Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fast food

I get a lot of questions about how to keep so many plates spinning at once. When I talk to other moms, especially those that spend long hours outside the home, they almost all have this love-hate relationship with dinner.

Most parents want their children to eat healthy but, when time is limited, it gets tough. Got example, when I don't get out of court until 5, traffic usually has me rushing to get to the day cares by the time they close at 6. Then, we make it home, with only a couple hours before the young ones have to go to bed. In that time there is homework to be done, a meal to be made, baths to be taken, etc. That's not a lot of time. 

The solution many people come up with is fast food. It's quick. It's easy. And pretty much any kid will eat it. The problem? It's expensive. Also, it's not terribly healthy (at least the stuff my kids would want to eat). 

So...this is why fast food looks like in my house:

It's pretty simple, really. They make their salads while I open the shrimp & throw the pizza in the oven. By the time the veggies & the shrimp cocktail are gone, the pizza is done. Dinner made & eaten in a half hour, with very little cleanup. It's actually costs about the same as I paid the last time I went through a drive thru. Plus, there will be salad left over for future meals, so it goes farther. Bonus, all of this can be bought with food stamps, which is something that can't be said of the drive thru.

This is a big meal, though. What about snacks? 

When I talk to other moms, I get the impression that they feel guilty if they aren't Martha Stewart. Don't. 

Here's what a typical snack looks like at my house:

It's healthy. They love it. So, why should I feel guilty about not baking them individual quiches? 

Let yourself off the hook. The goal is to feed your family & keep them healthy. I doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, in my home, if a meal takes more than 45 minutes to make, I consider it a waste of my time. Save the gourmet stuff for special occasions. You'll likely save yourself a lot of stress that way.

If you're good at planning ahead, a slow cooker can be your best friend. I don't use mine as often as I wish I did (that whole planning ahead thing gets me), but they really are great. 

Today I made chicken & dumplings in mine. I put chicken broth, cream of chicken soup & frozen chicken breasts in. This afternoon, I dropped in the dumplings & it was all done by dinner time. All in all, I spent probably 10-15 minutes in the kitchen. 

I think I'll make chili for tomorrow. I'll put some dry beans in to cook overnight. I'm the morning, I'll put all the ingredients together & it'll be done by lunch. See...now I've talked myself into the idea that I need to use my slow cooker more often. So, I'll probably be up late looking up recipes online. Procrastination & time wasting are not my friends but,7 yet, I still can't seem to get rid of them... 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

This Christmas has been a good one for my little family. We got to share the blessings that we have with others, which always makes me happy.

We got to spend some time back home. I  first typed "in my home town", but that never feels right, since the nearest town is miles away. 

I was raised on a cattle ranch, if you can imagine that. Also, my father had no sons...but did have a fear of his daughters growing up to be dependent on men. So, we worked as hard as the men. As such, I don't really know how not to work. 

So, instead of laying around over the winter break (I've been working from home all week, since the kids are out of school) I spent it doing manual labor. 

A few weeks ago, while we were getting snow, the folks back home were dealing with a ice storm. It left a lot of damage & left thousands without electricity. My parents had lots of trees down & were without electricity for about a week & a half. 

Fortunately, most of their damage was cleaned up by the time I got there. So, instead, we helped a neighbor with some cleanup. Mostly this was in the form of dragging & burning fallen limbs. 

I call her a neighbor but she grew up with my grandmother. My family has known each other for generations, so she's more of extended family. These days, she's an elderly widow & most of her family lives quite a distance away. So, it's always nice to help, whenever possible.

Likewise, today, her family enjoyed the turkey that we had been given. For the record, I don't want the critical comments or emails about how I shouldn't give away food, when we're on such a budget. In our culture, sharing food is a high honor. So, if that's what you had to say, just keep moving.

In any event, we worked hard & played hard. My family were very generous with the kids & they all came home with lots of new clothes & toys. The Bigs got to see their dad. (I don't want to hear it about that, either. Yes, I know how he's been. However, I have a daughter that is literally sick, from feeling unwanted by him. So, I was not going to tell him he couldn't bring their gifts over.)

We just arrived home & I lit a fire. It's time for some quiet time with my little family.

Sending prayers & good thoughts to all who read this. May the coming year bring many blessings to you & yours.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Blessings

I was brought to tears today by the generosity of people.

I got a cryptic call from my oldest son, today, telling me the school counselor wanted me to come by the school on my way home from work. He didn't know why.

When I stopped by, I was given an amazing surprise. The school has a program where they make food baskets for the students who's families are struggling, to make sure they have a good Christmas dinner. I hadn't been told about this before, but it came at an amazing time. 

The small raise that I got at work effectively caused my food stamps to be cut in half. It doesn't matter that my housing & child care expenses went up to absorb more than the additional amount of income. Those factors don't do a whole lot to shift the equation that they use to calculate need. This came at a very bad time, as I had just had to finance a vehicle because mine was breaking down (I cried after signing the papers, because I didn't want another bill to juggle). So, it seemed like, just when I could make ends meet, they moved the ends. 

Fortunately, I'm very good at juggling & have been stretching every possible penny & meal to make sure nobody does without. The food they gave us will help SO MUCH. In fact, because I was the last one to pick up, they gave me the four bags of groceries that they had left over. So, now, I have a big turkey in the freezer & a full cabinet of food. I couldn't be more grateful.

In addition, they sent a gift for each of my kids & one for me. There was also clothing for my son. Anyone who's ever had a 12 y/o boy knows what a big deal that is. They go through clothes quickly. 

I am so grateful for these blessings. As always, I'm paying it forward whenever an opportunity presents itself. I'd like to ask all my readers to do the same. There are people all over the place that are struggling in some way. Look at what you have to offer others. It not always money. It can be time or whatever of the cat resources that you, personally, have at your disposal. Please, just take what you have to offer & bless someone. It may just be a small sacrifice to you, but it might make a world of difference to them. 

If you don't do this already, start this holiday season. Then, try to make a routine of it. Find a way to pay it forward every day in some way. 



Saturday, December 14, 2013

Semi-Happy Holidays

December is always bittersweet in my family.

Beautiful's 8th birthday was this week. We celebrated a couple days early, because the day is sad for her, as she very much misses her grandmother. My Mother in Law & she shared a birthday, & the day has been hard for her ever since her Na died. I can't call her my "former MIL" because she was still very much a part of our lives until the end. I divorced her son, not her. In fact, I was very sad that my classes prevented me from attending her funeral, but am grateful that I had the opportunity to take my children to see her in the hospital not long before her death.

This year, though, she seemed additionally sad. When I asked her why, she said that she was thinking about her Dad & wondering if he was going to come see her any time soon. I did my best to validate her feelings and tried to cheer her up. Truth is, though, I don't have any answers for her. I have yet to see any indication that he's making steps to complete the things the court requires in order for him to have visitation. So, I really don't know.

Lil Sis's birthday is coming up, before Christmas. This will be her first birthday & Christmas in our home. It remains to be seen if there will be any issues that come up for her about these dates.

As each of the birthdays come & go, though, I think of their mother. She knows they are out there. She may not always be cognizant of their exact ages or birth dates, but she loves them & knows that she is missing out on their lives. I know that causes her pain. I've seen it on her face & heard it in her voice. The fact that she wasn't able to provide them a safe home, doesn't mean she didn't love them. So, my heart hurts for her, especially this time of year. For those people that do so, please say a prayer for her.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Time to study

My Bar review materials were just delivered.

The class doesn't start until January 2, but there's a lot of pre-class reading & studying to do. Then, it's 6 weeks of cramming in preparation for the exam.

Since I can't afford to be off work for two months, my schedule is going to look like this:

6:00 am: get up & get everyone ready for school

7:20 am: start the school/day care drop off routine, then fight traffic to get to class

9:00 am - noon: Barbri

1 pm - 4-ish pm: work (let's face it, it'll be closer to 5, since I'll be trying to cram a full day of work into a few hours

Then it's fighting traffic to get home & pick up all the babies so we can do our evening routine & get to bed at a reasonable time. Then start it all over the next day.

