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Before the kiddos get here (one hour!), I want to list out the concerns Husband and I discussed last night in making our decision.

We HAD decided to take a six-month break, Feb. 1 – Aug. 1, for the baby’s birth.  Honestly, it probably wouldn’t have ended up being a full six months except Aug. 1st, very nicely, ends up being when we get back from a two-week vacation out of the country.

So that was a convenient time frame to take.

In chronological order then,

  1. Rooms:  we just moved each of the kids, at their own requests, in their own rooms – no sharing!  Wowee, was that cool.  Well, mostly for Daughter, now that she’s almost 9 and looking for her own space more.  So we’ll put Allie with Baby and Aaron with Junior.  Baby is super excited to share her room again actually, and I think Junior will be too.
  2. Birth:  I was completely reassured in my conversation with Lisa, their former foster mom last night.  She actually brought home a newborn while they were in her care, and they had no problems between the baby and the kids.   She just constantly repeated “No touching the baby” and they didn’t!  Yup, I can do that.  (I hope I don’t sound too glib, because obviously I take the safety of my own kids very seriously. )
  3. Vacations:  We’d been planning a month-long road trip for June, you know, just ’cause we could.  Well, sacrifice is part of being a foster parent, so we just scrapped that idea.  It might still work out of course, depending on visitation with their parents and all, but mini-road trips will work too.  As far as the out of country vacation,  I’m doing some serious hoping that Lisa can do respite for us.  I’m sure she will if she is in town, so I just need to check with her on that.
  4. And more vaguely, our own kids needs:  Both Husband and I have started to really feel more in touch with our children’s needs, now that we are back down to our core family of five.  I’d planned on reading a few books to deal with some of Daughter’s emotional needs, Junior has an insatiable desire for academic enrichment as well as his own behavioral needs, and Baby, while a very happy three year old, should still get her share of the attention of course.  So while obviously we decided we can continue to meet those needs of our own kids while also attending to the even greater needs of two kids in foster care, we both acknowledged it will take extra effort and commitment on our part.  Now, to remember that in a few weeks when I’m wiped out…

How annoying.  Last night, I remember having five big concerns we addressed, and now I can only remember four.  Eh, guess that last one wasn’t very important.

So there you go.  Now I’m off for a quick round of vacuuming before they arrive!

 

They call you with a placement.

And instead of sticking my fingers in my ears and yelling “LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU! AND BESIDES, I’M NOT ON THE CALL LIST ANYWAY!!”,  I listened.

And this morning, we’ll accept the placement.

A 6 year old boy I’ll call Aaron and his 5 year old sister I’ll call Allie.

This has all the hallmarks of a long placement: been in care before, no family available, and former foster family told me the parents have the classic “I’m a perfect parent” dillusion.

So.

That’s what I get for procrastinating on a nice night out with Husband!  Those plans are out the window!

And let me tell you, we sure had a romantic time last night, whispering sweet nothings about the concerns and benefits of accepting this placement.

(But isn’t it cool that we get the resource of their former foster home?  I talked to the foster mom for quite a while last night and got a great feel for the personalities of the kids.  She would’ve taken them right back but she just accepted a new placement and doesn’t have space.  She is heartbroken about it, and I feel for her.  So I think it’s a mutually beneficial relationship to keep in contact.)

Court is today to decide if the kids actually do come into care, and then if so, they’ll be here later this morning.

Back on the merry-go-round we go!

Mondays, for me, are always my breather day.

I can take some time, do some cleaning, relax a little, as Husband and the two oldest are back at school.  I do enjoy the weekends, to be sure, but Mondays have their own rhythm of calm.

This week has not had a Monday yet.

Of course, the real Monday was a day off school for everyone, and Baby got puky sick over the weekend too.  Tuesday had Daughter home from school feeling sick.  Wednesday came and Junior was sick.  And then (da da dum) Wednesday night we got a call.

Easy one to take – two boys, 7 and 5, coming from a combo of neglect, poverty, and physical abuse.  No behavior problems reported, some sort of intellectual delays/mental retardation for both.  Sure, bring ’em on over.

Steve, the older brother, and Alex, the younger, are very sweet although semi-feral.  First night, they didn’t go to sleep until 11 pm, not because they were running around yelling or throwing fits, more because they just didn’t seem sleepy.  I’m sure their nervousness was not helping that, but I think they may be used to staying up late, or just putting themselves to bed whenever.  Either way, first night was tiring.

