Friday, May 31, 2013

Hearing is set

On June 17 we will go before the judge to officially intervene in the case. Ms. Colorado keeps referring to it as when "they will let us in". Mr. Amazing and I will go together. The cherubs do not have to be there.

Per My Genius Sister I have to have a plan in place for how I'm going to deal with the intense (oh so incredibly intense) emotions I feel every time I talk to a lawyer (or case worker). I don't know what I'm going to do though. It's so easy for someone to tell me I have to take care of myself. But there is this in-the-moment FREAK OUT that nearly cripples me. You see...I know that is going to suck!! CPS is not going to all of the sudden say, "You're right Mr. and Mrs. Eldridge. We haven't been doing our jobs correctly. Sure...intervene. We'll terminate right away." That is NOT going to happen.

Instead, CPS will most likely attack my character. They will want to paint life in Dallas as a wonderful thing for the children. They will bring up the investigation. They will twist realities. They will cover their proverbial asses. They will do whatever they can to make me look bad and make Dallas look perfect.

Every time someone with power contacts me, I freak out. All the big feelings I've tried to squash deep down come racing to the surface. I get scared. Literally, I question if all this is worth it.

Don't get me wrong – I love these cherubs with all my heart! I would do anything for them. But sometimes, this hardly seems worth it. It scares me so bad.

I've got two weeks until I stand face to face with all the people that have power in this case. I'm scared to death! But...
I know the truth. I know I've never hurt these children. I know I love them. I know that I've always supported reunification when it seemed in the best interests of the children. I trusted the State to do their jobs. I waited a long time before I stepped in.
I know I'm not coaching the cherubs to say anything that isn't true. I've never planted ideas in their heads. They truly do want to live with us.
I know that I'll support an open adoption with any bio family member that is safe and sober.

Any blog love you want to send me though over the next couple weeks is much appreciated. As much as I know the truth, I hate confrontation. And believe you me...this is one big confrontation! I'm challenging The System!!!!

What will happen next...

Ms. Colorado just called me. I have a little bit more of an idea of what is going on with our side of things.
  • She needed more information (SSN and driver's license stuff) so she can legally file our petition to intervene.
  • She spoke with the cherubs' Guardian Ad Litem. He is fully in favor of termination and adoption by us. He will say so in court when necessary.
  • It is imperative that the cherubs continue to tell their Attorney Ad Litem that they want to stay with us and not go to Grandma's.
  • Ms. Colorado spoke with the attorney for CPS. That person said something along the lines of, "Of course we're not looking in to termination. There is a grandma that wants the children." Ms. Colorado informed this attorney that they might want to look in to the "grandma situation" a little bit deeper. The lawyer for CPS said they would.
  • I let Ms. Colorado know that Grandma took the cherubs to see their uncle against court orders. I think that because the children are telling me this though it will hold very little, if any, weight in court. Because CPS is NOT checking in on Grandma, anything the children say will be blown off and Grandma will continue to look like a saint. CPS would have to get this information on their own...and obviously that isn't going to happen. Grandma will lie. CPS won't care. The cherubs will continue to be put in compromising situations every time they go to Dallas.
  • Ms. Colorado said that our case is much stronger with both bio parents being in jail still.
  • Ms. Colorado is going to file the petition to intervene next week. (Not this week like she originally told me...sigh.) From there we have to wait to see if anyone in the case right now objects to us joining the party.
  • If no one objects, Ms. Colorado will ask for a hearing in late June with the judge. I'll be perfectly honest, I'm not exactly sure the purpose of this hearing. I believe it is just a way to legally introduce us into the case. It won't change anything with the permanency goals or the placement of the cherubs.
  • If someone objects, we will have to have a hearing called so the judge can hear from us and our lawyer why we should be allowed to intervene. If at that time the judge doesn't allow us to intervene, we will back out completely. I honestly don't think it will come to this. After all, the judge all but told me to intervene back in January. All he has to do is remember that.
  • I told Ms. Colorado I don't want to bother her too much, but that I am on pins and needles waiting to hear what is going to happen next. Very calmly she told me that she'll let me know if anyone objects to our intervention. She'll let me know what I need to do next. Until then, I'm to just keep on taking care of the cherubs.
I'm a total nervous wreck now. My hands are shaking. My heart is racing.
-- Please pray that the lawyer for CPS is able to see the FULL picture of what life would be like for the cherubs in Dallas with Grandma. Please pray that the lawyer for CPS then acts accordingly.
-- Please pray that no one objects to our intervention.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dude & Dolly's Puzzle Fundraiser

The puzzle is starting to get a little easier. I swear there are still a million pieces to put together. But the big kids are having fun and I've decided it's probably healthier for me to put together a puzzle than it is to play Candy Crush Saga.



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

523 pieces so far!

I wish my puzzle pictures could match the donation amount. But alas, it's going to take a long time to catch up with the actual putting together of the puzzle. I had fun sitting with two of my boys tonight putting together a small handful of pieces though!

On a positive note, I guess this is actually a good problem to have. People have been so generous. We've had 523 puzzle pieces donated so far! I'm not nervous at all about having to cut another check to the lawyer soon.

Thank you all so much. If you're so inclined, a donation button is up in the right hand corner of this blog. All proceeds are going toward the potential costs of $15-20,000 to intervene in our CPS case. Our only goal is to keep Dude and Dolly in a safe and loving permanent home. Since CPS can't seem to accomplish this, we've stepped in.

Dude and Dolly are excited about it too! Daily I hear, "Mommy...I want to be an Eldridge!!!" All of us are ready for permanency!! Thank you for helping us achieve this.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Putting together the puzzle

We are over half-way to the goal of $5000 in the fundraiser. Thank you ALL from the bottom of my heart!! I covet your prayers. Keep 'em coming. Our lawyer told me she will be submitting the official petition to intervene to all parties this week. I'm praying that this is enough to get Minnie off her duff and doing what it takes to give permanency to my cherubs in a healthy, safe and loving way (ie: with ME!).

It's going to take awhile before I have pictures that match completely up with the amount of donations in. This puzzle is hard!! (It's been a long time since I sat and did a 1000 piece puzzle! The pieces are sooooooo tiny!) On each piece I'm writing the name(s) of people that are supporting us in this legal adventure. As we place each piece I am incredibly grateful for the generosity of people I don't even "know".



