Saturday, March 31, 2012

Grandma wants to see them

Deborah finally got in touch with Dude and Dolly's Grandma in D***. It seems Grandma now wants to see the children. A visit is on the schedule for this Friday the 6th at 10:00am.

My cherubs were supposed to see their maternal great-grandma on Wednesday. Deborah has to reschedule that one because of commitments on her end. She wants to reschedule that visit for Friday as well.

If indeed my cherubs do have to have two separate visits on Friday – that day will suck! There will be no nap. They probably won't eat. There's nothing to do during the visit. I'll bring toys of course. But they will be nervous and out of sorts no matter what I bring. I'm so not looking forward to it!

I was quite up front with Deborah. I asked her outright if she thinks this visit will be enough to "count" as contact with the kids. I told her I want to know if there's no chance of us being granted PMC so I can prepare my heart for that.

Deborah is awesome. She answered me. I knew what the answer would be. I'm no dummy. Of course all she could tell me is that she doesn't know. But she did tell me that she is going to supervise the visit with Grandma. And she did tell Grandma that she's concerned because of the lack of contact since our court date back in February.

Grandma claims she tried to contact Jasmine several times but couldn't reach her.

Personally, I think that's bull. This Grandma has not been interested in these kids since they came in to care.

I guess we'll see what happens Friday.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Remember...

It is not "if" you're going to be investigated.

It is WHEN you're going to be investigated.

And just because you know it's probably going to happen doesn't make it any easier.

-- sigh --

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dear Dentist Man,

It's so common for people in the community to ask how many kids you have. I get it at the grocery store when the clerk starts counting how many boxes of cereal I'm buying along with the huge quantity of milk in the cart. It's a common question that I hear all the time. And I'm actually starting to love the reaction when I answer, "six". It cracks me up.

Then, depending on the situation, I sometimes share that we are a foster family. I do this because I feel like it is part of my ministry. I do NOT do it to embarrass the children. In fact, I typically don't share this information when the kids are around. And if I do share it I word it, "We are a foster family." I do not single out any children. I've had some wonderful conversations with people because I'm not afraid to say it. I've dispelled myths about what it means to be a foster family. I've helped educate people. And I think that is a very good thing. I've encouraged people that say, "I've thought about doing that myself." I'm not sure if anyone I've talked to has actually moved forward and gotten certified. But if I helped plant a seed, or if I've changed someone's perspective, I think I've done a good thing.

Six months ago I sat in the chair at my dentist's office. The doctor asked how many kids I have. I answered. And then, because the kids weren't there, I said, "We're a foster family so sometimes that number changes." This particular dentist was quite confused. He is one of those people that has no clue about foster care. (Which is really quite sad. He's a professional in a very, very poor community. I'm sure he encounters this more frequently than he thinks.) He literally asked me if I got the kids because someone just dumped them somewhere.

I had fingers in my mouth at the time and couldn't respond. But I was completely dumbfounded. How could someone not know how kids come in to Care?! His nurse seemed equally surprised and she rather curtly informed him that kids come in to Care because of abuse and neglect. The topic was dropped almost immediately. (Not that I could have done much -- fingers in the mouth and all. Conversations at the dentist are always so one-sided.)

Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Dentist Man again. This time I had Dude and Dolly with me. They were sitting in the corner of the room like wonderfully well behaved cherubs. The dentist walked in and shook my hand. Then he turned to the kids.

"These are your...um..."

I cut him off. I said, "Yes. These are my children."

"Oh, you've...um...had an adoption?" He seemed bent on discussing foster care again. He was tripping all over himself and seemed quite nervous.

"No. But these are my children."

"Oh. They are your fost..."

I cut him off again. "These are my children. I really try to not focus on the reason why they came to live with me. I don't like to draw attention to that part. It can be embarrassing to them.  Just know that these are MY children."

Nervously, he ended the topic and got busy examining my teeth.

I knew that this would be an issue where we live. My legal family stands out everywhere we go. The population where we live is literally 99% Hispanic. Me...I'm glow in the dark white. Our mixed up family of kids does stand out.

That's part of the reason why I will share that we are a foster family. If I can show that our family is healthy, loving and kind...I can share the gospel. I often tell people that all we are doing is being led by God. But I'm tired of professionals that should know better stumbling all over themselves lately.

-----

Now, on to some happy stuff....

While at the dentist's office, a lovely nurse set my two cherubs up with coloring books and crayons. She even went so far as to bring them each a clipboard so they could actually color while sitting in their chairs.

Dolly opened her coloring book to a word find page. While sitting there, she proceeded to point to nearly every letter on that page and identified them all correctly! In only nine months my little girl has learned the English language and has started being able to read it! And she's only four years old!! There is something to be said for the power of books. All of this is because we read to them every single day.

I'm so incredibly proud!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Medicaid fraud

There are a lot of rules in foster care. Rules about who can watch over the kids. Rules about how our homes have to be kept. Rules concerning medical issues. (and more rules and more rules and more rules)

Because of Pumpkin's severe medical needs, I've been privy to lots of different doctors and specialists. I've had to bring her to countless follow up exams. Even if some of these exams are really unnecessary, I can understand the extra level of precaution. Every party involved has to cover their ass so to speak. So, when the doctor fills out the medical form that has to be completed at every single appointment, and she writes in "follow up in two weeks" -- I follow up in two weeks.

However, last week, I had to draw the line.

Dude has a wart. A stupid wart on his finger. It's just a wart.

When it popped up a few months ago I didn't do anything right away. We determined that it wasn't an infection (we tried to lance it at home). It was super swollen - but Dude never complained and it didn't move to the top of my "to do" list.

When Dude started wincing as we washed his hands I decided I had better bring him in to get it looked at. The appointment went quickly! The doctor gave me an Rx sample. It's a medication that isn't covered by Medicaid but it was supposed to work really well. Then, on the medical form I have to get filled out, the doctor said we had to come back for a follow up exam in two weeks.

Two weeks?! For a wart?! You have got to be kidding me!

She then added that if the wart isn't gone she'll have to send us to a dermatologist.

For a wart?!!  << sigh >>

So, this past Thursday I loaded Dude and Dolly up in the morning so we could go get Dude's wart looked at again. I wasn't particularly thrilled to be there. As the nurse took his vitals I was a little short tempered. She kept asking questions like, "has he had a change in appetite?" I explained that that ONLY reason I was there was because I am REQUIRED to follow up if the doctor says so. It's only a wart. It's healing. Nothing had changed in the last two weeks!

Got back to the exam room without too much hassle. Yes, the nurse ticked me off with her comment. But really, Dude wasn't phased by it. We didn't have to wait too long for the doctor.

When the doctor came in the room I showed her how quickly the wart was healing. I explained that a lot of the swelling was down. It was starting to crack at the base. I was confident that the wart was going to fall off soon.

