Moving on to something lighter today, while my mind spins in the background about that to do with my face.book dilemma…
Have I ever mentioned that I think two is one of the best ages? Well, I do. I love it! I know so many people refer to it as the “terrible twos”, but I’m smarter than that. I know it’s really the “threes” that’ll drive me crazy(ier)! 🙂
Amelia’s verbal skills and her imagination are exploding lately and it is so fun to watch! These are just a few of the scenes from our house this morning:
We’ve had our fill of Halloween candy around here, so the candy fairy came last night. The kids picked a few more pieces to keep in cabinet and then put the rest into a bag by the front door. This morning, they all went running to see what the candy fairy had left for them. Amelia examined the spoon/straw combo that each kid got. Then she looked into the empty bag. Next thing I know, she’s stomping across the room to me. The bag is thrust into my hands and she exclaims, “Not even M&Ms left!!!”
When I mentioned that the high for today was a balmy 38 degrees, the big kids were excited to don their winter hats and gloves with their coats. Amelia, however, insisted on wearing her polka-dotted sun hat with her winter coat. Whatever. I’m smart enough to pick my battles! Olivia hasn’t learned that lesson, though. Amelia kept saying “no” to Olivia as she tried to change hats for her. Finally, Amelia plops her hands on her head to cover the hat and says, “O-La-La, I just need poppa dots today.”
After drop off this morning, we ran a few errands and headed home. As soon as she got her coat (and sun hat) off, she wandered into the living room. I was changing the garbage bag in the kitchen when I hear this knocking sound over and over. I went to investigate. My findings? Amelia, leaning her ear against the tv, is knocking on the blank screen. She doesn’t notice me, so I watch for a moment. She turns to put her forehead on the screen, peers into the television, and whispers, “Elmo? You play hide and seek in there?”
Oh, that girl cracks me up!
Once upon a time, in my pre-wife and family life, I (and an ex partner) were foster parents to two young boys. They came to us at two and three and a half years old. Adorable, wonderful, sweet little boys. They had been through a lot before placement, but were strong and resilient. They soon fit right in and we grew as a family. In those days, foster care procedures and policies were much different from they were when Olivia was placed (and, I presume, today). Unfortunately, much of what happened to us (and my subsequent fight to change the system) is the reason things are different for same-sex couples who are fostering in my city today.
One thing that still hasn’t changed, though, is that case workers come and go at rapid pace. For J and N, we were lucky to have competent, caring case workers. Right up until the last one…the one that essentially stole my sons. The case plan for J and N had just been changed to adoption. Unfortunately, like was the case with Olivia, only one of us could petition for adoption because they wouldn’t allow a joint petition from a same-sex couple. I became the adoptive resource and we began the wait for the court to approve the new goal so that a homestudy could get underway.
Then we got the case worker from hell. The first time she came to visit our home, she was obviously uncomfortable with our family make-up. At the end of our meeting, she outright stated that she didn’t think that our “situation” was right for kids to be a part of. Whoa. I called the supervisor, asking for a new case worker, but was informed that there was not another available, the case worker would be talked to about what happened, and that we should not expect any more problems. On the surface–to our knowledge–this held true.
Until the day that the boy’s daycare center director called me into her office at pick-up. Apparently, the case worker had not been filing the proper papers for payment of childcare services. The daycare center had not been paid in two months. The director informed me that she had attempted calls to the worker, but was getting no response. She asked that I call and see if I might be able to get the situation resolved. I assumed that it was an oversight on the part of the case worker. Perhaps she didn’t realize that it was her responsibility to acquire the approvals for payment.
I called her and left her a message. She called me back almost immediately. When I explained the situation, she said it didn’t matter because she was having J and N removed from our home. The next morning. That she had a new foster family all lined up. And that’s when I knew we’d been sabotaged. Children in stable placements–adoptive resource placements–are not removed without reason. Other foster families are not lined up–not waiting for last-minute moves–for no good reason. I questioned the worker on the details, and she informed me that there was nothing I could do. She would be there at 8 a.m. the next morning to move the boys.
