A little of this a little of that

The cheer season has been going full speed ahead, Biscuit is on two teams (she is filling in on a third team as well) and Blue, Bunny, and Lemon are each on one team. I’m forever thankful for my friends who help drop off my oldest girl after late practices; they’re the real MVP.

Football has started for Boychild and Bunny.

Tata, Lovely, and Loud have been participating in various activities when time permits. I’m still working on getting visits and mental health lined up, after that is squared away I can get them into something more scheduled.

Loud continues to have emotional outbursts resulting in calls/requests to pick him from school, clubs, and extracurricular activities.

Boychild had some difficulties at school a few weeks ago and is no longer involved in Student Council. Fistfighting is frowned upon when you’re representing your school. He is involved in Foreign Language Club and a kindness/anti-bullying club; he is currently making bookmarks with words of affirmation.

Bunny had some issues earlier this week as well, she wrote something naughty on a table with a special blacklight marker. She spent the remainder of her evening doing community service (cleaning various parts of the facility where the crime took place.)

Between the vandalism, tantrums, and fighting there are good things to report as well. Everyone has been doing splendidly on their chores and keeping their personal space clean (except me, pfft.) Everyone is doing fairly well in school, I have decided to take a break in regards to teaching (OMG, my mental health loves me for that one,) and I’ve managed to get a nice routine in play with all the younger kids in the household. Also, I have been seeing Husband more and that is a real treat. For a while I felt like I had only seen him in passing and that was not a good feeling; I’m fixing all of the wonky parts of my life right now. Self care is the poo, y’all.

I have been to multiple job interviews and I’m not sure working is in my cards right now; I may take a hiatus.

WELL…

Unless, I can get the ‘perfect’ job, working for a non profit regarding youth with an excellent benefits package. I’m dreaming! The job market in my area is minuscule and then add in my criteria and that pretty much returns a big fat ‘0.’

I went to a foster care support meeting this week, it was nice. I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere, it seems like the foster families that I meet are the polar opposite of myself. The families that I met were fostering the younger age range 0-2, kinship aged 2-4, and one family who had 8-13 in their home currently. Obviously, anyone within earshot that hears me say I’ve got 8 kids automatically dies a little on the inside. Their minds are filled with instant pandemonium. Foster parents see it WAY worse, they understand the fortitude of foster children. Foster parents have experienced a plethora of behaviors, both good and bad, and when they hear about how many kids are in the home they tend to freeze. You can see it in their eyes; they’re judging. They don’t do it to be jerks, no no. They start by thinking ‘great, they’re in it for the money,’ it is a natural thing to do. (I’m not offended because I know why I provide foster care, I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone.) Then, after that fleeting thought… it moves towards insanity. Foster peers think we are out of our damn minds. Shortly after those two processed thoughts are hashed through, the real deal moves to their frontal lobe and they get those big dumb heart eyes. In any case, it was nice to vent with other peers and get an inside look of what other people in my position go through. I’m unsure of what Im supposed to gain from these meetings but ideally I hope to find some friends, supports, and respite care.

And, last but not least… I need to take the boys to get haircuts. Ah, the life of me. Glamorous. Don’t be jealous.

It’s almost that time again…

October is Fall Break, that means a trip is usually in order. We go to Knott’s Berry Farm and the ocean every year during fall break time and this year it may be a little different. Loud is still experiencing behavorial difficulties and I simply cannot take him into the community without any outbursts. The variables are insane; today he was tantruming because he couldn’t make a paper box until tomorrow at school as scheduled, another time while playing a game in the car involving yellow cars and calling out ‘Juicy Fruit!’ because another child called it out first, and again when when he attempted to lift the couch for unknown reasons and was unable to do so. Those were just three examples, I assure you that there were at least five more outbursts since dinner. It has been exhausting to say the least. I understand that he has experienced trauma, I understand that he is unable to regulate his emotions, I’m concerned that there may be something more than the standard ‘I’m in foster care and my life has turned upside down, I don’t know how to deal with it’ type of thing going on. I’m reluctant to say that he needs a higher level of care because he is a sweet boy who tells me he loves me and he shows me that he wants to please me by doing other things that are helpful. I need to stay objective, when I let my feelings justify behaviors I can sometimes make the wrong call. Foster care is hard.

What do I do? Do I cancel our yearly trip to accommodate one child or do I find respite for just him? There is a piece of me that cannot fathom sending him to respite because I NEVER use respite, I strongly feel that my placements are a part of my family and no one gets left behind. And only sending one of my placements and not the other two, it feels wrong. On the other hand… do I penalize my other placements (who have never been to the beach or Knott’s Berry Farm) and my family who anticipates this trip every year? I am torn. I don’t know what to do and I’ve got only a week or so to decide, help?

