*now watch us get a size 6 diapered toddler and I retrieve those 100 sz 6 diapers.
Monday I had another school conference for our middle son. Just like last time, I hear he's super smart but super emotional and that gets in the way. I shouldn't be going to conferences. I always end up crying. I don't want to hear about it. He's been on behavior plans since 4k. He'll get better as he grows. I'm a genius and so is my husband. His smarts and behaviors are stuff we had/have. Stop telling me about it because we're working on it.
This time they asked he see a counselor. Which makes sense. To us, he's just being our kid. Temperamental and crazy but our whole family is weird. It's ok at home. In school it gets in the way.
So yeah. Booking a counselor appt.
THEN. I find out that a patient who I worked so very hard for, like 30 hours of extra work outside the apt time...he wants to not only fire me-- but to file an official complaint. He's fired three other providers and filed complaints against them too. So I'm not alone but feels personal. I did the extra work because I wanted him to have all the care. I lost sleep over this patient. I worried about this patient. I should have known better. But I couldn't help myself.
THEN. I head off to 'trauma training' for my foster care license. This is a long effing class. Every Monday for 16 weeks at 3 hours a class. All about how trauma affects the brains of developing children and how it translates into some pretty gnarly behavior. The last classes are about how we, as a foster parents, can help heal them.
IT brings up tons of emotional baggage from our last 3 years as foster parents. It rips my guts out. I think the class might be killing me. And this Monday, after the patient, after the conference --I hit a wall.
With a half an hour left, I was done with the class. I put my head in my hands, breathed and stayed upright. I looked normal but man I was done. I couldn't take any more information about these horribly traumatized kids and how we help them. I was done.
But here's the beauty of hitting the wall...
I know have limits. I tend to think I am beyond superhuman strong. If I just plan things right, I can be Hercules. That is false.
SO. At work I'm putting up some very thick boundaries. Concrete walls of no. I am hired for a reason and will make others do their own work.
SO. I will make absolutely sure Mr. Hall goes to all conferences from now on. I just can't.
AND. This class has three more classes. That'll I finish.
I'll let myself be free for a while. Enjoying the shock of hitting the wall.
Ya'll have no idea how awesome these moments were.
AT MY CROSSFIT GYM
in the last 6 months
THESE MOMENTS HAVE HAPPENED
ALL DIFFERENT BROS. ALL TOUGH AS F*CK.
1. At my gym, the monthly challenge was 30 push ups a day x 30 days. When I started crossfit two years ago, I could barely do push ups against a wall. I did all 900 chest to floor. No knees. Bro was all like, "GREAT WORK STEPH".
BOOM SHAKA LAKA!
2. Saturday classes are divided into two hours. First hour is open gym, meaning you can show up and work on what ever is needed. Then, the second hour is a team work out. Meaning we form teams to tackle a HUGE work out. Something like:
row 1000 meters
100 push ups
100 sit ups
100 box jumps
100 kettle bell swings
row 1000 meters
It takes a team as these work outs cannot be done alone, nor should they be. One Sat I was doing open gym before I had to leave for work. The bros were talking smack about what team was going to dominate that day. They started to pick team members. Someone said "WE GET STEPH" and I blushed and said, "I have to go to work." And a PARTICULARLY YOUNG AND TOUGH bro was all "COME ON! YOU WERE GONNA BE ON OUR TEAM!" He was all disappointed and sad.
dang right he was!
BECAUSE BOOM SHAKA LAKA!
2. I was deadlifting something like 225 and being used as the demonstrator for the class on how to properly deadlift. A BRO standing next to me said, "Respect" and did that guy nod thing, the slight upward tilt of the chin in a quick reverse nod moment.
BOOM SHAKA LAKA!
3. We have outside adventures, my gymmates and I. One is a hike that will last 6 hours with weighted backpacks while performing other assorted push ups and jumping jacks. Not everyone is doing it. I am though. And the coach was trying to recruit people. Saying, "Steph is signed up". And Bro is all like, "Yeah, but Steph's a badass."
BOOM ASHAKA SHAKA LAKA!!
I don't respond to these bro moments but to smile and quickly look down. They don't need to know how so very awesome it is to be a bro!
1. My sensitivity
I am the most sensitive person the planet right now. Any side eye, teasing or gentle poking feels super harsh. Especially if the teasing involves things I'm passionate about.
