Friday, December 30, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - How Kids Arrive

Q: How does that work? 

I received this question several times with the newest placement and I don't remember getting it before.  Basically, when I told people that we were getting new kids several of them said "how does that work anyway?".  It's interesting how certain patterns clearly emerge with people's curiousity with foster care!

At least one person phrased the question like this: "Do they just drop them off at your doorstep or something?"

A:   My reply to that was - pretty much.

There are 3 main ways kids arrive after a foster parent accepts a placement and those ways essentially depend on where the kiddos are in their foster care story.  Placements are usually "Emergency", Foster Care/Legal Risk, or Legally Free/Straight Adopt.  Of our cases, 3 have been Emergency and 3 have  been Foster Care/Legal Risk.  I haven't had a Legally Free/Straigh Adopt case yet, but I can at least speak to the process for you.

Emergency Placements
Per the name, emergency placements are just that - care for kids in an emergency.  Usually these kiddos have just been removed from their parent(s) by CPS who believes they have cause to remove the children but the case has usually not yet gone to court.  Many times they get emergency removal orders from a court granting permission for the removal for 14 days after which a hearing is held to determine whether the removal was justified and if it should continue.  Typically with an emergency placement the family has the opportunity to send the children with family members, friends, or neighbors as they are removed by giving CPS appropriate information.  If the family has no one to turn to that is qualified or if CPS can't quickly evaluate the home (as with someone who is out-of-state or too far out-of-county) then the child(ren) go to a foster home as an emergency placement.  The placement will then last the initial 14 days in most cases then either turn into a regular placement (after the hearing) or the children will be moved to live with approved kin (kinship placement) which could be neighbors or family friends.

Emergency placements have the least information and quickest placement time. Usually by the time the foster parent accepts an emergency placement the caseworker knows the child's very basic information, like age, race, and gender along with the reason for removal, but most other information is just not yet known.  That being said they have often spent a good part of the day with the kiddos and may have had experience with the kids prior to removal so they might have a feel for some of their behaviors and challenges.  By that point they have also looked into any possible kinship homes and received approval for the removal so they don't have too much left to do before bringing the kids over.  Sometimes all it takes is the time to travel between the office and your house. 

In an emergency placement you can usually count on 1-2 hours notice.  When they arrive the kids are often scared, dirty, tired, and hungry.  They often have a bag brought with them from the caseworker with 1 set of clean clothes, a toy, a blanket, and a hygiene kit.  They may or may not have things sent by the parents.  If they do (and all of ours have) the stuff is often dirty, smells like cigarettes (or worse), and you can imagine includes whatever the parent could quickly throw in that they thought their kids could use.  We've ended up with a pair of dad's underwear and a razor blade, no joke.  The caseworker usually spends 30-60 minutes with you as they drop off the kids.  Most of that time is filling out the normal paperwork and maybe touring the home with the kids to help them feel more comfortable.  During this time a good foster parent can get some information about the family, the case, and what the caseworker unofficially thinks of things. 

Emergency placements are the craziest, usually with the most unknowns, which to mie makes them the most "exciting".

Foster Care/Legal Risk
Once a child is in foster care, he/she can be moved from their current home for a variety of reasons.  Foster parents have the ability to request a child be moved if he/she doesn't fit in the home for whatever reason.  Older foster children can ask to be moved as well if for some reason they don't want to stay in the current foster home.  Kids can be moved because they are too far from their bio-parents, because a caseworker doesn't like the private agency, or a variety of other reasons.  In our home we've had one sibling group moved, not by our request, because when Summer's brother was born we'd be out of compliance with our license and the caseworker didn't want the kids to get attached to us only to be moved to a new foster home in a few months.  3 of our cases arrived as foster/legal risk cases.  2 (#4, #9 & #10) were removed from their previous foster home because the former foster parents had other foster children with severe medical needs and they couldn't handle the extra work our kids brought them.  One case (#7 &#8) came to us because the former foster parent couldn't handle the behaviors of the kiddo and asked for him to be removed. 

Foster Care/Legal Risk placements are cool for the foster parent because the case is established and there is a known history with the kiddos.  You can ask a lot of questions and can actually have a chance to visit the kids before accepting the placement.  You also are more likely to know more about where the case is going and have a better gauge on how long the child will be with you.  By the time they're moved you have an idea whether the parents are working their services, how visits are going, more about the child and parents' medical history, etc.  The problem with these types of cases are that the children are now being removed from yet another home and they have one more wound to try and heal from.  Sometimes the kids are being moved to a dual-licensed home because the first home has said they are not interested in adoption and the case appears to be headed toward adoption - rather than spend more time in a home that will not be permanent they find a home that could be permanent in case it goes that way.

With these types of placements, the foster parent typically has more time between accepting the placement and having the kids arrive in the home.  As I mentioned, you may have the chance to meet the kids for a pre-placement visit. (I've never done that).  Other than that, the caseworker typically coordinates a time that will work to give both foster parents a chance to prepare for the move.  The placement could happen the same day but often will be several days later.  This is simultaneously cool and super sucky.   As a foster parent you have the chance to adjust to the idea that you'd be getting new kiddos, you have a chance to go through your stuff and get out what you need for the new placement, and rearrange your bedding situation to be just what you'll need.  On the other hand, you spend several days knowing your life is going to change pretty significantly but your not really sure how - just like waiting to give birth to a new baby its a bit frustrating to just wait. 

Aside from the wait time, the actual placement happens just the same as an Emergency Placement.  The caseworker goes through the paperwork and brings in the kids and eventually leaves 30-60 minutes later.  The difference in this case is that the kids don't usually come with the bag from CPS but do often come with something that was at least washed by the last foster parents.  Other than that an Emergency Placement and Legal Risk placement are pretty much the same.

Legally Free/Straight Adopt
A legally free placement is technically a foster placement but with the express intent of adoption.  When a foster/adopt parent accepts this type of placement they do so with agreement to adopt the children.  The children have already gone through the process of TPR (termination of parental rights) and it has been decided that they need to be adopted by someone other than kin.  The adoption can't take place until after the probabtionary period, usually 6 months, but for all involved once the placement occurs it is expected to be permanent.

This means that both the children and the parents believe they will be a forever family from the time they move in.  To give everyone a fair shot to see if its a good fit "sight unseen", there are steps involved in this type of placement that help the kids and parents get to know each other before the kids actually move in.  Usually, the foster/adopt parents are allowed to read the child's case file.  If they and the caseworker agree to move forward, the parents might get to talk to the current foster parents on the phone. Then they might get to talk to the children on the phone for some period of time before getting to meet the children for a short visit (couple hours).  Next comes a full day visit.  Next comes an overnight and then possibly a weekend visit all before the final move "home".  By this time it's expected both the children and parents agree to move forward with the intention of adoption.  I've listed various options for contact but of course each placement happens a bit differently based on the needs of the state, the kids, and the parents.  It can happen quickly (a matter of weeks) or over a longer period of time (months).  Once the kiddos do arrive they come with all of their personal belongings.

Hopefully this helps to clear up "how it works" when kids arrive as a placement.  They aren't just dropped off at the front door, but they usually don't make it too far past the kitchen before the caseworker leaves!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Working Mama Wednesday - Holiday Edition

*Please Note* - I am about to be really stereotypical and make a huge assumption.  I know this assumption is probably false, however I'm sticking with it for no real reason other than to make a cohesive blog post on Working Mama Wednesday.

Furthermore, I apologize to anyone who may be offended by this assumption.  To make it better, let me first give a shout out to the Stay at Home Moms out there...granted not many of you have a 1, 2, 3, and 5 year old that you have to keep quiet while your hubby sleeps during the day, but nevetheless ya'll have a hard job.  A good job, but in case you never hear it from a working mama, one that requires a lot of work.

End preparatory apology.

Being a working mama, I really look forward to the time I get to take off to spend non-stop time with my kiddos where they don't have to go to school/preschool and I don't have to go to work.  In our home, these times are few and far between and are usually spent visiting family out of state, which doesn't really lend itself much to down time at home. 

This holiday we've been able to use the last two weeks of the year at home as a family.  We've spent as much time as we could with family traditions and lots of play (which also means lots of cleaning, hence the work).

This type of non-stop attention-to-kids doesn't happen often enough, therefore we've also used it to maximize those parenting things that take at-home attention.  With 4 kids at these ages, there's quite a few things that need done that require this type of attention.  I'd imagine that stay-at-home moms probably space these things out.  They have more than 2 weeks of this type of time and I'd imagine would focus on 1 or 2 of these critical life-skill lessons at a time for sanity's sake. 

I haven't had that option, so here's what we've attacked, all at the same time, over the past week.

2-Wheel Bike: Logan received a bicycle from Santa last year.  It was a bike big enough to grow with him for a bit and he likes riding it and training wheels were helpful with that.  He's now big enough and capable of riding the bike without the training wheels but we just haven't had the chance to spend enough time with him to learn at least in part because when we're in the front yard I have to make sure the 3 other kids are staying out of the street.  Being home has given us countless naptimes where we've had the chance to go out and practice.  As of yesterday, he could ride about half the length of our street by himself.  A few more practice sessions and he'll always be a bike rider.  So much fun.

