This Sunday, following our brunch with family, Blitzen wanted to go to Brooklyn to visit Rebecca and the baby ladies. Rebecca sweetly accommodated our last minute visit request – then she took a nap and we took the babies on a walk. This is Blitzen’s favorite activity, caring for babies. As usual, she was in charge of the stroller, bottle assembly, feeding and walking/bouncing fussy babies.
At one point in the visit, Blitzen suggested that we create a baby sling. So using a baby blanket and her sweater, we fashioned a sling. It was not quite sturdy enough for walking around but it worked well when we were sitting on the bench. As we sat in the sun, shoes off, the littlest of us relaxing in the homemade baby sling, Blitzen said, “I am good at taking care of babies because I’ve been practicing with my dolls.” That is so true but Blitzen is also good at taking care of babies because she is Blitzen — kind, caring, empathetic and patient. It is a wonderful thing to watch.
Notice how I artfully colored Sandy’s face to hide her identity
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Blitzen and I learned these rules from those fictional whacky 2nd graders, Ivy and Bean, last night during story time. Blitzen thought these were quite funny and we’re thinking about making these our rules to live by:
1) you can only have as much fun as you are willing to get hurt
2) live and learn
3) the counselor is always right (I suggested substituted the foster parent is always right, Blitzen didn’t think so)
4) if you want to make an omelet, you’ve gotta break some eggs
5) if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em
6) don’t get mad, get even
Ok. Maybe we should skip the last one.
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Your own personal, emotional stuff, is that it just keeps coming back. And when you are a parent, it seems to be all the more evident that you have unresolved issues and if you are parenting a child who has suffered some trauma and experiences some behavioral problems because of it, that old, awful, annoying baggage is just lurking behind every corner, ready to spring out and screw up your day. That would be why I found myself sitting alone in a coffee shop on my spouse’s birthday. Because I have birthday issues and my child has listening / negotiating / doing what other people want issues.
In my ungenerous (baggage filled) opinion, Blitzen screwed up Andrew’s birthday. He doesn’t care, he doesn’t have birthday issues. She doesn’t care because, well – I am not sure why, maybe because she is 10 and a bit of a punk sometimes. But I care and I was very angry. I should have anticipated that Andrew’s birthday would work like my birthday (which sucked) and that Blitzen would be cranky and uncooperative. She was slightly less combative on this particular birthday because it is a little less fun for her to fight with Andrew. Andrew is for playing, Carrie is for fighting. Or so it seems to me right now. (Everyone understands that this post is about my issues, right???)
I should have planned it all out in advance and been ready to therapeutic parent our way out of it but I really just wanted to go out to dinner. I didn’t want to engage in an exhausting debate. Exhausting being the operative word here along with baggage. So after dinner at home instead of dinner out, Blitzen was rude and mean to me at bath time and I said ‘see you later’ and walked out the door. Something that I rarely do and feel regretful about doing on my spouse’s birthday but oh well. Sometimes self-preservation trumps everything else.
All this to say that I would like to check this baggage now, please. I am tired of it. If anyone would like to come take it, I am a big tipper!
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Blitzen really hates therapy – like a lot. And you know what, I can totally relate. I’ve been in therapy a few times. While it was always helpful, it was also hard work and upsetting. Who wants to sit around talking about all this hard stuff? In the moment, it seems so much easier to just stuff it down and ignore it. But, of course, that doesn’t really work in the long run so off we go to work on the difficult things.
We’ve been having quite a bit of trouble on this front – Blitzen has been combative, sassy and uncooperative. We’re trying some new things including outlining a pretty strict set of rules and structure that must be adhered to while at therapy to try to remove some of the anxiety (the therapist defined these rules with Blitzen) and then some more out of the box stuff. For example, I told Blitzen to rename therapy — call it something different. It now has a new name which all of us, including the therapist, use regularly and it seems to be less triggering for her. I have also joined the last several sessions. Blitzen can be very, um, expressive about her emotions with me (and Andrew as well). And she is generally pretty annoyed with me on any given Saturday morning so this is a wonderful gateway to all kinds of feelings. I look forward to the day when Blitzen can just say that she is sad or angry or disappointed without yelling at me for 10 minutes first but we’ll get there. Lastly, we’ve moved out of the therapist’s office too into the small library / reading room at the agency which is a little more relaxed. Blitzen can walk around, pretend to read books while listening and talking. It seems to have reduced the stress level marginally.
I think, in the end, Blitzen will enjoy being able to express these emotions to someone besides me and Andrew – someone who she doesn’t need to worry will get mad or have their feelings hurt (not that we do but she worries about it). I am hoping that she can get to the point where she views it as her time and feels ownership over the discussion in a positive way. We’ll keep at it.
