Friday, August 31, 2012

Today went better

There was a LOT less crazy in the house today. Mr. Wonky took a break and left us alone. TT did all of his schoolwork without losing it even once. It was a good day.

Bart still needs to make some adjustments to homeschool. But we'll get there.

Herman had a great first week.

Pumpkin's case is moving forward. I had a 75 minute conference call with Medicaid and several other professionals involved in Pumpkin's transfer. All the bases were covered and Pumpkin's aunt and uncle are actually getting some assistance in getting services set up for Pumpkin across the state in the area where they live.

Someone from CPS in Pumpkin's new part of the state is going to do a quick walk-through of the aunt and uncle's home early next week. After that a date will be set for the actual transfer. The State has approved for me to fly along with the transfer to assist in Pumpkin's care. This is a very good thing. I was told to tentatively plan to do this next Friday.

Dolly is LOVING school. I can't count the number of times she has come up to me saying, "Mommy, my teacher says....". This teacher character is all wonderful and has lots of great things to say every day.

Dude is adjusting to school. He certainly doesn't love it. But he's not as scared as he was on Wednesday when I dropped him off the first time.

Minnie, Dude and Dolly's CPS caseworker, made her monthly visit today. Dude would have nothing to do with her. Minny took the kids up to their room for the interview portion of the visit. Dude looked at her and literally said, "I don't want to talk to you. I go watch TV with Daddy." He had "that" look on his face. He didn't trust her one bit and was not going to speak with her at all! Dude is coming around from the trauma of the removal this summer. But he's still pretty reserved with his trust!

Minnie said that the State is going to proceed forward with trying to place the children with Grandma. She was very honest though. She said she doubts their lawyer will go for it. (Yeah! The kids have a lawyer again!) The back-up plan is to have two monitored visits a month up in Dallas. I guess she personally volunteered to stay in Dallas with no extra pay to handle this. They might be leaving in 10 days or they might not. Gee...is this foster care or what?! The kids have been in care for 14 months. The plan all along has been to send these children to said Grandma in Dallas. And CPS is still honestly saying they don't know if the lawyers will "go for it". Dontcha think it's about time to consider a different plan for these kids?!

Minnie did do one very nice thing during this visit. She gave me permission to supervise a visit with the little cherubs and their great grandma. This great grandma is the one I dearly adore. She just happens to be in her 70s and is unable to raise the cherubs to adulthood. (Their bio parents are NOT being considered at all for reunification. Not in any way at all!) Anyway...said Great Grandma does NOT want the cherubs to go to Dallas either. She is very concerned about the bio dad and his drug influence. No one can convince me, or great grandma, that bio dad is not going to have contact with the kids. It is his mother that the State wants to move the kids in with after all. Dad has quite the rap sheet!

At the last court hearing, Great Grandma took those cherubs and looked them square in the eye and told them to tell their lawyer they want to stay with Mamma L***. I didn't tell Great Grandma to do this!! But I certainly didn't complain.

I'm wondering what her influence will be on the cherubs this time around. I'm hoping we can set up a visit sometime this week! If indeed the kids do go to Dallas after court, I want them to have had at least one visit with this person they know and love beforehand. Who knows if they'll ever get to see her again?

Life is crazy in Homeschool and Foster Care Land. But today...today it was better.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tiny mental progress for me

Today wasn't a whole lot easier than yesterday. Not as many crazy appointments and errands. But TT made up for it by freaking out a bit more.

I did manage to figure out the trigger. It seems so obvious now. But in the thick of the crazy, I couldn't see past the end of my nose.

TT was super, duper, way majorly excited about schooling at home this year. He got a little nervous after all the curriculum arrived in the mail. But he really didn't like his experience at the brick and mortar school at all. It was horrifically negative and stressed him out horribly. He has always responded well to me teaching him things. We're a family that thrives on learning. My kids are very used to "teaching moments" all the time. I've seriously been surprised by his reaction to homeschool.

That surprise, on my part, has been part of the problem. I didn't see this freak-out coming.

So today he had some more lessons to do. He started out fine. But as soon as he reached a part of the work where I actually needed to "teach" him something...he. freaked. out! I didn't realize what the trigger was until much later in the day. I worked up as much therapeutic mojo as I could muster and we continued to plow through.

He took breaks. I had him do a little bit of physical exercise. I made sure he ate. I used every trick I could think of short of putting away all the school work. The idea of doing that didn't sit well with me. The online school is very much easing the kids into the amount of daily work they will be expected to do all year long. As of today, he only had math and language arts. It really shouldn't have taken him longer than 2 hours max! Putting that away simply because he was freaking out didn't seem to me to be a good way to start out the school year. I don't want him to get behind and I didn't want to set a precedence.

This is an actual public school. So while it looks like we are homeschooling...it's not "traditional" homeschool. He is expected to keep up to a pace. And I know TT is capable of this. He always had outstanding grades in brick and mortar school.

After the day was all said and done – and TT managed to finish everything – I finally realized what the trigger was. I pieced together each fit and saw that they all started when I was trying to teach him something.

I don't think he's freaking because he's not confident in my ability to teach him. This, I think, is all very much shame based. He's scared to death to make a mistake in front of me. It's almost like in the back recesses of his mind he thinks I won't love him or care for him if he doesn't understand something.

TT's anxiety is through the roof. At least that's what I'm calling it. Once he starts to get dysregulated, his anxious thoughts take over. He becomes convinced he cannot do what I'm asking. The flopping starts. The baby talk starts. The falling all over the place starts.

And it doesn't stop – even when the schooling stopped. Everything was long done and put away by the time Dude came home from Head Start. TT went upstairs and was trying to make a stop-motion video with his legos. Dude seemed to be very interested in things and wouldn't leave TT alone. Rather than ask for help, TT FREAKED out!

