Friday, February 28, 2014

Dear Medicaid

Dear Medicaid,

If I could, I would take you out for ice cream.  But I can't, because you are a government agency.  So instead, let me count the ways that I have loved working with thee in the past 3.5 weeks...

Your phone menu understands me when I say "member" and "something else".

Your on hold time has been two minutes or less every time.

Your staff have been peppy and so helpful each of the many times I have called as we tried to figure out why Sister got completely updated to foster care status but Brother did not.

They explained things to me and were informative without being condescending.

The items I was told I'd receive in the mail within a few days did indeed arrive in the mail within a few days.

Did I mention that your people are so nice?  Like they actually wanted to help me?

Keep up the good work, Medicaid.  Onward.

Anna Pie

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I'm Now The Person With The Food Stamp Card In the Grocery Store Line

I mentioned in this post that children in foster care are eligible for WIC (Women Infant Children) benefits, which is a division of the food stamps program that focuses on, well, women, infants and children.   It provides things like formula, baby food, milk, cheese, eggs, bread, etc for eligible families.  Since our three hour appointment to get signed up, we are also now eligible for this.

We have food stamp cards...   Yep, that lady holding you up in the grocery store line taking the couple extra minutes to use her Lonestar might be me...getting formula for Sister and milk, cheese, juice and bread for Brother.

I used it for the first time Sunday evening when Mama Judy came over and I was able to slip away to the store.  I intentionally looked for a checkout line with a seasoned looking cashier since I knew I was gonna have to ask how to use the dang thing.   I whipped out both cards, one for each kid, and told the guy right away that it was my first time using them and I needed guidance.  When he was confused why I had two cards, I explained I am a foster parent and we have two children in our care.  From then on, we were smooth sailing.  He told me since I had two cards, we had to do two transactions, so we set aside Sister's formula for round two and mixed Brother's stuff in with my regular groceries.  He showed me how to stick the cards into the machine, microchip face down, and push all the right buttons. While the machine did its thinking and updating, we talked about how he is going back to school to teach special education.

WIC saved us $77 in that one trip and that was only a partial month of benefits since we started mid February.  Already worth the 3 hour appointment to get signed up...well, almost.

I am very grateful to the young man named Peter that helped me use our food stamp cards for the first time and taught me the process.   And I'm grateful to the people in line behind me who waited patiently (or at least appeared to) for me and Peter to get everything figured out.

Next time you get huffy about someone's Lonestar card slowing down the grocery line...pause.  It might be a foster parent using the resources available to them to properly care for the children in their home.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What It's Like To Have Someone Else's Child Call You Mama

Brother started calling us Mama and Dadda pretty quickly after he and Sister came to our home.  We didn't try to stop it.  If these were older kids, we'd have the conversation about what they wanted to call us, that they didn't need to feel like they have to call us mom or dad, that their own mom or dad is still an important part of their life and we respect that, etc.  But these are babies.  Sister doesn't know the difference.  She'll just smile at (or pass out on) whoever's got her at the moment.  Brother has some words though, so Mama and Dadda we are.

It weirded me out at first.   

I felt like I was stealing something from their actual mom, like I was somehow betraying her.  I also felt like I didn't know this little boy well enough to even be close to deserving the title of mama.   I'm not the mama on paper. I didn't give him and Sister life.  I'm a random nice lady into whose home they were plunked.

But I'm ok with it now.  

I'm still not their mama on paper, but...

I'm the woman in their life who takes showers with background noise of persistent 2.5 foot tall knocks on the door.

I'm the woman in their life who looked down at her jeans on the way to work Saturday morning and realized the hem was covered in dried baby throw up.

I'm the woman in their life who stocks the fridge with bottles in the evening, for 10:00, 2:00 and 4:00, or some middle of the night variation thereof.

I'm the woman in their life with the baby monitor on her belt.

I'm the woman in their life who is guaranteed to pick him up for a hug and a staring contest when he raises his little hands up to me.

I'm the woman in their life gagging over poopy diaper smell and getting soaked next to a particularly splish-splashy bath.

I'm the woman in their life who silently fist pumps the air after successfully laying Sister down to sleep.  Third time appears to be the charm lately.

I'm the woman in their life who gives tickles, bottles, medicine and correction.

I'm the woman in their life who has sung Jesus Loves You about ten gazillion times in the past 2.5 weeks and is not yet tired of it.

I'm not their mama.  Not technically.  I'm not replacing her.  But while their mama is figuring some things out and getting back on her feet, I'm thrilled to be an additional mama to them.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pep Talks, Peace and Palpable Anxiety

To say that we have faced some curve balls in the past two weeks would be somewhat of an understatement.  But here we are, two weeks into our first foster care placement and still alive.  I'm beginning to wonder if the normal routine or a whole week of uninterrupted daycare for our kids may not actually be possible.  Frankly, this foster care stuff is pretty much all over the place and rather nuts.  One minute I'm rolling with the punches as if we are pros (yeah right), the next minute I'm feeling an overwhelming sense of peace that we are in the right place and the next I'm overcome by a heavy anxiety when another curve ball comes our way.

