Friday, March 17, 2017

Update on C housing and Interviews

Ok, can I just say and "yahoooo!" and a "wheeeeee!" 

I picked C up from visit yesterday and was met with her dad saying, "We'll have a move-in date on the 21st." Now, I know, that does not mean, "We'll have an apartment on the 22nd and can take C on the 27th (first day of spring break)." But it puts my heart at rest that the 'but onlys' are going to be calmed way down in a week. And anxious at the same time because ummm, hello, time just can't move fast enough.

Back when I told DHS in February that C needed a new placement at spring break I was not joking. I also didn't know how much I would need her to have a new placement at spring break. I honestly thought I could possibly go all the way to June - or at the very least - May - since headstart gets out in May. But you know what? No. Spring Break with the possibility of a two week window if dad gets his move-in date as middle of April. But three weeks. No, that's just too long. 

I checked in again with them the beginning of March - a quick e-mail to let them know I was still very serious about C having a new placement and if there was any word out there about where she could be going. Which was also about the same time that we found out Dad could possibly have housing. So it's been in limbo since. And because DHS works in crises mode as it is - one emergency to another - it would be silly to expect them to have a home already lined up for C. Which has also made me humbly patient because even if DHS works in crises mode - they seem to follow through with everything, even if it's last minute. So I just need to patiently wait for my hour. It's out there. Just not on the same day of the month as I think it should be on. 

And an update on Steven's interview stuff - because let's be honest - I really wanted to be looking for a house and moving to another city around spring break time, too. Well, honestly, back in January, but I will take what I can get. He's had 9 interviews so far. One in Utah, a handful in Oregon and a handful in Washington. Probably more in Washington than in Oregon. Just because that's where the openings are. We aren't picky and the only one I have told him to not apply for was in Idaho. I refuse to go back to Idaho after having done my time of college there. Unless it's Boise. Then I will think hard - but really - I hate Idaho's guts with a passion. 

His last one was for Spokane. 6 hours from where we are right now. Which seems like a little too far. That's a full day's drive. With a new baby coming and all the changes that will bring, I really wish we could be closer to family. And I was pretty dead-set against wanting to want Spokane, too. It's pretty far north and seems like it's got a lot of nothing around it and then - bam - there it is in the middle of nowhere. A little like Boise. After looking up some photos and looking at house prices I decided it would be an ok place to land and I may actually be really hoping for this one. We'll find out tomorrow, and I guess if there's no word about it after this post, you'll know it didn't work out. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Counseling Homework

From the counselor this week:

As far as what to work on...
1. Practice mindfulness calming exercises with her. On a simple level, this includes sitting and noticing or observing your surroundings. On a more complex level it would be you looking up some mindfulness exercises on pinterest or I can give you some. If you can pick a consistent time that would be great, but maybe once a day. All your kids can be involved. There is a great website called gonoodle that has some calming exercise but also self-regulation and confidence boosting activities. She gets trinkets for a little character for finishing challenges. 

2. Use of encouragement vs. praise. I notice she gives up easily on tasks and perhaps this is due to high anxiety. I was hoping you can use statements like you are working hard, you figured it out, you are trying to figure out how that works, you are determined, you've got it, you know how that works. That may boost her internal motivation vs. relying on external motivation. 

I do think the play therapy is helpful in the sense of her having complete power, and control. I see these themes in the play and that tells me she needs to have that experience to find balance. 

I hope this helps.

My reply:

Yes! Thank you for the things to work on. I have meant to work more on the mindful exercises that you showed us last time you were here. But, as it seems with some things, without direct orders and the need to report back, it slips. We'll do that this week. 

And encouraging words. Yes, that is do-able.

