Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I think I might be upgrading my "Chunky Monkey's" nickname to...


Love all 16 pounds 3 ounces of my not-quite-4-month-old baby boy!

(And look!  He found his foot!!!  Too bad he couldn't quite figure out how to get past his tummy to reach it.  I told him that was okay.  Mimi can't reach past her tummy either.  ;-)

I am Already Exhausted

A brief look into the next two weeks of mine and Monkey's lives.  I am tired already.
  • Tuesday, July 5th - Monkey visitation with Dad (morning)
  • Wednesday, July 6th - Monkey visitation with Mom (morning)
  • Wednesday, July 6th - 4-month well baby check (afternoon)
  • Thursday, July 7th - Hearing screening at the hospital (morning) - More on my suspicions about Monkey's hearing (or what seems to be a total lack thereof) in a future post...
  • Sunday, July 10th - Scentsy Open House (gotta supplement the income seeing as how I'm missing so much work!)
  • Tuesday, July 12th - Monkey visitation with Dad (morning)
  • Wednesday, July 13th - Monkey visitation with Mom (morning)
  • Wednesday, July 13th - CPS Caseworker Home Visit (after visitation w/Mom)
  • Wednesday, July 13th - Agency Worker Home Visit & Quarterly Inspection (home visit at the same time as caseworker visit, inspection afterwards)
  • Wednesday, July 13th - WIC appt (afternoon)
  • Wednesday, July 13th - Next court hearing (afternoon)
Sometime in there I also have to have my fire inspection done as it apparently expired last month, find time to hit up the apartment office to get them to complete the extermination records for my agency and add Monkey to the lease, and go to the Health Department (twice) to get my annual TB test (once for the skin test and again for the results) that according to my agency is also due.

Have I mentioned that I am a SINGLE, full-time working mom who works in the Finance Dept and all of this mess is falling during Month-End?!?!?

Times like these, I seriously wonder if this is all worth it.  But then I look at my kiddos, and I know that it is.  I just wish I had a little more help sometimes.  Doing this on my own is hard.  I'm exhausted.  I'm stressed out.  I'm worried about Monkey and what's going on with his hearing (and how I'm going to be able to give him the help that he needs if I'm at work all the time if it turns out he does have profound hearing loss).  Monkey still has problems with airway issues, congestion, and reflux on top of everything else.  :(  Most of the time, I don't mind doing this alone.  I am the one who signed up for it after all .  But times like these, when everything blows up and all of the craziness hits all at once, I just really wish I had some backup.

What I wouldn't give for a Girls' Night...  Mimi needs a break!!!  Actually...  What Mimi really needs is a full night's sleep!  One where I don't have to sleep with the baby monitor on and run downstairs to a choking baby every couple of hours.  That would be lovely.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Foster Friday" - THIS is Why I Do This...

When people discover that I am a foster parent, the first question I inevitably hear is usually something along the lines of, "Oh my goodness!  How can you do that?!?"  Followed quickly by, "I could never give them up!"  (I know you other foster parents can relate.  :-)

So I thought I would dedicate this week's "Foster Friday" to all of the reasons why we can and continue to do what we do.
  • "THIS is Why I Do This" Where panel members talk about those specific moments and emotions that led them to foster/adopt, and the moments that have continued to make everything worth it.
      Jennifer (aka. Mama Lark) - I am answering this week's post sitting outside my daughter's bedroom door while she flails and screams and kicks because bedtime makes me "the burst mudder eder".... sometimes during THOSE moments, I am really not sure why. However, its inevitable. After this fit of rage is over and I have kissed her little face, I will flip on the news and hear a horrific case of child abuse that will tie my stomach in knots and leave me baffled for hours.

      The reason I started doing foster care is because I wanted a child to love. It was all done selfishly, I won't lie. Now, after doing this for many years, I have a more profound desire to help. 

      I spent an afternoon with my daughters' birthmother not so long ago, where she told me of her life before she became a foster child. I was beyond mortified.... her mother held her down and dosed her with drugs because she was "overweight".... because of her mothers less-than-helpful diet plan, she was addicted to numerous drugs by age ELEVEN!!! Her mother sat outside the door of a sleazy motel listening to her daughters screams while the drug dealer raped her so mom could afford her next high.... she had nobody to serve as her protector.

      I am a foster mother because its MY JOB to be a voice for these innocent children! It's MY JOB to love them, and care for them unconditionally-whether they want me to, or not. It's MY JOB to keep them safe, and let them live out whatever is left of their childhood. It's MY JOB to care!! That is why I choose to foster.

      Mama Foster - Long ago, in a land far far away my husband and I decided to try to adopt through foster care.  So far that has been unsuccessful.  We have fostered 5 children so far, one is still here, 2 JUST left and I am in contact with the parents of my first two that went home/were adopted.

