Monday, December 31, 2012

Unsolicited Advice

I'm well aware that the impact of taking on foster care isn't limited to my immediate family. The effects of foster care touch my entire extended family.

Our honeymoon phase with foster care is over. The initial shine is wearing thin. My children are suffering and some of them have started therapy.

I never thought that life with foster care would be easy.

What really has me rattled is all of the unsolicited advice I have been receiving lately. There have been big changes in Primo's case, we have gone from beginning to transition him home to his bio parents, to being back at square one in many ways.

As the question of whether or not we are willing to adopt Primo comes up from our agency and DH$ the opinions of my and Mike's siblings and parents come pouring in. With one exception, we have not asked anyone for advice.

I didn't realized that being in my mid forties would be such a high hurdle for my family to get over when it comes to Primo possibly, because let's face it there are no sure things in foster care, joining our family!

On top of that Primo has another sibling on the way and this completely pushes our families over the edge. To the point of Mike and I receiving a scathing lecture from my youngest sibling on Christmas day. We were told that we have done enough to save the world, and then we were reprimanded for even thinking about burdening our(old)selves with two more children.

I should say that I actually don't take too much of the advice and lecturing personally, but the volume of advice and lectures is starting to wear me down a bit.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Feeling very blessed to have spent our second Christmas with Primo!

Monday, December 24, 2012

What court meant to me

So, as tough as it was to go to court last week I was very happy I was there.

For all the awkward moments, won't go into that, and the stress of the LONG wait there was great relief at the end of it all.

We are back to supervised visits, just one each week.

There is so much going on in Primo's case and I was relieved that the judge chose to put Primo and his brother's safety above all of the recent craziness in this case.

I don't know where this case will go now, it has been a very long stay in foster care for Primo's brothers, and they have just been moved again. I hope they are not left in foster care for 5 years, that would be so unfair to them. I hope they are in a permanent home now.


Friday, December 21, 2012

A very long day

Court today included a VERY long wait to get into the court room, (seriously, I think we were the LAST case to be called for the day) hours of waiting for 15 whole minutes with the judge, but what a 15 minutes it was! These 15 minutes were at the same time awkward, emotional, exhausting and full of relief.

Within 15 minutes of arriving home through rush hour traffic DH$ called to announce they would be coming out to our home between 5:30 and 6PM! (Of course, the real DH$ worker is not coming, he is sending his co-worker)

Oh, and did I mention that Primo's agency social worker called too, and she is coming out on.............CHRISTMAS EVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Only a few more days...

until we go to court.

I have to tell you that I'm extremely nervous, and hopefully realistic about this court date.

I think there is a lot riding on this court date, but of course I can't get much info about what DH$ and my agency are planning for court.

I have finally come to the realization that my agency and therefore Primo's social worker don't have much impact at all on what happens with Primo and his brothers. Any real change in their case has to come from DH$. At our last court date Primo's agency social worker answered one question with a total of 4 words. Because getting a hold of Primo's DH$ worker is impossible, and I mean this literally, he doesn't answer his phone, return calls or return emails and has only come to our home twice in over a year, I have very little to go on before I show up at court.

I'm truly hoping that some wisdom, truth and common sense show up in court this week.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Copies

I LOVE my little copier/fax machine.

I cannot tell you how often I've handed original documents, clearances and physical forms to my friendly social worker only to be asked for the same forms a week or even months later.

Lots of paper work gets "lost" and it feels SO very nice to always have a copy on hand.

Most importantly I copy absolutely everything that I am asked to fill out and sign.

Copies make my foster care world feel a little bit better.

I picked up my little miracle/copier machine used and it has been worth EVERY penny I spent on it.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas/Holidays related question???

It seems like everyone sends photo cards for Christmas these days.

Do you include your foster child/ children in your Christmas/Holiday card photo?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

And he's back...

to crying in anger and disappointment every time he sees his parents at a visit.

I know part of his behavior is manipulative, but at the same time I know he is also just expressing his feelings in the moment. This sucks for his parents and makes drop offs and pick ups a little awkward for all of us. I'm also surprised that this is happening months after starting unsupervised day visits.

Court is coming up right before Christmas and I think the lawyers for Primo's parents are going to try for weekend visits. We have been doing day visits since the last court date.

Primo has now been in foster care for well over a year and while I understand that this is not a long stay in the scheme of all things foster care, for a child a few months past his first birthday it is forever. For us as a family it seems like a long time.

We are all on edge about the up coming court date, the thought of Primo being gone during weekends, and the fact that we are going to be transitioning Primo home over the holidays. I have to admit that all of this takes a bit of the light and fun out of our Christmas anticipation.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Real life

Does anyone else out there have trouble blogging when real life gets, shall we say, too real? 

There is SO much going on in Primo's case right now that I wouldn't know where to begin. 

I struggle a lot with keeping our identities private. I don't want to over share information that is not really mine to share.

Please know that there are many many things I would like to write about right now, but I just can't. I am living in the the absolute thick of foster care right now and I'm feeling most uncomfortable. 

We are hoping to find some relief through the courts in the next few weeks. But as with all things court related there is a chance that there will be no relief or clear vision.

Not knowing is the hardest part.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Being thankful for the tough stuff

Here it is the morning of Thanksgiving day and I have, after over a year of being involved in Primo's foster care case, awoken to the fact that there will be no fairytale, happily ever after ending to this case.

There may be some "better" outcomes, or a just plain hard outcome, even a bad outcome. All outcomes will be far less than ideal.

After forming relationships with Primo's parents, the two sets of foster parents who have cared for his siblings and the social workers involved in the case I realize that nobody is going to have the ending they hope for. And speaking of siblings, there are a lot of them, as the case has progressed they have multiplied. Seriously, there are such a number of siblings that no one family could take them all under one roof, that is not even an option at this point.

Foster care has also taken a toll on my girls. They are old enough to understand the system and all of it's failings along with it's apparent lack of common sense and this just plain pisses them off. They are angry and scared for Primo and our family.

My children, through foster care, have been exposed to the tragic reality that there are fellow human beings suffering in ways they could never imagine before.

On the flip side my girls adore Primo and love having him as part of our family. Believe it or not these two sides to foster care form a whole that we are all, at this point, still willing to live with.

Despite all of the difficulties and sadness of Primo's case, being involved in foster care is still one of the best decisions Mike and I have ever made. Our whole family has been stretched and broadened by the experience. Foster care gives special meaning to our lives.

So, today I'm thankful for all the beautiful, wonderful, happy things in my life along with all of the difficult and tough stuff because in reality they are all one.




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

SNAP!

I'm having one of those days.


In my mind I call these days foster care days.

This is a day when my emotions hover close to the surface.

Everything makes me feel like crying, EVERYTHING.

I equate every real life or TV situation to foster care.

I rage inside about how unfair life is while at the same time feeling guilty about all of the support, love, opportunity and community my children have experienced.

I want to wake Primo up from his nap to hug and kiss him, seriously who wants to wake a toddler from a nap!

These are days when the chasm between foster care and my life seems so very wide.

Is there a bridge wide enough?

I am the bridge and on days like today I feel like I might snap.

I need to be shored up.

I need to understand how the so called fluke of birth places some children into comfy homes and lives and for others?

they land in the middle of a big mess.

How can we level the playing field?


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Be a blessing

Today is our wedding anniversary.

Today I spent the day:

A. Cleaning the house after a weekend of fun

B. Driving to my sister's house to take her dog out because she was working late

C. Making dinner for a family down the street, whose Dad/husband is sick

D. Caring for another Mother's child

A good and useful day all around, even if Mike forgot our anniversary. (He did remember in the late afternoon, when he had to ask someone at work what the date was)




Thursday, November 8, 2012

When love is away

Mike has been away for work all week. It has been a long week. Primo has been sick,whiny and clingy.

As the week progressed and Primo felt better he still seemed out of sorts. He cried at the drop of a hat. He shunned the sisters he usually loves to see and play with after school.

He screamed in disappointment and despair when one morning while I was getting him dressed Dolly knocked on his bedroom door (you know to be sure she wouldn't brain him when she opened the door) and came in to say good bye as she headed out to school.

This event finally drove home the point that Primo was really missing Mike.