Giving more choices. This is definitely my weakness. For sure. I've been taking a love and logic class and while the first few sessions seemed redundant of PCIT (and I liked PCIT better) and some other things - we finally hit the section about choices and I think that has made it easier for me. Not perfect, but easier. I thought choices had to be very concrete and something that I could not all the way predict - breakfast (although she gets no choice here because she eats at head start), what to wear (Which is the absolute HARDEST thing for me to let go. I care too much about appearance. Not something I am willing to let go) but through the love and logic class I learned a trick. To just throw choices in all the time about every day stuff. Are you going to choose to wear your coat out the door or carry your coat out the door. Do you choose to wear your hair down or in a braid today. Do you choose to read books on the couch with me or in your room by yourself. Do you choose to put your things away now or in two minutes. (THIS one has been amazing. Because really - I used to always just say, "two minutes and it's time to put it away" and now I can say "You can choose to do it now or in two minutes" and she always chooses two minutes, which is what I am accustomed to and life doesn't change any - except for an added half sentence. And that counts as a choice, right? Should I be wording these differently, though? If PCIT taught me anything, it taught me the power of the right vocabulary and the change that one word can make in a sentence. Back to our days of, "The train is on the track." vs "You put the train on the track."

In other words:

We've had a pretty ok week. Nothing huge and earth shattering. We did go to Steven's grandparents' house and the three of them were running around like crazies. C has a tendency to take things 2 steps further and over-do it. She bumped into a wall a couple of times and got too rough with Talmage so she had to sit in a reclining chair for about a hour while we waited the visit out. I was just drained too much to do all the re-directing that I so often do. She did a really good job of keeping herself contained and complained a little bit but could understand when I told her that she was not controlling her body the way that she needed to and I was done talking about it. She can do these things that are expected to her, if the standards are there and held. She's an amazing girl.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Current Things being made into Memories

A few memories for Talmage;

Talking has come slow and not too painful (only because Talmage isn't easily frustrated and can expertly try a new way of showing me what is up when I don't understand the first time.) But so slow. Slow enough that we will need to see a speech pathologist when he turns three. Because apparently that is the magic number for problems to show up and be legit.

For example, today he was trying to tell me that he fell down in the bathroom. He came out after the thud, holding his bum and saying "ow" and I played a little bit dumb and asked what happened. He repeated his "ow" and bum holding and when I insisted I didn't understand he did a great mock-up of running, sliding, and coming down on his bum. Smart one, this one is.

Last week I was laying the girls' Sunday clothes out for them. Dress, sweater, tights and Talmage held up the tites and 'tite' after one of the girls had referenced them. Later that evening I was giving him a hug and he said, "tight" and then later on in the week he couldn't get the lid off of something and again said, "tight". Weird word with multiple meanings - but he gets it.

Steven's favorite right now: Practicing the vowels A, E, O, U - every time U comes up, Talmage comes back with, "No, me!" after saying each vowel before perfectly.

My mom's favorite right now: Steven trying to get across to Talmage the "me" and "you" without Talmage saying, "No, me!" - he finally got it to work one evening and was so excited to show my mom while she was watching the kids while we went to mutual.

Steven: Here Talmage, show Nana what we've been working on.
Talmage: *Crickets*
Steven: "Like this," pointing to himself, "Me, You." Pointing at Nana, "Me, You."
Talmage: "No!" Pointing to himself, "Me!" Pointing at Nana,  "Nana!"

And goodnights. He won't sleep without Steven being home. It's mostly me, too. I just love my time with this precious one too much. His loyal, quiet ways and when he gets out of bed for the 5th time I just don't have the heart to put him back in. My hard ways of the bedtime routine have begun to be softened. We do a ritual of "This is the Church" with the hand motions before I shut out the light for him. I don't know why he loves it so much, but he was the one that insisted it be done and so it has become tradition.

A few memories for Alaska:

She loves this baby. LOVES the baby. She is always hugging and kissing on my belly and telling me how much she loves "the little one".

We started doing some reading today. I bought an USBORNE reading library that is supposed to teach kids how to read. It has taken me forever to a) get it out of the box and b) get it out of the plastic wrap. But we started today and it was absolutely amazing to see her light up when she read that first sentence all by herself. Different than all the teaching of reading that I have done in the past. I guess that is one of the powers of having your own child. I did a lot of reading with one of my brothers and I never got the same thrill when he got a word as I did when Alaska got a word. It's amazing.

