Friday, October 29, 2010

Pumpkin Patch

Little Miss loves being outside, so we thought that it would be fun to get the BFFs together with all of our kiddos, and head over to the Pumpkin Patch for the morning.  The temperature was great, but it was really, really cloudy and a little drizzly at times.  Fortuately, we got a good 2-3 hours in before the thunderstorm (and as we found out later that day...  TORNADO showed up.  :-)

She looks much wiser than 11-months-old

 Hugs, Mimi!?!?

 It's like she knows she has admirers. 

Colton:  "You see, Baby...  It's like this..."
Little Miss:  "Um, yeah...  I don't think you know what you're talking about."

Tell me all about it...

Goofy girl...

Mm-hmm, that's right.  The boys love me.  ;-)

Freedom!!!  Running in the back of the truck...

Hard to believe this happy little girl is the same one who practically flips me the bird when she doesn't get her way.  :-)

Checking out the new shoes...

The best outtake photo ever...
Hamilton's half-dressed hindside in his Halloween costume.
Me and Rylan not looking so bad.
Little Miss playing with Rylan's hair.
and Colton, hand on forehead, looking embarrassed at being subjected to this photo session.

Seriously?  Katie sees my child pick up a discarded, used Dr. Pepper can, and what does she do?  She takes a picture!  No wonder the poor kid got a stomach virus.  Even Colton knew she didn't need to be chewing on that.  "EWW!  Trash!  YUCK!"

Colton:  "Baby, you really shouldn't eat trash.  Don't pick up whatever you've got your eye on."
Rylan:  "Mommy...  Little Miss is about to eat trash."
Little Miss:  "OMG!  Trash!!!"

We all hightailed it out of there when the black clouds started rolling in.  Fortunately, we had the kids loaded into the cars and were pulling out when the torrential downpour started.  We had a blast though, and definitely want to make this an annual excursion!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Telling Visit

Little Miss had her first visit with her parents since she moved in with me (her second since coming into care), and it proved to be extremely telling as to how this case might go.

Because I'm a single, working mom, the caseworker does all of the transporting and supervising of the visits.  When he brought Little Miss home tonight, he had his arms full of bags, and had to go out to the car to make a second trip.  When he came back, he explained how the evening played out.

CW - "So...  Basically, Mom showed up to the visit, but she was completely emotionally checked out.  There was just nothing there.  Everything that you see here (gesturing toward the bags) is from Dad."

As I unpacked, I found a new pack of diapers, wipes, formula for the week, three boxes of baby oatmeal (remind me to blog about what she has been fed and taught later), two new 2-piece outfits, a Halloween costume, a bucket full of candy (I'm hoping that wasn't for the baby), a bag of clothes and things from home, and a $10 bill. 

Apparently, Mom left immediately after the hour was over, but Dad stayed to talk to the caseworker.  He said that he was crying and that he just kept saying over and over, "I just want to be able to see my girls," and that he didn't understand why he couldn't have them because he didn't do anything wrong.  Miss was living with her mom at the time that everything came to light. Dad spends quite a bit of time at the hospital visiting Itty Bitty because there isn't much of a restriction on that other than the hospital hours.  All of those visits are semi-supervised because of the setting.  He just really misses Little Miss and wants to be able to spend more time with her.

It's going to be hard for him because he's young (caseworker wasn't sure, but thought maybe mid 20s) and has little to no support system as far as family or anyone around to help him with two infants.  There are also several questionable things that need to be researched and resolved before CPS makes a recommendation as to dad gaining custody.

It's still very, very early in the case, so there's no telling how it will play out.  All I can say is that it makes me very happy that Little Miss has a daddy who clearly loves her, and who she obviously loves.  Miss gets really excited and practically gives herself whiplash every time we see a blond guy in his 20s, so her dad must be blond (that, or she just has really good taste ;-).  I'm grateful that he cares enough to try to provide for her needs even while she's in foster care.  He doesn't have to do that, but the fact that he has speaks volumes.

Moving In and Gettin' Comfy...

Things have been going pretty well since Little Miss came to live with me.  The first 4-5 days were hard for her...  Lots of changes, and she absolutely REFUSED to lose bodily contact with me in the house during her waking hours.  That is, unless she was pitching a fit because she wanted to take a walk in the stroller.  Little Miss is an "all or nothing" girl, and the first 4-5 days could have been pretty bad if she wasn't such a good sleeper at night.