You see this is Mike's routine with Primo: every morning while Mike showers and gets ready for work Primo and I clean up from breakfast and go to Primo's room to get him dressed for the day. Every morning when Mike is ready for work he knocks on Primo's door and comes in to say good bye to both of us. Primo loves opening up his door and leaping into Mike's arms for hugs and kisses.

Primo and Mike are tight. They spend most evenings together and a lot of time on the weekends. Primo LOVES Mike, to him Mike is excitement, new experiences and fun food, you know the type, the parent who lets you empty out the contents of the kitchen cabinets and throw everything you find hither thither and doesn't make you help clean it up? In other words, the fun parent.

This week is the first week that Mike has spent away from Primo, ever. Clearly Primo is not happy about the disruption to his routine and the absence of Mike. He clings to me, but he is unhappy with many of my attempts to comfort him. Primo wants his MIKE!

This whole week has got me thinking about Primo going to live with his parents. I believe I now have a glimpse into how this will feel for him and how it will be for his parents, not easy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I made it out early to vote. With a toddler this is no small thing.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How late is too late?

I'm punctual, it's almost a compulsion, it is difficult for me to be fashionably late to parties.

I work hard to be on time to foster care appointments and visits. I was late once, I showed up at 4:01 for a 4 o'clock visit.

At my agency foster parents are allowed to leave after waiting 30 minutes for parents to arrive for a visit. Although I have waited as long as an hour, early on in Primo's case, but now the social worker is very clear that I may leave after waiting 30 min.

When parents call and let us know that they will be 45 min. late things get dicey. Do we wait or go home? The other thing that gets me upset is showing up on time to pick up from a visit and having to wait 40 minutes past the pick up time for the kids to arrive.

I wonder what would happen if I waited 30 minutes past the end time of a visit and then just went home when the kids were not back yet?

What are your agency's rules about waiting times?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Imaginings

Last winter when I was shopping the clearance racks for Primo's next winters wardrobe I couldn't help but imagine him wearing these new cozy clothes at his adoptive home where he and his brothers would be raised together.

Now as the weather cools I'm dressing Primo in these very same clearance sweaters and pants and feeling a bit sad that the adoptive home I imagined last year has fallen through.

At present I find myself imagining Primo wearing his new warm pajamas later this winter when he is back with his parents. Every time I dress him I wonder if his parents will like his clothes? Will there be enough of them to get him through a year without his Mom and Dad having to buy more?

Just another one of the ups and downs of foster care. Around here they come in three month seasons that follow the outcome of Primo's court dates. For a season I think he will be adopted with his brothers, during a happy summer I think maybe he will stay with us forever, and as a new season dawns I'm thinking of Primo being reunited with his bio family.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Time

Primo has had his one year anniversary in foster care and this got me thinking about how long the average stay in foster care is?

I'm surprised by that stats I found. The average stay in foster care nationally is 26.7 months, that is over two years!

11% of foster children languish in the system for over 5 years. Primo's brothers have just finished their fourth year in foster care and are now embarking on their 5th year.

Are there really that many of us out there who have had foster children in our homes for over two years? Or does this statistic reflect the fact that children are moved to multiple homes during their average two year stays in foster care?

I'm sad to say that Primo's brothers are now in the their 5th foster home.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

I won't lie to you all, the begging for help is slowly creeping under my skin and making me itch.

I don't think I'm allowed to give anyone in the foster care system money, right?

I enjoy being helpful as much as the next woman, but I balk at demands for food and money.

The problem is this, if I hypothetically did bring a bag of groceries to a visit, it is now expected to happen at every visit. That expectation is the thing that is bugging me right now.

I need to maintain a good relationship with these parents, but I'm not sure I will be able to in this new climate.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Comments

I love reading foster care blogs, I have even begun to enjoy commenting on foster care blogs.

BUT for some reason recently I cannot comment on many blogs. You know that little window with the random letters that you have to type into a little box to validate your comment? No matter how often I type in the correct letters I'm told they are wrong!

On some blogs I can comment without the little random letters, but alas, on most I cannot. This is a recent problem, for over a year I never had any trouble commenting, but now all of a sudden I've been shut out.

Any advice?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

shots and skinny jeans

Having just completed Primo's first year of immunizations I've realized that there must be many more shots for kids under one than there were when my kids were young, or maybe I just rejected some of the more mundane immunizations.

Take chicken pox, for example, my pediatrician didn't even recommend this shot when my kids were little, unless, and I quote: "You are all heading to Disney". My kids all got chicken pox, and now they have life long immunity (in most cases). Primo has had the immunization, he will need a booster when he is older. Hopefully he gets the booster, if not he may get chicken pox as an adult which is much more serious than catching chicken pox as a child.

The last time we were at the pediatrician Primo got 4 shots, two in each leg and had his toes pricked for blood multiple times, a good time it was not.

***********************************************************************

You may remember what I wrote a while ago about skinny jeans for babies. As often happens to me in life, as soon as I express an opinion about something specific I have never experienced, life has a way of bringing that opinion back to me for a second look, once I have walked in the shoes, as they say for a mile or so. Primo received a pair of skinny jeans for his birthday. Of course I didn't even realize they were skinny jeans til I put them on him. He looked so cute and a little bizarre at the same time. Not saying I would purchase any skinny jeans, but Primo knows how to rock skinny jeans and he receives many compliments when he wears them. I still change him out of the skinny jeans for naps, I just cannot imagine that they are sleep compatible.




Monday, October 8, 2012

Day visits

Day visits have begun. Primo spends a whole day with his parents and brothers.

There are pros and cons to this. Two pros are that I am not driving into the city twice a week during rush hour and that I have a nice expanse of time without a toddler, yep, Primo is now walking!

The cons are that I miss Primo when he's gone and that he's mad at me when he gets home. Poor little guy, I really don't blame him for his reaction, it's perfectly normal.

The side effects of the visits last for a while. Primo does not nap all day when he is visiting. So for a day or two after visits he naps a lot more. There are also diaper rash issues and dietary stuff, if you know what I mean.

I'm not really liking all this change and neither is Primo. We will keep working on this together.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A year

Primo celebrated his first birthday in foster care. He has now spent over a year in foster care.

In some ways he is one of the lucky ones, he has no idea of a life any different than the life he has spent in our home for the last year. In many ways we are not so lucky, we know that he will probably leave us sometime during the next year.

Primo is lucky that we are all completely bonded to him, we are his peeps. He loves us and we love him. But he has other parents who want him back, he knows them and he likes them too.

Right now I feel that I will be able to handle my feelings when he leaves. However I feel sad for the pain that is coming for my children. The day Primo leaves will be full of tears and sadness.

I feel even worse for the sadness and pain that is coming for Primo. I feel like a fraud, like I have perpetrated a great scam, I have been his mother in every way possible all the while knowing that he will leave us. All he knows is that I'm his mother, Mike is his father and he is surrounded by beautiful, caring sisters. Primo's life as he knows it will simply disappear one day, evaporate into thin air. Every routine, every kiss, everyone he depends on, the pets he adores, the only bedroom he has ever known will all be lost to him.

The hardest thing for me will be knowing that Primo will feel rejected and abandon by me and my family.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Another benefit of going to court

was that I got to spend some time with Primo's parents without him being with us. This really has improved our relationship, which was already pretty good, but this brought us all a little closer.

I know the foster care system in my city involves a lot of exposure to the parents of our foster kids. We see them at every visit, before and after in the waiting room.  Because we also wait for Primo's siblings to arrive at visits sometime we spend quite a bit of time together caring for Primo. So far this has worked for Primo's parents and Mike and I.

I have also observed, while hanging out in the agency waiting room while Primo has his visits, that sometimes all this contact between foster parents and bio parents doesn't work well. I have seen shouting matches between foster Moms and bio Moms, and after one such event I noticed that the next week those foster children were with a different foster Mom.

I bet all of us who spend time in the waiting rooms of our foster care agencies or county offices have witnessed some interesting interactions, and by interesting I mean good, bad, scary, happy, sad and loving stuff.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The practical outcome of court

is that there will only be one visit a week to take Primo to.  This is a huge relief to me and frees up a lot of my time during the week.

Driving downtown twice a week was getting very old, so here is to the new schedule, I like it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

an alternate universe


That is what court was like.

