting with everyone. They will either have him stay in the home he's at, or they will consider another move. (I don't think he wants to leave Care just yet due to the fact that he's in college and he needs the support a family can provide.) Rainbow wanted to know if we would be interested in having him come live with us if a move becomes necessary.

I tried to get as much information as I could. I told her that I would have to discuss it with my entire family. I would have to pray over it. And I would have to wait and see what happens with Dude and Dolly's case on January 7. There's no way I would want to try and do six kids again. But if they go.....

My husband's gut feeling is that this would not be a good fit for our family. But he didn't say no.

Me -- I can't imagine telling a kid that they have to age out and not have a family. From everything Rainbow said I'm betting the issues he's having right now are all related to being an adult and seeing his time in Care coming to an end. That has got to be the scariest feeling ever.

All I could tell Rainbow is that I can't answer her now but that it's not a "no". She said she doesn't have to have an answer until mid to late January.

I do know that if we say "yes" this yes is for the REST of this young man's life. Somehow I wish that could be worked into foster parent's contracts. I can't imagine fostering teens and then just dumping them out on their own when they age out. IF we say yes, it's forever. It won't be "adoption" per se as he is 19 years old. But I don't want him to come to our family with the expectation that we are some kind of a hotel. I would want him to be willing to make a bit of a commitment back to us as well. We would be family.

There are a TON of variables that would have to be worked out. First and foremost we need to know if Mr. Amazing has a chance at either job he's applied for that both happen to be out of state (California & Pennsylvania). He's ready for a promotion and that means a move for us if he gets one of these jobs. I don't think saying yes to this teen and then either leaving him behind or expecting him to move right away would necessarily be a good thing. (For what it's worth, if Dude and Dolly stay in Care AND Mr. Amazing gets one of the jobs I will totally freak out and probably die on the spot. I'm trying not to think about that particular scenario. Given all the ups and downs of this case though, and the fact that we are CONSTANTLY told they are leaving to Dallas, Mr. Amazing could not pass up the opportunity to at least apply for these jobs. Working for the government means moving if you want a promotion. And staying put in the Valley long-term is NOT an option for us. We chose to gamble a bit and he applied for the jobs. God is in control and so far it's all been working out. I simply told God that if there is even the most remote of a chance that the cherubs can stay with us that Mr. Amazing shouldn't get the job. So far, it's worked.) (And yes, I am that direct with God.)

And of course, there's the whole issue with Dude and Dolly. Are they staying? Are they leaving? Also, how would this teen fit in as being the oldest child? Would he bring behaviors to the party that could be a bad influence for Herman? Herman struggles enough as is. I don't want to make his journey in life any more difficult.

But, we'll pray. And we'll wait to see what happens next. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mr. Mini Wonky????

I know that many of my internet "friends" parent behaviors that I can barely comprehend.

My hurting son doesn't destroy toys (very often). He doesn't punch holes in walls. He doesn't pee in strange places. Shoot -- TT was bowel trained by 17 months all on his own. At 23 months of age I started "officially" potty training him and he picked it up immediately. He was dry through the night by 2 1/2. And he never has accidents.

A common form of "destruction" for TT is to squirt an entire bottle of soap or shampoo into the tub during his bath when he's hurting. In the realm of parenting kids from the hurt places...most trauma mammas would laugh at me and be grateful if that's all their kids did.

But I can tell he's hurting very badly right now. And it breaks my heart. We gotten a bit of reprieve after my last Mr. Wonky-type post. School has been going well in general. Life hasn't been too difficult. But TT is still hurting. It's obvious to me.
  • Eye contact over anything emotional is all but nearly impossible.
  • He smells. It's been proven that stress sweat smells different on everybody. (Praise God for the current Secret deodorant commercial. I've been able to address this topic with TT without it seeming like I'm judging him.)
  • The tone in his voice sounds different. It's more up in his nose and is a true tip-off to me that all is not right in the world. The cadence of speaking is different too.
  • He so QUICKLY falls to the response of anger if something doesn't go his way.
As usual it could be a number of things. And as much as I'd love to be able to pin-point the "reason", I'm trying to focus on anything but that right now. I'm trying to help him stay regulated and just focus on connection.

The other day I completely spaced off when it was that he had eaten last. As he started FREAKING OUT over school I got angry back at him. I tried to force him to regulate. It seemed so damned intentional on his part. I lost my therapeutic mojo and didn't see one of the things that sets him off.

He had only eaten a small bowl of Frosted Cheerios very early in the morning for breakfast. By 9:30AM his blood sugars were all out of whack and he needed to eat. I didn't see it that way though until 11:00PM. It was an ugly 1 1/2 hours!!

Silly me though. I thought lunch would fix everything. And it did...for awhile. But the next time a lesson stumped him with school he was back to his little mini-freak out.

It's draining for me. I feel like I'm walking on egg shells. No, I don't have to worry about super destructive behavior or violent rages. When he starts to rage I move him to our guest room up on the queen sized bed. His typical response is to throw himself around on the bed. Throw the pillows. Pick at the comforter and mess things all up. Yesterday he said he needed a tissue. I handed him a clean washcloth and told him to hang on to it. He got mad and threw it 12 inches away onto a box of Christmas decorations next to the bed. Then he screamed and screamed at me that he didn't know how to get it. That he couldn't reach it.

Christine really needs to add a search option to her blog. Years ago she posted a video of her hurting daughter and how she could not turn their vacuum on/off. It was an amazing blog post to me. I wish I could find it and put a link here. I remember watching the video and reading all she had to say about it with great interest. At the time Mr. Wonky was not around yet in our house. TT was so little and his hurting looked so different. But there was something so captivating to me about Christine's daughter and how he worked through her hurt. And even more importantly...how Christine responded. (I sure wish I could keep my own frustration, hurt and anger out of my responses when TT is dysregulated. My words might be wonderful but I have a hard time tempering the tone in my voice. I work on this daily!!)

And there was my TT yesterday doing something so similar. He literally could not reach the washrag to wipe his nose. He claimed it was because I had told him to not get off the bed. I know that was not it though. Mr. Wonky was messing with all the ways he was thinking. Everything was askew.

I don't have a wonderful ending for this post. I guess I put this out there to show what it looks like in OUR house. We don't have to make trips to psychiatric hospitals. We don't have three hour violent rages that involve restraints. But it isn't easy all the time. There's a lot of anger and frustration. There's a lot of hurt. There's a lot of ugly that most folks wouldn't understand. They would tell TT to just get over it. If you are parenting trauma you know that thought is laughable.

If you too are parenting trauma know that you are not alone. For me sometimes, that thought provides a bit of comfort.

I'm going to continue to try and stay on top of the Mr. Mini Wonky that is living in my house right now. I'm going to pay attention to my own needs. I'm going to worry less about the things that "need" to be done. Sure, it'd be nice to clean up the pee around all the toilets (that is there simply because I have a houseful of typical boys). But honestly, I need to spend my time differently. Some of that time needs to be spent staying close to my kids. And in my reality, some of that time needs to be spent blogging. It's my own personal therapy.

I have to go now to break up a quarrel between Dude, Dolly and Angel. It's never just one kid that's wonked out. (Dude and Dolly are dealing with super amounts of jealousy because of our little respite Angel.) It's never ending 'round these parts.  :)  But we'll get through....

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Respite for Angel

Angel arrived last night at 8:00PM. Her foster mommy is very sick and was nearly admitted to the hospital yesterday. The doctors said it would not be safe for Foster Mom to care for her children right now because she is quite contagious. (Silly me...I never did ask if I needed to be worried about the cherub passing something on to me because of my suppressed immune system.) Angel is 22 months old and doesn't speak much. She's such a beautiful little thing! (With short hair!! I'm so excited to not have to spend extra time on long hair. Yippee. Thank God for small miracles.)

I was warned by Rainbow that Angel is very attached to her foster mommy and would most likely cry a lot. I was prepared for the worst and was pleasantly surprised last night. Angel barely cried at all. And this morning, she is all smiles.

But, in true respite fashion, I didn't get all I need to care for this beautiful child. All of my per diem that I'll receive has already been spent on a new car seat.

I told Rainbow that I HAD TO HAVE an appropriate car seat. The foster parents gave Rainbow the one they use for her. Now, I'm no car seat nazi, but I do have standards. The car seat that was sent to me is over 10 years old (it doesn't have LATCH straps on the seat...LATCH straps became standard in 2002 on all car seats produced), they didn't even provide a locking clip to buckle it in safely as is, the padding is ripped and the foam is very worn, the straps were permanently folded in half, and – from what I could tell – it seems they bought it used because it still has a garage sale sticker on it.

Needless to say, I went out to WalMart this morning and dropped $40 on a new car seat so that I can safely travel where I need to for the next few days. I haven't decided what I'm going to do with the car seat when Angel leaves. I don't think I'm going to donate it to her foster family. I think her foster family needs to be responsible for buying an appropriate car seat themselves. Rainbow told me to let her know what I thought of the car seat today after I had a chance to really look at it. (She doesn't have kids and admitted her own ignorance on overall car seat safety.) I think I will use it for Dude when we travel to Iowa. Then, depending on what happens in January, I'll probably donate the car seat to our licensing agency as I will not have a need for a toddler/preschool sized five-point harness seat.

