Thursday, December 8, 2016

Family Update

In the wake of Sunny's recent departure (she actually left right before Thanksgiving), I thought it might be nice to have an all-around update on the family. We are not currently planning on accepting any more children in for foster care, though we may change our minds after a LONG break. 

In the meantime, and one of the brightest spots for us, is that P is loving the new position in elementary school. He's teaching in a great school, with wonderful colleagues and administrators, and the new job is an amazing fit for him :). He's looking forward to the holidays, and, like me, has been trying to do a LOT of decompression from the strain of having Sunny in our home.

Other than trying to relax and process all that's happened, I am considering changing job positions next year, to better align my schedule to that of the rest of my family...getting Eli and Itty Bitty to their various appointments would be much easier if I was able to leave work an hour earlier. The school schedule in this area is staggered, which means that elementary school actually starts and ends an hour earlier than high school and nearly two hours earlier than middle school! This puts me two hours off of the rest of the family's schedule :(. I love the school where I teach now, though - and couldn't have a better set of administrators...so I haven't fully decided if I'm leaving yet. And, of course, I have found that with the boys OUT of the house in the morning, I do tend to get a lot more cleaning and organizing accomplished ; ).

Eli seems to be making a great adjustment to having Sunny out of the house. He has truly struggled in this last year, but I'm starting to see sunshine on the horizon. Kindergarten hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be, but this is because he is in a really great school with a great teacher. It also really, really helps to have P working in the same school. Eli's teacher definitely works hard to challenge him, even though she doesn't really understand him. His behavior in a group is still not the greatest (as evidenced by his first encounter with our new children's minister at church), but I'm starting to see him maturing a little bit and he's learning better social behavior.  We recently started OT to help address his sensory issues, and this is definitely having a super-positive effect on him.  I'll probably use a separate post to explain what his sensory issues have been like, and how we are helping him learn to manage them.

Academically, Eli is doing well. Though he's not really challenged by his work at school, he's still learning - and (other than one notable occasion, when he came home crying and begging me to homeschool him). We recently tried a subscription to RedBird math that didn't work out (the program is way too buggy and slow...not to mention it's definitely remedial - NOT advanced).  We're switching back to a combination of Montessori activities, Beast Academy, and IXL to keep him challenged. He's really gotten into art - mostly painting - and is still really, really enjoying music. He's got his very first piano and violin recital coming up this weekend...and we're very excited for him. Piano lessons are now going incredibly well, with Eli making really good, steady progress. Violin lessons are something of a struggle right now...Eli wants to play the violin so much, but he's been frustrated with it lately, so he tends to cry a lot when he practices or has a lesson. He doesn't resist practicing/playing...but he gets upset when he makes mistakes, and doing something well isn't usually enough to make him happy (like it is with piano). We'll see what happens in the next few months - he'll have a break from lessons over Christmas holidays.

As far as Christmas goes, Eli, though he asked if Santa were real (and got an honest answer) this summer, has decided that he wants to believe in Santa after all. A kid in his class told him that Santa wasn't real, and he had a fit.  I asked him if he remembered the talk we had this summer or being angry at Santa last year...and he said no. I let it go...if he wants to believe, I'm not going to ruin it for him in the middle of the Christmas season.  On the hilarious side, he does realize that every "Santa" he sees in department stores isn't really Santa. We had a Santa following us through the a toy store, trying to get kids to take pictures for $30.  Eli hid from him...and later talked about the creepy man dressed like Santa.  I'm still laughing over that one : ). Eli has now gotten really into the idea of giving presents to other people and is constantly plotting and trying to come up with good present ideas to surprise people. He's also really into the idea of wrapping presents and making decorations. Our Advent traditions are running a little quieter this year...but that may be due to Itty Bitty constantly breaking the candles and decorations off of our wreath!

Speaking of Itty Bitty, he is blossoming into a real roly-poly toddler!  The name "Itty Bitty" really isn't suitable anymore...he's grown so much!! He's made remarkable gains, very consistently, since his first birthday. He's able to stand from sitting, whether he has something to pull up on or not (this is a brand-new skill!), he is starting to see the benefits of walking, and tries to walk most of the time now (instead of crawling, hopping on his knees, or knee walking). He can climb anything that he can get his knee on, and is very mischievous. His favorite game right now is to laugh and walk fast in the opposite direction when we're trying to catch him. He adores playgrounds, especially those with toddler slides; and is so fond of climbing that he'll climb our single front step over and over again for a half hour or more. He also adores bouncing, and his favorite thing to do in PT is bouncing on their mini-trampoline. He is definitely trying to communicate through gestures and sounds, though he doesn't really talk yet (other than "No" and the occasional "Oma" or "Appa").  He sometimes tries to repeat words (hearing him try to say "elephant" is hilarious - but he LOVES elephants), and he has made up words that we've come to understand to mean "hungry", "some", and "yes".  He will sign "more" and "bye bye". He still loves his drum, though he more often plays with his baby guitar and his cars now. He is enthralled with Daniel Tiger and Mickey Mouse, and is beginning to really enjoy Sesame Street. He loves pushing buttons on his toys and rolling/throwing balls. He is also beginning to gravitate toward writing/coloring utensils and has a natural, perfect grip on them that is nothing short of astounding (given his age and CP).

At this point, he's caught up with many, many of the milestones for his age group, and though he will always have CP, most people don't realize that he has any problem at all.  Motor planning is his biggest issue, and is the focus of many of his therapies. His walking is somewhat awkward and stiff, and his movements are slower/more awkward than other toddlers, but the intense therapy is absolutely working. We still have 3-4 hours a week (minimum) of therapy (occupational, physical, speech, feeding, and Lekotek), and this will stay constant for the near future. Speech is another big concern, since the muscles of his mouth aren't coordinating properly, but he's beginning to really babble and make some progress.  He can/will eat just about anything, but he still has to have all liquids thickened. Hopefully, we will have another swallow study this spring/summer to see if he's able to safely swallow thin liquids yet.

As a final note, Itty Bitty's case has finally progressed to the point that we *should* be getting an adoption caseworker in the very near future - and finalizing his adoption is our hope for the coming year.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Peace

Sunny's transition to a new family is now underway.

Sunny is still with us, and will be for a few more days.  However, she and Family B spent some time together yesterday...and it was beautiful. A better match could not have been found...two parents (and a much older sister) who are fully vested in her, understand her needs and understand that she'll need a lot of support...and who are not only able to give her what she needs, but are excited to be able to have the opportunity.

I had tears rolling down my face last night, trying to express to my husband exactly how right they looked, sounded, and felt together. I'm sad that she won't be with us, but am experiencing an overwhelming sense of peace that the home of Family B is where Sunny needs to be.

After a few hours together yesterday, we parted.  We spent time having a heart-to-heart about Sunny's past and present. When Sunny met them, she was initially shy, and didn't talk at first...but soon overcame herself and began interacting with them.  When we left, they were excited about a day-long time together coming up soon. Sunny was crying because she didn't want to say "bye" to them. I was crying tears of joy that I finally have peace in my heart about her future.

Sunny bounced excitedly into preschool today, announced she had a "new sister" and was talking about visiting Family B and moving soon. The next step is for her to spend the entire day with Family B, a few days before moving.  A few weeks after her move, when she's in a good routine and feeling more settled, they'll begin switching her preschool to one that is closer to their home.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Was It the Right Decision...?

This is a question I've been asking a LOT lately.


Sunny
Was it the RIGHT decision to take Sunny as a foster placement, in view of the fact that we're currently in the middle of disrupting her placement?

Would the RIGHT decision in our current situation be to continue parenting her indefinitely, and hope her parent will one day regain custody?

Would it be the RIGHT decision to put our boys' needs on the back burner in order to parent Sunny and assume that all will be alright, and that she'll get better in the next few months (years)?

Was it the RIGHT decision to request disruption...or was it selfish?

I don't really have all of the answers...but I finally do have answers I've been able to make peace with.

