Tuesday, December 5, 2017

manning the asylum

I sometimes wonder about my capacity for sanity. And staying productive given my work load of four kids, one of them soon be officially adopted from foster care. It's not like my original kids are without special needs.

Mac is my genius 11 year old, in a school for gifted kids. He's not really connected to the earth at this point. My heart breaks for him at times. Other times I just plotz in my thoughts. I think he is most like me. Genius but unable to factor in reality. Because reality is an abstract concept. Even now, for me, with my graduate degree and excellent paying job--- I don't know how to change my windshield wipers.

His struggles are greater because he's smarter than I will ever be. I think it amplifies his emotional and social difficulties. He's kicked off the bus on the reg. We have behavioral sheets to help him regulate during the day. He's on 3 sleeping meds because without it, he won't sleep for days. Underneath he is this amazingly loving and soft bird. He has so much love.

He talked about his doubts with adopting Melody. I welcomed this. He doesn't know how to be her brother yet. We don't know how to be a family yet. It's all confusing and very hard. But we talked and we'll get through this together. He wants to step up, Melody is kid no one is stepping up for. Except us.

Then there is Melody. Each kid I've had, I've been able to tell a pregnancy story, a birth story and a life story. For her,  there are years missing from what I know of her life. I have crappy baby pictures from her mom's old myspace page. Her family gives us nothing else. It makes me mad. But what should I expect from folks that can't a keep consistent cell phone number? Or have an apartment for more than six months. Or repeated jail stays. These are not stable scrapbooking folks.


As we get closer to the adoption, the harder it all gets. Her behaviors and manipulations are in high gear. I can't imagine what that's like for her. How automatic it all is to be in survival mode at all times. It's taking a toll.

So we slow down. I slow down.  And onward we go.  

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Big ass cats, size 5 snow pants and determing worth

I've become a bit obsessed with Maine Coon Cats. They are big ass cats. F.U. size cats. It's absurd.. This is my life though, big and absurd. Maybe this is why I'm obsessed. I would love to have one of these. But the grooming would drive me insane. There is a whole underground world of big cat people. A lot of Russians and Ukraine breeders. It's a crazy underworld I'm watching from the sidelines. A welcome distraction to say the least.

We had three bonus kids for one week a bit ago. Emergency respite. So that made me a mom of seven. After a week,  we said no more because we were breaking. Their mom gets better than worse than better. So we respite often for the kids. She's super worse now. We said we'd take one longer term. ONE-- because I need to stay sane.  All of which is now turning into discussions of may be adoption. Because mom is not getting better. We're still not done with adopting Melody. And the one may not even come to live with us. So for now-- I save the snow pants that will fit Azure and look up 'how to help kids with swearing'. Cause man. The kid can string profane insults with the skill of an Italian mobster. He's seven.

I've been working on my self worth in therapy. Stepping up and claiming my needs. Which has led me to feel more self worth lately. And more powerful. I've taken charge of Melody's hair. I've stare downed my  self doubt and gotten all up in it's grill. I feel taller. Walk stronger. Amazing how picking out the spaghetti sauce I want  has turned into strength. Strength to sink in and enjoy my very crazy life.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Removing all doubt

I turned in the last bit of paperwork for our adoption application. I think when we started fostering this was easier. The 75 pages of paperwork, the four home study interviews, producing out taxes, house insurance papers... pet vaccinations. It's a big pile of hey, we are really good parents and are welcoming more kids. Much like spare change, I am spent.

Last weekend our foster daughter, Melody, decided to comb out her dreadlocks. I literally didn't know what to do. So we headed over to her friends' mom and well, they took me in a bit. We sat on uncomfortable chairs while we gently picked out the lint and tangles in her gnarled up dreads. After seven hours and little progress- I was done. I literally couldn't see straight and my back was aching.

I think I had the vision of finally being proficient with her African American hair. It was a way for me to start to claim some power in all of this. Power that reflects my value as a mom to Melody. If there is doubt, I want to remove it. Beyond the hours of mind numbing paperwork, those 7 hours was pure love.

Her real mom doesn't care. She doesn't live on the same planet as us and or our pile of proven goodness. She thinks showing up 3 days a week, taking Melody shopping and out to Panda express proves she's ready to be a full time mom again. She wonders when Melody will come home. Meanwhile, she has yet to find a job or pass regular drug tests. She does not live in reality.

They'll be filing termination of parental rights. I'm not sure it'll go forward though. Being an idiot doesn't mean you're a bad mom. She's just selfish and why should she get a job and pass drug tests? She has us taking care of her kid full time and gets to spoil her 3 days a week. She has a sugar daddy paying all her bills including the state. Meanwhile, I don't register for her. When I see her she looks right through me. I try not to dig too deep into the crazy of it all. If I do, I'll never get out.

