How am I 39 already?

I turned 39 yesterday (although every time I type it, it somehow comes out as 29. Huh). I’m definitely starting to feel older. I’ve always thought of myself as a “young person”, but my joints are starting to creak these days. I can’t believe I’m this old. Four years ago, D and I were beginning to think about having a family. Three years ago, we were newly married and beginning to realize it wouldn’t happen as easily or as quickly as we had thought. Two years ago, we found out that in addition to DOR, I also had severe Asherman’s and would never have a functioning uterus, and our options were limited to adoption or surrogacy with donor eggs. One year ago, we were almost done with the foster care resource family approval process, and 10 months ago we got our first foster child. I’m still hopeful that we’ll have a child of our own someday through adoption, but it does seem to get less likely all the time.

I had hoped to spend at least part of my birthday relaxing. L2 had counseling, and since I have to stick around and wait in the lobby, I figured I’d bring my latest reading material (a book about home organization and the latest IKEA catalog) and get a good 45 minutes of alone time to do what I wanted. Alas, it was not to be. When I picked up L2 from summer camp, which is located on one of the city’s elementary school campuses, the camp director told me she’d just had someone in who had been trying to get her kids into the same school we’re trying to get the Ls into (and which we’d been assured there would be no problem with space). She had found out that there was no space, and was frantically trying to get them into another school that has before-and-after school care. Our neighborhood school doesn’t have on-campus before-and-after school care, and the shuttle to the closest care facility has a waiting list, which is why we were trying to get the kids into a different school. So I spent the hour frantically calling D, the school, the school district, and the YMCA (for child care), and then after L2 was done with counseling, we drove to the YMCA and the district to try to get something figured out. No dice with the YMCA, and someone from the district is supposed to call me today to let me know if any other campuses that have on-site care have openings for kindergarten and first grade. School starts MONDAY. D’s reaction was something along the lines of “well, they should have told us sooner, so we’re just going to drop them off where we think they should be on Monday morning”. Which is just SO not helpful. And on top of that, the school that I suspect we may be able to get them into has kindergarten orientation TODAY at 3, so I’m hoping someone from the district calls me before 2 to let me know so I have time to get there if I need to go.

Then I rushed to pick up L1 from summer camp so we could get home before our social worker meeting (which was the one bright spot of my week! More in a minute). L1 was refusing to clean up and they didn’t want to let him leave until he did clean up, so we were late getting home, and I let everyone in the house to discover that Lola has left a big, mushy, steaming pile in the middle of the dining room and Marley had marked pretty much every chair and table leg. I hurriedly got cleaning materials to clean it up, while the kids pushed each other and kept demanding that I get things for them. It was awful.

And then D got home and was just so unpleasant and demanding and rude. I called him out on it a few times, and he just said that the kids were making him upset. All I really wanted was to have some peace and kindness on my birthday, and I didn’t really get it.

The good news though! The kids will begin transitioning to their grandmother’s house! Huzzah! They’ll be going there on weekends, starting this weekend, and eventually transition there full-time. We’ll hopefully find out soon what the timeline will be, but it sounds like maybe 1-3 months is likely. That is seriously the best birthday present ever. Considering we’ve already received two calls this week to take kids (one was for a 1-year-old that I would have seriously loved to have taken), I’m eager to move on to a more suitable placement for us. Definitely no more kids over 3!

The beginning of the end?

I’m thinking we may be near the end of our time with the Ls.

L1 got suspended from summer camp yesterday for kicking another boy in the privates. I’m not surprised, as he seems to view violence against boys as acceptable. Everyone (including his counselor!) keeps telling him not to hit girls, and even though I keep correcting them and saying “don’t hit ANYONE”, I think the message has gotten through to him that it’s ok to be physically violent with boys. D had to take the day off unpaid, and now I have to leave early today to get L1 to his counseling appointment because D can’t miss another day of work, which sucks because I’m ridiculously busy and we leave tomorrow morning for a 4-day trip, and it’s going to be hard to relax knowing how much work I still have to do. I’m pretty angry about the whole thing, and L1 doesn’t seem to care. When D picked him up yesterday morning, he just kept asking to play all day, and was completely unfazed by the fact that he got suspended.

L2 is also driving me a little crazy with how manipulative she is, and her cruelty towards our animals, which I’m beginning to worry about. Not only is she tormenting the cats, who really deserve to have a peaceful life, I’m worried she may push the dogs too far. And I’m really tired of the fake crying, which she has learned to do in order to manipulate us into getting her way.

