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“The days are filled with years.” – that’s from a song or a poem or something.  I don’t remember.  But it is completely happening right now.

Since returning from our trip, which was just okay for all the effort spent planning it, Mark stabbed himself in the foot (accidentally) with a pencil, requiring crutches and bandage-changing every day, but luckily, no doctor visit.  He looks awful hobbling around, but it’s actually not that bad.  We’re still not sure whether the tip of the pencil is really far inside his foot or not, but it’s healing either way.

Swimming lessons ended (with Mark having to miss the whole second week due to his foot.)  The kids all learned some new skills, and now I just need to get my lazy butt to take all five of them to the pool during the day.

Which leads me to my next point, which is why I haven’t been feeling well, cleaning as much, doing as much with the kids, or eating as much.  That is….morning sickness!  Hooray!  So, yeah, actually it’s been pretty crappy, and I spent a few days consuming only rice cakes and pink lemonade, but it is slowly getting better.  I’m only at six weeks or something, so we don’t want to tell anyone yet, but it’s frustrating to be feeling so blah and not be able to explain why.  Although I’m sure most of our family has guessed it, seeing as how our kids have all been 2.5 – 3 years apart.

Due date mid-March, btw.

So that means we won’t be taking our license up to three.  I can still see how I feel in September or October when Mark and Nikki go home – it can hopefully only be better – but I’m learning I should start leaving myself some more room for error.

Anyway, today we’re visiting a kids’ museum with their mom and dad.  I’m hoping the visit will be 6 hours in all.  They had an hour earlier in the week supervised by Ollie, but that is still not all of the hours they’re supposed to have this week, plus we still need to make up all the hours from our trip out of town.

I’ve talked with the other supervisor, Edna, and she likes to “schedule” things “ahead of time”.  I think this means I may have to start changing my MO with regards to the visits.

We’re leaving in 45 minutes.  I’m so excited to be going somewhere with my husband and no kids.  Except that the car needed four new tires (and they’re still being put on now) everything seems to be going to plan.

Back in three days!

I emailed Lulu for some assistance, so now a very nice sounding foster family will watch Mark and Nikki this weekend.  They have a 4-year old girl for Nikki to play with, and 13-year old son for Mark to idolize, plus a dog, a pool, and the kids can bring their bikes.

Rosie wasn’t able to help as they were already traveling out of town, and I got a call back from one of the first homes I called, but they only had a 12-year old son and no way to accommodate bikes.  I’m glad I asked Lulu for help.

And so after going through all my trouble, I decided to get us put on the respite list!  There aren’t really any respite homes listed in my area; they are either 30 minutes north or 20 minutes south.  I know there’ve got to be other foster homes in this area, so maybe this will be a good way to meet them.

So now I’ve just got to make sure I get the right forms filled out, the emergency contacts done, etc.  Oh yeah, and get the car’s tires and alignment done before we leave, get Mark and Nikki enrolled for school, clean up for home visit tomorrow, take Mark to counseling tomorrow night, pack, and on and on and on.

So another one of the added stresses of the last few weeks is a trip we’ll be making next weekend.  It is about six hours, and Husband will be in a conference for two of the three days.  When we originally thought Mark and Nikki would be back home at this time, we planned on bringing our three kids and staying at a cousin’s house.  Well, since we didn’t feel comfortable bringing our three and leaving them behind, the choice was either all five kids or none.

All five would be stressful but doable, but would eliminate the cousin’s house.  Leaving all the kids at home would be easier – our three can stay with Husband’s parents, and they’ll love it –  but unfortunately for Mark and Nikki, they can’t stay there so we need to find respite.  So that’s what we decided to do.

And that’s where all the trouble has been.

I don’t want to try Eliza’s foster family because of some tension between them and Mark and Nikki’s biological family plus I’m not sure Mark and Nikki are ready to spend three full days with their sister yet.

So I’ve been cold-calling families on our county’s respite list, and so far, am 0 – 3.  (However, I did talk to a really awesome foster mom not too far from us, and she told me to keep her number around because she’d love to help us in the future – it just won’t work for this weekend.)  As each day passes though, I know I’m less likely to find a respite home.

That leads me to lean more towards using Eliza’s foster parents and just dealing with the fallout, but I found out yesterday they might be moving next weekend.  I did call them and she left a message last night, so I guess I should stop goofing around on a blog post and call her.  It just stresses me out so much when there are no good solutions.  (Maybe I should just leave our three with in-laws and bring Mark and Nikki on our trip.  Wouldn’t that be crazy??)

Crazy, hectic, no time to blog and all of a sudden it’s been two weeks since I posted!

Not that I really care about anyone who reads this, :), but actually, this has become a very valuable tool for record-keeping and holding others (okay, Mom and Dad) accountable.

