Friday, September 30, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - How does medical care work?

I'm going to answer a series of individual, related questions related to medical and dental care for foster children.  I will remind you that foster care rules and processes can be highly state and/or county specific, so my answers are from my experience and may only be for where I live. 

Q: Who is responsible for foster children's medical care?

A: Generally speaking, children in foster care are in the temporary managing conservatorship of the state or local agency that has custody (CPS).  Therefore, ultimately that agency as given authority by the state is responsible for the care and protection of the child.  That being said, the foster parent is assigned many of those responsibilities when they formally accept a placement.  One such responsibility, generally, is medical care.  Generally, but not always, a foster parent is granted status as the primary medical consenter, which means he/she is allowed and responsible to make most medical decisions for the given child.  This status allows the foster parent to interact with the child's medical and dental provider to seek care on behalf of the child and to be the intermediary for insurance purposes.

Q: Speaking of insurance, who pays for the child's medical care?  Can they be on your personal insurance like a biological child? 

A: Children in foster care typically receive state provided medicaid.  I'm not sure if this is true everywhere, but here in Texas there are different medicaid plans - children in foster care have their own medicaid plan called STAR health/Superior medicaid.  It's nice that it's separated from need-based plans because the people who are assigned to work with our case are familiar with the foster care system and rules and the reason these children are on medicaid is much different than the reason other children are on medicaid - it just has different implications.  For example, with some government programs (WIC) there are required additional programs for parents to attend if their children receive assistance.  The presumption is that if we are going to be providing government support then the parents need could use additional education about nutrition, etc.  There are similar programs within medicaid.  I'm very grateful that I'm not required to attend additional educational programs or meetings about the importance of receiving medical and dental care or other classes like that - I just need the medicaid because that's the only way to insure my foster children. 

Medicaid is essential for foster parents with foster children. Children in foster care without a formalized adoption agreement are not eligible for a foster parent's private insurance - I can't add my foster children to the insurance I have through work. This has good and bad results, but the primary benefit is that I don't have to pay for medical care for foster children.

*Edited to add...I found out this week that through my insurance at work I CAN add my foster children...however that would be the primary insurance and medicaid secondary.  I tried calling 3 times to the medicaid info hotline number thing to find out how it works on the medicaid side and each time I was disconnected at various points in the conversation.  I gave up for the day, particularly because I was driving at the time and was tired of the hassle.*

Q: How much do you have to pay for their medical care?

A: Typically nothing.  Medicaid covers 100%, at least 100% of what medicaid covers.  I don't get a bill from the doctors (unless they coded something wrong, which they have done before).  I don't have to pay for prescriptions.  I don't have to pay for dental visits (though at the same dentist for Logan I have a $45 copay). 

Q: Really?  Free - no cost?

A: Yes, except of course that medicaid coverage is not widely accepted. It's a pain to find doctors who will accept it. If they do, they're typically not accepting new patients. There are places I can always take them ike foster care clinics and ER rooms, but aside from that it can be hard to find somewhere to take them. Then I've found some and usually they are stereotypical gov't provided facilities. Overcrowded, too-long waiting, not enough attention from the kiddos, quick to write unnecesary prescriptions, etc. The reality is that medicaid loses doctors money in many cases, so there are many doctors who won't take it at all or who will take it but limit it to one program or a few charitable patient cases. My son's doctor's office, which is great and full of wonderful doctors and staff, accepts one plan of medicaid but not the one for foster care. I try to encourage doctors to take the foster care plan if they are going to do it for anyone because it is neither the foster child's fault or the foster parent's fault that they are in the situation of using medicaid - there is nothing they can do about it AND it is likely that the foster parent has other children who will pay with cash or other more friendly insurance and it can be a win-win charitable deal.

There really is limited cost.  You do have to pay for OTC medications, though you could go to the ER and get them covered for free if you needed to.  I don't do that because really, it's minimal when they  need some Qtips or tylenol or band-aids and I'm not going to waste government dollars for stuff like that, especially when I receive money each month to care for the children.  There have been a few times where I've had to pay minimal $$ amounts for prescriptions.  Consider it like your own prescriptions - sometimes there's a generic and the doctor wrote the prescription for the name brand - you can call the doctor to change it to a more cost-friendly  medication or pay for the more expensive one.  In the cases I'm thinking of I could have called the doctor for a different medicine but it was easier to pay the cost than go through the exercise of changing the prescription - it was $4 or $10 or so here and there.  Very rare, but my choice rather than getting things changed. 

Q: So, you're responsible for their medical care.  How do appointments work for medical and counseling?  Do you have to figure out all of that and schedule it on your own or does the social worker do that?

A: Thank God the social worker doesn't do that!  I have to make all appointments for the kiddos as I would with a biological child.  The children require doctor visits with a certain degree of frequency, but it essentially is the same with your own biological child.  If you follow the rule "as doctor directs..." you'll be pretty safe.  Of course, many times the children come into care behind on vaccines (yes, you have to follow recommended vaccine schedule unless dr doesn't recommend) and therefore you may have more frequent appointments. 

Just like with any other insurance, sometimes there are things you need authorization for, whether it's tests or specialists.  I haven't had a problem with any of that and pretty much have been able to do whatever I needed to do without hassle.  There are a few other things that may need social worker approval first.  For an example, I recently requested a psychological evaluation for a child.  If a dr. would have recommended it, I probably would have been able to just go ahead and schedule it through medicaid and notify the SW that we were doing it per doctor recommendations.  BUT, since it was my recommendations and not the doctors, the SW had to get a special authorization not so much to get it done but for the funding.  There are certain rules about authorizing surgeries, general anesthesia, etc. where I would need to contact the case worker, but I do so for authorization/notificaiton of the procedure, not the scheduling. 

I do all the scheduling for appointments in my house and if I didn't, I just can't imagine how that would work out.  There have been a handful of times where the kids have come to me with existing appointments that I had to meet, but other than that, i'm the scheduling queen.

There was one remaining question from this series that I'm going to answer in another post.  It had to do with why there are so many appointments in the beginning of a placement.  It will take mie on a long tangent so I'll address it later, maybe next week.  Until then friends, have a good week!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Foster Parents in Georgia?

Hi everyone -
I'm looking to find an experienced foster and/or adoptive parent in Georgia, particularly Cobb county.  I know of someone who is starting the process there and needs a mentor.  If you know of somemone familiar with Georgia and/or Cobb county rules, let me know please so I can help make a connection and help a new foster parent.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - 60 failed chances...

My son's birthday is coming up later this week.  I'm so excited for his 5th birthday.  I'm so excited for him to be turning 5 and for the chance to have him in our lives and watch him grow and help him learn.  He brings mie so much joy and I hope and pray that he always knows how valuable he is to us and to the One who made him. 

I hate that fact that as a kid you can never really know how much your parent loves you.  I believe you can't really know or understand that until you're a parent yourself.  Then, at least to mie, the full circle of understanding fills in - at least from a natural perspective.

Unfortunately, this week in it's timely way, is also a reminder of how infertile we really are.  You may be familiar with the stages of grief (if not look here... ), and as the article points out you may be aware that people tend to transition through the stages of grief not once but potentially many times over the years, often spurred by some sort of significant event or milestone.  If you lost a loved one - maybe it's a birthday.  If you're infertile, maybe it's a baby shower invitation.  Or the 5-year milestone without a(nother) pregnancy.

5 years.  60 months.  60 chances (in my world) for pregnancy.  60 failed chances.  60 dissapointments.  60 reminders of our inability to conceive.  60.  Sixty.  5 years.

no, my cycle did not come back the first month after my son was came back 1 year to the day if you're curious.  That's not the point.

I probably should have waited to write this post until later, when I'm home by myself.  I'm tearing up.

