Friday, December 28, 2007

I told her to get out of my house. Yah, I did.

Wendy's the winner!

So here's what I did:

I told her to shut up and to drop it and let me be pissed. She said, "I have dropped it, you're the one freaking out" (or something, I was kinda enraged).

At that point I told her to get the hell out of my house. I totally wanted her to leave. It sounded like a good idea to me.

But then my mother flipped out. She freaked the frack out, and I ended up having to apologize to my sister for telling her to leave the house (it took about 10 deep breaths), and then I started to tell her that although I was sorry, that -- and then she cut me off and said, "Shut your fing mouth. I don't even want to look at you."

So I went back to the kitchen to resume cooking the goddamn asparagus, and every time I opened my mouth my mother hissed, "Shut up." Or, "Don't you say a word."

So I locked myself in my room for an hour and played my stero LOUD.

It felt good. Like I was sixteen again, in all the ways that sucks and rocks.

I do sort of regret telling her to get out of the house, but not because I wanted her to stay. I still wish she'd taken her happy ass out the front door, and I am angry with myself for being scolded into groveling, and then with letting my sister talk even more shit to me. But her leaving probably would have ruined the day for everyone else, and that wouldn't have been nice. In retrospect I should have taken her out to the garage and laid into her, instead of in the kitchen in front of everyone.

I didn't speak to her the rest of the night, and sadly, she and her husband stayed until nine or so. I haven't spoken to her since.

I don't really care that much if my sister and I have a good relationship. If we weren't related, we wouldn't be friends. She's done some seriously craptastic things to me in the past, and at least for another few years, I'm done trying very hard.

So. I don't want to talk to her, I don't want to see her, and I don't want her to think I'm actually sorry for telling her to get out of my house. We'll see how it goes.

Advice? And even if you want to be like my mom and scold and shame me, yeah, um, it won't work.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Not so much Pretend or Perhaps

(Seriously, Tell Me What You Would Have DONE)

Let us pretend that you and your mate have spent four days cooking and cleaning and planning for Christmas Day, which you are hosting. The day of, you're up at 8 to continue the cooking, cleaning, and planning, and at 2 PM you start the no-stopping-us-now turkey frying so that dinner will be ready at 3:15.

Pretend also that your sister has been asked to bring a vegetable dish (creamed spinach), and this has struck everyone in your extended family as hilarious, because your sister's culinary repetoire extends to grilled cheese and cereal.

Now pretend that your sister, who you don't really get along with, and her husband do not arrive until 5 PM. Also pretend that they hand you a bag of raw asparagus as they walk through the door. When you ask where the creamed spinach is, your sister replies, "I didn't make it. We had to leave at 9 this morning to go to (my husband's family's) house."

So then, perhaps, you bang about the kitchen a bit, cranky and hungry (helloooo, they are more than two hours laaaaaate! didn't call, didn't answer their phooooones), looking for a clean or even empty pan. Perhaps your husband asks you what's wrong. Maybe you say, "There's no creamed spinach, there's just raw asparagus, and it needs to be cooked."

There's a chance that your sister whips around and says, "I. Had. To. Leave. The. House. At. Nine." as if you're totally mentally deficient, and also as if the electricity doesn't get turned on until noon. "You don't need to get all bent out of shape about it," she says, wrinkling her nose and giving you the "what's up your ass" look.

Now, what would you say or do to your sister, if it were you holding the asparagus?

ETA: For real, tell me what you would have done (Bacchus, you get back here!). This isn't really a family blog, so go for it.

I was NOT a paragon of maturity or equanimity, if that's any consolation. I Was Pissed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!


Have a wonderful holiday. Thank you for being here for me all this time. Be back after the new year.

(photo removed)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Done

You know what full-face photographs mean, right?

Photos taken down. Thank you so much, y'all.




(Limited time only)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Resurfacing

Sorry to leave the "I'm so sick" post up at the top for a month. I'm only now back to about 90%. I felt about this good around the start of December, and then two weeks ago I got a cold, and back came the hacking and the wheezing and the blue hands and numbness and the aches and migranes from coughing, and oh, it was so pleasant.

But I'm mostly better now.

And I've got all my end-of-the-year work (for clients) done.

And the house is a wreck, but it will get cleaner tonight.

And I've taken Huckle to 7 doctors in the last two weeks, almost all routine checkup stuff that came due right now after the Medical Lollapalooza that was our Summer.

And family will be arriving any hour from the Midwest.

