Monday, May 31, 2010

Was That REALLY the Best They Could Do?!?

I was a little behind, but I finally watched the season opener of "The Bachelorette" a few days ago, and Oh. My. Gosh.  Was that really the best they could do?!?  I had it saved on the DVR, so I sat down to watch it and after they introduced Bachelor #3, I just had to rewind and start over...  This time with a notebook and pen in hand so I could take notes and blog about the prime choice of men they had chosen for poor, unsuspecting Ali.

Bachelor #1 (Frank) - The introductions opened with a man in a nice suit standing in front of a gorgeous high rise in downtown Chicago.  He was kind of cute in a geeky sort of way...  And then he spoke.  "I used to work here!"  ("Used to???"  What does that mean?)  He then goes on to announce, "I quit my job and moved back in with my parents to pursue my dream of becoming a screenwriter."  (Lovely)  He told Ali that he quit his job and moved to Paris.  (He was there for 5 weeks.  I don't consider that "moving" to Paris.  That's an extended vacation, honey.)  He has yet to tell her that he lives with his Mommy and Daddy.

Bachelor #2 - Poor Bachelor #2 was not attractive, but he was a lawyer. (I guess that's promising.)  He works at his Daddy's law firm.  (OMG!  Seriously?  You can't get a job on your own?!?  NEXT!)

Bachelor #3 - His opening scene was him trying to pick up two woman using cheesy pick-up lines at a bar.  (Seriously?  Correct me if I'm wrong, but are you or are you not going on a show in order to meet your future wife?  Do you really think that picking up strange women in a bar is going to win her affection?  Your light doesn't burn too brightly, does it?)  He then goes on to announce to the viewing audience that he "doesn't have any trouble with the ladies."

Bachelor #4 - The "Outdoorsman..."  He wants to take Ali on a romantic ice fishing date!  He then proceeds to show off his taxidermied collection of his "kill' over the years.  "I killed elk.  I killed deer.  I killed turkeys.  I killed a cougar."  (Wow.  Dead things.  Sexy.)  "And I'm not scared of any of those other guys...  Cause I killed me a bear!"  (Sweetie, unless you killed that bear with your bare hands in self defense, I am not impressed.  Standing 100 yards away and shooting an unsuspecting animal with a shotgun doesn't exactly do it for me.)

Bachelor #5 (Justin) - (Well, helloooo, Justin!  You're cute!)  He then body slams a guy and announces his "occupation."  He is an "entertainment wrestler" whose goes by the alias of "Rated R."  (Seriously.  I couldn't make this shit up if I tried.)

They go on to introduce a total of only nine out of the twenty-five bachelors.  A couple of them seemed promising, but for the most part I was worried.  Why did they only introduce nine of these guys?  Were these the pick of the litter?!?  Poor Ali quit her job and gave up her apartment for these guys!!!

As the evening started and Ali began greeting the men as they exited the limos, even more winners appeared.  You have the guy who exited through the sunroof and jumped off of the car...  You have the guy who exited the sunroof and did a back flip off of the car!  And then the cocktail party began and we get to meet even more of the eligible bachelors.

Goofy Weatherman - I know I should be rooting for this guy because he is from my home state.  Texas Pride and all that...  But after only two episodes, this poor guy has proven to be a total dweeb who Ali is most likely going to have to physically protect from this guy...

Psycho "Looking for a Fist Fight" Guy - That pretty much sums it up.  The men in the house have already had to separate this guy from others in the house.  He's a big bully who only picks on the little guys.

Ukulele Man - Yep...  This guy pulled out a ukulele (because, doesn't everyone bring a ukulele to a cocktail party?) and serenaded Ali with a little ditty that he wrote all by his very own self.  The poor guy couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, but parts of the song were funny.  The most ironic part of the ukulele episode was when "Back Flip Off the Limo" Guy admonished Ukulele Man for being "way too obvious" in his cry for Ali's affection.  (Yuh-huh...  Because back flipping off of a limo was in no way a desperate plea for attention.  No sir!  Not one bit!  Oy.)

"Ali Needs a Raincoat" Guy - He seems nice enough, but he talks 100 miles an hour and slurs his words so badly that he spits when he talks.  Poor Ali needs to wear water repellent gear just to carry on a conversation with this man!

But I think the real winner of the evening was "Shooter."  Within the first thirty seconds of his "alone time" with Ali, he proceeds to tell her the story of how he got his nickname.  What on earth would possess a man to go on national television and tell the woman that he is hoping to fall in love with and marry (along with the entire female population of the United States) that he got his nickname because he (to put it nicely) had no "staying power" when he was with a woman?!?  WTF?!?  Poor "Shooter..."  He didn't make it past Round One.  And now the poor guy is going to have to leave the country because if he ever dates again, it will be a miracle.

All hope for poor Ali seemed lost, but as the evening progressed, a few bachelors seemed promising.

Frank (Bachelor #1) - He was growing on me a little after last night's episode.  He seems like a nice enough guy.  I'm just not sure how much farther things will go with them when he finally does tell Ali that he lives with his parents.  At least he's not unemployed like I thought after the initial interview.  (Although I think saying that you are a "Manager at a Retail Store" might be a fancy way of saying "I work at Walmart."  :-)

Ty - He's a true Southern Boy who works in Medical Sales and lives in Tennessee.  He seems to have the "Southern Gentleman" thing going on and he can play guitar and sing.  That's always sexy.  He doesn't seem to be using the show to promote his singing career or anything like that one guy a couple seasons back.  He just seems like a genuinely nice guy.

Chris L. - I think he might be in my personal Top 2.  He taught high school Math for several years in New York City, but ended up moving back to Cape Cod to be near his mom and help take care of her when she got sick.  She ended up passing away, but he's stayed in his hometown to be close to his family.  He seems really solid and there for the right reasons.

