Friday, November 30, 2012

It is NOT all bad

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

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

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

Anxiety...for the millionth time

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

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

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

I am NOT proud of my response.

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

I'm 'bout worn out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOPE.

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

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

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

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

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

All. Night. Long.

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

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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Confession

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the visit aftermath...

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

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

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

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

And this morning...

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

update in bullet points

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I'm Thankful

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

But today I see the error of my thinking.

I have done a lot of things differently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The kids know a bit of what to expect.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

PreK crap

I need advice.

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

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

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

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

Do I need to say anything to the teacher?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Visit recap

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

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

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

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

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

So basically, visit day sucks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Visits

It is amazing the incredible let-down I feel on Tuesdays at 5:00 when I find out that yes, Mom did confirm for a family visit tomorrow. (Per court orders she is to confirm a visit 24 hours in advance. The visits are supposed to be on Wednesdays from 1:00 to 3:00. But as long as Mom calls sometime on Tuesday before Minnie is done for the day, Minnie says the visit is on.)

I hate to sound so negative. But it seems so pointless.

And now that the kids know what to expect (all four of my little ones)...I can pretty much write off the entire damn day. Dysregulation will abound.

I struggle to see the good in this.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Syringe situation - minor update

Rainbow stopped by on her way to work this morning to pick up Christmas presents I've been buying for kids in Care. It wasn't an "official" visit but we did chat for just a couple seconds.

There is no need for me to call the hotline about the syringe I found last night.

Most likely, Minnie will simply be told to be "more careful" and the entire situation will be blown off.

As freaked out as I am by it all, it's probably going to end up being a non-issue to all involved.

I hate foster care!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My cherubs are back from Grandma's again

Minnie and I spoke briefly when she dropped the children off after their "monitored" visit with Grandma N in Dallas.
  • Bio Dad looks like Hell (per Minnie). She made it very clear to him that there is NO option of reunification with him.
  • Bio Mom called Grandma N over the weekend. She was under the influence of something. There is NO option of reunification with mom either. (Minnie's supervisor is in full agreement with this. The bio parents are NOT a reunification option. It is only Grandma N that the State has as a viable option --- unless of course we ever were to be considered.)
  • Dude and Dolly fought some on the way to Dallas. (This is not typical of the children.)
  • Dude threw a huge tantrum on the way home from Dallas. (This is not typical of Dude.)
  • Dude and Dolly fought horribly on the way home from Dallas. (This is not typical at all.)
--- Think maybe these visits are really, really hard on the kids?!
  • As I unpacked their duffel bag I noticed that all the clothes looked clean. Dolly told me she wore one outfit all day Saturday, slept in it Saturday night and wore it again all day today. I sent three outfits for their two night trip.
  • As I unpacked their duffel bag I also found this:
I immediately phoned Minnie and asked her if Grandma N has diabetes. I informed her of what I found. Minnie hung up with me to call Grandma N.

Minnie called me back to say that yes, Grandma N does have diabetes but she does not take insulin. Minnie asked me to send her a photo of the syringe.

I sent the pic to Minnie on her phone. I also covered my bases and immediately sent a text to Rainbow as well. (I completely bypassed the on-call worker and went straight to MY worker. Rainbow is awesome. I figured she'd help me and use the most logic possible.) Rainbow asked me to send her the pic. When she got it, she then asked me to send it again in an email.

Minnie sent me a text back saying that she will staff this "situation" with her supervisor tomorrow. She agreed that it's worrisome but then followed that with, "I went through the checkpoint at the airport without problems." I certainly hope she doesn't think that this ended up in the babies' bag at the airport. I find that hard to believe.

And last, the children told me again that other family members live with Grandma N in her two bedroom apartment. These are people that have NOT been part of any home study. And again, for the third month in a row, Dude and Dolly slept in bed with their grandma.

I'm trying really hard to not freak out. But this is really, really hard.

And yes, I will be calling the cherubs' lawyer tomorrow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Breathing deeply...trying to not get excited

I told myself all weekend to put together a list of things I wanted to talk about with the cherubs' lawyer. I was hoping she would call me back soon. But...living where I do...and this being foster care and all...I honestly didn't think she'd call me back without me making another phone call in to her first. I mean really, I had called her on Thursday in the late afternoon. It's only Monday morning. Nobody returns calls down here.

