Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Foster Care Sucks

Yesterday I posted an entry about the more heartwarming side of Foster Care, but today I just don't have it in me.

It's 11:15pm and I've just spent the past two hours trying - in vain - to calm my foster son *Jason down.  He went to bed at 8pm exhausted after a long day which I'll get into later, and soon after woke up screaming.  I got him back to sleep, but every time he dozed off he'd jolt back awake in terror.  

Now, it's my opinion that *Jason has some sort of undiagnosed sensory processing disorder.  His doctors have hinted at it, and his special education teacher is working with him on his sensory seeking behavior.  But without a diagnosis to Google (let's just be honest about Dr Google okay?  We all do it.) and in the absence of anyone taking the time to figure out what Jason's challenges are, I'm basically parenting by instinct.

Which sucks.

Added to this is the fact that my caseworker is perhaps the worst communicator on the face of the planet.  No really, she is.

I send one weekly email update for *Jason, and it serves three purposes:
(1) A written record of behaviors and patterns.
(2) To show that *Jason is getting the services the State has provided and is attending medical appointments as needed.  (This is also known as the "I'm doing my job" purpose.)
(3) To remind the caseworker that he exists.

This sounds harsh, I know, but I have sent SIX weekly updates complete with important questions about his care and have never gotten a reply or answer to a single question.
At the one month mark I called up my certifier to discuss this.  I made it clear that I hadn't gone to the caseworker's supervisor yet because I didn't want to get her in trouble, but that I was frustrated with the lack of communication.  The next day I got a voicemail from caseworker saying that she would be better at responding to my questions.

That was the last time I heard from her and she still hasn't answered any questions.

So today was a long day because he had his weekly 3 hour visit with mom.  
And just like every other week he left for the visit a happy boy and returned angry and upset.  He threw his dinner across the room, had multiple tantrums, and no amount of calming him down or hugs or a warm bath or anything made him feel better.  He's speech delayed so he can't tell me what he's feeling or express himself.  And now I'm up trying to console him and prevent him from waking everyone up with his screams.

And this happens every week after visits.
And in a few days he's back to being happy *Jason.
... Just in time for the next visit.

I don't want to be that person that takes the stance that these visits aren't in his best interest.  I'd much rather assume that it's returning to MY home and not staying with his biological mom that is setting him off.  But given what I know about the case history and what I know about how *Jason responds to things, I just don't think that's true.  I think he's reminded every week of the neglect and abuse.

It's heartbreaking, and frustrating, and exhausting to sit up with him like this.
It's moments like this where Foster Care sucks.  

I'm angry at this whole system - 
That more isn't being done to help *Jason thrive and that I don't have the tools I need.  
That my caseworker is either so overworked or so apathetic that she's never available.  
That every week I send him off to visits knowing that he's going to come back even more traumatized than when he left.  
That I can't have a conversation with him about how he feels because he can't speak the words, and yet he's only receiving the bare minimum of speech therapy despite my complaints. 

I always try to see the bright side of things and today I just can't.  
There isn't a bright spot here. 
And don't be fooled - I'm not the bright spot.  
Him being here, in our home, isn't the bright spot.  
That 'I care enough to sit up with him' isn't a bright spot.  
That's the least I can do to comfort a three year old child stuck in a system that isn't serving him.
Having someone hold him through his nightmares is a mere bandaid on a broken situation.  
It barely even registers as a flicker.

Foster Care sucks.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Christmas Stockings in September

Foster Parenting changes your life in obvious ways. Rearranging car seats to include the newest child and lengthening the time it takes to finish the bedtime routine because there's another bath to take and set of teeth to brush.

These day to day things are expected.

But at 2am when I'm nursing my baby by iPad light and perusing Christmas pajamas, I realize just how unknown the future is when fostering.

We are currently caring for two toddler boys that came to us from separate families in crisis. They are polar opposites all the way from their complexion to their personalities and temperaments, down to the way they respond to discipline and rewards. They couldn't be more different but I love them both very much.

I braved Costco on Saturday with all five kiddos (Hannah, William, Logan, *Jason, *Sawyer *not their real names) while Chris was at work. Chaotic, yes, but once everyone was in the shopping cart and we were walking the aisles it was great. They found these toy Tonka trucks that lit up and had sounds, and the three toddlers (aka Musketeers) couldn't decide which ones they liked more.

