Saturday, June 30, 2012

Quiet

It's the quiet that is getting to me. Right now Herman is off with friends. Bart is across the street with friends. And TT is with Mr. Amazing running some errands.

I'm not used to the quiet. There are supposed to be little ones running around. I'm supposed to be looking at the clock timing out how much more time I have until I need to start baths.

Instead I'm zoned out on my computer with the TV on next to me to drown out the quiet.

I sure hope I hear something this week. I'm supposed to leave for Iowa on Friday. I have permission from a judge to take two of those missing cherubs with me on vacation. Do I leave anyway if I don't hear anything this week? I can't really put my entire life on hold waiting for CPS to figure out what to do with me. But I know I'll feel beyond miserable if the kids could come back while I'm gone.

I'm not used to the quiet. I sure wish I knew what was going to happen.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Bored Box

My cherubs generally know how to play pretty well without a lot of adult intervention. However, every now and then I'll hear those dreaded words, "I'm booooorrrrred."

One day, when I was a kid, I told my mother how bored I was. I then had the pleasure of cleaning the carpet in our basement with a toothbrush. I learned very quickly that it wasn't a good idea to express my level of boredom out loud.

For my cherubs...I sometimes redirect with chores. Sometimes all it takes is a timeout to their room. But for fun, I did create the Bored Box.
As you can tell, it is nothing fancy!! It's just a diaper wipe box filled with slips of paper for my kids to select from. This is not a new idea either. I'm sure many of you have read about these in parenting magazines before. Honestly, the hardest part (for me anyway) was coming up with things to put inside the Bored Box.

To help anyone out that would like to make one of these, here is a sampling of items inside our Bored Box:

read a book
make silly faces for 3 minutes
wipe down a bathroom counter good
put together a puzzle
read a book to Pumpkin
write a letter to someone
make your bed
clean a bathroom mirror
eat a piece of candy
play video games for 30 minutes
help Mom with something in the kitchen
help Mom with laundry
walk around the block
draw a picture
clean the sliding glass door
empty all the garbage cans
jump ramps (outside on their bikes)
dance for 5 minutes
clean up dog poop in the yard
make a fun snack
do something nice for someone else
call a family member to say hi
pick up your room
ride your bike
roller skate
do a craft
make some Kool-Aid
watch TV for 30 minutes
dust the living room
clean the hand rail on the steps
punch the heavy bag for 5 minutes
vacuum the living room
play quietly for 15 minutes
sing a song
vacuum your bedroom
drink a glass of water
make dessert
brush your teeth
play basketball
make Mom & Dad's bed
sweep the kitchen
brush Charlie outside (our dog)
ride your skateboard

Several of these are in the box more than once (pick up dog poop). The TV and video game strips are only in one time. And believe it or not, they will keep on picking items from the Bored Box over and over in the hopes of getting one of those two strips. I've even had neighbor kids do the Bored Box when they came over. (My house got a lot cleaner that particular day.)

What do you do when your kids complain of boredom?



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No news

I sent an email to Rainbow on Monday.
I know you probably haven't heard anything. And I won't bother you with a million phone calls.
Just know that I'm thinking about those three amazing children all the time and if there's anything I can do to restore things please let me know.
Thank you!
~ Cherub Mamma

She responded:
I hope you guys are doing okay. I haven't heard much about the investigation, but the kids are doing well so far. I will update you when I get more info.

Really, there is nothing else I can do. (At least I can't think of anything else.)

I'm doing OK (enough). I've spent the last two years under the thumb of foster care. I HAD to learn to let go and just let The System run the show. I can advise. I can help. But I had to let go more often than not. As foster parents we have almost NO say in how cases progress.

So I've been putting those skills into action. When I think about the children and my mind starts to race...
I wonder what they're doing?
Do they have toys?
Are they napping?
Are they crying at bedtime?
I hope they're getting to eat food they like.
... I stop myself. These are things that are completely out of my control. I've been doing a pretty good job of stopping and praying for the children instead. Then, I try to find something to do to engage myself so I'm not thinking about everything so much.

When my mind starts to race about my own situation...
How can this possibly end well?
What if this ends up on my "record" somehow?
How would I ever be able to volunteer anywhere?
What does this mean for my future?
This is so embarrassing...what do people think of me now?!
.... I stop myself. These thoughts are not from God. I am not in control of my future right now so it does no good to stew on the potential problems. When I can tell I'm focusing on me, I try to pray and shift my focus to God. I've been singing a lot of simple praise songs out loud. (The devil can't read my mind so I'm loud with my praise. I want the evilness of all this to leave my house.)

My house is a little cleaner. I've allowed myself to be a little bit lazy too. (Thus why my house is only a "little" cleaner and not spotless.) I'm taking things day by day and trying to not freak out. Everything regarding this situation is out of MY control.

Again, I thank you for your support. The comments I've received on my blog and on Facebook have meant a lot to me. And while these allegations are completely misguided, I'm thankful The System is doing something. Honest...I am. Every time I start to get worked up I am reminded of all the children that have suffered at the hands of their foster parents. And then I say a prayer for them too.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weekend

Friday morning I was nervous. I didn't like the thought of a stranger taking my children away from me so they could be interviewed. I was slightly relieved when it was Rainbow that showed up to get them. At least I knew they would be with someone they knew through part of the process anyway.

Three hours later I still hadn't heard anything. I hadn't eaten at all. I could barely focus. It was not a good feeling. I let TT and Bart watch TV almost all morning. I was honest with them, I said I wanted THEM close to me. I also told them up front that Dude, Dolly, and Pumpkin might be leaving and I knew they would want to say goodbye to their foster siblings. It was a very uncomfortable morning.

Not that I was worried about what Dude and Dolly were saying. There was just a cloud of stress hanging over the house. It was more like I was worried what questions they were being asked and if the interviewers would really understand their answers.

I have NEVER abused my kids. But these are very little children. English is their second language. Dolly is a pleaser. I worried about what they were being put through.

When Rainbow called me I could hear it in her voice. She told me she would be by soon to get their things and to pick up Pumpkin.

When Rainbow walked in the door she was upset. Not crying. But upset. I could tell she felt just horrible. She said she knew nothing. She said, "the investigators wouldn't tell me anything because I think they knew I would tell you."

Dolly was so excited about her new battery operated Sesame Street toy. It sang and moved. She couldn't wait to show me. Dude confirmed that yes, I did have their stuff ready. Though neither child understood what was happening at all! Even Pumpkin seemed stressed.

I loaded up the three children in the back of Rainbow's car. Rainbow hugged me several times and started to cry too. Dude and Dolly kept saying things like, "Mamma L*** is crying. TT and Bart are crying." They did not know why we were so upset. It was all very surreal.

They pulled away right around 1:00PM.

I cried.

I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to function. I didn't want to – but I tried. I worked a little. I let TT and Bart play video games. I cleaned a little.

Then I went up to my bedroom with the shades pulled and got in bed. I turned the TV on for white noise but in reality, I just wanted to hide away from everyone.

Extreme guilt washed over me. Maybe I could have done things differently. I kept trying to figure out what on Earth those children told the investigators. What do all the professionals really think about the situation?! How can this all possibly end well?! What is going to happen next?! I spent nearly two hours swinging back and forth between my mind racing through all the "what ifs" and being totally numb and not thinking anything.

It was awful.

Mr. Amazing came home from work at 5:00 with Herman. It was decided that we should go out to dinner. I made it clear I would only go to a dark restaurant with few people. We opted to go to a local bar/restaurant that has dart boards. It was early and we knew it would be empty.

Thank God Mr. Amazing got me out of the house. I think he did so in just the nick of time. I finally ate food for the first time that entire day. I interacted with my FAMILY and we started to come together.

We ran some errands and then I asked, "So guys, what should we do this weekend." After a bit of bantering, we decided to switch up our previously scheduled vacation plans and go to Sea World early. I struggled with this some. Part of me thought that running off to do something fun might not be the appropriate way to deal with a heartache like this. (Do I "look" guilty now?!) Then I decided, screw it -- I HAVE to take care of the children that are guaranteed to be with me forever. And I'm not going to do them a damn bit of good if I stay holed up in my bedroom all weekend.

