Archive for November, 2011

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sidebar

November 28, 2011

Just wanted to note that I’ve finally changed the text in the blog’s sidebar to explain what’s actually going on here. Maybe someday I’ll take the time to add the past year to my timeline. Sorry, folks who care about that.

Anyway, here’s the basic info on the blog:

I’m Thorn. My partner Lee (black, Christian) and I (white, atheist) are foster/adoptive parents in the Midwest, and Lee is also an adoptee. Our daughter Mara moved in with us in October 2010 in a pre-adoptive foster placement and was adopted at age 4 in November 2011.

Rowan is a teenager who stayed with us periodically through late 2009 and 2010, adopted by his foster mom in 2011 but still a part of our lives. Colton is a teenager from another state who was matched with us but decided against adoption, also someone we consider part of our extended family. Siblings Val (5) and Alex (4) came to us as a foster placement in September 2011.

This is a part of our stories.

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catchall post – grateful for extended family edition

November 28, 2011

It was the long Thanksgiving weekend here, and oh it felt long. I finally hit my saturation point after two months of little kids constantly demanding my attention and got pretty tired of all of it. Lee stepped up and was great, giving me a chance to go out and eat a meal by myself and run a few errands Friday and then I even went out with a friend for some drinks and conversation after the kids were in bed Saturday. I focused on staying off the internet and reading books instead, since that’s nourishment for an introvert like me.

On Thanksgiving day, Val and Alex went to the relatives’ house where their parents live early and didn’t come home until late, thrilled to have spent the day with family and because it was great weather for romping around in the farm mud there. Mara and I baked cookies and eventually the three in our family went to my parents’ house for dinner, though we were all sort of exhausted and didn’t last long. Still, I think we were all plenty grateful and maybe next year Lee and I will make plans of our own that involve skipping big Thanksgiving dinners since neither of us seem to love them much. We’ll see.

Despite my frustration with the kids’s behavior (which is all age-appropriate look-at-me stuff, nothing problematic but just nothing that ever stops) I have a lot to be grateful for in the three of them too. For one thing, there’s nothing problematic going on, just lots of little annoyances! Val has decided that Mara is her best friend and they’re being mutual good influences. Mara is helping Val be kinder, and Val is pushing Mara to stand up for herself more. Alex is really fantastic about cleaning and such a good helper. Any group of two of the three of them can play together for hours happily, though when all three are together there are more alliances or bossiness or occasional exclusions, though no one seems to get too upset about any of that except sometimes the thwarted bossy one. The three of them love books, love costumes, love playing outside whenever it’s warm enough, and love to laugh and laugh and laugh.

I’m grateful that Lee is doing so much better with the kids. She had all of them cracking up last night, to the point where Alex rolled off the couch because he was laughing so hard. She’s learning to be more empathetic and also just finding her own way to interact with them, because she’s never going to have the exact same relationship with them that I do. So she teases and plays more than I do and that seems to counterbalance the way she also sets edicts more often. They do all like and even love her.

Val and Alex have been telling me they love me for a long time, which I think helps them feel comfortable with the transition from being raised by family members who do love them. I know their mom and dad and former relative caregiver have reassured them that loving us is a good thing. It does mean that I hear a lot of, “Thorn! I love you!” and that’s become both a routine and almost a competition for them. Mara at one point added, “I love you with a heart!” and that’s now become one of the standard phrases for all three kids. I love hearing Val and Alex talk to their grandma on the phone and sign off “I love you with a heart!” and I love how touched she was by that comment. The ways these kids all impact each other in positive directions really impress me.

Between the Thanksgiving day visit to relatives for a big dinner and a visit with their former relative caregiver that I facilitated Saturday, Val and Alex got to see grandparents on both sides this weekend. Mara got to see my parents, “Grandma and Grandpa” to all three kids since Val and Alex use other names for their own grandparents and take their name cues from Mara. (Mara also takes name cues from them and while I don’t really mind that she’s calling me Thorn half the time, boy oh boy does Lee not like being Lee instead of Mama!) We also got to talk to Mara’s grandmother, whom we’ve only met once, on Thanksgiving. She invited us to spend Christmas with Mara’s family, which is incredibly kind and also a sign that she accepts us as part of the family, since I gather she was a little less sure about her grandchild being raised by an interracial lesbian couple than some of the younger members of the family.

Yesterday I spent the whole day at a local museum with all three kids, letting them play in a bunch of different settings. While each had a few little meltdowns, they were great. When Val and Alex go home, I’m going to send them with a zoo membership for their family since the zoo is on an easy bus line and something that would be fun to do with their parents. I’m glad our family has these museum memberships too, though, because even though none of the kids seem interested in learning in-depth about dinosaurs or arrowheads or the limbic system yet, all three may remember when they do find their niches that they got a chance to see these exhibits and associate science with fun.

The other great thing about Thanksgiving was that it wasn’t the kids’ weekend with their family, but it let them have a day with their family anyway. I think it’s going to be really hard to go two weeks between visits, even though the visits now last from Friday evening to Sunday evening. This upcoming weekend will be one where I pack their bags and get their car seats ready and send them off with their family, meaning I’ll be able to be home with Lee and Mara. I think Lee and I are going to get a babysitter and actually have some adult time and a nice dinner somewhere. I’m also going to try calling Mara’s grandmother since I know she’s feeling proactive about things and see if we can set up a family visit with them too. It’s been a month since Mara saw her brothers and sisters, and she’s definitely ready for more. Maybe once we’re there, we can set out a tentative visit schedule or make a plan for something the kids can rely on to know when they’ll see each other again.

And hey, maybe there can be some time that I spend by myself in the bathtub or with a pillow over my head to read or listen to music or just sit quietly and not hear anyone calling my name or asking anything of me. Parenting is hard on someone like me who hates talking on the phone because it’s meant talking to Mara’s relatives before I ever met them and having long conversations reassuring Val and Alex’s grandmother about her ongoing role in their lives and always, always stuff from school or the doctor’s office or from social workers or whatever it is that demands my attention for some topic I always then have to call someone else about before everything can be resolved. It’s hard to hear my name screamed all day long because “Watch me play!” is overlapping with “Watch me brush my teeth!” and “Where’s my favorite orange shirt?” Parenting is hard because it’s hard an exhausting and yet while I don’t feel like I have that metaphorical village I can rely on to do the day-to-day stuff I need to do, I know that all the kids have so many connections to people who love them, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. It’s worth the work. They’re worth the work. But I’m also looking forward to some rest!