It'll be an exhausting two months. Here's hoping it pays off & I pass this time around.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Snow Day

Today was a snow day! 

I've heard a lot of people complain about their snow days, but mine actually turned out great. Miracle of miracles, I actually got to sleep in by a full hour! When I did get woke up, it was by my sweet toddler saying "Momma" & giving me a kiss, before running off to wake the rest of the house.

We don't get a whole lot of snow here. Normally we get more sleet & ice than snow. This time, we got mostly fluffy snow. So, the kids had a great time playing in it.


They tried to build a snowman. But, it wasn't going very well, as they have basically no experience in how to actually construct one. So...it quickly turned into a snowball fight.

After they got done playing in the snow, they came in to have hot chocolate while I built a fire.

We spent the rest of the day leisurely playing & cleaning the house. I had originally made ambitious plans to catch up on various tasks that need to be done. In the end, I was enjoying my time with the kids so much that I decided to put them off until tomorrow.


I was sad at what spring thunderstorms did to my poor tree, but I am grateful to have the wood for my fireplace.
One of these things, of course, is starting Bar prep again. As most of you have figured out, I did not pass the Bar. I wasn't trying to be rude by not answering the questions that I did get about it, but I thought I was pretty clear when I posted, "When I get the results, I will let you all know if I pass. If I don't, I won't say anything because I won't want to talk about it."


I wasn't trying to be hateful, but I simply couldn't talk about it. I knew I would be devastated if I didn't pass. It turned out to be even worse than I had anticipated.

Money has been difficult over the past few years. I am indebted to loved ones so much that I can never possibly repay them. I have six figures in student loan debt. My income barely covers regular bills, extras are not generally an option. So, I was hoping so much to pass the Bar so that my income would go up & I could have some breathing room. I know they say that money can't buy happiness, but it sure as hell can alleviate some forms of stress & misery.

My kids' lives have been turned upside down for me to go the law school. Yes, I did this to make a better life for them, but that doesn't change the fact that they had to give up a lot for us to make this journey as a family. So, when I didn't I got the official "you suck" letter, I felt like I had failed them in so many ways, not just financially.

Add to that the fact that I have never failed at anything, except for Calculus 2, but that doesn't count.

That feeling was made even worse when I received the "kick you while your down letter", stating that my limited license to practice law had been revoked because I didn't pass the Bar on the first try.
 
I didn't know what I was going to do & I certainly couldn't talk about it because I didn't have answers to the inevitable questions. Granted, those questions usually come out of love & concern, but that additional stress was not helpful & I couldn't deal with it. I needed to focus on formulating a plan.

My boss has amazing faith in me & values my work very much. So, he agreed to let me stay on as a paid intern. This has allowed me to be able to make ends meet & continue getting experience while I prepare for the next Exam. Like I said, my income still barely covers the bills...but it does cover the bills. Those of you that have followed from the beginning know how big of deal that is. The baby's dad does pay child support. The state did finally start getting me a foster care stipend & clothing allowances to help out with Lil Sis. The Bigs' Dad still isn't paying his support, but there's no surprise there. I do occasionally still sell some of the jewelry that I was making or have an occasional online auction, but it's no longer a business. I'm not having to sell my clothes & shoes to make rent, like I did at one point last year. I haven't had to look around for anything of value to sell in a while, which is good since it's already all been sold. So, things aren't great, but I've been managing to tread water. It does make it feel like there's even more pressure on the next Exam.

And, if I may take a moment to vent, it is incredibly frustrating that my entire life hangs in the balance because of this test. The exam doesn't really show who can or cannot do the job. I see attorneys who are incompetent that get to practice because they made the magic number on the exam. I know some brilliant legal minds who, like me, are having to re-test. Experienced attorneys sometimes call me to confer with me about particular legal matters because they know I understand it or will help them examine it from another angle. I do the work of an attorney, as an intern, under the supervision of my boss. I have the degree, the knowledge & the skill set...but I can't be sworn in as a member of the Bar until I pass their test, even though it has no practical application in the real world. But, that's just reality, I suppose.

So, the next order of business is to pass the damn test! LOL

It was a strain to come up with an extra $600 last month, but I managed to get it together so that I am registered to take the Bar again & February, as well as being enrolled in a Bar prep course that starts January 2. This time it is a classroom based course, which I'm sure will be more effective than trying to work through an online program with a toddler screaming for attention (his old daycare had closed with almost no notice & it took a couple months to find a new one). In any event, I'm trying to approach it with an upbeat attitude & going to put everything I have into preparing for this. As I can't afford to go 6 weeks without income, I will be working, as well. So, January & February will be insanely stressful. With any luck, though, I will pass this time around & this will all be behind me. Please send prayers, positive thoughts, vision boards, chi, good vibes, or whatever it is that you do to get right with the universe, for me.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Kidlet Updates

Lil Sis:

We seem to be making progress with Lil Sis's behaviors. She has had a few breakthroughs lately. As is usually the case, these were surrounded by acute crisis & meltdowns. However, after intense work with her therapist & following through with new techniques consistently, things seem to be leveling out.

She's still reluctant to deal with a lot of the underlying issues & trauma directly. However, she has gotten to the point that we can address some of the topics generally, without shutting down. This is HUGE progress. After staffing it with additional therapists that specialize in the specific issues we were dealing with, her therapist has started employing some new techniques. Because Lil Sis is actively participating in therapy now & seems to be making progress, her therapist is planning to hold off on recommending any move for her.

Also, the CW finally came for a visit on Tuesday. The last one was mid-September, despite the fact that they are required to lay eyes on the children every 30 days. In any event, since his last visit has made Lil Sis not want to be around him, I had him come over when her therapist would be here. She still didn't want to talk to him (and I don't blame her), but it helped her to not shut down as badly & to not get too upset, which was very positive. The CW still doesn't seem to see that he was out of line in any way or that what he did is the reason that Lil Sis no longer wants to be in the same room as him. The therapist plans to meet with him to discuss children & trauma, as well as Lil Sis's particular needs.


The Boys:

As I mentioned previously, after their visit with their dad, my oldest two boys went to spend a few days with my parents. Both managed to kill deer, one of which was given to my grandparents & the other is now in my freezer. The boys were so happy to be contributing to the family. Baby Boy is so happy to have them home now, though. He went through the house, calling their names every day that they were gone.


Beautiful:

She's getting along better with Lil Sis, which is always good. However, she's been struggling with the issues with her Dad. She says that, during their visit, he told her that he would see them over Thanksgiving. To allow a visit over Thanksgiving would have been completely against court orders, so it was simply not an option. So, I got to have a fun conversation with her about that. It's not easy to explain that what she was promised by her Dad is an impossibility, while also trying to make certain to not say anything negative or to point out that he was lying. At almost 8, it's not easy to convince her that "it must have been some sort of misunderstanding", but I tried my best to break it to her gently.

Since their visit, he has called a few times. When he called last Tuesday, she asked him if I were telling her the truth when I told her that he had a girlfriend (thank goodness I did, since they apparently thought springing her on the kids during a visit, with no explanation whatsoever, was a good idea). He confirmed it & told her that she & her kids live with him. She told me all of this & seemed to be happy that I had told her the truth because, she explained, that, even though she was pretty sure that I wouldn't lie to her, she wasn't sure because didn't understand why her Dad hadn't told her any of this. I consoled her by telling her that he probably just didn't know how to explain it  to them. That explanation seemed to satisfy her.

The next time he called, however, she was sobbing after hanging up. It took a good ten minutes for her to calm down enough to actually talk, so she could tell me what was wrong. Apparently this was the first time she heard the kids & the gf in the background, while she was talking to her dad on the phone. She just kept saying that she doesn't see how he can spend time with them & take care of them but not even come see his kids very often. Sigh. I tried my best to validate her feelings and let her know that it's ok to talk to me whenever she needed to. Unfortunately, I can't fix it, no matter how much I want to. Sometimes I just wish it were possible to make others do the right thing.