I immediately noted that they'd be great Christmas presents, and could envision three trucks with big bows just sitting at the bottom of the tree as the boys ran in on Christmas morning. The excitement and noise would kick the day off with a burst of joy.

But my excitement was quickly tempered.

The thing about fostering is that I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

Just as I don't know when to expect a call about a child that needs a safe home, I don't know when my current kiddos will leave. It often happens when you least expect it.

So when I'm flipping ahead in my calendar and making notes, there's always a tentativeness to my plans.

Will they spend Halloween with my family or theirs? Thanksgiving? Should I buy them matching pajamas to open on Christmas Eve, or a stocking with their name on it to hang on the mantle?
 Or will they have those with their bio family?

It's such a frivolous concern when there are such huge questions looming over these children and their futures. The caseworkers and lawyers and parents are all making big decisions for these little boys.  I just want what's best for them - be that mom or dad or adoption, I'll let the courts take everything into account and decide.

So while I don't have much say in what happens in the future, I do have the opportunity to make sure they know Love every day they're here.

When I order Logan's Christmas stocking I'll order their's too.
When I decide on a set of family jammies to open after church and before hot cocoa, I'll order their size too - And if they leave before they have a chance to use them, well then I'll lovingly tuck them into their suitcase alongside the note for their mom about how much I loved their son and what a blessing he was in my life.

and I'll cry, just like I've done in the past.
and I'll stay up nights worrying and praying for them.
and I'll answer the phone the next time a child needs a home
and I'll do it all over again.

Because that's the thing about being a foster mom:  These children are amazing.  They deserve to have someone up late at night planning ways to make them smile and feel loved - and I hope, I hope from the very bottom of my heart, that is exactly what their mom is doing while she works to get them back.  However, I learned a long time ago that the only person I can control is myself.
So regardless of what everyone else in *Jason and *Sawyer's life is doing, I'm up at 2am in September picking out their Christmas stockings, because if they're here on that magical morning, then I won't have them feeling like anything less than a loved member of our family.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chicco NaturalFit Bottle Review - ENTER TO WIN!

I'm a big breastfeeding advocate.  I nursed Hannah for 14 months, William for 22 months, and if I continue this pattern then Logan won't wean until he's two and a half!  That said, I also appreciate the freedom that a bottle gives me every once in a while.  From running to the store all by myself, or attending a meeting sans baby, there are times when bottle feeding is easier for my family.

When I was asked last Spring to be a Sunday School teacher this Fall I knew it would take some juggling.  Not only were we due in July with baby #3, but we're foster parents so we usually have a couple extra littles in tow.  I planned to pump for Church and began searching for a great bottle when, in a stroke of awesome timing, it found me.

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Chicco. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Babies R Us Display

I tested out the Chicco NaturalFit Stage 1 bottle with Logan and instantly liked it.  The nipple is made of a soft silicone and is shaped similar to a breast, so it's easier for a breastfed baby to transition to.

But I loved the angled nipple the most!  Because of the angle the nipple stays full of milk so the baby ingests less air.  My husband appreciated the the bottle was easy to assemble.  Just three pieces plus the lid.  The twin anti-colic valves are built into the nipple, so there wasn't any extra pieces.

Here's a close up of the nipple.  Isn't that a great shape?   Bonus - Chicco has a 100% guarantee on all their NaturalFit bottles.  If you're not satisfied they'll refund the cost of the bottle PLUS shipping!

The NaturalFit bottle line grows with your baby.  The Stage 2 nipple is straight with an adjustable flow, and the Stage 3 nipple allows for tighter lip support and is elongated to better fit an older baby's suckle and swallow pattern.  The bottle size increases as the baby gets older, and I found the bottle shape easy to hold and clean.

Chris has his hands full on Sundays, but I snapped this picture of Logan during Hannah's gymnastic's class while William and our foster son ran around the playground.  Isn't he cute?  He turned 2 months old yesterday.  Time is flying!

Influence Central is hosting a contest through which your readers can enter to win one of 18 tiered Chicco Prize Packs:
o Three Tier 1 Prize Packs valued at $439.98
o Five Tier 2 prize packs valued at $189.98
o Ten Tier 3 prize packs valued at $59.99
Contest closes September 30, 2015 so enter quickly:  Chicco Natural Fit Contest!
*I-C will randomly select 18 winners from all tiered program entries and will handle fulfillment of the winning prizes.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Family Beach Day!

