Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day Musings

I'm sitting here Monday morning, deeply processing motherhood.  I'm tired, I'm worn-out, and if I'm honest, I'm sad a bit (or a lot...yes, I'm sad "big").

I'm not the type to have expectations.  I don't like receiving gifts because I fear hurting the feelings of those who gave them to mie if I don't have the perfect reaction.  I don't like expecting lest I get disappointed when things don't come.  I'd rather just go-with-the-flow and I've become very content with that motto.  It's helpful in my world too as I'm better able to cope with the next bit of crazy constantly thrown in my life.

But when I'm honest...

Life parenting 6 kids, 5 of whom are from hard places (and the 1 born to mie has been through hard things), is hard.  I have 1 compliant child and that's only because he's still a baby (but a really "good" baby!).  Ok - here's the run down:

Numero 1 - Logan - my first born, super-intelligent, strong-willed son who's equally sweet and caring as persistent and competitive for my affection.  He needs to feel he's special, which is complicated by the fact he has 5 younger siblings.

Numero 2 - K - The oldest of her sibling group, she's also super-intelligent and yet her traumatic past tricks her into acting remedial at times to be sure she's not going to lose favor if she makes a mistake.  She feels the need to compete with Numero 1 constantly, has trouble believing she can be "good" if Numero 3 is not bad so she quietly eggs him on repeatedly, and she's a great helper.

Numero 3 - Big E - The middle boy, only a year behind Numero 1 & Numero 2 yet stuck at the age of trauma to a large degree making him revert back to a toddler/preschooler when stressed.  He's one of my Sensational Kids but he's fought very hard to heal to the place he's at now where he's no longer having violent fits of rage lasting for hours.  He does, however, have bad times most days where he just can't get out of his self-preservation mode long-enough to correct his behavior.  He's a challenge, this one, and his behavior is the primary reason the siblings weren't allowed to come live with us for so long last year.  That being said he's made HUGE strides and I'm very proud of him.

Numero 4 - Summer - Oh Summer.  My heart aches for this little girl.  She's incredibly artistic and beautiful but as my second Sensational Kid she struggles to adapt to the world around her leading to strong defiance, frequent melt-downs (like you'd see in a 2 year old even though she's 4 1/2), and developmental delays in significant areas (potty training).  This all blossomed around 3 years old, well after a year after we adopted her, and significantly hinders the joy in her life.  She irritates her siblings on a daily basis and doesn't seem to comprehend what she's doing half-the-time (yet she does...).

Numero 5 - Miss L - The youngest girl, only a year younger than Summer.  She's the girl everyone sees as "so sweet" and she is, sometimes, but as the 5th youngest in the family has become a fighter to get attention.  It's completely age-appropriate and why I believe I wasn't made to be a mother to 3 year old girls.

Numero 6 - Baby Baby - Not really a baby anymore.  He's walking and talking and still a joy to be around for now.  He always wants to go outside and tells us so.  He's also just beginning to tell us no and throw mini-tantrums.

6 kids, ages 1-7. It's hard.  Having one is EASY.  When we break them up into 2 or 3 it's still EASY.  Like piece-of-cake we're totally great parents easy.  We have all the right parenting skills.  They work when the kids are alone or in small groups.  But goodness gracious when the kids are all together is it hard.  Really hard.  It doesn't help that momma is usually by herself taking care of them all.

Let me give you an example.