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Forever

November 21, 2011

I don’t know whether our adoption case was the only one on the docket today or just the first. Mara was nervous about having so many people around and spent a lot of the time wle we wited beforehand burrowed against me. Inside the courtroom, she was hesitant about sitting next to her guardian ad litem, so I went up there with her and held her on my lap. Though the GAL prompted me to do so, I didn’t tell the conservative judge what my relationship to Mara was, just said that I was holding her because she didn’t want to be alone.

Lee sat at the other table with her lawyer and had to answer all the question while I gently rocked Mara. When the protocol had been satisfied, the judge invited Mara up to bang the gavel, which she did with glee and great success. (Did we see a future Supreme Court Justice in action? Who knows???) After that, it was time for photos and then for Lee to sign away some of her newly granted rights to me and both of us to sign the coparenting agreement saying that from now on we’ll put her first, regardless what may happen in our relationship or laws that govern our relationship to each other and to Mara.

After that, the social workers and some of the others there had to go back to work. Lee and I took our friend who was my lawyer for the coparenting agreement and my mother out to brunch. My dad had to get back to work, but he and Mara got some quality time together before the adoption. Lee and I gave Mara a little spoon ring because she’s always wanted a ring like ours and she loves the spoon bracelet Lee gave me. I think her fingers may alreay be a bit big for this one, but she liked it. I also gave her a copy of Pippi Longstocking, which she had me start reading right there at the restaurant. My parents gave her a cute little ladybug necklace that came in its own ladybug box. Plus the judge had given her a somewhat hideous but definitely memorable stuffed animal, so she has many reminders of the day.

I think she understood what went on. She was unusually somber during the morning, though she perked up and started dancing hilariously after brunch. We talked about how a different judge had decided her parents couldn’t do the mom and dad jobs she needed and now another judge was going to permanently give those jobs to us. We talked about the supportive comments we’ve gotten about adoption from her big sister, her former caregiver, her dad. The social worker who’s known her sibce birth got to see her one last time in that role. After today, Mara doesn’t have a worker, just moms, just family. But I’m so grateful to the families (ours and hers) and friends and supporters who’ve helped us get to this point. I didn’t cry during the adoption but did over some of the sweet facebook comments I got. Mara’s had a huge group of fans and she deserves them. I’m so proud of her progress and excited for her future.

Tonight we’ll have a celebratory dinner with Val and Alex. For now we’re taking it easy with our smaller family, our (mostly) legal family. At four, Mara’s spent a quarter of her life so far with us and all three of us are thrilled that she’ll be with us now for so much more. She’s such an amazing girl and I feel so, so lucky.

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gameplan

November 18, 2011

I want to give a quick update on how things are going with Val and Alex. Since we made our decision this weekend about how we’ll proceed, Lee has seemed much more relaxed and involved. The kids’ parent who’s having trouble hasn’t gotten that trouble resolved yet, but we got a confirmation yesterday from the workers that it’s not yet considered the kind of trouble that’s a setback and regardless of outcome won’t interfere with the goal to reunify on the expected schedule as long as the other parent remains compliant. Sorry I’m being vague about this, but it’s none of the internet’s business.

So tonight, the kids will go to spend the weekend with their parent(s), supervised by the relatives who welcomed the parents into their home. This will be the setup every other weekend until the kids’ parents have their own home or are cleared for unsupervised visits, at which point we’ll be changing up the schedule to work toward reunification. Because they’ll have this extended time for visits, the supervised visits in the social workers’ office (with workers watching through a two-way mirror, which is understandably awkward for all the adults) will be canceled starting this week. Instead, the family worker will debrief with the kids’ relatives to make sure everything is going well, and I’ll also weigh in with how the kids are responding to visits.

Even though Lee had been saying all along that she “needed” Val and Alex to be out of our house every weekend, she’s decided that she’s fine with having them on alternating weekends because she’s relieved about having them visit their relatives and the idea that this is going to be a positive step toward reunification. Alex and Val are thrilled about starting these visits again, which is also nice. Both kids came home with their school photos yesterday, so we’ll even have something nice for them to bring with them (plus the photos I’ve taken, which I print out every week or two for their families) and give to relatives.

Meanwhile, Lee, Mara, our dog Pocky, and I will head downstate a ways to visit our friend on her farm and winery. She’s close to an intentional community of lesbians nearby (though our friend is straight and married to a man) and we’re invited to a going-away party for a woman we know there, which is going to be sort of extended to being a celebration of Mara’s impending adoption too. This friend was one of our references for our homestudy and I think she’s planning to drive up for the adoption, but we’ll also get to relax and let the dog run as a little pre-party getaway.

Oh, and Rowan called again the other night. He’d like Lee to look into what his financial aid eligibility would be at the community college where she teaches. That’s easy to answer since every school will give him the same answer, that because he was in foster care at some point beyond his thirteenth birthday, he’ll be eligible for the same amount of aid as if he’d aged out of foster care. It’s exciting, though, because we’d always believed he’d eventually move back to our area and be more actively a part of our lives, and it would be so great to see that happen and be a part of it someday.

So for now, everything’s good on the homefront. We had our monthly visit with our social worker this week, and she’s sympathetic to why we’ve had a hard time with Val and Alex and also to why we agreed to take on that placement. We’re all talking about what kind of work it will take for us to be ready for another placement in the future (and after a healthy break) while recognizing that we’re going to get called with placement requests a lot and are going to have to get comfortable saying no a lot. This was the last time she had to ask about Mara, since once Mara’s adopted the state will no longer track her progress. We signed our names and each of the kids did their best attempts at their own, and then we were done and ready to start the next month.

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Interviewing M de P

November 17, 2011

I’m so excited about participating in this year’s Adoption Bloggers Interview Project but all the more so because my partner was M de P of Reservado para Futura Mamá, a blogger I’ve loved reading pretty much since she started writing.

M de P teaches in a bilingual school in NYC, where she lives with her Chilean husband, Mr. P, and their children A, now three, and G, still a baby. She and I both started blogging in summer of 2008, but by fall she was already bringing home her daughter A, while we waited another two years before Mara ended up with us. (A is now the same age Mara was when she moved in with us, so I’m particularly looking forward to cute preschooler stories in future posts!) After an understandable hiatus I assume was due to parenting, M de P recently came back to her blog to write about her second adoption of her son, G, and their family’s experiences with domestic infant open adoption.

It was such a privilege to get to talk to her directly about her thoughts on blogging, adoptive parenting, and more. She asked me great questions, too, and I’m looking forward to being able to show off all the babbling I did in response. Then after us, there are still something like 124 other bloggers taking part in the interview project, so I should have plenty to read in coming days!

