Friday, January 30, 2015

Words I wasn't sure I'd hear

I heard two things tonight I wouldn't say I never thought I'd hear.  But I certainly wasn't counting on them, and they were pretty impossible to imagine at times.

1. Cricket and Rhinoceros were momentarily happily playing with Duplo blocks next to each other.  Spontaneously, Cricket said, "I love you, Rhinoceros."

2. I had a chat with Dinosaur about Cricket moving soon.
Me: How do you feel about that?
D: In the middle.
Me: What's the good part?
D: Well, I have some good times when Cricket isn't here.
Me: What's the bad part?
D: I want her to be a part of our family all the time.

They seem contradictory, but it makes sense.  Yes, she drives him crazy (and vice versa) and he seems to still wish for a baby instead.  But he also has grown fond of her and feels like she's a part of our family.  Because she is.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Birthday parties

This isn't my usual thing, but anyone who has celebrated a birthday with a foster child ever, please tell me in the comments what you did and if/how biological family members were involved.  I've got a start in planning, but keep second-guessing myself and thinking of other ideas.  Thank you for your help!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sister time

Cricket's sister's visit was mostly fun and quite interesting.  At sibling visits, they were pretty attached at the hip, much more than a 2-year-old and a 7-year-old would usually be.  I wasn't sure how it would go at our house, especially with the two boys thrown into the mix.  Dinosaur's personality can be overwhelming for some kids (has a hard time turning off the silly and tuning into other people), but she seemed to take it in stride and they actually got along really well.  Rhinoceros seemed a bit lost as Cricket wasn't playing her usual games with him, but we found a few things they all played together: playing in the snow, painting snow in containers inside, play-doh, hitting balloons around, drawing with markers.

We've never had a school-aged child stay at our house without their parents there.  Cricket's sister had lots of questions about our house, stuff we were driving by, our family, etc.  She talked about her mom in ways that Cricket doesn't, saying what her mom does with them, telling lighthearted stories of how her mom reacted to things that Cricket did.  She was a candid and energetic, generally fun to have as a part of our family for a day.

But the most interesting thing was to watch Cricket around her.  Cricket takes charge of the kids in our house.  That doesn't mean she always gets her way, but she puts a lot of energy in to seeing if she can get things her way in a sibling situation.  Her sister, however, shuts her down.  I saw her stop mid-protest because her sister was talking!  Unheard of here, seriously.  They even went to bed quietly, with only a few murmurs and whispers to each other before they fell asleep.

Cricket didn't cling to her sister as much as I thought she would, except for when I tried to separate them for a nap as her sister had no interest in lying down mid-afternoon.  That was a NO. GO. for Cricket, triggering abandonment and separation issues and probably shouldn't have been attempted.  But she did go to her sister asking to be picked up as she asks me to pick her up, and she called for her to help wipe in the bathroom.  I tried to tell her that wiping is not her sister's job, that it's hers or a grown-up's.  We also weren't sure if we should bring them all to church, as it felt odd to have Cricket's sister overnight then go to church just to separate her from her sister.  But church on Sundays is a part of her routine, and she brought a dress and asked about it right away.  She seemed comfortable with the idea, and I was pretty sure our church would make her feel at home, so we went for it. 

Cricket has a birthday this month, and I learned yesterday her sister does as well, so we're trying to work out a joint birthday thing for the siblings.  And then, not too long after that hopefully, they'll be living together again and not scrambling to get together among the siblings' three different families.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

When she leaves

It's starting to sink in that Cricket is leaving soon, in a month or so (barring any licensing catastrophe for Gina, but it is looking pretty certain).  We had a sibling visit today before Cricket's sister came to spend the night, and the foster mom of the baby brother is really going to have a hard time letting him go.  Oh honey, I have been there with the babies.  I know how that feels.  But with Cricket, it will be a different transition, deep and difficult in its own way for our family.

I hadn't let it sink in too much that she's leaving because in our tough moments (and there are many of them), I felt guilty that I was clinging to an escape.  I felt guilty for looking forward to an end.  But I know this is only human of me, nothing a normal mother wouldn't feel like when they're up with a newborn: looking forward to an end.

