Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Ornament

I bought Elmer a "Baby's First Christmas" ornament. 


I am packing up ornaments and trying to decide what to do with it - put it in the box with the rest of my Christmas ornaments or put it in a separate place with "his" stuff. 


Either way, if he leaves, the ornament will go with him because I got it for HIM.  But I think I'm going to put it in my box on faith that he will still be here next year. 


That may be a huge mistake, but sometimes you just have to believe in something.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Pumpkin and Elmer




My two sleeping babies shortly after Elmer arrived.


Jealousy.  One night I was holding Elmer and Pumpkin came and sat on top of Elmer's lap.


Pumpkin does not like Elmer's screechy cry and will leave the room any time he hears it.  In this picture, Elmer was happy when I set him down and didn't cry.  But Pumpkin looked at him with the expression of, "What did you just put next to me?!"


Photo Journal

The night I picked up my bald-headed baby


Sweetness
 


He was looking up at the yellow mirror above and smiling and talking





Elmer sleeps so well being all swaddled up





My dad was here for several days shortly after Elmer arrived.  All he did was hold the baby, which was great because I could get some other things done.  He loved that Elmer gripped onto his finger.





Our first attempt at tummy time (7 wks old)














Elmer loved lying under the Christmas tree with all its lights

Monday, December 14, 2015

One Month With Elmer

This weekend marked one month that Elmer has been with me.  Here are some of the great things that are happening:
- Initially, he was never settled if he was awake and not being held.  Even when held, he was sometimes restless and fussy.  Now he is often content to lie on the floor smiling at his play gym, or on the couch smiling at the fan/light.  When held, he usually snuggles down and is completely content (except when his reflux is bothering him). 
- He initially had a very high-pitched, squeaky cry.  Now he only does this cry occasionally. 
- He is now smiling ALL the time and vocalizes in response to me talking to him.  He also laughed twice for me this weekend, when I was laughing at him.
- He is a GREAT sleeper at night.  He does wake up once in the middle of the night to eat; but I swaddle him back up after the feeding, and he goes right back to sleep.  A couple of nights in the last week, he has slept eight hours, so I'm hoping this may become a more common thing.  (He actually has been a great sleeper since night one - I swaddled him, and he only woke to eat and then always went right back to sleep.) 
- He rolls to his side, is lifting his legs when he is lying on his back, is kicking and moving his legs and arms more, and is lifting his head better when placed on his tummy. 
- He gained 1 lb, 4 oz in the first three weeks that he was with me!  His little face is starting to get chubby. 




Other things that are happening:
- My cat is JEALOUS.  He does not like Elmer's screechy cry and will almost always leave the room when he starts crying.  However, when Elmer is calm and sleeping while I am holding him, Pumpkin will often jump into my lap, too... and even once sat on Elmer's lap as he was lying on mine. 
- He has been sick with virus/respiratory issues.  He was miserable for most of last week, but is feeling much better this week, even though he continues to be congested and coughing.
- The daycare workers love him and hold him all the time. 
- No happenings on the case front.  I don't believe mom has been in contact with anyone at DSS still.


Elmer is such a sweet baby, and is adjusting just fine!  I will try to post some pictures in the next few days. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

I'm That Mom

I have always been a babysitter, daycare worker, aunt, therapist, mom, who feels strongly about fostering independence in children.  I love snuggling a baby, but also feel that it is important for him to learn to soothe himself when needed and be able to play independently on the floor or exersaucer while I am cooking.  I love playing games and doing crafts and having fun with kids, but also feel it is important for them to learn to play independently - spend time having tea parties with their dolls or creatively building with Legos, or looking at a book and making up a story.  I absolutely believe children need love and attention but also that they should not have to be held or entertained 24/7.

And now (at least at the current moment) with Elmer, I am the mom I never planned on being.  I hold him as much as I can (and often wear him in the carrier when I can't).  I often give him the pacifier to help him calm down (I have never liked pacifiers much and think they are VERY over-used).  I often jump up very soon after he starts crying to try to help soothe him.

Because that is what he needs.  He is not able to regulate his emotions.  He is not able to self-soothe.  He is often jittery.  I am trying to provide him with the comfort and security that he needs, and to provide him with the tools that he needs to self-soothe - and calm him myself until he learns to do so.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Elmer

On Tuesday morning last week (November 10th), I got a call about a six-week old boy that was going to be discharged from the hospital on Thursday.  He had been there since birth, so my question before accepting the placement was if he was medically okay to go to daycare the next week.  The placement worker said she would check on that and would get back to me.  End of the day Tuesday, I still had not heard anything back.  (Tuesday evening I went to a dance fitness class with an instructor that I know well.  I know all the routines, but I kept flubbing.  The instructor said, "I don't know what has gotten into you today!"  I thought, "I know exactly what has gotten into me - my brain is elsewhere!!") 

Wednesday came and went and still nothing; so I finally called the placement worker at the end of the day.  She still had not heard anything back from the caseworker about if daycare would be ok.  Thursday at lunchtime I got an email saying that yes, he could go to daycare; and that she would pass along my information for placement.  About ten minutes after checking my email, I got a phone call from the placement worker.  She said the caseworker had some unexpected things come up for that day and asking if I could go pick up the baby directly from the hospital. 