Friday, May 24, 2013

Parole denied

  • The cherubs did not tell Minnie that I hired a lawyer. The visit with Great Grandma P was uneventful as far as Minnie was concerned. It lasted an hour and we parted ways. Minnie smiled at me and thanked me for bringing the cherubs. (Like I had a choice.)
  • I did speak with GGP in the parking lot. It seems that Bio Mom has had her parole denied. I realize it's wrong to celebrate someone else's problems. But...this helps OUR case. CPS really has no reason to not terminate rights now. I'm so anxious for this game to honestly start! I so want to know how CPS is going to play their next move!!
  • Because Bio Mom is NOT getting out in late June she will not be at the next hearing on July 1st. I can wait before I tell the cherubs that they are getting a new brother or sister. This is good as they would not understand anyway. This new baby is complicated. How on Earth would I explain to two cherubs that they cannot be with Mommy but the new baby can?! This is quite complex because the two cherubs in question don't really remember their Bio Mom much at all. They are drawn to their bio family but they don't remember life with their bio family. They are equally, if not more so, drawn to us as well. I imagine in a perfect world the kids would like to merge the two families. Obviously that's not going to happen right now.
  • Relatives are crawling out of the woodwork for the new baby. I guess there are at least two of them that thought they could just drive to the jail and take the baby from Bio Mom. < sigh > GGP spoke with Minnie about it a little. GGP doesn't know if CPS is planning on removing the baby or not. I guess she's going to pass on Minnie's contact information to the relatives that want the baby. GGP told Minnie that she wants the baby to come to us. (yikes!)
  • I'm definitely not going to "fight" for the new baby.

How has this affected my family?

richandangi commented on my "Welcome" post:

I would love to know more about your family. We are thinking about fostering and I would love to know how this has changed your family. I have three teenagers and I am really curious as to how fostering may affect them.

This is such a difficult question to answer. I have started this particular post at least three different times. Each time I struggled with what to say.

I mean...yes...foster care has undoubtedly changed my family. Some of it has been for the good!! My children have learned to think outside of their own little world. They understand giving on a much deeper level. They know what it means to help others without expecting anything in return.

My kids are compassionate. My kids want to help. My kids know they are a part of something wonderful.

But on the flip side....

This foster care journey has been incredibly difficult!

And this is where I struggle with what to say. I don't want to diminish the good. I seriously don't regret fostering at all. But it has been so very, very difficult. Schedules are constantly turned on end. Trips and visits to places have been cancelled. It's difficult to let other kids come over and play sometimes. Those things aren't always good!!! Sometimes they really suck!

When we cared for MissArguePants and TurtleTurtle every moment of every day was pretty much off the charts. Those two turned our entire household on its end. But then again, SEVERE abuse, neglect and torture kinda messes with a kid. It wasn't their fault that they couldn't function in a family setting. They had never been given a family before. Still, it was really hard on me as a parent and my kids to navigate the waters of extreme tantrums and total dysregulation almost all of the time.

Pumpkin offered up a different kind of fostering experience. She required a tremendous amount of my time because of her special needs. With Pumpkin though, I think my kids really learned how to accept others no matter what. Bart was fiercely protective of Pumpkin – even going to her classroom at school to make sure the teachers were taking good care of her. He never cared that she couldn't talk and often didn't respond to him at all. Bart loved on Pumpkin every single day.

And now we have Dude and Dolly. Caring for the cherubs has been the easy part. However, navigating this case with the State has really done a number on my family! Having to follow crazy rules, being investigated, and living with the fact that the State continually wants to work against what is best for the cherubs is very hard!!

I interviewed each of my kids. These are their thoughts:

Bart:
It makes it harder for me to do things I want to do. 'Cause I might want to go on vacation...but we can't. I like that we get to help other people. I like to help kids.

TT:
We can't go on vacations as much. We get to meet new kids. It's fun.
There can be lots and lots of anxiety in the house. There are lots of lawyers and the judge and things you probably don't want to deal with. There are things you never thought you have to deal with. You have to go to visits. You have to go to court.
You get to help God's children. You get to do what you're supposed to do.

Herman:
Well...it's changed the way we have to think. Once you understand what these kids have gone through...it changes you. It changes pretty much everything. You have to change the way you talk and act.
Having more kids in the house affects how often I get to go places if I need a ride. Mom doesn't always want to load everyone up to take me places.

This is what Herman told me a couple weeks ago when I asked him how he felt about intervening and trying to adopt Dude and Dolly....
I don't really care either way. I mean, yeah, I'm going to get a new brother and sister. But it doesn't really affect me as much.
And that's honestly how fostering has affected my teenager. Because he's older and more independent, he's not directly affected by some of the things. He's not sharing his toys. He doesn't need as much of my time. He loves Dude and Dolly with all his heart. He's a great help. But it hasn't exactly turned his world on end.

Honestly...as you can tell from Bart and TT, having restrictions on where we can go is what bothers us the most. When we went to training we were told that we could travel anywhere within the state of Texas for up to 72 hours without having to get permission. Unfortunately, that is far from the truth in our part of the State. It's not like we are jet-setters taking expensive trips all over. Where we live, even though it's more restrictive than the minimum standards, we need permission to take the cherubs out of the county for even just a day trip. That's pretty restrictive.

Our fostering journey was RADICALLY different when we lived in Iowa. The restrictions were so fewer!!!!! We were treated with respect. Everything seemed to work just like how it was explained to us in the trainings.

Here in Texas though, it's rough. We all tire of the crazy rules.

I feel like this post is particularly choppy. I don't know how to edit it because if I start, I'm sure I'll erase everything and try to write it again. Fostering has been oh so incredibly difficult!!! But still, I don't regret any of it. Honestly, I don't. On the flip side, I cannot wait until Dude and Dolly's case is over so I can be D.O.N.E. fostering!! And on the flip side of that, all it takes is for me to read one story of a kid in need and I'm right back wanting to save the world!

Believe me when I say, how fostering has changed my family transcends words.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Out of the mouths of babes

Rainbow made a home visit this afternoon. Sure enough, Dolly bounced right up to her (twirling her big long braid around) and announced, "I want to be an Eldridge!" Rainbow looked at her kind of funny. (Dolly doesn't enunciate well when she's excited!) Dolly continued bouncing and chanting, "I want to be an Eldridge!"