The doctor then filled out my medical form. She told me to continue the medication for one more week. And then she said we had to come back again in two weeks.

For a wart?!!

With great disbelief I questioned the necessity of another follow-up exam. The doctor got all "white coat" on me and started explaining that if the wart falls off but the "root" of it doesn't go away that it will just grow back.

Duh. I've got 6 kids. I've done the wart thing before.

Reluctantly I took the paperwork and left the office. Fuming I loaded everyone in to the car. Between the nurse being a bit of a moron and then the doctor milking the system for follow-up exams, I was one peeved mamma.

Enter Rainbow. Oh how I love Rainbow.

I called her as we drove to our next appointment. I told Rainbow all that had happened. I knew that in all reality, it was her job to tell me that I needed to make the follow-up appointment for two weeks out and then keep it. But Rainbow is awesome. Rainbow has a head on her shoulders.

Rainbow was as frustrated as me. She even used the term "Medicaid fraud" before I did. All these follow-up exams aren't necessary. They are just a way for the doctor to make an easy buck. And since these doctors know that we have to do whatever they tell us, unnecessary follow-up exams are rampant.

Rainbow started thinking out loud. My original question was, "What would happen to me if I just don't take him in." Her answer was that we would get a cite in our file. But then she said, don't turn in the medical form. Then, she changed that to, "Why don't you add in the words 'if needed' on the form. Then, if someone asks during the audit, I'll explain that the wart went away. I know you'll take him back to the doctor if necessary. But you don't have to go back in two weeks."

Thank God for social workers who can see beyond the black and white of the rules and use some common sense!! I love Rainbow!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dear Nurse Lady,

You were there the first time I brought my kids in to the doctor. You were kind and supportive of me. Thank you for that.

You've been there at so many of the appointments we've had since my kids came in to Care. You've watched them grow and blossom. You have seen them become less fearful. You've watched them learn English. I love the way you light up when they come in to the room. You are so nice to my kids.

However Nurse Lady -- you crossed a line today! In the future, do NOT tease my 3yo and tell him that you want him to come home with you!!! Do not tell him how cute he is and that you just want to keep him. Do not ask his sister if it's OK if her brother comes home with you!

What were you thinking?!

Did you forget how these children came to live with me?!

Your comments were just plain cruel!

I hope you actually heard me when I asked you to not play with my child that way. I was so angry that when you asked me what I said I didn't have the ability to repeat myself. Next time I won't be so shy. I will make sure you understand how incredibly inappropriate your comments were!!!

Dear Nurse Lady, don't cross me again. I'll go Mamma Bear all over you and it won't be pretty. Next time think a little before you tease any child about something like that. Not every kid you come in to contact every day has a stable home life and can see past what you're saying to know that you are teasing. It's NOT OK. And as a nurse, you should know better!

There had better not be a next time.
Thank you.
~ Cherub Mamma

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Aunt and Uncle

Pumpkin's aunt and uncle drove ALL DAY yesterday just to come and see Pumpkin for a couple hours this morning. They live half-way across the state from us. And, in order for the judge to see that they are dedicated to truly caring for Pumpkin, a visit was incredibly important. Court is coming up April 3 and we are hoping that Pumpkin can be moved to live with them permanently. The uncle wasn't granted any time off during Spring Break when this visit was originally going to take place. But when I explained to him that contact was necessary prior to court, he said that they would drive down for a quick visit over his weekend off. (It is a minimum of a 13 hour drive one way!) Instantly I was impressed with his level of dedication.

The visit today wasn't "for" Pumpkin though. Pumpkin doesn't understand relationship. I'm not sure she recognized these people when they came to my home this morning. All Pumpkin knew was that I took my other kids to school and dropped them off and then brought her back home. She was quite confused in general.

The purpose of today's visit was so that this aunt and uncle could see Pumpkin. (Until today, I wasn't completely sure if CPS had been fully honest with them about Pumpkin's level of disability.) The visit was also so someone involved in her case could determine for sure if this aunt and uncle are able to care for Pumpkin. Honestly, I'm surprised that everyone was OK with me supervising this visit and making the recommendation when all is said and done. I guess they must trust me a little bit after all. (Either that or it's easier for me to do the work. LOL)

I was impressed. Very impressed.

Pumpkin's aunt and uncle have known Pumpkin all her life. Granted, they didn't have regular contact – only a couple times a year if that. But they know her circumstances. They seem to understand her limitations.

They asked good questions. And even better, they listened to my answers.

All I have to do now is type up a detailed email about the visit and submit it to Pumpkin's caseworker. I'm probably going to contact Pumpkin's GAL as well so that everyone can be in the loop. I do hope that the powers that be are able to make this happen at the next court hearing. Pumpkin deserves a forever family that is committed to her completely. She deserves to move on and get out of foster care.

I guess this aunt and uncle have been in contact with CPS for over a year now – ever since Pumpkin came in to care the first time. I find it horribly unfortunate that The System has to move so slowly. But the home study has been done. The home study has been approved. It's just up to the judge.

April 3 will be here soon.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Why Pumpkin doesn't have a wheelchair

Meg asked me if I thought it was time that Pumpkin got a wheelchair. I decided to answer this question in a separate post. There's a LOT involved in getting anything for Pumpkin. Getting special medical needs met - especially when dealing with Medicaid - takes a lot of time and effort!

When Pumpkin came into care (Jan. 2, 2011) she had nothing for her medical and physical needs. No medication for her epilepsy. (Mom had taken her off it.) No therapies on schedule. No schooling yet (despite the fact she was old enough to be in kindergarten). And no braces for her feet.

Slowly but surely I got started catching Pumpkin up with these things.

First, I got the name of her neurologist and she got back on her medication. It has been over a year now and we are still making modifications almost every 8 weeks when she goes in to see the doctor. She's had an extended EEG and also a short one that was conducted during a hospital stay. Her brain activity is not normal and she will most likely have seizures the rest of her life.

Pumpkin started school a few weeks after coming in to care. It took a bit of doing, but they were able to put her in the self-contained special needs room right away. She didn't immediately qualify for therapies through the school though. That took a 504 meeting and then the ARD so Pumpkin could be giving her IEP. Even now, the therapies aren't very frequent at school. I certainly don't rely on them for much!! Also, the school does a HORRIBLE job of communicating with me about the things Pumpkin does do there. Unfortunately, I've come to look at the school and it's role in Pumpkin's life as...well...glorified day care.

