Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thankful Thursday - My newest placement

Christmas was a wonderful time except for an unfortunate argument with my hubby.  We'll forget about that. All-in-all it was a great day and we even received a nice blanket of snow in our neck of the woods.

Christmas night my two kiddos went to bed in my bed.  We watched elf.  They slept well.  I slept ok between the dogs wanting to go out several times and trying to get comfy with my littlest child in my bed.

I went to bed as a mother of two.  Little did I know that it would be the last night for (a while) that I would have the chance to have a full, peaceful-night's sleep.

I woke up the day after Christmas with grand plans.  We were going to finish watching elf.  We were going to enjoy the snow with sledding and snowball fights in the backyard.  I thought maybe I might get started on cleaning the house.  Friends and family were coming over to enjoy the sledding fun.

About midway through the day my phone began to ring from an unfamiliar number (it seems by now I have all of the CPU numbers in my phone).

CPU: Hello, I was wondering if you'd be willing to accept a placement.  He's a 2-day old..
(jumping in) Mie: Yes!... Uh I'm sorry go ahead.
CPU: He's a (insert kiddo's story here).
Mie: Um of course!  I'd love to!!!  Um...I need to go ask my hubby really quick but I'm sure we will.

Mie: (waking hubby up) - Hun.  It's CPU with a baby.  Can we take him?!!!????  He's 2 days old.
Hubby: That's SO young! (Kind of whining)
Mie:  *sheepish grin*  Can we?

Needless to say after what seemed like the LONGEST wait EVER a little (3-day) old baby arrived at my home, straight from the hospital.

I'm. In. Love.

I'm super giddy, even after a night of (no) sleep with a newborn.

There's a high likelihood this kiddo will not go back to his family, in my guess.  There's also at least a high likelihood that a family member will step up.  We shall see on both.

Nevertheless, I'm SUPER thankful for this opportunity.  It will be interesting in the next few weeks as I go back to work with a newborn at home and no daycare to take him to until after he's 6 weeks old, but hey...I couldn't turn this chance down!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Our First No

No sooner than I posted my last post (and then sent out about 25 emails to all of our past caseworkers & investigators letting them know our house was open) I received another call for placement.  This time it was from a FAD worker looking initially for a respite placement but really a pre-adoptive or at least legal risk placement for a 2 year old boy.

This boy would be almost guaranteed to be an adoptive placement.  He needs a family now.  They are wanting to find him a good family now.

CPS is known to embellish the truth or omit key details sometimes when they are looking for a good family to take certain placements.  When you've been in this world a bit you start to notice certain phrases like "needs structure" or "enjoys fantasy stories" that sound like typical parent/child things but really are code-words for challenging diagnoses.  As a foster or adoptive parent, it's just something you keep your eyes open for when listening to a child's initial description.

In the case of the boy I was presented with yesterday, there appeared to be NO sugar coating.  I think I heard 2 "good" things about his boy in the entire conversation ("he's very smart" and "on his good days he can be really sweet").  The rest was full of real and pseudo diagnoses.  Given the brief history CPS has and I was given I would guess that most of the trauma behaviors are directly due to the trauma (it would be our first abuse case instead of neglect) and attachment disorder(s).  The way it was described to mie made it sound like this child will be on psychotropics as he gets older (that was actually said) and he would likely be a prime candidate to develop a conduct disorder and/or ODD as he ages.

I told the caseworker I'd think about it and talk to my husband.  Thankfully, he and I were on the same page about this one.  We will offer to do respite but otherwise say no for the following reasons:

  • We hope to stay open to keep a sibling group together.  Taking a single child would limit our ability to take larger sibling groups in the future, which are harder to place than a single 2-year old boy.
  • If the description is accurate, we would almost certainly need to close for a while to give this boy the care he needs.  Again, it doesn't quite fit with our openness to have a large family.
  • Based on the behaviors this child has, it seems as if he'd be better as a single child.  Most likely he'd be better with a SAHM.  Most likely he'd need to stay out of childcare and need an alternative schooling arrangement as he gets older.  Not exactly our situation in our home.
Ultimately we want to be available to what God wants for our family so we want to be open to taking this child but we also want to make sure this child gets to the best family for him.  We feel like we'd be an acceptable family for him but not the best family for him and since they are looking to find a home he can stay in permanently, I'd hate to take him and prevent him from getting to the family he needs to be in.

BUT/SO, we're happy to do respite for the family he's currently in so he doesn't have to go to a residential treatment center as a 2-year-old.  This would keep us open and available to him as a possible long-term placement, giving us the chance to evaluate his behaviors and fit in our home at least temporarily to get confirmation of whether we should move forward or not with him as a placement AND it would give his current foster family rest so they could take him back for a while until they find the permanent family.  For us this seems like a no brainer solution.  I just have to call the CW back.

Of course as I typed this out all I heard was "don't you trust mie?"...*sigh*  Here goes! (the call to the CW, I mean)...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Empty Home (Again)

As of Friday our home will be empty again.

We finally faced our first "because the judge said" short-notice removal.  #15 had a hearing on Thursday that overlapped a permanency conference for #14 50 miles away.  I chose to go to the PC instead of the hearing which in hindsight was the right choice but I missed what must have happened at the hearing.  At the PC I learned that #14 was probably going home to a relative right after the holidays (a relative who refused to take him PRIOR to entering foster care but once he was in foster care had to get involved.....) so it was good that I was there to hear that in person.  A few hours later I learned that the judge for #15 had ordered immediate placement with an out-of-state relative, which meant #15 was leaving on Friday.  I'm surprised based on the circumstances we got that much time.

Almost our entire family was in town to experience the foster care drama first-hand.  I had prayed that they would get to see some of the process though what I meant was that they'd see a placement arrive, not a PC with an unexpected twist and an immediate removal.  I tried to explain at how crazy an out-of-state order without an approved home study was, at how unusual that circumstance is especially when ICPC is avoided, and yet allowed them to see some of how it affects our home when we get these calls.  I dropped #15 off at the office on my way to my graduation.  All in a days work.

Today I talked to #14s CW who said though she could move #14 on Friday (before it wasn't going to be until after 1/1) she wanted to wait  because he is sick and she didn't want to move him while sick.  I disagreed and said he needed to be moved because a) this person whom he has a relationship may make him feel better while he's sick than I can b) the relative needs to be able to care for him while he's sick and c) let's not prolong the inevitable.  I win.

On a separate-but-related note, turns out this CW (who I really like) was the CW for #5 and #6.  If you remember, those were the two cutie-patooties we had for just 2 weeks that were moved because we were expecting Summer's brother.  She remembered us when she called and gave me and update on the girls who, surprise surprise were adopted by their next placement.  In other words, if we didn't have them moved since brother didn't come anyway, we would have adopted #5 and #6.

This is starting to wear on mie.  It's not the kids or the system or the impact it has on our family.  I'm wallowing in my self-pity wondering why-on-Earth WE can't have permanent members added to our family through birth or through adoption.  Why???  Why have we had 7 placements so far this year, 5 of whom came and left in the last 4 months.  I completely support foster care.  I completely support reunification or family placements.  I completely support all of the kids in our care by being a great active foster parent.  We have a great home and a great family.  We're at least decent parents.  WHY CAN'T WE HAVE PERMANENCY?

It's really bumming mie out.  I'm sitting around hoping that we can get a call soon for "the perfect" placement - you know the one that fills our home to capacity with great kids that are going to stay forever.  And then to top it off get a surprise pregnancy with twins or triplets that just puts the icing on the cake.  (yes, I have weird fantasies).

Honestly, I think I know why.  In my deepest heart that I try to repress I feel like if we become full then the flow of children through our home would stop.  Maybe God only wants us to be foster parents because if our home fills to capacity permanently then the ministry we have as foster parents would stop.  Maybe we're supposed to be that family that has 1000 children on our journey.  All ours, but not really, you know?  Just as I've never been able to imagine being pregnant for the last time I'm not really able to imagine the time coming when we take our last call for a placement either because we close our doors or our home is permanently full.  Is this God's plan?  I don't know...but I have my suspicions.

So, this is where I am today.  Things are good.  Life is good.  I'm incredibly aware of how blessed I am as a mom to a 6-year-old who came home on Friday and everyday since.  I'll continue to try and focus on my blessings rather than my problems as I usually do but I can't completely ignore the tug at my heart that wants to scream "IT'S NOT FAIR!!!".  It's not.  That's just the way it is.  On the other side of this journey I do believe we'll have a more complete picture of our lives' stories.  And I know that it is and will be worth it all.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Moolah Monday: Planning for Christmas Presents with Large Families

I know many of you may be finished with your Christmas shopping already but I wanted to share our method of planning for and shopping for gifts in our household.  Creating a plan is a good way to ensure you purchase all the gifts you intend to purchase while having visibility into how much you're spending compared to budget.

