Saturday, May 31, 2008

Garden dinner

Tonight we had a substantial salad based on my garden offerings. Too bad the tomatoes are not in yet although they are coming right along. It is so great to be able to feed the family at least in part with what I have grown with my own two hands. I had not gardened in so long I had forgotten the true joy of growing and harvesting food.

I wish I had more space to grow things. Living in the city on a small lot with tall trees and houses all around I have only a small patch of my yard that gets enough sun. I plan on making as much use of that patch as I can.

Wish you all could have had a bite of my salad, fresh lettuce, spinach leaves, onions, sage, rosemary and mint all just picked five minutes before.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Texting but not Communicating

Yup, it's Annie again, messing with my mind and driving me crazy. I just do not know how to communicate with her, every attempt descends into her misinterpreting some carefully crafted response (crafted in an attempt to be totally non-threatening, judgemental, etc) and her responding with anger spewed forth in hateful language.

Here is the text session from last night:

Annie: Mom we need to talk cos I don't think (the placement) is buying me another laptop. (Her laptop apparently got misplaced while staff was moving her into a lock down facility after her last AWOL and subsequent self-harm and aggressive episode, although there is a lot of speculation that Annie took it and sold it for drugs)

Me: I will talk with (case manager) in the morning during business hours about it. I know u r frustrated. Do u want 2 talk when u have free minutes? (about 10 mins. from this exchange?)

Annie: Thanks a lot! B%$#*

Me: Okay we r not communicating well, do u want me 2 call u?

Annie: This is why I hate u, why I never want to come home, I want to stay here where at least some one cares about me. (inappropriate language edited)

Me: I ll call u

She refuses to pick up the phone the rest of the evening.

This is my life with Annie. Every effort to meet her needs, to help her in any way even when she requests the help is rejected. She lives in a world where everyone is against her, where my non-threatening, non-judgemental responses are seen as negative. Rereading this I am not sure what happened. That is often how one feels when dealing with Annie.

The thing is the kid is smart, but she doesn't get really basic things. She can handle technology really well, she knows how to send pictures and exchange ring tones on her phone, but she doesn't seem to understand that these things cost extra on her prepaid plan and so she is constantly running out of minutes. And of course I am somehow to blame for this because I wouldn't sign her up for a contract phone. The fact that she has no job or money shouldn't stand in the way of her getting a contract phone now should it?

I spin in frustrated circles.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Reunificiation Blues

Family for Dancing Baby Girl is such a hard thing to determine. Here she is with her baby brother with whom she now lives with her birth mother and birth father. But she misses her big brother who was TPRed and is in the process of being adopted. And she doesn't want to live with her birth parents. She wants to live with her former foster family, that's us. She considers herself the little sister to Kendra and Bart and Douglas and the others, and she is bound and determined that I am her mother and DH is her dad.
When she visitis us she announces "I home now, I stay here at home." She goes around and touches the furniture, her bedroom, etc and announces this is mine. She declares her love to us in words and hugs and cuddles.
And when it is time to go home to her parents at the end of the weekend she pitches a huge fit and screams that she doesn't want to go to Mommy >>>'s house, she doesn't like her, etc.
So am I doing DBG any good by having her to my house almost every weekend at the birth mother's request? I just don't know. I love having her with me, I try to establish boundaries and really tried to taper off the visits to at least every other weekend, but Birthmom always pleads no babysitter, except the grandpa who is not ideal.
We go to the zoo, go to the pool, take walks, play games, fingerpaint, dress up, go grocery shopping, read books at bedtime. For me it is great and in each short weekend it is great for DBG also. But in the long run is it good for her? If I thought I was keeping her from bonding time with her birth mother I would be very reluctant to take her, but birthmom works Sat. and doesn't appear to do much with the kid except park her in front of the TV at other times. So.....what am I to do?
I am not sure what the right thing is here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Playing The Day (and night) Away

Well I have found a new way to spend my time in relatively meaningless ways. I am now a Guitar Hero. That's not me, that's my far more photogenic and far better guitar playing daughter. We have been having the most fun rocking out to these songs and acting the goof as we do it. Instead of style points we are getting convulsive laughter points. I apparently hold that record, looking the silliest while playing. I have sent Kendra and her friends into paroxysms of laughter while I have rocked out trying to stay on beat and at least get to the end of the song.

