Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Brunch of Champions!!!

I know...  I know!!!  I'm sure my BFF is "shaking her head at me right now."  She is constantly getting onto me about my eating habits (usually while we're stuffing our faces at a Tex-Mex establishment, so I don't really put much weight into her chastising me ;-).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Going Home

The past week or two have been difficult for many of my online foster mommy friends.  I don't know why, but it seems that all of our placements, crazy daily lives, and ultimately our losses occur around the same time.  I think it's because we tend to gravitate towards people who are going through similar circumstances, so many of our "foster care cycles" tend to coincide.  One story in particular seems to have hit us hard this week.  Rebecca over at said goodbye to her daughter "Jacket" yesterday when she was returned to her biological mom after 16 months of being her mommy.  My heart is breaking for them. 

So many of us have watched Rebecca this past week, and have been reliving the losses of our own kiddos...  For me in particular, the Booger Bear's...  Losing that little boy was the hardest for me with him having been with me the longest.  I went back and read things that I'd written and comments and words of encouragement from friends and family when I lost Booger a year ago.  I read things that I'd written in the weeks after he'd gone as I grieved and tried to get over the hurt.  It felt so strange that the raw emotion of that loss came back so strong even though the Booger and his family are now such a huge, amazing part of my life. 

I've spent quite a bit of time this week thinking about how messed up the foster care system is too.  It never ceases to amaze me how it takes months and months to get anything accomplished in a case, but when it comes to sending children who have been in long term placements back to their parents, there is no consideration given to the children or to the families who have loved and raised them for the past year or more.  The move often happens with little or no warning and often with no transition at all.  I don't know why it still surprises me after all this time.  Nothing else does any more.

I've had children leave my home in many different ways.  The only one I have not had an experience with is in knowing ahead of time that a child is being returned to the home that they were removed from in the first place.  I knew the day before she left that the Munchkin was going to a foster home that was better suited for her needs.  I had a little time to prepare, write out detailed notes for her new foster parents, and to say goodbye to her.  Angel's situation was just messed up in every way possible.  Her "transition" into her new foster home was a fast one (like overnight), but it needed to be for everyone's sake.  With Little Miss and Itty Bitty, I'd been given some warning a few days ahead of time.  I'd been told there was a hearing "on Monday" (no word on what time), and that "chances were good that the girls would be placed with their dad."  I had packed up some of their things, but waited until I heard back from their caseworker after court to finish up.  Turned out I had one hour, and just enough time for their caseworker to load the car to say goodbye.

The most difficult and most screwed up case was the Booger Bear's.  In the weeks leading up to the court hearing, I had been told by CPS, my agency, and the Booger's attorney that they were getting a 3 month extension in order to start overnight visits and transitioning the Booger to his daddy.  I had completely accepted that.  I was sure that would be easier for everyone because Booger had never spent longer than 9 hours with his dad, and overnights were going to be a big adjustment for both of them.  What I was not prepared for was getting to court that day and finding out literally 30 seconds before entering the courtroom that Booger was moving permanently to his father's house effective immediately.  No transition.  No extra day or two to say goodbye or to let my friends and family say goodbye.  Just "well, today's his dad's visitation day anyway, so he can just stay there."  If I had known that there was even a chance that he wasn't coming home, I would have taken the day off of work and spent it with my baby!  Turned out, I dropped my baby off at daycare that morning and never saw him again (at least, that's what I thought at the time...). 

I honestly don't know which would be harder.  Losing a child the way I lost Booger Bear, or the way Rebecca lost Jacket.  I try to think about how it would have been knowing exactly when I was going to lose him, and I almost think it would have been more difficult.  To look at him knowing that I only had hours left...  Trying to be strong for him and not let him see my grief...  At least I know that the last time my baby boy saw me before he left my home, I was smiling, happy, and telling him how much I loved him.  I didn't have to grieve for him before he was gone.  I can only imagine how hard it is to know days ahead of time the exact moment that you'll be saying goodbye.

