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But lots has happened in the past 4 months. And I have been thinking about foster care and family quite a bit.

Let me start there. We are definitely done. We have to be. Sometimes I waffle, but then the reality of the numbers game strikes me: 10 kids and 4 grandkids actively in our lives plus three significant others. Yes, that's 17 people (that would fill up all the desks in my classroom). And there is only so much of me to go around. Don't get me wrong - I'm happy with my relationships with all my kids (except missing Runner). Things have really gotten good overall and/or I have set better boundaries. While some of their lives are a mess (get to that in a minute), I'm not in the middle of the chaos. Back to numbers, there are also several other kids that come in and out of the picture. Maia (20 year old with 22 month old and 3 month old who lives around the corner - Lena on the old blog) has 5 nieces and nephews who rotate in and out of her house and subsequently spend a lot of time with us. And two of them have a tragic story involving a murdered mommy, so they really pull on me and I foresee us maintaining a level of involvement. So, we can't keep adding kids when we are responsible, at least peripherally, for so many people.

Let me update down the roll call. Lisa is counting down another 10 months to see if she will be prosecuted as an accessory for the drug charges. Bad Girlfriend is in jail and will be there for another few years. Lisa was living with BG's family, but they have beaten her up several times and refuse to feed her, even though she and BG supported them during their drug days. So, now she goes back and forth between their trailer and her bio mom's brick hovel (neither are very desirable places to live). But there are positives to the story. She got a straight job. And she got her GED. I can't tell you how joyful that news was. A less joyful outcome has to do with BG's son. I'll be back tomorrow to tell that story.
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 A meme I got from Baggage:


1) What was I doing ten years ago?
Teaching at an inner city school in Echo Park, CA
2) What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today:
Clean my room, do foster care paperwork, swimming or bike riding with the kids, blog entry
3) Snacks I enjoy:
Cookies, ice cream, cake and pie - all of which I am currently avoiding :(
4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Pay off all my debts, my mom's debts, and my ex's debts
Home repair, maybe move
Hire an organizer
Hire a nanny, cook, and full time housekeeper.

Hire a personal trainer
Buy houses and hybrid cars for all my big kids, with a maintenance fund

Give my mom $5 million, so she would be free to live her life how she wants
Travel.
Start a foundation to help foster youth enter the adult world successfully
See more theater and concerts
Travel.
Trustfunds for my grandbabies, my nephews, and the twins
5) Places I have lived:
Little Rock, AR; Fountain Valley, CA; San Leandro, CA; Port Orchard, WA; Garden Grove, CA; Anaheim, CA; Fullerton, CA, Los Angeles, CA; West Hollywood, CA; Culver City, CA; Round Rock, TX; Austin, TX.
6) Jobs I have had:
babysitter, fast food worker (beach snack shack, hamburger joint, Popeyes), reatil floater, retail telephone operator, answering service operator, Kirby vacuum salesperson, shipping and receiving (retail and educational support company), job coach, social service supervisor then manager, overnight respite worker, teacher, Love and Logic instructor
 
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Echo Park, CA

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I hurt and I'm angry and I'm tired and I'm sad and it continues to affect my ability to function contentedly in the world. It's also affecting my job and my ability to parent and my home and organizationand my health, but I'm fighting to keep these areas operating.

It's a bunch of stuff. Birdy had her baby, a beautiful little girl I'll call Chicklet. This joyous event was marred for us, however. She had a birth plan that included MamaBull and Pinky being with her. She specifically did not want Cole or her boyfriend's grandma or Dharma to be there. But when we got to the hospital, thinking she would be in surgery (she had to have a C-section), they were all there and she was not yet in surgery. It was chaotic, but instead of asking the other people to leave, she yelled at me and kicked us out. It hurt, even though I knew it was supposed to be about her. But for us, it was just another instance where we were the least important in the room. At least that's how it felt. I know she was overwhelmed, and I know I was the safest one to attack. So, we left. But it broke MamaBull's heart - she wanted to be there.

I know it may not make much sense to anyone reading (does anyone read this anymore?). But it is cumulative. We are tired and hurt from so many instances of being taken for granted and shat upon. We are almost broken from loving and being left. The grief over S colors all of our emotions. Protected, brittle, easily broken.