So after work on Thursday, I went to the hospital to pick up Elmer.  (He is another bald-headed light-skinned boy, and I figured one of these bald babies needed to be named after Elmer Fudd!)  It was at one of the sister hospitals to the one where I work, so the nurses were so excited that he was going to someone "in the family."  It was obvious he had been loved on - they had bought him clothes and a stuffed animal and had written him a super sweet note.  They brought me in to give me discharge instructions, and then put him in the car seat to make sure he was okay in it, and then signed me out, and we were on our way.  He cried in the car and then finally fell asleep and ended up staying asleep for two hours after we got home.  At some point during that time, I realized I hadn't touched him yet!  Things were so chaotic at pick-up and then he fell asleep so I just left him alone.  I swaddled him for bedtime and he slept really well - he woke up to eat every three hours, but always went right back to sleep.  (The last couple of nights, he has been sleeping one five-hour stretch each night.) 

He is settling in very well, and things are going better than I was expecting. 

And I have already fallen in love.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Then It Happened to Me

I have read many blog posts about people's opinions about this comment from others about why foster parenting is not for them: "I would get too attached."  The essence of those posts is always that the writer feels the implication is that THEY don't get attached. 

I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, so when I read those posts, I would always think, "I know that other person's intention was NOT to imply that the foster parent is heartless and cold and can just let the kids go easily when it is time for them to move out of the foster home... and the writer really shouldn't take it so personally that that's what the comment means."

And then it happened to me. 

An acquaintance had met Tigger a couple of times.  The next time I saw her without the baby, she said, "I just couldn't do it.  I am one of those people who gets really attached."  And then I took it as an implication that I DON'T get attached.  My response: "Well, I get attached, too." 

Now I understand.  Now I know that even if the conscious brain may know that the comment doesn't imply that the foster parent doesn't have a heart, the Mama Bear heart still takes it that way. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

No Calls

I haven't gotten any calls for placement since Tigger left. 

Except the one at 5 am last Saturday for a 15 year old girl with autism.  I did not say yes to that call. 

Since I'm such a planner, the waiting game and uncertainty is really no fun. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Not Knowing

At this point, I think the hardest thing about foster care for me is the not knowing when the next placement call will come. 

I expected the uncertainty and the roller coaster while the kids are here.  I didn't think about the fact that my life would be uncertain and in a kind of limbo when there wasn't even a child here. 

Since I don't have any kids of my own, my life looks very different when I have a placement compared to when I don't.  It is somewhat unsettling to think about the fact that my life could completely change today... tonight... tomorrow.  My life could be completely different this weekend compared to last weekend. 

I might go trick-or-treating next weekend with my nephew Bop or my goddaughter Boo, and be hanging out as the photographer and fun aunt.  Or I might have a new child trick-or-treating with us, after scrambling to find a Halloween costume along with everything else that child will need when he arrives. 

Even non-foster care involves the not knowing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Trauma vs. Previous Experience vs. Personality

As Tigger and I adjusted to each other, I began to think about different behaviors in my foster children and how, at the time, you just have no clue if they are due to trauma, their (non-traumatic) previous experience, or just to their personality.  As the days go on, and as the behaviors begin to change (or not to change), it starts to become a little more clear what their cause might be. 

It is especially difficult to tease this out with an infant when they have no words to give you clues; but even Evie at 4 1/2 years old had confusing behaviors. Some I initially attributed to her personality but later realized they may be due to trauma.  She asked A LOT of questions and needed a lot of attention.  I think a lot of that was just her personality but especially the questions were fueled a lot by anxiety as well, as they definitely slowed down as she became more settled and comfortable.

You never know what to think about an infant's sleep habits - it's especially difficult because you generally have NO CLUE what their sleeping and eating schedule was before arriving.  Are they needing to be rocked to sleep because that's what they are used to, or because they are feeling insecure since they have just been ripped out of the only home they have ever known?  I absolutely believe that infants, even at four months, sense that their world has just been shaken and know that something is different.  With Machine Gun, it was obvious that he knew he was in a strange place and didn't want to be put down because he had no clue where he was or who he was with.  For the first couple of weeks that Tigger was here, he would wake back up crying every night about half an hour after he went to sleep (not just laid down but was actually asleep).  At first I thought that it was always about that time that he would turn his head and lose his pacifier and then start crying.  However, one night that behavior just stopped - I think he finally just got settled with his sleeping.  Tank would grip onto me and not want to be put down when I tried to lay him down in his crib; and then I would just want to hold him and rock him because I thought it was highly likely that no one had ever snuggled him to sleep before. 

You also don't know about their eating habits.  Initially Tank would arch his head back when he was drinking a bottle and his feeding sounded unsafe.  I thought he might have had problems with his swallow, but then his feeding was normal.  I realized that he had probably been laid on the floor with a bottle propped up to eat, and he was used to having his head hyperextended as he sucked on a bottle; and had no clue how to coordinate his swallowing with his head flexed forward as it was when I held him cradled in my arms as he ate.  And at first I thought Tigger had reflux because he would arch his back and scream during or after his feedings sometimes; that, too, disappeared... making me think that it may have just been due to him not being comfortable in his surroundings.

