Archive for June, 2012

Swimming, anyone?

Blitzen is loving vacation and wearing her little girl self out! Asleep at 7:30pm 2 nights in a row. Today we woke at 5:30am, watched a little tv (we’re on vacation!) and left the apartment that we rented at 7am to head to my mom’s to swim. Swam for 2 hours, went to visit Andrew’s dad and swam for 2 hours, lunch under duress, went to an open gym thing with new bf (my niece) then headed back to swimming for another 2 hours. Early dinner with my family, then collapsed into bed. What a day! I guess a cumulative 6 hours in the water in 115 degrees will do that.

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Tomorrow, we’re leaving on vacation.  We’re taking a very long plane ride to Phoenix, Az to visit with my family and Andrew’s father.  It is going to be hot.  We have lots of sunscreen and sun hats plus lightweight sweaters because Blitzen always gets cold in air conditioning, and Phoenix is nothing, if not air conditioned.  We’ll be driving to San Diego in the middle of the week to play in the ocean and go to Sea World.  It is going to be great.  (Or so I keep telling myself).

No, really, it is going to be great.   Both my mom and Andrew’s dad are certified back-ups, so I am hoping for a Blitzen-free outing or two somewhere along the way.  And there will be kids there, my nieces and nephew – so hopefully, Blitzen won’t want to have anything to do with us.  Maybe she’ll just want to play with the kids.  Of course, she is going to pretty pissed that I also want to play with the kids sometimes.

We rented our own little vacation condo in Phx — that was a smart move, it will be well worth the investment. I am thinking that we’ll have our fair share of melty evenings and tantrum-y mornings.  but there is a pool, everything is better when you can wake up and jump right into the pool.  Maybe the sun will bake some of the surly outta Blitzen.  Maybe I’ll feel a little more energetic and refreshed once I get a good dose of vitamin D.  Maybe I’ll cough up the $45 per person extra that they charge at Sea World so that we can all pet a dolphin (or maybe you get to pet the penguins for $45 and the dolphins cost $250???)  No matter, our first official family vacation.  It’ll be great! (Did I mention that it’ll be great?)

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Well, everyone has good days and everyone has bad days.  Blitzen and I did not have our best day on Monday.  She was churned up – I am not entirely sure why.  It could have been because it was a therapy day, could have been because bio-Mom totally bailed on the weekend’s scheduled visit, could of been that we had too much fun at the mermaid parade and for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Or it could have been that I just could not let the crazy go.  A lot of the time, I can — I let the crazy just take off and run itself out and collapse onto the floor exhausted and spent.  Some days, I can’t and I stand in my own kitchen and try to argue and reason with crazy. I say, ‘Really, I hate you? I never spend any time with you? I am terrible and mean, really???? This is how you see the past 8 months?!?’

And I know that it is not about me, I do.  I try to take a step back and really listen and hear her.  But it is hard, she loves to bring up every mistake that I have made since taking on this parenting gig.

For example, she might proclaim, ‘Whenever we have a fight, you stomp out of the house, you run out, you go to work and leave me all by myself.’ Yeah, well, last week I did get exasperated and fed-up and maxed out and I did say that I was going to work when you were acting like a lunatic and screaming at me but you also may want to recall that when you started sobbing ‘Don’t leave me,’ that I sat down on the porch steps and invited you outside and combed your hair and talked about it all.  I understand that no 9 year old remembers that the last part – it is all about the first part, especially for kids with a trauma history.  But it is exhausting to beat yourself up about your less than perfect moments and then, have someone else remind you about them too.  Uggh, oh well.  We’ll have better days, I am sure, and I am hoping that vacation brings some space and peace and relaxation (please dear god just a little bit) for the entire family.

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The Mermaid Parade can now officially be listed as one of the reasons why it is great to live in NYC and raise a child here.  Because there is an actual parade, just for mermaids, and anyone can participate.

We went, ready to get our fill of mermaid madness.  But we stopped at the beach and stayed at the beach — turns out maybe Blitzen had never been to the beach.* She put on her mermaid tail and swam out to sea.  Just a little bit because she is pretty worried about sharks.  But still, it was an impressive sight.  The other kids were amazed – you have your own tail?!?  And you know how to swim in it!?!

My Aunt joined us for the fun and adventure.  When it became clear that we may never make it to the parade, I reminded her of the time, when I was 11 or so, that she took me and my sister to a really fancy waterpark to do the rides and the waterslides and stuff.  This park also had a wave pool. Well, we stopped at the wave pool and stayed at the wave pool.  She could have taken us to the jersey shore for free!  But it was all fine, everyone had a great time that day, many, many years ago.  And everyone had a great time this weekend although Andrew and I were laughing about the fact that Coney Island is there every day of the year and of course, we went on the busy day of the year and ended up just swimming in the ocean and going to the aquarium.  I love these parenting lessons — the box is always way cooler than the toy inside.  I am learning, slowly…..

*Internet, you might say to me, Carrie, why don’t you just ask Blitzen if she has ever been to the beach?  Why, because if I do that, Blitzen will repeat back a story that she has heard about me and my siblings at the beach but with embellishments.  And it will sound a little something like this, “We went to the beach for a picnic and my little sister dropped her sandwich on the ground and it got all sandy.  But wait, it didn’t just get sandy, about 40 jellyfish got stuck onto it too plus a seagull tried to steal it but when the seagull flew away over the ocean, a dolphin jumped out of the water and stole the sandwich from the seagull.  It was really funny.  My mom used to take us the beach all the time and that would always happen.”