And tomorrow we adopt our boy.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Everyone should have one

I'm so sick. My face is turning blue, I have such a hard time breathing. I'm as sick as I was for my wedding, and if I had insurance I'd probably find out I have pneumonia. I've eaten two bowls of EasyMac since Saturday, but I don't know if those count because every time I get a hacking coughing fit, whatever's gone into my stomach makes a reappearance. I've maybe kept down a glass of yerba mate a day, out of the 4 I've tried. The Hub stayed home from work two days this week because I can't be trusted to stay conscious long enough to make the Huckster a PB&J -- the dizzy + the tile = black and blue elbow from Monday, the dizzy + the wall = goose egg on back of head from Wednesday. I even have a phlegm/barf bucket next to the bed. How's that for fancy?

However, I do have antibiotics and a steroid inhaler, samples given to me yesterday by our GP at Huck's appointment for his sleep issues. Very handy, that appointment, and very glad I made it a week ago before I took a dive. Steroids good. Leftover codeine cough syrup from my former-and-now-under-investigation evening and weekend doctor good, too.

With how Huck and I handle the holidays (healthwise), I should just go ahead and book an appointment for December 24th now. Someone will need it.

So, yes, I suck around here right now. But at least I decided last month that I wouldn't be hosting Thanksgiving. And the pie I was going to contribute is no longer needed -- turns out they don't want a serving of blueberry bronchitis -- go figure. But Hubs will once again fry the turkey out on the driveway, plus we have an Adorable! Boy! to share, so our contributions are set.

And here's an example of a time when I think to myself, "Self, everyone should have a Huckle, because Huckle is an enchanting, fantastic little boy who knows how to disarm the crustiest of crusties with a few words!" I was busy trying not to suffocate myself (ie throwing up in the kitchen sink -- yay garbage disposal), and after the throwing up came the gasping and the tears and the spitting and the sobs (I'm not just being dramatic, I can't throw up and not cry -- just can't). Hubs and Huck were watching me from the family room (they're both very used to it after the last four days -- even the random blackouts don't have them running anymore), and Huck says tearfully to Hubs, "I just want Mommy to be happy again."

Swoon. Again. Well, more of a stagger -- Chin vs. butcher block on a straight-down crumple.

I'm gonna give Huck the credit for that one, though, not the lack of oxygen.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Name Change

What do y'all think of "Cash" as a first or middle name for a boy?

We're finishing our legal papers, and this is the last sticking point.

He's not a James, or a Owen, or an Emmett, or an Oliver, or any of my other favorite names.

And we're changing his name on paper only. My dad showed me how easy it is to locate someone with a DOB and first name, and considering our security concerns, we'd like to make it a little more difficult when Huck's dad gets out of prison in May 2008 or May 2027 (those 20 year sentences with parole eligibility after a year are kind of confusing...).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Oh, Hello, Google Search

Google searches that hit my site in the last 100 visitors:


how to get pregnant after going off of nuvaring (Long Island Iced Tea?)

spray paint swirled with water vases (sounds interesting. I used acrylic paint.)

the amount of GHB found in 1 aquadot? (anyone else think this person has a few refill packs of his kids' aquadots and wants to know just how many will make for a fun night?)

can women get pregnant off dogs (please tell me you're 8 and asking this question. and if you find your way back here, the answer is yes. yes, you can.)

Getting to Moderate

If you remember, we've been trying to get Huckle's level of care reviewed for a long time. When he came to live with us, our SW (at the time) asked Huck's CW (at the time) if she could have it adjusted (but she moved a few weeks later and it never got done), then I know we brought it up again in March the first time we met Olsen (no state CW from mid December to March), were told it would be looked at, then never heard from Olsen about it again, then in May our SW (another one from the first) started working on it, but Olsen was not cooperative sumbitting his part, which is one sheet of paper with Huckle's name, SSN, DOB, case number, time in care, diagnoses, and a three line narrative. Without that piece of paper, it didn't matter if we and our SW submitted one page of information or 1000, Olsen's summary and reccommendation was what mattered.

The three times we were able to get Olsen on the phone between his visit in March and when he stopped being available to us in June, he told us he'd get to it soon. And as you know, he (still) hasn't returned a phonecall or email since July. Our SW was finally able to get ahold of him in September, probably because she was new (again) and he didn't know who she was.

So Olsen got it together in the first week of October, and it went to review. Hooray!

But then the LOC came back at basic. Hubs and I decided to let it go, since we could appeal with new information, but we didn't have any new information to add. We'd already given psych, developmental, and six medical assessments -- there wasn't much more we could cover.