Things that made Little Miss happy:
  1. Walks in the stroller (I have lost 7 pounds from taking multiple walks every day)
  2. Being outside
  3. Shopping (I am now broke from daily shopping excursions)
  4. Eating (glad she was eating, because I haven't had the time!)
  5. Sleeping (I love to sleep too, we will get along well in that area :)
Things that made Little Miss unhappy:
  1. Everything else
Somehow though, on the 5th evening, everything seemed to click!  She somehow decided that Mimi (that's me) is actually a pretty cool person, and fun to be around.  We had gone shopping that afternoon with my sister so Little Miss was already in a good mood from an afternoon of enjoying one of her favorite pasttimes.  She took a nap (another favorite), woke up and got dinner (another favorite)!  Then I informed her that she needed a bath, and I was preparing for a battle.  Bathtime has not been very successful since she arrived.

I decided to use the infant/toddler tub because it was smaller and would hopefully not overwhelm her like the regular tub seemed to.  She initially started to cry, and I could see a fit approaching, so I (the Queen of Redirection) quickly got her attention by pouring water over her hands.  She started getting interested in that, and then I gave her one little bath toy which she immediately took and started playing with.  After she seemed calm and almost happy, I gave her one other small toy and started to wash her off while she was playing.  No tears at all!  And I even let her play a few minutes longer so she could start associating bathtime with something fun.  Success!!!

After bathtime we headed out to the living room for a little playtime.  In five days, this child had absolutely refused to leave my lap while we were in the house.  This day, however, she decided to sit next to me on the couch.  She still didn't want to get on the floor, but we sang songs, played pattycake, This Little Piggy, read books, and everything else I could think of for a good half an hour before we headed to her room for bedtime. 

It was still a few minutes early, so I thought I'd attempt to put her down on the floor and see how she did.  No crying!  :-)  She just started exploring her bedroom for the first time since she moved in!  I decided to let her explore and started working on sorting a tub of baby clothes.  I sat on the floor and started pulling items out, looking at the tags, and sorting.  Little Miss watched me intently for a minute, then came over, and started "helping" me.  She did exactly what I was doing.  Pull one article of clothing out of the bin, open it up, look at the tag, and then handed it to me.  She stood there and "helped" me until every last piece of clothing had been sorted.

Then she pointed to her crib and was ready for bed.  :)

In the two days since, Little Miss has not cried with me at all!  She's genuinely excited to see me when she wakes up in the mornings and when I get her from daycare.  We have fun together!  And I have a little giggle monster on my hands at times.  :)  I am so, sooo grateful to have these few weeks alone with her before her baby sister comes to live with us.  My Little Miss deserves some one-on-one Mimi time and to know that she's a special girl.  I'm definitely excited every time I see her have a "breakthrough" moment, and I love, love, love seeing her smile!  I'm eager to see what this next year brings...

Monday, October 25, 2010


It's amazing how quickly things change in Foster/Adopt Land when time usually seems to stand still in that world.  Last Monday, after over two months of waiting to get licensed by my new agency, I was about aready to go over there and ask if they wanted me to write up the homestudy for them.  Then, the phone rang...

The program director at my agency said, "Tammy, I have a few things to talk to you about."  What then came out of her mouth absolutely sent me reeling.

1.  She had two pages left to finish my homestudy.
2.  She just emailed questionnaires to my personal references.
3.  She's hoping my references will respond immediately because...
4.  She needs to get my licensing number right away because...
5.  She has not one, but two babies for me if I want them!

She had very little information on the girls other than that the 11-month-old had been removed and placed in another foster home on Friday after some questionable findings with her newborn baby sister.  The other foster home was a brand new home and had no experience with infants.  Older baby was placed with them on Friday, and by Friday night, they were already asking to have her moved because they were completely overwhelmed and had no clue what they were doing.  She said that if I was willing to take both girls, she was pretty certain they'd be mine if I said yes.  They just had to check with the caseworker and explain that I was a few days away from having my licensing number, but that I'd already fostered before so I knew what I was doing.

I said, "No."