Tata and Lovely joined a fishing camp and reported catching fish! Both girls are adjusting well and have had minimal issues. They both reported that they’d like to try gymnastics but I’ve got to sort out therapy and family visits before I can add anything else to their agenda. Tata has had a few emotional nights as she misses her siblings, rightfully so. Lovely has been opening up quite a bit about her personal life among other things but only while we prepare dinner together, she never initiates anything regarding her case or family life otherwise.

Blue has a boyfriend. I’m dealing with it much better than Husband, haha! I want to share with you my epic mom-fail today. Blue had been asking be for over a week to get her posterboard so she could make a sign for her boyfriend as he is a football player and I guess that’s what girlfriends do to support them and it had slipped my mind time after time. I suck. Today was game day, I still hadn’t gotten a posterboard. On the way to drop my older girls off at school I made sure to get his jersey number, the correct spelling of hisname, and an idea to focus the sign on. I went to work and I found a posterboard in the supply closer, I decided that I would complete the sign for her as an act of redemption because she had cheer practice today and right after she planned to go to the game.

Nicely done, mom! Your kid is going to be psyched because you’ve got the sign complete; glitter and color coordinated. NAILED IT! I was running a few minutes behind when I picked the girls up but I decided that she would be overjoyed that she had a sign afterall. Blue gets into the car and I proudly hold up the sign and she lights up! She loves it! But… I put the number 17 on the board instead of 7, her boyfriends number is 7. *insert profanity here* I dropped Blue off at cheer practice and did the ugly cry as soon as I got home. I was on top and quickly fell to rock bottom. After my ugly cry session I started the brainstorming session…white duct tape was the answer. Long story short, we got the tape and doctored it up and eventhough I wasn’t able to get her to the game on time (not because of the sign fiasco) she happily bounced out of car with the sign an hour late.

Speaking of late, I wasn’t able to get everyone where they needed to go, I missed my class, and I fed my kids Lunchables for dinner. Life is peachy!

Remember this?

I last shared, prior to getting my placements, that my interest was piqued in regards to a 12 year old girl that was seeking a large family and that I had been contacted regarding to placement and adoption. Well, that was complete crap. It it a pretty shady ordeal, they can only disclose very small pieces of the case during the inquiry while letting you get emotionally involved. During a 6-8 week process they can pick you apart as the family who wishes to adopt but you get minimal information… but not medical or behavorial stuff.

I indicated to the the CSR specialist to call my licensing worker and disclose all of the information to him as there is a loophole in the process. Although he isn’t allowed to disclose any information to me, he can get the nitty gritty. I trust him to make the call for me, he knows my family dynamic and what I’m willing to have in my home in regards to placement. The CSR specialist called my licensing worker, disclosed all the things, he knew it wasn’t a good fit and it was closed down. I hope that anyone who is looking into a CSR child can find this information helpful and time saving, not to mention avoiding yet another emotional rollercoaster.

It was a CSR ordeal which pretty much equates to kids that are EXTREMELY hard to place due to behaviors, multiple placements, etc.

I’ve learned enough about photolistings, CSR’s, and adoptive searches in general. The masses are correct; it is a waste of time and pointless. Despite my initial feelings about everyone else failures being a personality flaw or getting emotionally attached to a picture of a child, everyone was right. It is complete garbage. I’m objective, even during my emotional bit during this journey.

I don’t like being this pessimistic but the proof is in the pudding.

TL;DR

Don’t bother looking at photolistings ot CSR’s. It’s a lost cause or a trap.

Oops. I did it again!

New placement! Tata has moved in with us, she is a pretty sweet kid. Tata is 8 years old and was in the same class as Bunny last year. We have a full house! With Tata, Bunny, and Lovely sharing a room it’s comparable to a itty bitty sorority. They’re a great group of girls and my only complaint is my aching wrists from all of the braiding in the mornings. It’s really great for me and the girls, the morning hair bonding. Both Lovely and Tata have told me that their bio mothers never did their hair and they let me know how pretty and happy it makes them. It truly is the little things that we do for one kids, like their hair, that let them know we care about them. Please, don’t take that for granted. It’s something that most parents do for their children daily and never think twice about it, it’s just what we do. Many children don’t have that luxury, bizarre… right?