But my absolutely #1 pick is...    Rrrrrrroberrrrrrto!  (You have to say it with the rolling "R's" or it just doesn't do this guy justice!  He is beyond yummy!!!  I want to get me one of those!)  The first time you see this guy, he is shirtless and doing pushups.  He's got super sexy tattoos and a body that just won't quit!  I was really afraid that he was just going to be a gorgeous piece of man candy, but he actually seems like a really cool guy.  Not all egotistical like a lot of gorgeous men are... He just has that completely down to earth, calm but fun personality, and seems genuinely sincere about wanting to get to know Ali and seeing where the whole process leads.

So, while I had some serious concerns for poor Ali's fate in the beginning, all hope is not lost.  There are a few good ones in the mix.  As long as my Rrrrrrrroberrrrrto stays, I'll be watching.  The others can just provide some comic relief along the way...

Friday, May 28, 2010

"Foster Friday" - Foster Parental Rights

Being a foster parent is hard.  And any foster parent who tells you differently is either a liar or they're not doing it right. 

I'm not saying that to scare off potential foster parents.  As difficult as it can be, those kids are absolutely worth every second that you will spend pulling out your quickly-graying hair.  Everything from trying to track down pediatricians who accept Medicaid and who will actually see your child within the required amount of time to trying to update the 20 adults involved in your child's case to the monthly reports and paperwork to trying to advocate for your children without pissing off those other 20 adults, etc...  It's not easy.  But for me, by far the most difficult part of being a foster parent is that you really aren't a "parent" at all in the eyes of the law.

For me, the kids who come into my house become "mine" from the moment the enter the door.  But as a foster parent, you are reminded nearly every day that you have absolutely no rights when it comes to these kids.  Normal things that parents take for granted take an act of Congress for foster parents.  Little Bobby desperately needs a haircut...  Sorry.  You need to get written permission from the biological parents.  Planning a fun vacation?  You'd better fill out an application to get permission from the bio parents and court first.  Chances are, you're foster kids won't be allowed to participate and will have to go to respite care while you are gone.  I've had foster parent friends who were ordered by bio parents not to allow their children to ride bikes, to only give their infant chocolate milk, never ever, EVER give them medications, etc.  You do learn what you can and can't get away with.  I try to do what's best for the child without getting caught.  ;-)

CPS can come to your house and take these children to appointments that they set up whenever they want.  They can insist that your services are not needed at the appointment, but to be there when they get back.  They can require you to take children for evaluations, therapies, give them certain medications, etc. or they can insist that you stop the same things, even if you are certain your children need them.

For me, the fact that I am nothing more than the hired help is never more clear than when my children are moved from my home.  In some cases, you've raised these children for a year or more...  With infants, you've been the only parent they've ever known...  But as a foster parent, you are expected to hand them over with a smile on your face, turn off the love, and never look back. 

With Angel, she was moving to another foster home, but we were promised that we could still have close contact.  After she was moved, CPS backed out and started enforcing a "no contact" rule.  The one time I really "broke the rules" was a weekend when she called me, hysterical, because of some things that were happening.  There was no way that I was going to ignore her or not voice my concerns to her caseworker about that weekend's events.  Apparently, I should have kept my mouth shut because that one incident of expressing my concern began a month-long attack on me and complete and total nightmare.  I should have known better.  I had no rights when I was her foster parent.  I definitely had no rights after she was moved.  Nevermind the fact that she's 17 years old and about to age out of the system!

The day I lost the Booger Bear was the most obvious when it came to learning just how few rights I had.  I went to court that day having been told that CPS was getting an extension and that the Booger was going to be with me for at least another three months.  I should have known that something was up when no one at the courthouse so much as looked in my direction.  I was told 60 seconds before our case was called that the Booger (who was already scheduled to spent the afternoon with his dad that day for a visit) just wouldn't be coming home.  I stood there listening during the hearing as they praised everyone else involved in the case, and never once got a nod, a "thank you," or a concerned glance from anyone acknowledging that I had just lost the little boy who I had parented for almost a year.  I learned at that moment that the last time I would ever see that sweet little boy was that morning when I had dropped him off at daycare.  I asked if we could do the transition the next day, and they said that the didn't see any reason to drag it out.  I wasn't even given the opportunity to say "goodbye."  I had absolutely no rights.

Over the past year and a half, I've been very lucky to have "met" several online friends who started their fostering journey around the same time that I did.  And one of those friends is going through perhaps the most difficult experience that a foster parent can go through right now...  The complete and total inability to legally protect the child that she has been raising as her own from harm...

If I knew that my child was in danger, I would move Heaven and earth to keep them safe.  Deny access, fight anyone who crossed me, hide them, whatever it took...  But as a foster parent, we don't have that option.  We can voice our concerns, we can call everyone involved in the case, but in the end, the only thing we can do to help the child is to be there to try to repair the damage and heal their hurt after the damage is done.  I learned the hard way that by voicing my concerns too adamantly, you are viewed as a hindrance, and the caseworker will fight you every step of the way.  I've been told in all of my training that the goal of foster care is reunification.  But at what cost?!?  How do we keep these kids safe when we have absolutely no parental rights?  The helplessness...  The complete lack of control...  It's the most difficult thing in the world.

I suppose when it comes down to it, as foster parents, all we can do is our best.  We can love the children who are placed with us with all of our hearts, and we can do the very best that we can for them while they are with us, despite the limitations placed on us by the system.  Being a foster parent is hard, and at times it can seem like it's too much to handle.  But when you get a spontaneous hug from a child afraid of touch, a smile from a child who has never had anything to smile about, and see the small accomplishments of your children as they begin to blossom in your care...  It's worth it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Don't Do Blue

We all have our odd little idiosyncrasies...  Those strange little quirks that we think make us endearing to others, but that really just make people look at us like we're completely off our rockers...  "What's yours, Mimi?" you might ask.  Well, I'll tell you! 

I don't eat blue food.

Now, this isn't something that I just blurt out of the blue.  I don't meet people and immediately announce, "I don't eat anything blue."  That would just be crazy.  It usually comes up during gatherings where cake with blue frosting is present.  I politely decline, and everyone looks at me like I've grown a third eyeball for turning down a perfectly good piece of cake.  I then have to quietly explain my theory on blue food, which inevitably leads to knowing smiles, little nods, and people asking, "Sweetie, have you taken your meds today?"