It absolutely KILLED me to say "no" because being single, it takes months for me to get a placement unless the children are already in care.  Caseworkers want couples or stay-at-home moms, so if I get my placements the "normal" way, it takes forever.  The Booger Bear came to me from another foster home as well.  But I had no idea how I was going to be able to take care of a newborn and a soon-to-be one-year-old by myself!  So I told the director that I didn't have two cribs and that I was a little concerned about being able to handle that on my own, so as much as it was killing me, I thought I needed to say "no."  Then I did what any self-respecting adult would do.

I called my Mommy.

During that conversation, I ended up pep-talking myself into calling my director back and saying, "You know what!  Let's give this a try!"  And as of right now, I am so glad I did!!!

On Tuesday, she called me back and asked how soon I could take the 11-month-old already at the other foster home.  She said that the parents were nervous wrecks and that she wasn't comfortable leaving her there anymore.  I said, "I'm ready for her tonight if you want me to take her!" 

I still wasn't licensed, but they moved her as a "respite" placement with the understanding that she would be an official foster placement as soon as we got my number.  Her foster parents were bringing her over to my house themselves because they had some things to bring with her.  And I opened the door to the most beautiful little girl ever!  Understandably timid and scared, but she came to me and let me take over.  She even fell right to sleep and slept over 12 hours the very first night!

At that point, there wasn't much information on her baby sister.  Just that she was, in the caseworker's words, "a whooooolllle other ballgame."  So I took my "Little Miss" and started to do what I could to make her comfortable and to get her used to me before our lives become insane again when "Itty Bitty" baby comes home...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Must Apologize...

I'm sorry I haven't posted in awhile.  This past week or so has been a crazy one in Foster/Adopt Land.  I have good reason...   She's 11 months old and the prettiest, sweetest little thing on the planet (if I do say so myself)...  I've been calling her "Little Miss," and the nickname seems to have stuck.  So "Little Miss" it is in Blog World!  :-)

Please pray for her and her baby sister who might be joining us at some point, as well as her parents and extended family.  This little one deserves the happiest, safest, most joyful life full of love possible.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I Must Have Done Something Right!

Since meeting Angel in June of 2009, I've often wondered if she's learned anything at all from her time with me.  Most of the time I feel like I've completely failed her...  That I've just been talking to a brick wall and that she doesn't listen to a word I say.  But then, when I least expect it, she will do or say something and I know that she really has been listening!

It's the small things really...  Things like when I overhear her saying something like "My mom said that..." and she repeats verbatim something that I told her.  Or like little comments that she made while she was opening her baby shower gifts this weekend.  She got some bibs, and she looked at me really excited and said, "Look mom!  They have the plastic lining on the back!"  I had made an offhanded comment about a month ago about how it's good to have bibs with the plastic lining so that you can keep them on teething babies, and the drool doesn't soak through and give them a rash.  Any time she got a gift that I had said was on my "baby essential" list, she explained the purpose of the item to everyone there.  I loved it!  Just to know that she was paying attention and actually heard what I said was priceless!

I think the thing that I was most proud of this weekend was in hearing her say, "thank you" to so many people without any prompting from me.  It seems like a small thing...  Like what you teach a 2-year-old and just expect from someone older, but Angel had never said "thank you" to anyone in her life until she came to me.  I remember the first time we talked about it was right after she had moved in, and my mom had bought her a CD player.  She really didn't have much of a response when she got it, but after my mom had left, she was so excited and told me how no one had ever done anything like that for her before.  I asked, "Well, did you thank her?"  And she looked at me like the thought had never even occured to her.

As the months went on, I made sure that I thanked her for every little thing that she did.  Every time, she looked surprised, and would smile and say, "you're welcome!"  But she still never thought to say "thank you" herself.  At one point, I made a comment about how it would be nice to hear a "thank you" every once in a while, and then she really started trying.  She had a hard time at first.  You could tell that it was a last minute thought, but she would say it.  I would always get that same surprised expression and big smile that she would get and say "you're welcome!" just like she did.

This weekend, I realized that something that I taught her actually stayed with her.  She thanked everyone who came to her shower individually more than once.  She even said and wrote special "thank you's" to a few people who really helped with the shower on her own that night.  Yes, it seems small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but I couldn't have been more proud of her.  For a girl who had never said "thank you" in her life, it seems to come naturally now.  And I know that's because of something that I taught her.  I must have done something right!  :-)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

You Know You're a Foster Parent When...

