Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Blogging Impact

I really love blogging.  I really love reading blogs especially when I'm able to connect with folks who have lived a similar experience with me or who have been through something I'm going through. It's nice to know someone is there and understands especially regarding topics that people aren't comfortable or able to speak about publicly (without the anonymity of the web). 

Even more so maybe I love that I'm able to write down our journey to share with others.  Three super cools things I enjoy about that:
  • I can find others who have already been there who can commiserate, encourage, and give advice
  • I can share my story for others who are now going through something we went through in the past who can find solace in where we are now (in other words, I can encourage them!)
  • I can help folks who have not and/or will not go through things that we've been through to be sensitive to the situations people face - a little more compassion in the world wouldn't hurt.
Recently my blog hit a huge spike.  I'm talking 10X normal readership kind of spike.  It lasted for a couple weeks and over the weekend dropped off.  I'm guessing that's because I didn't blog much and people were bored with my content.  Or they were busy.

Either way I was and am very curious what led folks to visit so much more.  So blogger has this stats feature where I can dig into the information a little bit more.  Of course I have one blog-friend who sends the majority of folks my way.  I can also see where in the world they are hitting me from and what operating system they are using.  I can dissect it all and though I won't put too much stock in the accuracy of the information, it's kind of fun to know what's coming my way.

One of the pieces included in the stats section describes the top google searches that led to my blog.  There are some consistent ones ("toddler sleep" or some version related to this post is very common).  On occasion when I see something new or a different theme pop-up I google it myself, just to see what's out there.

One day last week the search "What does God think about foster parents?" came up.  So I googled.  That day, this post was the 4th or 5th hit on Google and the first blog (not an adoption website or magazine article).  When I went to write this blog I couldn't find my blog through that search - it's interesting those things change daily! 

Another search I found interesting was "Foster parent antidote" related to this post.  I'm so proud of myself...I'm #1 on that search!  I know it's strange and somewhat commical, but I'm doing a little happy dance about blog is #1 on something.  I will say that I'm interested in what sparked that search to begin with.  I don't know who searched that or why, but those three words together are quite interesting.  My post was about how foster parenting was the antidote to arrogance (or could be), so I'm not sure if what the reader was looking for was related or not.

Then there are the handful of folks who actually google my blog address.  Again, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not, but someone(s) out there know my blog address!

I'm so honored that I get to share our story and it's many twists and turns.  I hope that as folks find my blog they are intrigued, informed, and entertained no matter their orignal intention of the google search.  Thanks for keeping up with our journey everyone! 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Working Mama Wednesday - Laundry & Other Chores

By far one of the biggest benefits working moms believe is associated with being a SAHM besides getting more time with your kiddos is being able to keep up with the housework.  Now, I'd say the majority of my friends are SAHMs, and though this is in no way a slam on their housekeeping ability I would venture to say that they'd disagree or at least offer the counterpoint that they are home more often with their kiddos therefore there is not more time to do housework because they are caring for their kids (and all of us parents know how difficult it is to do things like cleaning when the munchkins of the preschool/toddler/baby are around).  Or, they'd say that they are home more often so there is more mess to clean up.

In all honesty I think the true answer is probably in the middle somewhere.  SAHMs enjoy the opportunity to have more hours in the day in which they can balance spending good time with their kiddos and doing chores around the house being a "homemaker" and resting, yet they do indeed probably have more to clean up each day. 

It also probably depends on how many kids you have because I've had 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 all in my house under my care at different times, not in that order (actually it was 1, 3, 2, 3, 2, 4, 2, 4 with my kids and 5, 6, and 7 depending on whether my sister's kids and how many were over).  I can assure you new parents that though it is really difficult to care for 1, caring for more than that brings more work.  Not that you needed to be assured of that - I'm sure that's intuitive.  (On that note - I will say that it was FAR more difficult for me to become a mom the first time and "handle everything" than each subsequent child change in our house.  So, if you're struggling with the first and all the work associated - I hear you).  Nevertheless, the more kids you have, the more work you have to do around the house.  (I do have to point out that also means there are more opportunities for the kids to entertain each sister and I fully understand the value we both get out of watching each others kids as we both get extra time to do stuff when the full group of cousins is together).

This is probably most true with laundry.  With other chores (cooking, cleaning, etc.) you can apply an "overhead" model where the amount of work is a baseline amount - let's say sweeping, vacuuming, cleaning toilets, etc - that all needs to be done regardless of how many people live in your home on a fairly regular schedule and as the number increases the work on these chores doesn't really increase too much.  Maybe you add two extra bowls of cereal in the morning - maybe you make the whole bag of spaghetti instead of half - it doesn't really add up to significantly more work.

Laundry is different.  I've figured out in our home there is a pretty consistent person-to-load ratio in our home.  It's roughly 1 1/2 loads per week per person.  This takes into account clothes, bed linens, and towels primarily.  I suppose in the summer it's a little higher because of the extra use of towels for outside water play, but not significantly.  With a 6 person household as we have right now, this works out to about 9 loads each week, which we do like this:
  • 4 loads of kids clothes (usually all mixed together)
  • 1 load of adult dark clothes
  • 1 load of adult light clothes
  • 1 load of white towels (we use for cleaning - then we bleach)
  • 1 load of towels
  • 1 additional load that is made up of leftovers - linens if they didn't get in another load, etc.
To keep up with it, we should do 1 load per day with extra on the weekend.  That's my goal but it hasn't quite worked out that way yet.  Usually I end up doing 3 loads of kids clothes (including their linens from school and home), the white towels, and both loads of adult clothes all on Saturday.  It's quite a sight.  Then, I have lingering loads Sunday night into Monday night, and the cycle begins again...I hope to be able to figure out a good rhythm that works soon.  Seeing as how we almost always have clean clothes and the laundry isn't over-running us, I suppose it's already working.

This doesn't take into account cloth diapers - that would add 5-7 loads per week (one per day...I don't really like letting those sit).  So if I did go back to using cloth diapers for new baby, I would have to add that in.  But as I explained here, I actually prefer that to going out to buy diapers.  Wouldn't you if you knew you had to bring an infant, two 2 year olds, and a 4 and 5 year old to the store with yourself?  Laundry sounds much more preferable to me...

as long as I don't have to put it away...poor hubby

Someday they'll be old enough to help.  At least that's what we keep telling ourselves!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesdays Tears - Update on New Baby and "System" Rant

In case you are new to our journey, this particular story is documented here, here, here.  It then took left turns here, here, and then here.  I ranted and gave more details here.  So, if it took 3 left turns it should be back around the place it started right?

Well, actually, yes it is.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before in any of the above posts, but we've known about an issue with new baby's situation for a while.  First, we are licensed for 4, not 5, so we'll have to get our license extended for 5 before we can take in the new baby.  That in and of itself is not a big deal.  Afterall, we've had that conversation with our caseworker easily 5-10 times over the last year and "officially" regarding this case during his last quarterly visit.  That should not be too much of a big deal.  (Extending it to 7 however, would be more of an issue!)

The remaining issue is a little rule/law that will prevent us from having the baby through a private adoption at all.  I knew this rule existed.  I confirmed with our attorney.  I confirmed with our caseworker.  It's there and not something that we can just overlook.

When you become licensed as a foster and/or adoptive parent (I'm guessing it really only applies to foster care now that I think about it...) you can only be licensed through one agency.  This makes perfect sense. (and God knows I would never EVER wish to be licensed by different agencies at the same time!  Two different caseworkers, sets of rules, etc.  It's bad enough having different cases at the same time especially when they are in different counties!)  Think about it - the state is trying to prevent a couple situations - all related to how many children you have and how you are caring for them.  Theoretically, if you were licensed by two different agencies, you could figure out a way to have let's say 5 babies from one agency and 4 from another.  If one agency licenses you for a particular parameter and you don't like it, you could go and get a different parameter from another agency.  The state doesn't want that to happen and that's completely understandable.  They want to know that who ever is responsible for licensing you knows the whole story and they are in control of which kids are in your home when.

