Would it be?

This weekend, we went down to “the farm.”  Two brothers own it together.  One of them is married to my sister-in-law (and has been for 30 some years so we say it is Aunt N’s farm).  It is a small property of land.  At one time, I believe they did have animals out on it.  They haven’t since their own children have grown up though.  With as much work as they are doing out there, maybe the will again.

But it was BEAUTIFUL.  And peaceful.  And just what I needed.

I almost didn’t go.  Doc and Professor are still so deep in trauma (especially fear and defiance and food issues) that I didn’t think I wanted to take them anywhere.  And my three have been trying to deal with their own issues triggered by the littles’ issues (probably a good topic for another post). And taking a baby sounded like WORK.  And did I want to deal with certain family members?  And really, I just want to stay home.

And then I needed to take broccoli and cheese casserole.  But while we were shopping, hubby told me to make a dessert too.  All while the house is a mess and I have five children who need me ON THE FLOOR.

I suggested hubby take Tumbler, Swimmer, and T-Lo.  If our young adult children wanted to go, they could.  But in the end, I just couldn’t bear backing out.

There were a few little hiccups, but it was WONDERFUL!  Absolutely, perfectly, amazingly awesome! And I got some of the greatest pictures!  Well, the best pictures were the less “staged” ones, but of course, those have family member kids, foster kids, etc.   I sure wish I could share pics of Professor, Doc, and Little Lamb too!  But here is a good sampling 🙂

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This last pic is Daddy with his little ducks.  Doc hadn’t yet changed into the outfit I had planned for the day (she had jeans, boots, solid black long sleeve and a pink jean jacket).  But she’s cute both ways!

I had recently read a book (oh, I meant to do a review of that book) with a dairy ranch as the main setting.  Since then, I had done some research about finding such a thing.  This trip definitely bolstered that interest.  The house wasn’t huge (doesn’t need to be really); but can you imagine the freedom my kids would have outdoors?  Plenty of room to climb trees, shoot cans, fish, play with sticks, making crafts with pine needles, whatever.  And no traffic.  And your neighbor is down there if you need him, but not 1/5 an acre over.  And the dogs could run and play.  And I could BREATHE!

Would it be so perfect ALL of the time? Something tells me we’d still have a little stress 🙂  However, it does seem like it would be a whole lot easier to relax in such a nice, and much slower, setting.

So I looked at land again yesterday.  Still costs money.  But maybe it will be an option at some point.  Maybe if they make the adoption tax credit refundable so families like ours got any of it (I’ll explain about that one day.  I made mention of it HERE.).

Well, my sister-in-law has said we’re welcome to go down as we wish.  And I WISH!  LOL  I’m asking hubby to ask her about a certain several days.  And then she also said she’d like to do a get together family wise every couple months.  Good!  Honestly, I’d go back TODAY if I could!

 

Family Trees

Do you have any good idea about your family tree?  Have you worked on it?  Have you been to familysearch.org or ancestry.com?  Do you have 40 birth certificates, 20 death certificates, a dozen draft cards, pictures in black and white?

We do.  We also have a MESS and a half!

The Tree of Me – a tree that recognizes biological roots and the adoptive family tree

See, we found out when doing our family tree that we’re not the only adoption-minded people.  In fact, we’re not the only ones who have taken in non-related family (sans adoption) either.  We’re not the only ones who know about abandonment.  We’re not the only ones who have done things a little differently.

Okay, so let’s try this. Here are a few stories.

First, you probably have read a few things about my children.  Tumbler is 7. Swimmer is 6.  T-lo is 5.  They came to us through fostercare.  We never had heard of them before.  We didn’t know their family.  I had never even heard of their town or county.  So they were complete strangers who have become our daughter and sons.

Second, my hubby was adopted.  Did you know that?  His stepfather adopted him and all of his siblings when he was little.  His biological father died when my husband was only six weeks old (there is a story there.  Well, possibly two.  Or three? The world may never know what REALLY happened).

#3 – OKay, here is an interesting story though.  My husband’s biological grandfather…He was born in 1901 to a young mom named Lena.  His father died that year (weird, coincidence).  Anyway, his mother couldn’t care for him at first so he was in a children’s home for a short time.  Later, she got him back and married another man.  This man took my hubby’s grandfather as his own.  What is weird is that I can’t find anything about his(the grandfather’s) biological father and family.  Anyway, but that isn’t where the story ends.  As you learn more about Lena, you find out that she took in other people also.  Sometimes she took in whole families.  Other times, she just had a couple extra children.  Interesting, huh?