The new placements are getting along well, Boychild is really doing exceptionally guiding Loud into making good choices. He is taking his job as big brother very seriously, it is wonderful to see him being compassionate and understanding. I’m incredibly lucky to have taught my children to be kind and helpful when we have new placement. Speaking of Boychild; he has really stepped up his game lately. He has been responsible, he has wonderful grades, and he has improved quite a bit overall. He is a sweet and sensitive boy and 6th grade is doing him well. Although he had a minor setback for fighting at school (he did not start the fight, another child hit him first) he took full accountability for his actions and accepted the consequences with no fussing. The most important thing about Boychild is that he is no longer medicated for his ADD. We had a rough couple of years but the hard work and dedication is paying off. He is a good boy who loves to skateboard and ride his dirt bike, protect his sisters, and read. Yes. I said read. Holy shit.

I’ve received progress reports for all of the kids, all 8 of them. I’ve got some bright kids as they’ve all got A’s and B’s. Yes, it is the begining of the school year so it’s a given that they all are doing well. I hope I can keep them all on track and keep it up, we all know that a childs success starts at home.

I’m ready for the whirlwind of life, let’s see where this group of kids leads us!

Whirlwind!

If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that we have been on the quest to find another family member, someone looking for an adoptive home. You’ll also know that the search has been an emotional, and fruitless, adventure. I’ve sent out more than 20 homestudies and I figured my door would be beaten down by all of the responses. But…no. Recently, I dealt with the disappointment by fooling myself into thinking the ‘1st and 15th’ rule (homestudies are typically reviewed the 1st ans 15th of each month, not as they trickle in to the DCS caseworkers hands) applied to us. The 15th came and went, in the last week I had only received 2 calls, both in Arizona. WTF. The first child was not a match per my criteria and the second one was a courtesy call letting me know the the child would only be placed in the Phoenix Metro area. Oh, and shortly after this disappointment I was notified that my agency would begin charging me a flat rate or or per word rate, depending on which option I chose, to send out my homestudy to other states. Fabulous. Now I’m being penalized for attempting to find a child a forever home. This whole adoption search is a pain in the ass.

I am no longer seeking out a child via adoption listings or CSR’s. I feel like it is emotionally drained me, changed my outlook on adoption via foster care, and made me more of a pessimist that I’ve ever been in my adult life. In fact, I feel a lot of negative feelings regarding the foster care system and how the adoption sector is managed in general. I found myself saying, for the first time since I’ve become a foster parent, some things negative about foster care. That’s unheard of! I’m a huge advocate for children, how the foster system works, etc. And there I was, bad mouthing something I truly believed in.

I believe that a successful foster parent will always let the child in their care know that they are supported, care about their feelings, and truly want them to go home. A successful foster parent will fight for what the child wants (older children) or what is in their best interest (younger child.) A successful foster parent will never badmouth the system, the immediate working staff, nor the parents of the child…despite how much we dislike their parents choices or treatment of the child in our care.

Foster care works, reunification happens. Oftentimes parents don’t do the things required to regain custody of their children; adoption via foster care works too. Family is family, blood or bond. I need to remind myself of these things because I feel sad and let down about this adoption photolisting ordeal. Maybe this is part of my plan, God is pushing me elsewhere because it’s where I’m supposed to be. Maybe I’m not to be adopting via photolistings and God has called me to only provide temporary care for children in need. I hate to be a pessimist, but I should have heeded warnings about photolistings and other people’s personal experiences. For some reason I thought I’d do better… I was wrong. I didn’t do better, I am not better.

Onto a brighter note! My licensing agency forwards me CSR’s (adoption flyers from in state and in house) I have struck out there too. I’ve inquired and gotten responses fairly quickly BUT often times the children in these CSR’s have severe behaviors or are sexualized in some way/shape/form. I’m not equipped to deal with that, or a plethora of other things that our household had deemed unacceptable. Anyway, our homestudy had been dropped onto a desk, a desk of a coworker within our agency in the Phoenix office, and we received a call about a child. A child that has not been listed yet on any adoption sites, that currently lives in a group home nearby. I had played phone tag for a week or so with a stranger, unfamiliar number = no answer. There was never a voicemail left, I never thought twice about it. That is until Husband had called me and let me know that this adoption recruiter was looking to communicate with us regarding placement.

Placement is the operative word. This child is not legally free for adoption but the state and case team anticipate rights to be terminated. I was given very little information regarding the child and then a host of proceedings, including a 2 hour phone interview set up for Monday evening.