My theory?  "If we were supposed to eat blue food, God would have given us something blue in nature that is edible!"  (And blueberries don't count because, technically, they are supposed to be close to purple before they're ready to eat.)

Think about it!  Seriously!  Can you think of blue foods that occur naturally???  I can't!  So why create blue food just for the sake of making it blue?!?  It's just not right, I tell you!!!  It inevitably turns your mouth, tongue, and teeth strange colors and you can't go out in public for hours without looking like a fool!

As my freaky quirk became more well-known at work, my co-workers started getting really excited any time they saw me with M&Ms, Sweethearts, or other candy with blue in the mix. They would hang around my desk, eyeing the blue pile as I separated the candy, knowing that it was about to be up for grabs. They had a field day every time Halloween rolled around because they knew that blue candy would be plentiful at Mimi's desk.

I then realized that my aversion to eating anything blue might be a little more well-known than I thought about nine years ago when I was hanging out with my 2-year-old cousin.  He was snacking on his absolute favorite snack...  Little gummy fruit chew things ("buggies" as he called them), and I asked him if I could have one.  He looked thoughtful for a moment, and then he proceeded to hand me several of them with a huge smile on his face.  Unfortunately, it wasn't the smile of a 2-year-old proud of himself for selflessly sharing his favorite snack with his favorite cousin.  It was the "I'm so much smarter than you" evil smirk of a child who apparently knew that I didn't eat anything blue.  Because the handful of "buggies" that he held out to me was entirely comprised of only the blue ones.  Little snot!

In my "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue" quest, however, I decided to brave up and give something blue a try.  Hence, my experience with "The Blue Thing" margarita at The Movie Tavern. 

I think I was able to forget about it's "blueness" because it was dark in the theater, and the tequila helped me not really care if my entire face was blue by the time I was halfway finished with it.  :-)  It was actually pretty good!  And I was rather proud of myself for having consumed a beverage that clearly wasn't made the natural way.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

So Does Anyone Have a Uterus I Could Borrow?

I got to hold and love on the sweetest little 3 1/2 month old baby boy the other day... And my nonexistent uterus started to go all whompy. :(  I've got baby fever BAD, y'all!

I mentioned the other day that I had some decisions to make as far as foster care and parenthood goes.  I've pretty much decided to hold off on fostering for now because I want to focus on saving money for either a private adoption or IVF.  If I end up getting a second job, I won't be able to dedicate the amount of time and attention that my foster kiddos deserve and that wouldn't be fair to them.  I'm certain I will start fostering again in 2-3 years.  It means too much to me not to, but I'm not getting any younger, and if I hope to adopt an infant or try IVF using a surrogate, I need to do it sooner rather than later.

Here is where I'm torn, and could really use some input...  I realize there's some pretty personal information in here, but I figure "why not?"  I might as well share and get some good, informed opinions.  I am 35 years old and single.  I had to have a hysterectomy when I was 30, but I still have one ovary.  I could have a biological child if I use a surrogate.  I know I'll end up adopting through foster care at some point, but I desperately want the experience of being a mother to a child from day one at least once.  I don't want to miss a single day of his or her life, so if I adopt, I'd want to do a domestic infant adoption verses international.  There are pros and cons to both adoption and surrogacy, so I am completely torn as to which route to go.

Adoption - Because I'm single, it could takes years to get matched.  Birth mothers tend to want a two parent family for their babies, so singles adopting can be waiting for years unless they already know someone who wants them to adopt their child.  I've even had some difficulty finding and agency that will work with singles wanting to adopt domestically verses internationally.  We all know that patience is not one of my virtues when it comes to waiting.  I could be waiting until I'm 40-years-old or longer, but I most likely would get a placement eventually.  There is always the chance that the birthmother could change her mind at the last minute though.  In which case, I would have to start all over and continue waiting.  Then again, I could also get an adoption credit on my taxes after the adoption is finalized, which would mean that I would get quite a bit of the total cost back.  It's just a matter of coming up with the $25K or so beforehand. 

Surrogacy - If I go the surrogacy route, the timing would be much faster.  If I financed it, I could conceiveably start trying by the end of the year (provided I could find someone willing to lend me her uterus by then :-).  Cost-wise, IVF and adoption would likely be about the same depending on how many cycles I try.  There is always the risk with IVF, however, that it wouldn't work at all.   In that case, I would have to start all over saving money for adoption.  On the other hand, there is also a pretty good chance of twins with IVF.  Could I handle twins on my own?  My sister did a great job with the twins when my brother-in-law was travelling and she was states away from any kind of help.  I would at least be close to family and friends and would have some back up if I needed it.  Then again, could I afford twins on my own?  Considering my medical history and the fact that I only have one ovary, I would have less to work with from the get go. (Although Christy's specialist always pointed out that it's "quality, not quantity" that matters.)  With surrogacy, even though I wouldn't have the whole personal experience with pregnancy, I could be involved from the very beginning.  I also wouldn't have to worry about whether or not the birthmother would change her mind because the child would biologically and legally be mine (although I'd have to double-check the laws in my state to be certain).

So...  Any thoughts?  I know that a lot of people who foster have been through it all.  Infertility, matched adoption, adoption through the state, international adoption...  Any advice or personal experience with any or all of the possibilities that you'd be willing to share would be greatly appreciated.  And if you happen to have a uterus that you'd be willing to let me borrow for a while, that would be grrrrreat!  :-)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Observations of the Gimpy One

When I was wheelchair-bound after screwing up my leg/ankle earlier this year, I really started paying more attention to the accommodations that businesses made for handicapped people and other small things that would have really helped me out during the first four months of the year.  I had already had some trouble at home (leading up to the whole "Naked Gimp SOS Call"), but after getting out and attempting to get around town, I had a few interesting observations.

Observation of the Gimpy One #1:

          After one of my many appointments with the ortho, my mom and I decided to stop for lunch at the Olive Garden.  Apparently, there is a room designated specifically for the old and gimpy, as we were led to a dining area with about 20 elderly people, all with walkers and varying mobile-assisting devices.  I realized that I was pretty bad off as I sat in my wheelchair, green with envy, as the little old ladies got up to leave with their super-cool walkers! 