I will miss her probably more than I realize.  I will wish I would have soaked up more of her shining personality, her quick little mind and bold spirit.  I tire of being needed so intensely, but I know my heart has been knit with hers, and it will feel wrong to be apart after months of "can you pick me up" "can you hold me like a baby" and "can you sit in my lap."  Lately she says "I love Mommy and Daddy" to us often and spontaneously.  I will miss how she loves us, even if I wish she would have never needed to live her and love us.

Cricket will go to live with her siblings and have those relationships restored.  She will experience loss by losing our family, and I think it will be especially difficult losing me as the mother figure, but she will also heal in other ways.

But oh, Rhinoceros. I need to start praying more about this transition for him.  He's had a living shadow for the past four months.  There are times they are enemies, times he cried to me, "Why does Cricket bite me?"  And there are times that they have their secret world, their wonderful shared joy of being crazy little people together.  Sometimes they act like one child, and sometimes they absolutely must oppose one another.  Either way, he is really going to feel it when she is suddenly gone.  Who will run to the basement with him and talk about "the darkness," or put on a show with him that no one else understands?  Who will shout that the music is too quiet when he says it's too loud?  He just doesn't have that with Dinosaur.  They have a different kind of sibling relationship.  Cricket may have put him through much more than I imagined, but she has also brought out his social side, his imaginative side, and his assertive side.  Gina brought up today that she'd be happy to keep in touch so that the foster families could still see the kids, and I really hope that can happen this time, for Rhinoceros especially.

He will have loved and lost, without having chosen to love.  I still believe fostering has more benefits than losses for our biological kids, but man, it can be a tough gig for them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Weekend apart

We had a trip out of the country and worked on bringing Cricket as a Plan A.  As we started getting closer to the trip without Plan A being solid, we worked on Plan B.  Plan B worked out to be Cricket staying with her sister's grandmother Gina.*  Cricket's sister lives with Gina, and Gina is becoming licensed so that she can take all three siblings, though only one is biologically related to her.  It became clear that Plan B was better than Plan A anyway, so we went with that.

So, we headed off for time with my in-laws with waterparks, birthday celebrations, and long drives.  Cricket enjoyed a few days in her future home, spending time with her sister, a person extremely important to her.  Our time was one of our busiest trips, just not much down time planned.  Between the frantic pace, long car trips, and extended time in noisy environments, Plan A with Cricket would have been a nightmare.  Even I was crabby and overwhelmed by 3 pm of the second waterpark/hotel day.  I would have had to retreat with her often and just do our own thing, which I would have done, but I'm glad we avoided it overall.  With two kids and two parents, we were able to give Dinosaur and Rhinoceros lots of one-on-one time.  Those two.  Dinosaur fears no waterslide.  He spent the first day just getting in line time after time, riding every single one multiple times.  Rhinoceros clung to me some at first, but found a red water cannon (because anything not the color red is dead to him) and warmed up to the wave pool.

I had B pick up Cricket as she tends to react more emotionally when I am there, but that does mean he wasn't as inquisitive as I would have been, so I'm not sure what all she did.  When I called, Gina said she was sleeping well there and they were having a ton of fun.  Cricket arrived happy and bubbly for about half an hour, then fell apart and cried until bedtime.  This morning, more wailing, more aggression, but once we left the house, she seemed to click back into routine.

Court was today and the caseworker said the move to Gina would be in 30-45 days.  I hope that is the case without much delay, because Cricket really needs to be there soon.  I know it won't be easy, I know Rhinoceros will lose his favorite playmate (even if she is also his worst enemy), and I know Cricket will not understand where we've gone from her life and will be affected by that loss.  But she really needs to be with her sister, and I hope being with her will help her heal.  We're having her sister over here this weekend to give them a bit more time together and to thank Gina for being so flexible with providing respite.  It's our first time having an elementary-school-aged foster child in the home.  She's the same age as Dinosaur, so I'm already prepping him that she's coming to visit Cricket, and we should all give them space to just enjoy being together.  We'll see how it goes!

*not her real name, but I can only type sister's grandmother so many times.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Where's my new mom?

We've had three in-home therapy sessions so far with Cricket.  Most have been questions for me and me trying to maintain my train of thought while still managing the two or three kids in the house.  I hope it'll be helpful once it gets going and more interactive with Cricket.