He came downstairs next to me, flopped on the floor and then literally "forgot how to get up". I cannot begin to describe this accurately. Only someone that's seen this kind of stuck behavior would really understand. TT was on the floor by a corner and could not get back up.

He begged me to help him up. I knew that if I did, things would only escalate.

So instead, I got down on the floor with him. I laid down right next to him. I continued to empathize with him. I said it must be very scary to not be able to get up off the floor.

When he started to scream at me to move, I played his game. I told him I couldn't remember how. The small smile behind the freak out told me I was headed in the right direction.

He was still stuck though. Very, very stuck.

So, I tried another tactic. I acted like I suddenly remembered I needed to do something. (See Christine Moers' video "when our kids are stuck" on YouTube.) I acted like I remembered how to get up. I verbalized the entire process. As I was doing this, saying things like, "Oh yeah, my hands go here and I push up with my arms," I added in things like, "Oh my! I just remembered I need to do something. Come on TT. Come with me. I need to do something." When he continued to lay on the floor, flop and whine, I walked away and out of his eyesight.

He was curious. Not curious enough to come with me. But I had his attention. He kept calling out my name. Despite the fact he had spent the last five minutes telling me to go away, he was now calling at me telling me to come back.

I came around the corner, ignored the fit and said again, "I just remembered. I need to do something. Come on. Come quick. Come with me TT." We went back and forth for awhile.

Eventually he let me take him by the hand and help him up. I moved quickly as far away from the fit spot as I could go. Unfortunately, because I've got foster kids, I can't just up and leave the house. This would not be practical with three extra kids with me and I can't leave them in the care of anyone but Mr. Amazing...and he wasn't home from work yet. So, TT and I went up to my room. I shut the door and continued to act a bit frantic myself. Like I was looking for something.

By now TT knew exactly what I was up to. He somewhat flopped down on my bed. It wasn't a "fit flop" though. It was more of a relief flop.

The end of this wasn't all fantastic and earth shattering. But we did get a chance to reconnect. He let me touch him. He made eye contact with me. He accepted my love and returned it. And we talked about a couple things he could do to avoid having issues with Dude like that again.

The rest of the evening has been freak-out free. I'm hoping that now that I know what the trigger is, I can possibly head things off tomorrow before they start. I'm certainly not holding my breath. But it's worth a try.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

generic ranting

Warning...this is just a vent. No real content here. I'm just losing my mind.

*** I got a call yesterday. Head Start finally got things ready for Dude to start to school too.

*** I woke up bright and early at 5:30 when the alarm rang. Mr. Amazing had asked me to make him breakfast. I really, really didn't want to. I really, really didn't have enough time. Honestly, he needs to drag his rear end out of bed when his alarm goes off at 5:30 so that he'll have enough time. But, me being who I am, I made him breakfast anyway. I'm not one of those long haired, skirt wearing, super submissive wives (please don't take offense if you are one, I'm just trying to describe who I am and who I'm not) But I do like to take care of my husband!!

*** I got Pumpkin up and got her ready for school. My day started, like most do, with a mega disgusting diaper. The child has taken to filling her britches sometime between 10:00PM when I check her at night and 6:00AM when I wake her up. I will NOT miss the diapers when she leaves!

*** TT and Bart got up. Things seemed fine. Herman even woke up on time without issue.

*** I woke up Dude and Dolly. They both ate breakfast at home. (Yes, I know they'll feed Dude at school but I like to make my kids start the day with something healthy. They can eat more at school if they want.) Dude was super scared all morning. Just the mention of school made him get the deer in the headlight look. I did manage to get a couple adorable first day of school pics though. He's an awfully cute little kid!!!

*** Drop-off at Head Start went OK enough. I had to fill out a ton more paperwork. Dude didn't freak out. He was scared but he didn't cry. I felt so bad for him. I tried to convey to the teacher that Dude may have some special needs because of his life's circumstances. I tried as hard as I could to tell her to cut him some slack. I was speaking in code though because of all the parents and kids right around us. I do hope she understood!!!!

*** About 20 minutes after I got back in the house I got a call from the elementary. Pumpkin had a seizure this morning and someone at school actually saw it. Pumpkin was very agitated afterward so I drove to the school to bring her the break-through seizure medicine. Of course, I had to drag Dolly with me on all the errands. Thankfully Herman can take care of TT and Bart legally.

*** I tried to get my little ones going with their school for the day. This homeschooling stuff is not going to be easy!! Bart is bored to tears with his curriculum. But we JUST started. He's still in the review stage of things. I'm asking him to do all the worksheets though so I don't miss anything that he might not know well. He's also incredibly jealous of his brothers that are in online school. He wants to do what they are doing. As much as I try to explain that their school doesn't take kids until 3rd grade, he won't listen. He just gets mad.

*** The bus didn't come to pick up Dolly for preK. I had her ready by 10:30 figuring the bus would arrive within the next 15 minutes. They assured me yesterday that the transportation department had received all the enrollments and that Dolly should get picked up finally. Right around 11:00 I called the transportation department. They paged the bus and said it'd be 5 minutes. The bus had skipped her but they would come back. Nearly 25 minutes later I finally got in the car to drive Dolly myself. No one was picking up at the transportation department when I called. As I rounded the corner at the end of our block I saw a bus down the wrong street. I flagged them down and transferred Dolly to the bus.

*** During the 8 minutes I was gone doing this TT and Bart got into a massive fight.

*** TT then spiraled down, down, down. He did not like going to brick and mortar school. He was looking forward to being homeschooled. He said he wants to be home with me. But his anxiety is getting the better of him every single day. (And we are only on day three!!) My therapeutic mojo is waning. I know we will get through this. We do each and every single time. But right now, this is challenging stuff. He's freaking out over the littlest things like spelling words, reading and writing. I'm putting NO pressure on him. Shoot...we're only on day three! But he's acting like he can't do anything.