Thankfully appropriate clothing was packed. There was no toothbrush but I can forgive that. They did send diapers and wipes. This respite stuff is always a trip though. I have yet to have many kids come to our home with all they need for even a weekend. I'm not trying to dig on the foster parents down here, but we haven't had good luck doing respite very many times. Most often I have to go out and purchase items to get through the stay. I even had parents leave the children an entire day longer than what I agreed to without so much as an apology.

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TT LOVES babies so I figured we'd sail through this without issue. He's super excited to have Angel here but unfortunately, he's struggling to keep things together. He sat down this morning to start school and got immediately dysregulated. I ended up sending him upstairs to play with Dolly and Angel. School can wait I guess.

Dude and Dolly don't quite know what to think. It's obvious they need a TON of reassurance. We've done a lot of talking about how we are just babysitting for Angel because her mommy is sick. (I'm leaving out the whole concept of "foster" on purpose. They wouldn't understand.) We prayed for Angel's mommy to get better. I've reminded Dude and Dolly that they are staying with me right now and that they won't be leaving me. (Better to skip what may or may not happen in four weeks and just focus on the fact they are here for now.) And I'm using phrases like, "Dude and Dolly are going to be such good friends to Angel," so they won't start thinking she is their new sister or anything complicated like that.

Dolly is upstairs playing with Angel right now. I'm trying to get Bart to stay focused on school. And eventually I'll get TT back downstairs to where we do school and I'll sit with him most of the day. He is so easily triggered by change. But how could I say no to this? We've got the room and a family was in desperate need. There are so few homes down here that Angel's sisters had to go somewhere else. It totally stinks having to separate siblings like this!! I can do it though...so I do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A very important conversation

My head is still reeling. And I can tell beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm an extrovert. As much as I hate parties and hanging out with large groups of strangers...when I have something monumental happen in my life, I want to talk about it with EVERYONE! I've been on the phone a lot this afternoon/evening.

I'm still reeling.

I still have NO IDEA what's really going to happen.

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I showed up exactly on time for Dude and Dolly's visit today at the CPS office. Amazingly enough, a worker answered the phone and came to let us in right away.

I was - literally - freaked out as hell about seeing Minnie. She was in a conference room eating lunch. I decided to smile and act like nothing strange has happened lately. I made a joke about whether she had recovered from the weekend of travel (with the kids back and forth from Dallas). I told her I get tired just thinking about it.

Bio Mom, Great Grandma P and Cousin A showed up as I was leaving. I said hi to Mom. I gave Great Grandma P (GGP) a hug and I left with TT and Bart.

We went shopping. About an hour in to the visit or so I got a call from GGP. I was in the very back of WalMart though and had no signal. I had to go outside the store to call her back. It seems she was calling me to tell me that she and Cousin A got kicked out of the visit. She didn't need me for anything as she was just going to wait in the parking lot for Bio Mom. But I guess she wanted me to know. There was no reason whatsoever given for making GGP and Cousin A leave. They were just told they could only stay for 30 minutes and then they had to leave.

I wrapped up our shopping and went back to CPS. I stood in the parking lot and chatted with GGP until the visit time was up.

It was the usual conversation. GGP told me for the millionth time that she doesn't want the kids to go to Dallas. She's convinced it's not safe there. She's convinced they will end up back in Care. The look on her face when I told her if that was the case the kids wouldn't come back to me about broke my heart. I had to clarify things for GGP. If Grandma N in Dallas gets custody of the kids and something happens that they need to come back in to Care, the kids would stay in the Dallas area.

GGP looked so upset. She said that even Cousin A has told Bio Mom to not send the kids to Dallas. Even Cousin A thinks they should stay with us. Finally, because I didn't know what else to say, I told GGP that Bio Mom could tell her lawyer that she wants the kids with us.

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I went in to the office to get the kids. They were VERY ready to be done with their visit. They eagerly ran out to my truck. GGP and I talked a bit. Then I looked over at Bio Mom and asked if Minnie had told her I wanted to reschedule next week's visit. (The kids have Christmas activities going on at school that they don't want to miss.) Minnie hadn't (surprise surprise). I told Bio Mom I'd like to reschedule if possible. Before we could even finish that conversation though, GGP grabbed me and very sternly said, "Tell Bio Mom what you said to me!"

Mustering up every bit of courage I decided I've got nothing to lose. I walked closer to the truck where Bio Mom was at.

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Do you want the kids to go to Dallas?
No. I want them.
Yeah, but do you want them to go to Dallas?
I want to get my kids back.
I know you do. But as I've been told things, that isn't going to happen. You're not doing what you're supposed to do to get the kids back. Do you want them to go to Dallas?
NO.

From there I don't remember the order of everything I said. It's all a blur now. I basically gave Bio Mom a five minute Come to Jesus moment. I told her how I feel about things. I told her what she could do. It sounded something like this: (not necessarily in this order...you'll get the picture though)
  • You can tell your lawyer that you don't want the kids in Dallas. The kids CAN stay with us.
  • I believe strongly in bio families staying connected. As long as you are clean and sober I would let you have contact with the kids. If you're strung out and it's not safe I wouldn't.
  • I love these kids as much as you do. I don't say that to hurt your feelings but it's how it is. I love your children as if they were my own. I would do anything for those kids.
  • Minnie doesn't like me too much. She thinks I'm too attached to the kids.
  • You would always be their mom.
  • PMC stands for Permanent Managing Conservatorship. You could tell your lawyer you want us to have PMC. At court it's either going to be us or Grandma N. PMC means that we would be their legal parents. As I understand things the State is not in a position to terminate rights. But PMC would mean that we can go anywhere and do anything with the kids without having to get permission. That means even if my husband gets a new job out of state we could move with the kids.
  • I don't think it would be safe for them in Dallas.
  • We pray for you. I pray that you're able to beat whatever it is that has a hold on you right now. I pray that God puts people in your life to help you through this. God loves you.
Bio Mom didn't say much. She was so sad though. Her eyes were shiny and she was doing everything she could to keep the tears from falling. (She looked soooooo much like Dolly when Dolly is sad that it totally broke my heart.) Bio Mom and I talked a bit about some of my concerns with the visits in Dallas. She didn't say much overall. The last thing she told me though was that she is going to call her lawyer.

I hugged Grandma. I told her I hoped I didn't just make things worse for me.

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Because I'm a blabbermouth, I didn't keep my trap shut when Rainbow came by tonight. (It just so happens that we agreed to an emergency respite placement. We've got a 22 month old little girl for the next week or so. Her foster mom is very sick and was told by her doctor today that she is highly contagious and that she shouldn't be around her kids.)

Anyway, I told Rainbow what happened after I made her promise to not tell Minnie. When I finished the first thing she did was laugh and say, "Yeah, that's not something to tell Minnie at all!!"

Rainbow couldn't say for sure what she thought this would do to the case. Her first reaction was along the lines of, "well....if everyone in the case but CPS is in favor of you getting the kids...it just might happen". But then, she had to throw a big dose of reality on me and remind me that family ALWAYS trumps foster in the courts. And, as much as I have concerns about the visits in Dallas, in the world of FosterCare Land...these visits have been going quite wonderfully. There are some bumps in the road but nothing that the court is going to really even look twice at. She ended it saying that it could still go either way.

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I'm not holding my breath. I'm not that stupid. But the complete level of desperation I was reaching as we drove to the visit today has lifted again. I'm very, very (very very very very) tired of foster care drama. It's not healthy for me. It's not easy for my forever kids. I'm getting worn out. But I'll admit, I'm feeling pretty good again.

My prayer that I'm screaming up to God on a daily basis is a prayer that these children can be out of foster care in four weeks when we go to court. I pray that crap is not drug out for another four months. I pray that the judge can make a final decision for these cherubs and let everyone move on. It's either Grandma N or it's us. In all reality it is that simple. Someone just needs to act on it and make it happen.

I'M IN SHOCK

Exactly one hour ago I was in the middle of the first conversation I've ever really had with Dude and Dolly's mom.

I'm still shaking I'm in so much shock.

This case could be a-changin'.

I'm betting Minnie is really, really going to hate me now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A visit tomorrow

Minnie never called or sent me a text about tomorrow's pending visit. I forgot to ask until 5:05 when I sent her a text.

At 5:25 I sent another text to her personal phone.

I finally got a response to my question, "Do Dude and Dolly have a visit tomorrow?" at 5:45. All she said was, "yes".

Did Minnie:
A. Forget to tell me when Mom called in for the visit earlier today?
B. Purposely not tell me when Mom called in for the visit earlier today?
C. Wait until I sent the text tonight to call Mom and ask her if she's planning on a visit tomorrow?

It just feels fishy to me. I'm betting Minnie is not my biggest fan after reading the email I sent to her supervisor today. Tomorrow will be pleasantly uncomfortable if I have to see her.

Yuck!!

The letter

I composed my email. I sent it to Raymond (the CPS supervisor in this case). I cc'd Minnie, Rainbow and the cherubs' lawyer. I bcc'd Deborah (the CPS supervisor that handled this case previously and the person that recommended I do this).

This is what I said....

Raymond,
I'm the foster mom to Dude and Dolly. They have been in my care for almost 18 months now. Per the advice of someone in CPS that I trust immensely, I'm sending you this email.