This woman. When she drops off Melody, she'll stare at her mom's car as she drives away. Blowing kisses and leaning against the window.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

And the bears still suck

I went to my counselor's appt an hour early by mistake. Which gave me 45 min to walk around down town. I ran into a bar that served lovingly made microbrews. I would've loved to squat there, have a pint and be on my way. But smelling of hops before a counseling appt is well, gauche. 

Then there was the hipster barbershop. The workers resplendent with full sleeve tattoos. There was laughing and kitchy decor. I longed to get a good hair wash, deep conditioning treatment or maybe a new funkaliscious cut. Go a bit wild and embrace my own heavily tattooedness. But no. I go to the salon at walmart. Where my  roots are well cared for and the price is just right.

I walked in the sun and being popped by chilly autumn air.

Then I saw 4 gigantic black tour buses. Not the old people on tour buses but high end buses. The Chicago Bears were in town for the game. DAAAAAHHHH BEARS! There were folks with white binders milling about. At first I thought they were survey takers or political 'sign my petition' people. But no, just folks with baseball cards, except with football people on them. They were autograph seekers.

I live in a town where Da Bears are much maligned. When I told folks I had seen the tour buses I was asked, with no sense of irony and with the straightest of faces, "Did you slash their tires?"

Meanwhile my milling about continued because Da Bears were long since in their hotel and the crowd was dribbling away. There was a man, holding a specially made street sign, emblazoned with orange lettering. He donned a baseball cap with the teams logo. His boy and girl, both school aged, wore identical hats. I thought to myself, that's a lot of special ordering. And for what? Their team isn't that good. And their home field faces one of the great lakes, making games unrelenting with the beer freezing gusts of tear your lips off wind. Why would you take pride in this? 

Which leads me to my greater point. The Packers is a religion around here. I'm not kidding. At my old church, we had a guest speaker who was a humanitarian of the highest order, feeding starving children in Mexico, building schools and digging wells to sustain entire villages.He made an ice breaking about the Packers and us Christian folk, usually so friendly and welcoming with coffee and cookies, we booed him. Subtly and quietly, but his face went white and he made a quick apology.

So yeah, Go Pack Go!

and.... the bears still suck!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

bonus kid kung fu fighting

I think we are on month two of welcoming back Melody. With all bonus kids (aka foster kids) there is a honey moon period where love is everything.  Then the trauma based behavior rear up. Stuff like holes in walls, screaming, breaking remotes and arguing. We skipped the honeymoon I think.  She was with us from age 4-7. Now she's 9.

Tonight was rough but better. The screaming and fighting was minimal and defused. I worked really hard on holding my upset. Not taking the bait to argue and give more rules. I am not perfect. It started with me taking the remote because it's bed time. Her shrieking and crying began. Howls of it's not fair and you give me nothing.

I made warmed up oatmeal for Max and tried my hardest to ignore. To calmly repeat, I feel bad for you. I love you too much to argue with you. I know you hate me but I love you no mater what. Over and over. AND OVER AND OVER. Like the love and logic folks say.

But it's not fair. It's not fair Melody is here when she wants to be with mom. It's not fair that I need to help clean up and calm a mess her mama made.

It's not fair I am working up the nerve to make small talk with a  woman that scares the hell out of me. AKA Melody's mom. It's not fair that her daughter is becoming my daughter AGAIN.  I am becoming friendly with a woman I have ten thousand emotions about. But I want to create something between her and me. A bond.  Is there such a thing as sister moms?

I want to just scream at the mom. I want to say look, this isn't going end anytime soon. Melody has been in foster care since age 4. There are things that are going to make this better and things that make things worse. Help us.

Help us by not going on spending sprees and buying air Jordan's. Help us by not putting make up on your nine year old. Help us by getting a job that doesn't involve shaking your money maker because you are older now and dollar dollar bill ya'll ain't a life plan. Help us by not going to jail on probation holds, because you won't provide a urine drug screen.

But I can't scream because she's kind of deaf. Deaf to planning. Deaf to reality. Deaf to all of it because all of it is going her way. The county pays her rent and she has a benefactor that pays for the rest of it. And we are providing 24/7 child care and doing the hard work of being her baby's parents.

She did have a job interview and I guess it well.

Maybe she'll rise up. Work hard. Get the stuff she needs to be a mom that Melody can come back to.

If not. I'll ask she help us by stopping with this wild fantasy that eventually, she'll live with her mom.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Air Jordans

Melody is settling in, our boomerang bonus kid. She is a lot easier in some ways. Last go round she didn't have a lot of words to express her upsetness. So our drywall and car doors got carved into. She's a lot more aware now. She understands she's in foster care and says no thank you.

I work on my reactivity to her. Like her momma, getting everyone riled up is a skill she's mastering. My theory is that this allows her control in a world where she has very little. But she can't be in control, she's a kid. So we allow choices whenever we can and hug her as we say no.

Her mom is baseline from what I can tell. Working as an pole technician and buying her air jordans. WHAT is with the air jordans? Why must every foster kid have these expensive shoes? Honestly, I didn't know they existed before I was a foster mom.

