Getting my house and myself in shape

A’s mother has her court date next Thursday.  Since she’s our first foster kid, I don’t know how it works, but I imagine the judge will order her home that day.  I’m really sad about it, but I’m planning to take the day off to go to court and see what happens, and then have some time to pack up A’s stuff.  A’s mother has asked to provide some pictures of us with her so that she can bring them home with her, and I’m so happy she wants us to still be a part of A’s life.

 

The Ls’ grandmother is trying to get placement, although she may not qualify as an actual foster/kinship home.  The judge can still order the kids to her house, but she wouldn’t get the benefits of being a kinship home.  I’m hoping that she can make it happen, because these kids need more than we can give them. 

 

I’m currently attempting to get back into shape, which means waking up at 4:30 in the morning to try to squeeze in a 20-minute workout.  Right now, I’m trying to do ab intervals 3-4 times a week, arm intervals 2-3 times a week, rock-climbing 1-2 times a week, and I’m hoping at some point to work in some cardio and legs.  I already walk a lot just as a way to get myself where I need to be, but I want to start running again and I really want to get a rowing machine to use at home, because 10 minutes on the rowing machine at the gym is a great workout.  I’m going to try to keep track of my progress by taking pictures.  The first one is a picture of my right arm from Saturday, July 22nd.  I’d like to see how it looks in a month or so, and hopefully there will be a noticeable difference!  I’ll also get some ab pictures going here.  I’ll try to take the ab pictures with similar pants/bottoms so that my muffin top isn’t affected by the tightness of my clothes.

I’m also working really, really hard on getting and keeping the house organized and clean.  This is a major project, so I’m doing it in small steps.  First, I installed IKEA Valje cubes in my front entry.  The cubes are just about full (I like to call it “we own too many motorcycle helmets”), but I need to figure out what to do with the negative space between the cubes.  I also have a cool little metal envelope mail holder that will hopefully corral the incoming mail before it ends up scattered all over the kitchen counter.

After hanging the cubes, I added more shelves and hooks to the “Harry Potter” closet (the closet under the stairs, heretofore referred to as the HP closet) and cleaned it out.  I found all kinds of stuff that didn’t need to be in there.  I made the kids clean their rooms and go through their clothes and get rid of anything they didn’t like, and now I have several bags to donate to the foster care storage unit for future foster kids in the county.  Once A goes home, we will be cleaning out the toy loft and hopefully getting rid of half of the toys in there (or packing some away to rotate in and out, like a toy library).  I still need to clean out linen cabinets, my own closet and drawers, my office and crafting supplies, and the boxes and boxes of childhood stuff that I never know what to do with.  Plus the bathroom cabinets and kitchen cabinets.  I’m hoping to eventually get rid of half of the little stuff in my house.

 

D and I also started cleaning out the garage and so far have made a decent amount of space, although we need to completely overhaul the laundry area and the workshop area.  I also need to find a lot more space for the things that have been piling up in the side yard because having them there makes it really hard to work in the garden or just walk through to the backyard.  And I need to find the time to build some of the projects I’ve been wanting to do with all the wood I’ve been stockpiling, and fix the fence and actually start landscaping the backyard.

 

After A goes home, I’m considering switching up the bedrooms as well.  I’d like to move L1 into the office and get him a lofted bed, move L2 into L1’s room, and move the office into what is now L2’s room/nursery.  I’m thinking I’ll keep L2’s bed in there since it’s also a daybed so it can be used as a guest room, and it has a big enough closet that I can store office supplies, workout gear, and baby stuff too.  If we ever get a baby, the baby can sleep in our room until we figure out what’s going on with the older kids.  If we do end up with three kids, we can either bunk them together or turn the loft into a smaller office, give up the idea of a guest room, and let each kid have their own room.  It’s a lot to think about!  And in the meantime we need to find a place to store the crib (although I’m seriously considering just selling it to get it out of the house – this plan of mine will also mean we need to either get rid of A’s toddler bed or find a place to store that as well).