Then....then she went on.

"I want to be an Eldridge. I want to play out front. I want to go over to my friends' houses. I want to be an Eldridge!!"

Oh crap.

Rainbow is slightly concerned that if the children announce what would be different after adoption that it will look like I'm trying to talk them in to this.

She's probably right.

But dammit! It's the truth. I'm not allowed to let my kids play in the front yard unless I'm sitting RIGHT THERE with them. Let's just say I've got better things to do with my time than sit around in my front yard doing nothing. (My back yard has balls, a small basketball hoop, hula hoops, a scooter, a swing set and a sand box so it's not like I'm torturing them in the back yard.) And my kids aren't allowed to play over at anyone's house unless all of the adults have passed a full background check. I'm not in a place to require my entire neighborhood to submit themselves to that.

But wouldn't ya know it?! I said that stuff to Dolly ONE TIME. Only once did I tell her that things would be different after she became an Eldridge. We've talked that there would be no more social workers, lawyers, or judges. But only once did I say that other stuff.

I hate the chess game that IS this intervention. I can't wait until all the parties playing the game know I'm involved now too!!

I did coach the cherubs a bit at dinner tonight. I told them that I want the LAWYER to tell Minnie they want to Eldridges. I said it's a surprise and eventually everyone will know. But right now, I need the lawyer to tell Minnie.

Praying the kids keep their mouths shut

The cherubs have a visit scheduled tomorrow with Great Grandma P. That means I'll get to see Minnie face to face.

I decided now was the perfect time to find out if Ms. Colorado has started doing her job yet or not. I don't want to walk into Minnie's office unprepared.

It seems that Ms. Colorado hasn't even started. I'm waiting for a phone call back though to see if perhaps she has spoken with Minnie on the phone off the record though.

Damn! It seems I might have let the cat out of the bag with the cherubs a little to soon. Here's to hoping that Dude and Dolly don't announce to Minnie that they want to be an Eldridge (our last name)!! I can hear it now, "Minnie....Minnie...Mommy got a lawyer! We're going to be Eldridges!!"

Monday, May 20, 2013

Loving Both

Dolly: Mommy...(while shaking extremely long braids around in the air)...Mommy...I want to be an E*** (our last name). Mommy....Mommy....and I want my hair super short!

Me: Dolly...(getting down on my knees to look her in the eyes)...Dolly...I'm trying. I don't know when it's going to happen. I don't know if it's going to happen. But I want you to be an E*** too!! I'm working on it.

(Getting serious)...Dolly, if you become an E*** it will make your Mommy C very sad.

-- Dolly's eyes widened and she had to hold back some big emotion --

I'm sorry Dolly. But your Mommy C can't take care of you. The judge said. But Dolly, I can take care of you.

-- Dolly's eyes immediately brightened and she smiled --

I can take care of you Dolly. And it's OK for you to love both your Mommy C and me. You don't have to choose.

----

Dolly has been talking about her Mommy C*** a LOT lately. Mr. Amazing had to do some therapeutic parenting last night when Dude came downstairs after bedtime to announce that Dolly was crying in her pillow. Mr. Amazing is the one that introduced the idea of being able to love both her first family and us. It has been very comforting for her. In fact, tonight as soon as I said it, she was back to bouncing all over her bedroom and twirling those braids around in the air again.

Now...how do I go about telling her that the next time she sees Mommy C*** she'll also be meeting a new brother or sister.

This foster parenting stuff is NOT for the faint of heart!!!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

How close?

Mama Foster, in response to my last post, asked me, "How close were the kids to being moved in with grandma at the last court date? Was it suggested?"

From the very beginning, the State has always said that they want to send the cherubs to Dallas. At every single hearing the State's goal has been "Relative Conservatorship".

Well, technically the first hearing was just to establish that the removal was valid. It took place two weeks after the cherubs came to me. It wasn't a "placement hearing" so it went quickly and didn't say much other than the fact that the kids were in foster care. But by the next hearing in November 2011, the goal was set in place to get the kids to Dallas. And that goal has never changed.

The kids were really close to being sent to Dallas this last time – just like they have been every single time we have gone before the judge. Honestly, the fact they haven't gone is nothing short of a miracle. In hindsight I see how the pieces have all fallen together in our favor. That's why I'm praying so hard for CPS to finally step up and do their jobs right now. The State of Texas has grounds to terminate parental rights. And I believe the case against Grandma N is strong enough that nobody should continue to try and push for that placement either. It will be two years on June 15. Two years of playing this "game". But still, I don't know what's going to happen when we go before the judge again on July 1. I'm hoping that I'll have a better idea this time around though because by then, my lawyer will be in the thick of things with me.

How long should I wait before I call our lawyer to see the status of things? I don't want to bother Ms. Colorado too much, but I'm dying to know what Minnie said when she found out we are intervening! Sure wish I could have been a fly on the wall during that conversation!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Welcome

From what I can tell, lots and lots of new folks have been making their way over to our little story. I'd like to take a quick moment to say, "howdy y'all".

I don't really talk like that. 

Well...maybe I do talk like that.

But only when I'm being a total dork.

I'm always a total dork.

But dork is a term of endearment in our family.

So, "Howdy y'all. I'm a dork."

Anyway -- since it looks like so many new people are popping over I figured it'd be a good time to post up a Q & A. When it comes to foster parenting things are different in every single part of the country. Even what is normal 10 hours from here (within my same state) is radically different where I live. Maybe parts of this story don't make sense to you because your process is different from mine. Maybe you'd like to know more about one of my cherubs. Maybe you'd like to read a post about how awesome Mr. Amazing truly is.

That said, is there anything anyone would like to know about this case, the intervention, or about our family? I'm not going to give away all our secrets. But if there's something that doesn't quite make sense, feel free to ask away! If you've got any kind of question, speak up. I'll do my best to answer.


Friday, May 17, 2013

God is using people everywhere!

God is using people all over the world to help us in this intervention! Donations are coming in from the USA, Canada and even Australia. We are so incredibly blessed!!

I promise I'll get puzzle pictures as soon as I can. We're in the final push of home school and I've been trying to get caught up with my freelancing. Every email I get announcing another donation touches my heart though. I will share progress as soon as I can. The kids are having fun getting things started. I just have to write all all those beautiful names on the backs before they get much further!