And then there are other behaviors.  For example, Tigger would SCREAM every time as his car seat was buckled up - and then stop pretty much afterwards.  I wondered if that was just his personality or if it was something deeper - like, did he know that every time he got buckled in a car seat, someone different (sometimes someone who wasn't safe for him) would take him; or was he left buckled in a car seat all day long and was scared he would never get out every time he got buckled in?  This behavior, too, decreased significantly after a couple of weeks as Tigger became more settled.  Tank would not snuggle as he was going to sleep - he would become stiff and arch his back while I was holding him before bedtime - and then he ended up being a snuggler. 

I don't have the answers.  And I know every situation will be different.  My natural instinct is to have "tough love" and just power through the behaviors with consistent responses and consequences from me, since that is what works well with the children in my work and my life.  But I do realize that in many situations with a new foster child, that child just needs love and comfort and security, even if that means that the rules and situations stay flexible for a time.  In the future, I need to try really hard to consciously tell myself that it is better to err on the side of being too soft with these kids in the first few weeks than too rigid.  They deserve it. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dear Tigger

Dear Tigger,
 
When you walked in my door on September 8th, you were smiling, and you haven't stopped since.  Everyone who meets you says how cute and precious you are - and they are right. 
 
You have made all my days in the last month so much brighter with your smile and your cute little laugh and just by being YOU.  I know it was just a short time that you were with me, but you have touched my heart and I will always carry a piece of you with me!  You have been an absolute joy to care for, and I have loved doing it! 
 
I am happy that you have people in your life who love you so much to fight for you.  I wish you a life filled with happy and wonderful days! 
 
I love you - always.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Gone

I got a message late on Monday that there would be an emergency hearing yesterday at 11:30 due to a request by Tigger's aunt and grandmother that he be placed with them immediately.  When we got home, I started organizing his clothes.  Then I decided that if that was going to be my last night with him, I wanted to just spend time with him.  I cried as he crawled over to me and started reaching up to grab my legs.

The next day I got a call around 12:30 that the judge had ordered temporary custody with Tigger's aunt.  Thank goodness I didn't have any patients scheduled between 12 and 2:30 so I was able to get his stuff together and meet the caseworker at the daycare to tell him goodbye.  I'm not sure how this would have gone if I had been working all day. 

The family had hired a lawyer, and my understanding is that this is the reason they were able to get Tigger so quickly.  I don't blame the family, because I know that if my nephew was in foster care in another state because my sister wasn't taking care of him, I would fight tooth and nail to get him. 

I am so sad to say goodbye to that sweet baby.  But that is balanced out a little with knowing that he has gone with people who want him and love him. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

One Month with Tigger

Tigger has been here a little over a month and has adjusted really well.  He is so laid-back and generally only cries when he is tired or hungry.  He overall seems happier than when he got here (although he was pretty darn happy even then!) - I guess a better choice of words would be "more settled." 

He turned six months old, and now is army crawling EVERYWHERE, including into the bottom of the Exersaucer.  He will make a beeline to any shoe or cord.  He is still working on sitting - if he actually sits STILL, he can balance himself for several minutes; but he is usually trying to get some toy or wave his arms around and ends up falling over.  He still only has the two teeth he arrived with, but these are more fully grown in now.  And just last night he really discovered the fun of splashing in the bathtub!

He sat here for almost five minutes, entertained by me
moving my toes and banging my thighs to the music.


He goes to bed between 7 and 8 pm.  He wakes up one time during the night to eat, around 12:30-1:30, and then goes right back to sleep.  (He did sleep all night - until 5:45 - one time, but that hasn't happened since.)  He has started holding his bottle, but not for the whole feeding yet. 

He loves my cat, Pumpkin; Pumpkin is jealous - he often climbs in my lap while I am holding Tigger. 
He started crawling after Pumpkin, and
Pumpkin had to take shelter behind the table.


He is so attentive and interactive.  I have a board book that has real pictures of babies - each page is a baby doing a different thing.  One day, he was "talking" to the baby on each page.  He would look at the baby, smile, and make 2-3 "talking" noises to it; and then would repeat on the next page.  Something interesting was that he did not consistently "talk" to two of the babies - one that was looking down at the book so you can't see the eyes; and one that was a full-length picture so the eyes were not as obvious as in some of the other pictures. 

Cute Tiger Butt


After a little more than a week, we ended up in the doctor's office with a fever (which turned out to be just a virus), and he tore the table up!
 
 
He will grab my face and give the sweetest kisses!
 
 
He had a visit with his grandmother and aunt yesterday, and my understanding is that they are trying to get full custody of him.  He is such a good baby, and I will hate to lose him; but I am so glad that he has people in his life that are fighting to get him.  (It is so sad to me that so many of these kids have parents who can't show up to a visit for months on end, and have no one else that really cares to visit them.) 
 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

How Long?

