Monday, March 24, 2014

So This Is Love...

So this is what they talk about.

This is what some people caution against.

This is what some people think is not truly possible.

This is why so many people say they "could never be foster parents".

This is that spot where your heart goes, even while knowing it might be headed for breaking...

I don't know if it's possible to truly love a child who you have just met because they've been brought to live at your house suddenly.  Yes, affection for their cuteness and a desire to care for them, but love?  If you don't even know the child, if they are a complete stranger to you, is there really much actual love possible right away?

The first week or so with Brother and Sister just felt like 24/7 babysitting.  Stressful babysitting. We had never parented before and suddenly we were expected to take care of two little humans at different stages of their little life.  We found ourselves asking our families and folks close to us things like "What do 18 month olds eat?" and "Do you put a 6 month old to sleep on their stomach?"  But it was more than that.  It was also "What does this particular 18 month old like to eat?" and "Does this particular 6 month old prefer to sleep on her stomach?"

We didn't know these kids.  They were little strangers in our home.  

But now?

We know that Brother adores turkey, cheese, strawberries, tortillas, apple juice...  We know he nods his head when he eats and we don't know why but it's adorable.  We know he likes to growl like a lion...or pirate...we're not sure which.  We know he throws both hands in the air and hollers "Yaaaaaaaay!!!" all the time, usually for no apparent reason.  We always join in.  We know that he often gets "hi" and "bye" mixed up and will blow kisses to anyone in sight.  We know that he has more tantrums on days when he has a visit with Mom.  We know that he sleeps like a champ and watches TV standing literally 3 inches away from it.

We know that Sister prefers to sleep on her stomach.  We know she is probably the most smiley baby in this city and that her hair on top curls into one very stereotypical baby curl.  We call her Cartoon Baby on occasion.  We know that actual baby food makes her gag and throw up and we're not sure what to do about it.  We know her little body asleep against our chest is the snuggliest feeling ever. We know that shots make her feverish for four nights. We know that when she came to us she couldn't sit up, roll over or hold her bottle, but now she can.  We know that she smiles in her sleep.

These kids found their way to our home and then quickly to our heart.  There's no question now that we love them.  Oh do we ever.  To any naysayers who think it's not possible to truly love a child you did not give birth to, frankly, you're wrong.

It's in the smiles and antics and laughter.  It's in the immense pleasure I get making his lunch each night for the next day.  It's in the recognition on their faces when we show up at daycare to pick them up.  It's in our grown up hands reaching down to two little outstretched ones wanting picked up for a hug and a quick staring contest.  It's in the interrupted nights, throw up clean up and tantrums.

It's there.  Love is there.  And it's not going anywhere, even if these children might.

Friday, March 21, 2014

We're Not Trying To Steal Someone Else's Kids

Within days after the kids came to us, we had lots of people ask us "Do you know yet if you can keep them?"  Well, no, we don't know that has been four days...

Recently, about 6 weeks into the placement, we've had another wave of folks asking us the same question, perhaps, understandably, thinking we have more knowledge of where things are headed now.  Nope, not really. These things take time.

Our kids' mom had her first visit scheduled with them five days after they came into foster care.  She didn't make the visit.  Honestly I think it was a mix up about time because she did then show up an hour later, but nevertheless, she missed it.   I later had this conversation with someone:

Me: "Their mom didn't make her first visit."
Other person:  "Oh, that's good, right?!"

.........No, actually....that's not good.  Ya see, I kind of want to set something straight.

We are not trying to steal someone else's kids.  While we are indeed dual licensed as foster and adoptive parents and do hope to adopt at some point through CPS, we're not trying to jump the gun.  Our intent is to present ourselves however we are needed. For now, that is as foster parents without a clue how things will turn out with these particular kids.  Down the road, it may be as adoptive parents for these or other children.  If we wanted to jump straight to "keeping them", then we should have been licensed as adoptive only parents and found a child or children whose parents' rights had been terminated and who were awaiting adoption.

We are rooting for their mom, not against her.  We want, want, want her to be able to get her kids back and them to be a whole family again. Reunification is always the goal, always, unless and until it has been clearly determined by the court that it can't happen.  Just like it took their family falling apart to put our little for-now family together, our little for-now family will have to break apart for their family to get back together.   We calculated that risk plenty beforehand and are prepared for that heartbreak if it comes.  Honestly, if it means that their mom is on her feet, doing great, keeping them safe and taking care of them, bring on that heartbreak.  If the powers that be determine that they can go home, we will trust their decision and it would be with many tears of both sadness and joy that I hand these sweet kids back to their mama.

