Monday, January 28, 2013

Maybe Days... a book review

Maybe Days
A Book For Children in Foster Care
By: Jennifer Wilgocki and Marci Kahn Wright
Illustrated by: Alissa Imre Geis


I was asked by Mama Foster to review this book. It's been a long time since I've written a book report. But I figured I'd give this a go.  :)

This book pretty much sums up a child's experience in foster care. There are a lot of questions in foster care and the answer to almost all of them is, "maybe".  The book doesn't exactly tell a story per se. Yet, it does. It's simple enough for most kids but you might lose younger ones that don't exactly understand at all what is happening to them. Thus why I didn't get the book out for Dude and Dolly until recently.

I did read this book with MissArguePants and TurtleTurtle. They didn't get much from it. But honestly, they both knew all about foster care and they didn't like to talk about it. Obviously it didn't make sense to read it to Pumpkin. And when Dude and Dolly came, they didn't understand anything. Honestly, I think they had been passed around so much that they just accepted being with us without much question. It was strange. Very strange. And because they didn't understand English, there was no way I could start out with a book this big. In general, this book is written for elementary aged kids.

I like how the book starts out:
All kids need a grown-up to take care of them.
But sometimes, for different reasons, kids can't live with their mom and dad...or just with their mom...or just with their dad. So sometimes kids need to live somewhere else.
That's what this book is about.

The books goes on to explain a lot of the details about foster care. Like...it's not the kid's fault they are in Care. It lists the main reasons that kids come in to Care. It is very tactfully written! Truthful. But not demeaning to the family of origin. The book covers a lot of the different feelings that foster kids might have about being in Care. Then it got to the part that made Dolly perk right up.
Foster care involves a lot of people who all do different things.
There are the kids...
And there are a whole lot of grown-ups: the parents, the foster parents, the social worker, the therapist, the lawyers and the judge.
The grown-ups have different jobs, but one job they all share is making sure kids get taken care of well.
The book spells out the different roles each of the grown-ups play. Dolly was all ears. I think it increased her trust in me even more when a book told her exactly the same things I've been saying all along. I did simplify things for Dude and Dolly when I read the book. If the things being described on the page didn't apply to Dude and Dolly's case, I paraphrased and left off the details that didn't fit for their story.

No matter what the judge finally decides, kids in foster care have to wait a lot while the grown-ups work on the plan.
While kids are waiting, they sometimes feel worried or angry or scared or confused or many other things.
Waiting can be hard.
When kids ask questions, the grown-ups often say "maybe."
Will I go back to my parents? Maybe.
Will I stay with my foster parents? Maybe.
Will I live with my brothers and sisters again? Maybe.
Will I have more visits with my parents? Maybe.

The book ends by reminding the child that a kid's job is to always be a kid.
And there's no maybe about that.

More than anything, this book can be a great tool for conversation. I highly, highly recommend it for the elementary age group. I could see this being a great book to read right after placement. There are some wonderful notes at the end of the book for foster parents and other adults. If anything, we foster parents could give this book out to our own families to help THEM understand foster care.

Things I learned about Dallas this morning

Dude and Dolly slept in Grandma's bed...again.

Dolly STILL doesn't have a car seat to ride in when she goes to Dallas.

But the children most want to share with me all the stories about the cockroaches.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Back from Dallas again

Dude and Dolly went to Dallas this weekend again. It was a little challenging for me this time. I was instructed to send even less for Dude and Dolly. I sent one small bag with one outfit each for them to wear home, their blankets that they like to cuddle with at bedtime, and winter coats. Grandma was to provide everything else. I tried not to worry.

Overall though, it was a nice weekend with them gone. However, I wasn't away from foster care as I did respite for Angel (the adorable almost-two year old that came for emergency respite right before Christmas). She's still adorable as ever and so easy to take care of. Foster care drama never seems to escape me though. As I went to bathe her Thursday night I noticed a LOT of scratches on her backside. And since she had a family visit scheduled for Friday I felt the need to report it to Rainbow. When Rainbow came to pick her up for the visit on Friday she looked things over. I have to cover my rear end! After the summer from Hell I will not take chances!! Rainbow wasn't concerned but noted things appropriately. The scratches did look self-inflicted to me. Thankfully I caught Angel scratching herself a couple times over the weekend and I was able to confirm with Rainbow that Angel made the marks herself. But still...will the drama ever end?!

On Saturday I got to meet – in person – a mom I had met online in a parenting support group. It was AWESOME to have some adult conversation!! Hi Nancy! Nancy (code name) has a 15 year old that she adopted from Russia. He seemed to fit in seamlessly with the band of boys that hangs out at our house regularly. They all want him to come back to visit again. Me, I just promise that I'll offer you something to drink if you come again. (I was such a laid back host. I completely forgot to offer her anything to drink. I'm used to folks just coming in and helping themselves. LOL)

But then Sunday rolled around and Minnie never even granted me the common courtesy of letting me know when she was bringing Dude and Dolly back. (I knew it was today...I just didn't know when.) Usually she'll send me a text when they get in to the airport. That gives me about 45 minutes 'til they are home. Tonight...nothing. Minnie was lucky I was even here. I was helping put Angel in with her foster dad when they pulled up. 10 minutes later and I was going to be gone running an errand. I told Minnie such but I'm sure she didn't care. I am here after all to do as she wants, when she wants, where she wants and how she wants. She acts so nice to my face. But really....she couldn't tell me when the flight got in?! I hate being treated as poorly as I am by CPS.

Dude and Dolly were the most regulated coming off a weekend visit ever. For this I am grateful!! Usually they are asleep or crying uncontrollably when Minnie pulls up to my house. And if they were asleep, they start crying uncontrollably as soon as they wake up. It's always so difficult for me. Minnie will tell me the trip went fine. And the kids are so shell shocked that they can barely function.

