Archive for the 'Kids' Category

Fill In The Blank

Bonus Baby’s preschool had a Mother’s Day Tea and a Father’s Day Breakfast.  Bonus Baby’s face lit up when each of us showed up at her little event as she grabbed our arm and strutted around saying, “This is my mommy”, which most of the kids already knew since I pick her up there almost every day and showing off her daddy when it was his turn.  One thing they did for Dad’s day was a little fill-in-the blank sheet about their dad entitled “My Great Dad.”  Even her teacher was amused at some of the answers Bonus Baby gave. The bold print items are what Bonus Baby had the teacher fill in.  My own comments are in parenthesis:

My dad is 85 years old.  (okay, we’re not spring chickens, but really??)

He weighs 60 lbs. and is 6 ft. tall.  (don’t know how she guessed the height but weights a little off!!

His favorite TV show is bike racing & Cops. (She has obviously been here long enough to know what’s going on.  Can you believe Big Daddy actually plans his vacation time around the Tour de France so he can catch the highlights on TV as they happen?? And she is the one who races in to watch Cops with daddy as soon as she hears the music. Good grief).

He loves to cook eggs.  (Another astute observation–this Mama rarely cooks breakfasts.  In fact, Oldest Son was quite amazed when he was a young lad and spent the night at his cousin’s house.  As my sister-in-law started making pancakes, he looked at her with bewildered eyes and said “Ladies don’t make pancakes.”  haha.  A classic.)

Dad always tells me to go on the step.  (Hmmm, wonder why that is 😀  Time out, anyone?)

It makes him happy when he takes me on a walk.

When my dad shops, he loves to buy peanuts, jerky.  (Most likely because she’s pleading for bees-a-jerky–that’s how she says beef jerky–and daddy can’t say no).

If he could go on a trip, he would go to the beach.  (Well, duh!  Who wouldn’t!!)

I really love it when my dad takes me swimming.

I love my dad!

And guess what?  We love our Bonus Baby.  And she and her sister will be official members of our family probably before the end of the year from what we hear.  By official, I mean legally.  They are already part of our family in every other way.

 

Lounging in Limbo

Within the month, we should have a much clearer picture about two life-changing events in the lives of my family members.  The first one involves Middle Son J.  About three days before he was scheduled to be deployed, first for training stateside, and then on to Afghanistan, he and others in his unit received an e-mail saying that due to military budget cuts, about 50 soldiers would not be sent.  J’s name was on that list.  Of course, we were all in disbelief.  I felt like the death row inmate who had just been pardoned at 5 minutes until midnight.   J, however, was initially very upset, as were some of his buddies–both those who also were cut, and the ones still scheduled to go–but now without the buddies they had planned to go into battle with.  After the shock wore off, though, J began to see the upside and readjusted his battlemind back to the positives of staying home, finishing school, and not leaving his girlfriend Kathy for a year.  Until the next day…when they were informed that they should disregard that first e-mail.  No final orders were issued.  They would carry on as if nothing had happened.  If they got the final orders while they were at training, they would be sent back home.  If not, they would be going to Afghanistan.   So he’s away at training and no one seems to know for sure what’s going on.  It has been a roller coaster ride, to say the least.

The second decision is another one completely out of our hands.  We are pretty much spectators, waiting for someone else to shape the direction of our lives.  And the process leading to this decision will begin tomorrow.  We were informed last month that the family court judge who is in charge of deciding where our foster daughters and their siblings will be placed has asked that we be present at the courthouse tomorrow.  And I’m nervous.  I have no idea what to expect.  In fact, I’m not even sure if this is for real.  I have nothing in writing.  No calls from the county.  Just a call last month to Big Daddy–from the kids’ lawyer–that we were to meet with the judge.  Big Daddy is going to e-mail her later today to verify that this meeting is still on, and that nothing has been canceled.

I’m scared it may be canceled.  I’m nervous if it’s not canceled.  I haven’t seen the girls since late September.    I have no idea if they’re scheduled to be at this hearing.  I want to see them again.  I’m afraid to see them again.

