OB: Fear = Freeze

The following post was from a little over two years ago.  A post on a group reminded me of it.  That and I’ve been going NUTS with this child’s “staring” rather than answering when I speak to him. I really wish I was as empathetic as I used to be.  I’m working on it.  I saw a few other posts when looking for this one.  Maybe I can get back to being more gracious.

A week ago, we had a situation come up that really helped me see how solidly T-lo is operating in a state of fear rather than actually being *here* sometimes.  All the other kids had gotten down from the table. T-lo was playing with his second piece of broccoli.  He had eaten the top off the first piece.  It had been 20-30 minutes.  This is something we struggle with not stressing about due to his growth issues.

I turned his chair to help him down (we have one of those bar height tables AND he has a booster seat).  I picked him up and told him “I love you. No matter what happens I love you. I. Love. You.”   He looked terrified.  I asked him what I had said sure he couldn’t have heard me or he would seem so scared.  He said, “get down from the table.” I tried again and he replied, “eat.” I tried one more time and he went back to his first answer. The child was so terrified when I picked him up, that he could only guess what I had said.

I hugged him tightly and a few moments later repeated what I had really said. This time he heard me. “I love you too, Mama.”

So that was quite an education.  A lot of times he seems to blank out, zone out, just not be there when we say something to him.  Or he’ll start crying though what is being said or done is not cry worthy (sometimes, quite the opposite).  It’s like he’s responding to something else.

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System is Unfair to Parents

Okay, generally, I think that parental rights over the children’s needs is a huge problem in the child welfare system.  However, I recently had an experience that showed me how unfair it is to parents also.

We often hear about how parents are delusional, not taking responsibility, unable to comprehend what they’d done, etc.  However, it may be that the system has fed into that a good deal!  Here is an example of when this happened to two parents.

Meeting with approximately 23 people, parents included. Caseworker, lawyers, D.A., kinship workers, CASA, supervisors, foster parents, etc are also there. Children have been in care a couple months when this meeting took place. It is not believed these parents will ever get things together enough or keep it together in order to be able to parent.  Wording below is not exact.  Specific circumstances will be generalized.

Facilitator:  What is the date the children were taken into care?  Is that the date permanency is based upon?

Caseworker: Date in question.  Yes.

Facilitator:  What were the circumstances that led the children to be removed from the home?

Caseworker outlines domestic violence, extreme neglect and filth, concerns of specific abuses.

Facilitator: any previous cases with this family?

Caseworker: Yes.  There have been X cases including ____.  Caseworker outlines number of times children have been in care, kinship, have had home-based services as well as the reasons for these cases.

Facilitator: Have the parents been offered a caseplan?

Caseworker: yes (it is about this time that I wonder why the caseworker pauses three full seconds before answering each time).

Facilitator: Mom, what services have you completed.

Mom lists numerous things she’s taken care of (imo, impressive considering how short children have been in care).  Most things have not been finished, but basics have been started.  For example, she’s half-way through parenting classes and has gone back to counseling and for medication management.

Facilitator: Is there any services mom is not compliant with?

Caseworker states that she has addressed each item on the caseplan though she states a clarification to one item that seems to me probably doesn’t matter and can’t be held against Mom.

Facilitator asks dad the same question.

Dad is not nearly as concise as mom was, goes off a little in left field, is chastised by mother, does that for each caseplan area.

Facilitator again asks caseworker about compliance and Caseworker confirms he has addressed each thing.

Facilitator asks what the goal is.

Caseworker: Reunification with parents

Facilitator: Concurrent?

Caseworker: Adoption by a non-relative

Facilitator: Kinship?

Caseworker briefly discusses the failed kinship placement as well as that grandmother is involved but unable to take the children. Mention is made of DNA testing, a named father for one of the children, no other known possible family members at this time.

Facilitator: any known reasons why RU (reunification) will not occur?

Caseworker: not at this time

Facilitator asks foster parents about each child, basically wanting to know that all are up-t0-date on medical, dental, and immunizations as well as any special needs are being addressed.

Facilitator: When is the next court date?

Caseworker answers.

And that was that.  Discussion afterward among the parties is about how useless the meeting was.  They also discuss how that meeting makes it sound like there is no reason the children wouldn’t be returned shortly.  No wonder Mom thought it was possible before the end of the year!  She was redirected to think no sooner than Spring, but still!  I mean, if a parent thinks, “a case plan is a list of the things I must do adequately in order to have my children returned to me,” there is no wonder the parents may think they are getting their kids back sooner than possible!

Why would there not be things on their caseplan that detail what else they will be judged upon so they can try to address those things as well as have a more realistic view of why the children are not being returned at any given time (possibly ever).

I have had several cases that this has happened with now, including my children’s.  CPS had NO intention on working with the parents another time after the history.  They didn’t meet the requirements not to receive a caseplan. The caseplan included the basics they had done several times and didn’t include anything else the parents needed to prove. In their case, what really happened was that family quit enabling them and they were incapable of following through with the caseplan on their own in part due to poor choices.  But what if they had done it all (with or without help)?