Tonight was better though. Much better. I don't know why. Maybe they slept more at Grandma's? Maybe they ate better? Maybe they are just getting used to this? I'll take it though and I won't complain. They came in the house and didn't get upset at all when I told them we would start getting ready for bed right away. Their bedroom was rearranged due to the new set of shelves I bought today. Even that didn't phase them like it normally would. They were happy to have access to even more toys. They played nicely in their room after baths and went to bed without any drama.

I'm starting to distance myself a bit. Not in a bad way. Certainly not in a detrimental way to the children. But I am starting to do things differently. I used to hold Dude and Dolly on my lap while we sang and and prayed at night. Now I don't offer this up. I tuck them in and still go through the whole routine. But I don't cuddle them if they don't ask. (Plenty of hugs and kisses and lots of touch. Just less of that bonding sort of cuddling that I would do if they were staying.)

I'm also starting to talk about "when" they go to Dallas. If they say something I will tell them that they can tell their lawyer where they want to stay. But honestly, there is no reason for them to not go to Dallas now. And unless something major happens, I need us all to be ready. So I'm using the word "when" more and more. As the children went through their toys tonight they mentioned how we have some of the same toys out in the playroom already. I explained to the cherubs that they need to keep "their" toys in their room so things don't get mixed up. I told them that they need to be able to keep their toys in a place where we can easily pack them up so they can go with the kids to Dallas. Sometimes talk like this will trigger big feelings. Often Dude will loudly declare that he does NOT want to go to Dallas. Tonight though...both kids seem to understand and neither seemed to mind.

I read the book Maybe Days to Dude and Dolly for the first time this week. Then I left the book out on their shelf for them to look at. Dolly took it off the shelf multiple times and looked at it oh so intently by herself. Both kids are becoming more and more aware of their story each and every day. I'm hoping that Dude can process his feelings in a healthy way and (maybe?) stop acting out so much in school. Dolly is doing well though. She's very curious about her bio family and I think she's very torn about where she wants to live. I do think that Dallas is becoming more appealing to both kids as they become more comfortable there.

I was told tonight by Minnie that Bio Mom is doing NOTHING with her case plan. She informed Minnie that she doesn't want to get a job "because she likes to chill during the day". And she doesn't need therapy "because there's nothing wrong with her". Bio Mom is NOT going to get her kids back!!!

I just have to pray that Grandma N is honestly in a position to raise these kids to adulthood. I don't like it. I don't trust the situation. But it is what it is. Court is May 5 for the next decision. I guess we'll find out then.

Foster care sucks.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A radom post about money

I've seen a couple posts recently from folks discussing how they handle their foster parenting per diems. I figured since there isn't too much going on in my life worth reporting on right now, I'd take an opportunity to share how we do things in our house.

First, it's important to note that we are being reimbursed for our expenses after the fact. I know not every state/county/agency does things the same way, so what I'm describing is how it works for us specifically. We don't get any money up front for anything. We had to be able to prove during the licensing process that we are financially able to provide for all of our children prior to any reimbursement.

When the kids are placed with us initially we can save receipts and turn them in to be reimbursed for up to $100 in clothing. This only applies if the children are just entering foster care and is a one time offer. If the kids are being moved from another foster family, there is no clothing allowance.

Once a month we receive a per diem. Since it's public knowledge (available on the Texas DFPS website) I will share that we receive $22.15 per day per (basic) child. The monthly check is sizable in my opinion. And now that the cherubs have been with us for so long we don't have as many big purchases to make. But we're certainly not "making money". We are reimbursed for our time, effort and expenses to raise these children.

Of course all medical expenses are covered by the State at 100%. I know I've said it before but it's worth saying again....do not give out your social security number when filling out medical paperwork for your foster kids. Be careful what you sign. I refuse to sign the section of paperwork stating that I would be responsible should the children's primary insurance (Medicaid) not cover something.

But then we go about the business of living life. As a foster family there are extra expenses for food, water, electricity, and of course the all important gas (and wear and tear on your vehicle) as you transport to the million and one appointments. I'm running the dishwasher at least one extra time per day than I did before. I've got more laundry to do. There are also the extra meals out (or at least brought home) because schedules are a mess due to visits, social workers and other foster care appointments.

I also make it a priority to have "experiences" with the cherubs that without the per diem money we might not be able to afford. It costs a LOT to take a family of seven just about anywhere. But I want to make sure that my cherubs get to experience as much as they possibly can during their time with us. Who knows if they will ever get to have any of these experiences again if they return to their family of origin?! We've gone to the beach, the zoo, Sea World, the aquarium, Iowa, and so many more places.

The other day, while in the shower though, I was thinking about money...and foster parenting...and the things I've purchased just for my bonus cherubs.
See this head of hair? When it's not all up and pretty like this, it reaches down to Dolly's knees. I thought I was doing a good job of washing and rinsing it. I used a ton of water and had her hold her head under the faucet to rinse with clean water. Still, getting all the tangles out was a huge process. Then we went to my parents' house at Christmas and I was able to rinse her hair with one of those shower heads hooked to a hose as opposed to the wall directly. It made an incredible difference!! Her hair had never been so clean.
When we got back from Christmas vacation (and after court of course) I decided it was time to add a fancy-smacy shower head like that for me at home. I personally didn't need one but I knew it would make things better for Dolly.

That meant I had to remove the shower caddy that used to hang below my shower head. The hose on my new shower head got in the way. Still, I needed a place to put shampoo, soap and other shower necessities.
So I rigged up this contraption.

All this for Dolly's hair.

That got me thinking about other things around the house purchased just so we can be a foster family.

We have to have Class K fire extinguisher in our home. Ever priced one of those out? I was able to buy a refurbished one from a local fire safety retailer but it still set me back almost $200. Every two years I get to pay for a home fire inspection. I also get to pay to have all the extinguishers in my home inspected and tagged.

We have several of these lock boxes around the house. They are nearly $50 apiece. I have two for cleaning supplies and one for medicine.