Her favorite part of school today was making a paper airplane.

And this girl's cutting! She's as good as I was in like, 2nd grade. She can substantially be relied upon to cut straight lines when given a line to cut on and has successfully cut out an Elsa figure from her coloring book, expertly going around the hair and the outstretched arm and the dress - the whole thing was pretty awesome looking.

The new baby:

Squirmy little guy. The ultra sound was weird last week - seeing him move around in there but not feeling him because of that front-loaded placenta.

Squirmy little guy has me absolutely freaked out. All the energy this promises.

And, speaking of the front loaded placenta - call it weird - but he has gotten much stronger this past week and I can feel him pushing through it. And he must be kicking something fierce because I feel him inside, kick out and then I feel the placenta or whatever bounce back in and it takes my breath away a little every time. And not in the "that's so cute" way. But in the like for real, "Oooff" way and it's not so comfortable. On my left side, where the placenta is not, I can feel him kick out - but there's no retaliation of bouncing back. Weird things are going on.

Baby number three - not the same picnic as the other two, that's for sure. As much work as a newborn is, I am really ready to not be pregnant anymore. Being pregnant was never what I loved before - but this go around it is becoming something that I absolutely detest. Having three other kids just makes for a tired person - all of the time. And not the kind of tired that a nap takes care of. It is an all around 'worn out'. Thank goodness for the reward of an 18 month old eventually. Which I have decided is my favorite age.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Where the Anchor Lands Guest Speaker

Guest speaker #2. Like I said. I read a lot of entries to help me come to peace with my decision to say goodbye and searching for a sense of community that I have only scratched the surface of. This website has become a book that I pick-up and open a few times a day - reading until my mind is full and I need time to think and then coming back for more. 

I have been going to foster parent support group each month. These foster parents. They are wonderful people. Full of good. Full of strength and understanding nods. As unique as each of our situations are, there is always a spine of similarity running through our experiences. 

My first meeting I was so overwhelmed. Here were people who had been doing this for ages. Who were so good at what they were doing. Who were embracing the hard and then giving praise to Heavenly Father for the strength to get through. And I guess that's the part where I aspired to be so much like, and also is appearing to be the hardest to do. I work my buns off. Practice, practice, practice, but I forget the power of prayer that could be mine if I would just take the time to tap into it. Maybe in this next month. That can be my personal goal. To be someone who is grateful and indebted for their relationship with their Heavenly Father. If it is the strength that I most admired in all those people that have become familiar faces, I am sure I can develop it, as well. 

Where The Anchor Lands

You will hear a lot of talk about dropping anchors around here. It’s the call of this crew of mamas when the going gets tough… “Drop anchor and pray for daylight.” Pray you don’t go under when the world is falling apart around you, pray that your hope stands firm in the face of trial or simply pray you make it through the night when words fail you and the most you can offer up is tears. Honestly, most days that’s all you have because foster care is hard and it will break you in ways you never imagined. However, unlike those sailors on that ship with Paul, we know better than to put our hope in anchors. We know that when we take our “soundings”—court’s coming and it doesn’t look good, the kids are suffering some unknown and we don’t have the answers, everything is pointing to the bittersweet goodbye—that we don’t have to place our hope in metal and shifting sand. Instead we drop anchor (put our hope) into better things, things that don’t just steady us in the storm, but change the storm completely…
We drop anchor into community and not some shadow of community, but real people pouring their hearts into loving each other and others. Flesh and blood people who understand your suffering or at least know enough to just sit with you in it. Community that prays alongside you when that fearful night comes and you find yourself about to go under.
We drop anchor into His word. His word that heals and strengthens, makes darkness light and gives us feet fit for walking on waves or navigating deep oceans.
We drop anchor into the beautiful…into sweet smiles and infectious giggles; into simple pleasures like bath time, lullabies and cooing babies. Into moments where the hard to reach teen finally reaches for you, or the family that seemed lost suddenly finds itself whole. Into sun on your face or rain on the roof. Into sunrises and sunsets. Into hope-soaked, kingdom things.
Most importantly though, we drop anchor into Him, the game changer, the storm tamer, the heart refiner, the hope for those that find themselves on stormy seas in and out of foster care. Truth is if you’re a foster parent for any of length of time the day will come when you will have to drop anchors and those anchors will most likely be made up of tears, raised fists and breath that was knocked out of you. However, it’s really not important what your anchor is made of, but rather where the anchor lands.

