Awesome Blessing and The Call

Saturday night, after I had already gone to sleep, I received a series of texts from the biological grandmother of my three. MeMe sent a number of pictures.  One was of her late husband whose resemblance to my middle son is uncanny.  Several were of the children with their cousins.  A couple were from when they lived in another foster home.  About that last one, I texted and asked if she knew those people’s names.  She said yes, gave me the names and then gave me their email address!  WoW!

So the next day, I email PFM (previous foster mom).  After a brief introduction, I said, “the children have had so many homes.  I have just been trying to piece together a timeline, pics/stories of their past, etc.   If you have time, I’d love anything you can offer.” I ended it with, “Thank you so much for taking care of my children before I could.”

The next afternoon, when we were playing quietly, “resting” a bit, I got an email response.  The fostermom was incredibly happy to hear from me, would be happy to send some pictures and stories, etc.  She said I could call her.  Well, immediately, my email box starts receiving emails with 15-23 pictures each!  I opened them up showing the kids.  As far as I could tell, the children didn’t remember much. When I talked about them, I said their first names.  Swimmer did pop off with “Daddy PFD.”  I thought he was saying “daddy” and then correcting himself.  However, when I called the PFM, she said they called them “Mommy PFM” and “Daddy PFD”  Hmmmm.  So maybe he remembered?

Anyway, so I did call her almost immediately.  She was thrilled to hear from me.  I was thrilled to hear from her.  A few keypoints:

  • They had my kids from June 2009 through March 2010.
  • T-lo showed signs of attaching well at that time.
  • Swimmer cried A LOT, most of each day and night.  It was exhausting and they almost disrupted placement because it was so extreme (reminded me of a certain little girl I miss).
  • Tumbler had some significant issues and concerns (we saw the psych report from that time period so knew most of what she said).
  • The children were their first placement.
  • They had hoped to keep them forever.
  • They fought reunification blacklisting themselves from that county’s system forever; so when the kids came back into care, no one would even consider them.  This is something I have a HUGE issue with.  It wasn’t in the children’s best interest to be reunited.  No, we can’t fight RU as foster parents; but they were just trying to advocate for the children!  And when the kids came back into care, it most certainly would have had positives to go back to a family they knew well!  But again, CPS isn’t for the children past removal from the home. Sad.
  • Because of that, the family almost quit fostering.  Their hearts were broken.  They had also learned the truth about “the system.”

Anyway, so there were stories good and bad.  There was obvious love in her voice.  She was so happy they were now somewhere permanently, safe and doing well.  Also, they are a homeschool family also enjoying it for many of the same reasons we do 🙂

One more thing.  They didn’t quit fostering.  And last year, they welcomed two toddlers into their home forever.  They also had another  “tummy baby.”  Here are some pics she sent me of Tumbler, Swimmer, and T-lo:

102_0209 102_0208 102_0172 102_0149 102_0144 VEH Feb. 13, 2010 086 Feb. 13, 2010 042 102_0494 edited four 102_0136-1 102_0493

After I got off the phone, I thought about how I should have asked her how she got from her anger at the broken system and sadness of losing “her children” to continuing to foster anyway, eventually adopting.  How do you get back on that horse knowing full well that you may not be able to protect later children from what the system decides to do against the children’s best interests and that you’re going to hurt like crazy when that happens?

Fast forward about twenty-four hours, I’m sitting in the Starbucks parking lot as my son ran in to get coffees.  I read the email from the people Sweet Little M is with.  When I felt the overwhelming sense that she isn’t coming back and that she is doing better (I *knew* she was struggling!), I also thought, “so now we have to decide if we, like my children’s PFM and PFD, will continue on, giving children the best chance we can give them while they are here until we find our forever children.”  Hmmmm.

So get this.  We get home and as I’m talking to the speech therapist, I get a call that says our old agency worker’s name.  I ignore as I’m talking but I then listen to the message.  They are calling about a placement, a 4yo girl and a 2yo boy.  Please call back.

Wait!  Wait a minute!  Hey!!!!  Wait!

My head is spinning.  Hubby and I have talked about fostering more; but because we were unable to take any children in the last month, we hadn’t made a final decision.  As far as we knew, we still couldn’t take children due to this other situation so didn’t HAVE to make a final decision.  Well, and we’re grieving and can take as long as we want.  Little M is not replaceable and trying to “fill that hole” with another child is a BAD idea in many ways.  We have to take children with the understanding we are ready to move forward….if we are.

I call hubby.  He was much more sure than I was.  I try processing my feelings with him.  I might be there.

I call the agency. I first tell her that I’m not sure we’re able to take kids yet.  She says she’ll check.  She then tells me about the kids though it was an alternative app, not a full app, because they called our agency specifically. See, the kids had been in care about two years ago and in one of our agency’s homes.  In fact, as I learned in the follow up phone call, I had actually met these kids at the home of a foster parent who lives in our subdivision two years ago!  I asked several questions.  It seemed contrived.  I told her that my head was spinning as I didn’t think I *could* take kiddos AND that we’re still grieving so trying to process taking children yet.

Well, the kids aren’t coming.  Our agency worker emailed and asked what children we would like to consider and what we would not consider.  My reply:

  • Ultimately 0-7 girl, possibly with a younger sibling.
  • Better if 18m-4y girl, again, possibly with a younger sibling.
  • I would consider most combinations of infant, toddler, preschooler (for example, 15mo boy and 4mo girl was one we had in 2011)
  • One or two children, prefer not part of a larger sibling group.
  • No severe developmental or medical issues.
  • Out of region is cool (love our iseeyou worker).

So, I guess we’re back on the list.  I’m going to be extra careful.  Do I feel it?  I’m not hesitating saying no, even if I have to do it 1400 times.  When we are fully ready and it is right, we’ll say yes.  Regardless, the core members of this family, especially “the three” MUST come first.

But secretly?  I’m hoping.  I really think that the combination of the update about Sweet Little M and the conversation with my children’s PFM made all the difference in the world for me.  It may not be perfect, but it might help me move on, honoring Little M in healthier ways and with happier memories 🙂

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Little M Update

Well, I finally got a decent update about Sweet Little M.  4 weeks ago, Little M was taken across the country by fictive kin she only knew as I encouraged skyping while awaiting legal proceedings, their foster care classes, etc.  Little M had her longest and healthiest bond with our entire family broken unnecessarily.  I simply cannot make sense of this.  It obviously wasn’t in her best interest to be with them rather than us.  So why do it?  Well, of course, I now know about things like kickbacks, statistics, the state saving money.  Forget the kid, right?  

