foster care, Mommy Life, parenting

I am not the best Mom

I had this ideal of what kind of Mom I would be. I’m artsy craftsy. I love to get down with kids and color, play with slime, create collages and play with legos. For our respite kid, that’s what I did. I played inside with crafts and outside playing tennis in the street. At 7:30 he took a bath, 8:00 he went to bed, 9:00 lights out.

That was a fun week.

It’s different. By the time our two (then three) came to us, we were exhausted. With our older boys who were here for 5 days, I literally didn’t sleep. I went 48 hours at one point. With the infant and his issues, we were lucky to get two hours of sleep at a time. We aren’t spring chickens and the kids had us wiped pretty much immediately.

Now a days, I wake at 5:30, toddle downstairs and make my coffee. I check email, facebook, and the county arrest page. At 6:00 I hear Fiona loudly open her bedroom door, go to the bathroom, forget to flush, slam the door and start playing in her room. About 6:15 I coral her into the shower. I wash her hair, set the timer, and let her do the rest. Then I lead her into her bedroom where she has to be dressed because it’s too cold. I have breakfast set up, send her downstairs, send the 3 year old into the shower. He has to be carried because he likes to fake sleep, even though the baby has been talking or pounding on the crib since 5:45. I wrap him in a towel, send him to his room. Yep, he can dress himself. I grab the baby, open the dreaded diaper, then put him in the shower. He stands playing in the water while I wash, then I wash him, and hand him to hubby who is holding a towel. Then I run downstairs, do Fiona’s hair, nag her to brush teeth, bruth Mason’s teeth, dress Lucas, brush Lucas’ teeth yell about socks and shoes, and get them outside where the school bus picks Fiona up at the end of the driveway. We take about fifteen minutes each morning to do sight words while they jump around, yelling, and waking the neighborhood. Then I’m out the door, for 8-10 hours of work where I get texts from caseworkers, guardian ad litems, doctors, school nurses, and field it all.

I try to leave at 5 but sometimes wind up as late as 6, come home, tell kids to finish dinner, try to feed the baby as he throws dinner on the floor, ask myself why they won’t eat their vegetables. Three days a week I try to get the boys out of the way while Fiona is being tutored. Otherwise Mason is in the tutor’s face talking and Lucas is stealing her pencil.

At 6:30 we get ready for bed. It’s pajamas, brush teeth, bedtime story and tucked in. Between 7 and 7:30 the kids are all in bed and we are pretty much drooling on the couch trying to keep our heads up. Maybe we hold a conversation or maybe we stare blankly at the television.

Weekends are one fun day where we go out and have adventures (playground, festivals, you name it) and one lazy/cleaning day. The boys abide by this pretty well and are happy to watch movies and fumble around in the living room or if they’ve been good, in our room. Fiona won’t have it. She’s up and down and all around, glued to my side. I want to be fun mom, but it’s do laundry, sit for a few minutes, write out checks, sit for a few minutes, check account balances, close my eyes. I want to be the fun mom, but a lot of times I feel like swiss cheese. Everyone’s taken a piece of me.

 

 

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foster care

Vacation

Given that we now had two little ones, we decided to take a road trip as a vacation. Two weeks in a compact car and 4000 miles in total. At the time, Mason had just turned 3 and Lucas was 7 months. We did a few test road trips, with the longest being five hours. We reassessed a few things. . . do not put two car seats next to each other, find activities to keep kids busy (ha ha ha), perfect the reach around bottle hand off to the infant, and carry lots of snacks.

Bio parents had already gone missing so we had to have a court order allowing us to take them out of the state. We had to provide addresses and dates for where we were staying. We rented AirBnBs because it was the easiest option for a family. We had a travel pack and play which is a bit smaller than the normal pack and play.

I packed that car so tight we couldn’t fit one more thing. I had diapers crammed into the space between the spare tire and the trunk. I had formula under both front seats. I had the cooler on the floor between the car seats and a plastic container of books and toys between the boys. I hung plastic toy rings from the roof to entertain the baby.

And we left. At 4 am because websites said to drive when the kids slept. Joe and I put them in the car in their pajamas. Mason did NOT sleep one minute during the entire ten hour drive. His toys/activities kept him entertained for at most five minutes. Lucas did well, napping, cooing and crying for baba. Each stop required two diaper changes in less than ideal gas stations.

We saw ran around the Washington Monument, played in the pineapple fountain in Charleston, did silly dances at rest stops and introduced the kiddos to friends and family.

Then we got the text that the parents did not confirm for Tuesday’s visit. I laughed and texted back, “good thing because that would be an awfully long drive.”

