Friday, December 20, 2013

Say What (?!?) Sunday - It's a Wonderful Life Version

This past Friday one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time was on tv.  "It's a Wonderful Life" is such a great classic.  My hubby thinks it's cheesy but I LOVE it.

We started the first part of the know when the angels are talking to each other as stars in the sky?

Logan: Is the WHOLE movie going to be like this?
My hubby and I, in unison: Yes.  Yes it is.

Hehe...this movie is going to be a different world for him.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thankful Thursday - Dallas Mavericks' Generosity

Our family was blessed last night by the Dallas Mavericks and HAVE to tell everyone about it not because they asked me to (in fact I wonder if they'd want me to...) but because I'm compelled to publicly thank them for what they did for us.

As foster and/or adoptive parents, if you're plugged in to foster/adopt circles like foster parent associations, you frequently get invited to participate in special events for foster/adopt families.  I'm sure these things come about in a variety of ways but I imagine there are generous people/organizations/etc. out there who put these things together trying to give back to the community and sometimes they choose foster/adopt families.  These perks of the job are pretty cool for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is being able to take our kids to things we may not be able to do otherwise due to the size of our family.

For example, this past weekend I attended a "breakfast with Santa" event with other foster families in our county.  This was free and isn't something non-foster/adopt families could have attended.  It was, however, an opportunity my kids probably wouldn't have received otherwise.  There was breakfast, craft tables, karaoke, face painting, balloons, gifts for the kids (pretty cool ones at that), and of course the jolly old man in red complete with pictures.  If we'd hadn't had this event my kids probably wouldn't have seen Santa.  As our family schedule goes I would have had to take my kids by myself and that would have been nearly impossible.  Taking a teething, newly walking baby who always wants to be held, 2 children with strong sensory needs and a bit of O.D.D-type behaviors, a 3 year old girl who deserves a class of her own, and 2 older, great helpers that get annoyed with the behavior of the littler ones is a recipe for disaster.  Add waiting in line with "normal" families, the excitement of seeing Santa, the mall...I just wouldn't try that myself and I'm pretty adventurous.  Instead I took them to a place where my crew was just like the others in the room, no one was overly concerned when my kids wanted to take 500 pictures with Santa so they could get all possible combinations of siblings, and no one jumped down my throat for letting my baby walk around in a crowded room or scolding my child for eating fruit loops (she's gluten-free).  My craziness was normal in the see of other children with similar backgrounds.  And it was free.

On a separate occasion we were offered free tickets to the Dallas Mavericks game (we chose 12/18).  We've been waiting a couple months for this date to come because we thought it would be so much fun for our kiddos.  When we got there we got everyone to their seats and quickly stress-levels rose.  Please re-read the previous description of my family and put that in a crowded sports arena.  Then consider we were 2 rows from the top of the stadium and the seating was VERY steep.  Anxiety shot through the roof as we tried to figure out how we would be able to keep all of our kids from falling down the bleachers.  Then Logan became ill both from being dizzy from looking down and also from anxiety from being up so high.  He eventually curled up into a ball under our chairs.  I was and still am grateful for the people who donated for our family to go to the game but it was appearing as if it was going to be an anxiety-ridden trip at a minimum and deadly in a worst-case-yet-possible scenario.

I decided to take the ladies to the restroom with me and then sneak over to guest services.  I thought I'd ask if they had any seat upgrades available thinking maybe for $10-$20 per seat we may be able to move at least several more rows down.  We walked across the arena and found the office who promptly sent us around even more to find the ticket booth "to see if there was anything they could do".  I explained that we'd had the tickets donated to us and how my son was curled up into a ball on the floor.  He said he didn't know what could be done, this would be up to the Mavs.  He came back saying he could find us 4 tickets lower but finding seats for all of us together would be impossible.  As I was considering whether it would be better to send my hubby and son down a few rows or stay together he asked me to wait another minute then disappeared.

This time he came back with 7 new tickets.  He said he'd nearly been decapitated for asking and warned me the Mavs NEVER do this...then he handed me 7 new tickets for seats in the floor section...for free.  The face value was $135 each...he just gave them to us.  I was so excited to tell my hubby not only the generosity of the gift we'd received but also about the awesome seats we were going to be able to sit in.  When I'd gone to ask I thought maybe we could swing $100-$200 for better seats, I wasn't asking for or expecting free upgrades like that.  We absolutely couldn't have spent $1000 for our family to sit in those seats on our's just not in the budget.  It was such a wonderful experience AND, the Mavs beat the Memphis Grizzlies as icing on the cake and I'm so glad we were able to have that family time together.

Today I'm thankful for all the people who donate to and otherwise help support our family and others who foster/adopt.  This life isn't easy - it takes constant work.  We encourage others to really seek out whether they could foster or adopt because we believe more people could than are willing to try BUT I also want to express how helpful it is to have people around us show love and gratitude for what we do through words or gifts or acts of service.  That's not why we do it but it does give a little boost on hard days when the work seems insurmountable.

Thank you Dallas Mavericks.  I'm proud to tell others how wonderful you were to our family and encourage them to support the Mavs.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Court Results

Thank you all for your prayers.  Regardless of the outcome, yesterday promised to be a very difficult day with 3 possible outcomes:

  • Termination of parental rights.  Plan for adoption
  • No Termination of parental rights.  Send children home immediately
  • Some other random solution out-of-the-blue (case extension, another delay at the courthouse, etc.)
Though we had our favorite solution, none of them would have been pain-free.  The "random solution" would have caused this case to drag on more, more uncertainty, more delay for all involved.  Clearly if the judge found parental rights were not to be terminated and the kids went home immediately, that would have crushed us.

I mentioned yesterday that the case had been mid-trial before a threat at the courthouse caused a week's delay.  When I left after the day of testimony I honestly felt less-hopeful about whether the case would result in termination than I'd had at any other point in the case, I think, and that's saying something because I've had my doubts all along.  I wasn't in the courtroom that day but it's what I felt in my heart.  I walked into court after having experienced another week's worth of delays and a ton of things that made our life more difficult (sick, not sleeping baby getting 8 teeth all at the same time, for example) - though I tried to have faith and focus on God's will for my kiddos and our family in the forefront of my mind was that this was shaping up to be one of those times our kiddos left us.  God has always provided a "difficult situation" before kiddos have left to help us be grateful for the peace after the children were gone.  Most of them were illness related.  I felt like I would be writing that post, that God had allowed difficult situations to invade our home to help make the transition of them leaving easier on us.  The feeling wouldn't leave me.

I arrived at court late due to traffic.  With a cold that was making me groggy.  Since I was half-prepared to testify after the way the previous day ended (and upon hearing "maybe" from the AAL), I was worried about how I'd sound, being able to not clearly think, probably looking all nasty like one of the actors "with the flu" on a tissue commercial.  Halfway to court I got a call from my hubby who should have been sleeping because the daycare called and a different child had started throwing up all over the place.  Oh, and hubby started having tummy troubles too.

Nevertheless in the court house things started off well.  We chatted for a good-long time about stuff.  The kids.  My sister and her kids.  Jury duty.  The weather (literally).  It was enjoyable.  

Then someone said "well this case better be called early or we won't get in at all - it's drug court day".  I started to panic that we'd be reset.  Again.  

The bailiff called for check-in and simultaneously called our case into the courtroom to be heard.  I initially sat out of the courtroom but then thought hey...worst they could do was kick me I went inside and took a seat.  I texted AAL to see if she needed me to testify - she replied "no".  I asked if I could stay.  Then she got called to the bench for another case and it took forever to get another reply.  

I could stay.

I'm not going to get into the details of what I heard except to say that it was ESSENTIAL to this case that court had been delayed the week because of the threat the week before.  There was a report people were waiting on that hadn't arrived yet and left some questions about the situation unanswered.  BUT, because of the delay the results were received and additional evidence was able to be admitted.  This evidence was crystal clear.  I've been saying it "sealed the deal".

The judge ended up making two rulings.  First, she ruled on baby baby because he was removed separately from his siblings and started this "newly reopened" case.  The grounds were clear and abundant. The judge took the time to read each one aloud to the parents.  Additionally there was abundant evidence that TPR was in his best interest.  

Parental Rights Terminated. 

With that in mind, the judge then ruled on the other three children.  I wasn't sure where she was going to go - apparently the case for them was different than the case on the other three.  Nevertheless because mom had just lost rights on baby baby, it helped make the argument that the rights for the other three should be terminated as well.

Parental Rights Terminated.

The judge then accepted the other parent's relinquishment.  In doing so she complimented all involved for working out an arrangement where the kids could be safe and still have a relationship with this parent.  She went on to provide strong words of affirmation to my husband and I (though she didn't know I was there) for our part in this case, the willingness to stick it out, the willingness to make the arrangement we did with the parent who relinquished.

At the end of the day we walked away with Parental Rights Terminated, adoption bound.  I will say that the kids will not be "legally-free" for adoption until after a 90 day period during which the parent who lost rights involuntarily will have the opportunity to appeal.  In addition relatives or fictive-kin have the opportunity to intervene in the case to try and gain custody preventing the adoption.  We hope and pray these things don't happen.  Our kids need permanency.  It is a NEED for them (as with all kiddos but evidence was presented that one of my children "does not have another move" in him/her).  It has been their repeatedly-expressed desire to stay with us forever.  Though they're too young to really grasp the gravity of that statement, they have been steadfast in that desire with the likewise understanding they would not go to live with their birth parents ever again.