Anyway, so I’m definitely grieving.  I admit that.  It hurts terribly to lose a child you were led to believe you may be able to keep (even though there was other information to the contrary also).  I’m bitter.  I’m angry.  I’m sad.  I’m scared for my baby now and for her future.  I miss her so incredibly much.  It hurts so much to see my hubby cry over her, to hear my children ordering the state she is in to put her on a plane back to us, etc.  

Over the past four weeks, I have received almost no information and only three pictures.  No smiles.  No anecdotes.  No videos.  No skyping.  No details or stories.  Just a vague, “she’s adjusting well” with a few bits of information that suggested otherwise.  

But I have news.  K wrote a semi-detailed email of a decent length.  It gave a little bit of information about how things have gone over the past month, how she was adjusting, how she is doing now, etc.  There were details that helped.  

I came to two conclusions when I read the email.  First, the chances that these people are disrupting placement are pretty darn slim.  Second, Little M is at least making some progress for now.  I hope pictures are forthcoming, maybe at least a couple that include a smile to show she ever does?  But I could believe one particular story.  It was so her.  And that made me feel a little better.  

I will worry about Sweet Little M forever more (and I do know that as I still worry about another child from 16 years ago).  I really hope that she can overcome this situation and live a happy, healthy, productive life.  No matter what, she has a family of seven in Texas who loves here dearly and always will.  

I know the above still sounds a bit “crazed” with sadness, anger, fear.  I do have a good bit of that still.  But….but something is different.  Maybe some acceptance of what I cannot change?  

The last few days

So, it has been a busy few days.  Maybe I should go backwards in saying what has happened.

So Sunday, my throat was killing me.  I can see how honey and apple cider vinegar *should* help; but I’m not convinced it *did.*  I tried to nap, but my hubby’s snoring and worrying about my ____ (fill in blank after reading about Saturday) didn’t help.

Saturday evening, I took all five kids with me to pick up my new puppy!  A female German Shepherd we’ve named Heidi!  She is precious!  I am absolutely amazed how incredibly smart she is.  She already has the idea of pottying outside.  She went from being dragged by the leash to a pretty good walk for such a little lady.  She is learning what to chew on and what not to (she has a very strong chew need).  During the day, she sleeps in this cubby made by the ottoman and chair pillows.  At night, I used the decorative pillows to help section off a cubby on the bed (with two walls and my body making the other sides). There is some discussion of where she may sleep when she is completely potty trained.  Hmmmm.  I think that if *I* do the work, I get to keep the dog!

1364093573-picsay

Anyway, Heidi was basically an anniversary gift.  My hubby is a bit leery of getting animals due to how things were when he grew up.  Basically, no one wanted to take care of them so didn’t.  He doesn’t want to live in the results as an adult.  Go figure.

Note:  Saturday was our anniversary.  Honestly, we don’t do a whole lot for our anniversary.  We’re glad we’re married; but since we did things in the wrong order (had a couple kids first), there seems little reason to worry about a date a couple years later (we’ve only been legally married 17 years).  We do use it as the base for our family day celebrations.  Since it comes after income tax money gets here and as the whether is changing, it seems a good time for a celebration.  This year, the celebration is April 6th.  We’ve invited family members to join us.  The kids have enjoyed picking out gifts for everyone.

Saturday morning was Tumbler’s second to last competition of the season.  She did very well.  She got the top score for her level (9.3) on vault.  She got the top score for floor (9.4).  Most importantly was that she nailed a certain skill on the bars.  Bars are really hard for her.  I think it is more fear than anything.  At least that is my guess.  Coach thinks after conditioning this summer, she’ll be fine on the bars.  I think so too (if she doesn’t get it before because typically once she decides to, she does well).  Since she hasn’t even been in gymnastics a full year yet, I can’t imagine worrying about too much.  She’s making fine progress, IMO. Anyway, so individually she did well.  Her team took first place 🙂

Wednesday and Friday mornings we did CrossFit, of course. We now usually do the warm up that is posted for everyone.  Friday mornings, that is “active warm up” which everyone does together, not at their own speed.  They have to, of course, be able to warm up even the most fit, so we typically stink at it.  LOL  I did learn from this that I can’t jump AT ALL.  I’m gonna work on that.  They did give me some pointers that helped immediately.  Anyway, workouts…

Friday – Wall Balls (we only had 50 while everyone else had 150), 180 jumprope, 15 dips and 15 pull-ups (they were supposed to be muscle-ups for those who could do those).  Post-WOD was 90 sit-ups (it was 150 for those who could).

Wednesday – Three rounds of Row or Run (we rowed twice and ran the last one), 21 kettlebell swings, and 12 pull-ups.

Oh, at CrossFit Friday, I showed Cliff pics of my progress so far.  He was amazed and showed the other coaches.  He said it isn’t normal to be able to *see* such a big difference so quickly.  Weird.  I about fell over when I saw the tape measure.  Crazy good results.  I’ll post on here after I get down a bit more.  I want my after to be pretty cool before I do, not just good progress.

There was something else I wanted to add; but I don’t remember what.  I’ll add it later if I remember 🙂

 

Struggling

I am struggling significantly (as is the rest of my family) with the loss of our Sweet Little M.  Many people cannot understand; but we feel as if we lost a daughter.  To make it worse, we fear for how she is doing and how she will do long term. Unfortunately, what information we’ve gotten has made it worse, not better. And so then there is the guilt that we couldn’t find a way to protect her from this.

I am so thankful for my online and IRL support.

I just wish the pain didn’t hurt SO badly and SO constantly.  For all of us.

I hope one day I stop crying so much. 

WODs

Coach Cliff: “I’m not going to take it easy on you anymore.”

Me:  “You call what you were doing taking it easy?!?!?”