Wait wait…so that is hubby’s side, right?

My father was adopted.  Now, we have limited information about it as there seems to have been some “interesting” legal stuff going on and the lawyer who handled it died between the time my father was 14 and wanted to know and 18 when the lawyer said he’d tell him.  At some point, my mother got the idea that it was a kinship adoption.  BTW, my aunt was also adopted.  Both had the same biological and adoptive parents.

So biologically, I have nothing further on my dad’s side.

Cabin Class Bedroom on RMS QM

Cabin Class Bedroom on RMS Queen Mary

I was able to get enough information to start following my father’s adoptive father’s family for a little while.  It wasn’t a lot, but something.  For his mother, I get cut short pretty quickly also.  I managed to get my grandmother’s birth certificate which helped with her parent’s names.  I got some neat pics of the ship she came over on also. But I have her mom’s name then NOTHING.  I found where her husband’s belongings were sent care of her mother’s last name and that is it.

Earl Johnson

E. Johnson

Now my mother’s father’s side of the family is fairly normal as families come.  I’m sure there are some stories, of course.  But it seems more straight forward.  But her mother’s side of the family is less so.  Her mother’s age is in question.  It seems she has multiple birth dates due to fudging it to join the military with her brother during WWII.

Anyway, I have never been able to find out anything about my grandmother’s father or his family.  Unfortunately, the children (my grandmother and her brother) were 3 and 5 by the time of the 1930 census and my great grandmother was living with her mother, father, and siblings. A family member doesn’t mention him at all though there is a paper family tree that names the father of the children.

So I have some lines that go very far though they may not be biological and some that don’t go very far at all, especially if we only use biological lines.

Okay, so I’ve mentioned I have an open adoption with my children’s biological family.  So I have slowly used what I could figure out from facebook and other things to put together a beginning of a family tree biologically for my children.  I actually have done pretty decently considering!  So I forgot to ask MeMe about it when she was here for the adoption party.  I texted her, asking some basic questions.  She tried to fill me in.  Well, last night, when we were talking, she said she was getting the information off the genealogical report for the tribe!  WHAT?!?!  I immediately thought about how I was glad that hadn’t come out before the adoption.  Honestly, had we been told during the placement call, that would have been a deal breaker.  Unfortunately, we have heard too many stories of native children not being able to get permanency or ripped from the only home they’ve ever known for no reason other than tribe affiliation.  Well, as I researched the information, it probably wouldn’t have mattered.  They are from a subsection of Cherokee that is not yet recognized by the BIA.  However, the children’s great grandfather and grandmother’s sister are “card carrying” members so it might be nice to look into it.

Anyway, just found some interesting things and I’m glad to be able to provide a biological family tree as well as our family tree for them.  They are welcome to fill it in more in time.  I’ll also do what I can with MeMe as we go along.

May I get on a small soapbox briefly?  I think people doing genealogical research need to be mindful that there are PEOPLE involved.  It is neat to find skeletons, noble stories, etc.  However, especially in our complicated world, it is wise to simply accept the information as it is known sometimes.  There is a young person in our family tree whose family members were bullied by a genealogy-studying extended family member because she thought she remembered some juicy fact about this young person’s biological ties or lack thereof.  She was very firmly told that the record available states XYZ.  She decided to list this child differently on her family tree.  What is odd is that she accepted the adopted child of the family.  So say there were three children.  She listed the one biological child and the one adopted child the same, but listed this third child differently.  How RUDE!

I really enjoy doing our family tree.  I can’t dedicate much time to it; but here and there, I try.

Mental Torment

This post is going to tell you what I do to myself as a foster-adoptive mother.  And then you’ll know why I’m crazy.  Please know that I tell myself to “chill” constantly, to stop worrying what other people think, to accept my best, that perfection is not attainable at this time, etc.  But in the end, I am constantly WORRIED despite Jesus’ admonition to stop it already!

Okay, so I was going to start this another way, but I saw this post and thought, “Oh, YES!!!!”

But, quite honestly, the worst part has been the mental torment of second-guessing every move I make, every standard, every moment of discipline, because for some reason I feel like I have forgotten how to be a parent. The plethora of attachment training sessions, adoption books and doctors who seem to know more about my child than I do all feel like dozens of fingers pointing at me in condemnation.