There is so much more I want to tell you.  With the TPR granted I want to share how CRAZY this case was.    I want to explain what has happened in the past year.  All of the stuff we've gone through but I've been cautious to share because of how crazy this case has been.  I will likely wait until the 90 days is up before I share as much as I'd like but if you have questions please email mie or put it in a comment so I can remind myself to address it.  

In the end our feelings were very mixed.  Please pray for the 90 days to be smooth and short.  Please also pray for our kids' birth parents.  Regardless of the situation that led us to this point yesterday was extremely hard on them, and I'm sure time will heal some but not all and it would be a long time in healing.  They love their children.  They didn't want this to happen.  I cried with them both yesterday.  It sucks.  I cried for my kids to have this in their history.  Even though it was what we wanted and what we still want and even though it moves us toward adoption and even though our kids were thrilled when we told them last night, we don't wish them well and the trauma is not taken lightly.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tuesday's Tears - Mediation, Trial, & Prayer Request!

After I explained mediation in foster care cases, I promised I'd update you on our case.  And then, as usual, things went crazy and I was too emotional and feeling the overwhelming urge to NOT share on my blog that I failed to update you again for a couple weeks.  

I really hope this case is over, in our favor, soon.

Mediation happened a couple of weeks ago, before my last FPF post.  At that time I already had the outcome.  Mediation was scheduled for a full-day session.  Due to court/attorney schedules it didn't start until later, maybe 10 or 11 but it lasted until 5 or 5:30 so that was a full day in most court-related books.

I was incredibly nervous.  I knew I would be so I took the day off work.  I ended up being called in for a short early morning meeting and was assigned a few things to work on which turned into a huge blessing for me.  It was a good distraction for my brain while waiting for things to start at the courthouse.  I was able to leave before lunch but because I wasn't allowed at the courthouse (or, I was asked not to be there), I just went home.  I was vegging on the couch, literally just sitting there staring at my phone every couple minutes, waiting for my phone to ring.  My hubby was sleeping and texted me to come in and join him for a nap.  

I did and I slept.  More distraction.

I woke up around 2:30 when my phone rang.  It was the children's attorney with the initial agreement.  Hubby was awake so we talked about it, called our attorney, and then called the AAL back with our counter-position.  

Can I take a step back here and say there really wasn't any room to have a counter position.  We're not "in" the case and even if we were, what is our leverage?  No, we're going to walk away from the kids and let the parents have them when the kids have expressed a desire to stay with us and we don't feel they will be safe with the parents?  Really?  Sorry have to go back and live with them because we weren't willing to do everything it would take to keep you?  No thanks.

Despite our poor bargaining position we did go back and forth for the next 3 hours, at first over the phone and then by text.  One parent came to an agreement and relinquished rights.  The agreement includes a lot of stuff we're not excited about but we're "ok" with (barely) and something we absolutely hate but have come to accept.  This parent relinquished and we expected that would never happen.

This is why I'm hesitant to share too many details.  The other parent refused to mediate.  Didn't want to take a deal.  I have a lot to say about this but the only one I'm going to type out for now is that if the state was trying to take my kids away from mie I don't know if I'd ever agree to relinquish either.  They'd have to take my kids from mie by force, I think (yes I comply with laws and no, I strongly doubt that would ever happen to begin with but you get my point).  I can understand the person who says "I have to give it my everything.  I can't give in.  I must keep trying".  See my comments two paragraphs ago.

This meant the trial date, which had already been set, would now involve an actual TPR trial.  In this kind of scenario the settlement agreement with one parent and associated relinquishment would be entered and made official as part of the final order from the judge and the judge would hear testimony about whether the other parent's rights should be terminated.  

In case you're not familiar, let me be clear - If rights are terminated, the case moves forward to adoption with a 90 day waiting period where kin can intervene and try to get the kids and the parents who had involuntary relinquishment have a chance to appeal (parents who voluntarily relinquish do not get to appeal).  If rights are not terminated, that typically ends the case and the judge immediately sends the kids home.

So you can see why before trial I was even more nervous than I was before mediation.  Yes, the trial already began - last week.  There was a full day of testimony and the case didn't finish.  Potential witnesses were sequestered and therefore I haven't been able to sit in the court and hear testimony even though I don't expect to be testifying - they may call me per one of the attorneys.  Because the case didn't finish, they agreed to come back the next day to wrap things up.

To let you know how this affected our kids - they have literally had a countdown going for when their attorney was going to see the judge to see if "they can stay forever".  They woke up saying "ZERO more days mommy!"  I had to come home and explain to them that yes, their attorney got to talk to the judge.  She did for the entire day but wasn't done yet so we have to wait until tomorrow.  That's hard when to kids it sounds like it should just be a quick "Hey judge - can they stay forever?".  

It was a hard night for my hubby and I who both cried in anticipation at one point.  

The next day I showed up at the courthouse and walked up the steps.  I noticed an abundance of un-manned police cars but figured hey - it's a courthouse and tried to move forward.  Then I got word that no one was being allowed in and I had to return to my car.  Later I got word that I had to take my car off the property.  Thanks to my sister's case, I knew a bailiff there (her kiddo's CASA!) and got the scoop.  There was a threat of harm at the courthouse.

I waited for 90 minutes or so nearby and then was told due to the circumstances the trial was going to be reset and I'd find out the next day when the new court date would be but I'd at least have to wait through the weekend.  

It was hard to explain to the kids why, yet again, we didn't have an answer from the judge.  They literally asked as they stepped off the school bus that day.  

Long story not-so-short - We still do not have an answer.  Court is now rescheduled for tomorrow.  We had a fun weekend and when we're home as a family we're distracted enough not to think about it.  But it's tomorrow.  My head says "of course they'll terminate!" but my realistic side says "I know anything can happen".  

There's nothing that can prepare me for my kiddos to leave tomorrow.  I have to walk in faith knowing it will be ok and hoping that they will not go.  In the meantime we'll spend extra quality family tonight, again, hug them a bit longer, say extra-special prayers for them, and try to leave it all in God's hands where it is much safer than with me alone.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Foster Parent Friday: Mediation???

Q: Mediation...What's that? (often more body language in a way to say...what does that mean for your life or in the case and how does that work?).

A:  Our case went to mediation on Wednesday.  Of course this means that in the weeks leading up to the big day we asked everyone we could for prayer that things would go smoothly.

In all honesty, I had a hard time asking for specific prayer.  What I wanted to say and we said in private was "PLEASE GOD LET THEM RELINQUISH!" but my mommy heart knows that termination of parental rights for any situation, voluntarily relinquished or not, is by nature trauma.  Yes, it can be the right answer but it still is finality for birth parents losing their children and it means our children were permanently removed from their birth parents.  Big mixed feelings.  Thankfully a sweet friend of mine called it out and said "OK...we'll pray they relinquish their rights and the babies can stay with you forever".  Thank you sweet friend for saying out loud what I'd been feeling in my heart.

As we've told people about mediation many times they've got that confused look on their face, wanting more information.  Being a foster parent is about people always wanting more information and I can't blame them.  People tend to know the concept of mediation - its a legal process where people get in a room and try to work out a deal - but how that relates to foster care is a bit foreign.  So here's my explanation.

Have you ever watched Law & Order (come on - certainly you have right!)?  Or any other police/lawyer drama/documentary?  You know when the DA offers a deal to the accused criminal...they say something like "we'll give you 15 years instead of life" and then there is a back and forth with the attorneys trying to come up with a deal?  The DA will say something like "Ok - we'll go to trial and you'll go to prison for life" or the defense attorney will say something like "Are you kidding?  You're evidence is circumstantial...we'll take our chances with a jury".  Though this isn't officially mediation, it gives you a good feel for how mediation is used in termination cases.

At the point a trial is going to termination, theoretically CPS and the DA that represents the department have decided that for some reason the birth parents are not safe for the children despite having been given every opportunity to do so.  In my experience, this usually happens at around the 6-9 month marker in a case because federal law requires cases to be done in 12 months, 18 with extenuating circumstances.  So at the 6-9 month point in a case a formal decision is usually made to keep going toward reunification (and start working the kids towards that with more frequent visits, maybe setting a go-home date, etc.) or the department decides to formally change the case goal to termination (and relative adoption, non-relative adoption, permanent managing conservatorship, etc.).  This means the case "will be going to trial", a trial date is set if one isn't already on the calendar (in my experience they put one on the calendar at the beginning of the case to mark the date and protect the judges calendar) and people in the case start working toward that goal.

Though the department sets the official case plan goal there are many other people who have to get aligned around that for termination to occur.  Certainly there are the named mother and father (or "unknown father" if that's the case) but there is also the Attorney Ad Litem (kids attorney) and Guardian At Litem (CASA or the AAL) also have to agree.  In some cases there are also people who have intervened in the case because they have a significant relationship with the child (could be a grandparent, aunt/uncle, cousin, brother/sister, or even longer term foster parents).  Just as in the Law & Order case, in order for trial to be successful evidence has to be strong but the list of people wanting to see "guilty" (termination) needs to be longer than the list wanting to see "not-guilty"...the goal is whenever possible to have trial work out in your favor.

