Saturday, June 29, 2013

Baby Zippy

I've got another question to throw out to the Internet. I really want to know how anyone else has handled anything like this or what your opinions on it might be.

Dude and Dolly now have a baby brother. I've never met the cherub. For now, anyway, I'm going to call him Baby Zippy.

Baby Zippy lives in jail with his bio mom. I have NO IDEA what the State is planning for this cherub. All I know is that the facility where Bio Mom is living will allow Baby Zippy to stay for six months. I believe that Bio Mom has to stay longer than that so a plan will eventually have to be put in place. I do NOT know if this plan will involve a "phone call" to my house or not.

When do I tell Dude and Dolly about Baby Zippy?

How do I explain Baby Zippy to Dude and Dolly? (especially since I really know nothing myself)

Unless something very, very strange happens in this case, there is no chance that Dude and Dolly will ever go live with their bio mom again. They will not go to Bio Dad either! It's just what it is. Neither parent has done anything toward their case plan. (Bio Dad never "wanted" the kids anyway.) Both parents are currently in jail. And, it's been two years. The State has never thought that reunification with the bio parent(s) was an option. The only thing the State has ever asked for in the courts is Relative Conservatorship. I have to assume that the State's initial plan for Baby Zippy is for him to stay with Bio Mom.

I've explained jail as a place where Bio Mom can be kept safe because she was making bad choices. How do I spin it that to explain why it's OK for a baby to be in jail? How could I explain to Dolly that SHE can't go live with Bio Mom in jail? How do I explain a baby that they can't see?

Is it even necessary to tell the cherubs they have a sibling yet?

My gut tells me that I can wait until the absolute last minute to explain to Dude and Dolly about Baby Zippy. And by last minute, I mean right up until the time when they may see Bio Mom again. Is that a bad thing? If the cherubs wouldn't really understand anyway, do I have to try and make them understand prior to meeting the baby? IMO it would just add confusion to their already very layered trauma.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Another $1800 earned

Prayers were answered on the motorcycle.

Mr. Amazing is signing the title over right now.

God is so good!

Next up...a yard sale. I'm hoping to get some donations from local folks to add to my own stash. Then I'll throw open the garage door and hopefully get a little bit more to add to the account.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fundraiser Giveaway

The kids keep walking by the table and saying, "Can we put any more pieces in Mom?"

I have to admit, I've been kind of hogging the puzzle.  :)  Dolly did help me put some pieces in the other day, though. She found two of the five this weekend from a $25 donation!!

The goal is to finish this puzzle by our next court date (July 15). Tammy at I Must Be Trippin' wants to help things along and she's offered up a giveaway.

As always, thank you to everyone that has donated so far. I'm blown away by the generosity!! Thank you for the prayers as well. Things couldn't have gone better at court last week. My current prayer request is for everyone to pray that the State begin termination proceedings!!

The time has come for me to send another $1000 to Ms. Colorado. This fundraiser is certainly easing my fears of the unknown. I'm trusting God to provide! I know He will!! (P.S. it would be great if you could pray that a buyer come along for Mr. Amazing's small motorcycle. It was supposed to be for me to learn to ride on. We were keeping it because I've been certain that Dude and Dolly were going to leave and my parenting duties were going to be simplified. Since that - hopefully - won't be the case, we're selling the bike to help fund the intervention.)

Thank you everyone! Be sure to check out Tammy's giveaway!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The long-awaited haircut

Last night, as I prepped her again for today's events, I told Dolly, "Later, if you decide you want long hair again you can have it. Your hair will keep growing and you can grow it out if you want. It won't have to be short forever."

Dolly got mad! She honestly thought that once she got this blasted haircut that her hair would just stop growing and it would be short forever.

Today was wonderful. I couldn't have asked for a nicer spa. Dolly was fully pampered. It was JUST the experience I wanted for Dolly. I wanted everyone to tell her how beautiful she is. I wanted it to be special. I couldn't have asked for more!!









Friday, June 21, 2013

Girls Day Out

Dolly's haircut is scheduled for Saturday morning. I found a lovely spa that does cuts for Locks of Love for free. After that, we are both getting pedicures. (Dolly chews on her fingers something fierce and she knows I won't paint her fingernails until there is some white on the ends of them. Unfortunately it's a habit that started after coming in to Care as I do remember cutting her fingernails at least a few times two summers ago.) After our spa time we are going to go to lunch. She's pretty excited about getting to pick the restaurant. (Here's to hoping I can steer her to something nicer than Jack In The Box.)

Dolly has spent all week trying to convince me that she's happy about getting a haircut. Initially after court she was thrilled when I told her she was finally allowed to get it cut. But later on that night she turned things around. Through the monitor in her room I heard, "I not happy about a haircut Mommy! I not happy!"