S will be going to live with her bio mom. It is the best (only) option for her. But it is killing me. I don't doubt that BM loves S and wants to have her back. CASA tells me she has changed and that he likes her. That's all fine and dandy, but the bile burns in my belly over this. To think that she gets another shot at S after the damage she did to her. I hate her. I know we are supposed to be all enlightened and forgiving and respectful of her status as the 1st mother, but I'm not. I HATE her. I thought I was beyond hate, having learned early in life that hating my abuser only took away my energy. Yet, here that destructive emotion is, in full bloom. I need to go to therapy.

The twins are difficult right now. I live in fear that they will hate us or have attachment/FAS issues. Right now, in the state I am in, it feels like I could not survive another rejection. That's not the attitude I want to have behind my parenting - I want to love them unconditionally and selflessly like they deserve. And I do, but I'm so afraid. That can't be healthy.

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Lisa called me last night. Her life is a mess. She and Bad Girlfriend had taken to selling large quantities of an illegal substance that rhymes with roke. The cops busted them about a month ago. To BG's credit, she immediately took full responsibility for it when the cops literally burst in (Lisa was an equal participant but would never have gotten into it without BG). It is a federal case because there were lots of guns in the house (when I questioned Lisa on this, she told me matter-of-factly that you had to have guns if you run in those circles). BG has been indicted and is cutting a deal. She will be in federal prison for 18 - 36 months. The DA in Small Town Hell may still go after Lisa for conspiracy to sell and possession of firearms (the house was in her name). In the meantime, she is living with BG's family and caring for her child. If she gets busted, too, we have told her we will take BG's son, who we love.

It makes me so sad. And sick to my stomach. Lisa swears they are done and will move out of Small Town Hell as soon as BG gets out of jail. She is also being responsible and is prepared to take the consequences if the officials come after her, too.  She has a full-time job and is making sure their son is cared for. Still, I fear she'll never escape that place.

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S blew out of her current placement this week. She is currently in a psych ward. She has accused 2 staff of beating her up and is, in fact,  covered with bruises. Not being there, I don't know what happened. I do know that the staff there was good with her. They weren't phased by her behavior and had only given notice because she was enticing the younger girls into s++e++x++ and running away. I do know that the other girls at the facility said it didn't happen, including S's "fiance" - that S had bruised herself up. And I do know that earlier in the week, she sounded fairly paranoid when she was telling me one of the staff was trying to make S burn her with a cigarette so S would go to jail.
 
When I was talking to her last night, she informed me that she wanted to go back to LockedWard RTC. When I reminded her that she made an accusation against them, too, and that they would not take her back, she said, "But I made that up because I was scared. I'll tell the truth now." She also was ranting about how she had been battered and abused at every placement since she left us, including our home agency. When I told her nobody at the home agency ever abused her, she changed it to the staff letting the kids beat her up.
 
What happens to this child who is 6 months and 18 days away from being 18? And how should we interact with her? She hung up on us last night (but called back) when we gently questioned her version of the story. She called us bad parents for not automatically believing her. But I don't believe her and I feel like it is irresponsible to buy into her fantasies. But should that be our job? Automatic support even though she is wrecking havoc on the lives of people who tried to help her? And won't that encourage more fantastical accusations?
 
We want to be her parents. We definitely love her. But how long before she is making accusations against us because we won't do something she wants (like give her money)? How do we do this with her? What is her life going to be?
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S was sent to jail again last night. Even worse, the agency is giving notice, so the hunt for a placement begins all over again. I liked this place, too - they had no trouble working with her. The only reason they are giving notice is because S has been having s++e++x++ with a bunch of the girls and convincing them to run away.

6 months and 20 days until she is set free to wreck havoc on the world

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We went to a training on attachment this past Saturday. It was given by the young professional who does recruitment and training at our agency. Normally, I like and respect this woman, but the training made me quite upset. I'm afraid that I might have vented this upset too forcefully, but I'll blame the lack of discretion and timing on the steroids (I am almost 100% better, by the way. Acupuncture rocks).

So, the training was an academic look on how attachment works based on the work of Drs. Karyn Purvis and David Cross out of TCU. It was pretty clear from the beginning that the trainer did not want to talk about anything "negative", i.e., she was avoiding any discussion of attachment disorder. I found this somewhat irritating since she was addressing a group of foster parents who are parenting kids with attachment issues and disorders. It was also somewhat confusing since she was a representative of an agency that has been telling us for years to not hope to "fix" the attachment damage.