More than anything, I want you to know that I will fully support whatever it is that the powers that be in this case decide. I'm not sending this email because I'm trying to cause trouble or because I don't believe that Minnie has done her job. But, as the foster mom on the front lines, I feel it is important to share my concerns and to make sure they are appropriately documented. That way, should anything negative ever happen, I can know with a clean conscious that I informed everyone of the things I've been made aware of.

There are some things that happen during the weekend visits to Dallas that I believe need to be documented.

When the children returned from their visit to Dallas in November, as I unpacked their duffel bag, I discovered a used syringe. It was an insulin syringe but I do not know if it had been used for any other purpose. It was in the outer pocket of the duffel bag easily accessible by the children. I immediately called Minnie and informed her of the discovery. I also sent a picture of the syringe to both Minnie and my licensing agency.

Also, during that trip in November, Grandma did not put the children in clean clothes on Sunday. The children were bathed sometime either Friday or Saturday. They were then put in clothing that I sent. Both children told me they slept in their clothes Saturday night and wore them again all day Sunday. When I pack the bag for the trip I include three complete outfits for the two night stay. The children were very clear when telling me they slept in their clothes and Grandma did not put them in anything that she may or may not have had there for them.

After every visit the children have they report that other people live in the home with Grandma. The children are not able to tell me names or ages but they do say there are other people in the home. According to the maternal side of the family (who have stopped in to see the children while in Dallas) the other people in the home live there full time. I say this only because I'm not sure if anyone else in the home was included in the home study.

Also, at every single visit the children report that they sleep with Grandma in her bed!! (Though after the last visit, in December, they said that Grandma slept on the floor.) They have never slept in what is supposed to be their bedroom. I even got out pictures of Grandma's house that the State gave me and had the children point to where they sleep. They said that other people sleep on the beds that are supposed to be theirs.

On Monday 12/10 (just following their visit to Dallas), I got the children ready to go to school. As we loaded into our Suburban, Dolly looked at me and very earnestly told me she could sit on just the seat (that she didn't need a booster). I immediately responded with, "Oh no Dolly! You MUST sit on a booster seat. It would not be safe for you to ride in a car without one!" As I saw the fear and shame cross her face I wondered if she had ridden in the car at Grandma's house without a car seat. I tempered my response and calmly asked, "Do you have a car seat at Grandma's house?" Dolly was too shell shocked and scared to answer but Dude immediately piped up with, "No. Grandma only has one."

Please let me know if you need additional information about anything I've mentioned above. Thank you very much.
Cherub Mamma
xxx-xxx-xxxx

Figuring things out

I'll never really be able to put the pieces together....
  • Sunday night the little cherubs told Mr. Amazing they saw their bio dad through the window. No explanation. No details. Just that they saw him through the window.
  • Monday...very little talk of Dallas. While on my lap at bedtime both cherubs expressed their love for me. I did my best at attempting conversation with no judgement in my voice. Honestly, if the children want to move to Dallas that is probably what is best for them. I would need to put aside my own feelings and trust that CPS has done their job. Anyway...I made sure to tell the cherubs that their feelings were valid (worded for preschoolers of course). I then asked them where they want to live. Both children (Dude especially) said they want to live with us. As much as it pained me I felt I had to tell them that because they told Minnie they want to live in Dallas, that's probably what is going to happen. I will not lie to these children. Both children gave me a very shell-shocked physical response. Neither child said anything
On the way to school this morning I asked them if they saw their bio dad. Minnie told me Sunday night that they did but only for a little while. These are the things the kids said about it today...
Grandma N has a black car.
So does Papi J.
Me: Did you see your Papi J?
We saw him. Grandma beeped.
Me: Grandma beeped?
Yeah, grandma beeped. (made motions of honking a horn)
Me: Where was grandma when you saw Papi J?
No answer. Deer in the headlight look.
Me: Did you see Papi J at Grandma's house?
One child answered yes. One child answered no.
Me: Was Grandma in the house with you when you saw Papi J?
No real answer from the children.
I tried to ask questions that could be answered with a simple yes or no. I tried to ask questions that needed a real answer. Nothing the children said made any sense. None at all. You'll have to trust me when I tell you I tried as hard as I could to be nonchalant about things. Not judgmental. Not pressing. Just conversational. But as we drove, as we talked, Dolly shut down. She went DEEP inside herself. Her eyes welled up. She started to cry.

The children are allowed to see their bio dad for two hours in a supervised setting with Grandma. I do not know where they were or what it was like when they saw their bio dad this past weekend. Minnie takes everything Grandma says at face value but I don't always feel like Grandma's story and what the kids say line up completely. Bio Dad is a heavy drug user and pusher. He is not a safe person nor does he associate with safe people. Any contact he has with the children should be strictly monitored. I wish I knew what the kids saw and did.

I asked Dolly if something scary happened in Dallas.
No answer.
I asked Dolly if Grandma and Papi J had a fight.
She muttered a tiny little "no".
I asked her what happened in Dallas.
I got nothing but a petrified deer in the headlight response from Dolly. She shut down. She couldn't say anything. (And I do mean couldn't. Her trauma response prevented her from speaking. I don't think she voluntarily wasn't answering. She literally couldn't.)

When we got to Dude's school I got the kids out of the car and got down to their level. I tried to reassure Dolly that if she wants to go to Dallas that it is OK. That it really is OK!! (I couldn't tell for sure why Dolly was so upset. It seemed like she was torn in half emotionally. I guessed as to how to approach it.) I do not want to contribute to feelings of shame because she's drawn to her bio family. I will NOT sway these children into saying they want to stay with us. I will not be a part of that at all. I don't give a damn if CPS believes me or not (I'm sure they think I'm trying to sway them toward us). In my heart of hearts I know I'm handling this the best way I personally can. I tell the kids I love them. I tell them I will love them forever. I tell them I would love to be their forever mommy. I always tell them it is not up to me. It is not up to CPS. It is not up to the lawyer. It is not up to Grandma. It is up to the judge. I had an internet friend once tell me that she thinks my approach is a good one. (She is a former foster child so I take her opinion quite seriously.) She says at least I'm making sure these children know, to the best of my ability anyway, that I am not responsible for all that is going on....that I'm not abandoning them.

I asked Dolly why she was crying. Her only answer was that she misses her mommy.

I never did figure anything out about the trip to Dallas and the contact they had with their bio dad. Nothing they said made any sense.

When I stopped at the gas station to buy some breakfast tacos for everyone Dolly was still deep inside herself. It took every ounce of energy that she had to tell me what kind of a taco she wanted. I tried to give her a choice between two flavors. I asked her open ended, "what kind of taco do you want?". She just stood there scared to death. Finally, she muttered, "with beans". But it was so difficult for her to answer. Trauma permeates so deeply. 

As we conversed this morning, I was brutally honest with Dolly. I empathized with her about missing her mommy. But then, because I will not lie to these children, I did tell her that she's not going to live with her mommy again. I told her it's very sad but that her mommy is still making bad choices and is not keeping herself safe. I told Dolly that the judge is going to decide between staying with us or moving to Dallas. And again, I did tell her that if she goes to Dallas she will not see us again.

It sucks. It totally sucks!! But I will not lie to these kids. If they move to Dallas in January I don't want them thinking they will come back to us. They need to know that it is forever. I'm quite confident they will be confused after a few days because they are so used to coming back "home". And in all reality, "home" is where they want to be.

--------

I sent a text yesterday to a CPS supervisor (Deborah) that I trust. She's not currently a part of this case – but she was earlier. She's familiar with who I am as she was a part of Pumpkin's case too. She has always treated me with respect and I respect her as well! I trusted her to tell me if my concerns are out of proportion with reality...if I'm overreacting.

She just called me back this morning. We chatted for a bit. I shared all my concerns. She all but ordered me to report everything to Minnie's supervisor (Raymond).

I'm going to compose something later on today and send it to Raymond. I know there is little time left before we go to court. I'm scared to death that by doing this all I'm going to do is extend the cherubs' time in foster care. And I'm NOT convinced that more time in foster care is in their best interests. But honestly, if the situation in Dallas isn't safe, it's my job to report what the kids say. It's CPS's job to follow through if they deem it necessary.

Please pray that my email is worded in such a way that CPS takes it seriously without thinking I'm trying to sabotage things. I ask for prayers that these children end up in the best place for them – where they will be safe and loved. Honestly, if that is Dallas, I pray that Grandma has all she needs to provide for the cherubs and their needs. If they are to stay here, please pray that we are given guardianship in January.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Car seats - part 2

Rainbow just brought up some interesting points....

Per the court order, Minnie is not required to supervise a thing during these weekend visits. And she may not even walk the children to Grandma's car. Grandma could very easily meet them inside the airport.

Doesn't make me feel any better about things. But it does shed light on why Minnie doesn't go to the house. It's very unfortunate that she believes everything Grandma tells her though as what she's being told and what is reality appear to be very different.

Car seats

I just took Dude to school. As we were getting in the Suburban Dolly looked at me, pointed to the seat and announced to me that she should sit on it (ie: not on the booster seat).

Instantly I replied, "Oh no Dolly. That would not be safe. You have to sit on a car seat."

Instantly Dolly's face filled with shame and fear.

At that moment I realized that Dolly doesn't have a car seat at Grandma N's house.