D and I have talked about adopting a baby/toddler with limb differences, and I started doing some research about it. We’re open to either domestic or international adoptions, and it’s frustrating to have to just choose one option at the outset, but I can see why it’s necessary. I called an agency this morning, and while they were friendly and helpful (and not overtly religious!), they did seem a little disappointed that I work full time. I have to admit, I’m tired of feeling judged for that. I’m tired of feeling judged in general.

Family woes, behavior issues, muscles and gratefulness

I’ve always said I liked D’s family, and I still do despite their lack of support, but I’m wondering if we need to start limiting our time with them. The toxic masculinity is just getting to me. We went there for dinner on Saturday, and the topic of paid family leave came up. Where we leave, anyone can get paid family leave for a qualifying circumstance (birth of a child, adoption, bonding time with a new foster child, caring for an ill or injured immediate family member, etc) for up to 6 weeks in any year at 55% of your regular pay, paid for through payroll contributions to the state. We all pay for it, and we can all use it. I believe it’s going up to 65% next year (unless it went up last January?), so while it’s not great, it’s better than unpaid leave.

D’s family started talking about how men like to abuse it, and they’ve had people using it to take every Friday off after the birth of a child just so they could have 3-day weekends. They were bragging about how D’s brother didn’t take ANY time off when his daughter was born, and how he’s had to talk to guys he works with (he’s in a trade, so it’s mostly men, and the culture is SO toxic) and let them know they shouldn’t be using it because it “looked bad” and they weren’t helping their careers. I was so, so angry. Here I am, the primary breadwinner, a woman (the horror!), and the only one in my family using paid family leave to try to make everything work. I did feel a little bad for D – his family basically made him feel worthless, since he’s not the primary breadwinner, but sheesh. These kids don’t need to hear any more suggestions that women are worth less than men, or that men shouldn’t be doing their part in child-raising or house-keeping. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I also forgot to mention that we told the social worker about a lot of the problems we’re having with the kids, and she apparently told their parents about the behavior issues. Their dad and grandma were offended that we thought the kids were never disciplined (which is not exactly what we said, but L1 was on the verge of getting kicked out of summer camp for his behavior, so it’s not like we were the only ones who thought there were problems), and their mom tried to talk to them about it. I wasn’t there, but D told me she basically told L1 “don’t hit your sister, because she’s a girl, and girls don’t have muscles”. I seriously don’t even know where to begin with that. For one thing, L2 also hits, kicks, pushes, and grabs. For another, I don’t want L1 being physical with ANYONE, regardless of their gender. And girls don’t have muscles???? Both kids do swimming, karate, and rock-climbing. They KNOW girls have muscles. Of course, a week and a half later we’re at the gym and L2 tells me she can’t climb well because she doesn’t have muscles, and basically wanted to just give up and sit there, leaning on me and hanging on me the whole time (which is driving me up the wall). I really have my work cut out for me.

In other news, I really, really, really miss A. D drove out to her house on Saturday to drop off what we thought was the rest of her stuff, but of course I found more stuff after she left plus we still have some of her clothes that were in the dirty laundry basket. She was sooo excited to see him, and of course she thought she was leaving with him and got really upset when she realized he was going and he had to stay. This just sucks so much. The next morning, we went to visit another foster family, whose 3-month-old baby we were supposed to have watched for a weekend last fall when we first got A, although it never happened because the baby got sick. They are now adopting the baby, and I’m super, super jealous. They also told us they’d actually been looking to take in kids the ages of L1 and L2, which just boggles my mind because apparently no one ever asked them to take these kids when they were looking for a new foster home. Obviously, we’re keeping it in mind in case things don’t work out in our home. And they also told us they were hoping we get a baby soon. They’re really nice people, I wish we lived closer to them because I’m just so desperate for friends. Plus, they live WAY closer to where we both work. If we lived near them I could bike to work again, which would kill two birds with one stone – I could get exercise, and we could spend less money and time commuting.