Okay so Thursday’s LifeFit:

  • 1200 m row
  • 90 jumprope
  • 800 m row
  • 90 jumprope
  • 400 m row
  • 90 jumprope
  • 200 m row
  • 90 jumprope

I started having to hold back tears within the first couple hundred meters of rowing.  I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to push through.  You know, I used to think that the people on the Biggest Loser show were….something.  I mean, they had time to talk to others, talk to their trainers, etc.  But they choose working out time to break down, cry, quit, etc?  Why?  Now I know.  Seriously.  I can feel fine when I walk into the gym but then get going and feel tearful.  It isn’t until AFTER I’m holding back tears (or crying) that I start thinking about what is making me sad, angry, etc.

Lately, a great deal of it is related to Monkey.  I’m worried sick about her and miss her so incredibly much.  Then add other stressors, life, etc.  YuCK.

Friday we did the active workout with the group.  I really struggled with it.  Did you know I can’t long jump?  Wild.  Well, start at the bottom and enjoy the progress, right? Anyway, then we did the 13.2  with modifications. We did AMRAP in 10 minutes:

  • 5 shoulder to overhead
  • 10 deadlifts
  • 15 box jumps (or step ups in my case)

Now, in 13.2, the majority of people got to do the deadlifts with the same weight as the s-2-o.  This was a good thing for them because it meant a lighter weight than normal for deadlifts.  However, my son, daughter, and I did what we could so we had handweights for overheads and heavier (much heavier) kettlebells for deadlifts.

Monday we did LifeFit:

  • Work for 20 minutes.
  • On even minutes, do 7 pull-ups (I do rowing pull ups on the rings)
  • On odd minutes, do 20 wall balls

Now, we hadn’t done wall balls yet.  Somehow we had skipped that workout.  So we had to learn how.  THat wasn’t too bad the first several times.  We focused on form.  We had fairly light balls (I don’t know what “not light” is).  Anyway, I did very well at first.  Then I started having issues with my left shoulder.  Then my left elbow.  I started paying attention to not throwing my arm, just the ball.  Then my right elbow.  After the next set of pull-ups, I did this wall press with my elbow my physical therapist showed me in 2006.  That worked.  Next set of wall balls felt good.  But the next one I was done.  The last couple of wall ball sets, I did it ball-less.  I really had to still work to not throw my arms locked, hurting them more though.  They hurt for about an hour after I got home and are fine tonight though.  I do plan on discussing the issue with the coach before doing them next time though to see if there is some modification I can use to maximize the exercise while minimizing the issue.  I think, mostly, though, it’s going to take time.  I have very loose joints.  I think I’m just going to have to build the muscles to stabilize them a bit.

And then Tuesday, the warm up was THREE rounds of 10 pushups, 10 situps, 10 squat hops, 10 lunges, 10 back extensions, 10 mountain climbers.  IMO, that is not a warm up, but a workout!  LOL  Anyway, then we had to do five rounds:

  • run to the double white mailboxes (I don’t remember how long that is supposed to be)
  • lunges down the mat and back (about 20)

So I thought I was going to die.  Then I thought I was going to puke.  I did find out that I was doing my lunge walks wrong.  Doing them right is actually MUCH easier in the moment as well as longer term.  I didn’t fall over one time today!  Go figure 🙂

Semi-Open Adoption and Wow

I’m on the verge of tears right now.  It has been such an emotional few weeks!  However, this morning’s tears are positive.

As I mentioned below, we have an open adoption.  How open depends on the family member.  Additionally, I expect that it is an evolving relationship that will change over time as the people involve mature, have different needs, etc.  And some of it is just getting comfy in our new roles.

Well, yesterday, I facebook messaged my children’s first parents.  It was maybe 3 or 4 sentences, nothing huge.  I didn’t expect an answer at all and was half expecting that if I did get one, the answer may even be hostile though I was careful in the wording and being humble, lowly.  So imagine my surprise when I received a heartfelt thank you message back within seconds!  I was even more surprised as the conversation continued over two hours!

I really didn’t think this day would come ever, much less so soon.  All I have to go based on regarding this woman was a couple court appearances where she was “on something,”  paperwork (investigative reports done half-way by an overworked CPS worker, a couple psych reports, etc), and testimony (from various CPS workers, reports from people the state hired to help her, her now ex-husband).

I also have the COMPLETE lack of discussion about her by my children.  Yes, really.  The *only* thing I’ve *ever* heard is “I miss my mommy” or “I miss my first mom.”  There is not ONE story of her.  There is no discussion of the mundane things in life or some special activity (whether once or regularly).  There is not one time of “my first mom XYZ.”  There is some about their first dad.  There are even some “my first parents….”  The closest was something like the story of my daughter being spanked for helping her mother up when her father pushed her down.”  But nothing specifically about their first mom….at all.

I really came to believe that this woman was just a shadow of herself.  She was probably in there somewhere; but the pain, the grief, the alcohol, the abuse, whatever has just overtaken her.  And in my head, she was the hurt inflicted upon my children.

This was not the woman I spoke to last night.  Her life is still a mess; but she was coherent and able to think about anyone but herself.  And yet, she was open to something more.  Like I said, we spoke for over two hours.  We discussed spiritual matters, the children, pictures and letters (not just from me!), etc.   I let her know that we’re hoping the best for her (something I’ve done many times, but I could be more detailed in our discussion).  I let her know that God cares and that she can gain peace (something she desperately wants and is so incredibly true).

Last night, my children’s first mom became a real person to me.

OB: “They Seem Normal to Me”

The below is another repost.  I hope it is helpful for someone.  Please know some of us understand, at least a little.

NOTE: A couple of my kids have attachment disorders,  not RAD (reactive attachment disorder).  ETA: This has changed and RAD is a diagnosis here.  However, I think this is an important topic (and I hope I don’t mess it up royally!).

There is one sign of attachment disorders I wish everyone knew:  Parents may seem hostile and angry (at times, regularly, often, etc).  The parents seem to be pulling their hair out, lamenting over their children’s behavior; but all the rest of the world sees are cute, sweet, easy, well-behaved children.  Please believe the mom!

I have an example for you.

For the past several years, I’ve known this family.  A lovely woman who took in a family member’s extremely neglected and abused children.  The children dressed extremely conservatively, demure.  They were very understated in their appearance and mannerisms.  They were very sweet, mild-mannered, quiet, etc.  They attended all events and played with the other kids.  They seemed to love their mom, weren’t inappropriate with their affection, didn’t seem to mommy-shop, etc.