I wasn't about to tell Dolly that this is OK. All I could do was repeat what she said as fact and reassure her that I love her. But I couldn't tell her it's OK to not ride on a booster seat. She's only five years old and she's a very short "five" at that.

Dolly needed more reassurance as I buckled her in after dropping Dude off. I asked her, "Did Minnie go to Grandma's house this weekend?"

Dolly's answer was no. Minnie never went over to Grandma N's house.

That means, in my book anyway, that Minnie should have been fully aware that Dolly didn't have a car seat. That also means that these visits are not being monitored in any way shape or form.

Somehow I have to be OK with this. Grandma N will buy them clothes and accessories that the children don't technically need but she won't drop $20 so she can legally transport the children in her vehicle. How on Earth is she going to treat these children when CPS isn't looking?!!!

Pinocchio

Dude and Dolly want to stay in Dallas forever about as much as Pinocchio wanted to stay on Pleasure Island.

The amount I have heard "I love you" since they got home is off the charts. They are also going around naming things as "theirs" – especially things they don't have in Dallas...like our dog.

But Grandma is promising them things now. Like all kids they are drawn to "things". Never mind the fact that they don't even have a room to call their own at Grandma's house. Because that's right...they slept with Grandma again. The children report being with all sorts of people at Grandma's house. And I suppose in reality, having a lot of people around could mean that Grandma has a good support system.

CPS only sees a wonderful, loving Grandma who wants to protect these cherubs. I'm going to have to pray that what CPS sees is reality because my impressions are completely different. And you're right Mama Foster, their declarations of affection for Dallas are all that Minnie sees. She doesn't believe anything I've got to say on the subject I'm sure.

I'm preparing my heart for these cherubs to leave me in four weeks. I doubt very seriously that their lawyer is going to be able to fight against the big bad CPS even if she wants to.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

And....they're home

Dude walked in all smiles. He was happy to be home. He announced quite loudly though that Dolly wanted to stay with Grandma N in Dallas this time.

Dolly had fallen hard asleep in the car on the way back from the airport. She walked into the house crying her eyes out.

I stepped outside to talk to Minnie. Things I learned include:
  • Dude and Dolly fight like cats and dogs all the way to Dallas and all the way home.
  • Dude and Dolly argued about leaving Grandma's house this time. Both said they wanted to stay there. The only reason they decided it would be OK to come back is because of our upcoming trip to Iowa.
  • Their bio dad has a new girl "friend". I guess she only had contact with the kids for a short amount of time because Grandma N didn't want to break any rules.
  • Bio Mom is NOT working any of her services. Bio Mom is still in favor of the children going to Dallas even though she no longer has a relationship at all with Bio Dad.
  • Grandma N said again that she wants to cut Dolly's hair. She almost did this time even though it would have been against the rules. Secretly I'm wishing she would have. Minnie said an infraction like that could have been serious enough to prevent placement.
  • Grandma N also wants to cut off Dude's rat tail.
  • The children both report that Grandma N had clothes for them in Dallas this time. Their duffel bag was better packed this time and the dirty clothes they wore (that I had sent) were separated. Thankfully there were no surprises in the duffel bag this time around.
  • I haven't asked them where they slept but I'm betting it was in Grandma's bed again. I'll let y'all know.
It's time for me to go bathe the cherubs. They are cuddling with Papi S*** right now. I'm going to take care of Dude first because he seems the most regulated. Dolly desperately needs a bath though. It smells like she showered in perfume sometime earlier today.

I'm not nervous anymore. I knew I wouldn't be. It's amazing how I can work myself up though in the heat of the moment. I still hate the fact that I really know nothing about what they did the past three days. Everything I do learn is going to be out of context now anyway. I'll have to take it all with a grain of salt.

Time to put on my big girl panties and go about the business of being a foster mom.

Nervous

If I'm going to keep things brutally honest...

I have to tell you that right now...RIGHT NOW....I'm super nervous.

My kids are due home any minute. Their flight arrived in an hour ago at the airport an hour away from our house. They will be walking through my door at any time.

And I'm nervous.

My heart is racing. My mind is racing. It doesn't seem normal.

I mean...in just 6 days it will have been 18 months since they moved in. They aren't strangers. They don't bring a ton of bizarre behaviors to the table. They are easy kids to care for. It's not like I'm bracing myself for their return. I WANT them back home with me.

But they've been away from me for almost three days. I don't know what they did. I don't know who they were with. I don't know anything.

And because of their inability to talk about things like this, I'm going to know very little about the past three days. Dude and Dolly just don't talk about it much. And if I ask them questions I get very strange answers. I've never been able to figure out if the answers are strange because they've been told what to say and what not to say or if the kids literally don't know how to answer the questions I ask. And because they mess timelines up in their beautiful little minds, I never know for sure WHEN the things they tell me actually happened.

For example, Dolly was telling me recently about going to the park with her bio dad. But if I understand things correctly, she didn't see her bio dad on the last trip to Dallas. So even though she made it sound like it just happened, I don't think that's accurate. I think the time she went to the park with her dad was back in September.

This is a minor blip on the radar. They'll walk in the door and I'll be fine. I'll get busy about the business of feeding them a snack/supper/whatever they need. Then I'll bathe them and put them in bed. Tomorrow morning they'll be tired and out of whack but we'll go on with life like normal. What other choice do I have?

But right now....RIGHT NOW....I'm nervous.

Sometimes I REALLY hate foster care!!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Diagram of a weekend visit

The first part of the week is when I let the cherubs know that they have a weekend visit coming. I try to keep things low key but I do want them to know it's coming. We don't talk about it much.

By Wednesday and Thursday the topic pops up more. Still, I try to keep it low key. Dude doesn't want to go. Dolly is horribly conflicted. She does want to go...yet, she doesn't. It's more like Dolly just wants to meld our two families together. Dolly wants to be a part of Dallas and she wants us to be her family too. Ya know, like when a child of divorce wants their mom and dad back together again – even if they've remarried. Dolly wants to keep us AND she wants to connect with her family in Dallas. Through it all, Dolly misses her mom the most. All of this is a constant reminder that she'll never have what she had before coming in to Care.

As much as these cherubs love me, they are – and always will be – drawn to their biological family. It's how we humans are wired. Like it or not, it's truth. Anyone that thinks otherwise has blinders on.

Dolly spends most of Wednesday and Thursday bouncing back and forth in her big feelings. She'll tell me that she wants to live in Dallas. I always validate her feelings. Then, as soon as I validate that side of her big feelings, Dolly will spend the next two hours telling me every 5 minutes that she loves me.

Dolly has a lot of big feelings.

Dude does too. But his swing the other direction. Dude gets very firm in his, "I don't want to go to Dallas" statements. Then, when Dolly says she does want to go (even if it's just to visit) Dude gets even more firm. The poor thing feels so strongly about not wanting to go it's almost like he'd rather say goodbye to his sister than go to Dallas. They don't actually argue about things, but I have seen the back and forth get emotional enough that I step in and tell the kids, "It is up to the judge cherubs. But you need to know that the judge is not going to separate you two. You'll either stay with Mamma L*** and Papi S*** or you will go to Dallas. But you will stay together."

Both Dolly and Dude like to watch me pack for them. Dolly has a lot of self talk that she says out loud. Things like, "You keep us safe mommy. You make sure we have clothes. You buy us things." As I pack for them she needs to go over all the realities of life with us.

By Friday morning big feelings are rampant. Believe it or not though, they are biggest in my forever kids. Dolly and Dude are most excited about not having to go to school. They didn't have any problems finding things to do this morning and getting engaged.

Bart however was a brat. He fought with Dude for no reason until I separated them. Dude tried to pick a fight back but I busted him immediately. When I went upstairs to try and talk to Dude he told me yet again that he doesn't want to go to Dallas. I held him close and told him that he would be coming back here.

When Minnie got here to pick up the kids Dude and Dolly both were very excited. This is difficult for me. (VERY difficult for me.) Dude has spent the entire week telling me he doesn't want to go. But then he looked at Minnie and said, "I want to fly on the airplane." Minnie proceeded to then tell me how much Dude loves flying. I wanted to scream, "Sure, Dude loves flying on the plane. It's different. It's novel. But believe you me – the child does NOT want to live in Dallas. Just the thought of it freaks him out. He hates all conversation about living in Dallas!!!!" Why, oh why, oh why can't Minnie see the reality?!!! Why, oh why, oh why won't anyone do anything about the reality of this situation?!!!!

As I buckled them into Minnie's car Dude very earnestly said, "Mommy, you are coming back?" I wish this statement would mean something to Minnie. She does not want to see that the children love us and want to stay with us. Dude needs constant reassurance that I am not going to leave him.

Minnie told me that this weekend's visit is going to be a good one. The kids are going to have a Christmas party. Grandma is doing Christmas early for the kids. I casually threw back, "let's hope Grandma puts them in clean clothes this time around." Minnie told me that she had talked to Grandma about that. Grandma told her she didn't get in to the clothes I sent because she didn't want to mess them up. She said she had clothes for the kids there.

I'm confused. Minnie has told me that Grandma didn't have any clothes for the kids. The children both told me that they wore the same clothes for two days last visit. The children told me Grandma didn't have any clothes for them. But Minnie said, "I know Grandma has clothes for them there." Really?! 'Cause every other time you've said the exact opposite and I've always said that I don't expect Grandma to have clothes for them because if they end up in Dallas they will come with a huge wardrobe. We've had this conversation every single month!! But now all of the sudden Grandma has clothes?! I call bullshit! Minnie doesn't care. Minnie just wants this case over with.