In comes mediation...I believe it's either a rule OR at least best practice that mediation occurs before a termination trial.  Though much of the work is done ahead of time, mediation is a formal time for all parties to come to the table and try to work out a deal so that when trial comes the mediated agreement is presented to the court and the judge can make a final order (ruling) about the case that represents what everyone is in agreement with.  By doing this, trial is avoided and presumably the best interest of the kids has been preserved.  There's less risk that the judge will dismiss the case or the department will lose and the kids will be immediately sent back to an environment the dept. feels is unsafe.

The department's goal in mediation is typically to have the biological parents surrender (relinquish) their parental rights.  For a parent, surrendering rights voluntarily is usually better than having them terminated from a legal perspective.  Bluntly, if you have your rights terminated by the court (non-voluntary) you might have a goodbye visit and then you will never see your kids again.  Ever.  Furthermore in the state of Texas you are then subjected to automatically losing any future children you have, even if you get your life together.  Non-voluntary termination is grounds for both removal of a child and termination on future children.  That's a big deal in my book.  Most parents who love their children and have good attorneys will start to see the writing on the wall and be able to weigh the consequences of voluntarily relinquishing vs. taking their chances with the trial (judge or can happen either way).  The stronger the case is, the more likely a parent is to consider relinquishment.

To help relinquishment be a more desirable option for the birth family, the other parties usually come to the table with some sort of proposal that offers future contact, setting up a semi-open adoption rather than a closed one.  The minimum I usually see is cards/letters/pictures once a year to give the birth parents the chance to see their kids grow from a far.  When the case is remarkably strong and especially when there appears to be a serious danger to the child/adoptive family with contact, this may be all that is offered.  Anything can be on the table as a proposal including phone calls, in-person visits, medical records, or pretty much anything else that might be important to one of the parties.  This mediated agreement can also allow the family and children to have a healing, long-term relationship, keeping the parents in the kids' life without having them be the day-to-day parent any longer.

In Summer's adoption we agreed to have cards/letters/pictures twice a year and visits 2x a year.  Twice a year visits was "unheard of" as it was presented to us back then. In my sister's case, the agreement included quarterly visits, which seemed like A LOT.  We also included several stipulations that are fairly common including if 2 consecutive visits were missed, if they violated our privacy, if a professional indicated the visits were hurting her, or if when she turned 12 she decided she didn't want to visit anymore, the visits would cease and there would be no more agreement.  The agreement was null after the first 2 visits passed and the parents did not visit.  We continue to have a relationship with them nonetheless.

So - you're dying to know - how did our case turn out?  It's not over yet.  You'll need to stay tuned, like us, to hear the rest of the story.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Thankful Thursday - Fantabulous News of Reunification

I can't believe I didn't write a post at all in the month of October.  Wow.  It's not because nothing was happening around here I can assure you.  Phew!  October is a month of celebration around my home so we try to do more than just survive but did we survive this year.

*Deep Breath*Sigh*

And now November is here and I come bringing wonderful news!

In September I pleaded with you all to help us bring Miss E home then later confessed Miss E was my niece with more details around what was going on in that situation.  This was just one experience of many in my world and the world of all of my foster-care-sisters around me.  Craziness that left me with such a heavy weight related to our role in foster care and adoption.  In all honesty sometimes it gets so heavy that I wish I could ignore the needs of foster children and move on with my life absent-minded of the fact that so many out there need foster and/or adoptive parents whether I want to pay attention to it or not.

There was mediation about Miss E's return on October 2nd.  The hopes were at that mediation everyone could be on the same page so that birth parents would relinquish with an agreement that my sister would regain custody and be the adoptive parent.  CASA was on board.  Ad litem was on board.  BIRTH MOM was on board.  CPS was not and said they would not get on board with that plan - they'd rather go to trial.  So after hopes and hopes were held high for weeks and then the morning was spent rejoicing that everyone else was on board, CPS came in to dash all those hopes in the afternoon by saying they would never agree to my sister getting custody back (even though they also said they have no concerns about Miss E's safety with my sister).

The next step was to meet with the judge to see what the judge had to say, informally of course, regarding where Miss E should go.  Theoretically, if the judge said given the circumstances she'd rule a certain way (but not actually rule that way since it was just an informal conversation, not a hearing), my sister would have the opportunity to get Miss E back soon after if CPS agreed to move in lieu of or in advance of a hearing.  Nope, they said, they'd never do that.

Nevertheless "we" went forward with that plan and waited 2 more weeks to meet with the judge hoping that though there was a good chance she'd say she agrees Miss E should move back there was a small chance that would actually happen because CPS insisted they needed to go to trial and be ordered to give her back.

2 weeks came and went.  There was a scheduling conflict and the date had to be moved again.  In between there's lots of talk about how it could go this way or that and this drama and that and what if we never see her again?  We tried to remain hopeful.

Another week went by and this time I couldn't make it to court to see how things would go.  I waited all day.    It should have lasted 30 minutes but it was on the calendar for the last thing at the end of the day so I had to wait for a response (as did my sister so I'm not trying to make this a sob story about mie).  After 15-20 minutes I texted my sister.  No response.  I was in an executive-level meeting so I tried to be discreet but I texted her again.  And again.  And again.  No response.  90 minutes after court should have been over I called with no answer.  And again.  And again.  Finally I got a text back:

"I'm busy now.  Call back later"

There were a lot of things going through my mind including - REALLY?  You're too busy to let me know how things are going really?

I had no other choice but to go on with my evening but it was very, very hard.  I didn't know if things had gone well and she was trying to surprise me or if things were still in progress and she couldn't respond or if things went really bad (read: the judge said no) and my sister was all alone dealing with her emotions.  I hated that I couldn't be there.  But I went home and my family had pizza.

At 7pm the doorbell rang.  We were still eating (it was a late night) so my hubby ran to get the door.  I knew it was my sister, or, that it should have been, but I had no idea what message she would be bringing.  I was beyond nervous.

Two seconds after my hubby went outside the doorbell began ringing overandoverandoverandover.  Clearly I was supposed to come to the door.

So I did.

I opened the door.

There was my hubby in the doorway.

Holding SuEden (Sweden).

My sister was in the background filming our reactions, which is why she wouldn't text me back or answer my calls.  I'll spare you the details but the judge made it very clear that SuEden should have never been removed in the first place and against all procedural odds signed an order that gave my sister immediate custody of her daughter.  The foster parent was wonderfully supportive and upon hearing the order was signed sent a video immediately to my sister with SuEden saying something along the lines of "Hi Mommy.  I'm going to see you soon".  She went to pick her up and then came straight to my place.

I could watch the video of that moment over and over again.  I wish I could share it here.  It's all that's right in the world I tell you.  It's almost like the videos of the soldiers who come home and surprise their kids.  Because that night I (we) would have either learned that SuEden was coming home (even if it was going to take a little bit longer) OR that we'd never see her again.  It really was at that point.

Since then things have been up and down.  Things should have been done by CPS that weren't leaving my sister, theoretically, to pick up the pieces with an emotional but even more financial burden.  There still was the matter of a trial with several named fathers one of whom wouldn't sign away his rights because he wanted  a paternity test to prove he wasn't the father so no one couldn't come after him for child support later.  He didn't get the concept of signing away his rights I suppose.

Needless to say on Tuesday this week, once again against all odds, the judge terminated rights on all potential parents of SuEden, granting my sister sole managing conservatorship, and closing the case.  She's my sister's forever.  She's back home to stay.

This has been a very expensive endeavor.  There's several, several thousand dollars that have been spent so far and about $3K more will be needed to finalize the adoption.  If you feel inclined, please contribute to the "bring Miss E home" donation at the upper right side of my page.  Everything is helpful at this point.  We'll figure out the finances - God will provide.  In reality all that matters is our sweet niece is home and though the trauma of the ordeal is still very fresh she has always been and will always be very worth it.

On a side note - nearly everyone in this case is the same as in my case except for the biological parents, of course.  What made the judge rule in favor of my sister will almost certainly (in my mind) make her rule in favor of the birth parents in my case even though the situations are very, very different.  The attorney we would have chosen to intervene with and who made such a difference in my sister's case has now, unfortunately, already committed to be the mediator in my case, further hurting our chances to keep our kiddos forever.  In my sister's case she really was the best parent for her daughter.  In our kids' case I have serious concern (as does everyone in the case) as to whether our kids would be safe for very long if reunification happened.  I've known along every step of the way that as my sister's case goes, the opposite will probably be true of me and because we helped finance my sister's case our options to finance our own are limited.  It doesn't matter, it was the right thing to do and we believe our God is way bigger than any of these circumstances.  Nevertheless we and our kiddos could use your prayers as we prepare for mediation before the end of the year.  

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Tuesday's Tears - Just Getting By

Greetings everyone!  I miss you, I do.  The reality is life has overwhelmed me and though I check in from time-to-time to read a few blogs I have just not made the time to actually blog myself.  And, I'm struggling to come up with things to write about.  Same ol' story for you, I know...