Its been several days since he called, so she's calmed down & doing fine for now. It remains to be seen how this whole process of reintegrating him into their lives goes, assuming he actually follows through with it this time. I have sent my request for what should go in the Transition, Safety & Visitation Plan to his attorney. I'm sure he'll have some objections, it is his job to make things as easy on his client as possible, after all. However, I didn't ask for anything outlandish or unreasonable. That's more than just my opinion, btw. I ran it by two different LPCs & and an attorney before it was sent. In fact, my attorney wanted a few of the points written more rigidly, but I declined. I'm trying to keep everything focused on what is best for the kids, not what is more convenient for any or all of the adults involved.

I was rather annoyed at Wasband's attorney, at the court date. He seemed to be trying to characterize my insistence that the gf not be allowed to transport the children or that they not be left alone with her until after they have developed a relationship with her as an attempt to keep her away from the kids. It's actually not that at all. I knew her growing up. I know her family. I've never heard anything about her that would give me reason to be concerned about her being around the kids. In fact, it's quite the opposite. So, I'm not trying to keep them away from her. I do, however, want them to have the opportunity to get to know her, so that they are comfortable with her.

Also, I think their dad needs to start being responsible for his relationship with his children. I am concerned that, if she were allowed to facilitate visits, transport the kids & supervise the children, that they would end up spending almost no actual time with their dad & she would end up being a glorified baby sitter for him. If that is what visits turn into, then they are pointless, because they are intended to be for the kids to spend time with & have a relationship with their father. Btw, for those that are involved in their lives: feel free to tell them what I said (yes, I can see when you visit the blog). I'd love for him to prove me wrong & become an involved father again.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Nickel's Worth of Common Sense...& a whole lot of love!

I posted this on the blog's FB page, but thought I'd make an entry, since they don't always have the same audience (which seems odd to me, but that's another matter...).

 

My friend Jen, author of A Nickel's Worth of Common Sense, and her family were featured in a news segment about adoption from foster care. Watch the video. I completely relate to Jen, when she talks about the ignorant comments that they receive. I also love Tanner's remark about not knowing what a "fake" sibling looks like.


The Nickel family is one of many adoptive families in Williams Lake and across North America honouring Adoption Awareness Month this November.

http://youtu.be/b0JxTki3kQk


Over the past ten years, several thousand children in Canada have found permanency through adoption into new families. Citizenship and Immigration Canada reports that in 2010 there were 1,968 international adoptions and in BC, the latest statistics available from 2007 point to almost 300 children that were adopted from the foster care system.

Due to their family's large size and multi-racial make-up, the Nickel's often find themselves educating the community on adoption and foster care year-round. "We are visible where ever we go! laughs Jennifer Nickel, the busy mother 7 children ranging in age from 8 months to 19 years. "A real life billboard for growing your family through adoption."

A former foster family, and now a complete adoptive family, the Nickels take seriously the responsibility to offer accurate information for those interested in adopting or fostering. With a dose of reality, Jennifer notes, "It is a tragic truth that not all children can be raised in their family of origin and as such it is very important for adoptive and foster parents to be prepared and educated on how they can best meet the needs of their children."

Support for all members of adoptive families, including biological parents, is available through organizations like the Adoptive Families Association of BC (www.bcadoption.com), as well as in-person or online support groups. Specialized groups, like the Harambee Society, (www.harambee.ca) provide specific support for multi-racial families. The Nickels are committed to all their children having a real understanding of their cultural heritages, and it is apparent in their connection to local the First Nations communities. When questioned as to why those relationships are so important to her, Jennifer states, "We aren't just the white parents of multi-racial kids, we all are part of a First Nation and African-Canadian family and we integrate that reality into our everyday lives".

The visibility for multi-racial families has its drawbacks and Jennifer took the time to offer some advice for those people who might be curious about multi-racial families in the community. "The most important foundation for any child growing up is a sense of belonging and connection. When people question that connection by asking the child about their past, or questioning the legitimacy of their connection to the people they love -- it violates that child's right to security and privacy."

Tanner, the Nickel's 16 year old biological son states that he is often asked if his older brothers or little sisters are his 'real siblings.' "What does a fake brother or a fake sister look like exactly?" jokes Tanner. "Of course all my brothers and sisters are my real brothers and sisters," he continues. "We are a real family and our love each other is real. That ... that is what makes us brothers and sisters."

Those interested in growing their families through adoption can contact the Adoptive Families Association of BC 1-877-ADOPT-07 and those families interested in fostering can contact the BC Foster Parents Association at 1-800-663-9999.


LOVE these people! Big family, with a LOT of love!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Maybe things will even out a little now...

This week has been utterly exhausting. Work has been crazy busy (which is a good thing), plus I had two court appearances of my own. Tuesday I got custody orders for the baby. His father is angry about this, of course, & says it was unnecessary. However, there were simply too many threats to take him away from me, so I needed to do this to take away some of that leverage.

Friday was the Wasband's contempt trial, as well as a hearing about modifying child support. His excuse for being over $33k behind in support & not having paid any of the debts that he agreed to take in the divorce decree was that he has another family to support, so can't afford it (he's got a gf & her two kids). Needless to say, he was found guilty of contempt, but he got lucky. The courthouse was shutdown early because of a winter storm (Oklahoma isn't used to real winter weather so the smallest amount of snow or sleet & they roll up the streets), so there wasn't time for his sentencing hearing. The declaration of an emergency also meant that the deputies didn't take him into custody on the bench warrant that he already has from another legal matter. However, sentencing has been scheduled for January & the judge made it clear that he has to make a significant showing of trying to correct these issues prior to that date is he wants to avoid going to jail.

So, let me pause for a moment to give some legal/life advice:
When you already have children, your choice to support your new significant other's children is not an excuse to stop supporting yours.

I want to shake people every time I hear the "but I have a new family to support" excuse (and I've had to set clients straight on this). Using your money to take care of them is not the same thing as being unable to afford your child support. Those children have parents & their parents are responsible for providing for them. Your responsibility is to support yours. So, if you choose to help support your new partner & their family, you need to remember that your first obligation is to your children & your other priorities need to be arranged around & balanced with that. Also, having more children still doesn't excuse you from responsibility of the ones you already had. You knew they existed before you chose to have more.

So, to all the people out there that do this foolishness: knock it off. The courts won't buy it & neither will any thinking person.


That said I, don't understand being with someone that chooses not to support their children, either. Whenever I've dated a man with kids, if he wasn't doing everything he could to be as involved as he possibly could as a father, he was not the type of man I wanted & I moved on very quickly. There's no way I can stay with a man who wasn't even trying or was making such ridiculous excuses because it reveals something about their character & who they are at their core. Idk...maybe they believe the excuses...or maybe they think the good balances that out...we all have different standards, I suppose.

In any event, it was shown that I did NOT unreasonable keep the children from him, as I was being accused of. I believe that there is no excuse for refusing visitation or interfering in that relationship, unless the person is a danger. He had, by his own choice, not completed the requirements the court had placed on him to have visitation. So, he actually didn't have any visitation rights.

Even so, I have never refused him a visit. In fact, there were times when I did without so that I could use what little money I had to drive the kids down to see him. I used to call & beg & cry for him to spend time with them, with mixed results. So, I finally acknowledged that I couldn't force him to do the right thing & I told him to just let me know when he wanted them. My request is to give me some advanced notice so that we can coordinate schedules, because some prior obligations can't be cancelled for a last second promise of a visit (especially given the history of no-shows).

In any event, the judge is saying that a schedule needs to be constructed, which makes me deliriously happy. I have tried for a schedule for so long because it's shown that the predictability goes such a long way for kids. He also has to formulate some sort of safety plan to submit to show how supervision, sleeping arrangements, etc. will work, since there is a 13 y/o girl & a 10 y/o boy already in the house. So, wish me luck, as we (well, mostly the attorneys) will be figuring the details of how all of this is going to work, in the days to come.

That evening, the kids got to visit their dad, which was good. He hasn't been asking for visits, even when he was in town for court or to see his attorney, so I was kind of surprised. But, I was happy to take them & let them have time with him. This was also the first time for them to meet his gf, but it seems to have gone pretty well. Thankfully, I had told them that their dad has a gf, because he had never told them, so they weren't blindsided when she was there.