Actually we have been having a blast and I love that it is interactive. Kendra and I had gotten into a dry spell where it was all about where I had to drive her next or what chore I was nagging her about now. So it has been refreshing to have something else to converse about and to share. Laughter goes a long way and I don't mind being the butt of the joke when I am deliberately acting the clown.

Somethings I have learned, or perhaps relearned, from playing Guitar Hero:

I have no rhythm at all

I am tone deaf and unable to anticipate the notes

I get rattled easily and then I just start pushing buttons randomly

I should not sing along with the songs, it is painful to my audience

I really like playing the game and I have quite a competitive streak

So I now have a new vice to overcome, blog reading, eating snacks, procrastinating about the housework and now Guitar Hero.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

College Days

James was at the 2008 UPA College Ultimate Championships with his team from UC Santa Cruz, the Banana Slugs. Unfortunately James hurt his hamstring in the first half of the first game and had to sit out the first day. So their hopes of a championship were lost but they had a great time. As you can see from the picture above, the location was just amazing. And the weather pretty much cooperated. My DH had flown out for the event and had a grand time with James and his teammates.
Frisbee has been very important for James and his older brother Bart. They have played through high school and college and in city leagues every summer. Bart is the president of the local league. It seems to be a wonderful community of people, one that polices itself both on and off the field.
Now James has to buckle down for the next eight days and get through the end of the semester. He will be starting his Senior year in the Fall and I am hoping this year has been a good one for him. He really worked hard to get to UC Santa Cruz, it was his dream from his Jr. year in high school. But there was no way we could afford out of state tuition. Instead of shattering his dreams this news motivated him to take responsibility for making it happen himself. He moved out to Cali at the end of his high school time and lived on his own for 3 years establishing residency. He took courses at the Junior College and worked at restaurants and retail establishments. Then he got himself accepted at Santa Cruz as a transfer student for his Jr year. We re so proud of him for following through on his dreams. I think they will be that much more important to him since he has accomplished them on his own.
Go James, I hope your leg feels better.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Another Dancing Baby Girl Weekend

Well I wasn't sure we were going to be able to see Dancing Baby girl this weekend. So far things have not imploded, I am still on good terms with Mom and we had a wonderful short weekend. I could tell that stuff was up though, because Mom had not left her overnight bag at the daycare for when I picked her up, but we survived without blankie for one night. And today Mom called to check twice that I was still meeting her at the pick up point at the designated time, kind of weird vibes.

Still, DBG was in a great mood and we had a wonderfully fun time. Since I had gotten her a little earlier than usual we stopped in at her old daycare to say hi and she played on the playground with her friends for about 1.5 hours. (Jessica we stopped in to see you, but your sign on your door said you were out). Then we went shopping for her little brother's birthday present.

Bedtime was great, a real snuggle fest and she went right to sleep. We had a great dance class in the AM and then she and I went to the park and hung out almost all afternoon. We played at the playground and then we went down to the creek and spent hours throwing rocks and sticks and leaves in the water and watching them flow downstream. It was a great relaxing time and it reminded me how seldom she gets a chance to be out in nature and just hang out.

When all of our other kids were young we went camping all the time and they really had a blast being out in the woods and around lakes, rivers, mountain climbing, etc. DBG has never really seen that side of us. So today was a pretty glorious day.

When I had to take her back this afternoon (so she could be home for brother's birthday tomorrow) she was a little unhappy but cheered up when her Mom reminded her that her cousin was coming over tomorrow. So we had a good weekend and even made plans for next weekend. Keep our fingers crossed that everything stays nice and calm and on an even keel.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Everybody is in flux