And then Olsen admitted to our SW that the reason for the basic result was because he hadn't done his piece of paper. Instead, he'd printed out a onesheet from 15 months ago, sent the paperwork off, and prayed for rain (just guessing on that last part).

With that little tidbit out there, we decided that, yes, in fact, we'd like to reapply for a LOC change, since the onesheet has to be updated every few months, and without a current one, Huckle's application was denied without being reviewed.

I went apeshit. The same night, Olsen assured everyone -- his boss (we got his boss involved around this time), Huckle's attorney, us, our SW, our lawyer, and the adoption worker -- that the onesheet was now updated and the application was already resubmitted as of 4:40 that afternoon. That was the 23rd of October. We started waiting again, since it takes about ten days for an answer.

On November 8th, we still hadn't heard anything, so we went back-channel (again) and had someone inside CPS check on the status of the application.

Guess what? Hadn't been submitted. No record found. Nada.

Not a shock, of course, considering Olsen's record. Dismaying, though, that his supervisor and her supervisor hadn't been any assistance, even though they'd personally assured us our difficulties were over.

This time, we called more people. Since Olsen couldn't be bothered, and his supervisor also wouldn't help, and the next supervisor was now out on maternity leave, we went higher. Hubs talked to the right person (we hoped! so far we'd always thought we were talking to the right person, and yet nothing), and all he mentioned was the difficulty with the LOC and that Olsen hadn't been here in "five or so" months. She promised that she would call back the next morning by 10 AM (it was around 6 PM when she returned our call) after she knew what was going on, since she'd never heard of us or Huckle before, nor had she heard of any problems in that unit.

By 9:30 the next morning, 4th-up supervisor (Program Director? I think that may be her title.) called Hubs back. She said that everything, even things we hadn't mentioned, would be taken care of by her deadline of 11 AM that day. That afternoon, our agency SW called me while I was at Kid n Ewe and said, "Maerlowe, you won't believe this, but I've gotten about twenty emails today from Olsen, the adoption worker, the unit ADA, Huck's attorney, and it looks like everything is taken care of! I don't know what happened, but I guess Olsen finally came around! Huckle's LOC paperwork is in and will be back in a week, he's been approved for adoption assistance, his file will be redacted and a copy will be available when you adopt him instead of April to September, and the adoption worker wants to schedule the adoptive placement for the end of the month!"

I did disabuse her of the idea that this was all a spontaneous act of responsibility on Olsen's part.

On November 15th, one year and five days after Huckle came to live with us, 15 days before he becomes our adoptive placement, and about 40 days before we (think we'll be able to) adopt him, Huckle was classified as LOC Moderate.

About damn time.

Does it have to be that hard?

New Smile

I know I've mentioned this before, but I really like Huckle's/our therapist.

Even though she's supposed to be Huckle's, we're always involved in the sessions. Mostly, he plays while she observes how we interact, and we discuss issues we need help with. She gives advice, sometimes we try things out during the sessions, then we report back on the results the next time we see her.

She's particularly wonderful because she believes that her job is to guide us in the right direction as we help Huckle heal, since we're with him all the time, and she sees him at most once every two weeks. We're the players, she's the coach, that sort of thing.

Regarding the new house and family stuff, she said I'm doing the right thing. She added that, when he asks, I should be as nonchalant as possible, act like he's joking around, tell him how silly that idea is. When Huckle's not talking about it, when things are going well, that's the time to say serious things and reinforce that he's here, he's staying, he's ours. When he starts talking about the new mommy, I'm to tell him that I am the new mommy and that there aren't going to be any others.

Anyhow, the last time we saw her (September), she told us we probably didn't need to come in regularly, just when needed. When she saw him, she was amazed at how much he's grown, and she commented that he's starting to look like me. His hair is darkening, his skin isn't ghostly pale anymore. She also mentioned that he was an entirely different child than he was when she first met him. (I think our first session with her was in April.) He comes to me, he lets me touch him, he doesn't ignore me anymore, and he's about as compliant as a four year old gets -- it was nice to be reminded of how far we've come, even since late Spring, when by then we'd done a large share of the work already. (If you weren't reading when he first came to live with us, Hubs and I spent the first few weeks worrying that Huckle might be autistic, he screamed all day long, I wasn't allowed to touch him, I wasn't allowed to be more than three or four feet away, and Huckle and I both spent a good portion of our days together crying. I took down a lot of posts from back then, they're still here, just unpublished. But in general, the first months were very very difficult.)

Here's the coolest part: at the end of the session, she commented again how good he looks. Then she said, "When I first met him, he smiled like someone just stepped on his foot. Now, he smiles just like you." Then she paused a second, and said, "Did you realize that he learned to smile by watching you? You taught him how to smile."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thanks Much.

