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Posts Tagged ‘Nana’

Blitzen on the phone with her Nana last night:

‘Our new house has an elevator so you can come over all the time.’ True – we currently have steps that are a struggle for Nana and we’d love to have her over more.

‘But how do you know you are allergic to guinea pigs? Have you had an allergy test done?’  Ha – I believe my mother is also ‘allergic’ to the sweet little pigs if by allergic you mean totally grossed out.

Blitzen to her sister, Dasher:

‘I’ll put you on speaker and then Carrie can read a bedtime story to both of us.’

Seriously, this kid could not be funnier or cuter.  Also, Andrew and I have been noticing that Blitzen is much better at conversing than she used to be — her vocabulary, attention and understanding of another person’s dialogue and perspective — amazing.

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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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We knew it was coming. We’ve joked about it, worried about it. And it finally has happened – the big ask. Would we be willing to take Dasher and Dancer?

Andrew and I have suspected that we had a much better sense of the situation with Nana than either agency did and that she was getting burned out. She is elderly and frankly, just plain tired. Combine this with the ever deteriorating family situation and this kinship placement just doesn’t seem to be working. The many issues are being revealed and it is slowly coming to a head now that all of the children’s cases (except for one) have been transferred to our agency.

So they asked. And we said no. But with the caveat that if things got critical, they would come to us again before they went to anyone else. I suspect that they will and then I just don’t know what we’ll do. I guess we’ll say no again but I am not 100% sure. It would be very hard to do the jobs that we do (the way that we do them) with three children with such tremendous needs. I am not sure it would be best for Blitzen.

She gets a lot of attention now and she would get 1/3 of that.

She would love to live with her sisters but she also can’t be with them for more than two hours without completely melting down.

I don’t know if Dancer can shake her perceived role as mother figure and there can only be one mother in my house and it can’t be the 12 year old. I don’t know if Blitzen could manage it well either. If I had a penny for how many times she has told me that I am not the parent of her sisters. And if I had a penny for how many times I thought to myself, ‘well, not yet.’ I think it would be hard for everyone to establish new roles and relationships and figure it all out. And frankly, we have a year head start with Blitzen — falling in love with her and her wonderful, whacky ways. Wouldn’t the other girls feel bad?

We couldn’t afford to provide the girls with all the things that we provide Blitzen – like private school and a ton of extra curricular activities and our undivided laserlike focus and attention.

So, Andrew is looking for recruits. Honey – you said earlier this week, you felt the nudge. Well, I am nudging, baby. Tell the worldwide interweb your plan :)

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What a difference when Andrew takes Blitzen to the visits.  It is just a whole different thing.  We really won’t be outsourcing this to Nana anymore  – just not worth the resulting post-visit drama.  Not that I am foolish enough to think that us controlling the visit transportation will resolve all post-visit angst and anger but I think it will significantly cut down on the stewing and brewing which so often ends with an explosion.

Also, the LG made it to this week’s visit and spoke to all of the children.  I am glad that the conversation with LG happened in that context so that Blitzen really understood that the lawyer was speaking to everyone, that each sibling’s voice would be heard and that it wasn’t all on her.  Blitzen carries a lot of guilt around, she didn’t need the burden of thinking that something happened because she spoke to the LG.

Interestingly, she now is really pressing Andrew and I on the adoption issue.  We’ve always been kind of vague – it is for judge and family and you and us to all decide together.  She has gotten it into her head that we just need to tell everyone that we want to adopt her and it will be done.  It is so confusing for all of us, really.

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As I mentioned, we invited Nana and the girls to the Poconos.  They said yes, as I knew they would.  Then Nana called back to say, so sorry but she has some appointments and can’t go but we could take the girls without her, as I knew she would.

Andrew was firm, kind of, and said, no thanks, we’re not even remotely interested in babysitting your kids for a 4 day weekend BUT we’ll pick them up in the morning, take them for a day trip and then bring them back late that same evening.

So that is a hell of a lot of driving for Andrew but he’ll have music to keep him company.   And he is, he says, happy to do it because the girls will enjoy it and so will Blitzen.  In reality, a day is about all the Blitzen can manage with her sisters at this point, anyway, so it is all working out for the best.