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Posted in Agency, Blitzen, Education, Equity, Uncategorized, tagged agency, bio mom, Blitzen, Education, Foster care, foster parenting, parenting, schools, support on April 26, 2013 |
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Andrew has written so thoughtfully and eloquently on this just now. But I really must add:
Suck much, New York City Department of Education?
I can’t recall how much I blogged about last year’s IEP experience. But it was ridiculous. And we are embarking on a different process this year and I guess I should say that I am glad that they didn’t break any laws this time. At least not yet. A year ago, it was like they read the handbook and reviewed the due process guidelines and then chuckled and said, ‘let’s do the exact opposite just to fuck with them’. It was theater of the absurd or candid camera or something. Every special education professional that we spoke to following that original IEP meeting in June of 2012 gaped at us in disbelief and said, “You’re kidding right?!?” to which we’d reply, “No, that really happened, just like that.” and the special ed person would say, “Um, wow, that is so totally against the law. They really can’t do that.” And we did in fact file a letter with the DoE explaining how they had violated due process and we requested mediation. In all their wisdom, the DoE chuckled again and said, “You are not this child’s parents. So, we don’t actually have to listen to you at all, foster parents, go away. Or have her mother file a grievance.” ** And we did maybe not the right thing but the most expedient thing – we said, “Never mind, we’re sending our kid to a place that values children and their parents (foster or otherwise).”
This year, they are simply allowing themselves to be guided by a very faulty evaluation. And because of the school we are in, a very expensive independent school that focuses on children and not tests of any kind, it doesn’t really matter much for Blitzen’s day to day existence / experience. We went to DOE for some support services, we need services and we got services. So, that is all good, right? As long as she stays with us, as long as we invest in her education at an independent school, it will be ok, probably. If she ever has to return to public school, this evaluation will be all that matters and I am not sure that I am exaggerating when I say that it would have a devastating impact on Blitzen’s education.
** Just an aside that if Blitzen’s mother, at this moment in her life, had the time, energy and where with all to take on a huge, intimidating, bureaucratic, death star of an organization like DoE, her children would likely be living with her and not in care. That is why foster parents exist, often times, to help parents do parenting when for whatever reason they cannot – be it for 6 months or forever. So the fact that a foster parent would be refused due process ON BEHALF OF a child in their care just goes to show that all of this has nothing to do with children and everything to do with power and oppression. And so I stand by my opening statement, so elegantly articulated – DOE sucks.
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Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2013 |
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There is a large construction made of chairs, the sofa, several blankets, a piece of plain white muslin fabric hand colored and decorated with underwater scenes smack dab in the middle of my living room. It is called Dolphin Cove and Blitzen has been spending lots of time there. She has been trying to convince me that we should set up the kiddie wading pool inside Dolphin Cove. I’ve been trying (with very little luck) to explain why I think that is such a bad idea. And it is not because I am ‘so mean’.
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So, Blitzen got irritated with me and Andrew on Sunday. Yeah, I know, you are really shocked. She was angry because she has to do all the work around our house and we don’t have to do anything that we don’t want to do. In a way, she is right. I don’t have to cook dinner, keep the house clean, pay the bills and entertain and love the child, but I do it anyway so clearly I want to. Same goes for Andrew.
Blitzen was mad that she had to change her sheets and make her bed. Andrew was thinking out loud, something we do sometimes when we are trying to reason with Blitzen and he said, “Maybe everyone in our family should just take care of themselves – clean up, cook their own breakfast, all of that.” Well, that did not sit well. And Andrew and I, not in the mood to be yelled at, went about our business. I went into the yard to plant flowers and Andrew went upstairs to fold the laundry. Pretty soon, Blitzen announces through the back door that she will be making something to eat since Andrew said that she had to cook for herself from now on. I replied, ‘Ok, but if you are cooking, it is my preference that you are supervised.’ A little while passes and I hear pots rattling and fridge door slamming. Of course she is going to cook.
My first instinct was to go inside and say stop. Then I remembered that I made many a hearty meal of hamburger helper at the ripe old age of ten with minimal supervision and guidance. Blitzen has helped me plenty in the kitchen so I was pretty sure that she wouldn’t burn the house down or hurt herself, so I did nothing. Soon after, another call through the back door. ‘I’m cooking, Carrie, who is supervising? Huh? Who is supervising me?’ I didn’t reply. 7 minutes later, Blitzen emerges with a bowl of mushrooms and cherry tomatoes that had been sautéed in olive oil. She proudly produced it and said, ‘Look, I made this for you.’ No longer angry, just excited to have cooked some vegetables. I took several bites and then my snack was whisked away so that Andrew could enjoy it as well. Apparently Blitzen presented her bounty to Andrew and said, ‘See, I did this independently.’