There's a question I get all the time when I get a new placement: "How long will you have them?"

It's kind of an annoying question because almost 100% of the time, the answer is, "I really don't know." 

And when I think I have a clue, that often turns out to be not right anyway.  I thought Evie would be here a couple of weeks or maybe a month at most; she was here over thirteen months.  They said Tank would probably be going to relatives "in a couple of weeks" after I got him; he stayed four months.  They told me Tigger had no relatives that could step up and care for him and that mom's treatment plan would be at least six months; now they are doing home studies on both his aunt and neighbor so it is likely he won't be here much more than another month. 

There's no suggestion I have as to a better question to ask because I know that the question is in the forefront of people's minds.  It's actually in the forefront of mine, but unfortunately uncertainty and unexpected changes are the name of the game in foster care.  I guess I just need to get more comfortable with saying, "I don't know" and leaving it at that when I get asked the question, "How long will you have them?"

Friday, October 2, 2015

Merits Hearing

(I said in this post that the Probable Cause hearing was when the treatment plan for the parent was determined.  I was wrong; sometimes they both happen at the same time, but usually there is a separate Merits Hearing to establish a legal treatment plan.)

I attended the Merits Hearing this morning.  I learned that it is best to attend court hearings if possible because you can learn so much about the case.  This proved to be a challenge this morning as daycare was closed today due to torrential rains and flood potential; a previous co-worker that lives close to court was able to keep Tigger for me while I was at court. 

What I learned is that it is not likely Tigger will be with me much longer.  His neighbor has requested to be considered for official placement so they are completing an expedited home study (meaning it has to be done in the next thirty days).  (At first, I wondered why she would call DSS about this child and then request to get him back; but I guess at this point he would still be in foster care and mom would have to follow DSS guidelines and supervision.)  They are also completing a home study on Tigger's maternal aunt who lives in another state.  It sounds like mom has requested that he be placed with the neighbor so that she can still see him.  Dad is out of the picture and not capable of caring for Tigger.  From everything the investigator said about the situation with the neighbor when Tigger was removed, I don't have any reason to believe she won't pass her home study. 

I will be so sad to see him go, but glad that I went to court and learned that his leaving is a definite possibility in the near future so that I can prepare myself emotionally for that possibility. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

History Repeats Itself

On September 8, 2015, 5 1/2 month old Tigger was placed with me. 

 
 
Four days later, a memory from a year ago showed up on my Facebook - the day Tank was placed with me. 
 
 
So similar.  Tigger was 5 1/2 months old at placement, Tank was 4 1/2 months old.  Both very active and developmentally ahead for their ages.  Placed one year and four days apart, so I will have them through the same seasons - getting cold, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.  And they look pretty darn similar from the overhead view in the Exersaucer!  (Admittedly, I did take the picture of Tigger on September 12 to make a comparison shot.)  


Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Foster Placement Weight Loss Plan

Tigger has been here almost two weeks, and I have lost five pounds.  The same thing happened in the first week or so after Evie and Tank were placed with me.  (Not that the five pounds ever stayed off!) 

I think it probably is common for foster parents to gain weight in the first weeks when a new child is placed - eating out, easy/quick/fattening food, overeating due to stress.  For me when I get a new placement, eating is my last priority.  So I just end up eating a lot less.  For example, my typical breakfast often is a cereal bar, a banana, and a yogurt.  But when I first get a placement, I am trying to figure out a routine and take care of extra things like finding a daycare and setting up WIC; so I might just grab the cereal bar for my breakfast and skip the banana and yogurt. 

It's just been interesting to me that this has been the pattern with all three of my long-term placements. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Poor Baby

It took all of three days at day care for Tigger to get his first cold.  He didn't sleep really well last night - I had to rock him to sleep twice, then he woke up a half hour later and then another hour later.  Poor thing was stuffy and fussy and wanted his pacifier to soothe him but couldn't breathe through his nose to suck on it.  I thought it was going to be a REALLY long night, but he ended up only waking up again at 12:30 to eat and then slept until 6:30 this morning. 

Tonight he was very difficult to get to sleep as well.  Time to make bottles and get to bed! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Music Monday: Tigger's Lullaby

Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper
 


After I decided that each child would have his own unique lullaby, I had to choose one for Tigger.  I settled on Time After Time.  I want to use something that is not a traditional "lullaby."  I have to admit, I love the song but the video's pretty weird! 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Tigger

On Tuesday around noon, I got a call for a five-month old boy but they didn't have him in care yet.  I said I had patients scheduled until five, but to call me when they had a better idea of time frame.  Well, 5:00 rolled around without a call, and when I called to ask what the status was, the placement worker said, "What?  No one called you?  They've been walking that baby around the office all afternoon."  So I left work pretty much after that and little Tigger arrived around 6:00.  (He got his blog name because he is VERY active for his age, and he has a touch of orange-ish hair on top of his head.)  Because he was in the office all afternoon, they had already submitted for the $100 clothing voucher we get when a child comes into care and had put in an order to an organization that provides clothes for children in need (which arrived the next day). 