I don't think about infertility that often.  I kind of balance between acceptance and denial.  Most of the time I'm happy with where our life has turned out and I can mentally process that God let us be infertile because otherwise we would never have pursued foster care and adoption.  I am almost 100% sure of that.  And even if I want to refuse to admit that we could have been "destined" to be foster parents, I can't at this point go back and reconcile that if we weren't foster parents we wouldn't be facing an adoption of a little girl who except for the Judge's signature is our daughter.  I'm happy as a foster mom and I love being one.  I know if I had more kiddos biologically it wouldn't have turned out this way and I'm almost, almost at the point where I'd be ok not trading our experience for fertility.

Then the curse of secondary infertility hits.  Well, we're not really infertile.  We have a son.  It happened once, it could happen again.  Who am I to limit God?  I mean, last month wasn't our month but maybe that's because He was waiting for His perfect timing and this month is it!  I've always go tstome story in my head of how it could turn out...if I were pregnant this month then I'd have found out around my son's birthday - after 5 years...what a story!  And then, if I were pregnant this month we could have waited to tell everyone until after #4's adoption....then we too would be one of the anomalies - you know, pregnant after adoption - I wouldn't care if everyone said "see I told you just had to relax".  *Big eye roll*

There's been this balancing point in mie for the last, oh, however long since we did the testing.  If I'm honest, longer than that.  At least for the last 3.5 years - when my son was 18 months old and I knew that wasn't "right".  But I had a ton of excuses.  I was nursing.  I was stressed with school and work and home and baby.  it wasn't God's timing.  We just were missing our timing.  Yeah, all those ones.

I wasn't ready to give up the dream of having another biological child.  I had my son days from turning 25.  When we were officially diagnosed I was 27.  Though I could understand that I might never have another child from my womb again, I wasn't ready to give up the idea that it might happen.  I've had a glimmer of hope that one day I'll get to experience it again.  I couldn't imagine that in my 20s I was done with one live birth.  I know people often have an age when they would *stop* having kids, often 35, but I never imagined I'd be done with pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, etc. at 24.

But the glimmer of hope has faded to a sliver. Most of the time I don't even think about it. Most of the time it's faded in acceptance of the life we now have - the opportunities we have through foster care that we would never have had...I mean really, how many people have had the experience of boy/girl infant "twins", girl-girl infant "twins", going from 3 to 1, having 4 kids with 4 different fathers, and many, many other "parenting" experiences that we've had. When it all boils down, we've been able to experience so much that most parents never "get the chance" to experience.  Most of the time - that is why the hope has's drowned out by enjoying the life we have rather than wishing for a life we don't.

There are times though, like now, when the cost of our path is abundantly clear.  The payment (for us) to experience life like we know it now is that we don't get to have more biological kids.  We suffer with the knowledge that all the experiences we mentioned above would *ideally* end in the child returning whole and healthy to their biological parents who would keep them that way.  We will never have *control* over what our family looks like and experience "trying" like "normal" couples.  I may never get to nurse again.  I may never get to be pregnant and feel a baby kick inside my tummy.  I may never get to give birth again, in any fashion.

There's something about 5 years - 60 months.  You'll notice I said above "I may never..." - the hope is not altogether lost.  My God is bigger than my thoughts.  I have no idea what He has in-store.  I've been letting go of Mie and that means I've been learning how to be open and anticipating the craziness only He could imagine for us.  But that 60 month mark. gave the door a good wind to almost seal it shut.

And that sends mie right back through the grief cycle.  Will I ever give up the idea for good?  Probably not.  I'll probably be 80, having had a complete hysterectomy, and still hoping that next month will be it.  That's just the way I am.  But I hope I'm more and more ok with what God has in-store for mie as I continue to move forward.  That's better than the alternative.

My cycle started again on Saturday.  It was about 5 days late, presumably because I started with the exercise/training program.  Long-enough to get me dreaming and thinking and fuel the fire of hope in my heart.  Short-enough for mie not to have taken a test ( this point I'd have to be like 8 months late to take a test...).  Either way the result was the same - not pregnant.

And that's probably how I'll stay I suppose.  But maybe, maybe....

Monday, September 26, 2011

Say What (!?!) Sunday - Things that make you go hmmm....

Our little Logie continues to keep us laughing (inside, because outside would hurt his feelings).  He's got such a strong brain on his shoulders that he often says something really profound that amazes us.  But then he's also not-yet-5 and therefore doesn't know everything so he fills in the blank with his imagination.  Put the two together and you get a gem like this:

(while driving, after hearing a few days before that his uncle Mike had been in war as a Marine - to which he was amazed).

L: Mom, I know how some bad guys got here (the US, presumably)
Mie: Really?  How?
L: They dressed up and pretended to be the good guys and got back in line with the good guys to come home (from war)
Mie: Yes Logie, I bet some bad guys have done that before.  Sometimes bad guys pretend to be good guys so we don't know that they are bad guys.
L:  Yeah, so that's how they did it when they came home on the rocket ship.
Mie: The rocket ship?  Where were they coming from?
L: Space.
Mie: So, Logie, where does war happen?
L: Outer space. 
Mie: I see.

See what I mean?  *chuckle, chuckle* that mind that hasn't been tainted too much with the horrors of things that happen here on Earth.  btw...I did explain to him that at least sometimes war happens on Earth - like when Uncle Mike went...

I really struggle with being amused by the conversation with my son Logie and being annoyed with similar conversations with #7.  Sometimes I wonder if it's because Logie is my bio-son and the other is a foster-son and condemn myself a bit for that, hoping I'm not showing favoritism or being easily annoyed by "someone else's child".  I sure hope that's not it.

#7's conversations, to mie, are a bit more aggravating.  Unlike Logie's conversations which appear to have good thought behind them with the occasional dramatics or imagination, #7 is most often nonsensical so much that when there's a logical conversation it's actually surprising.  Sometimes to mie it's like what I know of Alzheimers or other dementia-type disorders/diseases.  I'm thinking about the woman on The know where she's gone most of the time but then peek's through for brief moments?  That's how it feels sometimes with him.  Most of the time, the conversations are like the one below and that gives mie a bit of reassurance (maybe it shouldn't) that it's not just mie loving one kid more than another:

...this morning, while driving on a country road.

#7 - MOM!
Mie - Yes #7?
#7 - I've been to a parking lot!
Mie - Yes you have.
he repeated that  a few times, each time with my reassurance.  Then...
#7 - Are there beds there?
Mie - Where #7?
#7 - At the parking lot.  Are there beds at the parking space?
Mie - No #7, the cars park in a parking space.  You've been there remember?

Mind you, we're not talking about a particular parking space and there really aren't any places around that have parking spaces that he might be referring to...we're near open fields.

#7 - Oh, ok.  Can I go inside one?
Mie - What, a parking space?
#7 - Yeah. he says, as if that's a compeletly logical question.

These conversations drive mie batty.  Please don't hate mie.  I really try to get inside his head and try to think about what he's could be thinking.  I try to fit it all together like a puzzle.  I really try to be patient and encouraging as he uses his imagination to learn about his world.  Maybe it's just mie and my too-logical head (that really appreciate's Logie's logic), but most of the time I can't figure it out...though I know what he's saying doesn't make any sense (for his age) I can't figure out what he might be trying to say so I can help him.

Truth is he is smart and talented in his own ways, but he's struggling, I believe with a particular attachment disorder and therefore the incessant non-sensical questioning.  This really could (and probably will) turn into a different post, but as I was explaining to his parents last week what I believe he is doing is trying to reach out and make sure I'm still there and that I still love and care for him because usually this is in the car when he's in the far back and I'm in the front.  After 6 months he still needs to know I'm there for him....that is what I believe it's all about so whatever comes out when he opens his mouth is worthy of saying.  If I remember that then my heart is a bit more sensitive and rather than playing into the nonsensical conversation I remind him I love him and am still here.

