Monday, October 31, 2011


With Monkey's court date approaching next month, I can already feel myself making a feeble attempt to guard my heart.  After what happened with the Booger Bear, I am horribly, horribly gun-shy when it comes to these hearings.  It terrifies me that with the bang of a gavel, my life and the lives of my kids, are forever changed.

With Little Miss, I knew the week before that there was a very good chance she'd be leaving that day, so when I received the call that they were coming to get her in a couple of hours, I was at least prepared.  My fear comes from my experience with Booger.  I had been told they were getting a three month extension in order to transition him into his dad's care with longer visits, overnight visits, etc.  I went to court that day expecting that.  "Why would they lie to me about something like that?"  Right?  They had told me to sign him up for Mommy & Me gymnastics classes, for crying out loud!  I was told literally 60 seconds before walking into the courtroom that Booger was being moved to his dad's custody with no transition.  I walked out of the courtroom learning that the last time I would see my baby boy was that morning when I dropped him off at daycare.  So yeah...  I'm a bit gun-shy (and rather angry and bitter) when it comes to how CPS and the courts treat foster parents and handle transitioning these kids home. 

Fortunately, six months after I last saw Booger, I reconnected with his parents and have since been able to be a big part of their lives.  I know that's not at all "the norm" though, and that chances are I won't ever see most of my kiddos again after they leave my home.  When it comes to Monkey, I know that will most likely be the case.  His parents seem extremely grateful for the role that I am playing in their son's life, but considering the fact that they barely speak English and just the circumstances of their daily lives, I am fairly certain that the day he leaves my home will be the last time I ever see him. 

The Invisible CPS Caseworker, his CASA, and his attorney have all told me that they are not recommending returning him at this time, but that hits a little close to home considering that is exactly what I was told in Booger's case.  It's like deja vu, only this time, I'm bitter, angry, jaded, and fully expecting the worst.  Probably not the healthiest attitude, but "Burn me once, shame on you...  Burn me twice, shame on me!"  I have every intention of keeping my baby home from daycare on court day and spending it with him just in case they pull a "Booger Day" and don't give me and my family the opportunity to say goodbye.  I refuse to lose any of my kids the way I lost Booger Bear again.  That was just wrong on so many levels.  Not fair to me...  Not fair to him...  Not fair to my family and the people who had loved him as their own for nearly a year... 

I know that I signed up for this.  I know that we are "just" the foster family.  But when it comes to these kids (and especially the babies who have been in care for most of their lives), life with their foster family is the only one they've ever known.  I know how difficult it is on me when they are taken out of my life with the bang of a gavel.  I at least know what's coming.  I can only imagine what these little ones must be feeling.  They have got to feel abandoned, scared, confused...  And how do you explain to a baby that their "Mama" didn't have a choice and that she didn't want to leave them?

I really worry about Monkey.  He has spent a total of about 16 hours (all supervised) with his parents since he came into care at two months old, and that was nearly six months ago!  He's at the age where his verbal skills are about to take off.  He is currently being raised in an English-speaking home.  His birth parents speak Spanish.  He knows me, and only me as his Mama.  Booger's situation was different in that he had two longer, unsupervised visits with his daddy every week.  He knew him.  He knew his extended family.  When he left my home, he was at least going to people who he knew and loved.  Monkey will essentially be going to strangers.

As the court date gets closer (not even certain of the actual date yet...  just know it's in November), I can feel myself trying to think in terms of Monkey leaving.  Sort of an "expect the worst, so I can be pleasantly surprised with the best" mentality...  I find myself thinking of reasons that it would be best for Monkey to be returned now, rather than stay with me longer.  I know I'm trying to convince myself that I'm okay with it.  I suppose on some level, I am.  His parents might be overly-emotional and high maintenance, but they love Monkey very, very much and are doing the best they can to bring him home to a better situation than what he left. 

There's just that part of me that thinks, "But he's so happy here with me!  He's doing so well here with me!  I know you see that!  You've told me yourselves that you see that!  Why can't you let him stay where he's safe, happy, and loved?!?"  I guess that's where my plans and God's plans don't always match.  I have to let go and trust that He will hold me up and patch up the big gaping holes in my heart when I have to say goodbye to yet another one of my kids. 

Foster care really, really sucks sometimes.  Just sayin'...