Big Daddy has seen the girls since they left our home.  He showed up at one of their scheduled hearings to see what was going on (even though we are never really sure what is going on since we foster parents are relegated to sitting out in the waiting area), and to remind the kids’ lawyer to mention that we are very much willing to adopt the girls if that becomes the final determination.  We have been very lucky to find some caring people who, like us, want what is best for the kids.  It doesn’t always work out that way.

At first the kids walked right past him in the courthouse, without a hint of recognition.  It was early, they didn’t expect him to be there, they had just moved on and forgotten about us???  For the first time Big Daddy wasn’t sure we were doing the right thing by trying to get them back.  But we had to let them know.  We hadn’t abandoned them.  We were fighting to get them back.  It was NOT our lie that they were going to be living with their siblings–and then dumped somewhere else–away from not only their biological family, but now also the family and friends that had loved and nurtured them for the last year and a half.

And then he saw Bonus Baby–sitting on her bio mom’s lap–chattering away and pointing at him across the room.   He walked over to them and said, “Who am I?”  Her mom laughed and said, “Yeah, she keeps pointing and asking ‘Who is that?’.”   “You know who I am,”  Big Daddy said, and all his doubts melted away when Bonus Baby reached out her arms to him and said, “Daaaaddy!”

Then it was like she never left.  She talked about the black thing on the pool (the winter cover).  Then she talked about J’s leg and how he hurt it.  She asked him where Mommy(me) was, then put her hand on her hip and asked with a sneaky grin, “Is she still sleeping?”  Of course Big Daddy got a kick out of that!

It was funny in a been-there-done-that kind of way when the new foster mom related how, when Bonus Child came in to tell her that Bonus Baby had put her lotion on her bed, that they had no idea at first that she’d meant she had actually slathered a whole bottle of lotion on the bed sheets.  And it was heart-wrenching when it was time for Bonus Baby to leave the courthouse, and she wrapped her arms around Big Daddy’s neck and said, “I want to go home wif you, Daddy.”

And tomorrow, my emotions , too, will be getting a vigorous workout.

 

 

 

 

 

Took My Breath Away (The End)

Some of you already know what happened.  Others may have guessed.  The final loss in the “year of losses” was the abrupt exit of our two beautiful foster daughters.  You realize this is a distinct possibility when you take in foster children.  In fact, in most cases, it is the desired outcome.  It is usually the goal of the state, county, and foster care system to improve the home situation of these children so that they can be returned to their biological families.  We understood that role and were fine with it.  We were naive.

First of all, I never expected our very first placement to last over 15 months.  I figured we’d take someone in for a few months, keep them fed and happy, comfort them and play some games, and send them home when things were better.  We had specifically asked for an elementary school-aged child, one child (boy or girl–although all the guys in this house said they would PREFER a boy–so I fully expected to get a boy), with no major abuse in their history.  (Yes, I know they’re all there for a reason–but you probably know what I mean).  I wanted someone old enough that I could converse and interact with, but who would not be big enough or scarred enough to kill me (and I’m just being honest here).  I figured the child care situation would be easier during the two months I work if the child was in elementary school with our after-school programs.  I definitely did not want an infant because to me, that is just endless busy work with very little personal connection.  I really didn’t think there would be that much of a personality to work with in a pre-school aged child, and I thought a slightly older child would be easier.   Life is full of surprises!

I fell in love with Bonus Baby the moment I laid eyes on her teeny-tiny pint-sized body with her big brown eyes and coke-bottle glasses.  She came as an extra bonus along with her eldest sister.  She was “almost three”, as the caseworker stated, trying to convince me to take them, but she was the size of an 18-month old, still in diapers, and busier than a tornado.  And she was loaded with personality.  At first, okay, even later, she was a lot of work.  Physical work–changing diapers, potty training, keeping everything out of her reach, trying to meet her constant demands for food and entertainment.   When these kids came, they were very needy–for time and attention.  They never just chilled for even 5 minutes to pause and watch TV or sit still and play.  It took a lot of energy.  It was a great exercise plan 😀  (I lost a good 10 lbs. those first 2 months)!