Our family gifts on Christmas morning (immediate family) includes a present from Santa, a present from mom, a present from dad, and then each of the siblings trade gifts.  Mom and dad usually give bigger gifts than Santa.  After those three gifts are opened, one sibling will give out the gifts from them to all of the other siblings.  So we'll say "ok Logan, it's your turn to give your gifts.  Kids these gifts are from Logan!" and in his case now that he's older he's had a hand in picking them out.  Even the babies or new fosters will have a chance to give "their" gifts out, whether or not are big enough to pick out their gifts to give or physically hand them out.  When we don't have foster brothers and sisters we'll include the dogs as givers, but for the last few years we've had foster brothers and sisters so we haven't worried about that.  Additionally Santa will fill stockings and we'll have a present to open on Christmas eve.

Currently we have 4 kiddos in our home or 6 total family members.  Even if you're not great at math you can tell that our system can become complicated to manage AND expensive without a plan.  We use a matrix graph like the one shown here (I've drawn this out for you - we usually draw it out too) to help plan and then guide our purchases.

You can use this in several ways.  Here's my process:

1) Use the pink shaded areas (giving to you from you) to keep track of presents you think might come from the jolly old fellow himself.  This keeps those presents on your list without making it obvious in case little eyes should happen upon the list (of course it could be obvious to those little eyes if they see the list then see what they received from Santa later, but still, it gives you a chance to come up with a plan if you need to).

2) First things, first.  Set your overall target budget.  How much are you wanting to spend on Christmas gifts.  Note - this needs to be less than your total if you have other people to buy for (grandparents, coworkers, nieces & nephews, etc.).  Don't stray from this total budget amount unless you know where that money is coming from (extra in your budget, savings, etc.)...

The next step you can choose to do either A or B first - whichever makes you happy or works better for you.  We do A first so that's what I'll start with.  HINT - Use pencil. You WILL need to make changes.

3A)  Using your childrens wish lists, write in the presents you want to purchase for them & the estimated price.  You'll notice from Dad to Logan there is a Meep online tablet.  This is a real wish for our son despite the fact that we bought him a Leap Pad last year.  (Also note that we don't usually spend that much on one person, except I just told you we bought a Leap Pad last year so maybe we do...this year we'll be giving the Leap Pad to Summer as a gift for her since it's fairly new & Logan would get the Meep.  Shhh...don't tell him.)  You may fill in all of the boxes with their wish lists this way.  

3B) Write in how much you'd like to spend in each box.  So, I might say that since #14 is so young I'd like to keep each gift between $5 and $10 and fill that in for each of his gifts in row "#14" across.  

4) When there is an estimated OR allotted amount in each box, add up the total for each row (and/or column, if you wish).  You should now have a target goal for each person (received if you're using the total column, given if you're using the total row). 

5) Add up the total columns (or rows).  If you're total is LESS than the grand total goal (bottom right box) then you can make adjustments by spending MORE on one or more person (or keep the difference in your budget!).  If you're total is MORE than the grand total goal then you need to make adjustments by reducing the amount spent on one or more person.  Repeat steps 3-5 until your total for each person matches the grand total you wish to spend.  Note - you may not fill in the exact item for each box - as long as you have a target amount you're fine. but I recommend at least having the type of item (book, socks, movie, etc.) so you're not running through the whole store trying to think of SOMETHING.

NOTE - in our family we don't particularly care whether one child received EXACTLY the same $$ amount of gifts as the other kids in our family or not.  They are different ages and like different things so the amount spent might be different.  The amount given might also be different at this point since we're funding all of the gifts BUT the total given for each person could be useful if you have older kids who are buying their own gifts (something I recommend, as a lesson in budgeting AND giving).  Not to mention they need to be grateful with what they received not comparing to what everyone else received.  In any case you might be interested in this total by person concept to make them match exactly or at least know how much you spent, if you care.

6) Shop for the "MUST HAVES" on your list. Using a colored pen or marker, cross off the gifts as you put them in the cart.  VERY IMPORTANT - cross out the target price and write down the ACTUAL price next to it in the same box.  For example, I might find a MEEP on sale for $100.  I'd cross off the $150 and write $100 next to it).  Don't estimate - write down what the price tag says (or sale price if it is on sale). 
If you're purchasing a gift that is MORE than what you had planned, you'll have to immediately figure out which present you're making the adjustment to.  For example, I might find a MEEP for $165 dollars, which is $15 more than I'd planned to spend on it.  In that case I might erase the $25 for each of the other kiddos and put $20 each instead - that helps me make up the $5.  Or, I decide I don't want to cut money from my other kids to buy this MEEP so I find a different item, go shopping for it somewhere else, etc.

7)  Once you pick-up the "must haves" on your list, you can use the same process as in #6 to buy all of the things you weren't particular about.  For us these are the gifts for the younger kiddos who don't care and we can spend less on, if needed.  Realistically, last year we had a 16-month old and a 2 year old who didn't really care what they opened!  So we ended up spending $5 or so on many of their gifts to be able to afford the bigger gifts for the others (Xbox Kinect, Leap Pad, etc.).  

TIP- I drew this matrix to take up the whole sheet so you could see it.  You could either draw it smaller (or do it electronically) so you have room on the sides to write down other gifts you want to purchase or use the back of the sheet so you can have that with you while shopping.  You'll notice I wrote down the PJs (Christmas eve gift) on the side - I should write an amount.

The thing I like the most about this system is that it helps mie stay organized and on-track without constantly having to think back as to whether or not I got kid #1 a gift from kid #2 already or not.  It's also helpful when I (or the hubby *wink*) decides last minute to purchase a gift that would be way higher than what we can afford or intended to spend - we can easily regroup about the gift situation and determine if we want to cut from other places, not buy that gift, or pull from savings.  We can look across the landscape of gifts we're buying each other and make sure we're incorporating the kids wishes without going broke.  I also love that it doesn't matter what your budget is - you might end up with lots of $1 store presents if that's what you can afford - you can make this system work for you.  You *could* start this process much earlier in the year (for your forever kids anyway) and keep track of their wishes through the year that you might want to get them so you can look for things on sale or at least start earlier than I will be.  If you have more kids, add more rows and columns.  If you have less kids, it works there too.  You can put mom and dad on the list, or not, it's up to what works for your family.

(BTW - I won't be shopping for most of these gifts until, oh, the weekend before Christmas because that's how I roll and that's when we'll receive the paycheck that we've planned to cover Christmas gifts.  But honestly that's the way I like to do it anyway...nothing like staying up every night before Christmas wrapping presents!  I'm serious).

Hope this has been helpful.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Thanksgiving Placement - An Unexpected Dilemma

#14 came to us Thanksgiving morning.  Early.

My husband and I have agreed to say yes to every placement we are offered and are allowed to per our license.  It's an act of faith for us and obedience to care for the kids who need a home.  

With that in mind, we don't really hesitate when we get a call.  We find out as much information as we can so we know what to expect.  We give a tentative yes until we can talk as a couple out of respect for our marriage (if we're not together when the call comes in) and then we start getting ready for whatever comes our way.  We try to ensure we set aside enough money for the initial daycare funds or whatever else we might need when a child comes.  We have most bedding situations available.  I have 10-12 tubs of clothes, organized by gender and size (and sometimes season) so we can pull out whatever we already have as the child arrives.  We have all the baby equipment (swing, bassinet, playpen, strollers, etc.).  We have enough of many things for multiples - not that we've had real twins or triplets but have frequently have had 2 or more of the same size & gender child in our home at times.  With all of that, we usually need to buy at least something for each child as they arrive.

It was 3:54 in the morning.  I was sleeping soundly.  The phone rang and it was CPU.  She had already spoken to my hubby who wasn't home at the time and he'd agreed to the placement as long as she would call mie and I agreed as well.  (I had made a big deal about having CPU call me FIRST - then I forgot to bring my cellphone into the bedroom with me that night - Ugh).  I got only a little bit of information (this CPU worker has placed with us a few times and is not my favorite) and said yes.

It was 2 1/2 hours before the kiddo arrived.  We did the normal paperwork.  Usually before the investigator leaves they will drop off a whole bunch of stuff that needs washed OR a small bag with enough essentials to get through the day.  The bag arrived with nothing but a lifebook inside.  I asked if I should expect more things to come - he said not likely.  That's ok, I said, we have plenty of stuff upstairs. I just needed to know if I should get it all out or if I should get out a few things to last while I waited for his stuff to come.