(see that, didn't know I was bilingual did ya?)
I recently became a Lifetime Weight Watchers member. Which means I've made my goal weight and kept it off for six weeks. I don't have to pay for meetings anymore. Unless I gain the weight back of course. I've also applied to become a WW receptionist because I need to pay this forward!
Which brings us to yesterday, surrounded by my coworkers in the break room. I really like my coworkers. I tell them all of the above. I tell them how fun it was applying for this job. It was super fun coming up with a mini resume that included all my accomplishments. I have a master's degree and I'm a nurse practitioner. I'm a married mom of three and a foster mom too. And let's NOT forget the cross fit I kick ass at.
Yes I put crossfit on a resume. UNDER HOBBIES. BOOM SHAKALAKA!!
I tend to forget how much I've done and am. I give all the glory to GOD! I did none of this by myself. I'm a lazy and bossy individual. My strength is puny and inconsistent. His strength works through me. PRAISE HIS NAME!!!
I don't share that last part, with my coworkers, but they known I'm a Jesus freak. So, I don't need to cover that.
THEN. I tell them that you need to be a lifetime WW member or be within 10 lbs of your goal weight to be a WW receptionist. They start to cackle and poke. They say, "So if you gain 11 lbs you're fired?" Or, "There's a weight requirement? THAT'S DISCRIMINATION!" I try to answer back that it makes sense for healthier people to lead. They continue to cackle and joke. I leave the room and try not to cry.
I don't think people have any fricking clue how much work goes into weight loss. I've spent the last frigging year rearranging everything I know about food. I've changed everything and thrived. I did this while in the thick of having five kids! Two of them being high need foster kids!
So. They were just kidding. But I'm hypersensitive. And I was being prideful. Pride goeth before a fall they say.
But, I probably won't work my sensitivity. Screw it. Empathy is a golden gift. I'm almost 40 years old. My empathy is only getting deeper.
I ate the saddest banana on Sunday. Saturated by summer heat, lounging by the pool and the whistling trees. We had just dropped our foster son off for the last time. He's all packed up and ready to go live with his Dad. It's been three years of this little kid and my heart is just breaking.
We've had two foster kids, one girl, one boy. The differences have been amazing. The girl came from a home where mom was largely disconnected from her daughter. Either through mental defect, selfishness or drugs, she wasn't always there. And if she was, it wouldn't last. Long term stability is not possible for the mom. Which is why our foster daughter is now with an auntie.
I know this pattern of scattered connection affected our foster daughter. She never learned how to attach properly. As such, even after two and half years, I don't think she really bonded with us. In our heart of hearts, we believe she had Reactive Attachment Disorder. She bonded to those literally right next to her, in a superficial way. It was a good first few months with her. Attachment by reaction.
After a few months, she fought pretty much every attempt we made to love her. Kids with RAD don't understand that love is caring and nurturing. She saw us as people that gave her stuff and got in the way of her being in charge. Sometimes she'd settle and we'd see glimmers of true connection. But we don't know if that's true. Kids with RAD are great manipulators. It's how they survive.
Two and half years and we still don't know if we made a dent. I don't want to shame this child, here, in this blog. I'm merely working through what I was seeing and understanding. It's so sad for me and sad for her. Following the RAD paradigm, she bonded very well with her auntie when it came time to move on.
There's a chance for our foster daughter, now that she's with her people. She felt it. "I'm finally leaving foster care!", she said. If Auntie proves to be solid and consistent, our foster child will have a chance of learning how to love and be loved. Not just to be cute and scam those around her. My heart is breaking and hopeful for her.
Bonding is huge. I think about my kids, how I birthed them. How they were glued to us for the first year. OH the months I spent on the couch...nursing and cuddling, nursing and cuddling... Then they start to walk and the cuddles become less. We're still attached though. We hover and helicopter with pride. We make sure their world is a good one, managing their needs from the time they wake up until well after bed time. Even when they're sleeping I'm aware of coughs, snorts and whimpers.
I'm attached to them and they're attached to us. They take us for granted. They run around carefree, knowing we're right here, bugging them to do chores.
For foster kids it's different. They showed up four years into their life. We have a big, friendly family and a pool. It's like a sleep away camp. But no matter how much we offer, after a while, they want to go home. So we hold them, rock them after nightmares and deal with behaviors. This is where attachment comes in.
