Monday, January 29, 2007

Ready, set, go!

So if you havn't noticed my timeline has been updated with a date that hasn't happened yet. We have decided to open up to another foster placement once we know Lili has transitioned to preschool successfully. I'm now very optimistic that she will.

Lili has blossomed in the past week or so. Learning to walk independantly has opened up a whole new world for her. She is learning new skills every second, trying to repeat everything we say and attempting to be an independant two year old. She has also begun "melting" into you when you hold her. She has always been so stiff and rigid, we had to teach her how to be held. This past week she even fell asleep in my arms. She also brought me a blankie and crawled up into my lap. wow. So many things have just "clicked" for her. She has been so happy. I think preschool is going to continue to open up the world for her, being able to communicate will make her get frustrated less and make her an even happier girl. I'm so proud of her. Her PT even said she no longer needs splints and we can go down to an in-shoe orthotic since she is walking so straight and strong. Yeah Lili!

So I'm officially "in between" placements and having some down time. I'm preparing for another placement by doing a bunch of projects and organizing the house. The spare bedroom will become the "boys room". We're going to wait a few weeks to tell our caseworker so we don't get bombarded with calls and take a placement before we're ready.

Ready, set, go!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Immense Loss

This analogy has always captured my attention...I always think of this when I'm trying to relate to how Lili must be feeling....

Immense Loss

Imagine for a moment… You have met the person you've dreamed about all your life. He has every quality that you desire in a spouse. You plan for the wedding, enjoying every free moment with your fiancĂ©e. You love his touch, his smell, the way he looks into your eyes. For the first time in your life, you understand what is meant by "soul mate," for this person understands you in a way that no one else does. Your heart beats in rhythm with his. Your emotions are intimately tied to his every joy, his every sorrow. The wedding comes. It is a happy celebration, but the best part is that you are finally the wife of this wonderful man. You fall asleep that night, exhausted from the day's events, but relaxed and joyful in the knowledge that you are next to the person who loves you more than anyone in the world…the person who will be with you for the rest of your life.

The next morning you wake up, nestled in your partner's arms. You open your eyes and immediately look for his face. But IT'S NOT HIM! You are in the arms of another man. You recoil in horror. Who is this man? Where is your beloved? You ask questions of the new man, but it quickly becomes apparent that he doesn't understand you. You search every room in the house, calling and calling for your husband. The new guy follows you around, trying to hug you, pat you on the back,...even trying to stroke your arm, acting like everything is okay. But you know that nothing is okay. Your beloved is gone. Where is he? Will he return? When? What has happened to him? Weeks pass. You cry and cry over the loss of your beloved. Sometimes you ache silently, in shock over what has happened. The new guy tries to comfort you. You appreciate his attempts, but he doesn't speak your language-either verbally or emotionally. He doesn't seem to realize the terrible thing that has happened...that your sweetheart is gone. You find it difficult to sleep. The new guy tries to comfort you at bedtime with soft words and gentle touches, but you avoid him, preferring to sleep alone, away from him and any intimate words or contact.

Months later, you still ache for your beloved, but gradually you are learning to trust this new guy. He's finally learned that you like your coffee black, not doctored up with cream and sugar. Although you still don't understand his bedtime songs, you like the lilt of his voice and take some comfort in it. More time passes. One morning, you wake up to find a full suitcase sitting next to the front door. You try to ask him about it, but he just takes you by the hand and leads you to the car. You drive and drive and drive. Nothing is familiar. Where are you? Where is he taking you? You pull up to a large building. He leads you to an elevator and up to a room filled with people. Many are crying. Some are ecstatic with joy. You are confused. And worried. The man leads you over to the corner. Another man opens his arms and sweeps you up in an embrace. He rubs your back and kisses your cheeks, obviously thrilled to see you. You are anything but thrilled to see him. Who in the world is he? Where is your beloved? You reach for the man who brought you, but he just smiles (although he seems to be tearing up, which concerns you), pats you on the back, and puts your hand in the hands of the new guy. The new guy picks up your suitcase and leads you to the door. The familiar face starts openly crying, waving and waving as the elevator doors close on you and the new guy.

The new guy drives you to an airport and you follow him, not knowing what else to do. Sometimes you cry, but then the new guy tries to make you smile, so you grin back, wanting to "get along." You board a plane. The flight is long. You sleep a lot, wanting to mentally escape from the situation. Hours later, the plane touches down. The new guy is very excited and leads you into the airport where dozens of people are there to greet you. Light bulbs flash as your photo is taken again and again. The new guy takes you to another guy who hugs you. Who is this one? You smile at him. Then you are taken to another man who pats your back and kisses your cheek. Then yet another fellow gives you a big hug and messes your hair. Finally, someone (which guy is this?) pulls you into his arms with the biggest hug you've ever had. He kisses you all over your cheeks and croons to you in some language you've never heard before. He leads you to a car and drives you to another location. Everything here looks different. The climate is not what you're used to. The smells are strange. Nothing tastes familiar, except for the black coffee. You wonder if someone told him that you like your coffee black. You find it nearly impossible to sleep. Sometimes you lie in bed for hours, staring into the blackness, furious with your husband for leaving you, yet aching from the loss. The new guy checks on you. He seems concerned and tries to comfort you with soft words and a mug of warm milk. You turn away, pretending to go to asleep.

