Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How I cope.

I got a question in one of the comments on yesterday's post:
I know you are doing the right thing. I'm impressed with your emotional strength and resolve! Can you post about how you reconcile & cope with this? Doing your best to make the state's decision work out as well as possible is the best thing to do. But how do you deal with knowing their plan is probably not good? Thus is why we quit fostering. I just deal well when I know the state is making a bad decision. Ours was a bit more clearly a bad placement, but similar concept. Dangerous people will have access to the children. Thanks for AL you do! BLH in SC
I'm going to try and give you an honest answer to your question. My gut response is I'm not doing anything. I'm just going with the flow. But that's not true. So here's a list of some of the things that I'm doing to try and help me, and my family, through this transition.

First, I acknowledge how I feel and I allow myself to feel that way. If I'm upset, I allow myself to be upset. When I'm super crazy tired and want to sleep more than anything, I think about what it will be like to have a family without babies again. And I allow myself to look forward to that. My emotions are all over the place. But when I'm worried and I try to tell myself to not be upset, that's when the worries get even bigger and more overwhelming. And then there's the flip side. I'll be feeling OK about saying goodbye and then my brain will say, "No no no...you need to be super upset." I'm spending a lot of emotional energy telling myself that whatever I'm feeling is OK.

Miss Star has been sleeping really, really poorly lately. So on top of the emotions, I'm super tired. I'm making a point of writing everything down - and I mean everything. I've got my full, monthly calendar with every appointment listed. I then take each day's appointments and responsibilities and write them down on the giant dry erase board that hangs in our dining area. Today's list reads:
8:30 - ST (speech therapy)
10:00-12:00 - visit
4:00 - pick up Bart
6:10 - karate
Normally I wouldn't need to remind myself of any of these things. But I don't trust myself to remember things when I'm feeling extra tired and emotional.

I menu plan. And I'm not "cooking" quite as much as usual. Typically I cook almost every meal from scratch. I menu plan and grocery shop for about a week at a time. But with the later visit schedule and all the extra doctor appointments we've been dealing with over the last month, cooking has taken a back seat in a way. I've allowed myself to purchase some packaged food. Last night was lasagna from the frozen aisle, garlic bread from the frozen aisle, and a bag of salad. It looked like a lovely meal but required no thinking on my part. Dinner was ready shortly after I picked the babies up from their visit at 5:00pm and I didn't have any prepping to do. Cooking for my family is a big part of my love language. I enjoy feeding everyone foods that they love. But it's been challenging for me to want to do this. So I'm giving myself some grace here.

I've also relaxed on what I'm feeding Russell. Because he might be leaving, it doesn't make sense to have a freezer full of super special meals specially prepared for him. I'll send along all our prepackaged baby food. But it's not my intention to send along homemade food that I use, in the event the babies leave to Russell's grandparents. So I'm not making special food for him every few days like I usually do. That means I've got more meals on my shelf that say Gerber and I'm not beating myself up about that.

I'm taking care of myself. I'm trying to sleep – or at least relax – in the evenings after most (if not all) the kids are in bed. I'm not sitting at my computer...unless I want to. I'm not dealing with the laundry. I'm allowing myself time to just chill. That's one of the reasons laundry is my nemesis. Our laundry "room" is a closet in the hallway off the kitchen. That hallway is almost always filled with baskets of clean and dirty laundry. I really feel like I should be taking care of this mess. It's worse than usual. But I'm allowing myself grace. Everyone has clean clothes. But if they aren't folded and put away, no one will suffer.

I am cleaning the kitchen better. A messy kitchen is so hard to live with. I do life better if there aren't dishes everywhere. So I'm really trying to stay on top of that. I'm also riding my kids' butts about picking up after themselves. I function better when the clutter in my house is under control. I'm doing a better job of making the cherubs pick up after themselves.

I'm eating even when I don't want to. When I grocery shop, I make sure to buy foods that I know *I* like. That way, when I don't want to eat, but I know I need to, there are foods I like in the house. I'm also allowing myself some treats that make me feel better. Right or wrong, a Starbucks coffee takes the edge off at 2:15pm after I drop the babies off at their visit. And if for some reason I didn't eat lunch, or I know dinner is going to be a mess due to everyone's varied schedule, I'll take some time for myself at my favorite taco restaurant after I drop the babies off at a visit.

I don't exercise regularly. I know I should. I know it would help. But I do purposefully play - especially with the babies. When it's time to clean up from dinner, I put on my favorite music really loud and I dance. I scoop up a baby and I dance with them. I get my heart rate up and it gives me what I need to clean up my kitchen and get the chores done.