Bonus Child was a big help to me from the very first day she came.  She was very much used to being in charge since she was the eldest of five surviving children.  She came with me to the supermarket to help me figure out what size diapers to get Bonus Baby since she’d arrived without a spare and I had no idea how much the darling weighed. Bonus Child knew exactly which package to get, and also accurately informed me what kinds of food to buy.  She also showed me how to fix Bonus Baby’s hair properly.  Raising three boys, I was pretty much all thumbs at making little braids and pony tails.  As a not-too-girly mom who thought I’d dodged a huge bullet by having boys, I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed buying clothes and hairbands for the girls!

Before you knew it, these little strangers were a part of our family.  Surprisingly, all the expectations were topsy-turvy.  The younger one was the easier one, in so many ways.  She made the astute observation one afternoon on the way home from preschool that “I have two mommies.  And two daddies”.  And that was just the way it was.  No problems.  No issues.  She loved all of us and she loved life.

I learned that it’s harder for the older kids to accept their situations.  Sometimes they feel they are being disloyal if they’re having too much fun.  Often they’re afraid of bonding to new people because they never know when they’ll be leaving.  They are stressed and angry about events in their young lives and sometimes act out without knowing why.  You learn a lot when you’re a foster parent–by reading, researching, observing, and talking to other foster parents.  No matter what, though, by the end of the second summer we were a family.  Bonus Child had finally turned the corner and had firmly bonded with me and seemed to genuinely want to be here.  I felt this bond would help get us through any little bumps in the road.

But that was not to be.  The unfortunate “perfect storm” of events occurred.  The kids were once again “in between” case workers at the overworked understaffed county.  The agency we worked with had just assigned us a new case worker.  My eldest son’s wedding in California was coming up and of course since we’d never even dreamed we would still have the kids in September when we had to make travel plans in the spring (although the case worker at the time had assured us that we could get respite care for the children during the trip if we DID still have them) I kept checking to see if arrangements had been made.  You can’t just leave foster kids with anyone; they must be watched only by an adult with clearances.  Since my entire family was going to the wedding, and even my neighbor, who is a CASA volunteer and has clearances, was going to be out of state that weekend visiting her son, I had to rely on the agency.  And they couldn’t come through unless the kids went to another county and Bonus Child would miss 4 days of school.  And that just didn’t sit well with the supervisor-acting-as-interim-caseworker at the county.

I spent the weekend before my son’s wedding packing up over 15 months worth of toys, clothes, books, school supplies, etc. for two little girls who had a lot of things!  I still didn’t even know for sure what I was going to wear to the wedding and for the rest of the time we would be in California and hadn’t started packing my own stuff.  I was grieving for them while I packed up boxes and backpacks to send with them to the foster mom who had expressed that she wanted to adopt all 5 of the kids to keep them together, trying so hard not to let the girls see me cry so I could put the positive spin on it that they would get to be with their brother and sisters who they really loved and missed.  The supervisor from our agency picked up the girls the day before we had to fly to California to take them and most of their belongings to the county, and Bonus Child made me promise to write and call as soon as I got back from California.  I sent a note with her to give to their new foster mom promising to get the rest of the kids’ stuff to them and thanking her for keeping all these precious children together in one home.  I included our phone number and address so the kids could keep in touch.   It was during this frantic week in my life that I found it impossible to take a full complete breath.  I’m still struggling.

Took My Breath Away (Part I)

The massage therapist knowingly nodded, and said several of her clients complained of similar symptoms.  “The body remembers,” she continued, “even long after the triggers are gone”–which is what baffled me.  When I went to her, the week after Christmas, I should have been a model of health and tranquility.  I had started working out at least three times a week, had no major deadlines or responsibilities, and the things that had me so stressed out were months behind me, or at least at the point where I’d done everything I could to make things right and had no personal regrets.  I had wholeheartedly resigned my fate to a higher power, feeling certain that not only what will be will be, but will be for the best.  Yet I still had trouble taking in a good deep cleansing breath.  I was hoping she could rub out some of the knots in my back that seemed to be blocking the air from fully reaching and filling every bit of my lungs.