      At this point I am not fostering to adopt.  The reason I continue to do this even after all of my worst fostering nightmares came true is because these kids NEED NON-CRAPPY foster homes to stay at while they have to be in foster care.  It is as simple as that.  I am basically to the point where I want to take adoption off the table so there is one less thing to hurt all of us when things don't go the way it seems like they should.
      BUT...there is just something about that call.  Something about that new little face.  Something about making those emotional connections with a child who isn't used to having...anything.  All those things have turned out to be very addicting to me.  I enjoy the good so much that it helps me ignore the bad.
      I love all my kids, and it seems that my love for the kids that used to call me "Mama" urges me on to keep my heart open to the new little loves that will end up calling me "Mama".  
      I foster, basically, because I don't know how to stop.  Nor do I want to.

      Kylee -  It’s those little moments that keep us going. The moments like last year, when the newly adopted 3-year old exclaimed on Christmas day “I have a FAMILY now”.  Or the moment in the courtroom when I got to hold tightly to my 5-year-old sister’s hand as she legally became a member of our family. They say you never know what you have until it is taken away from you, and I believe that many children in the foster care system have to experience what it is like to bounce around from foster family to foster family, having no place to call “home”.  To hear a 3-year-old utter those words, and to watch a 5-year-old slowly learn to trust us, makes all of those challenges entirely worth it. If we can give kids a forever home and security, then ever tear that was shed is entirely worth it.

      That’s why we do it. Not because it is always easy or fun (because it isn’t!), but because the Lord is using my family to bring healing into kids’ lives. We do it, because every morning we wake up to two sweet girls and two wild boys who are slowly learning the meaning of “family”. They are learning to trust and love us, even when all of the statistics are fighting against them.  Seeing that security and feeling the tension melt away from their lives, makes every minute worth it.

      Diane - Why do I do this?
      • Because these kids need and deserve my help.  
      • Because every child I help gets a taste of a loving family.
      • Because this is my passion and my calling to serve my Lord.
      • Because I love these kids.
      • Because I can!
      Moments that make everything worth it:
      • A sincere thank you from a birth parent.
      • A 17 month old “blob” who turns into an amazingly smart little boy.
      • An adoptive parent saying she could really tell how much her child was loved in my home.
      • An invitation to a child’s birthday party after she left my home.
      • Siblings who had to be split for adoption dividing differently (better) than the social workers initially planned based on my input.
      • A birth mom telling an agency to call me for information as she abandoned her child in another state.
      • My adopted child telling me I’m the best mom ever.
      • A four year old blossoming after receiving dental treatment that let her whole body heal from system wide infection.
      • Another foster parent asking for advice and being able to answer a question.
      • A child who left three years prior hugging me and saying she loved and missed me.
      • A biological extended relative telling me my home is the best place for a child.
      • A birth dad saying he can tell I love Jesus because of what I do.
      • A toddler going from not verbalizing to speaking in sentences in less than three months after getting tubes put in her ears.
      • My children at home welcoming me when I return after work each day.
      Foster parenting is not easy, but it is worth it!

      Debbie - April 15, 2008 we were told that we had been matched with our daughter. We were adopting via domestic infant adoption and she was born a few days earlier. Another week to get all the paperwork and formalities taken care of and she came home when she was 16 days old. During those 16 days she stayed with a foster family from our agency. Their love and dedication for her in those short weeks touched us so much. They gave us a long letter with details about 2 weeks and about a dozen pictures. Even offered to give me her umbilical cord stump (which I declined). We're lucky enough to still be in touch with them so they get to see her grow up.

      It was from that experience that we knew that one day we could do the same for someone. We could care for a child while a plan is made. So while our families think we're crazy we hope to one day be handing a baby or young child, over to his or her new adoptive parents. We know how scared so many are of the risk in fostering and we're open to that risk of having our hearts broken for a child. So we're willing to say no to adoption so another family can adopt their long awaited child. Of course one day we will say yes to adoption of the child in our home, but I hope we're able to see many children return home maybe a few even adopted. So that's why we decided to foster.

      aka. Mimi - So why do I do this?  Soooo many reasons... 
      • The occassional "thank you's" from the people who matter most
      • Watching a baby sleeping peacefully in their crib, and knowing that while they are with me, they won't have to worry.
      • Hearing my former foster daughter repeat things that I had told her and realizing that she really was paying attention (even when I felt like I was talking to brick wall at times ;-).
      But I think I'll explain this one mostly in pictures.  :-) 

      Being included in moments like this... 
      When a former foster son met his baby sister for the very first time...