Overall, the visit seemed to have gone well. My only concern was the Beautiful ended up (according to her) spending most of the time with his gf "looking at girl stuff", while her Dad was looking at stuff with the boys. I'm glad his gf (I really need to think of a name for her, because I hate having too keep just calling her his gf, like she's just a title, not a person) & she were getting along & things were going well in that respect, but I worry about the fact that he wasn't as engaged with her. This, of course, is from her 7 y/o perspective & he may not have realized how it appeared to her. Unfortunately, he does not wish to communicate with me (I haven't even had a working phone number for him in months) so I can't convey it to him. So, I hope she eventually feels comfortable enough to tell him that she needs more connection from him.

After the visit, the two oldest boys (10 & 12) went home with my parents, so that they can go hunting. So, I'll miss them while they're gone, but I'm glad they are getting to have fun. I'm grateful that my parents are so involved with my kids. That has been invaluable during the time that The Bigs' father was disconnected (assuming he's really going to follow through with getting back in their lives, as he says). I will be traveling the three hours to my parents' house for Thanksgiving & will get my boys back then. Their baby brother will be so happy to see them again. He spent an hour walking around, calling their names last night.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Numb

Right now, I should be getting everyone together & ready to leave so that I can go participate in a sweat lodge. It has been a few years since I have been to a sweat & I have been trying to get to one for MONTHS now. But I am letting myself be so affected by all that is going on in my life right now that I can't go.

I'm so full of anger & negativity & I just can't seem to let it go. I've prayed. I've smudged. I've cried.

I'm simply not in a place where I can be around other people today, much less participate in any sort of ceremony. And that makes me feel immensely grieved. I know that those amazing ladies will pray for me & my little family...but I wanted so bad to be there.

Quite honestly, I don't even want to see sunlight today. I haven't stepped out of my house so far this weekend. I have the young ones laying down for nap time right now, while I sit alone in my bedroom. The lights are off & the blackout curtains are drawn.

I don't know how I feel. I'm trying to not be angry. But the reality it, if I had the emotional energy to invest into it, I would be livid. I hate the situation that has been created for Lil Sis. I hate that I was powerless to stop it or change it, even though I saw so much of this coming years ago.

Right now, though, I'm drained & numb. Don't get me wrong, I'll be ok. I'll get up & take care of all my babies...but I'm in survival mode right now & that is not an optimal way to live.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I am really struggling today.


I can't go into details because of foster care confidentiality. However, the longer Lil Sis is here, the more it becomes evident that all the things I feared over the years are reality.

I had been reluctant to accept placement, initially, because I was concerned that placing her in a crowded home (therapist often call kids in large families "crowded children" because exclusive attention & personal space is at a premium), as well as the fact that it would be an out-of-birth-order placement. For those who aren't accustomed to the lingo, that means accepting a placement of a child that is older than the youngest child in the home.

This sort of arrangement places the smaller child at risk if there is aggressive behavior. Likewise, having so many kids so close in age, can increase issues if the placement acts out sexually, as that can be directed at any child, not just the younger. I could go on about the risks, but I think I've made my point.

However, when it became clear that she was going to have to move from her old placement, I was happy to make room for her here because it was the best that could be made out of the situation as it existed.

The longer she is here, and the more therapy she undergoes, the more issues that are coming to the surface. Don't get me wrong, none of my kids are in any immediate danger. She as line of site supervision at all times. However, it is now at a point where her therapist & I have to decide whether or it is best for her to stay here or move to another home, where she can be an only child.

We've know that her issues were deep, because she spent almost 5 years in that environment. It took that long to get her to where she is mentally & emotionally, and it will take at least that long to make significant progress with helping to repair the damage. But, with therapy, the long term looks positive & she is on target developmentally. So, now that it appears that her case may be moving towards permanency, it is time to decide what is ultimately the best permanent living situation for her.

Ideally, the absolute best arrangement, given the facts as they are currently, is for her to be in an ICWA compliant home that would keep her involved with us but where she could be an only child. That way, she wouldn't lose us, and especially not her sister. It would also give her a safe place where she can have individual attention and there would be no other young children around that she can act out on. So, it could be a way to ensure that everyone is safe while she can get the help she needs to address all that she's been through.

However, that is a best case scenario. ICWA compliant homes can be hard to come by. There are quite a few open for adoption, but not as many that are willing to take a legal risk placement. Add to that the factors or being willing to keep the sibling contact & keeping her an only child, and preferably a home that is therapeutic home & the odds of finding the ideal placement seem long. I will be having a meeting with the therapist, which will be followed up by a conversation with the ICW CW, to see what the possibilities are because, while I am technically the 2nd best of all possible options...I may be the best of all available options.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to her being placed in a non-Native home, so long as they are willing to keep her connected to the tribe. However, our tribe has made it clear that they have plenty of adoptive homes, so she will be placed in one of them...the real question is whether it's possible to find an appropriate placement, timing, etc. We want to make sure there aren't multiple moves and that, if she does ultimately move from my home, that there is a healthy transition and ongoing involvement. Honestly, the thought of having her leave my home breaks my heart. However, if we find a placement that is better suited for her individual needs, I will definitely allow it for her sake.

What I'm really struggling with, today, is the emotions of it all. I am broken hearted, knowing what Lil Sis has been through. I am also very angry because, had DHS removed her at birth, as originally planned, none of this would have ever happened. All of this was predictable. I talk, I screamed, I told them that this is what would happened. I was brushed aside. I was accused of trying to take her child because I just wanted to steal her baby. In reality, the entire family had proven on multiple occasions that they were not fit to care for children. My God, that's why I was already parenting her older sister. That's why she wasn't in a family placement. But they sent the new baby home anyway.  And, now, here we are...

Truth is, I blame DHS (the system & the individuals who made the decisions) for the things that Lil Sis has gone through as much as I blame her actual abusers. Actually, her abusers probably have no real concept of what they were doing to her because they were wrapped up in themselves. The people responsible for the welfare of children don't have ANY excuse. They knew the damage that could result by subjecting a child to the unchecked pattern of behavior that occurs in this family, yet they chose to NOT protect this child. It makes me sad. It makes me angry.

I have to fight hard not to hate all the people that contributed to putting Lil Sis in harms way...not because they aren't deserving of such animosity, but because it takes too much energy & would poison my life with negativity. Today, I'm losing this fight more than I am winning.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why is it so hard to get help?

I've been trying to get Beautiful speech therapy since she was 2. DHS did nothing to help & our options for providers were limited by living in an isolated area. Once she turned 3, interventions were the responsibility of the school district. I pushed & pushed until we managed to get an intake. Yes, she clearly has delays (she didn't speak until she was almost 3)...but she wasn't delayed ENOUGH for them to give her help. So, I continued to do everything I could figure out how to do at home. The gap closes a bit more each year, but she still needs helps.

She's also showing signs of dyslexia. I asked her school to test her last year. They told me they wanted to try various interventions first. "It's a process", they said, & we had to show that the interventions weren't enough. So...we did that.

This year, I requested the testing again. BUT...they want to try the interventions again...despite the fact that she is clearly getting farther behind. "It's a process", they say. I swear, if I hear that phrase again, I'm going to need bail money...

So, I march into the office of the person who is responsible for setting up the testing, only to find out that they don't even evaluate for dyslexia. WHAT!?! I've been asking about this for a year & no one has even bothered to tell me that it's an option?!

Had I known this, I would have gotten her outside evals last year! In any event, I've gotten the number of a place that supposedly has a short waiting list for evals. Hopefully I can get her in quickly & get in touch with an Advocate so that we can get an ISP in place.

Honestly, it should not be this hard to get help for kids. Education is important & we shouldn't be forcing these kids to get farther behind before they can get the support they need to learn.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

You need a husband!

This past weekend was a long one!

First issue:

    I allowed my oldest to set up a FaceBook page for the sole purpose of connecting with his dad's family. Since I filed to enforce his child support order, many have blocked me on FaceBook, which was the only way that we had to contact them. And, since Wasband hasn't been visiting the kids, he (obviously) hasn't been taking them to see any of that side of their family. We used to live near many of them and saw them on a regular basis, so he misses them. So, I let him friend them on FaceBook.