As it turns out, I didn't have any stuff for him.  I found 2-3 shirts, a lightweight jacket, and a few pairs of shorts.  No big deal, I thought.  I'll just go as daylight comes and get him a few things.

Except - it was Thanksgiving.  Nothing was open on Thanksgiving.

I eventually found Walmart.  I never found where all of my 2T boy stuff went.  

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Tuesday's Tears - Packing (and unpacking)


#14 & 15 have joined our home.  I have so much to write about with these two (separate cases).

#15 joined our home Friday night.  CPU called while I was wrapping things up for the day at work and a few hours later we were waiting by the door to welcome our newest family member.  She is the oldest child we've ever had (though not by much), which is proving to be a new experience for us.  We're all still feeling things out.

It was my favorite CPU worker who called.  I was excited when she was asking if we still had two spots available in our home.  I was disappointed when she said she had a single child to send to us.  Even more dissapointed when she described the scenario that makes it look very much like this will be a short-term placement.  We still hope to adopt.  We still hope to adopt a 2-3 member sibling group.  Ever since we opened up for our 3rd (5th) spot, we've had nothing but short-term singlets.  Short-term singlets are great and in many ways are easier than long-term sibling groups, nevertheless OUR plans are not coming to fruition as we'd hoped.

and the pattern continues...when will I learn?

This placement came with a few boxes worth of stuff (which is MUCH more than I can say for #14 who arrived with only a blank Lifebook).  Boxes from family go straight into the laundry room for sorting, washing, etc.  I didn't have a chance to open them until late Sunday night and found the usual smoke-filled mixture of random books, toys, and clothes of various (inappropriate) sizes.  And about a dozen pairs of sandals.  In December.

As frustrating as it can be to go through boxes like these (and subsequently have all of YOUR KIDS stuff smell like a bar no matter how hard you try (I didn't try vinegar, maybe I should have...), this time it made me pause.

A few days ago, someone packed up this child's belongs.

Someone who I have every reason to believe loved this child very much.  Regardless of whether or not they were able to care for #15 sufficiently, they most likely loved her.

I imagined a mother or grandmother quietly sobbing as she placed each item into the boxes (in this case, I believe there was at least a LITTLE time to pack rather than just dump a handful of items as quickly as possible).  I imagine she regretted the situation that led to that day.  I imagined she was beating herself up for the past choices made.  I imagined she was wondering how long it would be before she was able to see this child again, if ever.  I imagined her worrying about where this child was going - into foster care - and what type of home she'd be in, what her daily life would be like, what her future would look like.  Silent (or sobbing) tears streaming down her face.  Worry.  Fear.  Despair.

I put myself in that person's shoes.  I KNOW what that is like.  I've packed up my children's things.  I've thought those thoughts.  I've said goodbye to my children knowing that I'd likely never see them again - hoping they'd know I wasn't getting rid of them, that I loved them, that I was still their mom even when they weren't in my house any longer they were still part of our family.  Forever.

The stuff stinks.  At least half of it is not the right size and even more is not the right season.  I'm sure it has been contaminated with whatever was in that home.

But that doesn't really matter does it?  It's just stuff.  I can't say for sure, but I imagine the act of packing up those boxes was FAR bigger than purging stuff.  Imagine being a biological mom (many of us can) who is packing up your child's baby things.  Remember all the reminiscing, the good memories, the sadness that this phase is over.  Maybe you store it in the attic - maybe you donate - maybe you save for later.  Usually when you're done you replace those things with bigger, newer things that provide hope for the days to come - things that represent a new phase of life that still includes your child who you're watching grow and learn and mature.  Who you still get to tuck in at night.  Who you still get to hug in the mornings.

When this person packed up these things they did so knowing the child would be leaving as well.  At this point, there is no child for them to turn to, no bigger size to put in the drawers, no smiles to see or new things to watch her learn.  She is with mie.  I get to enjoy those things as I look down my nose at the nasty stuff that they sent.  That stuff that represents so much more.

I don't know this family yet - I don't know much of anything about them.  They may be the bane of my existence one day.  They may do things that drive me up the wall in the future.  (they may be great!)  What I know today is that there is a family who has lost their child, if only temporarily for now, whose hearts must be in a state of despair.  Later I might have to deal with visits and phone calls and dirty looks.  Right now I can pray.  I can pray for them that they might find hope in these desperate circumstances.  That they find the love of our Savior and their lives can be redeemed, one day being reunited with this child with joyous celebration.  I can pray for mended hearts and love.

I can't fix their family.  I can't fix the demons that haunt their lives.  I can't make them make better choices.  But I can pray for hope.

Do Something.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Working Mama Wednesday - Dr. Mie

In case you missed it, I successfully defended my dissertation on October 18th, finally ending my official status as "grad student" that I've hung onto since 2005.  It took mie 7 1/2 years to get a Masters & Ph.D. while working full-time (with at least 5 job changes), giving birth once, adopting once, and parenting 12 others among many, many other life events (like identifying & working on infertility and everything that happened as chronicled in the "one year ago today" series).  

This whole process of finishing feels so strange in many ways.  I went through school for so long.  I had this goal of completing a Ph.D. for a LONG time.  I worked at it.  Several times I wanted to quit.  The process is so nebulous that aside from signing up for and completing the classes that are clearly defined (and not all are) the rest of it you have to figure out as you go so I've spent time wandering the lost forest of doctoral work never quite knowing exactly what the next step is or what it will take to finish.  When you start you know about the dreaded "Dissertation" and just like any final step it seems impossible and is equally scary.  It has been hanging over my head (along with the goal and all the work involved in completing the degree) for 7 1/2 years!  It has been a major stresser in my life.  I've desperately wanted to quit several times.  My husband and I have fought at times, not necessarily about school but as a result of it.  I've sacrificed sleep.  I've sacrificed time with my kiddos.  It has been hard.

I finished coursework in Spring 2011 and took about a year off just enjoying NOT doing schoolwork.  The stress of having school still hanging over mie was a heavy weight and combined with a peer's graduation it helped motivate mie to actively finish the rest of the degree process this past spring.  I got in gear.  In a matter of 4 weeks or so I finished my comprehensive exams (writing over 100 pages in 2 weeks while working full-time and parenting) and I proposed my dissertation.  For the next 4 months I collected and analyzed data then wrote the rest of my dissertation (ended up being approx. 145 pages).  It was a LOT of work.  Then after getting the approval of my major professor to proceed another professor on my committee said I needed to start over.  With 3 weeks left to my dissertation defense.  That was defeating.  For the next 10 days I tried to coordinate schedules (while working...) with a professor half way around the world in a different time zone with myself and another professor who was a stickler for her own schedule.  

I got really sick.  4/5 of my kids had birthdays in as many weeks.  I got sick again.  Twice.  I threw a mega birthday party and sent a kid home.  Twice.  I got almost no sleep.  My husband and I decided that if it didn't work now I'd probably stop the program (and give up on my dream).  We just couldn't do it anymore.

So Oct. 18th came.  I made my presentation for 10 minutes.  I answered tough questions for 40 minutes or so.  Then they kicked everyone out of the room to vote.  

They opened the door and said "Doctor?..." indicating I passed.  My committee greeted mie by shaking my hand, saying congratulations, and telling mie how well I did.  That all lasted 60 seconds, tops.  Everyone (school peers who were there to watch) came back in the room and said congrats.  We sat down to do an informal Q&A for another 45 minutes or so.  

....and it was done.  I was done.  School was done.  I was ready to graduate.  I was officially "Dr.".  

All that work, suddenly over.  

The relief and weight off my shoulders is something I can physically feel.  The stress of it all is gone.  My brain works better - it has one less thing to worry about.  I am generally happier.  I feel great.

On the other hand - it feels empty, like "that's it? It's over?"  I don't need or want to be celebrated by others (in fact the congratulations has made mie very uncomfortable) but it feels like there should have been trumpets sounding or some other fanfare to accompany the finale.  In other words, I just can't believe it's done and I'm finally on the other side of this long, long journey.

Usually I'm not really conscious of the fact that I've finished, that I'm now a "Dr.", or of all the hurdles I had to jump over to finish.  But every once in a while I sit back and think "yeah, I did it".  

I don't every want people to call mie Dr. unless it's appropriate for the professional situation.  I'm not someone who's going to walk around introducing myself as "Dr. G...".  I don't need a party or anything else.  This was a personal goal that I desperately wanted to finish and finally have.  

I am, however, looking forward to the first time I get to fill in an anonymous survey somewhere and can check "Dr." or under highest level of education completed "Ph.D." instead of "some graduate school".  

