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 na├»ve 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