I had heard that they had some troubles.  Really, maybe mom was just expecting too much.  Maybe she was being too strict with her kids as they were getting older (preteens and teens).  Maybe the kids had gotten in a bad crowd so were trying some stuff out.  But mostly, they still seemed just fine. Remember, I saw them regularly.

Mom didn’t complain a lot, but she did seem frustrated.  VERY frustrated.

Well, stuff has happened and the girls are no longer around.  Sadly, they’ve chosen a horrible life, are out on the street, are both currently pregnant (at the time this post was originally written).  They are halfway across the country.

So I’m talking to mom yesterday.  She kept it brief; but what she went through with these girls was awful.  As you read through the diagnoses, a picture slowly starts to form.  They had a ton of diagnoses: RAD (reactive attachment disorder), IED (intermittent explosive disorder), ADHD, ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).  Other than adhd, those are some pretty hefty diagnoses.  And the diagnoses give you a GLIMPSE of what her life must have been like with these two children in her home.

I do want to say that though her anger, frustration, and fear were very evident, her sadness and love came through clearly also as we talked.

If you know a worried or frustrated foster or adoptive mom of charming children, please know that you see only what the children want you to see.  They can hold it together pretty well, “honeymoon” for you; but mom pays the price for that sweetness when she gets home.  She gets the rages, the tears, the poop, the urine everywhere, the hurting people, the masturbation, the threats, the being pushed away.  SHE gets all the child’s anger, sadness, and FEAR.

I wish I could explain this better.

Open Adoption from Foster Care

Okay, I’m thinking this post may be even more disjointed than most of my posts.  It is pretty disjointed in my head.  But I read a story about open adoption (though not really similar) and I got a note from one of the people involved in our own open adoption; so thought I’d write about this topic.

I know it is controversial.  In some states, OA is encouraged in certain situations.  In my state, it is not ever encouraged.  The state’s position is that the children were removed from their parents for a reason, they had opportunity to get them back (except in the most grievous of circumstances), and it is time for all parties to be able to move on after an emotional roller coaster of several months to several years.  And what about extended family?  They were given a chance to step forward; of course, the choice was to PARENT which isn’t always a possibility.  What about those who couldn’t take the children on, but who would love to remain grandparents or other extended relatives? And then, as I learned in another case, the concern is that children could be bargained over, bribing one party for the  interests of the other (whether it was best interest of the child or not).

Well, it has been in our hearts from before we even started fostering that openness could be beneficial.  Obviously, how open and when may depend on the individuals involved; but my belief simply was that a child could not have too many people loving him.

I also believe that understanding the role of family, parents and extended, in fostering situations.  So many times, it is easy for people to demonize those whose children have been taken by CPS.  Now, of course, I completely understand this as in most cases, there was some sort of neglect or abuse involved.  However, though that is the case, sometimes the situation was circumstantial.  Sometimes the family didn’t know better.  Sometimes they need a hand-up.  Additionally, the extended family often were instrumental in aiding the children both in the birth home as well as getting them out of the birth home.  They weren’t the ones to abuse or neglect the children.  And the ideal situation for the child would be if someone in their family (parents would be the first ideal, then family) could be healthy enough to raise the children so they could be in their family of origin.  Thankfully, the majority of cases do end up with children going back to parents or to a family member.  Additionally, the majority of those placements work out long term.

But obviously, children sometimes need new families.  In my children’s situation, the biological parents were incapable (some will say unwilling; but I honestly believe that they were incapable by the time everything went down, possibly due to poor choices like drinking)…they were incapable of doing what they needed in order to raise their children in a healthy manner.  Additionally, the grandmother loved her grandchildren dearly; but she was unable to protect them from their biological parents.  Sadly, soon after the TPR (termination of parental rights), grandmother’s health failed significantly and very quickly.  The aunt could have won custody of the children had she fought for it. The reasons the state were giving for not giving her the kids were not strong enough.  She was also more capable of protecting the children and would have done so.  But their situation had changed from the prior case to this one.  She gladly stepped out of the picture when she saw how well the children were thriving with us (she said that she barely recognized them, they looked so good.  On the stand, she said that until she saw them after seven months in our care, she didn’t realize how bad the neglect truly had been), especially since we were clear we would maintain contact (this was not a bribe; I simply was open all along and was clear that wouldn’t change).  The other grandmother was not suitable. No other family stepped forward before TPR and the state only allows certain kinds of family to step forward after TPR (and none of those were available, able, and suitable….nor did any try).

Anyway, after the October hearing, I reached out to family members (including parents who I had gotten to speak with after the Oct hearing concluded).  I was brief and was going to let them lead the way.  Simply, “it was nice meeting you” mostly.   That opened the way to a few superficial emails.  I kept it very superficial until after the adoption was finalized.  Biodad did send a message when he heard about some troubles we were having that was delaying the adoption.  He was glad that the judge took the reigns ordering a number of things, including an adoption finalization date (anyone who has adopted knows this is so not the way it happens).

Soon before finalization, I got each biological parent’s address (they had separated after TPR) so I could send an update letter and pictures.  I told them I would set up a P.O. Box for them to send stuff (we later decided differently; but it hasn’t made a difference as they haven’t sent the kids letters, stories, pictures, gifts, etc even when asked specifically for some of those).  Anyway, so I sent those.  I also put a few pictures a few times, including more recently, on my FB page of the children.

I have to say that I have been surprised about a few things.