Choosing to Love Guest Speaker

We'll call this our guest speaker. This is the post that gave me so much strength, made my emotions rise to the top and whisper, "me too."

Choosing to Love

We got the call a few days before Christmas. For once, my Christmas shopping was done and we were preparing for a pretty stress-free holiday. Our last placement had been 9 months prior and the daily anticipation of a phone call from our agency had long since passed.
When we heard about a little girl who needed a home, we immediately said yes. We began the mental lists and “to do’s” of what were immediate needs for her and what we would need to roll through the holidays with another addition to our family. We excitedly picked up this sweet girl and walked into the unknowns that come with being a foster parent.
She was such a happy toddler. Our kids loved playing with her. She had such a sweet spirit and such pretty blue eyes. She won the hearts of everyone who met her.
Except mine.
I struggled to connect with her. At all. With our previous placements, it took a while to feel as though I had a healthy bond with each child. One took longer than the other, but eventually it happened.
But with this sweet blond-haired, blue-eyed sweetheart, daily life was such a battle. I was told she didn’t eat. Ever. But she loved food. She would stretch up on her tippy toes to grab any food that was within reach. She dumped countless bowls of food and cups of water on her face. It wasn’t that she was denied food in her home, she was just given it whenever she desired. Her lack of interest at meals was actually a lack of hunger. So we eventually stretched out the snacks, and she began eating her meals.
But finishing her string cheese and not being given a second could send her into a 45 minute tantrum.
It appeared as though she had never heard the word “no.” The meaning of it had never been taught. She didn’t speak yet and her known ways of communicating were through whining, shrieks and full-on tantrums.
Weeks and months passed, but the more time went on, the harder I found it to be near her.
She made lots of progress! She began signing and even learned new words. Her fits lessened and she began to understand life in our house, and we began to understand her more.
But my heart still struggled.
Love is a choice. I had to make a decision to choose to love her. I may not enjoy her—and she might even annoy me—but love is a choice, and this little girl deserved it.
Everyone deserves to be loved.
I had to mentally, physically and emotionally choose this daily.
There were days I was just done. I cried a lot. A lot of my ugly reared it’s head. I remember feeling that I had moved past being selfish about my time. I finally understood that my time and my priorities were mixed up with what God’s priorities were. But I still had moments where if I had to bend over and pick up another water spill I might snap.
Most people didn’t understand. After all, isn’t that what foster care is all about? Isn’t this what parenting is all about?
In the midst of it all, I asked these question many times.
Is this working? Can I do this for another month? Another year?
I battled in my heart for weeks. Am I being selfish if I tell the agency we are done? Am I failing her? Am I one more person who has let her down? Abandoned her?
In the end, we learned more about her case and did decide it was best to speak up and have her moved to a new home. She deserved to be in a home where she would be given more one-on-one attention. She craved it, and this mama couldn’t give her what she needed.
I packed up her things with probably a little more excitement than I cared to admit at the time. A few weeks later I dropped her off at the agency, where her new foster mom was waiting, and it got a little more real. And as I pulled away, the tears began. I sobbed off and on all day.
The inward battle was so real. Here I was, trying to help and protect children, and I failed her. Again. But I also knew that as her foster mom, by not being able to give her the love she deserved, I was also failing her.
Love is a choice. I had to choose to love her. I was exhausted, emotional and so frustrated I could scream. But it was a choice.
A choice that I didn’t make well.
I felt a lot of guilt for weeks afterwards. Maybe I just wasn’t cut out to be a foster mom.
I worried other people would think we just gave up. That we didn’t “like” her enough, or that we just aren’t cut out to be foster parents. “Isn’t this just normal toddler behavior?”
Recognizing that for one reason or another, I couldn’t bring myself to show this child love, and deciding to move her to a home that could provide that was the best decision for us all.
We almost closed our home. I even told our caseworker that we would be on hold for a while. I was done. I had too much fear that the same thing would happen with another child.
But as I looked back on the time she was in our home, I realized two things.
First, that love IS a choice. I wish I could say I powered through and chose to love her even when it was hard. Even when I didn’t want to love her; when I daydreamed about how much easier life was before she came. But rather than working on changing my heart and celebrating the daily successes, I let those daydreams distract me from the child in front of me—a child who desperately wanted to be loved.
Secondly, I realized if I was not able to bring myself to that place of loving when it was hard, that it was more loving to let her go. I’m not saying it’s loving to give up when you know you should try harder, but what I realized was that it wasn’t fair to this sweet girl who deserved so much more than I was choosing to give her. Some days, it was selfishness on my behalf. Other days it was desperation. But overall, I knew it was the right thing to do.
Although it’s hard for me to admit, I do not miss her. I still wonder about her. I still pray for her. I still wish that I had done things differently, but somewhere in my heart I knew she wasn’t meant to be ours. And that brings me peace.
As time went on, we decided not to close our home, but take a break. A few weeks later we talked about opening for respite. A few weeks after that we decided to open our home again. It was scary, but we took that step.
And guess what? This time it was different. We all fell hard this time for the sweet child who came into our home. Love came easier this time. And yet, there are still days when that selfishness still creeps in, and I have those “what if’s.” But just as each child is unique, so are the parents who parent them. And sometimes children may come into a home that just isn’t the right fit. Sometimes you won’t even be able to put a finger on the exact reason. And that’s ok. You are not a failure as a foster parent and recognizing this doesn’t make you another failed relationship to the child. You are a part of his or her healing, even if just for a moment. Love is a choice, and at the end of the day, choosing to love a child will never be a mistake.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Internal Search