After many, many doctor appointments, evaluations and insurance snafus Pumpkin got enrolled in private therapies. This was an insurance nightmare. No one had explained to me that not only would the rehab facility have to accept Medicaid where we live (and they ALL do so that wasn't the issue), but they would have to accept the "special" Medicaid that Pumpkin is on now that she is a ward of the State. Originally her pediatrician sent us to a great rehab facility right across the street from the doctor's office. We went through the several hour evaluation process with physical, occupational and speech therapies. Then, after much waiting, I was told that this particular facility didn't take Pumpkin's version of Medicaid. So...I had to get a new referral and start the process all over at a different rehab facility.

That done, Pumpkin started all of her therapies. I squawked a bit and made sure that these therapies were being done during the school day. I didn't want Pumpkin sitting in school all day and then having to work her therapies in after that. Besides, I know that these therapies are truly where Pumpkin is learning the most practical things. Personally, I couldn't care less if Pumpkin knows the letters of the alphabet! I want Pumpkin to be able to get herself dressed. Or at least walk over to where the diapers are kept and bring me one when prompted. Pumpkin struggles with the most basic of tasks!! Learning the letters of the alphabet is a worthless skill if she can't tell me her throat hurts or a brace on her leg is bothering her.

Now -- on to the wheelchair question...

Originally I wanted Pumpkin to get a pediatric stroller. Pumpkin is capable of walking around the house with minimal assistance. She hangs on to the furniture or the walls for the most part. But she is capable of walking from the car to the house without any assistance. She just has to go very slow. Medically it's said that she can't walk "community distances". For example, she wouldn't have the strength to walk around the zoo. She would fatigue too quickly! A wheelchair seemed like overkill though. They are bulky. They are expensive. And Pumpkin doesn't need all the bells and whistles on a wheelchair. She just needs an umbrella stroller that's big enough for her size.

I went out trying to find a stroller. Again I ran into the issue with the medical supplier not being an authorized provider for Pumpkin's version of Medicaid. And then, I'm not exactly sure what went wrong. I was given the runaround and eventually, I just gave up.

First I was told that Medicaid would never approve a stroller right out of the gate. They would need to see a progression of improvement first. Even if a wheelchair isn't medically necessary, Medicaid would more easily approve a wheelchair than they would a stroller.

I went to her pediatrician to get the forms filled out. The doctor was too general and didn't write the script specific enough for a stroller. The supplier couldn't use what the doctor wrote.

Then I was told to get things switched over for a wheelchair. The doctor said that she wouldn't write a script for a wheelchair. Because the plan was for Pumpkin to be reunited with her mother, the doctor didn't like the idea of a wheelchair being made available for the mother to just "plunk" Pumpkin in all day long.

By now I had been to multiple medical suppliers. Multiple doctor's appointments. And several meetings with the physical therapist. I didn't have the energy to fight it anymore. I found a nice jogging stroller on Craigslist and went with that. It's approved for up to 50 pounds and I figured it would just have to do.

Meanwhile, Pumpkin now has braces on her feet. They help a lot with her balance. I also have been able to get her a walker. We don't use the walker in the house as it isn't necessary. But it is quite helpful when we are out in public and at school. Even the walker hasn't been trouble-free though. It should have come with swivel wheels and the supplier wrote the order wrong. I've got her physical therapist fighting it out with Medicaid to get new wheels on. Despite the fact we've had the walker since last fall, that problem still isn't fixed.

And now we're nearing the end of Pumpkin in our home. If all goes "well" - Pumpkin will be moved to her aunt and uncle's house 12 hours away. Court is April 3rd and I'm hoping we can make the transfer even before Easter. I'm certainly not holding my breath. But the homestudy has been approved. Everyone seems to be in favor. And the aunt and uncle are coming to my home tomorrow for a visit that I'm going to supervise. I believe that the visit tomorrow will be the final determination. If I give a favorable review to CPS, there will be no reason for Pumpkin to remain in Care.

If the visit is a total flop and Pumpkin's relatives back out, I'm giving my 30 day notice. It is not a decision I've come to lightly but I've reached the end of my ability to continue to care for Pumpkin.

Unfortunately, a wheelchair or stroller has fallen to the bottom of my list. I'm still fighting for Pumpkin to get back in all her therapies. Every six months they have to be approved again and her rehab facility didn't send things in correctly a month ago. Pumpkin is currently not in OT because of the issue. I'm fighting that.

I also need Pumpkin to get new braces. She's outgrown the ones on her feet right now.

And there's the walker issue with the swivel wheels.

I've certainly come to a new appreciation for all moms and dads of special needs kids! It is battle after battle after battle to get them what they need. And even then, you have to wait and wait and wait. It takes the idea of being an advocate to an all new level.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Special Needs things to learn

I'm not sure how it's been over a year and I haven't had this problem yet. But I'm still learning a lot about being a special needs mom.

We went to the zoo on Thursday. I brought five of my cherubs. (Cherub 1 got to stay home and mow the lawn.) I was a smidgen nervous because Bart has a tendency to run off in public places. He's awfully impulsive at times. But I had deputized both TT and Bart saying that there were three big people and three little people and we were going to have to buddy up. I handled the stroller mostly because Pumpkin is pretty big for a stroller and it isn't always easy to maneuver. And there was a LOT of maneuvering to do – the zoo was packed! I also promised a trip to the gift shop for all children that followed the rules the entire time at the zoo.

It was a lot of fun! Even Pumpkin, who has been somewhat anti-social lately, wanted to see everything. I was so surprised! Every time we stopped, and she couldn't see the animal from her stroller, Pumpkin would sit up a little straighter and (almost) ask to get out. (She would put up her hands the minute I looked at her and ask if she wanted to see.) Pumpkin even pointed at the animal when she would find it in the habitat and then repeat the name of the animal after me. I believe all the cherubs are watching a turtle in the picture above.

We got to the zoo around 11:00 or so. It took a little longer than normal to get to the zoo because Dude thought it necessary to give me exactly 9.7 seconds notice that he had to go to the bathroom on the way there. Needless to say it resulted in me having to sacrifice Bart's booster seat over to Pumpkin, and Pumpkin's car seat over to Dude. (He had soaked his good and I didn't have anything to keep his dry clothes from getting wet if I put him back in the nasty car seat.)

We started out at the gor-gillas. All the cherubs love the gor-gillas. There was even a tiny baby gor-gilla. It was wrapped up around its mommy's leg. Adorable!

We made our way to the back of the zoo and I stopped for lunch. Corn dogs all around. Then, I decided I really should do another bathroom trip for all. Pumpkin had drank a sippy cup of juice on the way there and I knew she would need a new diaper.

Remember when your babies were little? And all you needed to change a diaper was one of these?

Very rarely did I take my little ones out without being able to find one. They do make life so much easier.