So what has been going on the last two weeks?

We’ve been slogging through the visits.  I, personally, am sick of McDonald’s and Pizza Hut.  I’m spending money and gaining weight, which is always a bad trade-off in my opinion.  But until the heat passes and it’s bearable to spend four hours at a park, we’re doing a lot of lunches and dinners at fast food.

I don’t blame Mom and Dad.  Their home is just too far away for visits to take place there.  But I worry that Mark and Nikki are starting to highly associate Mom and Dad with fast food, if it wasn’t that way before.  Plus the quarter-trinket machines, which are now 75 cents [side tangent: there’s no cent key on the keyboard anymore! When did that happen?].  Dad blew 8 bucks last night on crappy little toys.  Mom has told me she has had trouble saying no to the kids in the past, and I worry that might not have changed much.

Put it all together, and the visits are not exactly quality family time.  I spend a lot of the time talking with Mom and Dad, which is nice enough, but the kids are so busy playing with happy meal toys, stuffing their faces, or begging for quarters that I don’t think they even really talk to their parents.

The good news is Mom did find someone else to do some supervising.  She should be approved in a week or so, and she lives near Mom so the visits can be at their home.

Second most important bit: stupid stupid stupid.  Found Mark and Junior in the bathroom with their pants off.  They each independently confirmed the story, and it seems Mark was in there putting his clothes in the clothes chute (it was bedtime) and Junior barged in to pee.  After he peed, he asked Mark if he wanted to show each other their penises.  Mark said sure, so they did.  Then Junior suggested they touch their penises together, so they did.  And that is apparently when I walked in.

This is just like last summer with Junior and Poet (well, the ages make a big difference.  I expect a hell of a lot more from an 8-year old regarding keeping private parts private.)  Junior didn’t seem to care at all about it; obviously, he initiated it.  They were both happy and talking normally when I walked in.  And neither of the boys have really changed the rest of their behavior around each other or anyone else.  Ollie chalked it up to normal boyhood stuff, and it’s true that there hasn’t been anything like this between them until now, but given all the problematic sexual crap with Mark, I’m annoyed, worried, and frustrated.  There have been other various allegations of sexual inappropriateness in Mark’s extended family too, as I found out at a meeting last week.

The team would like to get Eliza and Mark and Nikki together for some visits, so Mark and Eliza can start not hating each other.  Eliza’s foster family lives 45 minutes away too, and I’m not really excited about Mark and Nikki spending time at her foster home but I’m not so keen on having her here too.  She’s a surly 13 year old.  Nuff said.

Summer is fleeting, school starts in a month, and I’m enjoying summer.  I wish I had a little more time for it though.

Yesterday was an 18-freakin-hour day, and from waking til laying down, every single task I focused on was for someone’s else’s benefit.  Except maybe peeing, but even then, as they say, if Mama can’t pee, ain’t nobody happy.

So the parts of yesterday relevant to this blog: the visit.  We (Mark, Nikki, my three, and myself) had a visit with Mom and Dad.  Some time at a local petting zoo, and an hour at McD’s.  It was hot, but the kids were troopers.  Mom and Dad were great, but by the end, I was still sort of resentful at having to fit this into my already super-crowded day.

We also did the typical Independence Day activities: parade (kids had a lot of fun) and fireworks (good also; no one was too scared).  So every given part of my day was okay, but put it all together, and by 10:00 I was running on fumes (and still had in-for-the-week friends coming over).

So right, wah wah.  But then at church this morning, where Mark also pooped his pants (4th time this week, I guess that’s another post), our priest was homilizing on – you guessed it – sacrificing self for others.  It was good, exactly what I needed to hear to stay positive about life.  The problem is, I’m self-sacrificing by nature, so when I stretch myself too thin, I tend to get bitter and crabby, because I feel like I didn’t really have a choice.  I don’t feel noble and heroic because, look, I have to do this.  After all, no one else is.

But if I can connect my suffering to a greater good, well, it tends to reduce that bitterness.  Bitterness morphing into grace, and grace sustains.  (It’d better, because nothing else is getting me through another of Mark’s accidents.)

Anyway, sort of digressing.  Mom still hasn’t come up with any good ideas on how to increase supervised hours.  The only person she came up with sounds a lot more like a very casual acquaintance, and a busy one at that, so I don’t know if anything is really going to come of that.  The whole situation is to the point where it’s stressing me out, because part of me wants to offer to supervise more hours, but a whole lot more of me knows there are lots of reasons not to do that, and all of me is sad for Mark and Nikki.

Mark let me cut his hair!

Mom gave me permission a while ago, but Mark refused, and I wasn’t going to force him to submit.  As the days got hotter, and the hair got shaggier, he started to reconsider…

I have never actually cut a decent boy’s style, and I think it looks pretty good.