I don't write much about my kids case.  We had a great period of time with no visits and wonderful kids and more bonding and promise of a great future together.  Then visits started again causing at least one kiddo to go into a tailspin that has taken time, patience, and a ton of emotional and physical energy to deal with.  It's sad really.  To the uninformed it looks like a kiddo who misses his birth parents and wants to be back with them but in reality its a kiddo who has been disappointed time and time again by unstable "role models" who should be there for him and provide a decent life for him and yet disappear (yet again) and reappear like nothing ever happened causing an overwhelming amount of emotion and insecurity in such a little guy who was already struggling with the last round of "abandonment" and trauma that just won't seem to go away when these people are around.  So now this little guy is full of rage and sadness that no little guy should be left to experience causing his brain to tell his body to act out with tantrums and fits because that's all he knows to do to get those emotions out and who else should be targeted with that than the foster parents who've committed to parent him for life (if that becomes an option) who don't abuse or abandon him.  So now we try to help him and all of our kiddos as much as possible without being able to confidently assure him that we too, in fact, will stay forever because there's only so much we can do to keep that promise when we don't know what the judge will say.  It's a complicated thing I'm working through here, which really just means taking it one day at a time.

(Yes, that is how I really feel).

A year ago today we arrived in Maui to enjoy our 5th anniversary trip.  Oh how we long for another Maui.

My uncle died yesterday.  Another uncle died a few months ago and a great aunt died a couple weeks ago.  Another uncle is in the hospital very ill - the family was somewhat mentally preparing for worse news on him when they received news about the other uncle's passing.  It's all sad really and yet marred by mixed feelings if I'm honest.  I'll probably be one of the few who are honest.  I'll probably be hated for it.  That's ok.  I'm sad, I really am.  I hope my family is comforted.  I hope I can be a comforting factor in all that could play out after his death.

I'm tired.  I wouldn't trade my life but I'm worn out a little bit at the moment.

I do have good news to share with you though so stay tuned until I get my act together to give it justice!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Daddy's Dream - Is it THE dream?

My husband and I do not sleep in the same bed at the same time regularly, only 1-2 times a week.  It is a rare treat when we do get to actually sleep next to each other and wake up next to each other.  It is certainly one of those things you take for granted if you get that experience all the time.  For us, it has been rare for most of our marriage.

Nevertheless I still know that we are different when it comes to dreams.  I remember every detail of my dreams.  In part it has to do with the way my memory works and in part because of narcolepsy.  My husband on the other hand rarely remembers his dreams.  We've been married nearly 11 years and I think I can count on one hand how many dreams he's told me about (and I've asked!).  Usually they're nightmares...we all have them.

When we woke up this morning he immediately said "I had the worst dream last night".  This is what he described, from his perspective:

For some reason we were staying with my dad (his childhood home).  You and the kids were all gone to a party or something and me and Baby Baby were home by ourselves.  I saw a crack in the wall and went to go check it out in the backyard.  When I looked out there I saw it was really, really stormy.  There was a lot of rain and wind.

At this point I thought he was going to tell me that I was in a car accident with the kids and we died.  But he didn't.

It was really bad, the flood waters were rising and it was getting worse.  I went to check on Baby Baby who was sleeping in (my youngest brother's old room).  I could tell the front half of the house was ripping off.  By the time I got there the bedroom was almost completely gone and half of the crib was gone.  I reached in and grabbed him just in time.

I don't know if you believe in supernatural things like prophetic dreams.  I certainly do but not to the point I think every.single.dream is a message from God himself. 

However.  In this case I wonder.

This dream precisely describes our case right now (except maybe my husband's dad's place...).  There is a fierce storm going on.  This is definitely the hardest case I've had and will be one that is fought to the end (I think).  Our kids are safe in our home for what feels like once in their life.  Our children are healing in a way that I can't describe unless you're there.  Baby Baby knows no other parents.  He doesn't.  The kids do not want to go live with their birth family.  They pray about it every night (on their own, not because I tell them to).  On Sunday, one of my children woke up and randomly asked mie "Is this the day I get to go talk to the judge?".  When I said no (where would he get that idea?) he said "awww...I REALLY WANT TO!".  They have had a couple visits canceled recently and they get excited about it.  Everyone "on the kids' side" seems to be in favor of them staying with us (and NOT going home) and the official case plan is termination with unrelated adoption.  Yet, every momentum in this case so far has pushed toward reunification.  Everything I hear from everyone involved along with the way visits have been handled and it appears the judge has leaned (though I haven't been there myself to hear it every week) is that the kids WILL be sent home.  The storm has been brewing for a while and rages on outside the quiet (!!!) safe life we've tried to setup in our home.

Last Friday I got word that something happened in the case that dramatically pushed the likelihood they'll be going home MUCH closer.   I really wish I could share more.  It left me fairly confident (though still not hopeless!) that the kids would be leaving within the next couple weeks, possibly even this weekend.  My heart has been torn in two all weekend.  Caring for these children - watching them make plans for the fall - knowing at some point when I get final confirmation I'll have to break the news that they'll be leaving and heading to a place where they don't feel safe and I don't have confidence they'll actually be safe. 

The storm continues to strengthen but now the flood waters rise and our children are in imminent danger.

Then there's the dream.  Not sure why it was just Baby Baby and not all of them.  The end was very clear husband got there just in time to save him from the storm. 

I don't know what the future of this case holds.  There is no firm, agreed to plan.  People involved are tight-lipped.  I know what I want and I feel like I know what these kids need and yet the fight is on to save them.  We're doing everything in our power but now it is not up to us.  Our hearts and more importantly these children are completely vulnerable.  It has been very, very difficult.

But in the dream....daddy saves Baby Baby.  It was the last minute.  But daddy saves him.

I learned today from folks in the case that return does not appear to be as imminent as it did on Friday.  In fact, several changes in visits and court hearings leads me to believe we've taken a few steps back from return altogether.  This information was shocking.

This journey has been described several times as a roller coaster.  This one will not be over until it is really over.  Up and down, twist this way and that, upside down, up and down. 

Father, I do hope this dream was a promise to us that you will save our babies, even if it is at the last minute, though we'd ask that you save them now before the danger gets way too close

Friday, September 20, 2013

Foster Parent Friday - Controlling Your Tongue (Part II)

Several weeks ago I became passionate about making sure I was controlling my tongue when it comes to foster care and thought I'd share my passion with you. You can find the first installment in this series here.  I'm not great at it, at all, but I'm trying and I know we can all try together.

Series Introduction
Wise foster parents often consider the impact of their actions knowing someone could be watching because in reality, someone always is and the consequences as a foster parent can be far more damaging than as a traditional parent.  This isn't about paranoia, it's about realizing that there is a legal system and a social work system and fierce emotions all wrapped up into one big package called foster care and in no way is any one of those parties interested in staying calm to investigate a situation.  And, who really wants an investigation anyway - just one more hassle that should be avoided at all costs most of the time.  Clearly this means we need to avoid prohibited things like the plague (no spanking, lock up your meds and chemicals, don't use drugs - you know, all the stuff bio-families don't have to do...) but it also means we have to watch what we say, even when it is innocent in nature and may be culturally accepted in your family or even in society.  It doesn't mean you have to become mute, but should pose a challenge if you're doing it correctly.  I have a few types of conversations/phrases in mind that you should pay attention to and will present over a series of posts.  Today we're going to talk about Negative Talk about Foster Care/The System.

The Situation: Foster care is hard.  Parenting children from hard places is difficult on its own. Then imagine wanting to plan holiday travel.  Will you go out of state for Thanksgiving or Christmas?  If you do who will come with you?  How much time can you take off because you'd have to drive all the way there because you can't buy airplane tickets not knowing which children will be with you.  Will the judge say it's ok?  Two hotel rooms or one?  You don't know these answers until up to 14 days before the trip (or less) - then you're stuck trying to FIND hotel rooms a few days before Christmas and facing $1000 (each) airplane tickets because you couldn't plan in advance.  That's just one example.  But oh wait, is the permanency hearing going to be that week?  Can you attend by phone?  What about their therapy?  Can you miss 1-2 weeks?  And which week are you going to schedule your monthly Caseworker and CASA visits?  The week before you leave when your house is torn up because you're trying to pack or the week after you get back when the kids are crazy and the house is torn up because you're trying to unpack?  Then you add in the complexity of having children bounce in and out of foster care because of laws and loopholes and all that jazz.

You get it.  Foster care is difficult.  It's fairly thankless too.  And OH how easy it is to hate the system with a passion.  When you're passionate, you want to share.  You want to tell everyone how messed up a particular county is, how judges hate CPS, how inconvenient it is to deal with all of the visits, and how hard it is to raise foster children.

Why It's a Problem: Now put on your other hat.  You're not a foster parent.  You think foster parenting is great and all but certainly not for you.  Afterall it's hard and there's those visits and the kids have weird behaviors and you can't plan family vacations.  That's what you've heard anyway.  The only real-life foster parent that you know told you so.  You will never, ever put yourself through the fire those crazy foster parents sign-up for.

Or put your foster parent hat back on.  You don't need me to tell you how difficult it is to be a foster parent.  You know it because you're living it.  So we go to coffee and spend our time chatting about how the system sucks and you can't even get away from it all to rest because doing so requires abundant coordination from the system that you hate so much.  At the end we part ways feeling a little bit closer, a little less alone in it all, but did we solve anything?  Did we encourage each other?  Did we make anything better so that when we go back home to the crazy lives we lead we're better equipped to handle it all?