I absolutely think parents should be given a chance or two.  It is best for children to be raised by their parents when possible.  However, multiple chances, case plans that aren’t realistic, etc seems like it just sets kids up to not have permanency year after year.  My kids had nine homes, eight cases, over five years before TPR (termination of parental rights).  Most kids I’ve had who have had TPR or headed that direction have either had extreme circumstances which suggested strongly that the parents would not be able to do enough or keep it up or multiple cases which backs that idea up.  And yet each has had a basic caseplan and official goal of RU.

Again, I just think it is unfair for the children to be in limbo and with the issues that come with it.  And I think it is unfair to the parents to have it suggested they just need to do XYZ to get their kids back when that obviously isn’t (and can’t be!) the case.   I also think that the options available to the department as well as the parents should be covered with the family occasionally.  But again, I think they need to have a fair case plan in the first place so they can more accurately see what is going on in the case in order to evaluate the options.

Just weird and in my opinion, wrong.

 

Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child

I feel so incredibly inadequate so much of the time.  And when kids like Monkey get hurt because I couldn’t save them from the system, I really wonder if it is worth what all we’ve tried to do.  I cried through the beginning of this post by another blogger:

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child.

How Busy Are We?

I lost  half of this post and now it has been three extra weeks so I’m going to try to write this another way. Hopefully it gives the information I want to give 🙂

So three weeks ago, we got new kiddos.   Their official blog/board names are Professor (the 3yo boy), Doc (the 2yo girl) and Little Lamb (who turns 4 months next week).  So what is it like at the beginning of a placement?

First, obviously you have the children.  These ones seem so young, but being advanced probably actually makes it harder for them.  Where preverbal trauma of being removed from mom and dad may be worse in some ways, especially long term, it seems that children like these struggle the most because they can understand some aspects, but not enough to make sense of it.  They tend to be more verbal about it, more questioning, more anxious.  Or maybe it just seems that way because they can verbalize it.  But behaviorally, these kids also tend to be a bit tougher.  At least that is my experience so far.  Obviously comforting the children, giving them what they need, helping them the best we can is duty number one.

But unfortunately, in the first days, there is a TON of work to be done.  Let me outline some of that.

First, I have to put together folders for each child for all their documentation.  I start with placement papers and medical consenters.  I got a few other documents with these kids.  Some kids come with a lot. For example, I had a whole folder worth with my (now adopted) children.  Some kids come with court papers.  Others come with nothing extra.

When children come with medication, that has to be dealt with also.  Medication logs are printed out and filled out with pertinent information.  All I have to do is initial and put the time for each date for each medication after the paperwork is set up.

Whether they come with any items or not, inventory needs to be taken.  Most of the time, that means going shopping in order to have the minimum requirements of things like socks and shirts and pajamas. When kids come with a bunch of mis-matched stuff that doesn’t fit, it makes it a little tougher because all that has to be documented but they still need the minimum requirements of what they *can* wear.  So right away, you’re trying to give them a wardrobe and document it.

We also have to have, posted, a schedule and home rules for each child.  Now, of course, we have general rules such as “respect property” and “respect others,” even more detailed such as “use polite words” or whatever.  But for each child, there has to be personalized rules.  Well, except you’ve known the kids 24 hours at this point.  How do I know whether we need to focus on polite words or keeping hands to self?

Then there are appointments:

  • Placement exams are scheduled as soon as possible.  In these children’s case, I needed in to see the doctor regarding the one immediately because I was worried she was eating and breathing well enough!  Turns out there was a lot regarding that but we did beautifully.  Also, one child needed a “sick child” exam right away.  
  • Dental exams are also scheduled as soon as possible.  The baby won’t get hers until 6 months old.  The 2yo will have one every 3 months.  The 3yo is on the regular every six month schedule.
  • The placement worker at the agency needs to come out immediately.
  • Our home’s agency worker needs to come out about day 7.
  • The CASA sets up an appointment to come out.
  • The children have a lawyer so needs to come out
  • ECI does evaluations for all children under 3 years old.
  • A psychologist does an evaluation for all children three years old and older.
  • Visits with parents start as soon as possible (investigators here are supposed to give the parents at least one visit and they often will do a second in order to make it easier for the regular worker after the 14 day hearing).
  • Any appointments that are child specific have to be taken care of.  This is where we got hit bad this time.  The baby already had a team of doctors and appointments set up.  Additionally, because the parents didn’t make their last visit, the surgical team set up a team meeting for us a few days into care so she would still be able to have surgery on time (next week).
  • We waited this time, but we ended up setting up play therapy also.  Oftentimes, I set up play therapy before the children even walk through the door though.

Add that we actually had 8 hours of training set up for the week the kids got here too.