But...Pumpkin is 6 1/2 years old and weighs nearly 44 pounds. She's too big for the changing tables. And like I said, I'm surprised I haven't run in to this problem before. I guess I haven't been OUT with her all day too many times. I know I've changed her in the back of our SUV. And if we're in a doctor's office I'll just change her on the exam table. But this was the zoo. And this is what the bathroom floor looked like. (The picture doesn't do it justice. The floor is covered with a thick slime of mud and dirt.)
I had left my deputies out at the lunch table with strict instructions to NOT MOVE while I went in to the bathroom first. I took care of my business and then stared at the floor realizing I had no idea where I was going to change Pumpkin. I realized there are still some aspects of special needs parenting that are going to throw me every single time.

I walked out of the bathroom and contemplated asking a staff member for assistance. But deep down I knew I wasn't going to get any help. At best they would send me to the floor in the office at the front of the zoo. Dragging five cherubs back to the front of the zoo to change a diaper didn't seem like a lot of fun.

I improvised. Right or wrong, I decided to go to the back corner of the picnic area we were at. The weather was in the upper 80s so I wasn't worried about that. And I'm pretty fast about changing a diaper so I just went for it.


All I could think about was the profoundly disabled teenager that I had seen in the zoo earlier that day. Where would that family take their child to change her diaper? How do other families do this? I still have a lot to learn.

The rest of the day at the zoo went wonderfully. Dolly's therapist called while we were in the snake exhibit. His schedule had been messed up by some other families that had canceled on him last minute. He wanted to come early for Dolly's appointment (that was originally scheduled for 3:30 that day). I explained that we were at the zoo and we just rescheduled for next week. The kids thought this was a great idea because now we would have time to play at the park inside the zoo.

My favorite part was when Dolly came up to me at the park and sat down next to me.
"Mommy. I hot. I sweaty."
"Yes. Dolly. It's hot."
"Mommy – turn on the air."
laughing my head off.... "um, Dolly...you live in DEEP South Texas. Winter is over. Summer is here. It's hot. We're outside. And I can't turn on the air."
"Mommy!" (with much more feeling) "I sweaty. Turn on the air!!"
"Dolly, I can't. We're outside. Go play"
"Mommy" (sighing just a bit) "I love you." and she ran off to go play some more

All the cherubs did well enough that a trip to the gift shop was in order. I pushed Pumpkin up the ramp and stopped short at the door. The gift shop was very small and incredibly crowed. TT helped hold the door open and I made my way inside.

Immediately upon entering the staff member at the checkout very sternly told me that there are no strollers allowed in the gift shop.

Now, I've been chasing these five cherubs around the zoo for several hours. I was hot. I was tired. Every bone in my body was screaming with exhaustion. (Chronic psoriatic arthritis doesn't take kindly to hot weather.) I was not about to turn around and try to walk Pumpkin through the gift shop without her stroller. I lifted up her leg with the brace on it and strongly replied, "She can't walk. This is like her wheelchair."

I could see it all over the staff member's face – she did NOT want the stroller in there. But, she didn't make me turn around a leave. (Not that I would have. I was ready for a fight if necessary. I've heard of things like this before and I was not going to be bullied.)

My cherubs did a great job of picking out their new things. Dude and Dolly got these adorable baby gor-gillas that have magnets in their feet. Pumpkin seemed to like a purple toucan bird. Bart picked out a hat and TT chose a flashlight that makes animal pictures on the wall.

Of course, while standing there waiting for the cherubs to make their decisions another staff member thought it necessary to tell me I couldn't have the stroller in the gift shop. He tripped all over himself apologizing though when I indicated to him that Pumpkin can't walk.

Thankfully we were in and out of the gift shop in less than 10 minutes.

Later that night Dolly was holding her baby gor-gilla and hooking it on to her sock monkey that Granny gave her for Christmas. Dolly informed me that the gor-gilla was the baby and the pink monkey was the mommy. Then she said, "The mommy loves the baby. The mommy keeps the baby safe." She turned to me, grinned, and said, "Like us mommy! Like us!!!"

It was a good day!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Highly Recommended!

Christine Moers is the therapeutic parent that, via her blog, has taught me oh so much about therapeutic parenting. I started reading her blog several years ago. Years before I was ready to see the truth about Cherub 2 and his trauma. Years before we welcomed more foster children into our home. Years before I thought I needed therapeutic parenting.

I read her blog though and I took it all in. Then I went to YouTube and watched her videos.

I couldn't relate to most of it. Not really anyway. I didn't have any kids in my home with RAD. I didn't understand the rages. The destruction. The lying. The dysfunction.

And I didn't want to.

I used to ask God if he was teaching me this for a particular reason. I even had an underlying fear that I was going to end up needing therapeutic parenting. (Was God going to dump some psycho alien from another planet into my lap that was going to pee in the corners of my house and yell obscenities at me?!)

But I kept reading.

And I realized that I could be a better parent if I paid more attention to a lot of the things she had to say. All kids deserve empathy. All kids have a reason behind their behavior. All kids need playfulness. All kids need a little help getting unstuck. Out-crazy the crazy is a lifesaver for me sometimes!!

And even though Dude and Dolly are Basics (As opposed to Moderates, Severes or Intensives) I still have to think differently. And it really helps when I use some of the techniques on my totally neuro-typical teenager. (Really though...are ANY teenagers neuro-typical?!)

For example, one of the best things I've learned from Christine is how to stay out of a power struggle. And I don't mean just walking away and taking a time out for yourself. I don't know about you, but my kids follow me. They WANT the fight. But I've finally mastered how to stay out of it!

Repeat back to the kid exactly what they are saying to you.

I'm so pissed off! You never listen to anything I say to you. You don't understand what it's like to be me.
Wow. You sound really mad. And you feel like I don't listen to you or understand you.
Yeah! You don't! You never listen to me. You're so condescending.
That must really make you mad if you feel like I never listen to you and that I'm condescending.
It does! I'm really mad.

By now, whether he wants to admit it or not, the wind is slowing falling out of his sails. I'm not arguing back. I'm just agreeing with him. I will just continue this exchange until an actual conversation starts. Or, when the opportunity presents itself, I will say something like, "I feel like you are simply trying to fight with me. I'm done now. I don't attend every fight I'm invited to. Please let me know if you'd like to talk. I'm here for you."

My husband is still working on this technique. He said he got totally tripped up one night when Cherub 2 yelled, "I'm so stupid. I hate myself."

Mr. Amazing wanted to validate him but became a bit stumped as to how to respond. Obviously you don't want to look at your child and say, "That's right. You are stupid."

Now, for the life of us, neither one of us remember what he actually said that night. In the moment Mr. Amazing got playful and started teasing Cherub 2 and he did snap out of it. A good response would have been, "You feel stupid. It must feel horrible to hate yourself."