Thorn:I read your blog from very early on because you and I were both part of the Class of Summer ’08 in the waiting adoption blogs, and I recall you being one of the first to switch from that role to actual parenting, which I’ve found seriously eats into blogging time! Did you have some mental timeline about how long you’d be a “futura mamá” and how did that transition to parenting work for you and Mr. P?

M de P: I thought we would wait a lot longer than we did. There was a part of me that doubted if we would ever be parents. That’s ridiculous now looking back at it, but at the time parenthood felt so illusive to me. In any case, I certainly didn’t think that we would only wait a few months to bring home our child. I think our transition to parenting went quite smoothly. I don’t think there is a whole lot to do to truly prepare for parenting – you just have to dive in. It didn’t hurt that A was an extremely easy baby (and G is as well). A was the first grandchild for my parents, and they were thrilled, and gave us a lot of support. We felt support and love from so many people and that felt really amazing. Although I felt that the transition to parenting went smoothly, stepping into my public role as a mother was more awkward. It was strange for me to be seen as a mother after having not been a mother (while wanting to be one) for so long.

Related to that, you came back to your blog just in time to prepare to welcome Little G into your home. How were you able to decide that the three of you were ready to expand to a family of four? Did you have different expectations or specifications going into your second adoption compared to the first?

I always knew that I wanted two children. We had talked about adopting again almost ever since A had come home to us. About the time that A was turning 2, we started to talk more specifically about starting the adoption process again, and we submitted the initial paperwork shortly after she turned two. Mr. P was more hesitant than I was because he worried about messing with something that seemed so perfect. He was also really worried about the logistics of adding another baby/child to the mix. We rely solely on public transportation to get everywhere and take our kids outside the house for daycare every day, so it’s quite a trip with carrying the stroller up and down the stairs, etc… There was also a concern about the expense of adding another child to our family (not the expenses of the adoption, all of which will come back to us through the tax credit, but mostly it’s the daycare expenses that are huge). Now that we are a family of four, we are managing fine. Finances are tight, but that is temporary, and logistically we have been able to work things out in a way that works for us.

When we were going through the adoption process for the second time, we talked a lot with our social worker about our expectations and how every child and every adoption is different. We really had to clear our head of any expectations because we were going into a completely different situation and there was no way to know what awaited us. We talked about how no matter how open or closed the second adoption would be, the adoptions would still be very different, and we talked through ways of dealing with that. In both of our adoptions, we were open to children from any racial background. Before starting the process the second time I thought that perhaps we should specify that we would like to adopt a child of the same background as A (hispanic). After thinking it over, though, we decided that we wouldn’t do that. [This is really a whole post on its own - so thanks for the idea and I'll to write that later!] As it turns out, both of our children have an Ecuadorian background – both A’s birthparents are Ecuadorian and G’s birthmother is Ecuadorian. However, G doesn’t “look Ecuadorian” as some people remark (because he is white), while many people think that A is Asian. So while my children share a common ethnic background, they will almost certainly never be perceived as sharing that by outsiders. We couldn’t believe it when we heard that G was Ecuadorian (we were thrilled) and are so happy that they share that.

I know your daughter’s birthmother, K, had difficult circumstances that led her to place A for adoption. Have you been able to find ways to help A make sense of her story? Does seeing G’s family help? (I know for our Mara, seeing how active our foster children’s family has been in their lives really drove home the absence of her family, which turned out to be a good thing in that she was able to accept that this was one of the reasons they weren’t able to parent her and we needed to step into that role. I’m using a lot of these questions to pick your brain about how we deal with Mara!)

A is still very young to really grasp a deeper understanding of adoption, I think. We haven’t shared any of the difficult circumstances of K’s placement of A with her yet (that is a ways off) though we practice talking about what we do know in an age-appropriate way as well as talking about the unknowns. I think G’s adoption and his arrival in our family has been an incredibly positive experience in terms of A’s understanding of her own adoption. It’s been a great starting point for us to talk about her adoption and her birth family. She has asked more questions, and has brought up K on her own, which had never happened previously. G’s birth family has been very sweet with A as well and so that has been great. I don’t at all get the sense that she is feeling “left out” or not-as-special. This could very well change, as we know, and so I spend a lot of time thinking about how to cross those bridges when we get to them.

You and Mr. P are obviously in a transcultural relationship and while you haven’t specified your children’s cultural or ethnic heritages, it sounds like you have a lot of different backgrounds feeding into your family. Are there family traditions that celebrate specific aspects of someone’s heritage? Have you been successful in raising A to be bilingual?

It’s funny that until you asked this question, I hadn’t realized that I’d never talked about A and G’s backgrounds on my blog. So being that they are both Ecuadorian and Mr. P is Chilean, there is definitely some overlap there in terms of traditions/culture. We don’t necessarily go out of our way to include Ecuadorian customs in our lives (yet), but South American culture is part of our everyday lives – music, food, literature, politics, etc… We will most definitely travel together to Ecuador when our kids our older. They are from two different parts of the country, so as they get older, it will be nice to talk about those different parts of the country and the respective customs and traditions.

Raising A bilingual…. we have not been as successful as I would like to say we have been. A understands absolutely everything in Spanish, though she rarely speaks it of her own accord. We use a model where Mr. P speaks to her in Spanish and I speak to her in English. When Mr. P speaks to her, she simply responds in English. I am a bilingual teacher and teach in a bilingual school, where we hope A (and G) will go, and we are quite determined that they will both be bilingual. I just wish she was more receptive to speaking Spanish now.

I’m also curious because so many blogs come from a very North American perspective how your Chilean relatives view these adoptions and open adoption in general. I remember that they were thrilled to meet A when she was a baby, but do they have misconceptions about what to expect especially now that you’re in a more actively open adoption?

Oh, there are plenty of misconceptions – the same misconceptions you will find here. Our Chilean family I think for the most part doesn’t really get it what an open adoption is. They don’t ask much about our children’s birth families. Our relationship with G’s family is still so new so I’m not sure if they even realize how open it is. I think this will come out more as our relationship grows and they become more and more a part of our lives. We’ve talked about open adoption with our friends in Chile and though it’s a completely new idea to them, they have all been curious and supportive. We have friends who have adopted in Chile and the process is completely different – closed and controlled completely by an agency. Adoptive parents have very little input, and birth families I imagine are completely disenfranchised from the process.

I didn’t notice this until I read back through the blog, but it took you an unusually long time to finalize A’s adoption. I know you were able to travel with her before finalization, but how did living in limbo affect your life? Do you have advice for others dealing with delays?