I had to, also, do end of care documentation for the last set of kids since they left the same day these kids came.  For example, that meant I had SIX monthly reports to do (one for each of the three who had left and one for each of the new three).

Additionally, supervision and discipline is a little different at the beginning of a placement as kids have to learn how we do things, we have to learn how they do, etc.  These kids didn’t listen AT ALL at first. They still often need you to be ready to help them comply (or at least pay attention so they can comply).  The older two put a LOT of things in their mouths A LOT.  The 2yo also puts stuff in every other “hole.”  We also have never had two kids bicker as much as these two do.  And then they weren’t potty trained so we had to do that which went really well until visit last week when Professor started having issues with it.

And of course, don’t forget we have a life.  I have two young adult children. I have six children under the age of 7.  We have to play a lot.  We homeschool.  We enjoy the park a lot and gymnastics.  We still have to cook and clean like anyone else (well, actually, I guess it is really more than most families, huh?).

And on top of all this, I got sick the weekend the kids got here.  Now, ideally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it has turned into one.  I am hoping that the doctor figures out what is wrong soon.  I actually do think I feel a little better this morning. I hope!  I did set up for Doc and Professor to go to another foster home for today.  I’m hoping that helps a little both during and after Little Lamb’s appointment. Maybe one more day of rest before I get on with our week will work well for me.

So I have a couple more partially written posts too.  Hopefully I’ll start getting them posted.

Strike that :) A call to change things up

Okay, strike that last post.  Not completely, but….

Friday at 3pm, Ace, Champ, and The Baby went to fictive kin (a neighbor of the paternal aunt).

THEN, at 8:32, I get a phone call.  It was a number from out of the area, so I didn’t answer it.  So then at 8:33, I get a text from the number.  “This is K*******, I have a sibling group of 3 for you if you’re interested.”  I call her back.  3yo boy, 2yo girl, and 3month old girl.  The only information was that the baby had medication for reflux.  Because the children were from a little bit away AND would have longer visits because of the baby, I asked about transportation responsibilities.  That information wasn’t available.  K******* asked me what I could do in regards to that so that she could respond to Central Processing that I would accept the children under the condition that I could transport for visitation no more often that X times per month.  I hate to do that, but I do have five other children (though two are adults).  I have to do what I have to do.

About 10 minutes later, I got an email from our old program direction, J (now in some other supervisory position in relation to licensing us, but I’m not sure what all she does).  She sends me the short apps on each child.  Again, looks fine.  I said, “yes.”

A few minutes later, I get a call that Central Processing accepted us, just waiting on the caseworker.  She gets back shortly and they said they’d be here between 11 and 11:30 (it was almost midnight).

So we have:

Professor, the 3yo boy who is smart as a whip and really a neat kid.  He seems five in many ways.  He isn’t as fearless as his sister but he won’t be shown up by her either.

Doc (as in McStuffins) is the 2yo girl.  Again, super smart and cool kid, also seeming older than she is, actually, older than her brother.  She is fearless!

Lastly we have Turtle, the 3month old.  She’s such a good sweet baby.  She sleeps way too much, but when she is awake, she’s all smiles.

Would it surprise any foster parent out there that we didn’t get all of the known information?  For example, it was known that the baby had a cleft lip.  You can’t look at her and not notice that.  So why wasn’t it shared?  She also has another condition.  Now, CPS may not have known what that condition was, but they certainly knew how it presented, as well as that it would scare a caregiver something awful.  Add a feeding issue (not related to the lip), reflux, failure to thrive including hospitalizations.  Then certain aspects of why the children were removed to consider should have been disclosed also.  Because of their ages, I probably would have still taken them; but two of the issues are those I would have preferred to have had the choice about taking.

THEN, I take the baby to the doctor and find out something REALLY scary, like, “ummm, I’m not sure I can handle this, or WANT to” scary, like, “What if she dies on my watch?”  It really is a tempered fear and one with warning signs, but STILL!

So again, a situation where more information was not disclosed in order to get the placement.

The investigator was actually told they wouldn’t be able to place the children together.  So maybe that was part of the reason for down playing the issues a little.  However, the children were coming from two days in a kinship placement.  And what if I didn’t feel like I could deal with the issues (on top of normal foster kiddo and individual stuff)?  That would really stink if the kids had THREE placements in less than a week in care!

But we sure will be busy!  Really busy!

If he’s not, he can’t!

Okay, plain and simple truth:

A person does as well as he can do in the situation.  If he isn’t doing better, it is because he can’t do better.  When he can do better, he will do better.

The same is true of Mamas also.  The difference is that we have a world of resources at our fingertips.  We can see a psychologist.  We can find a specialist.  We can read another book.  We can read a couple more blogs.  We can ask on message boards.  We can join support groups.  We can go to another training.  We can practice alternative options we hear about.

It isn’t easy being the mom of a hurt child.

Today, on more than one occasion, I told myself, “it’s not about me.”  I can have my feelings, thoughts, fears.  But I have to rise above them (not deny them!) in order to find ways to do better and better every day with my children, all of them.

