Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What a Weekend

A super busy weekend. On Friday Kendra had her semester ending performance at the Youth Performing Arts high school. She was in 3 of the 8 dances and had a grand time. It was the first time she had ever performed on pointe shoes in public.

Then Saturday she was up early to teach her dance classes and then off to a dance competition for her dance studio. We were all up early to go out to Douglass' family day picnic at his military school. We had to take picnic supplies with us and tables and chairs and raincoats. We should have brought the winter coats because it was sooo cold. It was great to see Douglass, we brought one of his friends down with us so they got a chance to horse around. We played Frisbee and soccer, ate food, played volleyball and corn holed, sat around and talked, and in between the rain showers we played the congas in a drum circle. A lot of the other cadets were fascinated with the drums and that was a great interactive activity. We stayed until 3ish then went on home. Douglass was pretty bummed to see us go, but he has a pass on Mother's Day weekend to look forward to.

Although he does not like being in the program because it means he isn't at home, he is doing really well. He is about to test in the first group for his GED and he is doing really well in his college class. He seems very motivated to get this schooling hurdle over and done with. I know he does not like being in the highly structured program with limited access to fun stuff, but it really seems to be doing him a world of good. And he knows this, the letters he writes where he spews forth his frustration at being there and how much he hates it, always end with the assertion that he is going to continue with the challenge because he promised himself he would follow through. I am very proud of him, but far more importantly, he seems to be proud of himself.

Saturday after getting back from the picnic I had just put my head down for a short nap when Kendra called needing to be picked up from her dance competition. then she announced that we had to go run around and get some accessories that she would need for day two of the dance competition on Sunday. By the time we got home, rhinestoned her costume (nothing like waiting until the last minute is there!) and packed her bag for the next day I was ready to drop.

We had to be up extra early on Sunday as she had to dance with her group "The SuperStars" at 8 AM. Luckily it was tap first, then jazz. We had a short break and all piled into the van to get some brunch, were back for awards and then she had solos all afternoon. The competition did not finish until 11 PM with the solo awards. That was a long day. I got some reading done and even napped in the auditorium sitting in my chair with music blaring and the lights flashing. Exhaustion is a good sophoric.

Then we were up early for school in the AM. She actually made it to school with minimal fuss. It is getting hard to remain motivated as the school year grinds to an end. The dance part of her education is basically done, they had their end of year recital on Friday night so there isn't much of excitement in dance class every day to look forward to anymore. They have testing for the next two weeks courtesy of No Child Left Behind. Apparently the kids take it as a big joke and spend a lot of time making interesting patterns on their answer sheets. So how valuable will that data be? Oh well, the craziness of over bureaucratized schooling.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My wonderful, impressive, creative DH

I haven't said much about my DH on this blog, not because he is not important, but well, you know, umm, we've been married for 27 years this June and I guess I do kind of take him for granted sometimes.

But this evening I want to tell everyone about one of his marvelous talents. He is the chief cook and bottle washer in our house, because he likes to cook and he doesn't like to clean anything else. This man can cook when he sets his mind to it. He makes an awesome grilled leg of lamb marinated in rosemary, thyme and mint, he can make rice and beans like you wouldn't believe and mostly I just admire that at the end of a long day he come up to kitchen from his home office and create something good to eat.

Tonight he again outdid himself. We have been trying very hard to eat greener and more vegetarian meals. So tonight he made a soup from the stock of the artichoke leaves left from our artichoke orgy of the other night and the tailings of the asparagus we had last night. Then he added some mushrooms, black olives, onions, baby spinach (not yet fresh from the garden) and barley. It was a most impressive soup and everyone ate it contentedly.

Now I ask you, would any of you have thought of making a soup with those ingredients? I surely would not have. I would have looked at our refrigerator's offerings and announced that we were having eggs for dinner again, or suggested maybe people wanted to make lunch meat sandwiches. I am not a creative cook. Luckily Doug is and we often eat quite well.