      Watching a timid, self-soothing 11-month-old baby girl blossom into a happy, smiling little thing in a matter of six short weeks...

      The open-mouthed kisses of an excited toddler...

      Being a part of allowing a 16-year-old getting to do something fun and carefree for the first time in her life...

      Weekend fun with past and present kiddos...

      There are many, many times when the crazy world of foster care seems too much to handle.  But I look at times like these, and I know that (even if just for that one moment) there is a child in this world who is safe, loved, and happy because I chose to say, "Yes, I can do this!"

      Wednesday, June 22, 2011

      I Need a Drink...

      Monkey's Invisible CPS Caseworker is about to drive me to drink!!!  And not one of those yummy, fruity umbrella drinks either...  She's gonna drive me to the hard stuff if she keeps up this mess!

      I need Monkey's June Medicaid card that I have been hounding her for since May 31st within the next 45 minutes because the baby has a rather important doctor's appointment this afternoon.  Why, yes...  You read correctly.  His JUNE Medicaid card...  Now that it is June 22nd and the month is almost over...  She's totally on top of things, huh?

      Tuesday, June 21, 2011

      Blonde Moments of the Non-Blonde

      Admit it!  You have them!  I know I do... 
      • I've been known to exclaim (rather loudly, I might add) that everything at Cheddar's was "so cheesy!"  (Duh!  The place is called "Cheddar's!")  

      • Upon hearing that a flight to New Zealand was going to take 23 hours, I asked (in all seriousness), "Well why don't they just go the short way?" thinking that if they took off in the opposite direction, it would only take 1 hour (because it only takes 24 hours for the earth to turn).

      • While riding in my mother's car, I mentioned that they were sure playing a lot of Wilson Phillips on the radio that day...  It was a CD.
      So I wasn't overly-surprised yesterday when I had yet another "blonde moment of the non-blonde."

      I was on my way out of the daycare with Monkey in his carrier and diaper bag in tow when I approached the car.  I clicked the clicker.  Nothing.  That car was locked down like Fort Knox!  I spent the next five minutes walking around the car trying the clicker from different angles.  I tried shoving my arm through the cracked windows in a feeble attempt to unlock the car doors that way but the windows weren't quite low enough.  I was just about to walk back into the daycare to get Monkey out of the heat and to call my mom and ask her to bring my extra clicker when the doors finally unlocked when I pressed the button again.  I loaded Monkey, got in, and headed home. 

      I was halfway home when it finally occurred to me... 

      I probably could have just used the key!!!

      Blonde moments of the non-blonde...  Fun times!  :-)

      Monday, June 20, 2011

      A Happy Little Jingle...

      to be sung to the tune of "SpongeBob SquarePants..."

      "Who has a baby who sleeps throught the night???
      TAM-MY!!!  TAM-MY!!!

      Yep, that's right!  The past three nights, Chunky Monkey has slept from around 7:00pm straight through until 4:30 or 5:00am when he wakes up for a diaper change and a bottle and promptly falls back to sleep until 7:00 or 8:00.  :-)

      Mama on the other hand, has yet to sleep through the night.  The first night, I woke up at 1:00am in a panic thinking that I hadn't heard Monkey for his midnight feeding.  I ran downstairs to check on him, and he was snoring away.  I went back to bed, and jolted awake again at 2:30 because he always wakes up at 2:30...  NOTHING!  I ran downstairs to make sure he was still breathing.  He was a little congested and was stirring a bit, so I decided to lay down on the couch until he woke up.  At 3:30, he still hadn't woken up!  I ran in his room, felt his forehead to make sure he didn't have a fever, felt his chest to make sure he was breathing, etc.  What is wrong with my child?!?  I almost woke him up myself!  He ended up waking on his own at 4:30 for a bottle and went back to sleep until 8:00am!  I watched him like a hawk all day on Saturday thinking he must be getting sick, but he seemed fine.

      Saturday night, I tried not to be a paranoid Mama when he didn't wake up, but I slept with one ear open all night.  He had a couple of reflux-related coughing fits, but slept right through them.  He had one bad coughing attack at 4:45, so I ended up getting him up and feeding him but he really wasn't interested.  2oz. later he was fast asleep again.

      So last night, I was determined to go with the flow.  I think I got up twice to check on him when he was coughing/whining, but he never woke up so I let him sleep.  He got up at 5:00am, guzzled a 5oz bottle after a diaper change, and was out before the bottle left his mouth.  I ended up having to wake him up to get ready for daycare myself.  :-)

      So...  After three nights, I am going to guardedly say that I now have a baby who sleeps through the night.  I am hoping I haven't just jinxed myself by posting this on the World Wide Web.  ;-)  If this is actually going to stick, I am thrilled silly!  Booger never slept through the night!  He was 17 months old and still waking up wanting to cuddle or wanting "wa-wer" or to get in "Mimi bed."  So I'm going to enjoy every night of this that I can get!!!  :-)

      Wednesday, June 15, 2011

      Giving Thanks...