All I had heard from DH$ and my agency during the past two months leading up to court was that they were looking for permanency for Primo and his brothers. The kid's lawyer went so far as to say their goal for all three children was termination of parental rights (TPR).

Because of this, silly me went to court thinking the case would be heading towards TPR.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when DH$ recommended to the judge that the case continue towards reunification. This coupled with the fact that so many visits were missed this summer struck me as very odd.

Now, this was my first time in a big city court house. The whole place was GINORMOUS. I mean really, there were at least 100 people in our waiting room and this room was 1 of 6 waiting rooms, there were people waiting for 4 or 5 different courtrooms in each waiting room, and that was just on the first floor. The noise was crazy, you could barely hear the person next to you speaking, so holding a conversation was difficult at best.

As large as the waiting room was the court room was teeny tiny, and our time in the court room was equally as small. 15 min, yep that was it, and the judge kept reminding everyone of that fact about every two minutes.

I loved the judge, he did not put up with any crap and was not afraid to shut down a lawyer or witness if he felt they were too long winded. He was practical and fair.

All in all despite the shock of the DH$ recommendation to the judge I felt it was worth while to go to court. I gleaned some important info that I otherwise would have never know about and I realized that it is important for me to attend every court date in the future.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Total and complete hypothetical question here, honest ;}

Have any of your foster child/children's bio parents hit you up for money?

Were you so stunned you were not sure what to say?

Did you turn beet red?

Was your stomach churning?

How did YOU respond, hypothetically of course?

Friday, September 21, 2012

I'm not going to apologize

During the last year I have spent more than my fair share of time in "baby" stores. Searching through all of the new and exciting stuff they have for babies today that they did not have when my daughters were babies.

One thing I noticed about 6 months ago was a baby proof case for smart phones. I was aghast. What kind of parent would cover their smart phone in bright colors and teething stuff and hand it to their baby? I truly did not get it.

Fast forward to my life now with a very active and coordinated baby boy who cannot keep his hands off of our phones, laptops, remotes and ipad. He is OBSESSED!  Primo is at the age where it is hard to keep him occupied in public, especially if you are trying to eat or watch your children play sports. The "pretend" phones, remotes and baby computers do nothing for him, he knows imitators as soon as he lays eyes on them, he is not buying the fakes, nor will he spend any time with them.

So, I bought this the other day:

Needless to say Primo and I are both extremely delighted with my purchase.

My baby loves him some iPad.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy Monday everyone!

We are enjoying some long awaited fall weather here, and I LOVE it.

It is amazing what lower humidity and moderate temperatures can do for the body and mind.

Primo and I have been to the park, where the three year old set has loved leading Primo around and showing him the sights of the park. The slides are still too hot to slide on, but I can feel Fall in the air and am ever optimistic that someday soon we will get some temps below 85.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

What I did during the first day of daycare...

Pedicure (This was the most decadent thing I've done in over a year!)
Haircut (first one in 6 months)
Ate lunch alone (HEAVEN)

Those three things pretty much ate up my first 4 hours of daycare. Primo did surprisingly well, I think he actually enjoyed daycare. It was one of the only chances he has to see folks his own age as my house is usually crawling with teenagers.

I have committed to two half days of daycare a month. What do I have planned for my next few half days of freedom?

Teeth cleaning
Physical
Mammogram
OBGYN


You know, all those pesky little appointments that nobody wants to take a baby along to.
This second list is not as fun as the first one, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.




Sunday, September 9, 2012

Seriously dudes!

I have gained 25 pounds since I started foster care.  Talk about stress. Not sure what to do, but something has got to change.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Do you know what I dislike more than driving to two visits a week, each of which are a 4 hour round trip?

Canceled visits.

There is some relief on my part that I don't have to spend 2 hours driving and 2 hours waiting, but I also feel like I'm not doing my job if I don't take Primo to his visits.

Some of you may think I'm crazy but I feel sad when Primo's visits are canceled.  He needs his parents and his brothers, and there have been more canceled visits than visits lately.

Friday, August 31, 2012

how sweet it is

Early morning appointment with social worker? Check!

House totally clean because of early morning appointment with social worker? Check!

Last load of laundry in the washer? Check!

First monthly care package in the mail to college daughter? Check!

Baby napping? Check!

Free time for Mama? Check!

Dinner out with the girls tonight? YES!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I have been invited

by Primo's social worker to attend his next court hearing.  I'm not sure what has changed, I have never even been slightly encouraged to attend court before, in fact I have been told I DO NOT need to be there. 

Last month the social worker made a point of telling me the exact date, time and address of Primo's next court date.  Then, just last week she told me that she thought I should come to court next month.  I was flabbergasted.

I was told that "they", I guess this means DH$, my agency and Primo's lawyer, have no idea how court will go.

Because court is coming up next month I have been receiving requests, from all the usual suspects, to come out to our home and see Primo.  By the end of next week I will have met with everyone who will be in court in September representing Primo.  Maybe by then I will have a clearer picture of what will be going on in court.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

dressed to impress

For a long time now I have found myself thinking about Primo's parents and his visits with them when I am shopping for Primo's clothes. I shop specifically with those visits in mind.  I want him to look cute and well dressed at visits. I save designer brands and new clothes for visits.

I'm not sure when I started thinking this way, it probably started at the first visit. The child has never worn the same outfit twice to a visit.

On some level I clearly equate new nice clothes with love and care.  Like these clothes are a reflection on how much I love Primo and how much I want his parents to see that he is well taken care of.

I didn't think too much about my compulsion for saving his "good" clothes for visits until his parents started missing visits. When his parents didn't see him I would feel disappointed that they didn't see his specially selected outfit. This was a huge let down for me. I feel a bit vain even writing about this issue.

Do you dress your kids up for visits?


Monday, August 20, 2012

All of the drivers smile broadly while waving excessively at each vehicle they pass. So much joy. Each driver patiently waits their turn to pull up to the curb.  As the vehicles stop at the curb in front of the large, wide, granite steps leading to the gigantic double doors, the teens make their exit from the cars.  Some boys and girls bound out excitedly with wide smiles and shiny new backpacks. Others slouch slowly out of their minivans with long sighs. 

I take my turn and let my two high school daughters off at the curb in front of their school.

As I drive towards home feeling a bit lonely, the jingle of a baby toy being shaken in the back seat reminds me that I am far from being alone. 

So different from the past few years.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

OMG!

You know that DH$ worker who has NEVER been to our home to check on Primo?

Yep, this one! came to our home for 10 whole minutes!

Am I wrong to hope this visit means that there will be some movement in Primo's case?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

True Dat Tuesday

My favorite department store was having a very tempting sale on Levi's baby boy jeans this week.  So, off I went to pick up a new pair for Primo.  I looked at the many stacks of jeans and realized that none of them were exactly blue.  Some were black, some were a slightly metallic unrecognizable color, there were extremely faded blues with some dirt color thrown in etc..

I grabbed a 24 mos. size pair that were as close to blue as I could find and held them up to take a look before heading to the cash register.

Now remember I have only bought one pair of baby boy jeans EVER, a lovely pair of 12 mos. size, basic blue, basic jeans at Target.  These jeans looked different, I couldn't figure out exactly what was not right about them.  I turned them this way and that and then looked carefully at the tag, ah-ha, they were straight leg skinny fit????  WHAT?

I literally had to spend 20 minutes finding a pair of straight leg relaxed fit.  There were 4 types of jeans on sale and three of them were skinny fit. 

I guess all the other Moms got there before me and bought up all the relaxed fit baby boy jeans and all that were left were A LOT of skinny fit baby boy jeans, bah!


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Balance

There are many pros and cons to foster care.  So far, for me, the pros still outweigh the cons, but admittedly I tend to blog more about the cons.

As school begins and my children begin participating on sports teams again I am reminded of one of the biggest cons for me.  I miss a lot of games and matches because I drive 4 hours a week and wait at my agency another 4 hours a week for Primo's visits.  I have also missed my children's dance, acting and singing performances because of doctors appointments, social worker appointments and WIC appointments.  Add in Primo's naps and almost never having a baby-sitter and I'm seriously down for the count.