Hosting foster children is something we had thought about doing for a long time.  Big Daddy seemed to be more apprehensive about it because he was worried we might become attached  to a child that we would have to give back.  I was less worried about that because I expected from the start that it would be temporary and was OK with that.  I only wanted to be a safe port in a child’s stormy life until things calmed down.  In fact, I like temporary arrangements.  I love my two-month a year job.  I prefer open-ended contracts.  I figured we’d provide some fun for a child that needed to laugh and then he or she would return home after a few months.  I had no way of knowing how challenging and unpredictable this choice would be.

We had planned, and splurged, on renting the beach house in July.  One of the reasons was so the girls could see the ocean.  But all along, we never knew for sure if we would still have them by the time July rolled around.  We hoped…but that is the nature of foster care.  We rented a house that slept 8 just in case, though, figuring we wouldn’t have much trouble filling up the extra beds if something happened.  Then J came home with his horribly crushed leg…and with only a couple of weeks to go, we faced the possibility that none of us would be going on vacation.  We spent days keeping his leg iced, helping him with everyday life, and watching helplessly while he dealt with pain that even his prescription pain killers couldn’t dull.  The girls were so sweet, tiptoeing around quietly and trying to help by making ice packs and bringing him water.

Although we had to watch for what could have been gruesome developments, J’s leg seemed to be improving enough that we decided to make the long drive to North Carolina.  J stretched out in our old van that we luckily never sold while Youngest Son did the driving.  J’s girlfriend and my 15-year-old niece rode along with them.  Big Daddy and I took the girls with us in the SUV and we kind of followed each other.  We had a great time there–even though Big Daddy had to lose a full day at the beach shopping around for a competent repair guy–miles from the little island we were staying–to replace the muffler that had decided to fall off the van two days before we had to leave.  Meanwhile, Youngest Son had been struggling all week, long distance, to find out why his car was still sitting untouched and unrepaired back home when he had left it a week ago.  They still hadn’t gotten the part they needed and Youngest Son was stressing big time about having to start med school in less than a week with no car to get him there!  All of these annoyances were quickly forgotten, however, when Big Daddy took a call on his cell phone the night we were packing up to leave for home.  The guy that was watching our beautiful 7-year-old Boxer dog, Sky, called to tell us that he was rushing her to the animal hospital with what appeared to be Bloat, which is a twisting of the dog’s stomach and which we knew immediately was a very bad thing.  We waited teary-eyed and in stunned silence for further news, and our worst fears were confirmed when he called to say she hadn’t made it after suffering from two heart attacks, one while en route, and the other at the hospital.

RIP Baby Girl

 

Mama On The Edge (Part II)

After a crazy hectic tax season last year, things seemed to be falling into place by mid-May.  I came to the realization that perhaps Bonus Child had been acting out so much during those two months I worked because I had disrupted the schedule she had gotten used to.   Now that work was over, she was starting to settle down.  Youngest Son made us proud at his college graduation in early May, and we were beginning to get excited about our upcoming beach vacation in mid-July.  Oldest Son and his fiance spent the month packing up their belongings to drive across the country to begin their lives together in California.  Her dad flew out to help them move, and we got to meet him for the first time at a going-away barbecue they had their last night at their emptied out Pittsburgh apartment.  It was sad to see them go but I could tell he was excited about the move and I was happy for him.

We spent most of June having fun in the sun.  I was able to spend more time with Bonus Child while Bonus Baby had fun at preschool and we often invited  Bonus Child’s school friends over to swim.  One of her friends lived within walking distance and had a sister about the same age so it was a month of giggling and girl drama.  Middle Son J was away for army training for a few weeks but would be home before our vacation.  We were enjoying being able to spend some quality time with Youngest Son.  Things were going pretty well…until the s**t hit the fan.