*** Bart blew up first thing in the morning. After he calmed down he got to his work without issue. Of course, this is when TT started freaking out. And then as Bart confidently talked to me about all his work, TT got more and more anxious about his. aaccckkkk!!!

*** I haven't gotten any freelancing done all day. I'm exhausted. My kitchen is a disaster. And TT keeps on spiraling down, down, down. I've got two hours left until I have to leave to pick up Dude from Head Start. I doubt I'm going to get anything productive done today.

Rant over. If you're still here...I know it won't always be this stressful. Maybe Bart will finish the story he's writing so the boys can get in the kitchen to make dinner. I promised them they could cook today. Maybe I'll make it through the afternoon without going nuts. I already cancelled speech therapy with Pumpkin because of her seizure this morning. It's too likely that she'll be tired and uncooperative. I'm praying that CPS will let me know more about when they're planning on moving Pumpkin to her aunt and uncle's. With my luck they'll want me to fly across the state yet this week. Oh joy.

Happy Wednesday!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tooth fairy

Pumpkin saw the dentist yesterday. Despite how much I have to put my fingers in her mouth to brush her teeth, I hadn't noticed that she had a loose tooth in front.

Tonight though, as I moved her mouth around to start the process, I noticed a new hole in the front.

No wonder she had been chewing on her fingers all afternoon.

I have no idea when the tooth came out. I have no way to explain it to her. I couldn't even get a picture of the new toothless smile. (Pumpkin rarely smiles - and NEVER for the camera.)

Congratulations anyway Pumpkin. You're growing up.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

An important phone call

I had to leave somewhat unexpectedly with Dolly yesterday afternoon. The short of the story is that she didn't get her vaccinations at last year's annual exam and NO ONE told me until yesterday when I got a phone call from the school. In order for Dolly to be able to go to preK on Monday when it starts, I had to take her to the doctor immediately.

That left Mr. Amazing at home with the rest of the cherubs. (Praise God he had the day off yesterday!! We were at the doctor's for f.i.v.e. hours!) I left during Dude's nap so when he woke up he was pretty much left to play by himself.

Mr. Amazing first noted that Dude was most upset by the fact that I was gone. He didn't even ask about his sister. He seemed fine overall though when told where we were.

If you want to know what your kids are feeling – watch them play.

Playing by himself, Dude revealed a lot yesterday. For example, here's a phone call he had "with me".
Mom, where you go? Why you not bring me? Mom, I mad at you. That's it. Bye!
It was obvious to Mr. Amazing that Dude was NOT referring just to the events of that particular afternoon. Dude was dealing with all that happened this summer.

Dude spent 54 days not processing all that was going on. From all that I've been able to gather, they weren't told why they had to leave. They weren't told anything. And...I guess they didn't even ask about it. They just rolled with the punches.

Now maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Mamma R did talk things over with them. But when I ask the kids why they had to leave this summer, both immediately shut down and look sad. They don't even have some kind of an answer for me like "the social worker said". I'm trying to help them through this. I've told them hundreds of times that I didn't want them to go. And, because it's all over with, I simplified things and said that it was "up to the judge". I'm not sure what I would have told children if I was the one providing emergency respite. But somehow it seems wrong to have not talked about it at all.

The other thing that leads me to think they didn't process much was a small (but very powerful) statement Mamma R made to Dude the day we made the transfer a couple weeks ago. Dude was sitting on a bench crying. It was a deep soulful cry. He was mad at me and confused by everything. I was having to move all of their belongings into my vehicle. And, given his obvious anger toward me, I left the comforting to Mamma R. TT was sitting on the bench with Dude when he heard Mamma R tell Dude that he needed to stop crying. She told him, "big boys don't cry."

That statement pissed TT off!! That's NOT how we handle emotions in our house! Every single person is allowed to feel their honest emotions just as they are. Feelings are validated. Granted, we have to have lots of conversations about how to handle said big feelings. (Punching, hitting, screaming, throwing things, etc. is not allowed.) But crying is something that is always OK.

TT told me what Mamma R had said on the car ride home.

So I have spent the last couple weeks making sure to let Dude know it's OK to be angry at me. I let him know that I would have been angry if it had been me. I have told him that we all cried a lot when he left. I've tried to give him words to help him express the confusion he must have felt. This hasn't been an easy process because Dude shuts down immediately the minute I try to talk about things with him. I do not want to put words in his mouth. But I do want him to know that the feelings he has are valid.

Seems I must be doing pretty good. Mr. Amazing said that when Dude hung up the pretend phone call  there was a certain finality to it. A tear came to my eye. I hate that he even had to experience the removal this summer. But I smiled thinking about all the healing that has been able to take place in such a short time.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Once bitten...

It's amazing how much different I feel during home visits now. I used to not think twice. "Come on in. Ask anything you want. I'll show you the whole house."

Now... not so much.

Rainbow is here with the littlest cherubs up in their room talking. I've got a pit in my stomach. I still don't have a single thing to hide. But, once bitten...twice shy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pumpkin is moving

I just got out of court with Pumpkin. Pumpkin is going to be moving across the state and in with her aunt and uncle.

Bio mom didn't show. But due to an increase in her own personal medical needs, Mom is no longer fighting the idea of Pumpkin moving to her aunt and uncle's home. She finally recognizes that she is unable to care for Pumpkin. Mom's lawyer was there in agreement with this proposal from the State.

This decision is very much in the best interests of Pumpkin. I met the aunt and (maternal) uncle. They are very good people who I believe truly understand what it will take to raise Pumpkin and care for her for the rest of her life. (Pumpkin is so developmentally delayed that she will never live independently.)

We have a new judge in our county. It was nice to sit through court proceedings without listening to any yelling. The judge didn't call anyone names. He paid attention to the actual case at hand, asked questions and referred back to prior documents. It was sooooooo radically different from the prior judge you can't even imagine it!!