It's a weird place to be, not gonna lie.  You just have to have the right mindset in this and understand that CPS is not trying to tear families apart.  They're trying to get families back together and they try really hard.  How the birth parents respond to what they need to do is not in CPS' control, but we can all root for them in the meantime.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Discovering The Definition Of "Run Ragged"

Potential alternate titles for this post:

Two Chest X-Rays In One Family In One Week Is Too Many
Remember That Time I Became A Parent During Tax Season?
Spring Break 2014: Pneumonia And No Sleep
The Best Laid Plans Will Stab You In The Back

Omg, people.  Like, dear Universe, seriously?  At least thank you for dive bombing us while Trent was on spring break and could field most of the crazy.

Last week was supposed to be easy.  Trent had off from seminary classes and from the after school program he runs.  He was going to do all daycare drop offs and pickups so I could work a lot.  He was going to tackle a bunch of house projects, car projects and school projects.

Then Brother got pneumonia and we launched into lotsa meds and breathing treatments.

Then Sister got shots and we launched into five feverish days and nights of very little sleep.

Then Mama got bronchitis and a wicked cough and just kept launching and launching until doctor said go home and rest.

Then Dada got a sinus infection and crashed and burned after being a rock star and keeping our family more or less sane for the whole week.

Things I learned last week:

-Parenting is hard (ok I learned that on like day 2 of having kids)

-Parenting during tax season when I'm supposed to be working 55 hours a week is really hard

-Sitting on a quilt on the floor with a feverish baby at 3 am who won't sleep in her bed, surrounded by Tylenol, throw up covered rags from Tylenol she can't keep down, a bottle she doesn't want, a thermometer beeping high numbers and not a clue how to make it all better is a rather desolate, lonely place to be...

-There is no quota for number of prayers that may rise from my heart and lips in a week's time.  If there is, I knocked it out of the ballpark and into the river beyond.

-I need to listen to people around me who care about me when they tell me to take care of myself before I hit bottom.  Like the coworker who said she would personally come unplug my computer if I didn't go home and get well.  Or my husband who, after several crazy days for him and more crazies ahead, just wanted me to go home and sleep.

-Sitting on the living room floor having "breathing treatment parties" with our son to get both our sets of lungs healthy again is kind of special, in a weird way.   I'm glad his 19 month self doesn't understand my joking references to hookah lounges and taking hits...

-I need to eat.  Even if it means leaving kids crying for a few minutes while I gobble something, anything, I need to eat more and better.  I've lost 12 pounds since the kids came to us, which you'd think would make me happy, but it makes me frustrated, because I know it is a result of not taking care of myself.  And none of my clothes fit.  It's really dumb.

-My husband is amazing.  (Ok, I learned that in September of 2005...)  He stayed home with Brother and slept in his room for two nights.  He kept his own sanity intact throughout an almost 3 hour doctor appointment with Brother which included a chest xray and one cranky toddler.   He somehow still got a lot of reading done for school.   He fixed the washing machine, again.  He fixed the hot water heater.  He fixed the vacuum.  On night #4 of the Fever Saga, after what can only be described as a middle of the night mini breakdown by me, he slept the remainder of the night propped up on the sofa with Sister sound asleep on his chest, just so I could finally sleep.  He hugged me and pep talked me and calmed me down from my little freak out sessions, even though he was the one shouldering the bulk of the stress.  He carried us.  Could not have made it through without him.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Day In The Life Of A Foster Parent

Disclaimer: I realize plenty of these items could simply be a day in the life of any parent.  

5:45 am
Awake to alarm, briefly wonder why Trent isn't in bed and remember he slept in the twin bed in Brother's room to monitor said little one's fever/coughing/throwing up situation throughout the night.

5:50 am
Peek in on the sleeping boys briefly, shower and get ready for work

6:33 am
Text kids' social worker to let her know Brother is pretty sick and ask what that means for their scheduled parent visit mid morning since he is staying home with Trent today.

6:40 am
Get picked up by obliging coworker because Trent's car is in the shop, head to work via Starbucks, paid for by said wonderful coworker

6:45 am
Arrive at work

7:06 am
Social worker responds that Sister will go to the parent visit and Brother will not, she will transport Sister to the visit as planned.  She asks to reschedule her home visit scheduled for this evening for next Monday.  Sure, whatever works.