For the last question, I absolutely believe that requesting disruption is (and was) the best thing to do in this circumstance, and ultimately, I don't think it is selfish. I think that one of the things that has made this a decision such a difficult one (one that we've agonized over for weeks) is that we ARE a foster-adopt family...and we were originally open to the possibility of adopting Sunny.  We do have a LOT of reasons for disruption, though, as I've begun discussing more on the blog.  Sunny's issues are only ONE of the reasons that disruption is best for all involved; unfortunately, because so many details of her case are confidential and private, I actually can't discuss them in this public forum. But suffice it to say, we really haven't felt much success in helping Sunny at all (indeed, she seems to be regressing more and more often, though she is no longer very aggressive). I've been told and I've read on so many adoption blogs that "God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called."  I've been told that God would equip us to handle Sunny's needs if we would just "hang in there."  But, without delving too deeply into my religious beliefs (or dwelling too long on clichés), we don't feel that adopting Sunny would be right for either her or for our family, as she needs more help and more therapy than we are able to provide.

I also do not believe that I am supposed to put aside the needs of my other children to put Sunny's needs first (at least on an indefinite timeline).  There are times with each of the children that they have more pressing needs than a sibling...but for the last 7 months, Sunny has had significant needs that have frequently turned our family's schedule upside down. The critical few who have said something about it, have said things like we "shouldn't be able to disrupt because birth parents can't do that."  Um, yeah...they can...otherwise adoption wouldn't exist. For that matter, if foster parents never disrupted, a lot of adoptive families would have never been united with their children - a fact that gives me a lot of comfort and peace (particularly since Eli was in foster care in Korea).

Unfortunately, I can't speak as to whether Sunny's parent will ever regain custody, since I can't reveal details in her case.  At this point, it doesn't seem very likely at all.  Still, I don't want to play roulette with a child's life; and Sunny will have at least 6 more months in care, even if she eventually goes home. With all of the unknowns in her case, she would be better off bonding with a foster-adopt family who can meet her needs in the short OR long-term. But, we've found ourselves at a time in our lives where Eli's just started a new school, received a new diagnosis, and has tolerated foster children coming in and out of our house for over a year and a half with various issues and needs...I think it's past time to slow down and give him a break (he's only 5!). Itty Bitty doesn't know what to think about the situation except that there's another kid in the house (Sunny) that actively ignores/avoids him, cries a lot, and flat refuses to play with him, no matter how hard he tries to engage her with favorite toys.  Still, the boys' needs come first because they are ours (still working to adopt Itty Bitty); when Sunny came into our home, it was as a foster (temporary) placement.

Aaaannnddd...the biggie...were we right to take her as a foster placement, in view that we are currently disrupting?

We don't know. We think we did the right thing; we've certainly tried to help Sunny. No one knew about Sunny's needs at the time of her placement. We were her 5th foster home in 10 days, and she'd been seriously traumatized by events leading to her removal from her birth home. She'd never been to preschool or lived in a house with another child. I also was naïve enough to underestimate the effects of trauma and grief on a three year old.  We have been able to get her into therapy, provide her with some preschool experience, and provide a very stable, safe home for seven months.  We spent a lot of time with her in the summer, before school started, and I'd like to think that time helped her.  Lately, though I wonder how successful we've been....she's become more withdrawn and less communicative as the days have gone by, and this is extremely heartbreaking and frustrating. The bottom line is that we really believe that Sunny's upcoming move will be less traumatic for her than her living with us indefinitely would be for the boys.

I can say that the family who will be caring for her next, Family B, has gone through a lot to be approved as a foster-adopt family...but they are excited to have her coming to live with them! They are much better prepared for Sunny than we were, as we now know the details of Sunny's case, her triggers, and what helps with some of her behaviors. And...best of all...they are THRILLED that they are going to get a chance to be her family.  Family B is rested, excited, has only a well-adjusted older daughter, and is well-informed about Sunny's needs - and I think they will be a wonderful fit.  We are going to try a short (few hour) visit with them soon. The best part is that they are local, and we will be able to get updates and possibly visits from Sunny!

How does this fit with remaining a foster family or adopting again one day?  I don't know the answer to this yet. We are still working to adopt Itty Bitty. We have a lot of thinking to do on if/when we will accept another placement of a foster child at all. We've begun to discuss it, because - like it or not - the phone calls requesting placement for a child will begin coming as soon as Sunny leaves, since there is such a demand for foster parents.  We may decide to take children on an emergency basis (1-7 days) or for respite care, or we may wait until Itty Bitty is older and more independent before taking anyone for foster. Either way, we have a LOT of discussion coming up!



No Bohns About It

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Waiting...

We still have Sunny. We are hoping her permanent placement will happen soon, but we're still waiting. We had contact with a family through our foster placement agency, Family A, that thought they wanted to foster Sunny, but things didn't work out. We've received an update from another foster-adopt family, Family B, who should be taking care of Sunny soon, and everything's looking good right now. Family B doesn't have any young children, so Sunny's needs will be front and center, where they need to be. We continue to pray that all will go well, and that they will be the perfect fit for one another.  In the meantime, Sunny will stay with us until Family B is ready.

I'm going to continue with the theme I've had lately, with trying to give more insight into our situation with Sunny. Lately, I've just really felt like I needed to share what's been happening, partially because there aren't many foster-adopt parents who share the good AND bad online. Reading the blogs of people who discuss issues like these honestly have helped our family, though, and have given our family a sense of community.  The decision to disrupt Sunny's placement did NOT come about easily or quickly, and has been a nearly constant discussion since early August, when Sunny began having major tantrums (this coincided with beginning to visit her parent, as well).  We even attempted taking advantage of respite care for a little while, thinking that we just needed a break...only to discover that, while in respite, things were better all around...for ALL of us, including Sunny.

Last month, Family A expressed that they wanted to have a chance to foster Sunny, and asked to meet her, and then to keep her for a weekend for a trial respite.  Unfortunately, things didn't go well, and they decided that they did not have the ability to parent her long term (actually, they even dropped her off with us earlier than planned). Honestly...I was relieved. After talking to the family before the visit, I didn't think they were really listening...or that they were truly ready for Sunny. Their experience also reinforced to me that my family is not alone in having difficulty helping Sunny manage her behavior, and it gave our agency more insight into how tough our current situation is. Thankfully, because of the insight gained through the recent respite experience, the social workers at our foster agency have become much more understanding and supportive than they were previously.  They were also able to find a much, much better match for Sunny - Family B -a family who is definitely much better prepared to meet Sunny where she is.

I've said it repeatedly - but it's still so very true - that my heart breaks for this sweet child, who has survived through more trauma than many adults ever will. Her behavior is the result of trauma repeatedly inflicted upon her by adults who should have protected her. One of the barriers to understanding that we've run across (when trying to get help for her) is that many of her behaviors don't sound that bad - or that unusual - on paper, but are difficult to deal with daily and in-person.

For example, when Sunny wants to speak, she can speak very clearly, in complete sentences with all parts of speech. She's an exceptionally intelligent little girl who will likely qualify for a gifted program when she enters school. However, she often stops talking entirely. Saturday was one of those day. That evening, she stopped talking completely, and didn't speak again until Monday morning (when she couldn't resist singing a few words along her favorite CD on the way to school). She laughed. She grunted. She stared. She growled. But she didn't speak a single word for about 40 hours.  Unfortunately, this is becoming a more frequent occurrence as her visits with her parent continue each week. Each time she has a visit, she tends to stop talking for 1-3 days. By the time we have her talking and communicating clearly again, she has another visit...it's a never-ending cycle. For Sunny, talking is a control/fear issue, similar in many ways to her bathroom control issues, and locking her door (she is now locking us all out of rooms - herself included).  She sometimes refuses to eat, even when served favorite foods, which is another controlling behavior.  Her play time on weekends often consists of sitting and staring or walking slowly and aimlessly outside...or (of what feels like) never-ending tantrums. This type of behavior is ongoing, and we've tried a lot of different things to try to help her, but the one thing she really needs to get back on track to develop healthy attachments...hours of undivided attention...I don't have right now.

In addition, she's had other difficult behaviors that range in severity and frequency. She's deliberately destroyed some of her own beloved toys, a few of Eli's toys, and a couple of dresser drawers. She's hit Eli mercilessly on two occasions, and relentlessly taunts him when she IS talking (and sometimes physically taunts him when she ISN'T talking - by poking, staring down at him, taking things from him, etc). She wanders away constantly when we are out and about (and refuses to hold hands about half the time), and has no problems charming complete strangers (which is one reason our caseworkers didn't take us seriously at first); this has made trips and outings impossible in most cases.  We also actively avoid most restaurants, too, as she will not behave in those settings (smearing food all over, throwing food on the floor, grabbing food with her hands instead of using a fork, flipping around in her chair, etc - she doesn't do this at home OR at school). For another example, she knows very well how to dress herself in the morning (though she refuses to pick out her own clothes...I can't even get her to choose her own socks most of the time).  Sometimes, she will take clothes, turn them inside-out, then put them on inside-out AND backwards (jeans included...I think she buttons them BEFORE attempting this feat). All of this because she likes to hear me tell her to go back to her room and fix her clothes (which she can and does do within a minute or two of being told). While she's nearly 4 years old, she is emotionally around 18-24 months old - if that - and she so often acts angry or depressed (withdrawn/teary) that it is a sweet surprise to be able to see her occasionally happy.

