Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On difficult phases of motherhood

I know you are there
Catching carrying this beautiful mess 
Sixpence None the Richer - Within a Room Somewhere

I was trying to rally up energy to make dinner after a draining day and went to put on some music.  Usually my go-to mood-lifter is a playlist that has poppy music with female vocals.  But my soul was a bit thirstier than that.  I wondered if I could find my old playlist that I made for being in labor with Dinosaur, then updated with a few more songs for Rhinoceros's birth.  I made the playlist to listen to in labor, and I did, but then I continued listening to them during the newborn days.  For Dinosaur, neither of us knew how to breastfeed, and I was calling the lactation consultant making and canceling appointments a few times in a row.  I spent most of my day sitting in the glider in our room, trying to wake him or reposition him or something to make this all work better.  My life felt like it was falling apart, and I felt lost.  I was so tired, yet hormones or anxiety or a combination kept me from sleeping, so when I went to take a nap that wouldn't happen, instead I would lie down and listen to these songs.

I feel almost as lost with Cricket and the state of our family.  I imagined difficulties fostering, but I didn't imagine them exactly like this.  When I am with the kids, I am on alert constantly.  I can't assume that since they're playing fine this minute that it will be fine if I walk away.  Even when I am watching, somehow someone is getting hurt and all parties are looking at me like I should have been able to stop it, and I agree with them.  And sometimes there's no calming Cricket's sad, awful storm, and we all look at each other with pained eyes as we wait it out.  It wears me down, and I feel lost from my usual self.

I grapple for bits of control.  My previous post was all about what I'm trying.  Carrying out plans helps me refocus.  But at the end of the day, when I'm wondering what happened to the mother I thought I was, these songs are helping me remember that I did not stay lost.  I became the mother I am today because of those awful days that I cried, staring at my newborn baby, wondering how on earth I could go on like this.  And now I am becoming a different kind of mother, with God's help the mother that Cricket needs, at least in some ways.  And from there I can be a mother to more and more.  And from here I can be a mother who depends more on God, like I should, because I'm too desperate to have any other choice.

Psalm 139:7-12
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Another quote indicating the state of our household

"Can we get a baby instead?"

And some words including "hate."  This is so hard.

I'm trusting God to take care of all three children better than I can on my own or with B.  He gave us a year that Dinosaur and Rhinoceros adjusted to our foster children so easily that it was strange.  He gave us a year to learn the system a bit before these challenges.  He has called us, so he has prepared us, even though my heart sinks when I hear and watch the boys' reactions to Cricket.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

My Dora!

"Stop talkin' to my Dora!"

This quote by Cricket to Rhinoceros, who was merely trying to answer Dora's insistent questions, gives a good example of the competitive and possessive climate in our home right now.

Friday, September 26, 2014


I am very much being stretched as a parent.  We had some bad days, then a couple of pretty good days, now today was very difficult again.

Here are several things that just don't work in our household anymore that I depended on:
  • screen time captivating the attention of all children
  • lots of unstructured play time
  • pretty loose supervision
  • internet breaks for me here and there
I'm trying to address the most difficult times of the day: mornings before school and after nap time.  The best times are outings out of the house, and nap time and evenings go all right.  I think after nap time is going a little better.  Our current plan of attack is go immediately to snack with puppet role-play as Cricket starts to perk up, and then sensory play.  I have never done role-play with my kids, but they are loving it and practicing positive behavior.  I haven't seen it trickle over to the actual situations they deal with, but let's just hope it does with more time.  Heck, if it never does, at least I hear some nice words while they have finger puppets on their fingers.  Then sensory play seems to be a good way for them to parallel play, though I still need to intervene on sharing some things.

As for mornings, I just made up a 15-minute increment schedule with clip art.  They want to play in the morning, but it's the kind of loud play that draws in the other kids, who are either supposed to be doing something else or who can't resist the potential for conflict.  Or if I try an assembly line to get all the morning prep done in stages for all kids simultaneously, they are in each others' faces way too much.  So, I bought some kid headphones and I'm giving each kid a designated time to listen to a book on CD.  Here's hoping this helps.