The girls and I were home alone the last week of June while Big Daddy and Youngest Son were driving a U-Haul across the state to set up Youngest Son’s new apartment where he’d be moving in early August.  While they were there, we found out that Middle Son J suffered a serious  training accident.  He was told that his army boot saved his leg from being lost.  I don’t know how, I don’t know why, and I can’t believe they let him…but as bad as his leg was, he insisted on finishing up his last few days of training so that he wouldn’t have to start from the beginning at a later date.  This, of course, was not helpful to the leg.  Nor was the flight home which, with the fluctuations in air pressure, made his leg swell up to look like some giant purple melon ready to burst open at the seams.  But before I could even assess how bad things were, before he or Big Daddy or Youngest Son came home, our air conditioner croaked.  And it was the hottest week of the year!  I had to scramble to find someone to fix it so my injured son wouldn’t even be in more misery!

 

Fostering Hope…or Sabotaging Self?

For weeks I’ve been forming a blog post in my head about the positive reasons to host foster children in one’s home–especially for couples who want children and haven’t been able to have any.  I was going to write about how these children can really benefit from a safe and loving home, how perhaps these children can see a better way to live and stop the endless cycle of issues that result in generations of poor parenting, and maybe even fulfill the adults’ own needs to nurture a child without having to resort to other more exhausting and expensive methods.  But then reality keeps getting in the way…

I used to post on my blog quite frequently.  That was when I had time to think.  It’s been almost a year that we’ve had our girls…about the time when my blogging (among other things) slacked off.

It’s been an interesting year.  We’ve seen many changes in both the girls and ourselves.  I thought I was going to die from exhaustion the first month or so…but the upside was I lost a good 10 pounds while still shoveling in my normal daily truckload of food that I so enjoy.  Some days, everything that could go wrong did.  Bonus Baby was a tiny hyper bundle of energy that got into EVERYTHING!  If it was within her reach, it got dumped, spilled, torn or broken.  She was dropped off with her sister with only the diaper on her butt–and I only realized this after the caseworkers left and I didn’t have a car seat yet to go out and get her more.  Luckily Youngest Son just happened to stop home on his lunch break so he got to watch her spit cracker crumbs everywhere while Bonus Child helped me figure out what size diapers to buy.  That first month also brought about a frenzied drive to a family visitation an hour away that completely slipped my mind until reminded about it a half hour before we were to be there and I had only a vague idea how to get there; hosing off poopie undies and finding little brown commandoes in the pool during the summer months of toilet training; finding Baby had puked in her bed one night and managed to get chunks all through her hair (blech); and Baby waking up the morning she was scheduled for surgery with a fever and me not knowing what the hell I was supposed to do because the one thing everyone had stressed was not to cancel this appointment–and no one was around to take my call so I could tell them she got sick overnight!!

Then there’s the age span.  My boys were all very close in age and could entertain themselves and be amused by the same things.  We got baby dolls and Bieber fever here.  And sibling battles and mom as referee are once again part of our family life!!

Despite all the craziness, there are priceless moments.  Bonus Baby has grown into a bright precious assertive little girl that sometimes has us doubled over laughing at her comments and observations.  Bonus Child, when not trying to get on my last nerve, is helpful, sweet and very loving toward me.  I never thought I’d have so much fun shopping for girl clothes, and the boys never thought they’d be buried alive in glitter!

Then there was last weekend.  No school on Friday.  Both had friends over.  Mom breaking up fights all day.  Them squirting the hose everywhere.  Getting in my car when they know they’re not allowed and throwing “caterpillars” (tent worms) in my back seat.  Sticky floors and door knobs throughout the house.  Baby dumping hundreds of tiny sticky pieces of candy all over their bedroom from her sister’s candy making kit while I thought she was taking a nap.  Dad and Youngest Son enjoying a lovely game of golf…while I have yet to use the tips I learned from the golf lessons I took last spring.

Sometimes I feel like I was led to this decision.  And other times (like last weekend) I wonder if I secretly hate myself.  We were home free.  We could sleep in, go out anytime we liked, and try new recipes without little people saying “yuck.”  We were done with homework, Scout meetings, and chauffeuring.  We were done catching every stinking cold that was making the preschool rounds.

Where is this all going?  I don’t have a clue.  Just be sure you’re very flexible if you plan to take in foster children.  Your life will be very unpredictable.  And busy.  And you just might fall in love!