There is so much loss in foster care.  No matter what the situation is, someone is always grieving a loss.  The loss of a child...  The loss of a parent...  The loss of a home or a way of life...  I think the comment that foster parents hear most often is "I don't know how you do it.  I could never let them go!"  Sometimes I feel like people think that foster parents have some kind of supernatural power that allows us to love these kids with all that we have and then be okay when they leave, but that's not the case at all.  We are just like anyone else.  We grieve...  Deeply...  But we love deeply too.  And for me, the love for my kids outweighs the pain of losing them. 
"I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all." 
~Alfred Lord Tennyson

On the day that I lost Booger Bear, I asked, "Please pray that J isn't too scared or confused, and that he will be okay without me. Please pray that my arms don't feel this empty forever, and that my heart can be mended enough to help some other baby who needs me..."  Today, I ask that you pray the same for Jacket and Rebecca, and all of the other foster families who are currently suffering these losses.  I know how much they hurt...  But I also know how much they love...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Agency's Trying to Kill Me!!!

I'm entering my third year of foster care, and I've had my fair share of potential placement calls...  I've totally lost count of the number of "potentials" that I've been contacted about after two years.  Has to be dozens.  If the kids are anywhere close to my age and vacancy requirements, I usually say "Absolutely!  Submit my homestudy!"  (A statement which has caused my family and friends to, at times, tell me to "Step away from the children!" ;-)  Lately though, my agency has been calling me with some doozies, which leads me to believe that my agency is trying to kill me.

They started slowly.  "Hey Mimi...  I've got a sibling group of three...  A 2-year-old, a 1-year-old, and a 9-day-old.  Do you want them?"  Ummm...  Single, full-time working, foster mom...  What on earth makes you think this would be a good match?!?  That would be hard for a normaltwo-parent household!  Throw foster care appointments, court dates, visitations, etc. into the mix for one person who's trying to work full-time too, and tell me again that you think this is a great idea.  Whatever!  I'd end up in the funny farm within a week!  I told them they were trippin'. 

At first, I only wondered about my agency's lack of concern for my sanity when it came to potential placements.  Then I received the following call which (1) made me ever-so-grateful for their apparently overwhelming concern for my physical well-being (note the intense sarcasm in that statement), and (2) made me realize just how far I've come and how much I have learned over the past two years when it comes to reading between the lines of "caseworker speak."

CW - "Hi Mimi!  I'm calling about a 1-year-old baby boy...  Basic care...  He's currently in a home already, but needs to be moved."

Me - (I would normally jump at this because being a single, working foster mom, it's hard for me to get placements unless they are already in care.  There was something funny in her tone though, so I dove a little deeper.) "That's too bad...  What's the situation?"

CW - (hedging) "Well, the family asked that he be moved."

Me - (mm-hmmm...)  "Why?"

CW - (resigned to the fact that she's going to have to answer me) "Well, he's in a family placement right now, but it seems that the bio dad is sort of threatening them."

Me - (Here we go...  Getting closer...)  "Threatening them?"

CW - (quickly moving on with the story)  "He has two other siblings with another family member though!"

Me - "Can they not take him so the siblings can be together?"

CW - (pause) "Well...  Apparently bio dad is threatening them too.  They're all kind of afraid he's going to do something drastic.  He's kind of threatening to kill them."

There it is!!!  I've got to tell you, I'm not too sure about phone calls that say "Do you want to take this baby?  His father is threatening his current caregivers, and they are afraid for their lives."  I'm perfectly capable of going "Mama Bear" on someone who tries to hurt one of my kids, but I'd rather not have to.  Naturally, because I'm a glutton for punishment, I said, "Absolutely!  Submit my homestudy!"  But I got a call back saying that they decided to go with a home in a far away county in order to "put some distance between them."  Gotta say, probably for the best on this one...

I probably never should have said "yes" to that situation, because just when I thought it couldn't possibly get any worse than that, I got another phone call.  This one was from my agency's Family Specialist...  The girl who works with the kids once they are already with our agency.

FS - "Hi Mimi!  How would you like a 2-year-old, blue-eyed, blond-haired little boy!?!"