Like I said, I completely understand that and agree with it.  It makes it very easy to enforce when the rule is just a blanket one like that.

Then enters our situation.  We are a currently licensed home through the state.  The state refuses to get involved with the new baby (which, personally I don't agree with and neither do folks from the other counties around us, but I digress...).  We would like to have the new baby and keep it with his sibling, #4.  Bio parents would like us to have the baby.  CPS would like us to have the baby.  CASA would like us to have the new baby.  Extended bio family would like us to have the new baby.  Ad litem would like us to have the new baby.  And on....and on...and on...

The only way for us to have the new baby, since CPS will not get involved and therefore place the baby with us, is for us to adopt the baby privately.  Then enters the rule...we can't take in children that aren't placed with us by our licensing agency (the state).  So, we CAN'T take in the baby.  If they called me today to say that the baby was being born, I couldn't take the baby in.  I'd have to deny it.  Imagine the confusion that would place in mom and dad's head?  We're denying their baby?  The one we've gone back and forth over for months?  The one we have legal documents already prepped for?  The one they want to relinquish to us? 

Yep, that's right. 

So, although there are many folks "working on it" and I fully believe it will work out somehow in the end (which appears to be 3-5 weeks away!), right now we are sitting here.

And then comes the email from an anonymous person involved in the case (at least anonymous to you all...I know who sent it) who said that the only other option is to "have mom abandon the baby at the hospital with a note that says for it to go to us through CPS". 

So let me get this straight.  I'm supposed to tell the birthmom, the one who I've promised I would care for her children forever, the one who has been threatened by CPS if she calls them when the baby is born, that she needs to leave her baby at the hospital with a note to call CPS who should give the baby to us?  Really?  And all that is better than just getting invovled in the first place?  In either scenario they'd end up with the same type of financial responsibility (which we know they are trying to avoid).  Seems to me the best thing for the child is not to have his mother just abandon him when there is a completely better alternative ready and lined up.

And getting me involved?  I don't think so.  I can see it on some courtTV reality show..."Ms. Mie - is it true that you told birthmom to abandon her newborn child so that you could have custody?" Mie: yes, well someone told me to do it".  Yeah, I don't think so.

I don't know what's going to happen at this point.  I wouldn't even begin to speculate how this will turn out.  I'm really really hoping that one particular scenario doesn't play out - the one where we can't take the baby in that moment because of all that above and therefore the hospital gets birthmom in contact with a private agency again.  I don't know - maybe that would work out because they'd get CPS involved? 

We'll have to just see.  If all the details weren't so darn confidential (and, involving real life people and kids!), I think this would be perfect reality TV material don't you?

Monday, June 27, 2011

My life just got easier...

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?  (LOL)

I just found out that you can schedule a blog post!  No seriously, this is the best invention EVER.

I often find myself thinking of a topic for one of my features, but alas it is not the day for THAT feature.  During those times I often have the time to write the blog (or could make time) but again, why do so when that feature would be written then saved for however many days (if, by the way, I could get blogger to save consistently...does anyone else have problems with that?  I think it's the firewall I'm behind). 

But now, I can write those blogs when I have the inkling and schedule it to post later! 

This will also help me when I get in the blogging mood and can sit and write different posts for hours but don't want to post back-to-back posts and have you miss out on all but the most recent post. 

I am SUPER excited.

And you can be sure that this post was written early and scheduled to be published at a later time. 
Why didn't I find this earlier?

Say What (?!?) Sunday - Why parent's love adult conversation

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE spending time with my kiddos.  It is by far one of my favorite things to do.  Nevertheless, the more time you spend with 2-20 month old girls, a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old, you have plenty of interesting conversations.  That is, afterall, what this feature is all about.  Here are a few brief snippets of conversations we had this weekend.

#7: Mommy - I ate ALL of my dinner.  I ate my chicken-on-the-bone (fried chicken), I ate my fruit, I ate my mac n cheese.  Can I have a popsicle and snacks?
Mie: No sweetheart, you can't have a popsicle and snacks.  I am very proud of you for trying your food tonight, but you only took one bite of each.  You didn't finish your dinner so you can't have any more snacks.
#7: Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? 

seriously...where did he learn that?  It's actually much better than the whining and kinda cute, but I do wonder where he learned that.

#7: I want a tiger birthday cake for my birthday
Mie: Ok, is that what you want?  I thought you wanted me to make you an M&M birthday cake?
#7: No, I want a race car cake.
L: I think he should have a scooby doo birthday party.
Mie: You do?  What kind of birthday does L want this year?
L: I want a batman party. 
Mie: You do?  Ok.  Like one at our house like we always do or did you want Chuck E Cheese or something like that?
#7:  NOOOOOOOOOOOO!  I don't want mac n cheese.  I don't want mac n cheese. 
Mie: #7, we need to talk like a big boy with our big boy voice.  Also, I said Chuck E Cheese, not macaroni and cheese.


Mie: L - do you remember #1 and #2?  Do you want them to come back to live with us?
L: No, I liked #1 but not #2.
Mie: Oh really?  Why didn't you like #2?
I don't remember his answer, but it was pretty nonsensical.
Mie: What if they needed a home because they didn't have another home?
L: Ok.  Maybe we can leave a trail of bread outside and it will make them go away.


#7: (out of nowhere) I HATE Mr. Dave (therapist).
Mie: Wow #7, that's very strong.  Why do you hate him?
#7: I am very angry at him.
Mie: Ok, why are you very angry at him?
#7: I am not angry with him!  He makes me laugh and I have fun with him!
Mie: I see.  Well, why do you hate him?
#7: I don't hate him!  I love him.  He makes me happy.

We have a lot of these types of conversations, mostly about his parents - I'm guessing he's working through his feelings.

Mie: #7 - What do you want to do for your birthday? It's coming soon!
L: When is his birthday?
Mie: July XX
#7 - NO!  My birthday is July - August.
Mie: No #7, it is July XX.  That comes before August. 
#7 - NOOOOOO (whining), it's July August.
Mie: Ok dude.  I'm going to celebrate your birthday on July XX.  I hope you can come!

L: (in the car, loudly, with everyone else in the car too) Mom, DON'T tell #7 that I got to go on a special date with daddy to watch Cars 2.
Mie: L - (frustrated look...) I won't tell him.  Do you think that #7 should have a special date with daddy sometime too?
L: Yes!  In fact (he talks like that) I think he should have a special date where daddy takes me to watch Mr. Popper's Penguins.

Now, remember we have the other two little kiddos too.  And imagine that every time a question is asked, one in particular immediately responds NO! in the background.  It's just funny.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Working Mama Wednesday - Prepping for Leave

Even though we haven't figured out all of the details of new baby's case (in fact there has been even more crazy drama introduced) and we're not going to be sure how it will turn out until the baby is at least 48 hours old, we do have to plan as if the baby is coming as to not get caught off-guard.  We're not buying clothes and stuff, but still trying to be as ready as possible if and when the phone does ring.

We're busy, so we don't think about it too often.  But when we think about it often enough to roughly keep track of when the baby is due and how many weeks there are left before the due date.  The answer right now is 5, about 5 weeks.  Which means mom must be about 35 weeks pregnant.  I'm trying to keep that in mind so I can remember what it was like when I was 35 weeks pregnant.  Of course I was shooting for the unmedicated/intervention-free birth via the Bradley method so I'd mentally prepared myself to go to 42 weeks just in case so at this point I thought I'd have 7 weeks left which I hope isn't the case in this situation, but regardless.