Potty-training: Summer is just passed 2 and it felt (to us) like time to get her out of diapers.  We bought a few pottys before her second birthday (when we still had #8 who was the same age) and have slowly gotten her used to the idea of going on the potty, but she hasn't really shown any interest.  Knowing I wouldn't have a chance like this for a while, we decided to take it on and boy are we surprised.  She's taken to it very well!  She's even pooped on the potty several times.  I bought regular training panties for her yesterday (instead of the pull-ups) hoping it will help us to the point where she doesn't like being wet.  Here's hoping the rest of this goes naturally!

Big-Girl Bed: Summer has been in a crib - our only crib - since she came to us 17 months ago.  When #10 came we had a decision to make - buy a toddler bed for Summer or another crib.  We decided it would be less expensive to buy a toddler bed and since she's older than 2 it's a good time to move her to one.  Here this - we were MORE than happy to have her in a crib and not so happy to begin the process of moving her to a bed.  But we've done it.  The first night she spent about 2 hours getting up, playing, doing everything but staying in her bed.  It finally took daddy's spanks (3x) to keep her in bed.  Last night it took 2 spanks and only about 45 minutes, so it looks like we're making progress!

Walking: #10 is a big boy who hasn't walked. He can walk by taking 2 or 3 steps at a time, but he doesn't prefer to walk at all.  At 16 months old he weighs 30+ lbs and is about 3 feet tall (as big as our Summer).  On top of his large size, there is some concern that he may have a physical reason for his delay, like a weak hip or something.  Personally so far I believe he's just not received the right attention and with his size it's taken more effort to walk and he's learned to prefer crawling, but we'll see.  In any case we've taken on the task of getting him to walk.  Summer started walking last year on or around 12/23, so it seems a good time to teach a new kiddo to walk.  Two nights ago we did it (well, he did).  We were walking around and he wanted to get to his daddy who seems to hold the moon for him.  So, he walked  7-8 steps to get there.  After receiving huge praise for his accomplishment, he was done crawling and started walking everywhere.  That was right before bed-time and I was worried he'd forget by the morning.  Not so - he's been doing a great job really walking since.  We have to keep working on it to build his strength and stability but overall he's doing great.

So far so good in our home for these kiddos.

This has made #9 uncomfortable.  All the other kiddos are getting super praise for what they're accomplishing, but she isn't working on an obvious milestone at this time.  This means we've got a 3 year old (who's the size of a 5 year old) telling us every time she walks "look at me I'm walking!" or everytime she goes to the bathroom "mommy I went tee-tee on the potty!".  It's quite an experience, but we've taken it as a milestone for her - to learn that she's loved and cared for in our home regardless of her accomplishments (like folding the laundry).  Sweet girl.

So that's what's going on in our home!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our home to yours.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thankful Thursday - A Lesson in Gratitude

Remember all the stuff in November about gratitude?  I sure hope that movement has a lasting legacy of positive change in regards to being grateful because we could all use a little bit more gratitude.

And from the pages of "as for mie and my house"...

This could very easily have been a double post as Tuesday's Tears - very easily because it brought many, many tears to our household one night.  That being said the tears resulted from a parenting "technique" that was intended to teach gratitude and boy did it.

Remember this?  Our son out of mixed emotions and exhaustion accused mie of trying to kill him because I wouldn't let him sleep in our bed that night?  Well, apparently the discussion about how there are real mommies and daddies out there who do harm their kiddos wasn't enough to stop the fits about sleeping in my bed.

Last week little man threw one heck of a fit.  I ended up having to carry him upstairs into his room as he threw a massive tantrum because he wanted to sleep in our bed and it was not yet "the 3rd night".  I persisted though and unashamedly told him he would be sleeping in his bed tonight, not ours.

Except he's in a bunk bed, on the top, and I can't physically just put him up there.  He refused to climb the ladder and instead just huddled on the floor as to make it as difficult as possible for mie to put him up on the bed (and boy did that bring flashbacks of my tantrum-throwing self).  So, I gave him one warning.

Then I took away his bed for the night.

Immediately he changed his tune and said he loved his bed and wanted to sleep in it.  He did not want to sleep on the floor.  I told him it was too late, that he was sleeping on the floor tonight and will continue to sleep on the floor until he is grateful for what he has.  I gave him a pillow and several blankets, tucked him in, said our bedtime prayers, etc, all while he continued to throw a fit, now about wanting his bed back.

"I miss my mattress!"
"I don't want to sleep on the floor!"
"The floor is going to cut me!" (just so you're wondering it's upgraded carpet that is probably 5 years old and well-kept)

When we were praying he asked God to make mie give him his bed back :)

He kept on and on until I explained to him that he has to be grateful for what he has and if he's not grateful for what he has then I will take it away too - instead of complaining about not sleeping in mommy's bed he needs to be grateful for his - instead of complaining about not having his mattress he needs to be grateful for his pillow or I'll take that away too, etc.

I told him that's how it's going to be and then left the room.  I half expected him to climb into his bed in defiance and go to sleep, but he didn't.  About 1/2 hour later I went in to check on him and he was curled up with his pillow and blankets right where I'd left him.  I quietly picked him up and put him on his bed and helped him climb into his bed though he was half-asleep.  I covered him gently and kissed him goodnight and he was asleep right away again.

In the morning when he woke up he told him how grateful he was going to be now.  He told mie how grateful he was that I put him in his bed and he was genuine about it.  We then had a good conversation about my job as a mom and furthermore about mercy.  It was a great day of lessons.

Since then we haven't had to talk about being grateful about anything and I can tell he's genuinely grateful, not expecting, for his 3rd night where he gets to sleep with us as a treat.  He reminds mie that he's working on being grateful and now asks for things by saying something along the line of "Mommy, I'm grateful for what I already have, but do you think sometime I could have a xxxxx".

We live much more "luxuriously" than I did growing up, which was from what I understand much more lavish than when my parents grew up.  But one thing I want my son to know as he continues to grow, whether we're in plenty or in want, is to be grateful for what he has and joyful at all times, that he can choose those reactions despite the situation he finds himself in.  That is sometimes difficult living in the situation we live in where we have plenty to eat, safe water, and plenty of toys.  Some of our family's struggles (infertility, as an example) are not entirely kid appropriate and so he doesn't necessarily see some of the things we "don't have" and in his world "the worst" sometimes truly is that he doesn't get to sleep in bed with mom and dad.  He doesn't truly know that sleeping in your own bed or having hamburgers when you wanted hot dogs, in the grand scheme of things, isn't the worst thing in the world.  Hopefully this little lesson gave him a little age-appropriate, non-abusive experience to help him on his journey to being grateful for what he's been given.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Moolah Monday - Getting our Financial House in Order

Inspired by less funds/more expenses after the adoption of Little Miss and relatives who recently paid off all their debt, my husband and I have decided to get our financial house back in order.  Please note the eye rolling and simultaneous happy dance.

I am so doing this because I have to.  I know I have to for many reasons.  First, if we keep spending like we are used to we are eventually going to start bouncing checks.  We haven't faced that scenario in quite some time but it's not something we're eager to get back to.  The eye rolling part of me is acting kind of like a teenager who knows they've lost the battle with their parents (or heaven forbid that their parent is actually right) - yep that's right I'm going along but quite reluctantly, with my nose turned up in the air, and certainly with a few heavy sighs.  Quite mature of mie.  I don't want to budget.  I don't want to have to account for our resources.  I don't want to have to track pennies.  I don't want to have to deny myself anything.  WAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

On the other hand though, I'm the one who asked my hubby if he'd help mie start and then if he'd lead this process.  Though he's now doing a wonderful job of managing it, it was I who initiated the conversation.  The mature, responsible part of mie overruled the teenager within and convinced her that getting things taken care of now would be much more fun than dealing with consequences after the fact.

And of course the grown-up in mie was right.  It is so much better to have a plan for our money than wondering how the month will play out financially.  The teenager in mie has had a good time feeling grown-up and responsible too, so it's a win-win.

Surely the process couldn't be easy and straight-forward though.  Anyone who follows Dave Ramsey is aware of the way he alludes to the role of Murphy's law in the budgeting process and his insistence on the "Emergency Fund" prior to paying off debt for just those situations.  He does this because they happen.  I'm told they always happen.  We're not an exception.

Here's what we needed to include in the budget for the remainder of December:
Income (at the time it was 3 paychecks)
Groceries - $240
Daycare - $1000
Gas Money (2 fill-ups for each car)
Car Insurance Payment
Christmas Presents - $880

I think that was it - balancing out the income with the expenses we ended up with the amounts included above plus enough money to put aside to pay both mortgages in January, put an extra $1000 into savings, and have $220 leftover as spending money - we split it $100 each and put the extra $20 toward presents.

If you look at it another way, we had the mortgages plus $1220 leftover in our budget after paying "necessities".

It didn't stay that way.

We got a call from a collection agency.  Apparently for some still unknown reason my student loans went into repayment in October.  I never paid attention to the statements because it shouldn't have been in repayment yet and so apparently I was 60 days past due with a $1240 outstanding bill.

