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Posts Tagged ‘village’

This year, Blitzen had a gymnastics themed birthday party.  She loved it.  I wish I could post the slow-motion movie her babysitter took of her on the trampoline – twisting, turning and doing the splits in mid-air.  She is really something.

Many people from her family of origin came to the event including her parents, her siblings, several cousins, one grandma and an uncle.  They all traveled a very long way on public transit on a terrible weather day.  I was glad that they came. Blitzen really wanted them there. She did a wonderful job melding her worlds – us, school friends and their parents, all her family.

There were several wonderful and funny moments to the party.

It had been 2 weeks since the kids had seen each other because of the winter recess.  And as each new girl arrived, the whole pack of them would squeal and hug.  I told one of the moms that it reminded me a 20 year high school reunion – they were so genuinely delighted to see each other.  And Blitzen blurted out, “You’ve all grown so much!”  which is something that she had heard several times during our vacation over the break.

When everyone sat down for pizza, the theme song from Frozen came on.  If you have never seen an impromptu concert with 10 ten year olds and 1 eleven year old belting out that song, then you have not yet lived.  It was hilarious.

At one point, Blitzen’s oldest brother got quite sad.  One of Blitzen’s friends rushed up to her to draw her attention to the situation so Blitzen went right over to him, to reassure him and to pat his back.

Her cake was very very pink with a little sparkly icing and beautiful little purple flowers just as she requested. Apparently, when she and Andrew went to the bakery to order it, she was quite specific about the color and design.  And it turned out fabulous.

At the end of the event, Blitzen was totally cool, no sadness, no meltdown.  I told her it was time for folks to go so she went around giving everyone their goody bag and thanking them for coming to her party.  She was a superb hostess.

 

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“That I get to live with you and Andrew.”

Me, “Well, I am glad that makes you happy and it is wonderful to live together.  But that is an external thing.  What is a thing about you, from the inside, that you love about yourself?”

“That I can love you and Andrew and that I can love other people.”

Amen to that, world.  The ability to love others should be everyone’s favorite thing about themselves.

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There are very few things that I like more (and very few things that I dislike more) than having a new experience with Blitzen.  The wedding this weekend was one of those times.  She was so curious, so inquisitive – full of questions during the ceremony, “What does that mean when the pastor said who gives this woman?”  I just softly chuckled at that and said, “Umm, that one is going to take a while to explain, ask me again later.”

At the reception, she was very shy at first. I could tell she was anxious.  There were just a couple of other kids and they knew one another so she was sticking by her adults but she wasn’t quite happy about it.  A third of the way through the evening, Andrew did lean over and mentioned to Blitzen that sometimes it looked like she had saved up all her meanness for me which was kind of odd because she is so happy to give her love and sweetness to everyone else.  Andrew also had to lean over to me and remind me that no 10 year old wants to dance with their mother.  Fine.

Blitzen also spent a lot of time tracking the bride and groom.  She was fairly discreet about it, I think, but she was watching and sometimes physically following their every move.  It was all so much to take in but all relaxed and had a great time in the end.

 

wedding photo booth

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My cousin was married this week and they were sweet enough to include Blitzen in the festivities.  I do believe, with the exception of the flower girl, she was youngest guest.  She was quite tentative at first – unsure and curious but mostly feeling very shy – but then she really got into the spirit of things.

Blitzen, at first shy, becomes the life of the party.

Blitzen, at first shy, becomes the life of the party.

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Blitzen had quite a list of things to accomplish this summer and we did it all.

Coney Island

Disneyland

Host cousin H in NYC for week

Fly to Arizona with cousin H all by themselves (this was edited – Blitzen and cousin H flew a day to AZ a day before us with my mother who sat in the row behind the two very independent 10 year olds and pretended not to know them)

Visit in Az and swim, swim, swim

Go to gymnastics camp

Take surf lessons

Start a family seashell collection

Swim in a lake

Ride in a convertible

The last 2 items just got in under the wire.  We rented a convertible for the last weekend of summer, took the scenic route up to Mohonk Mountain where we spent hours diving into the lake as well as hanging out in row boats, playing shuffleboard, eating fancy meals and dancing our hearts out to a live band.

It was action packed, I tell. What a great summer!