A part of me feels a tiny bit badly because I know that Nana needs a break but there is an undercurrent of manipulativeness in a lot of our recent interactions and boundaries are just not something Blitzen’s Nana always seems to grasp.  Although, I know I should just SHUT UP about the boundary issue whenever I read Fosterhood.  At least Nana is not texting me with instructions to pack an egg and cheese sandwiches for everyone’s breakfast.

Rebecca — hoping you all make it!!

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We’ve invited Nana and the girls to join us for a day at the Beach House Not at the Beach.  They have tentatively agreed.  Could be great.  Or not.

I think Blitzen will love it until she doesn’t, of course.

We are looking forward to swimming and hiking and maybe kayaking and jumping in lakes and looking for bugs and being with other families.  Woo-hoo.  I can’t wait to run away.

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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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For those of you who are not acquainted with the lingo, FTC – Family Team Conference.  It is, in theory, a meeting of everyone involved in supporting a family in crisis – social workers, therapists, bio parents and foster parents, children over the age of 10, religious leaders or family or friends – anyone invested in getting a family to a healthier, wholer place.   The meeting assesses where things stands, focuses on permanency goals and reviews challenges to getting to reunification.  This will be our first meeting of this kind – they had one back in December but we were not invited (weirdly).  I am kind of nervous – I have never met Blitzen’s biological mother formally.  We waved at one another one time in court, that is it.

There is a lot of tension within the family, kind of 2 camps.  I think we’ve been lumped into the ‘nana’ camp which is ok, we support nana but I wonder if it will make the meeting more difficult.

We are in the mode of ‘suspended tpr’ which I understand to mean that if bio Mom does exactly as the judge has instructed her, things will progress toward reunification but if she messes up, even once, the deal is done.  He will move forward with the TPR (termination of parental rights).  Just for clarity, Blitzen has been in fostercare for most of her life.  She last lived with her mother (we think) at the age for 4 or 5, right before the youngest sibling was born.  So in case one is tempted to think the judge’s last chance stance is harsh, bio mom has had many chances.  I do wish, though, that the system was different and more invested in keeping families together.  And by invested, I mean if they spent a fraction of the money that they are currently giving the foster parents of these 6 kids for the board rate on families before children were removed from their homes, then far fewer kids would be removed.  We get a ton of resources as a foster family and we certainly need them.  But they were really needed 9 years ago, when Blitzen was born.  If serious intervention had happened early, maybe the family would have had the opportunity to stay together.  All that said, Andrew and I do believe that it would be best for Blitzen to be reunited, in some way, with her family.  It is all quite uncertain.

Within Blitzen’s family, everyone seems to have a different understanding of what the suspended tpr means.  Nana is under the impression that bio mom is getting the children back.  Dancer is under the impression that she is moving with her mom to NJ by the start of the school year but the other kids are not joining them (Dancer’s version of things is generally a slightly skewed version of bio Mom’s understanding).  Dasher, who is four, wants to live with Nana but has informed Andrew and I that it would be ok if we used our ‘dollars to buy the cool, cool stuff’ that we buy for Blitzen for her as well.  When you’re 4, life is a lot better if you have a variety of bubble wands as opposed to just the boring round one that comes in the bottle of bubbles!   And finally, Andrew and I are under the impression (this is also skewed as we get our info from the agency and Nana) that bio mom is probably not capable of going the entire summer without breaking one of the conditions set forth by the judge and thus losing her kids permanently.

And so, what next?  We’re not sure.  It remains up in the air and I am probably placing too much hope that this meeting with resolve anything.

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As I’ve mentioned, Blitzen really craves time with her sisters but she is increasingly impatient and jealous.  She loves spending time with other children but wants Andrew and I to join in (that is ok) but only interact with her directly — that is just too darn hard.  Even with strange kids on the playground, we can kinda blow them off and only chase Blitzen when we are assigned the ‘monster’ role during magical freeze tag, but we have to engage them in some way or they just get bored and wander off which ruins the game.  It is a delicate balance and the emotional energy around it gets very ramped up when we have playdates with Dancer and Dasher.

A couple of weekends ago, we went to the Y pool for family swim with Blitzen, Dasher and Dancer. The time in the pool time was ok but when it was time to go, Blitzen wanted to jump in the pool one more time and then one more time (anyone who has ever interacted with a kid knows where this is going).