In our city, it is common for finalization to take a long time. It was a bit longer than we expected, but otherwise it didn’t really affect us – especially because we were able to travel internationally (which we did three times before we finalized). I guess I don’t have much advice since it wasn’t such a big deal for us.

You’re the rare writer who was able to leave a blog and then come back to it. What is it about writing the blog that you find meaningful? How do you approach blogging differently three years and two kids later?

I started the blog because I wanted to be part of the online adoption community – a community that at the time I didn’t have in my real life. Although I now have an adoption community in real life, I still very much value this larger community in the blogosphere. I also wanted to have a space to write through my thoughts on adoption. I wish I wrote more than I did – I put undue pressure on myself to find “appropriate” topics for my blog. I should just write more about what’s going on with us and see what comes out of it. As for blogging with two kids and three years later, obviously finding time is more difficult – not just to write but to read other blogs. I do have a handful that I follow regularly but I used to follow many more. I do want to continue writing, though, so I need to make that commitment to find the time.

Last, I’m just excited to have your voice back in the blogosphere. Do you have any stories you’d like to share from the time you weren’t blogging? I’m sure A is a little person already, but can you see hints of who G will be? Is there anything else about your present-tense life as a mom that you’d like to share?

Wow, there are so many stories. How to pick just one or two? Again, I will defer to writing a post or two at a later date….. Being a mom is beyond the most amazing part of my life. As hectic as it can be, I actually think that having children has made me much more centered and calm, able to enjoy life all the more. I feel so incredibly blessed to have these two little people in my life, and to have such a great foundation for a relationship with G’s family. A is most definitely her own little person now. She is amazing – funny, quick-witted, dramatic, shy, loving, protective. G is such a sweet little guy, and I love being a mom to a son. I was very nervous about parenting a boy (again, another post!) but I am so happy to have a son and a daughter.

Thanks again to M de P for being a good sport, insightful, much more prompt than I was about following the timing guidelines for the project, and just a wonderful blogger and a wonderful mother!

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up, downs, more

November 15, 2011

I’ll start with the good stuff. Mara got to see her dad yesterday, for the first time since she was a year or so old, 18 months at the most. Lee had met him several times and talked to him quite a bit, and I was able to briefly say hello when we swung by his workplace to make sure a Mara visit would be all right. Mara got to talk to him, draw him a picture, and just seeing how both of them grinned the whole time was amazingly rewarding. Lee says that Mara just gave her a huge hug last night and she knew exactly what that meant, that Mara is relieved to have gotten what she’d been asking for for all this time.

Obviously we don’t yet have the kind of relationship with him where he can be fully honest about difficult feelings, but for now he’s saying that he understands and accepts that he wasn’t in a place to parent her and that mostly he’s grateful she’s in a permanent home and doing so well with us. He’s not a very active father to any of his kids, I gather, but he’s good with kids in general and finds a lot of meaning being a volunteer sports coach and he enjoys the relationships he does have with his kids. I’ve been told that he told the state he didn’t intend to parent Mara even after she was removed from her mom, but he did a lot of the parenting before he went away and was no longer accessible and he has so many good memories about Mara’s favorite Barney songs. Somewhere in a storage unit or his parents’ house, he has twenty rolls of film with photos of baby Mara on them. Right now, we have no images to show her between the footprints taken at birth in her hospital file and the day that she moved in with her foster family at about age 2.5. Being able to fill in some of that empty history would be great, and I know how moved we’ve all been to have pictures of her siblings. Now we can add a picture of her dad holding her while they both beam to her bedroom wall.

Both Lee and I thought and talked a lot about having Val and Alex as a foster placement while they were in respite, though not while I was on a trip I hope to be able to talk about later. I think we’re completely on the same page with each other and our social worker in deciding that if the case remains on track for relatively quick reunification (by spring) we’re happy to keep the kids where they’re doing well. If there’s something that their parents do that slows the process down or alters the expectations about reunification, then we’re going to ask that they be moved to a carefully chosen home that can meet their needs and also be an adoptive placement if the case ever gets to that, which of course I hope it won’t. I’m hoping that their parents will be in good shape to have them back soon.

However, it’s a good thing we’d made that decision because something potentially bad happened to one of their parents this weekend. Some bad decisions from their past looped back around and now there’s legal trouble that wasn’t there in this shape before. Neither we nor the workers nor the parents’ relatives, from what they told me when we talked about this, really knows what’s going on right now and obviously I’m not going to share details here. I think I’m going to be the one to talk to the kids once there’s clarity about the situation because the other parent feels too emotional to discuss it in a way that won’t scare the kids. There’s definitely a possibility that this is all some administrative problem where the people involved with the prior problem tried to contact the parents at their old address even though they have the new address and then freaked out when the parents weren’t there anymore and assumed this meant they were non-compliant. If that’s all it is, that might be easily resolved soon and the kids could still be on track for weekend visits starting Friday. Right now, though, we have no idea what’s going on and neither does anyone else.

I’m feeling pretty calm about the idea of transitioning them to another home. I mean, it would be horrible and I’m sure I’d resist it, but I’ve worked through ways to talk to them about it and talk to Mara. I think I could do it without completely melting down and feeling convinced I’m a worthless foster parent and a failure in general. The idea of another year with Val and Alex is just hard to imagine, though I’m sure I could have found the kind of support that would let me work through it and that eventually Lee would have become more emotionally available. I just can’t handle the thought of buckling all those car seats every day forever forever forever, basically, of all the little pieces of having little ones that are difficult for me. If that’s what needs to happen to keep our family healthy and make sure Val and Alex can be somewhere safe for as long as they need it, we’ll figure out how to move them. Having the decision be triggered in part by their parents’ actions rather than, say, Lee’s whims has definitely made this easier for me. I like if/thens, even awfully complicated ones.

And speaking of if/thens, men’s college basketball season has begun again. This means Lee called Rowan last night to set the ground rules for their betting (on who will get possession of the ugly hat they had me knit) and trash talk. When we shared this story at the foster/adoptive support group we went to last night, several of the dads were visibly envious that trash talking is part of her foster parenting experience. At this point, we’ve known Rowan longer than anyone in his life (except of course his brother, when he’s around) and he relishes the traditions and connections we have.

