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Took Mark to see the new therapist yesterday.  She’s a lot more engaging and appears to take a more aggressive approach to therapeutic goals.  Although it would be hard to be less aggressive than Mark’s old therapist.

Bad thing is she’s a longer drive.  But she’ll see Mark on his own, so I get a bonus hour of reading every week.

I spent the full hour yesterday giving her my point of view on Mark’s state, and we identified four areas of focus:

  • dealing with anger and negative feelings, emphasis on provoking other kids
  • having someone to talk to about his feelings
  • his relationship with Eliza
  • boundaries and appropriateness with Daughter (hasn’t been too much of a problem lately, but I don’t want to take the chance of letting something happen)

Life on the homestead has been running smoothly – we biked to the library today, and the kids played in the afternoon.  Mark could probably use more attention/activity than I provide, but I try to promote independent play amongst the older kids, so I am hoping he’ll adjust.  I have visions of planning a wonderful day of enriching, stimulating, fun crafts, but those few precious hours at the end of the day are so hard to devote to more kid-thinking.  I need that adult time.

But I do want to stave off boredom, so I should work on activities.  He really likes crafts, he says, but when I suggest some, he doesn’t want to do them.  Daughter, Nikki, and Junior are all pretty good at playing on their own, but Mark is more mature, in some ways, than Daughter, so he might just need his own type of activity.  He got a “how to draw dinosaurs” book, and he’s really been enjoying that, so that’s a starting point.


Where can we have these visits?

Parks are nice, but at some point soon, we can’t realistically fit all the hours for visits into parks and outdoor attractions.  That point is also probably the same point at which I won’t be able to supervise all the visits anyway, so I don’t really have to worry about it, but I feel a lot of sympathy for Mom and Dad.  They don’t have any friends or family available for supervising.  The community resource center has rooms available, but the price is steep, and the kids are probably not going to enjoy spending multiple hours in a windowless 10 x 15 room.  Mom mentioned talking to a new acquaintance, but it would be a very desperate (and probably humiliating) request.

Our visit yesterday was pretty nice – I left our three with Husband so Mark and Nikki could have some normal family time with Mom and Dad.  We met at a playground and they had a great 3 hours there.  Mom and Dad brought their new puppy (wise decision when you’re financially struggling???) so I enjoyed playing with it some too.  Otherwise, I got to soak in some peace and quiet on a shady park bench, writing and reading.

Portrait of me:

Portrait of Husband (she said he was tricking her, in the picture):

And the two of us together:

This was particularly sweet, because it was our anniversary yesterday.  She didn’t know that, of course.  We were instructed in our training to model healthy adult relationships, so it seems we got that right.  We hug and kiss in front of the kids a lot, even when they yell “EWWW!” and “GROSS!”

Anyway, I’m thinking of framing those first two.  They are priceless.

Mark is still having Mom withdrawal (and Dad too, to be fair.)  No rages, no explosions, but I feel like we’ve come close to that a few times.  I try to give him a wide berth, but over the next month, I’m going to try to get back to where we were before this visit reduction, in terms of rules-compliance and behavior.

Next week, he also gets to have an evaluation with a new counselor.  The team wasn’t impressed with the work of his current counselor, so they’re getting him a new one.  She’s closer to where mom and dad are, so that’s better for the long run, but it increases my drive to 30 minutes one way.

Nikki hasn’t had any real changes.

My new best guess for reunification: late September.

So – here we are a week later.  Mom did spend some time in jail.  She’ll probably have to spend some more because she missed a drop to attend a camp production the kids were in.  She found out about the drop just a few hours before the camp skit.  I really feel bad for the parents sometimes.

Both Mom and Dad have single digit hours of supervised visitation.  I was hoping they would just drop it 12, but at least they both have the same amount now.  The worst part is no more family supervision.  It’s just me, Ollie, or Mom and Dad can pay $60 an hour to have their visit at the local community resource place.  Guess who did all four hours this week?