It wasn't until my husband and I had been dating for 5 years that I realized a simple truth -
We are not beach compatible.

My husband is a cliche.  He loves long walks on the beach.
and I... don't.

I like digging in the sand, or flying a kite, or just sitting in my chair and watching the tide roll in.
I'll admit it was a tiny issue - until we had kids.

Now everyone is happy when we go to the beach.  The kid that wants to go on a walk goes with daddy, and the kid that wants to build a sand castle stays we me.  Then everyone splashes in the (freezing) Pacific Ocean, we take the required (damp and windblown) family selfie, and then go eat clam chowder.  It's a beautiful thing.

So when I opened William's May Citrus Lane box, I was very excited.  Not only did it have the Hape Master Bricklayer Set (retail $8) which is perfect for building sand castles,

but it also had an adorable t-shirt from Tea Collection (retail $22.50) and an 8 piece bento box from Goodbyn (retail $15)!  Combined with a few snacks from Plum Organics, the box was valued at over $45, which is a great value considering the boxes are only $24.95 each when you buy a 6 month subscription!

I set the sand toys aside for our first Coast trip of the Summer, and they were a huge hit!

William added some sandy 'mortar' to the first layer of bricks.

And then helped me level off the first two layers.

At this point he was ready to run off some energy and the kiddos went on a walk with dad while I kept building.

Back in Portland it was 96 degrees, but it was a fabulous 68 degrees at the Coast.

My little surfer dude was right at home in the water.

By the time the kids came back I had finished our Mayan pyramid (complete with a ramp down to a wading pool).  I LOVED the Hape tools.  They were sturdy and perfect for creating with.  They easily fit William's toddler hand, but were a great size for adults as well.  

Hape has a complete line of sand toys, including sandcastle molds of famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, and Great Wall of China - plus many more!
How neat is that!? 

A quick pregnant belly shot.  36 weeks 4 days!  BabyLUSH #3 is almost here!!

Before we left I let the kids thoroughly destroy the pyramid which, let's be honest, is half the fun of building a sand castle.  

I've been getting Citrus Lane boxes since Hannah was an infant, and they are the GO TO subscription box for 0-5 year olds.  The brands and value can't be beat.

Get 40% off your first box by using my LINK

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Newest Ballerina | Week In Pictures

I love this picture of Hannah eagerly awaiting the start of her first ballet class.  She's been looking forward to this day for months!  We signed Hannah up for Gymnastics and Ballet this summer through the Park and Rec department.  She started Gymnastics last week (and rocked the balance beam) but she was really excited about her new ballet shoes and leotard.

The class was filled with happy and excited little girls and the instructor was great.  We left the class on a great note... Until a we got about a mile down the road and I noticed my check engine light was on.

Now I didn't talk much about this online, but a month ago the same light came on as I was dropping the kiddos off at the babysitter.  I was going to spend the whole day by myself and was only a few miles from her house.  I figured I'd make it.  
Then the car died and smoke started pouring out of the engine.  Turns out I effectively killed my minivan and the repair bill would almost completely deplete our emergency fund.  
I cussed a lot that week.

So when I saw that (effing) light come back on I pulled over immediately.  

I called the mechanic and told them to expect us (yay for 30 day warrenties!!) and called AAA to get towed.  Then we waited in the (hot.) car for Chris to rescue us and for the tow truck to arrive.  Hannah and I snapped this picture while we waited.  William took advantage of the early nap time and quickly passed out.  It turns out we have another large repair bill coming our way.  JOY!

30 minutes later Chris showed up with cold drinks and cheeseburgers and made the kids VERY happy while we transferred car seats and gave directions to the tow man.

William has been going to Gymboree for a year now, and he really enjoys it.  He's selective about which activities he participates in - he won't sit quietly while the teacher introduces the theme of the week, but loves parachute time and always drags me underneath it with him.  I love that he wants to share that moment with me each week.  His giggle is infectious and it's always the highlight of my day.

William takes a solid 2-3 hour nap each afternoon, but Hannah rarely naps nowadays.  Instead she loves to make art in the afternoon.  This is an example of one of her collages.  (I'm really proud of her for coming up with this idea on her own.  She's done it with lots of different characters and it's always really cute and creative.)  
She picks out a picture from a coloring book - in this case the castle - colors it and cuts it out with scissors, then she glues it to a blank piece of art paper and creates her own background.  Cute, right?