Tigger fell asleep by 7:00 that first night, but then was up again from 7:45-10:00, and then was up again at 1:00 and 5:00, but thank goodness went back to sleep again until 9 the next morning which gave me a chance to get a shower before he woke up.  Since then, he has settled into a little bit more of a routine, but we are still working on it.  I had a chance to talk with his neighbor that had been caring for him off and on for the last several months, so I did get some idea of his schedule and eating habits (at least when he was with her - she said his schedule would always get off when he went with his mom).  She seemed like a super nice lady, and I think the reason she is not the one still caring for him is because she finally decided he had had enough chaos and turmoil in his life and that she no longer wanted to be in the middle of it. 

The neighbor told me the night Wednesday night when I was talking to her that Tigger's mom wouldn't show up to the probable cause hearing at court the next day; she was right.  (When a child is removed by EPC - emergency protective custody - they have to have court within a few days for the judge to determine if there actually WAS cause to remove the child).  Usually, this is also when/where the treatment plan for the parent is determined (what they need to do to get the child back).  So court was "continued" (delayed) until Monday.  

If mom gets Tigger back, it will be a minimum of six months to complete her treatment plan based on what the investigator said.  So far, there has been no mention of his dad or other relatives that may be interested in caring for him. 

Tigger is such a cute and happy little fellow!  Life's about to get busy again!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Quiet Blog = Quiet IRL

Just a quick update to say that nothing has been happening in the foster care world.  I haven't received any calls since Machine Gun left almost two weeks ago.  (Of course, now that I'm writing that, I will get a call at 3am tonight!)

I did go to a pizza picnic at the park with TT and her two little ones; as well as another foster couple friends, their daughter, two little boys they were doing respite for, and another 11-year old they were keeping for the weekend. 

And I went to a Foster Parent Association meeting yesterday, which is now being run by another dictator. She has decided that she will not be getting an organization to sponsor Christmas gifts for the kids this year, because hardly anyone showed up to the Christmas party last year (it was held the Saturday before Christmas, which in my opinion is WAY too late in the season to be holding a party).  Fun times.

I'm trying to do some good organization and cleaning in the house while it is quiet.  It's coming along slowly. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's Just for the Money

60 hours with me. 
1 hour at the doctor's office.
24 hours at the hospital.
19 total hours of sleep (for me). 
1 stretch of sleep not quite six hours (last night); all the other stretches no more than four.
2 hour-long 2am parties.

My payment for taking care of Machine Gun for three days will be $38.

But foster parents just do it for the money.

Machine Gun

Around 4:00 on Sunday afternoon, I took Machine Gun (his laugh often sounded like a little machine gun) to the pediatrics after-hours clinic because he had been wheezing and had stridor since he got here.  Machine Gun ended up getting transported to the local children's hospital and then got admitted overnight.  We finally left the hospital at 5:00 yesterday, and had somewhat of a rough night last night. I stayed home from work today, and then the investigator came to get him today at 1:30 to take him back to his mom. 

Machine Gun was such a cute, sweet little boy.  He was so happy - as long as I was sitting close to him.  The minute I stood up (even if I was still in his sight), he started screaming.  He had to be rocked to sleep - and held for at least 15 minutes before he was asleep enough to not wake up and scream when I put him down.  When the investigator brought the official paperwork, I saw that he is actually almost eleven (not nine) months old.  I learned that he was born ten weeks early (so should be doing things that an eight-month old is doing), but his motor skills were actually on par with his actual age of ten months.  He was so active!  But he was less stable than he thought he was; he fell a lot, but only once cried when he fell.  He was so snuggly and cuddly. 

I'm glad he's back with his mom, but I sure will miss that cute little guy!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Baby Boy

I am up waiting for the investigator to bring the placement paperwork to me, so figured I would write before things get too hectic. 

Investigator dropped off nine-month old Baby Boy (blog name TBD) a little before midnight, and then had to go to the DSS office about twenty minutes away to get the paperwork.  She was also going to pick up some of the formula he needs (I have some formula here that I had bought for the little one that didn't end up coming earlier this week, but it's not the right kind for him).  He ate some cereal and applesauce, and I just finally put him down asleep in the crib a few minutes ago. He was so wide-eyed for a long time while I sat there and rocked him.  He didn't cry as long as I was holding him, but it was obvious that he did NOT know where he was and he was confused by it. 

They said that he was removed due to poor judgment of the parent(s) and they anticipate he will be returned to either parent(s) or family after court this week.  But this is foster care, and I am much less na├»ve than I was when Evie was placed.  I know to expect anything! 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Always a Roller Coaster

After getting boxes of infant stuff out of storage, and washing baby girl clothes and linens and bottles, and getting a swing from a friend of mine, I got a call this morning that Baby Girl would be going to live with her grandfather after court today. 

I don't know if I'd rather have no time to prepare for a new child; or have all weekend to prepare for a child that doesn't end up coming.  Either way, it's always a roller coaster!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

More Dreams

I once wrote about my crazy dreams.  When Evie left, I knew I would start having them again.  And sure enough, the FIRST NIGHT that she was gone (even though I was at someone else's house), I jumped up out of bed freaked out about where she was.  And then a week or two later, I had the same craziness of walk downstairs/turn off the alarm/open doors to search for Evie. 