Friday, October 28, 2011

1st "Conversation" with My Son

Me: "Monkey, can you say 'Mama'?"
Monkey:  "Dada"
Me:  "Ma-ma"
Monkey:  "Da-da"
Me:  "Mmmmmaa-mmmmaa"
Monkey:  "Daaaaa-daaaaa"
Me:  "MA!"
Monkey:  "DA!"


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Text Message

I must be feeling sassy today.  Monkey is supposed to have a long visit with his parents today to make up for the fact that they haven't seen him in three weeks (not all their fault...  lack of communication with the Invisible CPS Caseworker...  Shocker.).  I wouldn't know for sure if this visit is actually going to occur seeing as how I haven't heard from the Invisible One (shocker again).

So...  I sent her the following text message this morning:

‎"I'm sending a bottle just in case Monkey's visit goes past 11:00.
He shouldn't need it before then. He's getting over a cold,
so he's pretty congested and kind of fussy.
He also woke up at 5:00am this morning, so...
GOOD LUCK!!! ;-)"

Oh!  And did I mention that they have oh-so-brilliantly decided to schedule his visits during his morning naptime?

Yeah... You have fun with that, Invisible One! ;-P

Friday, October 21, 2011


Yesterday, Momma over at "Called to Foster" posted something that I think puts into words what is in every foster mother's heart.  With permission, I wanted to share it here too.

Forever - Posted on by

I may not be present in the days to come, but I will forever cherish the time we shared together!
I may not be with you for bedtime prayers, but I will forever be praying for you!
I may not be able to hold you in my arms, but I will forever hold you in my heart!
I may not be close enough to tell you, but I will forever love you!
I may not be your ‘forever mom’, but you will forever be my child!

*** If you are a foster parent, and haven't yet discovered "Called to Foster," definitely go check her out.  Honest, encouraging, and very informative...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Little Miss

One year ago today, a timid, self-soothing 11-month-old little girl came through my door.  Little Miss was with me for six weeks before she went to live with her daddy, but in those six weeks I saw her blossom into a happy, giggly, playful, little girl who finally learned to trust.

Out of all of my kids so far, I really think that Little Miss is the one who needed me the most.  In six short weeks, she showed me why it is so important for me to continue fostering no matter how hard it gets or how much I want to quit at times.  Simply put...  That little girl needed me.  She needed a steady, loving person to teach her that it was okay to depend on someone else to comfort her.  She needed to know without a doubt that she was special.  She needed the opportunity to learn new things and to know what a mother's love should be.  All things that she didn't have in her 11 months prior to coming through my door.

People always ask me how I can do this.  Don't I just want to curl up and die when they leave?  Isn't it just awful?!?  (My first thought is always, "Well, DUH!  What do you think?!?" ...  But I don't usually say that out loud. ;-)   My honest answer is, "Yes.  It's awful.  It's like little pieces of my heart are being ripped out one 'goodbye' at a time.  But the thought of not doing this...  The thought of not being there to love and nurture these kids who so desperately need someone like me...  I think that makes me feel even worse." 

Because, really...  Isn't having the opportunity to put this smile on the face of a little girl who had very little to smile about worth whatever heartache might come in the end?  I think so!  :-)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dear Chunky Monkey,

I've been your Mama for five months now...  Most of your life, and definitely one of the best parts of mine...

With you, for the first time, I've called myself "Mama."

I know you better than anyone on the planet.  No one knows you like I do!

I know your sounds...

I know that your high-pitched, frantic squeal means that you suddenly realized that you want a bottle and that you think you are being starved to absolute death by your mean Mama for making you wait the thirty seconds that it takes to make it. 

I know that your happy, high-pitched squeal means that Kitty Cat Tommie is close by.

I know when you are talking in your sleep (which you do almost every night) vs. when you are actually awake, but content vs. when you are just on the verge of wanting Mama to come get you.

I know your smell...  (Let me interject that I will not be waxing poetic about your little baby smell.  While you do smell like a great combination of baby shampoo and lotion most of the time, I do believe you are quite possibly also the gassiest baby on the planet...  the stench of which led me to write a post about your Superhuman Baby Powers...)

I know that the quickest way to get you to fall asleep when you are just on the verge and are fighting it is to rub your little forehead.  Mama has magical forehead rubbing powers from which there is no escape.

I know that you can eat your weight in most foods, but you inhale Stage 2 Macaroni and Cheese as though it will disappear before your very eyes if you don't eat it quickly enough.

I know that you would rather starve than be forced to eat peaches or drink juice of any kind.