      I feel so appreciated! Because, really... Nothing says, "Thank you for the diaper change, Mama" like a giant 4am fart to the face! I could have done without that, Monkey, my dear...  Good thing you're cute!

      Sunday, June 12, 2011

      Is WIC Worth It?

      I've never bothered to apply for WIC with any of my other foster kiddos.  It always seemed like way more trouble than it was worth, but I thought I'd give it a try this time with Monkey.  Foster kiddos are automatically eligible, and you don't have to go through all of the income-verifying stuff, so why not?  So the week after Chunky Monkey arrived, I gave the WIC office a call to find out what I needed to do.

      Gotta say, one thing I have noticed during my time as a foster parent is the way people treat you as soon as they find out.  Hospitals, doctors' offices, different agencies and organizations, and now the WIC office...  When I compare the way they treat me as a foster parent verses the way they treat the other people there, I feel bad for everyone else.  I'm sure part of it is that they don't want to make things too easy because there are many people who do take advantage of the system, but there are also people who legitimately need the help while they are doing everything they can to get back on their feet, and I hate seeing those people treated like poo on the bottom of someone's shoe.

      Anyway, I digress...

      When I called the WIC office, I told the woman who answered the phone that I was a foster parent who just got a 2-month-old baby boy and asked what I needed to do in order to get his benefits started.  Her tone changed immediately from hard and abrupt to helpful and conversational.  I told her about the question on the spelling of his last name, and she looked him up in the system to see if he was already receiving benefits.  She is the one who told me the correct spelling of his name!  She asked me to fax in his placement paperwork and said that she would call me back to schedule an appointment as soon as she got everything entered.  She called back in 5 minutes, and we made the appointment for the following morning!  Somehow, I get the feeling that it probably isn't quite that easy for everyone else...

      So first thing the next morning, I loaded up Monkey and headed over to the WIC office.  We were a little early, so I made the drastic mistake of sitting down to wait.  My Facebook status that morning I believe was something along the lines of "First time I've decided to use WIC for a foster kiddo, and now I know why. The chairs are STICKY!!! I need another shower. :("  After some conversation with some of my friends, I had almost come to the conclusion that WIC might not be worth the extra money that I would need to spend in personal hygiene supplies and laundry detergent, but I decided to hold off on that decision for a little while and see it through for the month.

      When they finally opened up and let us in, again they were very friendly and accommodating as soon as they found out I was a foster parent.  While I was waiting for them to finish up, a woman (maybe 20 years old) walked in with a 0,1,2, and 3-year-old!!!  She was carrying the baby in its carseat, and the 3-year-old was holding the hands of the 1 and 2.  Apparently, she was ten minutes late for her appointment.  I was the only other person in the office, and they told her "You're late.  You're going to have to reschedule."  Seriously?!?  Cut the girl some slack!  I was impressed the girl made it out of the house at all with all of those little kids!  Ten minutes late is NOTHING!  But again, I guess they don't want to make things too easy.  So she decided to sit there and "wait for a slot to open up" with all four little ones in a completely empty office. 

      Gotta admit, I was pretty happy to get out of there with my little card and 2 1/2 months worth of WIC benefits for Monkey.  I had my online "assignment" to be completed before I go back in July in hand.  I do think it's a little silly that foster parents have to take the same classes as everyone else when it comes to WIC.  I mean, really?  I think foster parents have more training than just about anyone on the planet already!  Luckily, the WIC classes will count towards my yearly training requirements so I guess I won't complain too much.  But with the training classes and the sticky seats along with having to listen to the workers talk down to everyone else, I still wasn't sure it was going to be worth it.

      And then I went to the grocery store and got $140 of formula absolutely free... 

      Hmmm...  I can use coupons for the extra personal hygiene and laundry supplies.  WIC just might be worth it after all!!!  ;-)

      Friday, June 10, 2011

      "Foster Friday" - What They Didn't Tell Me - What I Wish I'd Known...

      It's here!!!  The first official topic of "Foster Friday!"  To start us off, I thought I'd keep it broad...
      • "What They Didn't Tell Me - What I Wish I'd Known"

        Where panel members write about anything from training they wish they'd had but didn't receive - to emotions that they didn't expect to have but felt full force - to general everyday tips that they had to learn on their own throughout the foster/adopt process.  
      Mama Foster -  What I wish I would have known:

      I wish I would have know that the foster care system does NOT play by their own rules.  I thought "If I play by their rules I can help these kids."  That is not true.  It is not true because they change the rules all the time and every judge/referee interprets everything differently and any federal law is definitely up for interpretation.  Especially the 15 month rules...that might as well not even exist.