Critical Thinking–NOT

I hate how old-fashioned this makes me sound, but I believe higher education is NOT just preparation for a career.  Career-training has its place, but college can fill in the gaps toward a well-rounded individual.  Dorm living helps prepare for life outside the comfy confines of home. Required classes that seem totally irrelevant to one’s major can provide some interesting knowledge and information.  For example, I learned from a professor in a basic Chemistry class that it is possible to increase the odds of producing a boy child (or girl if you prefer) using a little preparation.  Fertile Myrtle here never got the chance to use that system, however, but I was pretty damn sure another boy was on the way even before I had the sonogram.  Little tidbits gleaned here and there also helped me to not make a total fool of myself on Jeopardy–but I should have played more video games with my kids to master that darn buzzer!  One of my most informative classes was a Political Science class I had very little interest in at the time.  But the professor was an astute man that helped me see and believe that we are bombarded with information that almost always is slanted a certain way.  It is up to us to try to see all sides of an issue and form the most clear understanding of it by peeling away others’ hidden agendas.  This may not be important to an accountant on the job, but it is relevant to a person in this world who just may earn a paycheck crunching numbers.

One of my sons is taking some required humanities classes at the local branch campus of the University of Pittsburgh.  My boys are all science majors and are not quite so enamored with the subjective subject matter of the social sciences, and I agree that without the right person teaching these classes, they can be opinionated busy-work courses.  One would expect that a distinguished and not-so-inexpensive college like Pitt would be able to find highly qualified professional people to teach these courses in a meaningful way (even at a branch campus).  But every week, I am becoming more inflamed over how our tuition dollars are being spent!

First of all, the teacher:  Almost every week, one of J’s teachers is at least 15 minutes late for class.  One week she arrived 45 minutes late.  Most of the students don’t bother waiting around after 15 minutes, but J has another class afterward so there is no point in him leaving.  The secretary just keeps popping in every 15 minutes to say the teacher is on her way until she finally makes her grand entrance.  Highly disrespectful and irresponsible, in my opinion!

Not only is she notoriously late for class, she has a PhD yet asked the class if  “as of now” was one word or three! WTF!!  She’s teaching COLLEGE!!  I know I’m a little priggish about spelling sometimes because I used to read a lot and it came easy for me, and I’m aware of some very bright people that are challenged by spelling rules, but if you’re teaching college or are an English major or journalist, you should be literate!!  Does she seem smarter than a fifth grader??  I think not!

The text book:  I can’t even believe it is a text book.  It is the most biased, left-slanted piece of garbage I have ever laid eyes upon.  By the way, I would be almost as incensed if the book (titled “Critical Thinking” by Brooke Noel Moore and Richard Parker) was this one-sided yet totally aligned with my own viewpoints.  It is just opinionated drivel and in no way teaches or exemplifies “critical thinking.”  It is laden with factual errors that J has in fact pointed out in class.  At every opportunity, it slams the GOP, Fox News, the NRA, and the war on terrorism but treats the authors’ opinions on these subjects as facts rather than opinions.  It is clearly an opportunistic attempt to brainwash young minds that may have not had a chance to form their own opinions on these things.  And this is not even a political science class!!  It is supposed to be teaching “logic,” one of those murky subjects that academia loves.

By the way, I asked J about a week ago if he would mind if I blogged about this awful textbook and unprofessional teacher.  I in no way want to jeopardize his grade or cause him any trouble in case this teacher somehow stumbles upon this rant.  He was fine with it.  As I was thinking about what I wanted to write, he texted me that she was already 15 minutes late for class again tonight.  Then, of all things, she called him up after class and asked why he looked so bored and didn’t participate.  He was so floored, because half the kids in the class were sitting there with their eyes half-closed, without their book, and unlike J, never offered an answer or opinion.  J has been to every class, hadn’t dozed off and was following along with his text book in front of him.  Despite the idiocy of the subject matter, he has scored well on every quiz.  Where did this clueless question spring from?

It makes just about as much sense as the next tuition hike.


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