: (

Thankfully I had the money in the budget to pay for that, but it ate up our extra spending dollars and what was to go into savings.  I was able to pay it though, so we're grateful for that and now the account is current  yet again.  (How embarrassing, and they're still looking into why it went into repayment early).

That day as I drove home I noticed the tire light on the car - it means there was a low tire.  After a hideously bad commute (it took mie 2+ hours to drive home when it usually takes about 45 minutes), hubby checked out the tire and found a large gash and a screw WITH a washer in it.  The tire was not fixable.

We learned a while back that if our tires are not fixable they have to be special ordered at the cost of about $350 each.  We also learned of a place we could get them for about $260 but they still had to be shipped.

So I drove around on the spare tire sparingly (*snort*) for 2 days before the tire came in earlier than expected.  That ate into our January mortgage savings - which really isn't that big of a deal since the mortgage will be paid from January funds anyway, but it's still nice to be that much ahead.  Now we're just a little less ahead.

I had the opportunity to go Christmas shopping for presents with my hubby on Friday.  Here's where it gets cool.  We had budgeted $880 but were going to try to keep it less than that and catch up a little where we lost on the tire.  As I redid the math I realized just off the bat I had just done poor math and we only needed $780 - an immediate $100 to help pay for the tire.  Then when we did our shopping we came in about $250 under what we'd planned.  I still have about $150 left to spend on gifts, so there's another $100 savings for the tire - we managed to spend $200 less than we'd budgeted that could go toward the cost of the tire.

Then I started thinking about a particular check one night - I wondered if that check was ever cashed or if I still had it in my purse.  The next day guess what floated up to the top of my purse - a $65 check I'd had in there since Black Friday that I'd forgotten about.  That left us with $265 toward the tire - enough to purchase it AND pay the fee to get it installed at WalMart without having to dip into our mortgage savings for January.

How cool is that?

I'm sure as we continue this process we'll have other adjustments we'll have to make, but it feels so good to know we're getting back on-track and more importantly that we're doing it together.

It's the right thing to do anyway - being good stewards of the resources we've been given.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Kiddos!

Our newest kiddos have been in our home for almost 2 weeks now.  We have a 1 y.o. boy and a 3 y.o. girl - siblings.  As the story goes, they were in another foster home for 4 months and that home had a total of 5 kiddos, one who was medically fragile, and they were overwhelmed and needed these two moved.

I had immediate flashbacks to the conversation I had with the CPU worker who placed our last kiddos - they too were being moved because the foster parent was overwhelmed.  It didn't get any better as she went on to tell mie how developmentally behind they were, how overweight they were, and other eccentricities about these kiddos who we were being asked to take in.

I was extremely nervous.  I called the hubby, as usual, hoping he'd say no and I'd be off the hook.  

He said "Um, sure!".  

I asked for a pre-placement visit so we could meet them, but with the scheduling challenges that didn't feel right and with hubby's reaction I decided to say sure too.  They told us it would be a week before they would get placed with us.

That week was torturous.  There wasn't much excitement as I usually get with expecting new kids.  It was all nerves and "what did I get myself into".  As I did everything in our home with 2 kids I wondered what it would be like when these two arrived - I pictured worse case scenario and predicted how bad it would be.

Even as we waited the final minutes before they arrived I felt the doom and gloom nerves.  A huge weight of fear and anxiety on mie.

Then they arrived and all of that went away.  We immediately hit-it-off in a parent-child relationship sort-of-way.  These two kids are GREAT!  Since they arrived they've been mild-mannered but fun and spunky, they run around and play with Logan and Summer and everyone just has a blast!  

Maybe it's a good thing I had such high anxiety about it and prepped myself for the worst because I ended up with huge relief and reinforcement that this is what we're supposed to do.  Apparently in the last week they've "changed so much" so says both CASA and the caseworker.  

I can already tell this one will be more difficult when they leave, which may not be for a while.  There was a relative they were looking into that could have happened by Christmas but apparently that will not happen at all now and though there's an interstate kinship placement they're looking into that will take quite some time and who knows how it will work out.  Until then we're enjoying our happy little family of 6 now and helping these kiddos heal while they're with us.

I'm BACK! For now...

So after being rewarded at least in part for being an informative and consistent blogger, I took a left turn and managed to drop off the face of the planet, as it seems.  I promise it wasn't intentional and I actually had really good things to blog about but as it turns out I wasn't able to.

At first I wasn't able to because I was SO busy.  I work in project management now and usually can find time to blog when I take a quick break during the day or at the beginning of the day as I'm getting my thoughts organized for what lay ahead.  Last week Two weeks ago that wasn't an option.  All of my projects began to be very needy, which means activity is happening and that's good for a project manager.  It's bad for the project manager's blog when all of it happens at once.  Then I got new kids.  Oh joy did I get new kids!  (LOVE THEM).  Then, when I finally did have a chance to sit down and blog, my computer monitor decided to stop working.  After dealing with that for a while my computer stopped working altogether.  And that was just two weeks ago.

Then last week came and on top of everything that piled up while I couldn't work the prior week I also had planned to be "on location", so-to-speak, with a project team that was secluding itself off-site to make significant progress.  I had planned to have given them as much of the week as possible as a facilitator, computer-free since I was standing up speaking and scribing most of the time.

I was able to make it into the office a few times but as it turns out, on top of fixing my monitor they decided to replace my entire computer.  It was supposed to take 15 minutes.  I didn't get a functional computer for several days.  That did not help out the previously mentioned pile o' work that was stacking up, quickly.

Then, after I received a perfectly working computer, Blogger decided it was going to stop supporting IE, at least the version I'm allowed to have on the said computer.  I'm not sure if this was really a Blogger thing or an issue resulting from a partially non-functioning computer.  It really doesn't matter.

I really was unable to blog - meaning not possible - couldn't though I tried daily.

Today I got fed-up with it and decided to take a chance with the IT folks and download Google Chrome.  To my utter surprise it actually worked and now, so does Blogger.  Perfect.  I was able to catch-up with all my friends and now begin the process of writing all the blogs I've had in my head all this time.  I have a few really good ones in mind - let's see how far I get into it before I get distracted again.

Of course I say that because this is the week before Christmas and OH how excited I am about that.  I'll be working a few days this week but then it's time off with the family, hopefully until after the new year.  I'm so looking forward to that.  I've got a trip to see Christmas lights planned, a trip with the eldest to pick out presents for his siblings, a cookie-baking day with the kids and their cousins, and just plain ol' family time.  I'm really looking forward to it so I don't know how much time I'll actually take catching up on the blog.

Hopefully it ends up being a great balance!

Say What (?!?) Sunday – Newest “isms”

My house is never lacking interesting, cute, and surprising things coming out of kids’ mouths. Our newest kiddos are no exception. Well, really only #9 – she talks but #10 doesn’t. Here are a few things we’ve heard around our home in the last week:
“I’m going to pee (poop) myself” – props for trying to form a full sentence, but how about “I have to use the bathroom”.

“He jacked my macaroni” – Think about a sweet little 3 year old girls voice, trying hard to enunciate “Ma-ca-ROW-ni” – and then add the phrase “jack” instead of something sweet like “take”.

She calls my husband "Damien".  Not sure why - it's not even close to his name and his name is the same as her brother and fathers name, so she knows the name.  No idea where Damien comes from.
She also sings a lot.
Jingle Bells - “Tinker bells, Tinker bells, Tinker all the way…” When I corrected her to Jingle Bells – it then became “Chingle Bells, Chingle Bells…”

Jesus Loves Me – “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. He is so strong, he is so strong. Yes Jesus Loves Me! Jesus loves me this I know…”

“I have a baby turtle, his name is Tiny Tim. I put him in the bathtub to see if he could swim. He drank up all the water, he ate up all the soap! And now he’s stuck in bed with a bubble in his throat. Bubble Bubble Bubble Pop!

Also – I haven’t figured out how yet, but her “Itsy Bitsy Spider” has a fairy in it…
Fun times!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

Liebster Blog Award


Liebster is a German word which means "dearest" or "beloved". It is also used to refer to as someone's "favorite" and the idea of the Liebster Blog Award is to bring attention to blogs with less than 200 followers that deserve more recognition and encouragement.