      The other thing I wish I would have known is that I wouldn't want to adopt every child placed in my home.  I thought it would be a no brainer and I would want to adopt ANY child that was available for adoption.  Well, my second placement was totally adoptable and we opted not to...and have not regretted it once.  Sometimes you will love a child, but they won't be yours.  And that's ok.

      Debbie - Tough one for me since we haven't started fostering yet.

      The first Foster Friday assignment is to share what I didn't know or wish they'd told me. And since we are still not licensed I can only talk about the training. And I would have to say I wasn't prepared for the emotions I would go through during the training classes. Any time the topic of birth parents would come up, which you could imagine would be often, I would tense up and get angry. It was getting increasingly harder to cover my emotions. I couldn't always just look down at my lap to hide the anger in my face. I'm not good hiding my emotions. My husband and I had many discussions about this. I had to pinpoint my anger to get over it. Otherwise I was afraid they'd notice and kick us out of the classes thinking I was just an angry person.

      It was partially a protective anger. We have an open adoption with our daughter's birth mother and we love having her as a part of our lives. So to talk poorly about birth parents at that time felt like a direct attack at my daughter's birth mother. The people in the class didn't know us yet, they just knew we had adopted and had an open adoption. So I sat there thinking they all think this of our daughter's birth mother. Through the classes we were able to share about our relationship so I know most of them realized that was not the case.

      It was also hard for me to sit there and listen to many people talk so poorly about the people that gave birth to the children they want to adopt. It was hard to remove our story from the classes but I had to. I had to remember that our situation was very different. Isabel's birth mom choose adoption, it wasn't forced on her by the state. She contacted the adoption agency, child protective services didn't come to her and remove her child.

      I had to remember that children are removed for a reason and no matter how much I wanted to love our future foster child's birth parents like I do my daughters I can't and the sooner I learned that the better. I had to let go of the fantasy that we were going to be able to have a nice relationship with our future child(ren) adopted through foster care's birth parents. That was 6 months ago and I have let go of that fantasy. But it hurts me some to admit that.

      Diane - Some of the things I wasn't told and had to learn along the way:  

      Not everyone does their job.

      Babysitting – Maybe it is because I had no idea what I was doing. Maybe it is because I have no birth children. Maybe it is because my first placement was 28 months old and not a newborn. Maybe it is always like this for a parent of a foster or adoptive child. It took me over a month to feel like my first child belonged in my home. Even though I was scheduling doctor’s visits, dropping off at daycare, and getting up at night with her, I felt like I was babysitting not parenting. Soon after the first month went by, though, I started feeling like a mom and started psychologically claiming her as mine.

      Not everyone does their job.

      Attorneys / GALs – Depending on the state, a foster child is usually assigned either an attorney or a guardian ad litem (GAL) or both to represent him/her in court. The attorney or the GAL is supposed to MEET the child, regardless of the child’s age. Many of them try to represent the child by reading the paperwork given to them or by making a quick telephone call to the foster home for status the day before court. Don’t let this be the way your child is represented. Pester the attorney and/or GAL until they come meet their client (the child). Make this case be more real in their minds. Give yourself more than a phone call to make sure that they are up to date on the case and know your concerns and needs for the best interests of the child. 

      Not everyone does their job.

      ICWA – The Indian Child Welfare Act is a federal law that trumps state law. It specifies that a child must be placed, in order, with 1) extended family, 2) members of the child’s tribe, 3) members of another Indian tribe, and 4) other placement as directed or approved by the child’s tribe. This law applies if the child is eligible to be registered with a tribe, regardless of whether the child is actually registered. Native American children can lose in my state, unless a family or tribal placement is found for them early on. They are placed with non-Indian foster parents until severance and then can be jerked to another placement. Bonding, security, and best interests of the child are all superseded by the tribe’s wishes and ICWA.

      Not everyone does their job.

      Child Welfare – The system needs improvement. Case Manager turnover is atrocious. They get burned out, overloaded, and now with budget cuts, get even less pay than barely enough. In my state/county, a judge stays in juvenile court only about 2 years and then rotates to a different court. A new judge comes in and takes over the cases. With players changing in the case so often, everything takes longer than it should and often plans start over. All the professionals are busy and overworked. Performance, abilities, and knowledge varies widely. You know more about the foster child living with you and his/her needs than anyone else on the case. Be VOCAL and advocate for your child. Attend staffings, team meetings, foster care review boards, and court. Although there are definitely good case managers out there, sometimes your child gets a not so good case manager. That’s when it is especially necessary for you to speak out for your child!