I read The Connected Child from the library once, but I've picked up my own copy to pore over now.  I become more and more concerned that there is more to Cricket's story than her official reason for removal, which didn't sound like much.  Or she is having an exceptionally difficult time settling some other reason.  Or this is the way it always is for toddlers separated from their families, and I'm just naive.

So, I'm using all the ideas I can.  I have to pour into these difficulties with ideas and effort, but I know I also need to breathe and surrender control.  But it feels like there's so much at stake.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The end of a visit

 It's after office hours at the end of the visit, so Cricket's mom and the case aid come outside to the three waiting foster parents.  An infant bucket seat is transferred.  Cricket stands alone, and I take her hand.  She asks me to pick her up.

A few instructions, comments, and questions are given to all three families.  The kids wait quietly.

Cricket's mom gives a kiss goodbye to the older sister.  I lean Cricket in for a kiss goodbye.  But unfortunately, we walk off the same direction, so I can tell it hasn't sunk in for Cricket that she's going home with me, not her mom.

After several steps, we part ways, and she cries.  She cries a cry I will never forget, one I have heard several times by now.  She doesn't struggle to get free, but she reaches for her mommy as she walks her walk away.  Of course Cricket's mom is looking back at her child, helpless.  What can any of us say in that eye contact?  How does she stop herself from running back for one more kiss?  I am sure every nerve in her body wants to run to her daughter and take her out of my hands and run away.

Cricket is still crying in the car.  Still crying on the way home.  As I get out her dinner, she points to mandarin oranges and says she wants them.  Not part of the dinner plan, but of course she can have them.  She eats dinner while sitting in my lap.  I assign B to the other two and take time just to stick by Cricket, promising myself I'll give the boys one-on-one time sometime this weekend.

I intend to wind her down with some books, but it's clear she's tired.  My voice breaks a few times while reading a book of prayers for children, thinking about how her cares that are so much heavier than they should be for any child.  I'm trying to establish a bedtime routine that involves me saying goodnight and walking away just for five minutes or less, though she protests.  But I couldn't do it tonight.  I needed to stay by her side.  For her?  For me?  Many times I swear she's fallen asleep by the sound of her breathing, only to open my eyes to see hers looking back at me.  But it doesn't take extremely long tonight.

Lots of little things went wrong today or chipped away at my patience.  But that cry cut through my own issues, my own fears, my own blaming myself, and just told me to stop my thoughts and love this girl whose heart is breaking over and over.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lesson Learned: Get that doctor visit in

It's not like I didn't try to get a doctor visit in quickly.  Here's how it happened for this placement:

Day 1: Child placed in our home
Day 5: Home visit with caseworker was supposed to happen but cancelled
Day 6: Home visit, find out the clinic where Cricket has gone to a doctor, but not the actual name of the doctor.
Day 8: Call clinic to schedule an appointment and told to deliver or fax paperwork before scheduling appointment.  Intend to drop off paperwork on a day clinic is open, but I'm overwhelmed with our family's adjustment, and I just can't do it.
Day 12: B faxes paperwork.  Clinic is supposed to call within two days.
Day 14: No call from clinic.
Day 15: Cricket needs to go to the ER, and I am kicking myself for not having more medical and information and history that I would have gotten from the initial doctor visit.

There are some weekends in there that spaced it all out.  No one seemed to blame me, but I just really wish I had seen her doctor before I was bringing her to the ER.  Next time, I'm going to ask who the doctor is when I am scheduling the home visit with the caseworker.  I had it on my list of questions to ask at the home visit, but I shouldn't wait.

Thankfully, Cricket is stable now and just needs to get through this virus.  And our wonderful neighbor took Dinosaur and Rhinoceros.  I only asked her to take Dinosaur for half an hour then watch him get on the bus for school, but she offered to take Rhinoceros.  That made what could have been an unbearable morning just a busy morning.  It was even a blessing I could have lots of time blocked off to cuddle Cricket.