Another amazing skill of his is the ability to feed large numbers of people even at a moment's notice. We often have a varied number of people at our dinner table. Especially when the kids were younger and all at home we might have an extra 8 or 9 folks at the dinner hour and our policy was that if you were at our house you were at our table for dinner. Doug can stretch a meal and the true beauty of it is that the recipients of the meal never know that it has been stretched.

So as I sit contentedly full with artichoke soup I want to thank my dh for another, in a long line of, wonderful dinners. So now you probably won't hear about him again for several months :-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Shaken Baby, Aquired Brain Injury,

Annie is the middle child of my adopted sibling group. She struggles with Acquired Brain Injury, the result of her being shaken and beaten as an infant. Unlike some of the most severe cases of shaken baby much of her damage is invisible. She does have some vision loss and some quivering of her eyeballs but in the scheme of things she got off lightly, if you can say that about brain damage.

What Annie lives with is some frontal lobe impairment which impedes her judgement, her planning and some of the higher order thinking skills such as abstract reasoning. As she has gotten older these deficits have become more apparent and more of an impediment to living a full life. Her lack of judgement right now makes her quite a danger to herself, as she seeks stimulus and pleasure she is not making good decisions about keeping herself safe and is winding up placing herself in very dangerous situations.

To add to the mix Annie also struggles with severe Depression, ODD, ADD and RAD. For the last 17 months she has been in a rehabilitation center for folks with A(cquired) B(rain) I(njury). I blogged about some of my frustrations with her response to treatment. Since then she seems to have settled down a little, or we are just in a lull of negative behaviors. She is facing discharge soon from this program. We have to decide how we want to handle this. On the one hand she is turning 19 this month we could announce she is an adult and let her make her own way. Or we could seek guardianship and try to steer her to more treatment programs etc. The one thing we know for sure is that she is not welcome to come home right now. She is unwilling or unable to abide by the rules of the household and we are unwilling to have her with us unless she will. It is a standoff.

Today we went to a ABI treatment program to meet the Executive director and get some insights into what services they could provide. We were very pleasantly impressed. They have a relatively new program of long term residential services in group homes of 3 clients and 1 staff. Eventually Annie could be helped to move into an assisted living apartment. She would also be as integrated into the community as possible. The buildings were nice and open and airy. The staff all seemed friendly and very confident and outgoing. It has been the first bit of hope I have had on Annie's behalf in awhile.

Issues still to deal with, we would have to get guardianship of Annie, and we would have to figure out payer sources. She is still on the adoption subsidy which provides a medical card, but technically that expires on her 19th birthday. We would have to fight with Medicaid and the adoption subsidy people to see if we could get it extended until she turns 21 at which time she would eligible for the ABI waiver and that would cover her needs. I love this little hole in services that young adults fall into, where their child medical coverage ends at 18 and they are ineligible for the Medicare waiver programs until they are21. Exactly what they are supposed to do for 2-3 years is unclear.

So now we have to make a decision, how involved in Annie's life do we want to remain, because I have news for you any continued involvement on our part is not going to greeted with enthusiasm by Annie. Do we want to keep struggling with the black hole of Annie's needs or do we want to let her go and face the guilt of knowing she is incapable of taking care of herself. Either way we lose to some degree (at least our emotional health takes a hit), I guess the real question is which decision benefits Annie more? And from whose perspective?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekend Parenting

