There is something so routine, so culturally engrained in me, that I didn’t recognize it as anything special at all, until I did it twice this week. I put Blue Eyes on the bus. It’s an awesome feeling.
We have an hour together in the morning before the bus comes. He bathes, of course, and immediately gets dressed and has breakfast, ready for the day to begin. It’s such a joyful, peaceful time. And both days he has given me a hug and a kiss before boarding, waving happily to me from inside the warm bus, content to be going to school. I love it. Such a small act in the morning is surprisingly and deeply fulfilling to me.
Maybe those parents whose kids are younger, who just started riding the bus, can relate more with what I’m saying than those with teenagers who drag their feet, or parents with kids who fight every instruction, each step of the way. This is a new experience for me. I have never put my children on a school bus. My niece and nephew were far too young for school when they lived with us. Our next placements were with us over the summer and moved in with their grandmother before school began. The following placement came the first week of school, but I had a job in a neighboring district, and so I dropped him off and picked him up from daycare. I never got him on or off the bus myself.
I don’t know how long I will be able to do this for. Blue Eyes only goes to school for 6 hours a day, and before he came I was working 9 hour days. We just came back from vacation this week, and I have not had time to speak to my supervisor about how my schedule will be changing. The best solution I can come up with is to ask for part-time FMLA leave. Employers are not federally mandated to allow for a part time schedule, the law says either full time or no time unless the employer is willing to make concessions. My supervisor and the HR dept of the organization are flexible, I’m hoping they’ll go for it. If not, I will have to work an extra few hours on the weekend. That would be alright, I guess, but it takes me away from my family during the precious few hours we get together on Saturday and Sunday.
I keep holding out hope that my husband will be able to quit (or will be let go, that would be fine, too!) from his second shift job. If he is, that means he will be able to work solely on our business from home, AND get Blue Eyes on and/or off the bus. I hold all the health and dental insurance through my job, so I really cant leave. This arrangement would be ideal. Please, Lord, let something shift. Please Lord, let him not go another month at this job. It doesn’t have to work out just the way I’ve planned, you know all and have the wisdom to execute it. I pray it is good and that it comes quickly…
Blue Eyes needs a lot of attention, a lot of healing. His stipend is supposed to be large enough to allow one parent to stay home. It’s not, at least not for us and our current budget. If our business begins to grow, even just a little bit, I think we might be able to swing Husband working from home. Of course, I would rather be the one to stay home, but with my awesome job and benefits, I don’t think that will happen. I will only leave if I know that God is calling me to do so. Otherwise, I am staying put.
I don’t know how much longer I will be able to put Blue Eyes on the bus in the morning. It may soon become Husband’s responsibility. I’ll just enjoy every moment while I can.
Blue Eyes loves baths. He asks me three times a day if he can take one. I’ve limited him to twice- once in the morning and once at night. The control freak in me says once a day is enough. He doesn’t get that dirty. It’s pouring money down the drain- hot water ain’t free. It’s winter, his skin is going to dry out. I’m worried about the toll it’s going to take on our well, between the extra loads (I mean LOADS) of laundry and dishes, and now baths. He wets the bed most mornings anyway, so we should just make it a rule he has to bathe in the morning instead of at night.
But then I remember, his other foster family didn’t have a tub, only a shower stall. I remember how happy he was at the beach this summer- the only time I saw his eyes smile. He loves sitting quietly in the bath water. He doesn’t splash or make a mess. He ardently cleans the bathroom afterwards. And it helps him to relax and enjoy his daily routines. He looks forward to his baths.
Two baths a day it is.
Blue Eyes’ GAL came to visit us on New Years. She is one of the few people from the beginning of the case that is still in his life. She confided to me that she would adopt Blue Eyes herself, but she believes herself too old. I can see why. I don’t know her age, but she has a bit of difficulty getting around, and has obviously been a smoker for most of her life. I pray her health holds out long enough at least to see the end of this case through.
We had a nice visit, but she mentioned something that has been nagging at me since she said it. She talked to me about Blue Eyes’ adoptive parents that fell through. It came up when I said I heard the county is pretty open about sharing relevant information with foster parents and that I would like to request to see his file. She told me I didn’t want to do that. And she blamed the open information culture of the county on his failed adoption. She said she believed that the parents backed off when they got a taste of what they read, and they shouldn’t have had access to that information until they were closer to adoption. If they hadn’t already read the case, they would have felt more secure in just parenting him instead if being intimidated by his history of outbursts, and they could read his history as they grew closer together.