On the way home, we started playing the “gratefulness game”, which isn’t really a game, it’s just an activity we’re trying to do with them to get them to be a bit more grateful for everything they have (not for us taking them in, obviously, but just for them to appreciate the things they DO have – it’s an activity we learned about from another foster family and I’ve been reading about how it can make people happier, plus these kids are literally the most self-centered entitled kids I’ve ever met). L1 mostly gets it, although he’s always grateful for the same few things – his bike, his skateboard, his basketball, etc. L2 mostly talks about what she wants (which is EVERYTHING), although in the car she mentioned that she was grateful A didn’t live with us anymore. I could tell D was trying not to get upset.

In other words, it’s really been quite the roller coaster around here.

My baby has left the building

A went home yesterday. I knew it was coming, I tried to prepare, but I had no idea how awful it would feel when her mom finished packing up (most of) her stuff and drove away for good. I wanted to fall apart. She’s obviously been gone for long visits before, but now all her stuff is gone too. And boy did she have a lot of stuff. The house feels so empty now. And sad.

I don’t know if I can do this again. When she first came to us, I was happy that she might leave within a few months. We hadn’t really bonded yet, and she was really quite difficult, since she’d already been in one foster home, and she was so very young. But within three months, I never wanted her to leave. I’ve loved her like she was my own, and now she’s gone. Now I have to get used to not looking for 3T clothes or toddler toys on the resale sites. My sister just sent me a picture of the cutest little kids (toy) coffee making set in Italy, and I almost asked her to bring one back for A before I remembered that she doesn’t live with us anymore. I wonder if this is sort of what it’s like to have a miscarriage – you have this wonderful thing, with the possibility of a real future, and then it’s just gone.

We’ve had the big kids for about 3.5 months now. I’m really ready for them to leave. It’s funny, because I thought L1 would be the really difficult one, and he has his problems for sure. He may yet get kicked out of school, he definitely can’t control his impulses (especially when it comes to throwing things and kicking things), and he doesn’t listen at all. But he’s so good with the animals, and he was so upset yesterday when Aura was leaving. At one point he said he wanted A to keep living with us. It was very sweet, and he was obviously sad about it. L2 was not sad at all. I worry about her sometimes, because she’s so incredibly self-centered, she doesn’t care about other people’s feelings, and she’s not very nice to the animals. I remember at one point reading about how extreme shyness is connected to self-centeredness, because shy people tend to think everyone is looking at them, when in reality pretty much no one is. I didn’t really think about it much until now, but that does seem to be the case with L2.

So now D and I need to decide where we go from here. We’ve both had a lot of difficulty getting time off to deal with the special needs of foster kids, so it’s tempting to just give up. I doubt either one of us would have an issue if we were to have a baby the old-fashioned way (judging by how our co-workers are treated when they have babies), but that’s not an option for us. Do we keep fostering and hope it works out for us? Hope we don’t get our hearts broken over and over? Try to deal with the system with no support from family or friends? I don’t know if I can keep doing it.

In which I realize I need a new job

So I’m about ready to quit my job. My direct supervisor is decent enough, but her supervisor (aka our manager) is turning out to be quite awful.

First, I’d like to point out that there are two people out on baby leave (one who had a baby herself, the other whose wife had a baby). As far as I know, no one hassled them the way I’ve been continually hassled about time off to deal with foster kids. I’d also like to point out that both my supervisor and my manager are single without kids, and both seem to depend on their parents an awful lot.

As you know, my mother died somewhat suddenly and unexpectedly in January. My sister and I spent a lot of time packing up her stuff, moving it into storage, and sorting through as much of it as we had time to deal with. Obviously, we don’t want to continue paying for storage for this stuff forever, especially since we’re finally getting to the conclusion of the settlement of her estate. It’s been quite a difficult time, especially since she was the last of the older generation in our family. Now, it’s just my sister and brother and me – no grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, or cousins.

My brother and sister and I have been trying to coordinate a time for all of us to get together and finish going through everything and figure out what to do with it all. This is made more complicated by the fact that I have foster kids and a full time job; my brother lives out of state, has three kids in elementary school, has multiple pets (somewhere between 7 and 10, I believe – it’s hard to keep track) and he and his wife both work; and my sister has two kids in elementary school, a toddler, a husband who travels a lot for work, and her family spends a month each summer visiting her husband’s family in Italy. We finally pinned down a week in August, which happens to be not only my birthday week but also a week in which we have two important briefings for work.