Thanks for the support, you guys.

He doesn't know how close we are to finalization. Wednesday night was the first time in months that we've talked about what adoption is, and that he's going to be adopted in a little while. We didn't want to tell him about it and then have it not happen when we think it will happen (by the end of the year, but nothing set in stone yet).

Thankfully our therapy appointment is Friday morning (today). He didn't bring it up at all on Thursday, though he did say, "Mom, when I'm 18, where do I have to go to be a college?" (During the "what is adoption" talk Hubs said that he would stay with us until he's 18 and goes away to college, or he can live at home during college, which is Super Special Big Boy School.) I think he was worried about turning 18 very very soon, like tomorrow, and I explained to him that even his Very Big Boy Uncle is not 18 yet, and couldn't go to college yet. He seemed to calm down after that. My brother is 6 foot 4, so if he isn't big enough yet for college, I think Huck realizes he's got some time left. If only I could blame the college talk for the last few weeks, but sadly, only for today.
Since Huck says just about everything that comes into his mind, I'm hoping that the lack of "I'm moving out" talk means that he didn't think about it yesterday. As hard as it is for me to hear it, I can' t imagine being 4 and believing it.
Want some good news?
Huckle becomes our "adoptive placement" instead of our foster son on November 30th.
Hopefully, we'll be able to finalize right before Christmas.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Our First Staffing

Hubs and I went to our first staffing meeting today. Maybe there've been others in the last year, who knows, we were never notified, and I think the only reason we knew about today's meeting is because of the number of supervisors we've been in contact over the last month.

Anyhow, all we really did was answer questions about Huckle's medical, dental, emotional, mental, social, recreational, and familial goings-on. I did lay eyes on Olsen for the first time since March, the second time ever. We even spoke to him during the meeting, the first time that's happened since June. I don't think he was expecting us to come to the meeting. Oh, well. I was nice, factual, and non-confrontational. I do know he could be worse, and even though he sucks (for reasons not detailed here), he's probably average. After all, it only took 5 months for him to fax the HESGH (Health, Environment, Social, and Genetic History Report) to our SW so we could sign it and return it (needed for the adoption paperwork to be filed), he's only failed to submit/properly submit the LOC change application for 11 months, and even though he lost Huckle's file for almost a year, has only seen the kid once, hasn't updated any of Huck's records ever, and couldn't pick him out of a lineup, we're lucky to have such an individual holding the reins of our family. Safe and secure in Olsen's heart and arms, we are. So reassuring. Such an advocate for Huckle. Such a friend to us. Makes me glad to know that his well-informed, conscientious, careful work accounts for and makes up the only opinion that CPS cares about.

WTB New Family

Anyone out there ever wanted to velcro their kids' lips shut? Maybe some eyelets?

Over the past three weeks, Huckle's started telling me it is time for him to get a new house and family. He doesn't say this when he's mad, he doesn't say this when he's unhappy, he doesn't say it when he's in time out. When we're playing play doh, or reading a book, or driving home from school, cooking dinner, whenever, he starts in on it. He only says it to me, not hubs. Until yesterday, we didn't start talking about the (hopefully) impending adoption with him. We're thinking that his internal clock is telling him that he's been in one place a long time (About as long as he's been in one place anywhere, as a matter of fact.) and that he'll be moved again pretty soon. (Too complicated for a hyper observant 4 year old?)

He's been saying things like:

This house is old. I need a new one.
You can bring me to a new house, but then you come back here.
This is not my house.
You are not my mommy, you are my old mommy and my new mommy needs me.
This is for when I meet my new mom. (Said after he'd gotten a garbage bag from the pantry, opened it, and started putting his toys, movies, and clothes in it. Toothbrush, nighttime diapers, all that stuff was represented.)

When he says this stuff, I tell him he's staying, that he won't get another mom, that he's stuck here until he's 55, all sorts of things along that vein. Even though I want to throw up when he starts going on about it, I'll say things like, "You goofy Gus, Mommy and Daddy and Huckle are a family forever!" as if he's joking, or I'll say, "Huckle, you are not moving to a new house. You are staying with us," very seriously. Still, he keeps it up, and he's getting more insistent that he's moving out. He says he'll miss us, his dogs, his room, and the rest of the family, but says that's okay.

What I'm saying is that reassuring him isn't working. We do have a therapy appointment this week, but I think I might lose it before then. Last night he talked about it every hour or so, and by the end of the night I was a mess. He and I had been doing so well together, and as far as frequency and rejecting behavior, this feels more like March or April did.