Now, to get to the problem...

    We have a routine of taking family photos every few years. So we have 3 sets, two that were taken prior to the divorce, and one of me with my 5 kidlets. These photos mean a lot to my oldest. In fact, he carries them in his wallet with him. Well, he posted them to FB & tagged his dad & I in each photo that we were in. Wasband denied the tag on the photos that he is in so that they do not appear on his FB page. This hurt our son very badly. There's not much I can do about it, though I really wish I could.


The bigger issue:

     Beautiful (7) told me that I need a husband so that I won't be alone when I get old. She also asked me if I could talk her dad into remarrying me or ask him to come stay with us for a while. It turned into a long, drawn out conversation that boils down to the fact that (according to her) she asked her father if he could come see them & he told her that I wouldn't let him. She says that he told her it's my fault that he doesn't see them because I won't let him.

     I sincerely hope that she misunderstood & that this is the product of her interpretation, rather than what he actually said. However, he has filed a motion with the court accusing me of unreasonably withholding the children from him, which lends itself to the idea that she is being completely accurate about what was said and that makes me sad.


    Another interesting issue that arises frequently is the fact that she seems to connect her Dad choosing to not spend time with them with her with her mother not being in her life. It makes sense, I suppose. She already wonders about her mother & has questions. She also knows that she was adopted because her mother made choices that made it unsafe for her to live there. Now, her father is making hurtful choices, as well. So, it makes sense that it would bring out the questions that she already has.

     Honestly, I don't have any idea how to deal with this. I listen & talk to her honestly. I also listen to what other adoptees tell me about what they wanted their parents to do or say. Truthfully, I have no idea if I'm doing a good, or even remotely respectable, job but I am trying. I can only hope that my best is good enough to help her learn how to cope & process all the feelings and loss inherent with adoption, as well as all the information that she will learn about her bio family as she grows.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Infinite Frustration

A few days ago, we had the status hearing for Lil Sis.

Sigh.

Each and every interaction with the "officials" on this case becomes even more of an exercise in frustration. This whole system is maddening & dealing with it will take years off your life.

I got there right at our appointment time, but the CW wasn't there yet. When he did finally show up, his report had all the usual stuff, basically saying that no progress has been made on the service plan because the mother in incarcerated. However, it also included a paragraph stating the Lil Sis is not adjusting to her current placement, etc. The way it was worded read as if her emotional issues lately are due to the fact that she is placed with US & that she doesn't want to be here.

In case anyone is thinking that I'm just being overly sensitive, or reading into things that aren't there, the judge interpreted it the same way. So, where I thought I was going to a hearing to find out where Lil Sis's case was headed, I was now standing before the judge having to defend myself & answer to why I was being blamed for her sudden emotional outbursts (which, for those wondering, have leveled off).

I explained to His Honor that the issue was not the placement, but the grief from the last fosters' refusal of transition or contact. He, of course, had never been informed about the manner that this had been handled (because, why would DHS disclose such vital information to the person who ultimately approves or rejects their decisions!?). So, I briefly explained how she had been told she was coming for a visit, only to be moved without warning, with strict instructions that I not contact them. "I'm sure that made it a lot easier on THEM...", he said, clearly exasperated.

I further explained why it took so long for her to understand that she was not returning to her former foster home and how her therapist is trying to help her learn to process her grief. Upon hearing all of this, the ADA was furious & demanded that DHS look into whether the home is still licensed and, if so, to close their certification as a resource home. Given how little he does on the cases that are actually assigned to him, I highly doubt that the CW will follow through on this.

Another thing that bothered me about the hearing is the fact that the grandmother's counselor was present at the hearing. These hearings are supposed to be closed hearings, for confidentiality purposes. The CW told me, after last time, that he would formally object if Gma or her counselor tried to attend again. Gma was not allowed to have an ISP & grandparents have no rights in this state. Therefore, she has absolutely no legal rights to any information given in these hearings. While I understand that she has concerns, I feel that, at this point, Lil Sis's right to privacy should take precedence. Add to that the fact that she did this same thing with Beautiful's case, resulting in DHS stretching the case out much, much longer than they should have. In fact, her over-involvement in that case likely contributed to Lil Sis not being taken into care one of the many times they considered it as an infant...and then they let Gma take her as part of a "safety plan", despite her prior child endangerment convictions & the fact that she had been determined unfit by multiple counties in the state.

I mentioned the fact that the counselor should not be allowed in the courtroom to CW, who declined to say anything. I brought the issue up with the judge, but he never made an official ruling on it, probably because no official legal changes or ruling were being proposed at that hearing.

We won't have another review until February. The CW SAYS that, if her mother is still in jail or has not made progress on her plan by then, he will be asking to move for termination of her parental rights. As far as I am aware, she is still in therapeutic seclusion in the prison. No one is certain how or if this will affect any attempt to terminate her rights. State law makes it difficult to terminate rights on a parent that is found to be incompetent. The exception is if two doctors will state that the condition is permanent & will not respond to treatment. This certification can be extremely difficult to get. This is why, when asked if I plan to adopt her, I have no answer. There are so many variables, at this point, that I can't even let my mind go there.

Her sister's case took 3 years AFTER the finding that "active efforts to reunite have failed" (the finding they give & then schedule the tpr trial). We had tpr trial scheduled three different times & had the case restarted from square one. So, adoption is just way too far to be looking down the road. Right now, my priority is to help her with the issues she's facing now & whatever may come down the road. If she even becomes legally free, I will decide, at that point, if we are the best permanent home for her. At this point, I don't see any reason to believe that she would be better served in another family. However, there are so many things that could happen or change between now & then (like, say, a failed reunification) that no final decision can be made this early in the game.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Case worker visit

Today was the monthly CW visit.

I was explaining the behavior issues that have been going on and the underlying cause. He was stunned. He said he never realized that moving placements could cause this type of problems in kids.

Say what...?!?!

I stared at him blankly for a moment. Ummm...yeah...I still don't know how to respond to that, except to say that this is part of the problem with requiring CWs to have a Bachelor's degree in ANYTHING (as opposed to being something related to social work or child development).

Of course moving kids cause them problems!

So, I gave him a little summary of how & why it causes problems. So he asks, "How long does the therapist think it's going to take her to just get over it & stop acting like this?".

Ummm...as soon as I find the right button to push on her remote...?? Seriously, people...I cannot make this stuff up.

He continued with saying that she shouldn't be acting this way with me, since none of this is my fault (yeah, no kidding)...& then actually looks at her and says "you understand that don't you?!?"

I have no idea where he was planning on going with that, because I cut him off. She had obviously frozen & refused to acknowledge his presence for the remainder of the visit.

I think he means well, but he clearly thinks that she is just acting bratty, instead of acting out because of the trauma that she has been through.

He did tell me, though, that he will object to the grandmother being in the next court hearing. Legally she should not have been allowed in the last one & her presence only interferes. That should also eliminate the issue of her persisting about visitation, which would clearly not be in Lil Sis's best interest at this point.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Knock on wood...

I'm almost afraid to say it out loud but...

We made it through today without any meltdowns from Lil Sis. There was some whining, but no melt downs & no raging.

She even went to bed without complaint.

Part of me is afraid that I will somehow pay for this at some point. lol

But, I'm just grateful for a full day of relative peace.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Respite

Until recently, I've never considered respite care, but it seems like it may be only way to keep going, at this point.

I know a lot of people didn't understand my hesitation to take Lil Sis into my home. It wasn't for lack of caring about it; it was the opposite, in fact. I knew how devastating another move would be for her; and I knew how overwhelmed I already was with the responsibilities that I already had. However, when the last foster family made the choice to have her immediately moved, I did what I truly believe is best for both sisters.