The information I was given is as follows: female, 12, wants a large family. My interest was piqued, I like kids and I have a large family.

Once the phone interview is completed and they feel we could be a potential match they will disclose all the information regarding the child during the same phone call. I wonder if they’ll let me see a picture of her? Not that it matters much, I’m merely curious. After the interview and information exchange my homestudy and interviewers opinion will all be presented to a board of people who decided if it’s a good match. If it is a good match we can facetime/phone chat with the child then move onto meeting her in person shortly after. If things go well transition to our home happens.

I also received a placement call around 1am regarding a sibling set. Naturally, I was sleeping at 1am! I returned the call this morning and the on call placement person referred me to the DCYS, I’ll likely hear from them tomorrow unless they’ve found placement already.

What a ride it has been.

Ode to Biscuit

You have been one of lifes best teachers; you were my first born child. You had toughest lessons to teach and one of the crappiest pupils. You taught me what unequivocal love is, how to be patient, and how to mother in general. Without all of the trials we have been through, the mistakes I had made, and the amount of times I cried…there is no doubt that I wouldn’t be half the mother I am today without you.

You’ve always set the bar high, walking at 7 months and being potty trained by 18 months to being an early reader and starting school early. Everything you set your mind to you have conquered, you’re a badass. You may cry, fuss, and say you’re going to quit but you always muster up the courage and strength to push forward. I’m envious of this gift as I’ve never had any feeling like that, well, with the exception of mothering. Prior to being a parent I was blaisé.

I was always told some version of ‘You always fuck up the first one.’ comparing a child to a pancake of parenting. Luckily for me you were an excellent first child, full of character and lessons. You made parenting easy as you have this personality that made it fun and interesting. I always seemed like an over braggy mom when I talked about you, casually, to other mothers. All of your achievements at an early age made me seem like a bold face liar, I wasn’t. You were a little hulk baby that was so fat that you looked like a busted can of biscuits. I love you.

Five.

5. 5. 5.

Soon, I’ll have only 5 kids at home. Biscuit, Blue, Boychild, Bunny, and Lemon. I’m freaking out, how do I cook for only 7 people?! What will we do with the copious amounts of leftovers?! There will be extra time, room, and finances. Weird. There will be less stress, chatter, and traffic.

We will enjoy our time together until we are needed. I love my community, I love children, I love foster care. There are lessons to be learned about humility, compassion, and pain. My kids understand the importance of helping people and also, witnessing me fail, has shown them that even though you can desperately want to help it’s okay to say ‘enough’ and have a child removed. My kids have helped transition foster kids to our home and comforted them in times of need. They have also disagreed and fought with them. It is all give and take, understanding others circumstances and remembering how blessed you are to be taken care of in a standard in which society deems normal. My kids don’t take much for granted these days because they understand that things change in the blink of an eye.

I’ve been sifting through adoption listings, looking for potential matches. I’ve sent in several inquiries and have gotten very little feedback. Our system is flawed; caseworkers are busy prioritizing and adoptive kids are being pushed to the backburner. I understand that the removal and reunification are high on the totem pole, they are critical to child safety, but having a child wait in limbo for months or years just isn’t right. My licensing worker has assured me that my homestudy has been sent to all of the inquiries that I’ve sent in and even he says he has gotten very little feedback. It shouldn’t be this hard to find an older child, in the United States, who is legally free for adoption, to find a match. It shouldn’t be this hard to help.

On the other end of the spectrum I’ve gotten leads on some foster placements. Unfortunately, they weren’t a match for our home. I do have a strict criteria that I follow as my children are my number one priority. I do not want to expose them to some things nor have them possibly become victims in any way. It’s hard. Often times it breaks my heart but I’ve developed a firm understanding during my years of foster care of knowing when to say yes to a placement and when to say no.

Luckily, when you seek out adoptive children via photolistings or through your agency you can get every detail of their case/life since being in the foster care system. That makes finding a fit easier for families and agencies. I’ve gotten a few responses stating we weren’t a good fit for a child and I’ve sent responses saying we wouldn’t be a good fit for a child. I’m okay with that, I’m all about the best interest of the children. My older girls have taken an interest in looking at potential siblings online, Blue loves to watch the videos and Biscuit wants to see their faces.

Only God knows what will happen next, we may stay with the 5 kids and be done. We may foster more. We may adopt. Until then…we wait.

The waiting game, foster care continues to move forward.

I’m less emotionally distraught about the whole photolisting thing; if it’s supposed to happen… it will. The choice is Red’s and only God knows what will happen. I’m truly at peace with the entire situation, it feels pretty damn good too. The rollercoaster of emotion associated with foster care/adoption is asinine.