Me - (Oh, this ought to be good...  I just love how she tried to bribe me and make this sound awesome right off the bat.  I, however, am rather jaded when it comes to foster care a genius when it comes to reading between the lines.)  "Well, of course I'm interested...  Tell me more."

FS - "Well, he's been in care for a couple of weeks, but his current placement doesn't seem to be working out.  I'm just not really comfortable leaving him there any more.  He and foster mom seem to be having a battle of the wills."

Me - (This situation is not at all foreign to me.  It's how I got both Little Miss and Booger Bear, so I was intrigued and asked a few more questions about his situation.)  "Why is he in care?  What is the problem with his current placement?  Is it just because he's a 2-year-old, and foster mom can't handle him?"

This is where things took a rather interesting turn...

FS - (This woman should never.  I repeat.  NEVER play poker or to attempt a life of crime.  She begins to spill the entire story rather quickly...  Something about a meth lab, SWAT and the police getting involved, bio dad high and trying to kill people, caseworker fairly certain she was being followed when she left with the boy to bring him to his foster home, foster mom convinced that 2-year-old is suffering from meth withdrawals, etc.)

Me - (HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?!?  That's what I was thinking anyway.)  "Uhhhh...  I don't know about this..."

FS - (Still rambling on...) "Well, there are actually a couple of family members who both look like good placements, and he'll probably be going with one of them at the first court hearing in a week or so."

Me - "Wouldn't it make more sense to keep him where he is for that week so he doesn't have to get moved again a week later?"

FS - (realizing that I'm not gonna get involved with this one) "Man!  I knew I should have had *Caseworker* call you instead!  I just left the foster home, so I'm still riled up!"

I told her that if it made her feel any better, *Caseworker* wouldn't have been able to convince me to take this one either.  I told her that they never said anything in PRIDE classes about needing to hone-up on my self-defense skills in order to become a foster parent and that "MIMI DON'T DO DEATH THREATS!"  So if they ever feel the need to ask me if I am "packing heat" for protection before placing a child with me, they can just go ahead and call someone else.  Not that "packing heat" would do me any good as a foster parent...  "Would you excuse for me for about 15 minutes, Mr. High on Meth Bio Dad with a Loaded Weapon?  I need to retrieve my firearm and ammunition from their separate, double-locked locations so that I might adequately defend myself and your innocent child."

F'real!!!  I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried!!! 

Yep...  I do believe my agency is trying to kill me!  I suppose on the bright side, at least they are keeping me in mind for placements.  :-)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Booger"-Sitting & My "Family"

It's so strange to me to think that I first started fostering as a way to add to my family.  I always thought that I would be able to adopt one or more of my little ones.  Little did I know, my "family" would grow by leaps and bounds...  Not through adoption, but through love!  :-)

Over the past six months, my relationship with the Booger Bear's family has developed into one that I absolutely cherish.  I've totally "adopted" them as "mine" (whether they like it or not ;-).  Fortunately, I think the feeling's mutual.  They all seem to have "adopted" me and the rest of my family too.  :-)  Lots of play dates for the kids (Booger, Buddy, and Ka-Diva are still best buds), and the occassional "Want to meet us at so-and-so?"  I love seeing how close Booger still is with his Daddy.  His dad's so good with him...  Very hands-on and interactive because he's like a big kid himself (a fact that embarrasses Heaven to no end when they're in public, but really is pretty endearing to everyone else ;-).  And I've gotten really close to the Booger's Mommy.  We talk every day, and I miss her just as much as I miss the Booger when we go too long without getting together.  I call her my "Mini Me" because she parents the same way I do!  I was worried in the beginning that I'd have a hard time letting go of the "mommy" role, but it's actually been easy.  I LOVE being more of an unofficial "grandma."  All of the glory...  None of the "mean" parenting stuff...  ;-)  The kids know I'm here to offer advice if they ask for it, help when they need it, and lots of moral support.  ("The kids..."  Now that makes me feel old! ;-)

The kids put me to work last month when they went to the hospital to bring the Booger Bear's baby sister into the world.  Booger came to spend four days with me while Heaven was in the hospital!  I loved every second of it, even when the Booger was being...  well...  a booger!  :-) 

NIGHT ONE - The first night was a little rough.  Heaven has been with Booger almost 24/7 since he went to live with them a year ago, so I think they both had a little separation anxiety.  BB was super excited to see me, but when his parents left, he informed me that he wanted me to go to the doctor instead.  :-)  I got his mind off of things by taking him grocery shopping to get his favorite foods and he insisted that we take pictures for Heaven so she wouldn't miss him.