People come to the house. You can feel the anxiety start to bubble over as you look into the faces of all the new people. You tightly grasp the new guy's hand. He pulls you closer. People smile and nudge one other, marveling at how quickly you've fallen in love. Strangers reach for you, wanting to be a part of the happiness. Each time a man hugs you, you wonder if he will be the one to take you away. Just in case, you keep your suitcase packed and ready. Although the man at this house is nice and you're hanging on for dear life, you've learned from experience that men come and go, so you just wait in expectation for the next one to come along. Each morning, the new guy hands you a cup of coffee and looks at you expectantly. A couple of times the pain and anger for your husband is so great that you lash out, sending hot coffee across the room, causing the new guy to yelp in pain. He just looks at you, bewildered. But most of the time you calmly take the cup. You give him a smile. And wait. And wait. And wait.

--Written by Cynthia Hockman-Chupp, analogy courtesy of Dr. Kali Miller

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Frosty's melting

The snow only lasted for the morning but the girls were so excited to build a snowman. Well, ...Jo was thrilled, Lili got a little scared once it was up. It isn't that monsterous is it?

Monday, January 22, 2007

What a weekend

We had a busy weekend and I have a million things I want to do this morning now! This post doesn't have much to do with adoption so you may want to skip my rambling today.

First of all I was very excited to discover that our local big box store had some of the exact varieties of vegetable seeds that I was planning to order from a large seed company. This is great for me as a city gal because I was feeling guilty about ordering a packet of 200 seeds to only end up planting...5 or so. So here is a picture of the beginnings of my own city veggie garden. I usually plant one every year and change my strategy the next year to try to do better. This year I'm going to try container gardening (again) with new self watering containers that will hopefully stand up to our hot hot hot summers.

DP had to buy a new printer/fax/scanner/copier for work and I've been setting it up and playing with it all morning. I'm very excited to be able to scan in some of the girls momentos to use in my digital scrapbooking. I saved Jo's hospital bracelet just for this purpose!

I also finally picked up some additional shelves to organize the hall closet. I know that may not excite some people....but I can be weird like that. I'm slowly organizing one closet a month with additional shelves, hanging rods, boxes, hooks and the like. I'm just practicing until I get up enough nerve to tackle the basement. Yikes.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Happy Happy Joy Joy!

Wanna feel some Joy?

Ahaua is officially matched. Take a look here.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Understanding, rationalizing and just accepting

This post at Thoughts from a Fostering Family brings up such a good topic.

"You also have to remember that you cannot heal them or walk their own journeys for them. They have some serious healing of themselves to do. They need to walk that journey and heal themselves, and we have to accept that we can parent, but we cannot control." Thoughts from a Fostering Family: Good parenting and surviving as a parent

So many times I get frustrated with Lili's behavior because I'm trying to understand and rationalize from my point of view instead of accepting that she is acting out of her experiences of pain and fear.

It's so hard to step back and realize that even if I ever do get to understand "why" it may not be enough to fix her hurt. Rationalizing her irrational behavior won't heal it either.

I can keep her safe, I can lead her to the path of healing but all of the real work that needs to be done is outside of my control....and sometimes that breaks my heart.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hair Snaps

My hair snaps & beads from Snapaholics came in the mail yesterday. Jo picked out the star snaps herself and they've turned out to be MY favorite. They close really well and hold alot of beads on each braid. I was so excited to have some new hair pretties to play with. Jo's hair has cornrows in the front and box braids in the back. I pulled up the front cornrows into a ponytail today because they seem to bug her when they end up in her face. The Clippity-clack sound that they make when she shakes them is too cute.

Friday, January 12, 2007

My Foster Journey.. Chapter Three: The Rollercoaster

I was on an emotional high after becoming a first time parent. I didn't even feel sleep deprived because I was excited to see her again after sleeping for a few hours. I was in love....head over heels love.

When you are a teenager and you fell in love for the first thought "this is what love is like". You get a little older and had your first "real" relationship and you thought "now this is love". Later you entered into a commited marraige/life partnership/civil union/whatever and you thought "this is what true commited love is". Then you become a parent.....and you realize all the times before you never knew how deep, powerful and moving love is. You just scratched the surface at the expanse that is unconditional love.

