Friday, December 27, 2013

Goodbye traditions: plans and reality

Merry Christmas!  A week ago we said our goodbyes to Pterodactyl, then left the next morning for Canada.  We spent Christmas with B's family, busy with the boys' little cousins, a little playing in the snow, a lot of church.  Pterodactyl never came with us on a trip there, so it felt mostly normal to be there with just the two boys.  I did miss her, and felt an emptiness at the way it sometimes felt like she had never been a part of our family.  We came home to a message that all was well with her placement with her grandma, and she will stay there as an official move.  So, I'm relieved that she won't have the back-and-forth I'd feared, but it's still a little unreal.  I kept thinking today that I should be taking her to her Friday morning visit.  Last night I found myself almost asking B if he had brought up the bottles for nighttime feedings.  It was a seven-month-old habit.

I thought I'd write up some ways we were intentional about our first goodbye, the plans and the reality.

Visual Reminders
I wanted to have visual reminders that Pterodactyl was a part of our family and borrowed two ideas that I liked.  A good friend of mine that's a foster parent made small canvas squares painted bright colors with a handprint done in white.  I had all the supplies ready back in November when I thought she was moving, and there they sat for two months.  So, last Friday I rushed to get it all ready, and Dinosaur wanted to be involved in the painting and choosing of colors.  Maybe I should have asked my friend what paint she used, as ours turned out a little more rough and sloppy.  I still like them, though now I'm thinking of redecorating the nursery so that a random selection of colors blends in a little better.  Left is Dinosaur, middle is Rhinoceros, and right is Pterodactyl.

Our other visual reminder idea comes from Karen at Nuggets from the Nut House: buying two Christmas ornaments, one to go with the child and one to decorate the tree for years to come to remember each foster child placed with us.  Hallmark happened to have the perfect ornament this year for Pterodactyl and her lovely chocolate skin.  I found it sometime in November and planned to get around to going to a store and picking it up, only to find that one should not wait for Hallmark ornaments.  Suddenly they were out of stock online, and as I called around, five local stores were sold out.  I found one with two remaining ornaments and made sure the clerk put them aside for me to pick up ASAP.  What I didn't expect with this tradition is how it would help my bio kids process the goodbye.  I showed Dinosaur how we wrapped up one ornament to go with Pterodactyl and open with her grandma.  Then I told him when Pterodactyl is older and asks about the ornament, her grandma could tell her about us and how we loved her and took care of her.  I can't promise that this will actually happen, but Dinosaur soaked it up and seemed very comforted by the possibility.

I planned to have a photobook of Pterodactyl to give to her grandma (and print an extra for us to keep), and a family picture of us including Pterodactyl taken close to when she moved.  Well, the book is mostly up-to-date, but since we only had a day's notice she was going to her grandma and then went out of town, I still need to finish it and print it.  We did manage a family picture by the Christmas tree, but we had to use the camera on a timer and ended up with one with the flash that makes us look a bit washed out and scary, and one without the flash in which I'm blurry.  Oh well, they'll do.

Goodbye Celebration
We hoped to invite friends and my brother and sister-in-law (the only family that lives nearby) over to have a little goodbye open house with dessert and a chance to see Pterodactyl before she moved.  Yeah, this didn't happen due to short notice.  I've had to just send e-mail updates with pictures and that will have to be enough.  Most did know that anytime they saw her in the past two months could be the last, so I don't think anyone was blindsided by it.  I think a party would have been good for Dinosaur and Rhinoceros to understand what was happening, though.

Taking a Day Off
We had hoped that we would be able to take a day off when a foster child moved, so that we could all be there for the goodbye and just to make sure we had enough family time.  By coincidence, B had taken the day off because he had some paid days off to use up before the new year, I didn't work that day, and Dinosaur's school was closed because of an ice storm.  So, that made it easy!  We were all there to say goodbye, though I had the boys just say goodbye from the minivan.  Everyone got to give a kiss, and we drove home.  Then the power went out at our house shortly before bedtime, and instead of drowning my mixed emotions in internet and TV, I finished wrapping gifts by lantern light and read with candles and silence.  I didn't know I needed that silence, but it was peaceful.  And I liked imagining that the house was acknowledging something had changed and decided to shut things off for awhile.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A quick... goodbye?