I went upstairs and found Dolly playing on the floor of her room. Her whole body was slumped over and she looked so sad. Keeping things light I told her, "That's OK Dolly. You don't have to get it cut. Mommy will probably take you to get a trim so that your hair will look nicer and be healthy. But if you want long hair you can have long hair. I won't make you get it cut."

Dolly still sat there slumped over. Her sadness had nothing to do with the haircut (at least not directly). I came a little closer and sat down next to her. I said, "Dolly, I think there's something else bothering you. Are you missing your first mommy?"

Dolly collapsed into a puddle of tears. (This, in and of itself, is progress.) She even crawled over to my lap and let me comfort her. As is the way of Dolly, she immediately tried to stifle those tears. I told her it's good to cry. I told her to let it out.

Then we processed. I reminded her that she will always love her first mommy and that it's good. It's OK. Her heart is big enough to love us both. I did everything I could to validate those feelings that she doesn't understand. I'm trying to give her words for things. She didn't talk much. But she listened.

Side note: Dude was listening too. It's so radically different between the kids. I told Dolly that it's OK to miss her mom and Dude popped off in the background, "I don't!" He will someday. But right now, he just doesn't understand Dolly's grief.

For the first time ever Dolly asked me, "Why my mommy no keep me safe?"

I asked Dolly if she remembered anyone smoking in front of her or using drugs. She said no. I asked her if she remembered ever being left alone. She said no. Dolly literally has no idea what it was in her life that caused her to come in to Care. She doesn't remember any abuse or neglect.

So...I explained drugs. I explained that some drugs are good and they help people. I said other drugs are bad and the police say we can't have them. I reminded Dolly of the day she came to my home. I told her that she had been all alone in a hotel room and nobody knew where her mommy was. Throughout the entire conversation I tried hard to honor Dolly's family and to not add shame to anything. I told Dolly that it's very, very difficult to get better sometimes and Dolly's first mom is having a hard time. That's how I explain "jail" to Dude and Dolly. I tell them it's a place where grown-ups go if they are having a hard time keeping themselves safe. I say it's a place to help the grown-ups. (No sense in my opinion trying to explain laws or anything else. I just focus everything on staying safe. Dude and Dolly came to me so I could keep them safe. Their mom and dad are in jail because they weren't keeping themselves safe.)

I ended things by telling Dolly that I will always keep her safe and that she can love everyone. She really needs to hear that it's OK to still love her first mommy a lot. (Especially since Dude kept making comments about liking it here and not liking his first mom.) It's also getting harder for Dolly because she doesn't remember her first mom well. She has one fleeting memory of eating ice cream at a park with her first mom. That's it. The lack of memories is frightening to her. She needs to know it's OK to love someone she barely remembers.

About 5 minutes after I left Dolly's room and came back downstairs, Dolly skipped up to me and said, "I'm happy about a haircut Mommy."

All week long now Dolly has been telling me, "I'm happy about a haircut." I can tell she's trying to psych herself up for it. Dolly has no idea what to expect.

Most of the time I just smile and tell Dolly I'm glad she's happy. I will say something like, "I bet it will be nice to be able to leave your hair down sometimes." At least a couple times I've told her that the haircut will probably make her sad too. I'm convinced she's going to have a little "buyer's remorse" when all is said and done. Much of Dolly's identity is wrapped around that long, long hair. It is the focus of total strangers every time we go out. She can't be in public without someone talking about it and/or touching it. That will all stop when she gets it cut.

But Dolly is tired of how long it takes to care for the hair. And Dolly is tired of having to wear it up 100% of the time. She really does want it cut and I think eventually she will really like it.

I'm looking forward to the haircut. I can't wait for my life to be a little bit easier. But here I go again, throwing more change on my kid! Tomorrow is going to be an emotional day!!

Facebook

Peer pressure has resulted in this:

https://www.facebook.com/CherubMamma

Come join in the fun.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rearrange

Only because I posted all those pictures of my house the other day....
I figured I'd show you what it looks like now.

I spent an entire day swapping kids and their things around.

Dolly now has a room all to herself. By CPS "law" she would have had to have moved before her birthday in September anyway. I knew it would be better to deal with the discomfort of change this summer as opposed to right after school starts.
Of course nothing can go too smoothly. Within one day of moving the kitchen into Dolly's room, Bart threw a hissy fit exclaiming that HE wanted to play with the kitchen now and it's totally unfair that it's in Dolly's room. Rather than try to convince him that it had been at least six months since he had even touched the kitchen, I promptly moved it back into the shared playroom and the dollhouse was moved into Dolly's room. (Of course he went to play with something else immediately. He just wanted that power. The kitchen will be going back in Dolly's room soon.)

Bart has since calmed down about the whole room switch. Out of all the kids he took it the worst. The darling cherub honestly thought he should get a room all to himself. Instead, he's now sharing with TT and Dude. It's "The Boys' Room". Dude told me we needed to make a sign that says "no girls allowed". (I'm pretty sure that line was fed to him by an older brother!) Dude's favorite part of having the older boys move in to the room is the pictures on the wall. He thinks that is awesome!!