          One lady had one with a seat, a basket for her purse, hand brakes, and even a cup holder!  I wanted one of those puppies so bad!!!  I was seriously tempted to ask her where she got it.  I didn't realize that I was staring longingly at it until my mom started laughing at me.  But seriously, at that point I had been wheelchair-bound for two months!  Those walkers would have been a huge step up for this Gimp Girl!  And it had a cup holder!  How freaking cool is that?!?  One lady even had a bedazzled cane!  Those old people were stylin'!!!

Observation of the Gimpy One #2:

         After I had graduated from the wheelchair into the fracture boot and crutches, I did my best to be indepenent and drive myself around town.  Katie and I decided to run over to one of the children's resale shops in the area that happened to be in a shopping center with several other businesses.  We pulled up and noticed that there were several reserved parking spots right in front of the store.  "Great!" I thought.  "I can park in there and won't have to hobble too far."

          Nope.  The reserved parking was for JENNY CRAIG customers!  Not handicapped parking or reserved for expectant mothers or mothers with small children...  The parking directly in front of the children's resale shop was reserved for fat ladies using Jenny Craig!  Call me crazy, but I think of all the people going to that particular shopping center, the Jenny Craig ladies need to be walking the thirty extra steps.  (I can say this because I am a fat lady who would ordinarily need to be walking those extra steps, but when you've got a broken leg and pulled ligaments in your ankle, you've got a pretty good excuse to want the good parking spot.) 

Final Observation of the Gimpy One:

          Just last week, the elevator at my office building was out of service for the entire week.  Thankfully, I can pretty much manage going up and down stairs now, although it takes a while to go down seeing as how I have to lead with my right foot on every step.  The situation had me thinking though...  What would have happened if I was still wheelchair bound?!?  Would they have set me up in an office downstairs?  Would they have given me the week off with pay because they couldn't accommodate me in all of my gimpyhood?  Would someone have to carry me up and down the stairs?  That would seriously suck for them!  What if the elevator had gone out after I was already upstairs?  Would I have to sleep here?!?  What if there was a fire?  Would I have to bump down the stairs on my rear end like we used to do as little kids???  (I say "little kids," but I seem to remember doing that in our first apartment in college too.  I'm surprised we didn't put a hole in the wall at the bottom of the stairs!)  It just amazed me at the amount of questions that an out of order elevator brought on.  I'd just never really thought about it before I was fully-dependent on the thing.

It's interesting the things you notice when you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation.  Before the fall, I never would have ogled old ladies' walkers or freaked out because the elevator was out of order.  Now though, I have an entirely new perspective on things.  From now on, I will stand united with future "gimpsters," fighting for their rights and helping them out as much as I possibly can.  While I might not be volunteering to piggyback them up and down the stairs in the event of an elevator malfunction, I will at least offer to find someone who will.  :-)

Friday, May 21, 2010

"Foster Friday" - You're Coming TO MY HOUSE?!?

When I went through all of the training classes leading up to getting my foster care license, they kind of skimmed over the part where they tell you about the number of people coming to your house.  In fact, they didn't say much of anything about it except to mention that the agency comes out "periodically."  I now understand that phrase to mean "We (anyone who has anything to do with the agency, CPS, the court, etc.) expect you to have an open door policy as we will be requiring access to your home any time we ask for it."

In the year and a half that I've been fostering, I have had monthly home visits from:
  • My agency's Family Specialist
  • The children's Caseworkers
  • Each child's CASA
Also requesting occasional access have been:
  • My agency's Director
  • The children's attorneys
  • A CPS Investigator (investigating a prior foster home of one of the kids)
  • A Rep from Licensing
  • ECI workers
  • Psychiatrist
  • Therapist
  • Multiple Case Aids providing transportation
  • Fire Department for the annual inspection (I don't mind that one so much ;-)
I haven't had a placement in over two months, but my family specialist from my agency has been to my house three times since I've been kid-free!

I have to admit, when I first started fostering, I always panicked about keeping the house clean and totally CPS-proof before every visit.  I would usually take off work a little early to run around frantically scrubbing and making sure everything was perfect.  Take out the trash, scrub the toilets, no pizza cartons in the fridge, no dirty dishes in the sink, etc.  After the first few visits, and no one bothered to even leave the front room, I stopped worrying so much.  Now, I pretty much just make sure there are no glaringly obvious violations like medicine sitting on counter or sharp objects sitting out.  That kind of thing...  So what if there are piles of laundry on the floor or a few dirty dishes in the sink?  People LIVE here!

Depending on who's coming over and what they are coming for, I might vamp up the cleaning and preparations a bit (ex. quarterly inspections, licensing, etc.), but for the regular monthly visits, therapy sessions, etc., I really don't worry too much.  People live here.  I have small kids.  It's not going to be spotless.

To be honest, I discovered that my home is a freaking palace compared to another foster home that I've been in recently.  I walked into the "formal" living room, tripped over some crumbling brick and a pile of 2x4s that they were using to build a "bedroom" and nearly fell into one of three piles of dog poo that had collected on the pee-stained carpet!  (And I'm not exaggerating)  There were wires everywhere and rigged up lighting that had to be turned on from another room, and walls that only went up about 3/4 of the way to the ceiling in the 8x8 (and that's being generous) "bedroom" that two of the kids were going to be sleeping in that night.  I was mortified!  Especially considering there were toddlers who were going to be running around that house!  So if that situation was considered okay with CPS, I think a few dirty dishes in the sink and a bottle shampoo sitting on the back corner of the bathtub is going to be just fine.

Mimi's advice for the week... 

Remember that lots of people will be coming to your house, but you don't have to panic every time they do.  They expect it to look like someone lives there.  Just don't have any obvious safety hazards or glaringly obvious CPS violations.  And it doesn't hurt to make it smell good.  I usually have my Scentsy going.  :-)  If the house smells good, you're golden!  ;-)

What about the rest of you?  Do you panic when people come to your house?  Have you been written up for crazy things like using foil or having dish soap on your kitchen counter?  Have I just been insanely lucky with my caseworkers' lack of concern over the trivial things, or is it normal for them not to be overly concerned about the "everyday living" stuff?