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We met with Blitzen’s teacher yesterday.  Parents and students have a conference with the new home room teacher before school starts each year. As the discussion was unfolding, I was thinking back to last year – Blitzen was so anxious and nervous.  This year, much more relaxed and confident – much more able to engage in a meaningful discussion as well as identify some areas where she struggles.  She confessed that reading makes her frustrated and tired but it is better if she uses her glasses.  This among other insights that I just don’t think she was capable of a year ago.

She was very thoughtful about her new set of classmates – she knows them all but only one of her bestest buddies is in the group and she totally rolled with it.

She saw her teachers from last year, said hello and gave hugs.  Lots of catch up, smiles and excitement to be back.

My favorite part of the day was when we strolled past the office of the head of Blitzen’s school.  He was in a meeting so she just quietly waved.  But he called her in for a high five and a hello.  He later said, “Oh, hi, Carrie.” That Blitzen is in a place where everyone is so excited to see her and that they see her  before they see me, has made such a difference.  Kid focused, kid friendly, kid empowering.

All that said, I am very nervous, of course, because that is who I am.  But also, I think 4th grade is hard. Andrew thinks I am crazy.  We’re probably both right.

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Um, so, I thought we were shaking the whole mermaid tail thing but oh no, Blitzen found a fresh crop of mermaid tail how-to videos as well as some mermaid potion recipes on youtube and we are back at it full force.

Blitzen has spent the past 48 hours or so creating a mermaid tail from an old pair of pajama bottoms, duct tape and cardboard.  God bless my mother-in-law who is here for a visit and to help us fill the childcare gap before school starts on Monday.  She has been Blitzen’s primary duct tape tail partner.  They are on our 3rd roll of duct tape and the two of them just keep on cutting and taping, cutting and taping.  And of course, they are video taping the process for posterity as well as to educate others.

I might add that there are currently 6 glasses of mermaid potion sitting on my counter – ingredients include food coloring, a pinch of sugar, water and a seashell. Many magical incantations have been spoken, fingers and hands have been waved over the top – now we are just waiting for them to ‘cure’.  Apparently, it takes 3 days for a mermaid potion to ripen….

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Andrew said this to me last night.  What he meant was, sometimes he really misses being 2 married adults with too much time and money on their hands but no child with accompanying responsibilities.  I have decided that children are like sailboats – you love them, you brag about them, you show them off to your friends, wouldn’t dream of a life without them but they will suck up every minute of your time and every last dime you have.

We had this discussion over a quiet dinner of pasta with broccoli.  Andrew was delighted that he didn’t have to hide the fact that he was picking all of the broccoli out of his pasta.  I was delighted that I made dinner when we were hungry, not when it was on the schedule.

Thanks to my amazing aunt, we had 26 hours of free time at home.  Blitzen spent the night at my aunt’s apartment (something Blitzen is now occasionally allowed to do since my aunt, who has been an official back up from the beginning, also got her home certified by our agency so sleepovers are now agency approved!) and then they spent the next day at a bbq with some friends.

So, back to the 26 long and luxurious hours.  We went to a wedding and had lots of fun.  We went home and collapsed into bed without having to attend to anyone else’s needs, we slept in, we puttered around and then went to brunch, we puttered some more, we ran errands, we did a huge pile of foster parenting paperwork (a job that ordinarily would have taken 3 weeks due to child related interruptions took 1.5 hours), we went to the grocery store and did not have to have a lengthy discussion about Doritos’ health benefits or lack thereof, we had frozen yogurt in the middle of the day BEFORE dinner, we watched Mad Men and didn’t have to keep nudging one another to stay awake, we had a quiet dinner where no one said ‘I’m pretty sure that I don’t like that” and then we watched more Mad Men and folded the laundry.

I know you all are thinking, wow, those two are super boring. 26 hours of freedom and this is what they did?  Well, yes, and it was wonderful.  While I miss traveling and working late without feeling guilty and a clutter-free home, I miss quiet time in my home the most.  Blitzen (and I love the heck out of that kid, don’t get me wrong) is not the queen of quiet time nor does she enjoy it when our attention is focused elsewhere.  So it was quite restful to do all these routine things, quietly, without interruption.  Seriously, that calm is gonna last me weeks.

Famous last words….