Oh the Lies!

I have a child who lies.  A LOT.  All three of them went through a time of doing so; but one does it to an extreme.  Pretty much, if he is speaking, there is a good chance, well over 50-50, he is lying.

Woman in office at school using a playful tone:  Oh, and where have you been?
My child: At home
I look at him incredulously as I hand the doctor note to the front desk woman.

WHY?

Mom:  Did you wet your pants?
Child: No.
Mom: Are you sure?  If you did, you need to go change.
Child, in a “doncha know” voice: I didn’t!
Mom: Let me see
Pants were wet.

WHY?

Mom: Wow, that was fast.  Did you eat it all?
Child: Yep
Mom: Are you sure?
Child, in an “of course” voice, speaking emphatically: Yes!
Mom: I’m going to have to go check.
Child: okay <shrug>
I start doubting.  Maybe he really did eat it.  Maybe I shouldn’t doubt him so much.  But it just doesn’t seem likely.  As I walk to the trash, I don’t even see the wrapper on top of the quite full can.  I start wondering what he did with it.  Then I see it, in a fast food cup. As I reach for it, I can tell the food is still there.  I open it, seeing over half of it. Dang!
Mom: We have a problem.  Do you know what it is?
Child: I didn’t eat my food.
Mom: No, that is not the problem.  That is little.  So you didn’t eat it.  We probably could have left the rest for snack or something.  But we have a REAL problem.  Do you know what it is?
Child: I lied.

WHY?

Now I know that I did THE worst thing a mom who knows her child lies or would be tempted to lie:  I asked him a question to which he could lie.

Most of the time, I don’t think of it as a “I’m gonna catch you moment.”  When I first asked about eating the item, I really was thinking, “wow, that was fast.”  I was impressed, not thinking, “oh, wait a minute.  My kids who NEVER eats a decent speed or amount happened to eat THAT big thing THAT quickly?  No way.  Now let’s see if he lies about it.”  Seriously, I didn’t go there.

And I wasn’t USUALLY thinking about the likeliness of him lying when I asked about wetting his pants (on purpose) either.  Mostly, I have a busy household and need the kid in clean clothes should someone come to the door or we have to leave in five minutes flat or or or or. But knowing that he’s going to pee the second he gets angry or scared or whatever does make me ask.   However, I do have to say that one of THE things that worked to get him to stop doing it was to say, “if you wet yourself, please go take care of it.”  Well, and doing similarly regarding the things that would have triggered peeing anyway.

Anyway, I don’t think he means to lie.  I think it just comes out.  When it is easier to tell the truth, he still lies.

Mom: Did you put up your towel?
Child: No.
Mom: Please go do so.
Child walks back towards room then comes back out.
Mom: Where’s your towel?
Child gives look saying, “I lied again.”

WHY?

Sometimes I probe after something like that.  I mean, really, WHY would you lie to possibly GET in trouble?  That makes no sense.  I can see lying to get out of trouble.  Lying because you threw away half a sandwich makes sense.  Lying that you didn’t do something you know you did?  Not so much.

One day, one of my boys was four years old and got in trouble RIGHT after waking up.  It was something that we had been working on so I decided to give a short time out for it.  The child sat on his bed for 2 or 3 minutes.  Upon getting up, he went in the livingroom and the rule was reiterated.  Because of the urination issue, Dad asked if he had wet his pants.  He said yes.  Dad told him to go change.  He spent a long time in his room.  I go check on him,  “What are you doing?”
Child: I don’t know.
Mom: What are you supposed to be doing?
Child: Changing
I look around, pull back the blanket, am confused.
Mom: When did you wet?  Sitting in time out?
Child: yes
Mom: The bed isn’t wet.
Child looks blankly at mom.
Mom: You didn’t wet your pants?
Child: No
Mom: Then why on earth would you tell your father you did?

Seriously, I simply don’t get it.

Why?

BTW, I prided myself, the first time around parenting, that my kids weren’t into lying.  It was, of course, that I had such a great relationship with them.  I also attributed it to using positive, non-punitive discipline.  They weren’t fearful of or trying to avoid punishment because we didn’t use those things.  My kids, my easy one and my challenging one, just didn’t lie.  I HATE lying with a passion.  I won’t tell you your dress is pretty if it is hideous.  Before caller ID, I didn’t tell people the person they were calling for wasn’t home if they were.  I just hate lying!  And so I was pretty proud of myself when my first set of kids didn’t do it.

But as with so many things with parenting, if you have enough children, you’ll be humbled.  In this case, it has been times three with one of them sticking with it and doing it to an extreme.  Peeing your pants or not finishing a snack or meal won’t get you punishment.  Lying most certainly will.