The longer I have CPS meddling in every single aspect of my life, the more I find myself thinking in "avoid the wrath of CPS" terms.  Stay one step ahead!  Head them off at the pass!  Be so completely CPS-proof that there's no way they'll be able to find anything to chastise me about...  Unfortunately, this mindset has also turned me into a completely anal-retentive, obsessive compulsive, paranoid neurotic...  Luckily, blog world and my online foster parent friends have made me realize that I am not alone in my neuroses.  :-)

After searching through pages of other foster parent friends, as well as living on my own in Foster/Adopt Land, I've compiled a list of key characteristics that experienced foster parents seem to possess.

You know you're a foster parent when:
  • You notice random outlets at work, businesses, friends' houses, etc. and think, "Quick!  Get an outlet cover!"
  • You see photographs of nurseries and various other rooms and immediately play the "What is Wrong with this Picture" game, pointing out all of the safety hazards and CPS violations you can find.
  • You have to go to school more than your child does.
  • You have a personal stash of children's clothing and toys that rivals that of any children's retail store.
  • You find yourself classifying random children into their CPS categories of care (Basic, Moderate, Therapeutic, etc.).
  • You can tell the physician what medication your child needs.
  • You learn that "caseworker speak" can be extremely misleading.  "Basically a good child with a few behavioral problems" doesn't mean the same thing coming from a caseworker as it does coming from someone in the real world.  (I think "caseworker speak" is going to get its very own blog post in the near future. :-)
  • Your neighbors light up the BBQ and upon smelling the smoke, everyone in your house yells, "Where's ____?!?," your resident firestarter.
  • Your neighbors don't invite your family to their BBQs anymore.
  • You gather up your monthly paperwork to submit it to your agency and discover that you have completed medication logs for yourself as well as your kids.
  • Your cell phone becomes a permanent fixture on the end of your hand due to the fact that you are expected to be at the beck and call of two dozen people at any given moment.
  • Your heart skips a beat every time the phone rings.
  • The speed dial numbers on your phone consist of therapists, caseworkers, schools, etc. rather than family and friends.
  • Your cell phone battery dies before 9:00am due to overuse.
  • You experience "foster pregnancy" every time you are between placements.
  • You can carry on an entire conversation using nothing but acronyms and actually understand what you're talking about.  (TPR, PTSD, RAD, CASA, GAL, CPS, DFPS, PDD, FAS, ODD, WIC, CCMS, etc.)
  • You get super excited when you see things like this...  A super-cool, locking tackle box with multiple compartments for separate storage of oral and topical medications!!!
  • And even more excited when you realize you can get it in pink!
  • Your idea of light summer reading consists of a simple book on child development or Parenting 101 as opposed to your usual material on the effects of drugs and alcohol in newborns or parenting children with RAD.
  • You own stock in the Ritalin company.
  • Your Christmas wish list consists entirely of organizational and storage tools...  (ex. storage tubs for on-hand clothing and supplies, a huge dayplanner with lots of room for writing daily notes, highlighters, etc.) 
  • Your idea of a grand social event is attending your children's court hearings where you get to talk to social workers, attorneys, CASAs, supervisors, etc.
  • You have ever wondered how the story about how Little Timmy tried to kill you turned into, "Little Timmy is doing unbelievably well, Your Honor." by the time his caseworker has to report in court.
  • You never complete your US Census early because you have no idea how many people will be living in your home as of April 1st.
  • The local schools send you extra enrollment packets "just in case."
  • The teachers in those schools have nervous breakdowns when they see you coming.
  • You watch your two-week placement go from a crib to junior high.
  • You have alarms that tell you when someone is leaving the house as opposed to when someone is breaking in.

(And my personal favorite that I found while searching for "You Know You're a Foster Parent When's...")

You know you're a foster parent when...

"Your heart is bigger than your brain."  :-)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Baby Care "Essentials?"

Too funny!!!  I was working on my Foster Care Wish List online, and "Eclipse" bandaids popped up as a suggestion on "Baby Care Essentials."  Essentials, huh?  I guess I'd better add them to the list!  :-)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Deathtraps of the Rich and Famous

While I'm waiting for my next foster baby, I've been shopping around for more nursery decor ideas.  I plan on doing this for a while, so I don't want to get bored with the decor.  I also have a tendency to associate certain things with specific children, so I'd like to have several options on-hand for new placements. 