7:15 am
Leave work in aforementioned lifesaver coworker's car, drive home, get Sister up, dressed and into her car seat while Trent and Brother remain asleep, take Sister to daycare in my own car because that is where her seat base is, return to house and leave my car there for Trent.

8:00 am
Return to work in coworker's car, call doctor and make mid morning appointment for Brother

8:04 am
Text social worker to let her know I put one of Brother's paintings from daycare in the diaper bag I sent with Sister, for their Mom to keep if she wants to.

8:30 am
Receive update from Trent that Brother awoke feeling tons better with no fever, cancel doctor appointment, only to regret it later.  At least his "well child checkup" is scheduled for tomorrow so we can turn that into a sick child checkup if needed.

Work.  And receive periodic reports from Trent about how Brother is doing just fine and brought him his shoes and jacket as if to say "let's go somewhere".  Dada and Brother run some errands with his shoes and jacket over his footy pajamas.  Stylin'.

11:15 am
Get picked up by the boys at my office, pick up Trent's car, eat early lunch at DQ with Brother who was starting to act rather tired.  Chicken strips are a hit.

Return to work.  Do work.  Receive report that Brother konked out for a nap.

Early afternoon
Text with Trent about leaky washing machine, dead carpet cleaner, remaining work needed on his car, my car, the truck, decide to buy a rug for the living room for the kids to play on, and a new carpet cleaner

3:20 pm
Text kids' social worker to follow up again on CCS daycare subsidy payment which has yet to kick in after almost a month and a half, when it's supposed to after ten days to two weeks.  Receive response that the initial social worker who removed the children began the CCS request paperwork but did not complete it so the request was not made until last week when I last followed up.   Let social worker know we just received their regular reimbursement check and it can be used to cover this month+ of daycare.

4:19 pm
Receive call from kids' social worker who gives more details on the CCS slip up and lets me know the previous social worker has been asked by her supervisor to write a letter to CCS to request retroactive payment since the mistake and delay are her fault.  No guarantee if it'll work, but worth a try.  Also no guarantee she will write the letter apparently.  Receive report that visit that morning with Mom went well. Instructed to email the forms from the kids' upcoming medical checkups to both her (the social worker) and the kids' attorney, who would think I was "the best foster parent ever" if I send him said reports.

5:15 pm
Ditch plans to work until 6:30 and instead plan to go pick up Sister from daycare and meet Trent and Brother at Home Depot to get new carpet cleaner and rug for living room.   Head to Home Depot to meet the boys and plan to get everyone and everything home and settled then head back to the office for an hour or two.

6:04 pm
Receive call from our Foster & Adoptive Home Development (FAD) social worker (who trained us and whose job it is to support us as foster parents) saying "Are you going to be home soon?"   "Well, yes, we're headed home right now."  "Ok, I'll be here."  Our first unannounced visit.  Good thing I cleaned the house yesterday!

6:15ish pm
Arrive home and let in the waiting social worker who was sitting in her car and not, in fact, hiding in our bushes as she joked she would for unannounced visits.  Great visit with her as she checked in on us, asked how we're doing, how the kids are doing, made sure our guns and medicine were properly locked up, looked at the kids rooms and headed on her way.

7:00 pm
Attempt to give Sister some medicine she needs.  It makes her incredibly sensitive gag reflex kick in and she throws up on me.   Bath time.

7:20 pm
Take Brother's temp and realize it's back up to a fever.  Give him medicine, he throws up a little bit and looks so miserable. He's asleep before Trent can get him laid down in the bed.  

7:30 pm
Give Sister her bottle and rock her to sleep, with tears streaming down my face as I pray over and over "please help him feel better, please help him feel better..."

8:00 pm
Pack Sister's bag for daycare tomorrow.  Eat a PB&J sandwich.  Remember that I had intended to go back to work for a little while.  Cry a bit more.  Smile at Trent singing the "Mr. Mom" song.  Unlock the cabinet and take cough medicine.

8:30 pm
Decide to blog, even though I should probably just go to bed.  Consider tackling a personal and heavy post in my draft lineup but decide I'm not up to it.

9:20 pm
Sister stirs. She rolled herself into the side of the bed.  Ow.  Rock her back to sleep. Check her temperature for good measure and sigh with relief that it's normal.  Realize the 2 second temporal thermometer we got is some of the best money we've spent.