The thing is, you have to stay calm. Don't use sarcasm (which is very, very, very difficult for me). And just repeat back what the kid is saying to you. Make eye contact. Keep a soft face. And repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until the child is done trying to suck you in to their abyss of insanity. Christine actually says to practice the face and the tone in the mirror. Largely because if you are being sarcastic, or if the child thinks you are making fun of them, this technique likely won't work.

ANYWAY...back to the headline...

Buy This Video

I finished watching it tonight (while hooping in my living room - if you "know" Christine this is very appropriate). It's short, sweet and to the point. It's not full of any magic techniques. It's not going to change your parenting overnight. But it's a wonderful explanation of what therapeutic parenting is.

I'm keeping my copy. And I just ordered one for my foster parent licensing agency. I'm totally going to pimp this video out. Not because it's full of awesome graphics and you walk away from the video feeling marvelous. But because it's real. And it's full of some great information that I don't think every foster parent is given. Or, if we are, it might not stick the first time. I don't know about you, but most of the training I'm required to get to maintain my license has to do with how to fill out a med log, who's allowed in my house and who isn't, supervision standards, and other worthless crapola. Very little of what they teach us has to do with trauma and how it changes the brain function. Very little of it has to do with real parenting.

So here's my pimp of this video on my blog. Just because I believe in it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"I mad at Mommy"

Dolly: Mommy...I mad at mommy.

Me: Are you mad at me? 

Dolly: I mad at mommy. 

Me: Oh, you're mad at your first mommy aren't you. You're mad that she's far away. 

Dolly: I mad at mommy.

Through all of this Dolly was trying to get herself to be mad at me. I don't think she knew why. I don't think she understood the powerful emotions that were almost overwhelming her at the time. I didn't want to give her too many words for what she was feeling. I wanted her to feel like she could tell me herself. It was a very unique exchange.

Then Dolly decided to test me... 

Dolly: I want to go to Grandma's. I tell lawyers. I want to go. I no stay here. I mad. 

Me: Really. Well, OK. If that's what you want. I want you to be happy Dolly. It's not up to me though. But if you want to tell the lawyer that's what you want, that's just fine. What's in D*** Dolly? Do you know what it's like in D***?

Dolly just stood there. She was still quite upset. She seemed surprised that I would support her decision. Not mad. Maybe even comforted a bit? I hugged her and held her close to me for quite awhile. I empathized with her. I told her that I understood she was mad. That I would be mad too. I told her that I would love her no matter what she wanted to happen.

Then, I had to break things up because I was on my way to the bathroom when this whole exchange began. After that I went in to the kitchen to start dinner.

Dolly all but skipped in to the kitchen and looked up at me and said, "I all better now. I stay here. I tell the lawyers."

I smiled and told Dolly I was happy! She smiled and gave me a ginormous hug.

I was working on dinner when Dolly came back in to the kitchen. This time she was holding one of her baby dolls. Dolly informed me that her baby was very, very sad. She told me that her baby's mommy was gone.

I crouched down and held the doll as Dolly handed it over to me. I told that doll, "Oh baby. You're so sad. You're sad that your first mommy went away. That's so sad baby." Then I looked at Dolly and asked if she was the baby's new mommy. Dolly told me yes. So I asked the doll if she liked her new mommy. Dolly informed me that the doll did like her new mommy very much.

Dolly stood next to me hopping up and down with excitement. She seemed just tickled pink to play out the scenario. In fact, she left the room and came back with a second baby and replayed the script almost word for word. Then Dolly gave me a huge hug and kiss and went off to go play in the other room.

-----

These little moments can be so powerful. I was glad that I was able to see what Dolly needed right then and there. I hope she's able to connect with her new therapist. Not only do I hope that he will advocate for Dude and Dolly and say they are best off staying with us. But I do want him to help Dolly process through some of the sadness of foster care. We'll see what happens. Therapy starts for Dolly tomorrow!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

I like Deborah!

Dude and Dolly have a new CPS worker. It is NOT Minnie (their original worker). Instead it is now Deborah. I got to meet Deborah for a home visit this afternoon.

Because it's a small, small world – I already knew (of) Deborah. And she was actually quite familiar with me and my family. Deborah was the original supervisor over Pumpkin's case for the first year Pumpkin was in care. In fact, Deborah said she was excited when she found out that one of her new cases was with our family. She knew I was really organized. (yippee for having a great first impression)

Deborah came this afternoon around 3:45. I had prepped the kids a little and they didn't freak out when she came in the house. In fact, they happily went outside to play so that Deborah and I could talk.

Deborah started out by saying that she hadn't really read through the case notes yet. She was well aware that most foster parents know the most about a case and she wanted to hear what I had to say – ALL of what I had to say.

Right away I felt a calm connection. I decided I wasn't going to hold back. I gave my disclaimer...
I'm fully aware of how The System works. I'm not trying to push my own agenda. But I do have some pretty strong opinions about what's been happening with this case and I'd love to share them with you. I'm not trying to work against you. I'm not trying to complicate things for you. If, when all is said and done, the situation goes differently than what I want, I will NOT cause any problems. But I do have some concerns. Some pretty major concerns.

Then I went about explaining who has been involved in these cherubs' lives (no one) and who the State was wanted to place them with (a virtual stranger).

Deborah listened to EVERYTHING I had to say. She validated my opinions and then....she went about telling me the things SHE needs to do to advocate for these kids!!

1. She's going to get Dolly set up with a counselor. That way we can have a professional (whose opinion is highly valued in the court system) evaluate things. If he comes to the same conclusion that everyone else seems to have come to – that the children would be best left in our home – he could advise the court of that. His opinion would carry a lot of weight.

2. This counselor could also be called on to evaluate the home situation where Grandma lives. He could be called on to determine how invested Grandma is in these children. He could weigh in on her motives.

3. She's going to make sure to set up weekly phone calls - done via conference so she can monitor things. If Grandma doesn't make these phone calls a priority, she'll note that in the files. If the children don't talk to Grandma, she'll note that in the files. In fact, she said that it would be best if the calls were made to a cell phone so I could prove with my phone bill how long the calls last each time.

4. Deborah also thinks she may end up recommending that Dude and Dolly get a separate GAL and lawyer. Right now they have one person performing dual roles. By separating this and having one lawyer and a different GAL, the GAL could do a better job of advocating for the childrens' best interests and not be tied to only the official "legal" side of things.

Several different times Deborah said that this is a two-sided problem. The State is responsible for making sure they do a home study on relatives that say they want the children. The State needs to make sure that the home environment would be a safe one. But The State is ALSO responsible for making sure that a move to this relative resource is also in the childrens' best interests. She indicated very clearly that The State has not been taking into considerations the childrens' best interests!!

I asked Deborah if The State would ever consider placing the children with us under PMC (permanent managing conservatorship). She literally beamed! She said that typically The State loves to have this option. (Her reaction was radically different from the lawyer's and Jasmine's!) She said that it means no support from The State. I told her I was well aware of that – and that I'm not in this for the money.