What's interesting to me is that Sunny is a very, very different child when she's on her own (away from children her age), and in the company of older children (teens) or adults. We've had days were it's just been Sunny & I...and those days were, without exception, very peaceful and pleasant.  Our hope and prayer is that she adapts well in her new placement and that she gets all of the loving support she needs to heal. It's also interesting to note that Sunny has never been mean or hurtful toward Itty Bitty, though I have definitely been concerned about that.  She usually ignores him completely, even when he brings her toys and tries to get her to play.  Still, she is very jealous of both boys and tries to demand more attention than we can give.

I'm hoping soon that our boys will be restored to a sense of peace in the house once Sunny does leave. They've had to put up with a lot, and they've missed a lot of activities (even simple ones, like going to the home improvement store to build on Saturdays).  Eli, in particular, was so upset when Family A's situation didn't work out and Sunny came home...and this, in and of itself is a really unusual reaction for him. I feel like we've missed some valuable bonding time as a family, even as we see the miracle of Itty Bitty's amazing progress unfolding before our eyes.  I do not know, given what we've been through lately, if we will continue to foster, provide respite care for the families in our area, or adopt again. I can definitely say that we will be taking the break we originally wanted to take after Scooter left last April, though, and are looking forward to spending the holidays together for much-needed downtime.
 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Itty Bitty is WALKING!!

We are SO excited!!  The title says it all :).

But as always, there's a backstory!

Those who have been around for a while will remember that I scoffed when Itty Bitty failed an early intervention screening at around 6 months of age (and again at almost 8 months). I didn't understand how serious his problems were at the time...and in hindsight I am extremely grateful for the knowledgeable professionals who worked with us and helped us through the evaluation process.

Itty Bitty has several diagnoses that affect his physical development. We'd been told that he would likely walk around age 2, but of course, there were no guarantees...and we were told to expect leg braces and/or a walker to be a part of his life.  We were also told that our best chance of taking advantage of the plasticity of a baby's brain - and therefore as much progress as possible - was intense intervention. He has been involved in intense therapy since his diagnoses, and currently has 4 therapists (for whom I am also very grateful) that work with him regularly to help him develop skills (he has 3-4 hours a week of therapy, plus exercises that are completed at home and at daycare). He's had some setbacks, but has made TONS of progress.

In June, a month after turning 1, he began rolling over consistently. Later the same week, he figured out how to get into a sitting position and how to crawl. Shortly after, at 14 months, he began to try self-feeding. He took his first independent step - quite by accident - at the end of August, at his first session with his child-life specialist, and promptly sat down. Last month, at 15 months, he learned how to pull up, and he began taking steps with adapted (weighted) push toys. Then, he began cruising a LOT at the beginning of October, and he began to get into a standing position and stand without support for a few seconds. Climbing came next, and he quickly became a pro at climbing anything he could get his knee on, or that he could step up on (he also discovered how to find, move, and stand on objects to reach things that were intended to be OUT of reach...).

BUT - until today - walking had been an elusive skill. He had developed the skill of walking while holding on to an object or a hand, but could not figure out how to move his feet without some support. We went to a physical therapy session, where we were going to be playing a game to help him with standing balance. Just as we started, he took two steps...mostly by accident...but didn't fall.  He was surprised - and very excited. For the rest of his therapy session, he attempted walking over and over again, by his own choice.  We tried to have him take some breaks, but he was determined to practice and to see what he could do.  By the end of the session, I was thrilled to see him take as many as 8 steps in a row without losing his balance.

Itty Bitty still requires special shoes, and may need some assistive devices as he gets a little older...but he is making INCREDIBLE progress!

Praise be for this beautiful and amazing progress in the midst of our other trials.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Foster Care Disrpution

Image result for foster care



I am not/was not prepared for the reactions I'm getting from the people who have heard that we are planning to disrupt Sunny's placement in our home. I've searched the web for other stories of foster parents that I could relate to, and there aren't many out there. In the hopes that this post may one day help another family, and to promote understanding of why a family might disrupt a foster care placement, I thought I might give a little more information about what's going on in our family.

We've never disrupted a placement of a child before. When we first started this journey, I never expected or wanted to. In fact, the purpose of this journey was to help children in our community and to (hopefully) be able to adopt a second child, if/when one (or more) of our foster children became available for adoption. In training, where all of the almost-foster-parents were assured of support if/when we had difficulties, it was briefly mentioned that kids could be moved if a situation became severe, and that we would have the full support of our agency. At the time, we just listened politely and assumed that we could handle anything that a child as young as Sunny could/would do - and we would be a great foster family for any infant/toddler that came along.

When we first mentioned to our agency that things weren't working out with Sunny, they brushed us off, and tried to reassure us that everything would be fine. P and I, while we had originally taken Sunny with the hopes of one day adopting her, had already extensively discussed disruption, and we came to the conclusion that it might be in everyone's best interests.  The anguish and grief that we felt was palpable. I've always wanted several children, and the idea of not only losing Sunny - but choosing not to parent her - was unthinkable at first.  But, the reality is that Sunny needs more therapy and more care than we are able to provide, and her presence in our home is potentially dangerous to Eli and Itty Bitty.

We brought up the topic of disruption again with our agency a few weeks later, after our P's parents informed us that they would no longer be willing to babysit for Sunny following a major incident in their home. P's parents are extremely calm, competent and experienced parents, especially considering their previous foster care experiences. This now meant that her only babysitters would be other foster parents...and only when they had availability (which is rare). Again, we were told by a worker that her behavior was "normal for a child who'd experienced extreme trauma" and that we would be fine...but in the same conversation (and after a 3 hour observation in our home), we were told that Itty Bitty needed to have his bed moved to Eli's room because they were concerned for his safety at night.

When we requested (and got!) respite last week, it was wonderful - for us AND for Sunny. It was also confirmation for our family that Sunny's presence was harder on us and on our boys than we ever realized, and that to foster her for many more months wouldn't be what was best for anyone. Our agency was somewhat confused when we requested another respite week in November....and they finally began to understand that we were very serious with what we'd been saying for the last two months...that Sunny wasn't doing well. Sunny's behavior is a result of extreme trauma - and not likely to improve overnight. At this point, her therapy services had been dropped (without my knowledge), and no one bothered to tell me for nearly a month. Her caseworker hasn't been to our home since July. Visits with relatives were going seemingly well, but were resulting in escalated behaviors (and severely regressed behaviors) in our home. Dealing with direct, frequent - and almost always dishonest - criticism about anything and everything from her parent has become the norm. And to top it off, we haven't been to church in two months, because Sunny doesn't do very well there. It's exhausting....especially when we felt like we needed a break after Scooter (and didn't get one).

Last night, I got a call that showed me that our agency is finally taking us seriously...and they are VERY unhappy with our family's efforts to disrupt. There was no sympathy for our situation or thanks for stretching ourselves to take care of her and to help her for the last 6 months. There was no concern on their part about the effect she's had on our boys, and my concerns were met with disdain. The exact same people who promised to be supportive in situations like this are completely rejecting us. The caller last night, who is not a parent OR a foster parent, was very cold and angry, and managed to sneak a few thinly veiled insults into the conversation.  I was grossly unprepared for that.

I've also been unprepared for others' responses. For example, Sunny's preschool teacher was very upset when she found out. She knew we might disrupt, and had previously been supportive of us. When she found out today that we were following through with a disruption, she became very, very upset with us, saying "Why in the world would I have put all this work into helping her, if you're just sending her somewhere else?!"  I would have hoped she worked with her because it's what Sunny needed to grow as a person.