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Thank you, internet, for all the well-wishes last Monday and caring queries about how it went.

I still haven’t blogged about the IEP meeting that we had in early June.  Let me just say that I didn’t think, following that meeting, that I could possibly attend a more disorganized, unprofessional and frankly, illegal meeting ever again.  Oh, well, I was wrong.  The FTC meeting was NUTS, I mean crazy, bizarre, whacko, infuriating.  And not because of bio-Mom or bio-Mom’s partner.  They stayed relatively cool – they had their heated moments and it is clear they are angry.  But they showed up, they had their documents and their notebooks and they were ready to participate and engage.

I’ve mentioned before that we are a tale of two agencies.  The agency that we work with (not perfect by any standard but relatively communicative, professional and on the ball) and the original agency which still manages 3 of the children, bio-mom and the permanency planning.  Agency number 2 is a mess.  And I witnessed it for myself after being told this for months by various sources.  I can’t give details but they were disrespectful, uncooperative, abrasive and rude.  It made me want to believe Nana’s cockamamy theory that they are falsifying documents just to be sure that bio-Mom fails.  5 minutes in and I could see it was a set up, a recipe designed to create a disaster. How could bio-Mom possibly succeed with these people as her supports and advocates?

Much like our joke of an IEP meeting, it reminded me of high school.  Do you remember your first job?  Was it at a fast food establishment or low end retail outlet?  Did you get to watch, on your first day, a really silly video where some employee did the exact opposite of what one is supposed to do?  Maybe it was a video of a slovenly, inattentive young person deep-frying his name badge along with the french fries or someone wondering around a clothing store with their open cash drawer, asking a customer to ‘just hold this money for me for a minute’ — all very Goofus and Gallant with a major emphasis on Goofus.   It was exactly what everyone says is awful about the child welfare system.

All of that aside, I had a really nice conversation with Blitzen’s mom.  But the extended family is as fractured as I thought.  Bio-mom no longer thinks Nana is the right placement for any of the kids.  Oh boy….

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Blitzen in feather mask

I mean, she really really likes to dress up

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Blitzen loves to get dressed up.  She also loves to play and run around and create stuff and get dirty so her wardrobe is a funny mix of dresses and leggings and tshirts.  If you ask her what she would like to wear, the answer is almost always – pink and purple.  We have lots of pink and purple!

Blitzen also like s to choose outfits for Andrew and me, occassionally.  Before bed, she will go to everyone’s closet – hers first – and identify what she thinks everyone should wear.  She likes it if we all match.  Thursday was a blue day.   Andrew, Carrie, Blitzen all dressed in blue.

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Blitzen has trouble sleeping.  The entire time that she has lived with us, she has needed one of us to be with her in order to fall asleep.  And for those internet friends that might think we’ve been coddling the child, let me assure you that she really could not fall asleep without an adult to soothe her. When she first moved in with us, it took hours, after about 2 months, we were able to get her to sleep in under an hour, lately, it has been 30 minutes of fairly sane unwind, relax time.

Recently, Andrew took over the ‘put Blitzen to sleep’ job.  And hints of her possible past trauma flair up during the ritual – fight or flight often comes into play.  If she almost falls asleep, then startles herself awake and sees Andrew, she gets really mad and upset.  She will come running out of her room to tell me that she doesn’t want boys in her room, that Andrew looks like a monster, that she can’t sleep unless I am there.  We’ve held firm, I will tuck her in, give her a kiss but I’ve said that if she wants someone to stay, it’s gotta be Andrew UNLESS she would rather have Andrew comfort her in the middle of the night post nightmare.  I can’t do both.  We’ve also told her that she can, of course, choose to try to fall asleep independently.  She took us up on this for the first time last week.  Andrew stayed with her for a bit and then she asked him to leave and she fell asleep on her own.  It happened again 2 nights ago and when she woke up in the morning, Andrew congratulated her on falling asleep on her own.  She was really very proud and declared, “I am going to sleep independent from now on.”

This feels like a huge step for all of us.  I am not foolish enough to think that magically the kid is going to crawl into bed on her own every night and fall asleep in her room alone.  But we’re inching toward more age appropriate developmental behavior and it is a great sign that Blitzen has begun to self-soothe.

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Most heart wrenching quote from 4 year old Dasher yet.  Said through tears and a bit of foot stomping upon having to separate from Blitzen to go to her home after a wonderful afternoon of play in the park.

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We’re trying to figure out where to send Blitzen to school.  It is so complicated.  Because Blitzen is so complicated – sensitive and tough, brave and fearful, confident and bashful, open and resistant all at the same time.  And she is not typical whatever the hell that is and she needs something extra or different but we’re not entirely sure what.

We, of course, want her to be successful, and by successful I guess I really mean that we want her to experience the joy of learning and a love of learning and be surrounded by children and adults committed to forming a respectful community of humans (and maybe animals) that supports one another as they all together try to grow and expand and move through life.  That is it, it is not a big ask, except that apparently it kind of is.  Sigh….

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