  • First, biomom and boyfriend made statements about them loving the children so much, that the children are their world, that they *would* be a family again one day.  That isn’t so surprising (though boyfriend has never even met the kids as far as I’m aware so ???).  I was more surprised about how much this bothered ME.  Of course, she loves our children!  And though she didn’t behave as if they were her world (or else they wouldn’t have gone through what they did in her care, been in and out of the home and foster placements, etc), she believed she did what she could. And honestly, it is very likely that our children will make contact with her again one day.  They *are* family. But for some reason, it bothered me.  Now, it doesn’t bother me though it still bugs my hubby.
  • They don’t take the pictures, sometimes not even acknowledging that I posted the pictures, wrote them, etc.  I *am* surprised that they didn’t take the most recent pictures and “share” them.  They had before so why not now?  I even messaged them and let them know they were there to take.  A few weeks later, I got a thank you note from one parent.  I still haven’t heard from the other.  And still, neither shared them.
  • There has been no effort to give the children anything. I had asked for stories and pictures.  I figured they’d try to send a card or gifts at some point.
  • One parent wrote a really nice letter to the parents of my Sweet Little M’s biological parents. In it, he shared how he felt about us and us raising his children.  It was heartfelt and extremely nice.  He didn’t have to do it and I was so incredibly thankful for both the sentiment as well as the action.  It is also something I can put with my children’s papers for them to see one day.
  • One parent expressed interest in seeing the children.
  • My daughter especially seems to understand (to a degree well past her age would suggest) wanting the best for her first parents (hoping they change their lives to be safe and healthy people) as well as that she can be the best she can be so she (and they) can be proud of her. She even more, seems to understand now, that she can enjoy the life she has now, living it to the full, not holding back because of the past. I don’t think I could have seen her getting here so soon.

Anyway, but that is the biological parents.  BTW, my children call them their “first parents.”  To me, this is more accurate than biological or “real.”  We’ve had a few foster kids come in and say “real.”  I ask them to pinch me.  I holler “ow!” and say, “yep, I’m real! Did I feel real to you?” That usually elicits a smile.

Now, I wanted a more personal relationship with the Aunt and Grandmother.  Unfortunately, what I *thought* that would look like and what it actually does is considerably different.  Will it evolve? Maybe.  We all express wanting the same thing, but we don’t seem to be able to make it so.  What *I* wanted was for them to become extended family.  I was thinking more like my mom and me rather than more like my hubby and his siblings.   I was disappointed when they couldn’t come down soon after the adoption.  We couldn’t get a family day celebration together that would work for them.  Then they couldn’t do a get together in the fall either.  I was frustrated.  It wasn’t that they didn’t want to get together; we just couldn’t work it out.  So January first, we went up to the Aunt’s house and Grandmother was there also.  Aunt’s kids loved seeing our kids again.  They hadn’t seen them in almost two years.  Being older, they remembered them well and were overcome with emotion.  Maybe sometime in the summer, the kids could come visit for a week or something.

I’m actually currently trying to get a get-together worked out.  I’d love it to be all my hubby’s family also.  We can grill out, play Guitar Hero, a few card games or whatever.  Eat and let cousins play and the like.  I figure it won’t be uncomfy long meshing the two families.  I hope we can work it out this time.

Anyway, so having an open adoption hasn’t worked out quite the way I envisioned; but I think it is good.  My children will have extended family still.  And I have at least a little relationship to work with should they want to try to have a relationship with their first parents in the future.

Oh, I did want to address one last thing.  Our degree of openness is based on what we believe best for our children.  I can see visits for some kids and first parents.  For our kids, we don’t believe that is best.  We’re dealing with attachment disorders.  There was some significant abuse, especially of the one child. The parents’ lives are messes (for the one, that is a major understatement). The one parent is completely incapable of being appropriate.  The children didn’t even have visits when they were foster children this last time.  I don’t know that all of the kids will wait til adulthood to have contact with their first family or to contact them; but I do know that, for my kids, this is not the time to open the adoption to that degree.

Okay, so….that is where we are with this open-ish adoption.  I’m glad we’re doing it though sometimes it may be a little hard.  I think it’ll benefit the kids along the way (for the relationship with cousins, aunt, grandmother) as well as “one day” if they choose to “search out” their first parents.

 

ETA:  Okay, I still have one more thing.  I have been asked why I give the biological parents anything. I could keep the door open with them, keep tabs on them to some degree, without giving THEM updates, pictures, etc.  Fact is that those things are true.  Seriously?  I’m empathetic.  I so cannot imagine losing my children.  Yes, they behaved in the ways they did and didn’t take care of business despite years and multiple opportunities (8 cases over 5 years!).  But they lost something so precious, my beautiful children.  They lost every day with them.  They lost them learning to read, ride bikes with no training wheels, swimming, their senses of humor, their wittiness, their brightness, their smiles.  They lost so incredibly much, more than they really even understand at this point.  They can’t ever get that back.  But *I* can give them some peace of mind that their children are happy and healthy.  Could I be ugly?  Sure.  Could I just not be anything towards them?  Yes.  But I *want* to be empathetic and kind.  Maybe part of what I do is for me as well as for them.

Also, my kids are aware of the openness.  It does trigger the oldest, but she appreciates the gesture to the degree she can understand it at this time.  The middle one doesn’t think they deserve it; he’s still very angry.  The youngest is clueless (he doesn’t consciously remember any home before ours, probably because with there being so many of them, he didn’t have enough to hang a memory upon).

WOD and T-Lo

These two things, today, so seem to go together!

So this morning, we decided to wait til 9am to go to the Box.  The primary reason was so we could finish CrossFit, go to the store quickly, then get to swim lessons.  That way, we made on trip to that town, rather than multiple trips.

So the WOD.  We did what everyone else did today!  Shuttle-Run

Okay, so that may be an overstatement.  We did their warm-up; that was the easy part (though I don’t think I thought that at the time).  THEN, we did the WOD!  Now, I will say that we didn’t look anything like they did.  We used easier weights (kettle balls 35 and 45 pounds instead of bars).  And I can’t run like a normal person, much less a fit normal person.  But for the entire time, I did the deadlifts then the running, slowing down only to get a quick swish of water (I usually use a cough drop or something so my mouth doesn’t get so dry I feel I’m choking; but I forgot this morning).

Sooooooo, we go to the store, got lots of produce, a little meat.  We’ll go later in the week for some more meat.

Then we go to swimming.  T-lo was dancing around something crazy before class.

T-lo pool

As the other class let out, I called him to me and warned him that I expected him to mind and follow the rules, that I *would* pull him out (which he knows as it was this time last year when I had to pull him out because he was just way too dysregulated to handle lessons). After I said it, I wished I had been more positive. It’s just that he is driving me nuts these days with his behaviors and I…I just didn’t feel positive about how he’d do today.