Pep Talks
I have told myself "we can do this" about fifty gazillion times in the past two weeks.  My little village of texters in my phone has encouraged and provided advice.  I have told myself daily "they are happy and safe and fed and warm and clean.  That is good enough for right now."  Some folks have chimed in about how Sister should be rolling over by now and Brother should be saying more words.  We have bigger fish to fry at the moment, like smiling the biggest smiles ever and sing-songing "la la la love yoooou".

It's really weird and nothing but a God thing I believe, just how peaceful I have felt at certain times since Brother and Sister came to us.  Like, there's no explaining it.  No possible way that a need-to-be-in-control person like me should feel the sense of calm I have felt off and on in this chaotic two weeks.   I feel like our household and our little for-now family is covered in prayer from the many lovely people in our life and God has posted a host of guardian angels around our home.  That's the only way I can explain it.  It's weird. And wonderful.

Palpable Anxiety
But it hasn't been all peace and calm in my heart.   When both kids are crying at the same time.  When Brother starts hitting and scratching because he's tired.  When I remember I haven't written down their medicine log for two days.  When daycare calls to say Sister has thrown up and to come take her home.  When daycare calls to say Brother has a fever and to come take him home. When our pharmacy's system is down and I have to go on a wild goose chase to get medicine home to a sick and sleepy boy. When Trent has to skip class. When I have another week of not hitting the 55 tax season hours I'm supposed to be working right now.  When I wonder just how fed up my employer is getting with my wishy washy whereabouts.   My heart tightens up and I kind of go cold and I fight tears and I just want to push it all away and hide.  Hide from the chaos.  Hide from the crying.  Hide from the unmet expectations.  Hide from the curve ball coming straight at my face.

But I can't hide.  I gotta face the chaos and the curve balls and wait for the peace to come back.  We signed up for crazy and by golly "we can do this".

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

OMG! Appointments!

There's a lot of STUFF you have to do when you first get a foster placement.

We've been to the doctor twice and still have to take both kids another time.

Brother is supposed to go to the dentist.

Social workers took them to one failed parent visit, then right back to daycare.

I've taken them to a successful parent visit.

They'll likely have another parent visit this week.

We took them to get signed up for WIC, which took almost 3 hours and was not fun.

We're kind of to the point where we're wondering "Dear CPS, can the kids just have a regular week when we don't have to yank them out of their routine for an appointment?"  We're trying to find some normalcy here for these kids and all these appointments are kind of throwing a wrench in that.  I understand that the foster care side of Medicaid needs doctor and dentist visits on file.  I understand that parents need to see their kids for visits.  I understand that if we want the WIC benefits, we have to trudge over there and do the time to get signed up.  But goodness gracious, I hope soon we can cool it with all the appointments!

In the meantime, we're rolling with it and doing what needs to be done.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Reflections On Our First Week As A Foster Family

We're one week in to being a foster family.  This time last week, we were getting to know Brother and Sister who had just been brought to our house.  It has been quite a week.  Ok, that's an understatement.

It has been hard
Hey, you try having two strange kids plopped into your home with no context and no idea what kind of stuff or clothes you already have for them or need for them.  The first few days were nothing more than chaos management as we got to know these kids, tried to figure out what we had and what we needed, updated loved ones on our situation and tried to maintain sanity.  Today I think we finally hit our stride with a routine and by golly, it feels good.

But it has been good
Trent has taken some pictures over the course of this week which he put together today and showed to me.  The difference in these kids between Day 2 and Day 7 is obvious, in a good way.  They came to us not feeling well, stressed out and tired with frowns, sunken eyes and pale faces.  We can already tell they have brightened up, Sister gained a little weight and they are super smiley.  I think I flipped through those pictures about 12 times today.  This is why we are doing this. 

I have cried a lot
This is a duh.  I'm a cry-er anyway, especially under stress, which has been abundant, and especially when I don't get much sleep, which I haven't.  In a text conversation with Trent's sister, I told her that whenever I've had little pauses, the gravity of this whole situation hits me like a ton of bricks.  She said "I think that's why God only gives little pauses."  

The kids have not cried a lot
These are such good kids.  Omg.  Out of all the issues we could be dealing with right issues, anxiety, bedtime issues, name it, there just aren't many showing up.  These kids get upset if they are bored, sleepy, hungry or hurt and, well, that's pretty normal I'd say.  Brother sleeps like a champ and Sister is getting better at it as we figure her out.

I got sick
The kids were congested when they came to us and gave it to me.  I ended up with a nasty cough and only half a voice since Monday.  But a doctor trip yesterday yielded a steroid shot, antibiotics, nasal spray and cough meds, so I should be good. to. go.

Parent visits are like a covert drug deal but with babies
Brother and Sister had a visit with their mom earlier this week.  Because foster parents are supposed to remain anonymous to the biological parents, I took the kids to the back door, which is in a striped off loading zone, handed them off to a social worker who shuffled them inside, then I went about my business for an hour, came back and parked in the no-parking zone until she shuffled them back outside to me, collected them and went on my way.   Weird.