Constant complaining and griping about foster care can discourage those who are meant to consider the journey and further buries us in the negative world that can surround is. 

The Solution: From James - Consider trials nothing but joy (1:2-4); Bless and don't curse (3:10-11); Pray, Praise the Lord, and Pray some more (5:13-16).

Here's the thing.  We all complain.  Sometimes we need to vent.  Sometimes we need to know there is someone else out there who has or is experiencing what we're going through.  We need to be understood.  The heart of the matter gets to our selfishness (wanting things to be our way, not dictated by the courts or the laws or other incomptent parents for darn sure!) and arrogance (we can certainly do better than THEY could do if we ruled the world). 

When I find myself complaining a lot its a symptom to mie that I'm weary and my perspective has shifted from where it is supposed to be, both of which are solved by returning to God to fill my spirit.  It's there I focus on who He created mie to be, my role vs. His, and all that is wrapped up in those two pieces.  When I'm busy focusing on God and all He has done I have less time to worry or complain about the things going wrong.  Nevertheless, even when I do have a grieving or weary or confused or frustrated heart, turning to God to purge my thoughts and feelings will be far more beneficial than turning to my relative or friend down the street.  They likely can't do anything to fix the problem but be there for us but God!  He can be there and renew our strength and actually move mountains to fix the crazy situations we find ourselves in.  It seems far more worthwhile to pray about my frustration than gripe about it with friends.

At the same time my advice from the last post still stands - we do need to speak the truth in love.  It is far different to tell a friend "It was a hard day today!  I can't understand why judge's make certain decisions" instead of "That judge is SO stupid."  Approaching the truth in love with foster parents and non-foster parents alike helps garner true support where we can get our feelings out (concerns, anger, frustration) without focusing on how everyone around us is far less superior than we are.  It still provides for foster friends to know they aren't alone while providing a safe place for non-foster friends to know the system is hard but we are real, normal people struggling through it with the help from the King of Kings.  We don't need to lie and pretend everything is sunshine and roses but our conversations with brothers and sisters should be uplifting and encouraging, leading each other closer to Christ as opposed to dragging each other down.

Finally, we do need to continue to advocate for our children either within a case or regarding The System as a whole.  This again means sometimes we need to speak the truth in love.  If something is broken we need to pray about it and then vocalize the concern in a way that is productive to the people who can do something about it.  We've all been there - think about being in line at a fast food restaurant or the bank. There's the person who stands in line griping to everyone else, rolling his eyes, and loudly vocalizing how long the line is and how slow the associates are and how this is the worst place ever.  Then there's the person who, in the same circumstances, who gets the attention of the manager, calmly expressing appreciation for what they and their team do, but pointing out that the wait has been incredibly long, offering your assistance if there is anything you can do to help the team have a brighter day (and move things along more quickly).  One brightens the room.  One brings everyone around them down.  Which one are you going to be?

I'm not great at this and if you've read my blog over time you may be thinking "Hypocrite!".  I am.  But more than that I'm someone who's trying to be better, trying to place my focus where it needs to be, trying to build up rather than tear down, and trying to be someone who makes a difference in this world in part through foster care.  And when I'm honest, focusing there rathre than on all my woes and ways I'm inconvenienced, I know without a shadow of a doubt that the blessings have FAR outweighed the cost we've paid in our journey through foster care.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thankful Thursday - Potty-Training Progress

We are not perfect parents.  At all.  We try desperately but our faults and impatience interact with the craziness that is related to losing first parents and foster care and just plain old life and it isn't always pretty. 

We have been trying to potty train Summer for 22 months.  TWENTY-TWO MONTHS.  Y'all that's almost two years and is a LONG time with what often feels like no progress.  She has accidents on a regular basis (like daily, sometimes several times a day) and doesn't seem to care.  She's about to turn 4 and is far-behind our foster child who just turned 3.  FAR behind.  She doesn't (usually) tell us she has to go and won't go on her own (usually) so we're at the stage (still) of reminding her to go every 15-20 minutes.  She still has accidents on that schedule.  Seriously.

We've tried it all.  We've tried every technique (in 2 years there has been time to give each a sufficient amount of time - that's 100 weeks!).  We've given up and let her decide when she is ready.  We have done everything except wait longer.  She does her own laundry and cleans up her own mess.  She simply doesn't care.  Potty-training resistance does not begin to describe it.  I'm at the point of thinking she either has something wrong with her medically (she was diagnosed with a urinary tract condition when she was an infant but never showed signs of it after she got proper care when she came to live with us) or maybe something like SPD.  SPD would make a lot of sense in many ways.  I'm going to bring it up at her annual physical and see what the doc suggests. 

(Thankfully, she did learn to poop in the potty and rarely has a BM accident so at least we're just dealing with that.)

I would probably be ok with waiting it out. Like with Logan and his sleep I'm absolutely sure that she will get it sooner or later or if not she can wear adult incontinence undergarments and I'd love her the same.  The problem I have is that everyone I leave her with (school, church, babysitters) are at past the point of being patient with it.  She's almost 4 and tall at that so no one believes she should be having accidents.  I get the "So what can I do to help her stay dry" everytime I drop her off somewhere.  It may sound helpful but really it sounds more like "You're a horrible parent why can't you get this potty training thing down" or "really, what is WRONG with YOUR daughter". 

I didn't mean to turn this into a rant.

I meant to write this post last Thursday.  You see, last week she had 3-4 days in a row with no accidents.  She even stayed dry during a movie at the theater when she was with my mom and even better in the middle of it she yelled "I HAVE TO POOP!" quite loudly.  I'll take what I can get if she'll just tell us she has to go, even in a movie theater at the top of her lungs. (Thankfully for my mom they were the only ones in the theater at the time).  She EVEN got a special, hand-made stamped picture note from her teacher that made a point about how well Summer had done in class that day.  She was both dry AND was nice to her friends.  Double bonus points.

Unfortunately I never got around to writing about it and how thankful I was to get that respite and the sweet sound of someone saying, for once, that she was GOOD.  When I arrived at her daycare she literally came with THREE BAGS full of soiled clothes from all of the accidents she had that day.  She also immediately threw the worst fit I'd ever seen her throw over not getting her cookie until she was in her car seat.  I think it had something to do with my mom leaving that day but still, it was aweful.  I quickly lost the motivation to be thankful for her wins earlier that week.

So today, friends, I'm pausing to celebrate the wins.  It is Thursday and my daughter has had 2 dry days this week (Monday & Friday).  She still came home from school in new outfits but she assured me (and it was obvious) that it was because she got a little carried away in centers and got wet (Monday) and spilled the sauce from snack on her dress (Wednesday).  I get frustrated when I see her in new clothes and my first reaction ends up being frustrated rather than happy to see her.  I know I own that, not her, but I know it's discouraging to both of us.  Yesterday I was initially frustrated but when taking her to the restroom I saw she was in the same underwear I'd sent her to school in and it encouraged me a little.  When she passionately told me about the accident with the sauce in her cute sentence structure and voice I was overcome with (positive) emotion.

So, all that to be said, today I'm thankful for the good days whether they're few and far between or frequent.  They help mie cope with the crap that is a fallen world  and the related effects on my family.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Working Mama Wednesday - Pondering Advice

About a week ago I sat at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas doing my annual physical.  If you ever have a chance to do a comprehensive physical, especially at the Cooper Clinic - take it.  I receive 1 per year as a benefit at work and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.  I get to see the dermatologist, get a full lab work-up, a treadmill stress test for my heart, a visit with the nutritionist, a full vision & hearing test, and finally a comprehensive examination by a great doctor.  When I say comprehensive I mean really - this guy spends about 2 hours with me during my visit.  I'd also get a few other benefits if I were older...bone density scans and mammograms and such.  It's such a treat.  It's such a different experience than the typical quick-in, quick-out doctor visit you have in the normal course of your visit.  You feel as if your doctor really is interested in what you have to say and what is going on in your life.

This is the 2nd year I was able to take advantage of this benefit and I was impressed at how well the doctor was able to make it seem as if he remembered me and my history.  He knew my kids and husband by name (of course, from notes in my file I'm sure) and was quick to point out that things had changed since last year. 

He did so by saying "Where did all these kids come from?"

Apparently last year we didn't talk about our status as a foster family.  I was in between placements when I saw him last year and I guess it never came up ( it didn't is beyond me).  We made small talk about fostering for a little bit and then he got down to it...the lecture.

I heard about someone in his life that had a really large family (more than a dozen kids), more than half of whom were adopted (vs. biological), a set of biological children that were bitter and rebeling against the whole foster-to-adopt experience because of lack of resources and parental time and feeling left out and etc., etc., etc.  There was institutionalization due to some of the horrific things that happen in foster care/adoption (and "regular" families too, by the way).  There was drug abuse/addiction.  I even heard about the tatoos.  I heard about how there wasn't enough money to send their children to college and about what a saint the dad was and about how the parents now wish (maybe) they hadn't adopted but instead fostered without adopting.

His point was that I really needed to pay attention to my "own" (what I'd rather call "core" family), especially as someone with a busy career and a husband who needs me, making sure I don't bite off more than I can chew.  When I came back after the fact he made sure to tell me if I'm going to live this life I need to make sure I take better care of myself (eating/excersizing habits) so I can endure.