Well, he blew me out of the water.  First, he got a private lesson as the other students didn’t show.  I knew that his friend, T, wouldn’t be there as I had asked his mom at gymnastics Thursday and she said they were taking the week off.  But the other two people didn’t show either.  This was probably extra good for T-lo today.  He wasn’t as distracted and didn’t see other kids pushing limits.  And of course he stayed busy which was nice.

T-lo is a bit “spastic.”  He has very low tone and has some genetic disorder we decided not to pursue (Dr. in genetics department felt it  wouldn’t make a real difference for what we’d do and I went along with not doing further testing though sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice).  Many weeks, both before, and this time around, he would be in the water, held by the instructor with his knees bent so his feet stuck out of the water with little real arm movement and a big toothy “smile.”  He didn’t really do anything.  He wasn’t really able to.

But today was so different.  He swam halfway across the “box” without her holding on.  He floated on his back without her holding on!  And on the last try of rolling from back to front, he made it with little help!  He was excited about getting rings off the bottom of the pool.  He jumped in without hesitating.  Seriously, is this the same kid who was in this class last week?  He was so proud.  He got a ribbon also (we put the ribbons on their doors).

Really neat stuff.

Well, so other things we did today:

  • We forgot the fire marshal was coming to do an inspection that we ended up not needing.  Thankfully, he was running late so called so we had a few minutes to finish up lunch and get the house cleaned up a little.  One thing we teach each child when they come here is that the goal in our home is to have the house within 20 minutes of clean.  We figure anyone that stops in on us doesn’t really care if we are “that messy.”  And anyone else is going to give us 20+ minutes.  So making sure we stay within 20 minutes of clean allows us a lot of freedom and lack of stress.   Today, it took us just under 15 minutes to get done what we wanted to get done.
  • Tumbler went to CrossFit Kids.  They warmed up and then did a similar WOD as we did.  Good.  LOL
  • We made sausage and sweet potato hash for supper.  Tumbler and T-lo both liked it and got a little extra.  Swimmer wasn’t thrilled with it.  Kimber and I both liked it.  John put hot sauce on it and was fine.
  • I let the kids jump off the half-wall in the living room.  Though I told them that we weren’t going to do it when Daddy got home, they, of course, told him first thing and wanted to show him.  I also told them they wouldn’t be doing it if we took anymore foster kids.  We are a bit more careful then.

So it was a full, good day.  I’m going to go to bed early then go work out at 6:30 tomorrow morning.  We’ll have a full school day even though it is spring break.  The speech therapist comes out for T-Lo also.  I want to get a nap as we have the meeting tomorrow night (and John has a part).  This time change is hard on me.  I was ready for bed before the kids went!

Kids and Thursday

Kimber:  Swimmer said not to tell you because you told him not to tell me that you took a drink of my soda.

None of y’all are very good at keeping secrets, at least not the innocent kinds.

Anyway, so Thursday, John and I went to CrossFit. We did our basic warm-up.  John was able to do the pull ups with band help!  YAY! He also did some of the dips with band help.  YAY!  I have to say that the warm-up no longer kicks my booty 🙂

We did the LifeFit WOD (I think it may have been the 8th, but not sure):

  • 12 ball slams
  • 4 shuttle runs
  • 8 ball slams
  • 3 shuttle runs
  • 4 ball slams
  • 2 shuttle runs
  • 30 double-unders (but we don’t know how to do them so just did regular jump)
  • 2 minute rest

Let me say now that we rested more like 3½ minutes at the end and had several 10-30 second seconds through the two rounds of the above.  Though it was much more cardio than I’m used to (stinks, but truth, right?) and was hard in the moment, I actually felt really good leaving the gym.  I also felt like I most certainly could manage our day afterwards (something I don’t always feel, especially on a busy day).

We got home, got ready, and left.

We took John to college.

Then we went to homeschool day at the ZOO!!!!!  YAY!

It was a lot of fun.  The kids did really well. They loved all the animals.  We talked about there are a few ways to get to know God and one of those ways is by observing/experiencing creation.

Favorite animals:

  • Tumbler – flamingo and zebra
  • Swimmer – elephant and crocodile
  • T-lo – hippos and snake
  • Kimber – white tiger
  • Mama – river otters

Here are a few pics of the kids:

20130307_102946-1 20130307_120730-1 (1) photo (4)

photo (3)I put this last because we were walking down this and all of a sudden I hear my five year old say, “more wild animals!” Uh, yeah.  Did you know he could read that?

System Insanity

These are more thoughts I had as I was forming my first post in response to Cindy over at Recipe For a Family.

Sometimes, we need a bit of reality about fostering. Unfortunately, the reality isn’t just the awesome parts of parenting children.  I wish it were.  Can you imagine getting to experience first steps, first words, progress in speech or physical therapy, the funny things kids say and do, etc all the time?  And if you have a special age group you especially love, you can do it 20 or 60 times!  Seriously, if it was about loving, playing with, parenting children, fostering would be absolutely awesome a lot of the time (the other side of that coin may be another post because I do think it is important also).

However, not only is there the good (and bad) of parenting all these children, there is the system itself.

Since I just started my blog, there isn’t a ton on there about my Sweet Little M (there was more on the other blog).  Basically, we had her for 11½ months, being her fourth home.  She had attachment and developmental concerns when we got her as an infant!  We worked with her and still had some concerns, but she had progressed SO far.  M was the first child who we felt was OURS when the state had different plans. For 14 months, fictive kin (that can mean friends of the family, family by a marriage or two, etc) wanted to get her.  They weren’t very proactive and the cps worker made some mistake that cost everyone months.  Well, so once this toddler was bonded to us, developmentally on target with supports in place, etc, the state moved her to these people on the other side of the country.  This despite her needs being known, her doctor writing in her behalf, etc.  Fact is that the agency’s quotas, state’s statistics, and money were more important than the best interest of this little girl, my little girl.  And I couldn’t protect her.