After all was a sure thing Wednesday, and I sent out an update to our families, Thursday night I got home from work and B asked me if I wanted the emotional rollercoaster news or the funny news.  The funny news was that our eccentric neighbor that has been giving us unusual gifts* gave us a ham.

The rollercoaster news was that Pterodactyl's grandma has daycare.  And she's going there for Christmas.

Why did she miss the deadline?  Was it a misunderstanding?  Did it take that much for her to realize she was really losing her granddaughter?  She is going to be making some sacrifices so that she can have her.  I know she loves her, and I know this is right.  I especially think of her biological brothers, who her grandma has adopted.  The oldest especially has been through a lot of loss and trauma.  To have his baby sister as a gift for Christmas... who can argue with that.

The rollercoaster was irritating and stressful, but the way it all went down, my somber mood on Wednesday with the news she was staying turned into a all-out sob later that night, just a catharsis of all the will-she-or-won't-she-go emotions.  So, the actual goodbye news and goodbye were fairly tearless.  I'd already let it out, even if it was for a different reason.  I've had this happen before with work.  Without going into the long stories, three times as a teacher I was laid off, and each time it was a long will-I-have-a-job-or-won't-I saga, changing all the time.  Every time I ended up with a job at the end, but one of the times when my principal told me that news, I just started crying uncontrollably.  Catharsis.  Hey, at least my family is used to such "nevermind!" sorts of updates.

So, the question mark on the goodbye.  The news wasn't that Pterodactyl is moving... yet.  The caseworker's plan was for her to go to Grandma while we were gone, then she would come here for a short time, then she would move there.  After some time to think, we didn't think that the back-and-forth was best for Pterodactyl.  A transition is one thing, but almost a week in a home, then back for a week (or who knows how long), then back to the other home... she can't explain that this makes it more difficult for her, but I know it would. She would just be settling in, then leaving, then leaving again.  So, we asked if she could move right now.  The caseworker said that wasn't possible for agency-related reasons, but when we get back, it would be possible for her to stay there and make the move official then, without coming back to us.  So, that part is still up in the air, but if she's back, it's for a visit.  We decided it was a goodbye.

I'll write more on the day saying goodbye later, but we need to get on the road soon to Canada and the kids are waking up.

*The first was a public-bathroom-sized refill of antibacterial soap.  Like a huge bag that fits in a dispenser.  He said, "With kids, you need a lot of soap!"

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

No goodbye for awhile

The Call the Supervisor strategy certainly got things going.  Not only did work start on travel plans, but Pterodactyl's grandma was given a deadline to get child care in order, since this transition was weeks past the original plan. 

She didn't meet the deadline.  Pterodactyl stays here.

Lots of emotions here.  I'm disappointed that she's not with her biological family (more besides just the grandma) for this reason.  That disappointment can flare up as anger if I let it.  I'm worn out from spending most of this placement thinking she was going to move there.  I'm fearful of the future, because somehow knowing she was moving to a relative soon was safer than the possibility that she could be with us for a very long time and then leave.  Her case has a goal of reunification and I predict it'll be a long and messy one.  I'm happy, entertaining thoughts that I'd shelved to the back of my mind as improbabilities: celebrating Christmas with her, using Spanish around her and maybe having my first bilingual baby, getting professional pictures of her

I think it all simmers together to set a somber mood for me.  If the news today was that she was leaving Friday, I would have been sad and heartbroken, but also swept up in the activity of having her move and planning a goodbye party.  Part of me would have felt relieved.  Instead, it all feels a bit deflated.  I think contributing to this is that her mom had a complete no show for her visit, which is unusual for her, and when I got all the news about the grandma from the social worker, she was coming out of a meeting with a mom who was sobbing.  Foster care just seemed to suck today.

Now, time for Christmas.  I don't have the necessary documents in hand yet, and will be nervous until I do, but we do have bmom's permission and the judge's permission.  Most of my in-laws haven't met Pterodactyl yet and didn't expect to.  Should be a holiday full of discussion.