For our foster son, he had a grandma who was always there. He understood love. Sadly, his grandma was not always stable. And managing a little boy is tough, especially if you can't right yourself. His mom would fade in and out depending on her drug addiction. It was a lot for us to learn when we started helping out. Especially when it came to managing behaviors.
I'll never forget being 8 months pregnant in target, testing the waters of bringing him places by myself. This was a rookie mistake! He had a gigantic tantrum. I steeled myself, thought of all the frontier women who had gone before me. I commenced picking this writhing, four year old child off the floor. Gingerly placing him in the cart and wheeling him out. All the while he was screaming..."I want...I want.." Then, in the car, "I want my mom."
It was a good 6 months before I brought him anywhere by myself after that.
We did behavior charts. We did bonding things like just being there all the time. Being there all the time and being super boring. Loving him to whatever degree he would tolerate. He got it. He bonded with us. Towards the end, I could take him anywhere and do anything. The bonding made all the difference. If you bond and love someone, you'll listen and behave for them. He fit in our family.
All of this was a stupid banana on Sunday. These kids came into our lives and made a complete mess of it. Then it straightened out. Eventually their extraordinary needs became routine, like every day kid needs. Signing up for soccer? Done! Hours long screaming fits? Done! Checking off homework sheets? Done! Court hearings? Done! Pack lunches? Done!
Across from my banana sat Mr. Hall. Watching my eyes well up with tears. He knew I prayed to adopt our foster son. I prayed so hard. Of the two foster kids he fit the best. But he has a Daddy. A Daddy who loves him and is ready to take care of him. So off he goes and my heart is hopeful and breaking.
Then I just lost it. Sobbing and shaking shoulders, eating bananas by the pool. I told Mr. Hall I want to adopt. He knows this. And he said, like he has a 1,000 times... "We will when it's the right time."
And I think I heard him for the first time, with very clear eyes.
Well, that's it for now, foster parent wise. The little girl is with family.
We will still see our little guy next month, but after that he'll move in with his Daddy.
It's so weird. I'm so tired. How am I so tired? I mean, we're DOWN TO JUST THREE KIDS.
I don't think I'm aware of how much work 5 kids really was. Or being pregnant when the first foster kid came. And not sleeping through the night for the first year of foster kids love because our baby wasn't sleeping through the night. As babies do.
And these kids were work. SO MUCH WORK. With the behaviors and the destruction and the breaking and ripping. And the lying and the stealing. And the yelling and the behaviors. And the attitude.
I feel like I'm floating. I am so tired. Everything is so quiet.
I can say this-
It's been a crazy since we starting taking in other kids. I think we adjusted well and stepped up. Having a big family of five takes a lot of effort, planning and above all, love.
I'm proud we did this and proud we opened our hearts to these kids. It may not have been perfect at times, but we did it.
We learned so much! These experiences have drawn us closer to each other.
I know we want to do it again.
But first. Let me take a nap. Regrow some tissues that have been worn down to nubs.
<3 nbsp="" p="">
Our foster kids will be officially out of our lives in the next few weeks. Our foster daughter goes tomorrow. After two years, it's only a matter of days.
It's a struggle not talking about this to everyone and keeping things short when I do.
It is unbelievably complex and I can't even. So if you see me. Just hug. Don't ask. Just hug.
I. JUST. CAN'T. EVEN.
Let's explore the rainbow of emotions shall we?
It's my blog, so I guess we shall.
Last week, I picked the little girl up from her relative's house. It was her weekly hair appointment/excuse for a visit. They give me breathing room. I am a white woman and I cannot do her hair in dreadlocks, corn rows or extensions. I've given it my best shot. From now on, whatever black child comes through my home--her hair will be done by relatives or professionals. I am maintenance only. And even then, lower your expectations!
I arrived to pick her up. I stood awkwardly on the porch while she hugged and kissed 40 relatives in the living room. She came out with pieces of paper that had phone numbers. So she can keep in touch with relatives.
I was angry. Angry that they never EVER have her ready on time and I'm always standing there. Angry that whatever the frick phone numbers she gets --won't be in service a week from now. Angry that not ONE OF THOSE 40 RELATIVES can take her. NOT ONE. No one was deemed stable enough. They all have criminal records, evictions and active drug addictions. Well, maybe not all, but enough to deem them unfit parents for my foster daughter. Also, I'm not sure they all raised their hand to take her either.
