Dun Dun Dun…

07/03/2013

The stomach virus strikes again. I can’t believe I’m writing about this but it’s basically been consuming all of my non-working, waking hours lately. You know I mentioned getting a nasty stomach virus last week? Well we’re pretty sure Ali had a milder form of it last week too. Buzz had a little bit of symptoms but seemed fine. On Sunday evening, I woke the kids up from their deep slumber so we could go to a Nashville Sounds game. I got free tickets from work, their was a concert beforehand and the weather was cloudy an 79 degrees so we were all set up for a perfect evening. Before the game started, we could tell something was up. Ali was just eating it all up. She LOVES adventures, people, crowds, mascots, music…all of it. But Buzz was not acting like his usual wild self. It was kind of nice at first…during the concert he just stood next to me and held my hand or wanted to be picked up. But once we got to our seats he was really trying to get comfortable and acting really sleepy. We only stayed for 1.5 innings and realized we better go. As soon as we got home, he flopped on the sofa in the playroom. I checked his temperature and he had a fever. As soon as I turned to walk out of the room he threw up all over the place. I took a sick day on Monday to take care of him and Ali while Jason ran a bunch of errands. Tuesday morning Buzz still had a fever so I left both kids with Jason and went to work. Before lunch time I got a text from Jason that he wasn’t feeling well. By the time I got both kids down for their afternoon naps, Jason was definitely sick with the same dang stomach virus. I hate that thing. I hate that it’s taken over a week to move from person to person. I hate that it started with me.

I’m praying that Buzz is well enough to go to day care today and that Jason is able to rest and get his strength back. Possibly, I’ll be able to go in to the office. Good grief. It has been a week! We have a lot of fun planned for the next few days so I’m ready to kick this thing to the curb.

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Baggage

06/27/2013

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

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Buzz (not real name), our foster son, rarely has his hands free. I noticed the first day he was with us that he was always carrying at least one toy in his hand, if not 5 toys like in the photo above. He’s very clingy to his stuff. “By!” is how he stakes his claim over whatever is in his hands or pockets (which translates to mine), and it doesn’t matter if it’s really his or not.

The poor kid  had almost everything that belonged to him stripped away, so I can understand his deep rooted desire to claim, hold, own things around our house. I’m thankful that his mom brought us a lot of his favorite toys, pillow, and clothes so that he does have a lot of familiar objects here. We have issues over sharing everyday. Ali has been forced to share just about everything that she believed to be hers alone (toys, home, parents, attention) so we expect Buzz to share what he believes belongs to him as well.

The bigger issue is that all of that baggage is weighing him down. It’s hard to actually play with a toy when he has 4 other toys in his arms, afraid to set them down, to release his claim. One day in the pool he had the three cars (in his left hand in the above picture) and all 4 of our diving sticks in his arms…and he was trying to swim! Dude! Put the toys down so you can use your arms!

I’m hoping as he continues to feel more secure here that he’ll be more comfortable letting go.

We had a foster care review board meeting on Tuesday that he was required to go to (although he’s 2 and didn’t say a word!) so I had to take him. It was quite interesting. We were told at the start of his placement that Buzz’s parents had the simplest plan to reunification but yet it seems there are still hiccups and snags coming up along the way. Even though everyone on the board (mostly older white ladies) commented on how cute he is, and he was well behaved and played quietly with toys while the grown-ups discussed his family and his future, I could tell the stress was affecting him—his bodily functions, his behavior when we left, the visible sadness on his face as we were driving away.

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.


Weekend Update

06/25/2013

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Friday night after the kids were asleep Jason and I started preparing our house for our first party—a house warming party! We’ve been in our new home for 6 months but it took us this long to find a weekend that worked for both of us and to feel like we were settled enough.

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Since court was pretty uneventful on Friday, we had a visit with Buzz’s mom Saturday morning at a newer city park a few miles from us. This is the first time we had had a chance to check out the splash pad. It’s pretty great and it’s totally free. Thank you, Nashville! This is the only picture I took because it was hard to stay dry. Buzz is in the background by Ali’s forehead. He LOVED it! Ali wasn’t so sure.

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I gave the kids early baths on Saturday since I knew they’d be up late at the party. When Buzz saw that I was putting a dress on Ali, he ran to his closet to pick out a nice shirt. I helped find matching shorts and then he picked out the flip flops for both of them. I had my new Pandora station running and they decided to dance together. I took a video to send to Buzz’s mom. I wish you could see the huge grin on his face. It’s very similar to Buzz Lightyear’s grin here:

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This was at the end of the party when just our BFFs were still there. We attempted to get a typical smooch shot of Ali and her buddy Jaron but they were too quick (although there was kissing a-plenty!) It was way past their bedtime and these two were getting so silly, especially Buzz. Again, I wish you could see his huge grin.