I. Can't. Wait. 





Friday, November 09, 2012

Foster Parent Friday - The "empty" home

Our home is now empty.  Of course it's not really empty - we always have our forever kids (God willing!).  (I need to stop and point that out from time to time for myself if not anyone else.)  As foster parents our lives can become centered on when kids come and go and not having foster children can make it feel empty or incomplete but the reality is that our forever kids are wonderful and not at all forgotten.  At all.  Ever.

(I say this while 3,000 miles away from my kiddos right now and I miss them terribly).

All this said - we no longer have any of our foster kiddos.  All of the 3 we brought into our home in August are now gone.  #13 (who I never added to my list of kiddos?  crazy...) left after 3 or 4 weeks.  #12 left in October.  #11 just left last weekend.  This last departure made us very sad.  Though our kiddo went to a good home that loved him very much, we loved him very much too and will miss him.  This family has offered to help us get our kiddos together so they can see each other again and our kiddos are looking forward to it.  I've heard this promise before so we'll have to see how it goes.

So then now our home is "empty".  We are not yet on the list for 2 reasons.  First, we appreciate a break from time to time.  It's nice to spend time as a core family and nurture the relationships with our forever children and between my husband and I.  For us this break needs to be about 2-4 weeks.  Second, this time, we are waiting until we get back in town - my husband and I are on a tropical vacation celebrating our anniversary and we can't take kiddos until we come back.  We'll decide exactly when to get back on the list after we get back home.

Soon we will be waiting for another call, wondering what will happen, who will come to our family, and what that story will look like in the long run for our family.  It's an exciting time.  I'm looking forward to it.

Today though, I'm happy in our wait.  I'm not quite ready to get back into the crazy.  I'm enjoying the time with my hubby and when we get back I assure you I'll be happy to spend time with Logan and Summer.  I can't wait. 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

100 Followers!!!

Letting Go of Mie has hit an amazing milestone.  I have been long-anticipating the 100th follower joining my little corner of the blogosphere and over the past couple months, surprisingly as I've been gone more than I've been here, the number has crept up slowly so that I now have 100 followers!

Thank you to everyone who stops by regularly to read my blog.  I really do hope that it is a blessing to you as it is to me and more importantly that it helps spread the word about adoption and foster care in the lives of normal people like us.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Foster Parent Friday - Notice before removal

Q: How much notice do you get before CPS moves your children in foster care?

A: This is such a big deal for us!  As with all things foster care, it seems nothing is guaranteed but I can provide you with information from our experience.  Seeing as how we're on the eve (?) of an interesting removal, it seems apropo to discuss.

Notice before removal really depends on the case cirucumstances and the reason for removal from the foster home.  I'll bucket them into three types: Emergency, CPS initiated, or Foster-Parent initiated.

Emergency
In an emergency situation there is no notice.  A situation could be considered an emergency if there is a situation in the foster home that requires immediate removal, if there is an emergency with the child that requires removal, or if the judge orders immediate placement with a relative or birth parents (as in when a case is dismissed, especially unexpectedly).  I know a foster family where the dad broke his neck in an accident - in that case, depending on the circumstances of the placement, CPS might request immediate change of placement.  A foster family might have an inspection or allegation followed by investigation that might require immediate removal of the child (See this for an example).  I suppose there could be situations with the child that requires immediate removal - I can't think of an example but its possible.  Basically what happens is someone dictates there is a need to move the child and then in a few minutes to a couple hours the child is gone.  Sometimes the caseworker simply says to pack there stuff up and it will get picked up or shipped to the child later.  Emergency removals suck for all involved, in my opinion.

CPS initiatied
All of our removals have been CPS initiated.  This is, in my opinion, the best type of removal ou can have, even though it sucks at the time (usually, but not always).  This type is a non-emergency removal.  It is usually driven by a decision to move the child to a kinship placement (relative's home) after an approved homestudy or a return to the people the child was removed from after a successful visit.  In our history, we've had anywhere from  2-10 days official notice prior to removal in these cases.  It *could* happen more quickly than that (especially if the foster parent wants it to).  You *could* have longer official notice, but its not likely.  The reason its not likely is that in this type of situation CPS is saying the child's placement would be better to be with someone else (family usually) and therefore there is a bit of an obligation to get the child to the best placement ASAP.  There are cases where CPS will decide to move the child to another foster home in a non-emergency situation.  I've never experienced that but it would generally be a situation where the foster child has requested to be moved (if they are older), the ad-litem expresses concerns about the current foster home, or CPS generally has concerns about the home.  It also could be caused by a desire to move the child to a foster-to-adopt home rather than a foster-only home if the child is expected to be adoptable at some point in the future.

In our current scenario, #11 is expected to go home sometime soon.  I got word from the ad-litem on Monday that his kinship placement had been approved but even today have not heard from the caseworker.  For reasons I won't get into, we would like him to be moved before Monday if he is going to be removed and therefore we're sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for word of when he'll actually be moved.  It's not looking pretty right now.  I expect we'll either hear that he won't be moved before Monday (which will not be good for him or our family) or that he will be picked up with 30 minutes notice.  Neither one is good.  :(

(Edited to add - after CW threw me under the bus with the ad litem who proceeded to call me on every number she had with an extremely urgent message only to tell me the CW said she couldn't get a hold of me after I had answered her phone call on the first ring...I digress...we arranged for me to transfer #11 to the kin placement tomorrow (Sat) at 10.  We'll miss him greatly but are glad we finally have it worked out.  If you count the time from when the CW told us he was going home until the time he will actually go home it will be 24 hours.)

Foster Parent Initiated
There are times when foster parents initiate a move.  It might be caused by a need for a break.  It might be due to a child wihth behaviors or conditions that the foster parents were unaware of prior to the placement or have come to elarn they are unable to handle.  Maybe the foster parents are quitting foster parent-dom altogether.  In these times foster parents have the ability to request a child be moved to a newhome.  In these cases though, the foster parents usually have a long wait unless all the stars align just right for the CW to move the child quickly.  Usually the contracted agency or the state itself will have rules governing how long they can wait to respond to moving a child (usually 14-30 days) and a foster parent asking for a move can expect to wait the maximum time.  I will say that we experienced this, inadvertantly, one time.  We told the CW that we would need to have the kiddos moved "months from now" when Summer's brother was to be born because we would be outside our ratio.  With that in mind, our caseworker decided it would be better to move them quikcly rather than let them get bonded to us and then have them moved.  It was ony 7 days later that they were moved from our home.  I suppose that is kind of a CPS initiated move and kind of a Foster-parent initatied move.

So there you have it.  A summary of how much notice you get.  On one hand, its not much.  On the other, in foster care land you're always (usually) very aware that the children could be moved at any time.  It;s a constant reality we face.

I pro ised to tell you more about the doctoral stuff and I will.  Just have to get back into the habit of being on the computer for non-work events and that has been difficult.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Successful Defense

Dropping in for a quick hello and to capture such a big day on my little space here on the web.

This afternoon, with my hubby in the room, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation.  My committee voted to accept it and then they opened the door and greeted me for the first time as "Dr.". 

The feeling is completely unreal.

I'll be writing more about it soon but for tonight I'll be going to bed with one less thing to worry about in my life, content in knowing that this phase in my life is complete thanks to my God, my family, and my friends who've supported me along the way.  This is such a personal accomplishment for me and though I don't particularly care if anyone knows I've succeeded I want to shout it from the rooftops. 

I did it!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tuesday's Tears - Broken Agreement

When we adopted our daughter the state entered into an agreement with her birth parents that enabled supported contact post-adoption.  At least in our area, this type of agreement is called a Rule 11 agreement and typically includes things as simple as annual cards or letters to birthday presents all the way up to in-person visits.  I'm told the way it worked out in our case was funky because the Rule 11 is actually an agreement between the state and the birth parents signed upon voluntary termination of rights where the state promises to try and find adoptive parents willing to agree to the terms of the agreement but cannot promise they will be able to do so.  In our case, the state agreed to find foster parents, which, by definition upon adoption makes the adoptive parents not a party to the agreement.  Whatever - it was in our adoption agreement as well and whether or not we were named specifically we intended to try to abide by the agreement.  Afterall, the state had asked us what we'd be willing to consider for an agreement (and they automatically put ALL of it in even though we just said we'd consider it).

Anywho - the terms of our specific agreement included cards and letters and visits 2x a year, specifying the months they were to occur.  The family doesn't have our full name, our address, or our home phone number but they do have my cell phone number and I let them talk to her from time to time (like maybe 2-3 times per year).  We required that the agreement have stipulations to protect our family and our daughter in particular so that the agreement was null and void if they violated our privacy (showed up at our front door), if it was harming her, or if after she turned 12 she didn't want to go see them.  It also became null and void if they missed 2 consecutive visits and/or cards and letters.