So? Velcro?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Waiting/NO MORE WAITING

CONGRATULATIONS!!!

I'm so frakking happy, and I can't wait to hear every detail that disclosure allows. I'm crying over here for you all.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We're still holding our breath for you, FosterAbba and FosterEema.

I can't be the only one checking every fifteen minutes, can I?

Of course you're all invited!

All of y'all can come over and float kegs whenever you like, you know that!

As far as our anniversary is concerned, we had a good time last night. We went out for cocktails at our friend's pub, then walked across the town square to another friend's bistro, where we had the most fantastic lamb and short ribs in memory, then walked across the street to another friend's coffee house. Makes me remember why I agreed to move here in the first place, this little town that's boomed in the last three years since we arrived.

We got home at 10 to relieve Hub's parents (who are still in town another few days -- this time has been much better than their last two trips), went to bed for some adult fun, and then all hell broke loose.

Item 1: I threw my back out during adult fun. The Hubs referred to it as an "illegal dismount" due to (Item 2:) the bottle of champagne that Hubs and I shared during dinner after a beer apiece at the pub. I'm thinking I'm now allergic to any kind of wine, not just reds, cause I was sure to order a chardonnay-only champagne, not blended with pinot noir or pinot meunier, and I still turned red as a tomato and threw up violently for about 4 hours, got a migraine, runny nose, the whole shebang.* And you just try to throw up in the toilet 6 times a night with back spasms and no relief because (Item 3) your after hours and weekend Dr. Dora who sees uninsured people for the low price of $25 a basic visit turns out to be the state's biggest vicodin/oxycontin/valium script writer, at an average clip of about 700 pills per day between the town's 3 pharmacies, and she's just been raided and shut down by 5 law enforcement agencies, including the DEA. So even though I've never gotten anything stronger than a Zpack and cough syrup from her, my name is in with the other 4000 people she's seen (70 percent! of whom were there for the drugs), along with my husband's name (flu), my father in law's name (needed a blood panel done while visiting), and my son's name (ear infection). I guess if I'd ever been there when there was another person in the waiting room, I might have figured it out. I guess 6 PM is too early for the hillbilly heroin crowd... And you know, there's been many times in the last months I could have really used a 250 count bottle of valium.


*This allergy has only started in the last 18 months or so, and it totally and completely sucks because I'm am ISG-certified sommelier, and, uh, to work in that field you have to drink the frakking wine. So, gonna be really hard to rejoin that portion of the workforce if/when we move to another state.

"Here, Huckle, have 1250 roofies."

Allrighty, then. Huck's favorite toy of the moment metabolizes into GHB when swallowed.

This is after he got nearly the entire line of Dora and Diego toys for his birthday over the summer, then less than a month later we had to take them all away.

And after we fed him jars of Peter Pan peanut butter.

After our dog's kidneys were trashed by "premium" pet food.

I'm thinking I'll bake Aquadot pies and send them to the CEOs of all these MNCs, Bill O'Reilly, Dumbya, and FosterAbba and FosterEema's #7.

Who else deserves an Aquadot pie? I've got plenty, since I bought a refill kit, and the kiddo won't be seeing them again, so they may as well be repurposed. Or maybe they'd be more convincing as chocolate chip and M&M cookies.

This is not the sort of thing I mean when I say that my kid is a rock star. Supercool, yes, in possession of felony-weight amounts of drugs, not so much.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

3 Years Down

I just realized that today is my wedding anniversary. Huh. Go figure.

So now I'm busy hunting down a special something from eBay for the Hub. He wants a certain type of beer stein, saw a few that he liked this weekend, but they were $300 and that's a lot for a mug, you know?

There are good and bad parts to being married to a nationally-recognized beer brewer. The fancy equipment's (such as ridiculously expensive pewter topped imported mugs) price tag and the amount of space the stuff takes up is not so good, but oooh, the benefits. How many other girls get to sit down (on the couch!) at the end of a long day and choose between a Saison, a coffee porter, an IPA, a black lager, or a 8 year clover honey mead, all on tap (well, the mead is in 5 gallon glass bottles)? (And, oh, do we have a stockpile of kegs now that we haven't had a single house party in the last year.) I do sometimes wish he weren't so good at it, since then I wouldn't have to try to subtly incorporate the plaques and mug-trophies and actual trophies into the decor, but that's just selfish, I suppose.