I disagree completely. I certainly agree that on paper, Blue Eyes is scary. His many diagnoses, behavior history and two hospitalizations in his short life look overwhelming. But to blame a disruption on the parents having too much information? I find that a hard pill to swallow. I’m sure there were a number of factors involved, not just the background knowledge. And whatever is in that file, she does not want me to read.
Sharing her thoughts with me on that had the opposite effect of what she intended. Instead of allowing me to rest comfortably in thinking I know all pertinent facts on this case, I now am consumed with finding out what is in the file. And honestly, I am not sure I want to know. Will I be intimidated, just like the others? What is it in the file that is so worrisome, more so than what I already know? Will it make me second guess everything I’m doing with him? Is he a psychopath? A sociopath? Is he going to start hoarding weapons, making shanks out of pens? Attack me while I sleep?
I need to stop here and say I have seen ZERO indication of any of the above. I have not seen a preoccupation with weapons, death, or pain. I have seen a little boy who loves to cuddle, especially with animals. Do I need to prepare myself for the coming shift? Someone, removed from the case only by a degree, but still an involved professional, once brought up DID as a possible diagnosis for him. She is not his caseworker, not a doctor, but she has raised 12 adopted children and many foster children. And so for her to mention something like that makes me wonder, when his behavior is so bad, really bad, IS he disassociating? And will I be able to handle IT, whatever IT is, when IT happens? The county thinks so, but I honestly have my doubts. I need to find it what is in that file.
But first, I need to get myself calm. Under control.
I think I’ll go take a bath.
Last night was a birthday party for my dad. He hit a major age milestone and I’ve been somewhat touchy because the reality of life and death, and how little time we really have on this earth, is at the forefront of my mind. A beloved pet died an untimely death two weeks ago, young, and perfectly healthy, so we thought. Even the vet has no idea why she died. Husband has a much more difficult time dealing with these things than I do, so on top of dealing with my own emotions, I am left without any way to help him through the loss. I don’t like feeling helpless.
I may have a teensy weensy control issue.
My dad is rapidly closing in on the age that two of my grandparents died, one from cancer and the other from a major heart attack, and there is nothing I can do about it. The thought of losing either one of my parents is blood curdling for me. So you can see why I’m a little fixated on death right now. None of us are guaranteed another moment of life. And I can’t control that. And that scares me.
But that’s not what I really want to focus on today.
Today, I am recovering from last night’s realization that Blue Eyes is the first grandchild my parents have really had. When we fostered before, we lived over a thousand miles from them, so they were unable to spoil our kids. But now that we live 20 minutes away, “oh how the turn tables… have turned.” (–Michael Scott)
Last night was Blue Eyes’ first time at a family function with that side of the family, and he had the whole room of them wrapped around his little pinky. I am the oldest of 4 siblings, and the entire crew was there, plus my dad’s girlfriend’s grown kids. Blue Eyes had everyone’s attention almost the whole night and loved every minute of it!
I should preface the sharing of the following facts with the mention that since he has been in our home, Blue Eyes has had limited sweets and sugar, even on Christmas, because of his many diagnoses. It is in an attempt on our part to limit opportunities for him to become dysregulated. Last night I was unsuccessful at preventing an opportunity.
Blue Eyes let me down.
He was as close to an angel as I’ve ever seen him.
He was awesome. Even after consuming:
- A root beer (offered by my dad)
- Two fistfuls of M&M’s (a bowl offered by my dad, and when Blue Eyes took one fistful, dad insisted on a second)
- Half a container of dip and an inordinate amount of potato chips
- Two helpings of supper, a glass of milk
- Two pieces of cake with ice cream (thanks, dad’s girlfriend, for offering a kid that doesn’t ever feel full due to his cocktail of medications, a second helping of dessert, with chocolate syrup on top no less, even after I told you he’s always ravenous and we need to help him listen to the signals his body sends when he is full)
He was still on his best behavior.
Go, Blue Eyes!! Of course, he is paying for it today. He is tired, crabby, and lazy from a major sugar crash last night. His body, and his little brain, are in recovery mode.
I told husband when we got back what happened. He encouraged me, as he always does, to put my foot down and not be a doormat. I’m the foster momma! I should be able to say no! Of course, knowing something and acting on that something, are two different things.
I have a problem when you offer my kid food, put it on a plate, place it in front of him, and only THEN look at me and ask, “oh, is that okay?”
But I, being the non-confrontational person I am, said fine. No problem. And now Blue Eyes knows, from experience, to say, “No, thank you” to a second dessert. His stomach hurt.
My dad LOVED spoiling him with sweets and sending him home. He has no clue about Therapeutic Parenting.