Her father texted me over the weekend to let me know that they would not be coming this month to see her.

This marks the 3rd consecutive visit they have missed.  Though I setup a PO box at their request I have never received anything in it for her.  Therefore, as I understand it, at the end of the month the agreement will be null and void.

My hubby and I were talking about how mixed our feelings are about this new chapter.  We fully expected it to happen at some point, especially after they moved out of state and we knew their resources to travel back at any frequency would be limited.  Now that it is has almost actually happened though - well, we're so ambiguous.

On one hand - we are so happy to be free from the obligation to move our lives around to enable contact.  The agreement was essentially an extension of the relationship with CPS and all that entails - it was just another form of control over and intrusion into our lives that once you adopt from foster care you want to have gone. NOW.  In this case it has nothing to do with her birth parents but rather a desire to have the permanency and independence of our family recognized after having spent years tied to the rules and oversight CPS requires of foster parents.  So, we're happy to not have this hanging over our heads anymore.

On the other hand - as much as the agreement is a reminder of our relationship with CPS, the nullification of the agreement is a reminder of the severed relationship between our daughter and her birth parents.  We are her parents.  I am her mom.  She is our daughter.  She wouldn't recognize her birth parents off the street and though we don't keep adoption hidden it isn't part of our daily lives.  Even still - she was conceived in another womb.  She grew there.  Another woman gave birth to her.  For 9 months they "cared" for her as best they could.  Though we believe the heritage we will give her will be much greater than that she received from her birth parents, her biological family and their history is something we cannot and should not try to ignore.  It is a significant part of who she is and I hate that she will likely not know it.  I hate that they could not care for her and that she had to be removed in the first place, however much that meant that we benefit from having her as our daughter.  Not having that agreement, finally, is just a reminder of the truly yucky things about adoption that cannot be ignored.

I kind of feel like a single mom who is struggling to protect her child from the father who makes promises to pick her up for the weekend and then never shows.  There is a part of me, if I think about it, who is fiercely protective of her and angry that they don't see what they're missing out on, that she's not a priority to them, and that one day she'll have to face the truth that they couldn't raise her.  I don't dwell here - it's just events like this one that remind me about the trauma of adoption.

Most days are great and as if I gave birth to her myself.  She is ours.  We are hers.  I know that someday she might struggle with the way she came into our family but I hope that through healing and the way we handle the communication she'll find support, encouragement, and most importantly self-worth and purpose here on Earth.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Tuesday's Tears - WAAAAAHHHHH

*Small Town Joy - I'm here...thanks for asking!*

I can't believe it's been nearly a month since my last post.  I think about posting everyday - I've just not been able to.  There is SO much going on right now.

Work is extremely busy.  I can't really tell you what I'm doing, but let's just say it is A LOT!!!

#13 went home a few weeks ago.
#12 is most likely going home this weekend but, as usual, I won't know until Thursday.
#11 is still with us and is a kiddo we want to keep forever.  We're waiting on a homestudy for a relative.  Because of the circumstances, I can't imagine him NOT going there, whether it is right for him or not.  It makes me really, really sad.

Our son's birthday just passed.  Our daughter's is coming up.  All of our kiddos will have birthdays in the next couple weeks.  There is a gigantic birthday party planned in a couple weeks.  Before then I will celebrate my 31st birthday.

We've all had pink eye.  Some of us have had it twice.

One of our kids came down with the stomach flu last night.  You know how that goes.

Then there's my dissertation.  I'm trying to graduate this semester.  To do so I need to have my dissertation finished and defended by the last week of October.  My defense date is scheduled for the 18th.  I have to give the final paper to my committee by the 5th.

3 weeks ago I got the best news - my major professor said I handled it like "a rockstar".  He had minor pieces of feedback, which I corrected, then I sent it to the editor.  As far as I knew, I had time to make minor changes but more or less I was done and headed to graduation. 

2 weeks ago I was asked to run it by another professor.  She couldn't get me feedback until last Thursday.

Her feedback was to start over.

So last Thursday I was told I need to start over and if I want to graduate I need to do it all within 8 days. 

I now have 3 days left.

I know I can't do it.

My major professor thinks I can make some changes but not start over and I'll still graduate this semester.

My other professor doesn't agree.  The 3rd professor in the mix says he doesn't know what I need to do yet.  Maybe he'll tell me in a few days.

My dissertation is due in 3 days.

I have never felt like I "can't" do something so much like I feel know.  If this happens it is all because of God.

I've cried a lot.  Hope and I are not on speaking terms.  I'm not great with hope.  Hope is there so I'll be working my tail off, knowing I can't do it in the end, and yet still hoping. 

My husband and I agree that if I don't graduate this semester I'll probably be dropping out.  That really sucks considering I have almost nothing left.  Just this giant mound. 

So - that is where I am.  I'm putting on birthday parties and cleaning up vomit (again).  I'm working 10-12 hours a day for work and then another 4-5 on the dissertation.  Did I mention I had strep throat over the weekend?  There was that too.

On the bright side my hubby and I have our 10th anniversary coming up to a tropical location.  Super excited.  Hopefully I'll go after successfully defending my dissertation but if that doesn't work out at least I know there's a beach, a nightime ride down a volcano, and uninterrupted time with my hubby in our near future.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces: 2012



Are you looking into adoption benefits?  Looking for an employer with superior benefits?  Check out the brand new list of the 2012 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces published by the Dave Thomas Foundation For Adoption.  This is a great tool for really digging into some of the employers out there that really go above and beyond to make adoption more possible for their employees.

In honor of this new publication, the President and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation For Adoption, Rita Soronen, kindly offered to answer a few questions about adoption and foster-to-adopt benefits for mie.

Mie: What can average employees do to impact the adoption benefits their employer offers?
Rita Soronen: This is a great question. Simply asking for the inclusion of adoption benefits is the first step. Many employers do not know that they can offer this to their employees. And then make the case for these benefits – they are cost-effective, build employee loyalty, and enhance a company’s image of being family-friendly. Offering benefits to families who are formed through adoption or through birth is the right thing to do. We make it easy by providing the templates, toolkits and information for employees and employers.

Mie: As an adoptive or prospective adoptive parent, where could I go to get more information about benefits available to my family?
Rita Soronen: There are many excellent resources for families to get information about adoption benefits. The variety of resources continues to grow and includes workplace benefits, adoption tax credits, adoption subsidies (for children adopted from foster care), education assistance for adopted youth, adoption assistance from private organizations, and benefits for military families who want to adopt. The following is a selected list of contacts, but the Foundation can help with additional resources:

    • Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (workplace benefits) www.davethomasfoundationforadoption.org
    • North American Council on Adoptable Children (subsidies) www.nacac.org
    • Internal Revenue Service (adoption tax credit) www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607.html
    • Military adoption assistancehttp://myarmybenefits.us.army.mil/Home/Benefit_Library/Federal_Benefits_Page/Adoption_Assistance.html
    • Education assistance for adopted youth (scholarships, vouchers and waivers)www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/adopt_people/assistance.cfm
    • Individual adoption assistance (helping with the costs of adoption) www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/adoptive/funding.cfm
Mie: There are several common benefits (medicaid, fee reimbursement, etc.) - what are some of the lesser known benefits?
Rita Soronen: Some of the benefits listed above – the adoption tax credit, education assistance and individual assistance are not as well known. Of course, every adoption is different and the family needs vary, so the best any parent can do is learn as much as possible. We can help connect individuals to the national resources available.

Mie: In your experience, what are the biggest obstacles people claim prevent them from adopting (from foster care)?
Rita Soronen: There are some key misperceptions that may cause individuals to either stop or not engage in the foster care adoption process. First, we know that there is a perception that it is simply too expensive to adopt. Although other forms of adoption (domestic infant or inter-country adoption) can cost tens of thousands of dollars, to adopt from foster care costs little to nothing. Second, there is a misconception that once a child is adopted, a birth family may file further legal action to regain custody oftheir child. In the child welfare system, once a child has been permanently freed for adoption, all legal paths are closed to the birth parents; the adoption is final and the child is a member of the adoptive family. And finally, there are so many misperceptions that surround the children waiting to be adopted – that they are too old for new families, that they are “unadoptable” or not able to fit into families. Nothing could be further from the truth. These children have grief and loss issues, and many may have trust or attachment challenges, but every child waiting to be adopted deserves a safe, nurturing and permanent home and the opportunity to grow and thrive in the 
birthright of every child – a family.   


As we began the adoption process we had great friends who were able to help explain some of the basic adoption benefits available when adopting through foster care.  I've found that unless you have some close friends or even more so unless you actually go through the process it is hard to really get a good understanding of the benefits available to you as an adoptive or foster-to-adopt parent.