Ah! The Hub remembered our anniversary before I did, and he's already got a sitter and reservations and a plan! Last year we were in the middle of our week of visitation with Huckle before he moved in (on 11/10/2006), so all we did was Italian food and Borat after we dropped him off at his foster home. We were slightly paralysed by fear that night. I remember that I ordered lobster ravioli, ate one bite, then sat there fretting for the next forty-five minutes.

What a year. If I knew then what I know now...

File Read

Today we were finally able to read Huck's file. No shareable details, of course, but I will say that there was a lot of stuff missing. However, we did finally learn the names of his other foster parents, including one set he spent a year with, and we're going to write to them. We've known these two's names for a year, of course, but their last name and his first initial fill up about a page in our phonebook, and we didn't want to spend the next year cold calling all the A. Martinez listings. So, you know, yay!

The state SW continues to be a slug. Whatever.

Some good news during the file reading, though it has nothing to do with us. Somewhere out there, a family in Minnesota was chosen for a Region 8 sibling group! Congratulations, whoever you are! The kids' SW was excited about the possibility of doing her Christmas shopping at the Mall of America, she said, so maybe ICPC will get pushed through quickly? She's motivated, this one. Can't wait to get on that plane, I tell ya. We warned her about taking your first trip to Minnesota in December, as I'd inflicted that pain on The Hub the first Christmas we were together. Hubs recommended layers, and lots of em.

Down here, though, I'd kill for the need for layers. It was 91 on Saturday afternoon (after a brisk 55 at 6 am), and I got a frakking sunburn and a sun migraine. I tell you what, I can't wait until January when I can get health insurance again and go see a doctor. I'm getting migraines more and more frequently, just another way I'm taking after my father. Good times.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

2:45 alarm

By two o'clock yesterday, I was nodding off at my desk. Since Huckle needs to be picked up at 3:05, I went to my room, set the alarm for 2:45, and fell asleep.

I woke up at 4.

Total panic. I was an hour late already. I was shaking I was so scared and upset, knowing that Huckle had waited for me for an hour, that the school had been calling for almost as long, and I'd not heard the phone. I pulled my pants on, ran through the house to the kitchen where my purse and keys sat...

And there was Huckle, sitting at the table, eating a sliced apple with peanut butter.

And there was my husband, sitting in the family room, playing a video game on the Wii.

I very rarely yell at the hub, unless he's on the opposite side of the house and I can't move, or if someone's about to sideswipe us, but I don't think he'll ever, ever again come home early, turn my alarm off, and go get the kiddo from school without leaving a note on my nightstand.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Ready Freddy

(Hey Bandera person, say hi!)

Huck's cranky at me because I've been writing instead of showing him the video of an octopus eating a shark, so when I tried to get him to get dressed a few minutes ago, he refused to come into his bedroom with me.

I came back out to the family room, where he was sprawled on the floor.

M: C'mon and get dressed so we can go to school!

H: I am not going to get dressed, and I am not going to go to school.

M: Okay, I guess I'll call your teacher and tell her you're staying home with me today.

H: Noooo! Don't call my teacher!

Huckster was dressed all by himself in 60 seconds.

Up to Tuesday at 1 PM

Monday, we found out that Huck's LOC change request had been denied, and that he'd be staying at basic. We didn't know why, since only Olsen has that information, but our options were to resubmit it with new information (which we don't have, since we gave them everything) and wait another month for it to go through the system and back to the same person, or forget it and move on. We decided to move on. No big deal really, so long as we could still manage to get Huck qualified for adoption assistance (our goal there is medical coverage and any amount of money over 1 penny per month). It was disappointing, since the denial would make the adoption negotiations harder, but not impossible.

Meanwhile, the adoption paperwork landed on Huck's attorney ad litem's desk. She emailed Huck's (original) caseworker, Marla, saying how happy she was to see our case moving to adoption, and that she looked forward to seeing her again, and if she (the AAL) could do anything, to let her know. Marla, who was Huck's caseworker for about 18 months but moved away last December, wrote her back to say that she'd moved 200 miles away 11 months ago, so she wasn't active on Huck's case anymore, but that she'd included Olsen and Olsen's supervisor in the emails. Right about then the AAL had a WTF moment, and she called us. We were in the middle of assembling a room full of Ikea flatboxes, and the ringing was drowned out by hammers and power drills, and by the time I noticed the call on the machine, it was 11 pm.

Yesterday, we had our Tuesday SW visit, then gymnastics. At gymnastics, I called Bob, my lawyer, to give him a heads up on the adoption movement. I hadn't talked to him for a few months, so I wanted him to know the status and what we're trying to accomplish. We talked on and off for about two hours about all the things that have gone wrong, from the lack of visits by Olsen, to the state's witch hunt, to the file, to Huck's self-injurious behavior.