But, today is Say What (!?!) Sunday - so I'll leave these two conversations for your amusement rather than psychological interpretation.  For today.  :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Working Mama Wednesday - Training for a Marathon Relay

As a working mama, I sometimes feel as if I don't have time for things that working mama's might.  I know the reality is that I choose not to have time for some things, especially because I work, but where a stay-at-home mom might be able to reconcile spending one less 30-45 minute time period actively playing with her kiddos so she can read a book "for her" instead because she will spend most of the rest of the day with them, I have a much more limited time to spend with my kiddos to begin with and I try to take advantage of every second.  That means most of the stuff that you can't really do with kids around I either have to wait until they're in bed, space it out enough to get a sitter, infrequently occupy them with a movie, or just not do it at all. 

Add the fact that my husband doesn't work a traditional schedule, which means our family time and husband/wife time is even more sparse than the time I alone get to spend with the kiddos and even more things are off the table.  Where some mamas take the opportunity to let their husbands put the kids down one night or take them out for donuts one morning so they can spend daddy time and she can get some mommy alone time, we don't have that opportunity.  The days my hubby can do that I have to go to work early to make up for the days I go in late when I take care of the morning routine all by myself.  As it is we only have 3 nights a week to spend together and I try to hold that time sacred for our family as much as possible, because there are plenty of things that try to steal our time together - some necesary.

As a result, true exercise for the sake of physical fitness has been difficult to come by since I became a mom.  Sure, I walked to the park with the kiddos.  I take them on walks.  I walk up and down the stairs AT LEAST 10 times a day, at least 4 times carrying 1 or more of the kiddos.  I get exercise somewhat by default, but nothing that actually ensured I was fit.  Now that my son is getting older, sometimes I'll put on an on-demand fitness show and he and I will make it a fun time doing it together (and by the way, that is a really fun time...doing it together makes it fun enough but then watching him try to do the moves - priceless!).  But still, I'm fairly out of shape.

Remember too, on top of working I've been completing grad school full-time for the past several years, so that took up a lot of time as well.  About the time I was ready to start getting in shape after having my son (admittedly when he was 3),  I injured my ankle and that injury was one that seriously made me believe I might not ever be able to do a lot of types of exercises - even 15 months later it causes trouble and I have to be careful. 

So when it felt like all my friends were training for marathon relays and half-marathons and marathons I sat back thinking that though it would be something I'd love to do, realistically I knew I couldn't do it for all the reasons I've mentioned above.  Then I found a fellow North Texas foster mom who was a runner and did an annual half-marathon to raise money for foster children  (if I remembered who it was, I'd link to her blog but I don't!  I'll figure it out again someday).  At that point I got the strong desire to train for a half-marathon and either run with her (little does she know...) or at least run on her behalf.  It was a bit late for training for the last one and my ankle wouldn't have been ready, but it took root in my heart.

When many, many of my friends decided to train with World Vision for a half-marathon this October, I really, really wanted to join them.  But with the impending arrival of Little Miss' brother I realistically thought it would be a bad idea to train for that and add a baby right in the heart of training.  I have learned to at least attempt to set boundaries for myself.  Of course, baby never arrived to our home but then with our family vacation, my Uncle's murder, the beginning of Kindergarten, and fears over my ankle I thought it would just be too late to start training for a half-marathon.

THEN, I had the opportunity to train with many, many of these friends to run in a marathon relay in December as part of a 5-person team.  I knew I had to jump on the chance.  I figured, if I could do the approximately 5 miles for this team then I'd get a good feel (and be part-way-there) for if I could train for the half-marathon next spring.  I also knew that if I had any hope at all for being able to do it, doing it with these girls would be critical - my fabulous friend Amanda has become known for her ability to inspire and provide guidance for complete newbies like me, to mold them into actual runners.

I'm not a runner.  I never have been.  Though I've always been able to run a quick sprint (and do quite well), I'm not a long-distance endurance kind of gal.  Actually, this applies to other sports including my beloved swimming, but is especially true of running.  Until 2 years ago when I did a boot camp, I hadn't run anything close to a mile since I was in junior high.  Then during that boot camp I ran 1 mile twice and felt like it was going to kill me.  So I've been nervous.  I question whether I can do it.  I'm scared I'll hurt myself.  I'm scared I'll let me team down.  I'm nervous I'll sacrifice too much of my family time to make this happen.  I'm afraid I'll fail at many, many things that make me "mie".

Alas I'm doing it.  We've been training for 2 weeks now and on my 2nd run I ran 2 miles without missing a beat.  I was so proud of myself.  I've done it again twice more now and I love that I'm running.  I love that I'm conquering an arch nemesis.  I love that I'm doing something for me.  I love that I'm getting in shape not just for looks but just to be more healthy (and I am!).  I'm excited I'm doing this with other ladies encouraging me on and to whom I can be encouraging to as well.  I'm proud of myself. 

This morning it took a new turn.  I got up at 5:15 am to go run 2 miles before work.  I wasn't a big fan, but I did it.  And I did it faster than I'd done it previously.  This really is something I can get into.  Only time will tell if I become an avid runner, but for now I love the challenge.

Look for more updates on my training because, well, I just can't avoid talking about it  :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Little Man is Growing Up

My mommy heart was broken yesterday.  My son didn't want mie anymore.  *sniff, sniff*

He's now in kindergarten and entering the world of field trips.  We saw one coming up on the calendar and both my husband and I mentally planned to attend.  We realize that as working parents we're not going to be able to make all of them, so it's our commitment to do as much as we can when we can. 

Finally the details of the trip came home in the folder yesterday.  We had to give our permission, pay the nominal fee, and say whether or not we were coming.  As soon as I brought up the field trip he immediately began the unintentional heart-crushing. 

To be fair, it was clear that he knew it was going to hurt my feelings so he tried his hardest to break it to mie gently.  So think about it in the most sweet-but-firm little boy voice you can imagine:

"Mommy - I want to go by myself to this one.  I really want to be a big boy.  But you can come next time if you want".

I pestered him about it a bit, trying to figure out why exactly he didn't want his mommy to come.  I offered for him to ride the "school bus" with his friends and I'd drive seperate.  I offered to meet him there (which is the same as the last...I was desperate).  I pointed out that other mommies and daddies might be coming and he might be the only one without a mommy or a daddy.  None of this helped. 

He wants to be a big boy.  He wants to go alone.  He doesn't want mie there.

Though my heart was sad, I was also really concerned that he would indeed end up the only one without a mommy there and as a working mom that's something I'm really sensitive to and something he's not quite able to foresee.  So, I told him I'll be ok if he doesn't want me to go but we needed to talk to his teacher.

A few minutes later, he changed his mind.  He reluctantly said that I could go since I really wanted to.  I told him that I really wanted to, but if he didn't want me to I'd be ok with that, after we talked to his teacher.  Then he talked himself into needing me there because what if there were strangers and he got nervous - sometimes he gets shy or embarrased - I told him he'd be fine without me there but I wanted to go enjoy it with him.

As of this morning, after talking to his teacher, I plan to be going with him, but I do so knowing things are different now.  Yes, he'll love for me to go and he'll have fun, but he's now at the age (at least for yesterday) where he's going to start pulling away a little bit to learn how to be a little boy and eventually a young man. 

This is such a hard thing for a parent, especially for the mommy in mie.  Oh how I wish he could stay a little guy forever.  Though the work is hard with a little one (sleepless nights, etc.), I love having my son who enjoys spending time with me.  I've loved watching him discover the world and being one of the key sources he looks to for understanding and to help show him the way.  As he gets older, that will be less and less my role.  Yes, I'll still play that role and I'm aware that I'll have other roles to play that will be important to him as he turns into a man, but I already miss the days gone by.

Such a balance needed. The reality is, though I wish for him to stay young forever, that option really isn't the best for him (obviously). He is not mine, he is the Lord's. I have been allowed to be his mommy and to raise him with his father, but he is not here on this Earth solely for my enjoyment as my son. He was created and God-willing will be allowed to grow into a man after God's own heart. A man that does great things. Far be it from me to get in the way of that plan. It is my job then to help him grow - by definition that means I need to help him grow-up and not try to keep him as my baby forever. I have a job to do, a job that brings tremendous pleasure that's otherwise indescribable but as things go, that opportunity comes with a cost, the chance to be hurt and sad for me as I "lose" my baby to the man he'll become.