Yesterday I got a call for a 2 1/2 month old baby.  I thought she was coming yesterday, but now they are saying it will probably be Monday.  And sure enough, thirty minutes after I went to sleep, I bolted upright in bed, heart pounding, freaking out about where the baby was and if I had fed her.  She hasn't even gotten here yet, and I'm already having my crazy dreams!!

Friday, August 7, 2015

My Mountain Retreat

Last weekend, I took a solo trip to a little cabin outside of Asheville for some R & R.  It was just what I was looking for!  The weather was BEAUTIFUL - mostly 70's and no rain. I spent a lot of time driving through the mountains and along the Blue Ridge Parkway with the windows down and relaxing music playing. I got in a lot of hiking and visiting waterfalls. I spent one afternoon relaxing at a spa on the top of a mountain. I grilled chicken on the porch one night and had many meals sitting relaxing on the porch. I relaxed in the hot tub on the porch at night with the sound of the frogs croaking and the sun going down.  I could get used to this!!
 
I have not gotten any placement calls since Evie left.  I was "kind of" on a break.  Ironically, I got two different placement calls while I was out of town.  I didn't get the messages until hours and hours later because I had very spotty cell phone service; and I wouldn't have been able to say yes anyway.  Now waiting for the next one...
 
 




 
 
Moore Cove Falls 
 
 
 
Looking Glass Falls
 
 
 
Having dinner on the porch

 
 
 
360 degree views from the top of Craggy Pinnacle
 
 
Lunch on top of the mountain



Sunday, July 26, 2015

Three More Words

 
I found out recently that Ashley Rhodes-Courter has written a follow-up to Three Little Words.  I'm really looking forward to reading it!


Friday, July 24, 2015

My Plan

I had a few trips planned in the month or so after Evie left, and just generally wanted some down-time before I got another placement.  Originally I had planned to tell DSS that I would be taking a break until the middle of August.  But then I didn't want them to pass me over if they needed someone for an infant that was likely to go to adoption.  So I decided not to tell them anything, and just see what happened when I got the next call.  (I really don't think I would be able to say no to that infant).  I actually haven't gotten a single call since Evie left.  If I do in the next few weeks, I would almost certainly say no to a 2-5 year old; but would probably say yes to a baby.  I do know that things will always happen the way they are meant to, so I'm just hanging out and waiting to see what happens. 

What I Would Have Done Differently

Now that my house is empty and I have some time to reflect, here is a list of things I would have done differently with Evie and/or Tank.  Some of these are minor details, and some are huge things; and all will probably affect what I do with the next child that is here. 
 
1. Not called Evie's mom every night.  It was good for her to talk to her mom, but I think the negatives outweighed the positives.  And I think had I known she was going to be here for more than a month or two, I probably wouldn't have started it anyway.  I didn't like that our phone calls meant that Evie's family knew exactly what was happening every day - it gave them ammunition to tell lies on me or to scrutinize every little thing that was happening.  It really stirred up Evie's emotions when she would talk to her mom, and at the beginning she would cry at least once a week when she talked to her.  Plus, it was really inconvenient.

2. Called Tank's mom sometimes.  She sent her number, and I never called her because he couldn't talk to her anyway.  But I should have communicated with her at least to let her know her baby was okay.

3. In light of the first two things above, created a confidential phone number.  I did end up getting a number through G**gle Voice when Tank left, but Evie's family already had my number.  One of the first things the investigator said when Evie walked through my door was that I needed to call her mom to get instructions for her meds.  I didn't even think about it, and I just called from my cell phone.  There could have been some safety issues with the family having my actual phone number - which could have been connected with my name, which then could have been connected with my address.  Thankfully, it all worked out and I didn't have any concerns about my safety with Evie's family, but I will definitely be more cautious next time and will give out a number that can't be traced to my name.

3. Taken the kids to their own doctor.  I spent a lot of time trying to track down both Evie's and Tank's immunization records.  I relied on the caseworkers to do the legwork for me.  I didn't really think about it until after the fact, but I could have just made the kids at least one appointment with the doctor they had been seeing to get any needed medical information and records.  In both cases, I did know the doctors' names long before I actually got the records; and they wouldn't have been more than a 30-minute drive. (Plus, in my state, I can get reimbursed by Medi-caid for mileage taking the kids to doctors' appointments, so it would have been fine to travel one time.)  I would have made that first appointment, and then gotten their records transferred to my preferred pediatrician that is closer to my house. 

4. Made a laminated list of medications.  I often wrote out a list of Evie's medications and dosages for sitters or when she would stay overnight with someone.  It would have been much easier if I had made a list.

5. Personalized Evie's room.  I did get her a "girly" comforter shortly after she came, but I would have put her drawings up on the walls, or let her pick out some decorative elements so the room would feel more like "hers."  Again, I think this never happened because I didn't think she would be here that long.

6. Immediately asked for a picture of Evie's mom and her and framed it for her room.  I did eventually do this, but it would have been good to have this reminder of her mom from the get-go.