You know how, even if your life is bizarre, you don't always realize it, because to you it is just another thing on top of other things? Talking to my lawyer (and recounting all the things that have been Olsen'd up) helped distill the idiocy and incompetence and neglect we've all been dealing with for the last year.

Still, the conversation ended with me saying, "Hopefully that's behind us and we can get through this without too much more stupidity."

(And thank pancakes I was at the Home Depot during all this. Places like Home Depot calm me. Walmart freaks me out, but Home Depot is soothing. Deciding between compact fluorescent daylight bulbs and normal daylight bulbs, then finding pipe fittings to make into another lamp, then checking out the galvanized duct work to decide which size would make the best cupcake stand, then running my hands over Silestone and granite and hardwood and travertine and daydreaming about remodels we'll never do while simultaneously recounting nastiness was helpful. I even considered using roof flashing as a chair rail or 3 foot welded wire fencing as as wainscotting.

Can you tell we're working on our house? More specifically, we're getting my workspace together. I lost my old workroom when Huck arrived, and we didn't have the energy, time, or money to get it back together in the guestroom, so my work stuff has been spread all over the house for months. The kitchen table has all the leaves in it, and my stuff takes up 80% of it, and there's overflow all over the family room and living room and kitchen counters and garage. So now, my combined Anniversary and Christmas present from Hubs and my parents and grandparents is the getting together of my room.)

And also

This stuff with the state is very frustrating. I'm venting, I'm documenting, but it is such a small part of our lives overall.

I know I don't post a whole lot anymore. I'm busy, I'm always tired, and the day to day life, while probably not "typical" of most families, has become our norm. So I don't blog about how Huck calls Lucky Charms cereal "My Charmings," or the day each week when our SW comes over and then Huck goes berserk, I don't blog about how much he loves gymnastics or school or Scooby Doo, I don't blog about how there are two boys in his class that Huck so very much wants to be friends with, but they've known each other since they were learning to roll over and they can't stand to play with anyone else, and how sad it makes my darling Huck. I don't mention the days he wakes me up at 5:41 whispering into my ear, "Mommy, it is time to get some foooooood in my belllllllly," or how much of an enabler I am when he pronounces "v" as "b" or "r" as "w" nor how I sometimes find myself saying, "You better get your paddow before you fwoat down da wiber," when he's pretending to canoe in the family room. All that stuff, the good and bad, is just everyday life.

My Huckle is supercool. We're used to the "specialized" parenting he requires. Most of the time, we can see the rough stuff coming. For example, Huck gets wild after our SW visits. Always has. Sometimes he throws lots of things, sometimes he scratches his legs raw with his fingernails, sometimes he refuses to talk and barks instead***, and sometimes he grabs onto the bottom of the garage door as it goes up, it lifts him a few feet in the air before I can run to him, and he falls and scrapes his knees. So now, I schedule the SW visits right before gymnastics (which is right before school) so that if he throws himself onto the ground or into the wall headfirst, as he is apt to do, at least the walls and floor are covered in thick foam padding. Plus, gymnastics and school keep him busy long enough that by the time he gets home he's mostly forgotten that, for a half hour that morning, he was pretty sure he was getting in some one's car and never coming back here.

So I guess my whole point is that -- compared to lots of people -- what we're doing day in and day out differs from the norm. For us, what we do is just what we do. Plain old living, but with a twist, I guess. And our boy is worth it, even if it means waking up 3 to 8 times a night to soothe him back to sleep.

(I really like my sleep, so that's a big deal to me, lols)

***I had an A-Ha! moment last week about the barking. He often asks why the dogs bark, and my stock response is that they get worried about something they hear or see, so they talk about it in barks. So, duh, I'm pretty sure now that he's barking to tell me that he's worried without really admitting it. (This barking that I'm talking about isn't the normal, "Mommy, I'm a furry puppy!" playtime stuff. There's plenty of that, and there's a difference.)

22nd to Now

This is mostly a placeholder.

When I'm not on the crap end of an all-day adrenaline fest, I'll summarize the twists and turns that had me on the phone for 12 hours. (Heh, doesn't sound quite as exciting or dramatic as it all was)

The cast of characters includes my immediate family, my extended family, my lawyer, a judge in another state, two lawyers in other states, a professor in Scotland and his sister, our agency social worker, Olsen, Olsen's supervisor, Olsen's supervisor's supervisor, a reporter, a state adoption worker, Huck's attorney ad litem, a guy at Home Depot, Buffy, Huckle, 9 full spectrum light bulbs and a bag of popcorn.