 

I seriously hope I can get my life in order and be ready to get a baby in the fall.  I’m about to turn 39, and I think it’s time.

In which I realize that foster care may be ruining my life

Well, we’re in the home stretch with A. She’ll be going home in about two weeks. I’m devastated. I thought I would be ok with it, but I’m really not. It makes me want a baby of my own that much more. And it also makes me resent the Ls an awful lot.

Speaking of the Ls, I don’t think things are going all that well. Their behavior is horrendous. L1 is on the verge of getting suspended from summer camp. He’s a jerk to his sister, he wets the bed nearly every night (not his fault, I don’t think, but to me it seems like it’s a sign that things are getting worse instead of better), he has no friends. L2 is even worse in some ways. She’s now instigating fights with her brother regularly, she abuses the animals (well, not really abuses them, but irritates them to no end without any regard for what they want), whines and cries about everything, demands that I do things for her or get things for her, pouts all the time, and is just generally unpleasant to be around. If she doesn’t get what she wants immediately, she starts fake crying and wailing that she wants her mommy. They’re both exhibiting signs of a victim mentality and they’ve started saying “no” to most requests to do anything, since they’ve been in the system before and they know we can’t force them to go to bed, go to their room, stop fighting, whatever. D has completely lost his patience with them, and it feels like our house is a war zone. I’m reaching the end of my patience with the whole thing. Despite the fact that I don’t love my job, I dread going home every day.

On top of that, the house is a disaster and I’m at a loss as to what to do about it. I know getting rid of stuff will help. The summer I spent living in a temple in Japan taught me that when you have almost nothing, there isn’t anything to make a mess with. Unfortunately, with D’s parents downsizing and my mom passing, we generally have more stuff coming into our house than going out. And the division of labor is something I’m seriously questioning. For one thing, everyone expects me to do EVERYTHING for the kids. I’m the one who gets the calls and emails, I do all the paperwork and scheduling, and I do more than half the shuttling around. And when D is responsible for it (he does drop-off in the morning because I leave for work before any of them even get up), he complains so much that I wish I could just do it to get him to stop complaining. It’s exhausting. It’s maddening. I do all the cooking, grocery shopping, meal planning, bill paying, etc. I do close to 100% of the cleaning, especially in the kitchen. D does the laundry, but I fold it and put it away (which is the hard part, as far as I’m concerned). I’m the only one who cleans litter boxes, although D does do more in terms of feeding and picking up after the dogs.

Last night, D ended up working late without warning. The Ls had a visit, and I had A at home with me while trying to cook. She kept demanding snacks and threw tantrums when I wouldn’t give her every little thing she wanted (she’s learning bad things from the Ls, including saying “I don’t care”). When D informed me that he wouldn’t be home in time to pick up the Ls, I had to turn off the stove and oven, put all the partially-cooked food somewhere the dogs couldn’t get it, run to get the kids, then come home and try to get dinner going again. The kitchen was such a mess, there was nowhere to put anything. Every single cutting board was dirty, every cast iron pan was dirty (and we have a lot of them), all of the larger knives were dirty, and every countertop area was covered in dirty dishes or things that just shouldn’t have been there. I just about started crying and told D I wasn’t going to keep cooking if the kitchen was never clean. He made a perfunctory effort to help, then just stood there drinking wine and watching me clean while he talked at me about how frustrated he was with the kids.

I don’t know what to do anymore. I can’t be the primary breadwinner and the primary homemaker and the primary caretaker of the kids. When D gets stuck taking care of the kids because I’m busy doing housework, he gets upset that I’m not pitching in as much, but if I try to do more with the kids, he doesn’t cover for me on the housework so I end up doing both. I’m at my wits end.

What do we do now?