God is using so many people to help us! However, the person God is using quite visibly today doesn't even know she's being used to do His work. (insert maniacal laugh here)

If Minnie had never sent Dude and Dolly off to see their new therapist, Miss Mary, they would probably be packed up and gone from my home. But Minnie DID decide that my cherubs need therapy. And Miss Mary does God's will...not CPS's. (insert another maniacal laugh here) When we were in court everyone decided that we need Miss Mary's take on things before we can send the cherubs off to Dallas. And since the cherubs had only seen her three times prior to court, the notes hadn't been submitted just yet. (Miss Mary thinks that Minnie either lied about not having the notes or they did indeed get hung up in the paperwork shuffle getting them from court into Minnie's hands.)

The cherubs saw Miss Mary again tonight. She spoke with them separately. I don't know the details of what they discussed except for the all important one. When they finished up Miss Mary looked at me and said, "I support your efforts to protect these cherubs 100%. CPS doesn't always get what they want."

You see...Minnie contacted Miss Mary shortly after we had court a week ago. Minnie expressed the need to have full therapy notes before we go to court next. Then, in her typical fashion, she told Miss Mary to tell the cherubs that it doesn't matter what they want, they will be going to Dallas.

Praise God Miss Mary doesn't bend to the will of CPS. Miss Mary answers to a much higher power. She is joining all of us in prayer that Minnie will actually DO her job. And, along with that, her therapy notes will highlight the good brought by having the cherubs stay with us.

God is oh so much bigger than this whole mess!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Staffing

I don't think anything is going to happen. It never has in the past.

But I was just informed by Rainbow that Minnie is going to staff the "Tio E situation" with her supervisor.

(The last issue that got staffed was when I found the used drug syringe in the cherubs' suitcase. They told me to throw away the needle that it was taken care of and then they tried to not mention it in court. I don't have a lot of faith in The System to care about this situation either.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Puzzle update

I am in awe at how many people have come forward to support our legal needs as we strive to adopt Dude and Dolly. I love how Mie phrased it. She asked her blog readers for prayers and for financial support for us and said, "I happen to believe that when you do both - pray and donate - you're attacking this problem with Cherub Mamma in the spiritual world AND the physical and that the combination is powerful." I could not agree more! I continue to storm the heavens myself with prayers begging for CPS to do their jobs so this adoption can happen.

Last night Dolly melted down for the first time in months and months. It all started when she and Dude could not settle down at bedtime. From what I can tell they have few rules when they go to Dallas for a visit. Bedtime does not exist at all there. So when they get back, they often have a difficult night or two settling back in to their normal routine. Last night was one of those difficult nights. I went upstairs and gave the little cherubs a what-for. They cried. I left the room. However, about 15 minutes later I could still see the red lines on the baby monitor flickering. I went back upstairs.

Dolly was sobbing in to her pillow.

I sat down and asked her what was wrong. She just stared at me with these big brown eyes full of sadness. I asked again. She just whimpered and stared. Then I told her she needs to use her strong voice to tell me what the problem is. I can't help her if she won't tell me.

Dolly burst into tears again and cried out, "I miss my Mommy C***!"

I scooped Dolly up on to my lap and I told her, "Of course you do." We then proceeded to have quite the discussion about missing her first mommy. She took it all in. I told her she will always miss her first mommy and that's OK. It's sad. It's OK to be sad.

Then I told her that TT has a first mommy too. Dolly sat straight up and looked me in the eyes. (I've told her this before but it obviously didn't make sense back then.) I looked at Dolly and I told her that TT misses his first mommy too. Sometimes he's sad too. That really seemed to comfort her.

Throughout the conversation we discussed that God never wanted her to be separated from her first family. It makes God sad. But since Dolly's first mommy isn't doing the right things to keep herself safe, God brought Dolly to me and to our family. It's our job to love on Dolly and to keep her safe now.

Dolly settled down and went to sleep. And this afternoon, with a huge smile on her face she said, "Remember Mommy? Remember last night Mommy? Remember when I told you I missed my Mommy C***? And you told me that was OK?" I just smiled and told her I remembered.

We are God's Plan B for Dude and Dolly. We truly are. But I'm confident beyond measure that God is working miracles to make Plan B happen. With the help of so many people I've never met, we're going to be able to finance our legal needs so we can keep Dude and Dolly where they want to be. Thank you to everyone that has sponsored a puzzle piece.

The cherubs started sorting pieces today.


The bigger cherubs tried to teach Dude and Dolly about edge pieces and inside pieces.

They made piles. Many times the bigger kids had to tell the littler kids to not put pieces together. (Dude and Dolly just wanted to start shoving things together!)


Everyone gathered around the box again to see if they could find the pictures of the "hidden" bears.





And then TT and Bart started putting some of the pieces together for the edge of the puzzle.

I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to coordinate this without losing pieces all over the floor. For now though the cherubs can put 188 pieces of the puzzle together!! As they work, it's going to be my job to add all the beautiful names of everyone that sponsored these pieces to the backs.

Thank you again for all you are doing for our family. We are truly blessed!

I wish...

Dolly just skipped in the house from the backyard. Flipping her hair around in a circle (her new favorite talent – because no...she hasn't been allowed that haircut she was promised)....
anyway...while flipping her hair around she chanted,
"Mommy....Mommy...I wish...I wish....I wish I could be an E***" (our last name)
I looked up from my computer where I was working and smiled.

I said, "That sounds pretty good to me Dolly."

She skipped back outside to play with her brothers.

Boy I hope I get to make her wish come true!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Less Scared

OK...
Deep breaths....

Mr. Amazing took Dude aside before supper and casually asked about the incident at school. Dude told Mr. Amazing that the reason he pulled his pants down was because he had to go potty and he didn't want to wet the bed. (They sleep on little cots at school.)

This could be truth.
OR it could be Dude repeating what he heard his teacher tell me. (She never takes me aside to tell me sensitive information. It's infuriating!)

However...Dude did tell Mr. Amazing that he most definitely DID go to Tio Eli's house over the weekend. I'm 97% sure that is the secret that really has been plaguing the cherubs since they returned from Dallas. Grandma was told the cherubs were to have no contact with Tio Eli and Grandma took them over to his house. She told the cherubs to keep it a secret.