Case ridiculousness –  Two little kids, a baby and a toddler.  Mom put the children in danger by refusing to stay away from their father during exchanges of custody.  Honestly, I’m not sure that warranted the children being taken when you consider how damaging removing a child from his mother is (remember, I read the case information.  Obviously, in some cases, it would most certainly be warranted). So these beautiful children went to a foster home.  A couple days later, they were moved to another foster home, mine.  Mom worked her plan as quickly as she could.  She never missed a visit.  I sent short letters and pictures to her which she greatly appreciated.  She wrote back the nicest notes.  CPS said she worked her plan too quickly.  SAY WHAT!?!?!  They made her wait and wait again.  The next time, the supervisor told me they were going to make her wait one more month.  Seriously?  They wanted to move the children to the aunt for the final month.  I thought that was a *really* bad idea.  You’re gonna move the kids just to give them back to their mother a month later? The only good part of that would have been that the mother could have seen them more. I offered to supervise a 2nd visit each month which we did gladly.  That was the best thing ever in such a dumb situation.  I was amazed at how the children were for her.  There was a special bond between them.  I’m so happy I got to experience that last month with their whole little family.  The day the judge granted her getting her kids back, I set it up for her to pick the kids up at our home.  Mama L came back to the house after strapping the children in the car to thank me yet again and hug me.

One major issue is children bounced around the system.  This is pretty normal actually. The children above….

  • Sweet Little M has now been in FIVE homes in less than 21 months.  Those first two years are soooo important for a child to learn to attach.  It would be better for a child to have one strong healthy attachment and have it broken than to have multiple short attachments, learning instead that adults are unpredictable and won’t be there tomorrow or next month.  Sweet Little M left eight days ago.  She thought she would be gone a couple hours just like she did to go to visits to see her biological parents.  Instead, she has not heard our voices, seen us, been held or comforted by us, had our family rituals, etc in eight days.  At 21 months old, she has lost FOUR sets of adults, including a family she loved and who adored her for 11½ months.  My heart aches for her.
  • The infant and toddler?  They were given to one couple.  A few days later, these people decided they couldn’t handle them; so we got them.  Now, there is no way for the system to know how long a parent is going to take to get their children back so I understand looking for kin.  This is probably best a lot of the time.  It certainly saves the state money and allows the child to have a family culture more similar to their own.  Many times, it also allows a parent to see the children more often (which can be good though it isn’t always).  Once the kids were with us for a few months, moving them when the plan was to move them home soon didn’t make as much sense.  Thankfully, CPS agreed with me and the family and mom did also. Otherwise, these children, who went home at 9 and 20 months would have had three placements during their short stint in care, a recipe for issues with children so young!
  • And my third example are my children.  My children came to me at almost 3, almost 4, and 5 years old.  We were their ninth home (we thought it was eighth until we learned of another placement).  Their parents were given way too many chances and each time they left the home, they went to another family.  There was six weeks between the final time they were taken and when we finally got them. I guess it wouldn’t surprise anyone that they have attachment issues, huh?

Unfortunately, I could continue on about foster parents rights being stomped upon (even those that keep us from advocating for the kids in our care), by the threats to keep us in line (yes, actually spoken ones), things like caseworkers not visiting the way they are supposed to, etc. What about child in a foster home for 15months, the case going to adoption, family having been ruled out, then the child being given to another adoptive couple?  What about corruption in a system of quotas, statistics, and $?

So why should we consider continuing to foster?  Why do I still suggest it to other people?  Because the system is so incredibly broken and so actively hurting children, there is a need for good people who can love the children, help them gain skills they need for a lifetime, to celebrate their progress and development, to be parents on a daily basis.  What we do counteracts all the baloney, maybe not perfectly, but a lot better than they could without all we give to them.

Well, and let’s be honest, there may be a few benefits for us too (but that can be another post – though there were a few hints in the first paragraph).

Thursday Thinker: A Response (part 1)

Cindy at Recipe For a Family posted  Thursday Thinker: Foster-Adopt.  Here is what she asked:

What do you know about adopting foster kids? Have you considered it as an option for building your family? Do you have a program in your county that is specifically for couples that are interested in eventually adopting a baby from the foster care system? What are your concerns with foster adoption?

Well Cindy, I may know a thing (or three?) about adopting foster kids.  I have adopted three wonderful children from foster care.  I have several friends who have adopted great kids from foster care.  There have been some negative stories as well as positive ones.  For most, it has been a mixed bag.  Of course, that is the case with parenting in any way right?

We are at a cross-roads ourselves, trying to determine whether it is the way we want to continue building our family.  Well, actually, we’re even wondering if we *want* to continue building it further.  We think we do.  However, we really hate the system in many ways and are unsure about being part of it.  If we continued, we would continue to foster (support reunification) until our child(ren) come to us.  We would not limit ourselves to adoption from foster care.

So I would think that would be a major discussion for your family.  What age children do you want?  Only a baby?  Or do you consider 5yos babies also?  Would you only want a single baby or would you consider a sibling group?  Do you want only children who are legally free for adoption?  Or would you take a chance on a legal risk baby?  Would you foster, sending children on, until your child(ren) came to you?

Though your answers to some of those questions may change in time, it is wise to have some idea of what you would like before you start calling the county, agencies, etc.  You want to make sure that the people helping you on your journey handle what you would like to do!  Also, here, all 96 agencies in our region get the broadcast for the children as they are available (assuming that the worker doesn’t have someone in mind).  However, I know in other areas, people with the county get first shot.  If you wanted teens, that wouldn’t probably matter much, but if you want babies, especially caucasion, not drug addicted, few health issues, it would matter if you were in an area where county folks get first dibs. See, there is a lot more to it!

My biggest concern for the intention to foster to adopt, primarily is whether the foster parents can support the goal of reunification for parents and/or family.   Sometimes, it really isn’t best for the children to be sent back to parents or to their relatives.  However, a lot of times, it is good for them.  However, it is *hard* for us.  Even in the perfect situation of a parent who works hard to get her kids back, it is *hard, hard, hard* for us.  We love these children we take care of for these 2 weeks, 5 months, 16 months, whatever.  We’ve been fostering a few years.  We have agreed with the plan well enough for each child/set of children.  It still was really hard.  What if we had thought each of those kids was our forever child?  It would have been so much worse on us.  But worse, it would have been wrong of us.   Most of these children *had* forever families to go to, they just needed a loving home for a little while.