Its been a difficult weekend filled with parenting part-time children. Dancing Baby Girl was with us as was one of Kendra's friends. Both of them posed parenting problems from different angles.
DBG is exhibiting some unpleasant mannerisms reflective of her parent's discipline style. It takes us most of the weekend to get through to her that we don't behave towards one another in our house like that, and then it is time to take her home. She screams at us in very directive ways rather than making requests of us. If we say no to her she starts screaming arguments with us which dissolve into throwing toys, trying to hit, kick or scratch us and finally her storming up to her room screaming at the top of her lungs. We keep reiterating to her that we speak to one another with respect and that if she wants something from us, help or a privilege, she needs to ask us in a nice voice. I point out to her that we do not yell at her and that we speak to her with nice words and a calm voice. It is quite a battle to get her back on track, but once we turn that corner she is back to the sweet child she used to be, saying "please" and "thank you", and looking at us when she speaks to us. Once we have reestablished some basic guidlelines she is capable of negotiating choices, accepting limits, and interacting in a reciprocal fashion.
I know she is just parroting what she hears and what is directed to her at home, but it is so frustrating. It is so hard to watch the years of hard work we put in building up her self-concept, giving her the social skills to navigate well in the world, helping her redirect her anger and aggression into acceptable displays of emotion, all dissolve under someone else's parenting style. Being the weekend parent is really tough. We want to see her and be with her, but her behavior is deteriorating to such an extent that she is exhausting us. We need to continue to insist on keeping our household rules and standards of behavior, but it is getting harder and harder to bring her back in line with our expectations. It is obvious that they use elevated voices and very assertive and directive speech when they want her to do something and the rest of the time they just let her run wild, since it is easier to let her have her way than to redirect her very strong will and put up with her uncontained temper. I imagine their household is a battle ground a lot of the time since DBG is very, very strong willed and redirecting her without breaking her spirit requires an immense amount of patience and very proactive parenting.
It breaks my heart that she feels very unlistened to and the only way she knows to get attention is to yell and scream. I do what I can to speak with her mother about parenting style but it is a fine tightrope I walk. She could at any time decide that I am too interfering and not let me see DBG. I cannot be percieved as a threat so I have to mentor at a very subdued level.
None of this reaches the level of abuse, it is just classic uniformed parenting. But it breaks my heart to watch DBG change in these ways.
Now onto my other part-time parenting dilemna. One of Kendra's friends is spending lots of time at our house, like 3 nights in a row this weekend. She is a nice girl and she and Kendra get along well, but I am trying to determine how to draw the line. This kid is moving from guest to part-time child, yet with no shift in my relationship to her. I want to be supportive of her mother who is dealing with classic single parent dilemnas, but I also don't want to be a doormat and to make my house into a convenient dorm. I have to balance Kendra's sensibilities, my desire to be a help to this family, and the needs of our own household. It is a delicate balancing act.
Part-time parenting is a big-time drag.

Friday, April 11, 2008


I have been in the throes of a sneezing, wheezing, eyes running, nose dripping allergy attack for several days now. It always happens in the Spring just as the last of the trees are blooming. Often it coincides with Easter and I am a mess for Easter Sunday and can't even help hide or find the Easter eggs. This year with Easter so early that was fine. But the last few days have been a bit brutal. With more cold weather and rain coming in for the next few days I am hoping a lot of the pollen will be tamped down and I can go out side again. My bulb gardens are in full flower and I have to view them from the window, sniff, sniff, achoo!
Well, I got the job, we finalize paperwork and details on Tuesday. I am not sure why I am not more excited. I think I just don't do change all that well, even when I initiate it and will benefit from the change. I am looking forward to getting to work, I have lots of ideas. It will also be so nice to have some co-workers again. Since we no longer home school, my social life has become smaller.
Kendra is having a birthday sleepover and the girls just got back from seeing "Horton hears a Who", their very own choice of movie. Maybe next post i will put up some pictures of her room. She has a fantastically funny decorating sense. It is odd, but it works. She is so her own person, no following the crowd for her.
Since I took the anti-histamine to stop sneezing long enough to get anything done, I am now so sleepy that I can't keep my head up and I think I am off to bed, hoping to get to sleep before the sneezing starts again.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Out in the Garden

What a glorious day, actually another one since yesterday was glorious as well. The trees are all flowering, we have Bradford pears, red buds, dogwoods and magnolia trees all gloriously in bloom up and down the streets. On Sunday Dancing Baby Girl got all excited when we drove down one street because we were in a white tunnel of Bradford Pear blossoms.