And I know I'll be proud of that man.  I know that I'll love him for as long as I have breath.  I just hope I get out of his way and be someone who helps him to become the man he is supposed to be, in God's timing, rather than inadvertently keeping him under my wing too long. 

Usually I enjoy this challenge.  Yesterday as I heard him tell me that he didn't want me around (for that trip), it stung.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Smores Dilemma

It's 9pm. 

Ok, that sounds ridiculous...maybe it wasn't that late.  But it might have been.  It was at least 8 because all the little kids were in bed.

Around 8pm, just as with from 2-4 (a.k.a, naptime) the incessant requests for snacks begins.  I make sure they are healthy snacks and usually it ends up being a routine of requests.
  • Chocolate milk and gummies (gummies are his vitamins)
  • Dessert (ice cream or a popsicle, but not everyday)
  • String Cheese
  • Peanut Butter Spoon
  • Bowl of blueberries (or grapes)
  • Jello (plain)
These are the consistent ones.  After he's received all of these snacks, he either begins repeating requests or might go after these less requested items:
  • Fruit snacks
  • Oreos
  • Apple
  • Applesauce
  • Fruit Cup
  • Capri-Sun (Roarin Waters)
  • Peanut-Butter Crackers
  • Cheese Crackers
  • Bowl-of-Fishies
  • Popcorn
  • Jello (with fruit)
  • Square cheese (american)
And it gets weirder from there.  Although I don't give him everything he wants (after 1 or maybe 2 dessert like items he gets healthy snacks), I do tend to give him snacks at night as long as he eats his dinner.  He tends to just eat little meals through the day.  Just how the kid is.

In any case, a few weeks ago he gave me a new request...Smores.  I think he'd asked me a few times before and for whatever reason this day I wanted to oblige and I felt a bit obligated to...don't know why but I did.

Unfortunately, when we went to the cabinet we were out of graham crackers.  I had everything else but the graham crackers.  So what did I do?  What any other good mom would do *wink*...

Seriously, I sat over a stove and toasted marshmallows to be palced on scooby doo graham cracker sticks, also known in our home as scooby snacks.  He loved them and all was well in the world.

At least for the next 5 minutes...

Moolah Monday - Being the Breadwinner

There's much to-do in the world about the concept of "breadwinner", especially when it comes to masculine and feminine roles in a relationship.  In most Christian traditions (though not exclusively), men are the head of the home and therefore, additionally, are the wage earners.  Certainly in the U.S. and other nations that have had gender equality movements over time the idea that men go to work and women stay home barefoot and pregnant are no longer the norm.  In fact, I'd argue that with any increase in "rights" comes an additional responsibility, whether through proactive stress & work to do the right thing or consequences for choosing not to. In the case of women, this added much more to their already full plates. This isn't meant to be a case for or against equality for women, just pointing out that "freedom isn't free" and now many women "must" work at least in part in payment for their equality.
I for one am grateful for the women before us who through suffrage earned us the right to vote and the freedom to be educated and to choose the path that we believe God has set out for us whose identity isn't soley tied up in whether or not we work, whether or not we marry, and whether or not we have children.  I no longer have to be worried that if I didn't have a husband or children that I'd be less-female, less worthy to society, and destined to be a poor "widow" begging for change.  Surely as a woman who has a career and who has "taken advantage of" the educational system, I should be grateful for these opportunities.  I vote.  I have a voice.  I'm an important member of society just for being mie.
That being said, I have to be careful as I'd caution any wife to be, that I don't harm my husband's role by over-emphasizing that I'm the breadwinner.  I do talk about it from time to time here on the blog and then at times with a handful of trusted female friends primarily as the rationale of why I don't stay-at-home or to demonstrate how our life works, but we don't talk about it a lot at home and I try to never mention it when in mixed-company, especially when my husband is around or with his friends.

I have a great husband.  He's faithful, he adores me and his kids (even the ones he didn't contribute to creating!), he loves the Lord, and he's very helpful.  I know that he feels a heavy burden to make sure that I'm taken care of and that his kids know how much they are loved.  Sure - he's not perfect, but neither am I and that's ok.  We learned that a long time ago and know where perfection comes from, not each other. \

With all that said, I want to make sure that for all he does he never feels less-than because I make more money than he does. It would be easy for me to demean him and complain a lot for working, not staying home, etc. because he doesn't make "enough". I'm sure that it would be easy for him to fall into the trap of feeling not good enough, not enough as a husband, not enough as a father, not enough as a man. I've learned enough about gender roles over the years to know how devastating that type of thing can be and how for a small population that pressure will drive some to succeed or completely fail, for most it produces an unhealthy constant struggle of feeling worth. My husband's worth shouldn't be soley based on the ratio of our earnings but from who He is in Christ - nevertheless it's an innate struggle that can take a man off-path.
As an example from our life - for years we qualified to purchase things on credit purely on my income (including all of our cars and and all 3 houses).   If you've ever been down the road of financing stuff like that, you know it can be easier to use one person's income if you can just so you have about half of the paperwork!  So, several of those things are only in my name.  There are times when I could use that in a fight - I could say mean and ugly things like "your car?  Whose name is on the title?"...or something like that.  That is clearly something I try and avoid, but I also try to avoid using that topic in jest . When we talk about that property I talk about it in both our names.  Though it's not required, we made sure that they included both our names on the title of our homes even when the mortgage is in my name.  I recently found new insurance for our rental property and though in our state as a married couple that insurance would by default be for both of us, I made sure that he was on the policy explicitly.  I know this may sound obvious to some, but it's the little things like that where companies give us the opportunity to choose (or, in some case default to me only) where we could do the easy thing and not push it or worse I could get haughty and rub it in my husband's face where we choose to walk hand-in-hand. 

A similar example - last week I had the opportunity to go get my hair done.  I called my husband and asked for permission, not so much to get it cut or colored (though I wanted his input on that too) but primarily to spend the money.  It's a small amount of money to do that, at least with our budget, and honestly if I would have gone to do it without telling him first he wouldn't have noticed in our account.  Nevertheless, in doing so I showed him that his opinion matters and that though I could take the attitude of saying "If I work I get to choose this stuff for myself", that wouldn't help our marriage out.  Afterall, I want him to talk with me about his purchases too so we can be on the same page about spending our money.

Speaking of that, I also want to make sure that I don't strip him of the role we believe he has as the one primarily responsible for providing for our family. This is a delicate balance with me earning at least 2x what he does.  It would be easy for him to say eh...I don't need to work my wife makes plenty for both of us.  It would be easy for us to continue daycare, let him stay home and work on his hobbies and play video games all the time while I'm at work; we could afford that.  But we don't do that.  Yes, we both acknowledge that it's important for us to have individual down time and do things we love, but it's not ok for either of us to sit idly doing nothing for extended periods of time.  That won't help our marriage or our family and probably isn't what we're designed to be on this Earth for.  My husband works his 40 hours.  Then, in the times he's home when the rest of the family isn't, he does other work in the house.  Sometimes its the yard work, sometimes its cleaning up the clutter, sometimes it's a special task I ask him to do because I didn't get around to it the night before.

The point is, it's important for my husband to remain to be the head of our household regardless of how much money either of us make. Tomorrow my job could be gone. So could his. I'm glad we're in a position where we both have the opportunity to work when we truly need to, that God gave us able hands, feet, and minds and has given us favor to this point with employment. We're very blessed with that. Yes, it adds different challenges than a family where the wife stays home and doesn't earn an income and, by now you all know I'd prefer that - I'm a stay-at-home momma in a working mama's body. But for now I'm asked to work and have been favored to be able to do so and that means I need to keep myself and my humility in check to know my true job in this world - and that is not necesarily rooted in my position at work or my income.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - Is it hard to ...

