Monday, June 30, 2014

If You Want Something Done Right...'ve got to do it yourself.

Last week when Evie spent two nights at OFM's house, I sent her with three matching outfits (two for the days she would be there and one extra).  She ended up wearing some purple pants and a not-the-same-color-purple shirt together one day.  When I was packing her bag for her weeklong vacation with them this week, I grouped her clothes into matching shirts and shorts and a pair of underwear tucked inside each (OCD much?).  In my experience as a camp counselor, I have seen OCD organized moms pack just like I did, only to see from the counselor side that things didn't turn out like those moms intended - the kids wear the same shirt four days in a row (even though they have clean ones) or they wear clothes that don't come even close to matching.  So I realize that OFM is probably not as particular about the clothes as I am, but I'm sure Evie will have fun. 

I also have been waiting for Evie's immunization records, pretty much since she came to me.  I know that her caseworker specifically requested them from her old pediatrician's office at least three weeks ago.  She also requested the records from the DHEC office since she hadn't received them from the pediatric clinic and the clinic is only open two days a week.  She received the DHEC record, but it specifically said that it was not valid for entrance to school.  Today I went to the public school to try to enroll her in the 4k program, seeing if they would accept the DHEC record temporarily to at least get the ball rolling.  They said they could not accept the application at all until everything was complete, including the official immunization record; they also said that as a foster parent, I should be able to go to the pediatric clinic to request it.  I guess because the caseworker talked about requesting it from the clinic, I had in my head that the request for records had to come from DSS since they have official custody.  But once the school said that, I figured it made sense that I should be able to get the records since I have guardianship.  Today happened to be one of the two days that they are open during the week, so I called and they said that, yes, I could get the immunization record.  I also happened to have a large gap in my schedule today due to a couple of cancellations, so I ended up driving 20 minutes to the town where the clinic is and picked up the records.  What DSS could not accomplish in over six weeks, I was able to do in less than two hours.  Now at least I know that I can get records if I am to need them in the future. 

On the agenda tomorrow - go back to the school to take the application.  They told me today that they were not full, so I'm hoping that the fact that she is a foster child will qualify for the program (The program is based on "income."  I had to submit my income information, but also Evie's Medicaid card, so we will see how this process goes). 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Who Are You?

Now that I have had 2000 hits on the blog, including places like Russia, Canada, and Ukraine just in the last week, I am wondering who is reading.  Do I know people "in real life" (IRL) from those places?  If so, I would love to know who you are; and if not, I would love to know how you found the blog.  Please comment and let me know what city/state and/or country you are from, if I know you IRL and how you found my blog if I don't.  If you have a connection to foster care and/or adoption, I would love to know that as well.  I'm looking forward to getting to know who is out there reading!  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

End of June Update

I thought I would update on how things are going.

I have taken Evie to several doctor/dentist appointments.  She now has dental surgery scheduled in July to have work done on NINE teeth (crowns or fillings).  It makes me really sad.  She can't have many more than 18 teeth total in her whole mouth.  The teeth are black, and it was obvious to me when I first brushed her teeth that they had cavities.  Obviously, no one has ever bothered to look in her mouth before.  She constantly asks to chew gum, so she probably was allowed to chew gum all the time, and I doubt it was sugarless. 

She has a 3-year old brother (J) who is with another foster family.  Several weeks ago, he came over and spent the day with us.  It was all fine, until the end of the day.  Evie had asked if he was spending the night, and I said he would be going home after dinner.  So at the time I started to fix dinner, she started crying, culminating in uncontrollable crying on the way home.  Then one day last week, she went and spent a couple of nights with J's foster family.  It was my birthday week, and I had a glorious day full of sleeping in, a movie with popcorn, a massage, and an ice cream sundae for dinner!  Now she will be going with his foster family on vacation all of next week.  I get the impression that Bio Mom kind of invited Evie on the trip; and feel bad that Other Foster Mom (OFM)might feel guilted into taking Evie.  But I also have to remember that OFM is a big girl and could have said no if she really wanted to.  It wasn't my idea, and I really had nothing to do with it. 