I am so proud of myself, I have persevered and gotten my project from idea to reality. I made myself a raised bed garden in the back yard. I used all materials we already had. It took a lot of work but it is ready for transplanting the seedlings.

Now will actually come the hard part, trying to keep the rabbits and squirrels from destroying my hard work. Anyone have any words of wisdom. I am currently threatening to keep the dog outside all summer to guard my plants. But as that is not realistic what are some other methods I could employ? I don't mind sharing but these critters are ravenous and will eat the seedlings before they even produce.

On another note I haven't heard anything on the job front. It is making me a little nervous. We need me to have this job or a job, but this is the one I want. I am trying not to get all anxious about it and just let life flow. I have never been very good at that.

Monday, April 7, 2008

California Dreaming

Wish I was out in California right now. I am a little jealous that Kendra is out hanging around with James, my 22 yo son, and I am not getting to see him. I just love the Northern California shoreline and Santa Cruz where James is at the university has gorgeous views. Apparently he can see the ocean from the dining room window of his student apartment.

But I don't know what I am grumbling about, we had the most beautiful day today. Spring has really sprung. All day yesterday Dancing Baby Girl sang me improvised songs about flowers and pretty trees and Spring. She said, "I told you Mommy, after Fall is being Spring!" as though somehow I was arguing with her :-)

My daffodils are up and blooming away and the greens of the tulips are getting tall, hope I have a good bloom of tulips this year, last year was pretty disappointing. And I just about have the new bed of my raised vegetable garden ready for transplanting. It will be the first time in years that we have had our own homegrown tomatoes and beans. We participate as a share partner in a CSA organic farm so we always have fresh veggies and eggs, but there is something special about my own.

We live on a small city lot and there just isn't much room in the yard and much of it is shaded. For the longest time it was a priority to have as much fenced in play space as possible, but now with only a part time 3 yo we can use some of the space for a garden. I am really ready.

However, I have apparently been using some muscle groups that I don't use very often, so I am going to retire to my bed with a heating pad on my back and read a little.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Messy Life, Sometimes

Everything feels messy right now. Its been another crazy, busy weekend. Dancing Baby Girl has been with us since Friday, Kendra and her friend flew out tonight to San Francisco for their Spring Break/College Visit trip, my oldest son, Bart is off to Columbus, OH to see an old friend and meet up with his girlfriend who goes to school not too far from there, and my dh is off at a sleep clinic for the night getting his sleep monitored and analyzed. And I, I am pretty much a mess.

I had a first interview for one of the jobs on Friday and it went well. So I should be happy right? But taking this step means that I am going to be giving up an identity that has defined me for 20 years, if I take a job I will not be a foster mom any more. And I really think that once I get out of it, there is no way that I will convince my dh to get back in again. So I am doing grieving stuff in my head.

Dancing Baby Girl's situation is not improving and I am very concerned that she and her birth parents are not bonding. The parents seem way too eager for me to come get her at every opportunity and DBG resists with every fiber of her being going back to be with them. There is no specific concern of abuse but things just don't feel right to me. On top of that DBG is developing some behaviors that I find very difficult to deal with, a lot of attitude stuff, and screaming instead of discussing, etc. Makes me really wonder if anyone is listening to her.

On our walk to day, actually our pull since she sat in the wagon, when I started to turn down a street she was yelling and screaming at me. When I told her she only had to speak nicely to me and ask to not turn down that street and I would listen to her she looked at me like "OH". Anyway at the next block she says sweet as can be "Mommy, go that way, not this way." and she remembered to speak respectfully the rest of the walk. It is like she thinks that she will not be listened to at all so she has to start out fighting at the top of her voice. She didn't use to be like that.