Yesterday, for mother's day, I decided to take the kids to a movie at a place where you eat food while watching the show.  I wanted to treat them.  I really do love them a lot and actually this type of place is a nice break usually but this one seemed to not hold the younger ones' interests well and was 2 1/2 hours long which meant I spent a lot of energy keeping them all content.  It didn't help that #4 was in trauma mode all weekend and needed the extra level of parenting.  This movie meant our normal Sunday routine was a bit out-of-sorts and our normal Costco trip was 3 hours later than usual.  It started out by #4 being in time-out outside of the store (with a game of I Spy for the others) for about 20 minutes while he got himself together. We had to wait in-line to return something we bought last week that was too small and you know, lines and 6 tired kids don't go well to begin with.  The kids held it together for the most part though #4 was testing boundaries a good deal.  Then #5 decided she'd had enough.  I for the life of me can't remember what she was doing now but she ended up in her own time-out.  She needed to sit where I put her (which happened to be at the end of a "quieter" aisle) for 3 minutes calmly before she could get up.  But she had none of it.  No matter what I did, for 20 minutes, she had none of it.  Of course everyone there thought she was being so mistreated because she's a cute 3 year old crying in the middle of Costco.  (thankfully after they realized I was there watching her and what was going on they encouraged me and left her alone).  Eventually I had to put her into a cart to help her calm down and she complied, for 2 aisles.  By this time the other 5 were done with her shenanigans and it was all I could do to try and keep them together while getting out of the store.  After being told no, we now don't have time for a sample from that vendor, #5 decided she was going to throw another tantrum and kicked and screamed on the floor, which meant another time-out.  This time she faced backward in a cart for the rest of the trip (because she wasn't getting it together) and we headed out of the store at which point #3 decided he was going to push the shopping cart against the way I was pushing it so he didn't have to go home because he didn't want to take a nap when we got home.  I gave him his choice and he chose to go in the cart so that's where he ended up on the way to the car.  He had to sit in his time-out until he controlled himself for 6 minutes and he didn't have any of it.  So, he walked around hitting and kicking the car, throwing sticks at it, doing everything to get a reaction out of me rather than doing what he was supposed to do.  I stuck to my guns and we all "had fun" in the car while he got himself together.  I genuinely smiled when he started picking up all the sticks and sat for 6 minutes nicely when he was done with the fit.  By this time it was 5pm.  Church at 9, a 2 1/2 hour movie, and a Costco trip had taken us 8 hours due to frequent behavior checks.  On mothers day.  By myself.

When we got home I sent the more out-of-control kids to separate rooms for 30 minutes and told them all for Mother's Day mommy needed a 30 minute break.  I was tired.  I worked my garden and sat outside nicely, in peace, while my hubby who was now available manned the quiet (of course) fort.

When it came time for dinner I had my choice and oh was it a dilemma.  To go out to eat and face more of the antics I'd had all day or stay home and make my own dinner (with the chaos at home).  My hubby wanted me to chose but really it was too hard.  All I wanted (my blasted expectation) was a good, fun, peaceful time with my kiddos. I  wanted to enjoy them.

Don't get me wrong.  There were plenty-of-things-awesome during my day yesterday.  Numero 1 woke up and immediately apologized sincerely for his behavior the night before.  They all immediately showered mie with love in the morning even though daddy wasn't there to remind them.  I loved watching the two oldest thoroughly enjoy the movie we'd watched in wonder.  The parenting techniques worked and I was patient and kind through them.  (and they worked!!!).  My hubby bought mie the only thing I wanted, even though I'd forgotten to tell him what I'd wanted and he didn't know I needed one.  I heard from both sets of birth parents wishing mie a happy mother's day.

And finally - dinner was a success.  It was pleasant.  It was a lot of work like 6 kids at a restaurant is a lot of work but it was pleasant and fun, not crazy.

I'm exhausted from this parenting gig.  It's worth it and I look forward to the days to come but I'm still tired.  This phase will pass and someday my hubby and I will be sitting around wondering what-the-heck we're supposed to do with all the calm and quiet.  I know that day is coming.  But today I'm in the trenches of motherdom and it's often a hard gig.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Foster Parent Friday - The "Dreaded" Homestudy

Q: What is a homestudy?  And what happens at a homestudy?  And what should I be prepared for?  And what questions are they going to ask?  And where are they going to look?  And...