I do believe that Deborah is going to advocate for these kids the way the professionals should have been doing all along. She didn't give me any wild promises. I believe we are now on the exact same page. We both want what is best for these kids and she actually cares enough to find out if going to Grandma's house is a viable option for their long-term growth and development.

I'm thrilled to death. I like Deborah!!!!!


Saturday, March 10, 2012

A stranger in the house

Morning = normal

Lunch time = normal

Nap time = perfectly normal

(At 2:45 Ms. Fowler arrived to speak with Cherub 2 = normal. New...but normal.)

3:15 Dude and Dolly are calmly awoken from their nap = normal

There is a small overlap where I spent a little bit of time talking to Ms. Fowler in the upstairs play room and the cherubs all played downstairs. Everything seemed normal.

The rest of the afternoon = wonky

There has been constant redirection necessary for Dude and Dolly. Dude peed his pants twice and he NEVER has accidents. Dolly is filled with nervous energy and can't get engaged. Instead of playing with toys, she is preferring to run around aimlessly and giggle that strange little giggle of dysregulation. Both of them have told Mr. Amazing and I that they love us about 100 times. (Ya know...marking their territory so to speak.)

-----

This is what it means to be a Trauma Mamma. Even the smallest of disruptions in the day can be major for our kids. We don't get to approach normal situations, well...normally.

When a police siren goes off, we check our kids and their reaction right away. We remind them that they are safe.

We have to reassure our kids that they will get to eat. Every day. Every meal. Every snack.

When we drop the little ones off at day care, our mantra is, "I'll be back. I'll be back. I'll be back," til we are blue in the face. When we drop the big ones off at school, we have to do the same thing. Because the adults in their lives haven't been back. Haven't been reliable. Haven't been safe.

When someone new comes in the house, we have to reassure our kids that this stranger isn't here for them. That they are staying with us and the stranger is leaving. That they are safe.

-----

While writing this post Dude just pooped in the toilet. First he started to freak out because he could tell what was going to happen. He screamed for me. Of course I came running - literally. I scooped him up and tried to put him on the toilet to do the deed. He was so freaked out he didn't know how to sit down on the toilet. He kept his legs together and poop went everywhere as I struggled. I hollered, "open your legs and sit down". As I placed him down he kept his legs straight and ended up standing in the toilet even more scared as poop continued to go everywhere.

-----

I've had my other kids poop in the bathtub. I learned the hard way that you don't use toilet paper to scoop the mess out. Of course my kids didn't like it. They were scared. But nothing like what I just saw out of Dude.

-----

Trauma Mammas have to do the detective work. Why is Dude so scared? I'm pretty sure (from his reactions to previous accidents) that these two kids got in a lot of trouble if they made a mess or if they wet their pants.

Dude and Dolly are also incredibly out of sorts because of the 15 minute time frame Mrs. Fowler was in the house.

They are too little. I don't think I could have prepped Dude and Dolly about Mrs. Fowler's arrival today. Besides, I certainly didn't want to make a bigger deal out of it than it was. I had no idea before the event that it would bother them.

Now I know. And thank goodness it's almost bedtime!! Here's hoping that tomorrow will be a little bit easier for everyone.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Education opinions wanted

My husband and I have a pretty big decision to make sometime in the very near future. I'm so torn that I'm going to toss this one out to the internet and see what others have to say on the subject.

The education system where we live is very, very bad. We live on the border of Mexico and the culture here is incredibly different than anywhere else I've ever lived. (For the record, I have lived in central Iowa, NE Iowa, Missouri, Utah, central Texas and now here.) My husband is a military brat and he's lived all over the world. (After graduating high school in Panama, my hubby joined the Air Force. He's been everywhere!) He equates a lot of what we experience where we live to what it's like in less-industrial parts of the world and even third-world countries.

Poverty is rampant in our part of the state. Gang activity is active. Within the culture, children speak Spanish until they are plunked into school. Much of the first few years of school are spent helping children learn English. All of these factors make for a less than ideal school environment.

Couple this with all the rules and regulations of No Child Left Behind and the school environment becomes even less ideal. Needless to say, I've been horribly disappointed.

For all these reasons and more, we chose to place Herman in a virtual academy when he started high school this year. This hybrid kind of homeschool is working rather well for us!!

Because the testing environment really kicks in in third grade - we have decided for sure that TT is going to stay at home next year. It is my plan to enroll him in the same virtual academy that Herman attends. (TXVA accepts kids in 3rd through 11th grade - 12th grade will be available next year.) TT's anxiety is off the charts this year. Schooling at home will allow him to work on a pace that is good for him. And it will allow me to not emphasize the annual state testing so much. Yes, he'll still take the tests. But I'm not going to blow their importance out of perspective.

That leaves me with the decision of how to school Bart. (I don't have to decide anything for foster kids in our family. They are required to attend brick and mortar public schools.)

All about Bart:

Bart is 7 years old. He's currently in 1st grade. He gets straight A's. He's reading at a 3rd grade level. He's writing for fun. (He just wrote a small chapter book based on some research he's done!) He tested last year at the end of kindergarten and was placed into the gifted program this year. Thankfully he does have a wonderful teacher! She gives him harder math, spelling and reading assignments. She does a very good job of channeling his extra energy. In fact, during a conference last night, she says when he gets going sometimes, she will let him go ahead and explain concepts to the class. She indicated that he's a wonderful teacher and she lets him assist her regularly.

How do I school Bart next year?

TXVA (the virtual academy) doesn't take 2nd graders. I don't particularly want to send only Bart to brick and mortar next year. (We have no idea what other children will be in our home next fall.) I do want to keep Bart at home too. I think that will be easier.

During the conference with Bart's current 1st grade teacher, she indicated that Bart would be capable of skipping 2nd grade. She said that he's already mastered the skills that kids need by the end of 2nd grade.

Sooooooo.....
If I'm going to keep Bart home, what curriculum do I use?

Do I piecemeal things together and just "wing" second grade? I can get some curriculum like A Beka and MathUSee. I can let Bart listen in on lessons with TT when applicable.

Or do I see if TXVA would let Bart skip a grade?

See -- I'm NOT planning on homeschooling forever. While I believe that homeschooling is great for some kids and for some families...at this time I don't feel "called" to homeschool. In our case, we are doing it as an educational alternative. I do believe it's what we are supposed to do next year. And I will trust God if for some reason we are to continue it long-term.

But we won't be living in this part of Texas forever. In order for my husband to get a promotion in his job, we will have to move. That's just how his employer works. I envision a move as early as this summer even. It will all depend on what jobs are available and where they are at. It is currently our plan to put all the cherubs back in brick and mortar when we leave Texas.