We came back from our errands and packed. I made arrangements for a neighbor to watch the dog. And we went to bed with plans for having fun in our minds.

The weekend itself was a success. There was talk of Dude and Dolly...but not a lot. Really, what can we say?! It might not all be "over". They might come back. But if they don't, we rallied together as a family unit and bonded. We have a saying in our family and we said it multiple times this weekend:

We are the E****s (our last name)
We stick together
And we can do ANYTHING
Because of the grace of God

I guess it's our family motto. It felt good to be that unit again.

It was hard not having the others. I had really started to identify with being a multi-racial family...with being a big family...with everything it took to be a foster family. I was surprised at how OK I was with going back to what used to be our "normal".

I still don't know what's going to happen. I still have no idea how this could all turn out OK. I know I won't rest until it is OVER and I do pray that happens soon. I am very grateful we were able to leave like this over the weekend though. It's going to take a lot for me to trudge through the coming week I'm sure. The new normal isn't going to feel right for a long time.

I appreciate your prayers and kind words on my last few blog posts. They meant a lot to me. This is a horrific experience that I would wish on NO ONE! Being equated with those that hurt and abused our kids the first time is not a pleasant thing to live through. But I will get through it. My family will get through this. We will survive. I'll keep y'all posted.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Emergency respite

I do not know what the cherubs said this morning during their "interviews".

I do not know what is going to happen next.

All I know is that they were taken to emergency respite and this time it was because CPS said it was necessary.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Another interview

I just got a text from Rainbow. Dude and Dolly will be getting picked up tomorrow at 8:30AM for another interview. She didn't know with who though.

I'm not going to prep the kids at all. I'm just going to let it happen.

The kids are so incredibly confused. They don't understand all the extra stress in the house. They don't understand why their stuff got packed yesterday. They don't understand why they then got to stay.

In their reality - moving from home to home was completely normal until they moved in with us a year ago. In fact, all of this coinciding with a traumaversary just makes it more complicated.

I would love to ask them what they meant by the "pow-pows". I would love to know if the kids meant us. Or if they meant their first family. I would love to quiz them and find out what they said on Monday night.

But anything I ask them will just make it messier. So I'm saying nothing.

I'm out of tears. I'm a stressed out disaster. It's to the point that I just want an ending. Any ending. I mean...of course I want the good ending where the kids get to stay with me forever. But right now, as crummy as I feel from all the stress...I just want it over almost as bad.

I've been put in the same place every bio family has been in that got their kids pulled. "They" think I'm an abuser. It's not a good feeling at all.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

THEY GET TO STAY (for now)

Alright --- try and follow if you want....

CPS licensing (the department that handles investigations) NEVER had any concern about the children in our home. If they did, the kids would have been moved Monday night after they spoke with all the kids. They just have to process the paperwork and keep everything legal so that "we" can look at Pumpkin's bio mom's lawyer and say without a doubt the bruise and scratch Pumpkin got did not come from anyone at the foster home.

My licensing agency (the one Rainbow works for) has a policy in place that dictates kids have to leave the home in investigations like this one.

When Rainbow was told this today, she looked at the agency director and said, "I'm NOT telling Cherub Mamma her kids have to leave!" So Agency Director had to call me.

Due to the raw reaction I gave Agency Director, she became more vested in keeping the kids in my home. SHE needed to be the one to pull the strings to bypass this particular policy.

So...Agency Director had to go all the way to the top of CPS Licensing to have them say there is no concern on their part with the children in my home.

She then took that information to the top of the food chain at our Agency. (She is only the director of our local department. There are agency locations all over Texas and out on the East Coast.)

The top of the food chain at our agency gave the blessing for the children to stay in our home...for now.

No one knows what is going to happen next. Agency Director did indicate that she wants to get this investigation closed before our vacation so we can all leave in peace. Again...NO ONE thinks we did anything. This is all a procedural nightmare.

I have made it perfectly clear that when Pumpkin's bio mom gets unsupervised visits back I will have NOTHING to do with transport to and from said visits. Someone ELSE will be responsible for looking Pumpkin over from top to bottom before she leaves and then looking her over when she gets back. I will NOT be doing the reporting in the future should Pumpkin's bio mom be stupid again.

I still covet your prayers. This is hugely stressful for me and it's wrecking havoc on my ability to function normally. I can feel my arthritis starting to flare. I can't seem to focus. And I'm super short tempered. (Not a good place to be when you're under investigation.)

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST

Remember when you went through training and they told you that if you're under routine investigation it's not uncommon to remove the foster children until the investigation is over?

Well -- it's true.

At this very moment the director of our licensing agency is trying to get ahold of a supervisor or two at CPS licensing (the part of CPS that is responsible for investigations) to try and talk some sense in to them. NO ONE believes the children are in any danger in my home. Not even the investigator that came to my home on Monday and talked with all of the children.

However, government runs on procedure and this is what is supposed to happen. The children are scheduled to leave my home tonight. They are "trying" to keep Dude and Dolly together. (As if that's some kind of consolation for me.)

I'm a total wreck. I can barely function. I would appreciate some prayer please. For me. For the children. For the people in power.

All THIS because of a tiny pinch bruise and a 1" scratch that Pumpkin got while under the care of her mother.

The importance of punctuation

I'll admit it...one of my favorite things to do is check the stats for my blog. I like to see how many hits I get each day. I like to see where my readers are coming from. And, of course, I love to see it when I get a new "follower".

I also check the google keywords people used to find me.

I had to laugh this morning about the importance of punctuation as this is a string of keywords that sent people to ME:
help i want to be a sister wife but i'm afraid

I couldn't figure out how THAT was linked to ME
So I googled it myself.

Turns out a comma is a pretty important thing in MY world.
I'm a daughter, sister, wife, mother and so much more. I just happen to also be a mother to foster children. This is our story.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Vacation!!

Alright – life certainly hasn't been easy lately. This fostering stuff is hard work. I'm in the middle of an investigation because I reported physical abuse acted out by a bio mom on Pumpkin. My Pumpkin's life is in limbo because the powers that be won't take the "little abuse" seriously. My other cherubs just celebrated (dripping with sarcasm) their one year anniversary with us. And even though they are little and "basic" as the day is long, it's still a traumaversary. We're still getting into a summer routine. etc. etc.

But I've got GOOD NEWS!!!

In just a few weeks I get to pack up everyone (except Pumpkin -- this just wouldn't be good for Pumpkin) and go on vacation!! We're going to go to Sea World. Then Herman and Mr. Amazing will come back home...they have to work...and I get to head to Iowa with Dude, Dolly, TT and Bart!! I'm sooooooooooo excited!!

I get 2.5 weeks without a single social worker, investigator, doctor, or any other appointment related to foster care. I get to be normal for 2.5 weeks!

My cherubs are all very, very excited!!

I can't wait to get away! I can't wait to see my family!

I can't wait!!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Interviews

All the cherubs got interviewed.

Dude and Dolly went first. They said when they get in trouble they go to the corner. (true)

They said they also get pow-pows. (not exactly true)

The investigator said this might complicate things. She believes us that we don't spank. She thinks that likely all that will happen is our agency will get notification and we will have to sign something saying we know not to spank.

OR.... because this investigation started when I reported physical abuse on Pumpkin, it could get worse. If the investigator's supervisor doesn't believe that Dude and Dolly were talking about before they came in to care.... well.... I don't know.

Either way, I'm sick to my stomach right now. I hate this feeling. I'm some kind of bad guy right now.

I'm not perfect. I suppose in the last 369 days I have swatted their little rear ends as I was moving them to the corner 3-4 times. And I know I've swatted them a few times when they get out of bed repeatedly at night. But I don't "pow pow" them. That's a word they used when they first came in to care.