The State would prefer that I be a part of the actual transfer because no one is comfortable in their ability to meet Pumpkin's special needs (especially if she should happen to have a seizure). However, I had to laugh when they asked if I thought my licensing agency would pay to fly me with Pumpkin!! If the State is able to secure the funds, I have agreed to go with her caseworker to make the actual transfer. I did tell them that they will have to work within my schedule. I still have five other children to tend to and school starts on Monday.

I'm glad I got to finally see a case all the way through. Technically though, Pumpkin isn't out of foster care. She will have a worker that will check in on her from time to time. The next court hearing is in January 2013. Visitation was set up so that Pumpkin's mom will have the ability to still see Pumpkin if she wants to. I'm thinking that Mom is ready to drop out of the picture though. She's missed four out of the last five visits and she didn't come to court today.

But Pumpkin will be in her forever home. As time passes they may even be able to adopt her. This is a good thing. Pumpkin deserves finality. Languishing in foster care doesn't do any child any good. (I nearly had to smack a lawyer today that grinned at me and said that she just worked with a child who's been in foster care for nine years. Like that makes Pumpkin's 20 months hardly a big deal at all. Any time that is spent in foster care with no progress being made in the case is too much time in foster care!)

I have quite a bit to do before Pumpkin leaves. I have to get her new leg braces picked up. I need to get a copy of her IEP (the school never sent me one last April). And I'd like for her to stay through the first week in September when she has her next neurological appointment. We'll see what happens.

I am happy for Pumpkin!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My schedule

Up until this year, my daily schedule wasn't too, too crazy. I had one kid at home last year doing school. I had the littlest cherubs at home all day. Pumpkin, TT and Bart went to brick and mortar school. I did drop-off in the morning, but they all rode the bus home. It was really quite do-able.

This year - oh this year - this year is going to be different.

Follow along...

5:30 I will wake up, shower and get ready
6:00 wake up Pumpkin and get her ready, feed her a small breakfast (she'll eat breakfast at school as well - the food is crap though so I usually have her eat something healthy before she leaves)
6:40 Pumpkin will leave on the bus to school
6:45 wake up Dude and Dolly, get them ready for the day (TT and Bart will likely wake at this time as well, but thankfully they can take care of themselves. I will most likely have to drag Herman out of bed myself. If he doesn't wake on his own, he has to pay $5 for my hassle so it's not all bad.)
7:30 take Dude to Head Start
8:00 school will start at home for all of "my" kids
10:30ish Dolly will go on the bus to PreK at the local elementary
12:30 I will pick up Dude from Head Start - they are actually open until 5:30 but I was told that the "learning" portion of the day is only in the morning. I will pick him up after lunch. I don't want him there all day at all! So if they'll let me pick him up I will take them up on it!!
1:00 Dude will take a nap at home
3:40 Dolly and Pumpkin will come home from school on the bus

The only hitch in all this is that I have to figure in a time for each of Pumpkin's therapies. She receives PT, OT and speech each two times a week for 30 minutes each session. (Though I think PT is approved for up to 60 minutes per session.) I don't think it will be feasible for me to work in all these therapies in the afternoon and/or early evening. Bedtime is between 7:30 and 8:00 (shooting for the 7:30 whenever possible). There just aren't enough hours in the day.

I'm not worrying about it yet. As is common in Foster Care Land, I can't think that far ahead. One day at a time is about all I get.

We have court tomorrow. If all goes well, Pumpkin will be moving across the state to her aunt and uncle's sometime in the very near future. I'm praying this is the outcome. Pumpkin deserves some stability! This languishing in foster care for no good reason simply infuriates me!! This aunt and uncle are still interested in raising Pumpkin and caring for her for the rest of Pumpkin's life. (Pumpkin will NEVER live independently!! At best she could end up in a group home for the disabled.)

If Pumpkin stays though, I've got a plan in the back of my head.

Because yeah, I'm going to go ahead and keep Pumpkin. I rescinded my 30 day notice. After my "break" this summer I decided that it would be best for Pumpkin to stay with someone that will continue to fight as hard as I do for her best interests. And my energy was somewhat renewed. I lowered my overall expectations of Pumpkin further and I'm not trying to add new skills to her repertoire. And honestly, having the therapists work with Pumpkin in my home is encouraging to me. I like all of the techs that I've met with this new therapy agency very much! They have realistic goals and want to involve me in them. It makes a difference when I can see progress and have professionals supporting fully what I do and giving me feedback on her abilities.

Here's my plan:
First: I'm going to approach the school and beg and plead for them to let Pumpkin receive her therapies there. If they can spare some space somewhere in the school, Pumpkin will have the least amount of interruption to her day. The therapist would come and work with Pumpkin for 30 minutes and Pumpkin would simply return to class. Granted, this would mean that I wouldn't see the therapist every single day. But I trust that these three techs would do a better job of involving me in Pumpkin's care than the therapists did at her last center.

Second: If the school shoots that down, I'm going to insist that Pumpkin's therapies take place between 8:00-10:00AM or 1:00-3:00PM. I would either bring Pumpkin in to school late or pick her up early. I hate the idea of this as I really would become a taxi!! So much of my day would be spent shuttling kids here and there. But I just don't see how I could fit in 6 different sessions a week and do anything else in the evening.

Court is tomorrow at noon. I'll keep y'all posted.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Repetitive questions

The kids are healing fast. At least it seems that way. Dolly is practically back to "normal". Tons of affection. Honestly, the only big thing I notice that is different is that I can tell the respite family didn't continue working with Dolly on her enunciation. Dolly was in speech therapy up through the spring when I had to discontinue it due to Medicaid issues (me being required to sit in the waiting room during all the therapies for Dolly and Pumpkin). At that time Dolly was very close to being discharged anyway as she had met almost every single goal.