I try to take command of my thoughts. When the worries come, and oh...they come, I try to simply just stop. I cannot worry about whether or not future care givers are going to meet all the needs of the babies. I don't have control over anything that happens when the babies leave my home. So it doesn't make sense to even think about it. It's not easy. It takes a lot of self-discipline. But I try. I've been given these children for a season. I try to stay focused on that season alone. I try to do the very best with the time that I am given with them. It's all I can do.

I pray. When the worries come, I try to pray. When I get fixated on a situation, I pray. The meeting tomorrow has me all tense. My brain wants to come up with every possible conversation that we should have. My brain wants to rehearse every topic and every answer. But that's ridiculous. So, I tell myself to stop. I know the swirling thoughts aren't from God. So I stop and I pray. I pray for God to give me the words I need tomorrow. I pray that the lawyer and the grandparents get what they need out of the meeting. And then I let go. If the swirling thoughts continue, I speak out loud to the devil and tell him to go away. I then pray for the Holy Spirit to come fill me with His presence.

-----

I think that just about sums up what I'm doing. I'm dealing with a lot of huge emotions. It's hard to love the children as fiercely as I do and yet start to let go in my heart at the same time. Anger comes more frequently and my patience is tested regularly. I find myself frustrated with normal baby behaviors that typically don't phase me. I think that's the letting go part. It manifests itself in ugly emotions sometimes. So when that happens, I try to love even harder. It's not easy. But it's what I try to do. I really do try to focus on this season and not the future or the past.

And that's how I'm getting through all of this.

If they go, I'll be fine. I will hurt. But I will be fine. And if they stay, I'll just love on them longer. We'll see what happens next Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A meeting at my house

After court on January 29, 2016, I was told that the goal in this case was switched from non-relative adoption back to relative conservatorship. Even though Russell's paternal grandparents failed their home study, they are being considered as a placement option for both of the babies. They were granted two visits with the children before we go to court again and they were told to start attending Russell's doctor appointments.

I met the grandparents for the first time on Monday, February 1st when they came to Russell's ENT appointment. They had their first supervised visit with the children that following Wednesday.

At neither time was it really appropriate for me to have lengthy conversations with the grandparents. At the ENT appointment they were basically meeting him for the first time. (I think they might have seen him one time when Russell was about one year old. But I'm not sure. They're claiming now they didn't know about Russell at all until very recently. And I get the impression they waited until the DNA test results were back before moving forward with wanting custody.)

And at the visit, they didn't really want to talk to me. They were pleasant!! Nice even. Don't get me wrong. They seem like very nice people! They just didn't have anything to say to me. Grandpa speaks limited English and he is the one that has spoken with me. Grandma speaks no English and she's always been busy taking care of the young children they bring with them. But when I asked Grandpa if he had any questions, he said no. He very confidently said he feels capable of taking care of Russell.

This is all good. Really. It could be. If the grandparents truly understand what it means to care for a child like Russell, this could all be OK.

My gut tells me that they don't "get it" though.

I'm not sure they understand that this is a lifetime commitment on a couple levels.
1. I don't think they realize what it means to really care for a child with Down syndrome.
2. I don't think they realize the State wants them to take permanent custody.

As the foster parent though, I play the smallest role when it comes to determining Russell's future. I am to care for him now. I am to trust the State when they choose a placement. And I'm to let go when the time comes.

I know my role.

However, I can still advocate.

It is important – very important – that I advocate from a place that still supports the State's goals. That means I focus on truth...not speculation. And I keep my emotions out of it.

Therefore, I can't tell the lawyer, "I think they're planning on just giving the kids back after CPS closes the case."

That's speculation. And it looks like I'm trying to get them to keep the kids with me.

It doesn't matter if I've read posts on Facebook that point to the idea that they just want to "help Mom out". What I read on Facebook is really irrelevant.

What I can do though is support the State's goals. And if the State wants to consider placing with these grandparents, I can offer to help with the transition.