      Penelope - I wish they would have told me... not to ever go shopping for a child before they arrive! (This, of course, excludes safety equipment such as a car seat, high chair, and crib.) On more than one occasion, we had a baby coming that evening when I stopped by the children's consignment shop and picked up a few outfits. Fortunately, I haven't purchased a lot, but I still see those infant girl outfits (in 2 sizes for 2 different babies) in the closet, and my heart aches a little. 

      One baby girl didn't come at the last minute because the 12-year-old foster girl in our home had bullied and hurt our 2-year-old. Although she was being processed to move, the State wouldn't allow other children in our home until she had left. (She left the day after the baby would have arrived.) {{Sigh!}}

      Rachel - "What do you wish you had known about foster care?"

      1. I wish I'd known how much I would feel for the biological parents. We went into this whole thing expecting to foster /adopt, and I remember sitting in the classes, hoping that the first child we got would have his or her parents' rights terminated. I don't feel that way so much any more. It's complicated. I feel bad for them, feel bad for the baby, feel bad for everyone in the situation. Parent visits are HARD. I have to psych myself up to go to them each week. I don't do much the rest of the day because the emotion of it is overwhelming. 6 months in and I still feel this way.

      I am also dreading the point in time where Baby Man will prefer me over his bio parents. I know it's coming; he's already shown some attachment to me.

      2. How reluctant I would be (and still am) to refer to myself as "Mommy" to him. I still feel like it's a self-protection mechanism. That is a loaded word.

      3. How tired I would get of hearing people say, "Oh, I could never do that." I don't know what they mean, but I have heard other foster parents say the same thing: It feels like a belittling comment: because I could give him up if I had to, I must not be attached or have a heart.

      4. How many people want definites from me about the timeline of his case, and how shocked they seem when I tell them I'm just as clueless as they are.

      5. How much I'd love watching him eat his first pickle, and how bittersweet it would be thinking about his bio mom missing it:

      aka. Mimi - I just had to do this topic first because there are so many things that "I wish I'd known" going into foster care, and ended up learning by trial and error...  I'll just make a list!  (Because we all know how much I love my lists! ;-)
      • I wish someone had told me about CCMS, WIC, holiday gifts, clothing allowances, etc. - I learned from other foster parents, my 3rd child's CASA, and the daycare that I was going to pay for about many of the benefits that my foster children were eligible for.  I think that is one area that was sorely lacking in my foster care training...  My training never touched on any of the various forms of assistance that foster children might be eligible for other than the typical daily "reimbursement" rates.  I learned about the automatic WIC eligibility from another foster parent.  I learned about CCMS from the daycare that I had every intention of paying for out of my own pocket.  I learned about a couple of Christmas charities for foster children through my 3rd child's CASA.  I learned about an additional clothing allowance offered through my county through Angel's therapist of all people!  I've started searching various organizations and government agencies in my spare time to try to make sure my kids can get whatever help they can.  The assistance is there!  You just have to know where to look.

      • I wish I'd known that it's OKAY to say "No." - I ran myself ragged during my first three placements.  I bent over backwards trying to make appointments, visits, pull together random requests from my agency and CPS, etc.  It got to the point where we had something CPS-related to do every single day.  Try being a single, full-time working foster mom of a baby and a teenager, catering to your agency's and CPS's every whim and desire, and still maintain your sanity and remain gainfully employed.  I learned that it is okay to say "No!"  I now have set hours and days when I will allow CPS-related people into my home.  I let my agency and caseworker know ahead of time when we will be available, and if they want to see us at home, they have to come on my time.  I was soooo frustrated the first time a caseworker told me (after a year of me taking off of work to accommodate her) "Oh, I can just run up and see him at daycare."  REALLY?!?  I hope you enjoy paying my bills because that's what you'll be doing when I get fired for taking off this past year to make things easier for you.  It's okay to say "no" to a lot of things.  As long as it's not breaking a minimum standard or your contract, you are more than able to set some ground rules.  Believe me.  It helps!

      • I learned that the foster care system has its own "unique" sense of timing, and no matter what they tell you, there is no method to their madness - Despite what is taught in training about the timelines of cases in foster care, the foster care system has no sense of time.  Things drag on and on and on for months on end with absolutely no progress...  You contact everyone you can think of to try to get something accomplished for your kids to no avail.  Then, BAM!!!  "Hi, it's Little Petey's caseworker.  We had a hearing today (that you knew nothing about) and Petey's going home now.  I'll be there to get him in an hour.  Get his things together!"   I have had to learn to expect the unexpected...  To try to be patient when my kids' cases seem to be at a complete standstill...  To be prepared at any given moment to pack up my babies' things and say goodbye...  There is absolutely no rhyme or reason when it comes to timing in the foster care system.  You have to learn to be flexible!  And I can not stress that enough!!!