One area I'm keeping in mind is work.  I will be staying home for a period of time, depending on how things work out somewhere between 6-10 weeks or so, maybe a little longer depending on how I do my leave.  With my son I took off 13 weeks, which was great (not long enough!) but as it came pretty quickly I probably won't be able to swing that financially.  The new job I took this year involves project management at a high-level, and all of the things I'm working on are just in the beginning of the project, which means they aren't at the point yet where I could walk away and leave instructions.  So I'm doing my best to try to plan and prepare and get things ready so if I did have to go with 48 hours notice then I'd be able to make that happen with minimal glitches.  The more days that come and go the more opportunties I have to prep for leave and the more likely I'll get the call. 

Prepping can be a challenge though.  At this poitn 35 weeks, the only people I've mentioned this all to are my boss and my peers.  No one involved in my projects are aware that I'll be taking time off.  That's partly because it's still a bit early, but partly because it's kind of an awkward conversation.  At 36 weeks pregnant with my son everyone knew that I'd be taking leave soon.  I had it all planned so that I'd take off at the end of the month and I was due the middle of the next month, which would give me a couple weeks off and to get ready.  I had him the Saturday night/Sunday morning after I stopped working - I was just 38 weeks that day.  So do we have 2 weeks left?  I don't know.  I'm not going to count on it but I'm going to try to prep. 

But as the days go I'm going to have to start having conversations.  I'm not worried about it - it's not a privacy issue for me - it's just more weird to have that conversation.  In a meeting with people who know me well I'm going to go ahead and say yeah, I'm going to be taking maternity leave soon.  Then they'll say really?  When?  And I'll say - the baby's due at the end of July.  I'm clearly not pregnant, especially not THAT pregnant.  Too funny.  Most people know I'm a foster parent, so hopefully it won't be too much of a surprise. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tuesday Tears - Impossible Choices

Here we go on a roller coaster again.  I know I've said before that a theme in our life right now (and somewhat long-term) has to do with our plans changing.  I say it now with a giggle anytime we get word of something changing.  I start to say how our plans were...and then shake my head at myself as if I didn't already know that "our plans" are severely subject to change.

Today we got an email from our FAD worker.  We are licensed directly through the state so we have a foster and adoptive development home worker that is assigned to our home to help us as we foster and to make sure we are following the rules.  In the first sentence he indicated I "see Amanda's email below", which automatically made me consider one case but as I read through that was clearly incongruent with the message.  I read further.

We are being asked (well, our FAD worker was) if we'd be interested in and available for adopting our first kiddos - #1 and #2.  I can't tell you how much this came as an utter surprise.  They left us for a kinship placement - a placement they had been with previously.  We knew they were loved there and they loved that relationship too but yes we had concerns.  Not concerns enough to really frighten us or worry us, but still we knew there would be challenges.  I followed their case because I could.  As the 12 month mark approached I saw that their case was going toward termination.  I took the chance to reach out to their caseworker to let her know if they needed an adoptive home we'd like to be considered.  I quickly received a simple reply - they'd be adopted by the kinship placement.  I figured but I thought I'd reach out anyway.

Now apparently the concerns we had have come true enough to prevent the kinship adoption to complete.  They've tried additional arrangements (so I'm told) and those haven't worked out either.  Now they would like us to consider it.

YES!!!!  We'd love to bring them back into our home.  We loved those kiddos and would love to adopt them (pending of course visits, etc. - it's been a year and who knows how things have changed with them, but our instinct would be YES without hesitation).  Unfortunately though now we're in an impossible situation.  We have two kids who used to live with us, who did well, who have been moved around a ton over the last year+.  They can't afford to be without permanency much longer.  But we also have two kids who live with us now (#7and #8) whose plan is currently for reunification but we've had strong indications that plan will change toward adoption, and though it hasn't specifically been said, we're at least on the short list.  More importantly though they've also been moved around a lot in the last year and are just now starting to bond and really start to flourish.  They too need permanency and fast, but the case is not yet at the point to eagerly pursue that.

So what do we do?  Do we accept the adoption and send our current two to their (more than first) foster home?  Do we turn down the two we used to have sending them to a total stranger for adoption only later to learn that the two we currently have will have permanency very soon?  Something else?

This is all so new for us.  We believe that as we speak with the various caseworkers over the next couple weeks we'll get some source of clarity.  Just not sure what that looks like yet!  It is hard as a foster parent to be in this type of situation.  I can honestly say at this point we're totally concerned about the kids involved - what will happen to each sibling group either way.  It feels as if either way we're turning our back on some of our kids.  And yet it also seems as though the most likely scenario, the least preferred it seems, is that we'd end up with neither sibling group!  That would break our heart.

In case you're keeping records - this means that so far all of the kiddos we've had who've left our home for one reason or another toward permanency have since had the opportunity to return back to our home because that permanency failed.  A week ago I would have told you that of the 8 kids we've had, we've only really had the opportunity to adopt 1 (yet to finalize).  Now, including the situation with #3, we've actually had the opportunity to turn 4 placements into permanency - which equates to 50% and it appears as if #7 and #8 may also lead that way.  I don't know...we'll see.

Not our plan.  Our plans would never have been this wild!

Moolah Monday - The Cost of Eating

Right now we are a family of six going on seven.  So weird since two years ago we were learning we'd biologically stay a family of 3.  In all honesty if we weren't infertile I'd bet that we would have probably hit 3 and stopped or, maybe 4.  Though I had 5 on my heart, my husband was happy to take it 1 at a time until 3 and there wasn't that much interest in talking beyond that.  Yet here we are having been parents to so many kiddos, now a family of 6 with a 7th maybe on the way, just 2 years later. 

Side note - if you are happening on my blog with new infertility on your heart, or really if you are struggling at all with wondering how God's plan is playing out in your life...I hope this is encouragement to you.  2 years ago our dreams of being parents and developing our family died.  We had to mourn that death.  But now that death has grown into a bigger dream than we'd ever hoped.  I pray that you trust God and find your dreams growing soon.

You know by now that we are trying to figure out how to pay for not one but two unplanned, unfunded adoptions.  I talked to you a bit about how we had to come up with money for me to stay home at a relatively short notice, which we were able to do.  I talked to you a bit about how we needed to come up with both adoption expenses and monthly expenses pretty quickly.  We are currently working through that plan, hoping God helps us figure it out!

In the process both my husband and I have seperately looked at our budget to see where we could trim down spending.  He did something I've done several times in the past - he started from our monthly actual spend and categorized up.  Since I've done that before I used the budget we had as a guiding principle to see how we could rearrange dollars.  We both found the same things - the money would be tight but we'd have to really watch our spending and there probably wouldn't be too much room for wiggle.

Translation - we were looking for approximately 2K in our budget.  Disgustingly (gratefully) we have that 2K in our budget as extra cash now.  So though we're very grateful that we have those resources, it's a bit ugly to look at how we've mismanaged our finances recently.  We both knew we were doing it, but because we had that "extra" money we didn't pay attention, and when you don't pay attention and put your money to work for you it will be bad in two ways.  First, you may make financial decisions you otherwise wouldn't have (spend on things you wouldn't have, fail to pay off debt, etc.).  Second, you end up building habits that are, in my opinion, just gross and irresponsible.

We're not talking anything super bad, but it is something we deserve to be called out on. For example, my husband did the math and in the first 11 days of May we averaged spending $375 per day. That's over $3750 in 11 days. Now granted we had some of our big monthly expenses come out then, but admittedly that did not include our bigger house payment or our car payment.  To me, that's just gross and irresponsible of us.  Thankfully my husband agrees and we're back into the cost-saving mode we both need and secretly love.