Thursday was a snow day, and again everyone, including Husband, was home.  Luckily, the boys and Junior were very easily entertained with our ginormous tub of trains and tracks, but we also ended up doing play dough.  And wikki stix.  And watercolors.  And reading books.  And playing toy food.  Oh man.  Husband ended up puking that night and we had minor issues with Alex and dinner (wanted that second piece of pizza but refused to eat a baby carrot first.  He got mad enough at me to tear up the picture he’d made me earlier that day, although he did it with a smirk on his face.  Take that, strange woman!)  Props to Steve for eating a serving of salad after each piece of pizza.

Oh, and did I mention it was my birthday?

Anyway, the boys at least went to sleep earlier, closer to 9.

Finally, today, got my kids to school, took the boys to their school, and went home to enjoy my first normal day of the week.  And got the call to please come pick up Daughter from school because she felt sick.

Here’s looking forward to next Monday.

(I’ll blog more later about the boys – had to steam off a little pressure over my week first!)

 

After getting the call this morning, I spent most of the day arranging beds and vacuuming.  You know, ’cause foster kids will totally judge me on the dustbunnies in the corner.  Anyway, after our problems with Poet, we decided right away to put Mark in his own room.  Junior will be in another, and the girls will have the big room.

Late in the afternoon (actually, it was dinner time) Nikki and Mark finally arrived.  They ran in the house as soon as I opened the door, threw their coats on the floor, and ran around looking for things to play with.  Not too many adjustment issues here!  Apparently, the worker spent most of the car ride telling them how there are kids at our house, and they were really looking forward to that.  So right off the bat, Daughter and Nikki became ‘best friends’ (their words, not mine) and Mark and Junior set up a train track and raced cars.

I’ve learned a little more about their past: drug involvement by their parents.  They spent the summer with relatives, but there were allegations of sexual abuse, so CPS took them out of the home.  So now they are here (and their older sister is in another nearby home.)

They are both polite and well-mannered so far.  They ate well, played well, and Mark really seems to want to help out with the younger kids.  I know, I know, after what I just mentioned above…well, I’ve kept him in my line of sight since he arrived, and I will keep doing that for, well, a long time I suppose.  He will be getting counseling, but first he needs to be interviewed by a child advocacy center, and I have no clue how long that could take to set up.

Both kids have at least grade level reading abilities, and they both seem to enjoy reading.  Hallelujah!  They’ll fit right in.  They like to talk, and they seemed open to talking about their feelings about being here.  Mark admitted missing his mom and dad and his other relatives, but he hasn’t appeared too anxious yet.  Nikki admitted to being sad, but then started giving me lots of hugs and telling me she loved me, so I think she’s mostly just confused.  They both fell asleep pretty easily, although Nikki REALLY wanted to sleep in my bed, or at least with Daughter.  I felt so bad saying no!

They both also want to go back to school (again, hallelujah!) but since tomorrow is the last day before break, I told them they won’t be able to start right now.  So it will be a busy week for me next week: all five kids home all day, and one I need to keep an eye on at all times.

But really, it’s all good.  Nikki and Mark, just like all our other kids so far, are really cool and I like them a lot!

This is the story, up to Friday night:

Wednesday afternoon, home finder calls with a placement.  3-year old boy and 5-year old girl, coming from another foster home (ding ding ding, warning bells) that didn’t want to renew their license.  They’ve been in care since last June, and need to be moved by the 3rd week of May.  Would we consider?

Well, of course we would consider. How could we not…we’re averaging a call every three weeks, and half of those are not even in our guidelines!  So I called the case worker, who gave a few more details, like:

  • they came into custody because of homelessness and drugs
  • mom has been making progress on her court order, with housing still being the biggie
  • no big behavioral problems from the kids
  • they are in daycare full time, and the current placement has four older kids (9 – 18)
  • current placement is the second since they came into care

And that’s when the case worker insulted me.  She mentioned being sure we could commit to them, don’t want to have to move them again, etc. Right! We just finished training! I totally and completely agree that bouncing kids is a big trauma! I guess she has no reason to believe I live and die by that belief, but after I haltingly tried to defend us as hardcore and no, we wouldn’t flake out on her, she said “Well, that’s what I heard last time and here we are, 5 months later, looking for a new placement.”

Well! Sorry the current placement is a bunch of jerks.  I don’t know, what else can I say to convince her? But it doesn’t really matter; we’ve essentially accepted.