I’ve been having dreams about getting pregnant. Last night’s was the weirdest one yet. I dreamed that we had tried IVF with the doctor who did my fibroid surgeries that resulted in my severe Asherman’s. In my dream, the doctor had fertilized my eggs and instead of waiting for them to grow, he transferred them right away. I also learned that my eggs were apparently not letting any sperm in (I know how all this works, but apparently my brain doesn’t always incorporate the most scientific information into my dreams). So then I decided to take matters into my own hands, by fertilizing my own eggs and planting them in little containers from the plant nursery. They started growing into plants, at which point I panicked because I didn’t know what to do with them. I happened to run into someone and I told them what was happening, and they just happened to be a fertility doctor who harvested my little plant embryos and transferred them right then (and told me they looked great! And that the previous doctor should have let my potential embryos grow for at least two days before transfer). What a bizarre dream.

In other news, D has gotten pretty weary of fostering. He’s sad (and so am I) that A will be going home in just over a month, and between now and then we won’t actually have that much time with her since she’s spending weekends with her mom now. L1 and L2 have been so badly behaved that D is ready to give up on them, and I’m pretty much right there with him. The problems are twofold. First, I’m fairly certain that their parents, knowing that they couldn’t (or didn’t want to) provide what the kids needed in the way of a stable home, structure, discipline, a learning environment, etc, just showered them with stuff, including junk food and toys while completely neglecting their physical and emotional needs. These are kids are seriously spoiled and can’t handle hearing the word “no”. Second, the support for us as foster parents is pretty much non-existent. These kids need services, and we need help. No one has helped us try to find funding to pay for extracurricular activities. The amount of time I’ve spent on the phone trying to get these kids counseling is insane, and I don’t feel like I’ve made any progress at all. They need major dental work, and as far as I can tell the referrals have gone nowhere.

And these kids know the system. They know that we’re not supposed to take their stuff (temporarily, if they’re misbehaving). We don’t WANT to take their stuff, but their behavior is appalling. I could tell that my friends who came on our camping trip with us this weekend weren’t pleased with the behavior, and I could see it influencing their children’s behavior. How long before none of our friends want to see us anymore? And the more time I spend with these kids, the more I realize that rewarding good behavior isn’t going to work – they feel entitled to constantly be rewarded, no matter what their behavior. Every time I go anywhere, they ask me what I got for them, and if I tell them I didn’t get them anything, they just ask why. They can’t conceive of me not constantly giving them things. And if we do ANYTHING for them – buy them a treat, get them something new, take them somewhere they want to go – it’s never enough. Why didn’t I get them more? Why can’t they stay longer? Everything I try to do for them ends up with them upset and acting out because I’m not doing even more.

I’ve started noticing L1’s patterns at summer camp now. He is pretty mean to the other kids. He calls them names, throws things at them, lashes out whenever he doesn’t get his way, takes things from other kids, and refuses to help clean up (he explained it to me once as “I don’t like to clean up”). Not surprisingly, he’s not making many friends, but all he tells us is he hates camp because the other kids don’t like him and they’re mean to him. Now that we know what’s going on, it’s not surprising at all that he has no friends, and even though we talk to him about how to be a friend, nothing seems to get through. L2 also complains about other kids being mean to her, but upon further questioning, it turns out they’re just not doing what she wants them to do (she orders me around constantly and gets upset if I don’t immediately do whatever she tells me, even for things that have nothing to do with her). D and I are in over our heads. From what I can tell the kids’ parents are pretty happy with the situation. They get to see their kids every week and spoil them as much as they want, then do whatever they please without any responsibility until the next visit. It’s driving me nuts.

D is actually ready to be done with fostering altogether. He says he’s happy with how A’s turning out, and if we can continue seeing her then he’ll just be happy with what we’ve done. In a lot of ways, I feel the same way, but I still want a baby. But if we take another little one, I don’t know how we’ll deal with finding daycare, taking time off for visits, social worker meetings, doctor’s appointments, etc. And what if these parenting classes are sprung on us again – we were informed with almost no notice that A would have to start going to classes with her mom two mornings a week, for three hours, and we were responsible for transportation. We were lucky in that A’s mom had been demonstrating her responsibility pretty reliably at that point and the judge allowed her to take over transportation for those classes, but that might not be the case next time.