I was nominated by Tammy over at I Must be Trippin'.   I must admit - after seeing these on all my "friends" blogs recently I wondered whether anyone thought enough of mie to nominate my humble abode.  Miss Tammy just made my day I tell you, as she does often.  Seriously - even though sometimes I feel like a single foster mom - she actually is and that deserves so much respect.  I love to keep updated on her kiddos and their cases but most importantly I love to see her perspective with how she manages it all.  There is nothing like finding another foster mama who can articulate the craziness of living such a life and loving it in the same breath!  In case I haven't told you - I love you miss Tammy :) (But seriously - recognizing mie for keeping up with my weekly segments during the week I didn't keep up with them?  Sheesh ;)  )
There are certain rules that come with the Liebster Blog Award:
  1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
  4. Hope that the people you've sent the award to forward it on to their five favorite bloggers and keep it going!
I'm receiving this award somewhat late in it's cycle through my friends, so I'm intentionally skipping over some of my favorites like MamaFoster, Learning to Abandon, and Small Town Joy (so just remember even though I didn't officially award you you're still among my favs).   I tried to really strip out all of the previously awarded folks, but that took too much time to figure out!  Here's my 5:

  1. Brit over at Living with Three Boys of our Own.  Brit and I are friends IRL, though I had her blog info before I met her!  Funny story - when we started down the foster/adopt path my cousin sent me the link to a blog from a great gal she met through her work.  She knew this gal had adopted and thought I might be interested.  I was but as things go I had no time to look at it at that point.  I saved the link for a later date.  Fast forward several, several months until the point I finally had time to look and to my surprise the link is to my friend Brit's blog!  CRAZY.  I had met Brit during that time through church and she became a big inspiration to mie.  Seriously - check her blog out and she'll inspire you too.  Be careful though - you may end up using natural products as cleaners, making your own detergent, and batch cooking.  Or you may move to rural America to provide your family a more country living despite how much your friends will miss you :)  Love you Brit.
  2. Attempting Agape - I really enjoy her writing style and the topics.  For mie it's a good mix of personal example-type blog entries and more journalistic-style entries.  You can't really go wrong with that and she does it wonderfully.  More broadly though, I really appreciate her whole story that brought her to foster care to begin with - the idea of attempting to love others as Christ has commanded regardless of whether your married, single, rich, poor, old, young - I just really have a heart for her and her mission.
  3. Holli over at Klein Haus Chaos.  If mie and Holli ever met I think we'd hit it off right away.  To mie there's a good mix of all that is right in life - being "in the world and not of it", practicality, crunchy parenting (my words, not hers), and choosing a ministry with foster care even though she has been blessed with 3 biological children.  She currently has 5 kids 5 and under, which seems just perfect to mie.
  4. Wendi over at Life in the....  This woman was kind enough to reach out to mie on my blog years ago as I was in the muck of new infertility at the prodding of my friend Andi.  Since then I've been following her journey around the globe as they've grown their own family through birth and adoption after infertility.  Most recently she's been open in sharing her experience with PPD after the birth of their newest child and I appreciate that she's willing to share vulnerably with others in the hopes that it might reach someone still suffering.  I pray God continues to bless this family as they serve our country oversees.
  5. I just recently began visiting Katie at More from the Mohrs.  I love to read her posts - who else can be so lighthearted about Rotavirus?  (I hope your kiddo gets better soon!).  Looking forward to reading more as time goes on.
Enjoy visiting some of my favorites and congratulations ladies on being on my top list, because, I know you were really wanting that for Christmas ;)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Bad Dreams

Last night had a tendency to run a bit scary for our family.  Usually nights are quiet around our home, but last night (the sleeping hours) proved eventful and not necesarily on the fun side.  Bad dreams and near death experiences are no fun.

I finally got to bed around 11:30 last night.  I spent a little time thinking about how pre-kids even with school I used to be able to get to bed around 10 and 10:30-11 bedtimes would be either a night with a lot of homework or a night where I was "bad" and stayed up too late to watch a tv show.  But generally the bedtime would be 10pm.  After I had my son bedtime became 11pm - that's how his schedule worked.  It didn't make much sense for me to go to bed earlier than that.  Our new norm was 11 for a year or so until I worked him down to going to bed earlier, like 9:30 or 10, at which point I started homework at 10 but still hit the pillow at about 10:30.  Nowadays I almost never go to bed before 11.  I find that pretty crazy, particularly because I haven't done schoolwork in a while.

Wow - I surely digress.

So - bed at  11:30.  at about 12:15 I was woken up by screaming in the house - my son was desperately calling out to me from the top of the stairs.  The space between that spot and my pillos includes a big expansive space.  That and the fact that I was sound asleep attests to how blood curdling these screams were.  Despite my sore legs from running in the marathon last week, I ran right out of bed and up the stairs to scoop him up and save him.

He was shaking.  He'd had a nightmare.  I didn't ask him what happened in the dream because he was obviously so shaken up about it.  I just picked him up and cuddled him - walking him right down to bed.  Whatever it was it was bad.  Poor guy. 

Later in the morning I had a bad dream as well.  Due to the narcolepsy, I can pretty much remember all of my dreams and they have an amazing sense of feeling very real.  This one was bad - someone was chasing mie intent on shooting and killing mie. I was running and hiding but this person kept at it.  Eventually (knowing it was a dream) I woke myself up to see that it was close to the time my hubby would be getting home.

I must have fallen asleep because he did not arrive at home on-time last night.  Instead he was about 1 1/2 hours late.  I woke up when he kissed mie good night and he pointed out he was home late. 

Then he said he'd almost died.

I asked the story - he said a drunk driver ran into a car that had just pulled into the spot he was standing in and so he almost died.  It didn't make much sense at the time in my half-sleep stupor but he was quite shaken up about it, I could tell.  When we were both awake he explained the story a bit more and it did make more sense.  It also made him work late.

What a dark shadow it cast on the night last night as all of us but Little Miss experienced some type of horror.  Even as I was half-asleep I was quite aware of how odd that was.

Thankfully though whatever was going through my little guy's head was just a dream - not reality.  My dream felt real but thankfully was not.  My husband was protected and came home safe and sound, just as we'd intentionally prayed for before my son went to sleep originally.  I'm grateful for that.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Overmedication & Foster Care

As I flipped through the channel guide Friday night I found a show I didn’t want to watch but knew I had to. As a foster parent advocate I had to see how exactly 20/20 was going to handle the issue of the (over)use of psychotropics with foster children. I want to say it’s an issue that most, if not all, foster parents are at least aware of though the fact that some foster parents end up having their children medicated unnecessarily begs the question whether they do so intentionally, out of ignorance, or out of a lack of empowerment. If I had to guess I’d say it happens for all three reasons but even still I can’t imagine there is a foster parent out there who is truly oblivious to this issue.

So I recorded it. Then I watched a movie with a particular thieving Grinch with my son, nephews, and niece that didn’t end until 11pm. Of course being Mie I couldn’t go to bed until I watched the show, so I watched it late Friday night.

The things parents do on a Friday night.

Anywho – Penny over at reminded mie of the episode when I caught up with her this morning. Check out her comments here.

As I began watching this story I was immediately filled with passion, even after 11pm on a Friday night. I felt angry at the system, compassion for the children, and was ready to pounce at 20/20 at any minute if they chose to attack foster parents or be decidedly biased on an issue that is very complex and ultimately affects real children out there. I was generally impressed. In my opinion, they handled the topic fairly well. I did not like that they toed the line on exploiting current and former foster children to make their point, but I’m also not sure how well they would have been able to communicate the facts without using real stories and therefore real children. I wasn’t happy with the fact that foster care was again gaining negative attention in the media. I hate that so many people only get to see the negative aspects of "the system" because that's what makes it on the news aside from the occasional Adoption Day coverage. But overall I think they did a good job at covering an issue, some of the contributing factors, and some of the things regular people can do to help in a 30 minute segment.

Essentially the angle the story took was that doctors and the supporting foster care system including Medicaid and the Pharmaceutical companies are targeting foster children for psychotropic medications that may or may not have been approved for children who may or may not need medication at all.

Here’s my analysis of the situation in a nutshell. Foster children have faced harm, not only from the original caregivers who either abused or neglected them but also from the loss of their original family that happened when they were removed and placed into foster care in the beginning. That harm results in hurt that manifests itself in a variety of ways. In some cases, add prenatal and other alcohol and drug exposure and you end up with a child who very may well have some significant mental health (among other) issues that need healing. This “need for healing” often manifests itself with difficult behaviors from the children including severe depression with suicidal thoughts and actions, lack of age-appropriate self-control, violent tendencies, various forms of delay including developmental and emotional, lying, stealing, running away, and on-and-on. Basically, the “need for healing” is hard on the kid and that makes the job of a foster parent often, but not always, involved if not difficult.

Where does someone go for healing? A doctor. Foster parents are generally allowed to seek medical care for their children with very little intervention from others, like caseworkers. They are also generally required to follow doctor’s orders. Typically, doctors who will take the government funded health insurance provided to foster children are in very short supply. This means a foster parent will tend to take the child to the doctor to address behavioral issues, a doctor who is generally receiving less money than with other patients, a doctor who doesn’t have much time to spend with the child because they are cramming as many children into their office to make-up for the lower payments. Not only do doctors have little time with (and therefore know little about) the child but often foster parents don’t have “the whole story” about the children even IF they had the opportunity to communicate it to the doctor in full. Therefore, the doctor often ends up either referring out to a specialist (psychiatrist, etc., the better choice) or more often will diagnose a “common” disorder like ADHD and prescribe the “common” prescription like Ritalin. If that happens, the foster parent usually MUST provide that drug to the child as prescribed. End of story.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Good foster parents will usually go way beyond that “path of least resistance”, but that takes a lot of work. For example, a foster parent might take the child into a psych evaluation. In order to do that in my neck-of-the-woods, she’d first have to get authorization from the caseworker, who then must issue a referral (if and only if the child hasn’t had one already in the past 12 months). A referral can take a long time. Then the foster parent has to wait for the caseworker’s chosen psychologist to call to set up an appointment.(hopefully they went with a psychologist…if not a good foster parent will fight that battle before moving forward). All of this will take weeks if not months. In the meantime the child is still having the behaviors and is “crying” for help. Then a foster parent might have the opportunity to get a proper eval, which involves several hours of prep-work from the foster parent and at least an hour or two with the psychologist. A diagnosis might then be rendered which will go to the caseworker (usually) not the foster parent, so the foster parent must wait until further contact before doing anything else. Hopefully at this point the child will receive the services needed.