9:45: pm
Set my alarm earlier to get to work at 6:00 am to make up lost time for today.  Do the math for how much sleep that isn't.  Omg, goodnight.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

This Is How Much My Husband Loves Me

Our house is kind of old and has plenty of quirks, one of which is the faucet in our hall bathroom.  When you pull up on the knob above the faucet, it does not easily seal up and send the water to the shower head like it's supposed to.   And when I say "does not easily", I actually mean it's practically impossible for me to get it to do it for some reason and my few successes involve jamming my thumb up into the faucet to push the mechanism up from below, while turning the water on from above.  Said mechanism in there is pointy and huuuuurts my thumb like the dickens.  Meanwhile the pipes and faucet gurgle super loudly as it tries to make the switch and I worry it will wake sleeping children at 5:30 in the morning when I'm fighting with it, trying to get ready for work.

This was not really a problem before we got kids because the shower almost always stayed on shower setting instead of bathtub setting.  Now?  We draw a bath for Brother every night which means the offending stem gets popped down into bathtub mode and who is the next person needing to use it as a shower early the next morning?  Me.

Enter Trent, who for some reason is like the god of quirky bathtub faucets and has no problem popping that stem up with one swift motion into shower mode.   I am insanely jealous of his faucet skillz.  I have tried to learn his ways, but to no avail.

You want to know how much my husband loves me?  

Almost every evening, he goes in there after Brother's bath, turns the water on for a few seconds and pops that stem up for me so that my shower is ready to go for the morning.  If he doesn't remember, he quickly responds to my "Can you please turn it into a shower for me?" plea with no very little teasing about my inability to do so and my hurting thumb when I try.

This stupid faucet battle is no big deal to Trent but is actually a weird, stupid, legitimate source of stress to me.  He has realized that and he makes that stress go away every day.  Bam.  Here's your shower, babe, no need to worry...or hurt your thumb.

How did I get so lucky?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Let's Talk About Parent Visits

Brother and Sister have visits with their mom once a week.  For kids this little, that level of frequency is very common and older kids in foster care may not see their parent(s) as often. They have had three visits with Mom so far and Trent or I has taken them to the CPS office each time.

Covert Operation
I mentioned in this post that CPS parent visits are like a covert drug deal but with babies.  We tell a social worker in advance what make, model and color of car we're driving so they know what to look for.  We pull into a loading zone at the back of the CPS building, the aforementioned social worker comes out and takes the kids in.  We kill time for an hour, return to the loading zone and wait for the social worker to bring the kids back out to our car.  We know this is how it's supposed to go.   The foster parents are supposed to remain anonymous to the biological parents.  But it still feels kind of weird.

"This is harder than I thought it would be.  Like, what's happening in there?"
That is a text that Trent sent to me the first time he took the kids to a visit.  He wasn't worried for their safety.  The visits are held in a CPS playroom that is flanked by a one way mirror, on the other side of which sits a social worker who monitors the visit via the one way mirror and microphones in the room.  The parent knows this.  They're not being spied on.   So the kids are safe Mom interacting with them, playing with them, showing them love?  We want so badly for her to be a good Mom.  Is she making the effort or is she just showing up?

Wardrobe Changes
At two of their three visits so far, Mom has changed both their outfits into their backup diaper bag clothes.  The time she didn't I was so glad, since the diaper bag clothes were NOT warm enough for the freezing weather outside. Good sense, Mom.  I mentioned these wardrobe changes to a veteran foster parent we know and she was not at all surprised, said it's super common.  It gives the parent a moment of control, of choice, of...parenting.

Sister is young enough and chill enough that she's pretty much good with whoever and whatever, so visits with Mom don't really affect her.  I wonder if she even really remembers Mom since we are the ones she's sees every day now instead.  That thought saddens me.   But Brother...oof.  Trent has taken them to the last two visits and he told me that each time when the social worker brought them out to him, Brother was just crying and crying.  Not his tantrum cry.  Not hitting or scratching or whining.  Just...crying.  Big tears.  The social worker said he starts as soon as Mom gets up to leave at the end of the visit.  He calms down right away as soon as he gets into Trent's arms, but breaks our heart to see him so conflicted and confused.  Their social worker is going to pick them up from daycare and take them to and from the visit the next two weeks.  I worry she's going to have one sad little boy on her hands afterwards, at least until he gets back to his daycare teacher.  He trusts her and we are so grateful to her for pouring into his little life right now.

So...parent visits are a little weird, a little time consuming, a little heartbreaking.  But they are important, so important.