Thankfully, our family has wrapped around us and has been extremely supportive. They've seen Sunny from the beginning and are VERY understanding...most of our family members have been encouraging us to disrupt for several months now, and don't understand why we didn't ask to move her even earlier. The sunshiney, spirited little girl who came to us six months ago has repeatedly demonstrated that she is struggling with extreme grief, anger, and confusion, and I feel like she's getting lost in the system. I hope and pray that her upcoming move is to a home that will be better able to meet her needs.






No Bohns About It






Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sunny Update


It’s been a month, y’all! Time is getting away from me these days!!

I’ve been really exhausted, trying to handle ‘all the things…’

Life has been very complicated lately. Things with Sunny truly aren’t going well overall, and I feel terrible even writing that – but it is very, very true. Sunny cannot help her circumstances, and cannot help the terrible situations that led to her placement in foster care.  She can't help the difficult turns her case is taking. She is too little to really understand and to fully process the immense grief and confusion that she is experiencing. After her last court date, I learned about some of the things she'd experienced...and my heart definitely breaks for her.
Sunny has begun acting out a LOT because of the intense emotions she seems to be experiencing.  She has now assaulted Eli twice...and both times were unprovoked.   One of the incidents began with an unexpected screaming fit that startled Eli. He'd turned to walk away from her, but she still managed to leave a handprint-shaped bruise across Eli's back. A week later, she assaulted him again, this time hitting him in the face. After a recent (nearly 3 hour) observation of Sunny in our home, it was recommended that she no longer share a room with Itty Bitty (for his safety), and that we keep the kids separated as much as possible and very strictly supervised. In addition to acting very aggressively toward Eli, she has been alternating between acting very withdrawn/shut down and very angrily toward both Patrick and I. We are in a near-constant cycle of  Sunny's meltdowns, temper tantrums, yelling and periods of absolute silence with a refusal to speak, eat or comply with directions.  She has taken to standing in one place and staring at everyone for very, very long periods of time with a refusal to engage with any of us. Between all of this, Sunny does have quiet, sweet, playful times, though.  In my heart, I really don't think that she's a "bad" kid...but she is definitely a seriously traumatized one.
I don't know what's going to happen now. If her case were to go to adoptions (it might not, but you never know...), I don't think Patrick and I would be able to agree to adopt her. We love her...but love is not enough to help her heal these huge emotional and mental wounds. And I definitely believe that, with God's help and in the right situation and with enough time, she can and will heal...but in our family, with balancing the already-complex needs of Eli and Itty Bitty, she is not getting enough help. Trust me when I say, I've been heartbroken over this new turn of events, and have truly struggled to come to terms with the fact that I am not prepared to parent Sunny long term.

As far as how long she'll be with us, we don't know. We don't want to request disruption at this point, because she needs as much stability and as little change as possible.  The distinct possibility exists that she may well return to her family; in this case, it would make sense to keep working with her. But on the other hand, if her case leans toward adoption, we would support moving her to another foster-adopt family. We are grateful that we will be receiving respite care for her next week, so that we will have a break from parenting her for a few days. Hopefully, this will be enough relaxed bonding time with the boys to have a sense of renewed purpose and energy in working with Sunny when she comes back.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I'm Back!

Ok, after what feels like a huge (unintentional!) hiatus from blogging, I have returned! The summer and the beginning of the new school year have been hectic with appointments and ALL THE THINGS that had to be done. On top of that, Eli and I both managed to get quite sick already, and we had a death in our family. I have some great pictures and fun stories (and not-so-fun-stories) that I really want to blog, and I do have quite a few upcoming posts planned...and I'm really hoping that I can carve out the time I need to make it happen!

In the meantime, a snapshot of everyone...

My dear husband is quietly snoring away. The exhaustion is real, but he is LOVING his new job. The people are great, and he is truly enjoying teaching again.

I am now teaching a mixture of mathematics classes for only one grade level (8th). It's been an interesting year so far...and it does make me miss the hectic days of teaching "one of everything" to three different grade levels. It's still disconcerting to walk past my old classroom (that I had for 9 years) to my new one...but I'm finally starting to settle in.

Eli is doing GREAT overall. He's had some issues this year, with illness (already!) and occasional behavior issues (but with behaviors that are very typical of boys his age). On the whole, he has settled into Kindergarten very well. We really like his teacher and the fact that she does try to challenge him and keep him learning.

Sunny is still with us. We have no idea what direction her case is going to take...it's very much up in the air. We should know more about what plans are going to be made for her in the next 3-5 months. In the meantime, she is beginning to make some amazing gains of her own...including counting out TEN rice crackers tonight after I told her that she could have as many as she could count out (I was expecting 3 or 4...). We've backslid a little bit in a few areas, with her challenging us with some negative behaviors...and demonstrating some stress-related behaviors (like nighttime accidents) but she actually seems to be settling down again. She's becoming very active and is beginning to really put sentences, stories, and cause-effect events together.

Itty Bitty is SUCH a sweetheart of a toddler. It's so easy to love on and dote on him...he just soaks it up! He is beginning to walk with support (either holding hands or use a weighted push toy), and he can usually pull to stand.  He's definitely repeating some of the words we say, though he doesn't use them on his own. Right now, he can manage "oma", "no-no-no-no", and "yea".  We're currently working with a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a speech/feeding therapist, and a child-life therapist that identifies his overall strengths/interests/needs and lends us specific toys to help him meet his goals. His biggest change is that he's about to get glasses!  We're hoping he'll keep them on...: /. His case has taken some pretty crazy twists and turns, especially lately. I'll be sharing what I can when I can.




Thursday, July 7, 2016

Finding Dory: Adoption Thoughts (and Spoilers)

I'd been planning to take the kids to seeing Finding Dory as soon as I found out that the movie would be made. I was terrifically excited about the movie's release this summer, and so were Patrick and Eli.

Then I read some reviews online that sprouted major concerns for me, specifically at a blog group that I frequently read (No Hands But Ours). Here's the link to the post that concerned me so much, if you're interested.

I began to wonder if I should wait until the movie came out On Demand or on Blu Ray, and started searching other sites for information. And then I relaxed.

Based on the first blogger's review, I anticipated Dory's movie being about adoption, abandonment, etc. I was concerned that Eli would not be ready for the questions that the movie would raise, and that I, too, might need to have him watch it at home, with time to pause if he had questions.  But upon further research, I found this spoiler-filled review that made me much more confident about taking the kids to see the movie on the big screen. You can read that post here.

After seeing the movie, I am very happy that we didn't wait to see it. We took all 3 kids, and had a marvelous time (Itty Bitty fell asleep halfway through). I did (repeatedly) tell the kids that the movie had some sad parts, and some parts that might make them worry, but that it had a happy ending. Throughout the movie, Sunny was just happy to see Dory appear on the screen, and her experience was punctuated with her repeated whispers of ("There's Dory! There's Dory!). I'm not sure she followed very much of the plot at all - which is pretty typical of her age. Eli, of course understood the movie well, and enjoyed it thoroughly : ).

My personal opinion is that, although adoption/foster care themes could potentially be confusingly applied to the movie, that is NOT what this movie is about. To me, the overarching themes were the power of love and the importance of not giving up something you truly believe in, even when things get tough. Dory was an adult fish, who loves her best friends, Nemo and Marlin...our family agreed that we didn't see this as a "foster care" or an adoption situation. Dory was not placed for adoption. She was not removed from her home by a court. She was not abandoned, abused, or neglected. She was lost accidentally, and as soon as she began to remember her parents, she works diligently to find them again. Her parents also did their very best to guide her home, as is evident in the touching last scene of the movie.  Dory represents a loving, courageous, and self-confident character. She teaches others about friendship, love, and positive, creative, thinking.

I will be happy to watch the movie again (and again) with my kids, without worry or the need to stop and answer questions.

I hope this answers some questions in case some of you all are looking for the same info that I was!


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Adoption Talk Link-Up: Open-ness in Adoption

Open-ness in adoption is a tricky subject, and I see it on a continuum of "very open" to "definitely closed". Truthfully, I think most people involved in domestic infant adoption are in the "as open as possible" end of the spectrum, while people involved in foster care adoption are more frequently in the "very closed" end of the spectrum (with individual variations that depend on specific circumstances).

It's because of Eli that I see the desire of an adoptee to have relationships with birth family members to come to terms with and understand adoption. In Eli's case, I definitely wish we could have more openness. We are able to communicate with his former foster family occasionally through email, but that's it. He's not spoken a lot about it, but there have already been a few times where he's wondered aloud about his birthparents. It's times like that I wish I could sit down and email them, and ask certain questions for him.