My phone brought up a strange phone number from out of town this morning at about 9:00AM though. I answered and was surprised to hear their lawyer apologizing to me for not calling me back sooner.

I guess I had to wing my topics of conversation.

The first thing I did was ask the lawyer how much she had learned about the case after court back in September. Because again...the track record I've had down here with lawyers and foster care isn't that good. I didn't expect her to know much about the case at all. (Keep in mind, she was handed this case initially just minutes before our case was officially called. She knew NOTHING of anything back in September when we met before the judge.)

She was honest. She said she had looked through things. But then she shared that because this case was initially handled by a different lawyer, not all the information was passed over to her. She went on to say that she's done some discovery herself but she's still waiting for CPS to release some information for her files.

So...I started in.
  • The first thing the lawyer said was, "The kids don't know Grandma, right?" I said, "no, not really," and explained that the children did not know Grandma N (in Dallas) at all before coming in to Care. She was a complete stranger to them!
  • After coming in to Care, Grandma N has done NOTHING on her own to start to build a relationship with the cherubs. The only contact Grandma has had has been initiated and paid for by the State.
  • The cherubs express a desire to stay with us forever. I was honest and said that Dolly is more curious about her bio family and is more confused following a visit. But ultimately, both children tell me almost daily that they want to stay with us. They do not want to live in Dallas.
  • I told the lawyer (let's call her Melody) that CPS is completely convinced that Grandma N lives alone in her two bedroom apartment. CPS believes all the extra people are just visiting. I made sure to be clear that this is all speculation, but I told her the maternal side of the family believes otherwise. Several family members have stated that Grandma N lives with multiple people in her home. No one else has been a part of the home study. But after both visits, the cherubs reported that they slept in their grandma's bed with their grandma.
Melody asked me if anyone had talked to Bio Mom and Dad about termination. My jaw just about dropped. I explained that termination has NEVER been discussed. The State has made it very clear that reunification with Bio Mom or Bio Dad is not an option. I told Melody the only thing the State has ever put up for placement is living with Grandma N.

Melody followed this part of the conversation with something that just about dropped me to the floor.
"Well, as their Guardian, I should be able to...now, don't go getting your hopes up...but I should be able to present you as an option for guardianship (aka PMC). It would be in their best interests. I should be able to. Then, from what I've been learning about all this, it would be possible for you to petition for adoption."
I heard everything else she had to say...but my head and my heart were racing. This is the first person to say this is a possibility and to actually say that they will see what they can do about it. CPS has been sympathetic to us all along. (Except Minnie – she's weird. I think she says whatever she wants just to keep everyone happy. I think she just wants the kids to go to Grandma's so she can be done with the case whether or not it's in their best interests.)

I told Melody – just like I've told everyone else – we would be willing to have as open of a relationship with the bio family as is safe for the children.

Melody was getting ready to walk in to court as we were speaking. She assured me she would talk to Minnie about case details. I also mentioned how we would like to take the kids to Iowa over Christmas and how Minnie blew this off on Friday. We need the judge to give us permission and to sign off on it today if at all possible. Melody was going to try and take care of this as well.

I'm NOT getting my hopes up. But wow – I think I really like this new lawyer.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Big Feeling City

Dude has pitched a tent and is taking up residence in Big Feeling City. I feel so bad for him.

He and Dolly had a visit today. Because it was Mr. Amazing's day off, he volunteered to do the driving and the waiting. The other cherubs had a lot of school work to do so I gladly took him up on it. (Mr. Amazing is a terrific dad and a wonderful teacher but he's still learning how the online school works on an intimate level.) Dude and Dolly said goodbye without too much fanfare and they took off for the hour long trek west.