This high begins the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with dealing with the foster care system. Like any government entity there is endless red tape, paperwork and politics. Common sense often goes out the window. The loss of control and the feeling of hopelessness is, at times, unbearable. I can only imagine how distressing it must be for the child that is living through it.

In one of my cases a child was almost put back into danger because social workers wouldn't share information between each other. One case dragged on and on because there were 4 different workers in 2 years. Those are the lows of the rollercoaster. Up and down, high and low.

Luckily it's alot like childbirth... after awhile you forget how painful it can be. So when they call again - you say yes.

And that's how I ended up being a new mom to a three month old AND another preemie newborn.

The Lists

I wrote previously in this post about my frustration with waiting child lists not being available to all waiting parents. We have requested our local DFS lists just so we would be able to advocate for some of our friends currently starting their journey through the system.

This week we recieved the first of these lists. Just one CW's caseload of 40 waiting children.

Today we had one profile emailed to us from our homestudy worker. A two year old girl in between the ages of my two year old girls. Perfect health, no developmental delays and good attachment to her current caregiver. They're looking for homestudies to present to committee by January 31st.

Hint. Hint.


I've been following along with Baggage as she begins babystepping the Flylady system. I have been a flybaby (that's what followers of the cult call themselves) for about 3 years on and off. I know that I have come sooo far because sometimes when we are in a certain zone I don't even have to declutter. I am really glad I found this site before I was knee deep in kids, if you've never heard of it...check it out.

Like my kids, I love having a routine. A simple set of steps that I follow each day makes me feel comfortable and makes me feel like I'm making some sort of progress in life. When you are a full time parent it's hard to see the success of your labor. So as a domestic engineer (housewife....cough) I often seem to put more value than I should on completed household tasks. This often sets me up to fail because some dishes and laundry, are never completed.

As a product of a corporate culture it's so hard for me to switch gears to SAHM and not be valued for the work that I do. No one ever says....great job! Maybe I should buy those stickers that teachers give their kids....and stick them all over my dishes and dirty laundry.

What is the hardest part of parenthood.....or preparenthood for you?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My Foster Journey.. Chapter Two:The Call

I live in a large urban area that has a population of about 3 million people. Once we were licensed we began getting calls right away. The first was a sibling group of a boy and girl 5 & 8 years old. They went to their grandmother before they were ever placed with us. Our second call was a choice of three babies that needed a placement. I never hoped to dream that we would be welcoming a tiny newborn into our home! I assumed that the greatest need was older children but, because I was able to stay at home with the children we were a great resource to premature babies. These little ones couldn't go into daycare for at least 6 weeks and usually needed longer than that to build up their immune systems.

All three babies were waiting in local hospitals, two newborns and one 5 month old that was born really premature and was just being released from the hospital. We told them we would take whomever needed a home the soonest. That ended up being my daughter Jo. We weren't supposed to pick her up until the following day but we couldn't wait and went to the hospital nursery and tried to pick her out. We didn't know it was her then but, we had seen her being fed and rocked by the nurse on duty.

I don't believe in coincidences. Our girls were meant to be sisters from the very beginning. That 5 month old baby that was mentioned in our first placement call.....was Lili. 10 months later she would come into our home as our forever daughter. We realized this connection after she was adopted and we were looking through her files.

The next day we went to the hospital expecting to pick up a newborn, they hadn't informend us she was a preemie. At only 4 lbs 3 oz, she was the tiniest thing I had ever seen. We had brought a 0-3 month outfit to take her home it (shows how much we didn't know about babies at the time) and she was swimming in it. I was in awe and spent hours just staring at her perfect face. Her arm was as big as my thumb.

Having everything you ever wished for

Being around so many people at the beginning of their journey to parenthood reminds me of how far we've come and how blessed we are. I remember so vividly that longing.

What do you do when you have everything you ever wished for?

Jen and I both are such planners and goal setters that it's hard to be still and enjoy life RIGHT NOW. Life is good. I have a sick kid, my house is a mess.... But life is good.

Near perfect I might say.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Deciding to Foster

Maggie's comment on the previous post brings up an important part of my foster journey that I skipped over. So let me back up a little bit in Chapter One. I began this journey for one selfish reason: I wanted to be a parent.

Adoption from the foster care system was a good fit because it was not a priority for us to have a "perfect child" typically defined as a healthy white infant. Through the initial paperwork we had to strictly define the type of child we the resources and abilities to care for. Everything from age, race, abilities, drug exposure, genetic mental illness and family/sibling group size. We were very open - partly out of desire -partly because we felt we had a support system, community and background that would enable us to help children with varied life experiences.