She's also really into Legos.  We put together this Lego Friend's set earlier this week.  (Andrea's Mountain Hut #41031 - retired)  Sadly, Hannah is completely against creatively building with her pieces and insists on following the directions (which requires mom's help).  Hopefully soon she'll give free form legos a try.  Don't tell Hannah, but the baby got her a Lego's Junior set as part of her hospital big sister gift.  I'm hoping it'll help the transition and give her something new to do during quiet time when I'm busy with a newborn.

I also (FINALLY) started getting caught up with YouTube vlogs.  I posted Hannah's Reaction when we told her about the baby, and on Thursday I posted the gender reveal.  Links below if you haven't watched these yet:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Father's Day | Week In Pictures

Although school has been out for a few weeks, this week felt like the first week of Summer.  We kicked off our Summer activities with a week of Vacation Bible School for Hannah.
Each morning I dropped Hannah off at 8:45 and picked her up at noon smiling and happy.  
Each day she'd meet me with a bag full of arts and crafts, and singing beautiful new songs she'd learned.  
Each evening we read the day's bible verse and talked about the lesson she'd learned that day at VBS.  It was awesome to hear her asking these thought provoking questions about the story of Elijah.

The last day of VBS was Crazy Hair day, and although I did exactly what Hannah asked, she declared it 'Too Cute to be Crazy' and considered it a failure - but cute.

While Hannah was busy with VBS each day, William and I had a lot of time together.  One day he spent some time with his buddy, Chase, at the playground.  William is a year younger than this little boy, but they are finally at the age where they can play as peers.

William's current favorite show is Little Einstein's, followed closely by Super Why.  For months he was obsessed with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, so this is a nice change of pace with more educational shows.  He's become very interested in Letters lately so he particularly likes that about Super Why.

I still don't think William understands that there is an actual baby in my tummy (34 weeks this week), but he finally relented and attempted to feel and listen for the baby.  I'm pretty sure he's convinced I just ate too much ice cream and am making the whole 'baby' thing up.  His world is going to be rocked in July...

I'm a huge fan of Instagram now.  I find it to be an efficient way to follow brands and people that I love.  One brand I follow is Milk Makers, and recently they had a huge sale on their pregnancy cookies (which I saw during snack time) so I bought the 3 box bundle.  I can't recommend these cookies enough if you're pregnant.  They're so tasty, huge, and perfect to keep in your purse when you're hit with a craving.  My sweet tooth has been intense this week, so these were a lifesaver!

My birthday was earlier this month and I'm signed up for just about every birthday club that exists.  I'm cool with free burgers and ice cream.  I snapped this picture of Hannah and William while waiting for my Teriyaki Chicken Burger and Freckled Lemonade at Red Robin.  I order that every time I go and it's so, so, good.

On Saturday Kohl's sponsored a car seat check.  This was my first time having my car seats officially checked and it was a great learning experience.  I was able to pick the technician's brain about different layouts to accommodate foster children, and I was told that my car seats were the best installed they saw all day!!  We had to remove a headrest, and we switched Hannah to a seat belt install since she had just hit the weight limit for LATCH.  (I knew that she was getting close but waited to switch it until we had the seat professionally installed.)  She also helped me install the infant car seat base, so we're all ready for baby!  

Well, the minivan is ready for baby.  I still have some newborn laundry to do.

I can't get over how old William looks in this picture.  
My little boy is getting so big! (He turned 27 months this week.)

The week ended with Father's Day.  I snapped this picture at our Go To restaurant choice - Sweet Tomatoes.  Seriously, I love this place.  They have an extensive salad bar that the kids go crazy for, and everything is already bite sized, so when we get to our table I don't have to cut everything up for them.  Moms know - this is huge.  They also have these tiny little ice cream cones which the kids beg for.  Tiny dessert that appeases toddlers?  Winner.  I've signed up for their Club Veg and regularly get a coupon for 2 adult dinners with beverage for $19.99.  Hannah is a couple dollars and William is free.  Family dinner at a restaurant for under $25!  

I love this face.