Our church is awesome
After I threw up the white flag Sunday night and called over one of our former youth moms, who then witnessed a high level of distress and chaos over here, she and some ladies from our new church circled the wagons and we have been wrapped in a snugly circle of Christian love and support since.  This includes donations of supplies, toys and diapers, lots of prayers and advice, and actual humans coming over to either help wrangle kids while I organized clothes and toys or organize toys and clothes that I pointed to while I wrangled kids.  At one point a lady from church that I hadn't actually officially met until she came over was folding my underwear...  That's church, my friend.

This is our new normal:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Instafam - Our First Night With Two Kids


We are a family of four.   Three of which are asleep right now.

I would like to introduce to you, within the realms of CPS' privacy policy, the two kids who have been in our home for the past 20 or so hours, who will be known on this blog as "Brother" and "Sister".

They are adorable, super chill, and based on the past night and morning, might be the best sleeping foster kids in the state of Texas.  Sister slept through the night and Brother would have except for a throw-up related ordeal at 3 am.  I, on the other hand, was on high alert all night and barely slept a wink.

Sister is smiley and just wants to be held. She has radical hiccups.  Brother has latched on to Trent and likes Trent to pick him up then they stare at each other and he pokes Trent's beard.

Trent has yet to change a diaper.  When I ask if he wants to give it a go he says "Eh, it can wait another hour."  He can't avoid it forever, mwa ha ha.

We have experienced a huge outpouring of well wishes, prayers, guidance and STUFF just this morning from the many wonderful people surrounding us in this adventure.

So far so good.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Money Is Replaceable

My mom has taught me many valuable life lessons over the years, like how to "Go! Fight! Win!" at life, how to selflessly serve others, how to be silly and laugh, how to pick apart a whole boiled chicken, how to sew curtains and how to talk to strangers without hiding behind her.

She also taught me this lesson: Money is replaceable.

When I embarked on a certain class at Baylor as a little 17 year old freshman that proved WAY out of my league, and I had to tell my parents it was not possible to return my opened package of textbooks for a refund after I dropped the class..."Money is replaceable, Pie."

When I stressed over them spending over $700 on new brakes for my ten year old college car..."Anna Pie, you need to be safe. Money is replaceable."

And so on and so forth throughout my formative and early adulthood years as I repeatedly moaned and groaned about spending money on unforeseen life hiccups.   Much like her "Go! Fight! Win!" mantra is oft present in my conversations with myself, so is "Money is replaceable."

When our heater breaks down at home and we have to hand over $296 for a new thermostat, new evaporator transformer and repair labor..."Money is replaceable."

When my baby sister raises money for a mission trip to Peru and we wanted to support her..."Money is totally replaceable!"

When I get the first speeding ticket of my life and (after sobbing my eyeballs out the rest of the evening and feeling too embarrassed to even be alive) have to hand over $170 to the Municipal Court..."Money is replaceable, @#%* it!"

You see, my parent's bank account doesn't even remember that textbook cost a decade ago, or those new brakes.  As soon as our house's temperature rose above the 54 degrees to which it had sunk, I was ready to give that repair guy a hug along with the check.  And the ticket...well...that'll sting for a while yet...sigh...

Life costs money, people.  Things happen, good and bad, and they cost money.  Can't get away from it.  That doesn't mean buying a new tire is a walk in the park or forking over money for something stupid is any fun.  But it doesn't have to send you to the depths of despair for ever and always.  Another payday will roll around.  You can slowly replenish that savings account that took a hit or pay down that credit card you had to dip into.  And in a few weeks or months or years, you won't even know the difference.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Why I Think Coca-Cola's Superbowl Ad Is Beautiful

When this Coca-Cola ad aired last night during the Superbowl, many people took to Twitter and other outlets to show disdain and hatred about this stirring rendition of our country's song.   The room I was sitting in fell silent.  I heard a chorus of whispers..."Oh wow"..."Well done, Coke, well done"..."That was beautiful"...  My eyes teared up, partly because I am grateful to live my life and watch Superbowl commercials with loving, open minded, respectful people and partly because I do indeed think this ad is beautiful.

Because my great, great, great grandfather arrived in America on a boat from Europe, and one of yours likely did too.

Because my Dad's first language was German, not English.

Because my sister is getting a master's degree so she can work with undocumented minors, i.e. "illegals", to help them attain citizenship.

Because my husband and I might adopt children that don't look like us.

Because our neighbors across the street have an amazingly beautiful, musical, Hispanic celebration in their front yard each year a few days before Christmas with colorful dresses and intricate dancing.

Because a beautiful woman wearing a head covering does not deserve to automatically be labeled terrorist.

Because "from sea to shining sea" is a lot of space with a lot of different people in it.

Because a nation can have one standard language for matters of administration and education, and many, many languages for matters of family and culture.

Because the sound of sweet children singing their country's song in any language is simply adorable.