7. Not made assumptions about the case. Now I'm not so naive and hopefully won't make the same mistakes in this area, but I shouldn't have assumed that Evie would only be here a month or so.  This really affected my bonding with Evie.  And it also prevented me from letting her fully participate in her life here (see #8 below).  I know a lot of things now that I didn't know then, and generally I know now to have no expectations, except to expect anything. 

8. Signed Evie up for things.  Because I didn't think Evie would be here for long, I didn't sign her up for dance class or swim lessons or really anything else.  I even paid for field trips several weeks at a time last summer at the daycare (instead of paying for them all at the beginning of the summer) because I was thinking she wouldn't be here the whole summer.  I have to realize that there is going to be a chance that I will lose money if the child leaves before the class/sport/etc is over, but that is a risk I need to take so that the child can do everything I would try to do with him if he were my own.

9.  Offered Evie a different name to call me.  I hadn't really thought about this fully before she arrived, and so when she asked my name that first night, I told her "Miss Allison," which is what my kids at work call me.  That always felt too formal.  Everyone I had read things from online said that the kids (especially the older ones) would end up calling you whatever they felt comfortable with, but I think I should have offered her a much less formal name from the beginning.  I want some sort of nickname that would be something no one else would call me, but I haven't come up with one that I love yet.  So if anyone has any suggestions, let me know! 

10. Hugged Evie more.  I think at the beginning I held back because I didn't want to overwhelm her, but I'm sure she would have been fine with more hugging and physical contact; and I think this would have helped with the bonding as well. 

11. Maybe been a little less pushy with food at the beginning.  I'm not 100% on this one, because I think part of the reason that Evie ended up eating vegetables and pretty much anything (she didn't always like it, but she ate it) was because I made her eat things from the beginning.  But I think it would have been ok to serve pizza and chicken nuggets and spaghetti during the first week while she adjusted to everything else in her life being completely different and upside down, and worried about the vegetables after a week or so. 

12.  Had less rules at the beginning.  Going along with #11 above, I should have just allowed her to adjust to a new house and new smells and new people and not being with her mom, before I really started having firm rules about her table manners and putting her toys away.

13. Stayed out of work more than a day.  Evie arrived on a Tuesday in May.  I took off Wednesday.  I really felt like I needed to go back to work on Thursday, because I had already missed two Thursdays in the 4-6 weeks prior (and my patients come on the same day every week, and their appointments are cancelled if I'm not there, so I didn't want the same patients to miss appointments three different times in the span of 6 weeks).  But I think that shouldn't have mattered, and I should have stayed home at least one more day to help us both get settled.  (Being out of work with the placement of a foster child falls under FMLA, so one of the phone calls I made the first day should have been to get my FMLA set up so that I could stay out however many days I felt like I needed). 

Hopefully this list will help some first-time foster parent make better decisions in the beginning than I did; and I know that I will do some things differently next time based on this list. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Not a Good Sign

Evie was supposed to have a medical appointment yesterday - one I made a while back.  I got a text reminder on Thursday, and then got a text today saying, "Evie is past due for an appointment."  She didn't show up yesterday.  I suppose I could have forwarded the text reminder that I got.  But I gave Evie's mom a list of all her upcoming medical appointments and the phone numbers to all the offices, and she's a big girl and should be able to handle it.  This makes me sad.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

It's Quiet Around Here

Friday morning, we went to court and the judge ordered Evie and her brother be returned home, with a review hearing to be held in three months.  There were lots of conditions, including that mom would keep up with the kids' medical and counseling appointments, as well as counseling for herself.  Court lasted about 5-10 minutes, and then the judge said, "So be it" after the DSS lawyer, the Guardian ad Litem, and the mom agreed to all the conditions. 

I came home and packed Evie's things (with TT's help!).  I had been organizing all week, but didn't want to pack her things - one, because she would know that something was going on; and two, because if I packed her things, it was me saying that she was going home - and I couldn't handle deciding that, and then have her NOT leave.  I originally had in my head that I would have at least several hours to get the packing done, but then they said that the transport worker would come get Evie after she picked up her brother and his stuff and got him to their mom.  I panicked because that meant I had to get things together quickly, and thank goodness TT was available to help. 

Then I went to pick Evie up from daycare.  When I told her she would be going back to her mom that day, she said a pretty unenthusiastic, "Yay!"  (I think it just didn't sink in right then, because later she told me, "I thought you meant I was going to see my mom today.")  She said she thought she might be going to cry, and I told her that it was okay to cry and that it was okay to be happy and sad at the same time. 

When all was said and done, the van was almost completely filled with Evie's stuff and she left to go be with her mom.  It was definitely a bittersweet moment.  I was so happy for Evie and her family that she would be able to go back to live with her mom; but also worried that they might not stay there forever.  It was time for her to leave, but I was sad to have my first child, the one who had lived with me for the last thirteen months, leave my home.  But it definitely is what's best for all of us right now. 

I have been out of town this weekend, so it's just been tonight that things are "back to normal" without Evie here.  It's definitely quiet in the house!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Three Little Words - A Review

 
 
One of my foster mom friends let me borrow this book.  It is a memoir of Ashley Rhodes-Courter, who was in fourteen different foster homes over the course of nine years. 
 
