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.


Grief and Kids in Foster Care

06/10/2013

There is way too much in my brain to fully unravel here but I’m going to get started on it. To put it plainly, we’re dealing with a lot of behaviors (misbehaviors) from Buzz on a daily basis. It can quickly become exhausting. I often hear, “That’s a two year old for you!” or “My kid does that, too!” and I know that’s part of it. But there is also a huge ugly beast named Trauma. If you’ve seen Buzz have a tantrum or stage a protest while we’re out in public, you’re getting a glimpse of the kind of things we’re dealing with at home when he’s comfortable enough to really let it out.

I explained to a friend and former foster parent last week that I feel like 20% of the time he’s sweet, kind, easy going, helpful, obedient, loving… My hero Karen Purvis would call this “the real boy.” Then 60% of the time, Buzz opens his mouth and the beast Trauma (mixed with typical 2 year old defiance, sure) lets out a shriek like a pterodactyl, balls up his fists, flails, cries, screams, pouts, stomps, runs… (Deep breath. Deep breath.) Then the other 20% he’s actually sweet but I can’t shake the pterodactyl filter off or I’m still took stressed out to realize he’s back to “the real boy.” This friend knew exactly what I meant and we agreed that the majority of the people in our lives only see the sweet 20.

Buzz’s mom and I have been keeping in touch daily with texts. I send her updates and pictures and ask questions about Buzz. She checks in on him and sends him sweet messages. We’ve also Skyped a few times when we couldn’t work out a time for a weekly visit. It was helpful for her to see him but he wasn’t grasping the video chat concept very well. He doesn’t talk much so instead of responding, he’d duck and hide from the camera most of the time. One evening instead of Skype, his mom sent him a video text message.

He sat down and studied my phone with intensity while she was talking to him. Tears welled up in his eyes. “Ma,” he told me, pointing to the phone. “I want Ma.” He watched it over and over and over again while I was in the kitchen starting dinner. I turned around to see him standing there, handing me my phone and reaching out for a hug. I turned the pot on the stove down to low and I held him. For a long time. I talked about how I feel when I miss someone that I love and how it makes my heart hurt. I told him it’s ok to be sad and that I know he misses his mom and dad. He nodded and held my hand. He just snuggled and rested with me for probably 15 minutes. Dinner could wait. Buzz needed comfort and I’m glad I could offer it.

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Then an awesome thing happened. He was totally well behaved, the sweet 20, “the real boy” ALL EVENING. I lost track of time as I was playing with the kids in the playroom. Ali was sick and getting quite tired so I decided to put her to bed and then come back to help Buzz clean up rather than put them to bed at the same time like usual. I told him my plan and that he could keep playing for a while longer while I got Ali down. As I was tucking her into her crib, I could hear him shuffling things around in the playroom closet. I assumed he was getting out more toys. I flipped off Ali’s light and rounded the corner into this spotless playroom! He put every single toy away in the right spot—even tiny wooden blocks in a cart, the train arranged on top of the bookcase, and puzzles and blocks away in the closet. I was astounded!

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Last week was a bit of up and down with behavior and Buzz’s mom sent several more short video messages for him. She and I are both learning as we go here but it really seems to be helping him. Yes, it does stir up sadness a lot of the time but he’s working through it, accepting comfort, letting out some of those really big feelings in a healthy way. When he tells me “I want my mom,” I can offer him my phone to watch a video message from her rather than just apologizing. It’s working.

I’ve also been soaking up Karen Purvis teachings like a crusty dry sponge. Have I mentioned that she’s my hero? I watched this one called Better Understanding Our Children: An Overview of Common Challenges Faced by Adopted & Foster Children” by Dr. Karyn Purvis and felt encouraged and empowered to better deal with his behavior. She mentioned a statistic from a study that found children in foster care experience PTSD at 2x the rate of war veterans. In children, PTSD is displayed as inattention, hyperactivity, irrational outbursts and in some kids, violence or aggression. I’m not saying Buzz has PTSD and I have no interest in a diagnosis but he’s unquestionably been through trauma (any child who has lost or is separated from his parents is living their worst nightmare) and he definitely exhibits some of those behaviors.

I really hope that we can help Buzz to navigate through these choppy waters of big, scary feelings. We pray every night for his parents and that he can be reunited and home with them soon. We pray for Buzz’s peace and healing of his heart. We pray for wisdom, patience and understanding for Jason and me as his foster parents.


No Limit

06/06/2013

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Jason and I took the kids to a craft fair at an out-of-use airport in our neighborhood on Saturday. It was cloudy and breezy which made it perfectly tolerable to hang outside in June. Ali’s best buddy Jaron was there with his parents. (He’s the little guy in the blue shirt…remember I’m not showing any pictures of Buzz’s face or sharing his real name online.) Ali and Jaron have the sweetest friendship. They get along really well and seriously, all it takes is a mention of a kiss and they’re smooching. They love each other.