I know that you do know how to hold your own bottle, but you pretend like you don't just so Mama will do all of the work and free up your hands so you can play with mine.

I know every last one of your tickle spots and that you start laughing the second I lay you down on the changing table because you know what's coming.  I know that you crack up every single time I go to pull your arms out of your sleeves and that nothing is funnier than pulling a shirt off of your head.

I know that you have a newfound, odd obsession with your tongue and a strange inability to keep it contained within the confines of your mouth.

I know that you also love to blow spit bubbles with projectile spit.

I know that your current vocabulary consists of, "Grrrrrrr," "Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba," "EEEEEEEE," "Aye-aye-aye-aye," and "Phftlphftlzzz."

I know that you are a ladies' man and that all the girls love you almost as much as I do.  ;-)

I know that your favorite song is "Little White Duck," that "Brahm's Lullaby" knocks you out within seconds, and that "Patty Cake" has been your favorite game since you were three months old.

I know when you're congested because of your reflux and when you're congested because of allergies or teething.  Strange that it has a distinctly different sound (at least to me)...

I know not to make eye contact with you while you are teething because you're boo-boo face will pop to the surface.  ;-)

And I know that nothing can melt my heart like seeing your big, toothy smile.

I am so blessed to be your Mama.  I will love you, protect you, and cherish every second with you for whatever time I'm lucky enough to have you.

I love you so very, very much, Baby Boy...

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

3 Years Ago...

Three years ago today, I made "The Big Decision."  I made the decision to enter the world of Foster/Adopt Land...  and my life was forever changed...

Three years ago...

I was a single woman with a spoiled cat.

I was "Fun Aunt Tammy" to 3-year-old boy/girl twins.

I came home to a quiet, clean apartment after work every day.

I stayed up til 3 in the morning on the weekends.

I slept as late as I wanted on Saturdays and Sundays, and I took 3-hour naps.

I had occassional Girls' Nights with grown women and no kids.

I went to the grocery store twice a month, and only had to carry in three bags.

I went on vacations and took spur-of-the-moment weekend roadtrips.

When I got bored, I'd hop in the car and go shopping.

When I got hungry, I'd hop in the car and go through a drive thru.

Did I mention I took 3-hour naps?

And then I moved to Foster/Adopt Land,
and everything changed...

Three years later...

I am a single woman with a spoiled cat.

I have been "Mimi, Mom, and Mama" to six foster kiddos, an honorary granddaughter, and an amazing honorary daughter.

My extended "family" has grown by leaps and bounds as Booger's and Heaven's families and I have unofficially "adopted" each other.

  I am "Fun Aunt Tammy" to now 6-year-old boy/girl twins and almost 6-month-old boy/girl twins.

I come home to an apartment overrun with baby gear, laundry, and bottles after work every day.

I also come home to a super-happy baby boy.  :-)

I am still awake at 3:00am, but it is only for that middle of the night feeding.

Some nights, I am sawing logs at 9:00pm.

I wake up at 6:30am every single day to happy baby chatter on the baby monitor.

I catch occassional catnaps when the baby finally decides to sleep.

Girls' Nights are more like "afternoon playdates" with my BFFs and all of our kiddos.

I live at the grocery store, and have to wheel in the groceries in the stroller.

I haven't left my city in three years.

When I get bored...  Wait a second...  I don't think I've BEEN bored in three years!

When I get hungry, I order pizza.  They deliver.

I do miss my 3-hour naps...

But I wouldn't have it any other way!!!


Friday, October 7, 2011

"Foster Friday" - You Want Me to Do WHAT?!? - Crazy Foster Care Rules

Gotta love those "CPS Minimum Standards!"  (Ours happens to be a 355-page manual that foster parents are expected to know inside and out even though it changes at least once a year.)  And then you have your agency requirements that make absolutely NO sense and leave you dazed and confused and thinking, "Seriously?  You seriously expect me to do that?"  Things like: "A clean towel and handsoap must be readily-available for children's use in the restroom."  Immediately followed by, "Handsoap must be stored out of reach of children."  HUH?!? 

With so many rules and regulations, it can all be very overwhelming for newer parents in Foster/Adopt Land.  Fortunately, most parents soon learn to recognize what I refer to as the "CPS Levels of Naughtiness."  This refers to the level of severity of the rule that has been broken.  Because it doesn't matter how good you are or how hard you try...  You will break rules.  Mostly due to the fact that CPS has oh-so-ingeniously created conflicting rules and regulations just to cover their own butts (hence the "locked-away handsoap that should be readily-accesssible to children" rule).