That was written by Sara over here —> http://saraescamilla.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/quick-esca-update/

Sometimes I have this “yes!” or “yee-haw!” moment that I’m doing just fine, thank you very much.  One of my children will  show they’ve internalized the discipline (teaching/guiding, includes correction, of course), for example.  Or there is some other progress made.  The other day, Ace knocked his sister, the 9 month old(!), down.  He ran and my son grabbed up the baby.  I went and fussed at Ace in a “what on earth, have you lost your mind?” then “you better not ever do that again” manner.  And then I threw a party. Why?  Because Ace made eye contact with me the entire time I fussed at him!  My other kids do that pretty naturally, only looking away if it is another behavior in their case.  They could look at you no matter what you were saying, doing, or how.  But Ace?  Ace TRUSTED me enough to look at me.  We’re bonded enough that he could do so.  So obviously my fussing at him pretty strongly a few times (well, and I left him in his room too!) hasn’t caused any issue with our attachment.  Or maybe it has even helped.  He knows I’m not going to kill him no matter how upset I am with him.  It is safe to make eye contact with me.  It hasn’t always been safe to look ANYONE in the eyes EVER, but…

Anyway, but seriously, I’m sitting here wondering if I should really post that story.  I mean, we all know that you’re not supposed to use a raised voice or even use “that” tone with foster children, especially those traumatized by abuse, lacking attachment, etc.  And then there is the leaving him in his room for a few minutes.  How dare I?  Even though I know that Ace and I are just fine (thank you very much), I know there could be a lot of judgment.

But on a day to day basis, probably the worst judge of myself, is myself.  I wish I could do everything perfectly.  Of course, what *is* perfectly?

And really, my kids are BEAUTIFULLY behaved.  Sometimes I think we’re just way too hyper about things.  And then I think, well, they are so beautifully behaved *because* we’re very firm with high standards.  If we relaxed (like I so often think we need to), would they be so far along?  That is another thing I worry about being judged about also.

(Note:  I’m aware that no one else is nearly as interested as they seem in my head.  They have their own lives, too busy to worry about jugdging me!  They probably aren’t *really* thinking any of the things I attribute to them.)

But any time I get onto my kids, whether a look or a quick phrase or sending them to the corner or whatever, I worry what someone else thinks.  They don’t “see” the Mommy-shopping, just a charming, cute kid.  They think “oh their just kids.”  They may think I seem too easily irritated or wanting perfection.

And then….it goes ALL the way the other way:

PLEASE please please quit praising me regarding how well my children behave and how well I do with them!  I’m a fraud!

Yes, the children are usually *very* well-behaved.  This past weekend, we had the District Convention.  Three full days sitting in very uncomfy seats at the convention center.  I had five kids with me (the baby was at respite) plus bigs.  We sat in two rows so I could be within arms length of all of them, helping them with songbooks, Bibles, “looks,” giving them crayons, whatever.  The kids were AWESOMELY FANTASTIC!  I took ONE kid out ONE time to fuss at him (and it was a pretty major situation that no one would have NOT addressed).  In Three days, one kid, one time!  *I* was amazed and so incredibly thankful.

But though some of it is that I work hard with them, some of it is just that they are pretty good kids and for my three, they’ve had almost 2½ years to learn.  And then they are so much better behaved in public.  It is part of being charming and cute for other people.

But mostly, I just mess up SO much of the time!  Sure, I do some things very well with them.  I could list some great things about my relationship with them and my parenting.  But I make SO many mistakes every day.  I really don’t see how these kids are doing so well with ME as a mother!  So when people praise me, not just them, I feel like a fraud.

See, I really am nuts.  I worry about this stuff ALL THE TIME.  I want to do well by my kids and make so many mistakes.  I worry about what my mistakes say about me.  I worry about being judged.  I judge myself something awful.  And I feel like a fraud.  And every day, I hope I do a little better than the day before.  I keep hoping I can be half the mom my kids really deserve!

Hodge Podge

Wow, I’m really slacking!

Just busy busy.  To be honest, almost overwhelmed kind of busy.

I get online here and there, but that isn’t the same as composing a blog post.

But here are some pics 🙂

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Yes, I have many children, but…

This is still rubbing me the wrong way.  I really shouldn’t let what other people think bug me, but sometimes it does. Well, and this person has irritated me before with her mouth.  Just let it go!

The other day, an older woman (her grandkids are now adults) was sharing with me about some of her child rearing.  Her daughter piped in also.  It was neat.  Some of it was how “mean” she could be (can’t we all?) while part of it was how she balanced it out with nurturing, play, fun during chores, etc.