Which makes this dilemma sticky.

Bart is capable of 3rd grade academic work. His current teacher even feels that socially he would be fine if he skipped a grade. Me though -- I'm not so sure about the social side of things.

He would be fine if we homeschooled through high school. However, studies have proven that the youngest kids in the class struggle in brick and mortar situations. So while Bart may be ready to do the academic work of 3rd grade - would we be setting him up for failure when he's older if we bump him?

This is a long and rambling sort of post again. If you actually made it this far, I'd love to hear your thoughts!! Especially if you've got an opinion about kids skipping a grade.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Email blogger comments

Is it just me -- or is the option to have further comments sent via email gone off of Blogger blogs?

Often, when I leave a comment, I like to have all future comments sent to my email in case it becomes something of a conversation. I don't always remember to go back to old blog posts to look and see what the new comments are.

I'm not finding this option anymore tho when I leave a comment. Is this happening to anyone else?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Unconventional use of an iPhone

Cherub 2 (TT) had a meltdown last night. Not a meltdown of epic proportions. But a pretty big one nonetheless.

He had been playing basketball with his older brother. He lost. His response to losing was to throw the ball at his brother. Then, while stomping in to the house, he tried to be mildly destructive in the garage. (I never did get the full story of what he did in the garage.)

The violence was minimal (his brother is 7 years older than him).  But the dysregulation was super funky! Mr. Wonky was here and in full force. TT could barely walk. His talking was all up in his nose and baby-like. He couldn't think straight. After assessing that everyone and everything was safe, I drug walked TT into the guest bedroom so he could throw his fit in there away from the other cherubs that like to watch (and take notes).

Once in the bedroom alone with me, I tried to talk TT down. He, on the other hand, tried to ramp things up. This is where I struggle. Sometimes it feels very intentional. Very manipulative. On the flip side, sometimes when he's dysregulated it seems completely out of his control. Everything I've ever read about therapeutic parenting says to bring the child closer when they are like this. Stay by them. Help them through it. Everything with "traditional" parenting I've read says to not give the kid an audience. Ignore the fit and it will stop.

I'm not exactly sure what to do with TT sometimes.

You see, he didn't suffer trauma after he was born. He has always lived in a safe and loving environment. His trauma behaviors are not the result of neglect and/or abuse. Not at all. But...he still has the trauma behaviors. His fits aren't the same as my other kids. Even he recognizes this. Therapeutic parenting works well for most all kids. But ignoring fits makes sense with neuro-typical kids. And overall, TT is very neuro-typical.

Our therapist (after only one visit...so I'm not hanging on too strong to everything she recommends yet) seems to think that the fits might be more manipulative than not. She recommended ignoring them more and basically telling TT to "stop" when he starts to get ramped up. She recommended a "traditional parenting" response.

We parent "traditionally" sometimes. I mean really - it's how I was raised. It's how I parented Herman when he was 8 years old. It's what comes more naturally. Sometimes it works with TT. Sometimes, when told to "knock it off", TT will self-regulate and de-escalate all on his own. Sometimes though...he can't. He just cannot self-regulate.

I've started watching Christine and Billy's Therapeutic Parenting video.  I've only made it about a third of the way through (my schedule has been busy lately). But...the last topic I watched was them talking about Time In. I love the way they phrased it. Time In is really no different from Time Out except the child is not alone. They may still throw their fit. But you choose to sit there with them. You can simply just sit there. It doesn't have to be any more than that. You are with the child.

So, when Cherub 2 started freaking out last night, I chose Time In instead of leaving him alone to fit.

Here's where it got very unconventional...

Because I'm there with TT, he will often try to engage me. I have to really be rocking my therapeutic parenting to not get sucked in to the craziness. Last night, in an attempt to do things differently, I grabbed my phone. I told TT I was going to video tape his fit.

I had mentioned before that I was going to try this. After my first attempt TT and I discussed it (when he was calm of course). TT was PETRIFIED  that I was going to put the video up on YouTube or Facebook. I assured him that I most certainly would never do anything like that. But, when I grabbed my phone last night, TT immediately freaked out even worse. Slowly though, while staying very, very calm, I adjusted the settings on the phone and started making a video.

I happen to have an iPhone. And I think the way I set things up is the reason this happened to work last night. I switched the video so that it was filming both of us and we could see ourselves in the view screen. Not only was I making a video of TT, but he could watch himself on the screen while I did it.

At first, TT was very upset. I kept the phone out though and used it as a distraction. I would make a couple seconds of video. TT was angry and would hit the red button to stop the video. I did this several different times assuring him that the video was only for our use and no one else would see it. Then I asked him if he wanted to delete the videos that I had taken. He said yes. This really worked well as a distraction (it gave him power over the situation). TT started to calm down. Mr. Wonky was still very much there in his voice and mannerisms. But TT was calming down.

After TT deleted all the short videos, I started filming again. This time I did it like an interview. I stayed super calm. I validated the things TT had to say. And we processed. Instead of him having to look me directly in the face, he could see my smiles on the view screen. I think it was a little less threatening. Plus, it was quite novel.

We continued processing for awhile and then we stopped the video. TT was almost regulated. Almost...but not quite. He thought it would be a good idea to watch the video we had just made. I thought that would be a good idea too. As he watched the video he was able to continue processing the meltdown and what caused it. We also had an opportunity to talk about what he looks like when he's dysregulated and how he can work harder to not get in that state to begin with. By the time he was done watching the video he was completely able to answer the question of what needed to happen to repair things with Herman.

Maybe this whole process was little more than a novel distraction. However, I think TT really responded to it for several reasons. One – he could still see me while we were talking, but he wasn't being forced to make full eye contact. (Maybe holding a mirror up would work the same way if you didn't want to make a video.) Two – he had power over starting and stopping the video camera. Often TT is upset because he feels like all power is being taken from him. This small amount of power made him feel better. Three – he could watch the video after we finished. It gave him an opportunity to hear again what he needed to hear.

The whole thing was a little strange. But, it worked for us and I figured I'd share. Here's to doing whatever it takes to keep Mr. Wonky out of our house!!

Friday, March 2, 2012

I'm not made of money

Alright - this will be another one of those rambling sort of posts with a lot of he said she said references. Bear with me.

Bluebell recommended a lawyer to us concerning the case with Dude and Dolly. I phoned said lawyer (I'll call her Amy), who is located another county over from us (and two counties over from where this CPS case is). Amy explained that she could take the case...but we could expect higher than normal fees due to the 'out of county' issue.

I asked our pastor for a recommendation. He sent me to another lawyer in our area. (I'll call him John.)

John was pleasant but immediately expressed that this kind of a case is not his expertise. He referred me to two other lawyers. John was a little concerned that the two he referred me to were really busy. He said they might not take my call. He said to call him back if that was the case.