Gotta keep the beer under lock and key too. I'll admit it though, my vodka doesn't always make it back to the locked fridge in the garage. I often just hide it in a cupboard in the kitchen. Shhhhh....don't tell.

Then there is this baby...all because I was told at our last re-licensing inspection that we had to lock up our pitch fork. $600 later (plus some extra fees because Mr. Amazing ended up needing some help with installation) we are now able to lock up our pitch fork. No, our bonus cherubs were never allowed in the garage before. And yes, the pitch fork was hanging neatly from hooks on the wall. Everything was perfectly safe. But now...we are oh so much safer because it is under lock and key. (be sure to read that with plenty of sarcasm!) We could have gone with a smaller cabinet so technically it wouldn't have to have cost quite as much as it did. But I also had to find room for a couple cans of house paint that also had to be locked up. It made more sense to buy a bigger shed than a small wall unit simply so we could organize our garage better overall. (And it wasn't possible to keep the garage locked all the time because of our bigger kids, their toys, and the extra fridge where I keep the milk. So a shed it had to be.)

Last on the list I could think of off the top of my head, but not least, there are all the shelving units I've had to buy to house all our bonus cherubs' toys. My cherubs want for nothing! And in order to keep "their" toys separate from "our" toys, I've had to get several different sets of shelves. The longer they've been here, the more they've accumulated. Of course some of their toys can stay in a communal area. But since we have blocks (for example) and they have blocks...things need to be kept separate so that when (if) the cherubs leave our house we will be able to find their toys.




I have another trip to Lowe's planned for this weekend because I still don't have enough storage for all the toys the cherubs got for Christmas. They have a pile of them in their closet (below) because I honestly thought they were going to be leaving me and I didn't even open up everything they received. (Side note: do you ever cull out your foster kid's toys? I mean...if these were my forever kids I would tell them that they need to get rid of some of their toys. Dolly doesn't need or play with 43 different doll babies. Dude doesn't need 8 different giant trucks. ...things like that... Or do I keep everything and send it all with them should they ever leave?)

Anyway...as I hope you can tell....my cherubs want for nothing. They have giant wardrobes. They have tons of toys. They get to do lots of cool things. And due to all the rules and regulations, their home is quite safe. I don't separate out the per diem money that we receive monthly and make sure that it all goes "just" to the children. I don't know how I could do that exactly (emphasis on "I"...others budget money much differently/better than I do). Instead, I live my life and I provide everything the cherubs need and then some. If my dishwasher isn't completely full, but I know that my life will be easier (and me a better parent as a result) if I just run it...I run the dishwasher. If I have to screw up my schedule because of a social worker and we end up getting take out...I don't worry about it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is...the per diem money is a reimbursement and I don't dwell on it. It's just added in to our general budget. I take care of the kids. I pay the bills. And we just keep on keepin' on. I'd love to hear how others do it though if you're so inclined to comment.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Abandonment

Mr. Amazing left for a three week detail across the country yesterday.
Abandonment trigger.

Dude and Dolly's mom cancelled her visit yesterday. This is the second week in a row.
Abandonment trigger.

And of course this crazy never comes out with what it really is. It manifests as, "Math is hard." And, "I'm so stupid. I'm sorry I ruined your day again." (after throwing endless temper tantrums all day long) And, "I can't do this. I can't do this. I can't do this."

All. Day. Long.

I kept my cool today. I stayed therapeutic. I vented online in my support group. I called My Genius Sister. I cried a little.

I also sang in opera. I also got down on his level and told him I love him...even when he's Wonky. And when it got to be too much, I scooped up the kids and we went to run errands. If school isn't going to get done, I might as well get some things taken care of outside of the house.

And then, when he came running to me out of desperation, I scooped him up and hugged him tight. I took him to the "big feeling room" and I gave him words for his feelings.
  • Daddy left. You are scared. You are afraid that he isn't going to come back.
  • Your first mom left you. You feel abandoned. When Daddy leaves it triggers that abandonment.
  • You're mad at Dude and Dolly's mom. You want to yell at her and tell her, "You stupid bitch! Why don't you come see your children?! Why don't you want to get your children back?!"
  • Every time Dude and Dolly's mom does stuff like this it reminds you of your first mom and how she left you. It just doesn't make sense.
  • I'm so sorry nobody was there for your first mom and dad. Do you know why they chose adoption?
  • I was told it was because they were young. They weren't married. They didn't have money. They wanted you to have a better life than what they thought they could provide. That's what I was told.
  • I'm so sorry nobody was there to help keep your first family together. I'm so sorry no one could help them see how much better that could have been.
  • I'm sorry I'm not your first mom. I'm sorry you didn't come from me.
  • I love being your mom. I love you with all my heart.
  • I'm sorry you have had to suffer so much just so I can be your mom.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Update on Pumpkin

I sent a package to Pumpkin's aunt and uncle right before Christmas. It contained a photo book that I made of Pumpkin's second year with us. I also included a Christmas present for Pumpkin that I couldn't pass up. Pumpkin loves puzzles and is quite good at them. But really, she struggles with cardboard puzzles due to her disabilities. I found a 48 piece wooden puzzle with butterflies all over it that screamed "Pumpkin" to me when I saw it online.

I sent the package off and then prayed I'd hear something. Pumpkin's aunt hadn't contacted me in a long, long time. It's not like I'm exactly "missing" Pumpkin per se. It's so hard to describe what I've been feeling. I just hoped I'd get a quick update.

I heard nothing.

Finally I sent a simple message to her aunt via Facebook. Again, I heard nothing for a couple days. Eventually though she did message me back to tell me the package arrived. She said very little other than the fact that Pumpkin is doing well enough. The only detail she gave me about anything is that she's dealing with Medicaid and Pumpkin's braces. They denied them the first time around. Ugh!!

Then this afternoon, out of the blue, Pumpkin's aunt sent me a text message with a picture of Pumpkin eating a yogurt. I smiled!! Pumpkin loves yogurt and it really helps keep her...um...regular. I made sure she ate some every single day.