They left. I walked back in to the house. Big feelings abound.

TT has got himself so worked up he's "sick" again. He told me he needed to stop doing school so he could lay down. He went in to the living room and climbed up on the couch. He's been there for almost two hours now. He's acting horribly pathetic. I just called him out on it. I just told him that he's got big feelings because Dude and Dolly left. I told him he's going to need to take care of himself and move on. He's not sick. He's getting himself some lunch now.

Here's to hoping I can squash the big feelings this weekend. We went to Six Flags their first visit. On the second visit my family was here so I was incredibly distracted. Last month my husband and I went on a date out of town. This is the first time Dude and Dolly have left and we've all stayed behind like normal.

Sunday will be a mess. The cherubs are always horrifically dysregulated when they return.  Here's to hoping I can keep the big feelings at bay for the next three days and we can recover quickly. This is the last visit before court. Honestly, January 7th can't come soon enough. I'm ready to be done with all this!!! 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Frustrated

Dude is acting out daily at school. He's yelling at the teacher. Hitting classmates. Refusing to do work.

Dude is wetting his pants almost daily. Not enough to soak his outer pants but enough to get his underwear all wet and to make his pants smell. He also doesn't tell me 95% of the time when he has an accident. He's wetting at home and at school.

These behaviors are developmentally normal.

These behaviors are NOT happening because everything is "normal".

Foster care sucks.

I hate sending my two littlest ones out to school each day. I'm positive that their public school experience is adding to their trauma. Dude is the youngest child in his HeadStart class. Out of 17 students there are only two 3 year olds. Every other child is in their second year at HeadStart. Not only is Dude the youngest, but he's also having to recover from 2.5 years of neglect. He's still got a lot of catching up to do. Forcing him to acclimate to this corporate school setting is not working well. I detest having to be a part of it.

Dolly's teacher never responded to the note I wrote her about my preK concerns. I kept it simple. I just told her that I noticed I wasn't getting the daily updates that I had received at the beginning of the year. I told her that I trusted she would let me know if there are any problems.

Dolly came home from school and told me that her teacher was going to call me.

Her teacher never called.

Now I'm wondering if this teacher actually meant that I was supposed to call her. << sigh >>  'Cause that's how things should be handled. Instead of taking 30 seconds to drop me a note back, she trusted a 5 year old little girl to properly relay a message to me. This 5 year old little girl is still learning English. She doesn't always keep her information straight.

Dolly said something strange to me again today about doing homework AT school. I'm now 99% sure all the homework that was being sent home is being given to her to do at school. Dolly didn't seem upset though so I didn't say much.

Dolly has 10 days of school left before Christmas break. Dude only has 8. (They don't go to school tomorrow because of their trip to Dallas for a visit with Grandma N.) I'm going to hang on. I'm going to not freak out. I can do this. They can do this. But dammit - I HATE THIS!

We go to court the day before school starts back up after Christmas. I am praying daily that there will be an END to foster care for these cherubs on that day. Of course I want to gain permanent custody of these cherubs. But if that doesn't happen they need to move to Dallas ASAP. Every moment they spend in Care without permanency is doing damage.

I'm scared to death that this is going to drag out again though. If that happens I'm going to have to have a sit down with Dolly's teacher face to face. And for Dude, I have no idea what to do. He needs stability. He needs to know that things are permanent. He needs the people around him to be able to answer questions about the future.

I'm so tired of living day to day. Dolly came up to me to talk about Dude's upcoming birthday. Of course that led to a conversation about HER birthday. That's not until next September. I literally cut the conversation off as quickly as I could. I can't talk about anything that's going to happen in September 2013. I can't promise her a birthday cake. I can't promise her presents. All I can do is tell her that yes, she will have a birthday. Little kids like to talk about the future. They like to talk about tradition...even if that tradition is something as simple as making sure they get a birthday cake. But I can't promise that to Dolly because I will not promise anything I'm not in control of. I won't promise that she will get a cake because if she's not living with me I can't guarantee that she will get one.

I'm frustrated. The System Stinks!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Difference...

TT hasn't been able to sleep all night through in his own bed in nearly a month now. The initial trigger was when my husband and I left for San Antonio for two nights and he stayed, with his brother, across the street at our good friends' house. Most nights (but certainly not all) he doesn't wake me up. He just comes into our room and makes a bed for himself right next to me on the floor with a blanket and a pillow. His need to be close to me prevents him from sleeping comfortably on the mattress we put across the room. He says he's afraid the bookshelves are going to fall on him if he sleeps over there.

Then we had the night he got sick. He was up all night vomiting. Every single time TT woke up he woke me up too. He needed me to stand in the bathroom with him. And I did. I do not want my child to feel like I'm abandoning him in his time of need.

TT ended up staying in bed the entire next day. He ate almost nothing and, other than the sleeping, did not really seem sick at all! Thankfully no one else in the house got whatever it was that TT got. For the most part, I'm still thinking it was all anxiety related.

The difference between my children is amazing. The events of last night couldn't be more opposite of when TT was sick. (Five nights after TT's episode.) It was the middle of the night. I didn't even look at the clock. Bart calmly walked into our room and announced he was sick. He told me he threw up. I looked down on the floor; TT had already taken up residence there. I scooped Bart up and put him next to me in bed. I asked him if he made it to the bathroom when he got sick. He said yes so I snuggled in and figured I'd go to sleep. Bart never really got himself comfortable but he laid there next to me. After a few minutes I asked him if he was ready to go back to his bed. He nodded yes, trotted off to his room, and didn't make another sound until he woke up this morning.

Yes, I know that these differences can happen between all kids no matter who they live with. But TT's anxiety is so high. So incredibly high. He's worried about something right now and I can't seem to get to the bottom of it so I can help him. Last night while watching TV he was attacking his fingernails with a vengeance. Jokingly I called him Stumpy and told him if he kept it up he wouldn't have any fingers left. He literally looked at me and told me, "Mom, I have to do this." (He chews and picks at all of his fingernails and toenails. It's a habit that gets much more pronounced when he's stressed.)

It's during times like this that I'm incredibly grateful we decided to homeschool. I am confident beyond a shadow of a doubt that if he was under the typical school stresses he would be completely out of control right now. At least we've got that going for us.

In the meantime, I sure hope we can get to the bottom of this before Christmas. I'm afraid we won't though. I'm afraid that he just can't let go of the fears he has about "the judge" ruining this for us. I'm not convinced that's the only thing bothering TT right now, but it certainly is a big issue. And I will add, I'm not at all upset that Bio Mom didn't call in to confirm a visit for today. I will gladly forgo that heap of chaos this week!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Behaviors

I've mentioned it before – I'm seeing behaviors in Dude and Dolly that seem to me to be a result of being in foster care.

Let me repeat that -- these are behaviors I believe are a result of (simply) BEING in Care.

Yes, I know some of these behaviors are normal in all children. Yes, I know I might be reading things in to this. Yes, I know that what I'm seeing is very, very minor compared to what others are parenting.

But there is nothing normal about ripping children from their family and placing them in the homes of strangers.

And there is certainly nothing normal or OK with leaving them in this state of uncertainty for extended periods of time.

Please do not misunderstand me. I do not think foster care is all evil and is all wrong. I understand with every fiber of my being that it is necessary. Children need to be kept safe and that cannot always happen in their family of origin.

But I'm really getting my panties in a bunch over all that is wrong with The System. You'll have to forgive me...I'm cycling back to the "freaking out" part of this journey. "My" kids have court in just over a month. Every time I hold these beauties in my arms I wonder how much time I have left with them.

I was on the phone with My Genius Brother tonight. We don't get to talk very often. He's a busy homeschooling dad of five that just happens to be a doctor as well. He often calls when he's driving between appointments. Tonight we got to chatting about the kids. He and his family are excited about finally getting to meet my bonus cherubs. (My cherubs are super, duper, uber excited about finally getting to meet Uncle J and his crew!)

Because we hadn't talked in awhile I had the pleasure of filling him in about the syringe in the duffel bag and all that happens each time the cherubs go to Dallas. He, like everyone else that discusses this case with me, has concerns about the children moving to Dallas permanently. The pieces just don't fit together at all. No one involved (I'm guessing not even Minnie) thinks it's in the cherubs' best interests to move to Dallas with Grandma N.

Anyway, as we talked about how chaotic it's going to be at Granny and Papa's with all of us there I said again that my kids can't wait to meet him. Then I added, "Of course, they aren't going to be anything like themselves. There will be plenty of deer in the headlight looks and lots of silence. They're going to be scared to death." This led to conversation in general about my kids' behaviors.

Which brings me full circle to my first statement. I'm seeing behaviors that seem to be (simply) because the kids are in Care. I mean...they are bonded to us. They ARE a part of our family. They fit in with us and they fit well. We love them. They love us. Our home is safe. We are doing everything a foster family is supposed to do and then some. But still...the cherubs are suffering (simply) because they are in Care.

The daily uncertainty is overwhelming. Nothing is forever. Nothing in the future can be talked about. We all have to live day by day in what is really not a healthy way.