      • I wish that I would have known sooner that I LOVE FOSTERING!!! - When I decided to foster, my thought was that I would only foster long enough to adopt.  I had absolutely no idea that despite all of the heartache, frustrations, and complete chaos that is foster care, I would actually find what I was meant to do.  I love fostering!  I love watching my babies as they learn new things and learn to open themselves up and trust again.  I love being that steady, reliable thing that they can count on no matter what.  I love being able to teach them how to do the things that their parents just aren't able to teach them at the time so that when they do go home, they are able to bond as a family and cope with the changes.  I wish I'd known five years earlier how I would feel about fostering these little ones so I would have started sooner.  Foster care as a system kind of sucks (to put it bluntly), but fostering...  It's amazing!  :-)give him up if I had to, I must not be attached or have a heart.

        4. How many people want definites from me about the timeline of his case, and how shocked they seem when I tell them I'm just as clueless as they are.

        5. How much I'd love watching him eat his first pickle, and how bittersweet it would be thinking about his bio mom missing it:

      Tuesday, June 7, 2011


      Monkey's got his first visit scheduled with his bio mom tomorrow morning.  Should be interesting as I am told she apparently doesn't speak a lick of English and the Invisible Caseworker supervising the visit doesn't speak Spanish very well...  I'm still not clear on how they coordinated the visit in the first place.

      I am definitely looking forward to meeting this caseworker, that's for sure.  Hopefully she'll be able to give me some shred of information on his case and her take on how things might go.  I'm really hoping a relative placement will work out for him.  There's a part of me that worries about him spending the first year or more of his life in an English-speaking home only to go home with his parents and not understand what anyone is saying to him later on.  I know it's silly.  He's a baby.  Babies pick up languages so quickly!  But it would be confusing and scary enough leaving the only Mama he'll know at that point without adding the communication barrier to the equation. 

      So that's my irrational fear of the day...  My infant not understanding Spanish...  Goodness!  I need help!  He doesn't even know that he can chew on his own feet yet, and I'm worried about his language skills!  ;-)

      (FYI - Pic is of Banana...  She is a few weeks older than her "uncle" and is paving the way in what we aspire him to do.  Do you see her going to town chewing on those puppies?!?  Oh, the big dreams we have for our children...  ;-)

      Prayer Request...

      Please keep my cousin Ariel's baby Colby in your thoughts and prayers this morning as he undergoes major reconstructive surgery on his airway. Surgery begins at 10:00 (CST). Colby is quite the little fighter and has been through a lot in his 4 1/2 months in the NICU. Please pray for healing, strength, and peace for Colby and his family in the coming weeks.

      You can follow Colby's journey on his very own Facebook Fan Page:

      Colby's Facebook Fan Page

      He is quite the popular baby boy and has won the hearts of so many people in his few short months.  His parents, Ariel and Corey, have shown so much love, strength, and faith through all of this and I am absolutely in awe of what amazing parents they are.  They have had to make some very difficult decisions for their Colby Bear, and I know they worry about whether or not they are making the "right" decisions for him.  Please pray that they have peace in knowing that every decision that they make out of love for Colby is always the "right" one.

      If you could please keep Colby, Ariel, and Corey in your thoughts and prayers this morning and in the coming weeks, I know they would appreciate it.  Ariel has expressed many times over the past several months that they can feel the results of the prayers sent up.  In her words last weekend, "Thank you all so much for your support. We know how important prayer is and truely appreciate all that you have sent to God on our Little Bear's behalf. Please keep us in your prayers this weekend as well as Tuesday and the time following while he recovers from surgery. Thank you all again."

      Monday, June 6, 2011

      Well, Well...

      The Invisible CPS Caseworker seems to have graced me with her electronic presence via email today...  TWICE!!!

      It's amazing how attentive they can be when THEY need something out of ME.

      I should make her wait, but I'm a good foster mommy and decided not to do that (at least not for long ;-)

      Sunday, June 5, 2011

      Very Brave or Very Stupid...

      Well, the Saturday Crew either got very brave or very stupid this weekend.  :-)  Christy decided to venture out in her brand new "I-am-No-Longer-a-Cool-Car-Driving-Mom" minivan with all four kiddos and join Heaven and me for our regular Saturday adventure.

      This week's MEGA-sized Saturday Crew consisted of:
      • Me
      • Heaven
      • Christy
      • Buddy (6 years old)
      • Ka-Diva (6 years old)
      • Booger Bear (2 1/2 years old)
      • Banana (almost 4 months old)
      • Chunky Monkey (3 months old)
      • Pooper (7 weeks old)
      • Butterfly (7 weeks old)
      • and Kelly even joined us for an hour or so later in the day...
      Yep...  That is correct!  Four babies under the age of 4 months old!!!