Pumpkin's Aunt E and I messaged back and forth for quite awhile. Granted...it's text message so I don't have the "whole" story. But at least I'm caught up.

Pumpkin STILL doesn't have her braces. She has needed new ones for over 9 months now. I started the process early last summer. They came in to the orthotics office in August. But when it came time for me to pick them up, the business had closed. They didn't tell anyone and I was out of luck. Then, the week before Pumpkin moved to her aunt and uncle's, one of Pumpkin's braces broke. I so prayed that she would be able to get braces quickly once getting to El Paso. Medicaid is being difficult. I'm sure they claim that Pumpkin got the ones that were ready for her this summer and that's why they aren't allowing new ones. I can't do anything about it though. I feel so bad for Pumpkin and her aunt and uncle.

It gets worse.

Pumpkin's aunt and uncle were NOT granted PMC (permanent managing conservatorship). In fact, nothing in the case really changed in their favor. They are taking foster parenting classes now. Hopefully they will be granted a stipend to help care for Pumpkin!! But the actual case...Bio Mom still wants to get Pumpkin back!

And worse yet...the State is considering it.

When Pumpkin left my care Bio Mom was so sick she couldn't leave her house. She was completely  bed ridden. I wasn't given very many details but I believe she had at least one heart attack and also suffered complications from untreated diabetes. (And don't forget...this is the woman that physically abused her child in a doctor's office just 10 days after going home. This is also the woman that hurt her child during an unsupervised weekend visit. She is not stable at all. Oh yeah, and she's an alcoholic.)

I guess the State is saying that if Aunt E and Uncle M take the foster parenting classes it will be easier for them to get PMC.

In the meantime though, the State is saying they want to fly Pumpkin back to our part of the state once a month to see her mom.

I'm sick to my stomach. Bio Mom abused Pumpkin during her last unsupervised visit. (Thus the investigation and MY own personal summer of HELL!) I am so beside myself with anger about all of this. I cannot believe that they want to even consider letting Pumpkin go back to Bio Mom. It is so very, very wrong!!!

Bio Mom has not seen Pumpkin even once since she left to go live in El Paso. She's only even called one time to make any contact. But now the State wants to pay to fly Pumpkin back to see her?! A woman that doesn't care about her daughter anymore?! A woman that abuses her daughter?! And Pumpkin is completely unable to say anything or do anything about it due to her disabilities! It doesn't make a bit of sense to me at all. This woman has proven herself. Aunt E and Uncle M should already have permanent custody! Shoot, they should already be in the process of being able to adopt Pumpkin. But this?!

Wrong! So very, very wrong!

They have court again in May. There isn't a damn thing I can do about this at all but pray. So here's my prayer request...can everyone in my internet circle of contacts please continue to pray for Pumpkin and her safety? It sounds like the State could be getting ready to make some very serious mistakes yet again. I fear for Pumpkin.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fake it 'til ya make it

I'm still feeling pretty whiny about things.

Homeschool is NOT easy. I don't particularly enjoy it. I know I'm not doing as good of a job as I "should be" with it. But it's really hard to work from home AND give enough attention to three different students and all their needs. Herman (10th grade – attending online school) is largely on his own. But he blows off many, many assignments so he needs to be helicoptered. Bart (2nd grade – using Abeka curriculum) is very advanced for his age so I don't worry about him a lot. However, he fights me on doing anything he even remotely feels is "boring" so there are too many battles for my comfort level. And TT (3rd grade – attending online school) needs a lot of one on one attention. His curriculum is very intense. There is a lot to do every day. And because he's technically in a public school, I can't pick and choose and just blow things off. He does have to do the work. It is all very draining. If one kid isn't flipping out on me it's another.

Foster parenting is still a total pain in the neck. I spent over an hour today going through paperwork, filling out forms and making copies. Granted, I was behind schedule with some of my documentation. But there are times when I really tire of all the extra foster parenting paperwork crap.

And now Dude has a cold. I know it's a cold. It's just a virus. I do not take my children to the doctor for a simple virus. Somehow though, I'm betting I end up getting my hand slapped for not rushing him off to see a professional. I HATE this part of foster parenting.

Minnie hasn't let me know if the visit schedule has been changed for this week or not yet. Since I cannot count on anyone else to consistently be able to help me with transport, I felt it necessary to move the family visits to the evening so I don't have to involve my forever children at all. I asked Minnie to make this switch last week. She still hasn't given me an answer though. To add to all the fun...I cannot take the children to a visit on Wednesday if the times are not changed. I have a major doctor appointment that cannot be rescheduled.

Minnie told me (via Rainbow) that the kids are to go to Dallas this weekend. I want to plan a mini-vacation with my core family for when they are gone. I don't want to book a hotel though until I know for sure the little cherubs are leaving me Friday morning. Rainbow can try to convince me all she wants that Minnie isn't mad at me. But Minnie's inability to convey the most simple of information to me is proof enough that she must have her panties in a wad. I've asked for a FIRM confirmation on the travel times so I can book our weekend. I've heard nothing.

Minnie also told Rainbow something else last week that Rainbow had to call me about. (Notice that Minnie is avoiding me like the plague now and is relaying all information through Rainbow?! Suuurrrre...she's not mad at me.) Anyway...I'm no longer allowed to have any contact with Great Grandma P. If GGP wants to know anything about the cherubs, she is supposed to call Minnie and talk to HER. (Minnie used to avoid all of GPP's phone calls in the past.) Rainbow tried to temper things with me. I'm sure I got a watered down version of the story. Rainbow did say something along the lines of Minnie having issues with GGP not wanting the kids to go to Dallas permanently. So it seems, if someone in the party here doesn't want the kids in Dallas, Minnie will just eliminate them from the equation.

And as much as I dislike homeschool, I still hate the public schools even more!