A: Come on y'all - you've all been there right?  At least if you've gone through the licensing process for adoption and/or foster care, if you're in the process now, or if you've considered becoming licensed you've most definitely wondered about this nebulous and seemingly doom-ridden homestudy.  All the fear is absolutely justified when you consider that your homestudy is a major piece of the licensing process and usually one of the last steps before you get licensed (and start opening your home to kids).  I'll also say it's absolutely worth the fear that it produces in that typically the mystery and angst associated with a pending homestudy probably makes you prepare enough to "pass".

When we were going through the licensing process the homestudy gave me the heebie jeebies.  In truth I'm one of those recovering Type A & perfectionist personalities that needs to get everything right and ace every test.  When we went through classes we'd get a piece of paperwork to complete and I'd make copies and write and re-write it over again so I'd have nice, neat handwriting to go with my well-thought-out and complete answers.  I'd also usually do it the same evening when we came home from training so it was done well in advance of the due date.  I was baffled by the others in our class who failed to turn in paperwork on time and were repeatedly warned they had to do so before getting dropped from the licensing process.  My brain just couldn't fathom that level of (fill in the blank...irresponsibility, casual approach, etc.) when such a serious thing was on the line.

Throughout the licensing process I tried to find as much information as I could about the homestudy and the only thing I could ever find was that it wasn't a big deal.  I kept reading that it wasn't a "pass/fail" evaluation as much as it was an understanding of our home to be able to identify the best-fit when foster children needed a family.  I repeatedly found people who said they'd ask personal questions and maybe it would feel intrusive but it was harmless.  I found people who said to be tidy but not to worry about cleaning out every crevice.

People kept trying to tell me all would be well but I just couldn't believe them.  This big scary thing was in the way of my family's future so how could I not take it seriously and worry about it?  I cleaned and I worried as a bad housecleaner I wouldn't be good enough.  I thought about everything in my past, in my family's past, in my marriage, that may need to be discussed and how would I phrase it to be honest and yet not get myself disqualified.  My grandmother passed away the week of my homestudy and I fretted about how to respond about how that death in my family would disqualify our home from moving forward in the licensing process.  It was awful.  I did all that I could do and then hoped it would be enough.

I'm not going to be able to provide you with much more detail than that, at least not here because it's not really the point of this post (but email mie if you do have questions because I'd be happy to give the answers I have!).  What I wanted to point out today is how things have changed since those days so long ago.

We had our second adoptive homestudy on Wednesday.  You need to have an updated homestudy completed before you can adopt.  The updated study looks at how your family started out (likely provided in the original homestudy) and then expands on that to discuss how your family is with your future adoptive children to determine how the adoption will impact the family dynamic.  We've been here once before and the main thing to keep in mind is that this means we're getting closer to adoption!  WOOHOO!!!

What I found so fascinating in doing this second adoptive homestudy was how different it was than when we went through the process as foster parents.  For real - this time around we scheduled our homestudy on the most convenient day for us, which happened to be the same day our baby had surgery so we'd slept for 4 hours the night before and spent the morning at the hospital before the caseworker came over.  We hadn't cleaned at all in most of the house.  The only cleaning we did was in the kitchen to get rid of dirty dishes and really only that because we had the time.  A few minutes before she was supposed to arrive I dumped out 3 baskets full of unmatched socks and played the matching game with my husband while we waited for her to arrive.  I didn't have on any makeup and I wasn't wearing anything remotely nice.  When she finally arrived I doubt I had any shoes on and my baby had blood coming out of his ears (from his surgery).  We chatted in the kitchen for a while.  At some point I got a snack out and started eating while talking to her.  We even had a neighbor kid ring the doorbell to come play and I let him in to the backyard.  During our homestudy.  Toward the end my husband went outside to repair the backyard fence.  I had to discipline one of my difficult children and didn't bat an eye.  Although I cared about the result of the homestudy I had ZERO concern about the process itself.  I didn't feel the need to impress anyone and I didn't prep for it.

So, if you're nervous about your first homestudy good.  You should be as it will make you take this process seriously and this is a serious process.  Just try to remind yourself that once you get over this hurdle someday, if you're blessed to go through it again, you probably will look back yourself and think hmm...what was I so worried about back then?