My Genius Brother is amazing. But I didn't expect him to agree with me. So many people look at us and see only good what we've done for the kids. And since we're not dealing with behaviors outside the realm of "normal" parenting, I didn't expect for my brother to validate me. There are foster parents all over the country. No one talks about damage being done to the children in good, healthy foster homes. Good, healthy foster homes are a good thing that only help children.

But validate me he did.

Which breaks my heart.

I mean...I wanted him to tell me I'm overreacting. I wanted this doctor to tell me that kids are resilient. I wanted him to tell me that it takes more than this to "mess up" a kid. He knows we love these children with all our hearts. I wanted him to tell me that love is enough.

But he didn't.

I had a professional agree with me that attachment disorder can come (simply) as a result of languishing in Care.

Now...let me loudly clarify...
I DO NOT THINK MY KIDS ARE MOVING TOWARD ATTACHMENT DISORDER!

I'm just noticing behaviors that if left untended to over a long period of time, would be similar to those that children with attachment disorder display.

This of course adds to the "freaking out" part of my foster parenting journey. I so pray that this case has an ending of sorts in January when we go to court. Once again I pray that they either GO to Grandma N's or that they STAY with us permanently. I do NOT want them to still be in foster care. Even PMC with us would be better than foster care in my opinion. (Of course I'm praying hardest that the children stay with us. But in reality...I want to be done with foster care right now. I want what is best for these children and staying in Care does not seem to be what is best.)

But...sigh...I'm just the foster mom. The lawyer won't return my calls. There's no CASA involved. And Minnie is not someone I trust. So I'll wait. And I'll try to not think about court in January. I'll try to enjoy all that Christmas is. I'll look forward to seeing my family. I'll look forward to getting out of Texas for nearly two weeks. I'll look forward to pretending we're not a foster family for that time.


And I'll try really hard to not freak out.

yeah...right...

Friday, November 30, 2012

It is NOT all bad

Man...all of my posts are so incredibly negative. I'm sitting at my desk trying to work this morning and it's bugging me to pieces. Because I write mainly about foster care I struggle to come up with positive things to say. Let's face it...foster care sucks.

But my life isn't really that negative! Honest. It isn't!!!

  • After I flipped out on Bart this morning because he flipped out on me, he walked away and regrouped. Then he came back into the main room and went around hugging everyone. He's so quick to forgive. And he knew he had been in the wrong too. He apologized.
  • Mr. Amazing hurt his ankle the other day at work. He's home and is spending the days on the couch. He can't walk well at all and he's in a tremendous amount of pain. I've got a church Christmas party tonight. And even though I'm super tired and not in the mood to socialize, I'm planning on going. I told Herman that he's most likely going to have to put Dude and Dolly to bed tonight because Mr. Amazing isn't going to be able to. Without missing a beat Herman looked at me and said, "No problem Mom! I can do that!" Not too many 15 year old boys would accept responsibility like that without flinching.
  • Herman is handling life well this week. I think starting martial arts training is going to be incredibly helpful to him. I saw a Facebook status of a friend of a friend the other day that talked about how good wrestling competition has been for her sons. She made the comment that when kids wrestle both competitors walk off the mat knowing they either won or they lost and that it was all on them. (There's no fussing things like, "no one passed me the ball," that can be claimed.) I think this individual competition for Herman is going to be a good thing. We've got him enrolled in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class so it's very much like the wrestling I grew up watching and loving in central Iowa. Right now I'm only seeing positives with this class. (Other than the expense...but I can't put a price on my kid's mental health.)
  • Dolly and Dude are amazing children. They are truly very happy cherubs that are very easy to care for. Despite having to deal with all the crap of foster care, they are incredibly well adjusted and fit into our family.
  • I haven't heard much from Pumpkin's new family, but I do trust that things are going well as her aunt called me many times during the first month after she moved. Eventually I knew we would go our separate ways. I'm OK with that. I'm still glad we were able to see Pumpkin's case all the way through. I bought Pumpkin a Christmas present that I'm going to put in the mail to her soon. I also still need to make another photo album and get it over to her new family. I'm hoping that after they are granted PMC in January that Pumpkin's new mom will post pictures on Facebook and keep me a little bit connected that way.
  • All of my family's needs are being met every single day. I'm truly blessed beyond measure. As miserable as I sound on this blog sometimes, life is definitely not all bad! I'll try to do a better job of showing more of the positives! There are a lot of them!!!

Anxiety...for the millionth time

Mr. Wonky has invaded our house. It's bad. I'm so incredibly short tempered. I wish I could say I weather these times well. But, honestly, I don't always rock the therapeutic parenting.

For example, Bart just completely FLIPPED OUT because Dolly was coloring in a coloring book that may or may not at one point in time have been "his". This particular coloring book is at least 3-4 years old. For the most part Bart rarely colors in coloring books anymore because he chooses to create his own art. But this morning he got super territorial and thought that Dolly should not color in this particular coloring book. Any calm attempt from me to diffuse the situation was met with extreme yelling and stomping of feet.

I may or may not have just smacked him in the face for screaming at me.

I am NOT proud of my response.

The screaming and yelling for the morning has been off the charts. Bart also thought it necessary to freak out because he was asked to brush the sand off his pants before entering the house to begin school work. I am so mean. I want him to brush off so sand doesn't cover every inch of my house.

I'm 'bout worn out.

It doesn't help that I was up most of the entire night. It started when TT couldn't fall asleep. Typically this is not a problem for TT. Granted, he commonly has me up throughout the night when he's stressed. But the act of actually falling asleep isn't usually an issue for TT.

Last night at bedtime though, TT couldn't fall sleep. I went upstairs with him to cuddle and talk a bit. I asked him what he had been thinking about. He doesn't recognize that he's in a hyper-state of worry. But sometimes, when he can identify what he's been thinking about, we can process and he can relax.

Curled up in his bed, he quietly muttered, "I'm afraid something is going to happen and we aren't going to get to go to Iowa for Christmas."

I didn't want to push him so I asked, "What do you think might happen?"

He answered, "A crash." I nodded and let him continue. Then, with a great amount of fear in his voice he said, "I'm afraid the judge will do something and Dude and Dolly won't be able to go."

That damned investigation this summer really messed with all my kids. I'm totally for CPS following through with concerns. Honestly, I am! But all of my kids (ALL OF THEM) are still having to deal with trauma as a result of the State taking their slow sweet time dealing with things this summer.

And what can I do? Can I promise TT that nothing will happen?

NOPE.

All I could do was try to reassure him with things I do know. I do know that a crash is highly unlikely. I do know that a judge has granted us permission to travel. I do know that we are following all the rules as foster parents and there is no reason to suspect that anything negative will happen. I do know that if something DID happen, we as a core family are not prohibited from traveling to Iowa ever. I did promise him that we WILL be going to Iowa to visit as soon as we possibly can no matter what.

But I can't promise him that nothing bad will happen. I know the way things work in Fostercare Land all too well.

Silly me...I thought our processing worked. TT's eyes grew heavy. He relaxed. He fell asleep. I thought the worst of it was over.

3:00AM: TT came in to my room. He announced to me that he felt sick. I looked at him and said there is nothing I can do. I pointed for him to lay down on the floor next to my bed. He hasn't been sleeping well for weeks so I simply thought this was just that...TT not sleeping.

Thirty seconds later TT raced to the bathroom. Oh...I guess he really was sick.

All. Night. Long.

But if you want to know my honest take on this...I think this is TT's anxiety in full overdrive! At no point in time did TT actually toss the contents of his stomach. He just had the dry heaves all night long. Of course, he could be legitimately sick. And I'm certainly not going to add to any shame or anxiety by telling him I think this is anything less than a stomach bug (at least not yet anyway). But I'm pretty sure this is anxiety. (Sometimes, when TT can recognize that his illness is anxiety-related he can shake it faster. He's been known to get super sick and run a fever simply because of anxiety. But I need to wait until I can tell for sure what the problem is before I say anything to him.)

I'm tired. Here's to hoping I can get through today without losing my cool again.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Confession

Here's where I totally keep it real...

I don't talk to Dude and Dolly's bio mom before or after visits other than to say "thank you" when she hands me the toy bag that I pack for the kids.

Here's where it gets even weirder -- it doesn't even feel awkward.

I'm ALL FOR co-parenting in foster care situations when it's helpful for the children. When reunification is even a remote possibility, communication between the foster family and the family of origin is incredibly important. But this case is so broken I don't know what to say to bio mom. So I say nothing. And for what it's worth, she says nothing to me either.

Bio Mom arrived with Great Grandma P and the pregnant cousin yesterday on time. Dude and Dolly had almost no reaction to Bio Mom walking into the room. Well, they did have a reaction, but it wasn't the one most people would expect.

I was standing over by the door that leads to the CPS offices. I saw the family pull in to the parking lot so I started calling every single extension I could just praying for someone to pick up. CPS doesn't have a receptionist at this office. When I show up for a visit I have to call back and have someone come to the door. Most of the time no one picks up until I call back around a dozen times. There just happens to be a counter under the phone on the wall. As Bio Mom walked into the waiting room, both Dude and Dolly crowded behind me under the counter. Their mom had to coax them out to say "hi".

Of course Great Grandma and I are hugging and saying hello to each other. Great Grandma is even hugging on my forever kids and telling them hi as well.