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Blitzen has been with us for roughly 20 months.  Every 6 months or so, there is a FTC (family treatment conference meeting) that the parents (birth and foster) as well as service providers and agency team members are invited to join.  This is our 3rd conference and in many ways, it went so much better than previous conferences.  For me, in so many ways, it was way worse than the others but I’ll talk about that part later….

There are 3 components.  For those of you not trapped in this insane system, I will describe the agenda for the meeting — the group reviews strengths, concerns and then the PLAN.  Now, in foster care, there are really no plans because you are supposed to be doing this crazy thing called concurrent planning (simultaneously planning for and preparing a child to return to their parents — very good goal this, I support it, I really do, while also planning for the fact that only about 50% of children in care end up permanently reunited with their family of origin).  So, you have to plan to reunite the child with their original family while also planning to keep said child forever.  It is the ultimate mind-fuck but they tell you about in advance and you think to yourself, yeah, ok, I can do that.

All this to say, everyone speaks about the PLAN but no one ever really knows what the plan is – it changes from adoption to reunification to adoption and back to reunification in our case every time the parents go in front of the judge.  It is real fun.  You are looking at permanency / reunification / adoption / care and services  — all of these things that are supposed to be part of the PLAN but you are not really able to fully commit to anything.  So the plan is that we have no plan, we all just wing it.

What is clear to me at the FTC conferences is that Blitzen’s mother loves her children and she knows them surprisingly well given that for the past 7 years (that is right, I said 7 years!!!) she has only visited with them approximately once week and I believe always under supervision.  The foster parents at our FTC (only 3 of us participated – there are 7 total in this case) tell a tale about the kids – things that are working, what they are excelling at and enjoying, extracurricular activities, how school is going, health, etc — it is your average dysfunctional christmas letter type of thing and then we all talk about what is not working, where the kids are struggling, the angst and anxiety that these kids experience every day that they live without a (you guessed it!) real PLAN and how that is manifesting itself in some fairly challenging and heartbreaking behaviors.  And birth mom and her partner (birth father to 3 soon-to-be-4 but not Blitzen) both contributed in meaningful ways.  Today, many parts of the discussion were good, I felt like everyone got to know the kids and where they are as individuals and as a family a little better.

For those of you that read the blog, I don’t need to list Blitzen’s strengths and if you have been paying attention, I probably don’t need to list the concerns although I will note (and I did at the conference) that our concerns list has diminished radically since we started on this journey.  Blitzen is doing really well – she is a superstar (a mercurial superstar but what diva doesn’t have a few issues?).

What became clear to me at this conference  (and I knew it, I just knew it all along but kept hoping that my spidey sense was wrong — Andrew can rebut if so chooses, he doesn’t believe in my spidey sense even though it is often right on the money) is how strained our relationship with birth mom and partner really is.  There are many reasons  — and I don’t want to discount their feelings, I understand them on many levels — that they feel the way that they do.  Some of it is about culture, some of it is about race, some of it is about class, a lot of it is about parenting style and how difficult it is watch two people with a parenting style and parenting priorities that really could not be any more different from your own, raising your kid.  You know how people say married couples only fight about three things – how to raise the kids, how to spend the money and sex?  Well, these people didn’t even choose us, they certainly don’t get to sleep with us and yet they still have to deal with how we raise kids and spend the money (on their kid).  It isn’t fun for any of us.

I can pretty much sum up the tension with one word – Tevas.  The fact that Blitzen wears them all the time, sometimes even in the winter, is a huge concern.  If you don’t know what a teva is, google it and I think you will instantly understand the issue.  For the record, I am not, personally, a teva kinda gal, especially in winter —-  but they’re not my feet.  And I guess, from my point of view, that says it all…..

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An old friend of ours from St. Louis has been in NYC this week.  We’ve had a great time visiting and catching up.  She and Blitzen have become fast friends, bonding over Barbies and chatting about music and other things.

It is always such an interesting experience for me when a grown-up from my pre-Blitzen life meets Blitzen.  I mean obviously I think the kid is amazing (I try not to let it show on the blog but I am kind of fond of the child) so it is wonderful when other people that I care about (and who I have been boring to death with Blitzen stories) finally meet her and say, wow, that is one really cool kid.  They seem to enjoy her as much as I do – perhaps even more since Blitzen is rarely invested in arguing with them just for the sake of arguing.  She likes to save that up for Andrew and me!

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