It's because of Itty Bitty that I can definitely sympathize with birth family members who deeply love a child who was has been adopted and want to know how he/she is doing.  In Itty Bitty's case, we've been fairly open with certain people involved in his case, though we don't have any contact with his birth parents. We are hoping and praying that IF we do not get the opportunity to adopt him (we are still waiting, and will likely be waiting until late August, at least), that his relatives will be open and communicative with us, as we have with them.  We love him dearly, and if he ends up leaving our home, we will desperately want to know how he's doing as he grows up. And as he grows up, we will want him to know us and be able to ask questions about his babyhood.

It's because of some of the other children who have been in our home that I understand that birth family contact ISN'T always in the best interests of a child. This is why proponents of "open adoption in every case" get on my nerves. In foster care adoption, when a child has been hurt/neglected by a birth parent to the point that reunification isn't possible, contact is often detrimental. Sometimes, ongoing contact with a family member can work out well - but not always. In this case, adoptive parents need to carefully consider what is in the CHILD'S best interests. And that's going to vary wildly from case to case - and it may change as the years go by.

I have also learned that openness only works if all parties are willing to work together. I've actually really struggled with - and at one point, resented - the amount of openness in some of my foster kids' cases; I've had two cases where the level of openness is too high. I've been very angry with birthparents who insist on lying repeatedly to their children or who openly (and unapologetically) disrespect me. Having repeated contact with a birth parent who doesn't care about the needs of his/her own child is what I've had the hardest time with as a foster parent, and it really does make me want to shut down lines of communication.  It also helps me sympathize (somewhat) with families who seek a "closed" adoption with no contact between birth and adoptive families.

NoBohnsAboutIt

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Mid-Summer Snapshot

We have really tried to work on relaxing and decompressing this summer...but with the whirlwind of appointments, court dates, and visitations, we've been incredibly busy!

In fact - we've only made it away from the house for one overnight stay...and that may be all of the traveling we do until fall. We have some "Stay-cation" musts that we want to do before school starts, though, and I think we will get to several more before vacation time is completely over.

Patrick is THRILLED to be starting a new job next year. He taught for many years at his previous school, and really, really needed to move on. Thankfully, his new position is actually as a teacher in the school Eli will attend for Kindergarten....and is also the school that Patrick (and his older brother) attended when they were kids!  He's going to begin working on lesson plans, classroom ideas, and paperwork soon...but in the meantime, it's a wonderful feeling to know that he has some great opportunities in the new school.

There's really not a whole lot to say as far as I'm concerned...other than the fact that I got into some type of fleas or mites in the woods, and have been dealing with an EXTREMELY large number of EXTREMELY itchy bites...though not as itchy as chiggers, I'll admit. I have had a chance to do a little bit of reading, which I didn't do nearly enough of throughout the school year.  Most of what I've tackled has been light pop fiction, though I've also enjoyed a book or two from favorite authors (Orson Scott Card and Madeline L'Engle), and I have some "heavier" books on my list that I'm looking forward to...I may have to share some of the titles I've come across if they are as exciting as I've been told : ).

I am happy to say that the kids have been doing great this summer - for the most part. While we've had our share (and sometimes more than our share) of tantrums, arguments, and time outs - including one that resulted in leaving a restaurant before a waitress ever had time to greet us - the kids have been good overall.
The kids - peaceably playing in Itty Bitty's sandbox
Eli braving a GIGANTIC inflatable slide

Eli is participating in the library's summer reading project. He's 13 books into a 20 book project, and is doing GREAT!  At the end of summer, I'll share some of the details of the books he tackled...so far, it's been a wide variety of both fiction and non fiction. He participated in our church's VBS, and had a FANTASTIC time...and was thrilled to be called a "Kindergartner" for the first time. He had some major behavioral issues that have surfaced this summer - most of which I think are due to the stress of the previous year and some developmental leaps that he's experiencing - but these seem to finally be improving. BUT...he's also wrestling with some big ideas and HUGE emotions. He's talking about it, though, and asking questions. As long as he's open with us about how he is feeling, and allows us to help him deal with his feelings, I think he'll be alright. On a lighter note, aside from some of the heavy thinking he's been doing, he's also spent a lot of time practicing piano...and has now begun to learn violin. He's also gotten back into working in the Life of Fred books (we picked back up with "Dogs"), and frequently begs to work on math problems. Everything from multiplication, so addition/subtraction (including carrying/borrowing), to very simple fractions and an introduction to functions have been sources of fascination to him. He's also found time to work on puzzles most days and to watch more than enough TV/movies (we're acutally watching a movie a day). It's been so hot, we've not gotten outside to play a lot this week, but hopefully, we'll have a break in the 100-degree weather soon!!
Sunny - Learning the Balance Bike

Sunny has begun to visit with her family each week, and will soon be able to visit more than once a week. She is the first child I've seen that, at her very young age, verbally blames herself for some of the things that have happened to her. We have been gently correcting her, and pointing out that it was the adults in her life that made mistakes, that she is important, and needs to be safe and healthy. She sometimes struggles with change, but as the summer has progressed, she has relaxed and her demeanor is much more open and cheerful. She seems lost or frustrated sometimes when encouraged to play on her own, but is really, really learning to entertain herself or to play with Eli. She has begun working on learning the balance bike with a lot more determination and confidence than we saw just two weeks ago. We've also been taking her to the pool, and she's really gaining a lot of confidence in the water (hooray for puddle jumper-style floaties!). She too, is participating in the library's summer reading project, though all of her books are being read aloud to her. We are really working with her on being able to pay attention to a short story and to understand very simple plots. For a child who is extremely verbal, her ability to concentrate and comprehend stories (either read to her or watched on TV) is very  limited. We THINK we have her ready to go watch her first movie at the movie theater...so we'll make an attempt soon.  In the meantime, we are going to continue to work with her on self-confidence and self-esteem. She is still somewhat afraid to ask for things that she needs (like a drink of water or help accomplishing a task), and often whispers so quietly that it's quite impossible to hear her.
Itty Bitty - hanging out and enjoying the afternoon

Itty Bitty is still the sweetest little baby, though he's definitely going through some seperation anxiety that takes the form of devastated howling and angry, frantic shrieking if we're out of sight for more than a split second. Hopefully, this too shall pass...right? He does now have a formal diagnoses of mild-moderate cerebral palsy. If someone had told me this in October, I'd have thought they were joking...but I've learned a LOT and wish now that I'd recognized his subtler symptoms earlier than I did. But...neither of his caseworkers, pediatrician, foster care worker, or daycare provider recognized them either, so I'm trying not to be hard on myself. He recently underwent an MRI, and will undergo a swallow study soon. He will continue to receive OT, and will also begin receiving PT and Speech (for both language and feeding). We've registered at our local play therapy group, too, so he will receive services from them starting this fall. But, of course, Itty Bitty is always full of surprises.  This week, he began saying his first word..."mama" (he sometimes does say "oma" too). Then a couple days ago, he accidentally got yogurt on his hands, and began to lick them...and discovered self-feeding. Today, he even managed to feed himself quite a few "baby puffs". Next, as if that wasn't enough, he laid another surprise on us...today, out of the clear blue, he pushed himself up onto his hands and knees...and began to crawl!!  The absolutely cutest part is that a couple of the times he crawled were so that he could get close to the kitty (Sadie) to touch her. At this point, he can only go very short distances, and he has obvious struggles with his coordination, he is definitely crawling on hands and knees, and he will probably get stronger very quickly. This is the same child who has screamed and cried in OT when the therapist has been trying to get him to even ATTEMPT movement on his tummy (other than pivoting).  In a legal update, there's absolutely no new news in his case...we are still in limbo, and will be for a least another month (probably two or three).


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Itty Bitty is ONE!!

I can't believe Itty Bitty is ONE!! In a few days, we will also celebrate the one year anniversary of his arrival in our home from the NICU. It's been a very rocky year; we love Itty Bitty so much, but his permanent home is, unfortunately up in the air. It's been a very emotional roller coaster  as his case has been playing out in court.

Patrick and I want very much to be able to adopt Itty Bitty...but his case is complicated, and I'm not allowed to share details online. Hopefully, permanency will be decided soon...and we are still prayerful that we will be blessed to call him our second son. We thought recently that we would get a final ruling - one way or another - at the end of June. But, while the court date is still in place, it is looking less likely that this will be decision day for his case.