I don't know what to say to Bio Mom. It's not even really awkward though. It's not like she's lighting up with excitement to see her children. In fact, every week it's like she's barely going through the motions. I did tell Bio Mom that I packed some food for the kids to eat during the visit. But there's no eye contact or real conversation. It's just transfer of information.

After the visit I quickly touched base with the visit moderator. She confirmed that Dude was pretty whiny during the visit but that he didn't throw any temper tantrums.

Then Great Grandma walked us out to the truck. Bio Mom never comes over to the truck with the kids. She barely says goodbye even – though this time she did force a kiss and an "I love you" out of each kid. Dude didn't want to have anything to do with her but he complied.

Great Grandma and I stood and chatted for awhile out in the parking lot. She confirmed that Bio Mom is NOT working her case plan. (Minnie has already confirmed this with me many times but sometimes to hear that the family of origin knows how bad the situation is sets the tone for how bad things really are.) Great Grandma is horribly concerned about what things are like in Dallas. I'm sure part of her disdain for Dallas is the fact that it's the bio dad's family. But their two families are intertwined in both the area of the state where we live and up in Dallas. I wish there was solid information that CPS could use AND would use about what things are like up there. Great Grandma says (that according to family members in Dallas) the other family members living with Grandma N in Dallas both use and deal drugs. She also said this time that she's convinced that if the cherubs are placed with Grandma N that she won't keep them for long.

I told Great Grandma about the syringe and the neglect during the last weekend visit. She's as frustrated as I am.

I then ended things by telling Great Grandma that if Bio Mom told her lawyer she wants the kids to stay with us that would pull a lot of weight in court.

Much in the same way things are silent between Bio Mom and me, I think there isn't a lot of conversation between Great Grandma and Bio Mom. Even though Bio Mom and the pregnant cousin couch surf at Great Grandma's house, I don't think they talk much. Great Grandma is very mad at Bio Mom and is thoroughly disgusted with her life choices. I offered to steal Great Grandma away yesterday. I told her she needs to leave her town and come move in with me. She laughed and hugged me. Then Great Grandma told me she's heard rumors that Bio Mom is pregnant. Bio Mom won't say anything to her about it. I guess we'll just wait and see. But Great Grandma is mad!

And the visit aftermath...

Dude peed his pants sometime yesterday and never told me. It's just enough pee that his underwear is yellow and damp, but not enough pee that it shows through to his clothes. Yet his pants smell bad. And he won't tell me. And it's really frustrating. (For what it's worth this is happening almost daily.)

At bedtime Dude told me his missed his Mommy C***. Then, when I asked him if he liked seeing her at the visit, he very strongly announced, "NO!"

Dolly was more introspective. She's so conflicted. At bedtime she typically sits up on my lap and cuddles with me and Dude while I sing and then pray. Last night she couldn't decide what to do. I'm pretty sure she is overwhelmed with conflicting emotions. She loves her first mom. She honestly does miss her first mom. But she's bonded with me. After a visit though she's unsure how to respond to me. She doesn't want to disrespect the relationship she used to have with her mom. But...she's bonded with me. She wants and needs the daily love and attention. She seemed much too sad for a five year old last night as she climbed up on my lap to cuddle.

And, because these visits affect more than just Dude and Dolly – TT was up in the middle of the night multiple times. He woke me up twice and ended up taking a blanket and pillow and slept up next to the side of my bed. He can't even sleep on the mattress we have across the room. He needs to be right next to me. It breaks my heart. I often wonder if the good we are doing overall is at a detriment to him sometimes.

And this morning...

Dude did NOT want to go to school. He literally told me school was going to be scary. Now...he didn't "honestly" think that school was going to be scary. It was just very obvious to me that he didn't want to separate this morning.

And Dolly has told me 3-4 times already that she wants to stay here forever.

This fostering stuff isn't for the faint of heart!

Monday, November 26, 2012

update in bullet points

  • Mr. Wonky is ALL OVER my house!! My nine year old has only slept through the night 2 or 3 times in the past 2+ weeks. He's so short tempered and we've been dealing with tons of dysregulation. I'm getting super exhausted!
  • Dude has been processing his trauma in less than pleasant ways. There has been an increase undesirable behaviors at both school and at home. Potty accidents (which had been completely eliminated) are happening almost daily now. There is more aggression, sassing and even a little lying thrown in for good measure. I know that some of this is developmentally normal and should be expected. But when I see it rise and fall around visits it screams "trauma behavior" to me too.
  • Bart is as strong-willed as ever. Unfortunately, when every one of my buttons has been pushed by TT, I don't have enough patience left to properly handle Bart's level of *cough* enthusiasm. When he screams at me, "I don't want to," when given a direction...I may or may not scream back. (OK OK...I scream back every time. I'm working on whispering more...but I really suck at it.)
  • I have NO IDEA where TT's dysregulation is coming from right now. Nothing sticks out as a trigger to me. All I can come up with is a long string of minor (at least to him) things. I guess it's been enough little things all piled on top of one another that it's too much to handle. But damn, I'm worn out.
  • Herman is still struggling with clinical depression. He's had issues for years and years. (I don't think I've ever mentioned it on the blog before though.) We've tried tons of talk therapy. We've tried meds. We've tried everything I can personally think of. Just last week we upped his welbutrin to 300mg a day. He's also going to start MMA (mixed martial arts) training again tonight. I've been waiting until he "got his act together" with school before I wanted to spend the money and put forth my own effort toward the MMA class. But my Genius Brother (who just happens to be a doctor) spouted off a bunch of research that proved a formal exercise program can be as effective in helping beat depression as medication can be. I'm praying that the Thanksgiving vacation that gave him time to get caught up in school, combined with the increase in meds AND the exercise program will be just enough to get him on the up-side of things again. But he's wearing me out too.
  • My Genius Sister had her baby almost two weeks ago. The little bugger didn't cook quite long enough and made his appearance five weeks early. He was a big preemie (6lbs. 9oz.) and seemed perfectly healthy at first. Unfortunately, after a few days at home his core body temp dropped and he became entirely too lethargic. He's been in the NICU for awhile now. (I'm sure this story alone is enough to be part of TT's issues. He is incredibly empathetic!!)
  • The good news though....we all get to go HOME over Christmas so I'm going to get to see that little bugger in about a month. The judge signed all the paperwork today and gave permission for Dude and Dolly to travel out of state. I'm super, super, super excited about that! Granny and Papa are going to have all the kids and grandkids home all at one time. That will be 8 adults and 13 grandchildren!! Whoo hoo!! (Thankfully 2 of those adults and 3 of the kids will be sleeping in their own house just four blocks down the road.)
  • I sent a note to Dolly's preschool teacher today. I kept it simple. I just said I noticed that she's not bringing home homework and that I haven't seen the daily "reports" either. She didn't bother to send me a note back but she told Dolly that she's going to call me. (whoo hoo -- I'm so not looking forward to this conversation)
  • I left another message with Dude and Dolly's lawyer to call me. After the syringe episode and my concerns over them being neglected because they stayed in the same clothes for two whole days (sleeping in them as well)....I really want to talk to her. I don't want these kids going to Dallas for another visit without their lawyer knowing what happened last time.
  • Did I mention I'm super duper tired of wonked out dysregulation?
  • We had a terrific Thanksgiving. The neighbors came over during the day but it was just us at mealtime. Every year we pick a theme and we do it up! This year the theme was Pancake Diner (named after a game TT & Bart play with our pretend kitchen). I made muffins, bacon, egg casserole, pumpkin bread pudding, ham, dinner rolls and of course...pancakes. We had fun and the food was delicious.
  • Oh yeah, and the dysregulation running rampant through our house is about to wear me out. Hmmmm...maybe I mentioned that one already.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I'm Thankful

Tammy at I Must Be Trippin' wanted the foster care panel to write about foster care and holidays last week. I was a lousy panel member and never managed to work up a post. Largely, this is because I've done nothing different with my foster kids over a holiday than I ever do. They are part of our family and they just get worked into the mix. I had no idea what to write.

But today I see the error of my thinking.

I have done a lot of things differently.

With Pumpkin I had to keep things simple out of developmental necessity. She didn't understand language. I couldn't ask her what she had done before. I couldn't try to meld any of her past traditions into ours. Everything was trial and error. Some things she seemed to understand. Some things were completely new. We found out quickly that Pumpkin understood birthdays – complete with presents, cake and candles. She knew all about that. That was fun!

But Easter....I don't think she had ever done much. When it came time to hunt eggs I couldn't do it as we always have. In our house, in years past, the Easter Bunny wrote a note to the kids saying how many of each kind of egg they could find. For example, there would be a list that said: 4 big eggs, 12 little eggs, 1 special bowl of goodies and 4 peanut butter eggs. Pumpkin never would have understood that.

I pondered things over and over and decided that Pumpkin did sort of know her colors. It wasn't consistent but I knew it would be easier to direct her to only eggs of one color. She would be able to hunt eggs with assistance – but she could do it. So the eggs were color coded. Herman got purple, TT got blue, Bart got green and Pumpkin got yellow that first year. (Thank goodness Easter eggs traditionally come in six colors because we added pink for Dolly and green for Dude the next year.)