The process to get therapy of any kind (developmental, speech, play, talk, etc.) looks much like that, but is separate for each type of therapy. In other words, you’d “rinse and repeat” for each type of therapy the child needs. There are a few options for efficiency in the processes, but generally you can imagine what it takes to get proper treatment for the child.

Now, in terms of medication, there are things a foster parent can do to avoid that too, if it is not appropriate for the child and his/her situation. To start, avoid taking your child to the medical doctor for behavioral challenges. It is a reasonable expectation that if you take the child to the M.D. they will lean toward a prescription solution rather than therapy, as an example. You can’t blame them, that is what their training tends to be. If a doctor visit is appropriate, there are still things that the foster parent can do to avoid unnecessary medication. First, find a good doctor. Second, get as much information about the child as you can. Third, research, research, research. Look-up diagnosis criteria for common disorders. Look-up your child’s symptoms and behaviors. Though I wouldn’t recommend self-diagnosis, at least it will give you an understanding on what’s out there so you can ask appropriate questions of the doctor. Fourth, ask questions and give input at the doctor visit. Insist the doctor spends time with you and the child. If they are getting ready to prescribe something, ask if there is a natural remedy or something besides medication that you can try. It’s not that medication is not appropriate in any circumstance, but the foster parent (and any parent really) should be looking at the holistic solution, especially with behavioral challenges. Fifth, as with any diagnosis – get a second opinion.

Finally, my last advice on being prescribed psychotropic medication – almost without reservation, if a psychotropic is prescribed you must seek additional therapeutic support. This is true of anyone, but especially with foster children who will understandably have things that need to be addressed with therapy. Medication may be needed in the beginning to help therapy be successful, but in most cases it is not and should not be the ultimate solution. If the root issues are not addressed and/or alternate solutions are not taught (life skills, behavioral medication, etc.) true healing won’t happen – the child will just be drugged into submission.

I personally have not had much experience with children in my care being overmedicated with psychotropics. My kids have all been too young to be taking them and I would have thrown a fit. I will say though that they have all come to me with other types of medications they did not need that appeared to be freely handed out in previous placements or while they were with their family of origin. Most have come to me on prescription level allergy medication, stomach medication (prevacid-type), inhalers, breathing treatments, antibiotics, and decongestants. Thankfully most of the doctor orders said “as needed” and I was able to treat as such – turns out most of them didn’t need anything. In case you were wondering, even though they were as needed I ran my choice to discontinue use by the doctors first; after all I myself am not a doctor and don’t claim to know everything about health. Nevertheless I could see how if I had older children it would be very easy for me to end up with more medication than necessary, psychotropic or not. I know for my oldest kiddo, if I had wanted to I could have found an MD willing to diagnose him with something to get him on some sort of psychotropic to help deal with his behaviors. That’s a crying shame.

Unfortunately, the episode did not get into a few things it probably should have. First, there are foster parents out there who try to get their children on medications. Not only does this “make the kids easier to handle” but also often qualifies the children with a higher service level which often qualifies them for higher foster care subsidy (read: foster parent pay). A “good” option for foster parents “in it for the money”. I’m glad it didn’t talk about this though – I think that is fairly rare in comparison to other reasons for overmedication and gives us good foster parents a bad rap. Generally the show gave foster parents and those willing to adopt the benefit of the doubt, encouraging more people to get involved. Bravo. I do think they missed an opportunity (though I understand why) to talk about the real need for some children to be medicated and the severity of some of their issues they face in foster care. I think they could have done a lot of good talking about some of the real things foster children face and the way it affects their lives – things like attachment disorders, affects of drug and alcohol abuse, and the hope they have for a better life when they get the right support for growth. They could have also done a better job focusing on how hard it is to fight the system when you’re a foster parent and how seemingly everyone’s hands are tied, even the doctor’s to a degree rather than focusing so much on the impact of the pharma’s and unethical doctors. Generally most people are trying to do good. Generally, we just need to come up with ways we can do it better.

Foster care is a delicate situation, it really is, with so many moving parts and added complexity to "normal" parenting that a 30 minute show just can't do any topic justice really, but I’m grateful they tried. The important thing is as a community we keep this issue out in the open rather than in the dark so people continue to be aware that overmedication can be an issue and there are other options out there to help foster children learn to thrive despite their situation.

After all – that’s what we foster parents are trying to do, right?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - Preparing for Kiddos

Q: What sort of things do you need to have in your house before accepting a placement? Beds, clothes, toys, carseats, strollers? Or can you get some of those things after they arrive?

A: What a great question and it's timely for us to answer now seeing as how we will be spending the weekend preparing for a new placement.

As usual, this question leads to a few different answers.

1) You really don't have to have anything in your house in particular before accepting a placement. When the CPU (Central Placement Unit) worker calls to ask if you'd take a particular child there is absolutely no discussion about whether or not you as the foster parent are prepared to take this child. I think it is somewhat implied, part of the decision to accept a placement should be to consider whether or not you are ready to handle X child with the details of their case (including age, weight, behaviors, etc.). That being said there isn't anything that requires a foster parent to be prepared, other than proper licensing, prior to accepting a placement.
2) This leads us to the licensing process - that is really where your preparedness is evaluated. It's at this time where the licensing agency reviews your home, your family, your interests, your skills, etc., to determine if you are indeed "prepared" for the life of foster parenting. This is a broad preparedness though and not tied to any specific child. Typically during the process you restrict your license to your preferences. For example, our license was originally for 4 children ages 0-6. It can be restricted in lots of ways including # of children, age, gender, race or ethnicity, behaviors etc. Some of these restrictions are tied to your license (ours said 4 - now 5- children, 0-6) and some are tied to the homestudy itself and are more preferences. Preferences are usually the behaviors, gender, ethnicity, etc. As an example, for us we said we do not want to accept a placement for a male child who has been sexually abused. We didn’t feel we were capable of accepting that type of placement and properly protecting our other children. Our license doesn’t say “No male sexual abuse” – but it is written in our homestudy report. As a side note – apparently it also says we prefer Caucasian children, which wasn’t at all what we said. We didn’t find that out until we got Summer’s adoption paperwork which contained a copy of our original homestudy report. Crazy.
In order to be licensed, you have to meet the agency’s minimum standards. This might include things like plug covers, locked medicine containers, pool must be fenced, etc. Depending on your agency and what you are asking for on your license, they might also review how prepared you are for the children you are requesting. If you are asking for 4 children, they will definitely make sure your home has the proper space as dictated by minimum standards. In our case they asked us to provide a map of our home, indicating where different children would sleep. Our rules require 40 sq. ft per child in a room, 2 drawers that are solely theirs (not shared), and genders need to be separated after age 6. So, asking for 4 children ages 0-6 we had to show we had proper bedrooms for that. All of this still doesn’t really verify whether or not you are ready to accept a particular placement.
This is where it got tricky for us and where I’ve found discrepancies in how different people do things, even within the same county in the same state. We had a dilemma – we wanted 4 children ages 0-6 but that is a very wide range! We had 3 possible choices for bedrooms, aside from ours, at the time. One of those rooms had our son in it but had room for more kids too. How should you set up those rooms to prepare for any combination of kids ages 0-6? In my opinion you don’t, and we didn’t. You might need a crib and a toddler bed in one room, a bunk bed in another room, or a toddler bed in one room and a bunk bed and crib in another room. It just depends on the actual kids that come. So, what we did during licensing was leave our home the way it was, which included our son’s room with his twin bed but room for another of any type, a room setup as a playroom that could be converted to a bedroom as needed, and a guest room with a queen bed. When the homestudy social worker came out to visit our home, we showed her what we had and then also told her we had a crib in the attic at my sister’s house (a mile away) and a toddler bed in the garage and we were prepared to set them up in any room as needed based on the kids we accepted. We also said we had some money set aside so that we could go out and buy anything else we needed depending on what type of call we received. This apparently worked as we were licensed. When our first placement came in we had my sister bring over the crib and help me put it together, her husband helped put the toddler bed together in another room, and my husband who was at work when the call came in stopped by Walmart to pick-up another mattress and girly bedsheets for the toddler bed on his way home. We were able to do all of that before the children came.
My sister is going through the licensing process now with the same agency. It is a different worker than we had for our homestudy, but they had the same supervisor who is required to sign-off on the license so you’d expect that the process and rules would be the same. Not so much. Sure, 2 years have gone by since we started the process, but you’d still think they’d operate the same. Nope. Her homestudy worker would not accept bare bedrooms with the caveat that they had stuff in their attic ready to setup as kids came. Instead, they had to actually setup some beds for the license they were asking for which in my opinion was even dumber in their situation because they had an expanded age range than we asked for, even further complicating the various options for room setup. Between the two of us, we plan on having a shared resource of different beds, etc. that we can pull from depending on who has what kids – it doesn’t make sense for each of us to have a full set of all types of beds when we know at least half of those beds will be in storage at all times.