Thankfully Dolly tolerates redirection well. She's slowing down and trying her best to be understood. I am thinking that if she doesn't go to Dallas in September though I'm going to try and get her back in speech therapy. I've found a company that does in home therapies so I would still be able to meet all the rest of my daily obligations.

A small difference in Dolly is the repetitive questions. She asks a lot of them.
Mommy, will we have cereal in the morning?
Can I have a snack later? (lots of asking for snacks period)
Daddy will go to work tomorrow?
Do we go to church?
Will I see my case worker tomorrow?
Mommy, you make food for me every day, right?
After we go to bed we will have breakfast tomorrow?
Mommy, you have to do a lot of work, right?
Are you tired Mommy?
Did you cry when I was gone?
Did my friends cry when Dude and I were gone?
Right Mom, you call us your babies?

I could go on and on.

Dolly is OK when I have to answer her question no. She doesn't seem to mind simple yes answers either. It's not like she's wanting to have a big long discussion each time. She just needs reassurance. She's struggles to ask each question though. As she starts to talk to me, it's almost like the question is stuck in her mind. She's not stuttering, but she is very slow in getting the words out. (It goes back to the speech therapy thing again. Spontaneous speech was harder for her before and it seems to be difficult again.) It takes a lot of patience on my end to wait until she spits out what she's asking.

I can see how this repetitive questioning can become a part of attachment disorder. (I knew it was a symptom before but I never really understood why.)

Dolly is struggling to remember our routines. She's working hard at trusting us again. She wants to make sure that we are going to meet all of her needs. And even though her case file says that she's never been "moved" because all they did was put her on emergency respite - Dolly has lived through moves. Last summer (2011) she had to go to respite for three weeks because the judge would not approve travel with us and our vacation was already on the schedule prior to the cherubs coming to our home. And then this summer...well, we all know they had to leave my house this summer.

Frequent moves confuse children. I had a former foster child tell me she had a hard time remembering people's names, personalities and even their religions. I can imagine how confusing it would be.

It's hard knowing that this minor personality change could have been prevented if she had just been allowed to stay in our home. Or even if they had just been timely in processing the paperwork to clear us!! I can definitely see that it would become a habit if she was moved more. Shoot, even going to her Grandma's in Dallas is going to be a confusing move! I do hope Grandma is prepared!!

But the cherubs are healing. Dolly is quite affectionate and seems to be meshing back in to the family almost like she never left. Dude has warmed up a lot too!! He still doesn't verbally tell me that he loves me yet. But he will tell other people that he loves me. And when I ask him, "Who loves you Dude?" He'll answer, "Mamma L*** and Papi S***". He's even back to answering the follow-up questions that I've been using for the last year. "How much does Mamma L*** love you?" Answer: forever. "Does Mamma L*** love you even when she can't see you?" Answer: yes!

In fact, at nap time for the past four days, Dude's story of choice has been Skinamarink. He wants me to hold him close and tell him how much I love him. This...this is a good thing. Even if he won't say it back, at least he's starting to trust that maybe I really do love him and that I never stopped.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dude doesn't trust me

It hurts to watch Dude. It just plain hurts!!

When he came to me in June of 2011 he was confused and sad. He cried and he cried. (Especially at bedtime!!)

But then he learned to trust me and we bonded. Because his bio mom dropped out of the picture he almost forgot who she was. When being transported to a visit that CPS managed to put together he literally looked for ME when he got to the office. After all, they told him he was going to go see his mom.

He was so full of affection. He opened up out of his shell. Every single member of his bio family commented over the last year about how different Dude became. He was playful. He talked more. He was such happy little guy.

Then he was taken from me without explanation to him. (I was told that the kids didn't really ask about why they had to leave. I don't honestly know how the respite family processed things with the kids. But really - he couldn't have gotten much of an explanation. And anything he was told couldn't have made much sense.)

54 days later Dude came back to my home.

It's breaking my heart to watch Dude. He's so sad.

No one else would see the sadness. I know this. He's smiling and playing with Bart and TT. He's doing all the "things" he used to do before. But there is no spontaneous affection. In fact, there's no affection for anyone at all. Yes, he'll let me hold him. He'll let me hug him. He'll even let me kiss him. But I can see the pain in his heart.

He doesn't trust me anymore.

And when a three year old doesn't trust their primary care giver - well, that's when bad things happen.

I wish I could fix this. I'm not sure what to do exactly. I'm just winging it.

I keep on hugging him. I keep on kissing him. I keep on telling him that I love him.

I tell them both that I didn't want them to go away. I tell them it made me very sad. (I'm blaming everything on the "judge". It's too complex to explain any other way. This judge figurehead is the person that has been the determiner of their fate since they came into my home over a year ago. So I say I'm sorry the judge said you had to go away this summer.) I tell them both I'm happy they came back. And then, because it's very likely they will be leaving me in less than a month, I remind them that I love them even when I can't see them. I tell them that I'm going to love them FOREVER no matter what.

What else can I do?

Nothing.

Only time will heal this. I just have to pray that eventually Dude will trust adults again. Trust them with his affection. As is usual in Foster Care Land...prayer is pretty much all I've got.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

You brush my hair

Dolly: (first thing this morning as I was doing her hair) You brush my hair.

Me: Yes Dolly. I like to brush your hair.

Dolly: You brush my hair 'cept when I was at the other house.

Me: That's right Dolly. I couldn't brush your hair when you were at the other house.

Dolly: I come back. You happy now.

Yes Dolly. You came back and I'm happy now.

Reassurance

For 54 days I have not had to reassure anyone that there would be food on the table at mealtime.

My day has been spent answering a lot of questions. At the heart of most of them is the need for reassurance. These cherubs aren't sure they can trust me anymore.