It's been more than two months since the Booger Bear went to live with his dad, and still no placement.  That's a long time to sit in an empty house, staring at an empty crib.  And a long time to start wondering whether or not I want to keep doing this.

There has been a lot going on with CPS and my agency lately.  Lots of Angel and her foster mama drama that has gotten ridiculously out of hand and is seriously making me question whether or not I had any impact on Angel what-so-ever during the 7 months that she was with me.  It also has me questioning whether or not I want to keep allowing CPS to control every aspect of my life right now. 

I'm starting to think that part of the reason it's taking so long to get another placement is that they now think that I'm a "problem" parent.  I've learned the hard way that foster parents should be seen and not heard.  Well, that is just not in my nature.  I'm going to speak my mind and tell them what I think seeing as how I know the children in my care a heck of a lot better than they do!  And in this particular instance, I was proven right.  Part of me is devastated because it means a long, hard road ahead for Angel and other innocent people involved.  But then part of me wants to gloat and say, "I told you so" to the adults who should have been paying freaking attention!

I suppose when it comes down to it, I have two options:

1.  Relinquish my license now before I get a placement and give up fostering for the next year or so until things calm down.  Go on all of my out-of-state trips that I have planned and not have to worry about finding respite care, CPS, my agency, training classes, and the drama being stirred up by the Golden One and her posse.  Start socking away the money to either pay for a private adoption or try IVF using a surrogate (more on all of that in a later post).  Re-evaluate in a year and start over (with a different agency this time) if I decide I want to start fostering again.  I know that I want to keep doing foster care at some point.  But I really want to be a mom to a child who I know won't be taken away at any given moment.  It's hard living every day wondering if today is the day that they are sending the child that you love away.  I know it won't make losing the kiddos any easier, but at least I wouldn't have to come home to a silent house after they leave.

2. Keep fostering, try to find respite care for the kiddo(s) when I go on all of my trips, put up with CPS and all of their restrictions, put up with my agency and their constant meddling, and go to the meeting that they want to have where the Golden One and Her Band of Merry Men want to gang up on me and make me look and feel like a criminal because Angel still calls me when she's having a hard time.  I know how The Great Ambush is going to go.  I will either start bawling uncontrollably because I tend to do that when I'm really stressed out, or I will get so pissed off that I will tear into them with such a vengeance that they will take my license away and I won't ever be able to foster again.

I'm leaning towards Option #1 right now, but I also know that if they do happen to call me with a placement before The Great Ambush, I'd say yes.  I'm just torn right now between wanting to help the kids who need me and just wanting my life back in my own hands.

Sorry for being so vague in this post.  There's only so much that I can say in a public forum (another "darn that CPS" moment).  I'm thinking about starting a private blog where I can vent to my heart's content and say what I'm REALLY thinking, go into better detail of what's happening, post good photos of the kids, etc.  It might also be helpful for my own sanity (and to have the detailed backup if I need it for future lawsuits. :-)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What Happens in Vegas...

I was totally not feeling the "work" thing yesterday, so I asked my sister to give me an assignment.  Her first attempt at telling me what to do failed miserably because she wanted me to create a PowerPoint presentation for our November cruise.  Too much work!  But her second attempt at an assignment was more up my alley...

Christy and I are taking a little girls' trip to Las Vegas in July.  She has some appointments, and I'm going along for the ride.  Her assignment:
"Do the A-Z thing and list all the fun and interesting things we can do on our girl’s trip to Vegas… :-) What happens in Vegas…"

Here's what I came up with (some of the letters were hard!):

Adventuredome, Attend a wedding at Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel
Bowling at the SunCoast, Bellagio Fountains
Cirque Du Soleil
Day Trip to the Grand Canyon, Dance on the Bar at Coyote Ugly
Eat, Eiffel Tower Observation Deck
Fremont Street, Find Me a Rich Man
Gamble, Gondala Ride, Get Tattoos, Get Psychic Readings
Hoover Dam, Helicopter Ride over Vegas at Night
Invite Ourselves into Your Old Townhouse
Jump Off the Stratosphere Hotel
Kayak Down the Colorado River
Lake Mead, Lunch at Top of the World Restaurant at the Stratosphere
Notify CPS About the Children Passing Out Porn Flyers on the Strip
Offer to Plan Someone’s Vegas Wedding
People-watch, Phantom of the Opera, Planet Hollywood
Question People About Their Relationships with Jesus as They Leave Strip Clubs & Casinos
Read by the Pool, Red Rock Canyon
Sleep, Shop, Slots, Streak, Swim, Spa, Stalk Celebrities, Siegfried and Roy Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat
Titanic Artifact Exhibit at the Luxor
Upstage a Stripper During Her Performance
Volcano at the Mirage
Watch People in the Casinos, Walk the Street Like "Working Girls"
X-Ray Our Insides, X-Scream at the Stratosphere
Yell at the Perverts Hanging Out at the Strip Clubs
Zoo, Zero-G Experience (It's only $5,000!)

So...  Has anyone been to Las Vegas recently?  It's been 5 or 6 years since we were there.  Christy lived there for a few years, but we've never been as "tourists."  :-)  Any suggestions on places to go, things to see, etc. would be greatly appreciated!  :-)

The Biggest Loser... (Or Not)

When Katie and Sasha guilted me into joining Fat Class a couple of months ago, I started thinking that it might be a good idea to add a workout plan to the diet as well.  After a few physical therapy sessions for my ankle/leg, I got the green light from "Olga."  I remembered my sister, Christy, mentioning that she wanted to join LA Fitness, so I tagged along with her when she went to sign up and ended up joining myself.

I've been rather frustrated with my lack of weight loss progress.  I mean, seriously!  I joined Fat Class seven weeks ago and the gym three weeks ago!  Why haven't I seen any results?!?  I mentioned as much to Christy this weekend.  She just looked at me and said something along the lines of, "Tammy...  You dropped out of Fat Class after two weeks and you haven't set foot in the gym since you joined."