So, although you don’t HAVE to have things before you accept a particular placement, you do have to have some things before you get licensed. It mainly has to do with a safe home, sufficient space, and maybe a few beds that meet the needs of your kiddos.
(Interested in more stories on licensing? Check out Foster2Forever’s list of foster care blogs about the licensing process.

3) In terms of everything else, you don’t have to have anything prior to accepting a placement. Things like carseats, toys, high chairs, etc are not required per se during the homestudy and pretty much all of that you can get either while you’re waiting for the placement to come after you’ve accepted or after the kids arrive. Thinking back, of our 5 placements we’ve only NOT purchased a bed with 2 of them, which means we’ve purchased at least 3 beds in 5 cases. Now with our newest case we’ll have to purchase another bed. Again. What I’d recommend with this is that if you are planning to have a combination of toddlers, infants, and preschoolers in your home that you consider purchasing convertible cribs. This will help you have whatever you need when a child comes. We’ve had to purchase several car seats, again based on the age and size of various combinations of kiddos. We’ve purchased an extra high-chair, a stroller or two, and a couple other baby gear type things we got rid of after Logan was too big for them. We have a ton of bottles and sippy cups, pacifiers, and clothes that we’ve built up over time.

The point in all this is that while you don’t HAVE to have everything for a particular child before you accept a placement, it’s probably wise to stock up on some things that are reusable for different ages, genders, etc., over time rather than waiting until you get a call, but I wouldn’t go overboard. Inevitably you will have to go buy something for the child that comes into your home, whether it be clothes, diapers, hair ties, toothbrushes, etc. and you should always plan on spending time and money in the beginning getting the child setup in your home.

I wouldn’t say no to a child because I don’t have something already, like a high-chair or even a bed – we just figure that stuff out after the call. I also wouldn’t go out and buy everything you’d THINK you’d need for a child before accepting a placement because the likelihood is you’ll spend money on stuff you don’t need and you will have to go out and buy more. I would think about looking for big things like dressers, beds, playpens, strollers, high-chairs, etc., at yard sales, second-hand shops, from friends who are giving them away, or anywhere else you can get a good deal on something little-by-little over time, because it does help. And finding other foster parents or parents of kiddos in your target age range that you can swap/share stuff with isn’t a bad idea either.
I would also check out this post and this post, and this post.  I saw these recently and thought they were pretty good at describing how to best prepare for kiddos.

I'm going to do a blog hop on Preparing for Foster Care & Placements.  Is anyone willing to co-host with mie?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Thankful Thursday: 30 Days of Gratitude

I didn't publicly participate in any of the 30-days of gratitude festivities going on in social media.  I was protesting.  Ok, not really, but on one hand I didn't want to just do what everyone else was doing and on the other hand I was a bit bugged by it.  Don't get mie wrong, it's a good thing for folks to intentionally focus on being grateful for at least one thing each day and sharing that with others doesn't hurt.  With all the griping and complaining out there in cyber-space I have to believe that the efforts to be grateful helped make a dent in the general negativity and cynicism out there and at the very least made some people pause to correct their attitude each day.  Props for that.

The thing that bothers mie about it was plainly this - today is December 1st.  How many people are going to stop focusing on being grateful now that the 30 days are up?  How many "Day 31" posts are we going to see?  Probably not as many.  Clearly this doesn't mean people are grateful, but it did make mie pause and eventually consciously decide to not participate by posting my own daily list and rather continue with my regular activity.  More than anything, it made mie in my heart (if not on my blog) focus on how grateful I am as a lifestyle/character trait so I can check the long-term success of being grateful in my own life. 

"For this I am we are grateful." (That's a quote - does anyone know from where? Probably many places but I have one in mind).

Nevertheless, I am a grateful person and what a fitting day to intentionally share my gratitude than on Thankful Thursday.  No need to point out how ironic-if-not-hypocritical it is for mie to have a weekly feature on gratitude when I kind-of-object to a 30-day daily movement in November.  I know.

  1. My God who saves mie and allows mie to be in relationship with Him for no other reason than He loves mie.
  2. My husband who has committed 9+ years of his life to living life as "us".
  3. My son Logan who has been a tremendous blessing from day 1, as in the day we were blessed with him through pregnancy.  He was and remains "the one we waited for".
  4. Our infertility - it made us appreciate our son that much more even though the extent to which we were infertile wasn't made known to us until well after his birth.  Additionally, it led us down a path that brought us closer to God and we believe has taught us so much more about His plan for His people here on Earth that we would have missed had we not struggled with infertility.
  5. Our foster care license - on our recent vacation someone (yet again) mentioned how "amazing" we are for being foster parents and living this life.  Though I appreciated the sentiment I replied, probably the first time with complete and utter honesty, no reservation, that we are the ones who are blessed through foster care.  Though having children in our family is great, the life-lessons and blessing through our participation in foster care has been more than we could have ever expected and by-far makes up for any stress caused by having "that many" "kids from difficult places".
  6. God's provision through our jobs - we are incredibly blessed financially and we believe that is 100% so we can provide for others.  You don't have to have a large home to foster, but it sure has helped us be able to do more for more kiddos than we could have in our old smaller home.  Between the two of us, we've faced a few difficult years in our jobs but it has definitely, once again, been a turmoil that has caused growth in us that wouldn't have happened otherwise.
  7. Our tenant - a good woman and friend and her family that we can trust with our other property.  It's a blessing to us to be able to trust she's going to care for our home probably better than we would have.
  8. Our daughter - It is so wonderful to have a daughter whom we would have never thought we'd have.  More so, she is a perfect match for our family in her personality, likes and dislikes, and just basically everything about her.  We love her so much and couldn't imagine life without her.  And now I know 1200 ways to take care of ringworm.
  9. A good pediatrician - speaking of ringworm - so grateful for our wonderful pediatrician who is smart, well-educated, personable, caring for each of our kids, and probably most importantly to me willing to partner with us as parents to treat our kiddos, doing the right thing for their individual needs rather than just running through some textbook script.
  10. My friend Amanda and all of my friends running in the marathon relay soon who encouraged mie in training to run 5.2 miles, something a year ago (5 months ago) I would have told you was impossible.  Apparently, it isn't impossible and I know that now because of their support.
  11. My parents - Not perfect but wonderfully supportive.  They mostly tell it like it is but allow us to live our own life, encouraging us to make our own decisions as adults.  They did a good job raising us as kiddos into capable adults, which may be why they trust us to make our own decisions.  Not to mention, they make it known that they love us and have gone out of their way to support us in fostering.
  12. My siblings - each of whom I'm proud of and I know are there for each other (and mie) through thick and thin.  Sometimes it's really thick and sometimes really thin, but we stick it out and make it work in the long run!
  13. My husband's family - they are really friendly people who have taught us many lessons along the way.
  14. My extended family - for so many reasons.  Not at all perfect.  Some are closer than others and that's ok.  Has taught mie the value of boundaries, family bonds, unconditional love, and many other things.  Not to mention how fun it is to have a large family - how many people can say they have 60 first-cousins? 
  15. Marie Callendar's Dutch Applie Pie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.  It makes everything better.
  16. Our church family - so many great friends to share our life with over the past 6 years. 
  17. The principals at the schools my son might be attending next year - they each have agreed to allow our son to go to 1st grade if he tests in to their schools.  This has taken a HUGE burden off mie as a momma who believes my son who can read and do most basic math at 5 years old does not need to do kindergarten again next year just because his birthday is 30 days after the cut-off.  I don't mind putting him in kinder again if he belongs there, but not just because of beauracracy.
  18. God giving us what we can handle - the trials and tribulations we've faced over the past few years, though very challenging at times, have chipped away at some of the ugliness we naturally carry as humans.  If we only had a "perfect" life where everything went our way and we didn't face hurts, we wouldn't be where we are today.  Not to mention the way He's demonstrated His endless capacity in these situations that felt impossible at the time.
  19. Our swagger-waggon - the 2011 Sienna.  It does really feel like the perfect car for us.  I know many struggle with reliable transportation, sharing one vehicle, having to transport large families by public transit on a regular basis.  The Sienna is a big blessing to us.
  20. Our annual Thanksgiving vacation tradition - we look forward to taking our kiddos to see family and having the ability to stop off along the way to see some gorgeous sights.  Stopping off along the way gives our immediate family a few days of "alone time" together to vacation and bond before spending the rest of our vacation with extended family, which is also great.
  21. Plenty of food.  I'm grateful the only hunger my children have had to face in my home is not wanting to eat something I serve rather than not having something available when they're really, actually, starving - something they've never had to experience.
  22. Clean water - I am so grateful that so many of my friends and church family ran this year with World Vision to raise money and awareness for clean water, something that is a luxury for some people and something for which we don't even think about on a daily basis.  I'm so proud of them and their efforts and grateful we have enough to drink.
  23. I'm choosing to be grateful that "our son" Aaron never came to be and instead baby Zachary went to live with his adoptive parents far away.  I don't understand this and I may never will, but I'm grateful anyway.  I know God had his hand in it and though I think it was terribly wrong on so many levels I believe He knows what He's doing better than I do.  I'm grateful that it remains a sore spot on my heart because it continues to remind mie that I'm not in control and that I continue to need God's help in this world, if for no other reason than to be grateful despite the heartbreak I have with the situation.  It gives mie an opportunity to pray for a family that I don't really know as they raise a child through adoption, a family that is my extended family whether or not we ever really know each other.  What a wonderful example of how God's family is - completely messed up from His original plan yet all pulled back together through His efforts to adopt us as his children, thereby creating the extended family in Christ. 
  24. I'm grateful my husband and I fought for our marriage years ago.  There at least a couple points at which we were on the brink and could have "rightly" ended our marriage and yet making a choice to honor our vows "in sickness and in health" has gone on to teach us so much more about ourselves and Christ and now we have a happy marriage that continues to grow.
  25. Christmas is coming!  The season is here.  I LOVE the holiday season and I'm grateful that we don't have to get sucked into the drama that is commercialized Christmas.
  26. I'm grateful my son resembles my husband.  I joke about it occasionally - I'm glad people can see my husband's features in my son particularly in light of the cause of our infertility - but honestly I am very grateful for it.  We may only get one shot at having a biological son and it's very cool that he seems to be a perfect mix of both of our features.
  27. I'm grateful we've only been allowed to adopt one of our foster children.  It has given us a flavor for adoption and allowed us to be at peace with "keeping" our forever daughter.  Additionally, not being able to adopt our first set (and subsequent sets) of kiddos has enabled us to foster many more children than if our house was full in the beginning, but also has given us a passion for foster care beyond a means to adopt.
  28. I'm glad I finally learned I have allergies - it makes life so much easier to be able to function when I can take allergy medicine and the symptoms I've had my whole life just go away.
  29. I'm grateful our daughter has blue eyes. Not that it matters all that much, but in our family we have very characteristic blue eyes.  In all of the family (remember my previously mentioned # of cousins and many of them have kids) I think we counted 3 or 4 people who carry our blood but don't have the blue eyes.  My son does not have them.  It's cool our daughter does, even though she doesn't carry the blood :)
  30. I'm grateful for the break I've had from school over the past 6 months.  It's given mie a bit of rest and a feel for what it's normall like as a parent who works but is not in full-time grad-school, something I hadn't experienced before!
  31. I'm also grateful for my friend Pam who earned her Ph.D. this week.  We started the program right around the same time and I'm glad to see her finish.  It makes mie very jealous that I'm not quite done, but has given mie the insipiration to know I too can do it and to get my butt back in gear to finish it even if it means I have to climb some more obstacles first.
  32. I'm grateful I still have my cell phone.  I should have lost it in May but I've been given grace to keep it for now. 
I just realized I've done more than 30.  I had planned to do more than 30 just to make sure I didn't "stop on day 31" so I hit my target.  But, for good measure, here's the last for today.