It sounds like he’s doing well. He wants to come stay with us for a week or two this summer before he starts basic training, which I gather means the military has actually accepted him. (I’ve said so many times that beyond my own pacifism, I’m just not thrilled with the idea of the military being the right place for an awesome young man with complex PTSD who’s spent way too much of his youth already being bossed around by his abusive parents and then the staffs at all the RTCs he was in, but my pacifism will also keep me from “accidentally” dropping something heavy on his foot while he visits or anything like that. I won’t get in his way, but I don’t like his plan even though I’m glad he’s making plans about his own life. His adoptive mom and I are on the exact same page there.) He also told me his new goal is to run for president and he does in fact have opinions across his platform. So I guess be ready for Rowan as Republican nominee in 2032. I’d vote for him. He’s such an amazing young man and I love that he’s now aspiring to the ultimate stereotypical “you can be anything!” goal. He’s lived with a lot of restrictions and setbacks, and he’s already someone amazing and heading for more as he gets toward high school graduation and eventually his 18th birthday.

When we were asked at the support group what our strengths are, I said that mine are dealing with teens and with talking about sexual abuse, which I know is harder for a lot of people than it is for me. I think I should have said that my strength is pushing for and forging family connections for all these kids. I’m on a little mission from Rowan to help him feel reassurance about a younger relative who lives near us, and I no longer feel I’d totally be letting down Val and Alex’s parents if we didn’t end up remaining their foster family. Even Lee agrees we’d still be open to doing respite for the kids if they left or if they went back to their parents, and I do want to be a resource of sorts. This kind of thing came up a lot at last night’s meeting and my attitude does seem to be different from the norm in ways that are helping us make things work. So I’m grateful for that.

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the center cannot hold(?)

November 11, 2011

Val and Alex go to respite with another foster family tonight. We’d had everything planned for them to go back to their relative’s when one of the social workers’ supervisors said, “Oh, we don’t want them there for weekends, just for a few hours at a time.” I’m heading out of town this weekend, so at that point the options were to cancel my trip, find a respite placement for the kids, or leave the kids with Lee. That last one wasn’t going to happen, and more on that later.

The good news that comes out of all the back-and-forth that went on after that revelation was that we’re very close to sure that the kids will get to start spending weekends with their parents next weekend. The not-so-great news is that there was also a lot of back-and-forth about whether this placement would disrupt. The resolution to that was that I’m going to basically end up doing more and Lee is going to be very restricted in what she’s willing to do, but the outcome is that the kids will stay in our home. Lee feels like she’s sacrificing her own happiness for the benefit of the other four of us. I don’t really want to write much about that argument because it’s still so raw, but I was very tempted to disrupt because I’m sick of what the stress is doing to her and to me and I feel complicit in hurting her, even if I’d argue that she’s choosing to be hurt rather than to change. Our worker said that it seems like it would be the best thing for the kids to keep the placement going since it’s been so positive for them, but the best thing for our relationship to disrupt the placement. I don’t know if that’s true just in that I would be furious and hurt if we did disrupt, but certainly that’s the dynamic. For me, it’s a no-brainer that kids’ needs come before those of the grown-ups, but Lee doesn’t always believe that and also probably sees herself as being in a situation where she needs to put on her metaphorical oxygen mask before putting one on a child. Well, except that she doesn’t actually want to be doing stuff that corresponds to the metaphoric air-disaster childcare, or at least not for anyone except Mara right now. I dunno.

The truly good news is that my work days will be getting somewhat less busy soon. The kids moved in right before things got super busy for me, and I’m thinking about what my schedule is just because it’s worth remembering sometimes why I’m so tired and frustrated. As far as respite goes, I think the biggest rest I need is for my feelings, because Lee’s behavior and statements lately have hurt me in a lot of ways. And yes, I whine about that online too, which is probably not the most productive way to deal with it but feels like all I have time to do.

I’m going to write in boring detail how most days work, because I think it might be useful for me to look back on this. The day starts with night, in which Mara often wakes once and Alex almost always wakes at least three or four times and yells for me. We’re doing practice runs of picking up his stuffed toy and putting his blankets back on, but he hasn’t figured out either of them yet. Luckily his room is right by ours and it’s easy enough for me to wake up, duck in, take care of whatever he needs, and then fall back asleep within the next fifteen minutes or so. Still, that’s a lot of lost time that I could spend sleeping. Lee occasionally gets up, but basically this is my thing and it sometimes doesn’t even wake her.

I then get up between 5:30 and 6:00. If I’m lucky, there’s time for a shower. I wash my face, brush my teeth, get dressed. Then it’s time to start waking kids. In general, I need to get all three kids up, dressed, done with all their bathroom stuff, fed (just a snack, since all three eat breakfast at school), and out the door by around 7:15. Alex pops out of bed as soon as the light comes on. Mara wakes up quickly but prefers to snuggle and drag things out, though on the plus side she’s the only one of the three who can dress herself. Valerie is definitely not a morning person, and I’ve taken to dressing her and doing her hair while she dozes, which speeds things significantly and cuts down on defiance and whining. No matter how fast the kids are at getting ready, once we go downstairs they switch into super slow motion and the part of the morning where we’re putting on shoes and coats and eating cheese or raisins or a cereal bar can take longer than the rest of the routine.

Lee wakes herself and does her own morning prep, though in general I make her coffee which is something I’ve resented since buying a coffee maker with a timer, but there you have it. She also feeds the pets. She drives Mara to school and I take Val and Alex to their schools, though Val’s school doesn’t open until 7:30 and so I need Lee to take her if I have to be at work by 7:30. Otherwise I aim to leave the house at 7:20, drop Val at her school as it opens at 7:30, then get to Alex’s school about five minutes later. I have to walk him in, which is why it’s more trouble if I have to bring Val along too, and he needs a lot of reassurance as I leave. I get to work between 7:45 and 8:00, though my commute now takes 45 minutes instead of 15.

Lately I’ve been working to 4:45 or 5:00 or even later most days. I have to get out of work by 5:10 if I want to be sure I can get Alex before his program closes at 5:15. I get him first, which means getting out of the car, getting buzzed in at his school, signing him out, talking to him and his teacher, getting all his stuff, loading him up, driving the few blocks to Val’s school, parking, unbuckling Alex and getting him out of the car, getting buzzed in at Val’s school, signing her out at her aftercare program, getting her coat on and backpack ready, loading and buckling both kids in the car, then heading home while they babble on top of each other because they’re so excited. Getting home between 5 and 6, I have to throw dinner together while talking to all three kids. I try to get Val to do her homework in the kitchen so I can supervise, but Mara and Alex would often rather be with us than play on their own. Lee won’t eat dinner with the kids, so I serve the food, supervise and guide conversation, then have to clean up quickly while the kids get in my way and ask to do art or play outside or watch a tv show or something.