Can I pray that THIS information is enough to stop the insanity of placing the cherubs in Dallas permanently?!

Scared

That feeling when you pick up your kid from Head Start and the teacher tells you...

the child pulled down his pants AND his underwear during nap time.

It was discovered when she lifted the blanket to tell him it was time to wake up.

I've never hoped I was wrong more so in my life than I do right now!!!!

The puzzle has arrived

Now to get started putting it together while writing all the names of those that have contributed to the fundraiser on the backs of the pieces.

182 pieces so far!!

And the kids are super excited to see that not only is it a cool looking puzzle, but there are 12 bear images hidden throughout the picture.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Back from Dallas again

My cherubs are back from Dallas again. I was thankful for the timing of this visit. They left much earlier on Friday (10:00AM from my house) and they were home before 3:00PM on Sunday. The cherubs were much more regulated than the past few visits. They were still incredibly tired (Dude was falling asleep on Mr. Amazing's lap at 6:00PM). But they were in a much better mood compared to normal.

However, I am convinced that they have been told to keep secrets about what happens in Dallas.

I'm completely freaked out!

Dolly was going about her normal business yesterday and in conversation she told me that they went to Tio Eli's house. Dude immediately piped up and said that they did NOT got to Tio Eli's house. Dolly said they did. Dude said they didn't. Then both children completely clammed up. It was uncomfortable for me. Of course I wanted to continue to press them for information. But the way they shut down made it clear that I shouldn't.

This morning on the way to drop Dude off at school, TT made conversation with Dolly about this weekend. As cheerfully as I could I said, "They did a lot of stuff this weekend. They went to a party. They went over to someone's house to get dresses for a cousin. And they went to Tio Eli's house."

Dude immediately said, "We didn't go to Tio Eli's house."

Dolly is such a pleaser. She didn't know what to do. It was all over her face!!! She wanted to keep the secret. Yet she wanted to agree with me.

I dropped it.

When I opened the door to get Dude out I picked him up instead of putting him down to walk. He grabbed hold hard and buried his head in my shoulder. I walked away from the car and hugged him tight. As we got up to the school I told him he looked scared – or sad. He buried his head in my shoulder again.

I held him. I told him he's not in trouble. I told him he was safe.

Then I asked him if something scared him in Dallas.

He said yes.

I asked him if someone told him to keep a secret.

He nodded yes.

I asked him, "Who?"

He clammed up tight and then mumbled, "Me."

------

I didn't know what to do. I dropped it after reminding him that he is safe and he's not in trouble. I took his teacher aside and told her what had just happened. I said that if he does share anything about where he went this weekend it's important information for me to have. I also need to know badly if he acts up in school this week. I have to document everything.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

More thoughts on this intervention

I've known what I'm about to say for awhile now. But I pretty much just forgot all about it. Then, as I was out driving around running some errands this afternoon, it all came back to me again.

If Grandma N finds out about this intervention, and as a result tells CPS she no longer wants the children, CPS will be forced to terminate rights.

I've never been in a position to talk to Grandma N.
1. She only comes to court. And even then, she hasn't made it to all the hearings.
2. She pretty much only speaks Spanish. I only speak English.
3. CPS makes sure that I'm never alone with Grandma.
4. Grandma is the most stoic person I've ever met. She barely even talks to the children when I'm around. At court on Monday she did nothing to interact with them on her own. (Likewise, the cherubs had nothing to do with her until Minnie made Dolly feel guilty by saying, "Don't you want to go sit with Grandma?")

The only person that communicates with Grandma is Minnie. Grandma doesn't have her own lawyer – she doesn't need one...yet. (If rights are terminated, Grandma would have to legally petition to adopt them as well. She'd probably need a lawyer to do that.) The only person telling Grandma anything is Minnie. And we all know that Minnie has NEVER offered up the option of letting us adopt the cherubs and Grandma N can stay grandma. I'm sure Grandma N does NOT know that we've said time and time again we'd have an open adoption and she'd probably end up with more contact than she has now providing the situation is safe and Grandma wants the contact.

But now we have a lawyer. Our lawyer can, and should, talk with Grandma at some point in time.

In my opinion, not only is Grandma N's home not a safe one, but I've NEVER gotten the feeling that Grandma N WANTS these children.
1. She doesn't acknowledge holidays or birthday in any way. Not even a phone call.
2. I've had workers throughout the past couple years tell me that Grandma N never calls CPS to check on the children.
3. Grandma does little to interact with the cherubs on her own when she does come down for a visit. I'm sure they talk and "play" some when they are in the visit room being watched by CPS. But outside of that, there's almost no interaction. She doesn't light up when she sees them. She doesn't come to them and say hi. Nothing. It's really strange!!
4. Grandma doesn't do anything to have visits with the cherubs on her own. As of now they are arranged and fully paid for by the State. The cherubs are flown to her and then flown back home.

The next time I talk with Ms. Colorado I'm going to ask about this particular angle. Between her and/or the lawyers for the children, someone needs to talk to Grandma and find out how badly she really does want the cherubs. The time to find out this information has come.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Introducing...Ms. Colorado

I guess it's time to add another character to our story. Today I'd like to introduce Ms. Colorado. She is now representing my husband and I in the best interests of Dude and Dolly. As soon as paperwork is filed (hopefully next week) we will be legal players in this case.

I met with Ms. Colorado at 2:00PM today in her law office. I was quite pleased to see that any concerns that I could have had were immediately put to rest.
  1. She is not a private lawyer acting alone. She is the owner of the law office where several other professionals practice.
  2. Her law office had a nice atmosphere to it. It was professional and everyone seemed organized. She didn't make me wait. Our appointment started on time.
  3. She has worked with CPS for the past 13 years. She's even worked in the county where my cherubs are from. She knows her stuff about how this should work.
  4. She didn't give me any false promises of hope. She was honest. However, she did say that if everything is as I say it is, we do have a strong case. (She didn't use those exact words, but she did seem very confident!)
I have a receipt for the first of what is sure to be many invoices. Ms. Colorado did say that she would allow me to do some leg work. For example, if paperwork needs to be filed in the county where this case originated, she'll allow me to drive it there as opposed to paying her or someone in her office to do it. I will do whatever it takes to keep the costs down.

