This year make me smile. What a difference a stimulating, encouraging, nurturing, loving environment makes.
Our main goal for school this year was getting Blitzen to love school and to feel like a valued, successful member of a community of learners. All are agreed – A+ (except our school doesn’t give grades but the many pages of thoughtfully written narrative tell the story).
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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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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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Posted in Blitzen, tagged bio mom, Blitzen, creativity, Education, Family, Foster care, foster parenting, imaginative play, memory, parenting, support on April 10, 2013 |
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About the 3rd grade play. It is Friday, Blitzen has a ton of lines which she has not quite memorized, she has been crying at play practice and her family may (or may not – who the hell knows?!?) be coming to school to watch.
What if she forgets her lines? What if her bio-family is unkind or crazy or doesn’t show up?
Really, it is much pressure for a 42 year old. I mean 10 year old — I keep reminding myself that this is not about me…..
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Yesterday we had company. Yay, company. I used to love socializing, yay socializing. During our first year plus with Blitzen, we really kind of hunkered down in the bunker. It was hard – I didn’t have the energy for anything else and it felt like Blitzen just didn’t have the capacity. We’re trying to be more normal now and by normal, I mean living a life that extends beyond the walls of our home and welcoming people into our home.
But Blitzen still struggles a bit. Another foster family came to visit us yesterday with 2 adorable little girls – toddler and preschool age. Blitzen was very excited about this ahead of time but less excited in the moment. When they arrived, after a moment of shyness, the little girls were very friendly and we were friendly back. I think this did not sit well with Blitzen. I sense that she remains quite insecure about our affections and her place in the family. She frankly is uneasy about competition. She immediately went upstairs to be by herself. (By the way, HUGE accomplishment there. Blitzen being uncomfortable or angry or sad and removing herself from the situation instead having a tantrum – awesome!). We continued along with our entertaining. Blitzen emerged a couple of times to speak with me privately. Again, wow – she didn’t raise her voice but spoke to me, very angrily of course but still, about how she was feeling. First, she expressed extreme displeasure that I asked to her show the girls the bathroom – how come I never show people where the bathroom is?!? Second, she was very angry that we had shown the girls her guinea pigs. Third point, she informed me that she had no intention of showing the girls her stuff or sharing it with them. Ok, I said. We’ll stay downstairs and play. I hope you reconsider and join us.
Finally, she couldn’t stand it and she came out yet again – wearing a fancy outfit that included 10 bracelets, earrings and 2 necklaces. She was determined to be crabby but little kids love Blitzen instinctively, so they glommed right onto her and she relented. She took them upstairs where they played with her dolls and made bracelets with pop beads for 30 minutes. It was great.
I need to think more about how to set up these types of visits so that Blitzen feels more in control. Perhaps in the future we’ll identify items that she is comfortable showing and sharing, maybe even bring them downstairs so no one needs to go into her territory.
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So, ok, I admit it – sometimes I get frustrated, sometimes I over-react, sometimes I get annoyed. Sometimes when my beloved spouse puts Blitzen’s last name on my airline ticket (boy, it is confusing with 3 different last names in this family, typos happen!) and we don’t discover it until we get to the TSA checkpoint, I snap at him, roll my eyes and say ‘Really, Andrew?’ in a special tone that according to my husband (and my family and friends and the people that work with me) apparently isn’t all that friendly.
And then I remember that I am standing on line with poor little Blitzen. She tries so hard to read people’s emotions — she often gets it not quite right and I think the longer she lives with us, the more she realizes that this is the case so now she just asks me, “Are you mad, Carrie? What’s happening?”
Well, what is happening is that we are going over to the ticket counter where they will give us a hard time about changing my ticket and charge us a lot of money. And Blitzen will get very upset – “They are taking all of our money! We won’t have enough money!” and then really pissed, “I don’t understand why they are taking all our money, why can’t they just help us? That is mean.”
And all of this really puts things into the proper perspective. I take a deep breath and explain to Blitzen that while it is a silly policy, the people at the ticket counter are just doing their job and please don’t be worried because we have plenty of money to do everything that we need to do and we are still going on our weekend trip and it is all ok. And guess what, I am not really mad because nothing bad is happening — I was just surprised and frustrated so I was acting kind of cranky but I feel much better now. Does that ever happen to you, Blitzen, when you get kind of surprised by something not going your way so you act cranky toward someone you love? She thought about it for awhile. After a moment of pondering, she agreed that, very occasionally, she has also felt this way. Who knew?
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Posted in Agency, Blitzen, Family Visits, tagged Blitzen, Family, Foster care, foster parenting, friends, parenting, pets, support, vacation on March 8, 2013 |
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With input from Blitzent’s teacher and Blitzen, we decided earlier this week that Blitzen should take a day off of school for a little bit of a break. She has been working very hard, hasn’t missed any school not related to appointments (or hurricanes!) all year. And she has had a couple of rough days at school and as you know, many rough evenings at home. Blitzen is now regretting the decision but we made a plan so we’re sticking to it. Given the amount of anger she is showing about this as I write this email, it is quite possible that you will hear tomorrow at family visit about how we cruelly made her stay home from school when she really really really wanted to go to learn and be with her friends. “You never let me finish what I start” she is hollering at this very moment. I just wanted you to know what was up - we’re taking a much needed vacation day.
Blitzen was also having a bit of problem when it was time for pet therapy tonight – she didn’t want to separate from her friends and leave school to go. We spend a lot of time with Blitzen identifying afterschool activities, outlining our schedule and confirming plans – Blitzen is having some trouble lately sticking with her commitments and the schedule. I’ve let her know that if she is not enjoying pet therapy, she can decide to ‘resign’ but the decision will be final, she must speak to you before she does it and she must attend one last session to say goodbye to the trainer, the dogs and her pet therapy friends.
Best, Carrie and Andrew
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