I sat there listening to him not sure how to react.  Everything in mie wanted to rebut everything he was saying:
  • I don't have (more than a dozen) kids.  I have 6.
  • The state I live in (vs. the person he was talking about) only allows us to have 6 kids in my home without additional licensing processes that we have no desire to go through at this time.  6 is our max.
  • God will provide. Part of that provision is college to those adopted from foster care.  With that said 5 of my 6 kids will have college paid for - we'd have to come up with funding for 1 child.  ONE - and that's assuming college is mandatory or something.  Now, I fully support education and don't want my Ph.D. revoked but that is not THE most important thing in the world - nor is being able to setup a trust fund so my kids can go to school without working some.  Those might be goals but it isn't what drive me (and yes, I have told my kids they are going to college). 
  • God will provide, and has.  Resources are not unlimited but we have plenty of space and funds.  Time and energy are not always in abundance but God provides.  Always.
  • We've BTDT with "dangerous" kids.  I will do everything in my power to keep all of my kids safe but I refuse to live my life in a complete bubble so we're always happy and healthy and risk-free.  We put boundaries in place, try to remain vigilant, and pray.
  • ...and last but not least:
So what do we do then?  Nothing?  We sit by with our more than enough and huddle as a core family and never let anyone in and never risk being hurt and just take care of ourselves and forget everyone else?  Save our money and go on nice vacations and wear nice clothes and eat out at nice meals where people don't look like we're as crazy as the kids are acting at our table? We do all this while there are children around us that do not have a family to keep them safe?  So what, at the end of our life we can sit on the porch in some lakehouse or beachhouse somewhere by ourselves counting our money recounting all of those times we were safe together in our easy little life?  So that we can die with a lot and meet God and tell him what?  That we buried our treasure to keep it safe?

I think we know what His answer is to that...

And yet I said none of that.  Instead I sat there pondering the wisdom I could gleam from his lecture.  He is a believer and I know does have some knowledge and wisdom to share.  If God partnered us up, surely there was something God wanted me to hear from what the good ol' doc had to say.  Here's what I came up with, much of which I already knew but it was a decent reminder:
  • Keep your first things first.  He said my marriage is my primary relationship - not knowing my faith I know why he would say this and would agree if you're not counting my relationship with God, but of course I count that relationship and intellectually put it first.
  • Make sure my relationships know where they stand.  Intellectually I know to put God first but do I?  My husband is my second priority but does he always know that?  Does he take priority over my children? Do I actively appreciate him enough?  How can I bless him more?
  • Make sure my forever children know how special they are.  I don't mean this in that they are more important than fosters or that my bio is more important than my adopted.  One thing I like about foster care is it helps my children see they are not the center of the universe.  BUT, I do believe my kids need to know that they are enough, that they were fearfully and wonderfully made, and that they are worth fighting for too.  Because of the situations we find ourselves in as foster parents we often end up "fighting" for our foster children by advocating for them in the system with CASA and CPS workers and lawyers and the court.  Our family sees this "fight".  I can see how that can end up sucking our time and energy dry and leading to us taking our "easy" children for granted.  I want my forever kids to know that they matter to us and to God as much as the other children.  I want them to know they are loved for who they are and who they were created to be.  I never want any of them to feel unloved or forgotten.
  • Prayerfully consider every step.  Make sure no matter what we do we are trying to stay aligned with the will of God for each of our lives, not just having a sappy heart. 
  • Take care of myself.  This one is complicated in that I don't believe in the whole "putting myself first" thing.  I'm not first.  I'm not meant to be first.  I am here to serve.  With that in mind I do need to take care of the temple I've been given, not becoming obsessed about my health or my looks but more importantly making sure my body has the energy from the right kinds of food and the appropriate rest it needs to continue to "do the good works laid out before me".  I do need to make healthier food choices and book regular time for exercising into my schedule.  I also need to go to the doc to follow-up on my narcolepsy (found out I was allergic to my meds in 2011 and haven't gone back) and to get my eyes fixed (per my vision screening I have a rare-ish eye condition).  
We all deal with advice from others.  Have you had a situation like mine?  How did you handle it? 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Random Facts about Mie

I feel like I only blog on Tuesdays and that makes for a Tearful blog.  So, today I'm skipping Tuesday's Tears and telling you 10 random facts about Mie.  Enjoy!
  1. Most nights I sleep without a pillow.  I have a pillow - a nice memory foam one that came as a "free-gift" with my memory foam mattress.  For whatever reason at least half the nights I push it up so it stands against the wall (I don't have a headboard) and lay flat on the mattress.  When I do, I think "I should write about that on my blog as part of a "random facts about Mie" post.  Seriously - I'm not making that up.  So here it is.
  2. I took 3 years off between graduating with my B.A. and pursuing my M.S. degree.  It really would have been 2 but the month I was scheduled to start school I picked up and moved from LA to Dallas and so I had to wait another year to find a school, get into a program, etc, etc.  The REAL reason I waited 2 3 years was that I was afraid and didn't know how to go to graduate school.  God's honest truth.  I didn't know how to do it.  I didn't know how to apply, to pay for it, to pay to live while going to school and paying for school especially when I would need to move away from home (the schools I wanted to go to were FAR away from LA).  I had a full-ride offer from Stanford.  I didn't go.  I didn't know how to make it happen.
  3. I'm 31.  My hair is 50% gray.  I am starting to consider dying it gray/white and just rocking it.  BUT, my hair is long and curly.  I don't know how I could really rock long and curly and gray.  It seems it would need to be short instead and funky if I was going to "rock" anything but again my hair is curly and that would be interesting. 
  4. I'm not gutsy enough right now to do #3 so recently I had my hair dyed to buy me a little more time.  I noticed I needed to do something after our recent family pictures.  YIKES!
  5. I'm treating our current placement as if it were our last so that we'll end up with 2 or 6 children.  It kind of feels like it would as if it were my last pregnancy/child.  Mixed feelings.  I also am fully aware that just because I'm treating it that way doesn't mean it will end up like that.
  6. I added food coloring to packaged frosting to make myself believe I did something crafty for my littlest daughter's birthday cupcakes.  The fact that it wasn't homemade frosting was a real bummer to mie, both for my ego as a mom and for the taste/texture (blech).
  7. I started using the myfitnesspal app to keep myself accountable for what I eat.  I'm not significantly overweight and don't count as overweight from a BMI perspective but I'm not at a good "goal" weight either and more importantly I'm not eating healthy at all so I needed to put that on my to-do list.  My dr. & dietician both made that pretty clear.
  8. I'm currently in a battle with my son over which Bible to buy him.  We know it's time to buy him his own real Bible (instead of a preschool version).  I want him to get one that has supplemental materials in it, things like "Did you know..." and little devotionals.  He thinks that's baby-ish so he wants one that JUST has the Bible.  I'm ashamed that I've pushed back so much on that so that I haven't bought him a Bible yet.  Seriously?  I have a son who WANTS to have a Bible, a real one - get the boy a Bible already!
  9. If you're sending mie a bill, plan on sending mie more than one.  I'm not proud of it, it's just reality.  When a bill (or any mail really) comes in the mail it gets stuck on the counter and ends up in a large pile-o-papers to get to at some other convenient time.  That time never comes.  The 2nd or 3rd time I see the bill come in I take it as a reminder to pay the first one.  *hangs head in shame*
  10. I love Dt. A&W.  I only drink it when I'm at home with my parents because they keep it in the fridge.  I never buy it because I almost never go down that aisle at the store. 
So, there you have it.  10 random facts about mie. 

Please remember to support us in bringing home Miss E by donating to the cause with the donate button at the top right of my page.  Thank you everyone!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Update on Miss E & Other Random Stuff

Thank you so much to everyone who has donated generously to the "Bring Miss E Home" fund.  We're at $225 vs. the $10,000 needed for legal fees.  Please, if you can, take time to donate to bring her home.  I have personally written a check for most of the legal fees on behalf of this family.  It is not money my family can necesarily afford and basically most of it is on credit, something I don't necesarily believe in, but I tell you this to tell you how much we believe in this cause.

It is very difficult to write in vague terms and ask people for money.  I think, at this point, I can safely tell you that "my friend" is actually my sister and this child has been my niece for more than a year.  I was trying to be vague for those who know me in real life until my sister herself told more people what was going on.  In one fail swoop our lives have been very much changed.

We have received some promising news in this case in the past few days.  It seems maybe mediation will be a possibility and all parties may have agreed to mediation sooner rather than later rather than waiting for a judge's ruling.  We're hopeful this means that all parties will consider my sister's petition to adopt as a viable solution and Miss E will be back soon.  This would also be the least expensive option.

Pray for us as we go through this journey.  I've had to explain to my son what divorce is.  I have not connected the dots for him about the divorce and Miss E but the conversation about divorce broke his heart yesterday.  He sobbed.  I sobbed.  It's hard to explain something so terrible to a 6/7 year old.  I wish none of this happened. I wish I had a better explanation for him.  I wish it could all go back to normal except the issues that led to the divorce were resolved and God redeemed the situation and everyone was singing His praises about the redemptive love God provides.  Instead I see brokenness and hurt and I have to be honest with my son about how broken this world really is sometimes.  I'd rather we never had to have that conversation last night.  He's scared that his cousins will go away (imagine what that must be like for a child who has had 24 siblings with only one staying forever?).  He's scared that his mommy and daddy will divorce. 