So I said, ‘No, do not jump in the pool again, I mean it, we’re done.’

Blitzen got very upset and stomped off to the kids locker room where she pretty much started to meltdown.  I was at the end of my patience – we had had a very negative experience last time we went to the Y (I’ll blog about it another time but will throw out this juicy tidbit – picture Andrew standing in the lobby, waiting for us to get dressed, while some woman goes down to yell at the manager, complaing about that white woman in the locker room who can’t control her children. Ah, yes, that would be me.)

Anyway, Blitzen loses it in the kids locker room and actually shoves Dancer.

Dancer stomps off yelling ‘I am never having kids.’

Blitzen explodes, ‘So it is all my fault?!? You don’t want kids because of me?’

Dancer shouts back, ‘It is not just you, it is Dasher too.’

I am quiet during this exchange and finally just say, ‘Girls, get dressed.’  Silently, I am thinking (and this might just be evil, I don’t know) ‘Thank goodness!’ My biggest fear for Dancer is unexpected (or maybe even worse yet, expected) teenage pregnancy.  For a young girl who has spent her entire life caring for younger siblings and not getting to live with her own mother, this seems like a likely scenario and a very sad possibility.  And Nana is a bit old fashioned so I don’t see them having a lot of proactive discussions about  pre-marital sex and birthcontrol and sexually transmitted disease.  It is such a difficult situation on so many levels.

Blitzen responds to it all by stomping out of the locker room.  I holler after her (in classic fed-up mom style) ‘Blitzen, if you walk out that door, we’re never coming back to family swim.’  I am laughing at myself now because ‘never’ is a really long time.  We’re never coming back to family swim is about as likely as Dancer never having kids.

Eventually Blitzen calmed down, returned and got dressed.  We went to the park to run around and blow off steam, the girls made up and it ended on a relatively happy note.  But these struggles are continuing and in some ways, getting more difficult.  I feel so strongly that Blitzen must remain deeply connected to her sisters but it is utterly exhausting for Andrew and me.  I am sure, with time, it will get easier but geez, I am not sure exactly how to manage until then.

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Everybody deserves a day!

It was Nana’s birthday about 2 weeks ago.  Blitzen was a bit distressed about missing the big event.  We called, of course, on her birthday but Blitzen really wanted to throw a party in Nana’s honor.  A party, in Blitzen’s mind, is the only way to celebrate a birthday.

We invited Nana and the girls to come over, we made a cake and got ready.  But on the intended day, Nana and the girls had to cancel. Nana was feeling under the weather and Blitzen was hellbent on keeping the occassion a surprise so it was difficult to express the importance of the day to Nana.  Especially since Blitzen has the rather annoying habit of circling Andrew and I like a crazed hummingbird on speed, shouting directions and interrupting ferociously (if you knew Blitzen, the phrase ‘interrupting ferociously’ would make perfect sense to you), whenever we are trying to make a plan with Nana.  Oh boy!  Andrew was able to convey, after 2 phone calls, that it was important and Nana should pick a day that worked for her and we’d be ready.

So early last week, Nana and the girls came to our house for pizza dinner and cake (it may not have been the freshest cake but cake is cake – a couple days sitting in the fridge probably just added flavor!).  We had a great time and Blitzen was so excited to give Nana the purse that she had picked out as a gift.  She spent about 30 minutes in the store, choosing just the right purse.  First we picked all the ones that Nana might like from the rack (seemed like about 400) and then slowly and methodically narrowed down our options until we have the perfect one. It went surprising well with Blitzen only trying to negotiate a larger budget and more gifts for Nana a couple of times.  But she was patient and very proud to have chosen something that she thought her Nana would really enjoy.

As mentioned, the party went fairly well but Blitzen had a very tough time with the goodbye. It was reminiscent of our early days, Blitzen crying and storming out of the apartment declaring that she was going with Nana no matter what we said.  Nana, to give her credit, seems to have really come a long way.  She was patient and kind but not overly indulgent.  She also really understands now that when it is time to go, it is time to go.  And when the waterworks began, she gave hugs, kisses, lots of love and then headed right out the door.  So, I would say it was a mostly successful event.  Blitzen felt good about it, in the end, and developing these traditions and remaining connected to Nana and her sisters seems so critical, I am sure there are many more Blitzen sponsored shindigs in our future.

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