Dude's teacher informed me last Thursday (a Spanish speaking day) that Dude understands her when she speaks Spanish.  --  Funny, I saw him completely ignore her twice until she spoke to him in English. Then, when I got home, Dude was so shell-shocked (literally...he was deep in a trauma based response to his day) he couldn't talk to me for over 30 minutes. He could. not. talk. This wasn't some refusal because he was mad. He was seriously freaked out. Once, when given the simple direction to find something to do, he burst into tears and cried for over 10 minutes.

And Dolly is bringing home homework again. (Neither the principal or the teacher called me back like I requested...but homework and daily behavior notes are coming home now.) It is entirely too much homework for a 5 year old!! Shoot – she brought home two (stupid) books full of sight words she is supposed to be reading to me. Plus she's supposed to trace an entire sheet of the letter M.  --  I realize I'm in the minority here...but little ones do NOT need this kind of work. Dolly gets so much more out of the stories I read to her every night than she would out of these stupid little print-outs. And the tracing?! What's the point?!

Here's the deal though....
I'm putting on my big girl panties as often as I can. I'm trying to fake it 'til I make it. I'm cutting myself some slack and I'm trying to hang on as best as I can.

When I got the call about Great Grandma P I wanted to scream. I managed to keep my composure while on the phone with Rainbow. When I hung up though, I cried for almost a half an hour. It was the straw that almost broke the camel's back!

It is so unfair to the children. Why must CPS continually go against their best interests?! GGP has never done anything to complicate this case other than express a desire for the children to stay with me and NOT go to Dallas. And she's never said anything to a lawyer or the judge. So in reality, her opinions have had no weight on anything. But now, because her goals don't line up with what CPS wants, she can no longer have any contact with the cherubs. I'm quite confident she's going to be kicked out of visits now too. (Minnie already kicked her out of one back in mid-December for reasons no one knew.) Like I've said before, GGP is the only family member that has been a constant for these cherubs. She loves them so much. It makes me sooooooo mad that they are removing her from the cherubs' lives now! It is so unfair! In fact, I was so mad I almost just quit. Q.U.I.T quit! Dammit – if CPS isn't going to do what's right by these kids...why should I have to play along anymore?!

But I didn't quit. I wanted to. But I didn't.

I'm in this for the long haul. I'm going to obey this calling. And I know that means not giving up. I'm going to fake it 'til I make it I guess.

While reading another blog last night, I heard it phrased this way: "Don't struggle. Just wait for your feelings to catch up with your obedience."

So I am. I'm waiting. I sure hope my feelings catch up soon. I'm bone tired of all that is foster parenting!!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

An extra hour or two...rules be damned

This is what an extra hour or two on Saturday morning looks like. Yeah, I'm "supposed" to check on my littlest cherubs every 5 minutes. No, I don't technically have permission to sleep while they are awake.

But Saturday morning cartoons were invented for a reason – right?! I can't stand watching most of them. But the kids just loooovvve them. And I need my sleep!





I mix up the lid colors on the bottles of chocolate milk so the cherubs know whose is whose. That way, when one or two cherubs throw their empty bottle on the living room floor, the other cherubs can tell me who needs to do the picking up.

The littlest cherubs wake around 7:00AM on their own. Me, I didn't roll downstairs until 8:30AM this morning. And when I did get down here, no cherubs were all over me to feed them! Peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast can be magical.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How Appropriate

How appropriate is it that I publish a whiny complaining post and then see THIS link in my Facebook feed immediately?!

Maybe I need to put on my big girl panties a little earlier than I want to today.

pity party for me

The amount of stress that foster care has brought into our home makes me seriously question if we are doing the right thing at times.

I am frustrated beyond belief. In my gut I know these kids are probably going to leave our care and go to Grandma's in Dallas. Yes, they are safe now. Yes, they are loved now. But if they are going to end up there anyway – does all THIS matter?! The State seems to think they will be safe and loved in Dallas. Who I am to question that?!

My husband is angry. He too wants to be done with foster care. And he doesn't even have to do any of the foster care crap. I do the ridiculous paperwork. I handle the visits. I do court. As much as we want these kids forever....we all want to be D.O.N.E. too!!

Herman is cranky and completely out of sorts. He's caught up with school and he's passing all of his classes. Still...he's angry and constantly doing things to sabotage his lot in life if you will. He's tried to put off assignments already (school started back up for him on Jan. 3). He's not getting up in the morning. He's on YouTube and Facebook instead of his school website. He's sassy and disrespectful to me constantly.  ----  Either Herman has missed some of his anti-depressant meds or he's reacting to all the stress that foster care IS. (or both)

TT is back to flipping out about school every day. If I have to grade an assignment and he gets anything wrong he rages. If he doesn't understand something he rages. If he doesn't remember something he rages. Mr. Wonky takes over and he flops all over, he fusses, he talks baby talk, he screams, he throws things, etc. His internal dialog is horrible!!! Yesterday after a rage he kept saying over and over (and over and over), "I ruined your day. I'm a bad kid." Over and over (and over and over) I told him, "I'm glad I don't believe that about you. Those must be some hard feelings to process. You didn't ruin my day."

Bart keeps flitting all over the house. He can barely seem to stay focused on anything. I'm pretty sure he has ADD. (It seems to run genetically in our family.) He's not on any meds. But lately, I've been wishing he was. 99% of the time he's the happiest kid you could ever want to meet. But that 1%....oh that 1% is HELL. He is stubborn. He is determined. He is rude. He is unwilling to comply with basic rules. All I can do is pray that he will harness those qualities and use them for the greater good of mankind when he's older.

Dude and Dolly seem to be doing OK enough. Of course each one had to tell me that they love me about 134,862 times yesterday. They are reconnecting and getting back to routine. It's all good. But it still breaks my heart. I just ache for them sometimes. Shouldering their pain is not an easy task. I'll pat myself on the back here -- I must be doing it pretty good in order for them to bounce back as quickly as they do. But it sucks just having to do it in general sometimes.