The other area that was disgusting was our actual spend on eating out.  I don't know the actual number, but it was well over $1K, probably close to $1500 or so.  (that does not include the $1K or more that we spent in groceries).  To be fair (???), we work weird hours and it's really hard for me to cook meals consistently that he and I can eat together, which leads him to eat out more often than desired and/or me to do the same.  I always try to make it a fun traditional thing for the kids - like Kids Eat Free tuesdays at Jason's Deli (no longer the case) or Friday's at Cici's pizza - both chosen for their frugality but add up quickly with 4 kids.

Now we're back to trying to keep spending under wraps.  Here's what we're shooting for:
  • $600 per month - groceries
  • $100 per month - eating out
  • $400 per month - various entertainment budgets (Dad, Mom, Child, Family) - which could be used for eating out if we so chose.
I'm not sure we're going to hit that this month; we may need to adjust it because we went over that a bit when my parents were in town.  The good news is, that's $1100 per month vs. $2500-$3000 per month we've been spending.  Of we can meet our goals there we could possibly get close to the $2k just in those budget lines.

So, what do you think - for a family of 6, 4 of whom are under 5, is that a reasonable food budget?  Where would you caution me to look differently?  What suggestions would you make?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Say What (?!?) Sunday - Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there.

Here is a snippet of what I wrote in my husband's father's day card from me:

Do you realize that in the last year you've become a father to 6 kids in addition to our own L?  There aren't that many fathers who can say anything like that.

When I thought about that it dug at me like a knife.  THAT MANY kids doesn't really seem odd to us, but as I wrote it down it made me realize how lucky I am to be married to a man who has been willing (and usually happy and excited) to go on this journey with me.  How many men wouldn't completely flip out in becoming a father to 6 different kids in the span of 12 months on top of the 1 we already had.  How many men in our situation aren't sitting there thanking their lucky stars for their male-factor infertility so that they don't have to worry about having more and more kids?  How many men upon hearing about their 1 kiddo (or 2, 3, etc.) take off? 

But not my husband.  No, it's not always easy on him.  He works odd hours and the kids we've had have all been 2 or younger with the exception of 1 who was 3.  They aren't quiet for his morning sleep or afternoon naps.  They cost a lot.  They are a lot of work.  (It isn't easy to get 2 21 month old girls dressed in the morning or to continuously answer the same question from a boy who is struggling a bit with attachment).  He not only has stayed but has mostly embraced every moment - doing whatever he can to be a good daddy to whatever kids are in our home at the moment, whether or not they argue over whether he is their "real" dad or not.

So, for my super husband, his son gave him the most supercool superdad card that yours truly just knew they'd both get a kick out of. And they did. And we made a huge sign that said Happy Father's Day that all the kids contributed to last night. And we put that big sign over the brand new black-out curtains I installed late last night before going to bed. Though I completely screwed up the install and made more work for him, he really seemed to appreciate it, which is what I was going for. We couldn't spend much money as we're trying to figure out the whole adoption thing we're facing, but it was something that I hope will bless him and I hope he will remember how much we appreciate him every time he sleeps in a room that's just a little bit darker during the day.
When our son woke up, the first thing he said was "did daddy see his present"? Groggy-eyed and really sleepy he jumped out of bed to surprise his daddy with the work we'd done.
And of course, because it's father's day and because it wouldn't have been the same without it, L fnished the night with these words:
L: Mommy - I know it's father's day, but since it's kids day too can you make me a craft?
So, though it's late I'm going to draw him a picture before I go to bed.
I hope you all enjoyed today as much as we did.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Working Mama Wednesday - Readership

WOW!  Over the last week readership is up, Up, UP!  I'm amazed, but find it interesting.

As a (insert your description of me) wife, mom, etc., it is sometimes hard to make sure I'm blogging daily or at least close to it, so when I see the number of folks who are visiting my blog daily it does encourage me.

So, all you newbies (or the more long-term faithful folks) what do you like about my blog?  What would you like to see more of? 

The only thing that helps encourage me to keep going more than seeing readership stats is seeing your comments and questions...

Monday, June 13, 2011

1 Year Ago Today - Part 9: The Accident

This is the final post in the 1 Year Ago Today series.  In no way does this mean that this was the last day in the series of life events, which you will see, but it was the begining of a healing process for many.  Though it took quite a while and I'm pretty sure I'll never be the same, 1 year later I can say there were no more shoes to drop.  This was actually for Saturday, June 10th, 2010.

The day started out really, really well.  The foster kiddos had gone home which meant that we had the opportunity to sleep in - a first in a long time.  We didn't take that opportunity though.  My husband decided to wake up and mow the yard pretty early - around 7am.  Come to think of it, I had purchased him a riding lawn mower for father's day and he may have been using it the first time.  Though that wouldn't make sense because it wasn't father's day yet - he probably borrowed one.  In any case I woke up with him and sat on our back porch enjoying the quiet morning, watching him ride around on that mower.  He was so happy.  That and the peace and quiet, the nature sounds, the nature looks, my son sleeping in, all of it was such a glorious time of relaxation.  I was so grateful.

My mom had been in town for about 10 days and today was the day she was going home.  We tried the past few days to do fun things and enjoy time as a family, as if things hadn't happened the way they did, trying to recover, yet it was really hard to do that.  It was nice for her to be there though, even though the plans for her visit were changed on her. 

To celebrate her last day with us we decided to go to the movies to see the Karate Kid remake.  All the kiddos were excited (my son and my sister's 3) and truthfully we all were.  It was cool in there, I didn't have to walk around, and we were all looking forward to see how good the movie would be.  It was a good time.  At some point during the movie my mom's phone began ringing off the hook.  It was probably around 11am our time and my dad was calling.  He called not once, twice, or three times, but four different times.  He's not a big phone person, so after a few times my mom decided to head out of the theater to see what was wrong.  We all had this lingering feeling that every next phone call would bring more bad news.  As she left, I whispered "tell him we just can't handle any more bad news".

A few minutes later she came back with a smile.  I felt a good sense of relief.  He had gone riding (Harley's) up the coast of California with his brother to pass the time before my mom came home. After 10 days he was anxious. Apparently when they got to their destination they stopped at a bakery to have ssome sort of specialty food and when they got there the person who owned it was a friend they knew from way back when. My dad has a knack for finding people he knows in places no one else would find someone they knew. So, he had called to tell her the story.

The day went on as planned. We had lunch, my mom packed her things, then my sister and I packed up our kids to take my mom to the airport. I’m not entirely sure what time it was – it was probably 2-3ish. My sister drove her van because at the time I didn’t have a car that could hold all of us. It was a fine drive to the airport – about 45 minutes from our house. We dropped my mom off to catch her flight that was leaving around 6ish, then started trekking back home. We had driven about 1/3 of the way home when my cell phone rang. Honestly, I think that was probably the first time I’d answered the phone in a while without expecting bad news. I figured she’d forgotten something or her flight was delayed or she just wanted to say goodbye again. She was crying. My dad had been in an accident on the motorcycle. Very serious. Airlifted to the closest trauma center. Serious injuries. No news on whether or not he was alive. Hospital wouldn’t talk to anyone on the phone. Her plane was leaving in a few minutes and she wouldn’t know more until she got to Vegas – that was her original flight and still was the fastest to get to my dad.

My sister and I immediately stopped. We all prayed. We tried calling the hospital with the same response – can’t say anything without his permission. I asked if they could at least tell me if he was alive. They said (with kind of a little chuckle). Yes. He’s alive.