Workplace benefits has become an extremely important topic to mie since prospective adoption became very real with our 4th placement (Summer) and the drama surrounding her brother's subsequent adoption.  We went from adopting a fully-supported sibling group to adopting a single, unsupported child, then back-and-forth between two unsupported children and a myriad of combinations in-between.  Though we entered the adoption process thinking our expenses would be largely covered, we were suddenly in the position of figuring out how to pay for one or possibly two adoptions that we weren't planning to pay for.  In the end, I found my company offered some minimal but appreciated adoption benefits and my husband's didn't appear to offer any, at all.  I also began researching possible benefits out there and found that many companies to a GREAT job! As an adoptive mom and leader in the HR-ish field, the meaning of adoption-friendly intrigues mie.

I applaud these employers and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption for their work in supporting adoption-friendly workplaces.  Personally, anything I can do to support all of these organizations is worth it to mie as together we support finding every child a permanent, loving home and family.

On behalf of Letting Go of Mie, I want to sincerely thank Rita Soronen and her team at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption for not only doing all the work to put this together but for giving mie the opportunity to share their message here on my blog.


Rita Soronen
President & CEO
The Dave Thomas Foundation
for Adoption



The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a national nonprofit public charity dedicated to dramatically increasing the adoptions of the more than 134,000 children waiting in North America’s foster care systems. Created by Wendy’s® founder Dave Thomas who was adopted, the Foundation implements evidence-based, results-driven national signature programs, foster care adoption awareness initiatives and research-based advocacy efforts. To learn more, visit davethomasfoundation.org, or call 1-800-ASK-DTFA.


Sunday, September 09, 2012

Say What (?!?) Sunday - Two Funnies to Share

Our home has been infested with pink eye.  Of the 7 people in our home, only 1, the baby, has not had pink eye yet.  I've determined she either brought us the pink eye or a couple days from now I will let you know that she too has developed bright eyes.  Brighter than they are anyway.

It started with the hubby and I, literally at the same time, and it sucks.  After 4 days my eyes are still pink.  His are nice and white.  Figures.  I've been to the doctor 4 times.  I convinced the doctors that yes, I know that one doesn't have goop yet but I promise I know he/she will have it tomorrow so please just write the script.  I was right.  In the morning he/she had it as predicted.

It could be worse.

To cheer mie up I'm sharing these two funnies:

1)

#12, 13, and I were driving to their initial doctor appt from dropping off Summer's fecal sample at the doctor, 11 months after it was requested (the vials weren't expired and I had to do something to make her poop on the floor incident worth it).  We had to drive down the newly paved country-ish road.  I was enjoying the "quiet".  #13 was jabbering in the back seat quietly, mostly to himself.  Then...

#13 - MOM!!!
Mie - Yes #13?
#13 - Stop stealing the mail!
Mie -  What?
#13 - You and daddy need to stop stealing the mail!!!
Mie - We don't steal the mail.  Who stole the mail?
#13 - Unintelligible
Mie - #13, Who steals the mail?
#13 - I don't know, I can't see him, he's invisible. Unintelligble... the hulk is dead.

Hmmm...I'm fairly sure this kiddo had an experience with someone stealing the mail and it made him uncomfortable when I started asking about it.  The things you hear in foster care.

2)

Tonight, after the baseball game, Summer went right to sleep.  She did spend her naptime at the doctor getting her eyes looked at, afterall.  We woke her up and she was grumpy.

Daddy - Summer are you mad?
Summer - *nodded*
Daddy - Who are you mad at?
Summer - *points to daddy then quickly changes* MOMMY!!
Daddy - *turns his head to laugh*
Mommy - Why are you angry at mommy? 
Summer - You are BE-YOO-TIFUL

At least she's mad at mie for a good reason ;)

Monday, September 03, 2012

Say What (!?!) Sunday - She's Who?

I love you all - I miss you!  I don't think I've signed onto my blog for 2 weeks now. I've been working like crazy, coming home and taking care of the 5 kiddos, then "working" another full-time job completing my dissertation draft for submission until 1 or 2 am each night.  I've had 4-5 hours of sleep, interrupted by at least one kiddo of course, for the past 30 days.  There has been NO time for blogging and I've been really good to stay away.

But I've missed you all.  A lot has changed since the last time we spoke.

  • #13 arrived.  We now have another 3 year old boy.  This means on top of everything that has been going on we added 3 kids in 2 weeks, all from separate placements.  This is also our first public case meaning the reason for removal was all over tv.  Thankfully the news isn't directly related to our little guy so no one actually knows the connection, but it has been interesting to say the least.
  • #12 came to us toothless.  Since she's been here she's cut 5 teeth and has 3 more at the surface.  That's 8 teeth in 3 weeks.  Poor kiddo.  You can imagine she's pretty grumpy.
  • Logan started kindergarten at the big boy school.  We did the whole take-him-into-the-classroom thing, waited until the class started, and then the hubby dragged me away kicking and screaming.  It wasn't that bad but I was really relieved at the end of the day Logan called to say that school was AWESOME! and he was extremely emphatic about it.  Since then it's been wonderful.
  • Logan started taking the school bus.  So far so good there too.  I was worried about it but he enjoys it and it has worked out well so far.
I thought it was Sunday but it's actually Monday.  It really doesn't matter - I have a funny Say What for you.

Setting - Dinner, 1st or 2nd night with #13.

#13 - ...and Hope* did this and Hope* did that and Hope* gets in trouble a lot...(name made up, but he talks about this individual a lot)

Mie - "Oh, I see.  Who is Hope?"

#13 - My wife.  straight-faced, without missing a beat.

The hubby and I did our best to not bust out in laughter.  He was so matter-of-fact and sure about it that it just caught us off guard.  Too funny.

Hope that brightened your day - thanks for continuing to come around to see mie even though I haven't "been" here much.  Stick around - I plan to submit my draft dissertation in a couple days and then I should have a little bit more time on my hands.  I also have a couple FAQ questions that were requested of mie and a few people who've reached out and asked to guest post and/or have mie share information in the next few weeks so I should be here again soon.  


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thankful Thursday - #12 is here!

Our FAD worker came over to visit last night.  This particular individual in the system works to make sure our home is in compliance and that we have everything we need.  This is similar to a caseworker at a private agency except that it's not a private agency - it's still the state and tied directly to DFPS.  This particular individual is nice and our visits our always pleasant.

Just so you know how this goes, he sat at our island most of the time.  Our kids bugged him (he's nice about it) by incessantly showing them the same toys.  I sat and cut up chicken and prepared dinner.  My husband went between our kids and the island as needed.  We answered questions.  We kept moving with our normal life.  This time he surprised us with an impromptu inspection, something he usually doesn't do.  He checked our weapons, our medications, and our chemicals to make sure they were taken care of and stored appropriately.  He was here about an hour.

As he walked out the door, literally, the phone rang.  Since my hubby and I were together I had a pretty good idea about what was coming next.  My hubby answered (darn him!  how did he get to answer both CPU calls this time?) but he quickly handed the phone to mie.

It's a baby girl.  Not a newborn, but still a baby.

She is a hoot!  She cracked us up.  My sister's foster baby is the same age and they came by to see our newest addition.  The two of them played and loved on each other and laughed.  It was fun.

We'll see what adding two new kiddos to our family does to our schedule and life.  For now it's the exciting honeymoon phase.  Love it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Working Mama Wednesday - Why I'm Grateful I Worked Through College

If I haven't already said, I worked full-time while in college.  After getting about 5 hours of sleep last night I found myself thinking about it on the drive to work this morning.  I graduated with my Bachelor's degree 3 years after I graduated from high school - at least a year earlier than most of my classmates.  Since I was usually a year younger than most people in my grade that means I ended up graduating from college when I was 20.  It was a lot of work.

I am SO grateful that's the way it went down.  There are obvious reasons:

  • I graduated & entered the job market when I was 20.
  • I paid for 1 less year of college.
  • When I did graduate I had enough practical work experience to land me a job that led to my current career AND paid really well for a new-college-grad starting salary (and, frankly, for most anyone's salary).  I mean - I was able to buy a house when I was 20 with my own money.
These are great reasons to have worked, full-time, through college but honestly they are not what I'm most grateful for now.  You see, working full-time through college taught mie SO much about life.  Looking back I suppose I didn't have to work full-time.  I went to a private university and my parents paid my tuition for the first 2 1/2 years (I paid the final semester).  They paid for mie to live in the dorms the first year and I lived at home the other two years.  I suppose I could have worked part time and made enough to get by.  I bought a new car in the beginning of my 2nd year of school and I suppose I could have not done that.  I could have taken out loans and lived on campus without a car.  I could have sold my car and bought another one that was more reliable but still used rather than buying a new one and lived at home.  I had enough of a safety net to fall back on at home and allow mie to take it a bit easier.  There was nothing requiring mie to do it all in 3 years.  