And eventually, she even changed her sheets.
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Blitzen ran away again yesterday after dinner. It has been a while, maybe a month, since she last packed supplies, got a coat and umbrella from the closet and set out on her own because she ‘just doesn’t like being here.’ She was back shortly, of course. Andrew and I have set the expectation that, since we live in NYC, she can’t really go roaming the streets the alone. In a state of fury, she will often disregard these instructions and take off — she gets about 1/6 of the way down the block, if that, before turning back. She generally just hangs out on the stoop. And we generally just let her because we learned early on that if you chase Blitzen, she will run. It is much smarter to let her burn off her anger, pacing up and down the front steps while we periodically peek out the window to check up on her.
We had a pretty great couple of days but, of course, spring break is over tomorrow and it is time to start-up with the usual routine again. After she had calmed down, she let me know that she was worried about going back to school because it is ‘really hard work for me.’ And it is really hard work for Blitzen and she tries so very hard. This year has been amazing in so many ways – a ton of social and intellectual growth, slow but positive advances in her reading and math, and giant leaps ahead in behavioral and emotional regulation. She has been working like I’ve never seen anyone work and it must be exhausting. Alas, vacation has come to an end. It would make me cranky too.
And if you are curious what Blitzen packed in her bag as she headed – Bunny to the Rescue (her current favorite stuffed animal), shampoo and conditioner, 1 outfit (all pink of course) and about 40 tons of snack food.
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Posted in Blitzen, Family Visits, Uncategorized, tagged Blitzen, Family, Foster care, foster parenting, Nana, parenting, sisters on March 28, 2013 |
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Said Blitzen calmly (although a bit grumpily) last night. It was way past bedtime and we had just returned from the circus which Blitzen barely noticed but enjoyed nonetheless. She mostly just wanted to eat an icee out of a cup that lights up – so be it. We went to the big top with Dasher and Nana. Nana enjoyed it a lot although it was a big outing for her — she has some mobility issues that make walking and climbing stairs challenging. All that to say, it was late, we were all a bit overstimulated and I, for one, just wanted to go to sleep.
Blitzen and I were in her room where she was supposed to getting into her pjs and choosing her outfit for the next day. She was, instead, standing in her underpants in front her mirror making faces. I understand, that is fun stuff right there. I often do it myself but likely for different reasons (damn those chubby thighs!). I was tasked, as I often am, with keeping her company but instead I was tidying up the Superfund sight, I mean her room.
At some point, I said something like, ‘Blitzen, let’s focus and get on with the night. We need to finish getting ready for bed so you have time for a little bit of play and a story.’ Blitzen then said, ‘I don’t think that you and Andrew are appreciating me. You always tell me to hurry up and to come on and do it this way.’ For the record, we rarely tell her to do anything any way but we do nudge her along quite frequently because she is a bit of a dawdler — lots of directing our focus back to the task at hand around here. I was impressed by her ability to express her disgruntlement calmly, given the late hour and the pound of icee-delivered sugar coursing through her veins. So, I asked her what she needed us to do to demonstrate our appreciation. And she replied, ‘You should let me make my own choices.’ Ok, fair enough. However, what she really means is that we should let her act like a sugar-crazy, tv addict that never has to get dressed, get anywhere on time or pick up her room. Hmmm, this is a tough one.
I simply said that I would pay more attention to this and reiterated that I love her and appreciate her. I did not state that there was no way in hell that she would be allowed to stay up all night every night watching tv drinking icees from a light up cup. Why start a fight?
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One of the most amazing things about returning home is seeing Blitzen, calm and happy and just plain delighted to have me back. I got home very early this morning before my little sleeping-spring-break-beauty had awoken. And boy was she excited to see me lying in bed when she came to wake Andrew.
She told me all the stories of the week – sounds like they had a pretty good one. And in the midst of morning cuddles and story-telling and planning the day, I thought back to a year ago. I was in Brazil last March as well and had to come home early because things were teetering on the edge – Blitzen was really falling apart.
And it seems like a miracle to me that this child is finally feeling safe enough to show her kind, trusting, fun-loving self to us more often than not. I sense that she mostly believes us when we say that we love her and will always be there for her, one way or another, no matter what. I know that she knows that when I leave, I am definitely coming back.
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