My sister turned around and drove me back to the airport. With my son, my purse, and that’s it – I was headed to fly to California on the quickest flight out. My sister was headed home to pickup her husband and pack and they would be driving out in an hour or so. When I got back to the airport, all I had was my purse and I don’t carry credit cards, so I couldn’t get anywhere. And now I was stuck at the airport with no ride. My inlaws tried their hardest to get me on a plane – for hours. They kept getting me confirmed on a flight only for me to be told at the desk that the card needed verification and the verification company hadn’t yet received it. Apparently they had a contracted service to verify the card and that took up to several days, so even though I had a ticket (several times), the flight came and went without me. I finally got out on a flight around 11:30pm. We had been at the airport for hours. We hadn’t eaten dinner (my son and I). I had stood and walked and begged for hours, me and my tearful worn face and my broken foot (I still had the full boot on). The airport staff looked at me when I talked to them like I was trying to put on a sob story and get away with something. Some of them actually told me that. When I got to the final flight (I had to switch terminals and just made it) – wouldn’t you know the ticket hadn’t gone through yet. At least this time I found a sweet soul who was willing to help. He stopped the flight for a few minutes so I could get all taken care of. I was running, the best I could with my foot and son in tow when I got through security. The gate agent at another gate said “It’s ok hun…you don’t have to run, I’ll call down for you.”. Finally someone who helped.

We got to the hospital around 2am CA time. My inlaws took my son so he could sleep and play with his cousins. What followed was about 48 more hours without sleep (or sleep in the SICU lobby). When I got to my dad, all he could say was “Ok” and “I’m listening”. That’s it. He was in extreme pain and very bad shape. He had severe head trauma, had broken his collarbone, both ear drums, and 5 ribs. The brain was swelling. He knew who people were, but either called them “my wife” (my mom), “my niece” (any other female), or “my son” (any male). You could tell he kept trying to talk but couldn’t. He just physically couldn’t get out the thoughts in his head. The area damaged in the accident was that responsible for vocalized speech. It was so hard to see him that way.

My brother and I took turns sitting with my mom at his side in the SICU. That night and over the days to come he had dozens and dozens of visitors. People really far away came to see him. Every time we rotated out there was a conversation with my brother and I (and later my sister – she arrived late the next day). Tears welled up – he was in bad, bad shape – yet there would be lots of excitement over the smallest things. He told me “you came!” kind of angry – extra words and that told us he knew who I was and that I lived far away. He recognized his grandkids. Eventually he could kind of remember people’s names but often got them mixed up. This happened over the next few days with slow but steady improvement.

After 3 days he was moved to a regular room, out of the SICU. What a glorious time. My husband arrived on Tuesday after having driven out by himself over 24 hours. That Tuesday we received a few calls for a total of 12 foster placements – we had another call on the machine at home for yet another sibling group of 3. Of course we couldn’t take them, but it was pretty exciting to get those calls in the hospital lobby as we played cards. At one point my dad (who is a bit mischievous) coerced us into taking him outside. We managed to wheel him down the elevator and out the front door. Then we found an outside spot we knew about near the SICU and stayed there for a while. He wanted to play cards with us. He was still repeating things over and over again, but it was clear he was getting better and not worse.

He went home on Wednesday. If I remember right I drove him in my aunt’s car. That was a horrible experience – any movement brought him extreme pain and it was a 2 ½ hour car ride home. But he did arrive home. He was still really bad mentally – couldn’t really communicate – but it was good for him to be home. He went back to work several (6-8? I don’t really know) weeks later. My husband and I went home that Friday by car (with our son).

My dad was really touched by all the people who called and visited him. One group in particular, Bikers for Christ I believe it was, really amazed him. They didn’t know him at all (or anyone else in our family/friends). But they had a group of bikers who raised money for downed bikers. They heard from the highway patrol or something like that about his accident. They had gone to check on his bike. They brought a $250 check, no strings attached. They just wanted to check on him and wish him well. They prayed with my sister and brother and I. My brother was touched too. Through them we actually learned a lot more about the accident that no one else knew – like at first he was transported to a different hospital but they declined him due to the severity of his injuries and transported him again to the trauma center. No one else knew that.

My dad visited over Christmas. He stopped in a town on the way here to buy a new Harley shirt from that dealer. Apparently that was the one he was wearing in the accident and they had to cut it off.

Here’s an article we found online about the accident. It’s amazing how non-chalant it sounds in the article. Obviously to us and to him it was much more severe that it sounds here. We now know that the area where his accident occurred was one of the most deadliest stretches of highway in the US. He had been on it several times. The accident happened at a very low speed. My dad was stopped and his brother wasn’t going that fast. The impact was just right though. My dad had flown over the handle bars and landed “just right” on his head to cause the injuries as they happened. My uncle later remembered that he thought my dad was just playing – immediately after the accident he had gotten up and walked over to him and then collapsed to the floor – my dad is known for practical jokes. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

1 Year Ago Today : Part 8 - Foster Kiddos Go Home

Put on your imagination hats folks - this was actually due on Wednesday, post 8 in this wonderful series about our "adventures" last year.  You can catch up, starting backwards, with post 7 all about the 2nd funeral in as many days.  By this time we'd had several "lighter" days and yet we were all cried out.

You'll remember from Part 4 that we'd learned our first foster placement was going home.  In the midst of it all really wasn't time to think about how that would impact our family and yet it was just enough time to plan and prepare our son for what was to come (so I thought).

Our first foster kiddos were a 1.5 year old boy and a 2.5 year old girl.  They'd grown on us though it was a big adjustment going from 1-3 kiddos.  They were relatively easy to care for and besides the occasional sibling fights we weren't used to (how could you be with a single child?), we'd certainly come to know them as part of our family. 

Nevertheless they were going home whether we liked it or not. We had a hard time getting over the idea that they were going back to the people who willingly gave them up in the first place.  Though now I understand the situation and can assume why they might have done what they did (a reasonable, rational decision that worked out in the long run) it was hard then to know how someone could turn these two away after having been their surrogate parents for quite some time before.  We had met them though and knew they loved these kiddos and the kiddos in turn loved their kin.  Though we could have provided them a better life (financially), we knew in our hearts that they would be loved and cared for with their family.  Turns out that family adopted them and all I can do is pray and believe that they will be ok.

We had 1 weeks notice, which in hindsight seemed just perfect.  I've since had a day or two notice on other cases and up to 7-8 weeks notice on one and I far prefer the 1-2 week notice the best.  I had a chance to prepare a nice little going away party the night before with a handful of our closest friends and family.  We all went to Chuck-E-Cheese thanks to some friends who work there who wanted to bless us in our time of struggle.  We had a great time, except one of the kiddos started to run a high fever.  That started our tradition of going to CEC to celebrate a kiddo going home.  The next day I had my sister and her family over in the morning, around lunch time, for a goodbye lunch and party.  I made cupcakes and some kind of lunch and we all sat around laughing and playing, waiting for the caseworker to come in the early afternoon. 

We have always insisted to caseworkers that they do whatever in their power to give us notice first and foremost to give us time to prepare our son.  Our goodbye celebrations are fine for everyone else, but we dreaded the effect it would have on our biological son who at the time was 3.5 and had grown accustomed to the siblings he'd longed for.  Though he's pretty smart, I don't and didn't think that he'd fully be able to process having siblings leave.  It weighed heavily on my heart and to some degree does today.  So, I was grateful for the 7 days.  As soon as we knew the kids were going home I started talking to my son about the plan.  We had been telling him all along that the kids' parents were sick and we were going to be taking care of them while they were trying to get better.  That way he knew they might not stay forever.  Now that they were going home we just started telling him that they had grandparents who were healthy and wanted to take them home to live with them while the parents were sick.  He seemed to get that, though I could tell he was processing a bit, not yet able to communicate all he was thinking.