Booger's eyes grew HUGE and I swear he heard the harps and chorus of angels singing when he saw this MEGA-sized box of cheese balls at Target.

Everything went great...  Until bedtime.  I had to remind myself that bedtime was never easy with him, but now that he talks like a 30-year-old, it was a little more vocal.  Lots of crying!  "I not tired, Tammy!  It not bedtime!  I want my Buzz and Woody bed!  I want Daddy and Heaben!  I wanna play wit blocks!  I wanna be a good boy!  I no want a see you, Tammy!  Go in de udder woom!  I NOT HAPPY, TAMMY!!!" 

Finally at around 11:30, he stopped crying and called me in.  "I need a diaper change, Tammy."  After I changed his diaper, he told me his lip hurt, so I told him to hop back in bed while I went to get him some chapstick.  He waited patiently for me to come back.  "You come back, Tammy?!?"  I put some chapstick on him (which then became a nightly routine), he pulled up his blanket, told me he loved me, asked for a kiss, and then told me to go in the other room and go to bed too.  Didn't hear a peep out of him after that!

DAY TWO - BB was a little angel as soon as it was his decision to go to sleep.  He slept all night, and the next morning I had to wake him up myself!  He looked at me and asked, "It morningtime???"  Then smiled and said, "I HAPPY, Tammy!  I happy a see you!!!"  Made me fall even more in love with that kid all over again...  :-) 

My mom watched Booger that day while I was at work.  He still loves going to Nana and Papa's house.  He was so happy to be there that he kicked me out when I started stalling before heading to work.  "Bye!  You go work now, Tammy!"  He was happy to see me by the end of the day though.  :-)  We took some more pictures for Heaven and he had a fun bath before I attempted bedtime again.

Believe it or not, there actually WAS some water under all of the toys and bubbles.

And then it was bedtime...  There was no crying that night.  A little bit of whining, but no crying...  We read every book I had, and then J insisted that I lay down with him so I could sleep and he could talk about all of the fun things that he had planned for us the next day.  For nearly TWO SOLID HOURS!!!  From what I could gather, he planned to play on the playground, play with balloons, take trash to the dumpster, take a bath, watch the "dumpster truck" come, play with Buddy and Ka-Diva, read more books, and drive to Walmart to get fruit.  Busy boy!  He finally closed his eyes and fell asleep within 30 seconds of doing so.  Took forever, but no crying, and he was a happy little thing that night!

DAY THREE - I had to wake up Sleeping Beauty myself again that morning. He jumped up, yelled "It morning time!!! We have fun!!!" and then proceeded to rattle off the list of things that he had come up with the previous night of what he wanted to do that day.  Before we did any of that though, we made a special trip to the hospital so Booger could meet his amazingly beautiful baby sister!  ...and her blog name shall be...  BANANA!!!  (Long story...  There's a logical reason for the name though :-)

Is she not just the prettiest baby ever?!?  :-)

I totally want to post a pic that I have of Heaven holding both of her kiddos, when the Booger got his first look at his new baby sister, but she'd probably strangle me seeing as how she had just recently given birth and all...  ;-)  She was soooo happy to see Booger.  She'd been missing him like crazy.  Too bad he was being a little snot.  They definitely had some jealousy issues the first couple of weeks.  Booger was not used to sharing his "Heaben."  Fortunately, he's over it now and is completely in love with his new baby sister.  :)

After we left the hospital, we started on Booger's "to do" list. 

Somehow, I get the feeling I was suckered...