I started Foster Parent Friday because I realized I tend to get the same questions about foster parenting (and to a lesser degree, adoption) from everyone who finds out we're foster parents.  They tend to be, in this order:

1.  Wow, I could never do that. We've always thought about that!
     This goes along with:
     "You're such a saint!" "You're crazy".  (yes, people say those words)
2.  Isn't it hard when they have to leave?
3.  How long have you been doing that?
4.  Don't you have to follow all sorts of rules?
5.  Do you have to meet the parents?

And then from there the series of questions varies based on the person, though usually we cover how many kids we have, generalities about situations we've seen and behaviors, and usually something about what happens to the kids (adoption, kinship placement, return to parents, etc.). 

Last Friday I was talking to somemone I work with but don't know very well and this topic came up.  So, immediately began the questions...unfortunately I've become so accustomed to answering the same questions over and over again I didn't let her finish and her 1st question was actually something I hadn't been asked before, but it was a very valid question.

Q: Isn't it hard too...(I assumed...let them leave)...get used to them and bond with them when they come to your home?

Interestingly, this person is a little bit younger than I am and is either engaged or married but with no kids.  Briefly, it didn't strike me that she was quite in that phase yet.  So then I started thinking about it and all the people I've talked to about it have had kids themselves and therefore can picture the challenge of letting "your" child go.  As I thought about it, sure enough as a child-free couple not yet into the phase of life where they are pursuing children, I bet one of the more curious questions is how they fit into your life...just as one of the biggest concerns about starting to build a family has to do with how having children will change your life.  Interesting.

A: Having foster children join your home really does throw your life up in the air like one of those cartoons where they throw the pizza up in the air and it lands and the toppings land a little bit different (or, a lot different) than they were when they started.  The first few weeks of a placement are pretty crazy, especially with your first few placements.  But this is only temporary.  Then, after you get into a routine, depending on the children and your family, it only takes a 2-4 weeks in our experience to start feeling like a family.

When we received our first placement - man that changed our lives.  We went from having a 3.5 yr old to having a 1.5, 2.5, and 3.5 year old literally overnight one weekend.  It was a Saturday night, so Sunday we stayed home from church to get used to everything and take care of getting the stuff we needed.  I stayed home that Monday from work, in part to get used to it all and in part to take care of a few things, like finding daycare.  We'd been licensed for all of a week!  I remember thinking that Monday - there's no way I could go back to work!  I literally forgot to eat all day that Monday purely from figuring out a new routine with 3 kids.  I remember making dinner that night and not making enough for all of us - I was hardly used to cooking for 2 let alone 5!  They were sick, I didn't know the system, and it was a bit overwhelming.  Though it took 2-3 weeks for me to figure out for the dust to settle into normal routines (after doing initial doctor visits, caseworker visits, parent visits, ECI evaluations, finding daycare, etc.), it took no more than 3-4 days for me to be hooked on these kids.  They called us mom and dad the day after they arrived.   They only stayed 8 weeks, which felt like such a long-time because they were part of our family.  They really were.

They went home before we received another placement. He was an 11 month old little boy who loved to sleep. The night he arrived as it got late he cried and cried. I was worried that he was sad and scared. I didn't know how he liked to go to sleep. I fed him a bottle and he was awake. So, I just put him in his bed. He rolled over and went to sleep. That's all he wanted - to be put in his bed. That all made life easier. So, we had our son and a 1 year old for about 6 weeks. After having 3, going to 2 with the additional one being "so easy" it was a piece of cake. All the system stuff was still new and took a while to figure out, but it probably only took about 2 weeks for life to settle down with him. He was "part of our family" at least by that time.

As we had more placements the time it took to get through the system-related chaos got down to about 1 week.  We are now really used to how to work with doctors, therapists, the school, caseworkers, court, and parents.  In a way, the chaos of having a new placement has become old-hat for us. 

In terms of bonding with the children, it really depends on the child, their experiences, and their characteristics.  Though you start to feel like a family after about 2-4 weeks (meaning, the child isn't a visitor in your home, they're like one of your own),  the amount of time for you to actually bond to a child or for them to bond to you can be very different.  In that way, sometimes foster care is kind of like a job - you have the job of parenting to do but not necesarily the heart emotion and connection like I have with my biological son - that can take time.  We've had that develop with all of our kids, but some have taken longer.  There's one in particular that we struggled to really bond with and that is related to the child's attachment issues and behaviors. 

Surprisingly, at least to us, all of the kiddos have bonded to us as their family very quickly.  They all call us mom and dad.  Though all but one has had an ongoing relationship with their biological parents, all of them have at least sometimes have chosen us over their biological parents.  There was the time with the first placements when mom had her first visit and afterward, while in her arms, they reached out to me and yelled MOMMY!.  There was the time when at every visit if the little boy saw me in the foyer during the visit he'd crawl right to me rather than his parents.  At our last visit with #4's parents we went to take a picture of them together and she wouldn't hold still in their arms long enough to take a picture - she wanted us.  Then there's the current situation where at least 4-5 times a week I have to hear #7 tell me that he wants to visit his mommy and daddy but he wants to LIVE with us.  When his attorney asked "if you could live anywhere in the world, where would you want to live" and he said "here.  I want to be a Gxxxx". 

Though our kiddos have all come with some level of hurt, brokenness, and in need of healing - we've found at least in the beginning all it takes is basic care - a hug, regular meals, a bedtime routine, etc. - and they almost instantly begin the healing process and start to trust you as their caregiver.  Again, that's not to say there aren't deeper issues that they have to deal with and that is the case with all kids, it depends on the child and their trauma, but in our experience they have seen us as their family very quickly.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Working Mama Wednesday - Current Projects

I've been thinking this past week about all the things I do.  Have you seen the movie previews for "I don't know how she does it"? - I barely saw the title on a commercial and, though I don't know anything else about the movie, I get people who ask me that all the time.  Or they just tell me that - "I don't know how you do it".  So at some point I'm interested in looking into the movie, though the first thing I pulled up on google called it the 3rd Sex in the City movie, and I'm not interested in that.

In any case, I'm keenly aware that I'm not the only person out there that has a lot on their plate.  Also, as I've been thinking about it I've thought about how "Working Mama Wednesday" is kind of funny - all mom's work.  So - if you're a mama - here's to you!  I'm sure you can come up with your own list!

Here are the "normal" day-to-day things I work on:
  • Cleaning the house (4200 sq. ft = lots to clean)
  • Cooking/Dishes
  • Laundry (9 loads + each week)
  • Raising 4 kids
  • Balancing visits, caseworkers, therapists, court, and other "system" stuff
  • 2 dogs & a turtle
  • Trying to be a good wife to my husband/being married
  • Maintaining & building family/friend relationships
  • 45-50 hr workweek + 10 hr-ish commute
  • church, small group, and other service opportunities + building my relationship with God, etc.
  • This blog.
Here are the current "extra" projects I have going on currently:
  • Training for a marathon relay team (right now it's 2 miles 3x/wk but will build to 5 miles + 3 days other types of training, 30 minutes each)
  • Painting & decorating 3 rooms (kitchen & 2 kids rooms) - remember this post?  Paint was on sale the week before labor day.
  • Planting some foliage in the backyard to cover areas grass died before it becomes mud season
  • Cleaning out the front flower beds, planting fall/winter foliage, and remulching
  • Teaching the kids how to play Wii  (forgot how much fun this was!)
  • Prepping for my son's birthday party
  • Prepping for #4's party and figuring out if we will have #8 on her birthday.
  • Trying to get the state to set a date for #4's adoption so family can schedule trips if they can
  • Finding new medicaid drs since our regular one is in a contract dispute...
  • Fixing insurance on our rental home - just now switching it to a rental home (dwelling) policy
  • Cleaning out closets and toy chests, sending old/too small/out of season stuff back to the parents of #7 & #8 in prep for them to go home.
  • Trying to rid the world our home of ringworm.
Things I still have slated to do soon:
  • Prep for doctoral competency exams (eek...have to schedule that!)
  • Finishup doctoral dissertation proposal (gotta get on that...)
  • Clean the carpets
  • Finish up my foster-care scrapbook
  • Buy cold weather uniforms for Logie
  • Paint the laundry room (after paint goes on sale again)
  • Get a haircut
  • Schedule family pictures (we usually do around birthday time)
  • Get on top of the family budget
  • Clean out the office closet/craft room
  • Schedule dermatologist & allergist appointments for myself, Logie, and Little Miss (#4)
  • Get back into batch cooking (wow...was it really January when I wrote that post...eek)
  • Find a rodeo to take my kids to
  • clean out the fridge & pantry
I think that's a good enough list for now.  That'll keep me busy for a few weeks.  I'm sure of it.