The way the house rules are set up now, Dude is no longer allowed to play in his bedroom. I thought long and hard about this but decided that it is necessary to give TT and Bart some privacy still. They are older and they have "big kid" toys that Dude isn't supposed to touch anyway. I moved Dude's toys (the ones that are just his) out to an exclusive shelf in the playroom. He knows he is to sleep in his bedroom and play in the playroom. He's OK with this and all the kids know they aren't allowed to mess with his toys unless they ask first.
The first night after the switch was a rough one! Dolly was scared. She's such a little pleaser though. She just curled up in her bed and went to sleep. I comforted her as much as I could and then I just had to leave her be. She wasn't crying or anything but I could tell she was upset.

Dude was still awake an hour after his bedtime when TT and Bart came upstairs to go to bed. He settled down OK after they got tucked in.

This is how TT and Bart coped.
The next morning, ALL the cherubs were up early! It was a long day and Dude and Dolly had the pleasure of taking a nap as a result.

Everyone has adjusted pretty well now though. TT and Bart like having more space to play in their room.

Dude and Dolly have transitioned fine. And, amazingly enough, TT is sleeping through the night for the first time in almost over a year. (I think it's more due to the meds I've got him taking than the room switch.) I'm glad I got this done at the beginning of the summer. It's been an interesting thing to watch though. Change isn't easy -- even safe, relatively simple stuff like this.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sparkle Jewlz


One of the neatest parts of this blogging "thing" has been the community I've found. There isn't much of a foster parent network where I live and I haven't connected with any other families that foster. Well...there are a few families that I know. But they are really just acquaintances, not friends.

The internet however has connected me to some amazing people!! Comments on the blog are wonderful! I've gotten emails that have touched my heart and lifted me up just when I needed it. I've spoken on the phone with a friend during one of the darkest parts of my fostering journey and gotten amazing support. And I've even got to meet some of my blogging friends in real life!!

Y'all are awesome!!!

Recently I had an internet friend step forward with another fundraising opportunity for our intervention. This one is just as simple as the puzzle too. Buy jewelry.

Heather's mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer back in December. Heather has been tasked with selling the jewelry her mom had acquired. Her mom used to hold jewelry parties. I'm guessing it was something of a hobby for her. At any rate, she can no longer sell this jewelry herself. Heather, in order to help raise money for her mom (and for me), has set up a blog with photos of some of the jewelry for sale. It's currently a work in progress as there is over $5000 worth of jewelry in the entire collection. But Heather has some photos up of jewelry for people to look at and purchase if they want. And she's continuing to add more photos whenever she can.

In a very generous way, Heather has offered to give me 30% of all sales. Simply mention me (Cherub Mamma) when you make a purchase and she'll send 30% of the earnings to our intervention fund. If she could manage to sell all of the jewelry in her mom's collection, that would mean as much as $1500 toward our intervention. THAT WOULD BE HUGE!!

Her site is SparkleJewlz.blogspot.com. She opted to put things up on a blog so she could avoid paying fees on Ebay or Etsy. This way all the money earned will go straight to our families.

This isn't some big business or fancy site. It's just a daughter trying to help her mom out as they go through their own struggles. And, moved by our story, she wants to help my family as well. I am blessed by her generosity! The community I've found through this blog never ceases to amaze me!

Monday, June 17, 2013

We are in!!

Dude and Dolly went to day care in the morning. It took everything Dude had to not cry when I dropped him off. He HATES being separated from me. But he held it together and (Praise God) they let Dude and Dolly stay in the same room.

TT and Bart had swimming lessons. I stayed and watched and then helped facilitate the transition over to the rec center. Both boys were fine and not too nervous at all today. (Court has a tendency to mess everyone up no matter how hard I try to shelter everyone from those big feelings.)

I got home and Mr. Amazing I decided to head off to the city where court was being held early. Mr. Amazing has wanted to take me to a Mexican restaurant in that town for a long time now. I knew I would barely be able to eat, but I smiled and played along.

I was right about not being able to eat. The food was delicious but by the time it arrived I was a mess!! I was shaking. My stomach was in knots. It was awful. I forced myself to eat some. But it wasn't easy.

By 1:00PM we decided to just go over to the courthouse. There was little else we could do. Might as well wait there. We went through the scanners and up to the second floor. Another family approached me right away thinking I was a CPS worker. I had to disappoint her and say I was there for a different case.

By about 1:30PM people started filing into the courtroom. Mr. Amazing and I took our seats and waited. And waited. And waited.

At 2:00PM our lawyer still was not there. I cannot express how nervous I was by this point in time. I think she rolled in around 2:15 or so. She shook our hands and told us that no one had objected in writing to our intervention. Of course, things were still up to the judge but it looked good.