Yes....this is a major pity party for me. I know I won't stay in this state. I will put on my big girl panties and get over this. But today it's grey and rainy. And I'm crabby.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Every other day

Dude got another hot heap of trauma piled on him today.

When I dropped him off at school this morning he quickly noticed that the room had been rearranged. Me, I noticed the sign on the door saying that today is a Spanish learning day and that everyone in the school will be speaking Spanish exclusively.

Dude doesn't speak Spanish anymore. In fact, he will look at Great Grandma P and ask her to speak English is she says something to him in Spanish.

Now not only is Dude scared to death to leave me, but he's going to be surrounded by an entire school of people not even speaking his language.

They only thought they were starting to see "behaviors". This is not going to bode well I'm sure.

1.  I'm going to call Rainbow. I'm going to ask her off the record what would happen if Dude only goes to school on the English speaking days.

2.  I'm going to be picking Dude up earlier every day. Yes, I need the time at home with my students. But I cannot subject him to more trauma. The System requires that I send him to school. They do not require that he eat lunch there or nap there.

3.  I'm going to call the new Guardian Ad Litem and see how he feels about this. Maybe, just maybe, he understands early childhood development. Maybe he'll see that subjecting Dude to this in this time of his life is not in his best interests.

4.  Then, if this is what it is, I'll survive. I'll tell myself that he might learn some Spanish. That would make it easier for him if/when he does go to Dallas. Dude is smart. And Dude's teacher isn't fully in favor of this change. She told me herself that her Spanish isn't that good. She isn't fluent herself...at least not enough to teach all day in Spanish. And as I walked out of the room this morning, she was talking to Dude in English. She said she's going to pass my concerns along to the board of directors. She also assured me that any individual instruction with the children will be done in their primary language. I have to pray that she's going to speak English to Dude today enough that he doesn't completely freak out.

He was sooooooooo scared when I left him. I told his teacher that we are starting all over. He's scared. He doesn't want to leave me. He's going to need a lot of reassurance. I also told her I'd be there before lunch to pick him up.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Four More Months

(Long post...mainly for me. Sorry for all the extra details. If I don't write it all down now, I'll forget what actually happened. My brain quickly blocks traumatic events. And believe you me, court is very traumatic for me!!)

I left the house at 10:45AM to make the hour-plus drive West. We arrived in the cherubs' hometown right before noon. I was a mess! I didn't want to eat. I just wanted today over with. Nevertheless, I took the cherubs to McDonalds. At least that way I knew they'd eat most of their food and they could play in the tubes until time to go to court.

I arrived at the courthouse at 1:00PM. We're not allowed to bring bags of any kind in with us so all I had was a small wallet with my phone. The kids each carried their Happy Meal toys. We went through the metal detectors and up the stairs to the second floor.

The courtroom had been moved again. I asked where it was. Of course there were NO chairs outside the room. I didn't want to sit in front of the bathrooms or around the corner so I plunked myself down on the floor. The kids and I sat there.

At about 1:15PM or so, Great Grandma P, Bio Mom and Cousin A showed up. Dolly literally pushed me forward and hid behind my back. Dude lifted up my knee and buried his face under me. I won't force them to say or do anything with their bio family. It was uncomfortable.

We made small talk. Bio Mom asked the kids about the snow. The kids didn't say much. Eventually Dolly warmed up a bit and gave her mom a hug. Dude proceeded to get super dysregulated and incredibly goofy. He had the most nervous giggle!!! He also pushed every single boundary that he possibly could. He went around the corner. He went up and down the steps. He said "no" to every single question he was asked. And just to keep things super awkward, as Dude went up the stairs (in an attempt to be naughty) his bio mom's response was, "Don't go up there. The police are coming down. They'll get you."

How exactly do I respond to that?!
Ugh!!

We waited and waited. Well after 1:30PM (when court was supposed to start), Dude announced that he had to go to the bathroom. As we were in there taking care of business, Great Grandma P popped her head in and said our case had been called. I hightailed it in to the courtroom.

Dude did not want to be quiet. He squirmed. He wiggled. He made noise just loud enough I could tell it was intentional. Oh...he was so dysregulated!!! I shhhhh'd him as much as I could and strained to hear what CPS, the lawyer(s) and the judge had to say.

Interestingly enough, the children did not meet with any lawyer today. There was a person standing in for their actual lawyer. But it was purely for paperwork purposes. NO ONE met with the children prior to court. NO ONE was there to advocate for their desires. The person standing in "as" their lawyer did not say a word the entire time!!

Grandma N (from Dallas) was not there. CPS gave some story that they bought the bus tickets for Grandma N incorrectly. I don't buy that story for a second. But it is what it is.

The permanency hearing started off with the judge asking all the official questions that he's supposed to. How are the kids doing? Are they on any meds? Are there any physical issues he needs to be aware of? Are they doing well in their foster care home? All that good stuff.

CPS answered every question quickly and accurately. Then Minnie went about the business of painting the situation in Dallas as all rainbows and unicorns. She stated that the children do well on the visits. The judge asked interesting questions. He literally asked if the children "know" their Grandma N. All CPS could do is say that they lived with her when they were infants and that they've been having visits over the past four months. The judge didn't react to this at all. If I had to guess though, he wasn't impressed.

The judge kind of gave CPS and Bio Mom a what-for about the kids still being in foster care. He was incredibly polite about it. He was dead-on accurate though. He said that even though the foster parents may be wonderful, every single day the children spend in Care is detrimental to their well-being. He was emphatic that they need to be OUT of Care!

They then turned the discussion toward Bio Mom. She has not worked any of her case plan. Her lawyer tried to say it was because Bio Mom was incarcerated for the bulk of this time. Again, the judge seemed less than impressed. (I do like this judge!) Then Bio Mom's lawyer said that Bio Mom doesn't want the kids to go to Dallas. The judge's first response was, "Someone that isn't doing anything in their case plan shouldn't really be too worried about where their kids are placed at." But the lawyer went on. She said some things that were not quite worded correctly. Then she said that "foster mom basically counseled her client to not send the kids to Dallas".