He had a gleam in his eye as we parted ways.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
We are nearing the end of our two-week vacation with Blue Eyes. He was placed with us at a perfectly convenient time- the organization I work for gave all the staff Christmas week off, paid, which is a huge bonus. I also had saved up a number of vacation days to use in the event of a placement, which I wasn’t sure I would have an opportunity to use in 2012. Then we got the December phone call from the county. So, two full weeks of vacation with Blue Eyes, and no school for him.
We fostered 5+ years ago in another state, and I’ve found that being able to take time at the beginning of a placement is key for both the child and for us to begin to create that tiny, tentative bond. I learned the hard way that if I am unable to take time off, and the child spends 6 or more hours at school or daycare 5 days a week, it is much more difficult later on down the road and more feelings of wishing to disrupt occur. I can already see the benefits of taking the time with this placement.
Blue Eyes attends a special classroom with a very small number of other children, due to his emotional needs. The issues in this case are so tangled up, I don’t know where to begin the unraveling. He doesn’t seem so emotionally disturbed to me, but of course he has only been here two weeks and is on a slew of psychiatric medication. We also have avoided putting him in high stress situations, due to his recent stay at on a child psych ward. I guess we’ll find out what happens during the daily stressors and triggers of every day life.
We are not first time foster parents, and have provided respite for Blue Eyes previously. He is freed for adoption, but has had several failed adoptive placements. Thank God our county had the wisdom to move slow and require many weekend visits before full time placement in those homes, so the pill was slightly easier to swallow for Blue Eyes. Unfortunately, the family he had the most visits with had told him they were going to adopt him. They encouraged him to call them mom and dad, so he did. Then he did what Blue Eyes does: He had an angry, threatening outburst, and they got scared and said forget it, we don’t want him.
We considered taking Blue Eyes earlier this year, but he was in a very stable foster home while the county looked for an adoptive placement. We cannot commit to adopting a child we barely know- both husband and myself have reservations about that. We know one of our strengths is caring for and protecting kids who need a safe place, but adoption? That’s a whole ‘nother post.
So after the successful respite, when the county asked us about adoption (we are fost/adopt licensed, on their recommendation, but they know we are not looking to adopt), husband and I agreed together that it would take at least 6 months, if not a year of living with a child, to be able to stand firmly behind a decision to adopt. And because Blue Eyes was already in a stable, safe, long-term home, it wouldn’t be fair to move him, perhaps unnecessarily, into a new home that may or may not be an adoptive resource.
All that changed when the home he had been in for years closed.
Years. His one foster home. Years. Closed. Breaks my heart.
So when we got the call, we had to say yes. This was exactly what we were willing to provide. A safe, loving home for a child in need. We told the county we are not an adoptive resource, so they are continuing to search. In the meantime, we are working on regular stuff, including how to handle irritation, anger, excitement and anxiety, as well as basic social skills and academics. I am totally 100% committed to this little dude, and refuse to disrupt. No matter what. We are in it with him for the looooong haul.
Welcome to A Place of Safety and Refuge. I’ve thought about creating a blog for almost a year now, since we began our (second round of) M.A.P.P classes in January 2012. I wasn’t sure I had enough to say that would be interesting to a reasonable amount of people (like, more than one), and I honestly didn’t know how much anonymity I would want to shield my family with. So I decided to wait until I knew whether I wanted to go fully intimate for friends and family or completely candid yet without identifying details. I also wanted to wait until something noteworthy happened.
Some noteworthy things have happened.
I am planning to use this blog as a place to vent, a safe arena to share my frustrations and joys in foster parenting, and to allow others to live vicariously through my (anonymous) journey, as I have lived through so many other candid, authentic and keepin’ it real blogs.
I just took a 15 minute pause to find the appropriate S.A.T. prep test word for keepin’ it real.
I could now delve into our family history, how my husband and I came to be foster parents, the facts about our current foster son, blah blah blah. I won’t. I’ll save that for another post. Don’t want to give all the milk away for free on the very first post do I? Don’t think so.
Instead, I will tell you what I tell my 9 year old foster son at least once a day. This is the magic saying. This will calm him down. No matter what (so far). I love this. Are you ready for it?
‘You are safe. You are loved.”
When my husband and I started our (second round) of M.A.P.P. classes in 2012, I began to pray for direction from God. What are we doing this for all over again? What are our motives? Is this what I am supposed to be doing at this time in my life? And as I prayed daily, I began to hear, until I could drown it out no more, “Safety. And refuge. Your home is to be a place of safety and refuge.”
So whilst my little one waits and wonders what is to come of his life, worries about whether he will ever belong in a family he can claim as his, I simply pray that this place, our home, continues to be a place of safety and refuge. And I tell him, “You are safe. You are loved.”