Archive for January, 2012

Make a new plan, Stan

So it was a rocky week in our household with a very, very challenging weekend.  Have I mentioned how much I frickin hate family vists????  I have?  Well, that is because I do.  I really, really do.

I try to be empathetic and understanding, I try to be calm and reassuring when dealing with the family.  Inside I am just screaming, ‘What happened to you people?!? And why oh why would you want to do this these kids?!? And if you don’t start being nice to my beautiful Blitzen, seriously, I am gonna kick your you know what.’  But then I check in and remember that I don’t know the full story here.  That people are fragile and sometimes broken and often overwhelmed and afraid.  I try to give people the benefit of the doubt – life is hard and for some people, it is simply unmanageable.  And Blitzen has so many amazing qualities and these qualities came from someplace and probably some of them, maybe lots of them, came from her family.  And whether she is creative and imaginative, athletic and energetic, smart and funny because of or in spite of all that she has been through, I try to remember that it is all a part of who she is.

But whenever we have these rough weekends, I tend to want to change course.  Andrew often wants to dig in.  Probably this is what makes us a good team, we stay the course with minor but significant corrections along the way.  We continue to work on building trust with Blitzen, encouraging her to express her anger and frustration in positive ways.  But it is hard.  I told my mother today that I wish Blitzen had a ‘whoosh valve’ like on a blow-up mattress and I could just press the ‘whoosh’ whenever I see the tension rising so that all of the yuck would just blow away in a loud but benign stream of air.


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Drop off the key, Lee

Every week or two, Blitzen develops a new obsession.  This is driven, partly I am sure, by our constant search for interesting activities and amusing distractions.  We gave her a cheapy little key chain with a tic tac toe board.  After she had cheated us at several games, she asked if she could have a key.  Ok, sure — we gave her some keys — one for our front door (but not the building door), some old keys that don’t work, one for the basement storage room.  She is thrilled when she thinks about the keys.  Can I open the door? she asks as she races up the steps.  We made a key to the mailbox and now she is in charge of picking up the mail.

The amount of joy this child gets from very small things is simply amazing.  The amount of sadness and anger triggered by very small things is truly disheartening.  It was a rough weekend but hey, at least we now have a key to the mailbox.

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It is an interesting thing, writing this blog.  It is a record of what I am feeling, thinking, considering, at a given moment in time (but just a single moment), during my foster parenting experience.  And it is a public record, deliberately so. I’ve invited an audience in and I’ve encouraged comments and I like to hear from people.  I find it encouraging, funny, clarifying, helpful.

It is that is a great way to communicate with family and friends, every day, all at once, so they actually get a clearer picture of our life in the Blitzen era.

I feel compelled to post almost every day because people are watching and I am a little type A, so you know, I think you all are expecting something, therefore I must deliver.  And that is a good thing because if I was just journaling, I would have stopped after day 3.

It is forcing me to write in a way that I have not really written since I woo-ed my spouse via the US postal service many, many years ago when we were courting and living in separate cities and I wrote to him almost every day.  Those were “haven’t you fallen in love with me yet?” letters.  These blog posts are more like “I haven’t quite figured out how to parent a traumatized child yet” letters.  Very similar, really, because I was/am trying capture moments in time, express myself honestly, be open and receptive.  Very different because those original letters were written in cursive on purple stationary and now there is this crazy thing called the world wide web and people that I have never met from all around the world are reading my thoughts.

But the most interesting thing about writing this blog is that the reader is only getting my viewpoint (and Andrew’s).   Since much of this tale is not really ours to tell, we don’t share everything.  There is a lot more to the story.   For many reasons including, first and foremost, Blitzen’s privacy and safety, you all are not getting to see the whole picture.  These are just snapshots, taken at like 30,000 feet or photos zoomed in so close that you may not be sure what, exactly, you are looking at.  We are only revealing two small pieces of a very large and complex puzzle.

But even though the view is limited, I’m trying to convey a true sense of my journey.  Maybe someday Blitzen will write about this time too.  I hope so, I think it would be a very interesting read.

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If you build it

They will come.

Fairies, that is.

We left school yesterday for an appointment and then had a long, long rainy afternoon stretching out in front of us.  What to do, what to do?  Guess we better build a fairy house out of a flower pot.  Our project grew in scope and now there is a treehouse (the flower pot), a garden, a wooden bridge over sparkly stones, within a shoe box there are 2 bedrooms (because per Blitzen – it might be a mom and a dad and a baby fairy that would like to live here) and a kitchen with a little tiny table and refrigerator and tiny plates each holding a single pea.

All of this, artfully arranged on the window sill awaiting habitation.

We talked a lot about where to put this extravaganza of fairy living and the window sill in the living room was chosen as the perfect spot – roomy, right in the middle of all the action and sunny.

“If I leave the door open a crack during bedtime playtime, do think fairies will fly in and sleep here?” Blitzen asked.  “Could be they can just wiggle in under the window or door” I said.

During dinner, Blitzen heard a noise at the window.  “SHHHH!” she said, “I think they are coming!”  She ran over to check and confirmed that yes, indeed, a mom fairy, a dad fairy and a baby fairy had arrived.  She suggested that we remain very quiet because the parent fairies were rocking the baby to sleep.

This morning, there was a lovely thank you from the fairies to Blitzen.  They are so excited to move into their new house.  Blitzen told me that we wouldn’t see them this morning because “they are early birds and they already went to pack their suitcase so they can really move in.”

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Fairy bedrooms and kitchen

Spacious, for the whole family

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A home for fairies

It is like Versailles, for fairies

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“Ok, see,” she says, with hands held high over her head, one foot in front of the other, knee slightly bent.  “See, you can start with a half lunch or a full lunch.”