Mother's Day and Father's Day are very laid back at our house.  There's no footprint art or ugly neckties given as gifts.  Instead we usually start the day with a great breakfast and go to church.  All day you are not the PIC - Parent in Charge.  No diaper duty, no mediating bickering kids, no bedtime duty.  You just get to enjoy your family and then when they throw a tantrum your partner takes over.  It's awesome.  Plus dinner is your choice.  

Overall this was a great week.  We were busy in the mornings, but spent a lot of quality time together in the evenings.

Note - This Summer is going to get crazy once the baby arrives in late July.  If you haven't already added me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter make sure you do!  I update each of those platforms on a near daily basis.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Preschool Graduation & the Kindergarten Decision

Hannah is officially a Preschool graduate!  We had a big decision to make in regards to PreK or Kindergarten this fall, and have gone back and forth for months.  We finally came to an agreement and I think everyone is happy.

Although Hannah was due on September 1st (which happens to be the admission cutoff for Kindergarten), she wasn't born until the 19th.  Upon first calculating her due date I remember realizing that if I went even ONE day overdue that she would miss the cut off.  Apparently I didn't knock on wood and instead she went 18 days over.  But I digress...

Shortly before Hannah turned three she began a 3 year old preschool program, and just completed the 4 year old program this Spring.  With two years of 'school' under her belt she knows how to conduct herself in a classroom, and continues to improve her social skills.
Her teacher (pictured above) did a wonderful job of teaching the children phonics, and Hannah has begun reading Bob Books and easily sounds out basic words.
After months of Hannah begging to go to Kindergarten at the 'Big Kid's School', in March we contacted our district's elementary school and spoke with the Principle about early entry.  Chris was the oldest in his class and I was one of the youngest in mine, so we had many discussions about the pros and cons of both.  Ultimately we realized that if Hannah was excited about it and the testing would show if she was ready for it, then we should at least let her try.
In May Hannah sat down for an academic test with the school's Kindergarten teacher, and last week Hannah sat in on a Kindergarten class while the school counselor observed her.
This morning we spoke with the Principle and found out that Hannah did very well on both evaluations.  We ultimately decided to let Hannah begin Kindergarten in September, and if after two months we felt that she wasn't ready, then we'd have the option of switching her to a PreK program instead.  I think this is a great compromise and Hannah agrees.  She's also VERY excited.

Part of me expected to have another year before having a Kindergarten student, but a bigger part of me knows that Hannah is independent and determined and will thrive in school.

Hannah was so proud of her graduation ceremony, but I think she was most excited to wear her new rainbow heart dress and cutout hooded sandals from Fabkids.  "I look like a Kindergartner in this outfit!"  Yes, Yes she does...

In case you aren’t familiar, they are a subscription service that offers you a complete outfit for $29.95 a month. Every outfit includes 2 pieces — so you can get a fabulous dress, paired with leggings OR a top and a bottom, etc.  They make girls and boys clothing with a wide range of sizes.  Hannah is wearing a Medium (6/7) in these pictures and it's nice and roomy.  (The Small (4/5) just became a little too tight.)   They carry XXS (2T - which William has just started wearing!) up to XL (12).

Thanks to FabKids for providing Hannah's outfit for review.  
We've been working with FabKids for over a year and I'm very 
impressed with the quality (and cuteness!) of their clothing.  
I highly recommend them.  See disclosure for details.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hannah's New Church Dress

Hannah is officially 4.5 years old and although she says she wants to live at home with her mom and dad forever, I'm pretty sure her current career aspiration is to be a fashion designer.

Every day she wants to pick out her own outfit - complete with accessories, shoes, and purse - and then upon coming back home she asks to play dress up and change into something completely different.

This is why her favorite package that the postman delivers is the bright pink bag from Fabkids.

In case you aren’t familiar, they are a subscription service that offers you a complete outfit for $29.95 a month. Every outfit includes 2 pieces — so you can get a fabulous dress, paired with leggings OR a top and a bottom, etc.  They make girls and boys clothing with a wide range of sizes.  Hannah is wearing a Small (4/5) in this video, but I'll be moving her up to a Medium (6/7) soon.   They carry XXS (2T - which William has just started wearing!) up to XL (12).

Here is her unboxing video for April's outfit.  I love her reaction!

Thanks to FabKids for providing Hannah's outfit for review.  
We've been working with FabKids for over a year and I'm very 
impressed with the quality (and cuteness!) of their clothing.  
I highly recommend them.  See disclosure for details.



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