When a family takes on foster care their world immediately revolves around their foster child/children.  This is inevitable given the nature of foster care, and not a bad thing in and of itself.  Finding a balance between your commitment to the foster care system and your commitment to the children in your home is difficult but paramount to your family's survival.

Foster care is a black hole with an insatiable appetite for your time, your energy, your focus, once you are sucked in the rock solid boundaries of your past crumble, your energy is zapped. Try as you may to focus on life as you knew it, the full life you had before foster care, it is impossible to reverse what you have seen and felt in the black hole.

Hmm...a bit dramatic, no? But this is how foster care feels to me some days. I am willing to dive into the unknown black hole, to fight the good fight, to save the world, blah blah blah...but how to get out? how to live like I lived before? And if I can't live like I lived before, how to let go of my old life and embrace the new life? How do I share focus, so that every child in my home feels important, loved and supported. How do I heap energy, love, time and focus (all the time documenting this for my agency) on one child and still have enough for the permanent members of my family?

After over a year of doing foster care I'm still having trouble finding my balance.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sporadic...

that's what Primo's family visits have become this summer.  Primo has gone weeks without seeing his family.

It was becoming a bit of a pattern for Primo and I to drive an hour to get to his visit, wait for an hour and then drive home.  Thankfully the social worker is now letting us wait for only half an hour before we drive home.  This is the worst case scenario.  I am not fond of preparing and packing for a visit, driving to said visit and then turning around and driving home.

What has begun to happen more often now is this: 15 minutes before I would put Primo in the car to go to his visit I get a call letting me know that the visit has been canceled.  This is better, but sometimes I've already woken Primo up early from his nap to head in to the visit.

I continue to hope that Primo's visits will get back to their regularly scheduled frequency as the summer draws to a close.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Daycare

I have never used daycare for any of my children.  I just used baby-sitters.  With foster care finding a correctly certified sitter is difficult in my state.  I have not yet found one, I have two friends who are working on finishing all their clearances and back round checks, but it has been over 6 months and I don't feel like pressuring them right now.

Therefore, I'm considering daycare for Primo.  Not every day, but for a few days a month so that I can have some set times to schedule my own appointments and maybe a wee bit of alone time?

I'm sure my first challenge will be finding a daycare facility that will take him for only a few days/half days a month.

What do you do when you need a sitter?  I'm pretty sure that some states have much more relaxed standards for baby-sitters who care for foster children, I wish I lived in one of those states.

Monday, August 6, 2012

College Fund

All of the money, time and effort we have put into the last few weeks getting Finola ready to leave for University has got me thinking about a college fund for Primo.

Is there a way to set up a 529 plan or an Education IRA for a foster child?  Or maybe even just a straight up savings account?


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Primo Update

The most important part of our foster care experience is Primo.

Despite the angst I have while navigating the foster care system, the frustration with social workers, judges and lawyers and the hard work of scheduling and getting to and from all of the appointments that make up the job of foster care, I would not trade our time with Primo for ANYTHING!

He is an amazing little boy.  He is feeding himself, beginning to say a few words, smiling, clapping, waving, crawling like the wind, standing on his own, giving hugs and kisses... you name it, he does it, everything he should be doing at his age!

Primo is big and bold and happy, his smiles light up a room.

He is bonded with us as his family and he loves to meet new people and try new things, he is an outgoing little guy.

I will be eternally grateful for the time I and my family have had with Primo.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's back to school time, baby!

Ah August, the smell of school is in the air.  I like back to school time. I enjoy getting back into a routine.

Each of my kids is making their list and checking it twice.  This way I can spread out the spending over the next three weeks. I really need to stick a budget this year.

I'm organizing my coupons and getting ready.

I overheard Dolly telling Vivienne that she LOVES back to school shopping and organizing.

Today we begin, we will look over the girls school uniforms and decide if we need any new pieces, then on to paper, notebooks and text books...oh the joy!

Monday, July 30, 2012

I didn't buy the stroller...

 a little update to what I wrote here.

A little question here: What have you bought for, or given to your foster child's/children's parents? And how did that work out for you and the parents?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Monthly visits (NO! not THOSE monthly visits)

Technically both Primo's DH$ social worker and our agency's social worker should be visiting our home every month to see Primo and to check that he is safe in our home.  Our agency's social worker comes every month, DH$ not so much, and Primo's actual DH$ social worker has never been to our home.

There have been many times that these monthly visits have been scheduled, but the social worker is a no show.

This has been going on for months.  You might think I would be used to these visits by now, and in many ways I am. BUT... I can't help myself, I do a major cleaning and de-cluttering each and every time one of these visits is scheduled.  I used to be very disappointed when nobody showed up.

I must admit that I've begun to grow weary of these visits, whether they happen or not.  Primo's lawyer also comes out to our home once every three months.  This schedule makes for a lot of deep cleaning, de-cluttering and stress.

Seeking to decrease my stress levels in general, and specifically as they relate to foster care I have decided to try to make a philosophical shift in my thinking about monthly visits.  I will now try to look at these visits (whether they happen or not), as an opportunity to simplify and tidy my home.  You know, like an opportunity to commit myself to doing something I otherwise would not do regularly?  As I'm typing I realize that I'm not sure that I have really convinced myself of this, but I will keep trying, otherwise I cannot keep doing foster care.

Monthly home visits are getting me down.  Hopefully I will be able to re-frame how I perceive these visits.

Seriously, I am SO OVER entertaining the county (DH$), foster care agency and lawyer in my home so often.

Deep breaths...


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sponsor a child

I read the following post the other day and was so inspired that I sponsored a child.  Then my two youngest children decided they would each use $16 a month of their own money to sponsor another child together.

http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2012/07/poverty-perspective-and-surprising.html

Wouldn't it be cool if there was a way to sponsor foster children?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How my dogs help with foster care

We have two rescue dogs.  They both came from turbulent back rounds and one was neglected and abused the first 2.5 years of her life.  Because of this they take a little more attention and care than the average dog.  They are both wonderful and quirky dogs.

Best of all, they are happy to clean up the floor under the highchair 4 times a day, every day, all year long, and that means one less job for me.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Squirty Food

This type of baby food was not around when my daughters were little. 

I had noticed it in the stores for the last many months when picking up other things for Primo in the baby section.  I never quite understood what the point of this kind of packaging was.  Was it just a new cool way to package baby food?

I didn't touch the stuff for the longest time, but they often had interesting combos of food so I picked a few up when we were packing for vacation.  I figured it was easier to travel with than the glass jars.

I am now completely addicted to buying baby food this way.  Primo doesn't eat much baby food any more, but this stuff is awesome for a day on the beach or for anytime you are away from the house for a long time.  Just twist off the cap and dinner, lunch, breakfast or snack is served!


Friday, July 20, 2012

When to speak up?

I read this wonderful post yesterday, I agree that we as foster parents owe it to ourselves and to our foster children's family to deal respectfully with each other.  Specifically, the golden rule comes to mind for me.  I'm not always perfect in my dealings with Primo's parents but I truly do try my best to be kind and respectful to them.

Another part of this post struck a cord with me, the part that mentioned the occasional need to "tattle" on a family member.  I have to say that I've been struggling with this concept for some time now.

The culture of Primo's case thus far has been very much one of "mind your own business".  I don't think this is a blanket statement that would apply to other cases in my city, but I am not sure as this is my first long term foster care experience.

It has been more than a little difficult.  There are safety issues that I feel reticent to tell the social worker about, but then I feel guilty if I don't.  There is not an atmosphere of openness between Primo's two social workers, one of whom we never see, and the foster mom of Primo's brothers and myself.  In fact I would say that we two foster moms know much more about this case than either of the social workers and it is starting to make everything very awkward.

As I have mentioned before I am a chronic rule follower, therefore my spending lots of time with another foster mom who is not a rule follower at all is making for some tough situations for me to handle.  This coupled with the fact that social workers have often shared with me what I assume to be confidential info about meetings with others,  lead me to feel that I would be exposed if I were to give voice to my concerns.  Possibly making my relationship with Primo's parents very strained. Not sure if this makes sense to any of you, but I don't want to get to specific here.

All advice is welcomed...


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Clearance Time

It is that time of year again, the time when all of the current season's clothing and accessories start to go on sale to make room for the next season.

I have to say I am always surprised to find such great deals on summer clothing when I feel there is still a lot of summer still to come.