      Things went surprisingly well.  Four hours, four babies, an afternoon of swimming, lunch, and hardly any crying!  (In fact, I think the majority of what little crying there was ended up being from the older kids!)  Christy says she is going to start bringing the babies over here more often because that was the quietest they've been in weeks.  I told her I don't understand, because they are almost always quiet when I'm there.  ;-)

      The older kids had a blast swimming all afternoon and had even more fun when Kelly got there because he is apparently more fun than the women are right now.  (It's a little harder now that we have more babies needing more attention.)  We did still manage to swim long enough for the kids to get a little crispy and exhausted, surprise Buddy and Ka-Diva with a balloon pit that Booger insisted we build for them, and I got to hang out for a few minutes eating popscicles on the patio with my three "big kids."  I wish I had a picture of the four of us swinging on the patio swing with our popscicles.  Heck!  I wish I had more pictures from the day at all!  I would have loved to get a picture of all of the "grandkids" together for my parents.  It's the first time they were all together in one place!  It was a bit of a madhouse though.  ;-)

      Blowing up balloons for the balloon pit surprise...

      Banana getting her beauty sleep in the shade...

      Banana thoroughly enjoying her berry bananas...
      There's a reason Heaven doesn't bother with bibs.  ;-)

      Chunky Monkey zonked out for a 2-hour nap after a long day...

      The afternoon turned out really well!  Although, we did discover one slightly disturbing fact as the afternoon progressed...  Christy busted out laughing about an hour into the afternoon with the comment "Do you two realize how many times we've said the word "poop?!?"  ;-)  With four babies and a potty-training 2-year-old, the words "poop," "poopy," "pooped," and "pooping" seemed to be rather dominant in the conversation.  In fact, I believe the word "pooper-nuggets" even escaped my lips at one point.  I guess that's just one of the occupational hazards of being a mommy...  ;-)

      Friday, June 3, 2011

      The Mystery of the Invisible CPS Caseworker

      I've had Chunky Monkey nearly three weeks now, and despite both of us still fighting upper respiratory infections for the past week, we're getting a good routine down.  His choking during feeds is slowly getting under control, and for the most part, his choking is congestion-related.  He still has trouble with the reflux, but it's manageable now.  So three weeks, and we're starting to develop a new "normal."

      And as of yesterday afternoon, it was also three whole weeks without any kind of contact from Monkey's CPS caseworker.  Seriously.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zero.  Zip.  Zilch.

      I finally learned her name about a week and a half into the placement because the nighttime intake worker who had orginally been on Monkey's case emailed my agency to let them know who his worker would be after "Nice Lady" started hounding people for me.  :-)  Once I knew her name, I automatically knew her email address (love the standardization of our state government email addresses :-), so I immediately sent her an email just to "introduce myself." 

      Okay, so that is a total load of bull, but that was how I began the message.  "Hi...  Just wanted to introduce myself..."  Blah-blah-blah...  I actually emailed her because I:  1) wanted to remind her that "Hey!  There's an infant here who's supposed to be your responsibility and you seem to have forgotten that he's here!"  and 2) needed to make sure that she was doing her job as far as setting up his CCMS, getting answers on the status of his case, etc. 

      Fast forward another week, and still no response from the Invisible Caseworker (Nice pic, huh?  It was the only "invisible girl" pic I could find.  I am going to hope that Monkey's caseworker doesn't dress like this to work).  I emailed again after I heard from Monkey's attorney following the evidenciary hearing just to verify with his caseworker what had happened.  And again.  Nothing.  I realize I shouldn't be surprised, but come on!  "Nice Lady" and Monkey's attorney both ended up having to contact her supervisor before she ever bothered to call them back.  I really don't want to go all Bipolar Girl on her this early in the case, but I will call her boss too if I have to!

      That brings us to yesterday afternoon.  My phone rang, and I recognized the prefix for my county's CPS office, so I knew it was her.  THE INVISIBLE CPS CASEWORKER HAD FINALLY SURFACED!!!  "So what did you do, Tammy," you might ask? 

      Not a thing.  I let it go to voicemail.  Two can play at this game!  ;-)

      She did end up responding to my emails after leaving me a happy little voice message about "just wanting to chat" about the baby like she didn't have a care in the world.  She sounded perky.  Perky people kind of irritate me, so this might not bode well for us if she truly is as "valley girl" as she sounds.  I guess we'll see.  I didn't bother to respond to her until this morning.  Granted, it was only a 12 hour delay, but it made me feel better.  I sure showed her!  ;-)
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