I’m ready to start looking into private adoption, but I don’t know if D will be on board. I think he’s started dreaming of all the things we could do if we were child-free. We could travel, go on adventures, learn new things. Perhaps that’s what we should be doing after all.

Chugging along

I haven’t been posting much lately. I’ve been awfully overwhelmed with the kids and pets and house, although my efforts are sort of paying off. All of the pets are doing well (even Marley and Apollo haven’t been fighting, but that might be because the highs are over 100 and the lows are mostly over 70 and no one has any energy), the garden is doing well enough for how much effort I’ve spent on it, and the house isn’t completely falling apart.

Here are the issues we’re having now: L2 has not been doing well at karate. Or gymnastics. Or anything requiring her to have any self-confidence at all. I want to help her, but it’s sooooooo frustrating. I know it’s not her fault, that she just panics, but I don’t know what to do. At karate, she just stands there and refuses to participate in front of everyone. At gymnastics, she was doing great for about the first 30 seconds, then she burst into tears and refused to do anything else. I’m at a complete loss. She does still go rock-climbing with us, and I think she feels more comfortable doing things where there isn’t an audience at all. I guess I’ll have to think about it some more. I remember being a kid and wanting so badly to do stuff and being too scared to do it in front of people, and I don’t want that to happen to her. I believe it’s a byproduct of our current society that puts so much emphasis on how a girl looks, that it can be paralyzing. In addition to all her other trauma, of course. I’m also working hard on getting her into counseling, which has been very stressful. The lack of support is ridiculous. On top of that, I’m trying not to be driven crazy by her personal idiosyncrasies, which I think are all tied in with her lack of self-esteem and confidence. She copies both me and A (who is 2!) constantly, hangs on me constantly, and also follows A around and hangs on her. Like, literally holds onto our arms or clothes and refuses to let go. It’s driving me up the wall. She also overreacts to pretty much everything, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading about how to deal with kids and their emotions, and it makes complete sense, but I’m not sure how much I’m going to be able to do with a kid who treats every little thing like the end of the world.

L1 is doing well, getting into a trouble a bit at summer camp and purposefully irritating his sister and A, but generally speaking doesn’t have the same issues as L2. He has an overabundance of confidence, actually. He is doing great at karate, and he’s spending a lot of time swimming, biking, and skateboarding. I’m concerned about his ongoing ability to make friends and the fact that he’s a bit behind in school, and he drives me a little crazy sometimes too, but probably not more than other kids.

A is doing great. She goes home in a little over 6 weeks and I’m so, so sad about it. It will be good for her, and I know she’ll miss us for a while, but for D and I, it will be such a big change. In some ways, life will get easier because 2-year-olds are really hard, especially when you have such badly-behaved big kids too.

I know I need to do some more reading (Right now I’m perusing Karyn Purvis articles and I’m trying to get through “How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk). One of the things I need to work on with these kids is gratefulness. They’re seriously so ungrateful about EVERYTHING. Every night they tell me dinner is disgusting or gross, when we go anywhere they constantly tell me what they want, or demand things. It’s really demoralizing when I’m trying so hard. I’ve stopped taking them to the store with me, because when they’re not telling me what they want, they run all over the place and get in trouble. I know I’m a little out of my depth here. D seems to forget that these kids have experienced trauma, although the system doesn’t really let us know what they’ve experienced so it’s so hard for us to know why they act the way they do. And honestly, D and I could really work on the gratitude thing too.