When my daughters were young it was second nature for me to shop clearance sales for next years clothes.  As they got older I dropped this practice and they started buying their own clothes.

So, when Primo came around and I remembered that my giant foster care manual stated that I should send my foster babies back to their parents or on to their next home with a full years wardrobe I was a bit perplexed.

I read some great blog posts by you all about how to shop frugally for future clothing and slowly got back in the saddle of discount and future shopping.

Given Primo's growth rate and size now I decided that he will probably be wearing 3T next summer.

I shop in a combination of ways:

1. I am always checking out clearance and sale items wherever I shop and adding to Primo's future wardrobe.

2. When the change of season sales start I buy larger quantities of clothing on clearance, don't forget things like socks and underwear!

3. I check out ebay and Craig's List for large lots of clothing. I LOVE buying in bulk.

4. I also frequent my favorite resale shops for children to find higher end clothing items for a lot less money.

5. Use the internet to shop your favorite brick and mortar stores, there are great clearance deals and often free shipping.

All of the above also work for finding great deals on toys, books or puzzles that will be attractive to Primo as he moves into new developmental stages too.

This may seem time consuming, and it felt that way in the beginning, but it has become second nature and part of my routine.  It has paid off, in that as Primo grows I am always ready with new clothes for him.  I don't have to go out and buy a new wardrobe at full price (which is what I did in the early sleep deprived days when he was growing so quickly), and he has great quality and good looking clothes all the time for at least half the cost.

As much as I hate to think of Primo leaving our home and family I feel good knowing that he will leave here with everything he needs in his new home. That wherever he goes there will be some relief of the financial burden of providing for him in that new home and that having his own things will make his transition easier for all involved, especially Primo.

I should add that I do remove all tags and launder Primo's future wardrobes too.  I do this to remove the temptation that may occur, when looking at a large amount of brand new clothing, to sell the clothing for money for other things.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Back to life, back to reality...

We spent an absolutely lovely two weeks on vacation last month.  Primo's parents graciously signed the papers allowing us to take him out of state.

Our vacation was just a wee bit less relaxing with Primo along, but he LOVED it.  He thrives on new experiences and there was so much 'new' to be had during our travels, we hit the ocean and the mountains and lakes!

I was willing to trade a little of my own relaxation so that Primo did not have to spend two weeks with strangers in respite care.

Time away was just what our family needed during this summer, which I have to say, feels like the busiest summer I have ever experience since having children.

The surprise for me was the realization of how sweet two weeks away from "the system" would feel.  In fact I didn't even appreciate the lower stress levels until I took Primo for his first post vacation visit.

At that visit I was slammed with all the drama and uncertainty of foster care.  I am not sure how to stay out of the vicious cycle of gossip and third hand news that characterizes this case?  These things along with having no contact with Primo's DH$ worker leads me to often feel anxious and exhausted after visits.

What do YOU do to relieve the stress of the uncertainty of your children's future and visit fall out?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Clothing Inventory, a blast from the past?

I had to fill out a clothing inventory a while back.  It was interesting to see what my agency/DH$ thought were appropriate quantities of clothing.

For an child from 0-1year the minimum pairs of shoes expected was 2.  A child from 6-13 was only required to have one pair of shoes.

Now where I come from infants/non-walking babies don't wear shoes. My babies went barefoot in the summer and wore socks or booties during cooler weather.

As I continue to do foster care I am beginning to realize that shoes for babies may be a cultural issue?

I also found it interesting that all children regardless of age needed to have between 5-10 undershirts.  I have to admit that once my children outgrew wearing onesies I have never in my life bought another undershirt, say for a toddler or older.

I enjoyed the fact than once a child turns 4 years old they are required to have 9 pair of socks/pantyhose.  Never in my life did I imagine children wearing pantyhose.

When a girl turns 10 she is required to have 7 bras and 1 slip, minimum.  Do you know how almost impossible it is to find a slip these days.  I had given up when my oldest was 16, occasionally I could find one at Sears, but that was about the extent of stores in my area who sold slips.   I can also say with certainty that while I was buying my girls bras they never had more than 3, maybe 4 if they had a sports bra at a time.  Now that they buy there own they may have more, but 7 seems rather a lot.

I think it is a bit odd to require a minimum of 7 bras for one child while only asking a foster parent to buy one pair of shoes for that same child.

Maybe it is time to take a fresh look at the clothing inventory form?

After I typed the above line, I scanned the form for a revised date, this clothing inventory form was revised in 2011?  Hmm...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

It's complicated...

just about sums up foster care in general and Primo's case in particular.

A lot has come out in the last week.  Things are happening, but as you all know nothing happens until the judge says it happens.

After quite a few sleepless nights and way too much talking about the 'what ifs', I have come to a place of semi-acceptance.  This case has to play out and I have to let go of my need to control.  There is so little control to be found as a foster parent, so I am choosing to focus on caring for Primo in the best way I know how. 

Primo is an amazing little boy, he is happy, independent and friendly.  He loves all of us and is so excited to see us after we've been apart.  As far as he is concerned we are his family.  We will continue to be his family until told otherwise by the judge or DH$.  This is not an easy system to live under, but it's all we've got right now.




Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Lawyer was correct

No changes to Primo's case in court yesterday.

Not sure how I feel about this.  I'm tired, I'm frustrated and don't know what is going on, I don't like it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fate



There is court today.  I have no idea what time and I have little idea of what the outcome will be.  I called many times, weeks in advance to find out the actual time and courtroom, but no one returned my calls.  In this very large city it is not common for foster parents to go to court or to show any interest in going to court.

Primo's lawyer says nothing will change in court today.  Primo's new worker says his parents are ready to have their children back.  I say I will be nauseated all day.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

E

E is leaving today.  For his sake I'm glad his stay was short, he is missing Grandma.

I love respite care for the specific reason that it kept E safe and loved when he couldn't be with his family.  It's not perfect, for him we probably still felt like strangers, but we love him and I have to believe that makes a difference.

Connection and community are a couple of the things that many families with children taken in to foster care are missing in their lives.  If you or I get sick, or fall on hard times we would have family, friends and possibly Church to help make up the difference in our children's lives.  I have taken this for granted.  These connections and support systems are desperately needed. In fact they are what make it possible to survive raising children in a less than ideal world.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

E is back!

I received a call for emergency respite on Monday.  We had decided not to do anymore respite given how difficult it was last time.

BUT... this call was for E!  His grandma is sick and has to spend a few days in the hospital.

I can't tell you how good it is to lay eyes on E again.  He has grown so much!  He is almost two years old and is talking.

I don't think he remembers us, but he is still his usual laid back self.

My girls were beside themselves with excitement when they got home from school on Monday.

We are way more baby-proofed now that Primo is crawling all over the place, this makes the respite care a bit easier this time.

I am so grateful to be able to see E again, I honestly never ever thought I would see him again!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bye Bye WIC

We went to our last WIC appointment today.  Overall I have loved my WIC experience.  Everyone who worked, in the very conveniently located office, was wonderful to Primo and me.  WIC really helped out with the cost of formula.  In my area all foster children qualify for WIC.

Because we will be weaning Primo off of formula in the next few months I decided not to continue with WIC.  I so appreciate the help they give, but as I am already food shopping for a family of 5 extra food for Primo will not be a financial burden.

If I am really honest I also don't want the hassle of having to separate my food orders at the grocery store to use Primo's WIC checks.

I'm happy to have one less appointment every three months.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Change

Primo has been assigned a new social worker within our agency.

I loved his first social worker.  I like the new social worker.  The thing they have in common is that they are both very young and just out of college.

The change is difficult.  I had built a relationship over the past 8 months with the first social worker.  I really miss her.  I have to remind myself that even though we had a great rapport it took time to work up to that.

It feels a bit like the case is starting over with the new worker.  Through all the miscommunications we've had this first week I try to focus on our common goal of caring for Primo, and to remember that this new relationship will take time and effort on both our parts.

This also means that there is a new supervisor for Primo's case at our agency, who really doesn't seem to be up to speed yet.  She also did not appreciate me asking her questions about the case and really did not want to discuss anything with me. I'm trying to be patient.