We had to sit through another case first. The children had just been removed within the last two weeks. There was a LOT of drama. The waiting was excruciating! But, by just a little after 2:30PM, they called our case.

In attendance:
Minnie
Minnie's supervisor
the lawyer for CPS
us (Cherub Mamma and Mr. Amazing)
Ms. Colorado
a different lawyer standing in for the cherubs' "official" GAL
the AAL for our cherubs
a lawyer for bio dad

Things started off with Ms. Colorado announcing the facts of why we were all there. She pretty much looked at the judge and said, "The cherubs have been with the Eldridge's for two years. The Eldridge's would like to legally intervene in this case. We submitted our paperwork in a timely fashion giving all parties enough time to object. No one did. You have to let us in."

I was impressed. I'm pretty sure Ms. Colorado knows her way around a CPS courtroom. She commanded herself well. I've heard some pretty wishy-washy lawyers since we became foster parents. I'm grateful we were able to hire someone like Ms. Colorado.

Bio Mom's lawyer was not in attendance. I guess she said something to the judge about objecting to our intervention. But because it wasn't filed in writing it didn't matter.
Bio Dad's lawyer said nothing the entire time.
CPS's lawyer claimed that she didn't see the paperwork until last Thursday. If she had known she would have objected. However, because she (or someone in her office) didn't do their job, her verbal objection meant nothing as well.

From there conversation bounced around a bit. The judge looked at me and said, "I remember concerns being brought up earlier in this case. I remember telling the foster parent to hire their own counsel. It looks like they did." (It was almost like he was proud of us at that moment.) Multiple times he said things along the lines of, "I have to look at the whole picture here. I have to consider how long the children have been with this family. I have to take in to consideration what the children want. I have to look at everything."

In my opinion, it was the judge's way of saying he's totally in favor of us adopting the kids. He blew off anything negative that CPS tried to bring up. (Because yes, they mentioned the investigation from a year ago!) He kept saying he had to look at the whole picture. Without hesitation the judge said we could intervene. We were officially "in"!!

Somehow it was brought up that CPS had started the process to modify the permanency plan. I think this means they had started considering termination but hadn't filed any paperwork yet. I do NOT know how this all works.

I am going to storm the heavens with prayers that CPS will agree to termination. If they do, they can work hand in hand with our lawyer and the process will go faster (and will be much cheaper for us). If not, it's up to our lawyer to file the petition for termination. I believe that is what she is going to do next. But if CPS would just cooperate with her.....

Side note: The attorney filling in as GAL had spoken with us prior to being called forward for the case.  She knew NOTHING of the case so we went over some of the details. Coincidentally she just happens to be the lawyer that represented Pumpkin's bio mom, so she knew us. She filled us in on Pumpkin (another blog post for sure). I pulled out my phone and showed her a recent picture. Following that picture was one of Dolly's extremely long hair. I took the opportunity to ask if she could see about allowing Dolly to get a haircut. She said she'd do what she could.

Sure enough, after the judge said we were "in", the GAL asked him about the haircut. He seemed almost surprised that anyone would ask him - especially since the child wants it cut. He even said, "My daughter got her hair cut last week and nobody asked me first." He was puzzled why this was an issue. Minnie explained that Bio Mom doesn't want it cut but that she doesn't exactly know why. Once the judge was able to ascertain that it had nothing to do with religion, he quickly gave it his blessing. Everyone oooo'd and aaahhh'd when I pulled out my phone to show the picture. They all exclaimed that it must be very hot and uncomfortable and heavy. Everyone agreed it should be cut. (I can't wait!! Bath time is going to be so much easier now!!)

Then we set about trying to determine when the next hearing should be. As of the last hearing (in May) we were supposed to meet next on July 1. Well, I think the judge wanted to skip that special hearing altogether and just meet at the next scheduled permanency hearing in September. The State, for reasons I don't know, insisted we meet sooner. So, we will be having court again on July 15. The reason for this special hearing is to go over, in court, therapy notes from the kids. This is not going to make the State very happy. The therapist believes the kids are best off left with us. I sure hope her notes reflect that appropriately.

During this conversation about dates though, the judge asked if everyone was going to be there July 15. He indicated this is a common time for vacations and he wanted to schedule accordingly. (Mr. Amazing is convinced the judge wanted a reason to push off our next court date.) He looked at us and asked if we were going to be on vacation.

I looked at the judge and said, "Well, we would like to take a vacation but I have to have permission from you to go anywhere. Would you let us go on vacation?"

He smiled from ear to ear and said yes! I told him we'd like to take the cherubs to Iowa with us. He said, "No problem. Kids go everywhere all the time. I just let some kids go to California." He said all he needed was the official paperwork and he'd sign off on it.

Minnie grinned like this wouldn't be a problem at all. (Boy I could see fire behind her smile though. I was removing all her power over me.) I smiled right back and said, "Is it a problem with YOU if I take the kids on vacation?" Almost through her teeth, but oh so sweetly, she said, "No problem. I'll just need an itinerary."