Except there was.  My parents instilled in mie a sense of personal responsibility.  Though I didn't have to and my parents didn't necessarily encourage it, I started working at 15 to help pay for my own things (including my first car and car insurance + a bit of spending money).  I wanted to help pay my own way - I didn't want to freeload on my parents forever.  (Not that living with your parents at 15 is freeloading). 

So when I turned 18 and had the chance to begin working full-time I took the chance.  I moved back in with my parents so I'd be closer to work a block away vs. 20 minutes from school.  I arranged my schedule so I had all of my classes on Tues & Thursday meaning I had to make the drive to school on those days and I worked during the day on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday and then either on Sunday or Thursday nights.  This allowed mie to go to church on Sunday mornings and maybe Sunday or Thursday night college group events (where my husband and I really started dating) but the rest of the time I was working, in class, or doing homework.  Literally, that's all I did.  


But in that I learned extremely valuable life lessons that come in really helpful today in the real world as a mom or a wife:
  • Pay now/play later or play now/pay later - it's your choice.  You will have to pay one way or the other.  While friends, classmates, and coworkers were out partying or doing whatever they did, I was working either on school or at work.  But now I see where there lives are - many are struggling to get by, still wondering when they're going to catch their big breaks.  Many are struggling to pay basic bills in low-paying jobs because they don't have the skills (or discipline) to do much more.  Obviously this is not everyone's story and many of them have had things face them that were out of control but the point is that you will either pay now with lots of work or later with lots of work.  This life was not meant to be easy.
  • I can do a lot more than most people think they can (but only for a time).  The ONLY reason I graduated in 3 years was because I felt I needed to with working full-time.  I didn't want to keep up that pace for a 4th year.  I came into college with a semester's credits behind mie due to AP classes/tests so after my 2nd year I realized I could take a heavy load including the summers and was able to finish a year early.  It took mega planning.  It took a lot of work.  I remember sitting for a week's vacation with my husband (then boyfriend) and his family doing nothing but writing papers.  Occasionally I took a break to take a sunset walk on the beach or eat a meal but for the most part I was taking care of a college class - actually 2 6 week summer classes in the course of a week.  
  • It's no one else's job to take care of my family.  Yes, there may come a time (and has) where we've needed brief support - like family or friends baby sitting my kiddos while I work hard on a paper.  Though we all need help from time to time I realize it is not everyone else's responsibility to pay my way or do my work.  It is my husband and my responsibility to provide for our family.  It is our responsibility to clean the house and do laundry.  To pay bills.  To teach our kids.  To cook dinner.  etc., etc.  So, when I do need to ask someone to help I do so humbly and respectfully, knowing they are providing a huge benefit to our family in helping not because it is their obligation but because they are gracious people who deserve my respect and appreciation.
So yes, I worked really hard in my late teens and early 20s and it has paid off financially.  I'm grateful for that but it's the practical lessons I learned from those experiences that really has given mie a leg-up on life.  

As I now sit facing 30-45 more days before I defend my dissertation, knowing it is not yet finished and therefore I need to work really hard daily on it, even though I have a more than full-time job and 3 kids, a husband, and a home to care for, I'm benefiting greatly from these lessons:

a) Pay now - Every day I have to make the conscious decision to work, work, work.  30-45 more days and I can play and celebrate and will truly be done with school, finally (with the exception of formalities).  This means I have to forgo watching my favorite shows that distract mie.  I can't sit at night after the kids go to bed and do my crafts or work on house projects that I want to complete or take a nice bubble bath.  If I work really hard now I can get this piece behind mie and I know the reward of being done instead of having this hang over my head will be worth it.
b) Do a lot more (but only for a time).  Until I'm finished writing & editing my dissertation I will likely be up until midnight or 1 every night getting it done, that's after a 10-12 hour work day and 3-6 hours total with the kids each day, and 1-2 hours of housework.  I'll be getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night.  I won't be able to get everything done and the upstairs playroom might not get cleaned for a while.  I know that I can do this.  I keep telling myself (literally) that I can do anything for 30 days.  I know I can.  And to that end its because I know the reward of being done will be worth it.
c) It's no one else's job.  Though I can leave some things undone for a while (like finishing painting the guest room or cleaning the carpets in my bedroom), I can't just let things go completely.  In the end my relationship and health of my kids and with my husband are much more important than finishing my degree - I have to spend at least some intentional time daily nurturing them.  I can't just not do laundry.  I can't not clean the kitchen.  It needs to be done.  However, it doesn't need to be done as meticulously as I would if I had nothing else to do.  And, it doesn't HAVE to be done by mie.  I can reach out humbly and ask for help.  I can ask my husband to pitch in to help in areas where I usually do something but could use his help.  Not only does it get things done that I couldn't do myself, it gives mie a chance to communicate my needs to others and build that part of our relationship better.  It also gives mie a chance to show sincere appreciation to those in my life who are willing to step in and help. It's made mie pay conscious attention to the things that need done, can be put off, and can be done by others.  It's made mie pay conscious attention to how I treat those I love in my life and how I'm showing them gratitude.

Basically, I'm more efficient with life.  I'm less-selfish.  I'm getting more important things done and forgetting about things that are more frivolous (like So You Think You Can Dance and cleaning the toilets - hehe - really my toilets are clean).  I'm learning I can make mistakes and ask for forgiveness when I do.  I'm actively prioritizing things and people in my life in the right order (see the previous mistakes sentence).  

If you're a parent of young kids like mie and wonder what will happen when your kids go to school and how you'll pay for it all and wanting to help them not work - just remember that working isn't all that bad necessarily.  Balancing some level of work with other things in life teaches our children responsibility that will truly benefit them as adults.  Though I won't be forcing my children to work full-time through school if they don't have to, I will be trying to make sure they are contributing to their financial situation if for no other reason than to learn self-responsibility and accountability for their actions, priorities, and behaviors. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday's Tears - THIS is why I do foster care

(I wrote this post a while back...)

Foster care and adoption is not always easy.  It's easier than a lot of people think it is - usually the people who say "I couldn't do that".  It's harder than most of us who agree to get involved usually imagine in the beginning (we learn our lesson quickly).  We're at the mercy of the system.  Our kids vacillate from loving to hating us all in a span of minutes (because we're not the birth parents).  We handle strange behaviors and we go to great lengths to try and help kiddos heal knowing full well at any minute they'll be thrust back into the madness that was their birth family's situation that led to the removal in the first place (hopefully, but not guaranteed, in a more healthy environment).  Our core families are considered last (not by us, by the system).

It can be messy and yucky.

But not like this:



These are pictures of the bed of a child who was removed.  I don't know the whole story for this particular child but do know that the bed wasn't the reason for removal and it was probably like this for a period of time prior to removal.

Yes, those are feces.  I don't now where they came from (human or animal).

This bed is located in a closet.  (Again, not the primary reason for removal).

So you see - though we are inconvenienced or have extra work or put to the test by the system that can be frustrating and completely inconsiderate of OUR lives at times, we do it because if we can help one kiddo not have to sleep with feces (and whatever else they face), THAT is worth it.  If I can give "my" kiddos blankets and clean sheets and a decent pillow and a scream-free/drug-free environment, isn't that worth it?

If you haven't already, consider what you can do to help.  This is one child's bed - each child in foster care has a story and YOU have the opportunity to help make their story have a brighter tune and maybe a happy ending.

Monday, August 13, 2012

(Still) Atypical. Dysplastic.

I finally received a call from the doctor on Friday morning. (Well, to be precise, it was the assistant that was in the room with the doctor and I during the exam.)

She reiterated they were all atypical and dysplastic.  This was weird because I didn't know we were looking at that - I figured that was already known and that is why they were removed from mie in the first place.  I guess the lab just confirmed the doctor's suspicions that, indeed, they were atypical and dysplastic.  Lovely.

The great news is that there were no signs of melanoma.

The bad news was that sentence was followed by "yet".

I will celebrate what is good.

At this point I just have to watch the spots for signs of color, meaning they are coming back.  I'm thinking it's a bad sign that on the one I can see (my stomach vs. 3 on my back) I can already see the color from the root of the mole.  The doctor said to give it 2 months and we'll re-evaluate, unless something drastic happens and I see obvious changes more quickly.