Normally, as a staff member and not a manager, I’m not expected to do much for these meetings. After thinking it over, I decided that the best time to assume my whole family would be ready to work would be the end of that week, especially since my brother’s family tends to take 2 days minimum to get here, and they’re talking about not coming until Sunday or Monday (so not arriving until Tuesday or Wednesday. Since Wednesday is our first big briefing, and I knew that I should go to that one, I requested Thursday and Friday off. I hadn’t been invited to the Friday briefing, so I figured it didn’t matter too much if I was out that day, plus (as I realized later) the kids have a half day at camp so I would need to leave early anyway. I also jokingly suggested leaving early on Wednesday, since it was my birthday, and I normally leave early Wednesdays anyway since L2 has counseling and then both kids have a visit.

My supervisor was ok with it, but she forwarded it to her boss (the manager) to let him know, and you’d have thought I was asking for a million dollar raise the way he reacted. First, he asked if this was really the only time I could take off, because the timing wasn’t great for work (we’re talking two days, plus a few more hours on a third day). I explained that with everyone’s schedules and geographic issues, that was the only time we’d been able to come up with and that it really needed to get done. I explained that I wouldn’t be far away, and could log in from home to get stuff done or drive into the office in the evening if I needed to be there in person to get anything finished. Then he said that I couldn’t leave right after the briefing, I had to check in with my supervisor and come up with a plan of action for anything that might have come up during the briefing. He also said that if anything did come up, I had to have it taken care of by the next morning (the day after my birthday), and that I could log in from home if, and only if, something actually needed to be done, and that I needed to send an email documenting my time immediately after I finished working. Seriously, WTF??? Does he really think I would just leave without getting my work done? And does he really think I would log in from home just for the fun of it without having any work to do? Does he think I’m just trying to get the time off to goof off and have fun?

I can’t even tell you how angry I am. I wanted to ask if he’d talked with the people out on baby leave to see what their plans were for missing the briefing. I wanted to point out that I often arrive 5-15 minutes early, leave 5-15 minutes late, and work through lunch without ever documenting it as overtime, just to make sure I got my work done. I wanted to tell him to have some compassion, that I never expected my mother to die so suddenly (right in front of me, no less) and that I’m sorry it was making things so difficult for him. I seriously just want to rip his head off and drop-kick it down the block. I’m also hoping one of his parents die so that he can maybe understand how hard it is (too much?). Although having a parent die is one thing, having every member of the older generation gone is something else entirely – it’s a LOT more work to get everything figured out.

Do I want to spend my birthday week sorting through my mom’s giant collection of memorabilia, collectibles, paperwork and furniture in 100-degree heat? Do I want to face the end of my childhood, the cataloguing of every last item from when I wasn’t the oldest generation of my family? I thought I had years to slowly go through all this stuff and figure out what to do with it. Does he think I find it fun that it’s thrust upon me so suddenly?

Not surprisingly, I will be looking for a new job ASAP.

A weekend away

We went to the mountains this weekend and it was awesome, except: the kids were just so irritating.  I mean, they behaved pretty badly a lot (so much hitting!  And spitting!  And fighting! And whining!  And lying!  And using rude language toward other adults!), and we were there for my best friends’ 40th birthday, so a lot of other friends were there that I hadn’t seen in a long time, and L2 just wanted me to sit and play with her, and only her, and not talk to anyone else the entire weekend.  She wouldn’t play with the other kids, like L1 was doing (probably because she’s ridiculously controlling and she couldn’t get anyone else to do what she wanted), and she basically expected me to be her personal servant and best friend.  I felt so smothered.

So perhaps when she locked us out of the cabin yesterday (I’m not sure if it was on purpose or accidental, but I’m fairly certain it was on purpose, and if it was accidental it’s because she was playing with stuff that she wasn’t supposed to) I completely lost it.  I feel terrible, but up until that moment her behavior was really, truly awful.  I started thinking about how so many people I know wish they could quit their jobs and stay home with their children, but I’d rather get a second job so I can spend less time at home with them.  I know that sounds terrible, but I’m having a hard time loving these kids as if they were my own.  I never wanted to take on children over the age of 3, but I let myself get talked into it because there are so many kids in need, and now I see I should have respected my own limits.  I’m dreading A going home this week, and I just want to stay home and spend as much time with her as possible until the reunification, but I definitely don’t feel the same way about the big kids.