And that was that. We were let in to the legal case. Our lawyer is going to draw up a petition to terminate. Dolly gets a haircut. And we get to go on vacation. I couldn't have asked for better results!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I'm not an emotional disaster

There is something to be said for knowing that even though there is court on Monday, it won't be as bad as usual. Praise God I don't have to bring the children. (That, in and of itself, is HUGE!) Dude and Dolly are going to go to day care. Bart and TT are going to go to swimming lessons and then to a community rec center. The other awesome part about Monday is Mr. Amazing has to attend this court session with me. He's never gone before. He either works or stays home with TT and Bart to help ease their anxiety. But this session is for US. If all goes as we've been praying, we will be "let in" to the case.

I'm pretty sure I'll need to make a payment to Ms. Colorado soon. Her fee is $200/hr. for court appearances. (I'll be praying court moves in a timely fashion on Monday for many reasons now!!)
The puzzle is coming along nicely. Everyone races to the table when a donation comes in. Everyone wants to help put in more pieces. Dolly has found a few all on her own and points them out to anyone that will pay attention. Much discussion has been had now that Dude's bear is all together. Dolly keeps pointing at the other young bear saying, "That's my nose Mommy. I'm right there!" Thank you all for your help in this adventure!! Our family is truly blessed!!!

I'm actually looking forward to Monday. It's going to be stressful. But because it's not a placement hearing I know that I don't have to worry about the children being moved to Dallas. I'm slightly curious to find out if they change anything about the July court date though. Before we intervened it was determined that we would have court July 1 so Bio Mom could be there. Her parole has been revoked though and she's still in jail. If we are let in to this case without issue I wonder what will happen next. This process is so foreign to me and I'm told so little. I'd love to talk forever with my lawyer but she charges $100/hr. for that. So, for now, I'm just going to trust her to do her job and I'm just going to wait. (Isn't that just how foster care works anyway? We take care of the kids and wait for everyone else around us to do their jobs?)

I y'all have a terrific weekend. We keep holidays (especially Hallmark ones) pretty low key around here. Mr. Amazing is going to fire up the pit tomorrow to smoke a couple chickens and some ribs. We'll have a yummy supper for sure!!

I'll write again Monday!!  :)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Cultural Diversity

Rainbow came over yesterday for our annual "surprise visit". (Hardly a surprise. She told me a week ago that she had to do one this month and she called about 5 minutes before arriving to find out if I was home.) While here though, she went ahead and updated the ISP (Individual Service Plan) documents for both Dude and Dolly.

Upon arrival into Care, and then again every six months, our licensing agency is required to go over ALL the specifics of caring for the children. The document starts out with "Reason for Placement" and goes from there. I have to answer questions about many different aspects including:
• Child strengths
• Any diagnosis: psychological needs, intellectual functioning
• Characteristics of the biological family: strengths/needs/goals
• Primary treatment issues: behavioral/emotional
• Education: strengths/needs/goals
• Developmental strengths/needs/goals
• Recreational/social schedules
• Cultural issues
• Overall supervision requirements
...and any more things

Because of some conversations I've read on FB lately, I've been intrigued with the whole idea of "culture" lately. This ISP meeting really brought it to light too.

The ISP paperwork says this:
Describe activities provided in the home and community to teach the child about his/her own culture, affirm personal worth, protect the child's dignity, and promote the development of a healthy racial and ethnic identity
Rainbow has never really made me answer "how" we do this in our family. She's always just taken things she knows to be true and filled the space in. For example, Dude is able to interact with peers of his own culture at Head Start and at church. He is able to eat foods that are familiar to him at home and at restaurants. She also said that he will have the opportunity to celebrate various holidays with the family.

Yesterday though, Rainbow specifically asked me how we handle "culture" in our family. I had to laugh. I told her that the children are living IN their culture -- I'm the fish out of water here! She pressed me a bit to say that I serve Mexican food. I added in that we attend a multi-cultural church. But really, what else is there to say?!

I got curious so after Rainbow left I downloaded the Cultural Diversity training that we are required to take every year for our license. Forgive this long post, but I think it has the potential to open up an interesting conversation. I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks about this.

The training slides started with the following:
Race does not equal culture.
Ethnicity does not equal culture.
Gender does not equal culture.

The next few slides covered areas where there can be conflict with culture in families (particularly when kids first come in to Care). Issues can arise in these areas:
language
food
physical and social environment
house rules
smells
personal care

But then it went on to say:
Values are the fundamental building blocks of culture
Values are general principles or ideas, usually related to worth and conduct, that a culture holds to be important. The values of any given culture form the foundation for life within the culture.
What does this mean to Dude and Dolly?

They do not remember life with their bio family. At what point in time can it be said that they have adopted a new culture and that's OK?