Bedtime is supposed to start at 7:30, but sometimes someone will have lost some bedtime as a punishment from a time when a time-out wasn’t applicable. This is usually because whichever child is actually too sleepy to keep listening or obeying or playing gently or whatever the issue is. So at 7:30 we start getting into pajamas, brushing teeth, reading stories. Val and Alex are pretty good at falling asleep on their own, though I get called back in to offer reassurances about the next day. Mara gets two-hour naps at school and isn’t always ready for bed at 8, so she gets to spend more time up while we try to keep her quiet. Lee really likes having one-on-one time with her if she’s around, but often it means I’m trying to rock Mara to sleep while also dealing with shouting for me from Val and Alex down the hall.

By the time Mara’s asleep it’s often 9 or even later. I try to get the dishes running in the dishwasher and the kitchen basically cleaned. I’m often tired enough that I don’t do much else more beyond read in bed for a little while before going back to sleep so the cycle can start again. If I’m going to get grocery shopping done, this is the best time to do it too since I can’t just grab stuff after work the way I used to when I was taking refrigerated things right home to the fridge. I can do this on the nights that they go to visitation with their parents and the social worker transports them, so getting to go to the grocery store is a treat of sorts, albeit one I sort of hate.

When I write it out like that, it actually doesn’t sound so bad to me. All three kids are only in my care for an hour and a half in the morning and two or three hours in the evening. It’s hard to squeeze in all the things I want to do, and I hate that I have to tell them that no, we can’t play with clay if we’re also going to make it to story hour at the library. The reality is that we’re a working-parent family and that Val and Alex need a lot of sleep and don’t get any during the school day, so sleep has to be a priority. So I’m spending eight or nine hours at my job, five hours tops in hands-on childcare, and that should leave me at least 10 hours for myself, though it sometimes doesn’t feel that way. (Oh, maybe it’s that I spend almost two hours commuting that’s getting to me, too.) Okay, eight hours for me, most of which I spend sleeping. Hmm.

The agreement Lee and I came to was that she didn’t want to do any more than she’s already doing, which is pretty close to nothing in the realm of childcare. All three kids spend the bulk of their day at school or aftercare programs, so I want the time that they spend with us to be meaningful for them. They get to play, but mostly they want to talk to me and I have to take the time and mental energy it takes to make sure they get that. I’ve signed on to keeping this schedule for the foreseeable future and I think I’m okay with that. I think that the part that exhausts me is when Lee snaps at me, though yes, definitely it’s sometimes when I have to tell someone for the 700th time to put on socks or to pleeeease be quieter or whatever it is. Sometimes it’s that I’ve asked Lee to put Mara to bed and Mara insists that, no, she wants Mommy and I end up with no break.

I mean, Lee’s good about stepping in if I have a specific request. If I need to work till 6 and I need her to pick up Alex, that’s no problem. I’d told her in one of our earlier iterations of the argument that I wanted 10 minutes a day just as a break. Sometimes this means I just go to the bathroom and enjoy the relative quiet, close enough to be able to yell to the kids as needed. Sometimes it means they go upstairs to the playroom and I can keep an ear on them but also not have to be in the middle of everything. Sometimes I just don’t get any sort of break until everyone’s asleep, and that’s tiring but uncommon enough that it doesn’t push me to the brink of my sanity.

I got to go out to a pub trivia thing with a long-time friend this week, and Lee was fine at putting all three kids into bed and I go to actually talk to grownups (and learn that we should have wagered it all on the final question, which would have left us in first place rather than third) and have a good time. It was relaxing and fun but also sort of weird, and I worried that Lee would be stressed or frustrated at home, which luckily she wasn’t. I was out for three hours and it felt ridiculously freeing, but then I realized the next night that Lee was out for exactly the same hours and it was just normal, just what we’ve been dealing with the last six weeks.

Then last night was the twice-monthly tutoring at the church that I’m supposed to be running but that has degenerated into fuckery of the highest order. I was mad at Lee for not showing up on time at the book festival at Alex’s school to pick up Alex and Mara so I could take Val to tutoring, both because Val is in kindergarten and thus old enough but also because I know her whining annoys Lee and I wanted to give Val the chance to get through the day without a time out, which she finally managed! So I was more than five minutes hate when I hate being late and when Lee’s biggest complaint about the church is that everything starts late, so I was mad at her, only to find that none of the deacons who are supposed to help me had shown up and that in fact the church was still locked. Whoever was supposed to run the second hour of music/drama practice didn’t show either, so eventually I got the five kids into the church and we did a tiny bit of tutoring and then I came home. This is just a paragraph I’m throwing in here because Lee wants me to quit tutoring because she thinks I’m doing too much and I said I didn’t want to because the kids deserve the attention and help, but oh my goodness am I going to be on my own with it, I think. Luckily the other adult there was a former foster parent and understood when I said I’d been busy and didn’t have my usual pack of spare paper and books for kids who don’t have homework. She’s also a fantastic grandmother and the grandchildren she’s raising are doing really well in school, so that part was great. I have no idea what I’m going to do about supposedly running this program (which was sprung on me at the beginning of the school year) but I think I’ll say that other people can take care of the youngest kids and I’ll rope in the church member who’s a high school science teacher so we can focus on the teens. Or something like that.

So anyway, this is our life right now. Lee has agreed that she’ll stop talking about disruption and try to just accept that the kids are who they are and it’s a lot of work and noise and mess to have three young kids in our home. Supposedly we’ll get some time off on weekends to be just the three of us, but I’m not going to have the kids going out to respite with strangers again, so after this weekend I’ll have to just stay home with them if they’re not with family and Lee can go stay with friends if she needs to be away. That means I’d have to take on more housework, where I’ve definitely been slacking, and pet care. If I have the kids all weekend, I try to make at least one day a trip to the zoo or a museum or park, depending on weather, so that the kids can amuse themselves and I can herd them as a group, which is a little more restful than trying to manage all of them at home.

Both our worker and the family’s worker want to make the placement last, but I’m not sure what anyone can do beyond what we’ve got going right now. I mean, Lee could do more, but yeah, that’s not what she wants. I’m still hoping that her emotional hangups about this will get better and she’ll feel a motivation to do more, but I don’t get to control when, how or if that happens. I can just do as much as I can do, and she’s agreed to try to be healthy and able to support me when I really need it. I did get my flu shot so that at least I don’t have to worry about that, but I spent most of the first month with the kids nursing what was probably a sinus infection or bronchitis without making time to go to the after-hours clinic to get myself checked, so I also have to be realistic about how I’m disregarding some of my own needs.