So there is that. On top of all this coming and going we have been in contact with our oldest daughter's placement and she is sliding quickly downhill following the typical pathways. First she holds her bowels and despite repeated medical intervention she will not poop, so then she gets rashes and bladder infections which trigger her PTSD something awful. Then she gets paranoid that the staff are not helping her, they are trying to hurt her, ditto for medical folk and for the medicines she is prescribed. Fairly soon she will slip into psychosis and then she will either hurt herself or others. Then she will put into the psych hospital and it will be very horrible for a few weeks. Even when she has gotten "better", she will have in all likelihood lost her placement and she will have to sit in the psych hospital indefinitely until another provider decides to take a chance on her. I do not mean to be pessimistic, it is just that we have experienced this cycle with her since she was 8 years old and in 12 years I have learned to see it coming from afar.
Often it is frustrating because there is no specific triggering event, but this time it is even more frustrating because there is one. Last week her SW went down to talk with her and got her all excited about going to court in a few months and becoming her own guardian. (Without our knowledge) Now this is a young woman with an IQ of 55 (on a good day), with repeated psychotic breaks, who has major medical issues that might require surgery in the near future and who takes many medications each day that she has no clue how to take on her own. I think she is a great candidate for emancipation don't you? This has obviously scared Brooke quite a bit and she is beside herself with anxiety.

A little background, three years ago when she was 16.5 we had to let her go into the temporary custody of the state in order for her to get services. There is a good program called Supports for Community Living but she would not be eligible until age 21 and even then there would be a 10 year waiting list. Except that there was a loophole, if she was in state's custody they could get her into the program through the backdoor and when she turned 21 and aged out of the state's care as a foster child she would have a backdoor right into the funding source. Good plan, on paper anyway. What is now happening is that the state is trying to get her emancipated before her 21st birthday so that she will not be eligible for the SCL waiver.

We will of course be fighting all of this, but boy it makes me tired and messes with my head.

To add to the messy theme, my house has reached gross and disgusting and I have little to no interest in getting in there and doing the deep cleaning and organizing that needs to be done. One of the side effects of the depression that has gripped me since Dancing Baby Girl was reunited is that simple organizational tasks around the house just become impossible. Partly I know it is because there is too much in the house that reminds me of her living with us.

I need to go to bed. Sorry for the late night ramblings.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A New Training Class

Last night I started a training for a new class of foster/adoptive parents. It is a small group after last time, only about a third as many participants. But it is a good class, there doesn't seem to be a lot of naivety, they were not shocked by the some of the stories and they asked good questions.
One question that is always asked is whether very young foster/adoptive children (not infants) have issues from the abuse and neglect that they suffered. And I have to explain that for many of the children the abuse begins even before birth when the mother is drinking or drugging and the long term effects on the baby's brain. People also do not want to struggle with the idea that small children are getting hurt by their parents and they would prefer to think that the children "forget" or "get over it" just because they are young.
I assure my families that I train that I do not sugarcoat anything, it is all painfuly real in my classes. That has scared away some folks but better for them to be scared away before they have a child in the home then for them to be one more failed placement for these kids.
Sometimes I even depress myself though, we are such a dark place with 2 out of our 3 adopted children living away from home in treatment facilities, and our last foster care placement ending in a traumatic reunification with the birth parents. I am not exactly the most positive person to be representing the foster/adoptive system right now.
I will try not to scare away this new crop of potential families as they are so desperately needed.
PS the picture doesn't have much to do with anything, just a happier time in our family.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A 15th Birthday

This is my beautiful dancing girl a couple of years ago but it is a picture that expresses her well. All beauty and grace, in constant motion, reaching for the best things out there.