The grieving process has been so hard on Lil Sis. In fact, she's actually kind of stalled in this state of confusion & emotional chaos. It's not the same as losing someone to death. Then, you know they can't come back. In this case, she knows they are still out there. They're still in the same house, living their daily lives as a family...only, without her in it. She doesn't understand why they won't let her call them; why she can't send them letters. Quite frankly, I don't understand it either. I try not to judge, as I know they were upset...but it's difficult not to be angry at them selfishly choosing their own comfort over her best interest.

I've actually been quite overwhelmed & depressed lately. The primary support that I've counted on in the past (and the only people approved to keep Lil Sis for overnight visits or emergencies), my parents, want her moved out. They didn't even want me to try to help her...just move her out so everything can get back to normal. Isn't that the same thing the last family did? The acting out can be difficult...but it's not worth throwing her away & causing the damage that it would cause to her.

I'm also dealing with the custody battle for the baby (well, he's not a baby anymore. He's almost 2). His father doesn't want Lil Sis living with his son. He said she has issues & he's afraid that she's going to be mean to our son. She's never endangered my lil man, but I do try to make sure there is constant supervision. Still, it's not enough. He has been threatening to call the state & make reports until they pull her out of the house. If she's still in the home when we go for trial on the final custody orders, he promises to use my allowing her to stay as proof that I can't provide an appropriate home for Lil Man. I'm sure, though, if he is successful in getting her removed, that he will use the removal as evidence that I somehow did something that makes living with me not in Lil Man's best interest. So, it's a catch 22.

So, I feel like I'm constantly fighting just to keep my little family together, but I'm also in a constant battle when I'm with them because of Lil Sis's acting out. Since my back-up care no longer can be counted on...& it's next to impossible to find a babysitter for 5 kids, I have no break. So, I've gotten caught in this cycle of just getting by & have become increasingly isolated.

I have friends who think the solution is to fix me up. Honestly, though, even if I managed to find a way to go out on a date, I don't think I have anything left to give. I simply don't have the emotional energy to put into a relationship (or even the potential for one). So, there's no point.

I've been trying to stay positive, but even I know that it's impossible to keep this up for much longer. I've been searching for any solution that can help. At this point, respite seems to be the only option that's left. Hopefully it can give me a break on occasion, so that she can work through some of this in therapy. At the therapist's recommendation, the CW is going to try to talk to the former fosters to see if they will open to letters or phone calls so that she can hopefully be able to move forward in the grieving process.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Parenting is fun...really...

It was a rough day in the Parent Hood today.

I knew that Lil Sis was finally starting to understand that she no longer lives with her former fosters because of some of the things that she was saying during yesterday's therapy session. However, things ramped up quickly this morning.

She started out the whining, so I knew she was still pretty emotional. By noon we were on hour two of a raging meltdown. She yelled, kicked, hit people, 
threw things. It was ugly. Since this was happening in her room, I have everyone else go to other parts of the house so that she couldn't hurt them & could calm down. Needless to say, her room was destroyed. 

Finally, it ended as quickly as it had begun. I gave her time to play & decompress. Then, when it was time for us all to clean up (part of our normal routine), I asked her to clean up the mess  in her room. This started round two. 

This time, it wasn't the out of control meltdown that happens when she doesn't know how to deal with what she's feeling. This was was just an angry, defiant tantrum. 

I asked her who made the mess. She acknowledged that she did. So, I explained that she needed to clean it up. She calmly told me that she would rather lose all of it than clean it up or stop destroying it (we had gone back to throwing things by this point). Deal.

Her room is now cleared of everything except her mattress & bedding. 

Of course, she never really wanted to lose her stuff. In fact, she never thought I'd actually move it out. She just said that to push my buttons because things like that have worked for her in the past. 

Naturally, now she is begging to get it all back. Oh...you want it back? Good, then you'll be willing to work to earn it back.


Oh yeah...and while I type this...we're 10 minutes into yet another meltdown...

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Stay focused & optimistic"

"Stay focused & optimistic."

That's the advice I got today...and it's excellent advice that I intend to take.

Things have been kinda difficult lately, but I'm going to focus on the positive.

This week, I was given a temporary order for sole custody of my baby boy. His father is still threatening to attempt to fight "to take him" but, for now, things are going well.

Along with that, the judge granted a child support order. Even better, the generosity of one of my blog readers & an amazing friend has ensured that the kids & I will get by until child support enforcement starts collecting from his employer. With any luck, that shouldn't take long & the support, combined with my modest salary, should be enough for the kids & I to make it until I can start getting attorney pay.

So, I'm choosing not to feel sorry for myself. Instead, I'm going to "stay focused & optimistic". My focus will be on finding solutions, instead of on the problems. It's going to be ok. I've got my kidlets & that's all that matters.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Love good news

A few posts ago, I mentioned that my friend had been in a serious motorcycle accident. It was quite scary, as he had to be taken by helicopter & placed in an artificial coma in order to relieve pressure off his brain. Having had a couple people that I've cared about NOT recover from similar injuries (one made a partial recovery but is now dead from complications a year or so after the accident, the other is in a persistent vegetative state), I was quite concerned.

I am happy to report that the medical interventions were successful & he has made excellent progress. He was released from the hospital just over a week ago & is being cared for by family while he heals up. A couple of days ago, I spoke to him briefly. He is grateful for everyone's prayers & is thankful to still be alive. He also plans to get a helmet & to not take so many chances (fingers crossed on this one). :-)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Marriage & babies

"Am I going to have to move again & live with another family?" These are the words that my daughter sobbed when she found out that her father & I were divorcing.

Apparently, she had been told, both at church & by family members (I'm a PK, if you remember) that people should be married before having babies. To her, this meant that "I can't be your kid anymore, if you guys aren't married. You're supposed to be married to have kids...Since my mother is in jail, so I can't go back to her, does that mean that I'll have to be adopted by some other family?"

You try explaining that one to a five year old.

Now, two years later, she understands that I will be there for her, no matter what. Her father's current choice to be largely absent from her life is glaring. It bothers her, a LOT. She has asked me why I couldn't just stay with him, so our family wouldn't have broken up. She has asked me to find another man to marry so that she "can have a dad".

I've tried to explain to her that, even if I were to marry a man that was active in their lives & played that role, it still wouldn't replace her Dad. "But I love you & you sorta replaced my mother..."
Yeah...it gets complicated.

Adoption is complicated. Divorce is complicated. The two together is confusing. But, we get the added twist of the whole sibling foster placement.

At 7, she's old enough to realize that Lil Sis is a foster placement (as opposed to being adopted), which means that it's conceivable that she could go back to live with their mother at some point. Given the circumstances, it's unlikely, but it's possible. This, of course, confuses her because, if Lil Sis could go back to her, why not me. The reality is that adoption is an artificial construct that doesn't really make sense to a kid her age.

The only thing that is certain is that this house will see many, many more open, honest discussions in the future.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Update

I've been rather disconnected from most of the world for the last few weeks. Lil Sis's acting out has been a bit worse since the other kids have come back home & it's a little bit exhausting. It's not that they don't get along. It's the fact that she feels like she's not the center of attention, so she tries to make sure that she is...in any way possible.

I hardly invite anyone over because it's awkward when she is literally demanding they watch her do whatever she thinks is amusing at that moment. The therapist has told me to ignore this behavior & not even aknowledge it. I can do that, but guests usually can't. So, our world tends to be very small. BUT, things do seem to be improving; so, we'll just keep working on it.

In the meantime, my garden helps me keep my sanity.



Friday, August 16, 2013

Some things will never make sense.

Tonight I spent 10 minutes scrubbing ink off of a dollhouse, because the toddler found a marker & thought it made a good canvas. It's a small, plastic dollhouse that doesn't get played with often. However, it belongs to the 7 year old; a gift from her dad. So, it means a lot to her.

It's strange how small things like that bring thoughts & feelings to the surface...

We were supposed to have court earlier this week, for the Contempt of Court charges for him not paying his support (among other orders in the divorce decree). He is now over $29,000 behind in combined support (plus interest). The hearing got postponed, so there's really no new developments at this point, other than the fact that he now has an attorney. However, in preparing for the hearing, I was doing the computations for the proposed child support modification & realized something: during the last couple years, when he has been claiming that he "can't afford to pay support", he has actually been earning more money than he did during most of our marriage.