I also need to work on things like cleaning up after themselves, being polite, whining, etc. It’s really overwhelming, especially since I have no idea what I’m doing, and D and I aren’t on the same page about a lot of it. And I spend so much more of my time helping with things, like putting away all the girls laundry, that I never get to my own laundry, and then I feel like a hypocrite when I tell them to clean their room and mine is a mess. I know one of the things that needs to happen is for our house to get more organized, so it’s easier for the kids to actually clean up, and then I can start expecting them to clean up more. It’s really overwhelming sometimes.

A complete change

First, some more thoughts on the reward system: We haven’t implemented it yet, and I agree with the people who commented, I’m not a fan of it. I was also a high-achieving kid while my brother was a goof-off, and I hated that I was expected to get A’s with no reward whatsoever, yet my brother was rewarded for B’s and C’s. It’s obviously a flawed system, and I think it creates unnecessary resentment. And how do you reward kids for NOT doing something? Do I tell L1 that if he doesn’t aggravate his sister for an hour, he gets a sticker? If L2 can get through dinner without pouting or throwing a tantrum, does she get a sticker?

As it turns out, we may not need to worry about it so much. The kids had their karate assessment on Tuesday last week (and now it’s Tuesday again – how did that happen????). The assessment was in a small room/office at the back of the school, with big windows that allowed a view of the main training area. L2 did great at her assessment, as expected. L1 could not focus on the teacher to save his life (although he did manage to pay attention long enough to tell her that she was “funny-looking”. Sigh). The teacher finally asked me if he had ADHD, because he kept insisting he wanted to be there and he wanted to do karate, and 5 seconds later he was staring out the windows instead of paying attention. She told me she thought it would be best if he took a few private lessons before joining the group class.

We scheduled a uniform fitting for Friday evening, and when I brought them in they were so excited. I took some very cute photos in their uniforms, and they begged me to go to the Saturday morning class the next morning, which I agreed to. They were both up at 7:30 and ready to go! We walked over for class (which didn’t start until 9), which had about 8 other 5- to 7-year-olds and their parents. Both kids were shy during the warm-up, but as soon as class started L1 was ready to go. I was amazed by him – he waited his turn, was polite to everyone, did all the exercises as instructed, was completely focused, and did a great job! L2… not so much. She refused to do ANYTHING. She sat completely still during the warm up (except to do arm circles), then once the exercises were set up, she sat next to the teacher and refused to participate at all. I thought it might have something to do with being in front of so many people, and another mom told me it was normal and that they have a white-belt-only class right after the 5- to 7-year-old class that usually has fewer students. She was right – only one other student showed up, so L2 basically got a private lesson. The teacher was great with her, and by the end of the class L2 was out doing running jump-kicks in the middle of the main training area. I’ m a little worried that when we go back tonight for the second class, L2 will revert back to her shy self.

The rest of the weekend, we planned trips to the library, skate park, and climbing gym, as well as time in the pool. Overall, L1 was very well-behaved. It’s almost as if once we figured out what motivated him, he transformed into a great kid. L2, on the other hand, is no longer the “good” kid and has transformed into a mopey, pouty, tantrum-y toddler. The way she was behaving, you’d think we were forcing her to do things she didn’t want to do. At the skate park and the climbing gym, she refused to follow instructions at all, even after we emphasized the main safety points and gave up on everything else. Basically, I just told her not to walk or climb underneath anyone else, and if she fell at the bottom of the skate bowl to move out of the way so she didn’t get run over, and she refused to listen to either rule. If I reminded her (while she was doing something dangerous, such as walking directly under L1 while he was climbing), she’d basically throw a tantrum. She has started following A around and copying her, and wanting to wear the same thing as A, to play with all of A’s toys, to constantly try picking A up and holding on to A when A is trying to run around or play. It’s driving A crazy, and it’s driving D and I crazy. And I’m not sure how to help her find her own path, and her own likes and dislikes, and her own confidence. Spending three days with her this weekend while she acted like a 2-year-old was too much for me.