In the meantime, I thought I'd do a 1 - year snapshot.

Itty Bitty has benefitted greatly from occupational therapy. He will be visiting some specialist doctors soon to begin to get a better picture of what his short and long term needs will be.  We are definitely hoping for an increase in therapy. He likely has some form of cerebral palsy, though it is mild. He still also has problems with reflux, and there are now concerns that he may be having difficulty swallowing and using the muscles of his mouth.

He is learning how to sit up from a lying down position and is consistently rolling back-to-front. He can sit and play really well, and can now play with toys easily while lying on his tummy. He can clap his hands freely, and can bang toys together. He reaches for things he wants and squeals for attention when he needs help. He can stand with help, and is trying to take a few stiff-legged steps while holding onto our hands, though he still cannot crawl at all (or even maintain a crawling position for very long). He is just beginning to babble a little, and has made up his own sign for when he wants us to turn on the ceiling fan (he gets our attention and then waves at the ceiling in a circular motion). He's beginning to figure out how some toys work, and it's a lot of fun to see him learn new things. He got a Daniel Tiger trolley for his birthday, and while he mostly prefers to bang all of his toys together, he has definitely figured out how to drop Daniel in the trolley...and how to dump/shake him out again.

He loves to eat, and will frequently refuse baby food in favor of whatever the rest of the family is eating...especially if he can smell my cooking! What can I say...he'll eat anything from Thai food (including curries), to Korean food (yes, including kim chi), to Mexican food  (not too spicy), to Italian food, to virtually any sea food (crab is a particular fav).

He adores being read to, and will sit for very long periods of time for a story. His favorite bedtime stories right now are "One Fish, Two Fish" and "Llama, Llama, Nighty-Night."

He absolutely adores Eli. He loves any/all attention from Eli, and seemingly craves his companionship.  Returning from a doctor's visit one day, when he'd been cranky and unsettled all day, we picked Eli up from school...and from the moment Eli smiled at him, Itty Bitty was beside himself with joy.

Finally, he HATES it when I put him down. He really wants me to carry/hold him everywhere at every moment...and will sometimes even decline to be held by Patrick.  We're actually having him attend daycare twice a week or so over the summer for this reason...otherwise, when summer break is over, returning to daycare would be that much more difficult. At least if he goes occasionally, he'll remember who his "teacher" and "classmates" are. We're also having him attend daycare because his occupational therapist prefers to see him there.  We tried having her work with him at home...but he spent his entire therapy session crying for me to hold him, so not much got done. Oops. Oh well - at least we tried. Here's hoping to more great gains in the next few months...the specialists that we are going to may well order more intense therapy for him (I hope so!); I think, in his case anyway, this will be necessary for him to reach his potential for stable movement.




Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The End of a Preschool Era


I can't believe it actually happened "for real" this time...Eli has graduated from Pre-k! Because he took part in older classes in previous years, he's been through several preschool graduations ceremonies, but this is the first time that he will be moving on from preschool to "big-kid" elementary school.

The program itself was adorable, hilarious, and very well done. I had no idea that, at the beginning of the ceremony, confidently leading his class in a chant as they marched onto the stage, would be my very own baby boy. They chanted "Everywhere we go...people wanna know...who we are...so we tell them....we are the prek...the mighty, mighty prek!" He led, and his class repeated each line after him. I was bursting with pride watching him so self-assured, so much so that I was unable to get my video camera going!

The rest of the ceremony was very well done; the kids said the Pledge of Allegiance, sang about their presidents (in historical order), the continents, the oceans, demonstrated a choral count (to 50), and did some fun songs like the "Tooty Ta," that included a hysterically funny dance.  Eli chuckled when I had tears on the last song (entitled "Goodbye Friends")...but I think he'll understand better in a few days when he no longer attends preschool. We've been very fortunate that he's been able to attend the same small preschool for 3 years, and I am so glad that my foster children are able to attend such a great place!

Watching the slide show of pictures from the school year!

The happy graduate, after his ceremony!
It was really special, too, that the children were given nice "goody bags," certificates of completion, and school shirts with their class picture on it...and the parents were given "graduation pictures" as a special surprise! Eli received an additional surprise from Patrick and I....a Dr. Who illustrated encyclopedia....and he was beyond THRILLED : ).

I am so proud of my sweet boy! And, while I'm nervous/anxious about him attending Kindergarten next school year, I am confident that his new school will be a great fit for him.  Still, it's bittersweet to see him leave this part of his childhood behind...how is it possible that he's old enough for BIG KID school??




Wednesday, April 27, 2016

(Somewhat) Normal

Our life has settled back down into a new normal.

Sunny is settling in very well, though she has a lot of learning ahead of her. She doesn't really understand how normal family life is supposed to be, and she's not used to the firm consistency that makes our household work.

We have had a few incidents lately that have been great learning opportunities for her, and we are definitely starting to see some tiny little emotional roots beginning to grow.  She's learning that her tantrums don't frighten us (or even overly concern us, as we've had a couple kids with MUCH worse tantrums...), and that when Oma or Appa says "no" that it means "absolutely not."  She is definitely learning that we offer plenty of opportunities to make choices...but sitting down and telling Oma or Appa "no" to both choices means that WE make the choice for her : ).  She is definitely getting used to Itty Bitty, and is beginning that he has different needs than she does.  She still gets jealous that he sometimes eats dinner before the rest of us (because of his earlier bedtime), and that he gets held/carried more often....but I did hear her refer to him as "HER baby" tonight. We are trying to ease her into age-appropriate independence with certain tasks...like asking for what she wants (instead of hinting or just plain staring), dressing herself, and putting away toys in the morning and before bed.  She has discovered our toy kitchen and LOVES to use it. Since I knew she was interested, I let Eli walk her through how to make a peach cobbler last weekend, with delicious results. Eli now has my recipe down pat, and other than turning on the oven and melting the butter, he can make it from start to finish independently : ).

Eli is thriving with Sunny's arrival. She sometimes drives him crazy, but they usually get along pretty well.  I think it's hilarious that Eli has now thrown himself into piano with a passion that is something to behold...it's also interesting that he has become somewhat quieter in the wake of Sunny's incessant chatter. I LOVE to see them playing together...they are very imaginative and can play well for hours on end with only minor arguments.  He's also excited that she's mature enough to "do school". He truly enjoys sitting down to work on a few math problems, and loves that she is old enough/ready enough to participate at her own level (I'm teaching her one-to-one correspondence, since she can already dependably count to 9 by rote). He enjoys reading to her and Michael, so we're sneaking in a little extra practice whenever we can, and she's learning her letters (she can sing the ABCs, but does not recognize them in print yet).  I let him take charge with his snap kit and show her how to wire a speaker and a light last weekend, and he thoroughly enjoyed his role. This sounds so simple, but was really impossible while simultaneously trying to conquer Wonder Boy's tantrums or Scooter's inability to participate (or even play on his own in the same room). He also seemed to feel pretty good about himself when standing up for her on the playground last week, when a bigger kid wouldn't let Sunny slide, and he was able to get the bigger kid to move for her.  The hardest thing to see, though, is that Eli is holding back (somewhat) from bonding with Sunny. I feel bad that so many kids have come and gone, that he doesn't want to get too close. This is one of the concerns we had for him, when we decided to stop fostering, and it will definitely be an ongoing concern.

Eli and Sunny, working peacefully



Enjoying math enough to bring it outside to play...!


For the first time in a while, though, we are getting back to some of the things we used to enjoy as a family, simply because we are now more able to. Enjoying time hanging out and just letting the kids play peacefully...yes!  Time to go shop or eat at a restaurant...yes! The ability to go out and enjoy activities in the community...YES!!  Here's hoping that we have a successful strawberry picking adventure soon...my freezer is now empty of strawberries, and I think the Eli and Sunny would really love doing this together. Strawberry picking is one of Eli's favorite things about spring time...and they have been playing "garden" in the yard since Sunny arrived.


This is not  to say that we'll be able to jump into everything with both feet...but there's definitely room to start to do things again, where many things we enjoy might have been impossible before.  Sunny's tantrums at children's choir practice tonight prove that pretty well...although she had two, she recovered from both well and quickly. This is pretty typical of all of her tantrums...frequent but short. Of course, we also have concerns about attachment that we will be addressing with her, as she occasionally seeks out unknown adults to get affection/attention, but this is not unusual in a child who has lived through what she has.  She is also somewhat manipulative, and though she has definitely not yet mastered triangulation, she is very much seeking control over every single thing she possibly can...behavior that, again, is very common in kids who have experienced trauma, and should ease/decrease in the next few months.