My heart will never stop aching for children that live with abuse and neglect.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Picking them up

I arrived at the agency this morning before the little cherubs arrived. The agency director saw me and came over to say hi. This is how it went:

Agency Director (AD): Hi Cherub Mamma. How are you? (be sure to read this in the sweetest - most sickeningly syrupy voice possible - she is nice...too nice)

Me: Um...jaded. (I don't hold back. Not even for agency directors.)

AD: Oh. I know. (Again. Super sweet. She was trying to be sympathetic. I wanted to smack her. SHE knows nothing of what I went through!)

I just gave her a half smile. I didn't know what to say and I wasn't going to lie and say everything was fine.

AD: Awww...I know. But you got through this.

Me: Really?! I haven't put them to bed yet tonight. I'm not through anything.

-----

Needless to say this conversation ran through my mind several times over the last half hour as I held those two beautiful but very, very confused cherubs on my lap while they cried their little eyes out.

Neither child could say anything. They just cried. I don't know if they were missing the respite family or their first family or if it was relief they are back here. They just cried.

They're here

I picked them up.

Dolly was shy but seems to be fine with the transition.

Dude is PISSED OFF!
The look he gave his bio mom two weeks after removal last June was nothing compared to the glare I got when he saw me this morning. Thankfully he's interacting with TT and Bart without issue.

I now have to go about the chore of unpacking a ton of clothes and toys.

Emotion is high. But something feels right about this. Not completely right because they never should have left to begin with. But I think it will do my heart good to have them in my home again.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I didn't expect this!

This isn't going to be the most eloquent of posts. My mind is racing and I simply need to process. (Ya know...'cause when everything is a mess, journal for the whole internet to read. LOL)

I got a life altering phone call just before five o'clock tonight. It seems that Dude and Dolly need to come back to my house.

My licensing agency is currently on probation with the state I live in. Because of this, they cannot accept any new placements. Also, they cannot move children already placed through them to another home within their agency.

That means that on paperwork, Dude and Dolly are still in our home. They have just been on "emergency respite" since June 22.

Their CPS worker (Minnie) needs the cherubs to actually be living in the home their paperwork says they are in. She wanted to "officially" move them to the respite home. However, as she discussed this with Rainbow, it became apparent that officially moving the cherubs to the respite home isn't possible as our licensing agency cannot move children. Yes, they could petition the State. But that runs the risk of the State saying no (what they've been saying to our agency all summer all over the state with every request) and the cherubs would have to move yet again. And because my licensing agency is the largest in the state, there aren't very many other beds open and the cherubs would likely end up in a shelter. (At least this is how it was explained to me by Rainbow.)

So Minnie said to move Dude and Dolly back in with us.

I nearly choked. But I said yes.

Mr. Amazing and I had already decided that even though we were in agreement that it would be best for the little ones to stay in that respite home - if for any reason they could not, they need to come back to us rather than go to another home.

I guess they'll be arriving sometime tomorrow or the next day or so. (Rainbow still needed to talk things over with the respite family.)

I don't know what to expect. I'm every emotion under the sun: nervous, angry, hopeful, anxious, hurt, excited, happy, scared, jaded by The System, worried, overwhelmed, etc. etc.

But we made a commitment to these cherubs over a year ago and we aren't going to back out now. I guess we're back to a family of eight again. Please pray!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Unpacking

I can't quite decide if it feels good to have Pumpkin back or if it feels too scary for words.

She has lots of bruises all over her. Normal bruises. NOTHING to be worried about. I'm sure they're from playing outside at the daycare she was at. This is a good thing.

But a small part of me is freaking out. I don't know where any of the marks came from. And after all I just went through...

Her room has been fully unpacked. Pumpkin seemed pleased to see some of her toys. She let me hug her and hold her at bedtime. She is still very, very sad but I'm thinking the transition back here isn't going to be as difficult as I originally anticipated. She isn't talking much, but I don't think she's lost all the skills I had worked so hard to teach her. I got an, "all done," at dinnertime. She was able to climb in and out of the bathtub all on her own. She also remembered how to roll over in the tub. (All of these skills took weeks to months to teach her the first time around.) Pumpkin even remembered where her diapers were kept and was able to fetch me one when I asked at bedtime.

Her room still feels awfully big for just one kid. I do miss those little cherubs a ton. But my heart is healing. I must move on.

(To keep it interesting...we were discussing what ages we MIGHT take if and when Pumpkin moves on to - hopefully - her aunt and uncle's. Who knows where this adventure is going to take us next?!)

50 Days

Pumpkin Pie was gone from my home for 50 days. In those 50 days she did not get her annual physical that was due in early July. Her 6 month dental checkup that had been scheduled for July 31 was cancelled. And her neurologist would barely speak to Pumpkin's social worker when she brought her in for an appointment because Rainbow is not Pumpkin's primary care giver and he needs to know about her daily behaviors.

Pumpkin was also not encouraged to use her walker. In fact, the foster mom that was keeping her didn't even bring it to her home. She told Rainbow she didn't need it. And rather than fight that, Rainbow went ahead and kept it in her office. Now...Pumpkin doesn't need her walker in a home environment. There is plenty of furniture for her to use to help with balance issues. She can walk without assistance. However, she really does need to use it when she's walking community distances (at the doctor, at school, at the CPS office, etc.). Besides, when Pumpkin shows up to a visit with her mom without the walker - what kind of a message does that send to bio mom about Pumpkin's needs?! So now, I have to reacquaint Pumpkin with her walker all over again.

Pumpkin hasn't had any of her therapies. All of those have to be started now. And since it's been longer than 30 days since her initial evaluation with the home health care providers, she's going to have to start all over from the beginning.

Pumpkin's foot braces are filthy. It looks like she was made to wear them without socks. This is detrimental to Pumpkin because she can break out if her skin touches any of the metal hinges. (Pumpkin doesn't look like she has any skin issues - but really, I sent plenty of socks!!)