The caseworker showed up a tiny bit early, while we were all sitting around.  We weren't quite ready to be packed up so it was a bit of a rush to get the finishing things done.  I remember sitting in the bathroom with the little girl as she used the restroom and my son came to me at the door.  I will forever remember that moment.

He, with a very somber yet brave face and stance, looked at me in my eyes and said "Mommy, if I have to go now, I will".

Oh. My. Gosh.  Talk about mommy heartbreak.  Despite my best efforts to prepare him during the week he still thought he was leaving with the caseworker.  To this day I still feel (angry, hurt, surprised, panicked, sorrowful, etc.) that he thought he had to leave - and he was so brave about it.  I quickly hurried my mom in to take care of the fosters - I took my son aside and had a mommy-son conversation.

Logan - you will always stay with mommy.  Some of our kids will come and go but you will never leave.  Your home is always here with us

When remembering them going home I usually recall it pretty easily, saying we really had no more tears to cry. And we didn't. Looking back though, remembering that moment with my son, brings tears to my heart every time.
The kids left and since more kids have come and gone and little Logan has always stayed. He gets it more clearly now - he will always stay. Though now he asks for brothers and sisters who stay and has very clearly told me he would only like more brothers and sisters that stay. We talk about it often.
Having the kids go home at that time was very much a relief. Though we loved them and had a great time with them as our first foster kiddos, they were a lot of work as any pair of siblings that age would be. When they went home we went back to our life with our family of 3, and in that time where we'd experienced so much (not to mention my injured ankle), it was nice to just have one kiddo again. One kiddo who slept in every morning until 9am and hardly whined at all.
I frequently told people that it was ok - that foster parenting (in this instance) was kind of like ADD parenting. I probably shouldn't have kept repeating that but it felt that way at the time - a quick burst of energy to do a lot in a little bit of time and now it was time for a different set of kiddos with different needs, etc. all very exciting. We missed them, but it was also a nice relief to go back to 1 kiddo in a "good" scenario (how many times to parents lose their children in "good" scenarios?) and now we looked forward to our next call, which is an experience in and of itself.
Turns out it worked out even better that way, though we didn't know it at the time. Something even greater and worse was coming in just a few short days - something that would have been nearly impossible to handle with those two kiddos to care for. For the time being though, we had two days of calm and relaxation without being hit in the head with a shoe from the sky.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - The "System" is Just Wrong

Yesterday was Little Miss's termination trial.  Things went as well as can be.  Mom & Dad were happy to see her (and made their way to the courthouse - I really was proud of them).  She was a doll - so cute and happy.  I had so much pride in her yesterday watching her talk to everyone.  When we went to take our oath I raised my right hand and she started giving me high fives.  The judge laughed his way through the oath.

I want to say that mom and dad seemed ok.  I'll have to assume that because I hope I never really know what they were feeling.  I think despite the fact that everyone agrees this is the best thing for our little girl it's still sad.  The whole situation is just sad.  Of course, on one-hand it was a happy day for us and hopefully long-term she will see it as a somewhat happy day for her too - it certainly opens the doors to get her into our family forever. 

We also met with our attorney to formalize the agreement for both this little girl and her unborn sibling.  This is where things turned way south for us.  It didn't take us by surprise, it just made it a little more real.

When we first decided to adopt from foster-care we did so because for us it was the most financially feasible option.  We've said time and time again that it's not about the money - but suddenly it has become that way.  We originally decided to adopt a sibling group.  We knew we wanted a larger family and we knew we could handle having that many children.  When we learned that doing that from foster care would be supported through adoption assistance, it solidified our position.  It took money off the table.  So for the past two years as we looked at foster care and adoption we did so under the assumption that we would have a sibling group and if we adopted then it would be with adoption support.  This removed the concern about legal fees, college, and to some degree daily living expenses (which is important considering the age of our kids and the need to put them in childcare). 

When we accepted our little girl we did so with slight reservation.  We already had one single child at the time and we knew a single adoption would challenge us financially.  But with foster care you never know how a case is going to turn out plus we've decided to say yes to placements (with some exceptions) and let God sort out the rest.  (yes, sometimes you say yes and they don't ever come)  As things progressed and it looked like we were headed this way we looked into our financial situation and agreed we could handle another child financially - we knew it was a possibility and didn't back out.  A month or two later we found out there was a sibling to be born and they would in fact be a sibling group.  CPS thought the best thing to do was to bring this child into care upon birth and then immediately place with us - the two would be together and we'd adopt them together.  That was the wish of mom and dad, CPS, attorneys, and us.  We immediately agreed and were wonderfully excited.  What a great opportunity!  And suddenly finances were taken care of once again.

Fast forward to the time mom decided to put the baby up for a private adoption.  No one wanted that except maybe mom.  She had the legal right to do so though, regardless of whether or not that made sense.

Since then CPS has done everything in its power to refuse the sibling group.  They have told us they can't be involved in "baby brokering" so they can't be involved with this baby.  They have told us they will be "out of the picture" when the baby is born...not true - adoption can't take place until much after the baby is born and placed with us.  Apparently, they've threatened mom that if she calls them she will "have another case on her", as if they are going to put her in jail or something.  I'm fairly confident they saw this as an opportunity to get out of adoption assistance, which can be a hefty benefit.

So we're left with tough heartbreaking decisions.  Should we proceed with our little girl but not the baby?  We can't imagine that.  Should we decline the adoption?  That would be unthinkable.  But what do we do?

Let me give you a bit of financial perspective.  We now have 6 weeks (though, if the baby comes earlier probably less) to solve the following:
  • We will no longer receive foster care funds for little miss (-$600 per month income)
  • We will now be responsible for her daycare (+$600 per month expenses)
  • We will now be responsible for any and all medical care (who knows...)
  • We will now be responsible for all expenses related to new baby (+600 per month daycare)
Suddenly we need to find approximately $2K in our budget on a monthly basis to proceed.

I had mentioned before that we needed to save for me to take time off for new baby - we've been able to save $6K, which would have done pretty well.

Except now we have had a car repair - $1200
We've had to put a retainer for part of the legal fees - $1200

So that little savings is now down to $3600.

We don't have anything for new baby.

We'll also need to quickly save enough for both adoptions.  With a sibling group through CPS the legal fees are mostly paid for.  Now we're responsible, and since they are separate adoptions (two different types), we'll have to pay double the normal fee.  If things go smoothly it will beit will be approximately $3K each - another $6K that we'll need to come up with.
We are suddenly more than broke.
So what do we do? We've heard at least a couple times from people in the last few days - "well, you could not go through with it". Right.
I like to talk in "normally..." terms, though I know there is no such thing and it probably doesn't help me much. But I feel like normally you have more than 4-6 weeks to figure this stuff out. Normally when you plan to do a private adoption you plan for that upfront. Normally when you agree to adopt a sibling group you receive adoption assistance from the state. Normally you're not scrambling to come up with $10K at the last minute because of some seriously screwed up situations that you had no control over.
I mean, we're the ones who are willing to take in 4 additional kids under 4 (plus our own 4 year old) to care for them on a daily basis. We've stepped up to the call to deal with kids who vomit on command and never ending appointments from therapists and medical staff and dentists and caseworkers and CASA and court when we weren't the ones who did anything wrong. We were born infertile. We're good parents. Our fault is wanting to be good parents to whoever needs us.
As if infertility doesn't suck enough. As if we don't give and give and give and give as much as we can. As if we don't sacrifice our family "normalcy" on a daily basis. As if we don't constantly get looks and sometimes comments from folks who think that we're crazy (and bad parents) for having "that many" children. Now we're either being asked to bear the financial burden as well or to give up the little girl (and her brother) that we've come to know as our daughter.
Trust me - I roll my eyes at my own self for that. I really do. I know people sacrifice financially all the time to be good parents. I know we are really blessed with what we have (both materially but more importantly immaterially - our kids!). We are really really grateful to have this opportunity. I know I sound like I'm whining and throwing a tantrum. In reality - I kinda am. I know that. I hope I get over it. I'm sure I will. It's just not...well, yet again...what we had planned.
The good news is - whatever happens will be to Christ's glory - you see the yuckiness of my heart at this moment. Here's the truth right now. My husband and I both trust that God will do something - what yet we don't know. We're along for this crazy, crazy ride trying to trust. Sometimes it's hard when you're fallen and you're dealing with a fallen world. Sometimes.
So, though I probably shouldn't, I'm allowing myself a tiny pity-party before I move forward. Hopefully my posts on the subject are all positive from here on out.
Nevertheless, if you are a praying kinda person and you would like to keep us in mind, please do - we're worn out right now and trying to figure this out too is a bit much. On this side of the mountain it appears to big to climb - yet here we go...