In the meantime, Itty Bitty's case has begun moving rapidly again. We've been waiting on one particular item to be addressed in his case...and it's the one thing upon which his future placement depends. We will be attending some upcoming court dates and are fervently hoping/praying that his case is settled in our direction. We love him so much, and so badly want to be his forever family. Patrick and I both firmly believe that it is in his best interests to stay with us. Unfortunately, though, this is out of our control, and only God knows what will happen. Thankfully, the intense waiting and worrying will be over soon, and we should know the judge's final decision by the end of June, when Itty Bitty will be 13 months old.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Pandas, Elves, and Jedi Knights: Adoption in the Movies

This week, the Adoption Talk Link-Up topic is Adoption in the Media. 

It's interesting to see, as an adoptive mama, how many kids' movies and shows have a blatant adoption theme that I never thought much about when I was a child, like Annie, and The Jungle Book.  I used to love Punky Brewster...but was naïve enough to never realized that she was abandoned in a grocery store until I was an adult. Until Eli came along, I never really thought about how these storylines might be interpreted or what opinions will be absorbed by little minds. I found myself being very, very careful with what I allowed Eli to see when it came to adoption-related movies - including fictional children's stories/movies, as I was concerned that certain themes or storylines, like that of Matilda (which again, was a childhood favorite of mine), might be confusing or upsetting to him.  The one exception I made in the beginning was the movie, Elf. And, honestly, the differences between child and adoptive father are not truly apparent to Eli yet (if you ask him, he just repeats one of my personal catchphrases and says "different people are different."). However, the scene in the orphanage has been discussed in our home many, many times, as Eli is fascinated by it.

In the last year, I've very much relaxed about what Eli sees (in regards to fostering/adoption).  With children in and out of our home this year, he's seen the losses that some other children experience firsthand. He doesn't know the complete story of every child we've fostered, but he knows enough to realize that there are always some similarities and some vast differences between their stories and his, and that his story is uniquely his. Being exposed to foster and adoption stories in our home AND in movies, radio, and TV have sparked some truly excellent conversations that have helped me understand that this type of information (or misinformation) seems to not only help us to grow closer through our discussions, but it gives him more peace regarding his own past.

As I made the realization that I was being unnecessarily overprotective, right on cue, Kung Fu Panda 3 was released to theaters.  And other than some references to Po's "real father" that grated on my nerves, the story played out in a positive way. Eli barely noticed the adoption theme at first; he's still kind of at an age where he thinks like Po, and thought nothing of the differences between Po and his father.  Truly, he was caught up primarily in the "kung fu" action sequences and slapstick humor than anything else.  But, as this is a movie he loves, and I know we'll be seeing it again and again,  I'm sure that we will be having lots of conversations about it in the future.  I do like that it showed that Po's panda parents AND goose parent truly love/treasure him, as I think many adoption stories in the media do not emphasize this enough.

Not long after, the new Star Wars movie came out.  Eli has been truly Star Wars obsessed for two years now. A season finale of his favorite Star Wars cartoons once resulted in a two hour meltdown. He devours all things Star Wars...books, comic books, movies, cartoons, Legos, etc.  Eli has not yet been permitted to see the newest movie yet, though, as there are two scenes that I thought were a bit too much for his young, 5 year old mind to process.  But, Patrick took the time recently to re-watch the first few movies with him (episodes 4-6). Eli refused...and I mean ADAMENTLY refused...to believe that Darth Vader was Luke's birthfather.  He was convinced that Vader was lying to take advantage of Luke (conspiracy theories, anyone?). But...as he began to accept the truth behind Vader's words, he realized that one of his heroes, Luke Skywalker, as well as his sister Leia, were both heroes AND adoptees...he was excited to have this in common with them : ). I, for one, particularly love that Luke, in particular, chose his own paths in life and was strong enough to be his own person...even when faced with the fact that, the person he's been fighting this entire time, Darth Vader, was his biological father.  This, I hope, will be helpful knowledge for Eli (and my other children), too, as they mature.

In the meantime..."May the Force be With You!"



 
No Bohns About It

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Introducing...Sunny

It's been almost a week since a certain someone waltzed into our home...and we are very thankful that we made the decision to say "yes" once again. I've been struggling to come up with a blog blog-name for her, but at the moment, I think I'm planning to call her "Sunny", as this reflects her (typical) temperament. She is a spirited, sassy, sweet little girl who definitely livens things up a little...and it's interesting to have 3 strong-willed children in the house : ). She has the creativity and exuberance of Pippi Longstocking, the sheer determination and craving for love/approval as Roald Dahl's Matilda, and the indomitable spirit of each. She adores Eli, and is not sure what to think about Michael, as she has not really been around any babies. She craves attention and sympathy, and is extremely verbal for her age. We are, in turns out, at least her 3rd foster home in less than 3 weeks, not because of any fault of hers, but because other homes could only take her on a respite (short term) basis.

So far, her transition has been pretty good. She's done (and is doing) a lot of grieving, and still seems "off-kilter" from so many changes so close together.  She is somewhat tantrum/meltdown prone, though this is definitely improving. Even so, she's remarkably advanced for her age and has been surprising me frequently with her interests and what she knows. Eli is having some difficulty remembering that she's still two years younger than he...because she talks and acts a year or two older most of the time, and can keep up with him on the playground (most of the time).  While Eli and Sunny have had their share of disagreements (already!), their relationship is also already surprisingly close.  Sunny seeks Eli out and wants to copy him and earn his approval. Eli has been looking out for her, and likes to play with her, though he has been through so many changes lately and her energy level is so high, that he needs frequent breaks for alone or one-on-one time.

We've had a couple of really sweet bonding moments, lately, though, so I have a follow up post planned soon : ).

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

One Hundred and Eighty Degrees

In the last 24 hours, my family has done a 180.

We were committed to closing our foster home. We had what we felt were many good reasons for doing so, and it was decision we did not make lightly or quickly. Not fostering would leave us freer and with less responsibility. We would have more time as a family and to spend with Eli....etc, etc, etc.

Our reasons and beliefs have not changed...but our hearts did. 

Scooter left us Friday....and we were sad, glad, relieved, and upset all at once. His leaving was sadder and more difficult than I ever thought it would be. We were glad that he would have permanency and the ability to be with his sister, though, and we welcomed the chance to just be the four of us for a little while.

Later that day, I confirmed with out foster care agency that we were NOT open to placements or phone calls.

Then...

I received a call anyway.

A little girl needed a place to stay. I was told that she just turned 3. I was told that they could not find an available space for her with any other open family and had begun calling "closed" families with a current home study like ours.  I was told that if we said "no," that it would be okay (as far as the agency was concerned), and that she would stay in a group facility indefinitely until someone could be found.

I didn't say no.

I couldn't say no.

I asked the caseworker for some time before I gave an answer. I needed to talk to Patrick and Eli first.  I was unsure of why I was undecided (when I had been so determined to say "NO").

I am not a person who has trouble with the word "no"...but the thought of a frightened little child with no place to call home when I have an empty bed in my house settled on my heart. I no longer wanted to say no.

When I talked to Patrick later, he echoed my sentiments without my needing to voice them. And while Eli was initially hesitant, he opened to the possibility (especially after we discussed his main worry - which was that she would have stinky diapers, like Scooter).  He said that he really wanted to have another child to play with.

So, we called the caseworker back to see if they had been able to find another placement for this child, to verify the information we were given....and to give a "yes" answer.

So, we've done a 180...and the three of us are still surprised by it. But, we are prayerful that this is right for us and for her, and are getting ready to meet her.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Adoption Talk Link-Up: Goodbye, Scooter.

I was determined to participate more in the Adoption Talk Link-Ups this year, and have not kept up the way I'd really like to! So this week, I'm making the effort this week to get back on the blogging wagon.


The last couple posts that I've published are, generally, about the struggles we have been having as a family. Truly, becoming a foster family has changed us dramatically, and I'm trying to come to grips with some recent decisions that we've had to make...especially the one where we've decided to close our foster home. I won't belabor the pros and cons of fostering in this post, though, because I feel like I've been doing that a lot lately.


Instead, I thought I might provide an update on Scooter since he is leaving our home on Friday.