33.  I'm thankful for my blogging community.  I get encouraged by your comments and the stats to know that our story is reaching others, hopefully positively benefiting your lives and shedding a positive-yet-realistic light on orphan-care, among other things.  You all bless mie a ton knowing you're out there.  I also am thankful for those of you whose blogs I follow - sharing your stories also encourages mie (and often sends me a good laugh!).

I don't know if you all made it to the end - doesn't really matter I suppose - the point was for mie to spread a little gratitude on day 31.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We said yes...

That's right friends - 6 weeks after our last kiddos went home we finally got another call (so weird it took that long!) and we said yes to a new placement this afternoon.

Just because we said yes doesn't mean they'll actually come.  They are moving foster homes, which makes mie a bit nervous after our last experience with kiddos who moved foster homes.  They have a few challenges but they seem like "normal" foster care challenges and they promised mie (?!?) no RADish behaviors (yet).  They also promised mie they are being moved not because of their behaviors but because of a medically fragile child that will stay in that home.

I asked for a pre-placement visit but we won't be doing that this time.  It's available to us, but we decided it wasn't necesary this time, especially with the timing of it all.  It's another neglect case and they seem to have typical neglect-related challenges.

The caseworker mentioned she couldn't do the move this week.  If that's the case, I'm thinking it will be next Tuesday or Wednesday - we'll see!  If that happens, we'll add #9 - a 3-year-old girl and #10 - a 1-year-old boy and we'll have 4 kiddos again.

Hmmm...things might be getting interesting again around here!

Working Mama Wednesday - New Schedule!

I am SO excited. 

You've all heard mie whine about our home schedule.  There are many perks to having a crazy, non-traditional schedule like ours including plenty of "mie" time at home (with the kids of course).  I told you recently about how I was looking forward to vacation because we'd get to spend more time together as a family.  I've also mentioned before how little time we actually get as a family altogether.  13 hours per week total.  But we've made it work and take advantage of some of the benefits of that type of schedule, not the least of which for my husband is his own personal time - he watches a lot of movies on his own and we all prefer that.

This is all about to change friends.

One of the benefits of my husband's job is that though the schedule is non-traditional, he has the opportunity to change his schedule about once per year.  He doesn't always switch to a new schedule but each year picks the best schedule that's available to him that will meet his professional desires and our family's needs.  For the past 5 years or so he's chosen to work approximately the same schedule with minor variations of days off or sliding the hours to begin a little earlier or later.  To say we're adjusted to this schedule would be an understatement.

My husband had the opportunity to choose his schedule again last week for the upcoming year.  He wanted a bit of a change of scenery, so to speak, which left him with choices for a different schedule altogether.  After discussing the options with mie and mie giving him the thumbs up to choose what he wanted, he decided on a brand. new. shift that will be wonderful for our family:
  • My husband will now be home every.single.night!  I can't tell you enough how exciting this is.
  • He will work closer to home, cutting about 90 minutes a day off his total commute time. 
  • My husband & I will be able to do church activities together.
  • My husband & I will be able to take the kids to Parents Night Out regularly and have a date night
  • I will no longer have to worry about how to prepare dinner for a family not eating together or at the same time - I can now prepare FRESH food!
  • I will be able to count on someone to watch the kids while I exercise or do other things at night
  • I will have more help with the drop-off/pick-up schedule with the kids
  • We will have the opportunity to take short day-trips here and there more easily.
  • I will have the opportunity to take day-trips with the kids on the weekends without worrying about coming home right in the middle to capture the time we get with daddy
I could go on and on.  There are benefits of the other schedule that we'll lose, as an example he'll be working more days during the week than he did before, he won't have as much time on his own to do his own things or clean the house like he does regularly now, etc.  Nevertheless I'm very much looking forward to this new schedule and the impact it can have on our family.

One thing we'll need to consider is that we'll be significantly increasing our time together and that, without work, can take a toll on a marriage not used to that.  We'll go from about 13 to 35 hours together per week.  SWEET!  But that can mean more time for arguing, getting on each others' nerves, and taking that time for granted.  Hopefully we'll be aware of that and consciously work on making sure we work together to make this time as great as it can be and our adjustment period will be successful.

I'm so excited I cried.  Seriously.  Tears of joy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Parental Rights Issues

Thinking about foster care should make you think about all the issues that go with it, including termination of parental rights.  I've talked about how sensitive parental rights are in the past, but for a variety of reasons I feel led to discuss it again today.

If you review my past post you'll see that termination breaks my heart.  It obviously breaks my heart for the kids who have had to endure through a situation horrible enough to make their parents face TPR in the first place, but it also breaks my heart for the parents who lose their children and the extended families who are left broken by the situation, no matter the reason. 

Termination happens for a variety of causes and regardless I don't believe that TPR is the ultimate best choice for families.  What I mean is that parents should be healthy and whole and have the full ability, willingness, and choice to raise their children into healthy and whole adults.  The family should be intact.  Of course, this isn't the case in a fallen world.  Parents aren't healthy and whole (ever) and they are never able to raise their children into healthy and whole adults.  Period.  Parents have hurts and hang-ups.  They aren't perfect.  Children inevitably end-up with hurts and hang-ups.  Even the best parents make mistakes, they can't always protect their children from harm, and children by nature will also make mistakes causing their own harm.  I think it's foolish for us as a society to expect parents to be perfect and to never make a mistake.

With all that said, there is a big difference between true abuse and neglect and common parenting mistakes.  One thing you should learn as a foster parent is that the line that separates those two things, the line separating cases that should end in termination and those in reunification, is sometimes hard to distinguish.  Not only are you often dealing with half-truths and multi-faceted perceptions, but you're also dealing with political precedent and policy (your own and that of the government).  Personally, I tend to be on the side of things that wants to protect parental rights in raising the children vs. the government's involvement in parental matters.  I think it's the responsibility of parents to figure out how to raise their children, what discipline methods to use, what to teach their children, how to feed, nurture, etc.  That being said, I also recognize the need for us as a society to step in when clear abuse and/or neglect is occuring.