Dude and Dolly came from a lifestyle of extreme poverty and neglect. Work was not important. Education was not valued. Family was not central. To me, this was their culture.

Is it important to continue to connect them to that?!

The State took the cherubs away from the Spanish language culture. They lied to me and told me the cherubs spoke English. It is not my fault they no longer speak Spanish. In the long run though, these cherubs now have an advantage over many others where we live. Most children learn English when they start preschool or kindergarten. It is because of this that most elementary schools struggle where we live! That language issue is huge! Dude and Dolly can communicate well in English and I believe it is ultimately to their advantage.

By now the cherubs have come to accept our food. (Prior to Care they had never eaten fruits or vegetables.) They are used to our physical and social environment. They know our house rules. The smells of our house are familiar to them. We dictate their personal care and they are OK with it.

So exactly what am I supposed to do to connect these children to their culture?!

Believe it or not, Rainbow asked me if I let them watch Dora the Explorer. I nearly choked on my water!! Watching a cartoon connects someone to their culture?!

Ultimately the annual training that we take says that we are supposed to:
• Recognize and respect the perceptions of children and youth in Care; and their families
• Support self-esteem and self-image
• Help children develop a positive racial identity

What do you do to support the culture of the children you care for? 
What does culture mean to you?
I'm very curious and I'd love an honest discussion about this!!!

Because to me, making tacos for dinner isn't exactly connecting my kids to anything!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Housecleaning

This is a keepin' it real post. I was inspired to share the "dirty laundry" when a mom I love started a conversation on Facebook about not having a Martha Stewart home herself. She wondered how other moms did "it".

I'm here to say – I do NOT do "it".

I've got five kids, a husband and a dog. We school at home. I work from home. And, I guess in all honesty, it's just not important to me to have a Martha Stewart-esk home. What I do have instead is a home where kids know they are welcome. Even though I holler more than I should, and I don't always let the neighborhood in to play, kids know I've got the band aids, they're welcome to come in a get a drink of water, and I'm here to help if they need anything.

So, without further ado, here's what my house looks like most of the time. And yes, this is what my house looks like when social workers come over. I don't special-clean for anyone but my immediate family if they're coming to stay for a visit.

This is what you see when you walk in my front door. I've got a box of books that need donated somewhere. Behind one of our loveseats is the mini-Hotwheel car track. Notice the sweatshirt on the floor? The hooks to hang it up are right above it there on the wall!

 Moving in to my kitchen/dining room you're likely to see sights like this.

The guest bathroom is on the main floor of the home. Dontcha just love where one of the cherubs left the toothpaste?!
The play room is upstairs. It is the responsibility of the cherubs to pick it up daily. But with four kids playing in it off and on all day long, it usually looks something like this. (And yes, we have an extra bed in the playroom. And yes, Dolly thinks it's a good place for all her dolls during the day.)
This is what Bart and TT's room usually looks like. Several times a month I insist that they clean it "to my standards". But most of the time it's got stuff all over the floor. Beds rarely get made in my house. I'm lazy that way and don't require it.
I won't show you Herman's room. Just imagine the room above only about 10,000 times worse. I decided a long time ago that I wasn't going to fight the "room battle". I've got three rules:
1. No dirty laundry
2. No dirty dishes
3. No (dirty) garbage
If I can walk in the room and not find those three things, he can keep his room how he wants. However, if I find any of the above mentioned offenses on the floor, he gets to clean the room to my standards. (My standards require EVERYTHING to be picked up and vacuuming to be done.)

The upstairs guest bathroom is primarily used by the older three boys. You can't see it, but one of the cherubs forgot to flush. (gross!)
Dude and Dolly's room is usually the cleanest. Though, as they are getting older (and copying their older siblings) I'm having to make them pick it up more often. The younger four cherubs don't get to live by the three rules above. I do make them pick up more frequently. When Hot Wheels, Legos and tiny doll pieces live all over the floor I find it hard to walk through the room to tuck them in at night. For Bart and TT that's what they are often told. If they want me to tuck them in, they have to clean up their room. For Dude and Dolly, I just tell them to clean it up and they willingly pick everything up without complaining. (It's awesome!!!)
Last is my bedroom. It's HUGE! It's where laundry tends to live. (Notice all the baskets on the right hand side of the top picture.) I do pretty good of keeping up with the washing of the laundry. But there isn't a lot of room to fold laundry downstairs. (I'm not fond of folding in the living room due to dog hair.) So most of the time laundry gets sorted by kid and it lives on the floor of my master in laundry baskets. I swear I'm always washing it, folding it and putting it away but I never get caught up!! Five kids and a husband will do that to ya! The shelf in the corner is currently housing all the clothes my cherubs have recently outgrown. I need to sort, fold and put away those in our storage closet.

The blanket on the floor next to my bed is where TT sleeps most every night. His anxiety tends to be problematic in the middle of the night. He's got permission to come in to our room and sleep on the floor. He usually meanders his way in between 1:00-3:00AM.