We're talking something along the lines of 60 balloons...  But he was having a blast, and he kept saying, "I BERRY happy, Tammy!!!  Balloons make me HAPPY!!!"  Seriously, how could I say "no" to that?!?  Guess it was a good thing that I played the clarinet for so long... Especially because his favorite "game" was for me to blow up the balloons and then let them go flying around the room. I tried explaining the concept of "dizzy," but he just kept saying, "But balloons make me HAPPY, Tammy!" ;-)

Yep...  We made a balloon tower...

I had another one of my "Scathingly Brilliant Ideas," and decided to build a balloon pit about 30 minutes before bedtime.  He totally loved it though, so I guess it was worth it.  ;-) 

I love his worried, "It not bedtime!!!"  :-)

Bedtime was easy though!  We read every book in the house again, and he wanted me to lay down next to him again.  We talked about his baby sister (although we changed the subject quickly because I could see the jealousy creeping in...  "Her hands not little!  MY hands little!")...  We talked about the balloon pit...  We talked about his plans for the next day...  He fell asleep in about 30 minutes.  HUGE improvement over the two hours the first couple of nights!

DAY FOUR - Unfortunately, Day Four started out with me hearing the Booger crying, "YOU WENT IN DE UDDER WOOM!!!"  :(  Apparently he thought I had been sleeping with him all week because I had been there when he fell asleep and I was the one who had woken him up in the mornings.  He was all smiles again as soon as he saw me though.

Buddy was sick that day, but Ka-Diva came over to "help me" with the Booger.  Booger kept saying, "Buddy no feel good, but KA-DIVA play wiff me!!!"  :-)  We call Ka-Diva a "little mommy" because she is very into safety and taking care of the little ones.  She was actually a really big help!

Why, yes...  The number of balloons in the balloon pit did double in number!  It really was an awesome idea (if I do say so myself! ;-)

Booger insisted that he was Ironman, and really thought the goggles added to his Ironman persona.

A wee bit of static...

After playing in the balloon pit for a good hour, we decided to go play on the playground.  Booger was all about doing anything that Ka-Diva did.  We also spent the afternoon learning how to "take turns" and "share."  By the end of the day, Booger kept saying over and over, "I'm a nice boy!  I take turns!  I'm a nice boy!  I share!"  I totally got his 2-year-old temper tantrums under control.  Any time he would start to whine or complain or misbehave, I just told him that "I only play with nice boys.  If you don't want to be a nice boy, you can go play over there by yourself until you want to be a nice boy again."  He would go about 5 feet away and sulk for 30 seconds, then come running back up to me all smiles and announcing, "I'm a nice boy again!"  So funny!  :-)

Such a little mommy...  And Booger worshipped her by the end of the day!

Ka-Diva, with the patience of a saint, helping Booger put a puzzle together.

Sidewalk chalk...  Booger kept coloring in Ka-Diva's peace signs.  :-)  She kept asking me, "Why does he want to be right where I am?"  She totally already knew the answer, but she liked to hear it anyway.  "He just really, really likes you.  He thinks you're really cool, and he wants to be with you."

By the end of the day, Booger had worn Ka-Diva out!  I wish I'd taken a picture of her as she was laying exhausted on my couch telling me that Booger needed to take a nap.  :-)

Ka-Diva went home, and Booger and I cuddled and watched some cartoons while we waited on his parents to come pick him up.  (He also seized the moment to tell me that I needed makeup.  Thanks, kid!) Heaven and Banana were getting released from the hospital, and they were finally going to have their first night together as a family of four!  Heaven told me later that they were eternally grateful that I had worn him out that day because they were all in bed by 8:00!  :-)

My house was a mess, and I didn't even want to think about cleaning it, but the mess just proved that I had a "BERRY HAPPY" kid on my hands that week.  :-)

So that was the story of "My Booger-Sitting Adventure" and "My Family That I Chose."  Have I mentioned lately that I wouldn't change my life for anything in the world?  I can't wait to see what the future holds!  :-)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's a Twin "Thing"

After 6 1/2 years, my sister finally got the baby shower she deserved the first time around!  When Christy got pregnant with Buddy and Ka-Diva after years on the fertility treatment roller coaster ride, we were all thrilled silly.  We started planning her baby shower early because she lived in another state at the time, and we knew that she wouldn't be able to travel later on.  Little did we know, she'd end up on bedrest at 20 weeks.  So our baby shower plans kind of went down the drain.  :(

Now, 6 1/2 years later, Christy's pregnant with her second (and last) set of twins!  And this time... bedrest or not...  We were giving her a shower!  At least she's back in the state, so it made things a lot easier.  :)  My BFF Katie and I were determined to throw her an insanely awesome shower to make up for the one that she never got for Twin Set #1, and I have to say, I think we pulled it off!