Every last one of the kiddos is in the throes of change, angst, emotional upheaval of some kind, and desperately needing their parents at least to hate on them. DH and I are reeling from the demands.
Some of the change is good, and developmentally appropriate. Bart is moving into a house with a friend and he has needed advice, cleaning supplies and general moral support.
James is flying high as his Ultimate Frisbee team from UC Santa Cruz is going to the nationals this weekend in boulder Colorado. He is happy, excited and really wants some of his family to be there, so even though DH has just flown in this AM from Shreveport, LA and has to drive up to Lansing and Kalamazoo on Sunday evening, he is nonetheless flying out to Boulder tomorrow AM to see the Frisbee tournament. He flies back on Sun noon and leaves for Michigan Sunday at 5 or so. DH is physically exhausted, but James needs one of us there.
Brooke is not dealing well with the transition from school to summer break. She is having some issues in her Supported Community Living placement and as is her way as she becomes upset she is holding her bowels and they are talking about a hospitalization again. I hope it doesn't come to that, but it almost always goes all that way. At least she is kind of used to all the procedures now and she is less frightened of the whole experience. Nonetheless she is calling in tears or angry, demanding that we fix things, or change things or somehow make her life less hard than it is. It is very sad to deal with Brooke as she is just a 4 or 5 year old in a 21 year old body and there are so many things she doesn't understand or deal well with.
Annie has been calling and texting me until I want to scream as she is trying to convince me that she is somehow miraculously cured of all her issues, Traumatic Brain Injury and Borderline Personality Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. See if she has turned her life around and now understands everything she has done wrong and has broken up with her old boyfriend we should know that she is ready to live out on her own and she is going to go live with this new man she met on MySpace because he understands her in every way, unlike us or her therapeutic team. My head just spins when I deal with her and most conversations end with her screaming curses, threats and everything else at me. Thank God she hasn't been able to pull the wool over her new therapist eyes and no one is ready to let her out of the lock down facility just yet. Too often I let her circular thinking get me all wound up and spend way to much of MY time thinking about how to reach her.
Douglass was home this weekend and it was great to see him but he only went back reluctantly to his military school despite the fact that he only has 5 more weeks left. I was feeling very guilty that I had encouraged him to go to this program as he lost the chance to do the one thing that truly makes him happy, be a camp counselor this summer. His military school doesn't end until 2-3 weeks after camp starts and the camp was not willing to keep a counselor slot open for him. He is feeling really bad and rejected. And I am feeling really bad too. He deserves a better deal after working so hard to overcome his issues and get his life in a forward moving direction. I just hope he wont let his anger explode and undo all he has worked so hard to accomplish. It is hard to see your baby hurting and disappointed even when he is a hulking young man who is half a foot taller than you.
Kendra is finishing her freshman year at the magnet school and is feeling all sorts of pressure to get ready for exams, etc. She has been pretty demanding of our time to help her, using homework as an excuse to not help around the house and snappy and emotional. I feel all I do is walk on eggshells around her right now and that all I do is drive her to dance stuff. Typical teenage stuff, nothing bad or unusual, I am just not at the top of my game and it is telling in my dealing with her.
Finally, Dancing Baby Girl is involved in a situation in which I have to sit back and let the professionals do their thing and I have no trust for these particular professionals and I am scared for her, her family and for my continued relationship with her and her family. There are so many ways this could not end well and so few ways to see it go right that I lie awake at night and just shake.
Sometimes I really feel like there is just not enough of me (or DH) to go around at all. I surely don't see how families that are bigger than ours get through the inevitable tough times when everyone is crashing down or just needing parents.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Douglass is 18!

Douglass is 18 and seems to be sprouting some wings. He may be the only one of my adopted children able to leave the nest without disrupting relationships.

Anyway we love having him home this weekend from his military school. We gave him a Wii for his birthday and he and his friend just commented that this is the most fun they have had in a long time and they weren't trying to kill things on the little screen. We are having lots of good natured rivalry as they play tennis, golf and bowling. We are saving Guitar Hero for a little later. I love to hear all of the kids interacting with one another as they play together. It has been a good evening.

Douglass is preparing to take his GED in late May and he is finishing his first community college course. He has goals and plans (plans that are actually within the realm of possibility) and seems to be confident enough to push through when the goals are harder to achieve than he plans. I just love to see the maturity blossoming.

Happy birthday, big guy. I love you!