Poor Scooter (and his siblings) deserve so  much better than the hand they've been dealt in life. Scooter, when he came to our home, was very withdrawn, frightened, and seriously developmentally delayed. As we uncovered and began to resolve some of his issues, he blossomed. He knows how to play with toys now; he used to simply sit listlessly and only watch our repeated attempts to get him to play. He runs and plays outside now, where he used to simply stand and watch Eli. He can run without falling and is now beginning to use his imagination. His hearing and speech have improved dramatically (though he failed his most recent hearing test, due to little cochlear feedback on one side).  He will have a thorough eye exam next week with a pediatric ophthalmologist to help address his depth perception and sight issues. He is now completely potty trained...a feat that I would not have believed possible just weeks ago.  The behaviors that had us concerned that he might have an attachment issue or issues (potentially) related to FAS have improved (somewhat), though they are still present. He is still behind his age-peers, but he is definitely making major developmental progress. He made enough progress that we did recently try moving him into his age-group class at preschool, but, unfortunately, he was not quite ready and had to be moved back into the younger group (he currently functions at a level about a year younger than his age).




Eli and Scooter hunting Easter eggs
But, though Scooter has made great gains, he is leaving Friday, and he is not going home to his biological family. I've also found out, even though Scooter has been doing so well with us, that visits with his bio family, which aren't happening consistently, haven't been going well at all.  In fact, his caseworker called me last week to tell me that, even though the kids haven't been in foster care long, she anticipates his case proceeding to TPR and adoption. In the same call, I found out that our family would not be considered as an adoptive placement - and Patrick and I are in agreement with DFCS on this. Scooter's placement has been particularly difficult for us (though he is usually an appealing, sweet child), and has been compounded by the fact that DFCS deliberately withheld information and ignored repeated requests for help for Scooter's various needs. It is only due to the fact that we had support from our foster agency and a very knowledgeable pediatrician that we were able to connect with some community resources that have begun to make a huge difference in Scooter's life.


All of the frustration with DFCS aside, I never, ever, ever thought I would be in a position where a foster child of mine would come up for adoption...but I wouldn't get the opportunity to adopt...and that I might not want to adopt. I've been lying awake at night grieving and wondering about Scooter's future and wishing that I could be the one to raise him...but, ultimately, I truly believe that DFCS is right in this case. Knowing a decision is right usually makes it easier, but it doesn't take away all of the hurt. 


The part that makes this easier and better, though, when I look for the good in this change, is that Scooter is going to a GREAT family who is willing to provide either short term or permanent care for Scooter and one of his sisters (they have actually had one of his sisters the entire time we've had Scooter)...and I'm grateful that they will be able to pick up where we are leaving off.




No Bohns About It

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Itty Bitty: 10 month update




So, not a lot has changed in our house this week, except that we've begun to come to terms with certain new events in Itty Bitty's case. We are still praying to be able to adopt him; we are the only family he's ever known in his entire life.  However, due to circumstances beyond our family's control, Itty Bitty's future is still in limbo.  Things that should have been done and decided before he was even a month or two old still haven't been addressed...and there's nothing we can do about it but wait.

Eli's adoption was only 3 years ago...and I distinctly remember hating all the waiting, while simultaneously being resigned to it....and it's similar to how I feel now. The difference, though, is that a certain dread hangs over me that wasn't there before. In Eli's adoption I knew that my baby boy was coming home to STAY....and in Itty Bitty's case, we don't have that reassurance.

Sadness aside, I decided that it was time to look out the window, realize that IT'S SPRING, and make the best of the situation since we're in this for the long haul.  Then, I realized that it's been a while since I've written an update on Itty Bitty's progress and he has changed SO much in the last couple of months.

Itty Bitty is no longer so tiny...he now measures 50th percentile for height and between 25th and 50th percentile for weight and has 6 teeth (1 of them is still not in all the way, but IS visible).  He loves to laugh and interacts really well with us.  He works hard to get Eli's attention and loves to be included in conversation and in the "big boys' " playtime.  . He enjoys playing with toys, can now pass them back and forth fairly easily between his hands, and can often pick up a toy that he's dropped.  He sits steadily, and plays well in that position, though he cannot get into a sitting position by himself.  He eats very well, and is down to 2 or 3 bottles a day and eats a wide variety of solids. His reflux has improved enough that he is down to ZERO food restrictions.  He still has some occasional issues with slow digestion, but these tend to be well controlled with an ounce or two of juice every day.  He definitely does have occasional temper tantrums that seem to come from simple frustration...I have a feeling if he was more mobile that we would see fewer of these. And...drumroll, please...he is finally REALLY babbling!!  For so long, he would only make vowel sounds and screech...but now, he's suddenly using a variety of consonants.

Every time he has OT! Note: this is a meme, not Itty Bitty...is it sad that I have to disclaim this??
He still has some very obvious, pronounced struggles with mobility and we're working on them with an occupational therapist. It's startling to see him side-by-side another child his age, because it really shows how much help Itty Bitty needs. He does not roll, sit, or stand without help, and he cannot crawl forward (though he can scoot backward while on his tummy, and lately, he's been getting into a crawling position on his own).  Unfortunately, with a lot of his milestones, we'll see him do something once or twice, and then he can't seem to repeat it later.  For example, months ago, I saw him pivot on his belly, trying to reach something. He did it twice...but since then, he's not been able to do it again until recently, even with encouragement and help. Two weeks ago, when pivoting became one of our occupational therapy goals, we started to see progress  again, and he has really started to try this more.  His early intervention OT has been wonderful, and she's been great about supporting us, giving us exercises to work on, and helping us set goals for his progress.  Some of his goals he has met surprisingly quickly...some are taking MUCH longer than we thought. We're finding out that Itty Bitty seems to be a smart baby, and he catches on really quickly once we can find ways to get his muscles to cooperate. At some point, I really believe we are going to get him crawling, standing, and walking, though it will take him a little longer.  This morning, he surprised me by "walking" a few steps on his knees...sitting on his knees has been difficult for him to learn, so I was shocked to see him move this way...but very happy for him, too. Hopefully, this won't be one of those tasks he learns, but then cannot repeat. I am very curious to see what the neurologist will say when we go this summer; his pediatrician believes that his delays may be due to mild cerebral palsy.

He has met some of his OT goals since we've started therapy, though...like rolling back to front with minimal help, reaching up/out with his hands, holding his own bottle, and not holding his hands behind his back. He can clap his hands (though one of them is usually in a fist), and he is beginning to give "high fives" and sometimes tries to copy us. He reaches out for us when he wants to be picked up, he pats us on the back when he wants to be patted, and we're encouraging him to point at things he wants (he hasn't figured that out yet), and learn to use a straw cup.

There are also some things that he could do...but that he is refusing to do...such as picking up food and putting it in his mouth. As a mom who has always been a fan of Baby Led Weaning, this is driving me nuts. We are encouraging him to do try to feed himself, but he tends to melt down with every attempt. Picking up food is rarely the problem...he seems to enjoy doing that.  But, even if he's clearly hungry and enjoying having ME put food in his mouth, he completely dissolves into a tantrum at my slightest attempts to help him self-feed. This has happened at daycare, too, and we're all trying to figure him out.  He does the same thing with his straw cup, even when he's thirsty.  He wants his water or juice...but will not hold his cup (even though he now has the physical ability). He absolutely hates having his teeth brushed (even with a gentle infant toothbrush or a soft rag), and will close his mouth and refuse to open it. Sigh. He's figured out that the moment he cries over his toothbrush, his mouth opens and I can brush them while he cries...so he simply purses his lips, clenches his jaw and stares at me.  Before Itty Bitty, I'd never had an argument with a nonverbal 10 month old infant.  The job always gets done, much to his chagrin...but I'm not sure how good of a job it is...

At this point, I'm wondering if he may have a sensory issue or two that we need to figure out, since he has some other unusual behaviors.  Interestingly enough, though he tends to be an adventurous eater, he often recoils from unfamiliar textures or sensations against his hands or body.  I was thrilled, recently, to watch him enjoy a sandbox...I thought he'd hate the feeling of the sand, but he really seemed to love it. It's so rare that he enjoys new sensations that I will be getting him a sandbox to enjoy at home : ).  As a Montessori mom, I've found it somewhat difficult to not be able to do activities for his age I know that he really can't do yet...but hopefully, we'll be able to start some of these soon.