Check that off my parenting experience list: I have now taken a child to the ER.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

He makes me lie down

We continue with a serious mix of discouraging things we see and encouraging things.  So much of it is normal for a child this age and normal for a child this age who has just been separated from her family.  However, it is still a new and challenging experience to us as Cricket has joined our family.

Discouraging: Cricket still needs one of us in the room to fall asleep most of the time.
Encouraging: She is not waking up at night (unless you define 5:30 am as night). 
Discouraging: There is lots of senseless arguing between Cricket and Rhinoceros (YES! NO! YES! NO!.. and they have no idea what the topic is).
Encouraging: They are starting to separate a bit more as needed instead of both clinging to my ankles/lap at all times.  Rhinoceros just figured out how to happily ride his trike around in circles, and that couldn't have come at a better time.
Discouraging: Lots of sadness around nap time and bedtime.
Encouraging: She no longer cries to eat every time she is upset.
Discouraging: The tears when I leave to go anywhere break my heart.
Encouraging: She goes to bed well for B when he handles bedtime for all 3 on his own.
Discouraging: Along with grabbing toys, there's more hitting, biting, and pushing than the first week.
Encouraging: She will sit for "time-in" and talks about what she did.  Rhinoceros hasn't been taking the cue to hit her back so far.

Sadly, the toddlerwearing approach from my last post may be on hold.  My back has been hurting from sitting or lying by Cricket's bedside for longer periods of time.  Those long times try my patience, as they always have with babies, especially if I can't just watch TV to pass the time.

Sometimes I've been reading by the hallway light, but she really does seem to stay still best if I am lying still on the floor next to her bed.  So, I try to remember to use that time to pray for her, her family, the caseworker, the judge, each person in our family, etc. etc.  I remember that these sacrifices of time are important to her and more important than what I want to be doing with that time.

Our pastor gave a great talk once about Psalm 23:2 - "He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters."  He told about when he was a young man, he was trying to do everything and thought he was invincible: he could be a student, work several jobs, and sleep too little.  He took pride in how he could take on so much unlike others that couldn't handle it.  Until one day when he had an accident in one of the jobs due to his exhaustion that cut off part of one of his fingers.  It was a wake-up call that was God "making him lie down" because he wouldn't be humble enough to rest as he needed.

So, I don't want to lie down from 12:30-1:30 in the afternoon, or from 5:30-6:30 am, not sleeping but listening to the rustlings of a tired child who can't quite settle.  I want to be doing work for my job that has to be done at home.  I want to cross of my to-do list of phone calls and e-mails for appointments, sitters to cover child care for appointments.  I want to be connecting with the outside world via the internet.  I want control of my time.  I even thought through this blog post as I was lying down and still I was incredibly irritated to be lying there tonight because it's not how I wanted things to go.

But He makes me lie down.

I tell God, how can I spend time with Him during these constant changes of routine?  I open my Bible at breakfast, but I have three voices talking at me.  Every day is all over the place.

He makes me lie down, and I can be still, and be with Him.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Babywearing and fostering

This week?  It's been intense.  Different than first foster placement intense, different than withdrawing newborn intense, but seriously intense.

I gave a Facebook call out to my friends of ideas of getting my new crew of three to and from Dinosaur's bus stop twice a day.  I was thinking Cricket and Rhinoceros combined would be too big for our double stroller, but I tried it today and it worked all right.  Other days, I pulled them in a wagon, which Cricket now wants to pull with me as she walks.  She is so, so opposite of my boys in some ways.  I have never had a "do it myself" kid, and while it can be a pain, it is so refreshing to have a child eagerly insist on walking.  I swear it has never happened in this household.

One idea suggested, from a friend probably imagining a smaller child than Cricket's size, was to wear her in a baby carrier.  I laughed a bit, as I had never carried my other two at this size, but it made me pause.  I do have a sturdy and trusty mei tai (like this one but a different pattern).  I know that children who have gone through trauma and separation need attention as if they are younger than their age, so as Cricket's clinginess increased throughout the week, I gave it a shot and put her on my back.  She was a fan, and the kitchen floor got swept.  The second time I tried it, she was a little more wiggly, but it was still totally doable for twenty minutes or so.  Not really uncomfortable or a strain on my back at all, just tiring if I had to crouch to get something.