Actually, four hours isn’t that bad, but once we do get up above 10, there’s no way I can do them all.  I also know they don’t have that much cash.  So I don’t know how the court will view it if they don’t get all their hours in each week, but it’s going to get very difficult.  Plus, if I supervise, I have our kids there also, and that really isn’t ideal if Mark and Nikki are working on rebuilding their bond with their parents.

Ollie told me Mom will have to remain at her current level (in court terms, not in terms of the visitation hours) for at least a few more months, and reunification is usually the next level.  That puts us into fall – so yeah.  The kids have to start school here again, after all their goodbyes in the spring.  Dang it.

So I will slowly start moving them toward the idea of being here in the fall, and keep brainstorming free places to have visits.  I’m trying to avoid McD’s and malls.  Parks are okay unless it’s too hot, like it was this weekend.  I’ve thought of the library, but it’s hard to do more than an hour or so there.  But hey, at least it’s not winter.

Nikki is handling the reduction in visits pretty well, but Mark is having a little more trouble.  He carries his blanket around with him a lot more, and he has had more bouts of frustration/anger at me than normal.  No real rages yet, but close.  I’ll keep channeling my inner zen and try to cut him some slack.

It wasn’t too bad.  No decisions made on visitation, but I believe my input will help get more hours for the kids than otherwise.  Mom may spend some time in jail; we’ll find out on Thursday.  Mom and Dad have lots of issues with Eliza’s foster mom’s parenting, and if what they say is true, I would also.  However, Eliza’s foster mom didn’t show, even though she said she’d be there.  It seems where Eliza ends up is still undecided.  Mom and Dad did reluctantly admit to some of the rule breaking alleged, but there are still problems Mark and Nikki brought up that the parents deny.

And because I spent the whole morning in this meeting or driving to/from it, I’m turning off the computer and spending some time doing nothing.

This will take a while to set up, but I’d like to accentuate the coincidences in this story…

Since I had to pull Mark and Nikki out of Bible camp early to meet with the GAL, to make them feel better, I told them they could have McDonald’s for lunch.  I have actually NEVER taken them there in the six months we’ve been together.  This meeting was way out in a town 45 minutes away, in the county the kids’ originated from, and we went to the McDonald’s down the road.

In the parking lot, we parked next to a sheriff’s car, so when we got in the building, Nikki wanted to find him and sit next to him.  We did, and that was cool.  He gave them some sheriff’s badges, and everyone was happy.  When he stood up and left, I realized the table on the other side of him had 4 adults and a little girl.  That little girl had dark hair and was in a wheelchair.  On the back of her wheelchair was a sign that said “Jamie”.

Yes, it was Jamie, the same Jamie who lived on the other side of the state.  The Jamie we twice considering welcoming into our home, and who I know more about than some of the kids we’ve had in our home.  The Jamie I’d never met, but thought about for hours.  The Jamie I wasn’t even sure was gone from our lives forever.  She was right across the aisle.  I wanted to run over and stare at her face.

Instead, I wrote a little note to someone, seeing as how I didn’t even know which adults were with her.  I’d only talked to her foster mom once, and couldn’t remember her name.  I was going to hand it to them as they left, but we finished before them, so I eventually worked up the nerve to interrupt them (they were having a great time, and I felt so lame:  Recognize me!  I played a minor and completely unimportant role in your daughter’s life!)  I introduced myself, although I sort of fumbled and said something about inquiring last month about Jamie, when it was really three or four months ago.  The adults turned out to be her adoptive mom, new grandparents, and an aunt.  They seemed pretty at ease with each other, so I guess this is/will be her new forever family.  Although it was hard to see, for some reason, I’m glad she has her family.  Her adoptive mom was really cool and nice, and it turns out Jamie will be going to the same hospital as Daughter, so theoretically, we may run into them some day again.

I wouldn’t be too surprised with this little girl.