I stewed on this for quite awhile. I wasn't sure who to talk to or what to say. But with Bopper out due to a surgery she just had, I decided I needed to communicate with Ms. Remus, the babies' lawyer. I sent her a text:
I'm concerned that Russell's grandparents don't really understand his special needs. Bopper is out this week so I can't ask her. But when I helped transition another foster child of mine (that I cared for for almost 2 years) to a kinship placement, the aunt and uncle met with me in my home where we discussed my little girl's severe needs for several hours.
If the State is going to move Russell, I'd like to help transition in a similar way.
It's big things they need to know – like the waiting list Russell is on for services when he's 18 as it is unlikely Russell will every live independently and the wait list is almost that long.
It's also little things like helping the understand Russell's feeding issues and how they relate to his speech therapy goals.
Who could help organize a meeting to go over these details?
Ms. Remus responded, "I will. It's a great idea. What's a good date and time for you?"

I replied, "I can make just about any time work. The only thing, we would need a translator."

It was here that Ms. Remus really impressed me. She told me that she's going to be at this meeting to serve as translator (and obviously to evaluate the grandparents).

That means I'm going to have to clean my house. (lol)

I'm ready for this meeting. I printed off forms from the American Academy of Pediatrics. I also printed off a couple charts that list out developmental milestones - comparing neurotypical kids to those with Down syndrome.
I printed only the small chart on this page.
I printed off pages 8-12 from this list.
And then I printed off the part of each of Russell's last therapy evaluations that lists HIS developmental ages.
Physical therapy:
-- Stationary = 18 months
-- Locomotion = 14 months
-- Object Manipulation = 18 months
Occupational therapy:
-- Grasping = 14 months
-- Visual-Motor Integration = 11 months
Speech therapy:
-- Receptive Language = 5 months
-- Expressive Language = 7 months
It is my goal to help them understand that Russell isn't just a cute baby to take care of. A lot of work has been done to help him get to where he is now. And without continued efforts, he will regress. And while that might not seem like a huge deal when he's 32" long and weighs only 25 pounds...after you've been changing diapers for 3 or 4 years it might be a bigger deal. I also have to explain that things will be very difficult for Russell with communication overall. Unfortunately, there were no Spanish-speaking homes when he needed a foster home. It was determined by everyone involved that it would be better for him to be in an English-speaking foster home closer to his family of origin versus an English-speaking shelter several hours away. (Russell has continued to be exposed to Spanish almost daily in the community and with his mother. But his therapies are in English and English is what we speak in our home.) Russell is going to regress with his language no matter what. And as you can tell, there isn't a lot of room for regression.

I'm trying to not overwhelm everyone with too much information. I'm going to have all of Russell's medical history and I'll go over what each of the specialists do and how often Russell has to see them. I'll then explain what is involved with Russell's weekly therapy sessions. I was very pleased to find out that the therapy company that currently serves Russell travels in a far enough territory that they should be able to continue to serve Russell if he moves to his grandparents' house. (This is very, very good! Russell will have some continuity with people in his life. And yes, his therapies will switch over to being done in Spanish.)

I'm hoping to have a few minutes with Ms. Remus alone. I do have a few questions for her. I want to show her some things I've seen on Facebook so she can hopefully steer the conversation appropriately. She needs to figure out for herself if the grandparents understand that this is a lifetime commitment to Russell on both levels. I also really want to know if I should have the kids packed and ready to go prior to court or not. I want to know what she's going to recommend.

I'm a little uneasy with this meeting taking place in my home. I trust the grandparents. But they will be able to tell Bio Mom where we live. And Bio Mom will be able to tell Star's dad. And I do NOT trust that man.

But on the flip side, my name is on a zillion forms. I have to sign in at every visit. Surely Mom knows my first and last name by now. And if you google my first and last name, you get all my info. So if Star's dad wants to find me...he'll find me.

I had a quick conversation with my forever kids. I reminded them to be mindful if there are strange vehicles in the neighborhood that are circling around. (Our neighborhood does not have any through streets so people in it should be here for a reason.) Ultimately though, I'm not really worried. I know how to dial 911 if necessary.

And meeting with the bio family like this is a VERY good thing!!! If the State decides to place Russell and Star with Russell's grandparents, it's much better for everyone involved for this meeting to take place. They will have a better understanding of their grandson and I will have done everything I can do to advocate for Russell and his well-being.

I appreciate everyone's prayers as this case appears to be coming to an end. As level-headed as I really do feel about this meeting in my home, I will be a nervous wreck. I know that over the next 24 hours, I'm going to spend entirely too much time running different conversations through my mind. I also have to finish cleaning the first floor of my home. My kitchen always seems to be a wreck and laundry is my nemesis.

I'll be ready though. And I'll feel better when it's all over with. Just knowing that Ms. Remus is going to spend time with her clients is a very good thing. I want the decision makers to have all the information possible before they decide things for these babies next week.