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I had to share the adorableness. But this post is not about that. Jaron’s daddy brought a new kite to try out. Saturday was the perfect kite flying day and an old runway was the perfect location. As the kite bit into the wind and launched up higher and higher toward the clouds, a curious thing happened. Buzz started running after it and jumping up to try to reach it. That kite had to have been at least 30 feet above him but he just kept running and jumping. Soon Ali was doing the same. She can’t jump but she stood on one foot and stretched her arms up.

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What in the world?! Do you kids really think you can reach that kite?

I had an epiphany on that beautiful afternoon. They have no concept of their limitations.

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Another example came a few days later. I was playing with the kids in the driveway when a jet flew over lower than usual. Buzz eagerly jumped and reached for it, flapping both arms. “Up!” he begged. I picked him up. “Jump!’ he cried as I held him up as high as I could and jumped toward the airplane while he swung his arms.

Darn. Maybe we’ll catch it next time, Buzz.


A Mom

05/30/2013

“Amamamamamamama…”

I’m not sure if it rubs me the wrong way because I’ve been trying to get Buzz to call me Ms. Martina (for his mom’s sake) for 4 weeks with no avail or if it’s because he’ll say it repeatedly until I respond and it’s usually for nothing in particular.

“Amamamamamamamamamamamamama…” as we’re driving to day care in the morning.

“What is it, Buzz?”

“Right there.” An airplane. Or a McDonalds billboard. Or a dog. Sometimes, by the time I turn my head around to see what he wants, he just shifts his eyes and smirks like he can’t remember what he was going to tell me. Or maybe he just wanted my attention.

Yesterday I remembered a conversation we  had on one of his first days at our home. He had woke up from nap time crying and I went into his room and held him for a good long time until he calmed down. I explained to him—as best as I could to a two-year old—the situation: that he would be living with us for a while as the grown ups take care of some things that need to be done and that we’re hoping he can go back to live with his mom and dad very soon. I told him he was safe with us and we hoped he would make himself at home. I acknowledged that he was missing his family. I explained to him that “I’m a mom, too.” He seemed comforted by that.

“A Mom.” I’ve decided that he’s calling me “A Mom.” I’m not sure if it’s the truth but I’m hoping it’ll make “Amamamamamamamama…” a little less annoying today.


If you hold hands nicely…

05/28/2013

I will pull you REALLY fast down the driveway!

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It was an attempt to get them to stop swatting and kicking at each other. It worked. In fact, they held hands 1/3 of the way around the block.


Off Day(s)

05/23/2013

I woke up yesterday in a fog with my alarm clock and my back up alarm clock both going off. I (attempt to) get up at least an hour before everyone else so that I have time to shower, take the dog out, have a cup of tea, spend some time with the Lord…not necessarily in that order. However, because of sleeping through my alarms I was greeted bright and early by a little boy holding an empty sippy cup that he had just retrieved from the kitchen cabinet. I fumbled around and filled it up for him and told him a needed a few more minutes to rest. Five minutes later he returned to my doorway holding an oatmeal packet. Ok ok. I’m up. Jason is out on tour for a few days so it’s just me and the two kiddos. I managed to get them both up and ready and we got out of the house on time. I only forgot 5 things. I remembered 2 of the 5 before we were too far away so I swung back home for Buzz’s afternoon snack and the flowers I bought for his day care teacher.* (The other 3 things I forgot to do were: turn down the temperature on the thermostat, start the dishwasher and take a sweater to work… in case anyone cares.) My mom was watching Ali and texted me in the early afternoon that my baby girl had a fever of 103 in addition to her really snotty nose.

It was definitely an off day.

I realized as I was scrambling out of work early to pick up Buzz from day care so I could get home to my sick little girl that I have so much to be thankful for. Ali was in good hands—wonderful hands—with my mom who is not just an experience mom and grandma, but also a nurse. I’m thankful for Buzz’s day care—it’s been so good for all of us and I really appreciate that the state helps to provide this service for foster families. I’m thankful for my dad who picks me up every Wednesday and takes me out to lunch. I’m thankful for my husband who is encouraging and supportive even when we’re states apart for a few days. I’m thankful for an encouraging card that came in the mail from a friend I don’t see often enough. I’m thankful for the senior art director at my office who was willing to help me out of a sticky situation with a logo design at work—I really value her advice, skills and gracious encouragement. I’m thankful for my neighborhood MOMS club and for the sweet ladies who have been taking time out of their busy schedules to bring us meals three days a week. It has helped tremendously!

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This morning, Ali and I took a short walk in the park after dropping Buzz off at day care. She was feeling pretty yucky but by the time we got home, she started acting like her usual spunky self again. I’m hoping it was just a short-lived virus and we’re at the end of it now. I’m really thankful that I am able to work at home a couple days a week so I could be home with my sweet little bug today.

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*I bought flowers for Buzz’s day care teacher because… SHE DID HIS HAIR!!! I had jokingly asked her last week while she was fixing a little girl’s hair, “Oh! Can you do his hair too?” She said she would. On Monday she noticed that his hair hadn’t been braided over the weekend (as we had planned with two different appointments that didn’t work out.) She did it! I am over the moon grateful. We were at the point of 2-year-old vs. adult power struggle and he would not even let me touch it. I think she’s going to agree to style it for me on a regular basis and I’ll gladly pay her.

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