Evie talks to Mom every night on the phone.  (I would love to hear from other foster parents if this is typical.)  The investigator that brought her here the first night said it was okay for her to talk to Mom, and it ended up evolving into this.  Originally she was talking to her for about 5 minutes on the way to daycare in the mornings, and 15-20 minutes every night.  Then I had used all of my cell phone plan minutes within the first 15 days of the 30 day cycle, and I had to say that we could only do five minute conversations on the weeknights and longer on the weekend nights when I have unlimited minutes.  I thought Mom had been less animated and with a little bit of an attitude on the phone in the last week or so.  Tonight when Evie was talking to her she said (after a visit with Mom and J today) that J wasn't crying when they left today; Mom said, "That's because OFM lets J talk to me for a long time on the phone."  Grrr...

In the last week or two, Evie has had increased bouts of uncontrollable crying about minor things.  For example, we were over at my friends' house for cake for my birthday.  My friend told Evie that we could take some cake home with us, but ended up not giving us any when we left.  On the way home, Evie asked if I had the cake.  I said no, and she ended up bursting into tears saying, "But she said she was going to give us some cake!!"  I know that it is not really about the cake, and that emotions are just on the surface from being separated from Mom, but now I have started wondering if it is such a good idea for Evie to be talking to mom every night if it is stirring up emotions.  Evie went to a counseling appointment today (the first one), and I had the caseworker ask her that very question; but the counselor said she would have to talk with her supervisor. 

I am trying to get her into the 4k program at the public school as she definitely has some academic delays and gaps that need to be filled.  I have been waiting on her immunization record and birth certificate (I finally got them today), but think the school is closed tomorrow.  I don't know that she will still be with me when school starts, but I figure that maybe if I get her accepted into the program, that the family may be more apt to transfer her registration to their home school. 

As far as how long she will be with me, since that is the question that everyone asks... the answer is that I have no clue.  The next court date is July 11, so for sure Evie will be with me until then.  The caseworker had told me a couple of weeks ago that Mom only had one thing left on her treatment plan and that the appointment was already set, so I figured she may have everything together to get the kids back at the court date.  But when I asked the caseworker the other day about it, she said that Mom still has to find a new place to live, and that will take more time; and that Evie would go to stay with her aunt and uncle (they are in the process of home study to be licensed to get the kids as a relative placement) before she would go back with Mom. 

That's my life in a nutshell.  It will be awfully quiet around here next week without all the questions while Evie is gone on vacation with her brother's foster family...

Sunday, June 15, 2014


** May 22, 2015 - Edited to add:  This is my most popular post and it continues to get hits almost daily close to a year after I posted it.  I'm assuming it must be linked somewhere that continues to bring people to my site to read this.  If you are reading this after finding my blog through a link, I would love for you to leave me a comment and let me know how you found me! **

Yesterday Evie and I went to the Miracle League baseball game (the baseball team for kids with special needs that I help coach) and then to Moe's for lunch.  Four weeks before (which was four days after I got Evie), we did the exact same thing.  As I sat there eating lunch, I was remembering how things went last month and realized how different things are now. 

The biggest thing that stood out, and that made me even begin thinking about this, is how UTTERLY EXHAUSTED I was sitting and eating lunch that day last month.  I was in a fog, just existing - and barely surviving - with this little 4-year old who had shown up on my doorstep.  A friend of mine joined us, and at that point I was so thankful for another adult there, and those moments with other people were what kept me sane (both for the opportunity to have an adult conversation, as well as to have someone else interact with Evie so my mind could take a mental break). Yesterday, I could actually enjoy lunch, with just me and her.

Lunch was so much less messy yesterday!  And we actually used manners!  Last month, Evie ended up with cheese dip ALL OVER her shirt; yesterday, she was completely clean when we left.  This was partly due to Evie's improved eating skills of leaning over her plate, wiping her mouth, and eating more slowly; and partly due to my increased ability to remind her to do these things when she didn't do them on her own.  She also was mostly chewing with her mouth closed, and held up her finger to tell me to wait a minute before she answered a question I asked her because she had food in her mouth at that second.  (She would have NEVER done that a month ago, and it's still a work in progress.) 