This brings up and interesting point.  These things itch.  Boy do they itch.  They didn't prior to the removal but now that they are (still) bandaged and healing (after 10 days) they are itching more than ever.  I am supposed to keep them bandaged with a clean bandage and ointment every day until the new skin is in which should have been 7-10 days.  I think we're getting close.

Which brings up another interesting point - the itching is not from the bandage.  Apparently I am allergic to the adhesive on bandages.  When I posted that on facebook my family and some friends suggested it may be a latex allergy.  I've never noticed a problem with latex but have always had this redness and itching from bandages.  I suppose I figured that was just part of the package - healing wounds, ripped off bandages, redness and itching - seemed appropriate to mie.

Apparently its not normal and is an allergy.

Just a few fun facts for you today.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Foster Parent Friday - Why Birth Order isn't THAT relevant

I had a bit of an epiphany recently. 

Before I get into it (as if you couldn't tell from my title) I want to point out that I don't think this is an epiphany I could have understood without being an experienced foster/adopt mom. 

When we went through the incessant questionnaire also known as the home study process, we said we needed to keep our son the oldest.  I think that's fairly common philosophy out there for a few reasons.  First, there's a strong natural belief in the effect of birth order and, as a result, the impact changing birth order in a family can have on individual members and the family unit.  Second, there's typically a strong bond between parents who wish to foster/adopt and any forever children they already have.  This was our situation.  Our son was the firstborn.  He was used to everything as an only child/firstborn.  We wanted to preserve that role for him in our family.  So though we agreed to get licensed for children 0-6 years old and our son was only 3 at the time, we said we were only interested in accepting kids 0-3.  We wanted Logan to remain the oldest.

As time went on we had 11 (now) kids.  All have been younger than Logan, preserving birth order in our family.  We had an opportunity once to take a 7 year old but since our license only allowed up to 6, we couldn't accept that placement.  So we had a lot of kids younger than Logan by at least 1 year.
While that is all well and good I realized that we were not considering something that I think most people considering birth order overlook.

Though are son has always been in birth order, all but one of our 11 children have been out of birth order in our family.  You see, with the exception of #5/#6 who had an older brother who had not been removed (because the family took him out-of-state), all of our kiddos were 1st and/or 2nd born.  When they came to our family and Logan was the oldest, they ended up being 2nd and/or 3rd born. 

I'm not sure what the impact was on the younger of sibling groups if any.  I actually think in a way this was beneficial to them because it reduced some of the sibling rivalry and fight for attention with their birth sibling that had previously existed in their home of origin because of their sibling's first born status.

The impact on our 1st born placements has been clear, especially with the older ones.  They have clearly been used to being the oldest, the favorite, the bigger kid, the one who gives the orders in th ehome.  Some of this was a result of poor parenting for sure but much of it had to do with their experience as 1st born.  Then they are removed from their home, thrust into the lives of strangers, and now they don't know how to interact with an older sibling in the family.  It is a foreign concept too them that they aren't really sure how to handle.

This is the case in the majority of cases I've seen.  In the ones where siblings are separated for some reason though the birth order may have been maintained the sibling group was broken up causing at least equal concern and trauma. 

I'm left with the question - which birth order is more important to keep?  I could squint and see the argument whereas since foster placements come and go maintaining the birth order for your forever children is more important - it helps keep stability in the lives of your forever children.  Honestly though I'm left strongly believing that I can't ethically choose birth order for one child over the others....if its important for one child isn't it equally important for another? 

Since it's impossible to keep birth order for all kids without separating a sibling group I've decided that birth order can't really matter in the decision process to accept new placements.  Do they need a home?  Can we help them heal?  Can we keep all of our family members safe?  Does God want us to accept the placement?  I think these questions are much more important.

With that in mind we've inquired about a sibling group with an older child.  This is the first time we've ever done it and though we're not believing strongly that these are "our" children to adopt, we are open to looking into it more and are trying to be open about what we could and should do in our home independent of preserving birth order. 

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Wouldn't you know....

I never heard from the doctor today.  I tried to call again but got the voicemail again.  Argh.

When I wrote the last post detailing when we got the call for each past placement I noticed a pattern.  If not a pattern at least a most-frequent day.  Did you notice it?  Let me add...

#7 - Thursday.  6:25pm.  Arrived at 8:15pm.  8/9/12

As I opened the door to get out of the car I was met by my husband, phone in hand.  It was my favorite placement worker with "a call".  We now have a new 3 year old boy to add to our crew.  Fun times!

So far so good....

Waiting - Placement Calls and other...

When I had 4 moles dug out of my back and stomach last week the doctor and his assistant reiterated about a million times:

We will have the results Tuesday or Wednesday.  We always call...no matter what we always call.  We'll call until we talk to you.  We're kind of annoying.

It is now Thursday, I haven't heard a word.  I called yesterday afternoon but got their voicemail.  Since I was headed to another round of endless meetings I figured it wouldn't help to leave a VM - they'd call when they'd call.

Hmmm.

We went on the placement list 2 weeks ago tomorrow.  No calls yet.

So I sit waiting except I don't really "sit" ever, especially waiting.  I am kept pretty busy with the things of life and when I do find a moment to not be preoccupied I find something to preoccupy mie, like mopping, endlessly checking Facebook, or staring at the phone as if to will it to ring.

I'm having a hard time being patient, not for worry's sake but more to get on with things whatever they may be.  I'm trying to learn to enjoy the moment. (and finish my dissertation).

(To make matters more comical and/or interesting, I downloaded an app for my son that plays "cop noises" -  sirens and the sound of code being sent over the radio and such.  Somehow the sound of the officer talking over the radio was exchanged for all of my otherwise unassigned ringtones so I sit waiting for the quite startling sound of a police officer suddenly speaking over the radio.  Lovely. I could change it, but apparently that hasn't been one of the priority things to preoccupy myself with because its been that way for a few weeks and I've done nothing.  To put it in perspective, the only other sound coming from my phone as a ringtone is my son saying "Mommy can you please pick up the phone it's daddy", which was my husband's attempt to get mie to answer the phone more often when he was calling.  He figures I can't ignore my son's voice.  He's right.)

Waiting for a placement has got mie thinking - when have I received calls in the past?  Is there a more popular day or time?  I've already done a post on how long it takes to get a new placement but this is a different spin on the same topic - waiting and the torture it brings.  So, here's the analysis (by placement)

#1 - Saturday night at 11:45 pm.  They arrived at about 1:30am.
#2 - Tuesday night at 6:00pm.  He arrived at about 7:45 pm.
#3 - Thursday morning at 9:59 am (precisely).  I had a phone interview scheduled and I thought the ring was the interviewer except it wasn't - 2 minutes later the interviewer called and I had to postpone the interview.  She arrived around 1pm I believe.
#4 - Thursday night at around 6:30pm - I was in class.  This is the first and only placement where my husband answered the initial call.  They arrived around 9:45pm - they were from far away.
#5 - Friday at around 3:30pm - the same day #4 went home.  They arrived the following Wednesday during the day, I believe.
#6 - I honestly cannot remember when the placement worker called me for these two.  I believe it was Thursday but might have been a Wednesday.  It was during the day because I remember talking the caseworker while I was at work.  So weird.  I do know they came the following Wednesday at around 4pm.
#7 - ???

I've told my husband that I can't picture getting another call.  I know it's strange but I just can't imagine what it will be like if/when CPU calls.  So strange.

Of course that made mie think that it's been over 2 years since I answered a CPU call with an emergency placement - #4 was an emergency placement but hubby answered that call and the one before that was #2 - all of the others since have been transfers from other foster homes. - Just another interesting tidbit I ponder while waiting...

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Atypical. Dysplastic.

These are the words that keep running through my head.

"Dysplastic.  It's dysplastic."

4 injections of lidocaine and 4 sets of incisions later I was left with 4 holes that I'm not allowed to let scab over and must change bandages and ointment at least once a day.  3 of them are on my back...

"Don't let them dry out.  7-10 days"

Ok.

It took a full 30 hours for mie to begin to get nervous.

I know I'll be ok.

This isn't the first time it's been suspected I might have cancer.  The first time the results came back benign (but I ended up with a surgical infection - I'll take that over cancer any day!).  It was a different type then.  My son was only 6 months old or so.

Maybe that's why I've not been concerned.  I'm sure it will be fine.  I'm sure they will be benign.

But the words the doctor spoke and the way in which he spoke and the look on his face gave mie the distinct impression that this wasn't a normal visit.  There was a clear indication that at least a little concern should be warranted.

I've checked 2 websites - one indicating I should be very worried and the other indicating I may not have anything to be concerned about.  Except, maybe, trying to change bandages on my back shoulder blade at least once a day.

I'm supposed to hear back early this coming week.

"We'll call either way," she said.