B did suggest I not call it a backpack (she likes backpacks) or she may tell someone I put her a backpack for twenty minutes at a time.  Might be a bit confusing.

Every child we've had in our home has been in that mei tai or my Moby wrap.  Every time it felt so good to have them close.  There is little I love more than a snuggly baby in a carrier.  I think with Cricket I almost need to set an alarm to remember to try out some carrying time.  I am getting so caught up in the constant attention the kids are asking of me that I forget to try another approach, rather than try to decide if this time I'm going to carry her up the stairs or not, or if this time I'm going to separate them so they'll stop yelling at each other.

Breathe.  Try new things.  Forgive myself.  Breathe.  Try again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

An hour in Cricket's room

Cricket has only fallen asleep in her room by herself once so far, as the rest of the times we've found it better to rock her to sleep or sit by her bedside.  So, I rocked her for three songs, then sat by her bedside, then sat by the door for over an hour and just let her know I was still there.  I told her I'd come back in a few minutes a few times, and I did, but she was distracted by peeking out the door to check if I was nearby, so I've decided it's best to stay in the room with her most of the time.  It's a mostly pleasant time when I can be patient enough to appreciate it.

In that time she:
  • neatly laid out a quilt on the floor several times (not the donated quilt given to her at the shelter, but a baby quit my friend made for me years ago that she prefers), sometimes lying down on it, sometimes wrapping it around herself like a cape.
  • attempted to fiddle with the buttons on an unplugged swing
  • flipped through several books
  • put on a headband
  • stacked shapes on a stacker toy
  • lay on her stomach on the glider (this is when I rocked her a bit more and she finally fell asleep)
  • and the tearjerker: sang "Tomorrow" from Annie to herself.  It was the first time I'd heard her do that, and so I sang it to her a few times.
Sweet girl, she's a trooper.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Lesson Learned: Hair Care

If you think you might not be great at hair care for ethnic backgrounds different from your own, and you have trouble learning things without being physically shown, do not assume you can learn it all from the internet.  Do not assume that asking advice will be enough.  Ask someone to come help you.  Before the birth mom sees her daughter and tells you as her first words to you, "You don't know what to do with her hair, do you."

I thought I tried, or at least that it wasn't THAT bad.  I should have known to ask for more help.  I'm not even good at white girl hair.  My hair has been short for over a decade, and I have two sons.  I went home and sent a message to an adoptive mom that I think can help or at least point me to someone.  If that falls through, I know someone else who offered to help in the past, but I have to find her number again.

Between that and having to practically pry Cricket from her mom's arms to leave, with her wailing all the way out of the office, I am feeling low, small, and crushed in spirit.

Thank God I went to church on Sunday and was preached the truth about insecurities and having a spirit of fear.  I'm speaking those truths to myself over and over.  And just calling His name, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Phone calls

When Cricket arrived, I was able to find out the caseworker from our agency assigned to her.  I e-mailed the caseworker the Google voice number I'd used with Caterpillar's mom.  She passed it on to Cricket's mom, and I got a call right away.  Oh, the heartbreak.  Every few minutes the conversation breaks into crying on her side.  When she's telling me her daughter is a really good girl.  When she's telling me her daughter likes to play with her baby brother, who isn't in our home.  When she's telling me she loves her kids, she just made a mistake, and she wishes she could change it had she known.  What can you say?

She asked if we would say the Lord's prayer with Cricket each night, and we said we were Christians.  So, now I've been reassuring her that we pray with Cricket, and we are also praying for her.