When Dude and Dolly came I had to keep things smaller. I couldn't really explain what Thanksgiving was to them. They just had to experience it. So many things that we did were brand new to the children. I don't think they had ever experienced a birthday party. They had never done Halloween. They didn't know who Santa Clause was. Everything was new!!! And because they were just learning English, most explanations just flew over their heads.

So we kept it simple that first year. I picked out their Halloween costumes for them. Thanksgiving was just a day when our neighbors came over to eat with us. I didn't talk about Santa until right before Christmas. I didn't make a big deal out of the presents. We didn't do any parties (much to the dismay of our licensing agency). We kept it simple. They were so easily overwhelmed. We did what we always did – my forever kids didn't miss a thing – but we kept it simple.

I've been having so much fun today though!!

The kids know a bit of what to expect.

Last night at bedtime I did what I always do with the cherubs. We read books. Then I turned off the light. I sang "Jesus Loves Me". I sang a few more songs. We prayed. I sang the lullaby I sing every night. And then we talked about what the next morning will look like.

Dolly asked me if we were going to watch TV. They know that on "no school" days (Saturday anyway) they get to come downstairs in their jammies and watch cartoons. They LOVE it! I told the cherubs that we would probably watch TV but it would be a parade. Now I knew that the word "parade" is still foreign to them. They didn't know what we would be watching. I tried to explain though. I said there would be singers and dancers, giant balloons, floats, bands and more. Then I said, "And at the end of the parade Santa will be there." I said the final goodnight and I walked out of the room.

About 7:00AM Dude and Dolly woke up. I heard their little feet padding up and down the hall as they went to the bathroom. Each child went back to their room though and crawled in bed. (Typically only on cartoon mornings do they get to go down in their jammies. They have really learned our routines well!) I got out of bed and went into their room to say good morning.

With sparkles in her eyes, Dolly looked up at me and said, "We go watch the parade Mommy? And Santa come today Mommy?"

The pure joy in her eyes has made me cry multiple times today. She recognized characters in the parade. She got excited when the bands played songs she recognized. And the way she waved back to the TV when Santa came...it was priceless! Everything was NOT new to her today. It's been amazing.

Today I celebrate with my friends and family. I am no more thankful today than any other day. I do truly try to live a life of thanksgiving. I am thankful for all the blessings every day. But I will add, like so many other foster moms are saying today, I'm even thankful for this foster parenting journey. It has stretched me. It has nearly ripped me to pieces. But I'm thankful I've been a part of it. I'm thankful. So very, very thankful.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

PreK crap

I need advice.

I've had issues with the local preK program here that Dolly is required by the State to attend. For example, I got a nasty note sent home awhile back saying I was required to have her do her homework in crayon or pencil - marker was not allowed. (Yes...homework in preK. Barf!)

I followed up that note with my own letter siting what is developmentally appropriate for children like my daughter. I copied this article and referenced the section that specifically deals with this topic.

Since that time Dolly has stopped receiving homework. In fact, I no longer get a daily note from the teacher letting me know what kind of a day Dolly had. (She always had "green" days before so I'm not too worried.) Until today, I was thrilled. I always had Dolly finish the worksheets. They just didn't get done every day. I had her do them at times that was convenient for our family. Because honestly, Dolly is behind developmentally. I need her in a stable home environment where she can just be a kid. It's more important for her to process her trauma and deal with that on a daily basis than it is for her to trace the letter M twenty-four times.

Today Dolly brought home a bunch of finished work today and one of the items has a note on top "Homework! Done in class!"  --- Yikes! Does this mean that Dolly is being expected to do the stupid homework worksheets she used to get on top of all the other "work" she's supposed to do each day at school?

Do I need to say anything to the teacher?

Dolly seems to enjoy school. She tells me this daily. She looks forward to the bus coming. So the fact that she is being given extra work to do AT school doesn't seem to be a problem.

Though, she did come home from school crying last Friday because she had a lot of work to do.

Dolly can't answer questions. She really can't. If I was to ask her about the work she does at school it's likely that she would freeze up and not say anything. Abstract questions are nearly impossible for her to answer. The fact that I got anything out of her last Friday when she was upset was a miracle. And even then all I could get her to say was, "I'm crying 'cause my teacher said I have a lot of work to do". She couldn't elaborate at all. She might have just been having an off day and didn't want to do the crap they assign her every single day. Or, she might have been upset because the teacher is truly expecting too much out of her daily.

MY problem though is, I HATE confrontation. I do not want to get into things with Dolly's teacher. It just doesn't seem worth it. And since it is very likely that Dolly will be moving to Dallas in January, is it worth it for me to do anything now?

Now let's play the "what if" game....
What IF (if if if if if if if if if if)....What IF Dolly gets to stay in January? What IF we are granted PMC? Do I keep Dolly in public school? Or do I pull her home to homeschool? 'Cause let's be honest here, I don't think I'm capable of homeschooling four or five kids. But the public school SUCKS. I pulled my three forever kids for so many reasons and none of them was because I had a burning desire to homeschool. Dolly is behind developmentally. She's going to need help catching up. Can I provide that at home?

Enough of the WHAT IF game. Just thought I'd give y'all another peek into my level of crazy.

Anyway...what would you do if Dolly was your kid and you were required to send her to a crappy school with crappy teachers that don't know or understand a thing about trauma?!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Visit recap

I know I'm really negative about visits. I hope my readers can see where I'm coming from – see through the negativity if you will. There isn't a whole lot going on in this case per se other than these visits. So...that's what I've got to report on. And, to be totally honest, these visits are killing me. Please know that if reunification was even a remote possibility, I would feel differently about this. I would actually make an effort to talk to Bio Mom about her kids. There would be a purpose to these visits. It would be different.

But the children have been in care for 17 months. There is no hope of reunification with Bio Mom or Bio Dad. Yet, we are having to drive an hour away once a week so the kids can see Mom for two hours in the CPS office. (Bio Dad lives in Dallas and is supposed to see the children during their once a month visits to Grandma. He was MIA this past visit and the kids didn't see him.) To the visits here though, Mom is never on time. In fact, even though Mom is required to confirm the visit 24 hours in advance, I believe that Mom has to be called every Wednesday after we arrive to remind her to come. Does she even want to be there?! She missed almost every single visit when the kids first came in to Care. Then she was locked up for 9 months. After getting out, it took her at least two weeks or more before she even called CPS to ask about her kids.

Dolly used to have a harder time with the visits than she does now. I guess I've done a good job of making her feel safe and loved. Whew!

However, Dude is fed up with the process. He's starting to act out in school. He regresses after a visit and almost always wets his pants at school the next day. And now, Dude is starting to throw temper tantrums during the visits. Just today his mom tried to wipe his nose for him and he exploded calling her stupid and various other names.

My own kids have to ride along. (Herman has his own school to take care of during the day and can't easily babysit his brothers in the process.) Bart and TT don't like sharing their siblings with the bio family any more than I do. They understand that the kids are never going to go home to Mom. These visits confuse them horribly. They don't understand why we are going through these motions. (Not to mention that TT is triggered because of his own adoption story every time Dude and Dolly have contact with their mom.)

So basically, visit day sucks!

Today was no exception. All three of my forever kids "lost it" for one reason or another this morning. Amazingly enough, Dude and Dolly played like angels up in the playroom together. (Thank God for small favors!)

But Bio Mom was late. And, despite the fact that she's brought lunch to every visit for the past 5-6 weeks, she showed up with nothing today. And wouldn't ya know it?! Today was the day that I finally decided to not feed the kids a big lunch before the visit. I decided that if Mom was going to bring a Happy Meal or pizza every visit, the kids should actually eat the food. And today, Mom showed up empty handed.

And, because she was late, I was already gone. Minnie sent me a text to let me know. (I had told Minnie to let me know ASAP if Mom didn't bring food so I could bring something to the cherubs myself.) Of course, Minnie's text letting me know that there was no lunch arrived after our order had been placed at Denny's. I couldn't exactly get up leave immediately. Minnie said the kids were fine and could wait until later. (sigh)

At 2:30 I arrived back at the CPS office with Happy Meals in hand. I killed the last 30 minutes wandering the Dollar General across the street. Then I came back to get the kids.

Mom didn't bring them lunch but she did manage to bring them each a tube of flavored/scented chap stick. Because that's what every 3yo boy and 5yo girl need. (sigh) I took the chap stick away – as chap stick is not a toy. I told the kids that I will keep it for them to use but they can't carry it around with them. (sigh)

Memorable quotes of the day:
"Mommy (to me)....it's my Mommy C*** (pointing to Bio Mom)." (This still makes me a little uncomfortable and I know CPS doesn't like it that they call their mom Mommy C***. But really, how else am I supposed to handle this?! They barely know their mom anymore. I am their mom now more than anything. And I've got three other kids in the house calling me Mom.)
"Angel couldn't come today." (She typically comes with their Bio Mom.) "She had to go see her boyfriend in jail." (Angel is the teenager that the children were found with in that fateful hotel room 17 months ago. She was passed out on the bed and the children were left to their own devices. She's now quite visibly pregnant. I fear for her future baby.)

Dolly and Dude each slept some on the car ride home. Thankfully Bart and TT didn't kill each other riding in the back seat. And now, I have to go make something for supper. We'll get through the day. I'm just tired of all the extra drama that, to me, seems to serve no good purpose.