She invited me to the hearing the next morning at 9.  She warned me she was going to ask for unsupervised visits, but I have no intrinsic problem with that. I also talked to the current foster mom, who didn’t give a specific reason for leaving the fold, but it didn’t seem to be the kids, so that’s all I care about.  She confirmed what I’d heard: age-typical behavior, no regressions after visits, like to talk, need to be active, don’t kill puppies. Whew! Sounds like they’ll fit in fine.

So I do some major frantic dropping-off that morning to get to the county family court, which is stupidly in the middle of a banking/business district with no parking, so I have to park 10 minutes away in a garage (where it turns out later I’m probably not supposed to park. I seriously have no idea where they expect family court attendees to park. Case worker was no help either).  Anyway, I haul butt, make it through security by throwing away my combination mini-flashlight/butter knife, elevator up to third floor to sign, and then back down to first floor where this particular judge’s courtroom is.  I have no idea what the caseworker looks like, so I wander around through the few dozen people in the waiting room, hoping someone will ask.

Finally, the judicial officer for the case finds me and points me to the case worker.  We chitchat, arrange for her to bring the kids over that afternoon at one, and then fall into awkward silence.  I feel a little guilty pulling my book out (Salt, by Mark Kurlansky – rereading, but it’s good), but too bad.  I can only steal furtive glances at the others in the waiting room so many times.

So, at 10:30, I have to leave.  I have the rest of my life to get on with.  The caseworker assured me it was still going to be awhile before the case was called, and she was right.  She called me at 12:30 just having left court.  She was supposed to bring the kids by at 1:00 for a pre-placement visit, but we put it off til the next day.

Friday after lunch, they come by.  Nixon and Poet are super cute sister and brother!

Nixon turned 5 in March, and she is super pretty.  It sounds weird to say of a five year old girl, but really, she is.  She has very elegant facial features.  She also talks a LOT.  She really likes to hear herself talk.

Poet turned three in December.   He seems about average size for his age, and he speaks in better than average sentences.  He quickly settled in to the average boy toys we have around: cars, trains, etc.

So they hung around for an hour, with their worker, and really, it was a great visit.  They were polite, behaved well, and overall seemed fine with coming to live at our house on Monday.  The case worker, I’ll call her Amy, arranged to pick them up from daycare at 12:30 and bring them over.  Their clothes will have to wait until Tuesday because the current foster parents both work during the day.

Now I have to focus on getting the neglected bedroom, which still has K and S’s clothes all over the beds, up and running.  Poet and Nixon will use the bunk beds, and Junior thinks he wants to sleep in the toddler bed with them, which is technically allowed until Nixon turns 6 (mixed-gender rooms).

At the hearing, Amy asked for unsupervised visitation with Mom, on the condition that Mom is clean at her frequent drug drops, and she gets approval from her psychiatrist and counselor.  I’m not sure why she is seeing those two?  Probably more to this picture than I know right now.   That’s a little scary to think of straight contact with Mom, but I guess her kids have been in care for a year already, so she should be cool with it by now. I hope.  Foster mom told me Mom has only visited with them four times since December, but Amy said it was once or twice a month.

The next hearing is August 6, so they will be with us all summer, and then Amy hopes Mom will have made enough progress to get custody back.  I’m not taking any bets, and I’ll sign them up for Kindergarten (Nixon) and pre-school (Poet) when they get here.

Last Friday afternoon, K. and S. came to stay with our family!

S. will be 5 in less than two months, and K. will be 4 even sooner.  Besides a few items, which I’ll note later, I have been rather underwhelmed.  I guess our training dwelled on the worst case scenarios.  These brothers almost immediately settled into our house and home.  Like, seriously, if my kids get taken into care, I really hope they are a little more traumatized than these guys.  It’s weird.

They do talk of missing their two siblings (in a different placement) and mom, but S. also already told me he likes it here, he wants to stay, and he doesn’t want to go home.  Pretty sad.

I was able to categorize the boys within 24 hours:

  • K. is the boss.  He takes what he wants from others, pushes limits, and occasionally hits – not really out of anger, more like excitement/mischievousness.  So far, he has only hit me and my husband; I hope it stays that way.
  • S. is sensitive, a bit whiny, but much more obedient and calm.  Sucks his thumb when he’s upset or nervous.

They both seem smart and generally developmentally on track, but I’m no expert.  They do have the cutest little speech impediments, except that it makes them incomprehensible.  They don’t pronounce about half the consonants!  I hope they stay long enough to get some speech therapy.

K. has a lot of trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep.  It is pretty rough.  He wakes up every few hours crying for his Mama, but luckily, he falls asleep again pretty quickly.  However, he has refused to sleep in his room (sharing with his brother), so he’s sleeping on a mat on the floor of our room.  I hope that’s not habit-forming.