So then she pops off, “Well, I only had three so I could do things like that.  I guess with so many you can’t.”

Ummm, what?

All people are different.  Maybe *she* couldn’t have eight children and spend time with each one.  Maybe *she* couldn’t have gotten individual time with each child each day.  Maybe *she* couldn’t fix pancake muffins, make chores fun, chase them around on scooters, whatever.  Me?  I can.

In my favor are a few things.  First, I intentionally am WITH my kids.  I sit on the floor half the day with them.  They are usually in the same room as me, even.  I believe nurturing and playing with kids (let them lead, mostly) is healthy for them.  I can more easily discipline when I can easily tell what is going on.  And my kids are home.   Homeschooling gives me six or seven hours she didn’t have.

Anyway, all kids are different.  All people are different.  We have different goals.  We have different abilities.  We have different strengths.  We have different needs.

I *am* capable of taking care of eight children (two being young adults now so just the six littles).  We go to the park. They are involved in sports.  We have a lot of appointments to work around.  The school-aged children are advanced academically and *are* being educated well at home.  We do volunteer work, are involved in our congregation, etc.  They spend a LOT of time outside.  We simply are a very active family.  Our children’s play therapist, when describing us in an email said that we spend more time playing with the children than any other family she’s ever worked with.  We simply believe in it 🙂

It is important that we remember, I think, to support others, not tear them down.  I have looked at other families and thought, “I couldn’t do THAT.”  I don’t look at other families and think, “they can’t do what we do because they ___________.”  It is not for me to judge whether someone else can do what I can do.  Then there is a question about whether someone else even WANTS to do what I do.

Be nice Mamas.  We’re all doing our best 🙂

This week

So, I have news about Heidi.  She can become a service dog for PTSD!  Our trainer is going to work with us and we’re very excited.  I really think my one child especially is going to really benefit from this!

In other news, Heidi is four months old tomorrow.  Here is her picture from when we first got her:

photo 1

Here is a picture of her today:

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Yes, both were in front of the oven.  Can you believe two months makes such a difference?  She’s just growing by leaps and bounds!  She is extra smart also.  SHe started the intermediate class last night.  Instead of loose leash walking, we doing heel.  Step one and two last night.  Step one:  sit next to mom with eyes with my pants seam.  CHECK! She did it immediately.  Step two:  A couple “heel” steps.  She does well for 4 or 5 then gets a bit distracted by the other dogs and such.  Part of that is because turning is tough for her too.  But she’s FOUR MONTHS OLD and getting it.  She also does sit, stand, down, return (for life-saving come…I do use “come on” for minor movements), spin, shake, stay, free, push-ups, watch-me, etc.  She’s been fully potty trained for a full month (which amazes us as we’ve done really poorly at that in the past).

Okay, so other things.  Here are pics of the kids this week  from the field trip and swimming:

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Discipline

Okay, so this was a response I wrote to someone with a four year old.  I felt it described part of our discipline to a great degree.  It leaves out the “babying older children” and other relationship things I’ll talk about in other posts.  But it does give some strong teaching based discipline, in my opinion.  So I thought I’d share it here.

As for what YOU do?

Consistency is KEY.  A lot of people tend to teach kids not to listen until they yell, get frustrated, punish. There is an easy fix for this (but it will take a couple weeks of exhaustion to handle it).  Simply, say what you mean and mean what you say.  When you give a directive, HAVE him comply.  Don’t say things three times, don’t yell, don’t offer punishment instead, don’t spank or give a time out.  Simply HAVE him comply.

“T-lo, please put your glasses on,” may need to include you handing him his glasses as you say it.  Later, you may give him an opportunity to choose to comply, but you’ll have gotten his attention, given the directive, and be ready to usher him towards his glasses if need be. If you do those things with EVERY directive, in time, he’ll get that you have “mommy magic” and everything you says, comes true!  Shortly after that, you’ll know he’ll just put it on because he simply complies with what you say.  Of course, then a few weeks later, he’ll test to see if you still will follow through.  You’ll simply usher him towards his glasses and he’ll see you most certainly do.

BTW, if you find that you are having to actually help him comply a lot or you try to move on and he doesn’t show he’s ready, take that as your mistake for misreading him and step back.  He’s FOUR.  Seriously, NOTHING he is doing or not doing now has ANY bearing on how he’ll be at 12 or 25.  Promise.  Just scaffold him the way HE needs.  When he’s ready for the next step, he’ll just do it (kinda like potty training).