I've been doing a lot of internal searching. For what, I wasn't all that sure. But when I found it - I knew. And it filled me to the top and made me cry all over the place.

I started with typing into google search "Foster parent blogs" and came across a few and wasn't super intrigued and then found what I was looking for in It was exactly what I had been looking for that I hadn't known I had been looking for. A lot of fluffy, happy stories about the ending of a story of foster care turned into adoption. And I was wondering why the heck are there so many of these. And then realized, people write and talk about the extra-ordinary. People take photos of the extra-ordinary. These are written and recorded because they are extra. They are miracles. So many placements end in the child going to back to a mediocre, just barely good enough, home. A 'safe' home - nothing more. These stories that end in a happy adoption story after a couple of years in the system are miracles and stories that people like to share.

Nestled down on page 8, though, was the story that will continue to give me strength, so long as I can keep my wits about me. And by wits, I mean keep a clear mind and a clear heart and keep the 'but onlys' out of the way. A lot of people have the 'what ifs' give them problems. I have the 'but onlys' show up on my door and want to pound it down.

Like this one particular, "But it would only be a little bit longer" on the conditions of C moving in with her dad. I don't think they are going to make it to my mandated Spring Break - they are still waiting for a move-in date. So it would only be a little longer that I would need to keep C to make her transition as smooth as possible. To keep her from having to go to another foster home or anything before moving in with dad.

It's a big deal. And when I feel I have already reached my max. That we are just coasting right now. I am just hanging on. I am so tired of talking about her and her behavior goals. So tired of the correcting and re-directing. Just worn out. And the bonding. It's not there. I am still just her Jessica. Which is fine. It's fine for a girl who has reactive attachment disorder and wants to go home to her own family. It's just fine, and probably healthy. But it doesn't help our home life here. It's not sustainable for long term. It's hard to give this girl everything. Especially the patience, that her own mom can't give her, and to not be given the appreciation that could possibly be shown in the way of calling ME 'mom'. It's something that I want so bad, and can hardly explain why, and then immediately feel guilty about wanting.