"The CPS Levels of Naughtiness"

1)  "A Rule Simply Because We Think it Looks Good on Paper, but We Really Don't Care if You Follow It or Not" - These include, but are not limited to:
  • The locked away handsoap that is readily-accessible to children (Not once in three years has anyone mentioned this rule to me outside of asking me to read that section in the Minimum Standards during a quarterly visit).
  • The "do not use foil" rule (again, only read about in quarterly visits).
2) "A Rule That We Change Every Quarter Because We Think 'Written Warnings' Make Us Look Like We're Doing Our Job" - These are those rules that they, without fail, ask you about every single time they step in your house.  You think you are following the rule because they do ask you about it every time they step in the door, but you soon discover that what they told you the previous visit has been changed to something completely different this time around, and you get a "talking to" and a notation on your quarterly inspection report.
  • For me, this has been medication storage and what counts as "locks," as well as how many locks are required for what types of medications.  CPS Minimum Standards state that "all medications should be locked, with topical and ingestible medications stored separately.  Psychotropic medications should be double locked."  I know this because I have taken that stinking Medication class every. freaking. year. since I began fostering.  It's one of those required annual refresher courses that make seasoned foster parents want to poke out their own eyeballs with hot sticks.  My agency, on the other hand, likes to shake things up every quarter by making up their own rules.  "All medication should be locked."  "All medication should be double locked."  "Psychotropic meds should be triple locked."  "Psychotropic meds should be double locked."  "Cabinet locks do count as a lock."  "Cabinet locks do not count as a lock."  "Topicals and ingestibles need to be stored in separate compartments of the locked medicine box."  "Topicals and ingestibles need to be store in separate locked medical boxes."  Yeah...  You can see why there is no hope and that foster parents will inevitably get a "You've Been Naughty" letter no matter what they do.  It used to bother me.  Now, I just smile and nod and follow CPS Minimum Standards and play dumb when it comes to my agency.  ;-)
3)  "Strictly Forbidden by Punishment of Death" - Meaning the CPS Powers That Be would have me taken out back and flogged should I fail to strictly adhere to the rule.  These usually pertain to things and techniques that your own parents used for you and that you survived in one piece.  The number one thing being:
  • The use of Johnny Jump-Ups - I can think of things that are waaaaayyyy worse than letting a baby jump away in a toy that babies have successfully enjoyed for decades, but Heaven-forbid you even mention Johnny Jump-Ups in a CPS workers presence!  You will be the recipient of the "side-eye" for certain.
So what foster care rules drive YOU bonkers?  There are so many more that I could ramble on about, but I thought I'd give all of you a chance to join in the fun.  ;-)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Meeting the Parents

Monkey has been with me for nearly five months now, and up until last week I still hadn't met his parents. 

His case has been all over the place from the very beginning.  His parents have been "on again, off again" every other week since he came into care.  Mom has health and dependency issues.  Dad has a big problem with women and tends to let that be known in a wide variety of ways (a fact that didn't bode well for him in the beginning considering every major player determining who will gain custody of Monkey is a woman).  His parents seem to be working hard on their service plans now though, and although they are kind of all over the map (one step forward, two steps back; three steps forward, one step back), they do seem to be making progress over this past month.

I have to say, I have so much compassion for this mom and have since I heard her story two weeks after Monkey came to me.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't share this much about my kids' parents, but I think in this case, it kind of breaks the stereotypes that many people have about biological parents of children in care.  Monkey's mom is a recent cancer survivor.  Her dependency issues began while she was fighting her disease.  When she found out she was pregnant only two months after being in remission, her doctors advised her to terminate the pregnancy as her cancer was hormone based.  She carried Monkey against medical advice, and now calls him her "miracle baby."  She has no family in the States, barely speaks English, has an unstable, sometimes volatile relationship with Monkey's dad, and has been fighting for herself (and now for Monkey) pretty much all alone. 

Up until a few weeks ago, the Invisible CPS Caseworker was rather hesitant for me to have any contact with his parents for many reasons.  But last Tuesday, she called me and asked if I could possibly transport Monkey to his Wednesday visitation.  His parents were "on again" that week so their visit was going to be together.  I asked if she thought I might be able to meet them, and after thinking about it she replied, "You know, I don't have a problem with that.  They both seem to be in a lot better place now, and really aren't that crazy."  She went on to say, "Well, I mean...  They're crazy...  But they aren't CUH-RAY-ZEE."  She added that she thought it would be really productive for them to meet me.