I wanted to be a parent. I wanted to adopt from the foster care system. I didn't necessarily want to be a foster parent. From the paperwork stage, through all the classes and up until the moment the homestudy was to be written we were going through this process to adopt....not to foster. At the last minute we changed our minds and decided to open up to being foster parents too. It was an easy decision because we didn't really know what we were getting ourselves into.

"Oh I could NEVER do do you just give them up?"

The fear of losing a child is the most common comment I get about foster parenting. It is a very valid fear that I had...and lived through. My second foster placement was a newborn straight from the hospital. I cared for Vivi for the first 7 months of her life and then she joined her forever family. It hurt like hell. To this day I still mourn the loss of the dream of our lives together. By the time that I opened up my heart again and was placed with Ekida I knew it would hurt but I also knew she needed me...and I wanted to be there for her.

At some point the selfish desire to be a parent transforms into the child centered life of being a parent. The childs needs become more important than your own.

In foster parenting, the need is greater than most. A child enters your home with a NEED for a stable loving parent to help them heal and grow. "Oh I could NEVER do that" Yes, you could...if you were personally touched by someone in need, you would do whatever you could to help. It's easy to say no to an abstract concept but not when it is sad, big brown eyes looking at you. If you feel qualified to parent a child, you're probably qualified to foster a child. It is an emotional rollercoaster and it isn't for everyone. The need is greater, the problems are bigger, but the love is the same.

"How do you just give them up?" I never give them up, I allow them to go where they are destined to be. I parent them, I love them, I help them grow into the person they are to become. They never leave my heart, their pictures never leave the walls of my home. They are my children forever and I hope they have benefited from the time they spent here. I know I have.

There is a song from the musical Wicked called For Good that I call The Vivi Song that explains my experience of losing a child I have parented.

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you....

Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you....
I have been changed for good.

My Foster Journey.. Chapter One: The Seed

I'm not really sure how the original seed to foster was planted. I was 24 years old and had just purchased a four bedroom house by myself. I called to get the information packet to become a foster parent. I was sort of in between relationships at the time and was ready to be a parent. I never followed through with that original call but did buy a few books and a subscription to Fostering Today and Adoptive Families magazines that year.

A year later I met my future wife. During that time I worked at a custom framing shop inside a large retail store. The president of our local foster care organization happened to come in with her two (cute and well behaved) foster children. I asked her lots of questions about fostering and she wrote her name and number on the back of one of our business cards. That was "the seed" that planted the idea. I kept that card and about a year later we called & began the process together to become foster parents.

I try to plant that seed now in others. For me- a part of being an advocate for children in foster care is often advocating for others to open their hearts and homes to foster kids/waiting children. In the aisle of the grocery store, at the park, in the check out of Home Depot...whenever people are curious about our family. Recently three (well six) friends have decided to become foster parents after we planted the seed with them. The first set have their first placement, a sweet chubby newborn that allows me to get my baby fix but still sleep through the night. The second set start classes next week. The third have their first homestudy visit this week.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Being a mom to a Special Needs child

Just for background... I knew Lili was my daughter from the moment we read about her on the waiting child list. Her specific areas of delay and her medical needs just happened to be everything we had experience in. We were a great resource to a child with great needs. She was my daughter, she was meant to be here. That being said.....

Being a mom to a special needs child is often quite draining and exhausting. Yesterday was just such a day.

Lili, who is 6 weeks away from her 3rd birthday, just entered the Terrible Two's in full force. She is globally developmentally delayed and socially/emotionally much younger than her chronological age. Added to that, she has Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Sensory Integration Disfunction(SID). I know more acronyms than I care to.....

Yesterday was more RAD than TT as she raged more than tantrumed. She hit her speech therapist and refused to fully participate in her physical therapy. She was so angry, angry that she had to take a nap, angry that I expected her NOT to tear up her books, angry that she wasn't allowed to hit. I'm so worn out and it's about to get worse.

Lili will be starting a special theraputic preschool in about three weeks. For a child that has lost so many caregivers I'm afraid that she will think it's happening again. I'm afraid that all our work getting her to the anxious stage of attachment will be lost...and that the raging and defiance will begin in full force. Kids who lose so much, expect loss and grief. It's what they know.

I'm so not ready for this. I'm dreading it.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

My hair journey

I love doing the girls hair. I love finding inspiration and learning new styles. I belong to a yahoo group for Transracially adopted AA/Black children that has great resources and inspiration for doing hair. So for my own benefit I'm going to start posting pics and journal my hairstyles so I can keep track of them.

I finally mastered cornrows and now I'm working on different parts. It's easier to row Jo's hair than Lilia's since it's she's had more practice at sitting still. Here is the style that her hair is in today.

Which reminds me....I need to order some beads and snaps from now that the owner is back after adopting her daughter.