I did call the supervisor of Primo's DH$ social worker, but my call was never returned.  I'm torn because I don't want to be a whiny complainer, but I'm frustrated by Primo's case.

After being rebuffed by my agency's supervisor was the first time I felt that my agency and DH$ really don't care about what I have to say.

The reality is that I and my agency's workers have very little control over what happens with Primo's case.  The further removed parties of DH$ and the judge are the ones who make it all happen and so far they have not made much of anything happen.


Friday, May 18, 2012

How much help is too much help?

I try my best to support Primo's parents in any way I can.  I like them.  So, when holidays and special celebration days roll around I buy them gifts. Usually these gifts are small gifts with personal meaning, baby hand prints, photos etc.

I know that there is something Primo's parents need.  They have talked about it, and how much easier it would make their visits with the kids.  I know that they could purchase what they need for under $20.

I am tempted to buy them the item they need and want.  But, part of me would like to see Primo's parents take the initiative to buy what they need for their children.  If they really needed it they would get it themselves, right?


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Another shot at doing nothing?

There is a court date coming up in June.

The fact that Primo's siblings have been in care for over 3.5 years now and that Primo has been in our home for 8 months with little change to his parents case, I have little hope that anything will really be accomplished in court next month.

At the very very end of last month DH$ finally sent some one out, on a Sunday morning, to see Primo.  This was only the second monthly visit by DH$.  Primo's actual DH$ worker has never come to our home.  The lovely young lady who did come out to visit us was very surprised that Primo had no permanency plan in his paperwork.  Oh how I wish we had a more proactive DH$ worker for Primo and his brothers.  Their worker does not visit or contact us.  He shows up late to court and seems very unorganized.

I am beginning to think about contacting Primo's DH$ worker's supervisor.  I'm not sure if this would help or not?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

Toys

I broke down and joined one of those online toy rental sites.  I joined for two reasons:

1. I spend too much money on toys

2. Primo gets bored with his toys over time

I didn't want to post about it until I had used the toy rental service for a few months.  I have to say I love it.  New toys arrive every month, this is fun in and of itself, but knowing they won't be staying and clogging up my already super full toy box of abandon toys is a relief.

I had been worried about losing the toys, especially the toys with multiple parts, but this company sends me a nice mesh bag to keep the toys in.  Then I slowly give them to Primo during the month and he loves them.  He actually gets excited when he sees an interesting new toy.

Friday, May 11, 2012

History/Life Book

As my fine point marker scratches across the pages of your soon to be history I am made suddenly aware that I am your history keeper.  I, who share no blood with you, am writing your story, a story you cannot write yourself, a story you may never remember. 

I record your young life with colored markers, stickers and photographs. Love flows through my markers onto the colorful pages as I chronicle the springtime of your life.

This feels weighty.  Your undetermined future stretches out ahead of us.

On whose lap will you sit while flipping through the pages of your fledgling life? Who will smile and reach out to touch your baby faced photos?

Will you be able to read between my handwritten lines and feel the love and hope I held for you in my heart?

I dare not let even one of my many teardrops stain the pages of your past.  Your tender, youthful past will be a happy and a gentle one.  I will keep the fears and hurts at bay as best I can.

For as long as I keep your history I will strive to make it a nourishing history, one that might feed you in your future.

 I loved you then, I love you now, I will love you forever.





Monday, May 7, 2012

Money

I have not kept complete records of the money we have spent on foster care or the money we receive from our agency every month; but I do keep track of our family expenses on my computer so I can pull up a report of how our budget looks (as long as I've been good about categorizing our expenses and incomes).

After having Primo for over 7 months we were pretty close to breaking even in April, meaning we have now spent as much as we have been given for Primo's care.  For the months before this we had way outspent the money that came from our agency for his care.  This is normal as we had to purchase some big ticket items for him, build up his wardrobe, and stock up on bottles, formula, toys, wipes and diapers.

It also takes a while to break even because our agency sends the checks for the current month at the end of the following month.  Meaning, even though Primo arrived in September we did not receive money for his care in September until the end of October.  I'm not sure if this is how all agencies work, but it is the way ours does.

Anyway, now that we are on an even keel I am thinking that it may be possible that we will have extra money left over after Primo's expenses next month.  I will save this money for upcoming wardrobe expenses and a new car seat and pack n play which we will need soon.

Which leads me to wonder what you all do if you have money left at the end of your child's stay with you?

According to my agency's giant red binder of information:   "Any bank accounts should be closed out and the balance should be given to the child in the form of a blank check"  Huh?

Doesn't seem so bright to hand over a blank check to anyone for a child, how can you be sure the money ends up helping the child?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Opportunity

Finola has just decided which college she will attend in August.  This was an intense process of visiting schools, filling out the FAFSA, deciding what area of the country she wanted to live in and how we would be able to pay for college without taking on too much debt.

To be honest it was exhausting.

A few weeks ago we made a last minute trip to one last college.  As I sat in a classroom listening to professors speak about the advantages of their program of study, I was overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and longing, my heart was calling out: I want Primo to have THIS!  I want him to have the option of going to college.

I know that not everyone will go to college, I know not everyone needs to go to college. 

However I want Primo to have the option of choosing what he wants to do.  I want to heap opportunities on him, love and guide him and provide for him.  I wish for him to grow up to be confident, happy, healthy and loving.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Food for thought

Below is a partial summery of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997:


Establishes New Time Line and Conditions for Filing Termination of Parental Rights. Federal law did not require states to initiate termination of parental rights proceedings based on a child's length of stay in foster care. Under the new law, states must file a petition to terminate parental rights and concurrently, identify, recruit, process and approve a qualified adoptive family on behalf of any child, regardless of age, that has been in foster care for 15 out of the most recent 22 months. A child would be considered as having entered foster care on the earlier of either the date of the first judicial finding of abuse or neglect, or 60 days after the child is removed from the home


Sets New Time Frame for Permanency Hearings. Former federal law required a dispositional hearing within 18 months of a child's placement into out-of-home care. The new law establishes a permanency planning hearing for children in care that occurs within 12 months of a child's entry into care. At the hearing, there must be a determination of whether and when a child will be returned home, placed for adoption and a termination of parental rights petition will be filed, referred for legal guardianship, or another planned permanent living arrangement if the other options are not appropriate

Modifies Reasonable Efforts Provision in P.L. 96-272. States continue to be required to make reasonable efforts to preserve and reunify families. In making decisions about the removal of a child from, and the child's return to, his or her home, the child's health and safety shall be the paramount concern. The reasonable efforts requirement does not apply in cases in which a court has found that:

  • the parent has subjected the child to "aggravated circumstances" as defined in state law (including but not limited to abandonment, torture, chronic abuse, and sexual abuse);
  • the parent has committed murder or voluntary manslaughter or aided or abetted, attempted, conspired or solicited to commit such a murder or manslaughter of another child of the parent;
  • the parent has committed a felony assault that results in serious bodily injury to the child or another one of their children; or
  • the parental rights of the parent to a sibling have been involuntarily terminated

In these cases, states would NOT be required to make reasonable efforts to preserve or reunify the family but are required to hold a permanency hearing within 30 days and to make reasonable efforts to place the child for adoption, with a legal guardian, or in another permanent placement

Sadly almost every case I am aware of in foster care is not following any of the above guidelines.  Given what is written above Primo and his brothers should not still be in care and would never reunify with their parents.

 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Good Read

A couple of days after I wrote this I was trying to come up with something to relieve my stress and exhaustion, I tried a hot bath, a jumbo bowl of ice cream, a nap, but something was missing.

It finally dawned on me that I have not done much reading (with the exception of all my favorite blogs) during the last 7 months.  I used to read a lot, I love reading.  Reading used to be my favorite pastime.

So I picked up a book that had been lying around the house for a while.  For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, I was laughing until tears ran down my face.

Tina Fey's Bossypants was just what I needed.  A funny easy read.  Her childhood stories were so familiar to me and absolutely hysterical.

I had forgotten how healing a good laugh could be.  Truly funny books are hard to find.  I love reading all genres, but I haven't read enough funny books.

What are your favorite funny reads?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

True Dat Tuesday

There are some strange similarities between foster care and raising teenagers:

1.  As your children get older and start thinking about travel and leaving you to go to college you find yourself looking to buy them luggage.