This is all on top of the looming changes we expect in the case in our home.  Though no decision has been made in certainty, the vibe of this case is that our sibling group, including Baby Baby, will go home in the somewhat near future.  This is despite CPS recommendations, recommendations by CASA, recommendations by ad litem.  Rumor has it enough paperwork wasn't done early on or in the previous removal/case.  I don't know.  All I know is we stare down the barrel of the gun facing our lives to be turned upside down, again, in a case that doesn't look promising for the welfare of the children, knowing their expressed desire is to finally stay put and not be forced to go, again, with Baby Baby knowing no other parents or family or home than the one he's been safe at since birth. 

So there you have it.  That's where we are.  That and facing an unsurmountable legal bill that seems to have no real reason behind it.  It didn't have to happen like this.  At all.  None of it. 

It's all really confusing right now.  I have to remind myself of the truth I have learned over and over again:

Why Mie? (or Why anyone of us involved in this situation?)

Because God is God and I am Mie.  God is in charge.  He knows best.  He knows the other side of these things and can plan better than I can.  He also created mie.  He did not create mie to be God.  He created me to be Mie, strengths, weakenesses, opportunities and all.  He loves mie the way he created Mie.  He has and will continue to equip mie for the journey He has before mie.  I am faulty.  He still loves mie.  I am inferiour and yet perfect in my weakness through Him.  He has always had this under control.  He still does.  I do not but that's ok - I know He does and that's all that is needed.  In the meantime I walk one step in front of the other trusting God will provide for each step and knowing His grace will abound. 

I'm still praying for redemption, in all facets of this situation, according to His will.  Please join mie.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Please Help Bring Miss E. Home

Dear Readers and Supporters -

I am here, completely vulnerable, begging for your help.  About a week and a half ago I told you about my dear friend who lost the little girl she was about 60 days away from adopting.  This little girl is as close as my niece.  She is my children's cousin.  As a foster, adoptive, and biological mom but also as an aunt my heart is desperately grieving for this situation that is horrendously sad and impossible at the same time.  A little girl, almost 2 with birthday presents waiting for her at her home with her family, was taken away based purely on lies and technicalities.  She had lived with her prospective adoptive family for 15 of her 22 months alive.  Her 3 siblings and mother are devastated.

Yet because we serve a big God and because I still believe that things like honesty, integrity, and "what's right" will prevail, we sit today with the good potential to get Miss E. back.  Unfortunately there is a great cost.

We need $10,000 in the next few days to make this happen.  This is on-top of the $2500 that was already paid to intervene that then needed to be diverted to pay for other unexpected legal fees that then resulted in a conflict of interest to continue fighting in the intervention so now the attorney has had to remove herself from the case.  Some work had been done and we're very grateful but a lot of the synergy was lost as well - it's almost like starting over.  That and the complications of this case lead to such a high fee, to be paid, by a woman who is newly single after spending the last 13 of her 30 years parenting her children as primarily a stay-at-home mom. 

We all feel that we can't sit by and not try.  We can't look at Miss E. in heaven and say "sorry, we just couldn't afford to fight for you".  But coming up with that amount of money in such a short amount of time is impossible on our own.  We're digging deep, pulling out whatever credit we can find, but still, the reality is that $10,000 by the end of labor day weekend is huge.

Our God is bigger.

I told Miss E.'s mom yesterday that we should ask for help.  She's modest.  She doesn't think she knows enough people that will give to help her.  I said if 200 people gave $50, that would be $10,000.  She said she doesn't think she knows 200 people.  I know I have 200 people a day who read my blog, at least (usually more like 300-500).  I'm going to post on Facebook for all of my personal friends.  Something is better than nothing. 

Our God can create something out of nothing.

The next steps for the case will be an attempt toward mediation to see if something can be worked out quickly.  This must happen by 9/9 and is why we're in such a hurry.

Can you help with $50?  If not $50, $25, $10, $5, or $1?  Something? 

Please pray for all involved as well.

I've created a donation button on my page and ask that you strongly consider donating to help us get our sweet girl back.  Please share this need as well.  Miss E has been gone for 2 weeks this Friday.   Maybe bringing her home for her birthday will be the best gift yet.

(This child is in the custody of the state.  Miss E's mom was a licensed foster parent until she was removed - she was removed on a licensing technicality and based on lies told intentionally to CPS to hurt her mom after she stopped enabling someone with an addiction.  I can't share pictures or exact names, even specifics of the situation, in order to preserve the chances to bring Miss E home.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Working Mama Wednesday - Not a Saint

Someone at work today told me I "just achieved sainthood in (their) mind".  I get that fairly often when people learn I have 6 kids, especially those I work with because they know how BIG my paid job is and how much work it takes to manage it.  That's enough to make me crazy (or saintly) but if I add that I'm a foster and/or adoptive parent then it sends them over the top.

Here's the thing.  I'm not a saint.

I know some people get sensitive about sharing htat their a foster parent.  While we're all sensitive about the needs of our kids, their privacy in particular, I tend to overshare with the intent to help people see that they too could be foster parents.  Those who haven't walked in our shoes may not believe it but we're just regular people who said yes to something that (usually) blesses us at least as much as we have to give in.  We're not saints...literally the only thing that makes us different is the willingness to say yes daily.  Do we have more patience?  If we do it's only because we've developed it out of necessity.  Can we go with the flow pretty well?  Again, something we've learned from necessity.

Foster parenting is something I've learned from necessity in three aspects.  First - it was a necessity to pursue adoption (specifically from foster care) if we ever hoped to have more children than our one and only biological miracle.  Second - everything that makes me a foster parent I've learned by being a foster parent.  I didn't come into this with extra skills.  Sure I love children and I believe that this is important but the reality is that on average, foster parents start out as individuals, couples, or parents whose skills match those found in the non-foster parent population.  Third - and this one is important - foster parents are needed because there are actually, real-live children who need parents temporarily (some of them, permanently).  It's not like society looks at the foster parent rosters and says "Yep, we've got foster parents out there, let's go find some kids that need to be removed from their families for no reason".  NO!  Children are removed from their families for a variety of reasons but I can almost certainly assure you the needs of the foster parents are not at all a factor.

For anyone who thinks I'm a saint, I wish I had a camera following mie today.  Check that - no, no, I'm sure I'm glad I didn't have a brain's memory is more than enough to remind me.  I was not a nice mom.  I fought with my husband all night.  I fought with all but 2 of my kids.  I was short-tempered, easily angered, and uglier than I care to be.  On one hand, I feel justified by saying that it was just a rough day, doesn't happen often, and basically was representative of the fact that I'd hit my limit for the day.  On the other hand, that's not the mom I want to be, at all, ever.

My point?  We all have bad days.  And, I'm not a saint.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Marriage Monday - Appreciating Your Spouse

Oh I want to break my pseudo-silence on my kids' case.  Really.  I really, really want to share more details that include things like heading toward reunification despite the inability to be responsible for ones children by doing things like finding a way to stay for a whole 2-hour visit (rather than leaving after 60 minutes), securing a car seat for your infant when you have 8 months (or at least a week) to plan (and you can get one for free from the county!) and making sure you have all of your other kids car seats more than 45 minutes in advance of the visit start time when it takes you 60 minutes to drive to your visit.  Oh, and showing up on time so you actually have a visit and it doesn't get canceled.  But I can't share details like that.


The recent very sad situation relating to a close-friends marriage disaster (and subsequent CPS disaster) has had one positive effect (that we're not talking about much because it kind of trumps in comparison to the despair we all feel about the marriage and the resulting adoption disruption). 

My hubby and I have taken the opportunity to have a renewal in our own marriage in part out of fear that we would ever get to that point, in part out of a need to feel close to each other to help counteract our feelings about the situation, and in large part because we've had the chance to see how genuinely grateful we are for each other.  We're not perfect, either as individuals or as husband and wife but gosh-darnit I love my husband and I am very grateful that he loves me and our family, that he continues to try to work through his issues (and forgives me for mine), that he comes home to me every night, and that he genuinely cherishes me.  I'm a really blessed woman.

Everything changed for my friend a week ago.  In that week her world (and much of mine) came crashing down around her.  Though I hope and pray against it, the reality is that if it could happen to my friend it could happen to anyone of us. 

How can you appreciate your spouse today?  I challenge you to find a way to show appreciation for your spouse (or other loved ones - best friends, parents, etc.) because you may not get the chance again...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Say What (?!?) Sunday - A new way to sell and things you're not allowed to do as a foster parent

My hubby and I attended BIT (Behavior Intervention Training) today.  It's a required annual training class that, if you're unprepared like us, is the same class over and over again.  You could be savvy and take it through the year when it is offered by different foster parent associations or school groups and end up taking different kinds of BIT classes, but we've ended up waiting till the last minute most years which leaves us taking the formal PRIDE BIT trainiang class with the newbie foster parents-in-training.  Honestly, I enjoy that because it reminds me of what it was like to be passionate and, well, new to this whole world.  It also gives me the chance to share my experiences with people in real life.  Wahoo.

They started the class with the list of things you cannot do.  Hit, slap, pinch, pull hair - these were all things on the list.

PRIDE Foster parent co-teacher: "You can't tie them to the tree or lock them outside without water". 