The only rooms not represented in the house tour are the guest bedroom and the master bath. They pretty much look like the rest of the house. Dusting needs to be done. Dog hair is everywhere. And there are bits and pieces of life that need to be put away.

Lest anyone think I'm taking responsibility for all the mess, or that I alone will clean this house up, that is far from the truth. As each day goes on rooms get picked up and cleaned by the entire family. It just never seems to happen in every room all at the same time. My cherubs are responsible for a lot of the cleaning though. I just don't crack the whip and make it stay clean all the time.

I don't have much of an ending for this post. I just figured I'd share what my home looks like so y'all can feel better about where you live.  :)  I'm OK with that. I figure I'll clean more and have nice decor when the kids are grown. Even then I hope to have a home like my Mom and Dad that is set up wonderfully for grandkids!! Martha Stewart I am not!!







Friday, June 7, 2013

Staying in contact


I just got a letter from the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. When Pumpkin was in my care I signed her up for the Community Living Assistance and Support Services program. The waiting list is almost twelve years long! Pumpkin will never live on her own. She will always need care! It was imperative that she be on this waiting list. However, CPS never did anything to switch contact information for Pumpkin on this list. I'm still listed as the primary contact.

The worker that called me today was FURIOUS that the info. had not been updated by CPS! Her first words were, "We can't let Pumpkin get off this list!"

Praise God this woman has a brain and was confident enough to use it. She allowed me to update Pumpkin's file with the new information of her aunt and uncle. She kept Pumpkin on the list. She didn't make me (or Pumpkin's family) jump through hoops.

I'm so thankful I was able to be a part of Pumpkin's transition to her aunt and uncle's! I have their address and phone numbers and now Pumpkin is still on the waiting list to get services when she's 18.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Make your own hula hoops

http://www.jasonunbound.com/hoops.html

If you make your own you can expect to pay about $30-$40 to make a whole slew of them. (I got 11 hoops out of my first batch – keeping in mind I made several for small children.) Cost varies depending on the size and PSI of the tubing you choose and whether or not you need to purchase a PVC pipe cutter.

Hoops need to hit you when stood up somewhere between your belly button and your nipple line. Smaller than that (like almost all store bought ones) and they are nearly impossible for an adult to use. Homemade hoops are heavier too – which makes them easier to keep up.

The link above is what I used when I made mine. Other than the decorative tape (which wore off over time) they have held up perfectly.

Hooping Challenge

This intervention has proven to be quite stressful for me.

Awww...who's kidding who?! Foster parenting has proven to be quite stressful for me!!!!

As I was putting strategies to deal with my stress in place, My Genius Sister challenged me. She agreed with one of the suggestions for me to exercise. Someone recommended yoga. My Genius Sister recommended I get my hula hoop back out.

I "learned" about hula hooping from Christine Moers blog. It has been proven to be very therapeutic for children and adults alike. Inspired by her I made dozens of hula hoops. We have about 8 or so at our house. I also made them for my neighbors, my mom and other friends/family. For awhile I was pretty good at getting my hoop out. I did it for fun. I did it for exercise. It was a good way to take a quick exercise break. Even Dolly learned how to hula hoop!! But lately, the hoop had been sitting idle outside in the back yard.

My sister is my rock. She lets me word vomit any time I need to. Often I'll call her when I get triggered about something and ask for "five minutes of therapy". She always obliges. She's so good to me!! So when she challenged me to start hooping again, I listened.

I have agreed to hula hoop for 10 minutes a day. It's good for my body and it's good for my soul. I'm not a fancy hooper. Just straight waist circles for me. But that's definitely good enough. So 10 minutes a day it is!!

As part of the challenge, My Genius Sister is going to hoop as well. During her hooping time she has committed to praying specifically for my family and this intervention.

I can't ask for more than that!!!

Day one My Genius Sister sent me an email telling me that while praying she kept coming back to the word "peace". So...she prayed for peace for my family.

I just love that.

And yesterday, when I didn't send her a text telling her that I had hooped my 10 minutes, she held me accountable. I got a text this morning that said, "Did you hoop yesterday?"

I called her and gave her a rundown of my evening.
- While making dinner one of my son's friends, Smelly Cat (long story...but it's a nickname formed out of love), told me that his dad is still in the hospital. While recovering from major surgery he's also had two heart attacks. Because Smelly Cat's mom suffered a massive stroke several years ago, he's at the mercy of others to go see his dad. I told him I'd take him to the hospital to visit his dad that very night.
- So, I fed the family dinner.
- I cleaned up from dinner.
- I kissed some cherubs goodbye.
- I dropped Herman and Bart off at church.
- I took Smelly Cat to the hospital.
- I picked up Herman and Bart from church.
- I dealt with a fair dose of defiance out of Bart while getting him ready for bed.
- I sat down at my computer to take care of just a few work things.
- Herman came down and started WWIII.
- Exhausted, I crawled into bed and crashed.