When you care for a foster child, even one under a year old you will start looking to buy them luggage for when they leave you.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Foster Parent Fatigue

fatigue |fəˈtēg|
noun
1 extreme tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness : he was nearly dead with fatigue.
• a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.
• weakness in materials, esp. metal, caused by repeated variations of stress : metal fatigue.
• [with adj. ] a lessening in one's response to or enthusiasm for something, typically as a result of overexposure to it : museum fatigue.



I am tired.  Primo has been with us 7 months and nothing in his case has really changed, with the exception of his visits.


I have spoken with everyone I can think of about his case.  Our social worker, her supervisor and the kid's lawyer and DH$.  Mostly I just get the company line, which amounts to nothing.


My favorite response to my questions about the length of time Primo's brothers have been in care (over three years) was this, and I quote: "It can't go on forever".  This is little solace for all of us involved in this case.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A little update...

to this post. 

I love Zulily, and this morning when I checked out the daily sales there was Melissa and Doug sale!  So I have now happily stocked up on some nice wooden toys at a discount.

Yeah for the internet!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Time is not on my side

Spending 8 hours a week taking Primo to visits every week is making me a bit tired.  However he is no longer screaming through his visits, I think the extra time with his family is paying off.

Spending two afternoons a week away from my family is difficult.  It means two less afternoons to schedule orthodontist appointments and other stuff.  Two days a week that I miss watching my kids play sports and two nights a week without a family dinner.

Sacrifice is the name of the game in foster care.  On most days this sacrifice is tempered by the joy of having Primo in our home.  He is an adorable little guy and he brings so much joy to all of us.

Love always wins the day.

Monday, April 16, 2012

some guarantees of living with teenaged girls

Toilet paper will always be in short supply.

The only day of the week you finally get around to giving the kitchen a good clean scrub is guaranteed to be the day before a HUGE project is due at school. Said project always seems to include at least two and often all of the following: baking, gallons of glitter, melting chocolate, a glue gun and lots of crying and or whining and or screaming.  Said project never includes cleaning up after oneself.  Must be the small print, but clean up just never happens.
  
There will be a Dairy Queen run once a month, if you know what I mean.

After 4 daughters and a total of a combined 49 (yes, I had to use a calculator) dress worthy events (school dances, proms and graduations), dress shopping will cease to be enjoyable.  Especially when all four girls attended or continue to attend schools with strict dress codes.   Can you imagine the wedding shopping!?

There will be NO way to contain all of the shoes and boots in an orderly fashion. 





 HELP!

 


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Surprised

is what I am.  I just can't believe it. This was the first week of the new visitation schedule and both of Primo's parents called to confirm with our agency that they would be at their visits, but neither one of them showed up.

We drove into the city for Dad's visit and he was a no show, no call, nothing.  Two days later we drove back into the city for Mom's visit and after waiting 35 minutes she contacted our social worker and said she wasn't able to make it to the visit.

Primo's parents have only missed two visits in the last 6 months.  I'm surprised and sad.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Preparation

In general parenting teens has been a huge education for me.  Specifically I can now see how this education has prepared me for being involved in foster care.  Interacting with bio parents is a lot like interacting with teenagers.  Some bio parents are actually teens, some are not.

For me parenting teens has been a struggle, it feels like the same struggle I have with Primo's parents.  I have learned a lot from my teenaged children, I have made many mistakes with them which have helped me learn a lot along the way.  Some of the lessons have been painful and surprisingly hard to learn from, meaning that even though I know how I should respond in certain situations it is still hard for me to do what I know I should do.

One of the hardest things for me to remember when parenting my teenagers has been to "not take it personally".  I tend to take everything said to me to right to heart, this is exhausting and difficult.  I work every day on not taking things around me personally. 

Another tough lesson has been realizing that I can't control other people. As much as I feel the need to control my teen children, for their own good of course :), I can't really control them.  They are individuals who have their own free will.  I can guide, advise and enforce consequences etc., but in reality I cannot follow them around all day and make decisions for them.

As a parent I often wish that I had a magic wand that would enable me to sweep away my children's pain, challenging behaviors, questionable choices and miserable moods.  I'm still learning that this is not my job.  I am learning that there are many times I have to "let go and let God".  There are extremely difficult days when the only prayer I can come up with is "Thy will be done".

I have been parenting teenagers for 10 years, with 6 more years to come.  I continue to strive to be grateful for the experience and the continued learning this provides me for use in other areas of my life.




Thursday, April 5, 2012

Early Intervention

An early childhood intervention team of 4 came out to our house to evaluate Primo.  No one involved in his case suspected that he had any delays, but given his birth experience we wanted to be sure.

I have always felt that he is on target for his age and doing very well, but I was interested in what the pros thought.

The two hour appointment lasted about an hour and 45 minutes, of which only 20 minutes was spent evaluating Primo.  He is obviously developing well and is even a bit advanced for his age in fine motor skills.

The rest of the appointment was filled with wonderful conversations about foster care, child raising and bonding.  I learned a lot, and all of these women were so vibrant and happy in their work.

I LOVE it when one of Primo's many appointments goes this way.  In my limited foster care experience it is rare that any appointment starts on time (or even shows up) or that there is enough time to have a meaningful conversation.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

True Dat Tuesday

Primo's DH$ worker has never been to our home.  He is supposed to come once a month.

One month in 2011 he sent another worker in his place. Following that visit in November DH$ has scheduled twice to come out and see Primo.  They were no shows on both occasions and didn't even call or follow up with us.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Vacation + Court = ?

We have just returned from our fabulous spring vacation with Primo.  The girls were such a great help with him.

The flights went better than I ever could have hoped for, it would seem that Primo is a born traveler.

While we were away visitation was changed at court.  In the past Primo had a two hour unsupervised visit with his parents and siblings.  Now he will have two visits a week.  An unsupervised visit with his Dad and siblings and on a different day he will have a supervised visit with his Mom and siblings.

I really don't know what is going on. I'm focusing on Primo and making sure he is healthy and happy in our home.  In reality that's about all I can do.  Primo has been with us for over 6 months.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Help wanted

Baby products have changed a lot during the more than 10 years since I last had an infant or toddler. 

Many of the changes are good.  I love the new key fit car seats, bumbos, more fashionable diaper bags, better bottle systems and the huge selection of organic baby foods.

However when it comes to purchasing toys, clothing, bibs and blankets, all things that end up in baby's mouth, I'm hard pressed to find anything that is not made in China. Most toys these days are plastic and require batteries.

I have a few classic or wooden toys left from my bio children's baby-hoods, but I would love to know where to buy more for Primo.  Are there any clothing and blankets still made in America?

On one of the morning news shows this week there was a segment about the growing demand for American made baby products in China.  A San Fransisco native of Chinese descent has opened a number of stores in China full of these American products, especially baby foods and formula, but also toys, diapers and wipes.  

Where do YOU find clothing and toys that are not made in China?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A chronic case...

that pretty much describes my rule following.  For as long as I can remember I have found comfort in boundaries and rules.  I can't trace this back to a specific or pivotal event in my life, it feels like I was born with this chronic condition.

As you may imagine having a chronic case of rule following can make it excruciatingly difficult to be involved in foster care.

I'm also a very practical girl, I don't just follow rules for the sake of rules, but for the structure they offer to my life, the safety they provide for society in general or for the ability they provide to avoid unwanted consequences.  I don't want to sell myself as someone who has never broken a rule, there are good and thoughtful rules and then some arbitrary ones that are just not practical to everyday life.

BUT...

What I was thinking about when I started this post has more to do with the rules that govern social workers, bio parents, county workers, and foster parents, you know the law of the land and those pesky little court orders involving visitation, random drug tests (which are in no way random), case plans etc?

It bothers me to the extreme when the people involved in Primo's case do not follow the court's orders.  The "system" is slow and cumbersome and often impractical.  I know that, but it seems that if everyone did as the judge asked we may all be happier and more children would be able to go home to their families.

The risk involved in violating a court order does not seem worth it to this chronic rule follower.  



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It has been decided

We are taking Primo with us on our spring break travels.  I have never flown with an infant.

One of my children, who would prefer to remain nameless, keeps telling me that she can't believe we are going to be "those people", you know the ones with the screaming, hysterical baby who cries for the whole flight?