Monday, February 1, 2016

hellos and goodbyes

I know that I have to practice a lot of self-care during hellos and goodbyes. When a child enters my home, it is super crazy stressful. It is one thing to read about a story of abuse in the newspaper or to see a story on the local news. But it is totally different when that story becomes a full, living, breathing, wounded person that is now living in your home.

Simply absorbing the story is physically painful to me sometimes.

And then there are all the doctor appointments and social worker appointments that happen immediately after placement. Most of the time you have to retell the story of the abuse over and over to different professionals. It's exhausting.

(And can you imagine being the child?! They LIVED it. Imagine how they feel!)

So when kids come I prepare as best as I can. I have groceries purchased and meal plans made. This isn't always easy when it's an emergency placement. But I usually manage to get a lot done in the few hours between the phone call and the drop-off. That gives me time to just be still with the child. Give them space to adjust.

I think it takes a minimum of a month for a child to adjust to removal and placement. And that's just a bare minimum adjustment. I'm not saying behaviors go away and everyone is all hunky dory. I'm just saying that they have sort of an idea of the routines in my home and the kid feels a little less like a stranger to me and more like they belong. We all adjust to the new normal.

And then there is the other end of the spectrum...the letting go.

When Dude and Dolly were taken from me the letting go just about crippled me. I had never hurt so bad. They gave us less than five hours to say goodbye. I had to pack them up with enough things for a couple weeks and send them on their way. I wasn't ready. They weren't ready. It was as much of a surprise as their arrival was. It was hell.

When Daisy left it was better. The transition had been long enough. The State had told me what they were planning on doing. I had already packed her things and thought about what my life would look like with her gone. (Yes...I was looking forward to sleeping again.)

I wasn't thrilled with the idea of sending Daisy back home to her mom. But I was able to make the transition in my head and heart ahead of time. So it was easier.

I'm having to do the same thing with Russell and Star now. Anything could still happen in their case. But I have GOT to stay in the moment. It's the only way to make the transition smooth for me and for the babies.

It's little things.

Russell's ARD meeting is probably going to be held within the next couple months. If I knew he was staying with me long-term, I'd be all over the special education department to get details and to get it scheduled. And I'd be meeting with Russell's lawyer to see if it's even possible to home school him as I don't think Russell should start formal school this fall.

But if he's leaving me, it honestly doesn't make sense to push any of the school stuff. If they schedule his ARD...we'll have to do it. But if they don't...it will be up to his new care giver to take care of things. And since they don't live in the same district as me, it wouldn't be horrible for the first ARD to actually happen in the district Russell will attend.

There's a seminar coming in March being put on by Wright's Law - a special needs advocacy group. I was planning on attending. But if Russell is leaving, I don't need to. So I have to just leave the dates on my calendar and wait until after the next court hearing. No need in paying for a seminar like this if Russell is going to leave.

I need to start looking at all the toys and deciding what toys need to go with what child.

I can even start looking at how my house is currently laid out. What things will need to go back in storage? What things will I need to even possibly sell or give away?

I do these things to make it easier to say goodbye. If I can prepare just a little for the goodbye, it won't hurt as much.

I'm trying to force myself to eat. I'm trying to force myself to sleep. I really, honestly need to get OFF of Facebook. But that one is hard to do. I'm not connected to many local people. My friends are all online. But I'm going to try and wean myself off some of Facebook. I don't need to read the foster care news articles that are forever popping up in my feed. I don't need to learn more about transracial parenting right now. I need to just be a good mommy to the kids I've got in the moments I have them.

And I don't care if it's placebo effect or not...I'm taking some over the counter supplements. I don't usually struggle with anxiety. But the hellos and goodbyes (especially the goodbyes) are hard for me. I worry. I stress. I worry some more. So I'm taking some krill oil, GABA, and a Vitamin B supplement for stress.

The worrying doesn't do me any good. I can't control the reasons why Russell's grandparents are just now getting involved. I can't control what the State is going to decide about either child. So I need to stop thinking about it.

It doesn't mean I stop loving the kids or caring for them. But it does mean that I don't make up a month's worth of baby food for the freezer right now.

I survived the craziness of the ABR hearing test. (Even though Russell didn't fall asleep so now it's been rescheduled for the end of the month.) I met the grandparents. They seem very nice. I wish they would have stepped forward a year ago.

I will love these kids forever. I will be their mamma as long as the State lets me. And we'll all go from there.