My darling dancing girl turns 15 today and she is taller than I am. It is bittersweet to see your darlings grow up. She is doing a much better job of this whole teenage thing than any of her brothers and sisters. She reminds me that she had lots of opportunity to observe what wasn't going to work, and how not to win friends and influence people from her older sibs mistakes. Thank goodness she was one who could watch and learn. So many of our others had to prove it to themselves by doing it the really hard way.
For her birthday we are giving her a trip out to see her second oldest brother in Santa Cruz, California. It will not be the first time she has flown by herself, but it will be the first time she needs to change planes without an adult to guide her. She is going with a friend and they are so excited they are walking on air, or maybe leaping on air as they are both dancers!
I am thankful everyday that we have this darling bundle of joy and I reflect on how close we came to losing her, both in utero and then immediately after she was born. It was touch and go the first 2.5 years of her life but with God's help we managed to pull through. We were told that she was not a viable fetus, then that she would not live long after birth, then that she was dying of sepsis when she was 4 days old, then that she would never be able to digest food properly and would need to be tube fed and lead a restricted lifestyle. And now she is a vibrant, incredibly intelligent, socially savvy, beautiful and loving 15 yo! I thank God every day for the joy and happiness that she brings into the world and I am so grateful that we did not give up and insisted that she could do anything she set her mind to and then some. My miracle baby is 15 and healthy and wonderful!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ironic Break

We have been very busy here, lots of things going on.

But now that our team is out of the NCAA playoffs we don't HAVE to watch basketball till late in the night. Of course, at least some of us still will but attendance on the TV room couch will not be mandatory!

Most of my time at the end of last week and the weekend was taken up with teaching other people how to blog. Nothing like the new convert to get out and proselytize:) It was fun but demanding as we were setting up a private group of blogs and I got to be the administrator with all of the admin tasks to accomplish.

Other news on the horizon, I have two jobs that I have to consider and we have been weighing the pros and cons here. So many choices, so many people's needs to factor in. I have been tossing around going back to school and getting my MSSW. I have found a school that interests me and have been working out details. But we have also been struggling with a lot of finance issues and my husband's business is very effected by the downturn in the economy as many businesses put off technology upgrades whenever they view a questionable future.

Both of these jobs popped up this weekend and they are almost a perfect match for me. One is to be a full time Parent Recruiter/Trainer for a private therapeutic foster care program and the other is to be a part time Recruiter/Certification Specialist for another wonderful therapeutic foster care program. Both of these are located in my city, actually in my end of town! Since I have been a freelance trainer for many years now I have actually worked with both programs.

The dilemna? Well, I don't really want to work full-time as we have so much on our plate with 3 special needs young adults, 2 of whom we retain guardianship over and the other one we just wind up being responsible for, and my youngest child is just finishing her first year of high school so I do lots of schlepping around for her and her activities. Not to mention, my 3 yo former foster daughter is still a big part of our lives and spends most weekends with us, lots of time extended weekends. But the full time job offers benefits and one of the things that is killing us is paying for health insurance through my husband's business. The part time job is actually far more attractive in many ways but I am not sure that it will answer the financial issues. However with the part time job I could still go back to school and get my MSSW.

Its not a bad dilemna to have, as my darling teenage daughter sarcastically pointed out the local burger place is hiring night managers so there are jobs everywhere, but not good jobs like these that fit my profile so well. These jobs come along rarely so I have to jump one way or the other.

It is even more complicated by the fact that my dh is not exactly excited about me working, full time or part time. I am an assistance to him in his business and have actually given presentations and done some teaching/training for his clients. I do some of the paperwork, the finances, and edit his white papers before publication. I think I could still do a lot of this with a part time job. He is rightly concerned about job creep, as in part time job becoming more full time with out full pay. One good argument from his perspective for me getting a job is that I would not be able to foster also and he is feeling very done with the whole state system and foster care in general, although not the kids, just the system, but they are indivisable unfortunately.

So my mind is spinning around and around. I have one interview on Friday and the other place and I are playing phone tag to set up an interview. Last night at dinner I enlisted everyone's help to make a list of pros and cons for all 3 options, no job, part-time job, and full-time job. It didn't really help me but I think my daughter enjoyed feeling included in the decision making process.

Anyone out there have any opinions? reflections on their own experiences with juggling everything?

This will not be the first time I have worked, but since I got very ill in 2000 and quit work after a cancer scare and a hysterectomy it will be the first time I have been an employee again instead of an independent contactor.