Whatever, Christy...  I paid my money!  I guess I should have joined Jenny Craig instead.  Lose 10 pounds for $20 or whatever their deal is...  I'd be skinny by now!  I've shelled out $120 already!

I have to admit, I'm getting a wee bit nervous about our upcoming cruise.  Sure, it's not until November, but Christy and Katie seem pretty committed to this whole "diet and exercise" thing.  Me...  Not so much.  I'm more committed to Taco Bueno and Mexican Inn. 

I knew I was in trouble when Sasha and I got an email from Katie a couple of weeks ago asking if we wanted to sign up for an exercise Boot Camp with her.  I nearly deleted the message after seeing the title alone, but I thought I would humor her and at least look at the link that she had forwarded.  Take a look and see what Katie thought would entice us to sign up. 

***Elite Boot Camp*** 

F'Real!?!  She has LOST HER MIND!  I took one look at the muscle-bound dude with the megaphone and wanted to run screaming for the hills.  Fortunately, Sasha agreed with me when I emailed Katie back and told her she had flipped her lid, lost her marbles, been taken over by aliens...  I believe Sasha's response was, "Oh HELLLL to the NO!"  Katie, slightly offended, asked us "What's wrong with a girl wanting to get a little exercise?"  Sasha replied, "Nothing.  As long as I don't have to participate!"  That's my girl!  ;-)

That same day, Katie also sent us a link to a blog on "clean eating," and told us that we should use it to get "healthy ideas on what to eat."  I kind of wanted to cry.  What happened to my Tex-Mex partner in crime, and why on earth is she sending me links to sites with foreign things called "EVOO" and "tofu?!?"  Doesn't she remember who she's talking to?!?  She knows I don't cook!  I asked her what the heck "EVOO" was and she said something like "You obviously don't watch any cooking shows."  You think?!? 

Apparently "EVOO" is extra-virgin olive oil.  Cool!  I actually have some of that!  Granted, I bought it when Angel was living with me and doing the cooking, but I have it.  I wouldn't have a clue what it's used for though.  And the name of it opened up an entire line of questions such as "Are there really levels of virginity for olives?"  I thought you were either a virgin or you weren't.  "Does an olive's level of 'virginization' truly matter?"  "Isn't it considered discrimination to refuse the use of de-virginized olives in the oil making process?"  Poor loose olives...  :(

I then had to tell the tale about my bad experience with tofu.  (Although, does a person ever really have a good experience with something called "tofu?")  I was hanging out at my best friend's house back in high school, and her mom made us hot dogs for lunch.  She neglected to tell us that they were tofu hot dogs until after we had both taken bites and looked at each other in horror because we were tricked into eating what I still swear was wet sand wrapped in pig skin.  If that is considered "healthy eating," I will stick with Mexican food, thank you very much.

I suppose at some point I'm going to have to cave to the peer pressure and actually go to the gym.  I'll probably even have to exercise at the gym at some point (although I would much rather park my rear in the sauna or lounge in the whirlpool.)  I don't want to be the only one wearing a mumu on the sandy white beaches of Cozumel though, and I'm not sure that I can convince Christy and Katie that the mumu is back.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Newest Addiction

Hi...  My name is Mimi, and I'm addicted to Scentsy.

It's a sickness, really...  One for which I should probably seek some sort of psychological or medical intervention...  But OMG!  Those tiny little squares of smelly goodness just make me so happy!!!

Growing up, my mom had always been what we like to refer to as a "Tiny Flame Pyromaniac."  She always had candles going around the house.  The house smelled great, and her obsession with good smelly wax transferred onto my sister and me.  We've both been known to have multiple candles burning throughout the house at any given time.  ...and then we had children, and we didn't know what to do!  How do we enjoy our obsession with hot wax that makes your entire house smell like a bakery when there are little people wanting to play with the flame?!?  There are only so many high, out of reach places where you can leave lighted candles!

...Enter - SCENTSY!!!...

So "What is Scentsy?" you might ask...  OMG!  "Only the best, most amazingly innovative invention since the airplane," I say!  It's a cross between potpourri and a candle warmer without all of the watery mess of potpourri or the frustration of the "hidden candle wick" after you heat up a jar candle on a warmer.  They have super-pretty electric burners and dozens and dozens of fantastically amazing scents that come in little wax bars.  You just put a couple of squares from the bar into the "pot" on the burner and PRESTO!  Your entire house smells like you've been baking cookies or have fresh-cut flowers in every room!

I had a feeling that I was going to be in serious trouble when I went to my first Scentsy party at Katie's house right before Christmas.  I left there $80 poorer and anxiously-awaiting my three Scentsy Plug-In Packages (Yes!  They even have plug-in warmers!)  I ordered a package for myself, one for my mom, and one for Christy to try out in the hope that this super-cool product would prevent us from eventually burning down our houses with our "tiny flame pyromaniac" tendencies.  We loved them!

Then Katie hits me up with, "I think I'm going to start selling Scentsy myself."  Being the fantastic BFF that I am, I naturally had to be the hostess of her very first party.  Sales were great, and as hostess, I ended up with about $80 worth of free merchandise as well as four other items at 50% off.  I left that party another $80 poorer and the proud owner of about half of the 80 available scents and four additional warmers.  (I'm beginning to see a theme here with the "80"s) 

A few weeks later, I fell victim again when I received an email about the "Warmer of the Month."  It was so cute!  And it wasn't like any of the other warmers in the catalog.   I had to have it...  I also just had to have the "Scent of the Month" (along with a warmer for my office and five other scents that I hadn't seen at the previous parties).  "JUST SAY 'NO,' TAMMY!!!"  But, alas...  $80 later, I was the proud owner of the oh-so-adorable bird nest warmer of the month...

Things seemed to settle down for a little while.  I hadn't made any Scentsy purchases in a month or so.  I'm sure Katie was beginning to freak out a bit because I do believe that I have single-handedly kept her business going.  And that's when it came...  Another email from Scentsy Heaven... 

Bringing back 20 Retired Scents for July only!!!