Another key tool is stopping the world.  I had a five yr old foster son who didn’t want to do his peak flow meter for whatever reason.  I have made it fun by letting everyone do it.  I have given him silly goals like making it go through the window and being like superman.  Seriously, come on kid.  So it had to be set up in a way that he wanted to do it.  “In order to do ANYTHING else (other than potty and breathe), you need to do this measure.”  Now, you state it in the positive like that.  Don’t say, “you can’t X until you Y.”  You say “after you X, we’ll Y if we have time.”  Or whatever.

Okay, but there were two tools I *really* liked in Love and Logic Magic (that is the one for 0-6yr olds).

One is to give the child an INSANE amount of choices.  Give him as much control as you can give him in a way reasonable for him.  And make a game out of it.  How many times can you give him a choice?  Do you want the red shirt or the yellow?  Do you want the black pants or the blue? Do you want white socks or yellow?  Do you want the light on or off while you change?  Do you want the door open or shut?  Do you want me to stay in here or go fix breakfast?  Do you want oatmeal or omelets?  Do you want berries with that?  Blueberries or strawberries?  Do you want a spoon or a fork?  Do you want the spoon in the bowl or on the table or on your head?  The point of this is to give him control over things that really should be in his control.  We mamas have a BAD habit of saying no, making all the decisions, etc. Let him control his world.  The other point is that the relationship is like a bank.  You keep making these deposits and it’ll hurt less and less when you need to make some withdrawls (some of the choices yourself).  Seriously, if you have $50 in the bank, then the $47 water bill HURTS.  But if you have $5,000 in the bank, you don’t mind the $47 water bill so much.  And once you have $500,000 extra dollars in the bank, who cares about $47 you forgot about til the last moment?

The second tool I liked was “uh-oh.”  Now the book says you can say “bummer” or a number of other things.  But I have found that I cannot say “uh-oh” in anything other than a toddler teacher voice.  Seriously.  You simply cannot sound abusive with it!  Well, my kids LOVED it also.  It gave them the feedback they needed without causing them to tense up (my kids have trauma histories so freeze and don’t hear another word when I try to correct them because they get scared).  They could stay in the moment rather than falling back to their old lives all because I said, “uh-oh” instead of a sharp “Tony.”  Pretty cool, huh?  Now, the book pairs uh-ohs with punishment WAY WAY WAY too often in my opinion.  It is short, gentle punishment, but punishment nonetheless.  And unnecessary for the most part.  Instead of punishing for making a mistake, fix it, figure out what to do better next time and move on.  A great book to help littles learn how to do better next time is Raising a Thinking Child by Myrna Shure.It is basically a problem solving curriculum you can do as a “circle time’ of sorts (or at supper or whatever) with kiddos.  It is FUN and easy (appropriate for ages 2-8).

So those are a few of our non-punitive, non-relationship, non-environmental based discipline strategies.  Obviously I have some of those also.  In fact, I’d guess that the environment and relationship aspects are much more important generally.  But I was looking at his discussion for another reason so decided to write about this this morning 🙂

Reviews and Heidi

So two completely unrelated topics in this post.

First, I have joined a review team.  What is a review team?  In this case, it is a large group of homeschoolers who review products.  Many of the products will be homeschool curriculum and resources.  However, there will be health and beauty items, video/card/board games, cleaning products, foods, all sorts of things!  Now, I have already posted a review or two.  Those were not related to this group, just personal opinion.  When I am doing it related to this group, I will be sure to mention it.

 

My blog also has it’s own Facebook page now.  It is just getting started so a few comments and likes would be wonderful if you don’t mind!

https://www.facebook.com/pages/An-Intentional-Life/450052421730689

I took a picture of Heidi, my german shepherd puppy yesterday.  I take a picture each week and am just AMAZED how much this little dog is growing.  She was 7 pounds when I got her.  Saturday, she was over 15 pounds.

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Isn’t that an amazing difference for one month?!?!

She is so smart too.  We definitely still have puppy-ness going on though.  But I really believe this is gonna be an awesome dog in time.

OB (Aug 2012): It’s so easy

This seemed like a good blog entry to repost today.  Two of my kids have jumped off the deep end.  At the same time, I’m so amazed by them all the time!  It is the weirdest thing to reconcile in my head sometimes.