Both lawyers John referred me to are very busy right now and aren't taking on new clients.

I called John back and left a message yesterday.

John called me this morning. Again, he referred me to another lawyer. John is quite personable though and was willing to answer some of my questions.

First, I asked him if he had ever heard of Amy before. He looked Amy up in his system and said nothing raised any red flags. I told him I had reservations because I had been told the fees would be higher.

I sucked up my courage and asked John what I could expect to pay on a case like this anyway. His answer didn't exactly surprise me. But it did, very soundly, shut a door I was trying to walk through so to speak.

I was told to expect at least a $2500 retainer. From there, fees would be around $150 an hour. He said most child custody cases cost at least $10,000 to $15,000 or more!!

I don't have that much money. It's just not possible. We won't be getting our own counsel.

-----

I've also been thinking a lot about my desire to get a lawyer. I can't prove that these children will be unloved or mistreated if they do end up with their Grandma in D***. All my issues are based on a (very strong) feeling that this grandma doesn't really want the children. I do believe the State isn't doing their job in fully vetting the situation. I don't believe the State has checked to see if the children would have contact with their bio dad who just got out of jail. Deep down, I think the situation in D*** is most likely not good for Dude and Dolly at all! But I can't prove a thing.

Also, should we ever end up being able to adopt Dude and Dolly – I don't want them to accuse me of keeping them from their bio family. I mean, they would anyway...but I don't want them to be right. Should this case end in termination all on its own, I would be able to honestly say I had nothing to do with them not staying in their bio family.

I'm going to have to let go. There's nothing I can afford to do legally. All that's left is for me to make sure - again - that all parties involved understand that we would be willing to step in and take these kids if no relative placement is deemed suitable.

Amazingly enough, I have a real peace about this. I know the case isn't over. It won't be over until the judge says it's over. And until that happens, the cherubs are mine. I'm their mommy. And all is well.

The only thing I'm doing different is making sure Dude and Dolly know that we want them. If asked, they can tell their lawyer they want to stay with us. Up until now, I did NOT make that an option for them. I didn't think it was fair to offer up an option that really isn't available. I'm not pressuring Dude and Dolly at all. They can say anything they want. I've just let them know that if their lawyer asks, they can tell her they want to stay right here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Shoes and Tears



Dolly names most everything she owns by where it came from. She has her Mommy Blanket, her Granny Blanket, and her Raibow Blanket. She has her Carol Sandals, Daphne Shoes, Mamma L*** Shoes and her Mommy Shoes. The child has an amazing ability to remember where each thing she owns came from. And this child (now) has lots, and lots of stuff!!

However, most all the stuff Dolly became hers after she came in to care. The few belongings that arrived with her last June don't amount to much. Some of the clothes were too small or inappropriate. I put them up immediately and Dolly forgot all about them. The few clothes I did leave for her to wear weren't as "pretty" as all the new ones. She wasn't attached to the old ones so they generally sit in the bottom of her drawer.

The shoes weren't too important either. Generally she favored the Dora shoes that Daphne bought her. I think she liked the Mommy Shoes because they just slipped on and she didn't have to wear socks. But really, she didn't wear them much.

The last time she tried to wear them I had to help her put them on. They were getting quite tight. I explained to Dolly that she has grown and that she won't get to keep these shoes forever. All was well.

Yesterday though, she came downstairs with the Mommy Shoes in her hands. She asked me for help in getting them on. I bit the bullet and told her no. I said that these shoes don't fit anymore and she can't wear them.

I broke her little heart.

Dolly sat on the floor and just cried. The hurt was so deep.

Dolly has almost personified the blanket she has from her mommy. In fact, she'll hug the blanket and say, "I love you mommy". It's the only connection she has left with the woman that has abandoned her.

When I told her she couldn't wear the shoes it upset her horribly. It was reminder of all that is wrong in her young life. It was almost like me telling her she couldn't have her mommy. (Which is the truth - but hurts so much to hear.) I sat down on the floor and held her. I tried to give her words for her pain.

You're sad Dolly. You're sad because your mommy doesn't take care of you anymore. You don't have things from your mommy and she doesn't buy you new things. Mamma L*** takes care of you now and buys you things and that makes you sad. It's very sad.

I kept repeating things like this over and over. Honestly, I wanted her to cry. Because as soon as she starts, she usually tries to stop as quickly as she can. I could tell she needed to really let this one out though. I wanted her to cry.

Dolly let me comfort her for longer than she usually does. When she had calmed down, I asked Dolly if she wanted to help me throw the shoes away. I couldn't see saving them for any reason. Yes, they are a connection. But I figured shoes that don't fit would be a difficult reminder, not anything positive. Dolly said that she would so we walked to the garbage can and threw them away.

Dolly quickly seemed to bounce back to normal. I sat the cherubs down at the table for lunch. Dude and Dolly began conversing with each other like they always do.

Dude said, "You throw your shoes away Dolly?"

Dolly answered, "Yeah. I no want them anymore. I throw them away."

I couldn't leave this alone. I stopped prepping lunch and looked solidly at Dolly.

No Dolly. That's a lie. You DO want those shoes. It's sad that you had to throw them away. It's sad that you don't have things from your mommy. You miss your mommy. You're not happy about this at all.

The floodgates opened again. Dolly buried her head in my neck and cried. This time I counseled her about letting her true feelings out. I told Dolly it's not healthy to be sad and not talk about it. She needs to talk about her feelings.

I grabbed the shoes out of the garbage and took a picture of them. I told Dolly that I'd save the picture for her. She seemed to like that idea and this time, when she did stop crying, it seemed more genuine and less of a forced response to the strong emotion she wanted to avoid.

Lunchtime progressed with some interesting conversation. Only in foster care can you hear a sentence like this, "My mommy my mommy. You my mommy. I love my mommy, Mommy." I don't remember how she got to it now, but at one point in the conversation she got a surprised look on her face and said, "I call YOU 'mommy'!" It was almost like she just then made the connection of what she has been calling me for so long.

I said, "Yes. You call me mommy. That's OK Dolly. You can call me mommy. I know that's confusing. You have two mommies right now. Maybe you can call your other mommy your First Mommy. She was the one that took care of you first."

Dolly didn't quite know what to make of this. She seemed OK with it all though. The rest of lunch passed without any more tears.

She's processing foster care so much more now. She's questioning things. She's sad more often. (Usually at bedtime. Bedtime can be so sad for her. It's like the reminders of her past come flooding back the minute the lights go out.) I hope I give her the right words. It's so difficult for me. I can't help her remember her past because I don't know what it is and no one will tell me. And I have no idea what her future is going to bring.

And now I'll end this post with what I always say when there's no good ending...
foster care sucks.