Um....that's ME you're talking about lady!

I stood up and addressed the judge. I introduced myself and said if they wanted to know about my concerns they could ask me directly.

He motioned me forward and I began.

The first thing I said was about my concern with the syringe I found in their overnight bag following a visit.

You should have seen the look on his face! He made me say it at least one or two more times. He said, "You found WHAT in their bag?!"

The conversation was interesting to say the least. CPS had to dance around the situation. Minnie said that Grandma thought the syringe was a medicine dispenser and put it in their bag. She didn't know where it came from. Minnie was surprised it made it through the security checkpoints at the airport. Everyone danced around the topic and the judge kept asking questions.

The Judge: "What kind of a syringe was it?!"
Me: "A used insulin syringe."
The Judge: "Did it actually have a needle in it?"
Me: "Yes. But it was covered with the cap."
The Judge: "Where did it come from?!!!"
Everyone: silence
The Judge: "Who has diabetes?"
Minnie: "I thought Grandma N did but she doesn't."
Bio Mom's Lawyer: "The children do not."
The Judge: "Where did it come from? Who has diabetes?"
Me: "It is a used insulin syringe but it is unknown if the needle had been repurposed for other uses."
The Judge: "Who uses in the home?"

Minnie then had to reiterate the story she had told earlier about Bio Dad having access to the home in Dallas but not following through with a drug test she was supposed to administer that very weekend. She said that he had been in the home but that when she came on Saturday to meet with him he was nowhere to be found.

Funny -- this story has a lot more meaning to it when you know that a used needle was also involved.

Minnie admitted to the judge that Bio Dad uses.

The judge was completely beside himself. I also mentioned the fact that the children sleep in bed with Grandma during the visits and that one time Grandma didn't bother to change their clothes on Sunday and that they wore the same outfit on Saturday, to bed that night and again all day Sunday.

The judge found this interesting as well and even mentioned that this is neglectful behavior. He said nothing else about this though.

Well, he said nothing else other than the fact that he was NOT in favor of sending the children to Dallas right now at ALL. Then he just sat there rather perplexed.

I looked at him and said that we would be interested in taking PMC (permanent managing conservatorship). He responded in a positive manner and indicated that during this particular court hearing he could not place the children with me under PMC. He then went on to say (and all but recommend) that we could hire our own counsel and officially intervene in this case. He said we have legal standing.

I answered him by saying, "We are not in a position to intervene at this time. Instead, I fully trust the legal professionals involved in this case to advocate properly for the children and to ensure they are safe and loved for the rest of their lives." (Of course I was lying through my teeth -- I don't trust Minnie at all. And since the kids didn't even really have a lawyer this time around, I wasn't too impressed with that part of the equation either. But I played nice.)

Again he told me I could intervene. And then, again, there was an awkward silence. The judge almost seemed like he didn't know what to do next. He didn't want to send the kids to Dallas. He can't place them with us under PMC. What could he do?!

I looked at him and said, "It was my impression that Ms. Veracruz (the cherubs' lawyer four months ago) was planning on telling the court today that she felt it was in the children's best interests that they stay with us. Can a Guardian Ad Litem advocate that way in court on our behalf?"

This is when I learned that Ms. Veracruz had accepted a new job with the District Attorney. There was nothing the judge could do today because the counsel today knew nothing of the children. The judge concluded the conversation by saying that the next hearing will be a trial. It's considered a contested hearing because Bio Mom no longer wants the children in the same place the State does. (Bio Mom did NOT say that she wants the children with us. She just said she no longer wants them to go to Dallas.) He told me that I will most likely testify at that hearing. Then he said he ends trials by asking the Guardian how they feel about things. If indeed the Guardian advocates that the children stay with us, then yes, it can be considered legally.

The cherubs are going to continue to have monthly visits to Dallas to see Grandma N. The judge is OK with this because Minnie is "monitoring" things. That's total BS...but it is what it is. I have no control over this!

Bio Mom has a new case plan she is going to be allowed to work. The judge indicated very strongly that she should take advantage of the services being offered.

I walked out of the courtroom with the children. As I was getting on the elevator, the woman who was pretending to be the cherubs' lawyer today stopped me. She asked me to wait. About 3 minutes later, she and another gentleman came out to introduce themselves to me, the cherubs and Bio Mom. The cherubs now have a new Attorney Ad Litem and a completely separate Guardian Ad Litem. I was given their contact information but neither seemed too invested in anything.

The trial is set for May 6 at 9:30AM. Between now and then some official paperwork (that I didn't fully understand) has to be changed by the State. Now...we just have to wait some more.

I called Rainbow. She was surprised. But...not really. This is foster care we are dealing with after all. She said again that she believes the cherubs will ultimately end up in Dallas. I said, "I know." She's going to help run interference with Minnie for me. I desperately need to change how transportation works for the weekly visits. It is becoming detrimental to my forever children to do this every week. Rainbow said that it would be better received by Minnie if a request came from her instead of me though. I don't know what's going to happen. Again...I just have to wait.

Great Grandma P was thrilled. She does NOT want the cherubs to go to Dallas. However, she shed some light on the situation today. She told me that she got REALLY MAD at Bio Mom last week when Bio Mom cancelled her visit with the cherubs. Great Grandma P told Bio Mom that if the kids go to Dallas, Bio Mom can no longer stay at her home. I'm in agreement with Great Grandma P. I'm sure that's why Bio Mom waited until today to say anything to her lawyer.

Me...I'm just glad that the whole syringe thing was dealt with legally today. I mean really!!! These cherubs were most likely around a drug user that weekend. Is that REALLY the best place for them to go live? This woman has NO relationship with these cherubs. They don't want to go. And now there's likely evidence that less-than-safe people come in and out of Grandma N's house regularly.