So what are you working on?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - 9/11

10th anniversary of 9/11. 

It's hard to believe that 10 years have gone by. 

I didn't participate in any of the "where were you..." conversations on Facebook - I didn't want to reduce the memory to a gimmick or somehow reduce the gravity of the situation that way.  (I'm not saying that was everyone's intention, it just felt that way for me).  I will share with you where I was.

I was in college at the time, in my final year, taking all my classes on Tuesday's & Thursdays so I could work full-time on the other days.  It was a hectic schedule and meant I had to drive to school by 7:30 for my first class and I wouldn't be done until 7ish at night.  That morning, a Tuesday, I was up with the sun to get ready for school and as was the tradition in my parents house I turned on the news as I woke up.  I was in LA, so right around the time I turned on the tv the first plane had just hit and they didn't know much but obviously it was a big deal.  I remember watching the second plane hit the 2nd tower live on the Today show, which is weird because I also don't remember the Today show normally coming on until 7.

I went in to wake up my mom and tell her what was going on.  We watched together for a while and we heard about the Pentagon and watched as both towers fell.  Along with the rest of America, we were in shock and completely saddened.  We calculated that based on the reports of how many people worked in the WTC, a population the size of our moderate-sized hometown could very well have been just wiped out.  A lot of people.

The professor for my first class had a strict 'do not miss class' rule, probably spurred by the fact that it was typically a frosh-soph class and it started at 7:30am. I decided to go ahead and go to class. Some had heard but in that bubble that was a college campus many were not aware of what was going on. I remember after class more people knew about it and everyone was talking, shocked, and grieving. When you saw a plane in the air (traffic was grounded but it took a while for all flights to land) it struck instant fear - is this another location planned? In LA we wondered how many people we lost on the planes because the destination of some of the planes was believed to be LA - maybe some people were returning home.

After that first class I couldn't stay on campus any longer. I wanted to be with my family. So I left school for the day and stopped first at our church where my boyfriend (now husband) worked at the time. He had to finish something up so I hung out with him for a while, watching the news constantly, and then later we went to my house to be with my family.

I don't remember much else of that day, other than going out at least once to either drive my husband home (maybe we decided to take one car?) or visit his family, which I only remember because I remember driving and watching the sky vigilantly.   The memories I have are so interesting.  I remember a special church service that Wednesday.  I remember not wanting to do anything but be with my family.  I remember struggling to find meaning in most of my usual activities and hard to "return-to-normal", and I was pretty darn far from all things ground zero.  I was an American - and this hurt our home.

10 years later - the memories of 9/11 are still so real.  In some ways it feels like yesterday.  As I was talking with my son about the events I cried - that surprised me a bit.  I have worked in two skyscrapers, both near an airport, and I'm reminded frequently as planes fly by fairly low, of the events of 9/11.  But yet in many ways so much has happened in my life in the past 10 years - it feels like ages ago.  I live in a new state, I'm done with that degree and have added another but yet I still find myself in school finishing up the Ph.D.   My then boyfriend proposed 6 months later, we were married by the end of the 2002, and since have moved 4 times and I gave birth to our amazing son.  I've had 10 jobs since then - 9 of which are with the same company. 

Life has moved on for us - which is something I'm so very profoundly grateful for on many fronts.  We have been granted more time - many were not.  We did not lose our lives or immediate family members - many were not as lucky.  We have been able to continue to grow and develop and live in freedom.  Yes, things are different now and a world without 9/11 would have been much better in many, many ways.  I would have preferred an idealistic world where my son didn't have to learn about such an event in history.  But it is our reality and maybe moving forward with life cognizant of mortality can be a blessing because we have the opportunity to savor each day if we choose to.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Moolah Monday - Working Together

My husband and I are big Dave Ramsey fans and believe whole-heartedly in his approach to money management.  Though arguably one of the biggest points of his message is that living debt-free is the best (only) way to go if you're going to be financially successful in the long-term, one of the key things I appreciate is his perspective on the importance of money in relationships.  It is so important in what he teaches that it falls in the second week in his 13-week Financial Peace University course, second only to the overview of the program and his financial management system/plan, the "Baby Steps".

If you've ever listened to his radio program, you may know that on Fridays they typically focus (but not exclusively) on the success stories.  People who have paid off all of their debt or all of their debt except their mortgage get to call in and scream "I/We're Debt Free!!!" on the air.  Some people even drive into their studios to be able to do the scream in person. If you need some motivation, listen to the Friday program to get started...I often tear up when I'm able to listen because you can just hear the freedom and joy in their lives because of the accomplishments they've made.

If you listen to the debt-free screams for some time you might also recognize the pattern of questions Mr. Ramsey seems to ask regularly.  One of the questions he asks often is something along the lines of "what was the most important thing that helped you be successful".  The answer that I hear people give the most is "working with my spouse" or "being on the same page with my spouse".

What a great reciprical situation!

Depending on who you ask, financial matters influence a majority of relational (spousal) stress and divorce.  Many people solve the problem by keeping separate bank accounts, dividing up who's responsible to pay which bills, and then keeping financial information and accountability an individual responsibility in a marriage.  Though I understand the desire to remain conflict-free, avoiding the conflict doesn't mean it's not there and furthermore, when you take that route you miss the opportunity to resolve the conflict which helps further unity in marriage.

In other words, when you keep your finances separate, you're choosing to live parrallel lives rather than living together, at least in the financial world.  I'd argue that this has spiritual implications, but even for those who are not spiritual you can picture a world where keeping finances separate and living parrallel lives there can lead toward and even cause disharmony in other areas of marriage as well.  I'm not saying it's a guarantee, but avoiding money conflicts rather than solving them not only places you further at risk for financial disaster but also for marital discord and divorce. 

Lest I sound better-than-thou (or less you do research into my marriage and finances and find me a hypocrit), let me be forthright in saying that in our marriage we are neither debt-free nor do we do a great job at staying on the same page.  We don't have a written budget, budget committtee meetings, or stick to a financial plan.  It's something we're working on.  We do have a shell budget that we both try to stay grounded to for the most part and for the most part we stay within our monthly saving/spending plan as a whole.  It is very difficult for us to find make time to be on the same page, particularly with a written budget and other money management tasks due to our crazy schedules that make us cross-paths more often than we're together.  And so we sometimes pay the price - last week we both spent more than we should have on various things and ended up with a negative balance in our checking account (yikes!).  Thankfully we have a savings account with money that we can transfer (and, honestly some of our spending was planned to use the savings, we just thought we might be able to do it without actually using our savings), but the truth is if we don't watch it we could easily find ourselves in the situation where we don't have any more money to transfer, if you know what I mean.  More importantly, as I mentioned before, just because you can spend doesn't mean you should and not having a plan and actively working together puts us at risk, both financially and in our marriage - we could and should be better stewards.

The good news for us is that at least we're starting from the same foundational point in our financial relationship - we both want to be debt free, we both believe in being generous, and we both know who ultimately owns the money.  So we're on the same page, at least from a broad perspective.  Now it's the details we need to take care of.