We recieved a new call a couple of days ago, a 16 year old girl who needs a home, and the said teen was not a call from my agency. Typically, all calls are filtered through your licensing agency but I’m sort of a naughty foster parent and I often get calls from mental health workers or lawyers who have worked with my family in the past or present. These people know my family dynamic, they visit my home at least once a month or communicate via email/phone weekly. These people talk with every person in my family and I trust them, undoubtedly.

My licensing worker is a cool guy and I am incredibly lucky to have him, he gets my family. But, licensing workers don’t like being side stepped because it makes them look like idiots to their supervisors. Don’t be a jerk foster parent. If for whatever reason you side step your licensing worker be a nice person and send them a text briefly explaining what’s going on, don’t make your licensing worker look like he/she cannot do their job. DCYS is to contact the licensing workers and the licensing worker is supposed to call the parents in an ideal world. However, I have directly contacted via DCYS directly in some cases too.

In any case; I said yes. Hear me out! I know some of you are shaking your heads ‘More kids?!’ Hush. Hair will be leaving shortly as she is moving to her adoptive home when school is out. Flower is going away to college shortly after Thailand (she hasn’t really saved any money so she could be home all summer which is fine, there is no rush for her to go.) That means I’ll have open beds. Also, my licensing worker has an enormous amount of faith in me as he has made the comment if it were needed I could change my licensing to ‘group home’ and accept more kids if we were in a bind. It shouldn’t come to that. Husband and I have a solid number, we will abide by our set rules otherwise I’ll be the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.

Our new placement will be moving in the first of next month. I believe we may be having a meet and greet this weekend…which doesn’t happen in foster care, not in my experience. It’s new but I’m all about it, whatever makes the transition easiest. Honestly, I feel good about it because if either my family or the girl think ‘Hell no!’ It’ll easy to opt out. Test driving. Man, this sounds extremely screwed up.

Foster care is the unknown, it’s taking chances, it’s rebuilding something that’s been broken. It’s teaching trust, normalcy, and loyalty. It’s about overcoming and growth too. It teaches my family to love unconditionally, to never take life for granted, and to give cheerfully. My family is continually growing both emotionally and in size, I couldn’t be happier. I’m aware that I’m not the perfect parent nor person, I’m just like anyone else…trying to make it work and learn from my mistakes. Oh boy, do I make mistakes. I’m working on talking without bad intent…this is hard. Self growth sucks but it is essential.

Why hello!

We did the thing, we adopted our kid! Meet Blue!

In case you couldn’t tell…her and Biscuit are pretty close. In addition; Blue is the blonde and Biscuit is the brunette.

She’s been in the family for a long time but now we won’t need to get court orders to travel or anyone’s permission to cut her hair. Yay hooray hotdog!

And then there were 10.

We recieved new placement over the weekend, a 14 year old female, we will call her Hair. This girl has the longest, thickest, hair ever. She is outgoing, an excellent student, and okay with the extreme change in her life.

At the end of the we month Pretty is moving out at the end of the month, she’s grown up! Pretty recently had a job change and it seems to be a good fit.

Biscuit is doing wonderful, she’s going to be 14 in less than 2 weeks. She is doing standard high school and online school, cheers on 2 teams, and wants to get a job.

Flower has been accepted to 2 colleges, she is interested in bio medicine/Neuro stuff. She is working and finishing high school and will graduate with 18 college credits. We are taking her to Thailand for graduation, she is elated.

Blue is doing exceptionally well, she has started tumbling and is super close to her back handspring. I’ve got great news! The recent appeal by bio mom has been dismissed and our adoption is underway! I can’t wait until she is ours forever, I can’t imagine a life without her.

Boychild celebrated his birthday, he is officially 11. He had been wanting a new dirt bike and we came through for him.

Bunny is a stellar student, a great helper, and is getting better at regulating her feelings. We are experiencing WAY less crying, thank God.

Lemon is big. She isn’t liking the change from toddler to kid. Now that she is 5 she has more responsibility.

Husband and I are doing great, I do get annoyed with him when he doesn’t take care of himself. This whole skin cancer thing has been dragging on. He had his stitches removed then the incision site reopened, ugh. And he STILL won’t stay still.

Teaching is cool, I’m happy. Staff meetings are less cool, I deal with it. I took a huge pay cut when I quit my job in Prescott… but, I’m significantly happier with my job flexibility. My kids come first.