So are they talking about me? Or were they talking about the course of their entire life?

Like I said, the investigator believes my husband and I. She's going to try and explain it as best as she can to her supervisor. They are little. Everyone else in the house (and she interviewed everyone) says we don't spank the foster kids.

But still...the long arm of CPS can reach in far. I do not know what is going to come of all of this.

Simple prayer request

I'm sitting here at my desk avoiding morning. Mr. Amazing and Herman left for work at 6:30AM. Herman is now officially employed full time. It's an 8 week job with the US Fish & Wildlife Service. I'm very proud of him!!

TT and Bart are up and playing upstairs.

I just heard the first rumblings from the babies' room.

We have to leave in an hour to go get Pumpkin evaluated for her new leg/foot braces. They're talking about some funky brace for her (really) bad foot with a resistance band that will wrap around her leg in a spiral. That sure will make life fun. It's also been determined that she's not growing symmetrically. They're going to have to build up the brace on her right foot to account for the difference of 2 cm.

I'll have all five of the youngest cherubs with me. The orthotic office is an hour away so we'll be eating lunch out. I'm praying that Dude and Dolly will nap in the car on the way home.

And then there's 6:00PM. That's when the investigator is going to come back and interview my children. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. It's not like I have anything to hide. But this is really nerve wracking! I've never had an investigator talk to my children.

I know that nerves like this don't come from God. I'm going to do my best to focus on the positive all day long and not allow myself to worry. If you could join me in that prayer though, I'd much appreciate it!

Friday, June 15, 2012

30 Day Notice update

When I gave my "official" notice to my licensing agency concerning Pumpkin, it didn't come as a surprise. They knew back in January I was nearing my end. The fact that I held on six months longer was a bonus I guess. But in the back of Rainbow's mind, she was already trying to find a suitable home for Pumpkin to move to.

In my little world of unicorns and lollipops, I envisioned Pumpkin moving to another home licensed by our agency. I wanted her to stay close to our home so that she could maintain all the services I've got in place for her. I seriously want her to have a trauma-free move. (The move won't be easy on her. But I doubt she'll respond much in the long run.) If she could keep the same doctors and therapists, it would all be OK.

I knew this was probably not going to be a reality though...to the point that I questioned my decision to be "done". I really want what is best for Pumpkin. I made it clear to my agency that finding a good home was much more important to me than the actual "30 days". I feared that she would leave our agency and that I'd simply be putting her in the back of some worker's car and saying goodbye forever.

Good news! Good news!!

A family that is licensed by our agency, lives just about five miles away from my house, is very comfortable parenting special needs AND has done respite for Pumpkin in the past has agreed to parent Pumpkin when they get back from their summer vacation. They are going to be gone (out of state) until the first week of September. But honestly...I don't mind at all!! I'm thrilled beyond belief that a family I know and trust has agreed to take over where I need to leave off.

I've finally solved the problem of PT, OT and speech for Pumpkin. In-home services have been located and they should start sometime next week. Pumpkin will get to maintain a relationship with all those therapists. She will have the same neurologist. And, if the new foster family wants, she can continue to see the same family doctor. She will even get to have her foot braces made by the same specialist! The only thing that will change for Pumpkin is the school she attends and the individuals meeting her needs at home. She will even get to continue to be looked after by Rainbow!!

I can make it 'til September. I know I can. As it stands, I may be the foster mom that says goodbye if Pumpkin goes home at the next court hearing in late August. But...if she doesn't (and she shouldn't!), I can trust that the new foster family is capable of meeting all her needs. (Rainbow will see to it! I'm positive of that one!!)

The relief I feel is amazing! Her case is ugly as can be. Everyone I talk to about it - the licensing investigator, the doctor, the lawyers, the social workers, CASA, everyone!! - knows that sending Pumpkin home is NOT safe! But for reasons I'm never going to understand, they can't legally keep her safe. Personally, I think it's bull! And I said so to CASA when I called them to rant today. But I know that my part of her story is almost finished. I will be able to devote more time to Herman, TT, Bart, Dolly and Dude. They need me too!

Extended respite has been approved for me in July so I can go north and not have to bring Pumpkin. Rainbow is actively trying to find a home for those 2 1/2 weeks that we'll be gone.

And Pumpkin is healing from all the extra seizure activity. She's talking more and she's playing more. That sure does make it easier to care for her on a day to day basis. I'll make it 'til September easy!

Quick training session

Do not -- I repeat -- DO NOT (for your foster children) sign anything medically that says you agree to being responsible should insurance not cover a procedure. Read all the paperwork and do not sign that piece of paper.

Pumpkin's recent hospitalization isn't covered the way it was submitted to insurance because it appears they didn't draw blood to test the level of seizure medication in her system. I've been assured that this is not going to complicate things for me and the hospital will resolve it. But I can guarantee you I feel better knowing there is no documentation saying I'm responsible for this financially in any way. I will hand over my driver's license for ID. I give them my full name and address. But I will not put my social security number on anything foster care related. Nor will I initial and sign the piece of paperwork that says I agree to pay if insurance doesn't. Protect yourself!!

If you live in Texas -- double check with every provider BEFORE driving across the city to an appointment. Do not trust your doctor to ensure that the person they referred you to takes Star Health (the version of Medicaid foster children are automatically placed on in Texas).

In other states, Medicaid is Medicaid. In Texas however, it can't possibly be that simple. And for Pumpkin, we wait now to find a dermatologist that will take Star Health. I still don't know what caused her to lose large handfuls of hair a month ago. Eventually I guess we'll find out.

Do you have a kid who tattles?

Everything has been such a downer lately I'm forcing myself to write about something other than the drama of my life. Here's my parenting thought of the day.

First...my disclaimer...this isn't going to work on every kid or in every situation. (Does any parenting tip?!) But it does work sometimes. And it almost always makes my kids stop and think just a little.

TATTLING...

All you need is more than one kid and eventually you're going to have to deal with tattling. Technically I handle it differently with each set of kids I've got in the house. Dude and Dolly are only 3 & 4 and even though they've been in my home for a year (and yes...today is our one year "anniversary") they are still English language learners. I have to keep all of my directions and redirections very simple or they are completely lost. And because I've got monitors in the house so I can pretty much hear them all the time, I usually know what "really" happened in situation. Typically I will look at the tattler between those two and tell them, "You are a big kid. I'm sure you can use your words and work this out." I don't have to do much more than that. Of course, if they are hitting each other or it isn't a safe situation I'll deal with things a little more seriously. But by and large, I ignore their tattling.

To help all my bigger kids with some tattling perimeters, we have three rules for when it is OK to tattle. They almost always need help remembering these. But if a kid comes running in to me because someone used a swear word, I can usually deflate things quickly by reminding them when it's OK to involve me:
1. Is a person being hurt?
2. Is property being damaged?
3. Is someone breaking a law? (I had to add this when my cherubs thought it would be a good idea to raid the change in the console of my truck.)
If a child answers "no" to each of these questions, I redirect them to use their words and work it out.

But still, we will have those times when a kid is so swelled up with the need to tattle that even though they answered "no" to each question above, they are practically bursting with the need to go on and on about what happened. I don't know about your kids, but mine don't possess the ability to be quiet at all when they are like this. So rather than continue to tell them to be quiet, or ignore them completely, I give them permission to tell me anything they want -- they just can't use their sibling's name as they tell the story.

This almost always trips them up. They stop fighting with me because I'm giving them permission to talk. So as we go along I keep focusing on the positive, "Yes. Please tell me what happened. I want to know all about it. Just don't use your brother's name. Tell me about YOU."

Often, they will get so frustrated or stumped that they will just give up. But because I'm continuing to give them permission to talk to me about the problem, they don't see it as a power struggle with me so that side of things is deflated. Sometimes they are able to reframe the problem, "I'm mad because I lost the game" (instead of, "Bart was cheating" - which may or may not have been true, but isn't worth fist fighting over), or "I don't want to have to share my toys". Things like that. But if the offending sibling was just being rotten, there isn't much the tattler can do about it and when they are put in a place where they can't say that person's name, they can't say much. Anything they do say is an "I" statement that I can usually validate.