Near the end of today's session, Cricket was running back and forth between the room with the therapist and the room playing a Dora video.  She got wrapped up in the Dora video and the therapist left.  I think both of us forgot that she would need a clear goodbye with her troubles with goodbyes.  She appeared a few minutes after the therapist left, looked around a bit, and said, "Where's my new mom?"

What is going on in her mind that a person she has met three times is her new mom?  What does "mom" mean to Cricket at this point?  She had asked the therapist at the first visit if she was a mom, as she'd asked the caseworker.  I'm "Mommy," but am I a mom to her?   Who is her sister's grandmother to her?  It breaks my heart to think of her nearly-3-year-old categorizing mind trying to make sense of it all.  Maybe I could make a custom picture book of people that take care of her or have taken care of her and what they do?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Playing baby

When I met Cricket, I thought this was the most advanced 2.5-year-old I'd ever met as far as verbal skills, motor skills, and general independence.  It made it easy to treat her like an older child and talk to her that way.  I have to consciously remind myself that she is only two.

Then over time, I've had to remind myself that emotionally, she is a baby.  Yes, I read the training materials about an 8-year-old being emotionally stuck at 2, sexually at 12, educationally at 5, etc.  But it still surprised me when this fiercely independent girl showed more of her baby side.  Some of it has always been there, like rocking or carrying her to sleep at times.  I tried babywearing early on in her placement with us, and currently it's a morning routine for the 15 minutes or so that I'm getting breakfast ready. 

Some of it has intensified, as she did ask me to carry her and hold her often early on, but it has grown to probably 30-40 requests to carry her every day, or "hold me like a baby."  I carry her for five seconds most of the time, but say yes as much as I can.  Rhinoceros often chimes in to be carried, too.  It's exhausting.  I have found it to make life easier at transition times, like leaving places, especially leaving places that someone else was caring for her and I came back to pick her up, like church nursery and the community center where I exercise.

But it took a new turn a little while ago when Cricket asked me to "tuck her in."  It wasn't bedtime, but it was clear she wanted to pretend it was, and she started with baby talk and crawling around.  I played along and tucked her in on the couch, and as I walked away, she intentionally rolled off the couch and cried.  A cry that I've never heard in a child her age, not a pretend baby cry, not a sincere toddler cry, but somehow a sincere baby cry.  I comforted her and asked her what Baby Cricket needed, etc.  I asked at one point if she was hungry, and we went to the table and she clearly and seriously asked me to feed her.  I did, and she was content with it, not acting silly at all.  She also crawled around and would suddenly lie down, crying as if she was trying to crawl but couldn't.

We've had a couple other "playing baby" sessions since.  It is intense.  I feel like I should have the education of a therapist, and maybe a strong cup of coffee before it all starts.  Especially because Rhinoceros parallels the play and also needs picked up, also needs attended to when he cries.

It is very directed by Cricket and I know and sense that this is something she needs.  It's a strange honor to provide it for her.  I just hope I can somehow become superhuman and have the energy for this along with the rest of daily life.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A glimpse of Beetle

I e-mailed the foster family that Beetle moved to.  It had been a long time, as she hadn't responded to my last e-mail, and I have a hard time persevering in making contact.  My personality tends toward feeling guilty to a fault for inconveniencing people.  I was prompted to e-mail her as I saw Beetle had a new baby brother.  The new baby went to a relative.  I saw some pictures of the new baby via Facebook, and the NICU and wires all brought me right back to last January and February.

I got a reply within a day with photos of Beetle 11 months old, round and still bald and smiling.  His foster brother has his arm around him, holding him in place, with his biological sister on the other side of the foster brother.  The foster mom says they are closely bonded, happy siblings.  I know their lives must have been insane when he moved in right after his sister had moved back in: a traumatized 3-year-old who had been in several homes, a newborn with NAS that was having intense withdrawal symptoms, plus their young biological son.  The case is now moving toward adoption, though of course anything can happen.

I keep opening the e-mail, looking at those blue eyes, bright and full of life.  It just blows my mind.

Friday, January 2, 2015

First Day January 2015 - Happy New Year at home

We didn't have a very social New Year's Day or Eve.  B is wrapped up in books and wanted to just read all day, so besides making treats for our neighbors and delivering them (meant to do before Christmas, but we had a treat-making fail and lack of time), we just hung around.  Rhinoceros had a miserable moody morning, and Cricket a miserable moody late afternoon/evening, but there were some fun times somewhere in there.