Most people adored our kids and interacted well. My mom did not. My mom cancelled on us, didn’t meet us at the place we were supposed to go and finally we went to her the evening before we left my home town area. She chain smoked in front of the kids, told my 3 year old that she’s my only Mommy and threw her own tantrum when my grandmother gave me some childhood books for the kids.

I said some nasty words to her before we left and vowed never to speak to her again and we drove away. Little did I know, she would die two weeks later.

Joe, Mason, Lucas and I drove away, into the mountains for our own little retreat. We spent our one and only night in a hotel and I had Mason run around outside to try and tire him out. It didn’t work. He bounced from bed to bed and Joe and I sat bleary eyed waiting to go to sleep.

Mason usually goes to sleep at 7. I don’t think we ever made it to bed before 8 and the latest he stayed up was 9:30. We’d then have to tip toe around in hopes he slept in and wouldn’t be so cranky the next day.

We saw water falls and did some hiking. We bonded with the kids and showed them off proudly. We found out my beloved eldest cat had died at home and had some heart break on our last day in the mountains.

Then we headed home. We were going to drive through the night to get back. It was a huge mistake. 16 hours in the car, with the kids howling (who ever says kids sleep in the car has never met Mason), Joe cursing and me going, I can drive ya know. Mason had night terrors while sitting upright in the car seat as google maps kept saying it would take longer and longer to get home. Accidents closed roads and we kept on going. It was pure hell.

But we got home. And recovered for five days before I got the phone call about Mom.

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foster care

Sister Sister

So here we are, getting used to a toddler and an infant. Sleep deprived, overwhelmed and figuring it all out step by step. We get through our first staffing (see prior post), minor surgery on one of the kiddos, meeting the bio parents, and our judicial review (JR). The bio parents swore they were going to detox and even had a relative text the caseworker that they were in detox the morning of the JR. A Judicial Review is a court proceeding to review how the kids are doing in their placements and how the parents have done in their case. A judge or panel is in attendance along with caseworkers, guardian ad litem or casa, parents attorneys, foster parents and any other professionals associated with the case. AND the parents, if they show.

With no evidence that the parents were in detox (hearsay) and due to the fact that the parents had not done one item on their case, the goal was changed from solely reunification to concurrent or reunification and adoption at the same time. This means the court is prepared to give the parents the necessary chance to prove they can care for the children but is already planning ahead for if they do not do this.

Then we get the text.

Can you take the sister?

For the first two months, we knew very little about the boys’ sister. She had serious medical issues and was in another foster home an hour plus away from us. Her foster mom adored her. We just assumed she was in the same boat as us, willing to adopt. We were wrong. When the case changed, she asked if we’d be willing to adopt Fiona. I was purely dumbfounded. All I could say was we only have a three bedroom house and two compact cars. And not enough money for three kids, never mind two.

Soon after the visits stopped. Parents have to confirm their visits the night before. We had two weeks without visits, then one confirmed. I wanted to take the boys to the doctor so I was able to set a time toward the end of the visit and drove the boys myself. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. Fiona was crying. Next thing you know, it’s time to go to the doctor and the transporter was ready to take Fiona home. She threw herself on the floor screaming, crying and kicking.

It was really my first interaction with Fiona and such a powerful one. I saw a little girl whose heart broke.

 

About

Double Income, No Kids

They say you can have time or money, but not both.

Joe worked a very labor intensive, stressful job. He exchanged his ten minute commute for an hour one when we bought our house. And he was getting older.

I exchanged my hour commute for a five minute one. I had a three bedroom house and just the two of us.

His job gave him grief for leaving early to attend the foster parenting classes. He’d work six or seven days a week. He’d be called up with no notice and asked to come in. His back hurt all the time and I was worried he’d wind up coming face first with a tree driving into work at three in the morning or coming home at two in the morning.

During the classes, we discussed him stepping down from management. Then we got the phone call. Our license was approved.

The phone calls began the same day.

Phone call after phone call asking if we could take this child, these siblings, this teenager.

And finally, Joe said enough. He would be transferred closer to home to work part time. We’d have about $50,000 less a year to work with. No more eating out, extravagant vacations, or cocktails. That was easy. The house had a sizable down payment and the was now furnished thanks to both our incomes. The plan had always been to work hard, make a lot of money and invest it in a family. My education was an investment in our family. We had done the once in a lifetime vacation to Ireland the year before and now would have to settle for road trips with family.

We would all make sacrifices. I’m still surprised at how well we do given the fact that we went down to only one income.