That's the biggest reason why I'm posting yet again today.
I know the best thing for this case right now is prayer.

Ms. Colorado made it very clear that if CPS steps up and does their job, this won't take as long nor will it be as costly. And, if everything I said to her today is true, CPS does have grounds to petition to terminate parental rights.

So I need prayers. I need people flooding the heavens with my request. Please pray that CPS will not fight this intervention. Please pray that Minnie will step back and act in the cherubs' best interests. If CPS does not fight this, they can petition for termination. They can foot that portion of the bill. And because this case is over that magic 12 month mark, and then the magic 6 month extension after that, there are grounds to terminate. Both parents are in jail. Neither parent has worked any part of any plan. And then...to top it all off...the relative the State thinks they should go to is not safe. If the State terminates, Grandma N will have to hire her own lawyer and petition for adoption if she's interested. And I can almost guarantee that she is NOT going to put forth that kind of effort.

I am in awe of the support my family has received today since the fundraiser started. I am in total AWE. Thank you all so much for what you've done for my family. I finally starting to feel a little bit better. Mr. Amazing just walked in the house and he said he can see on my face that I'm a lot less stressed.

I'm still going to spend the better part of my weekend in prayer. Not only do I need all the prayers above, but Dude and Dolly are in Dallas right now! And after their last visit, I know that I need to pray for their protection even more than ever.

Thank you again for your support. I'm begging for your prayers. My mantra for this entire adventure is going to be, "God is bigger than this mess!"

Puzzle Pieces

If the puzzle was in my home right now,
and if I had the time to do this all right now,
I'd be showing everyone a picture of 49 puzzle pieces marked with the names of friends that are financially supporting our adventure.

If there was a way to measure prayer, I'd show you a mamma that has a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Wow.

Just WOW!

Piecing together a fundraiser

It has been made very clear to me by several different professionals that the only way we can get the State to act in the best interests of Dude and Dolly is for my husband and I to legally intervene in their case.

This can be done without a lawyer. However, I know very little about the actualities of the legal system and I am far from comfortable representing myself when it comes to terminating the parental rights of another set of parents.

We have to hire a lawyer.

From there, our lawyer will file a petition to intervene. ALL the case documents have to be made available to us and to our lawyer. Our lawyer is to then build a case in favor of termination with the permanency plan being that we should adopt the cherubs. We will become a legal option for permanency that the judge can consider when he rules. If CPS "cooperates", it could go quite quickly. They have grounds to terminate. In fact, I'm puzzled why it's never been brought to the table!

But this process is not an easy one. Lawyers are expensive. It could be quite time consuming if CPS wants to continue to fight for placing the cherubs with Grandma.

I need help.

Like I said yesterday, I need your prayers the most.

However, several people have contacted me both on the blog and in real life to offer me financial assistance in our fight. With the help of some of my friends, a fundraiser has been started.




That bear up in the tree is Dude.
The one on the ground looking up is Dolly.
And then there is me...protecting them both.

This is actually a 1000 piece puzzle. For every $5 raised, our family will be able to put a piece of this puzzle together. Anyone that donates will have their name written on the back of "their" puzzle piece. When it's all finished, our family will have a keepsake that we can frame and hang forever reminding us of all the love and support we received during our fight to protect these cherubs. As I was told just this past Monday by a friend, there are a lot of Mamma Bears out there praying for my cherubs. And since prayers were answered Monday in court, we're stepping out in faith with what we believe we must do next.

A donation button is up in the corner of this blog. Monies raised aren't coming directly to me. Tammy at I Must Be Trippin' is the one that stayed up late last night taking care of this. We "met" each other online what seems like ages ago AND I had the pleasure of meeting her in real life just a month ago when I went with her (and some other terrific foster mammas) to a mom's retreat in Tyler, Texas. Tammy is A.W.E.S.O.M.E!! When I expressed how overwhelmed I am with this whole turn of events (coupled along with some serious health issues and hospitalizations affecting both my father and my father-in-law) Tammy said, "Don't worry about a thing." She set up the PayPal account and is going to manage the funds that come in. As our family needs money toward the lawyer, we will be able to draw from the account she set up.

The puzzle is being shipped to my house. I'll keep everyone updated with our progress with pictures as often as I can. We'll put together the puzzle together piece by piece as donations come in.

I thank you again for your prayers. If you feel so inclined to help my family in the financial battle that we face, thank you for that as well.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Prayer request

Lawyer: "You can expect to pay $2000 just to get started. I'll need $1000 up front."

Me: "I can do that.  < pause >  I've heard these can cost as much as $20,000."

Lawyer: WITHOUT MISSING A BEAT "Oh yeah!! They can!! You can also expect this could take up to a year."

-----

Doors have opened though. And I've got some friends that are more than just rooting for me...they are going to help me come up with some of that potential $20K. NEVER in a million years did I think I would ever be a part of anything like this. NEVER did I think I'd have to risk my finances to do the job the State is unwilling to do.
• But the judge told me to do it.
• The lawyer told me to do it.
• The therapist sees this case in black and white (in our favor).
• And the kids want to stay here.
How can I not do this?

It means a lot to me to have the support of y'all. It means more than you know. And even if I do come out and ask for money...what I covet most are your prayers. God is bigger than this whole mess. Miracles can happen. Things could move faster than any intervention in our area ever has before. The lawyer could be fair and not overcharge. CPS could step up and do what is just and legal.

God IS bigger than this whole mess.

So, since I'm up to my eyeballs in drama and stress right now, I'm boldly asking for prayers. I thank you in advance for covering us with your prayer.

Tell me I'm not crazy to do this...

I just hired a lawyer.

I've got an appointment to meet with her tomorrow.

I have to bring $1000.

I'm scared to death!

She's really working her language skills

"Daddy...it's fine with me. Is it fine with you? I will play for a little bit. Then...it's fine with me. I think I should take a bubble bath. Is it fine with you?"

--- said Dolly the other night after being told the week prior that bubble baths take more time and she should ask for one if that's what she wants.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I called another lawyer

I think I might start posting too frequently. It's for me more than anything. I want to record every step of this adventure.

I'm scared to death.