So go ahead, make me wait on the porch.
And lastly, angry because I feel their pain. It's only a screen door, the pain flows right through. So I have to deal with that pain and mine. They love her. They want her to be with them. They are not appropriate. They can't.
So go ahead, make me wait on the porch.
She's moving two hours away to dad's side of the family. Visits will stop. Plus, they are black. Dad's family can do her hair just fine.
It's sad because she's been our daughter for two years and now she's not. It's sad because even though she has reactive attachment disorder, she's attached to us through sheer force of being here for so long. Sad because her behaviors have escalated and are out of control. Sad because this is common for kids who transition to other homes. Sad because I wanted to adopt, but she not the right child for us. We are not the right family for her.
Sad because she's going. Sad because this is effecting her. Sad because she knows mom isn't doing well and she's still not going to be with mom. Sad because she still believes Mom will come get her. And go to Disney land. And move into a big house. Sad because I can't be there when she realizes mom is never go to do that. Sad because she'll never stop believing this. Even when she's grown, she'll still have a need her mom can never meet.
I am moving so slow. Both mind and body. I have three calendars to keep me on track the next few days. Running plays like a quarter back. Without the plays I cannot keep my own name straight.
Here's the play for the next few days:
1. Go home. Change out of work clothes. Rest a bit. Pick up toddler from day care and get sushi from grocery store. Go home, make dinner. Kids to bed. Make photo CD of the hundreds of photos for her family that's she moving to. Go to sleep.
1. Crossfit 5 am, come home, shower. Make breakfast and wake up kids. Drop them off at various activities. Come back home. Scour every room, nook and cranny for anything we haven't packed. Leave no stone unturned. Pack everything that is hers. Make sure I pack CD, state insurance card and tube of skin cream. Bring packed bags to car.
Get kids from activities and bring them home. Hug and kiss her for the last time.
Go to work.
While I'm at work Mr. Hall will drive her down for the final drive.
Day after tomorrow:
1. Crossfit 5 am, shower, breakfast, weight watchers at 7 am. Go to work..... and wait to see what comes next. And deal with it.
I can't seem to get the photos to load right so imagine what you want.
My back is a bit broken from pregnancy. No, I'm not pregnant but when I was--I had back issues. They've now flared up to the point where I can't crossfit properly. THAT SUCKS ASS.
So I went to physical therapy. It helped but didn't fix it.
I went to a chiropractor. That's some awesome right there! Dude is ON IT! Adjusting like a mofo! Laying hands and healing!
It was tough because he said, "Slow down while we fix things. Let it heal before you jump back into box jumps, burpees, clean and jerks and stop doing everything you love." Ok, he didn't say the last part, but it felt like it.
Slow is like crawling buck naked on the side walk. All low crawl, trying not to catch my butt cheeks on the barbed wire.
I feel my back healing. Each week I earn tokens for my penance of rest. This week I can start rowing, doing pull ups, and sit ups. Weight lifting is next and LAWD ALMIGHTY! I cannot wait!!
My heart is broken from foster care life. We're transitioning the little girl back to family. Transition is the point of foster care. To hand them back to family. I've met them. They are nice. They are stable. They are loving and they are family. And. They are willing.
It has been the longest three years of my life. Just when I think I can't enter a new level of hell a whole fresh new door opens up. Or I walk over a square hole in the floor and fall clean through.
I wonder if foster parents ever get use to this. I ask because I know we aren't done.
Which has sparked tears and many a discussion with Mr. Hall. I ask what he wants, what he can do. I tell him what I want, that my heart absolute aches to adopt. There is no two ways about it. I trust him that we were not to adopt the little girl, this was not the plan. He isn't ready.
"It needs to be right. But when it's right, we'll know." He says and I listen. Blinking. (this was last night).
He didn't need to add, "And you can't force things because of your needs."
Right now my needs are to see the little girl off. Transition to her family. This is going well. It meets her needs as well. Which really, is the most important needs.
I know I said two things. I lied.
What comes next is rest while I heal. We will stop taking on more kids for six months.
Just be us. Two kids that I pooped out of my vagina and one out of my C-section scar. Just being a family of five.
Slowing. Resting. Letting my heart heal while it rehabs.
Is there a chiropractor for that?