Why do I write this? Apparently based on how easy it flowed off my finger tips I believe it might be worthwhile for someone out there to hear where we are and where we want to head. Maybe it will encourage you? Maybe the resources I linked to will be of value to you? Maybe one of you will have a story to share with us that could encourage us on getting better at being on the same page?

Ultimately, I hope being honest with our situation will help us be accountable to ourselves and in our own marriage.  It's not comfortable telling all of you that we strongly believe in something and yet don't do it.  Hypocrit may fit for now, but I'm hoping we don't stay there.

Say What ?!? Sunday - Proud Moments

My son made mie so proud this weekend. He always does, but these two take the cake.

Apparently last week at school he got in trouble for "smart talking". He even got sent up to the office. I'm familiar with such tirades, not only because I've witnessed them at home but if I'm honest I was known to go off on similar rants as a kiddo. (and, by the way, I thought I was totally justified at the time...). So I get it - he thinks he knows everything; add that to some tiredness, embarassment, frustration of being older in a younger kids body, and maybe some hunger (from his dad's side) and he can start smart talking. Anyway, that's the backstory.

Several times last week he told mie he needed to do schoolwork and write a note to his teacher. I would have obliged, but he always asked mie at quite inopportune times - like at the grocery store, the movies, or the park. Finally I indulged him:

Mie: Logie - what do you want to tell your teacher in this note?
L: I want to tell her "I will stop smart talking". The end.
Mie: (Heart bursting...) Ok Logie - we'll find some time for you today to write a note to your teacher.

When it was done it said:

Dear Ms. XXXX
I will keep my hands off my school friends and I will stop smart talking.

In big crazy kindergarten letters on lined paper with "broken lines" that I wrote because I couldn't find a kinder-lined notebook at the store. Way too cute. He gave it too his teacher this morning - I made a point to stay while she read it and let her know that it was entirely his idea. I just helped him with the spelling.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Over the weekend and as 9/11 approached we talked in bite-size chunks about what had happened. I felt it was important for him to understand the significance of the day in a way that wouldn't steal his innocent joy. On the way to school this morning we were talking about the events that happened again after seeing another flag tribute at the local school. After talking a bit about the 4 planes, the buildings that were hit, and the people who lost their lives...

Mie: The bad men who were on the plane believed that god wanted them to do it.
Mie: What's not true - that the men believed it or that God said that?
L: That God said it.
Mie: That's right Logie - how do you know that?
L: Because God wouldn't say that!
Mie: That's right Logie! God loves us and His people and it's one of His commandments that we should not murder.
 Then we went on to have a good conversation about how we can know God's truth by knowing what God's Word says and comparing it when we "think" we hear from God. It was a great teachable moment that I'm so grateful for.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - Issues with Labeling

*Sorry for my absence - I caught some cold and have been in bed for a week*

Q: When you take your children to daycare/school/babysitter, etc. and they ask for your to label your children's things, how do you do it?

A: What a great question - so glad you asked! 

No, people do not ask.  I've never been asked this question - ok, maybe once.  But let me tell you something - I wish everyone asked because it would mean people were thinking about it, which would make my life a whole heck of a lot easier.  Or at least I'd have some sympathy rather than feeling like the worst parent ever.

If you've ever taken your child somewhere where you need to leave their things with them (school, church, etc.) for a while you're familiar with the drill - make sure you label all of their things with their name so that it can be returned properly.  Our church actually provides a little table, sharpies, and tape so that parents who haven't yet done so can properly mark their child's belongings - the bottles, the clothes, the blankets, the diaper bags, etc. - before the child is dropped off.  This usually makes life easier for everyone - the parents have a better chance of getting their stuff back, the caregivers have an easier time tracking what belongs to whom, and there's just a better chance of less chaos when stuff has a correct name on it. 

I get it - but I am the exception to the rule.  This whole labeling thing just puts my life in chaos big time as a foster parent.  It's not that I don't want to label my things, I just don't know how to label them properly and it really is a unique situation to foster parents.  I'd rather take the chance of losing something than label it.

Case in point - recently I was doing laundry and found #8's name written in big black sharpie across her delicate pink crib sheet and cuddle blankie.  I'm talking big like 6 inches tall and 2ft wide.  Her school had done this because they didn't see it labeled.  Now, nevermind the fact that someone shouldn't write in permanent marker across something like a cuddle blankie without first talking to the parent, I actually understand (a little) why they did it. (I'll pause to say that when I complained to the teacher she was sincerely surprised that I was upset about it - she said "You mean, you don't want me to write on her things", am I alone here?)(I'll also pause to say the school director understood my concern, especially since in this case I had already embroidered a name beautifully but discreetly on an edge - you know how much work it takes for me to embroider on crib sheets with 4 kids? ....).

Back to the story though - I get it.  They wanted to identify the blanket and make sure it arrived back to its rightful owner.  Which would be nice especially since my blanket for #7 disappeared a while ago and I got this stretched out version of someone else's ratty blanket and my beautifully embroidered sheet has never been seen again and they claim this one is mine.  But I digress...

I have 3 kiddos that go to this particular school and between the sheets they need for school and the sheets they need for home, how do I label their sheets?  Do I put their first name on their sheets?  Well, practically speaking that would mean I'd need to make sure I correctly put each sheet in the appropriate bag and the appropriate bed each week - that's 6 sheets to keep track of plus the extra that I have in the house to rotate out easily.  That in and of itself wouldn't put me over the edge, but the bigger issue is - what happens when the child leaves?  These are things that I'm responsible for buying and maintaining and when a new kiddo comes along they'll either have to use a blanket that is embroidered with someone else's name (which wouldn't help the teachers and would really suck for the kids) or, I'd have to go out and buy new stuff.

If it were only sheets, that's one thing.  I usually send the kids home with at least some of the stuff I purchased for them, but where does it stop?  Their winter coats?  Their diaper bags?  All of their clothes?  All of their bottles?  Their strollers?  Their car seats?  You get my point...just like a parent uses some items for multiple children it makes sense for us to use some of our kiddos things for multiple kids - especially since some of our kids are only with us for a very short period of time.  (I bought some clothes for #5 &; #6 thinking they'd stay but since they didn't they never wore them and I have them waiting for another placement). 

Parents of more than one kiddo have figured this out - write the last name on the items and then it will work out for all of them.  Of course you see at least part of our issue here - which last name?

All of my 4 kiddos have different last names.  Some places, like church, we use our last name for them for safety reasons - people know our last name and that the children belong with us, not someone else.  This helps folks because our kiddos do change out from time to time and if they see our last name and someone else pick them up at least they can question it.  So, if we put their true last name it might work at school but not at church and furthermore the same issue would arise about having to purchase new things for each kid.

Alternatively - we could use our last name.  I actually like this option.  I can put our last name on things that we intend to keep - sheets, diaper bags, etc. - and then if they go to church they know it's ours.  If they go to school they at least know our last name and can tie it to us.  It can be used for more than one kiddo because we don't tend to change our last name.

Then there's a big problem - visits.  If we put our last name on the diaper bag - the parents will get our last name, something we don't share for safety reasons.  Even if we are the most careful people in the world and make sure when WE transport to visits we use a special bag for visits (which, by the way is darn near impossible in our world, especially if everything has to be labeled), who's to say the transporter will be that careful.  Who's to say the teacher won't throw in the kiddos blankie when the transporter comes to pick them up?  You get my drift.  It's hard enough as it is trying to make sure we remove any check-in sheets from church or school-identifying things from their diaper bags let alone try to manage all the things that should be labeled.

It's mind boggling.  It really is.  So I don't label (except for the sheets which I did embroider because they won't go to visits).  But then, because I don't label, I get the comments from various caregivers about how they "had to put tape on the cup because her name wasn't there" or worse, I get black sharpie across the middle of a cuddle blankie. 