I have one set of neutral bedding and decor that I bought forever ago when I saw it.  I fell completely in love with it and thought that it was a perfect fit for me.  My nickname is "Pooh Bear," so I knew that I wanted to do Classic Pooh.  The only problem with that is that I'm not a fan of pastels, and most of the Classic Pooh stuff is just that.  Pastel.  So when I found this beige, sage, and cranberry set with Winnie the Pooh sort of embedded in the beige portion of the bumper (which you totally can't see in this picture, but I don't have another one), I was sold!  Everything else in the room is from the Classic Pooh Collection that Target had...  Rug, wall hangings, all of the plush stuffed characters, mobile, etc (Again, none of which you can see in the picture...  You can see how prepared I was for this post, huh?).  Love it, love it, love it!  And it would work for a boy or a girl.  But right now, I still think of it as the Booger Bear's, so I don't think I could use it right away for another baby.  Silly, I know...  But I'll use it again after a couple more kiddos come my way, I'm sure...

Right before the Booger went to live with his daddy, he hand-picked the bedding and decor that I have set up now.  He was very insistent that he thought it should be "colors."  So we ended up with a colorful Stars & Stripes theme.  I have a twin bed set up in the nursery as well as the crib, and the comforter for the bed is vertical stripes of all of the colors in the crib bedding.  The Booger never got a chance to use the new stuff, so it's anxiously awaiting it's first occupant.  :-)  I would use this for a boy or a girl, but it still seems a little more "boy"-ish to me. 

I really want to get one more set of something specifically girly, but like I said before...  I am not a fan of pastels, and all of that pink, frilly, lacy "girl" stuff kind of makes me want to throw up a little.  So I set out on an internet quest to find the perfect "girl" room that wouldn't make me want to hurl.  :-)  I somehow stumbled across photos of celebrity nurseries, and quickly realized that those people live in their own little universe where good taste, common sense, and practical issues like, ummm, I don't know...  safety seem nonexistent.

This first nursery I stumbled upon was for Tori Spelling's baby girl.  I know I said I was looking for something specifically "girly," but this is just not right!  Every single item in the nursery is a different shade of pink...  Carnation pink, hot pink, Pepto pink, dusty rose...  You name the shade of pink, and it has been thrown up upon every item in this room.  Walls, ceiling, carpet, crib, draperies, lamp, chair, changing table...  Every item, that is, except for the shiny chadelier.  A chandelier!  In a baby's room!  Because that's just what every newborn needs, right?  And what happened to babies needing the visual stimulation of contrasting colors?  This poor child's not going to know what to do with other colors when she ventures out into the "real" world!

Upon regaining my composure after viewing that particular monstrocity, I found this...  Christina Aguilera's idea of a fun-loving, safe room for her baby boy.  In her defense, there are a couple of things in this room that were sorely lacking in the previous nursery.  Multiple colors, for one...  and a couple of stuffed animals.  Unfortunately, there is also the distinct presence of what I will now refer to as "a sleeping death trap," more commonly known as "the baby's crib."  Oh yeah!  Let's hang floor to ceiling fabric all around the  crib with two tall pointy posts that would be perfect for catching said fabric and strangling the baby.  And, I don't know if anyone else has noticed it, but there is also this insanely large and frightening sculpture of what appears to be a seriously grumpy "Man in the Moon" dominating a rather large percentage of the room.  That poor baby's gonna be scared to death (if the crib doesn't get him first)!

Just when I thought I had seen it all, I came across J-Lo's version of a child-friendly haven for her newborn boy/girl twins.  Maybe I just have foster care on the brain, but when I look at this room, all I see are SIDS, strangulation, or electrocution just waiting to happen.  If this room had to pass a CPS licensing inspection, it would fail miserably!  I don't care how much money you spent on it.  Three inch thick crib bumpers, big flowing canopies draped around the crib, pillows and stuffed animals all in the beds, table lamps everywhere...  And, of course...  A crystal chandelier that puts the Spelling chandelier to shame.  I just pray that some of this is purely for the magazine photo shoot and NOT actually in use for the newborns. 

Call me boring, but the baby girl bedding that I found was a little more practical, and a lot less froo-froo-ey...  Two shades of plum, turquoise, lime green, and white...  NO PINK!  I won't be painting the walls lavendar though...  And I'll probably try to pull out more of the turquoise and green with the artwork and accessories in the room.

...And, of course...  I must get a fancy chandelier.
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