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Buzz got into a rare kissing mood…he kissed me, our friend, Jason…and then I suggested he give Ali a kiss. 99% of the time he refuses affection from her. She’ll sneak up behind him to give him a hug and he squeals and tries to get away. This time he gave her a big, long kiss! They really do love each other even though they drive each other (and us) nuts most of the time. Like brother and sister, I guess.

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When I finally crashed into bed, I had to stop to take a photo. This room has been the most neglected design-wise. We finally got new curtains and hung them the day before the house warming party. We had tubs of out-of-season clothes and piles of extra blankets that I finally packed into our closet. (Why didn’t I do that months ago?!) It looks so much more clean and relaxing now. I’ll be posting some more about this room as it progresses. We picked out new bedding but haven’t purchased it yet. After that, we’ll be working on night stands, lamps, an accent wall, and artwork.

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Four Pairs

06/24/2013

We’re all still here.

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Court on Friday was pretty uneventful. If you followed the comments on Friday’s post you probably noticed that we were expecting to have court and we thought there was a good chance that Buzz’s mom would get him back. I wasn’t planning to go because I was too busy to take another half day off of work. I was notified that we were all ill-informed at it was supposed to be this Friday. Then his mom went down there and got them to move it back to this past Friday again. She ended up going before the magistrate but he explained that she actually needs a trial, not a motion to appeal (if I understand correctly…what she explained to me…) and that is scheduled for July 1. So we continue to wait.


Weekend Part 2

06/18/2013

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The second half of the weekend started when Jason got home Saturday night. I knew he was on the way so I let the kids have a dance party after their bath to prolong bedtime just a bit. Jason was greeted in the hallway by two kids running at him, screaming “Daddy!” and tackling him with hugs. I waited patiently for my hug and kiss. He is such a good dad and husband and we’re all so happy when he gets home. That greeting was his Father’s Day gift from Ali and Buzz. They love him. (Buzz started calling Jason “Daddy” a few days ago. He still calls me A Ma.)

Sunday we spent the morning at church. Jason played guitar in the worship band. I photographed the baby dedication portion of the service. The kids had a good time in the nursery. They wore the new matching clothes from Buzz’s mom and I was really hoping we could get a nice photo of the four of us. Did not happen. One of the four was not cooperative…

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I have to admit, I love this one, though. I told Jason it was a very accurate portrayal of his fatherhood at this place in time: trying to corral these two whirlwinds into place with his strong, loving arms.

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I guess it doesn’t have quite the same affect with the Buzz head on there. In the one below he’s looking straight at me with a sweet smile and I love the way Ali and Jason are looking at each other.

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After lunch and naps we went to my parents’ house for a cookout and swimming. Both kids love to swim so I’m always in the water with them and not taking pictures. I did beg Jason to get a video of Buzz jumping in off the side, swim/walking underwater and holding his breath to send to his parents. They were thrilled! Sadly, I can’t share it here because you can see his face in the video. Buzz and Ali are both doing really, really well with learning to swim and I’m so excited to see them getting better every time. I believe Ali will be swimming on her own by the end of the summer and if Buzz stays with us, he definitely will be too.

I attempted a few more times to get a good picture of the two of them in their matching yellows to send to Buzz’s mom. Ali will pose if I ask her; Buzz not so much.

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It turned out to be a pretty good weekend. I’m so thankful for all of the friends and family in our lives.

 


Weekend Part 1

06/17/2013

After Buzz’s long nap on Friday afternoon, I took him and Ali for a swim at my parents’ house and then we ate pizza and my parents treated us an exhibit at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens called Night Lights by Bruce Munro. I got so many great photos of Buzz, but of course I can’t share them here.

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Saturday morning our original plan for a visit with his mom had to change last minute because the splash park we were going to meet at was closed. Like Ali’s post-pigtails bed head?

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I told her I needed to go to Target and we ended up meeting there and doing our shopping together. It felt like hanging out with a friend. She was so sweet and got Ali and Buzz matching outfits at Old Navy before we met.

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I am so thankful for her kindness and patience, for how much she loves her son and for how hard she is fighting to get him back. He’s one blessed little dude to have his mama working so hard to get him back.

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And then, of course, we went swimming again.


And…

06/15/2013

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Court on Friday ended up being the anticlimactic: hearing is rescheduled for next Friday.

Buzz’s mom was extremely disappointed because she’s really hopeful that she’s going to get him back. I was disappointed for her too, but mostly irritated that we all went down there and had our time wasted for no reason. Buzz got pretty emotional after saying goodbye to her and I ended up taking him back home for a temper-tantrum induced nap.

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I didn’t expect to get emotional.

06/14/2013

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The past 6 weeks have been so incredibly difficult that I’ve only had positive feelings when considering Buzz’s reunification with his mom—happiness for them, relief for the other three of us, peace.

Last night I was continually aware… This may be that last time the four of us sit down for dinner. This may be the last time these kids get to play together. This may be the last time I give Buzz a bath and put his pjs on for bed. I gave him a little more playtime and attention than usual. I decided to bake chocolate chip cookies for a bedtime snack. All the while, I wasn’t emotional. Until…

As I was about to put Ali down to bed, I asked if she could say goodnight to Buzz. I looked at one kid and then the other and said, “What if this was the last time you saw each other, what would you say? ‘Thank you for all the good times? I love you?'”