But I bit my tongue until she said this: It doesn't take any magical, complicated parenting skills to repair the damage when a child misses part of the attachment process. You just go back and relive it and most kids will heal. WTF? First of all, it takes all kinds of specific parenting skills to parent kids with attachment issues; what she said was akin to people telling you to just love it out of a kid. THEIR BRAINS DEVELOP DIFFERENTLY - even getting "in" enough to help them relive the attachment cycle is hard, hard work. The pathologies become equal to survival in the minds of kids with attachment issues - lying, stealing, control. I questioned her assertion, too, that most kids will heal from attachment issues and disorders. The stats do not bear this out. Some will survive, some will even thrive - but the attachment issues follow most kids.

S loves us as much as she can love anyone, but it will ultimately do little but buffer some of the blows her life is promising. Two of our three at home young adults love us, too, but I just don't know how much love matters to them. I used to think the abuse was the worst part of the equation, but now I know it is the neglect.
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I know I have been gone a long time. I was unsure whether I was going to blog again. Part of me felt like my story had played out and was too 1-note. Most of me was just too tired to bother. But here I find myself with a forced vacation (more on that in a bit), so I thought it might be time to try this again.

First, the kids.  S is living in an independent living program too far for us to drive to and visit. She was doing ok, and they were going to fly her home for the holidays. But then she ran away, got arrested, spent time in grown-up jail. Fortunately, the facility took her back. On the sad side, for me, she won't call us. Don't know why. It has actually been a welcome break from her drama, but that makes me feel guilty. And, as always, I miss her. But she continues to scare me in bigger and bigger ways. During the running away episodes, she made lots of false allegations. What is she going to do when we don't meet her needs somehow?

Birdy is due in the next couple of weeks. Another girl grandbaby. She is moving out to live with her boyfriend and his grandma. It is good for all involved, but I'm sad, too. I think we will still see her a lot, though. She is also enrolled in college for this summer, so I'm proud of her.

Darhma is back in school, too and doing well. And her baby continues to be bright and adorable. She got married over spring break and she is going to adopt her older bio sister's baby when he is born. Things are still strained between us. I try to be low-key and never have an opinion. She feels like I'm blah and moody because of this. But I'd rather be boring and blah than have any more drama.

Stat is doing marginally better. She lived with Darhma for awhile and acted as her nanny. But they had some sort of big blowout and she moved back with friends. We stayed out of it, except to mildly observe that there are two sides to every story. Stat is in college, too, so I'm glad about that.

Cole went to another state to visit bio family over spring break. He came back with a case of attitude - 18/senior-itis. I don't know why they have to become so jerky to move out. We will help you and support you - don't make us the bad guys. In his defense, his case is milder and more reasonable than most of the girls, but still not lots of fun.

Pinky turned 17. She is excelling at the charter school and is always on A honor roll. We love her and she is a joy, but we fear she will be out the door as soon as she graduates. At this point in the game, it is hard for us to be totally open to her when we have all the clues that she will bolt.

Flipper and Talker turn 4 in April. They continue to amaze and challenge us. We still worry about Flipper. We have decided to put them in public school next year at the school where I teach. We just can't afford $1000 a month. MamaBull has more concerns than I do, but we have to try.

Lisa is doing better, but she continues to tie herself to BadGirlfriend and Smalltown Hell.

Haven't heard from Runner in about 6 weeks. Her baby is due soon, too.

Maia is trying really hard to be a functioning adult. Her boyfriend continues to sleep away his life. Maia must finish a college class this summer, or she will lose the free college benefit like Lisa did.

Life has been stressful for the grown-ups. Almost 10 grand of unexpected car and home repairs right in the middle of birthday season. Work is hard for me - my class has many challenges. And I have been sick since Christmas.

Last Saturday, I woke up  and the right side of my face was numb and partially paralyzed. I went to the doctor and my painful and persistent ear infection had "captured" my facial nerve and left me with Bell's palsy. I can't purse my lips, smile, or close my eye. When I open my mouth, I strain my jaw because the muscles on the right side can't control the dropping open part. There's the drool, too. Oh, and the fact that half of my tongue is numb and has no taste. The doctor told me I have shingles in my ear, too. It has been freaky, but I am getting better much faster than predicted with a combo of acupuncture and mucho meds. The meds are making me crazy (lots of steroids), but my face is waking up already (mostly due to acupuncture, I think).