My sister has used this on her three year old. I'm not sure if she would call it successful or not...but it certainly is hilarious. Marching down the hall to his mom, Roonie will start in with the tattling. My Genius Sister will redirect Roonie by telling him that he can say anything he wants, he just can't say Manny's name. She said her little guy will almost blow up like a balloon with frustration. Then, when Roonie eventually concedes and realizes that he can't say anything without saying his Manny's name, he'll walk away. But...as he's walking away, he HAS to get out the whole story (brother's name and all) as quickly as he possibly can. All in all though, when my sister responds, "I don't care", the issue is solved.

Tattling isn't much fun. And the heart issue is usually bigger than what they are tattling about. How do you handle it in your house?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Never forget...

If you (a foster parent) report physical abuse against your foster child – licensing WILL show up at your door unannounced to investigate YOU.

They have to rule you out of course.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Miss Supervisor update

Miss Supervisor called me this morning. She was firm...but polite. She asked if she could come between 1:30 and 2:00 today.

I must be the strangest woman in the Valley. I must be the only person that has her three year old and four year old take a nap.

But...I knew I needed to play nice. I really want to take these babies on vacation with me and Miss Supervisor holds the initial "yes" or "no" card in her hand. Also, I do recognize that social workers are balancing a TON of cases. If I can, I try to accommodate them when they need to visit each month. Besides, I knew she'd probably be late so I planned on napping only Dude and would just put him down early. I figured he'd get enough of a nap before she'd feel the need to actually talk to him (if she even did).

Sure enough, Miss Supervisor sent me a text at 1:00 telling me she was just getting out for lunch. She was going to be late. I said, "No problem. I'll be around 'til 3:00 when I have to leave to pick up a cherub from camp." After a pregnant pause, she came back to me and said that might be cutting it too close. Could she come at 5:00?

Call it blasphemy, but I said that Wednesday is church night. I wasn't sure who was going to be around.

The truth is...Wednesday IS church night. But at 5:00PM Mr. Amazing is getting in the door from work, the cherubs are usually stir crazy waiting for dinner, and I'm trying to cook. We leave for church at 6:15. It just seemed easier to give her the condensed version and blame it on church in general.

I said I'd be back at 3:45 if she wanted to meet then. She agreed to that.

I was a nervous wreck from the moment she called. Not because of the visit entirely – I'm still reeling emotionally from all the Pumpkin's case has put me through in the last couple weeks. With Miss Supervisor though...I wasn't sure "who" would actually arrive at my doorstep. Would it be NICE Miss Supervisor? Or would it be the Miss Supervisor I want to strangle?

Well, Miss Supervisor sent me a text at 3:41. She was at my home waiting for me to arrive. My stomach turned as Bart and TT decided at that moment to begin an epic-sized fight in the back seat on the way back from camp. The last thing I wanted to do was pull in to my driveway hollering at kids who were trying to beat each other up. I pulled off the side of the road and expressed my frustrations with their behavior. Thankfully they shaped up enough.

Dude wouldn't look at Miss Supervisor. He ignored her completely as we walked in to the house. She got all sing-songy and asked if he was sleepy. It took every ounce of self control that I had to not respond, "No, he's scared to death of you. Last time you were here you told him he was moving to Dallas. You told him you were taking him away from me." I managed to hold my tongue though.

Miss Supervisor sat down and got to business discussing....Pumpkin.

That's right. She wanted to hear all about Pumpkin. She used to be the supervisor over Pumpkin's case so it was natural. But honestly, I really didn't want to have to tell the story all over again. I played along though and we talked for quite awhile about Pumpkin. I also told her that I gave my 30 day notice. It's much better that she hear news like that straight from me. She was incredibly disappointed and did make me feel guilty. NOT guilty enough to change my mind. But I do feel horrible for Pumpkin...like I'm letting her down too.

When Miss Supervisor finally opened her manila envelope with the notes about Dude and Dolly, I was super stressed out again. (Talking about Pumpkin is wearing me thin.) I tried really hard to stay calm though and let her lead the conversation.

My jaw nearly dropped when it quickly became apparent that NICE Miss Supervisor was in my home!!!

She's approving the out-of-state travel. Her supervisor signed off. All she has to do is get a judge's signature on Monday but she's sure it won't be a problem at all.

She thanked me for offering to do the visit with Grandma N in Dallas.

Then...the part that really set me aback...she said, "I don't mean to be disrespectful..."

My throat tightened up. I felt like that schoolkid being sent to the principal. What on Earth did I do that she needs to correct?! Accckkkk!!!!!

"I don't mean to be disrespectful. But....Grandma N hasn't called me to check on the kids."

Whew! It's not me she's talking about.

My internal dialog went haywire. "Of course she hasn't called. She's never called. She doesn't really seem to care about these kids at all!!!"

Actually, I allowed most of my internal dialog to be vocalized. I just tried to be as respectful as possible in the process. We had a conversation about family reunification in general. I reiterated that I am very much in favor of keeping a family together. It's incredibly important to me. But...in this particular case...there is something not right in sending these small children to live with Grandma N in Dallas for the rest of their lives. It doesn't seem to be in their best interests. I then tried to tow the party line and I followed that statement with, "But I do know that's what is going to happen."

Miss Supervisor's response, "It doesn't have to."

My defenses were down. I decided that I don't have a damn thing to lose! I made sure to tell Miss Supervisor that I never went in to fostering to adopt. But sending these kids to Grandma's doesn't seem right to anyone. Grandma certainly doesn't act like she wants to be their mom. However, I am completely in favor of open adoption and I'd love to let her remain Grandma to these kids. I would make sure they didn't lose that connection.

Miss Supervisor then took the cherubs up to their room for the monthly talk "with the kids". It was during this part of the visit a month ago that she was so horrible in telling the kids about day trips to Dallas, and moving to Dallas, and seeing their "real real" mom. This time around, all she did was talk to the kids and play with them a little. (I'm kind of pathetic and I'll admit it...I spent some time at the monitor downstairs trying to eavesdrop.) Never once did she say anything about Dallas, or Grandma, or visits, or...anything. They just made nervous small talk like preschoolers that are totally freaked out do.

Miss Supervisor came downstairs with the kids. Made them hug her goodbye and took off.

I was reeling from the complete change in her attitude. I barely knew what to do.

Then Dolly came up to me. I picked her up and she wrapped her legs around me. She spoke right into my ear, "I told Miss Supervisor I don't want to go to Grandma's. I told her I stay with you!!"

"I know baby girl. I know. I want you to stay too."

Telling the story

According to Wikipedia... Compassion fatigue (also known as a secondary traumatic stress disorder) is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among trauma victims and individuals that work directly with trauma victims. It was first diagnosed in nurses in the 1950s. Sufferers can exhibit several symptoms including hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, and a pervasive negative attitude. This can have detrimental effects on individuals, both professionally and personally, including a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of new feelings of incompetency and self doubt.

Personally, I don't feel like I've got less compassion. That doesn't seen to fit me at all. However, the symptoms they describe above fit me about perfectly.

I've been thinking about what it is that makes it so difficult for me. Because honestly, caring for Pumpkin (in and of itself) is not that incredibly hard. I mean...it is. But yet, it isn't. She can walk. She can feed herself. She just needs help with absolutely everything! And the babies are as basic as the day is long.

But it's something. I am so burnt out still from the trip to the hospital. Granted, I didn't sleep much at all the night there. But I've slept since. I should feel better.

But I don't.

It's the telling of the story that is so hard. Do you know how many people I had to tell Pumpkin's story to during those 24 hours at the hospital?! I'm not sure I could even count them all there were so many. And her story is riddled with trauma and neglect. And I have to explain it all to everyone.