So the next morning, I headed to the CPS office with my little Chunky Monkey, and waited in the parking lot for The Invisible One to arrive so we could walk in together.  His parents had no idea that I was going to be there because it was such a last-minute decision so she wanted to be able to introduce us.  We walked in and Monkey's mom immediately ran up and hugged the caseworker and tried to explain where she had been since she got out of rehab two weeks before.  I handed Monkey to his mom as his dad walked towards us, looking at me kind of questioningly.  The Invisible One introduced me to Monkey's dad, and I swear the huge smile that came onto his face turned this man into my Chunky Monkey in 40 years!!!  There is no doubt who Monkey's daddy is.  He looks exactly like his father.  :-)

His dad shook my hand excitedly with that huge smile and just said, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!" over and over.  Any fear that I had about how he would respond to me (the woman raising his child) pretty much disappeared.  You might be able to fake a smile on your lips, but you can't fake the smile in your eyes.  We all turned towards Monkey's mom and The Invisible One tried to introduce us, but I could tell that his mom didn't understand who I actually was.  She smiled and shook my hand, but you could tell she didn't really comprehend things.  I left the office as Monkey's dad was "goo-goo, gaga-ing" him and his mom was hugging and kissing all over him.  I have to admit, seeing Monkey's dad going all melty over him made me feel a bit better about him gaining custody of my baby.  I definitely have my reservations, but it's good to know that he does love that baby.  I've never had any doubt about how Monkey's mom feels.  She has been sending letters home in his diaper bag after visits...  Some in Spanish, some in broken English so I can understand and read them to him.  It is very, very clear how much she loves him and how hard she is trying to bring him home.

When I came back to the CPS office an hour later, Monkey's mom spotted me from across the room and came running out towards me carrying the baby.  Her eyes were huge, and she just kept saying, "I so sorry!!!  I no understand!!!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!"  Monkey's dad explained to her who I was during the visit and she was so happy to really meet me when I came back.  She grabbed me in a huge hug and I thought she'd never let go.  She just kept thanking me over and over and started tearing up.
Monkey was so good.  He's a ridiculously happy baby, so not much phases him.  He did take one look at me and lunged for me (in an "excited to see my Mama" way), but his mom seemed okay with it.  She just handed him to me and kept on smiling and thanking me.  By this time, Monkey's dad and The Invisible CPS Caseworker were standing with us, and we all talked for a few minutes.  Monkey's dad did his best to translate for his mom.  His English is very broken as well, but he does a good job explaining things.  Things that were said:
  • Both parents commented on how happy Monkey is and how he is always smiling.
  • They thanked me for sending all of the pictures and photobooks.
  • We talked about how Monkey is teething and drools a lot.
  • We talked about how Monkey hates peaches and I showed them the face that he makes when I try to give them to him.
  • His mom asked if I read her letters and I assured her that I have read them to Monkey and that I've saved all of them for him to keep.
  • I told them that I talk about his Momi and Papi every night before bed and tell him that they love him.
  • We talked about lots of little things that only I know about him and that I knew they would love to hear. 
And then his mom said something to me that completely broke my heart.  His dad translated when she asked me...  "Please love my baby."  I assured them both that I love him very, very much and that they never have to worry about that.  She nodded, hugged me again, and said "he very happy."  ...and then she turned away to compose herself.  :(  I swear, I've never wanted to take a mom home with me so badly!

Overall, the visit was a huge success.  I left there feeling much better about where Monkey's case is headed, and really hoping that his mom can overcome all of the obstacles that she is facing.  And if you think about it, please say a little prayer for her...  She is worried that her cancer is back, and the thought of that is devastating for everyone.  She loves her son...  She fought hard to carry him and give birth to him...  She is fighting so hard to be the kind of mom he deserves...  And more than anything, he needs the opportunity to know and love her.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Morning Conversation

Upon walking into work this morning...

Me (with a giddy smile on my face):  "Guess who slept through the night last night?!?
(7-months-old and Monkey still wakes up at 3:30am every night for a bottle!)

Co-Worker (excitedly exclaims):  "MONKEY!!!"

Me:  "I have no idea!  But I sure did!!!"

* No babies were left crying and unattended throughout the night while Mama was drooling on her pillow.  I'm fairly certain anyway...  ;-)
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