It’s so easy….

to be negative sometimes.  I worry about my children, their trauma, their attachment SO MUCH.  But I want to be sure not to miss all the positive!  They have grown so incredibly much!  So often, it is things we just forget or were slow in progressing that we remember.

I remember, for example, having a talk with one’s teacher at one point last year.  It hit us both that the child hadn’t been thumb sucking in a while.

And I remember the first week the one let me sleep through the night (not that *I* slept through the night.  I kept hearing “nee-nee” (the sound of the alarm) in my head.  The kids teased me endlessly about that.

And when the one stopped puking?!?!  THAT was big!

What about how one had only vowels when he got here, almost NO consonants AT ALL! For that matter, we didn’t understand ANY of them at all at first.

Oh, and I have to post the audio one day of one little.  We were at a restaurant and a creature was made out of a napkin. Kiddo was so upset about leaving the monster that we enlisted the waitress’ help to give the monster a new home.  The napkin monster was put in a cave with others like himself :)  The child’s sweet little voice!  I never want to lose that audio!

I really wish I had taped more of all of them.  Some of the grammar and accent and articulation mistakes were so cute.  I wish some of them hadn’t irritated me so much.  They were gone so quickly.

And the fits the one child used to throw were ADORABLE and heart-breaking.  Kiddo just was a scared, sad and angry. Why wasn’t I more understanding?  Or maybe the fits were needed. And they gave me insight into what my dear child was thinking.  I wasn’t the “real” mom.   They’d never say that now.  Then the fits went to pure anger, screaming, freaking out.  But it was what was needed then too.  I can’t picture this child doing it now.  But did I notice when they ended?

The one that got me was the fit recently (note:  in Aug 2012) thrown by another one though.  20 minutes of all out SCREAMING.  I (well, and two other kids) just were THERE.  No one tried to stop it.  That child had NEVER done anything of the sort.  Maybe it was finally *safe* to?  Maybe it was a test?  I don’t know.  I do know that it was handled well.

There are neat things from all sorts of areas where they have learned so much.  Learning academics and eating like humans at the table. Two have been without training wheels for months and the third is ready (third has learned). They need reminders but keep up their rooms and ask for chores.  Two can shower almost independently.

The sweet kids shine through.

You know…we may still have PLENTY to work on.  But in 15 months (now 24), they really grew by leaps and bounds.  They probably were capable of more if I hadn’t messed up so much.  But it is a learning process for ALL of us.  We can all grow together :)

Yes, though they drive me batty sometimes and we go through these spurts of craziness, my children are absolutely awesome, progressing so incredibly much.  They amaze me daily.  I am so blessed even on a tough day.

Why?

WARNING: Just letting everyone know that this is a depressing post.  I’ve been crying for hours and…just…

DISCLAIMER: I also want to say that I am not against moms working outside the home though it may look that way in this post.  Please remember that I’m hurting and angry and sad and worried.

So…so though things are really good around here in a lot of ways, Sweet Little M has been on my mind a lot.  Seriously, could ANYONE just forget their precious toddler daughter in less than two months?  Why am I supposed to just move on?  Would anyone else?

Those bluebonnet pics?  A family member was missing.
The fair Saturday?  A family member was missing.
Supper last night?  A family member was missing.
The visit to the dog park yesterday?  A family member was missing.
Going to the Christian Meeting Sunday?  A family member was missing.
Putting the kids to bed?  A family member was missing.

Every single thing we do, a family member is missing.  We use the smaller van these days because without Sweet Little M, we don’t need the big one.  When shopping, I don’t pick up things I got just for her (or primarily for her).  When looking through our area’s “garage sale” on Facebook, I still think about how cute M might look in that or how she would like this.  We got a new puppy.  How M would love Heidi.

And why?

Why?

WHY?

Why is “fictive kin” (for anyone who doesn’t know, that means someone the family knows, not related by blood or adoption; can be distant relatives by marriages or friends of the family or anyone else that has contact with a family member)…why is fictive kin the child and even her biological mother has never met a better placement for a child than the family who absolutely adores her that she has been with since before she could even sit up steady?

We were willing to do an open relationship with the family.  We do it with the other three’s family.  We would have done it with M’s also.  We could have visited this summer.   I already proved I would do texts and calls and skype and pics.  All of that was MY idea AND I followed through.  I wouldn’t have cut them out.  In addition, I would have included the family here in our area also, the grandparents who only gave her up because of a severe health concern who now have lost her altogether as she is across the country.

Why was going to the family she went to better for her?