So today I called another lawyer. It happens to be Pumpkin's GAL. She's never had anything to do with Dude & Dolly's case – but she does know me. I would hope that helps a little. I had to leave a message for her to call me back. I'm still waiting.

No one from Ms. Rodriguez's office has called me back. I'd still like to know if she recommends anyone in particular.

I also sent a text to Deborah. She is a CPS supervisor that, for a very brief couple of months, was on this case as their immediate worker. I told her I had a sensitive question and I hoped she would call me back at her convenience. I trust Deborah. She's the only connection I have IN CPS that I trust. I'm anxious to talk to her.

---

This is going to be a whole lot of waiting. Calling people. Waiting for answers. Submitting paperwork. Waiting some more.

Let's just hope that Dude & Dolly don't crawl in Minnie's car on Friday as they leave for yet another visit to Dallas and tell Minnie they want to be adopted. Somehow I don't think that would go over well.

Trying out some big words

Mr. Amazing: "Dolly, go potty and wash your hands. It's time for supper."

Dolly: "Daddy...I did already. That's why I'm in the living room playing appropriately."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

conflict of interest

Ms. Rodriguez cannot represent us as we intervene in this case. She reports that it IS a conflict of interest because she was the cherubs' lawyer for a year.

However, she is going to look in to our case now and see if there is anyone that she can recommend.

I'm not looking forward to this process at all. I'm scared to death of what this might cost. I'm scared to death of the stress it might add to the family. And I'll be honest...I'm scared of how Minnie is going to respond and what she might try to do to me.

But I have a peace about it. I do believe that NOW we are supposed to intervene. We cannot trust the State to keep these cherubs safe and loved for the rest of their lives. We have to do more than just foster them.

The ball is rolling

We're going to knock on some doors and see if they open.

I called a lawyer this morning. It just happens to be the lawyer that was on this case for the first year. Ms. Rodriguez was in favor of the children staying with us during that entire year. But like I said yesterday, there's this script or list of unpublished rules that everyone seems to follow. Because she was both their AAL and their GAL (attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem) she had dual roles. And for reasons I don't understand, she always leaned more to the legal (AAL) side of things. And since what CPS has wanted has never been illegal, no one has ever wanted to go against it.

Ms. Rodriguez is in court right now so I won't hear anything back right away. The secretary said she'll need to see if this is perhaps a conflict of interest. If not, she'll set up an appointment with me. If it IS a conflict, she'll get Ms. Rodriguez to recommend a lawyer for us.

I personally don't see how this can be a conflict. Ms. Rodriguez was their lawyer but came off the case when the new judge started a year ago. She dropped ALL of her cases in the county Dude & Dolly are from. She no longer works CPS cases out of that county at all. Also, it's been a year. Surely that passage of time and all that's changed (or not changed) since count for something?!

I'm not made of money though. And this by no means is going to be a "free" adoption out of foster care. Here's to brainstorming on fundraisers....

Another toothbrush story

Dude took his shower first last night. That meant he was the first kid to brush his teeth. I sat on my bed outside the bathroom watching him as he finished up.

First he reached up to put his toothbrush on the right side of all three toothbrushes (next to his sister's).

Then, he spoke only to himself and said, "No....Mommy's." And he reached forward and put his toothbrush next to mine on the left.

As he was doing so he pushed all three toothbrushes together and said, "Close...like that."

Who knew toothbrushes could tell such a story?!

Monday, May 6, 2013

All right...All right....y'all wanna know what happened

I love to look at the stats on this blog. You can always tell when something is going on. My numbers compared to "normal for me" were HUGE last summer. Nothing like a good investigation to bring all kinds of readers to my blog. LOL

And then there are days like today.
Court.
Ugh!

I can tell everyone is checking in to see what happened.

So...

without fanfare, it was decided that the cherubs will....

wait for it....

wait for it....

stay with us yet again!!






N.O.T.H.I.N.G. happened today. Court started almost 1.5 hours late. (Yes, I had to keep two preschoolers calm and quiet in a courtroom for over two hours with nothing for them to do.) When it did start it was the same thing as always. The State wants the kids to go to Grandma's in Dallas.

The attorney ad litem and the guardian ad litem both spoke of the cherubs' desires to stay with us. CPS said the children are fine and they want to place with Grandma. Minnie did mention that there have been increased behaviors out of Dude surrounding the visits to Dallas. She was very wishy-washy in her explanation though. The guardian indicated that the behaviors could easily have increased because they DON'T want to go to Dallas. (Minnie really tried to say the kids want to STAY in Dallas.)

Then it all came down to this brand new relationship with Miss Mary, the cherubs' therapist. Because the cherubs have only seen her three times, there are no therapy notes to offer up to the court. And today, despite everyone asking the cherubs where they want to live, today they are too young to be taken seriously all on their own.

Bio Mom is scheduled to get out of jail on June 27. They have called a Special Hearing for July 1st at 9:00. During that hearing we will do this all over again. Only, Bio Mom will be present AND we will have therapy notes to read to the judge. (They did mention that Bio Mom is pregnant and ready to deliver soon. That didn't affect this case at all.)

Visits to Dallas will continue. The guardian wants to start phone calls between Grandma N and the cherubs. Everyone wants to try and force some kind of a relationship here that just doesn't exist. Shoot -- the cherubs didn't even look up at Grandma when she arrived in court today. It took Minnie forcing them to acknowledge her before they even said "hi". And Grandma is so incredibly stoic that she says and does nothing to interact with the cherubs. I've never seen a grandma like her in all my life. She is so very, very detatched.

After our case adjourned the guardian caught me outside the courtroom. He very clearly said, "If you want to adopt these children, you have to hire a lawyer and intervene."

I questioned him. I said, "I thought you could advocate for them/us. If you say it is in their best interests for them to stay with us they could, right?"

The guardian told me again that we need to hire a lawyer. The most he would be able to do would be to get us PMC. (And then, if we wanted to adopt, we would still have to hire a lawyer.)

Prayerfully we have to consider this as an option. The cherubs both used their strong voices today and told complete strangers that they want to live with us. I know we have the support of the judge (at least that was what he said in January at our last hearing). I'm pretty sure we have the support of the cherubs' guardian and therapist. The only person NOT in favor of us taking custody is CPS. (Well...and Bio Mom of course. Bio Mom still thinks she can get the kids back.)