Over and over I had to tell people:
the triage nurse
the ER nurse
the ER doctor
bits and pieces to the technicians that came in to do the chest xray and the CAT scan
the PICU nurse
the new PICU nurse after the shift change


Then, during it all, I had to keep others in the loop:
the on-call worker at our agency
the intake worker at the abuse hotline (hospitalized foster kids have to be reported)
Rainbow
the CPS worker


And, for my own sanity's sake, I told members of my family.


That's a lot of story telling. And it all centered around the abuse and neglect this child suffered at the hands of her mother. Almost every person needed to know about the recent events at her mom's during the unsupervised visit because, health-wise, I could not account for 48 hours of Pumpkin's life and I didn't know for sure if that mattered or not. How was I to know what else her mom may have done to her that could be contributing to the problem? Also, the nurses all had to account for all the bruises and scratches currently on Pumpkin in their records.


Then there are the responses:
"Oh my. You are such a saint."
"Well...now I'm depressed."
"You're an angel."
"I'm so glad there are people like you that do this."
and of course you can't forget... "How do you let them go?!"

The responses don't exactly help. As the time goes by they scream the opposite of how I'm actually feeling.
Hell no I'm not a saint!
YOU"RE depressed?! You don't even know this child or her full story! It's ain't about YOU lady!
I'm not an angel either!
I'm glad there are people like me too I guess.
As for letting them go -- I have no idea how to do it. (But I knew in the back of my mind that I was going to be saying goodbye to this little girl soon as the whole thing was wearing me thin. And wow, did that make me feel guilty.)


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Yes, I promise I'm going to take care of myself. Thank you all for the kind words to my last post. I really did need to hear those things from other moms that I know "get it". I meant a lot to me!!!


But I'm still just barely hanging on. And Miss Supervisor just called me. She wants to stop by today smack in the middle of nap to see the babies. Please pray I don't get so frustrated with her that I say something I'll regret. She wants to talk about our out-of-state vacation. I so desperately want to bring the little cherubs with me. I have to play nice with Miss Supervisor to get that "OK" so they can come.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

30 Day Notice

Pumpkin's new worker came to the house this morning.

She stayed just long enough to share with me that the abuse Pumpkin suffered at the hand of her mother - at the doctor's office back in September - that was witnessed by an employee - and reported by a doctor - was never "founded". Legally, it never happened.

The judge (and this is the new one mind you) told everyone on Friday that unsupervised visits with Pumpkin are being suspended for now. But if they can't prove that Mom did the scratching and pinching last weekend - they will be started again immediately.

Now then...if abuse that was officially observed couldn't be proved...how on Earth are they going to prove abuse nobody actually saw?!

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I'm done. I can't do it anymore. This particular roller coaster is too hard for me and I have to take care of myself and the rest of my family.

When my agency worker asked me questions...looking for an "official reason" to report for the disruption...I told her to go back to our original home study. I told her to see that we said we did not want any major medical cases.

I've been at this for almost 18 months now. I'm emotionally and physically drained. I think Pumpkin deserves so much better. She deserves for social workers and investigators to fully do their jobs. She deserves for lawyers to actually defend her in court. And she deserves a foster mom that isn't as worn out with everything as I am.

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I'm not going to freak out if it takes longer than 30 days for them to find her an appropriate home. Personally, I just need to know there actually is an end in sight. I WANT to be a part of the transition. I am committed to being an advocate for Pumpkin. I might even become a CASA. I've already been told that if I did that they would have no problem appointing me to Pumpkin. But I'll cross all those bridges when they come.

For now, I'm still trying to recover from the hospital trip and all the craziness that is managing Pumpkin's case. I didn't come to this decision hastily. But the decision has been made and I started the ball rolling.

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Words of encouragement are welcomed. If you feel the need to judge me though, please keep it to yourself. I'm already judging myself enough for everyone.

"Mandatory" update

The director of our licensing agency responded to my email about the mandatory picnic that's happening his coming Saturday...


Hi Cherub Mamma,
I completely understand your feelings regarding me making this picnic "mandatory".  I'll share this with you though...in the past some of our foster parents would not allow the children to attend agency activities or functions because the children misbehaved or did not "deserve" to participate.  (This included attending our Christmas party that we just had last year.)  This bothers me...regardless of how a child behaves, other consequences or forms of discipline should be utilized.  There are times that some of our foster parents forget that the children have suffered so much and for this reason, the children act out or behave a certain way.  Either way, our kids should not be punished by missing Christmas parties, birthday parties or the chance to see their brother or sister who is in another home.
For this reason, I decided to make this event mandatory.  This gives our foster parents an opportunity to have a great time and get to know one another better.  Our children, who unfortunately miss birthdays, Christmas parties and events will also be able to have fun and see their siblings or friends.  Often times, sibling groups that are not together in a home licensed by our agency, but who are in different homes, do not see each other enough and this is a great opportunity for some of our kiddos to see their siblings at an agency function.  I want to be able to make experiences for foster children memorable and strive to do better for our agency.  My staff and I have been working hard to plan this for everyone to enjoy and we have been so excited to do this.  I wanted to be able to recognize our parents for all they do and thought this would be a great opportunity to do so.  Unfortunately, we do not always have the money to offer these fun things and do not do them often.  My focus was to ensure that all of our children and parents have a great time and enjoy themselves.  If you and the children do not want to attend than you are not required to do so.
Director Lady


I sent an email back...


RE: picnic this coming weekend

Thank you very much for your response. I do understand why you took the approach you did. Overall though, I do think a better solution would be to address the families that acted inappropriately at Christmas directly. So many of the rules we foster parents have to follow 100% of the time with no exception are because of the small handful of parents that abused the system or didn't use good judgment.
Please don't think my lack of attendance this coming weekend is because I'm angry or anything like that. At this point in time it will be mainly so I can get caught up at home. Spending so many days in the hospital with Pumpkin is going to complicate my personal work schedule. I've got several clients who are waiting for me to get them their projects.
Again, thank you for understanding.
Cherub Mamma

I'll clarify again -- I still think making a picnic is perfectly ridiculous! The parents that skipped things at Christmas might have been out of line. I have no idea. But all we've got as foster parents for discipline options is the removal of privileges. They might have been doing what they seriously thought was best. I personally wouldn't not have chosen an "agency" function to use as a form of punishment. Any child that this would have been effective on would have surely been old enough to say something to their case worker. I'm no dummy - and I certainly wouldn't have wanted to stir that hornets' nest!!
But if this is how my licensing agency is going to trend so to speak, I will surely consider other options. (Continuing to fight against the rules that are over the top...switching to a different licensing agency...or stopping fostering altogether.) To be honest, we're hanging on as foster parents until the two cases in our home are finished. After that, we won't be accepting any new placements. My husband is actively seeking a promotion. And in order for him to get promoted, we will have to move out of our area. In the meantime though, I am going to continue advocating for my children and for foster families in general. And I think that means standing up to the crazy rules whenever appropriate.

PICU update

Pumpkin was released yesterday afternoon. All in all, the hospital stay was rather uneventful.

In retrospect, I don't fault anyone at the hospital for reacting the way they did. Pumpkin was incredibly non-responsive in the ER. She wouldn't look at anyone. She wouldn't talk. She just plain didn't react to anything. The doctor took one look at a severely disabled foster child and needed to cover all his bases. Even if she had had an ear infection, that wouldn't fully explain how zoned out she was.

However, the seizure activity her neurologist says was occurring does explain everything. I personally never saw a single seizure. But when her neurologist checked in on us yesterday, he told me that any time I see her balance off like I described it to him, I am to assume seizure! He also pretty much told me to expect more of this out of Pumpkin.

So now I know how else her seizures can look. I might not see a single one of them – but she's having them all the time. The doctor said that her brain scans are very, very abnormal. For the most part the abnormal brain activity is on the left side. Sometimes it's on the right. And sometimes the whole brain will fire at once. (This is how the doctor described things.) And basically, my Genius Brother told me awhile ago that the difference between "abnormal brain activity" and "seizure" is little more than an arbitrary line drawn in the sand.