I admit, when he first started using the excuse, I felt a lil sorry for him. I knew that hiring was slow at that point. However, after a few months, when all my other friends who are also welders started leaving for various shut-downs & new construction jobs, I gradually became less sympathetic. As the months passed, I finally realized that not supporting our children was a choice, rather than the result of a financial hardship. Then, as the visits & phone calls became fewer & farther between, it became even more clear...& baffling.

How is it the same man who assisted while I delivered our first child at home can now go weeks without talking to our kids? How does the same man that took turns comforting our daughter while she went through the terrifying process of transitioning into the home of strangers, & staying up with her when she had nightmares after visits with biofamily, now spend an entire summer merely a few short miles from the kids, but only visit them once?

Every time the house phone rings, once of them runs to answer it, hoping it will be him. Lately, it never is. It bothers them. They spent the summer at my parents, just a few miles from his home. He went and picked them up once. They aren't little anymore, they understand how close he was, so it was a choice to not see them. It gets to them sometimes.

I don't understand. I never will. I also know that, if it's this confusing to me, it is more so to them. I only hope that what I can give them is enough. Also, I continue to pray that he will find his way & become a loving, involved father again before it's too late.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bar Exam

Thank you to everyone that sent prayers, positive thoughts, vision boards, chi, good vibes, or whatever it is that you do to get right with the universe, for me during the Bar Exam. It is officially over & I won't get results for a couple months.

So, from this point forward, there will be NO Bar related discussion. At all. I will answer the questions that I have been asked at least 50 times in the last 20 hours here & then will ignore future questions or attempts at discussion:

"How did it go?": I don't know. It sucked. It's basically a sadistic hazing ritual, but I'm glad it's over.

"How do you think you did"?: I don't know. It doesn't really matter how many I got right or think I got right. The essay grading is subjective & the overall score is scaled (on a curve). So, even if I did spectacular, if enough people did better than me, I'm still screwed.

"Well, how do you feel about it?": I feel tired. It was 14 hours of testing in 2 days. At this point, it all just runs together into a big blur & I'm just glad it's over. Though I do take it as a good sign that I wasn't one of the girls hiding in the bathroom crying (yes, it happened...more than once).

When I get the results, I will let you all know if I pass. If I don't, I won't say anything because I won't want to talk about it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

CW visit

Today was the monthly CW visit. He's a nice man, who really seems to have good intentions. However, he just doesn't seem to keep up with what's going on.

Since our visit last month, he hasn't even downloaded the application for her tribal membership, much less actually taken steps to complete it.

We discussed the proposed visitation with Gma. He says he's going to go along with the therapist (& my) recommendation (unofficial recommendation) that there be no visits. Gma does not have any legal standing & has not been given an ISP, so she has no rights to ask for visitation in the first place. Since there is no chance of Lil Sis being put back in her home, there is no purpose for the visitation. It will simply make Gma feels better, at the expense of further traumatizing the child.

I did find out that Lil Sis does have an attorney. In fact, she was in court during the last hearing. I, apparently, missed that fact because she stood there & never said a word. Ummm...wth wasn't she objecting to the presence of Gma & her therapist, neither of which had the legal right to be there, much less to monopolize the court's time as they did?!? I must make a point to meet this attorney, if possible, to see if this can be prevented in the future.

He asked about a clothing voucher for Lil Sis...again. We had this conversation last month. "I've never gotten anything from you guys to help take care of her," I told him, once again. Once again, he made a note to check. We shall see what happens...

Rambling...

The last several weeks have been a comedy of errors, full of the kind of new developments that make you rethink your perspectives on life.

I've had the foster care drama & my family's unwelcome opinions about it, which I've written about. But, there has been other stuff. Most of it wouldn't be so overwhelming, if it weren't for the impending Bar Exam, but the combination of everything is making me want to scream.

I went to the doctor a couple of weeks ago for the annual torture that I get to endure for being born with the privilege of being a woman. All the tests came back clean, as expected, with the exception of abnormal cells on the pap smear. There were lots of notes on the lab report but it all seemed to boil down to the fact that they ruled out HPV & the cause for the abnormality was unknown. So, basically, it can't affect anyone else...but they don't know if there will be any problems for me in the future.

Now, I realize that this could be nothing. At the same time, in the back of my mind, I keep thinking about two women that I really care about & all the painful procedures that I've helped them through...all of which started with these same test results. This, of course, leads to thoughts of the two women that I've watched die slow, painful deaths from cancer that could have been caught had they been vigilant about keeping up with their exams. So, I am not panicking, but I will be certain to follow up on this.

Getting the results, though, made me feel very, very alone. I texted my best friend about it, sure...but I felt the loneliness of not having someone to share life's burdens with in a way that I haven't felt it in a very long time.

It's not that I'm unhappy with my life. I have meaningful relationships. In fact, several months ago, I let go of all the ones that weren't. I took a friend's advice & just stopped talking to those that only want me there when they need something, or only want to keep me around for a back-up until something more convenient comes along. Interestingly, though, most of those people have showed up & tried to contact me in the last few weeks. I was concerned that I might get sucked back in, emotionally, but I've found that their attempts at contact have actually just made me more certain of my decision.

Also, a friend of mine was in a serious motorcycle accident a couple days ago. He was airlifted for surgery to relieve swelling on his brain. I don't have many updates but, please send him & his two kids your thoughts & prayers. The last time we spoke, we actually talked about how I thought he needed to be more careful because he had just taken a spill on his bike. He laughed at me when I told him that he wasn't invincible & said "not invincible just tough as hell and was assigned a damn good guardian angel..." I sincerely hope he was right.

If you're expecting some conclusion to all this rambling, you won't find it. I don't really know what to make out of any of it. I'm sleep deprived, thanks to my usual sleep issues & I'm in survival mode until I take this damn test. After that, I can try to make sense of it all & see where I end up.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Wow...just, wow...

Over the weekend, my father tell me that, by allowing Lil Sis to live with us, I am risking my other children & that I "should send her back to the state, where she belongs..." "She has issues" & "a bad spirit that bothers her" (I'm a P.K., remember? So this makes sense to him.) and that, if she grows up to have mental problems, it could affect the other children. There were more specifics, but you get the general idea.

Wow...just, wow...

I've had a couple people ask how I was able to keep my composure. The answer is simple: dissociation.

In that moment, I was outraged by what was being said about this child, whom I love & am very protective of. However, at the same time, I also flashed back to being 15 & sitting in that same room, asking my parents for help in dealing with the issues that I was dealing with. I was told that asking for help was a weakness & not being able to just get over it (though we never actually had a real conversation about what had actually happened, either before or since) was the sign of a weak mind. I had been raised better than that, I was told. And, here I was hearing similar things being said about this innocent child.

My parents have come so far from being the people they were when I was growing up. However, apparently not as far as I thought, at least in some ways. Quite honestly, I don't know how to deal with this. I can't expose Lil Sis to this attitude & it won't be tolerated. Yet, navigating this will be complicated since I'm not in a place in my life to cut them out, completely, nor do I think that would be beneficial for The Bigs, who are very close to them.

So, what did I do, at the time? Emotionally, I was numb, at that moment. In fact, it took quite some time after the discussion ended in order to feel the resulting emotions. So, I handled it as I always do when I'm in that frame of mind--I became hyper-rational. I told him , matter-of-factly, that I understood he had concerns, but she is a person, not a used toy, so I wouldn't be casting her off because of "her issues" (which are very mild, btw). I don't know where this placement will end up, because foster care is unpredictable, but I will make the decisions that I feel are right for me & my children.

Then, I went on FB & cussed about it a little bit...and even more via text message, to my best friend.

THIS is why I attend court...

Lil Sis's case review was a few days ago &, let's just say I wasn't fully prepared mentally or emotionally for what I was walking into.

First of all, I was told her Grandma wasn't going to be notified about this hearing, as she was denied visits & told, by the court, that regaining custody was not an option. Also, I had been led to believe that the family was not aware that the girls were living together--this was somewhat of a relief because of past security concerns. Additionally, I had been told that there was never indication of sexual abuse against Lis Sis, therefore there was no reason to actively pursue services to help her address this. Turns out it was all completely & utter bullshit.