The Theme:  Dr. Seuss Starring Thing 1 and Thing 2!  (Perfect for twins!)
The Inspiration:  Just Google it, and you can find all sorts of awesome ideas.

So here's what we came up with, in photos...  (I will tell you now that you will not be seeing photos of the guest of honor.  She is very pregnant with twins, and I fear for my physical well-being should I post photos of her on the World Wide Web for all to see.  ;-)  We did get some great pics though.  :-)

Katie's house is currently being remodeled, so we had to get a little creative when it came to covering up exposed beams, etc.  We (and by "we," I mean "Katie" because I'm a big giant chicken when it comes to standing on ladders) covered just about all of the exposed beams with turquoise table coverings.  A "life"-sized "Cat in the Hat" greeted guests as they arrived.

Lots of Dr. Seuss books and little "hidden" touches throughout the house...  Complete with a kids' table and homemade Dr. Seuss coloring books for the kiddos.

The Sign-In table...

Guests signed a matted photo of Thing 1 and Thing 2 in place of a traditional guest book. The picture was framed so Christy can hang it in the nursery.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 Diaper Cakes...  We'd never done diaper cakes before, but they were surprisingly easy!  We knocked these out in less than 30 minutes!

Yes, we even had a candy bar.  (Hee-hee...  Get it?  A "candy bar?"  ;-)

Thing 1 & Thing 2 cupcakes that Katie's mom made for the shower. SO CUTE! They started out with blue cotton candy "hair," but the humidity was a little too high, and it quickly melted. :( Mama Havins was prepared though, and Plan B worked out perfectly! Thank you, Kathy!!! :D)

SUPER-YUMMY cake that my friend, Jeanne, and her husband made for us.

One table of food... Green deviled eggs, "Thing" Jello parfaits, fruit salad, our awesome "Thing" cake, raspberry tea w/fresh raspberries, and cranberry lemonade punch...

Christy's favorite of the day was the "Thing" jello parfaits... But the green eggs were gone within 15 minutes.

More yummy food!!! Goldfish crackers & Chex Mix, cheese & crackers, fresh veggies w/ dip (thank you, Mom, for putting those together!), and ham & cheese sliders (sandwiches went FAST... Got the recipe here).

Close-up of the individual veggie cups with dip. SUPER CUTE, and everyone seemed to like them.

The game table... We did the "Baby Food Guessing Game," the "What's in the Diaper Game," and the "Guess How Many Candies Are in the Bottles Game."

I kind of think the candy in the bottle game was rigged. Christy won the M&M one and was only ONE PIECE OFF!!!

Game prizes...  Katie laughed at me because I wrapped and "Seuss-ed" them up a bit.  :-)

I saw this frame idea on several sites, and HAD to do it.  It was a fun way to make sure that we got pictures of everyone at the shower, and we all had a blast.  We had one escapee, but managed to capture everyone else.  Here are a few of my favorites...

My mommy! :-) We forgot to take pics of ourselves because we'd all been working so hard, so we took some last-minute ones so we could prove that yes, we WERE at the shower too. :-)

Katie's mom, Kathy Sue (not to be confused with MY mom, Kathy Sue). We couldn't have pulled this shower off without our moms! They were AWESOME!

Even the kiddos got in on the action!

Besties and co-hostesses... We really do need to go into business doing this. It would be so much fun planning parties with other people's money! :D)

Overall, I was pretty proud of how everything turned out.  I think I hurt in places I didn't even know I had for a few days afterwards, but it was worth it!  Christy got an awesome shower with house full of her closest friends and family.  Katie, our moms, and I were so happy that we could pull this together for her!  She deserved it!!!  :-)
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