This isn’t forever, though Lee’s no longer saying that January is her absolute cut-off date. At this point she’s saying that she’ll sign on for the duration of the placement as long as we don’t ask her to do more than she wants to do. And I agreed to that because I think it’s what’s best for the kids. We are paying someone to come and clean at the house twice a month, but we don’t have the money to do any more than that and are going to be kind of scrounging to come up with the money for what we’re doing as is. We have no money to pour into solutions, no extra time to round things up. I’m not looking for help, really, but just planning to keep doing what we’ve been doing for as long as I possibly can. I mean, I’m aiming for playdates with neighbors who have older kids who can be good role models for ours. I’m trying to encourage family connections with both families. I’m still finding time to read at lunch at work or in the bathroom. I get on twitter more than I should, especially when I’m annoyed or worn out. I’m managing, not flailing, but I’m trying to figure out to what extent I’m deluding myself about being able to pull this off and to what extent it matters. I’m really not sure, because this is what I’ve agreed to and what I have to do for as long as necessary and I feel much better about that than I felt about potentially disrupting, which made me shaky and miserable. (“Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death,” my brain keeps chanting to me now.)

So yeah, this is what we’re doing. I can’t afford to have the time away from home I’d hoped for this weekend, but I still get a break and a chance to talk to people I adore about things I find compelling. And food, there will be food! I’m losing a fair amount of weight thanks to the pace of life and that I’m not eating as much as I normally would, but I’m looking forward to mealtime conversations with people who don’t need to be reminded not to spill their drinks or to stick their noses in their soup. I’m getting a break, and that will tide me over to the next time I get a break. In the meantime, I’m doing something more important than just taking care of myself.

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Team Parents

November 8, 2011

This weekend went well, with Val and Alex at their relative’s house and Mara with Lee and me. Well, Mara even spent a few hours with my mom, but Lee and I spent that time romantically dozing in front of the football games on tv (her) and reading in the bathtub (me) and that was still a good use of our time! I did plenty of crying and I got a nap myself. The kids had fun with their relatives, though they were very glad to be back with us Sunday evening. Their caseworker said today that she hopes to have her concerns about visits with the relatives housing their parents resolved by next week, which makes me think she’s asking the family to do something in particular, though we’ll probably never know.

As a foster parent, I know a lot more about the case and about the kids’ parents than the system really expects or wants me to. That’s partly because I listened to the kids and pieced together who was who in their family stories, partly because I ended up talking to their half-sibling’s other parent in the waiting room during a visit, definitely because the relative who’d been caring for them left court documents in the paperwork she left for us during the custody transfer…. But I’ve also learned a lot because their mom has decided she trusts me and that it’s important to be open with me about where she comes from as a parent, how she failed when her family was in crisis, and what she’s doing to improve.

On Halloween, the kids’ parents, one of their half-siblings, and the relative whose house their parents live in all showed up at our door while I was frantically adjusting capes and wings and doing some makeup. Their mom got to put the makeup on Val’s face while I touched up Alex’s. Their parents got to walk through their room and hear them chirping about what books they like at bedtime. Their family got to see that they live in a house where they’re treated like normal kids, where there was a crock pot dinner all three kids scorned in favor of the candy to come, where the bathroom where they bathe and brush their teeth is right next to the room where they sleep. For all those family members, I assume the life that the kids live in our house became real in a new way just like the kids’ life before us became real to me when I first met their parents and former caregiver at the five-day meeting when they were first placed with us.

I really think one of the core skills (which is totally not the right way to phrase it) that a foster parent needs is empathy. You need to be able to look at these kids and figure out why they’re being needy and annoying, which is the only way I know of to meet those needs and stop being annoyed. I’ve also only dealt with kids who have complicated feelings that include love toward their birth families. It’s easy to understand why they might feel sad, frustrated, let down by their birth families, but understanding that love means being open to empathy. I had predisposed myself to think well of their parents because it was just so clear (especially compared to Mara when she entered our home) that these were kids who’d been loved and cared for. I knew that their parents had had problems, but I was going into this hoping that they could overcome their problems and regain custody of Val and Alex.

So yeah, we brought their family over to our house and even with Lee at home handing out candy had one adult per child as we did the trick-or-treating, which not only made it extra special for Val and Alex (and Mara, who was delighted to get to talk to their parents) but made my job a lot easier. I also think that any time their parents can see that I’m serious about being on the side of the family and reunification, that I’m going to tell their kids to stay out of the street but also let them have some candy on Halloween, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing as a foster parent. Lee had a moment where she disappointed me, hissing as I left the house that if our place got robbed we’d know who’d done it. (Note that I have no reason to believe any of their families have been involved in robberies and that I was only willing to have them over because I did believe they were safe and I fully recognize there are plenty of cases where this wouldn’t be safe.) When our whole pack returned with buckets of candy and full bladders, Lee spent some time talking to their parents about which kid looks like which of them and why we’re all frustrated with their worker for the same reasons and she ended up with a lot more empathy than she’d had before.

In thinking about things from what I imagine might be the kids’ parents’ perspective, I know that it’s important for me to be honest. After Alex’s parent-teacher meeting, which his mom and I attended jointly, I drove her back to her relative’s house where she waited for her husband to finish what he was doing and I was honest with her that Lee was having a hard time. I said some of what I’ve said here, that I really think a lot of it has to do with unresolved stress she has about never wanting to be like her birthmom Leah, someone who didn’t do what she should have to attach to and take care of baby Lee, and that I believe at some level she’s terrified to love kids she knows she’s going to lose because she knows how much it hurt her to love and lose someone when she was tiny herself. I told their mom that Lee’s set in her ways and she’s stressed out by the noise and chaos of three small kids, which was something that definitely resonated with their mom’s experience too. I said what she always says, that she likes the kids and thinks they’re good kids but just feels overwhelmed by them. If anything goes wrong in this placement, I don’t want her to feel like I lied to her or like I misled her. She knows that Lee’s having a really hard time and that we have to make sure Lee and Mara are okay here, just as we’d have to intervene somehow if it were clear that Val or Alex weren’t okay with us.

I like that we like these parents, though. I like that it’s easy to see where they come from, how life has been hard on them but also the strength they’ve shown in these past months while doing what they need to do to regain custody of their kids. I appreciate that they’re grateful for what I’m doing, but I’m uncomfortable with it too. As far as I’m concerned, what I’m doing is just what foster parents are supposed to do, and I’m not saying that out of false modesty. (It’s quite possible I’m saying it out of a ludicrously rigid set of moral standards, which would hardly be the first time I’ve fallen into that trap.) I’m grateful that we’re able to be a safe stop for Alex and Val. I’m grateful that we’re able to tell them honestly that their parents love them, that we want their parents to do the things they need to do to be able to parent safely.