Pumpkin looks like she lost weight to me. I haven't weighed her yet but her shorts seem to fit on her looser. Pumpkin doesn't like to eat much. She needs a lot of encouragement. I'm betting she didn't get a level of proper encouragement over the last 50 days.

She's barely talking. She's scooting on the floor instead of walking. She's sad. She cried for her sister and her mommy all the way to my home.

I've got my work cut out for me. And a lot of work to do too!! The System that has been designed to keep her safe failed miserably the past 50 days. Their standards just aren't high enough. Yet, this same system is trying to dictate all sorts of stupid things that shouldn't matter at all. I wish they could keep their priorities straight.

Court is in only 11 days. Think I'll get it all done?!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Meeting with Kasey and a new rule that is an outrage

Pumpkin isn't even back in my home yet and I'm having to meet with social workers.

Kasey, Pumpkin's current caseworker from CPS needed to visit with me today.

Sit down. Put your coffee or Diet Coke down. Take a deep breath.

She wanted to stop by today because....she is actually preparing a case for court on the 22nd!!!!

I know. Shocking isn't it?!

We went over the basics. I haven't had to talk about Pumpkin for over 6 weeks now. I hadn't lost my touch though. Kasey thanked me for all my help and told me she's grateful I'm such an expert about Pumpkin's case.

--------

Then, a couple hours later I got a text message from the foster mom that is currently caring for Pumpkin. She informed me of a new rule.

It seems we now have to get permission from a judge at least two weeks in advance of us wanting to leave the county for any reason! This includes day trips of any kind!! No longer can I utilize my season pass at the zoo without permission from a judge! I can't look at the weather on a Wednesday and decide to go to the beach on Saturday. I have to have permission from a judge!! If they are going to be strict with things, I can't bring any of my foster children to events at my licensing agency without permission from a judge because I live in a different county.

I'm so spitting mad I could scream. I called Rainbow immediately to confirm the validity of said new rule. She informed me that she's not been given this information officially – she's only heard it from the mouths of foster parents. When pressed, all I could get from her is it's going to depend on each individual case worker how strict they are going to enforce things. I guess Kasey denied Pumpkin a trip to the beach earlier this summer.

Acccccckkkkkkk!!!

As a foster parent I am supposed to give the kids in my care as "normal" of a life as possible. But I now have to get permission from a judge to leave the county?! Man...The System is messed up!

I'm going to wait and see how my foster parenting adventure proceeds as a whole before I "do" anything. If Pumpkin is placed with her aunt and uncle (as I was told is now the current goal of the State) I could be done fostering completely in just a couple weeks. I won't fight the battle. However, if I'm able, I will take this as high up as necessary to get it changed. Having a rule like this in place just gives the bad foster parents one more reason to not do a damn thing for the kids in their care. It makes it hard for the good parents to do anything extra for the kids. It's so unfair!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

School registration

I'm homeschooling "my" kids this coming year. But because we agreed that Pumpkin should come back to our house (even if it is possibly only for a month), I had to register her for school today.

The process is horrible down here. I've registered my oldest in schools in Iowa, Missouri, Utah and central Texas. Nowhere else have I ever experience this level of disorganization. It took me 3.5 hours to register Pumpkin for second grade this morning!! I had to sit through an orientation (ie: bring your kid to school on time every day). Then I had to wait until my number was called so I could go through nine stations and get my paperwork double checked. Keep in mind, Pumpkin has attended this school for kindergarten and 1st grade - nothing I filled out today was new. Registration was open for previously enrolled students today from 8:30 to 12:30. I arrived at 8:45 and was #93 in line. (I heard that some parents showed up before 7:00AM in hopes of being first in line.)

Throughout the process I had teachers approach me with, "Oh hi Cherub Mamma! How are you? How was your summer?" (all sing-songy...like they really cared...which they really don't)

It hurt to simply say, "fine".

I so wanted to scream...
"My summer totally sucked! I was falsely accused of a heinous crime and three children that call me mom were ripped out of my home. And now, the two that I would love to parent forever have to live somewhere else. But I'm just fine. F.I.N.E. fine! I'm thrilled to spend my entire morning here during one of my last free summer days registering a child that pretty much hates my guts. And shoot - I'm not even getting a per diem for this time suck! But my summer was great."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Another Delay

When I got the call yesterday about Pumpkin, my initial reaction was, "NO!" No! No! No!
I don't WANT to do this fostering stuff anymore. No! No! No!

For Pete's sake...The System totally turned my entire life upside down this summer. And this upside down has been more upside down than just being a "normal" foster family. I was accused of abuse and my three foster children were ripped from my home.

Now... now "they" say all is well?! No citations. We didn't do anything wrong. Let's just go back to business like usual?!

But it isn't business like usual. The two children I was madly in love with are still in foster care but they aren't in MY home. And the one child who is so challenging to care for 24 hours a day / 7 days a week / 365 days a year is the one that IS allowed to come back to my home.

I wanted to stomp my feet and scream NO!

Instead, I told Rainbow that I needed to talk it over with Mr. Amazing.
I said I'd call her back right away.

The first thing I did was call My Genius Sister. I wanted her to validate my "no".
She didn't answer.

(And yes, I do often turn to My Genius Sister first. My hubby and I have an arrangement that he is just thrilled with. If I need to "process" something difficult he's totally OK with me calling My Genius Sister first. That way I can get all the word vomit out of my system. When I talk to him about the situation at hand I'll have things narrowed down to a better Reader's Digest sort of version. I have a tendency to want to talk a lot more than Mr. Amazing does.)

I had to talk to someone though. And since this is something Mr. Amazing and I really needed to officially decide together, I called him.
He didn't answer.

OK...now I was just plain freaking out. This was a huge decision! I had to process! I had to decide!! Aacckkkkk!!!