Bad people exist, therefore bad parents exist.  I remember this case that to me was a clear case of abuse.  Or we hear on the news all-to-often about babies and toddlers who end-up in the emergency room or worse die from injuries related to a parent "punishing" there child by pouring scalding hot water on them or punching them in the stomach or somehow breaking their ribs and skull.  From police officer friends I hear all too often about parents who pimp out their children for drug money, an income, or just for their own pleasure.  Clearly there is a need for us to step in and help the children who can't help themselves.

But then there are cases like this one that is all over the news today.  A child who is obese was removed from his parents.  I'm not going to get into the case details here, partly because I don't know them and partly because I'm troubled that this case is public at all, but it's a good example of where there is more of a gray area.  Should parents lose their rights if their children are overweight?  If they are severely overweight?  A caller on a radio show this morning made the point that if the child was under-nourished/malnurished/not fed for a year they would be removed, how is this different?  I could make arguments either way on what I know about this case, but the bottom line is that I wish it didn't have to come to this. 

I heard also on the radio today the insistance this is abuse (probably better labeled medical neglect, but again I don't know the details of the case) and the insistance that the foster parents would be presumably well-equipped to handle this type of case.  I sure hope so, but in my experience as a foster parent I'm going to doubt that there are many foster parents really skilled at helping an overweight child lose weight.  We foster parents are often given children with "food issues", but usually they result from a lack of food, improper use of food as a parenting strategy, and potential association with food and abuse.  Typically (though not always) these children are underweight or have other unhealthy relationships with food such as hoarding, vomiting, refusal to eat healthy foods (or any foods) and binging.  If for no other reason than this type of removal is rare, it is unlikely they will find (or even look for - another issue entirely) a foster parent specifically skilled in helping a 3rd grader loose significant weight.  Regardless, the tragedy in it all is that the child is likely to end up blaming himself for the removal and having an even lower self-esteem/self-value, etc. than he would have faced by being obese, which will naturally (but not certainly) lead to further unhealthy behavior in the future. 

I talked to my mom this week about a sign I saw on vacation.  It said something along the lines of "29% of our children are in poverty".  My point to her was that doesn't really mean anything.  What does poverty mean besides the opposite of wealthy?  Does it mean they don't have enough food to eat?  Does it mean they don't have shelter?  Clothes?  An ipod?  Depending on who you ask, poverty means different things and in my opinion doesn't in and of itself mean something is wrong.  Surely I don't want people to live "in poverty" and I feel it's my personal responsibility to seek out injustice and fix it as best as I can, but it doesn't mean that they are living horrible lives, necesarily.  Now, if you told me they don't have enough food to grow and mature, that would be a problem.  If you told me they don't have a jacket when it's snowing outside, that's a problem.  If you told me the absolute only housing they could get is infested with rat droppings and other contaminants, that is a problem and those are the things we need to address.  Do any of these things mean the child should be removed from his/her parents?

There was another story yesteray about children living in a semi-truck with their dad.  They had enough to eat, they had access to showers, they had clothes.  They called it an adventure.  Do they need to be rescued and put into foster care?

What about my daughter now, who lived the first 9 months of her life on the streets and in shelters with her parents?  Did she need rescued?  Her case is more complex than that and involved multiple illnesses and made-up illnesses and parental mental illness and domestic violence, but did she need removed because her parents were poor?  She had enough to eat (though at that age it was all formula), she had many illnesses (but had access to proper medical care, should they have used it appropriately), she had shelter (in a homeless shelter)...did she need to be put in foster care? 

How do you know?

These are the things we (should) wrestle with as foster parents.  Thankfully we don't have to make the call - unless you're involved in the legal side of things you don't have to decide whether removal is warranted.  If you have a concern you can call and report your concern.  If you're a foster parent you have the opporutnity to work with parents and support them in getting their kids back if you think that's the right thing to do for the children.  You can pray for wisdom. 

In the meantime you can take care of the children the best you know how.  You can provide them with what you feel all kids "deserve", not the least of which is love, safe/clean shelter, sufficient nourishing food, adequate clothing.  In the meantime while you have them you can do everything you can to help them heal from everything they've faced and maybe give them resources to heal when faced with things in the future because they will face things, no matter where they end up.

These are my thoughts on the subject today.  I wish I had all the answers but I don't.  Nevertheless I do something, the next right thing.  Join me?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Moolah Monday - Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Are you all Black Friday and Cyber Monday peeps?

With my tendency toward frugality and need desire to find deals you'd think these annual occassions would be right up my alley.  Truth-be-told, they are, but not necesarily for the frugality.  I've never really participated in Cyber Monday so I suppose Black Friday is the only one really up my alley - which will make sense after I expound a bit more.

I've done Black Friday shopping maybe 4 or 5 times or so since I've been married (which, I'll remind you is now 9 years).  There have been years I've been able to shop and some years where it just hasn't worked out.  Prior to having children it was easier to participate even though it's never been "easy" to get up and out of the house at the necesary hour.  Since kiddos have entered the picture it's been much more difficult, especially with the hubby's work schedule.  I just can't see me taking them out that early in the morning to fight the crowds and stress over keeping them safe to get a semi-good deal.  It's more and more unusual that I get to participate in Black Friday for that reason.

Honestly?  That's ok with me, especially this year.  I had NO desire to go out for Black Friday deals this year.  Maybe it was the move to shopping earlier (on Thanksgiving) that got me, but this year I was not only uninterested in the festivities, I was repulsed by them.  The whole idea of Black Friday shopping just made me sick.  Am I alone here?

Usually I love Black Friday not for the deals (though those are fun) but for the experience.  Contrary to normal people, I actually love the crowds.  I love being around all the people.  I love being part of the shopping while others are shopping and feeling the comraderie of it all.  I enjoy the special craziness it takes to get on a motorcycle with your dad at 11pm on Thanksgiving night in your mom's leathers to stay warm in the freezing temperatures to introduce your dad to Black Friday deals at the outlet malls.  (was that just mie?) Super fun!  I love the idea of walking around through all the people and fighting traffic and waiting in lines.

I'm not being sarcastic.  I actually love those things!  Though I hate getting out of bed on a cold morning, or any morning before 8 really, I love doing it "for Black Friday".  I love that it usually signals the beginning of the Christmas season and what's to come with other holiday festivities.  I usually love getting my first pumpkin spice steamer from Starbucks.  I love going to my favorite stores and seeing how they've decorated and what deals they have and how other shoppers have left the place a complete mess whether or not I'm actually going to buy something.  I just love the passion in it.

This year was different though.  I couldn't get myself to get excited over all those things because I realized that the passion and tradition I love so much has turned into something that is destroying the meaning of Christmas.  Rather than all that I love about Black Friday, it has turned into an all-out free-for-all where anything goes including violence, to save money on stuff.  It's just stuff.  And people are out trying to check off all of their Christmas lists.  Check them off.  I got something for Jim and Bob and Sam and Sara.  Check check check check.  This year I sensed that it was all about finding something to buy for someone on the list.  It felt like a bunch of people making a mad-dash for junk.  It is, after-all, just junk.

As a society, have we become more interested in giving something because it's obligatory than because we want to bless someone with a gift?  Are we teaching our children to expect people to give us stuff, and to love that stuff more than we love the people who give it?  Do we really need a flat screen tv in every room and every video game system and the latest i-device?  Really? 

Don't get mie wrong.  I love giving.  I love blessing my children with things their little hearts desire.  I love seeing something I know would bless a friend and being able to pick it up at a good deal.  I love being able to spend money on other people.  I love surprises and watching someone open the gift I carefully picked out just for them.  What I don't love is how it feels like we've turned into a society that expects something for nothing, that believes we "deserve" the latest and greatest and demand that others go to great lengths to make us happy with stuff.  I don't love that at least on some level we've lost the sentiment behind gift-giving so that its now something we have to do to keep up with the Jones' or prove our love rather than something we do out of a joyful spirit.  I don't love that the Christmas season is now feeding a never-full hunger for more stuff rather than getting us closer to the heart of God that sent us the most amazing gift 2000 years ago and that the celebration of that day has turned into a day of debt and consumerism instead of freedom and gratitude.

I did go shopping at night on Black Friday but only because I was out-of-town at the time visiting friends and family and I wanted to leave them with gifts I'd picked out for them, saving the unnecesary cost of shipping.  I would have much rather shopped over time, as I felt led to pick out just the right thing for the people I wanted to shop for.  I only had a few gifts to buy because I had already started picking out the right gifts months before as I saw things I knew would be a blessing to the special people in my life and I had already brought them with me on our trip. 

And we went at night because during the day we took a day trip to the mountains with my parents and kids.  We saw the desert and enjoyed creation.  We took the kids sledding in snow in the mountains and played with them for hours.  We went on a nature hike on a small trail in the mountains to see what we could find - to learn about that area - to play some more.  We were together.  We had a good time.  We could have done it for free (but chose to take a rather expensive tram ride).  I'd much rather THAT be our Black Friday tradition from now on. 

Treasuring memories, creation, and time-spent with loved ones instead of stuff that will eventually rot away.