I see where this is headed, and it's not pretty.  I really could have used that $80.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Foster Pregnancy

Yes.  It is a real thing!  I've hit the two-month "foster pregnant" mark without a placement, and the symptoms of foster pregnancy are really kicking in.  While foster pregnancy may not have all of the symptoms that traditional pregnancy has, it does have a list of symptoms all its own.  They are not pleasant, and based on my whiny-assed cry baby reaction completely irrational, less than mature response to the waiting, I once again realize that I would not be a good "real" pregnant person.

Foster Pregnancy Symptom #1 - Growth of an additional appendage (aka. the cell phone).  When I am foster pregnant, my cell phone follows me everywhere.  And I do mean EVERWHERE.  I become one of those icky people who lugs the cell phone into the bathroom with me on the off chance that my family specialist calls me with a potential placement.  It hasn't happened yet, but I'm not taking any chances.  Goodness knows, the one time I don't take it with me, she'll call.

Foster Pregnancy Symptom #2 - Uncontrollable need to constantly check the display on the cell phone.  I find myself picking up the phone every 5-10 minutes to look at the display.  You never know...  It's possible that I might have missed a call!  Sure, the phone is never more than an arm's length away, and the darn thing is set to ring as loud as possible as well as vibrate, but what if I experience a moment of temporary deafness or if the phone fails to function properly?!?  I don't want to miss "The Call."  So the phone must be checked!

Foster Pregnancy Symptom #3 - Heart palpitations at the ringing of the cell phone.  Without fail, every single time the phone rings my heart skips a beat.  If it happens to be my family specialist's phone number that pops up on the caller ID, my heart starts racing.  I've even designated a special ringtone just for her, but it doesn't matter.  My heart still goes all whompy when I'm waiting for a placement and the phone rings.

Foster Pregnancy Symptom #4 - Side stitches and leg cramps.  You might be wondering about this one, but the side stitches and leg cramps are a direct result of hours and hours of pacing.

Foster Pregnancy Symptom #5 - The compulsive need to do everything that you did before past placements in the hopes of recreating the scenario.  Before the Munchkin, I whined about foster pregnancy on my blog (hence this post today).  Before the Booger, I emailed my family specialist and told her not to forget about me for the 1,000th time (I did that this morning).  I firmly believe she placed the Booger Bear with me just to get me off her back.  :-)  I'm putting off packing for the big move because if it's anything like what happened with the Munchkin, I'll get a placement at the most inopportune time (right before I have to move and before I've packed).

Foster Pregnancy Symptom #6 - Nesting.  And not just your typical "preparing for a baby" nesting...  Foster parents "nest" for a wide range of ages.  I've been busy getting the house ready for up to two kiddos, boy and/or girl, any age from 0 to 4 years old!  Fortunately, the more placements I have, the more supplies I accumulate.  Eventually, I'll have it down to a science!

Foster Pregnancy Symptom #7 - The urge to bite the head off of the next person who asks, "So do you have a baby yet?"  F'real?  If I got a baby last night, do you think I'd be at work today?  Ummm, no.  "Well, when are you going to get one?"  Seriously?  Go away.  You make my brain hurt.  Granted, part of this symptom might be more related to Bipolar Girl and the fact that my anti-crazy meds haven't fully kicked in yet, but foster pregnancy doesn't help matters much either.

Foster Pregnancy Symptom #8 - The impulse to ask inappropriate questions about adoption plans to every pregnant teenager you see or to call CPS yourself to report the obnoxious woman who hauled her 7 children under the age of 4 out in the 30 degree weather in nothing but diapers and t-shirts, but was all bundled up in heavy winter gear herself.  That just irritates the hell out of me!

Foster Pregnancy Symptom #9 - Whining about waiting.  Whining about what's taking so long.  Whining about "Why won't they pick me?...  What's the matter with me?"  Just whining in general.  I think whining is just a "pregnancy" symptom no matter what kind of "pregnant" you happen to be.

So you see...  Foster pregnancy is not without its symptoms.  Fortunately, I can still drink my Diet Coke.  I don't have to pee every five minutes.  And I'm sleeping great (except for when I jolt awake in the middle of the night to grab the cell phone and check the display to make sure I haven't missed "The Call.")

Friday, May 7, 2010

"Foster Friday" - Too Much to Do

Now that I've had a few placements, I've found that I am very quickly learning how the system works (or doesn't work in some cases).   I'm still a newbie though, so I could always use helpful advice from people who have been where I am.  I thought I would use this forum to provide some real-life insight and tips from experienced foster parents to people new in Foster/Adopt Land.

What you may not know:

***  Your life will no longer be your own if you don't set some ground rules. ***

The vast majority of the initial foster care training classes are geared towards what to expect from the children in your care.  Very little emphasis is given to what to expect from the adults in Foster/Adopt Land.  It can be extremely frustrating and overwhelming for new foster parents when they have no idea what to expect. 

Example #1 - When I got the Immobile Munchkin, she was brought to my house by a Case Aid and my Family Specialist from my agency.  The morning after she arrived, I was bombarded by phonecalls from people wanting to "set up a time to come to the house."  My FS wanted to set up her follow-up, the Munchkin's caseworker wanted to come by, and someone from someplace I hadn't heard of until that point wanted to come evaluate her.  I later learned that young children entering foster care in Texas are automatically evaluated by ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) to determine where they are developmentally and to schedule different therapies if needed.  No one had ever mentioned that before.  I also received phone calls from Star Health (medical insurance) wanting to do a medical history for the baby (a baby who I knew absolutely nothing about other than that she came to me in a body cast and a helmet that she had to wear 23 hours a day to reshape her skull).  I had to schedule a follow-up with the doctor at the hospital, a regular physical exam, and a dental appointment.  There were four people wanting access to my house (next week's "Foster Friday" topic) within one day of placement and multiple outside appointments needing to be done within two weeks!  It would have been more, but the Munchkin was moved into her new home after 5 days.

