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Disappointment – we’d planned a playdate with Nikki and Mark and Mom at a local fast food establishment.

She called this morning to cancel, because they’re broke (both Mom and Dad have been looking for work for a few weeks.)

I’m REALLY glad she’s taking fiscal responsibility, but I’m pretty sure she could’ve called last night or maybe even two nights ago to reschedule, rather than right before.

So Daughter got upset and started crying, and the neighbor boy, who LOVES playing with Mark and whom I’d invited to go with us, showed up right after I got off the phone with her, and I had to send him home crying.

What a way to start the day!

 

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Yep, it has been nice.

We had a nice, relaxing break.  The peace and quiet of just three kids is so profound.

Mark and Nikki’s family called once over break, but then the reception broke up, and we still haven’t called back (we’re awful procrastinators).  I really need to do that, for our kids’ sake and so I can talk to their mom.  She wrote me a really sweet letter thanking us for all we did, and I don’t want her to think we’ve just dropped them out of our lives.

But honestly, our own kids have adjusted very well to the changes.  Daughter complained about missing Nikki a bit, but it was surprisingly easy to settle back into our family-of-five routine.

And getting just two kids ready for school in the morning is SO much easier than four.

 

Well, that’s it.  They’re home, and it seems like for good.  (I say that in the cynical-sarcastic way that probably only foster parents can, that knows of course, it’s for good but given all that’s happened, you never say anything with certainty.)

I don’t think the reality has kicked in yet.  It still just feels like an extended weekend, which we had plenty of with Mark and Nikki gone.  I think I’ll have to have a school day before it feels real.  Getting just three kids out the door instead of five – that’s a noticeable change!

The goodbye went well on Friday.  It could’ve been smoother, like I could’ve NOT forgotten to pick up Mark’s glasses (which broke on Monday) from the store and NOT forgotten their special blankets at our house so we ALL (their parents included) had to drive to our house from school and get them.  Daughter didn’t cry too much, Nikki was sweet but excited to go home, and Mark…well…Mark wasn’t very cordial to me but he had a lot of crazy emotions going on.  Saying goodbye to friends, returning home, beginning winter break, saying goodbye to me and our love-hate relationship, etc.  I don’t feel hurt by it, and actually, I wish I’d been a little more sentimental but I was so flustered from forgetting so many things!

It is sort of weird though how not sad it all was.  I was much more upset with almost every other goodbye.

And I still have to finish that scrapbook.

So their sheets and pillows are in the wash, there is a bag collecting their odds and ends to mail to them, and while their Mom offered to get together sometime this week, I’m hoping it will be at least after Christmas.  It’s nice to have a quieter house for a while.

And yet, I still put us back on the list for placements.

I’m such a sucker.

And if I don’t post before then, Merry Christmas!

and I mean that literally.

A lot of clothes, toys, books, and miscellaneous family detritus to make sure I get all of Mark and Nikki’s belongings.

I did something I never thought I’d do on Monday: I invited their mom over to our house to pick up the bulk of their belongings.

Husband and I decided when we started fostering we would not share our home phone number or address with biological parents.  My mom, who was a foster parent, had a bad incident once involving harassing phone calls.  But in this case, the alternative was meeting in a gas station parking lot to transfer multiple boxes and bags in -4 degree weather.

Plus, their mom is awful with directions, so I doubt she’d really be able to find her way back to firebomb us that easily.

So most of their toys and clothes are at their home.  I’ll do one more load of their laundry Thursday…or maybe not and just send it home to be washed.  I’ll be finishing their scrapbooks to mail them next week with the convenient excuse that I’ll want to include the pictures of the class holiday parties on Friday.  But really, I haven’t had any pictures printed in more than a year, so I have a lot of uploading to do on the computer tonight.

I have a nice dinner planned for tomorrow, including a cake I need to bake tomorrow morning.  We have some DS games that we need to track down at friends’ houses, but again, those can easily be mailed later.

Maybe I should make a checklist?  There is so much to remember, plus some things I wish I’d done at the beginning.  (For example, I did take pictures of all their things the first day they arrived, but I failed to document everything else that they got over the rest of the year.  Luckily, the kids have an encyclopedic memory of which Barbie outfit and Hot Wheel belongs to which kid.)

I’m pretty happy.  I’m happy that the kids, especially Mark, are handling the week well so far and there hasn’t been any ridiculous out of control behavior.  Maybe it helps that he knows his mom and I have a good relationship.  I’m happy that they’re happy to go home, although Daughter is pretty sad and keeps asking when we can have them back over for a playdate or sleepover, at which point Mark complains he never wants to stay the night here again.  Sigh.  Nikki also keeps asking if Daughter and Junior can come over and stay the night at her house.  Mmmmm, unlikely.  They are still convicted felons who live 45 minutes away.  How to explain that to a six-year old though?

 

This is the last weekend visit the kids have before going home.

The plan is to tell them on Monday that they will be (probably) going home on Friday.

It’s just dawning on me how busy this week is going to be.

Regular Christmas shopping, adopt-a-family shopping, which has to be done earlier of course, last playdates, last dinners with this family, finding and packing their things, and the last week of school.

And I want some time to process it too, what’s actually happening.

It’s been a YEAR.  I’ve spent a significant chunk of these kids’ lives with them.
These goodbyes won’t be a simple as they were for all our other kiddos.