Friday, June 03, 2011

One Year Ago Today - Part 7: Another Funeral

This is part 7 of my "One Year Ago Today" series. (click on the link to pull up the series - last post first).  I had a severely injured ankle, my best friend and husband's grandfather died on the same day, our car broke down, we were notified our foster kids were going home,  my husband left to travel to our hometown 1500 miles away as my my flew in to visit, and I had just "buried" my best friend.  It seemed as if maybe we'd hit bottom and the only way we could go was up.  I still missed my husband.

Friday seemed to be a day I could finally take a breath.  The whirlwind that had been the past 7 days seemed to finally be slowing down.  It had been a week since my ankle injury and I was very much aware that this was a long-term injury.  To give you an idea - I couldn't get out of bed without my ankle brace that looked like this.  I could hardly sleep without it too, but I couldn't sleep with it either.  (On a side note, it was much better 8 weeks later when I got one similar to this one.   I could wear it to bed though I had to loosen it up a bit in the middle of the night because my feet would swell I guess cutting off circulation.  But it stabilized my foot while I slept...8 weeks later!).  But overall, I was doing well and was ready to pick up the pieces after my friend's funeral. 

My husband was still out-of-town.  Today was the day of his grandfather's funeral.  Truth-be-told I would have loved to be there if the circumstances had been different.  I would have liked to be with the family and honor him.  His wife had passed away 6 months earlier and she was one of the people (therefore they were) that were so supportive of us becoming foster parents.  I wish that she could have lived long enough to share in our delight - she was the one family member I knew that had done foster care.  From what I gather the funeral went well and my husband was traveling home that night.

At some point during the week I had received a phone call and subsequent screening interview from a company that really intrigued me.  They wanted to consider me for a position that probably would have fit my needs well.  So, Friday afternoon I had an interview with them.  That turned out to be wonderful - I loved the interview, the person I spoke with, and overall it built me up and gave me confidence for the next 6 months at work that weren't necesarily my most enjoyable moments in my career.  They wanted to hire me but then experienced a hiring freeze and it got postponed.  They promised to call me back in 6-12 months.  (Surprisingly they did...and once again it was just what I needed though it didn't work out for me to work for them).

Before the interview we went to a great local heritage museum.  It was great to walk around there with my family.  My mom loves stuff like that and so do I, but they also have it set up really well for preschoolers with different activities and animals and such.  So we did that for a little bit before I left them there and went to the interview.  Later we met up for a good mid-afternoon lunch/dinner at Cheesecake Factory and had a great time.  My little kids were at daycare still and so it was a nice, relaxing time with good conversation and no tears.  Except one of the kids broke a plate.  Funny the things I remember!

I had to leave at some point to drive home to pick up the littles from daycare.  I had plenty-o-time, but then got stuck in major traffic where someone was broken down on the freeway.  I spent 45 minutes going 2-3 miles, which is really unsual for where I live and where I was.  I spent the whole time talking to my boss, which was wonderful.  She was so supportive of me and I always appreciated her ability/willingness to be honest with me.  It was great.  She didn't know I had just had an interview but I know she would have supported me with it.  Too bad shortly after she wasn't my boss anymore.  That was not what I needed at the time, but all part of the big picture of the life season I suppose.  When I finally passed the wreck there were people walking around outside the car.  It was a relatively small wreck - actually I think it was just a stalled car in the middle of lanes - I remember thinking what is that guy doing walking around in the middle of the freeway.

A few minutes after I passed the wreck the traffic report came on - where I just was there was a pedestrian fatality - someone was stalled and got out of the car and was subsequently struck by another vehicle.  That was him - the man just a few minutes ago I had seen walking around.  He lost his life.  That was enough death for me. 

As I drove a former neighbor called - she had lots o tickets to a local rodeo.  I'm not necesarily a rodeo kinda gal, but I knew my mom and the kids would enjoy it and I love opportunities to spend as a family.  So that night we headed over to the rodeo with all of the kids.  We had a blast.  At one point they did this thing where the kids were brought onto the rodeo area to chase calfs with ribbons tied on their tale to win a prize.  My 3 year old had to go to the bathroom and seeing as how I had the 1 and 2 year olds and my ankle my sister volunteered to take him.  Next thing I know he was running off into the crowd of kids on the arena area chasing calfs!  Oh my - I wasn't ready for that!  He had a lot of fun.

I picked up the car that day I remember.  It was fixed. 

I had to leave the rodeo a wee-bit early to pick up my husband from the airport.  It was 10:30 or 11 when I got to him.  We were together as a family again.  Just what we needed. 

We had a few days to enjoy relaxing, spending time as a family and with my mom, and just recooperating before we knew our kids would be going home the following Wednesday.  We tried to make the best of it.  I have absolutely no memory of the rest of the weekend or Monday when I went back to work.  Things were hard emotionally and we were just beat down, but it went pretty smoothly from there.  It was time for an upswing if we could just get through letting our kids go home.  So we thought.

Thanks for listening to me tell the story.  It's so beneficial for me to type it all out, even the little details I remember.  Just to get it out.  It will be a few days before the next "One Year Ago Today" series entry - but there will be at least 2 more next week.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

One Year Ago Today - Part 6: Memorial Service #1

This is part 6 of my "One Year Ago Today" series.  I had a severely injured ankle,, my best friend and husband's grandfather died on the same day, our car broke down, we were notified our foster kids were going home, and my husband left to travel to our hometown 1500 miles away as my my flew in to visit.  We were hanging in there, but not on our own strength.
My best friend's memorial service was scheduled for Thursday evening - 6pm I believe though honestly I don't remember.  I suppose I could look at the program which is still sitting on my kitchen counter top.  I just can't put it away.  I don't remember what we did all day but I remember it being a fairly relaxing day with my family.  Maybe we went to eat.  Maybe we did something.  It's funny - I usually have a great memory but some of these details I just don't remember at all because I was living in such a fog at the time.  I do remember that I had run out of my Narcolepsy medication that helps me stay alert and because of all that was going on I hadn't managed to pick-up a new prescription.  I believe i had it on auto-refill but when we moved our phone number changed - they couldn't call me, I never called them to check, and it slipped my mind.  That didn't help the fogginess.  Being without that medication definitely keeps me slower in the mental department - they say I'm "awake" only about 50-60%.  I don't know any different aside from being on medication.

I was simultaneously dreading and looking forward to the memorial service.  I didn't want to go without my husband.  I didn't want to have to go at all - I wanted her back.  I knew what would be brewing regarding the custody of her son and I didn't want all that to have to happen.  I didn't want him to have to be without his mother.  I didn't want my son to have to be without him.  I wanted her to be there with me as we went through life.  I didn't want her to die.