Without any extra treatment for seizure, Pumpkin started to recover yesterday. She's still not as verbal as she was a few weeks ago. And I'm not completely convinced this wasn't tied to the increase in contact with her mother. But she's doing better.

Her neurologist said that we need to adjust her medication. So, we are. I really pushed him for a connection between the regression and seizures to the visits with Mom.

His answer was very clinical. He said, after I really questioned him, that the verbal regression could be an emotional response to the stress. But his response to the seizures was, "you and I have stress and we don't have seizures".

While standing next to him in the hospital that all made sense. Once I got home though, I can manipulate that statement.
I have a suppressed immune system due to the medications I'm on. I have a cold sore virus permanently in my body. When I'm under stress – I get a cold sore. If you don't have the virus, of course you won't get a cold sore.
I have psoriatic arthritis. When I'm under stress my body swells up horribly and I flare. If you don't have arthritis, of course you won't have an arthritic flare.
Pumpkin has epilepsy. Surely there are environmental things that can cause her epilepsy to "flare"??? I don't have epilepsy, so of course I'm not going to respond to stress by having a seizure.
Either way, I know how to treat Pumpkin when this happens again. I won't be going to the ER. I will give her a drug for break through seizures. Unsupervised visits have been stopped with Mom. I asked if it's necessary for her to have the supervised visits. I do believe they are horribly stressful for Pumpkin and you can't convince me they are in her best interests!! And, if this case is actually going to change now due to the abuse a week ago (which it should), they certainly aren't necessary. I'm praying like crazy that all the powers that be will do what it takes to keep Pumpkin safe!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

PICU

Pumpkin just hasn't been herself lately. It's beyond maddening trying to figure out why. Is she not talking because she's depressed? Or is something else going on?
After watching her become more disoriented as the day went on, I decided I had to get her checked out. Besides, I figured it would all be easier with Mr. Amazing watching all the other cherubs.
Well, I still have NO idea what is wrong with Pumpkin. But now I'm sleeping (or rather...NOT sleeping) in the pediatric intensive care unit of a local hospital.
This could be something big. Or this could be a simple ear infection. I seriously do not know. The ER doc didn't even examine her. He admitted her immediately. I sure hope the doc making rounds tomorrow does some sort of an examination before they do the lumbar puncture I was told to expect.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mandatory

Rainbow came to visit yesterday. She dropped off our per diem check for last month. Attached to it was a news letter and a couple other memos. I set everything aside and went about my evening. Boy was I surprised when I went to file the paperwork.

In the packet was an invitation Rainbow had told me about:

Come Join Us At "the licensing agency"
Foster Family Picnic
Date: June 16, 2012
Time: 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Location: .....
Lunch will be served at 12:00 - 1:00
We will have fun activities for all ages.
Bouncers, water balloon toss, egg race, pinatas, sack race, tug of war.
Picnic is mandatory for all foster children to attend, so DSS can meet them and have their picture taken.

The following is an email I had to write because I couldn't stop thinking about this picnic being mandatory:

Dear Agency Director,
I've been thinking about this a lot since I found out earlier this afternoon. And since I believe it's wrong to have an issue with something and not address the problem, I feel it's necessary to send this letter.

I take issue with the fact that the picnic this coming weekend is "mandatory".

As a foster parent, my entire life is consumed with the concept of mandatory. I have mandatory trainings. Mandatory home visits. Mandatory ways I have to keep my home. Mandatory court appearances. etc. etc.

I understand that a lot of effort has been put in to this picnic. It's supposed to be fun. But when I'm told that it is mandatory that my children attend, that takes all the fun out of things.

One of my foster children is severely disabled. Exactly how is she going to participate? My other two foster children are quite young. This picnic is an hour away from our home and smack in the middle of nap time. None of my foster children particularly enjoy large group events like this!! I'm bothered that I'm being forced to make them participate.

I can't choose when to give my kids a haircut. I can't choose to take them on a spontaneous overnight at South Padre Island. I can't choose to take them to Sea World when I want. But I should be able to choose whether or not I have to drive to H*** for a picnic.

Feel free to call if you'd like to discuss this further. Thank you for your time.
Cherub Mamma

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Just to clarify, I simply adore my agency. Most of the craziness I have to deal with as a foster parent is directly led by rules the state of Texas deem necessary. And Texas is just plain nuts!!! The only thing, up to yesterday, that I could fault my agency for is how they handle the annual training we are required to take. Their trainings aren't very frequent, the schedule changes regularly, and I have to drive an hour away for everything. But even now they are in the process of opening up an official office in the town where I live. And overall, our agency is incredibly supportive of their foster families. They have an on-call system that works perfectly. I always get my questions answered quickly! And Rainbow is beyond amazing!!!!

But this is over the top for me. Without trying to sound like a crabby patty – I really, really don't want to go to the picnic now. Prior to being told it was mandatory, I had actually planned on taking Dude and Dolly. Rainbow had given me the date for the picnic almost a month ago and she very politely asked that I come with the kids. She indicated that a lot of work was being done to make sure all the kids will have fun.

Now I'm picking apart everything. (I'm being entirely too negative – I do know that.) There isn't a single activity Pumpkin is capable of participating in! And I highly doubt Dude and Dolly will want to do anything either. In the past couple months I've taken Dude and Dolly to parties that Daphne (the world's greatest neighbor) has thrown for her kids' birthdays. Even though the guests at these parties were very familiar to Dude and Dolly, they were overwhelmed and would barely leave my side. And for both of those parties Dude and Dolly took their naps and then came to the party late. I can barely imagine how they're going to respond being sleep deprived and surrounded by strangers.

I'm betting the fallout from this picnic won't be much fun. Being around social workers will trigger Dude and Dolly. We'll probably have to process a lot when it's all done. Dude and Dolly barely understand their situation. They don't even know the term "foster care". They just know that there are all these new players in their lives that determine who they get to go see and when. Social workers are one of those players. It hardly seems fair to me that I should be forced to make them go.

And like I said, I was planning on taking them. I would have spent next Friday and Saturday morning prepping them for the event. If I could build it up as something positive, they would probably handle it better.

But being the stick in the mud that I am I guess, I can hardly force myself to say positive things about something I'm being forced to do. Besides, I personally don't like things like this at all.

I'm anxiously awaiting a response from the agency director. And I'm seriously weighing out what will happen to me if I simply don't show up next Saturday.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Visits

Pumpkin will no longer be leaving my house for unsupervised weekend visits. Instead, we are back to two visits a month at the CPS office.

I know nothing else.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A big heap of trauma piled on top of a brain injury

Warning...this is a long, rambling post - mainly for me. Pumpkin's situation is driving me nuts. I'm going to word vomit for my own therapy here. Maybe when I get to the end of the post I will have made a point. Maybe not. But I'm trying to deal with the craziness that is foster parenting doubled up with the bizarreness that is Pumpkin.

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Pumpkin is the strangest special needs child ever.

I had never parented a special needs child before Pumpkin. I'm not an authority. But I've sure tried to become a lot more educated since Pumpkin entered my life almost a year and a half ago.

It also helps that my brother is a doctor and my mother has a degree in special education. I've come to the two of them with more questions than I can count! They have been valuable resources. I don't think I could have made it this far without their help.

So, I'll say it again... Pumpkin is the strangest special needs child ever.

She can put together 24 piece puzzles without any effort at all. In fact, I'm convinced she could do puzzles bigger than that but she has a difficult time with the little cardboard pieces. (I've stuck to all wooden puzzles so they don't get ruined.) Pumpkin can even dump out several puzzles and sort out the pieces and get things all back where they belong.

But it took me several weeks to teach her what "roll over" means when I'm giving her a bath so I can get her bottom clean.

Pumpkin knows every letter of the alphabet. She can pick them out even when they aren't in order.

But she can't answer what she wants for breakfast unless I'm holding her choices out in front of her to touch.

Pumpkin can sing entire songs.

But she can't tell me if her foot hurts or if she's feeling sick.