I called the supervisor, but had to leave a voicemail. I called my partner, A, and lost it. She left voicemails for the supervisor and the supervisor’s supervisor. We realized that we weren’t going to get through to anyone that late in the day, and knew this nightmare was going to happen. I threw up in the bathroom while A called my best friend to arrange for everyone to get together with the boys that night . What were we going to say to the boys? How could we explain to two preschoolers that they were wanted and loved by us and that we would be fighting to get them back, even while they had to go live with someone else?
The next morning, the case worker arrived. When she saw all the things–clothes, toys, books, bikes, etc–that belonged to J ands N, she said it wouldn’t fit into her car. It would be left behind. I refused. Yelled that it was bad enough that this was even happening and they sure were going to have the things that were familiar to them and BELONGED to them. It ended up that we had to pack it into OUR car and follow her to the new foster home to deliver it.
And that was where I last saw my sons. As I took their belongings to the porch of their new “home”, I hugged them, kissed them, and sobbed. I drove away and watched from my rearview mirror as the case worker held them back as they screamed and tried to run after the car. That image is forever burned into my memory. Occasionally, I still wake up in the middle of the night from a flashback of this trauma.
I did talk to a supervisor. It turns out that the case worker had outright lied in the case files. She had actually written–I saw it with my own eyes–that WE had asked for the removal of J and N. That was dated the same month that the daycare stopped being paid. Two months before they were moved. No amount of explaining this untruth made it go away. Apparently, if it’s written into the case files it is the truth. And if it’s not written there, it never happened. Which is why, when I tried to connect the dots with the discriminatory circumstances surrounding our first visit and follow-up calls to the supervisor, there were no dots to be connected. That supervisor (now long gone and replaced with someone new, of course) had never recorded any of that information in the file. And so it never happened. Despite my repeated requests to have J and N moved back into our home, the requests were always denied. The pain and stress of this eventually became a major contributor to the end of my relationship with A.
With a social worker at the foster care licensing agency, I worked to have changes made to the “system”. Today, case workers receive training on working with same-sex couples who foster children, foster parents receive trainings on working with LGBTQ youth, and sexual orientation is specifically written into the non-discrimination policies of all involved agencies. I’m glad that these are in place, but it still doesn’t bring me my sons back.
It does bring me to my current dilemma, though. J turned sixteen a couple of months ago and I wrote him a letter, like I always do on each boy’s birthday, and put it in my memory box with his photographs and artwork. As I wrote, it occurred to me that he could be on face.book. And so I looked. And there he was. His page has a “friends only” privacy setting, but he has a very unusual first and last name and the profile picture, while not a close up, appears to be him. I sit with this information, but I don’t know what to do with it. Would he even remember me? Care to remember me? Can I face the reality of what his life has been like–good or bad? I’m not sure.
My Dad came up for a visit. We had a wonderful time…except for the stomach bug that kept his long-time girlfriend, S, in the hotel room all weekend.
The very next weekend we went back to the same place for the pumpkin fields. Notice that we were all wearing short sleeves (and were too hot in long pants!) last weekend, yet had to drag out the fleece jackets just seven days later (and were still cold!)?
We’ve watched Olivia play some great soccer.
We carved some fantastic pumpkins. My carving contribution was an Elmo for Amelia, but I didn’t even realize until I uploaded pictures that I never took a picture of it. I hope it’s not mush when I head out to snap a picture of it in all it’s lighted glory. I just went to check: Yep…mush. There will be no photographic record of the cuteness. 😦
Olivia and Owen dressed for 80s Day at school. Yes, I’m completely aware that the 80s Rocker wig and the preppy turned up collar don’t go together. 🙂 I wanted to turn Owen’s curls into a “Flock of Seagulls” style or use a piece of the wig to make a “tail”, but he would have nothing to do with those once he saw this monstrosity! Olivia thought it was HILARIOUS that I dressed like this every day when I was her age!
Some little sweetheart decided she just had to turn 2!!!
We trick or treated in our neighborhood after the birthday party. Yes, it’s weird, but our city doesn’t do trick or treating on Halloween. The city schedules it for the afternoon of the closest Sunday. Our neighborhood does their own little thing on the Saturday evening closest to Halloween. It is VERY strange to get used to…
Olivia and Owen had a little lunchbox surprise for Halloween.
It’s going around here. Some days it’s going better than others, but it is improving. The good news is that we’ve got a plan and we’re committed to slogging through this stuff together.