When we started to foster, we were pretty set on only taking younger kids, preferably under the age of 2, not only because we wanted to experience raising a kid just like everyone else, but also because we didn’t really know what we were doing and we needed the chance to figure it out as we went along. I’m starting to wish we had stuck to our original plan.

Also, still no word about the results of the endometrial biopsy.

I need some parenting advice

As I’ve written about before, we have some behavior issues with the two older kids, primarily L1. The social worker is a BIG believer in rewards for good behavior, and has suggested giving stickers for small things (like doing something the first time we ask, etc) and every time he amasses a certain number of stickers (maybe 20 or so?) he gets a treat, like going to McDonalds or for frozen yogurt. We NEVER go to McDonald’s, and we’ve mostly been trying to avoid frozen yogurt due to his horrible teeth, so those would be fun options for him that he otherwise wouldn’t get. But what do we do about his sister? Does she get a sticker chart too? She doesn’t really need incentive to behave, she mostly behaves already. And if he doesn’t get his stickers, what about rewards for her? Does she only get McDonald’s or frozen yogurt when HE earns it? I don’t know how to figure this out.

Pain

Yesterday was really painful. First, I went to the doctor, who immediately suggested an endometrial biopsy. If you haven’t had one before, they’re basically like a really bad period cramp, magnified by 100 (although I’m guessing not as bad as childbirth?). Instead of the somewhat dull ache of cramps, it’s more like someone sticking a hot poker into your lower abdomen. In other words, it’s really painful, and the pain doesn’t end when they’re done with the biopsy, it sticks around for a few hours afterwards. Basically, it sucks.

I then made a VERY quick stop at IKEA (because after that, I deserved it) but there were people swarming everywhere. I don’t know where they all came from on an early Monday afternoon, but there you go. And then I got to go to L1’s before-school program to meet with the teacher to discuss the issues he’s having. These include:

• Throwing things at people and hitting them
• Yelling
• Using potty words (partly our fault, as we have a 2-year-old at home and we’re using “correct” words for things like pee, poop, and fart)
• Ignoring others including teachers
• Climbing furniture
• Disrespects peers and teachers
• Pushes
• Pulls
• Is very physical with peers

They didn’t even bother mentioning the racist comments he’d made, although I think he’s mostly stopped doing that. But I seriously didn’t even know what to tell the teacher. I explained that D had been talking to him every night, that we both had told him that he wouldn’t get to go to skateboard camp if he couldn’t prove that he can behave (since they’ll kick him out and I won’t get a refund), that we don’t tolerate him disrespecting us. I told her that we were expecting to get counseling and hopefully intensive behavior therapy (although he’s been in foster care over three months! Where are the services???). I’m at a complete loss.

Anyway, back to the pain. After that, D’s stupid cat got his claw stuck in my arm when I was looking under L2’s bed for a missing library book and I accidentally hit him. Then A slammed a door into my ear, which has several cartilage piercings. I may have used some choice words to describe that exquisite pain. And last but not least, Lola was being super annoying while we were watching TV so I gently rolled her off the couch, and she managed to hyperextend my ankle. I’m so happy yesterday is over.

Today, we have a social worker visit at 5:30 for A, a CASA visit at 5:45ish for A, and then the big kids have their karate assessment at 6:15. Tomorrow, the big kids have a visit with their parents, then I have to pick A up from a visit (although I still don’t know when or where), then we have a social worker visit for the big kids at 5. I feel like I’m losing my mind. Next week is going to be a busy week too, what with A’s 24-month check-up (only four months late!), both big kids having end-of-year events at school, and we’re finally getting our car windows tinted, although I’m wondering why we’re putting any more money into our cars.

On top of all of that, D is now telling me that I’m basically on my own for all of the days that the kids don’t have school or camp, plus he’s going to be gone for 5 days for an overnight camp that he’s volunteering for. And he doesn’t understand why I’m upset with him all the time.