Today, I asked, “whatcha thinking?” after we handled the punishment and discussion about the lying.
Child: I don’t know (in a “how am I supposed to know” tone)
Mom: You know what I *wish* you were thinking?
Child: What?
Mom:  I wish you would say something like, “I’m sorry for lying, for disappointing you and Jehovah God.”
I looked at him, about to get up and let that settle.
Child:  I am thinking that now.
He makes a half of step closer to me.  A tear runs down his cheek.
I hug him and pray with him.
We both start crying. I think he really was sorry.  He just didn’t know to be before I suggested it.  I don’t know what to think about that.  I don’t know what to do about that.  But I am really glad we ended up on the same side, together, begging for guidance.

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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OB: Do We Love Them?

Okay, the last (actually, originally it was the first) of the series.  My mom has gone home and a ton has happened.  I can’t wait to post pictures of the last couple days.  We also have some interesting stuff going on foster wise.  And I have another review to post this weekend.  Busy busy bees at the H-household 🙂  Again, this was from late March 2012, soon after Sweet Little M arrived here and while we were in the process of adopting our three.

 

The other blogger asked a series of questions in her blog post at http://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/are-fosteradoptive-kids-loved-differently-than-biokids/.  I’d like to respond.

Do I love my foster daughter and soon to be adopted children like I love my biological children?  ABSOLUTELY.  Love is different between each person, of course.  How could it not be?  But it isn’t less or inferior with any child versus any other child.  I go through spurts of different feelings with each of them. That has been how it has been since I gave birth to the first one through now having accepted the foster placement of the most recent.

Do I have the same love for my foster children the minute I bring them in my family? Do I love them the same as the biological children I’ve had for 17 and 19 years?  Well, that is a bit unreasonable.  It would be unreasonable to say that I felt the same about my son the moment I realized I was carrying him as I did about my daughter whom I knew for almost two years by that time.  11 months later?  Yes, I love my soon-to-be-adopted children as much as I love my biological children.  That changed pretty quickly, but did I feel the same about them as I was filling out placement papers while they were playing in my living room?  Probably not.

But I definitely care about the children immediately.  For example, I got a call towards the end of February for a sibling group of three children.  I felt strongly about them.  I said yes immediately; and I called my agency back to ask what all they tell a caseworker.  I wanted to know if they tried to “sell” us a bit to the caseworker as I really wanted these children.  There was just something…. Anyway, we got the call saying that we were the chosen home.  Well, for two weeks, things kept being pushed back.  I asked about them, got more information, and worried about them.  Some stuff happened and I was truly concerned.  I asked on a message board for positive thoughts for them as I just wanted them to feel safe and secure in this time of things being so up in the air.  I cared before they walked in the door. They never did walk through that door.  I still care.  When would I feel the same love I feel for “the three” and “my bigs”?  I don’t know.  Probably in pretty short order though! My newest hasn’t been here two weeks and I’m smitten!

I know the blogger never thought she was loved.  That worries me especially as she has spoken fondly of a couple foster parents.  What *if* the caring I feel and show from moment one and the love I feel after the first few days doesn’t sound down into their hearts?  What if what I give them is *not* healing in the slightest, but actually another hurt?  Is it really possible that any, possibly all, of these children think we don’t love them in a parent-child way?  What can we do?  What should we do?  Is it possible for us to change it?

The blogger asked if claiming the child as yours makes a difference. I don’t know.  I generally claim children as mine pretty readily.  In fact, it is a big reason I quit doing childcare because it hurt to see parents do less than ideally (imo) with “my” children.  A foster child who walks in my door is *mine.*  But when you have to share them, it does cause you to have the slightest wall built up.  Honestly, my wall is awfully short and way too soft.  Every child has breached it in no time.  I am smitten with our newest though she’s been here such a short time AND is supposed to go with family eventually (months down the line as it is an out of state placement if those people pass the homestudy).

But I had noticed that there was a little remnant of the wall still there with the three.  It felt funny, for awhile, to say, “go give that to your brother” when I was saying it to the six year old telling her to give whatever it was to the almost 17 yr old.  Now it is natural.  “This is my son, {Swimmer},” is different now.  Thinking further than 6 weeks or 6 months into the future really does make a difference.  Did I love them before?  ABSOLUTELY.  But now the roots are digging deep and the branches can move up and out also.

Lastly, the blogger asks about how a child feels when she is unloved by her adoptive parents even a few years after the adoption.  I honestly can’t imagine.  I would gather that the adoptive parent must honestly care deeply for the child and show that in every way possible.   Because of my nature of attaching quickly and strongly, I can’t imagine being the parent in this situation. I have to wonder what they consider love because if they are behaving in a loving manner (love is an action, positive behavior comes from a place of love), it is very likely they DO love the child somewhere in them.  I wonder if maybe they don’t have up a wall that is blinding them somewhat in order not to get hurt?

But then we’re back to the blogger not FEELING loved. Can a parent show in everything they say and do how much they love them and a child not “get” it?  And is there anything I can do as a foster, adoptive, bio mother to let my children feel the love I feel for them and show to them in every way I can?