Talmage doesn't trust C. At all. She is not his sister. Not even a little bit. The other day they were eating leftover fruit from a party I had hosted the night before. It was still on it's large serving platter and I had put it on the table. Each kid had a fork and was helping themselves. Talmage was a little too far to reach without getting down off his chair and coming around to get closer. C noticed that he was done with his piece and offered to put a new piece on for him. He declined. To prove a point, I asked if Alaska could put a piece on for him, and he gratefully handed his fork over for her to fix up.

There have been other instances of this dis-trust, too, and I just feel worn out and disheartened by it all. I knew that she wasn't going to be 'ours' from the beginning. And everyone always talks about how hard it is to love them and let them go and I guess we are being spared this experience for our first one. We had no idea what a good fit for us would have been back then, and probably would have said yes anyway. We have been able to be part of a great team and because of them I have been able to come this far without loosing my marbles. It's been a great, hard, all worth-it experience. But I have to stick to my guns about when enough is enough. And that is hard.

I am not a quitter. And can be driven on solely by the fact that hard things don't last forever and the idea of seeing something all the way through to the finish. There were plenty of semesters at college that stretched me and I knew it was only for '4 months' and anyone can do anything for 4 months, right? Hard stuff. Things like staying at the library until they closed at 11 and things like getting to the library by 4 am to do my custodial job of cleaning and vacuuming. 4 months. You can do it. And when the 4 months is over - it's just over. Not too many lasting, long-term effects other than a job done and well-done.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sparkle Flower

Things move fast around here. Just this week I misplaced three days. Looking back on the week they're just - gone. No idea what I did - and unfortunately - these are usually my busiest, fullest days.

But you know what I did do? I had an ultra-sound to verify the due date of our newest edition. And you know what else? It's a boy. And I am 18 weeks-ish and the due date is still set at July 23rd, maybe take a week.

And can I just tell you - the first time I saw his little body. It was all snuggled up into mine. I am sure in there it is toasty warm wherever you are - but he was curled up, facing me, as if he were outside of me, searching for warmth. His little spine and the back of his head and his legs curled up. Just darling. Just the shadow of him was darling. And I know. We're going to be ok.

The placenta is all stretched out on the front of my belly. Which means I won't feel him move as much and also means 'don't panic when the heart beat can't be found straight-away.' But he's there and we're gonna be friends. I am pretty sure the placenta was in front for Talmage, as well, which was really just fine. No one likes being jabbed all up and over the place. Alaska was a kicker and Talmage was much more calm in there. Not sure if he really was calm or I just couldn't feel him as much - but it was a win. And his sweet personality would give off the impression that he was calmer. Maybe I can get lucky again.

The ultra-sound specialist was just the absolute best. Each picture she took she explained and then ended with, "Such a cute baby" And she was so super careful to never say the word 'it'. She always, always said, 'You're sweet one' or some kind of variation. It was comforting in a weird way since it was something that I noticed and wouldn't have minded if she call the baby an 'it' or not - I don't think. But it was thoughtful and you could just tell that she loved her job so much.

My mom went with me, by happen-chance. Steven was doing an interview and I didn't think we were going to find out the sex anyways. I was just going to wing it by myself and then my mom had the day off of school for a snow day and she came with me. It was nice to have someone to share the excitement with.

I am mostly excited for Alaska to come with Steve and I to the 20 week appointment. She is going to be beside herself. She loves this little boy something fierce already.

I was so nervous to tell Alaska that her 'Sparkle Flower' would need to have a more masculine name. I knew she wanted a sister and I really wanted to give her what she wanted. Even though Steven and I had been trying for a boy, by the time the ultra-sound happened, Alaska had me convinced that a girl would be best for our family. We were reading Junie B. Jones and in that particular story Junie was telling her class about her new baby brother. And that's when we told Alaska. Feeding off Junie B.'s excitement. And you know what? Alaska was just fine. I guess all her excitement is mostly about having a baby. Boy or girl. Sigh of relief.