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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!

 

Mama On The Edge (Part I)

The past year for me can be summed up as the “year of losses.”  In fact, the stress of the last six months of 2011 have left me quite frequently at a loss for breath.  Literally.   My mom keeps worrying that it’s a heart problem, but I know better.  Yet, with 2012 comes the potential for the worst loss imaginable since Middle Son J will be heading off to one of the most dangerous places in the world to scout out bombs.  I would relive last year many times over to avoid this scenario.

Not all of the “losses” we suffered were bad things. But even good changes are stressful.  Oldest Son left the frequently gray skies of Western Pennsylvania in May to join his fiance and her family in sunny California to start his new life there and help plan their wedding.  Youngest Son packed up most of his belongings to move into an apartment across the state in order to attend medical school.  These are good things, but major changes for our little nuclear family. 

Although we don’t go away on vacation every year, Big Daddy decided early in the year that we should rent a beach house since we may not all be together again for a while.  This was before we realized that Oldest Son would already be on the other side of the country–in fact, I don’t even think he realized it at the time.  But still–we knew our Bonus girls had never seen the ocean, and Middle Son J, his girlfriend Kathy, and Youngest Son were all able to come up with an available week in their insanely busy schedules to hit the North Carolina beach for some much needed rest and relaxation!  Image

Fish Oil Fallacies – Fat or Flaky?

I’m a bit of a doubting Thomasina.  I don’t automatically believe what I’m told to believe.  I like to see the evidence.  I need to weigh the possibilities.  I read and do research, especially on the hugely important issues in my life–such as, why the hell am I getting fatter now when I’m back to exercising and trying to cut back on the snackies?

It just doesn’t make sense.  I know I got careless last year when the girls came to live with us and whittled me down 10 pounds through sheer exhaustion.  I squandered that wonderful jump-start to a svelte new me by indulging in ice cream and other late night goodies as a reward for my mothering efforts.  The weight slowly crept back as we settled into a more normal slacker mom routine, but I was avoiding THE number (the number on the scale where I start to panic) by running here and there and kind of trying to eat healthy.

Unfortunately, while the body got soft and pudgy, the brain was losing serious muscle tone too.  I’d say something and Big Daddy and J would exchange glances.  Incredulous and sometimes worried glances.   I’d spend countless minutes each day trying to locate something that I’d just had in my hand moments before.    I’d forget why I walked into a room.  It was the same old spacy me — only magnified to the hundredth power.  And so Big Daddy gently advised me to start taking the fish oil capsules he purchased, the ones that cost a fortune and he quit taking because they gave him fish burps.  They’re supposed to keep you young and sharp, lubricating not only tired old joints but creaky old neurons in the brain.  I remembered that I used to take them.  I couldn’t remember why I’d stopped. 

Now that I’m semi-lucid again thanks to that daily infusion of miraculous omega-3 fatty acid, I remember why I quit taking them before.  I started gaining weight.  When I should be losing–or at least maintaining.  Just like now.

Normally, I would never ever suspect that a tiny capsule of fatty fish oil would make me fat.  But the facts say “check it out!”  A google search showed that others have inquired about whether taking fish oil might make them fat.  And each inquiry was answered using the reassuring spiel that not only does it not make you fat, studies have shown that it may help you lose weight.  Seriously, are these the same studies that tried to shove man-made global warming down our throats?

And I’m wondering why these other people posed this question.  Were they just curious?  Or were they exercising and dieting like crazy and still getting fatter like me?

So at least until Oldest Son’s wedding next month, I’m going to play it safe and lay off the fatty little capsules.  You may need to patiently direct me to the groom’s side, or help me find my misplaced keys, but at least I won’t be busting the seams on the cute little dress I’m planning to wear.

 

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!

Mr. Trump, You’re Hired!

Hmmm, after waiting years to produce a birth certificate to prove he was a natural born U.S. citizen (a requirement for holding the highest office in the country!), only “the Donald” could stir up enough fear, controversy, or trouble to force Obama to come up with something that appears to show that he was indeed born here.  As always, this inquiring mind has many questions:

Why the wait? 

Is it that money does indeed really talk? 

Are we to believe that someone in Mr. Obama’s position had that much trouble getting his hands on such a crucial document to dispel these disruptive rumors?

If  it does actually take that long for the POTUS to wade through red tape, what hope do we ordinary peeps have to access things we need, say like government health care, etc?

Does it take longer to produce a real birth certificate if you are really a U.S. born citizen, or to forge a convincing replica if you were not actually born here?

Is it better to have people focusing on the question of your origin of birth or honing in on the real issues of government corruption and pandering to rogue foreign leaders?


Now it appears we may need the extreme influence of Mr. Trump to get to the bottom of a new batch of questions. Although most of us Americans feel some degree of satisfaction that good has triumphed over evil and Osama bin Laden has gone to meet his 72 virgins–oh, wait–that’s for the good guys–we wonder why Obama has set himself up for more controversial questions.  Here are a few:

After almost 10 years of relentless searching, how does it happen that our most anti-military, foreign-ass-kissing president gets to claim victory for this military coup?

Why, after such an unbelievable feat being accomplished on his watch, would he so hastily dump the evidence into the depths of the Arabian Sea?

Is following Islamic burial tradition really going to deter these terrorists, who have nothing else on their agenda besides hatred and killing?

Why must we respect the dead body of the biggest mass murderer since Hitler while our young soldiers’ bodies are dragged through the streets and many of the victims of this monster could not even be recovered for proper burial in accordance with our traditions?

As Obama’s ratings plummet, was bin Laden served up as a sacrificial lamb by even more evil elements who wish to keep Obama popular and in power in order to preserve the one-world government dream?

In the scheme of things, bin Laden’s death is mostly a symbolic victory.  It will not bring the thousands of victims back.  It will not prevent countless others who have no jobs, dreams, or freedom to pursue more productive lives from joining terrorist groups.  Unfortunately, it will probably not keep my son and the children of other Americans from having to deploy to an insane lawless region of the world.  But I love to see good triumph over evil, and a villain delivered into hell where he belongs.  And I’d love Mr. Trump to continue asking the questions the rest of us want to know.


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