To make up for yesterday, I agreed to hoop 20 minutes today!! I also agreed to schedule time for myself to hoop earlier in the day from now on. I CAN carve 10 minutes out to take care of myself each day. I have to. And My Genius Sister will hold me accountable to it.

If you'd like to join me in the Hoop Challenge it's pretty easy. Just pick up a hula hoop and give yourself 10 minutes. Pray for your own family. (Pray for mine too please.) And we'll see what happens from there. Feel free to pop on here to tell me about your hooping. I'd love to hear from you!!




Thank you!!

To everyone that has sent us something toward the fundraiser -- thank you from the bottom of my heart! I am so encouraged by the support...both the prayers and the financial help. I'm pretty sure I couldn't do this without y'all. Just knowing I have an army of supporters praying for us is so empowering!

I have sent, or at least attempted to send, an email thank you note to everyone that has contributed to the puzzle fundraiser. If for some reason you didn't get one, I sincerely apologize.

Speaking directly to Tara - thank you very much for both donations. The email you have linked to PayPal fails every time I try to tell you thanks. So, I'll do it here. Thank you!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Shameless begging

My cherubs are itching to add more pieces to the puzzle. We're finally caught up with all the donations that have been sent in.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Telling time

For the past couple weeks Dolly has been enjoying reading numbers everywhere she goes. All day long she announces (out loud...after first making sure she has my attention) the numbers she sees on clocks and things around her. Honestly, it got to the point where I had to tell her to stop saying it out loud.

Last night though I decided to harness these powers for good.

You see, Dolly (like it seems every single one of my children) is having a bit of a challenge switching in to summer mode. Everyone has been a little bit "off" lately. I know that some of this is because we are facing a trauma-versary smack dab in the face. June 15, 2011 is when the cherubs came in to Care. And June 22, 2012 is when our worlds were turned completely on end because of the investigation.
  • Dude has been incredibly whiny! He's been "stick poking" just about everyone.
  • Dolly has been on edge. She can't seem to keep her hands off of Dude. She's much more subtle but she's not as relaxed as normal.
  • Bart has been particularly defiant. And violent. I've had to be hyper-vigilant (which is exhausting by the way) to keep things from getting out of control. Yesterday just about wore me out!
  • TT, believe it or not, seems to be handling the switch best of all younger ones.
  • Herman doesn't care. He's just thrilled beyond thrilled that he's finally ungrounded. (For those that know his saga, yes...he managed to pass every single one of his 10th grade classes. He didn't deserve it. But he passed. He might even end up with a B in his AP English class even though he failed almost every single test. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate NCLB?!)
The other thing Dolly has been having problems with is sleep. (I swear, trauma seems to attack sleep first!!) Praise God she is going to bed without issue. But, she started waking up entirely too early. And when she wakes up, she has been immediately waking Dude up too.

The first thing I did was address (many times) that she is NOT to wake anyone else up. That failed miserably.

So last night I harnessed her new found love of numbers for good. I told Dolly to look at her clock in her bedroom. If the first number is a "six", she is to go back to sleep. She can't get up until it's a "seven".

It's 7:28AM and both the littlest cherubs are still asleep!!!
Whoo Hoo!!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Signature 1

I went to Ms. Colorado's office today to officially sign the Petition to Intervene. I even picked up the official court document and read it quickly. It felt nice to be allowed to read something official. I hate that part of fostering here in Texas. When we fostered in Iowa we didn't have to go to court, but copies of every single court document were sent to our home for us to keep on file.

It took some doing but Mr. Amazing is going to get off work a little early and head over to the lawyer's office to sign today as well.

Then we wait to see if anyone legally objects to our intervention.

My strategies

In order to help deal with the unnecessary anxiety this intervention has put on me, I have implemented some strategies.

Man technology is awesome!

I set up a bunch of calendar events on my phone. Now, several times a day I will be reminded that the worst thing that could happen is Dude & Dolly end up in Dallas. Yes, that would totally suck. And yes, I would grieve!! But like Mama Foster said in response to my last post, it's already the plan and has been for two years now. I have to keep this all in perspective!

I also made an event to remind me that I am free. This is all my choice and if it got horrible, I can walk away. (I won't. But I have the freedom to.) Reminding myself that this is a choice helps me keep things in perspective...especially since I then remember that the worst case scenario is that Dude and Dolly will leave. (Again – that would be perfectly awful. But I know my core family would survive.)

I even went out and bought the Newsboys song "I Am Free". I set an alarm to go off on my phone once a day that will play the song.

The last event I added to my calendar reminds to to stop and take a deep breath. When I exhale I will blow out all the anxiety and worry.

It's not like I'm living in a constant state of fear and anxiety. But it's not like I'm living a totally "normal" life either. Anything I can do to help cut down on the stress is helpful. Thank you all for your support!!