It wasn’t.  I don’t know ANYONE who thinks it was.  No one believes a child should have five homes in 20 months.  No one believes a child should be passed around.  No one thinks a child should move unnecessarily.  No one thinks a child should leave the only family she really knows as family.  No one thinks she should lose her mama, daddy, and siblings she thought hung the moon.  Anyone who thought about it for a second wouldn’t think it was best for a child with attachment concerns to be taken from her family to a home across the country so she can go to two or three additional caregivers each week (again, not against moms working, but THIS child needed to work on attachment, not spend most of the week, waking hours wise, with several other people).

I have NO doubt that family is often a good placement for a child who can’t go home (or can’t for awhile).  I have NO doubt that sometimes fictive kin can be a good situation.  Why not have a child with someone related to the family in some way if that is a healthy place?

But why can’t ANYONE use their brains about this?

Why did Monkey *really* move?

I know the answer.  It looks good for the state’s statistics.  It was better financially for the state. It got a kid off the caseload.  The people who got her wanted another kid.

But what I’m getting back from the family is that my little girl has struggled.  And pictures, unfortunately, speak a thousand words.  I think it is reasonable to guess that they are sending the best they have.  The little girl they have is not the little girl I had.  I got new pics last night.  I was so sad looking through them.  As I went to bed last night, I looked at the “wall of [M]” as we call it.  The difference in the pics I have of her versus what they have sent of her is NIGHT AND DAY.  She isn’t the same little girl.  There are no huge smiles and obvious personality coming through.  She’s forlorn.  Desperately so.

And I’m here absolutely useless, unable to help her.

I miss my little girl so incredibly much.  I love her and just want her home where she truly belongs. But more than that, I hurt so much for what she has to go through in this process.

I’m sure the people she’s with love her and want her.  I just wish they would have thought about what was best for HER instead of what they wanted.

Bluebonnet Pics 2013

So Friday we took the kids out locally for bluebonnet pictures.  The pictures are great (if I do say so myself); but what I learned about one of my children is even better.  Swimmer was a whole different child this time.  He was natural, fun, silly, enjoyable.  He was easy-going and relaxed.  He looks so much happier.  He is really coming along.  He’s more confident, witty, everything.  I’m sure you won’t get all this from these pictures.  But if you saw the several hundred I went through, I think you might, especially if you could compare the last two sets of pictures we’ve done.

Anyway, so these are of all three kiddos 🙂

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Two Years Ago Today

It seems like so long ago, yet not very long ago at the same time.

We moved into this house April 3rd.
We got the call for “the three” on April 6th.
On April 11th, we got a call saying that they wanted to set up delivery of “the three” (we hadn’t known we had been chosen!).
On April 13, 2011, our lives changed forever.

Now, when I got the call for “the three,” it was early in the morning on the 6th.  I had already gotten another call that day and several calls that week.  They were determined to fill up my house, it seemed.  I really thought there was something about this sibling set though.  Basically, I was only told a few things:

  • cute, blonde little 2yo
  • brother and sister were 3 and 5
  • all three had some delays, mostly speech
  • the one had a particular behavior many foster families won’t consider
  • they did share what a previous foster family did in order to minimize that issue
  • one required a pill daily forever more, but was stable
  • they were being moved because they foster family kept using inappropriate discipline

Now, anyone who has fostered more than a month (remember, we got licensed March 3rd that same year) probably could see a few places they should have asked a few more questions.  For example, why were all three delayed?  Any diagnoses?  Specialists?  Therapies?  So they’ve had at least 2 foster homes?  Why did the other not work out (story a few posts down, btw)?  I may have asked what behaviors were associated with the inappropriate discipline because though there are people who simply use unacceptable (for fostering) discipline, they usually do so in response to inappropriate or misunderstood behavior.  What was that behavior? What reason were the children in care?  Any other suspected issues?

But they were my second set of kids (though I do have previous experience with foster kids also).

So I got off the phone with my agency worker after the initial call just thinking a lot about these kids.  A few hours later, I had talked to a friend who I thought could help me with the one particular concern’s fix.  I mentioned them several times to my hubby and daughter.  The next day, I figured we hadn’t been chosen; but the kids still didn’t leave my mind.  Were they okay?  What kind of home did they get?  Wonder if they’ll come back up one day.