And y'all - that gets old.  I have 4 kiddos who are often in 4 classes, who belong to 4 different dads, 3 moms, 2 caseworkers, 4 classes at church, 4 classes at 2 different schools.  It gets old. 

So, what to do?  Any suggestions? 

I do like this idea with pictures but no names- but it will only work for certain things like the diaper bags, not smaller things like clothes, pacifiers, bottles, etc.  These are great and might work - but I'm concerned about how interchangeable they'd be, especially with how our kiddos change.  It would require that I pay more attention to which kid gets which cup each morning - not sure I'm up for that.

It's the little things that can get you.  And a testament to why foster parents need a good support system, preferably with other foster parents to help sort out issues like this with other people who truly get why this is an issue without having to be told.  Friends as such are a great relief.

*End Rant* And, apologies to those who are interested in the much more serious issue of Labeling with foster children in terms of what being a "foster child" can do to a developing self-image.  I needed a lighter yet very real topic for today.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Say What (!?!) Sunday - You're going to be what?

Costco has their Halloween costumes out now and we typically enjoy buying costumes there because they are decent quality for a good price.  In fact, we typically buy a few different costumes during Halloween season and let the kids (ok really, Logan) have a few costumes for pretend play.  The only challenge with our plan is that you have to buy early - they only get so many costumes and when they're gone they're gone.  Case-in-point, my husband went last week alone while we were on the road and saw Captain America costumes.  This week there were no more left and only the medium size (rather than small) of the one our son wanted.  We bought it anyway.  It's not his first costume that's too big (and therefore can last a few years...).

I took my nephews (and niece) to the park and on the way home was telling them about the kids costume choices.  My nephews are now into the "double-digit" ages, so I asked them, particularly the older one "so are you too cool to trick-or-treat now?"

Both immediately replied that they will be going and dressing up.

E (10) - I'm going to be a ninja

at the same time M (11.5) said something I couldn't quite make out.  A car can be noisy with 7 kids in it.

Mie - You're going to be a camel?

M - No, a CAMO guy.

Immediately I realized what he was talking about.  I think he's been a camo guy for a few years know, a military type guy.

Then I fell out laughing.  I think I even snorted.  A camel!  What a sight.

Now you have insight into my humor.  I'm a bit strange.  I thought that was hilarious; not only the sight of a camel costume on my almost-twelve-year-old nephew but the fact that I heard camel instead of CAMO.  Apparently I need to get out more. 

Or not, I thoroughly enjoyed the laughter.

And for your entertainment "AWW-factor" pleasure:

As I put my son to bed last night he was talking to mie in his very tired stupor. Out of the blue...

L: Mom, it doesn't matter.
Mie: What doesn't matter Logie?
L: Anything.  Nothing matters.
Mie: No Logie - everything matters.  You matter very much to me.  You are very important.
L: What does that mean?  (Meaning - what does "matters" mean)
Mie: When something matters, it is very important.
L: Mom, you matter to me.

He then cutely went on to help me understand that when he said I mattered, he did so because he thought I was important to him.  All of you who are here struggling with non-sleeping babies or toddlers or kiddos who vomit or other behavioral challenges - hang in there.  These little moments make it ALL worth it.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - From Fostering to Adoption Part II

In case you missed it, Part I of "From Fostering to Adoption" was handled here. I spent most of that post talking about how long it takes before you know a child will be adopted (vs. reunified, etc.). I chose not to answer the second-half of that post because it really is a completely different qustion to answer.
Q: How long does it take before you want to adopt a child (or, before you know you want to adopt the child).
A: As with all of my answers, this one too starts out with a caveat - it depends on the child, the foster/adoptive parents, and the situation. Again with this post I will focus on foster placements vs. straight adoption placements because the process is very different and I'm much more familiar with the foster placement scenarios.
All of our cases to date have gone to termination at some point. If you recall, at the beginning of this year I would have said only 1 of our kiddos had become eligible for adoption and now we've had 4 of 8 become adoptable and I fully expect at least 2 of the other 4 to become adoptable as well. It's very interesting how in the course of a few months our stats have changed on that.
In any case, for each of our children the time it took from when we received the placement to when we thought we would want to adopt varied pretty significantly. With our first placement we were new and somewhat naive. We were still approaching foster care with the full intention to adopt and therefore though we knew that the case was early on we kind of assumed it would go toward adoption - not to mention some of the factors of the case that led us to believe they wouldn't be going home and they didn't have any kinship available. So, with that case very early on I felt as if I wanted to adopt them. My heart was in it as if they would be permanent members of our family. Of course, after the honeymoon was over and their behaviors became a reality, probably 3 weeks in, it all became tiring and both J and I questioned adoption potential. Nevertheless, it wasn't until week 6-7 when they told us they were doing a homestudy on a relative and then week 8 when they told us they were approved that we "knew" we wouldn't adopt them. At that point letting them go was a sigh of relief. That being said, those last three weeks we had gotten to the point where we loved them and they loved us and they were part of our family. We would have adopted them. And, when they asked us a year later if we'd want to adopt them - we said yes. It didn't work out for us to adopt them, but we would have. We knew after only a few days.
For our second placement it was the same and different. We were still somewhat in a place where we expected adoption, especially in this case with the parent's history. Since mom disappeared after the first week, it became apparent that it may very well turn into a termination case. But, he was a singleton, not a sibling group and we had wanted to adopt a sibling group. And, as the case progressed it became clear that there were kinship placements ready and available if the case went that way - plus mom and dad worked their case plan and it was a "perfect" case for reunification. So, our hearts were guarded with him all along. We knew we would adopt him probably 8-10 weeks into the placement if he became available. When we said goodbye and then subsequently had to say we couldn't take him when he came back into care, our hearts were very broken.
For our third placement, we thought there was absolutely no way we'd adopt her. Absolutely no way. She was our second singleton and if we were going to adopt one singleton it would be the first one not her. SHe had challenges. We thought she might have severe mental and/or developmental challenges that were biologically based. We had concerns. Two months into the placement she was scheduled to go with a relative and though we didn't want that to happen, it was because to us that placement seemed bad not that we wanted her to stay with us forever. That month my heart started to change as she started to heal and progress. It probably wasn't until the 4th or 5th month that I was sure. My husband on the other hand wasn't sure at all even then. He had learned not to open his heart up. He didn't want to let her in lest he love her and have to let her go. As her delays weakened and the case went on, he took the chance. I knew we would adopt her by about month 5. J was in love with his daughter about month 6 or 7. We hope to adopt her next month. If something changes that, we'd be absolutely devastated.
For our 4th placement, we only had them for 2 weeks. That being said, we immediately knew we'd be open to adopting them with a few caveats. They were two girls - how would our family be if we went from mom, dad, and a boy to mom, dad, a boy, and two girls - we wanted our son to have a brother. That being said there was a mysterious brother in that case - younger than our son older than the girls. It would have been perfect. We didn't get into the case long enough to determine whether or not that would really have been a good situation.
For our 5th placement, we have always said we'd be leary of adopting them. The behaviors we've faced - the work it's been - the case details - they all make us be happy as just foster parents. That being said, we've had them for 5 months now and we love them. My husband is just now letting them grow on us. It seems like a perfect placement - two girls the same age, two boys close to the same age. Even though its a challenge sometimes its clear they've grown on us and with us...just like with placement 3 we're really nervous about what happens when they go to their scheduled placement. Unlike some of our cases but like #3s, we just don't have a peace about that decision. We're not yet at the point where we're sure we'd adopt, but we'd probably lean that way.
So, all in all, it depends on the case, anywhere from a few days to 5-6 months! I'd say if you fall in love with a kiddo within the first few days you should be very cautious to wait until any decisions are finally made for at least 2-3 months so you can get into a rhythm and avoid honeymoon decisions - that I suppose is one of the reasons for rules like we have in our state requireing 6 months in the home before adoptions can be finalized. And, just because you don't get that initial fuzzy feeling for a kiddo right away - doesn't mean they won't grow on your heart over time.