This is an almost unbelievable account of all of the terrible things that happened to this girl in foster care.  It tears my heart apart that a child who is already in turmoil from being removed from her home and family, has to endure the kind of abuse and humiliation from the people who supposedly were keeping her safe from what she was removed from.  It is sad to me that the place she seemed happiest while she was in care was in a group home (in my mind, the last place a child in foster care should be; for her, it was a haven).  It is also really sad to me that the foster care system failed her in so many ways. 
 
Despite all of this, Ashley moves into adulthood as an inspiring and positive member of society. 
 
The book is very well-written and captivating.  At times, the content was difficult to read - not because of how she was writing it, but rather because it was so hard to fathom that the things she was describing could have actually been happening in the 1980's and 1990's. 
 
Highly recommend this book!

Tank Update

I texted with Tank's aunt the other day.  She said they went to court a couple of weeks ago, and DSS turned custody over to her.  In her words, "He is no longer a foster baby."  She said Tank's mom will have to hire a private lawyer to get custody of him back after she finishes all the things she needs to do.  When I was talking with her a few weeks ago, she said she had told mom she would help her, as long as mom was doing the right things.  He's in a great place right now, and I'm glad he's not part of the system anymore. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Profound


Roller Skating

Here is Evie roller skating.  She is in the one in the polka dot skirt.
 
video

Hairstyles

I ended up putting the side ponytails into twists the second week.












I took Evie to the local cosmetology school, and for $20 and less than two hours, her hair was washed, combed, and in this style that I'm hoping will still last another week or so.  I think it might be the best $20 I have spent on her!  Although my styles end up coming out looking good most of the time, I do get frustrated and fuss more than I would like, and it is a very time-consuming process.  


Photo Journal

More swimming lessons.  At the end, Evie was able to swim about 5 feet (with her head underwater) and float on her back by herself (but only if someone put her there)

 
Evie's brother had his birthday, and this is what EVIE came home with that day.  I said, "But it was J's birthday."  Evie responded, "But my mom gave me stuff, too.  She gave him stuff when it was MY birthday."  Then when I asked her what he got for his birthday, she said he got some water squirters (I knew these were a gift from the dollar store, and also knew he got other gifts that were much more significant, based on what Evie brought home on her birthday as well as that day).  So I asked her what else he got.  She said, "I don't know.  I didn't see because I was opening my presents."  Mom could be doing this because she is trying to buy the kids' love because they are in foster care.  But I would hazard a guess that this kind of thing happened even before they came into care.  The mentality in that household seemed to be "cater to the kids."  I think Evie's attitude that the entire world truly revolves around her, without any attention to what is going on with others around her, started LONG before I met her, owing to that mentality.  
 
 
 This is Evie's first independent sentence she wrote.  One of our neighbors came over while we were in the front yard, saying that she had left her pool key inside the pool gates so she couldn't get it.  I told her we would drive up there when we finished what we were doing, and asked what unit she lived in so I could bring it to her.  Before we left, completely on her own and without asking ANY questions (surprising!), Evie wrote this reminder for us so that we would know what to do.  I asked what the 100 was, and she responded, "That's the number of her house."  (I'm not sure what the "I" at the beginning is.)

Evie's brother stayed with us one weekend, and we went to the Children's Museum and to Twin's first birthday party.


 
 The last day of school.  This was prior to the actual program, and the song here was "counting to 100 by 1's" - with 10 reps of each exercise for each set of 10. 
 
I took Evie to Chuck E. Cheese that weekend to celebrate getting all good behavior marks all year.  I told her that it was a special day so she could eat and drink whatever she wanted that day - of course she chose soda (I very rarely let her have it).  And now she has asked me every time we have been out to eat since then - three weeks - if she could have soda.  Give an inch, they take a mile!  The answer has always been no, though!

 Re-potting a lima bean plant she brought home from school
 
 
Evie's loose tooth kept getting looser, until one day when I picked her up at daycare and she showed me that there was a space between the tooth and the gum.  When we got home and I was fixing dinner, she declared she was going to pull her tooth out.  In my head, I said there is no way she is going to pull it out because it's still hanging on by much more than just a thread, and she is so dramatic about the pain of any little scratch or bump that she won't go through with it.  Well, about five minutes later, she walked out with her tooth in hand!

We went bowling with some friends, and Evie often sat on the floor at the end of the lane watching to see if her ball knocked down the pins.  I never was quick enough to get a picture of that, though.  
 
 Evie went roller skating with her best bud from her elementary school and daycare (who no longer goes to the daycare).  This is them all huddled together. 

And then we went to the aquarium with TT, Twin, and my sister and nephew.  (Okay, it's time for them to get blog names, too.... My sister is Red - she has red hair like me.  My nephew is Bop - he is always on the go.)

We were supposed to go to the upstate to see some friends of mine and to visit the camp where I volunteered for 17 years, but Evie ended up with a stomach virus so we are just hanging here in town this week before court on Friday.