Dinosaur, our kindergartener, has his Christmas program tonight.  After foster care, his school is my second big recipient of my cheerleading, as we intentionally chose our neighborhood city school to swim against the strong current of city parents sending their kids to charter, private, and suburban schools.  I believe in his school, and I've been looking forward to seeing him in something like this since we decided to send him there.  I can't wait to cheer him on as well as his classmates and teachers.  Should be something to lift the somber mood a bit.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Foster care dream

I had my first foster care dream last night (or this morning, as I caught a little more sleep between when Pterodactyl went back to sleep at 5:30 and when I had to get up at 7:00).  I was with Pterodactyl at her visit, sitting on the floor of the visit room while her mom held her.  Her mom had a friend with her, too, and they were just chatting with each other.  I chimed in now and then, and it was an atmosphere that was a little awkward but happy.  For whatever reason, I didn't have Rhinoceros with me like I usually do, and after a little while I left the visit room and was using a computer in one of the cubicles of the agency.  Then the CW that helped lead our initial foster care training came up to me and told me that she thought at first I wouldn't be a good foster parent because I was too much like a father figure (no, this didn't make sense) but now they were so glad I was with them.

So, a little weird, but overall a nice foster care dream, I'd say.

Compare to reality: Pterodactyl did have a visit today, and we headed on our way on snowy, icy roads.  I heard my cell phone ring and pulled over to listen to the message.  Her mom had cancelled earlier this morning, but didn't communicate it the way she was supposed to, so I was just finding out now.  We turned around and headed home.  I was grateful I didn't have to drive up and down the treacherous hill to the agency's parking lot, but sad for Pterodactyl and worried about her mother.  She didn't have any visits the week of Thanksgiving because we traveled with her, then last week her mom cancelled both.  Part of me is full of anger, unable to understand how someone would choose not to see their baby for two-and-a-half weeks.  Part of me knows what her mom struggles with, that she's not in a good place, and that she needs our prayers.

Still waiting for any information about her move to her grandma.  We leave for Canada for Christmas on the 21st.  I'm desperately trying to make things happen so that she is either with her grandma before then, or we have permission to take her with us, but it's completely out of my control besides bugging people about it.  I'm waiting until the end of the day for a reply from one person, and if I don't get one, tomorrow will have to be my first Call the Supervisor experience.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Strange season

Second verse, same as the first.  Pterodactyl is here, bumps in the road, we wait.

She came with us to visit my family out-of-state for a few days.  I don't know if it was intentional or not, but almost no one in my family talked about her leaving.  I actually appreciated that.  I don't think it's good to be in denial, but after everyone I talk to gives me a pitying face or tears up at the mention of her leaving our home after being raised by us from birth, it was refreshing.  We could just enjoy being together.  They helped us out in chasing and holding all our kids.  It was nice.  Plus, she did well on the trip there and back, which is a miracle.

She's slipped into our holiday traditions most of the time.  With a baby, there's no worries about what she expects during the holidays, so that's easy enough.  So, I didn't think she'd really be a part of things.  But she is, as she sits in her high chair eating prunes while we eat a turkey dinner.  And now I wore her in a carrier to pick out a Christmas tree, just like I had for my boys, snuggled close to me on a chilly afternoon.  She noticed the sudden presence of lights in our living room as we decorated the tree.  She looked at our faces intently as we sang a nightly Christmas carol by the tree before bedtime.

And yet, she's not on our Christmas card.  I'm starting to regret not including her name even though I couldn't include her photo.  My thought process was that I really thought she would have moved by now and it would be confusing.  To who, I don't know, since most people I'd send cards to get e-mail updates about how fostering is going.

Then I wonder if I'm doing enough of the Christmas traditions that her family would appreciate, especially as she's still with us so close to the holidays.  We don't do Santa visits, but maybe a first picture with Santa would be important to her mom or her grandma.  Or maybe they don't her to have that until they can be there for it.  I'm thinking I should get her a first Christmas ornament, and if her grandma wants to get her one later, I guess she could have two.

None of these details are that important, but they run through my head.   They're probably just a part of my processing that she'll be gone.  I wish I could replace them with more productive thoughts, like praying for her mom.  She needs it; things are not good right now.  She needs a miracle, the hope of a savior.  Don't we all.