Things are not going to end well

We are going to be in the middle of mess for the next little while. It involves Dancing Baby Girl and some things she has said. Enough for now, unfortunately. Pray for all of us, especially DBG. This has the potential to blow everything up and make her situation that much worse.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Who Are You? And What Have You done With My Son?

This is my son Bart with his Wangu village family in South Africa. He is the tallest white dude. I love my son and I am so proud of him and all he has accomplished in his life. He is a good man and one that I am honored to know. He was my first birth child and really our tester child, he got all the bad parenting until we learned that method or this method didn't work. Sometimes I feel really bad about that. but he and we have survived.

Occasionally he really surprises me with the things that he does. Most of the time he is a very mellow, laid back kind of guy who puts a lot of time into his friendships and relationships and doesn't sweat some of the other aspects of life, like a "real" job, etc. I have had to really learn to bite my tongue as he goes about living his life in a different fashion than I lived mine. Remember he is the oldest and I am always having to relearn how to let go with him.

Anyway, a helper around the house he is not. Things being messy or needing to be straightened just don't get on his radar. He also doesn't tend to exert effort where it is not needed in his opinion. So if he can get a younger sib to do it, its all good for him.

So, on Sunday he was moving out again, its kind of musical rooms with him, in and out of apartments over the years, in between he comes back to his room here. He and his bud had found a great house to rent and they were moving all his stuff out. After they left I went into the kitchen to takeout the garbage and discovered that it had been taken out and the recycling bucket had also been placed at the curb. Apparently my reaction to this was quite surprised as my wonderfully sarcastic 15 year old said "What do you think? someone stole the garbage?"

Lo and behold, my son saw that the garbage and the recycling were about to over flow and dealt with it with no fanfare, etc. Well, okay one thing out of the ordinary that's okay. Then he comes home and asks if he can cut the lawn for me!! You could have knocked me over with a feather. That is not a task he has ever enjoyed and I had to browbeat him into it any other time. This time he says "I noticed the lawn was getting long and I only work a short shift on Tuesday so I'll be by to cut it if you want me to."

You realize by now I am beginning to suspect alien abduction, maybe strange mind reprogramming like The Stepford Sons, perhaps body snatchers?!? And then to top it off, just so I would know it wasn't really my son walking around in that skin, he told me that he and his bud had tilled half the backyard in their new house to put in a big vegetable garden. He was asking me for some pointers about what vegetables to plant. So I had to ask him "Who are you? and what have you done with my son?"

Of course this is mostly tongue in cheek, I think it is great that he is going to be doing some gardening. And I have noticed other signs of a maturity that hadn't been there before. I really like what I see.

Maybe I haven't made that many mistakes as a parent.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Support Group

Yesterday afternoon I went to our monthly foster/Adoptive Parent Support Group and it was a good experience. It is wonderful to spend an hour and half with a group of folks who get it! There was no concerns about how the folks in the room were going to react, everyone got the sad humor that gets us through and keeps us going. It was nice not to have to preface everything with long explanations and the whole dysfunction of the system was not something that we had to dwell on. Instead we could share some constructive ways to handle pressing behaviors and had a good talk about boundaries within the home.

A number of families have recently experienced the sorrow of having a long term placement move on and it was a safe place to express that grief. Losing a child is a very isolating experience, but losing a foster child is doubly isolating. Very few people can relate to the heartrending that goes on as a child is transitioned into their new placement, whether it is reunification or adoption. How to explain to your foster child, how to explain to your own children, how to explain to yourself that for whatever reasons the child can no longer stay with you despite the love you have shared.

We also talked about the inevitable pulling away or shielding of our hearts that occurs as the transition takes place. And how that impacts our parenting in the last few weeks of placement. We decided we need a group session on grief and loss for just those FPs who are involved in reunification.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

What's the point of trying?

I am so frustrated and sad and hopeless and angry that I don't know whether to scream or cry. It's all about Annie, again, as usual. That's her in the red sweatshirt about 5 years ago at one of our church suppers. I like to find the older pictures of Annie because I prefer to remember her before I felt so frustrated...(see above).

It was Annie's 19th birthday at the end of April so Doug and I radically rearranged our schedules to both go down to her placement (5.5 hours away) to see her, spend some time with her and attend a staffing. As you may have read from some of my other posts Annie is not doing well in her placement and most of her staff and her attending therapeutic types all have compassion fatigue. Annie wears folks out.