I actually snorted.  Did she really need to say that?

The class got out after 2 hours - we got 4 hours credit.  WHAT!  That was awesome and we took the opportunity to go grocery shopping alone, without our kids.  Yes we did. 

While we were at Target there was this really pushy (but with Southern Charm of course) sampling lady.  She was sampling cheese puffs.  You should of heard all the things she was saying of these cheese balls.  I'm not TOTALLY against cheese balls but these were the ones in the absolutely giant container that really don't end up on my "feed the kids this semi-healthy food" list.  Once in a blue moon, if that.

As I turned the corner to another aisle I heard her say:
Sampling lady: "And look at this great art-deco container"

She was dead serious.  I think. 

Y'all - this was the same clear-package with a red lid that cheese balls already come in.  Art-deco. 

It cracked me up. 

Too funny.  She was really trying.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rough Days Ahead

Hello everyone!

You all know by now I'm not around as often as I'd like to be.  My daily hits are taking a hit and it makes me sad sometimes.  I miss you all and want to be here for you but life is busy and I've always said the thing that helps me get through is putting the right things first (a.k.a. prioritization).  The blog hasn't been a huge prioritization.

Things in the case are not going well.  This is one of "those cases" that I feel no one is going to every feel completely secure about until adoption is final (long way away if ever).  It's one of those cases where all of the classes and rules and regulations associated with a case plan seem to be followed but reunification still doesn't seem right.  It's not just a gut feeling.  Minimally I'll tell you that it involves kids not wanting to be reunified, kids getting lost on visits, arrests on visits, "mommy they didn't bring me enough food", and lots and lots of missed visits.  All of this (and more) and yet there are still no line-in-the-sand reasons to terminate. With that in mind the judge feels compelled to push for reunification even though I'm told she doesn't like it. 

That means beginning this week, baby baby will have a 4 hour unsupervised visit with bio parent #1 along with his siblings.  Due to the way visits have worked out (many missed visits), bio parent has spent about 28 hours with this child in his whole life -- that's just more than a day's worth of time in nearly 8 months.  To him, I am his mom.  His face lights up and he does a little dance when I come to pick him up.  He has no idea who his bio parents are, which is just a fact added to what I mentioned above about how the visits with the siblings were going.  It appears to me that adding baby baby is going to just make it worse.

This, apparently, may be the plan of all involved.  The phrase "if we give a longer rope they'll likely hang themselves with it sooner rather than later" was actually used to describe the situation to me.  "Hanging themselves" though means that the kids who have been working so hard to heal and have made so much progress will face something so drastic that it causes the "line-in-the-sand" where repetitive drug use, disobeying court orders, recent legal activity including arrests and warrants, inability to hold a job and/or rent, and losing your kids doesn't count as "line-in-the-sand".  In other words - someone has to physically get hurt.  Everyone agrees this will happen if/when they go home or spend more time with birth parents.  Apparently we need to stand back and let it happen.

I am devastated by all of this.  Letting "my baby" go to the visit this weekend is nearly going to kill me.  It will be all I can do to not burst into tears as I hand him over.  I honestly don't know what I'm going to do about it.  This on top of the kids being increasingly oppositional to visits so much so that at the last one two kids loudly protested with major tears and one actually held onto the shopping cart I had saying "I'm not going".  Really.  Those kids have not changed their mind since the last visit.  I try to encourage them that they'll have fun but at the same time I feel like I'm breaking their trust forcing them to go with someone they don't want to go with and I can't promise them they'll actually be safe.  This is going to be very, very hard.

I don't write about this case much because on one hand I feel the need (for whatever reason) to keep this case as private as possible.  On the other hand, I also write pages and pages of notes for the caseworkers and CASA each week.  I think I'm just spent writing about it.  I'm really hoping this all works out for them to stay but in my heart I've already prepared to lose them.  Either way, my hubby and I have talked about this being our last case.

On top of all of that this week I found out that someone close to me is going through a sudden divorce.  This person is a foster parent who was in the middle of an adoption.  Out of spite, one party in the divorce called CPS to say the other one abandoned the family (didn't happen) and they needed to come pick up the kids right away, including the child they'd INTERVENED to adopt after parenting for nearly 18 months, most of this child's young life.  Divorce is hard enough.  Ripping a child out of a family forever, not only from the parent but also the siblings who are now going through the divorce AND the loss of the sibling is reprehensible.  This child knows no other family and she is loved greatly by (one) parent and all of the siblings. 

My heart is overwhelmed with this right now.  Both situations appear to be something that cannot be fought and won.  Hopeless is the right word in this situation.  And yet - we serve a God who is all powerful and good.  He is here, in this situation, loving all of his children through this pain.  The situation is not hopeless for He who holds the world in His hands.  I pray somehow this situation is turned into something that brings great glory to God and in the meantime I can comfort and be comforted.  Amen.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Thankful Thursday - A hodgepodge

There are so many things I'm thankful for today.

  • Dual air conditioners to keep part of our home cool while the other part waits for a unit to be fixed.
  • Approval to take one of my kids off the anti-psychotic they were placed on before coming to my home.  Life is easier now in so many ways, including for this child to control behavior.
  • Getting my dissertation edits done!  It's a long story but I finally submitted my final final final (...) draft to the graduate school so I can be done.  They've already put a hold on my transcripts because it took so long to get them done but in all reality they took 4 months to get the requirements back to me in time and I had to move on with my life.
  • Getting other work-related stuff done that was hanging over my head.  YAY!
  • A supportive FAD worker who provides encouragement and support.  Our last FAD worker was good but left us alone, something I'm also thankful for. This one is more involed but provides good feedback and is easily relatable.
  • All of my kids - they really are wonderful and are all growing and making progress in their lives.  I love them even when the actions required to care for 6 children can be draining.
  • Understanding family and friends.  Our kids are not always good.  We're not always the best parents.  People who understand and provide support are a huge help.
  • Allergy medication.  One of my children was bit on his sensitive man area and it is now swollen like something I've never seen before.  Doc says put allergy medicine on it and take allergy medicine.  I'm thankful I have all 3 of the ones she recommended.
  • My hubby who continues to work on our family and marriage after all these years, being patient with me as I too grow up. 
  • My new shoe club memberships.  Totally frivolous and unnecessary but very much a fun break from life as a working mama.
  • Progess in my childrens' cases.  They deserve permanency.  Their cases have been going for nearly 8 months.  Please God bring them permanency with us soon.
Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Working Mama Wednesday - But I Don't Wanna...

I work a lot.
I could definitely work more.
I probably should work more.

I've found myself thinking a few times that I need to expand my career into a new branch in an effort to expand my relevance and build up for an even higher-level position.  This is an odd thing for me to think about because even though I work very hard and have had great success so far I have never considered myself uber career-oriented.  In other words, I'm not the person who says I need to be the VP of X before I'm 35 - I've never really been that person.  Instead, I've always been the person who says I want to do the absolute best with the most impact where I'm at.  Period.  But nevertheless I've found myself thinking about this new opportunity that, by-the-way would likely be volunteer and in addition to my current more-than-full-time job.

Here's the thing.  At my company, position, and level, I don't have many peers that are in the same life-stage I'm in.  I'm easily the youngest person at the same pay-grade or at least it's very close.  Everyone else is older than me, most with kids raised and gone or in the final years of high-school. OR there's the men who have young kids with SAHMs at home.  Let's face it - empty nests and parenting teenagers is a much different parenting experience than parenting preschoolers and young schoolers, especially when those young kids are young and there's SIX of them.  (I literally have to remind myself frequently that I have an infant!!! Of course I'm tired!). 

My point is, the things that my peers are doing (in their careers) tend to be those things I'd associate with empty nesting.  I hear them saying (in my mind) "Now that the kids are grown..." and "Now that the kids are older..." "...I can finally do (insert career growing thing here)".  It's a sort of peer-pressure kind of thing.  Frankly, they weren't likely in the same position when they were my age or when their kids were the ages of my kids and I can't think of a single one that has 6 kids (or 24 really). 

I found myself thinking "someday the kids will be out of the house and then I'll be able to do these things", as if I actually want my kids to grow up and move out of the house.  It's kind of like the "someday I'll get to sleep through the night" thing while you have an infant.  But really, I don't want that.  Sure, I'd like life to be easier and physically less exhausting.  I'd like to have a shorter to-do list and get back to my hobbies.  I'd like to have a clean house.  I'd like to get back into exercising.  But I DO have an infant.  And an almost 3-year-old girl whose just getting the whole "terrible twos" thing.  And an almost 4 year old who's still in pull-ups because I gave up on potty training and who has more than enough spunk for THE ENTIRE WORLD.  And a 5-year-old boy almost ready to start kindergarten on medication for behavioral challenges who has huge potential to heal but needs a big enough role now.  And a 6 year old girl who's great but needs support in many ways.  And my super-duper 6 year old son who thrills my heart but needs his mommy to get through the life we lead. And 2 dogs that shed all over my house leaving tumbleweeds made of fur.  And a hubby who works a different schedule than the normal 9-5 leaving me alone with all of those kiddos every.waking.moment when I'm not phsyically at the office.  That all makes it pretty difficult to do all that stuff my peers are doing "for their career" or even just to take a shower more than 2x a week.

Yep - I'm a mom.  I like it that way.