There are so many things Pumpkin can do. And oh so many things that she can't.

The only diagnosis that Pumpkin has (that really matters) is traumatic brain injury at birth. She had meningitis.

She's got other diagnosis that may or may not be related to the meningitis (long, weird medical ones that I'm not going to look up right now because I can barely say them - let alone spell them). She's also got epilepsy. She may or may not have fetal alcohol syndrome. And she has many, many, many autistic tendencies.

But she doesn't fit any of the molds!

Many autistic children will self stimulate by doing repetitive motions or making repetitive sounds. Pumpkin does this. She hums quite loudly. She shakes her hands in front of her face.

However, she'll stop if I tell her to. --- Not always for a long time. --- But for the past few days, when the humming gets super loud and I tell her to, "knock it off," the humming will subside for quite a long time.

It's my understanding that most autistic kids are not able to control their stimming behaviors.

I'm not going to go on forever with tons of examples. To put it simply, if you can think of something that is normal for a special needs child – Pumpkin will break that mold. She's severely mentally retarded. And I do mean severely. Yet she has a list of splinter skills that is quite long. It's maddening really. I have to remind myself over and over that the thing "I saw her do" was a splinter skill. It doesn't mean that she can do something else similar in nature. (Shoot - it doesn't even mean she's going to do it again ever.)

Pumpkin's language deficit is the most difficult thing for me to handle. By and large (like I've said dozens of times) Pumpkin is not capable of meaningful speech. Most all of her language is echolalia. She repeats things she hears other people say. Sometimes she'll get it right...like when she says, "good morning" first thing in the morning. But other times she's way off...like when she says, "good morning," at 7:28PM.

Pumpkin can repeat entire scenes from Sponge Bob episodes. She actually seems to understand some Disney shows and Dora the Explorer. TV is something Pumpkin loves. (I think TV was her entire life before coming in to Care.) Her repertoire used to be quite extensive. They loved her at school. In the self-contained special needs classroom, she was a star! She had few negative behaviors and she'd repeat everything the teacher said. They thought she was terrific. 

But now, Pumpkin's echolalia is even disappearing. She's barely talking at all. Phrases she's repeated since I met her have become this strange mumble in the cadence of the phrase – but not actual words anymore.

When I say, "lay down"...Pumpkin will moan/mumble/hum (whatever you want to call it) a series of sounds that you can tell are "lay down" but they aren't actually words. If I ask a question the tone in her mumble will go up at the end. She's copying me. But she's refusing to say words.

The only words left in her vocabulary (at least when she's around me anyway) are the words that get her what she wants. And since Pumpkin wants very, very little that she's willing (or able) to communicate, she's not saying much.

She knows I won't let her get down from the table when she's done eating until she says, "all done". It took MONTHS to teach her this with more repetition than you can imagine. I used hand over hand sign language. I praised her like crazy and danced with her all over the kitchen when she used her words. I made a big, big deal out of it when she got it right. And when she refused to do the signs, or when she refused to say the words – she sat at the table. There were times when she sat at the table for nearly an hour because she wouldn't say anything. I'd give her the verbal prompt. I'd tell her to repeat after me. And she'd turn her head away. So she sat there.

So, for right now, Pumpkin will still say, "all done," when she's finished eating. It takes a verbal or physical prompt. But she'll do it.

However, all other communication seems to have disappeared completely.

Is this because of her brain injury? She's been out of speech therapy for almost a month now. Was therapy really helping that much before? (I personally can't say that I saw a tremendous difference between when she came in to care never having been in speech therapy – and what she was like many months later.)

Or is this trauma? Pumpkin has been seeing a lot of her mom lately. She's had two weekend visits. And now that I've worked things out so her mom can be in the waiting room during therapy, Pumpkin has at least seen her mom three additional days this week. (Pumpkin desperately needs PT, OT & ST!!! I was glad to finally have a system in place so that she could go again and I wouldn't have to give up so many hours of my life sitting in a waiting room with four other small children multiple times a week.)

I called My Genius Mother earlier this week and told her to tell me to put on my big girl panties if that's what I need to hear. But the mumbling back at me instead of using words was even more annoying that the echolalia!! It was like fingernails on a chalkboard!!!!!

My mom validated me. She agreed that it would drive her nuts too. She recommended that I put my hand on Pumpkin's mouth when she was mumbling back at me and tell her no. Then tell Pumpkin to "use her words".

Yippee!! My mom told me to do exactly what I was already doing.

So, I did need to put on my big girl panties and just keep it up.

After day three of seeing her mom in a row, Pumpkin has upped the ante even higher. She won't make eye contact with me at all. Granted, eye contact is not something Pumpkin can do on her best of days very well. It was a skill she was working on is speech therapy. But today – she took it further than just turning her head away from me. If I look at Pumpkin and try to talk to her, Pumpkin will close her eyes. She is rejecting me with every ounce of her being.

But, in true Pumpkin fashion where nothing makes sense...she'll let me pick her up and hold her. She'll let me sing to her and rock her... but if I try to look at her face, she'll close her eyes and turn her head.

No words. Only mumbles. No eye contact whatsoever! Ginormous rejection.

This poor little girl is so very, very sad. She wants her mommy. She'll say, "mommy" and move with great anticipation if I tell her that's who we're going to see. But by and large, she's horribly depressed and doesn't understand anything that's happening to her. She hates me with every fiber of her being. She wants nothing to do with me or anything I have to give to her. And I can't explain any of it to her because she's not capable of comprehending.

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This is where I throw a pity party for myself. Again I say - it's not like she's crying all the time or throwing fits. I'm sure most people think I'm a putz for getting frustrated about the mumbling. But she drives me nuts. I have to do almost every single thing for her and yet she rejects me with everything she can. I have to change her diaper. I have to brush her teeth. I have to pick out all her food. I have to choose her clothes. I have to get her dressed. I have to... I have to... I have to...

Man - that's some pity party I'm throwing.

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I know it's the trauma now more than anything. But it doesn't make it easier for me. I wish it did. None of the parenting books address this issue. Not even Christine's awesome therapeutic parenting video deals with this.

Because nothing can change it. The amount of time it will take for Pumpkin to show any amount of healing is probably more time than I've got. And who knows if she's capable of healing. This is so much more than RAD, or ODD, or PTSD. She could have all of those too on top of the traumatic brain injury. Who knows?! And because The System keeps throwing her back to her mom, Pumpkin remains confused.

And being playful doesn't help. Being a good listener doesn't help. Validating her feelings doesn't help. Because Pumpkin doesn't understand.

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I guess I have to wrap it up with the fact that I do indeed just need to put on my big girl panties. I'm not going to give my 30 day notice yet. Pumpkin is in the process of getting a brand new CPS worker. (And by brand new I do mean brand spanking new. The child just finished her CPS training. She's brand, brand, brand new.) I can't leave Pumpkin in the hands of someone that knows nothing yet. I'd also like to make sure that Pumpkin gets her new leg braces. We're scheduled to see the specialist for an evaluation on June 18. They're talking about some new funky kind of a leg brace that will help keep her from turning her leg in as she walks. I want see her through the process.

And people are starting to listen to me just a bit. The GAL used my exact words to the judge at our last court hearing. And I think it's because I got the lawyers involved with the pinching/scratching over the weekend that there was a special hearing in court today.

I just don't feel like I can abandon Pumpkin now. Even though she hates me. Even though she drives me nuts.

So I'm going to find me some super industrial big girl panties and see what happens tomorrow. TGIF!!

I just made the investigator's day

Because of what happened to Pumpkin over the weekend at her mom's house, a new investigation has been opened up. Even though I'm not personally being investigated, I am in charge of helping relay information about Pumpkin to all the necessary people. That meant I knew an investigator would be coming to my house any day this week.

I finally got the call this morning. Susan (the investigator for this round with Pumpkin) asked me a few simple questions on the phone and then said she'd be over later. She didn't give me an exact time – just that she's be by sometime in the morning.

