Friday, January 24, 2014


I read a lot of foster care blogs. I love foster care madness even when I hate it, and the other blog Moms are so strong and inspirational. There are trends in these kind of blogs. A while back, many of the other blogs posted really great ideas and examples of  organizing all the paperwork foster care throws at you. They posted pictures of notebooks and 3 ring binders for each child that held all their pertinent information:

Date of Birth
Caseworker/Agency Info
Medical Info
Upcoming appts
Documentation of visits and whatnot

Clean. Efficient. Praised by all the professionals. Exactly what you should be doing.

Remember my post about my amazing paperwork taming skills?

That's because there wasn't one.

This is how I keep my foster care paperwork

It's all there. Every paper I could ever need about any of my kids. All their court papers and medical papers. There are notes about visits and bruises and respite scribbled on the backs of junk mail envelopes. I kid you not- there is a really important note about the baby in there that is written in Sharpie marker on a plastic wrapped maxi pad. It was all I had in my purse when the law guardian called. Could I transfer the info to a piece of paper now? Sure! But why kill a maxi pad for no reason, right?

I am speaking my truth right now, so I want to be perfectly clear. This is not a pile that is waiting to be organized. I don't need any tips for a better system. This is it. This is my plan. 

When I need something, I go through all the piles to look for it. I'm vaguely aware of where everything is, so it never takes too long, and I have yet to lose anything. The pile goes from newest to oldest- until I go through it, then it goes from oldest to newest. It takes up one corner of my bedroom and the top of my dresser. 

In the beginning of foster care, our cases were short and not as medically involved. I bought cute pocket folders for babies 1-5, and they worked really nicely. Those are the folders you see actually in the milk crate- not stacked on top. As Baby 4 stayed longer, and had more surgeries, one folder wasn't enough. I bought another folder, but what goes in each? Do I carry them both around? So I did the logical thing- threw my whole system out the window and figured if the beast doesn't take over an unacceptable amount of space, I'll just let him be.

Sure, I could put away the stuff from kids that have been gone for 4 years. It's just that I like to come across those pages when I'm looking for our current permanency hearing report. I like to 

I am in no way advocating the pile all your important documents up in true fire hazzard style organizational system. Have binders and folders and notebooks should the mood strike you, but don't feel alone if sometimes you control the papers and other times the papers control you.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The End of an Era

I remember years, no, decades where babies were the most desirable companions in my mind. From around 5 years old, all I wanted to do was hold a baby or feed a baby. I wanted to help in the church nursery. I wanted to babysit. I wanted to be a Mom to babies. Their fat little feet and soft curly hair was all I could think about.

Then I got my babies. We've had tons of babies. I felt so sad for my friends that were birthing their babies when they started to announce that they were done- no more babies. What a terrible existence! No babies?!

Over Christmas break, we got to do respite for the cutest little baby. He was way easier than both of my girls- who are somewhat high maintenance.  When we've done respites before, I always get a case of baby fever. Imagine my surprise when this time I felt... nothing.

No baby fever. No, "I wish we could keep him.". He was so fun, but the allure of having more babies has left.

During that week, we also got a call from the adoption agency we used for Baby Girl. They had a newborn boy with the same medical condition as her, and thought to reach out to us. I immediately said no. We have the possibility of 2 adoptions in 2014. We're good. After talking to Brandon about him, we faltered a little in our resolve, but mostly for fear that we were his only chance- which ultimately was not a fair reason to pursue his adoption. He deserves to be wanted and sought after like Baby Girl was.

We've always had people asking us what our plans are for fostering/adoption in the future. I used to think we would adopt babies until our bedrooms were full, then become a 6 week home for newborns until they could be placed with working foster families who needed them in daycare, then once all our kids were grown, we'd taking in parenting teens with their babies, then we'd die.

Now, I'm thinking that after our adoptions are done and our kids are in school (which will likely happen around the same time), we could take older kids.

