Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thanks for everything

I know I should expect zero gratitude from birth parents.  It makes complete sense.  I shouldn't hope for reunification because it will make me feel good that I did a good job as a foster parent/mentor.  I should hope for reunification because it keeps families together.

I haven't even had it rough.  The worst I've had in our cases is some persistent advice that I can't take, being ignored, or being talked about behind my back.  I wouldn't blame a birth parent that yelled at me, but it hasn't happened yet.

And yet, when I read a text that says, "Thanks for everything," it stops me in my tracks.  My heart skips a beat.  My love language is words, words, words.

I know I can't do this completely right.  But it gives me hope that some of the love I'm trying to show is peeking through.

Pterodactyl is 1

"It's Pterodactyl's birthday today!"*

This was the first thing Dinosaur said when he woke up.  B asked if he missed her sometimes, to which Dinosaur replied he did, and B said, "I... think about her sometimes, too."  Haha, B is not the sentimental type with babies, which is fine, because I'm sentimental enough for the both of us.

She's also a big sister.  I heard through the grapevine that the twins were born.  I wonder how things might have been different if her grandma had decided to stop accepting placement of her daughter's children before Pterodactyl rather than after.  She would still be with us and we would be in some sort of long-term case.  We wouldn't have had Beetle or Caterpillar.

I think about Pterodactyl a lot lately.  Maybe it was the upcoming birthday, or thinking about this season last year when she came to us, or that Caterpillar is at a similar developmental stage as Pterodactyl was when she left.

I can't decide if it's been too long since I've talked to her grandma to ask if we could do respite sometime or a visit at a park.  I just want to give her a hug and see that serious little face.

*Posting this not actually on her birthday for confidentiality.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Crazy at home, a little bit of peace away

Last week I had a WEEK, and I wasn't sure how to post about it without telling more than I'm comfortable about Caterpillar's health.  It had to do with a medication running out before I expected, his mom changing doctors without me being aware of it, and pharmacists questioning the medication he was being prescribed.  Big ole mess, and I literally spent my week on it.  There's not much I dislike more than phone calls that are needed to accomplish something, and there were a lot of them.

It's mostly resolved, but still an ongoing issue.  Medical issues are complicated in foster care, and I know that mine aren't even close to how bad it can be.

I was so ready to get out of town with my family.  We went to visit my parents, and my sister's family came over.  We had travel permission and brought Caterpillar, who was cuddled and loved by all.  He even slept all night there both nights, which is the first baby in my history of motherhood that has ever done that.  Kids still keep us busy, but it was a good break from the speed life had gotten to around here.  Dinosaur and Rhinoceros ran around with their cousins, the weather was great, and we ate lots of good food.  And it was very good to see my mom, especially. After losing her mother in January, it's been a tough year for her.

I'm thankful there were no issues with travel permission.  I called Caterpillar's mom when we got there and when we arrived back.  In spite of my general dislike of the phone, I like these check-ins.  It never feels right to go several days without talking to the mother or father of the child in my care.  Sometimes that's because of their own choice or actions, but sometimes foster parents can initiate regular contact during the gaps.  Even if there's not much to report, it seems right to me.

We'll see what the next week brings.  I still need to follow-up with the medical issues.  Caterpillar's aunt and uncle were in the agency office during one of the visits last week, presumably meeting with the caseworker to look into being relative providers.  Maybe they will pan out, maybe not.  Meanwhile, Caterpillar is drooling up a storm, starting to grab at toys a little more, and being a sweet sweet baby.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me

As I reflect on this past year of my life, I notice that it is the year we started foster care and the year I first noticed grey hairs.  Coincidence?  I think not.

I know I don't have a vast number of readers, but I'm suspicious that beyond the bloggers I know and the internet robots, there might be a few of you lurking there.  So, for my birthday, readers, introduce yourself a little bit in the comments.  What's your connection to foster care?  What's one other fun fact about you?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lessons Learned: WIC

Foster children qualify for WIC, which is especially helpful for infants on formula.  Your own WIC experience may vary, but here's what I learned today at an appointment for Caterpillar: foster families are a "household."  So, even though we qualify specifically on behalf of the child, not our income, the WIC accounts are considered by households.  What this means is that I shouldn't have cut up and thrown out my old card from when I had Pterodactyl, because it can be reloaded with benefits for a different child.  Instead, they wrote down that I lost the card and I look irresponsible.  (Okay, I lose a lot of cards, but I didn't lose that one!)  It also means that it's relevant to say that you have had other foster children on WIC in the past when you call about benefits for subsequent foster kids.  I could have saved some time, as they scheduled me for an appointment designed for foster parents new to WIC.  When they realized this, they cut it short.

Also, they stick very closely to age for the check-ups or whatever you call them, so I have to go back again with Caterpillar even though he was within a couple weeks of the next age milestone.  Had I known that, I probably would have just waited until that appointment to come in at all.

On the bright side, our WIC office is pretty awesome, with toys not just in the waiting room but in the exam rooms.  Rhinoceros thinks it's a fun place to go, and they are pretty helpful and quick.