Once in town, Mr. Amazing swung by a fast food joint to pick up some lunch for the cherubs. I didn't want to rely on Mom to bring food and this particular visit was scheduled from 11:00 to 1:00 in the CPS office. I told Minnie ahead of time that we would provide lunch. Mom wasn't there for the visit yet – she was late. Mr. Amazing must have a certain presence about him though. When Mom is late for me, I'm told to wait in the front waiting room and to page back to CPS when she arrives. Today, the worker took the children back with their lunch and let Mr. Amazing leave. They agreed that Minnie would contact Mr. Amazing if Mom never showed.

Mom arrived late. But she arrived. Great Grandma P was there too. I guess she was disappointed to see Mr. Amazing instead of me when the visit was over. But many hugs were shared. GGP is a happy hugger. :)  I guess the transfer back to Mr. Amazing went fine.

Then the drive home...

Dude announced to Mr. Amazing that he wanted to stay in his home town (RGC).

And because Mr. Amazing is just that...amazing...he totally rocked the therapeutic parenting. He validated Dude and said, "OK. You want to stay in RGC." He then followed that up with, "Who's going to take care of you there Dude?"

It's always good to keep the kids thinking. Dude jumped in with both feet and answered, "my caseworker". Mr. Amazing explained that Minnie's job is to make sure he has somewhere safe to live. But it's not her job to take care of him all the time. Dude followed that with, "the police". Again, Mr. Amazing explained that the police keep us safe but they don't take care of us all the time. Then Dude started grasping at straws. His answers got just plain silly. He said that the trees would take care of him. The buildings. The trucks. Mr. Amazing never lost his cool. He played along with Dude and simply explained that none of those things could take care of him. Dude then looked out the window and started saying, somewhat defeated, "The fireman won't take care of me. The store people won't take care of me. The restaurant won't take care of me."

Finally, when asked again who would take care of him, Dude answered, "Mamma L***".

Mr. Amazing said, "Well then, we had better go home."

-------

Never once did Dude say his bio mom. Or his Grandma N. Or even Great Grandma P.

When it comes to who actually takes care of Dude it's me and Mr. Amazing.

--------

Great Grandma P (GGP) asked Mr. Amazing to tell me to call her. I did. She answered right away. We chatted for quite awhile. She's upset that the children have another visit scheduled in Dallas next weekend. She's frustrated that Grandma N gets to see the kids in an unsupervised setting. She doesn't want the kids to be moved to Dallas at all.

I explained to GGP that Grandma N in Dallas gets to see the kids unsupervised because she passed a home study.  The children's dad doesn't get to see them unsupervised. And...obviously...neither does their mom. GGP tags along with Mom's visits so GGP only gets to see the kids in a supervised setting.

I don't think she's upset about her lot in life. She's happy to just get to see the kids. But I know GGP doesn't think the kids are safe in Dallas. GGP doesn't think the children should see Grandma N unsupervised.

The conversation was an interesting one. I think GGP knew the realities of everything I was saying. She too (just like her great grandson) was grasping at straws. Finally I asked her, "What does Bio Mom want? Does Bio Mom still want the kids to go to Dallas?"

GGP didn't know the answer to that question. So, stepping out on a limb I told her, "Bio Mom could change her mind. She could say she doesn't want the kids in Dallas with Grandma N. I'm not sure what would happen exactly but they do have to listen to her wants here. Her say still matters. She could say that she wants us to get PMC instead of Grandma N."

I then explained to Great Grandma P that Grandma N is likely to be granted PMC in January. This is permanent. And the only way Bio Mom would get the kids back is if she hired a lawyer. I told her that Bio Mom could ask that the children stay with us and that we be granted PMC instead.

Honestly, I have no idea if Bio Mom were to "wish" this instead of Dallas if the State would change their goals or not. But I felt like I had to toss it out there.

They are not going to terminate rights. But Bio Mom is not going to get her kids back...ever.

So tonight, we all have big feelings.

And like I told GGP on the phone, I just want the kids out of foster care. Foster care sucks!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Phone call from a teacher

Ms. M: "Hi there. This is Ms. M, Dude's teacher. How are you today?"

Cherub Mamma: "I'm fine. Thank you."

Ms. M: "I'm calling today about Dude. Has anything changed at home? Is there anything different? Because we're seeing a lot of new behaviors here at school."