I sent a text message to Mr. Amazing.
I sent a text message to My Genius Sister.

Neither one answered me.

Then I did what I should have done all along.
I prayed.

God answered me. He told me to wait for Mr. Amazing.

I didn't like that answer. I'm not a fan of being told to wait.

The longer I waited the more freaked out I got. I kept praying. God kept telling me to talk to my husband. I tried to reason with God and tell Him that I promised Rainbow that I'd call her right back. He practically laughed at me and then reminded me that The System kept me in limbo for 6 weeks. If they have to wait 60 minutes for an answer that will be OK.

I waited for what seemed like forever when finally Mr. Amazing sent me a text back: "I think it's best for her to come back. She will get her services and go to the same school. Plus it might help me not feel like a failure with this."

I had an immediate peace. Followed with an immediate sense of insanity. We sent several text messages back and forth. He seemed so calm and ready to dive back in. So, I trusted Mr. Amazing and called Rainbow with our answer.
She didn't answer.

It seems no one wanted to actually talk to me about any of this!

I sent Rainbow a text letting her know our answer. After much delay she called me back to let me know how the transfer back to our home would work.

As is typical of The System, nothing can go smoothly.

I am in need of my CPR / First Aid training class. My two year card expired late July. I had originally planned on getting the training in June when it was offered at our agency. However, my agency cancelled that class. When Rainbow told me this I was miffed. How was I going to get this training?! Yes, I suppose I could try and find a class through the American Heart Association or something. But that would cost me money and training through our agency is free. I couldn't take the upcoming class in July because I was going to be out of state.

Rainbow said that it really wouldn't be a problem. She said I could take the class being offered August 11 and all I'd get is a very minor cite on my file. And because of the circumstances being out of my control, it wouldn't be an issue.

Apparently it is an issue now. Pumpkin can't come back to my home until I complete the refresher class.

In a way I was relieved. I have to do a few things to get ready to foster again. Medicines that have made their way out of the lock box need to find their way back in. I have to unpack all of Pumpkin's things. I have to bring her toys back down to the main floor living room. I have to prepare my heart and mind for all that this is going to do to our family.

So, as is typical of The System, there is another delay for me to weather. Pumpkin will come back to our home on Saturday as soon as I'm finished with CPR / First Aid. For this particular wait though, I guess I am grateful.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Nervous!!

I'm almost shaking I'm so nervous.

I agreed to let Pumpkin come back to our home. (CPS finally got around to deciding how they felt about the whole thing.)

This means my stack of paperwork to reverify our home needs to be done. I have to find all the meds and lock them back up. I need to put the vodka back in the locked fridge. I have to unpack all of Pumpkin's things. I have to bring some toys back downstairs to our living room. (I don't think it's safe for Pumpkin to play upstairs in the playroom alone.) And I have to get ready to enroll Pumpkin in school.

I seriously thought Mr. Amazing would say "no" when I double checked with him this morning. His response is similar to mine though. Pumpkin will get to go back to the same school. She will get her services. And we might not feel like such failures as foster parents after all the drama this summer brought to our home.

Pray for us. I think I'm certifiable this time around.

Oh yeah, court is in two weeks. Nothing like jumping in with both feet!!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Things

I took Dude and Dolly's things to my licensing agency. All of their belongings filled the back of my Suburban. I trust that Rainbow will actually get everything to the cherubs. I cried as I left the building. The ending to this chapter in my life so totally sucks.

All that's left is for me to physically make their photo albums. Due to the nature of their case, it really wasn't feasible for me to make what most people think of as a "Life Book". The children themselves couldn't tell me much about their past before coming in to Care; and we had rather limited contact with any bio family. Last, the children are slated to stay within their family unit. So, all I'm planning on documenting for the cherubs is their time actually in my home. I've done this for all my other cherubs by building a book on the WalMart website. They are so simple to make and look so nice when printed. I'm going to make a separate hardcover book with different photos for each child.

I saw Debby, the foster mom who is caring for Pumpkin right now. We hugged quickly and I gave her a bunch more diapers for Pumpkin. Everyone assures me that Pumpkin is fine. Rainbow now seems to think that Pumpkin WILL come back to our home. All we're waiting for is an OK from a supervisor at CPS. It looks like we will maintain our foster parent license for awhile longer. (Sigh - that means I'll be spending all next Saturday at CPS/First Aid with the most boring nurse teacher on the planet.)

I told Rainbow that if Dude and Dolly DON'T go to Dallas in September, I want them back. If for some reason they do not go...that means there are still professionals arguing for their best interests. It would mean that the children would have been in Care for 15 months. It would mean I might have the slimmest of slim chances that we could adopt them. It would also give me three more months to try and undo the damage that this investigation did to them. Realistically I know this isn't going to happen. I'm not stupid or suddenly naive. But I guess I just don't want to slam that door shut and lock it if I don't have to. Rainbow seems to think that Dude and Dolly are going to remain in their current placement under the umbrella "Emergency Respite". Technically, that leaves Mr. Amazing and I on all the paperwork. If (if if if if if if if) the cherubs did not go to Dallas in September, it's not unthinkable that they could return to our home. Rainbow didn't think it would be a huge problem.

No fancy ending for this post. So I'll use my standard "Foster Care Sucks" ending. 'Cause damn, this sucks!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Still waiting

Nobody from CPS seems to want to answer Rainbow's calls so I still don't know if Pumpkin is going to come back to my home or not.

I guess they're in court or something today???

Ms. Agency Director will be back in the office on Friday. I was told she will try to pull some strings at that time.

Our two year fostering anniversary is up this month. We have to reverify our home by the end of the month if we want to keep our fostering license. I have a huge stack of paperwork to do if Pumpkin comes. Or a huge stack of paperwork to throw away if she doesn't.

<< sigh >>

Waiting sucks!