Also, as a follow-up to Lesson Learned: Pacifier: Caterpillar's mom said she got it from a Pregnancy Resource Center, so she has no idea what brand it is.  Thankfully, he is accepting the Avent Classic ones that are pretty similar.  Thanks, Karen!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

8th Day - At home with Caterpillar

Sorry for the delay; I finally have a phone that takes pictures and it took me awhile to figure out how to get the pictures to a PC.  Also, full disclosure, this was on the 9th day of this month.  I was excited that my collage of pictures for this month would depict the crazy busy-ness of foster care life, plus it was my last day of work for this school year.  Lots to take pictures of!  Except when things are crazy busy, I forget it's a day that I'm supposed to take pictures.  And it's probably for the best, because the crazy busy became extra crazy that day* resulting in a good hard cry at the end of the day.  So, on May 9th, we hung around home most of the day in recovery.  Dinosaur had the day off school, and I convinced him our brief visit to the WIC office was a fun non-school-day outing because they have those bead toys and a fish tank.  Here's our day:

*Our extra crazy, for those that are curious: 1) The remote to the minivan was malfunctioning so that it opened and shut the sliding door constantly except when the engine was running.  To make things worse, I didn't realize it was the remote and this resulted in every errand being very stressful and snapping at my kids "No, not through that door!!  It'll close on you!!!"  Plus, it ruined my plans of what to do during the visit and instead I drove Rhinoceros to a park so I could watch the sliding door open and close for 30 minutes.  2) I was foolish enough to sign up for Teacher Appreciation Week and had an extra trip to school as a result.  With the sliding door opening and closing as I walked away.  3) B was late getting home so I was late to work (he's almost never late, love you dear).  4) It was a bad day in potty training; need I say more.  5) Overall the first full-fledged week of foster care appointments crept up on me like rising water in an enclosed room.  I'm better now.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Killing time during visits

Caterpillar has three one-hour visits per week, and the expectation is that I transport for them (though I do not supervise them).  Our other foster children have had similar visit schedules.  I am very fortunate that these visits usually mesh with my life pretty well when they wouldn't for other people.  In fact, that was one reason in favor of fostering babies and toddlers, as agencies that don't do much transportation for visits have a lot of trouble finding families who are willing to juggle three visits per week.  It works out all right for us because:
  • I live less than ten minutes' drive from the agency.
  • The agency is in a walkable downtown of a city.
  • I like getting out of the house once a day anyway.
  • Because my part-time work hours are in the evening, if I'm not available to transport, B usually is.
  • When visits are scheduled during Rhinoceros's nap time and no other time can be found, the agency is willing to transport at least one way.
So, I thought I'd share what our during-visit time is like lately.  During the school year, I have Rhinoceros with me, and during school breaks, Dinosaur joins us as well.  Some options depend on weather.

Library - One library branch is a short walk from the agency.  We'd make routine visits here anyway, and a little under an hour is about perfect.

Museum - One child-friendly museum is a short walk away as well, so we have a membership and go regularly.

Lunch - Some of our visits have been during lunchtime, so we find a restaurant nearby and try to stretch it out to an hour (a little bit of a challenge with a 3-year-old, but we manage).
Farmer's Market - I wish there was one within walking distance because I hate getting in and out of the car, but it is a short, fun errand that I like to do in the summer.

Other errands - Occasionally we'll run a quick errand, but I try to avoid this because again it means getting in and out of the car so many times.

A snack and a walk - This is a new idea I tried out today.  We picked up a pastry and coffee and crossed the river downtown, then back via two different bridges.  Rhinoceros rode in the stroller some and walked some.

Honestly, I like the structure and miss it when we don't have a child placed with us.  Though our house does get a lot cleaner, and it's nice to stay at the museum for longer than 45 minutes.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Meeting the birth mom by phone

Caterpillar's birth mom gave her phone number to the caseworker to give to me.  After thinking about it for a little while, I wanted to extend some contact over phone.  First, she made the first move, and second, I felt for her.  I always feel pangs of sympathy imagining mothers lying awake at night, not knowing anything about the strangers their babies are with, not able to tell them anything.  Wondering if they know that gas drops help him.  Wondering if they will figure out that she likes her back rubbed to get to sleep.  And this case in particular has had a bumpy start in ways that are not her fault.

There were two obstacles to this phone call.  The first is that I get very anxious about phone calls.  Even if I'm just calling the dentist's office, I get a little sweaty and flustered.  When I've had to make calls in my second language, Spanish, I have to talk myself into calling, literally pep-talking myself out loud sometimes.  I vastly prefer talking in person or by e-mail.  Sometimes I avoid phone calls completely.

The second obstacle is privacy.  Many birth parents would not abuse having information on foster parents, but some would.  With landlines, there is the insecurity of knowing that your address is out there.  I know it differs by areas, but here the address of the foster parents' home is kept confidential.  Then with any kind of phone, you can invite more calls than you bargained for.  Birth parents may have addictions or mental illness (or just desperation from missing their children) that inspire 2 am calls or constant texts, and most other foster parents have advised me against giving out a number.

Then I saw Google Voice suggested and found it to be a great solution.  I'll try to explain it because I didn't get it at first.  You can create a new number.  For outgoing calls, you can type the number on the website and it calls any phone you have set up to be connected to your Google Voice number.  When you answer your phone, it connects to the number you entered on the website.  The person receiving the call sees only the Google Voice number, not your landline or cell number.  Then for incoming calls, any phone you have connected to your Google Voice number rings.  Here's a great feature: there is an option for calls during a certain time to go straight to voicemail.  I set that up from 9 pm to 8 am, and ta-da, no after-hours calls.

So, with the privacy obstacle overcome, I said a few prayers to get past my phone fear, and called Caterpillar's mom.  It was a really positive conversation, and I'm so glad I called her.  I don't know at all where our relationship will go or how this case will go, but I am glad that it started off better than my rushed awkward conversation as I drop off her child for a visit.  I introduced myself as the foster mom taking care of her son, and tried to learn as much as I could of how she has been taking care of him: products, soothing tips, etc.  She was calm and thorough.  Talking at visits and keeping a two-way journal have been mostly positive, but after today, I really want to attempt phone contact with future birth parents.  I want to give my Google Voice number to the worker dropping off the child, because this conversation would have been even better if had happened sooner.

What communication methods have you had with birth parents?  Your good stories, your bad stories?