I spent the next couple hours worked up more than normal. I used to not mind anyone that came over. Investigators didn't freak me out at all. But now that I've been investigated a few times, I get a little more nervous than is necessary. Each time I've been investigated they were unable to find anything wrong with my home or my behavior (save the one time I didn't have Pumpkin's med logs completely up to date). But it's still quite unnerving to me. I was relieved when Susan finally graced my doorstep.

She didn't need a lot from me really. She just wanted me to sign releases for all of Pumpkin's medical providers so she could get copies of Pumpkin's records. Imagine her surprise when I pulled out my binder. I think I might have made her day!

I told Susan that I had all of Pumpkin's records. I showed her how my binder worked. Then I got serious.

"Are you going to bring this back to me? I have to have it! Because if you don't bring it to me...I will hunt you down!"

She was incredibly pleased. Susan told me it can take over a month to get records from some doctors down here. She took my binder to the CPS office right around the corner, made copies of what she needed, and brought the binder back to me about an hour later.

The entire process was painless in the end.

I was told that a special court session is taking place today to try and stop future visits between Pumpkin and her mom. I'm sure this is largely because I got the lawyers involved yesterday. I dropped by the office of Pumpkin's guardian and left copies of the doctor's most recent progress notes that detailed each of the bruises and scratches on Pumpkin.

I will find out later this afternoon or first thing tomorrow what was decided. As much as I hate thinking about how long all of this is going to drag out now, I'm hoping that Pumpkin can stop seeing her mom. Then maybe they can finally going about terminating rights and letting the aunt and uncle take over.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I feel empty

Since part of what I try to do with this blog is paint a realistic picture of foster care, I'll let you in on my feelings over the past 24 hours. (times are approximate)

SUNDAY:

5:50PM - Nervous. Anxious. Very uncomfortable. It's not easy to pick up someone else's child and take them from their house. Especially when you know the child does not want to come with you at all!

6:00PM - Confused. Pumpkin and her mom were eating dinner in Mom's truck. The optimist in me said, "maybe they were running errands and it was easier to just wait in the truck 'til I got there instead of trying to maneuver Pumpkin out of the truck, into the house and back in to my car." The pessimist in me said, "What's going on in that house that Mom doesn't want me to see?!"

6:05PM - Relieved. It wasn't as bad as I made it out to be. I'll never get used to it. Pumpkin wasn't screaming. I'll knew I'd do my best to acknowledge that she's depressed and I'd try to not ask too much of her.

6:30PM - Surprised. As I got Pumpkin undressed for her bath I noticed several new markings on her body. The two that surprised me the most were on the tops of her shoulders. That's a strange place to have a bruise. That's a strange place to have a scratch. Especially on BOTH shoulders. I quickly moved in to analytical mode. I called the appropriate people at my licensing agency. I took pictures. I sent an email to CPS and my licensing agency. I was in a "document document document" sort of mood.

MONDAY:


6:45AM - Doubtful. The bruises were small. I hate the idea of accusing someone of abuse. It makes me feel sick. But Pumpkin can't tell me what happened. But I was really doubting how big of a deal all this seemed to be.


9:45AM - Supported. My agency worker called me to discuss things. I love it when I feel like someone is on my side. She had seen the pictures and felt the same way I did about things. Nothing "screamed" abuse. But it didn't sit quite right with her either.


10:30AM - Deflated. I was instructed by the director of our agency to call the abuse hotline. I knew that this was going to at least start an investigation. It can also be a very time consuming phone call and I didn't want to spend forever on the phone.

10:45AM - Further deflated. I was instructed by the CPS supervisor in Pumpkin's case that I was to take Pumpkin to the doctor. It's not that I didn't want to advocate for Pumpkin. But a doctor appointment is a long process here and I had two other cherubs that I was going to have to drag along.


12:00PM - Bored. Frustrated. I sat on hold for a long time waiting for an intake worker to take my call on the abuse hotline.

12:30PM - Pleased. The worker that took my call was wonderful. She was thorough and very pleasant to work with. Since I've had to call the hotline due to issues with Pumpkin many times, I've dealt with some that weren't so nice to talk to. (The rules for calling the hotline include any time a child is hospitalized. I've also had to call for other injuries that happened on my watch.)


2:45PM - Irritated. The mobility company that had finally gotten around to getting Pumpkin's walker set up with swivel wheels in the front was supposed to come between 2:00 and 3:00. I couldn't afford for them to be late because we had to leave for the doctor appointment. It took over six months to get the wheels switched from fixed to swivel! I was happy for the change as it will make things easier for Pumpkin, but today was not the day I wanted to deal with this.


3:00PM - Relieved. The mobility company showed up. It took less than 5 minutes to make the switch and sign the paperwork.


4:00PM - Bored to tears. Our appointment at the doctor office was at 3:30. Where we live though, it's not uncommon to wait hours for a scheduled appointment. Waiting is boring.

4:10PM - Peeved. The doctor finally came in to see us. The first thing she did was explain to me that the course of treatment prescribed to Pumpkin a little over a week ago for a possible fungal infection was 100% wrong. (I knew this already because My Genius Brother is a doctor - but a small part of me had hoped that my brother was wrong with his diagnosis via text message and that I wasn't going to have a huge hassle in front of me.) Now Pumpkin is going to have to go see a dermatologist. More waiting in doctor's offices. Yuck.


4:15PM - My emotions became so jumbled up that I can't give you a concise evaluation. I'll just tell you what happened.

The doctor took one look at the bruise on Pumpkin's shoulder and announced that it was due to a pinch. (This is what Pumpkin's mom did to Pumpkin back in September during the 10 days she was out of foster care.) As we looked at the shoulder with the larger scratch we both noticed a new bruise about the size of a thumb print on Pumpkin's arm.

It's never fun to try and prove abuse against a child. It makes me feel even sicker than making an accusation against the adult that did it. Here's this completely non-verbal child being examined from head to toe. Lord only knows what happened to her during those 48 hours she was with her mom.

But I've been there. Pumpkin has made me feel mad enough to want to pinch her. I'll be honest....I've wanted to do worse. And without incriminating myself, I have NOT always had the most stellar of parenting moments with Pumpkin. She's a challenging child to care for. So in the same way I'm completely FURIOUS with her mother for not keeping her safe, I can understand where she's coming from. But then, on the flip side, I'm screaming, "Really?! Really?! You can't keep it together for 48 hours?! Especially when you know CPS is watching your every move?!" It blows my mind and I don't feel sorry for her one bit.

Then I feel guilty. Guilty for my feelings toward Pumpkin sometimes. Guilty for my anger toward Mom. Guilty that I have a hard time praying for Mom to get "better" and for a miracle to happen.

The guilt is the worst.

I've done stupid things to my kids. I'm certainly not perfect. How dare I judge this woman?!

But CPS isn't watching me. I didn't neglect my children's health for years. I apologize when I screw up and I've never hurt my kids like she hurt Pumpkin.

We are the same.

We are totally different.

7:30PM - Conflicted. Empty. Exhausted. I don't know how to feel. I'm drained. I'm suffering from a lot of compassion fatigue. Pumpkin is so sad. She misses her mommy so much. These visits are so incredibly confusing to her. And because she's so delayed, there's no explaining anything to her.

So I bought some vodka. And some gin. And some Sprite. And a little pineapple/orange juice. And a bottle of grenadine. I'm not a lush - really I'm not. But I am going to have a stiff drink after I get everyone to bed. (And I couldn't decide what I wanted at the liquor store so I bought a variety.) It's been a rough day.

My med logs are completely caught up to date and everything that is supposed to be locked up really is right now. I even moved my dishwasher detergent out from under the sink. (I'm a rebel and keep it there against the rules.) I know that an investigator is likely to grace my doorstep within the next day or too.

I'm ready.

My job

"Your job is only to report what you find. It's up to "them" to decide. But sorry - it sucks."

A text from My Genius Sister answering me when I told her about the bruises and scratches I found on Pumpkin after I picked her up last night.