Cricket is one of three siblings.  Separated into three foster homes.  I can't write about it too much as it's just killing me to think about.  The phone calls have been very reassuring to Cricket's mom, but I'm afraid that by comparison, one of the other foster homes is really worrying her, because she's heard nothing from them or about them.  She said she didn't understand why we couldn't have the baby with us, too.  What can I say?  I said we are licensed for one foster child.  I didn't go into how B and I go back and forth about two foster children and what we can handle.  For a desperate, worried mom, I'm sure our explanation would be meaningless.  I'll just have to repeat that we're licensed for one child, that weak but vague statement, because I've got nothing else I can say to her.

Cricket's mom asked to speak with Cricket, which I hadn't even thought about.  I said I had to check with the caseworker.  Caseworker okayed it, so now Cricket and her mom have talked on the phone once per day.

Have you ever seen a toddler talk on the phone?  Mine are always mostly mystified.  She whispered some answers, but she was not so sure about it all.  I know her mom was getting anxious when she only heard silence.  But today's call was a little better, with Cricket approaching the phone with excitement and speaking a little more clearly.  I've learned she likes to hold the phone herself, when I'd been holding it out to her (with it on speaker phone).

It is so much better to have these calls in the lag time.  We'll see what sort of communication pattern we get into as this week we have a home visit and start visits.

Friday, September 5, 2014

My plans, God's plans

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

It's no big surprise.  Plan things out for your family, and God will show you the true plan.

We were certain that by limiting our age range to six months younger than our youngest biological child, we were preserving the birth order.  No "virtual twins" for us.  Not that virtual twins are a bad choice for others, but they were not in our plan.

Well, our new gal Cricket is one year younger than Rhinoceros, but they are virtual twins.

I would bet money that no stranger could pick out that he is one year older.  They are the same size, and she is faster and stronger.  She is a big sister and acts accordingly.  She is also more of a "do it myself" personality than he is, so that makes her seem older as well.

When Rhinoceros met her, I picked him up from a friend's house and put him in the car.  She was asleep in the car seat, and he talked on and on about the baby.  I tried to explain to him that she is not a baby, but I believe that she's in the same convertible car seat as our foster babies established that she was a baby.

Today, when Cricket wants to tell Rhinoceros what's up, she's been calling him Baby.  "Baby, that's mine!"

So, we have two toddlers, both convinced that they are not the baby in the household.  So much for my birth order plans.  God, weren't You supposed to send us a meek wide-eyed little toddler?  One that Rhinoceros could be a helper and leader with?

But I trust that He has prepared us in ways we don't know.  And I trust she is with us for a reason.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Well, that was quick.

Just three days into being on the list for placements, we got a call for a 2-year-old girl.  She's now sleeping upstairs.

I went straight from a work meeting to pick her up from a shelter.  I'm not sure why we didn't get a call last night to prevent her from going to the shelter.  She was happy and doing her thing at the shelter, then fell asleep on the ride home, then when I woke her up, she was not so happy.  Not sobbing, but it took her awhile to smile again, and explore and check out the toys.  Somewhere in there were the words that stopped me cold.

"Go buh-bye?"

I know, honey.  I know you want to go buh-bye.  I know you're so lost and confused.  I know you miss your mama and your siblings.

I'm sure for a toddler placement, the first evening went quite well.  She ate.  She didn't want to go to bed, but let me rock and cuddle her, and she was asleep after an hour with minimal crying.

But it's still so, so sad.  You can see it in her face, hear it in her voice, in a way that you couldn't with our infant placements.

Plus, we're buckling up for our family adjusting to a walking, talking foster child.  She is a year younger than Rhinoceros, but they're the same size.  She also seems much more independent than my kids at her age.  It'll shake us up quite a bit, I think.

I'm glad we can be here for her.  But I am worn out and need some sleep before tomorrow's adventures begin.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

First Day September 2014 - After vacation, before school

Some Labor Days we BBQ with friends or family or go to the beach.  This Labor Day followed a long camping trip, we really just needed a day of GSD mode (Get Shit Done), from nightlight surgery to car repairs to groceries to getting school uniforms ready.  But we did fit in some family games, and I got to start and end the day with a good book.

And though they weren't on the first, two vacation pictures because I like them.