However, our intention in going to see her was to make her birthday a positive event and try to give her a little boost. We went out to dinner the first night and had some good talks about the rest of the family and how everyone was doing, we were able to laugh and be a little lighthearted. Then we went shopping for her birthday presents and she really liked that. We actually got a smile or two out of her and a spontaneous hug.

The next morning we had her staffing and the first part was without her where the staff expressed a lot of their concerns and frustrations, then Annie joined us and it went downhill from there. We just went in circles until we were all dizzy and never did we move off of square one. Annie expressed that she really wanted to get enough independent living skills to move into a supervised apartment. So we went over what steps she needed to take. She needed to go to the job skills classes they had set up for her and work with her job coach, but Annie doesn't want to do that, she wants to get a job in the community right away. No amount of examples, explanations or stories from our own experiences could convince her that she needed in any way to change her attitudes, habits, and responses to redirection in order to succeed at a job. It was the most useless thing I have done in a long while. She can cognitively state what she needs to do in the abstract but resists putting even the most basic steps into practice in the real world.

But after that we regrouped as a family, had a good lunch together and she and I went shopping again for some of the things she needed that weren't birthday presents. After that we wanted to take a short hike in the beautiful state park they have but the weather had turned nasty and Annie was experiencing some bronchitis again (a chronic condition linked to her cigarette usage and her extreme obesity) so we didn't do that. When we took her back to her residence she seemed to be in a great space, was showing her peers her birthday presents and showed every evidence of being in good spirits.

However, looks can be deceiving, shortly after we left she up and AWOLed from the program. She was out more than 24 hours and they put out a missing persons alert on her. After about 36 hours she called a staff member and said she was lost and they picked her up. She has no reason she can express for going out and partying at the local crack houses, trading for her drugs and putting herself at such extreme risk.

I don't know, I don't see the point any more. We have poured so much effort into helping this kid, finding the best programs to help her address her needs, doing everything in our power to keep her safe, to teach her how to make better choices, and let her know that she is loved. We went to see her, gave her presents and the sum of it was she ran again. I told her she was teaching me that it was dangerous for me to go see her because she ran away when I did. I told her she was teaching me that maybe I should just send a card next time. Boy she didn't like hearing that.

So every since she came back she has been flooding us with phone calls all about how angry she is that the staff packed her stuff up without her being there (uh duh, she was still on the lam) and that they had not done a good job. And she doesn't like her new residence and especially doesn't like that the doors are locked (uh duh, you just went AWOL and engaged in dangerous behaviors while out). She also says her new room is smaller and she doesn't have enough dresser space. Not a word of contrition, not a word of reflection on her behavior, not a scrap of understanding or empathy for what she put us through again. And what makes me most angry is she doesn't care at all that some of her peers had to shift residences to accommodate her move. Her negative behavior gave someone else bad or at least not the best consequences and she doesn't care a stitch. Oh I want to shake her, no wait that is what her BM did when she was small and that's why we are on this merry go round, so skip the shaking, I want to make her see what she has done, but that's useless so what's the point?!?!

Despair is a dark and cold place to be, I think I liked denial better, at least we could pretend we were making progress and that things might get better in time. No despair is a pretty final place to be without hope, without goals, even without ideas, and that is where I am right now.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Squeeze is On!

Well, we seem to have been hit on all sides. First of all the economy sucks and as an independent consultant my husband is really feeling the squeeze, folks don't want to invest in new technology updates when they aren't sure what the next business cycle is going to bring. Second, I just started a new job and that is making us all readjust our already tight schedules. Third we have had major issues and thus staffings on two of our kids that are in residential placements, one about 3 hours south of us and the other 2 states over and about 5.5 hours away. Fourth, to top it all off my dh's mother suffered another stroke and now we all have to decide long distance what the future holds in terms of staying in the home, etc. It's been a crazy week and a half, I will try to post details on all this later, but we'll see. Right now, after an emotional 3 hour staffing and then a 5.5 hour drive home I am exhausted and just want to sleep.