OB: Why These Children, part 1

The below post is from March 2012 (before the adoption of our three).

A post by  LT at http://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/why-do-people-adopt-hurt-kids/ asked why THESE kids?

(as I’m typing, I can see this is going to be multi-part)

One motive is put forward: money.

It is cheaper to adopt from foster care.  This *is* a reason people go this route, at least at first and to some degree.  I recently inquired on a situation where a birth mother was asking for someone with very specific requirements.  Well, *extremely* few adoptive families meet her requirements; I do.  So I inquired.  I sent my reply to the agency as well as a “dear birthmom letter.”  The agency’s reply wasn’t about whether the birth mom would be interested in us or anything of the sort.  It was simply to let us know that the fees associated with this child would run about $36,000.  Seriously?  So what should this mother do?  She doesn’t feel she can raise the child and yet the handful of adoptive families who meet her requirements can’t afford to pay that sort of money before the child’s birth.

But with my three?  I won’t pay a dime towards their adoption.  The state will pay my attorney, the state’s attorney, the children’s attorney.  The state will pay for all the filing, paperwork, etc.  The state pays the adoption worker, her supervisor, the person who redacts the file, etc.  I don’t have a clue how much the actual costs are (though I’d guess a WHOLE lot less than $36K!), but my tax money and my neighbor’s tax money is paying for it.  And while they do?  I’m getting the foster care stipend that helps me take care of their needs whether their new suits and pretty dresses or their gymnastics and swim lesson or the new furniture and bikes.  They deserve the absolute best and I’m glad I had a year of a little more money to spend on them!  They came from so little.  The zoo, restaurants, fairs, pictures in the fields of wildflowers, homeschool programs, etc are so worth it.  They deserve anything and everything I can get them while the state is working out making them mine forever.

Okay, so the children come with an adoption subsidy also.  This is help after the adoption.  Some may call it a paycheck.  Well, maybe not.  Here, the adoption subsidy is a fraction of what the foster care stipend is. My kids’ needs aren’t changing any as we finalize their adoptions, but the amount of help we’ll get to care for those needs will cut down to less than half.

Subsidy also includes help with medical. THANKFULLY.  Seriously, a lot of these kids have additional medical issues as well as ongoing mental health concerns.  They deserve as much help as possible.  Having secondary medical coverage will help CONSIDERABLY in getting them the services that they need!

It isn’t all-inclusive though! For example, medicaid will pay for speech therapy for a child as long as they are under the 13th percentile (btw, in public school here, it is the 7th percentile).  A child’s speech has to be pretty rough to be so low!  For example, one of my children’s speech is at the 11th percentile.  He is 40% intelligible by strangers and 60% by people who know him.  Our agency worker speaks to him about 3 times per month and “can usually get the gist of what he’s saying” (her words).  Okay, so medicaid will pick up the difference between what our insurance will pay and what it costs to have our speech therapist out here until he gets over 13 percent.  Well, then? We either have to pay the difference (approx. $880 per month) or take him to a speech center where we can pay just a normal 10% co-pay.  Obviously, we’ll have to choose the latter despite the fact that that is very likely not best for him.

Subsidy also includes a number of post-adoption services.  We will get a small amount yearly towards summer camp (this amount changes yearly, but may be $100 or $300).  The children will be able to stay with their same therapist, a therapist who doesn’t take our insurance or the kind of Medicaid the state will give us.  The adoptive therapy/support group that costs $35 per session now will be free. Respite is offered.  Family therapy is offered.  Help finding information and services is offered.  I didn’t know all that was included in the subsidy, but I’m glad it is.

And then there is the Tax Credit.  Boy has this been something discussed a lot the last few years. See, the tax credit is an amount that would offset the amount of tax you were required to pay.  The amount varies yearly, but it is around $12-13K per kid.  Well, in order to get to offset $12,000 of tax liability, a married couple has to have a taxable income (adjusted gross income minus deductions and exemptions) over $79,000.  I don’t even know how to figure how much our income would have to be to take it for three kids in one year.  I don’t need to know as there is no way we’ll ever make that kind of money.  So the tax law allows people to take it over five years.  With seven exemptions plus the standard deduction, we simply will never use one child’s offset, much less three. Our tax liability was under $1000 for 2011. So over five years, we’re talking less than a couple thousand dollars of the $39,000 possible.

It may be worth considering who are the people adopting from foster care?  Are they wealthy people?  Or are they people like us who simply wanted to help children and families (fostering) while possibly building our own families (adopting)?  Are they more likely solidly middle class and working poor or people who are making $200,000 per year? It just seems the tax credit may not really be helping the people who need it the most who are adopting the children who have started out the furthest behind the eight ball.