Today I found out that I did not get a special project I applied for at the university in town. I'm more than a little relieved, because I wanted a full summer to gt my life and health in order.  But my ego, combined with the steroids, won't give me any peace. I keep thinking, who am I? I used to be the person picked for these things. Now I feel like I'm barely holding on in my professional world.

MamaBull has been a trooper throughout this, but she is tired. We do this whole parenting thing much better as a team.

We are sticking to retiring from foster care. We considered a young man briefly: 15, gay, beaten and abandoned to care by bio family. But I need to be done. For a long while. My body is turning against me and I need to regroup. On the positive side, we have friends who are pursuing him as a placement. I hope it works - they would be great for him.

I think that is everything big for now. I miss the blogging world - I'll try to be more present.
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Flipper has definitely mellowed out, much to our relief. We stopped fighting the guns and swords. Instead, we told him that he could not point them at people or animals. Suddenly, he wasn't as interested or violent. We are also fairly certain that his gun obsession IS fear-based; he feels powerless in a world that is too tall for him. We were worried when he went back to school that he would have problems again, but the gains have held. He even showed everyone at school how sweet he is. There was a new boy, a young 3 year old, who was crying all day. Flipper kept watch over him, patting him on the back and telling him, "It's ok, the mommies always come back."

Things are mellow with everyone else. Talker talks. All the time. Cole just turned 18. It has been the least painful case of 18-itis we have ever experienced. Pinky is going to the charter school at our agency's facility and will be a senior next week. Birdy's due date is April 20th. Her moods swing. And her boyfriend got arrested yesterday for a traffic warrant. But, all in all, we think they will be ok. She is actively pursuing college for this summer and her positive moods usually outweigh her fear and negativity.

Dharma is back in school. She is taking the developmental classes she needs in order to go to nursing school. I'm proud of her. Stat stayed with us for almost 3 weeks during the holidays. It ended up being a good thing because I think all sides got over the tension related to trying to be a family when she had repeatedly shat on us. But she was helpful and sweet. We know she still lies and steals and has a borderline personality disorder, but we feel better able to deal with it now. Maia has kept her job for a couple of months. Her boyfriend is severely depressed and sleeps all day, but she is at least trying. Runner has been in contact a lot lately. I worry about her ability to care for a child, but we will see what happens. She is due 3 weeks after Birdy. Did I already mention sexes? Birdy is having a girl and Runner is having a boy.

I'm having a hard time dealing with S right now. I'm feeling lots of grief and anger and fear. Her level of care went down, but still nobody will take her. In 9 months she will be 18. Her CASA has been all over us about taking her back. She even asked Mamabull if we could find new placements for our other kids so S could come home. Ummm, no.

Lisa still lives in Small Town Hell. I miss her. We talk every 6 weeks or so. She is coming out of a year long depression, but she has a job now. She is still with Bad Girlfriend.

I have been sick for 2 1/2 months and feeling worn out and worn down. First I had never-ending bronchitis. Now I have a local allergy phenomena called cedar fever. Mamabull is feeling the strain of our lives, too. But all is still basically good. We are probably driving to Minnesota for Spring Break. Anyone live off of IH 35? We wanted to meet Baggage and crew, but they live far away from our route :(

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S's CASA supervisor is pursuing her getting contact with her bio mom. While I have always known S would seek the woman out when she was 18, I am hurt and angry that they are validating the relationship. Don't jump on me - I know it is a critical bond and a basic human need to seek out our biology. But that woman messed up S beyond probable repair. She hurt her physically and mentally. S was a precious gift, bright and beautiful, and this woman vandalized her soul, tagging her with the graffiti of her own dysfunction. Yet, CASA is taking their request to court, where suddenly we will be the foster parents and this monster will be her mom.

In my head, I understand. They are going to require the woman take classes and that their interactions be supervised; this is definitely preferable to S trying to navigate that reunion on her own (yes, they have had contact, but they are still strangers). And I know she will never find any peace without reconciling that relationship one way or another. But I'm still mad about it. Insulted. Hurt. Worried. Sick about it. She is OUR baby; bio mom's claim to her should have been cosmically negated after the years of emotional and physical torture she put her through.

Sometimes it is hard to not hate. Or to just crawl into a hole to hide from the hurt.

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