Then she bends over and flips, feet flying through the air.  A lovely cartwheel, learned in our new gym class.

Andrew mentioned that he thought the word was lunge, not lunch.  She was adamant.  “No, it is lunch but not the kind you eat.”

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The Life Coach

We (finally, finally) started therapy a few weeks ago but Blitzen is very reactive to all things doctor, medical, therapeutic.  It is just instant meltdown time.

So Andrew had a great idea – we don’t go to therapy, we go to the life coach.  We mostly just call our therapist by his first name, avoid medical speak, put him on the schedule and it is all good.

Yesterday, we visited the life coach for our weekly session.  UNO cards were produced by Blitzen who suggested a game.  About 15 minutes into the session, Blitzen comes stomping into the waiting room.  My eyebrows arch, I say ‘Hmmm, you are looking kind of upset.  What happened?’

Blitzen replies, indignantly, ‘I only cheated twice and HE didn’t like it.’

It is times like these when it is really hard for me to keep my face a mask of neutrality.  Blitzen is a blatant cheater.  Really, I’ve rarely seen anything like it and I’ve known lots of kids and they all cheat.  She has probably already been barred from Vegas because they’ve heard about her through some underground network that keeps tabs on card counters, horse race fixers, and children who arrange the deck to their advantage then insist on dealing.  But I digress.

So, Life Coach and I got to do most of the talking this week.  That is ok.  Next week, we’re going to bring some of our favorite art supplies — it is harder to cheat at watercolors.

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The first few weeks with Blitzen, we were calling the agency practically every day, begging for help.  The tantrums, the trauma, the drama, it was so overwhelming.

A couple of weeks into our foster parenting gig, Blitzen ran away from me AT the agency and was gone for 3 hours (ok, it was 10 minutes but it felt like 3 hours and she was just hiding under our worker’s desk but I was panicking!!) and I literally broke down sobbing in the lobby.  And one of the social workers (not one of ours just a random person helping me look for my missing kid), took me aside and reassured me “You guys are doing a great job,  she is a really tough kid, it will get better.”  I didn’t believe her.  So we kept begging for support, pleading for a therapeutic parenting class and finally, we got it.

To put things in perspective, Blitzen has lived with us for 10 weeks.  Sometimes, it feels like 10 minutes, other times, it feels like 10 years.  But the agency has been really responsible and responsive.  Given the time of year, etc, it really wasn’t that long to wait for the classes.  And I am sure that they will be helpful.  But it reminds me of the time when I went to visit my mother as an adult and got the flu.  The real flu, the really high temperature, horrible cough, aching everything even the roots of your hair, kind of flu.  So she took me to her doctor, who was kind and gave me cough medicine and said ‘rest’.  Before we left the doctor, my mom asked if she should get a flu shot.  And the doctor started laughing and said, “Oh, you’ve had your flu shot.  You have been exposed – you will either get the flu or not.  At this point, the shot is just irrelevant.”

Now, I am not saying that the classes will be irrelevant.  I do think that they will offer strategies that will be useful as well as context and deeper understanding of some of the issues at play.  But I feel like Andrew and I have had the flu shot.  We have been EXPOSED!!! We have not taken therapeutic parenting classes but we’ve been in the trenches — we have been to therapeutic parenting boot camp.  So I am glad to get the cough medicine, as it were, but now I understand that we really have to do the rest.

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Snow and other kids and life

It snowed, it snowed, it snowed.  Just a little bit of snow but Blitzen’s reaction was so funny when she peeked out the window on Saturday morning.  “I can’t believe it really snowed, y’all.”  Followed by mad, hysterical giggles and much jumping up and down.

Andrew and Blitzen had lots of sledding fun – I think they took the sled out 5 times over the course of the weekend.  I went out a couple of times too but part of the division of labor in our house is that Andrew is the run around outdoors person and I am the person that you call when you need help shampooing your hair.  It all works out equitably in the end except poor Andrew sometimes has stand outside  in the freezing cold for hours.

One of the great things about Blitzen is that, usually, she is really brave around other kids.  She will ask them if she can have a turn on their sled, she will volunteer to let them try her sled, she will invent a sledding game with rules so complex that the other kids won’t get it and she will be the winner every time.  On one of my turns outside on sled duty, we ran into one of Bltizen’s playground friends.  A girl maybe 2 years younger than Blitzen. Blitzen really likes her and we see them quite often.  This girl’s family is almost as hearty as we are — outdoor time at all costs no matter the weather.  But this time, the little girl had brought a buddy out on her sledding adventure.  Blitzen tried to connect with them but it wasn’t working so well for all the reasons that it doesn’t.

On the walk home, Blitzen said, “Sometimes, when two kids know each other, it is hard to play with them.  You feel shy.”  And I said, “I feel that way too sometimes when one of my grown-up friends brings along another friend.  I feel kind of left out.”  And she said, “You shouldn’t be shy, just introduce yourself.”  And I said, “Ok, maybe you could try that too.”  Blitzen thought about it for a minute and said, ” I can try that next time.”

A month ago, the interaction (or lack of interaction) with these two little girls would have ruined the outing.  Blitzen would have been distraught, feeling rejected, it would have been my fault because I clap for all the kids when they sled down the hill proving that they are, somehow, more lovable than she is.  But none of that happened.  We TALKED about how we felt.  We came up with a PLAN to feel better about it next time.  We EMPATHIZED with how someone else might feel the same way some time and applied it to our own situation.

To quote Blitzen again “OMG!!!” in a really, really good way.

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