Keeping my fingers crossed for smooth sailing.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I've been thinking a lot

I haven't been writing much lately, I just haven't felt inspired.  I have been thinking a lot.

Thinking about where Primo's case is heading, and I'm still not sure about this?  There have been so many twists, turns, ups, downs and a little bit of crazy thrown in for good measure.  I haven't felt comfortable blogging about the particulars.

I have been playing out the possible scenarios in my head.  What if he reunifies?  What if he stays?  What if someone else adopts him?  What about his siblings?

I found this link while reading another foster care blog (have I mentioned how much I LOVE foster care blogs?) This is a beautiful idea.

http://upbeatsanddownbeats.blogspot.com/2011/04/focus-on-fostering-saying-goodbye.html

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It got better

My whole week of respite was not as bad as the first few days.

I hit up the Rescue Remedy big time.

I got myself some electrolyte water and started eating as healthy as I had time for.

It did seem that just as we got into a good routine it was time for little respite guy to go home.  Getting into a routine was very difficult because the only info our little guy showed up with was that he loved cheese, nothing else, no bed or nap time info or any other helpful information.  I guess that's why they call it emergency respite care.

I'm glad I could help out, but I'm not sure I will be doing respite again any time soon.

Monday, March 5, 2012

knowing my limit

I said yes to doing emergency respite care for a 17 month old boy this week.

It has been a long time since I had two little ones in the house and now I remember why.

I stepped into the shower on the second night that little respite guy was with us and suddenly had tunnel vision, heavy limbs and awful nausea.  I had no choice but to sit down on the shower floor.  I was suddenly so thirsty all I could do was gulp mouthfuls of shower water and wait for my other symptoms to subside, which they did in about 20 minutes.

Intellectually I thought I would be fine with 5 kids in the house.  But the reality was that my days were filled with chasing down a 17 month old, baby proofing on the fly, rocking him to sleep for an hour every night, driving my girls to their various activities, changing LOTS of poopy diapers, making bottles, washing bottles, laundry, helping with school projects, driving again, foster parent training, laundry, driving, not getting enough house cleaning done, driving, fixing little meals, snacks and juice cups, visits for both babies, making bottles and rice cereal, social worker visits, not getting enough sleep, WIC appointment,  and did I mention DRIVING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN?

So, the moral of this story is that even if my brain felt confident about caring for 5 children, my body told a different and more realistic story.  I need to know my limits, for my sake, my husband's sake and for the sake of every child in my home. Sake is an odd word isn't it, but you know what I mean right?

Clearly I'm still not getting enough sleep.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Court is continued

Primo's court date has been "continued", and has been rescheduled right in the middle of the week that we will be away with Primo on our spring break trip.

I am promising myself that I WILL go to his next court date.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Stressful visits

Primo's visits have been getting a bit stressful.  He is having some separation anxiety and this leads to him crying for almost all of the time he is with his family.

I have made some new friends in the other foster moms who are waiting at the agency during visits and this has provided the ability for me to be able to leave during visits.  We go out to eat, or to a local market, or walk to some local attraction.  I could leave on my own, but it is always more fun with a destination in mind and a friend along.  Our agency is not in the best neighborhood in town (actually it is in a major city with a very high crime rate).

Once I came back about 20 minutes before Primo's visit ended and I heard him crying for the whole 20 minutes.  The whole waiting area could hear him, it was difficult for all of us to listen to.

Then last week when I was waiting with Primo for his parents to arrive one of the foster moms I don't know too well asked if I would please not leave during the visit.  It was just killing her to wait for her foster daughter and have to listen to Primo cry the whole hour.

There really isn't much I can do even if I do stay for the visit.  I would just be another foster parent or child sitting in the waiting room listening to my baby cry.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Upcoming court

I received some good advice about whether to attend Primo's next court date from your comments on my post titled To go or not to go.

Today the social worker from Primo's lawyer's office called (she calls before every court date and comes out to the house every three months) and informed me of the actual court date, I had been given a different date from my agency.

Primo's social worker does not think I need to go to court, and now his lawyer's social worker doesn't think I should go.  She said I don't have any legal standing in court until Primo has been with us for 6 months.  She also said that right now court dates are about his parents and their issues and not so much about what may happen with Primo.  But Primo's social worker told me this court hearing may determine the direction of the case, meaning that this case may change from reunification to adoption.

Friday, February 17, 2012

?

We are seriously thinking of taking Primo on vacation with us.  This vacation involves a two hour direct flight.

I can't take the idea of leaving him with strangers, but I am not that happy about flying with an infant either.

So any advice is welcome.  Ideas on how to make flying with a baby work.  Or straight up telling me I'm crazy not to use respite.  Bring it!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'm impressed?

Our lab LOVES bread.

This love first surfaced when I left the kitchen for 2 minutes while a lovely loaf of sticky lemon bread was cooling on the counter top.  I came back to see King gulping down the whole loaf in one bite and two swallows.

King also loves store bought bread.  So much so that we recently moved our bread storage from a drawer in the kitchen (that King had learned how to open and eat our bread at least twice a week) to a top cabinet, not only a top cabinet but the second shelf of a top cabinet.

Well guess who ate two whole loaves of bread last night while we slept?

I'm impressed with King's amazing bread finding skills and obvious dexterity while at the same time being very much unimpressed with my lack of dog training/ownership skills.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Primo's hair and skin care

When we had E in our home it was our first experience with caring for curly ethnic hair.


I made all of the typical mistakes, washed too often and used baby oil and petroleum jelly to "moisturize" his hair.


When Primo arrived I started doing research online about how to best care for his hair.  Now that he is actually napping I have had more time to read up on hair and skin care for chocolate babies.










This is what I use for his skin, it was recommended to me by E's doctor for his eczema.  Primo also has skin issues and this lotion works great on his skin.






For Primo's baths I've tried a couple different "baby washes" and this one is the one I like best so far.  It is organic and good for dry skin, it has a fairly heavy scent as far as I'm concerned, but I have yet to find anything better for him.  An added plus is that I can pick it up at Target in the baby section.






The first must have for Primo's hair was a wide toothed comb, which I picked up at Target for about $3.




I only wash Primo's hair once a week with conditioner.  I have tried a couple of hair washing products and this is what works best for his hair.  It is all natural and I can pick it up at Whole Foods, and it smells so good.










To keep Primo's hair from getting dry and brittle I use organic coconut oil a couple times a week.  You can cook with this stuff or ingest it straight as a dietary supplement, and use it as skin moisturizer, so I feel very comfortable using it regularly on Primo's hair.
Just a reminder, a little goes a long way!  This comes in a tub as a solid, but turns liquid quickly just from the warmth of your hands.  Don't worry about the smell, it has a nice coconut smell for a little while and then the scent goes away.


I ordered this online, but I think you can get it at Health Food stores too.










I have picked up two more products because of the rave reviews online and the fact that I can pick it up at Target along with the Eucerin Calming Creme.


Kinky-Curly Come Clean Shampoo for use about every 4-6 weeks for a wash out of build up of product and anything else Primo may get in his hair.  Before I wash his hair with this I make sure I have massaged a good amount of organic coconut oil into his hair sometime during the day before his bath to help keep his hair from having too much moisture stripped out during washing.


Primo's Mom has made it clear that she doesn't want his hair cut until he is a year old.  Primo already has about an inch (and growing) of hair on the top of his head, but he is bald in the back and sides right now.  If we wait another 7 months to cut his hair he is going to have a lot of height in his hair which will be difficult to keep neat, clean and under control.  So I picked up some Kinky-Curly Knot Today leave in detangler .  Both the shampoo and detangler are organic and cost me about $12 a piece at Target in the regular hair care section.


I've tried the detangler and it is awesome and makes combing through his hair much easier for both of us.


The total cost of the above mentioned products is about $75 in my area of the country, but with the exception of the Eucerin (which I buy about every 3 months), all of the other products will easily last me 9 months to a year.


I would love to hear from any of you dealing with curly ethnic hair, let me know if you have a product you "can't live without".  I'm always open to trying new things and I know that as Primo's hair changes and he gets older I may need some stronger stuff.


I'm putting a lot of time and research into keeping Primo's hair healthy and happy.