And they did.  As I said, April 11th, the children’s worker called the agency to see if I could accept the children on the 13th.  My worker confirmed I still even wanted the kids.  I expressed the slightest concern about the one issue, but said we’d work it out.  We were told to put the 2yo in with the 5yo (we had four boys and “the girl” at the time so to even out rooms that is what we did.  In our state, for children under six, you can put opposite gender in the same room).

Anyway, so the 13th came.  We picked up the house, enjoyed the two boys already living here, and waited.  A phone call said they’d be delayed as they had forgotten something so had to turn halfway back to meet someone to get it.  I don’t remember what that was.  So they were going to be a little late.  Okay.  It was a long drive as it was.  The children are from a town about 2½ hours away.

The kids got to the house and my first reaction was that they were so cute.  They were tiny, outgoing, energetic, and precious.  My second thought was that I couldn’t understand a single word any of them said!  Between their speech issues and their accent, we were going to have some difficulty talking with them!  Third thing that came up with the sheer amount of stuff they brought.  The other foster home had decided to close (though the agency had suggested they simply take only one child at a time, one with fewer issues); so they sent all the stuff they had accumulated to foster (table and chair set, outdoor toys, blocks, etc).  We put it all in the garage til I could go through it.

Mostly, at first, they played and watched tv with my other boys while I did paperwork.  My daughter helped “babysit” so I could focus on getting through everything.  It was A LOT.  I found out that the children had been in care a LONG time, with many cases.  I was given previous “common apps” (the paperwork CPS uses to get homes for foster kids), court documents, medical forms, birth certificates, IEPs, etc.  I got names and numbers for CASA, GAL, therapists, doctors, etc.  It was information overload really.   The worker said she’d send more more in email as she found it.

Note to new foster parents:  This is a situation where the state had a LOT more information than they let on in the common app.  They just wanted a home for these kids.  Thankfully, they found a good one that worked out.  But in order to protect yourself, ASK QUESTIONS!  Also, in a situation like this (a foster placement disruption), you could ask to speak to the foster parents, agency, or worker directly to get more information.  

So the PLAN was that a family member would adopt them.  The parents hadn’t seen the children since removal.  There were no visits.  CPS was D*O*N*E with giving services and returning the children.  A case closure in the past was supposed to make it where the kids had never gone back anyway!  So there were family members who wanted the children.  As soon as they were cleared, the kids would move to them.  Cool.  Hopefully another short term placement.  I was thinking short term placements at first might be good for us to get our feet wet.  The boys would be going home “soon” and these three probably wouldn’t be here very long either.

During the rest of the day, I had a lot of learning to do about the children.  It took time to get to understand them.  And the 5yo kept trying to be mom to the boys (wiping noses, asking about diapers, etc).  I kept taking over, but she was determined to take care of them.  She was in charge. That night, Tumbler helped my daughter and I take inventory of all their stuff.  She was too incredibly cute.  That let her brothers play without her hovering for awhile also.

At bedtime, she said something about taking care of the boys and I responded, “How about *I* will be the mama and YOU be the five year old?”  She smiled and turned away to let me do so.  When I put her to bed (she went last as it worked out best in order for me to get each kiddo in with some personal attention), she started talking about checking on her brothers and such.  John, my then 16yo, was in the hallway and asked what was wrong with the boys.  I was sure he wasn’t asking about developmental delays or health issues, so I was a bit stumped.  He says, “well, she says she needs to check on them.”  I told him that at her home (and probably, to some extent, previous foster homes) she had to be mama to them.  And I detailed some of what I had been told.  He got it. How I wish *I* had truly understood what was going to happen regarding all this (let’s just say that she didn’t, later, just smile and let me take over).

Here is a picture from April 17, 2011 (the Memorial for Christ Jesus that year).  To give you an idea how tiny they were….The boys were about to turn 3 and 4 years old (within the month).  The clothing each is wearing is size 12-24month!

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Today, in 2013, we did family day.  It just worked out that it was on the 2yr anniversary of their arrival.  It wasn’t really planned that way.  It was a very nice day with presents and a beautiful fruit tart.  20130413_145213-1At various times, we talked about how much they’ve changed and stayed the same.  We talked about how neat it was for them to be here.  And that two years is a big deal.  We talked about forever family and when they could/might leave (grown, married, have kids of their own).  One said he was staying.  The other said he was leaving as soon as he was grown.  Tumbler thinks married is a good time 🙂  As I learned with my first two, plans change.  We’ll just hope for the best regardless.

Tonight we put the kids down for bed.  Two years.  Wow.

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:

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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 🙂

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!

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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.