At the baseball game yesterday, Evie was laughing and playing with other kids, seeking attention from one of the other coaches, and sometimes standing on the other side of the fence from me (by her choice).  Last month, she wouldn't leave my side (I specifically remember a situation where she wanted to get a pom-pom what was about 15 feet away from us, when hardly anyone else was around.  She would not go get that pom-pom by herself; and I finally got her to do it by telling her to see if she could get it and get back before I counted to ten.)

It has been fun to see Evie blossom into a more confident and secure - and socially adept - little girl!

Thursday, June 5, 2014


In the last few days as we started week #4 of Evie being with me, the questions have FINALLY slowed down.  But oh, my! has it been a long road! 

I realize that asking questions about EVERYTHING is a normal stage for kids.  I also realize that some kids ask many more questions than others.  But I really think that there is something more to these questions than normal developmental curiosity. 

For at least a couple of weeks, the questions in the car were CONSTANT.  They are still being asked but not as much as before. 
               Why are you stopping?  Why are you turning here?  Which way are we going?  Which way is home?  Why are you slowing down/speeding up?  Are you going the right speed?  Why is this light red?  Why are you going when the light is red?  (She was looking at the light of the traffic on the perpendicular street.)  Is the Popo going to get us?  What road is this? 

There are questions about things she knows the answer to. 
                 At dinner one night, I was drinking my drink and she asked, "What are you doing?"  In my head - "It is obvious that I am drinking a drink, and this is not an activity that is unfamiliar to you." 
                She told me that her friend Cadence at school had brought her a candy bar.  "Oh, that was nice of her."  "Who?"  In my head - "You just told me who!"

Literally in the span of five minutes or less:
               "What's that beeping?"  "The microwave."  "What's in the microwave?"  "Dinner"  "Why is it dinner in the microwave?"
               "Whose shirt are you folding?"  "Whose towel are you folding?"  "Why are your socks matched up?"
               "Do you like spaghetti?"  "Yes."  "Why?"
               "Can we do this now?"  "No."  "When we wake up, we can do it?" 

And then after I would answer a question, she would ask the exact same question again!

Here are my theories and thoughts:
- I think some is Evie encountering things that she has never seen and/or done before, and so she is having to ask what things are and what they do. 
- I think some comes from anxiety of this new/different situation.  Because she's anxious, she has to know everything about every detail to make her feel more at ease. 
- Maybe asking questions was the only way she could get attention in her house.  As in, if she talks, she gets ignored; but if she asks a question, someone has to respond to her. 
- I feel like asking questions is the ONLY way she knows to have a conversation.  Because I would estimate a week ago that 50-75% of what came out of her mouth was a question rather than a statement.  Because normal social conversation has never been modeled for her. 

I know that she is anxious, and I want to alleviate her anxiety as much as possible.  But what I have started to do many times is to turn the question around.  If it's something I know she knows, I will say either "What do YOU think I'm doing?"  or "You know what I'm doing."  If it's a "why" question, I will ask her, "Why do YOU think that is?"  If she asks a question multiple times, I will say, "I already answered that." 

I'm very interested to see if anyone has any ideas about WHY she's asking so many questions, and/or any suggestions on how to handle it. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Settling In

It has been not quite three weeks since Evie arrived, and we are settling in well.  I took her to church the first Sunday after she got here, and then again this morning and realized what a difference that two weeks has made.  The first visit she pretty much just sat there (although she did snuggle in to me and was affectionate even then); today she was much more alert and active. 

She has had no problem with bonding and really is the sweetest thing.  She is constantly thinking about what she can do for her brother and her mom (like when she got a sticker at the doctor's office the other day, she asked if she could have another one for her mom).  She is affectionate with me and has no problem saying, "I love you" but is sometimes reserved with others (which is normal). 

She likes my cat and thinks he is going to protect her if he is in her room when she is going to sleep.  The first few days, he would run from her and I told her it was because he didn't know her.  So then she would say, "Hi, I'm Evie" and then say, "Now he knows my name."  Now he is totally fine with her and follows us around like he used to do to me. 