I’ve thought through a lot of posts in my head over the past month, but they never seem to make it to the publish stage…or even the draft stage, for the most part. So that’s got to change. I’m in no way delusional enough to think I can/will be able to post daily in November for NaBloPoMo, but I will take it as a personal challenge to get back on the blogging track.
I think I’ll start the easy way. Picture post of the last month’s highlights coming up….
Things have been rough around here lately. Really, really rough.
Olivia’s sensory processing has been completely out of whack. It’s contributed to rages and violent behaviors. Both Sunday night and last evening, she had to be physically restrained to be kept safe. We’ve had to do this before and I’m sure we will again, but I just HATE it. I HATE feeling so completely helpless that all I (we) can do is restrain her until she is calm enough to be safe. It stabs at all my vulnerabilities and makes me feel like the most god-awful parent on the planet. It makes me afraid: What if there’s more to this than just the sensory stuff? Is this something genetic? Environmental? How can such a small child hold such anger? From where does it stem? What did we do/not do to get here? How can we find the answers we need? How can we help? What if we can’t?
And Owen. He is a typical five-year-old. Full of big emotions. Not a lot of skill in giving them words. Plus, we’ve also been seeing some of Olivia’s behaviors in him. Is it our parenting since it’s both kids behaving this way? Is he mimicking Olivia because he sees that it gets attention (we give it as little verbal attention as we can in the throes of a rage, but it still requires physical attention)?
And Dawn and I. Things are not the greatest between us at the moment. Well, actually, it’s been slowly improving but it’s still got a long way to go. The absolute insanity and stress that sums up the last school year took a toll that we are still trying to stop reeling from. We’ve both gotten into patterns that aren’t healthy for our relationship or ourselves. Communication signals just seem to miss. Pulling inside ourselves instead of reaching out to each other. The kid’s behaviors don’t help…and our own don’t either. It’s a bit of the chicken and the egg question. And it’s a vicious cycle that keeps feeding off of itself…
I feel like I’m standing on a cliff ledge…the trail back up looks steep. The trail down looks worse. And I’m just here clinging to the edge and hoping it doesn’t crumble before I can get my footing.
About midway through the last school year, Owen began receiving speech services. It was something we and his teacher had kept an eye (well, ear, really :)) on for a while. Since it didn’t seem like he was shedding some of his speech enunciation issues, we requested an evaluation. His vocabulary/language use skills tested out YEARS ahead. His speech enunciation skills were slightly behind in several areas. Once he began seeing the speech pathologist weekly, we noticed changes quickly. I know he slipped back a little over the summer, even though we did practice and play some of the games he’d used with his speech teacher during the school year. But now that school is back in session, it’s unbelievable how much his speech has instantly improved. His l’s are back to solid, even in blends. He isn’t clipping endings nearly as much. It’s like being at school reminds his brain of what his speech is supposed to sound like. And, even though I feel a little guilty for thinking it, I’ll admit that I miss hearing his unique little speech sounds. I’m, of course proud and pleased with his progress, but it’s another reminder of my little guy growing up…
Amelia’s speech has taken another huge jump in the last month or so. She is constantly speaking in long (4-5 word) sentences and is into naming people’s possessions. On our neighborhood excursions or while playing in the back yard, she is constantly saying things like “That’s Lizzie and Ellea’s house.” or “I see Tony’s garden!”. She has a little trouble saying the name of one of our neighbor’s, though, and I find it most amusing (and slightly embarrassing). Our neighbor’s name is Danny. Amelia pronounces it Daddy. So it’s constantly, “Hi Daddy!” and “That’s Daddy’s house!” It’s a good thing the neighbor’s know us well!
While relaying this story about Amelia to my mom while we were visiting over the weekend, she reminded me of my own embarrassing (to her, anyway) speech mispronunciation: As a child of about Amelia’s age, my mom–young and newly divorced–took me to a new church. During the relative quiet of the sermon, she discovered that the church sat right across the street from one of my favorite community buildings–the fire house. It seems I had the misfortune of not yet being able to enunciate my /tr/ blend. So I began to holler, “Fire fucks, Mommy! I hear fire fucks!” Over and over again. Loudly. Very Loudly. Did I mention it was during the quiet of the sermon? I know this story well from retellings, but it was so hilarious to hear my mom tell it again. After all these years, it still makes us laugh hysterically!