Gma showed up to the hearing. In fact, I had quite a long talk with her, both before & after appearing before the judge. Naturally, she had to tell me how none of this is her fault. Interestingly, her therapist was with her & seems to believe everything she says. I got the distinct impression that she believes that the domestic violence situation that Gma was living in is the only problem & that Lil Sis should be returned to her (either she hasn't been informed about the pattern, going back decades, showing that she is not able to properly care for children or keep them safe OR she's far more optimistic about people's ability to change than I). In fact, she blindsided me with a request for visits. The CW, naturally, threw me under the bus, saying "it's alright with me if it's alright with her..."

I told all of them that would need to be discussed with her therapist. If her therapist has any reservations, whatsoever, my answer would be "no" but, I would speak with her about it & ask her to include her decision in the court recommendations at the next review. All agreed.

However, when we went before the judge, Gma's therapist (not sure why she was even allowed to attend the hearing, since it's closed court & Gma is no longer a party to the case, but that's a separate matter) asks the judge for an immediate ruling allowing visitation. When asked, I told the judge that I was not will to make that decision, nor was a I qualified to do so, but that I was willing to speak to her therapist about it. Thankfully, he agreed with me, and ordered that the decision be deferred to therapist's recommendations.

This does bring up the question as to whether Gma's visits were ever actually discontinued or not. The former CW told me they were. Gma says they were not. I have no idea. I do know that I am not willing to have visits in my home, which was the original requests. There is a reason that the original security measures were put in place, way back when Beautiful was placed with us. This is a family with a long history of violence. Granted, the uncle that the state was most concerned about at that time is no longer a threat, as he was paralyzed in a police shootout several months back. However, I still think that it would be foolish to bring them into my home.

Gma's therapist is actively advocating for visits or, at least, phone contact. While I understand that this is what Gma wants...&, it may even be beneficial for her therapy...however, that does not, necessarily, make it in the best interest of the child. Lil Sis's therapist & I have spoken on many occasions about how damaging visits could be for her, at this point in time. She has no desire to see Gma. She doesn't want to talk to her. She barely wants to speak about her. Presently, there is no way that visits will be anything but negative & traumatic for her. However, Gma's therapist wants contact reestablished to help keep the relationship ties so that Gma can work toward getting her back (I thought that ship had sailed...???).

Also, it turns out that the family has known that the girls have been together since right after the move. Apparently, it seems that their mother asked that they be placed together, upon being informed of Lil Sis being taken into care. Interesting, since the state never contacted me, as they are required to by law. In any event, Gma says that the girls' mother is glad that they are together now.

Perhaps the part that bothers me the most about this whole thing is the way the SA has been handled. The former CW told me that, even though she had been living with a registered sex offender, there was never indication about SA against Lil Sis. However, I start reading the court report to find an entire section of the parenting plan surrounds the classes & training that her mother will need to take in order to understand how the SA Lil Sis has suffered will effect her, how to help her deal with it, etc.

Now, the fact that she was abused doesn't surprise me. I had already seen the red flags, so I already knew that much. However, this means that they knew what she had been through yet hadn't even gotten her basic therapy in the 6 months that she was in care, prior to moving in here. Also, this is something that her therapist should have been informed of. It just makes me feel like the state doesn't care an ounce about the kids that are in the system.

See, foster parents, THIS is why I attend the court hearings. Had I not been there, I wouldn't know what actually happened...& I suspect there would have been an ordered entered requiring me to allow visitation.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

PTSD

I was speaking with someone today about how PTSD effects relationships & how, no matter how much explanation you give to others, most people cannot understand it. This was the incredible response that I got:

No matter what the cause, PTSD is PTSD. We battle with a ghost that only a few unlucky, get to meet. We deal with normal situations in our own manner. We face adversity with a smile because we've been through unexplainable shit. We will always have that bear spirit hibernating with in, anxiously waiting for that moment of unexpected thaw, to rear its ugly head in a menaceful manner, ruining the day.

 Wow. I never could have crafted such an amazing explanation. So true.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

New Case Worker

Yesterday was the first home visit with the new case worker. He had called in a panic on Friday, while I was out of town, requesting that we set up a time, since he was running out of time to get June's required visit completed. I agreed to let him come over Saturday morning because...well, I really had no other choice...and I needed to meet the person that would be behind the recommendations that will be made on Lil Sis's case.

I posted this about it on FB:

Apparently, E has finally been assigned a new case worker. I got a panicked call from him today, since he's running out of time to do June's home visit. So, he'll be here at 9 o'clock in the morning.

Y'all know how I feel about strangers in my house...and that I don't trust men (sorry, guys, but it is what it is)...this child better be glad I love her because, tomorrow, I will tolerate a strange man casing the joint at an obscene time of the morning. No man should be in my house at that time of morning, unless he's cooking me breakfast...lol

 It was a rather uneventful, 10 minute home visit. Like the last CW, he knew nothing about the case other than her name and age. He assumed that she was a pre-adoptive placement, so I had to explain that termination of her mother's parental rights was not even on the table at this point. I also informed him of her upcoming parole hearing. He had no idea how her release would effect their offering of services to her. He wasn't aware that she was the "non-offending" parent in this case (because the child was not removed from her care & she was not responsible for any the circumstances that led to the removal), which does make a difference. He's never handled an ICWA case. He also didn't know when the next court hearing is, though he did assure me that he "will let me know what happens". I assured him that I have every intention of being there "because I never get straight answers about what happens when I don't make it & I wasn't even informed about the last one until over a week after it happened." He was clearly surprised, but I think that he got my point.

Lil Sis had been in care for 10 months now. I still don't have her medical card. It has been sitting in her DHS file since I ordered it, after she moved in. They also still haven't sent in her tribal membership application. Though I know they are supposed to handle that, I'm considering sending it myself & seeing if I can convince membership services to accept the application.

In the end, the visit was unproductive for much, other than checking the box on their little form. But, I did get to meet the new CW. He's a nice man, but he doesn't seem to really know how to really handle these cases, by which I mean ensuring the child is cared for & advocating for them. Also, he's never had an ICWA case, which means he probably hasn't been on this job long. After all, the majority of cases in my state are ICWA cases. My overall first impression is that he means well but he tend to just go down the little checklist & covers the formalities, like most CWs.

On the up side, a new worker means no triggering or meltdowns for Lil Sis. So, our lives continue on as normal. Her behavior has been staying pretty stable & she's been making some progress, which is always wonderful.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Time to recharge

I've been feeling lonely & isolated lately.

There are several contributing factors, primary of which being the fact that I've just been completely overwhelmed. Studying for the Bar is hard enough on its own. But the class is designed to be a full days worth of work, with additional homework time. Since I no longer have a daycare for the two youngest to go to, I simply don't have enough time to devote to it. So, I've been behind & frustrated.

Add to that, all of the other emotionally draining stuff that I have going on, & it's been quite depressing. To make matters worse, the friend that I would normally talk through this sort of thing with seems to no longer be speaking to me. I'm completely aware that part of it is my stupid fault, but there's no way to un-ring a bell.

In any event, I finally decided to stop spinning my wheels & take a few days off. I spent 3 days of last week with various friends, just doing normal stuff...museum, zoo, splash park, just hanging out. Nothing stressful, just fun with the kiddos...and adult interaction. Oh, how I had been missing that! It was wonderful & I feel so much better.

I miss being a stay at home mom. However, I remember now why the kids & I did so much volunteer work. Being trapped in the house together constantly makes everyone cranky. And the whining that inevitably results makes Mommy crazy...especially if there isn't enough adult interaction to balance things out. So, it was nice to see friends & have time to recharge a little.

Time is passing very quickly & the exam will be here soon. I don't think I've ever felt like so much was riding on a single thing, in the way that my life (& that of my children) is dependent on passing this stupid test.  But, I try not to focus on that...because it's depressing as all hell. I will focus on the good things & on preparing to meet this challenge.