Despite the rough first week we had with sleeping, she now pretty much goes immediately to sleep at both bedtime and naptime; although she often is up before 6am, which is too early for me to be ok with.  I think I am going to get an "ok to wake" clock (that glows green at a set time when it's ok for them to come out of their room in the morning) and push for at least 6:30.   Once I caught up on sleep from the first week, I still haven't been able to make myself go to bed before 10:30 or 11 most nights.  The hours of 9-11 have always been my most productive, and that's also now my daily "me" time.  I'm handling it ok, and sometimes take a nap when she does to get a little more sleep. 

The hair.  Evie came to me with a head-full of matted hair.  We have brushed, combed, and received ongoing advice from my co-workers about what to do with it.  I got her hair trimmed last weekend (with mom's permission of course) because there were pieces that were long and straight, which made them seem much longer than the rest of her curly hair.  I'm not sure how long the process of moisturizing and brushing/combing is supposed to take each night, but it seems to take much longer than I think it should.  No matter how well I comb it the night before, the next night it is tangled yet again and we go through the painful process of combing again.  I'm thinking that part of the problem is that the hair is not healthy, and hope that things will improve as it grows out again. 

Evie loves to eat, and after the first three or four days has pretty much eaten just about anything I give her without much of a fuss.  She did have some meltdowns in the first few days over vegetables or anything she wasn't familiar with (and so she would declare, "I don't like that" before we even sat down to the table).  In hindsight, I can't decide if I pushed the well-balanced meals and healthier foods on her too soon; or if in doing that, I helped her more easily transition to the different way of eating at my house compared to her house. 

She has adjusted to day care very well, considering that she had never been before.  She really likes it, even though I have some issues.  I did discuss these with the day care director yesterday; we will see how things go as the summer progresses.  One is that the children are watching TV during drop-off/pick-up times from 7:30-8:30am and from 5-6:30pm.  Her reasoning is that there are 2, 3, and 4 year olds in the same room and you can't do lesson plans for them.  My thought is that any age likes play-dough, or crayons and paper, or songs, or to have stories read to them, or to play in centers.  It doesn't have to be structured learning but it can be more than Peppa Pig and Frozen. 

Evie is (what I believe) significantly delayed in academic skills.  Even though her language and gross motor skills seem to be on track, and her fine motor and cognitive skills maybe only slightly limited, I feel that she does not have nearly the academic skills that other 4.5 year olds have.  She doesn't recognize any numbers/letters (so obviously can't write them), I don't think she knows her shapes consistently, she doesn't know what number comes before/after another number, and can't verbally spell her name.  I have looked into getting her into the public 4k program here, but apparently my county bases acceptance primarily on income - and they are telling me it is MY income they are looking at.  That's backward in that it should be: 1) looking at the income of the family she has spent the last year with, and 2) testing her to see if she is already behind in academic skills to try to get her caught up before starting formal kindergarten.  I'm also looking into the Head Start program this week, so we will see if their guidelines are the same. 

She has definitely picked up on lots of things that I have taught her in the last few weeks.  When she came to me, she was brushing her own teeth, but only part of them.  She would brush the vertical surfaces on the front and left side of her mouth REALLY WELL, but wouldn't even touch the right side or the horizontal surfaces.  Now she is doing those things, but still needs help to do them well.  She also is now able to write three of the letters in her name and can tell me what her name starts with (sometimes).  Also, when she came to me, she ALWAYS spilled a significant amount of food/drink on herself when she was eating.  Now even though she still is overall careless and heavy-handed when she eats/drinks (and when she moves any objects) she (mostly) eats over her plate and avoids stains on herself some days. 

My two biggest struggles have been with her CONSTANT questions (a more detailed post on that to come - but I don't think it's just age-appropriate curiosity) and the fact that she continues to talk with her mouth wide open and FULL of food.  We're working on those things, and I'm sure it will all improve as time goes on. 

Watching the turtles in the park pond today