We are in a pattern much like 2 years ago. Her mom doing 35% of what is needed to reunite. I am doing better with her mom. I'm not afraid or reactive to her like I use to be. She's not aggressive with us about doing her baby's hair right. Which is actually kind of sad. I hope this means she is not letting go.

So folks ask if we will adopt her and we have the same answer. Which is not at this point. In fact, I'm still hoping mom will pull it together and be able to take Melody back full time like for realsies. Mr. Hall believes she will continue to get better then crash.

Really, in reality, it doesn't change anything. Even if we do end up adopting her this will be the life. Having this relationship with her mom. Visits and whatnot.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

foster baby mama drama

So, Melody is coming back. She was a little girl that lived with us for 3 years, then went to live with auntie. Two years later she is coming back to us. I am feeling all the emotions.

The emotions I'm struggling with are not for her,  but for her mama. Foster baby mama drama.

I can only speak to my interactions with her and from my side. The first phone call was good. Melody was our first foster daughter. First foster kid. I was at Zumba and came home and there she was. I spoke with her mom a few days later, explaining we had a minivan and we were glad to help her out during that time. It went well, she was all, thank you thank you. That was the last time it went well.

Mostly, during the three years, she spoke through the social worker to complain about Melody's hair not being done right, her clothes being unkempt and us not lotioning her enough. This was the alpha omega for Melody's mom--her daughter's appearance.

Traditionally, the Tribe Called Hall is a motley one. She had a point. I grew angry and bitter. I would get up with her child in the middle of the night when she had nightmares. When she'd talk to her mom on the phone,  Melody begged her mom to come get her and be done with this. And her mom would say, just a little while longer. And I rocked and held Melody after those phone calls, while she wailed and sobbed. But yes, Melody was not gap model level prepared for visits, so she had a point.

Then there were phone calls of vitriol and the time she called the cops on us. Which is typical and common for foster parents to experience. I cried and shook as she ripped me a new one once. It was totally unexpected and like a hurricane full of pissed off bees. Part of this was my fault I think. I was so angry at her for hurting this girl. While Melody was never abused, her mom was hurting her by not doing what she had to do to get her back. Basically stuff, like sobriety, she wasn't even trying to do. At that point, Melody had started calling me mom too. I'm sure my anger triggered the mom's and she's better at controlling people with anger and fear. After the cops were called on us, Mr. Hall took over the communication.

For him, it went well. He could talk to her. She talked to him. It was soothing to listen too. She would be logical and approachable. Deal with able. Mr. Hall has the magic of dealing with the most difficult of women and making it ok.

Then Melody went down to an auntie. She was gone, I was spent. We spent almost a year recovering. We got a dog, that helped. I was happy never to deal with her mom again. I was done. I never expected Melody to come back. I thought her family would absorb her because we are the white village, dismissed and shameful. Sending her back to the foster care system means sending her here. But Melody is one of many and family didn't get in this business like we did. They are trying to help out family, we are growing one and inviting others as we go.

So now the mama is going to be back in my life and I am struggling. Fundamentally struggling. I say to Mr. Hall, 'how do you deal with it, the mom?' He says, "I don't focus my energy on that, we are here to support Melody. I pick my fights." Which means he has control over his emotions and can use a system of dams and bridges to direct the water accordingly.

I envy him.

I'll need to try, my hardest, to feel these things and deal with reality.

Reality number one, in order to adopt Melody, the state needs to do what's called TPR, or termination of parental rights on mom. This is very hard. Judges don't like doing it for a lot of reasons. The state has a current TPR filed and they'll try again. For this, I will go to the hearings. For now, she is our foster daughter. We'll treat her as our own and love her all the same.

Reality number two, mom isn't doing well. Visits with Melody are canceled as a result. The aftermath of visits or missed visits are hard on Melody. This is when she cries and sobs. This is when she carves holes in our drywall. This is when I need to stop the anger and bitterness from growing and soaking in.  Because I can't. It will kill part of me. The very part I use to help. I will be sad with Melody. I will love on her and seek out love too. Mr. Hall and the rest of the tribe are great at being her for each other. This is what we do.

Reality number three. When Melody comes we will have a party. To celebrate her and to let her know she is cherished and super loved. She is a child of God. For this. I have to start thinking of her mom in the same way. She is also a child of God. I need to practice forgiveness, mercy, love. Mr. Hall says she doesn't know any better and that is why she can't be the mom Melody needs. And he's right. So I will consciously pray and practice what I've been given.

Reality number four. No matter what, Melody comes with her mama. Even if she stays with us forever, the mom will be part of this. God gave me all sorts of love to give. This is why I'm in the foster parent business. I'll leave the practicalities of communication, visit arrangement and phone calls to Mr. Hall but for me, I need to start with love, mercy and forgiveness.

And in this way, I can feel much better. I can start to grow love for the foster baby mama drama too.

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