Kids who are potty trained

Kids who can buckle their own seatbelts

Kids who play independently long enough for me to use the bathroom

Kids who don't continuously ask to watch Yo Gabba Gabba

No more formula smell lingering on all my clothes

No more buying whole new wardrobes every couple of weeks for growing preemies/newborns/0-3 month-ers

I might even be able to grocery shop alone during the day while everyone is at school.

Or shower in a quiet house.

My baby days might be ending. I am totally shocked, and really excited.

Edited to add: OK, I just logged on to Facebook, and 2 of my friends were just introduced to their newborn babies who will soon be adopted. Just like that I forgot everything I just posted!

In our family, we have 3 BioMoms who could reasonably have more children that they are unable to parent. We would absolutely say yes to any of our children's siblings. That's my baby compromise.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Blog Business

A couple housekeeping type things:

I'm terrible at checking the blog email, so yahoo shut down the account... again. I am not ignoring your emails on purpose. It would be great if I could figure out how to set up a system where blog emails come to my real email address (which I'm not giving out because it's my full name). So, while I work on that, please don't be offended by my email silence.

I love comments, though, and will respond to those because they do come through to my email. If you want know anything and don't mind it being public- put it in a comment!

Turns out that posts tend to get really long when you haven't written for a year. Thank you for bearing with me until I'm all caught up. I won't be offended if you skim the posts that get especially wordy.

Jail for Christmas

I took Baby 9 to jail on Christmas Eve. I didn't have to, but I thought it was the right thing to do.

We went to court the week before, and the judge ordered jail visits even though the county and the baby's attorney opposed. As we walked out of court, the caseworker said there was no way she'd be able to schedule and supervise a jail visit during Christmas or New Year's week since she had so many days off and tons of stuff that needed to get done. That could have been the end of it, but the parent's attorney came up to me in the lobby, and half apologetically told me that her client had asked that I go to jail to visit with out the baby. It seems I am the only one who would even possibly go see the parent.

I felt all kinds of emotion. This parent has not acted like someone who loves and wants their child. In all honesty, I do love and want their child. I was truly rooting for reunification, but I was so let down when I realized this parent didn't even try. Instead they just passively let life throw them and their baby around regardless of safety and security. On the other hand, I have to think that if there was any choice- anyone else that this person could reach out to- I certainly wouldn't be the one asked to come sit in jail and visit with someone who is clearly very lonely. If I were in jail, my family would care for my kids. They'd come visit me. I'd be asking my lawyer to summons them. I am very fortunate. Isn't it my responsibility to help someone less fortunate- even if I don't deem them "worthy"- especially at Christmas? Then I thought about precious Baby 9- who I love more than life. What would she want? If I could giver her magical expressive speech- what would she say? "Let me stay warm at home while my parent who wants to see us sits alone in jail on Christmas."? Or, "C'mon, my family needs me."? I think Baby 9 would want me to go.

So I called the jail and asked what I needed to do. The person I spoke was really nice once I said I was a foster parent. He told me he could get us an appointment for a visit on Christmas Eve at 7:30am. He said I needed the baby's birth certificate and a letter from CPS stating that the visits are allowed. He said that he would have the parents also sign a release allowing the minor child to visit.

I had no problems getting the caseworker to give me the birth cert and letter. She was thrilled about getting to take the credit for the visit in court without actually doing any work.

I showed up to the jail on Christmas Eve at 7am. There was a long line already for the visitation. I fed the baby her bottle as we stood in line. When I came to the glass window with the guard behind it, I had to give the inmate's name, my name and ID, and the birth cert/letter for the baby. The officer clicked away at his computer silently for 2 minutes before handing me back my documents and pointing me to a side room with another guard who was acting as keeper of the locker keys. I had to give him my ID and the inmates' name. He gave me a key to a locker and instructed me to take out the baby's adorable Christmas hairbow, and both her and my earrings. I would have been allowed to bring only a receiving blanket and pacifier if Baby 9 needed any of those things, but we brought nothing in with us.