Cherub Mamma: "Noooooo...nothing new per se. What's happening?"

Ms. M: "He's become a lot more defiant. He's refusing to do work. He's sassing. And lately he's started hitting. He hit two little girls and one little boy. It used to be just that he had a difficult time doing his seat work. But lately he's telling us he's not going to do any of it. He's been refusing to do lots of the things he's supposed to throughout the day. And yesterday he was making fun of the littler class when he could hear a younger child crying in another room."

Cherub Mamma: "Weeeelllll....I don't know what to say. I mean, I guess this could be linked to the increased contact with his bio family. Being in foster care is very, very difficult. Dude is becoming much more aware of the realities of his life. When he first came he didn't know what foster care was. In fact, he really liked it here. He didn't understand at all why his sister was sad. But now...now I have to answer so many of their questions with, 'I don't know.' This is really difficult stuff for them. Just this morning the cherubs were asking me about how we will do Halloween next year and I had to tell them the truth. I had to tell them that they will most likely be in Dallas next year at Halloween."

Ms. M: "Well, it's been going on all this week. I've had a different schedule since Monday, I've been coming in late. And when I get here my assistant tells me how difficult Dude has been." (She then went on to describe in detail several different incidents.)

Cherub Mamma: "Ya know, the change in routine there at school is probably contributing to it too. Even something as simple as you coming in later could be difficult for Dude. And, well, Halloween. I'm sure that's part of it too."

Ms. M: "The entire class has been difficult all day. It's just that Dude is hitting and sassing so much."

Cherub Mamma: "Thank you for keeping me informed. I do need to know this. Though, as I'm sure you know, there is very little I can do about it. But I do need to keep his social worker in the loop with behaviors like this. He's too little for therapy. But I will talk to him for sure. I'm sure part of it is your new schedule. Maybe things will go back to a more normal state next week when you're coming in at the time he's used to. I'm sure part of it is Halloween too. He was excited about the party and all but it was very overwhelming to him at the same time. And last, I'm quite sure this is because of foster care in general. He knows that he has no control over any part of his life right now and it's very frustrating for him. He's going to try and get control whenever and wherever he can. Yes, I'll talk to him. And no, it's not OK. But really....it's understandable."

------

Thus is foster care. Dude is pissed. He's getting tired of all his questions being answered with, "I don't know." He hates hearing about visits to his mom and to Dallas. He hates hearing about court and that damned judge that gets to decide everything for him.

And honestly -- the other triggers are so obvious to me. I'm surprised the teacher even called. She's a very good, and rather "seasoned" teacher. I'm surprised she didn't make the connection that her change in schedule, coupled with a holiday in the middle of the week, smothered with foster care trauma could be difficult for Dude.

I went over everything again with Ms. M when I went to pick up Dude from school. He had even upped the ante some. During the time she was on the phone with me this morning, Dude got angry and bit another child! I'm slightly scared. That kind of behavior can get him in a LOT of trouble!

I hope I explained it all OK enough to the teacher. I hope she can be compassionate and help him with his big feelings. Yes, the behavior needs to be addressed. But come on now...he's three. SHE is going to have to deal with it immediately after it happens. I'm sorry if all she can do is a time out for three minutes. But that's all I've really got in my arsenal too. (Not that spanking would be remotely appropriate for this - it wouldn't!!) It'd be beyond stupid for me to put him in time out for behavior that took place at school though!!! He'd never make that connection!! She's going to have to handle things at school herself.

I did have a talk with my three biggest cherubs about some things we have to change up right now. All rough-housing and physical play has to cease for awhile. No guns made out of Trio's. No running in the playroom. Things do have to stay a bit calm. I don't want to give Dude a reason to get agitated at home. This has to be coupled with conversation about appropriate behavior with Dude.

And this afternoon after school, when Dude told TT he was going to hit him and make him cry like a baby, Dude was immediately brought inside. He was made to play alone close to me.

And tonight, when Dude was playing with his Weeble Wobbles and I heard him put one of them in the corner for biting – I knew that Dude does know right from wrong. He knows what he's doing isn't OK.

Lord give me what I need to help this precious three year old deal with the CRAP that is foster care!