Anyway, so that is the money side of it.  We aren’t getting rich by adopting from foster care.  We are struggling in lots of ways.  As I was filling out the adoption subsidy paperwork, I could see how poor we really are. That doesn’t make us a bad “placement.”  It means our love runs deeper than our wallets :)   I’m glad we’ll get a little help.  It makes it possible for people like us to provide a normal childhood as well as the care these kids need.

Really, money is really a very small consideration.  Yes, I can afford to adopt from foster care while I can’t pay $36,000 for a child.  Yes, I will get a subsidy.  But though those things may encourage people to look this direction, it doesn’t mean it is the reason for doing it.

OB: Why These Kids, Part 2

The below was posted originally in March 2012, prior to the adoption of our children.  It is, of course, still true about them as well as our foster kids (whose future is not yet determined by CPS. The current goal is reunification with parents.  They are also checking into family and some fictive kin).

More possible reasons why we would adopt these kids…a discussion jumping off of LT’s post at http://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/why-do-people-adopt-hurt-kids .

1) We just didn’t know they would have issues?  Well, I seriously doubt that.  We do have to go through training.  And we watch movies too.  And we usually know a few foster kids.  In our classes, they were called “Baby B.”  Baby A got all the normal love and adoration all babies should get.  They were fed, kept warm, given medical care, kept in a clean environment, were safe, etc.  Baby B, on the other hand, often were given the short end of the stick one time after another.  Maybe they were born on drugs (cigarettes, alcohol, meth, cocaine, etc).  Maybe they were used as sex toys.  Maybe they were stuck in a playpen in their own excrement hours on end.  Maybe they weren’t fed.  Maybe they were hit.  Maybe they learned that crying didnt bring anything.  Maybe the TV was the only thing that talked to them.  Anyway, so it makes sense they have issues and may have issues for a long time to come.

2) Do we have a savior complex?  Honestly, I do think I thought I could help these kids faster and to a greater degree than really reasonable.  A good dose of love, a lot of discipline, some structure and predictability, safety and security.  Surely they’d come along in a few weeks.  At seven months, I was thinking, “what on earth?  It’s been seven months!!! What’s the deal?!?!”  After the TPR hearing, I came to realize seven months was NOTHING compared to what they’ve been through.  But sometimes, I still think, “it’s been almost a year.”  I have to remember that love and discipline and security from me isn’t a miracle cure.

However, throwing kids away simply is not an option.  And I don’t think these kids are ruining my life.  Will I think that occasionally?  Possibly.  But I will remember how great it has been also.  I hope they don’t have it too tough, of course, but I know that their life is theirs to make what they wish.  I’m hoping to give them every opportunity to choose healthy, even happy; but in the end, they will have to work through what they have been through.  I know it won’t always be easy.  But they won’t be thrown away.  We will be here forever for them whether they want it or not.

3) Because we “get” the hurt? Absolutely.  No one comes from perfection.  Some have closer than others.  I had some rough times.  I struggled with abandonment, mistreatment, poor choices, anxiety issues, etc.  It won’t come close to what my kids dealt with; but I have gained some understanding to a degree and feel able to pass on some good skills and tools they may be able to use.  Additionally, I get that people are all different, know the resources in our area, and know how to find more opportunities in time.  I’m dedicated to do so.  I’m not perfect, but I sure will be willing to try anything and everything to help them.  Will it work?  Well, I can’t promise that.

Why am I adopting my children?  I believe they deserve a good family.  I believe they deserve to be “kept.”  I chose to love them.  I feel love for them.  Honestly, I wanted to be a mom.  But I just didn’t need perfect kids.  Seriously, had I adopted newborns or birthed them myself, there was no guarantee of perfection.  Instead, I hope to be as good as possible a parent for the kids I actually have.   I’ll keep trying to do better and better with them and for them.  That is all I can do.  I have hope.  I hope to give them hope too.

OB: Even More “Why These Kids?”

This post was originally written March 2012, originally the third in a series of posts. 

(Still vaguely responding to LT’s post at http://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/why-do-people-adopt-hurt-kids/).

I want to expound a little more.  These are probably more random thoughts than anything though.

First, I want to be honest that my primary reason for considering adoption originally was “selfish.”  I wanted to be a parent some more.  I wanted children.  I wanted to parent.  I want all the joys that come with parenting.  I was, of course, aware, that parenting isn’t all easy and wonderful and joyful all the time.  I also knew that kids aren’t perfect from the get-go and that they’ll have their own opinions, experience, fears, hurts, etc as they go on.  However, I also knew *I* wasn’t perfect.

When we went into fostering though unsure if we would adopt.  We waffled a lot.  First, it seemed we could help a lot more children if we just fostered.  Many kids would go home anyway and it’d be great that other people could adopt the kids we’ve gotten to enjoy temporarily.  However, though we entertained those thoughts, we really did still desire to grow our own family.  Fostering seemed like a way to do it.  We could, in essence, do both: help children and families who needed the help and build our family when it didn’t work out in birth families.

Well, the first two kids, we knew would go home.