I don't know what we're going to do other than pray and begin to explore our legal options. I'm not sure if I can find a lawyer that would take this case AND be willing to charge us a fair amount that we can afford. But I think we just might try.

-----

After court Minnie had me take the cherubs over to the CPS office. They were to have a visit with Grandma N for an hour. I ran through a drive-thru, bought them some crap, and got over to CPS right away. Minnie took FOREVER to get there and Grandma didn't come until after that. However, I was told to return at 1:15 to get the children. At about 12:50 I came back and sat in the parking lot for a bit. Then I came in and went to the restroom. I was sitting in a front waiting room away from the CPS portion of the building. However, the cherubs must have seen my vehicle because at about 12:55 they just got up and walked out to the front room to see me. They didn't say goodbye to Grandma. They didn't ask for permission from CPS. They just got up and came to me.

Seems perfectly clear to me what they want. If only CPS would care.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Big feelings

Multiple times today TT and Bart have done something on purpose to hurt Dude.

Bart even said he had the right to do whatever he wanted because this is his house...not Dude's.

Think maybe there are some big feelings toward court on Monday?!

Things I worry about

I worry sometimes about how Dude & Dolly's time in our home will be remembered. Will they remember love and fun and family?

Or will they have memories that are less than stellar? What do they think of the tantrums that TT and Bart throw? How are they processing out differences in rules? Do they realize that the reason some rules are different are simply because they are the youngest in the house and NOT because they are foster kids?

We have toys in almost every area of the house. Dude & Dolly have a few small manipulatives down in the living room. They pull out their Legos and/or Polly Pockets when they want to be close to the rest of the family but they don't want to just sit there while we talk or do "big people" things (ie: more grown up TV shows, video games, etc.)

Dude & Dolly are supposed to keep their toys in their room. They have a LOT of toys that they get to call their very own. They can be played with in any part of the house. But when things get picked up, they are supposed to go back in their room.

We also have a huge play room with TONS of toys. These are communal toys. Many of them used to be Herman's and were passed down to TT and Bart. Dude and Dolly are free to play with all of them. Anything special to TT and Bart needs to be kept in their room. (As a rule, the children are not allowed in each other's rooms.) But TT and Bart's room is pretty small. They don't have much space to store special toys. They end up sharing almost everything they own.

That can be hard for TT and Bart.

So this week, when Herman allowed TT and Bart to take ownership of an older toy of his, I had to get creative. The toy is a set of miniature Hot Wheels and individual tracks that all hook together into one giant landscape. Where would we put it? Should I let Dude and Dolly play with it too?

I mean...Dude and Dolly would be capable of playing with it. But really, it's not necessary for them to have access to it. They have cars and tracks of their own. Plus, these are miniature...just the right size to fit in pockets and disappear. And since TT and Bart already share almost everything, I decided to restrict Dude and Dolly's access.

But still...where would the toy fit?!

I ended up letting TT and Bart put the track together in the end of our living room. There's a small nook next to the front window that is easy enough to tell Dude and Dolly they have to stay out of.

But this is what my living room has looked like for the past few days.


Will they remember the love and the fun and the family?

Or if Dude and Dolly leave me next week will they remember THIS?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Therapy for Dude & Dolly

The cherubs have seen Miss Mary two times now. Last week's appointment was a bit of a fiasco. She contacted me in the afternoon and needed to reschedule for later in the evening. I literally had to take two children that go to bed at 7:30PM to therapy at 7:30PM instead. I don't think she fully believed me when I told her that was right at bedtime but we would comply. And since Dude had a HORRIBLE week following the trip to Dallas, she was ready to attribute his hyped up behavior at therapy to the visit. I looked at her though and said, "Um...it IS one hour past their bedtime. They literally do go to bed at 7:30PM every night."

She took their bedtime into consideration when she scheduled this week's appointment. She came to our house this time at 5:00PM.

Now...I do NOT clean for social workers. Or lawyers. Or CASA. (Not that Dude & Dolly have a CASA...they don't. Or that their lawyers meet with them....they don't!) I don't special clean for foster care. I figure I want people to see the real me. I keep a reasonably clean home. But if you just pop in, there will be dishes on the counter, laundry by the machine and toys all over the playroom. Today though, as I thought about the power that Miss Mary truly does have in this case, I decided to clean.

I popped off a status update in a foster parent support group I belong to on Facebook saying I was going to clean for the therapist.  :)  It led to quite a conversation. Along the way, a friend of mine online, who just happens to be a foster mom AND a therapist decided to talk about what she would do with the kids if she was meeting with them tonight. She said she'd have them draw pictures of my house and of Grandma N's. From there she would have them draw pictures next to the places where they feel safe, where they have fun, where they are loved, where they have been scared, etc.

Fast forward to about an hour later. The littlest cherubs were playing outside. Bart, TT & Herman were playing together in the living room. And Miss Mary arrived. I gave her the nickle tour and we called the kids in. As she started to go upstairs Miss Mary said, "Are the art supplies are upstairs?"

I said, "No, they are down here. What would you like?"

Miss Mary said, "Well, I'd like some paper, crayons and pencils. Do you think the kids would be able to draw a picture of a house? And maybe some stick figures?"

As she started to describe what she was going to do my jaw dropped. Miss Mary looked at me and said, "What?! What's the matter?!"

I had to laugh. I had to tell her with my online friend had suggested. She thought it was pretty cool and laughed along with me. She then went upstairs to the playroom and situated the children separate from each other.



It's hard to tell what this picture is. The one above is Dolly's. Our house is on the left. Grandma N's apartment is on the right. Miss Mary said that Dolly very definitively said she wants to live with us. I'm not sure if that's what the box on the front means or if Dolly pointed to our house while they talked.

Below is Dude's picture. Our house is on top with Grandma N's underneath. The huge hand next to our house is his way of saying he wants to live with us. He too confirmed this with Miss Mary.
Miss Mary asked me to make copies of the pictures. She instructed me to bring them to court on Monday. I am to show them to the cherubs' lawyer(s). Her notes will also reflect what these pictures say and what they ultimately mean.

So, even though Miss Mary can't "officially" say where she thinks the cherubs should live....she is going to swing the pendulum in the other direction.

I'm not going to get my hopes up. I can't. But there is a chance that the cherubs will stay. There is still a chance.