They were dropped off Friday from a woman who wasn’t even their case worker, so I know zilch about their past, just the one incident that brought them into care.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head, and I’ve been lucky to get this much time to type relatively uninterrupted.  I’m so glad I could document this!!!

And an unsuspecting robin is building a nest on the porch railing where we eat dinner every night, once it gets warm:Nest on porch railing

Maybe we should change our age range.  I’ve read that half of abuse cases involve children three or younger, so if we dropped down to 12 months or even newborns, we’d probably see a lot more calls for placements.  However, I’ve also heard anecdotal evidence that those younger children are less likely to need non-relative placements.  Relatives are more likely to accept a younger child who has been placed in foster care, versus an older child or a teenager.  So maybe we wouldn’t see any more calls at all.  (Although at least we wouldn’t get fewer! Ha Ha!)

However, I’ve got to remind myself there’s a reason I said kids over 2 years: I’m lazy.  I’ve breastfed all my own kids, and I don’t think I could ever switch to bottle-feeding after I learned how effortless breastfeeding really is.  And trust me, we asked if I could breastfeed.  It’s cool, I understand why the state doesn’t want that, but I value my sleep and time waaaay more than that.

Incidentally, I just noticed breastfeed is a word, but bottlefeed is not, according to my browser’s spellcheck. It has to be hyphenated. That’s nice. Also I just learned spellcheck is not a word, but spell-check is.

Okay, stop the presses!! I checked two dictionaries in our home:

  • Merriam-Webster Collegiate, 12 years old, has entries for ‘breast-feed’ (1903) and ‘bottle-feed’ (1865). VERY interesting that bottlefeed was known first, and both are hyphenated.
  • Webster’s Lexicon, 20 years old, has NO entry for breastfeed at all, but does have ‘bottlefeed’ – NO HYPHEN! Curiouser and curiouser.

The re-invigorating weekend I recently had? Happened only because we haven’t gotten a placement yet.

And it was a good one. Saturday night, dropped the kids off at Grandma’s and partied late with a good friend for his birthday.  Sunday was a day of relaxing and gardening, then dinner with another close couple and their kids.  Sooo good.  Made me feel like my life has never been better.

hamnmock372

So while I don’t really like to be self-centered (seriously! I don’t like the feeling), I’m starting to drift further and further from the rah-rah, go-get-em exuberance of our training.  The longer we’ve been licensed without a placement, I’m afraid the more I will resent the necessary changes that will take place once we’ve got our two new little ones.  Not a nice way to start a relationship.

Today, when I picked up my daughter from school,  the grounds were swarming with children in green.  So that must mean it’s St. Patrick’s Day.  That would make it the 17th.  So WHY did my cell phone just today deliver me a message from the 12TH!  A message from Lulu, who had a pair of brothers for us!!

Somehow, just an hour or so after calling me about the 3- and 11- year old siblings, Lulu called back.  I was probably picking up at school, but I don’t understand why my cell didn’t ring.  Yargh.  FRUSTRATING!  (Seriously, I couldn’t even find the call in the call log.)

I emailed Lulu to tell her in the future, don’t count on me getting cell messages right away – because this does happen a lot.   I should’ve also told her to leave messages on our home answering machine, duh.  So now I have motivation anew to switch cell phone providers.

As for the brothers, all Lulu could tell me was that a plan had been put in place for them.  I guess I hope it works out for them… grumble grumble

Well, it’s back to waiting.

Before our licensing was finished, I compared my feelings to the feelings I had during the last weeks of my pregnancies: nervous, excited, in a hurry to begin but also enjoying the blissful ignorance of the present.

But now, with our license in hand for more than two weeks!, I am feeling more like I did when I was past due: angry, annoyed, impatient.  Unfortunately, this circumstance also involves a paralyzing inability to plan for the future.  Should I volunteer to help out in my son’s preschool class next week? No…we might get a placement before then.  Could we go to a show in a few weeks?  Probably not, but then again, I’ve been putting things off and declining events since January in anticipation of our licensing!  I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised.  This is a state-government agency, one not known for its swiftness.

So until P-day, I rush to answer every phone call between 9 and 5 M-F (it might be Lulu), I never go anywhere without my cell (she calls it second), and I try to evaluate every situation for my preparedness (how would I handle this if I had two extra children who didn’t trust me or feel any loyalty to me?).   Finally, I try as hard as I can, in spite of my impatience, to be grateful for the relative calm I enjoy now.