Example #2 - When the Booger Bear came to me, I had a little better idea of what to expect based on those few days with the Munchkin.  Within the first two weeks, Booger had visits from his first caseworker, his new caseworker, my family specialist, ECI, and an investigator.  Angel came less than a month later, and things really got crazy.  Fortunately, the kids had the same caseworker.  But that was pretty much where the similarities ended.  Over the rest of the year we had monthly visits from their caseworker, my family specialist, and each child's CASA (court appointed special advocate).  Also making appearances over the course of the year were one of Angel's attorneys (she had two - one as a parent and one as a child), a psychiatrist, the director of my agency, case aids providing transportation to visitations, and a rep from Licensing.  It was insane!  And those were only the people coming to the house!  We had multiple required appointments away from the house as well!  I had pretty much had enough, leading me to write the "Enough is Enough" post.

"What did I do to make things easier on me and the kids?"

Simply, I learned that they need to schedule around me.  I'm a single working mom, and I have no intention of losing my job, so they need to work around my schedule.  I plan one weekday a month to take off work and let all of the regular monthly visitors know a few weeks ahead of time.  If they want to do their home visits during a weekday, they need to schedule for that day.  Otherwise, they have to do evening or weekend visits or they can go see the kids at their school or daycare and do my interview over the phone (I didn't even realize that was an option until about 9 months into the placement and the Booger's caseworker mentioned it off-handedly). 

I also try to let the monthly visitors know as soon as one of them schedules their visit at the house.  More often than not, one or more of them will try to visit at the same time.  It's definitely easier on me and the kids, and it's really helpful having the adults involved in the case together in order to be certain that everyone is on the same page.  Because there are so many people involved in these cases, lack of communication tends to be a HUGE problem.  Getting several of the key players together at one time has been very helpful for all of us.

I try to schedule outside appointments on my one day off a month as well (ex. dentist, physicals, etc.).  It's usually an insanely busy day, but if I can get the majority of the month's appointments done in one day, it leaves the rest of the month for the kids just to be kids.  There are inevitably unavoidable things that come up that can't work around my schedule (ex. court dates, weekly therapy, agency audits, etc.), but for the most part things are getting easier as I figure out what all I can control.  I found out recently that some therapists will go to the kids' schools so that would help considerably.  I'm also lucky because I get a case aid to do transportation to and from visitations for the kids due to the fact that I'm a single working mom.

With so many appointments, it can be difficult to keep track of it all. 

Mimi's Tip for the Week:

*** Purchase a dayplanner with lots and lots of room to write down appointments and notes for each child, and keep it near you at all times. ***

I have a large (8.5 x 11) weekly planner that never leaves my side when I have a placement.  I use it to keep track of everyone's schedules as well as to jot down notes about visitations, milestones, behavioral problems, giving medications, etc.  It comes in incredibly handy when I complete my monthly progress reports and med logs for the kids.  Keeping it with me has also helped when I get the inevitable phone calls asking, "When did so-and-so last go to the dentist?" or "How many visits have the kids had with their parents now?"  It's a great way to keep track of schedules as well as doubles as a diary of sorts.  Believe me, I can't tell you how many times I've had to go back and reference notes and other pertinent information in mine.  Having everything in one location is a huge help when it comes to the paperwork.

So what about you? 

How do you other foster parents keep track of everything?  Do you have any advice for new or potential foster parents when it comes to all of the required appointments, visits, paperwork, etc.?

***  Next week's topic: "Foster Friday" - You're Coming to My House? ***

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sir Thomas (My Spoiled Cat)

This was Tommie (my extremely spoiled cat) this morning...

I tried to pretend like I was still asleep, but after 15 minutes of constant meowing, very loud purring, laying on my head, chewing on my hair, licking my arm, and burying his wet nose in my ear, I finally gave up and got out of bed to feed him.  The little snot took ONE BITE and promptly ran back into my bedroom, jumped up on the now empty bed, curled up smack in the middle of it, and went to sleep.

Where did I go wrong?

Mother's Day (Edited)

You know you have a bad case of baby fever when you have to stop yourself from asking the pregnant teen carhop at Sonic if she would consider letting you adopt her baby.  I swear, it took every ounce of willpower in me not to ask, "So...  What'ya gonna do with it after it's out?"

I'm having a really hard time with Mother's Day looming right around the corner.  For the second year in a row, I'm a mom without my kids.  Last Mother's Day, I was between placements.  The Immobile Munchkin had been moved to her new home (which is still working out fantastically, I might add :), and I was impatiently awaiting the Booger Bear's arrival.  This year is even harder because I've been a mom to Booger Bear and Angel for nearly a year, and now they're gone.  I was a mom for a year, and I don't even get to see my kids on the one day that's supposed to be special for moms.  Even if I do get a placement between now and then, it won't make up for the fact that I don't get to be with the two of them. 

I'm just having a serious case of the "it's not fairs," the "woe is me's," the "why is it thats," etc.  It's not fair!  Why is it that there people like me who want to be parents so badly and who would be great parents, but can't have children?  Why is it that there are people who have absolutely no business having babies, but are popping them out like PEZ dispensers?  I don't get it.

But on the other hand, the one thing that I am sure of is that fostering is what I am meant to do.  God never would have put this in my heart if He didn't mean for me to throw myself into it with all that I am.  My sister is a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I have to agree.  If I had been able to get pregnant, I probably would have gone that route.  If I could have afforded a private adoption, I probably would have done that.  Instead, God put speedbumps and detours along the way that led me to foster care.  And as hard as it is, it is absolutely worth it.  Fostering has already brought three amazing kids into my life.  Three kids who I never would have met or loved if I hadn't listened to what God was telling me to do...

So I guess I should stop feeling sorry for myself because I'll get to be "mom" to dozens of kids before I'm through!  How many women can actually say that?  (Except for Mama Duggar maybe) :D  Maybe one of these years, I'll actually have some of them with me on Mother's Day.  Who knows...  Maybe God will send me my next kiddo this week, but if not I'll just remind myself that I've been "mom" to three unbelievable children, and I hope they know how much I love them and how blessed I feel to have had them in my life.

***  Wow!  This is exactly what I needed to see today!  So many people ask, "How/why do you do foster care?"  This puts it into words. ***
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