When I handed the key back to the keeper, he pointed me to the metal detector. We walked through the big one, then got passed over with a wand by another guard. He giggled a little when he asked me to hold the baby away from me so he could swipe the metal detector wand on both sides of her diaper. The woman in front of me set off the metal detector and after a conversation with the guard, determined it was her underwire bra that was setting it off. They gave her a grocery bag to put it in and she went to the bathroom to take it off. So.. no underwire bras at jail- good to know.

We went from the metal detector to a small room where they buzzed us in to the large visit room. There was a table stretched the full length of the room so it was divided in half. The inmates were on one side and the visitors we on the other. Glass divided the table and ran about shoulder height when I was standing. I was able to pass the baby over for a hug, but one of the officers who were sitting in elevated desks around the room stepped in after just few seconds and the baby had to come back to me. I sat the baby on my side of the table, and she showed off her superb raspberry blowing skills and banged on the glass with her chubby little hands. After ten or so minutes, the guard told me the baby had to be on my lap. From there, she was only visible from the nose up.

The parent apologized for their bad choices and expressed a desire to parent and pursue reunification. They told me the plan was to get out of jail in early January, although that was not the story I heard form the caseworker or the baby's attorney. They asked me to send them Tshirts, socks, and a towel. I tried to keep the conversation on the baby and what she's been up to, but they didn't seem interested. After 30 minutes, the parent ended our visit (it was scheduled for an hour) by saying, "You can go if you want. I know the baby is sick." (She wasn't sick, she was drooly and had a clear runny nose from teething- which I already explained). So I left.

While I was emptying our locker, I noticed the kiosk for depositing money into inmate accounts. I thought about what not having a towel would be like in jail, and decided to put money in the parent's account. I felt good about it because the parent didn't ask for money, and if they weren't in jail, I would have purchased gifts from the baby to send to the visit anyway. So I put $40 on the account before we left.

We were home by 8:30am. It was pretty painless. I can look at my daughter with a clear conscious knowing I did what I thought was right for her and her family on her first Christmas.

The Saturday after Christmas, I received a call from the parent in jail asking for Tshirts, socks, and a towel. I told them I put money in their account for that stuff. They said, yes, they had received the money and greatly appreciate it, but still need those items. Sigh, sometimes there's nothing you can do that is enough. Stomach bugs, colds, and pink eye have taken over our house since Christmas. I have a daughter on a ventilator (that the parent knows about) as well as 2 other children. My husband works during the hours that the jail is open to visitors. I can not drop everything and run some shirts to jail. I did buy them though. We'll see if the parent really does get out this week. If not, I'll plan to take the baby back for a visit and bring those items with me.

If I was worried about "being used" or who deserves what, I would have a very hard time giving again after Christmas Eve. I have to keep focused on what is best for Baby 9. It is best for her to have her parent be well. I can't make someone stop using drugs or committing crimes. I can't make them be a suitable parent. However, I can make sure their feet are warm and their skin is dry after a shower. I can do that pretty easily. I won't drop everything and run when they call, but I will schedule time to be the support that they need right now.

My closing thought on the jail visit is that Baby 9 did awesome with it. I truly believe that is because I was there. I am her constant. I am her primary caregiver. If I'm there and I'm smiling while we sit in a weird smelling room with a ton of strangers, she's going to be OK with that. I think the visit would have gone way different if I would have just let the caseworker handle the visit, and sent baby after the New Year with the caseworker who she only sees 2x/month to go to jail. Jail visits aren't my "job" per se, but Motherhood really has an open ended description. We just do what our kids need us to. I would encourage someone else in my shoes to never make their children go to jail without them.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

This is us

I'm feeling fresh and inspired so far in 2014. My New Year's resolution is to blog more. Get excited..