I'm thoroughly disgusted that we still have to play the foster care game. I really did want to be DONE with it today! Four more months is not exactly music to my ears. My husband is actively seeking a promotion. In order for him to get promoted we have to move out of this state. And I just don't think we can gamble that the kids will become ours and have him turn down a job if he's offered one. We do have to think long-term as a family here. A promotion is a good thing both career-wise and financially for us. But I can't imagine moving away from the cherubs if they are still in foster care. This is one situation that I just give to God. I don't even allow myself to think about what we'd do. I just pray that God has this one under control. (Though I do pray that if we have a chance at all of keeping these cherubs forever that Mr. Amazing just won't be offered a new job.)

Dolly's school called me during court today to see if she's coming back to school tomorrow. I reluctantly said yes. I then told the secretary that I need to have a meeting with Dolly's teacher and/or the principal. I have to have a better solution to the homework problem. (Because yes, Dolly IS being forced to do her "homework" during school rather than having it sent home like all the other students."

Life goes back to "normal" tomorrow. Dude will go to school in the morning. My boys will school at home. Dolly will go to PreK in the afternoon. And I'm going to try like crazy to get caught up with my freelancing.

Hopefully the stress will reduce. The cherubs seem oblivious to it all. Though I will say that Dude seems to have relaxed a lot. I guess I've got a few months to enjoy before this all peaks again.

Four more months.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Countdown

I survived today. I haven't burst into tears. I've been engaged with the rest of the family. And when it got a little tough, I went outside and walked around the neighborhood for a couple miles.

In just a few minutes I'll bathe the cherubs and get them ready for bed. I do know that it's not the last time I'll be doing this. But it might be my last Sunday doing it.

I'm sorry to be such a downer. But this blog is as much therapy for me as it is anything else. And here I am again...getting ready to go to court...not knowing at all what is going to happen tomorrow.

This particular court hearing has me more confused than any other. Before EVERY OTHER HEARING I was told that without a doubt the children would be leaving. This time...Minnie has been cryptic. I have no idea what is going on that would keep the kids with me yet again. But the possibility must be there because Minnie is wishy-washy and has literally said she doesn't know what will happen tomorrow.

The cherubs' lawyer never called me back. Over the last couple months I left four messages (one on her cell phone and three at the office). I also sent an email. It's going to take a lot to be cordial to her tomorrow when she "meets" with the kids. I had such high hopes. Four months ago she told me she wanted to meet with the kids outside of court. Obviously that was nothing but smoke and mirrors to keep me happy at the time.

I spoke with another foster mom on the phone yesterday. I learned a lot more about the Texas foster care system. Did you know that if you've ever been investigated (ya know...even the "normal" ones that most folks end up going through) that you can't ever switch agencies? She was finally told by the agency that they wanted to switch to that if you've ever had an investigation and a new agency takes you on as a licensed family...AND you get investigated again...the AGENCY will be shut down. This family has been fostering for nearly 14 years. Of course they've been investigated. But they are stuck at the same agency we are with as a result of all the new rules. What a crock! But it does solidify that we will be done fostering. I will not be driving an hour away for stupid, repetitive training given at inconvenient times.

This foster mom also recommended that I speak up in court tomorrow. They are currently in the process of adopting after being granted PMC of two of their little ones. She said that I should take the children up to the front of the courtroom when they call the case tomorrow. Then, when appropriate, I should address the judge and tell him that we want PMC and/or that we want to adopt.

I have a horrible habit of running possible scenarios over and over (and over and over and over and over) in my mind when I am stressed. With this one though I have stopped myself. I'm not even allowing myself to play out what I want to say to their lawyer tomorrow. Believe me, that means that my self dialog right now is pretty much, "no...don't think that" all day long. All. Day. Long. I haven't decided if I'll say something to the judge or not. I'm praying that God will give me the words I need at the perfect timing tomorrow. I'm putting ALL of this on God.

I'm not thinking about anything other than the moment in time I am actually IN right now. I'm trying to stop all other thoughts. It's not easy though. As I do laundry I'm thinking about them. As I cook I'm thinking about them. As I do everything...I'm thinking about them.

But I'm down to the last few hours of uncertainty. By this time tomorrow I'll know if they're going, if they're staying in foster care, or if they are MINE.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Crying

I am doing EVERYTHING in my power to keep things as normal as possible right now. But every single child (and adult) is painfully aware that things could change radically on Monday.

Dude is crying All.The.Time!!! Some of it is because he's easily upset. Some of it is in a hope that he can get another child in trouble. Some of it seems just like a personal release of all the stress he is carrying.

He's whining, grunting and making baby noises constantly.

He's talking less and less and fussing more and more. The regression is huge!!

Oh Dear God -- if they stay in foster care I do NOT know how I will handle it.

Friday, January 4, 2013

First Snow

Yes...I'm a mental mess in anticipation of court on Monday. In the meantime though, I thought I'd give you a peek at Dolly and Dude in the snow.

The first shot was taken somewhere in Kansas when we stopped for gas. It wasn't too bitter cold and Dolly didn't think too much of it really. I teared up a little. I was so happy to be able to be including Dude and Dolly in this vacation. And the closer we got to snow, the closer I was to my entire family.
There was no easy way to explain what we were driving toward though as a blizzard had just come through the Midwest and the snow at my parents' house was going to be much, much deeper. The whole concept of winter, and snow, and cold isn't easy to explain to someone who has never experienced anything like it before. I just kept telling the cherubs it was going to be really, really cold.
Once at my parents house, and once over the nastiest part of their colds, both cherubs ventured outside. Neither one really knew how to "play" in the snow but both gave it a try.

The entire trip was very overwhelming for both cherubs. They were put through the wringer really! They endured an extremely long cross-country drive only to get sick along the way. Then they had to learn their way around a new house. They had to meet lots of new family members. And of course there was the general over-stimulation that Christmas tends to be for everyone.

Despite everything, we all had a ton of fun!