The second set we knew weren’t going to parents, but we figured they would go to family members. But then that didn’t look too likely either. Then came some thinking.  We absolutely fell in love with them.  The thought of letting them go was miserable.  Add that we thought it the worst thing ever for them to have another disruption in their lives.  Is love enough?  Their issues seemed mighty tough.  They had been through a lot.  The had behaviors because of that.  We have had some moments of wondering if we were best for them.  We also went through moments of guessing what would happen if they left.

In time, the love won out.  Fact is, we are willing to keep trying and trying.  We may not be perfect, but we will try.  We’ll learn better and better.  We will make mistakes and that will probably be good for them also.  IF we aren’t perfect, they won’t have to be either.  ANd when people make  mistakes, they try to learn from them.  And if we made their lives absolutely perfect, they’d end up fragile.  So we’ll do the best we can, aim for even better, but appreciate our human-ness also.

And we’ll grow together, right?  I have already had to work through some things I thought I was past.  I get to work on my character traits.  I’ll get to practice the fruitage of the spirit.  I’ll gain all the qualities that go along with love (long-suffering, patience, kindness, etc).

So, realistically, we have some challenges now and in the future.  Will they be fixed?  I can’t say.  And sometimes, I think it is okay if some of them don’t or don’t for awhile.

So, it may be difficult to deal with a 3 or 5 or 7 year old who poops in his pants.  It certainly isn’t pleasant.  But what if it doesn’t stop until 9 or 11 or 15?  Will that ruin our lives?  I just don’t think so.  I don’t *want* any of them to wait so long.  I wish they all would stop yesterday; but I don’t think it is worthy of too much worry.  It is very unlikely they will be working at an assembly plant one day and their coworkers catch them with poopy pants.  It will stop eventually.  Or they’ll find a way to deal with it.  But in the mean time, maybe we would be a lot more successful helping them more significantly if we work to help them feel comfortable, confident, and capable.  We can try to learn more appropriate options.  And then the kids can make their own choices in their own timing as they heal.  If it takes 15 years, it does.

Certain behaviors are a bit more worrisome, usually because they are scary or the consequences so dire.  But again, would it ruin our lives?  Not most of them and we’ll do our best to prevent the ones that could really wreak havok.  It means we have stricter supervision.  I have heard people say and read people online that say they could never live “like that” with some of the measures we have in place.  I think they are wrong.  They *could* if they felt it necessary to help the ones they love.  It means we have to learn more ways to help our kids heal, to discipline, to show love for them for who they are regardless.

But I think people, when they think of foster kids, get hung up on these things.  Sure, they take up some time and effort, many times A LOT of time and effort.  I spend a good deal of time documenting these things as well as reading books, talking to other parents, working on therapies, etc.  I am determined to not hurt the children more by my responses.  I am determined to help them to the best of my ability (and keep reaching for the next ability level).

What people don’t think about are the opportunities.  So many times, I’ve looked back on old posts and though, “Oh goodness, she doesn’t do that anymore!”  Or I think back and remember that a year ago, he couldn’t do that.  I watch them grow, mature, heal.  Sometimes it is very slow progress.  Other times it is more significant.  It can be something more superficial or something more important. But I wish we could look at those things more.  Maybe it is the first real hug or being an inch taller.  Maybe it is accepting redirection or stopping thumb sucking.  Or maybe it is cooking a meal or getting an B in math.  Maybe it is the smile in the photo of her in the wildflowers or the first time he makes a goal.  Maybe it is not needing to cut himself or him being able to say, “I love you.”  Maybe it is the first school dance or the first Bible verse memorized.  Maybe it is the sweet thing she did for a sibling or the first time he doesn’t take the opportunity to hurt his brother.  Of course, this list can go on forever.  There are so many firsts I experienced with these children.  There are so many hurts we’ve cried over.  There are so many laughs we’ve had and will have.  It is truly a beautiful thing.

Again, beautiful, but maybe not always easy.  I think it is worth it.  Maybe it will get very tough down the line.  But I still think we’ll be able to look at the good stuff. If it proves to be challenging a couple years down the road, I’ll look at this post again.  I’ll look at these posts again.  I’ll look back at the weekly and monthly reports I make for them.  I’ll make a list of blessings.  I’ll make a list of progress.  I’ll make a list of positive attributes.  I’ll ask them for help if I have to.  But I will focus on the positive as much as possible through the years.

As I am writing this, a commercial came on.  It was showing some children being adopted out of foster care.  “Every child needs a family.”  Even the one neglected, starved, left in a carseat, deformed because of abuse, beaten severely, burned, sexually abused, drugged, sold out to strangers, scared beyond all belief, hurting himself, untrusting, and the list could go on unfortunately.

Children HAVE been hurt.  They are still hurting.  But they DO deserve families.  And families could choose to step up and care for them.  It may not always be easy.  But it is a choice.  And it is a choice that can bring great things to our (the children’s and parents’) lives.

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 🙂