We’ve started a lot of “team” talk at our house and I wonder if it’s subconsciously grown out of how often I’ve talked about being on the parents’ team, about all of us grown-ups working together with the same goal. So Team 4-Year-Old (Mara and Alex) will do something, or we talk about who’s Team Green Car and who’s Team Gray Car in the mornings so the kids know how they’re getting to school. The term isn’t about competition at all but about togetherness, that we know who’s a unit and what the different configurations are. I’m glad that I have the kids’ parents on my team because it gives me legitimacy when they know that their mom wants them to listen to me. I know she’s glad that her kids have foster parents who do like her and support her and feel positive about the family, challenges and all. Lee and I are working on strengthening our personal team so she won’t keep riding the bench as much as she has, but on the whole I think we’re all going in the same direction as best we can. That’s really all we can do.

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Mara, marvelous at 4

November 4, 2011

Let’s talk about something pleasant! At the moment, I can’t think of much that’s more heart-warming than Mara’s happiness about her birthday this year, though my rambling here won’t do it justice. First off, as she’d hoped, she got to talk to her daddy on her birthday. Her dad had already remembered her birthday (and her little sibling’s, since they’re only a year and a few days apart) and was happy to give her a call and wish her the best. Her older siblings and the cousins they live with called too, though Mara didn’t give them her full attention since she was so busy pushing for cake time. There’s going to be a party for Mara and her little sib in the next week or two, which should be a great chance to celebrate together.

I hadn’t had a chance to sneak Val and Alex out to select a present for her, but I picked up a few little things without them and was able to show them what they’d be giving Mara on the morning of her birthday. They were very excited about it and really got into it when she unwrapped the megaphone and tops that were from them. They also worked hard on a birthday card for her, even briefly ignoring Halloween candy to get some intense coloring done. They then were friendly and excited at her party, which was attended by my parents, two of my three brothers, one brother’s girlfriend, and then Mara’s best friend and his family, friends of ours who were references for our homestudy. This meant that adults outnumbered the kids, and we were able to keep everyone occupied and happy. There was an eventual meltdown on Val’s part that Mara had gotten presents and she hadn’t gotten anything (except the treat bag of new toys I made especially for her, of course) but that was to be expected and past normal bedtime anyway.

Mara is so easy-going that she’s hard to buy for, as my mom complained to me. She likes every kind of toy but doesn’t have huge favorites. She loves the baby doll I bought her last year, but she was just as happy making her candy wrappers have long conversations with each other. Still, she got some pretty fantastic things — a scooter, a pair of maracas, a doll with lots of braids from my parents. She was thrilled about all of them, though the scooter Lee chose and its giant box obviously loomed large over the rest. Mara had us all wearing party hats, I think a sign that her repeat viewings of Winnie the Pooh have informed her Platonic ideal of parties. Everyone humored her in this, even when my relatives’ massive heads snapped the cheap elastic bands, and I got some great photos of adults and children alike enjoying themselves.

But how is Mara doing as a four-year-old? We made a big deal about how grown up she is because she is, but also because she’s taking it to heart. She dresses herself in the mornings and at pajama time and is getting more independent about everything, though she still loves and needs to be rocked to sleep. Her hair is really growing and looking very health, and she’s gotten much better about not pulling it, though that’s definitely still something she wants to do when she’s tired. One of her preschool teachers (I’m assuming, since I don’t know where else she’d have learned this) taught her to do the wig tap move that you see a lot in women with wigs or weave, patting the head with the palm rather than scratching with fingers, which disturbs the hair. This seems to soothe Mara just as well and I’d thought about suggesting it before but Lee was opposed, so I’m sort of relieved she’s come up with it from another source.

I wrote here that Mara graduated from speech therapy, and I think that having chatty Alex and Val around has helped her speech a lot, too. She still underenunciates, but her sentences are getting long and complex and she tells beautiful little stories now. I love listening to her, talking to her. She clearly finds so much joy in words and it’s been a privilege to watch her expressiveness grow.

So much of what I’m thinking about is how things compare to a year ago, how much has changed over that year. Mara came to us at the little house where we were living right before her birthday, so that her third birthday was her third day with us. She was absolutely a barnacle then, not letting me put her down unless she was soundly asleep. She didn’t talk much, didn’t use more than a word or two at a time, mostly grunted and gestured very effectively to get her point across. She was beautiful, but she drooled constantly and both sides of her head were basically bald. She was still hoarding food in her mouth because she didn’t know if she could trust us to keep providing it, watching us and needing to be held because she’d already learned how easy it is for grownups to just disappear. I was absolutely in love with her, as much as I am now, but things were so very different.

When Mara turned four, there was a cake and singing and friends, people she loves and enjoys. She was outside blowing bubbles and inside eating pizza, not always even in the same room as me. She gave tours of the house and surprised us all by spelling much of her first name, when she’s only ever given her first initial before. She was willing to share a lot but not everything with Val and Alex, which is actually a good thing since it means she’s getting better at standing up for herself and sharing her preferences. She’s still amazingly generous, uncommonly gentle, as well as smart and kind and gorgeous. Lee and I are so incredibly proud of her and honored to get to be her moms. This has been a wonderful, difficult year and I love the idea of many more with her.

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quick update

November 3, 2011

Thanks for all the comments on the last post, and I’m sort of hoping I’m not appalling anyone by being honest about how we’re struggling.

We have a plan now that the kids will go to the relative who used to care for them for an overnight this weekend and next, which actually was always the plan. There’s a gap weekend where either they’ll go to respite or back to her or the other relatives who live with their parents have also been okayed or they’ll stay with me and Lee (and Mara maybe?) will go visit our friend on her farm, since we haven’t made that trek since Mara’s been with us. The following weekend is Thanksgiving, and they’ll spend at least part or maybe all of that with some configuration of their family. The goal is to have the relatives who live with their parents cleared for supervised visitation (meaning the parents have done a few more things they’re supposed to do, basically) by that weekend, which would be good.

At that point, the kids will have been with us two months. We should know by then whether Lee has loosened up and adjusted or whether she hasn’t. Either way, we’ll know whether having respite of some sort has made a difference for her. We’ll know what kind of progress their parents have been able to make. Lee has committed to not playing the “two weeks’ notice” card during this month and our social worker has been a great help, supporting Lee and reassuring us about the job we’re doing but also being realistic about what’s best for the kids and how slowly bureaucracy tends to move. I’m so glad we have someone like her, who’s letting me vent while trusting me on what I can handle. And on that note, it’s time for me to go handle dinner and get some kids bathed and entertained and eventually into bed. More later.

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