Of course, even we have had our situation where we feel *our* child was stolen from us, that the plan wasn’t in our baby’s best interest, that we lost a child we cherished dearly. Worse than the loss *we* felt was the fear of what it was doing to our baby girl!  So sometimes it will happen.  But can you, when you’re in that situation, still work towards the goal?  In that situation, I volunteered to talk with the people getting our child.  I volunteered to provide access to the child.  I texted, emailed, skyped, etc.  I had them visit in my home from out of town!  IF they were getting my little girl, an idea so foreign to me as it isn’t natural for a parent to just hand over her toddler!, I wanted my little girl to get to know them, even if it wasn’t in person.  We looked at pictures of them.  We talked about their toddler daughter.  We skyped for 20-30 minutes many times.  I wanted her to be as comfortable with them as she could be from half a country away.  Additionally, I wanted *them* to bond with her.  On top of everything we did with Little M, I would send cute stories via text, emails of facts, pictures.  I still advocated for her, but I worked towards the goal also.

Major question – If you accept children not legally free for adoption, can you, will you, support the state’s goal until it is no longer the goal?  It is tough stuff!

 

OB: Scared for a moment

Here is a blast from the past post, a post I wrote in the Summer of 2011, what seems like a lifetime ago.  Child was a newly turned 3yo at the time, nickname was Munchkin in real life and on my blog.  To me, if you will look back up to the start of the post after finishing, you’ll remember that this scenario all started with the child going from one naughty thing to another, things he knew not to do, but seemed unable to stop doing.  He just kept getting “in trouble.”  Why?  He had a lot going on in his head and heart at that moment!

“Munchkin, bottom” (meaning don’t stand on the couch)

“Munchkin, give your brother back that toy.”

“Munchkin, is that what you’re supposed to be doing?”

“Munchkin, stop already!”

“Okay, Munchkin, you come sit up on the couch next to mama.”

Munchkin pouts as I’m eating a late breakfast while the kids play so he thinks he’s just gonna sit there bored to death.  Of course, that is an option, but…

“J, will you please get those new puzzles for me?  I think they are on the bottom of the bookcase in the office.”

Puzzles retrieved.

“Look Munchkin.  Whatcha think?”

Munchkin pulls out a few baby animals and looks at them.  “Baby sad. Baby misses his mommy.”

“Tell baby it’s okay to miss mommy.”  He doesn’t.  I pick up a baby and have it whine, “me miss mommy.” Then I respond with, “oh, baby, I’m so sorry you are sad.  It is okay to miss your mommy.”

Munchkin continues to play with the animals and they continue to be sad.  I pick up the giraffe saying it’s the foster mommy and having it kiss the babies, telling them she loves them and it’s going to be okay. Munchkin gets VERY upset though!

“You STU-PIT!”

“The foster mommy is stupid?”

He hollers at the giraffe again saying over and over how it is stupid.

I tell him it’s okay to be mad and sad.  I have the giraffe kiss the baby lion.

“You don’t kiss baby!  You bad! You stu-pit!  You shut up.”

Over and over he tells the giraffe to shut up.  Finally, he puts his hand on her mouth.  I make a sound like I’m trying to talk through his hand.  He says, “you shut up, you stupit” and then grabs her neck and strangles her.

I say, “oh, you are very angry with the giraffe.  What did she do wrong?” Remember, I’m thinking the giraffe is the foster mom so in his world is ME.

He takes the giraffe from my hands and throws it on the floor.  He says she is stupid and dead.

I ask him who HE is. Is he the daddy?  the baby?

He replies, “I PAM!” in a big voice.

All of a sudden, I relaxed quite a bit.  At least he’s not thinking of killing ME.  I said, “oh, you are Pam?  Who is the giraffe?”

He says, “Mommy stupid and dead!”

He picks up the baby animals and loves on them.

We then pick up the animals and put them away.  We go to the store and go about the rest of our day.  He has trouble at meal times, but all other behavior is mostly fine outside of a few preschool incidents (like standing up in the grocery cart).  I guess he needed to play that out.

I hope he doesn’t think I will kill his mommy though.  I am sorry for what she has done to her kids.  I hope they never go back there again.  I hope they can heal from what she and daddy have done to them.  I just can’t easily make what has happened go away.

Reading or Teasing?

Okay, so my four year old is incredibly bright.  He is one of the most asynchronous people I have met in my life.  He is so more capable in some areas than most kids his age; yet he’s so incredibly young-seeming (speech articulation issues galore, he’s tiny, toddlerish flitting between naughty choices, etc). It’s wild.

Anyway, so one area he’s also asynchronous in is cognitive and academic development.  In this post, I’m going to speak mostly of his reading development.  He has known his letter sounds for over a year now.  Occasionally, he seems to have some weird hiccup where he says something off the wall (like the short /O/ sound for F or whatever).  I wonder if what I learned this week was relevant then.

So here is what happened.  I, like most parents, run my fingers under the text I want my child to sound out or that I’m reading.  So we start doing it. I’ll just use a word family as an example:T-lo

/a/ /t/, say it fast, /at/

/b/ /a/ /t/, say it fast, /bat/

/f/ /a/ /t/, say it fast, /fat/

Easy, right?

Except T-lo…(goodness, I can barely contain my laughter) thought I was teasing or tricking him!  He thinks that when you are running your finger across, you are really HIDING the letter you want him to say the sound of (not pointing to the line of letters above your finger)!  So as I point to *b*, he says /f/!!!!  I was so incredibly confused! Why was he saying the b said /f/???  Finally I figured it out.

After figuring it out, I thought about all the time I’ve thought it so odd that he runs his finger ON words like in the song book at the hall or on the behavior chart.  I just figured he was clueless that the words were actually there and that we are reading certain words for certain ideas.  I mean, he *is* only four.  It would be perfectly reasonable to think he doesn’t get that letters make words yet, especially considering he has been in eight other homes, the majority of which I doubt ever read to him.

But now that I think of it.  He *did* have the idea.  He’s just been *very* confused.  I wonder WHY he thinks we hide letters/words from ourselves to read it.  Does he think there may be a reason?  Has he pondered what it is?  Wouldn’t it be awesome if he could articulate it so we could know?!?!

Anyway, so I have come up with a few ideas to remedy the situation.  I just thought the “problem” is pretty cute 🙂