I thought I'd kick us off with a little catch up post to get everyone familiar again:

Me: 2013 kicked my butt every which way but up. I got stuck in the grief of losing Baby 7 and 8. It was very isolating. I watched other people lose children to illness this year, and their process was so much different from mine. Other people came out and grieved with them. There were ceremonies, meal trains, and shared memories. No one else around me knew the twins or really understood why I was so broken. There was no good time to talk about it. So many people still don't know, but the experience factors into who I am now and how I live- so sometimes I don't make sense to bystanders. I have taken my role as caregiver to my medically complex daughter very seriously, and I'm still learning to balance being Mommy with being Advocate /MMA fighter. The behaviors of our oldest have shaken my confidence as a parent, which has turned out to be a blessing in the end. I'm learning to accept that I'm not good enough and can not  muster enough control on my own to heal my children. Only Jesus can make them whole. Only Jesus can take what I have to offer in the way of love and determination, and turn it into everything my children need. It's not my job to be everything. It's my job to introduce them to the God that made them and loves them. Realizing I'm not good enough has been very freeing.

This is us. With babies 2 & 3!!

Brandon: I honestly can't say much for Brandon. He was laid off in the beginning of the year, and then found 2 jobs that he couldn't pick between, so he took them both. He loves our kids. He bought us all head lamps when the power went out in December. Unfortunately we don't see much of him around here. His resolution this year is to get settled in a less ridiculous schedule. His prospects are looking up.

Baby 4: Is doing awesome in the small Christian school we started him in last year. He is completely de-classified, and in general education with no services. His academics are on par. The teacher said she would place him smack dab in the middle of the class for reading and math skill. He's working on his behavior and constant talking. Right now he maintains a steady job of shoveling snow to pay off a broken window that occurred in November. Visits are still the same as they have been forever. We go to court in January where the plan is to adjourn the case until February.
Our Power Ranger, Boots, and Dora the Explorer

Baby Girl: Just turned 2!! My how time flies. She is taking a few steps independently. Using American Sign Language to communicate. She has around 20 signs, and is picking up everything we show her. We are going to be trying hearing aids later this month, but ASL will still likely be her primary language. That means we're all learning ASL!! We've gotten a lot of bad news about her health in the past few months, but she is feeling fine on a day to day level. It's more the long term stuff that's scary. She's back on oxygen and her ventilator 24/7 which was a huge step back from just being on the vent at night with no oxygen over the summer. We have 5 nurses that come into our home 16hrs/day to help care for her. They are awesome, but it is a huge adjustment to have someone in your home all the time. Baby Girl has gotten used to one on one attention from adults, and it leaves us worried about how that will complicate her life when they are gone. She has Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Special Ed, Teacher for the Deaf, and Speech Therapy at the house 5 days/week- leaving limited room for all her princess duties like stealing 4's toys, getting into the dog food, or emptying the Tupperware drawer.

Baby 9: Is a firecracker!! She just turned 8 months old and is: cruising along furniture, climbing steps, self weaned to table food, saying "Dada", "Hey!", "Ah Ma" (that would be my name), giving kisses, clapping, and waving bye-bye. She's wearing 18 month clothes, and has enough hair for two tiny whale spout pigtails. She's the sweetest little cuddlebug. She's super sensitive and her feelings get hurt pretty easily- but her sad, pouty lip face when you've told her no or taken a small object out of her hand before she gets it in her mouth is the cutest thing around. I literally might eat her up like I threaten to all the time because she's so stinkin' cute. Her situation is really up in the air. Everything was chugging right along towards reunification until just about Thanksgiving. Now she is definitely staying for a while and possibly forever- with the understanding that could all change again whenever. She went from no visits, to 6 weekly visits including overnights, to no visits again. She's so resilient, but I wish she didn't have to be.

This is us. Keep an eye out of more posts. I'm feeling hopeful... This is our year!