I do remember "taking time for me" that day.  I took a nice long hot shower before getting ready for the service.  I gave my head/hair a hot-olive oil treatment that was a bit too hot and burned my scalp.  But still...I took as long as I wanted to in the shower, though showering wasn't easy with my ankle being in the shape it was in.  Neither was shaving, particularly in the shower.  I had no ability to stand on one leg and no ability to rest that same leg on the bench in my shower resting on my ankle so I could shave it.  I believe I sat in the shower to take care of it.  But the shower was good.  I wanted my husband to be with me.

The service itself was very good.  My sister went with me - she was friends with Stephanie too but also wanted to be there with me.  In her casket was our son's t-ball picture.  They took it together because her son didn't want to do it by himself but did it with Logan.  There was a picture slide show.  Many many of the pictures had our families together.  I was so grateful when her family invited me to sit with them in the family section.  Stephanie and I were close like sisters.  I was there for her and she was equally there for me.  We were in contact with each other daily.  But technically we weren't family and I know her family grieves her loss as their daughter/sister/mom and I am after all just a friend - it was wonderful for them to acknowledge our relationship as it was. 

I didn't speak but many people did - I didn't need to.  It was so good to see how many people showed up for her service and how mnay people she touched.  After one person spoke in particular, the son of a famous athlete, I finally got how/why she did what she did for a living.  It made the picture for me complete (before that I always told her that I couldn't imagine doing what she did, which had to do with facing death on a daily basis).  I got it.  Finally.  And there couldn't have been a better fit for her I think now. 

My heart still hurts for my lost friend but her memory remains beautiful in my heart and though it was painful to "bury" her, I was so glad to have had her friendship for the 5 1/2 years I knew her. 

I did wish my husband was there.  I missed him.

One Year Ago Today - Part 5: Lots of Travel

This post is for Wednesday after Memorial day in the "One Year Ago Today" series depicting our experience in May-June of 2010.  Remember, I had a severely injured ankle, my best friend and husband's grandfather died the same day, our car broke down, and we had received a call telling us our foster kids were going home. We were broken...

By Wednesday I was pretty much a zombie.  We had 3 kids depending on us but I was broken physically, emotionally, and though my faith wasn't damaged my spirit was tired.  Wednesday brought mixed feelings.
First, nothing like kicking you while you're down - we knew immediately through this situation that it was as much a spiritual attack as a series of unfortunate events that we were involved in.  We didn't know why we were being allowed to go through all of this, certainly there were other people affected by some of the events we were experiencing, particularly the deaths, and I'm not sure we will ever truly know why it all went down the way it did.  But in the world of spiritual attack we were broken and the next thing on the list was to cause physical separation between my husband and I in a time where we needed to be able to lean on each other the most. 
My husband's grandfather lived near our hometown, 1500 miles away from where we live now.  Most of our families still live in that general area, so understandably the funeral was there.  My husband thought it would be best to attend that funeral and be with his family, which meant Wednesday (the first reasonable flight he could make without taking much more time off work) he was flying out of town.  In terms of our immediate family I was now on my own to take are of the 3 kids (1.5, 2.5, 3.5) with my brokenness.  Of course I wasn't alone spiritually and my family nearby and friends were so nice to help, but still - the leader of our family, my spouse, was not nearby.  No spouse-ly hugs.  No rest in each other.  I know this affected him too as travel "home" meant he would be away from us and he would be missing the funeral of our dear friend, something I know he didn't want to do.  So with our 1 car we made a trip to the airport (though honestly I don't remember doing that at all).

The good news was that my mom passed him in the air. She had already planned a trip to visit us for 10 days or so scheduled to arrive this day. Of course, we hadn't planned that she'd be coming to visit during this time - surely we would have preferred a happier time - but it worked out well to have my mom there to help. She helped with the kids, she helped with food, and just by having her around helped us all try to do some fun things and get our minds off of what was taking place.
So my sister and I left mid-morning with her daughter and spent some time at the mall, shopping at Victoria's Secret for a little while before heading to the airport to pick up my mom. That was a nice treat. While my sister tried things on, I played with my niece in the cosmetics place, trying on makeup and sampling fragrances. It wasn't enough to take the weight off my chest, but it did help us have some fun. I ended up buying this, which I love. Good or bad it reminds me of this time, which I look back on simultaneously with horror and relief. We made it through and it reminds me of all that good that stemmed from bad.
Though the bad wasn't done yet.

One Year Ago Today - Part 4: The Call

This post is for Tuesday (the day after Memorial day). Remember, I had a severely injured ankle, my best friend and husband's grandfather died the same day and our car broke down - all in the span of four days. We were left wondering when the next shoe was going to drop...

After our longer-than-long weekend, I decided to go back to work on Tuesday. It really didn't strike me that I shouldn't or maybe I needed a few extra days. I thought it was a good idea to get back into the swing of things - maybe catch a little bit of normalcy. The reality is that I wanted normal - I wanted to turn back the clock a week and have everything be as it had been the week before. Whatever the troubles we may have had that Tuesday it was nothing compared to what we were experiencing now.

Because the car was broken down, my husband and I had one car to share which means I had to do all the dropping off of the kids (can't drop them off before 7am) and then all the picking up and be home in time to give the car to my hubby by 4:30pm so he could go to work in time. That is a stretch, but one we had to figure out.

I made it to work around 8:30 I believe. I sat down and took a deep breath. My mind wasn't on work but I had to try. I failed to mention that during this time I was leading one of the biggest projects my department had been involved in - impactful to the entire company, highly visible - in a very long time. I had a small and very new team (3 weeks). We were running as fast as possible to get all this done. But clearly I just wasn't into it. But I had to try.

I turned on my computer and waited for it to load up. The phone rang. I don't think it was even 9am yet.

It was the kids' caseworker - the one who didn't show up the previous Friday when I broke my foot. Indeed, she tried to come and made it in fact - to our old house. Ironically the old house is in the same neighborhood less than 1 mile away but when we moved our phone number was not transferrable so we had to get a new one. Neither our address nor our phone number was correct. She was a new caseworker and didn't have our cell phone numbers either. So she drove what amounts to about 45 miles to get there - made it to less than a mile away, and had to turn around to get home. Our tenant at that house knows us well and could have given her the correct address but I'm sure she was working - it was mid-morning on a Friday. Oh well - it was meant to be. So I proceeded to ask her when she'd like to reschedule. Then the shoe dropped.

"Well - actually," she replied, "We are going to be moving the kids to their grandparents' home next Wednesday so instead I'd like to make arrangements for that". The kids' grandparents - the ones who chose not to care for them any longer which lead to them being placed in the custody of CPS - were going to be getting them back. I don't blame them, their situation wasn't fair to them either and the way things worked out worked better for them and the kids. But it was our first loss - a loss that looked at the time very much like it wasn't going to happen and that the kids might be an adoptive placement. (They did indeed end up being adopted, by the grandparents, earlier this year). We had bonded to these two. Our son had bonded to these two. Our first venture into foster care was ending.

That was all I needed - I lost it. After a few minutes of sobbing at my desk- like full-fledged snot and all sobbing - I cleaned myself up the best I could and went over to tell my boss I was going home. She knew about my foot and I had emailed her about my friend's death but she hadn't seen it yet. I had the best boss in the world. When I explained what had happened (so far!) she told me to take the rest of the week off. She couldn't believe I had tried to come in at all and now with the kids going home she in her abundant concern and wisdom knew best to send me home. That really was best for me though it put a strain on my project and eventually my career in that position.

We were sad to have them going home but we had no control over it and frankly no more tears to cry. I don't remember what I did the rest of that week but I know it had nothing to do with work. That was the last straw.

I was broken.