Buzz said, “Thank you!”

Ali said, “I love you!” And then I started to choke up. I took a few minutes putting Ali to bed.

When I walked back into Buzz’s room he said, “Thank you!”

I was never asking or expecting him to thank me. It certainly wasn’t his choice to come live with us. Foster parents are trained from the beginning to never expect gratitude from a child and I haven’t. But in that moment I could feel that it was so much bigger than just a little boy parroting back what I said. He meant it.

As usual, I let him pick a book for me to read. He chose one of my favorites, Sleep, Baby, Sleep. By the time I got to this page, I was a blubbering mess…

Soar, baby, soar.
The whole world you’ll explore.
Fly like the goose who climbs and roams
yet always knows his way back home.
Soar, baby, soar. 

Oh how I want to see that boy succeed and go places in his life. My time of influence may be abruptly ending and I may never hear anything about him again. I love him more than I realized.

Grow, baby, grow.
From our arms you’ll go,
unfurling like a butterfly,
cocoon opening to the sky.
Grow, baby, grow.

In that moment, praying over him and hugging him with tears streaming down my cheeks, I knew all of the struggles of the past six weeks were worth it. He is worth it.


Sour Cream

06/13/2013

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I might be tucking this condiment-loving boy in bed tonight for the last time. In other words, there is a hearing scheduled for tomorrow that could change who he’s living with from now on. I started to type “there is a hearing tomorrow” and changed it to scheduled for because it sounds fairly likely that it will get rescheduled, although his guardian ad litem (court-appointed attorney) confirmed that it’s scheduled. Don’t get me started on that… 

His mom is so hopeful. I’m trying not to get my hopes up either way. I can honestly say that I would be happy and relieved if Buzz gets to return home to his mom tomorrow. A part of it is selfish—we could go back to our old comfortable “normal” lives again—but the main reason is because I know how happy it would make Buzz and his mom. They love and miss each other desperately. Based on what I know and have experienced (admittedly limited), I am fully in favor of reunification. I would also be sad and miss him—I’m not mentally ready to go there yet.

Because foster care can be extremely unpredictable and anything run by the government can be horribly inefficient, I’m doing my best to stay in the now. I’m planning and proceeding as though he’ll be continuing to live with us beyond tomorrow. I will do my best to love him, meet his needs and make his stay with us fun and memorable. I’m writing all of this to solicit your prayers:

• for the hearing tomorrow, if it happens, that actions are taken that are indeed in Buzz’s best interest

• for peace for his mom’s heart if it doesn’t happen or if it doesn’t go as she’s hoping

• for Buzz’s heart and mind to sort out all of these complicated feelings and to make sense of it as best as he can; that he would feel safe and loved and secure whether he’s with us or his mom

Note: The picture above is from our absolute favorite Mexican restaurant last weekend. That is a bowl of sour cream—yes, sour cream—Buzz is licking clean. I ordered him a side of sour cream with his meal because he LOVES condiments of all kinds. He pretty much ate chips and salsa and sour cream for dinner. I don’t even care how unhealthy it was because it made him so happy.


Fight, Flight or Freeze

06/11/2013

Monday morning I awoke to a thud. I glanced at the clock (5:20) and at the same moment noticed our bedroom light was on. Buzz. I felt around for my glasses, put them on and got up.

Our bedroom door was wide open and he was standing just outside of it in the hallway, facing the front door. He had his new shoes on—the ones his mom gave him on Saturday—and he was holding his favorite hoodie sweater in his arms.

“Are you OK? It’s still dark—time for sleeping. What’s wrong?”

He pointed to the door. A little startled myself, I went to check it out. Nothing there. I went back and turned him  toward his bedroom. He reached up for me to pick him up so I held him.

“You probably heard the ice maker. It makes loud noises sometimes.” It has scared the crap out of me plenty of times.

I carried him through the house.

“See this, buddy? It’s our security system. No one can come in or out of our house at night without setting off loud alarms.” I remembered my sensitive social worker sister-in-law had recommended this and had made a point to talk to him about our security system when she was babysitting once, too.

I carried him  to his room, removed his shoes and covered him up with a blanket as he curled up with his hoodie. I went back to my room to attempt to sleep for another hour.

Poor little guy. I can only imagine what kind of things he’s experienced in his not-quite-3 years that would make a strange noise trigger this kind of response: jump out of bed, grab shoes and jacket from the closet, get ready to run…

I’m thankful that this time he stopped to flip on our bedroom light to get my attention. (The jingle bells on his door handle failed to wake me.) This hasn’t happened in 3 weeks. I’m glad he’s feeling more and more comfortable at our house. But, it was a reminder that fear is still close to the surface.

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This picture is not directly related but I love this monster hoodie. I wish I could show you his cute little face.