It’s funny, because other adults just love them (when the kids aren’t being flat-out rude).  One friend even commented how well-behaved they were, noting that they always asked first.  What she didn’t notice was that it didn’t matter what the answer was, they did whatever they wanted anyway.  L1 asked if he could have a third juice box, and I said no, two was enough.  5 minutes later, I see him opening a juice box.  L2 asked if she could play with UNO cards in the car, and I said no, we were almost to the beach and I didn’t want to lose any cards.  We get to the beach, and the cards are all over the car.  L1 picks up a bag of chips in the morning and asks if she can have some as she’s walking away with it, not even caring what the answer will be.  So yeah, they ask.  But they sure don’t listen to the answer. 

L1 picked up every single thing he saw and threw it.  I am SO OVER the throwing of things.  I’m actually to the point where if I find something that has been thrown down the stairs, I’m just going to pick it up and toss it in the garbage.  After spending a day at the ER because D fell on the stairs, I have no more patience for that kind of behavior, especially since I have repeated “please don’t throw things” until I’m blue in the face.  L1 has already destroyed one of our courtyard gates by throwing and kicking balls at it, and both kids have hung on the gates until the hinges have sagged.  I kept catching both of them hanging on the gate at the rented cabin this weekend as well, and I’m hoping it was already sagging before we got there.  L2 touched everything she saw.  EVERYTHING.  As soon as we got to the cabin, she walked around, touching things, knocking pictures off of walls, slamming her hands down on the stovetop, and on and on.   

I feel like normally I have a lot of patience, but I’m just about out of it.  All I do, all day every day, is tell the kids not to do stuff.  That’s not really a good life for them, or for me.

The Ls’ parents did just have a court date, where their mom agreed to stop fighting for custody, and the dad got 6 months of services, so his next court date isn’t until late January.  I don’t know if I can handle these kids that long.  I’m hoping against hope that their grandmother comes through for them.

Some gratuitous pictures of Lola (who was the most congenial and comical dog ever this weekend):

Nothing ever goes as planned

Where I work, we get paid once a month. We also get paid before we turn in our time cards, which sounds weird, but basically they just assume that any time you’re out will be covered by vacation, sick leave, annual leave, or some other kind of leave, and they reconcile it afterwards. What this means is that if you’re using paid family leave, you have to let HR know how many hours of PFL you’re using for the month about 10 days before payday so they can adjust your check accordingly (since PFL is paid by the state). Obviously, this can be somewhat problematic with foster kids, but we’ve been lucky enough to have a mostly regular schedule so it’s not too hard predicting what time off I’ll need during the last 10 days of each month, and if something comes up I can always use an hour or two of vacation time to cover it rather than paid family leave.

Until yesterday. The night before last, the dogs were barking in the middle of the night and D ran downstairs to see what was going on. On the way, he slipped on the stairs, hit his foot on the railing, and his little toe got caught. He didn’t realize at first how bad it was, until he asked me to help him clean and bandage it, and I quickly realized we needed professional help – it looked like he had tried to tear his toe off. It was horrifying. Unfortunately, it was midnight and all three kids were asleep and since it wasn’t actually bleeding that badly and we had no one to call to either take D to the hospital or come stay with the kids, I bandaged it as best as I could, propped it up on a pile of pillows, and waited until morning. This is one of the truly awful aspects of where we live. We have no one to help in case of emergencies, although considering I have almost no family left and D’s family has been less than supportive, it probably wouldn’t matter where we lived.

By morning, D was able to walk around a bit, and I wondered if perhaps in my midnight confusion I had blown the whole thing out of proportion. It was dark and it was really hard to tell how deep the laceration/tear was. But we decided we might as well go to the ER just in case, and I’m so glad we did. After dropping off the kids, it’s about a 30-minute drive to the closest in-network ER, and they got us into a room pretty quickly. X-rays showed no broken bones, but when they came in to do the exam it was obvious he needed stitches to put everything back together. They numbed it up, washed it really well, and D got 7 stitches, plus one subcutaneous stitch that would dissolve on its own. Several hours later and we were heading home, and we’d both taken an unplanned day off.

D planned to go to work today, but during the night the numbing agent must have really worn off and he could barely walk this morning. He’s really disappointed, as we’re leaving for the mountains tomorrow and he’s not allowed to swim, plus hiking and rock-climbing are definitely out. If it was just adults, I’d be fine with finding some nice, tranquil places to sit and read, visiting some breweries, and sampling the local cuisine, but I’m at a loss as to what to do with the kids (and the dog).