 

 

Yesterday was two weeks until reunification day.

T minus 13 days and counting.  (And it annoys me to know end that every time I mention it my husband, he declares it’s not going to happen, something will go wrong between now and then, etc.  Remember I’m the eternal optimist?  What a buzzkill.)

Mark has picked up on it.  He knows.  He probably overheard me mentioning it to one of his friends’ moms.

Last night, the dropoff with his parents had to be delayed, so they ended up eating dinner with us.  He refused to eat anything and told me, without anger or resentment but just pure truth, that he doesn’t like it here.  It was almost sweet.

Those are good feelings, but they will probably make his last remaining days here the worst since he first arrived here.  Mark is NOT that attached to me or our family and he is REALLY attached to his family.  He wants to get outta here.

Interestingly, Nikki also REALLY loves her family but she has developed a pretty strong attachment to me and our family (especially daughter.)  I get the feeling it will be a lot harder for her and us to say goodbye.

But first things first.  Today’s the day to go through and pack up their toys.

As I type, I am hosting 9 children in two concurrent parties.

And as often happens, when you plan to the max every last detail, the kids decide to just do something else and you can sit around and do things like…blog.

I had supplies set out for picture frame decorating, pine cone painting, temporary tattooing, and then if we STILL had extra time, Bingo.  I had extra pizza.  I had the house clean (clean enough for kids anyway.)

And so when they walked in the door, the girls decided to run upstairs and play Barbies, and I haven’t seen them since.  The boys ran outside and played kickball (luckily the forecast of rain didn’t pan out, because I don’t think they were really in the mood to sit and glue puffballs on cardboard.)  They’re back in now playing multiple DSs, which isn’t my ideal activity, but they only have a little bit more time and hey, it is a party.

I guess I should overplan more often.

Calm seas here on the mothership.  (Mixed metaphors, schmixed metaphors.)  Good report cards and good behaviors all around for the most part.  Nikki started having homework this week, and she has been somewhat resistant to it but I am now an expert at handing her passive-aggressive whiny spells.

After my unofficial official word on reunification, I received more official word the return home still MIGHT just happen before winter break starts.  I guess that’s what happens when everyone wants to cover their butts, though I do appreciate the warning.  I really can’t imagine the judge choosing to send them home with just a week left of school though.

So I’ve got a date picked out for the kids’ “going away” party, but I am at a loss for what activities to plan.  Each kid is going to choose 4 or so friends to invite, and I’m picturing the party as having some sort of ‘friend’ theme without being too sad or weepy.

For the girls, it should be easy enough to have a craft or two to take home (maybe a picture frame with a photo of the group in it?) and then some snacks.  But for the boys?  We don’t have a Wii or other group type video game system and I’m afraid it will be too cold to plan on an outside activity.  And, well, that’s really all I see them ever do.  The only other thing I can think of is “make your own pizza” but that doesn’t really take much time.

Fellow foster parents, ideas?

Have some unofficially official word that the return home will not be until school ends for winter break.

Okay.

I can definitely handle that, now that I finally know.  If it stretched out that long without having that end in sight, well, that would be a different story.  But this recent startling development I mentioned earlier took away any possibility of an earlier time frame, and now I can feel comfortable actually planning the future!

Like, when Husband and I can get away to a bed and breakfast (that would be 3 days after they return home – I’m already reserving a room now…but shouldn’t I know better than to do that?  See my feelings below.)

and when/how we will consider new placements after the reunification (we’ll stay open until January 31st and we’re at the least changing our age range to 3 – 7.)

But given all the people I’ve been telling for months that it will be soon, I hope by Thanksgiving, etc etc., I’m feeling sort of sheepish about it too.

Like, do other people think I’m a dope for being so hopeful?  And I’m even going all the way back to the spring when I was telling people they would return home in the summer.  Did they think I was a sucker after the Great Summer Setback of ’10?

By people, I mostly mean those people in my everyday life who know I’m a foster parent and take a general interest in my family’s life.  So, other parents from school, Husband’s colleagues, family members, neighbors, and the like.

And I know I’m an eternal optimist.  I have faith in humanity, and certainly, Mark and Nikki’s parents have given 99% good signs that I should keep my faith in them.  It’s just those sneaky curveballs they throw my way.

I’m not going to change, even if I could choose to.  I hate cynicism.  But I wonder if I should even worry about how other people view me.  Do I give the impression that foster parents are naive?  Or that they are manipulated by the system?

Hopefully, people realize it’s just me.  I’m unabashedly hopeful for happy endings.

We found out some bad news yesterday about the kids’ biofamily.  Completely shocking, unexpected, I-don’t-even-want-t0-believe-it type news.  It really sucks.  The kids don’t know yet, but they will find out soon, and I expect there to be lots more talking and explaining to go on afterwards.  And probably some regression.  I don’t think it’s possible for Mark to pee in his bed anymore than he already does, but something else will happen I bet.

The funny thing is, this news actually probably won’t effect their reunification – it might be a few weeks delayed, but they’ll still be home soon, hopefully by Christmas now.  But it will definitely effect their long term future.

There is still hope though.  This situation could still end positively in time, and I hope it does.  I really hope the ‘team’ members involved in the kids’ case actually support the family and not just pressure them to do what’s easiest.   That’s what I’ll be doing!