Yeah, I went atomic.

And right now, to quote Roger Creager, things look good around here.

Might change by the time I really write up this post, of course.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

11th through 21st

So the last two weeks have been bad news on top of bad news.

A day or two after my last big post, we heard from Huckle's adoption worker (not to be confused w/ his state case worker). Turns out that the CW didn't submit Huckle's file to be deidentified back in February, or March, or April. We'd suspected as much, of course, and I was starting to believe that the file was lost.

The file was submitted at the end of September.

No files were redacted over the Summer, so there is a backlog of files dating from May, June, July, August, September, and now October.

So, the ballpark for having the file ready was 4-6 months.

Disbelief, of course. Burst of rage. Then bargaining ("How about you hire me as an intern, I'll redact fifty files, and someone else can do ours? I have a background check!). Tearful calls to Hubs and my mom. A little more rage. Multiple instances of taking Huck's CW's name in vain (the CW's last name has become my dad's new favorite substitute for "screwed" -- as in, 'The landscaper really Olsen'd the front bushes, don't you think?'). After about a week, I figured we may as well settle in for another seven months.

And the CW still hadn't called/returned a call (since June) or seen Huckle (since March). However, our agency SW was kicking down his inbox and voicemail, and after a week had passed since we'd been told of our new timeline, she got ahold of his supervisor and explained the difficulties we've had with the file, the lack of communication and visits, the inability to get his LOC reviewed because of (the CW's) missing paperwork, and the months long delay in submitting the adoption paperwork.

Last Friday, Huck's CW called our SW. Olsen (the name I'll just call him from now on, if I remember) must have had a fresh ass chewing, because he was mostly trying to find out from our SW what she'd said to his boss. The few times he talked about us or Huck, it was to say that he's entirely on top of everything, all the paperwork has been submitted within a week of it being requested, that he'd already talked to me that morning, and that the adoption and the LOC paperwork was all in order and awaiting approval. In addition, he said that Huckle's file was TOTALLY REDACTED and that we could see it anytime (and that we could have seen it anytime in the last five months). . . but that now we couldn't see it until after Wednesday (today). (I'm figuring he brought the file and a Sharpie home over the weekend). What's more, the LOC request would be coming back early this week (it came back Monday, actually) and he couldn't think of any reason why it wouldn't be approved.

He never asked about Huckle or how he's doing. Just tried to cover himself, was how our SW explained it.

Well, last Friday I could only dispute a few of those statements -- for example, he never called us on any of our lines (home/office/cells). And since my requests to see the file were ignored, I tend to disbelieve that we could have seen it anytime in the last five months. Oh, and that "always available to the family" thing? That was wrong too.

But hey! Just because he made up all those things doesn't mean he's making up the stuff I can't disprove, right? So, hey! Maybe the file is ready and it just didn't get logged! Maybe the adoption paperwork was complete! Maybe the level of care request would come back the way he said!

In spite of everything, I was hopeful. Yay! I thought that perhaps the adoption wouldn't take until Spring or Summer. Maybe we could finalize in December. Maybe our SW's conversation with Olsen's supervisor would be enough. Maybe I wouldn't have to start rocking the boat myself and worry about possible retaliation. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Hope is dangerous, you know. Before Friday, I was feeling pretty beaten down, and I'd resigned myself to more waiting, more uncertainty. But once there was a shot in hell? Sign me up. I'm in. Rock and roll.

So, since it is getting late and I will have to finish the story later, lets summarize my frame of mind over the weekend:

Happy
Excited
Relieved
Optimistic
Willing to keep my mouth shut and not throw Olsen under the bus
Looking forward to getting this show on the road with a minimum of sturm und drang

For all the missteps, it seemed that there was an end to Olsen's incompetence.

And, uh, there wasn't.

How did we get this lucky?

Last week while scratching Huckle's back and talking before bed:

Huckle: Mommy, did I cry a lot when I started to live here?

Me: Well, yes, you did cry a lot.

H: Why?

M: I don't know. Do you know why? Were you sad, or scared, or angry?

H: I think I was a baby, and sometimes babies cry for their mommies, and I didn't know you were my mommy yet.

M: Hmm. Maybe.

H: But now I am big and brave and strong. And you are my big brave strong mommy.


Yeah, I cried like a baby.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How Much of a Banshee Shall I Become?

Situation:

It has been eleven months since Huckle came to live with us, as of today.

It has been ten months since TPR.

We started asking to see his file in February, when we met his new caseworker (there was no caseworker from December to February).

The file should have been deidentified by April 1, per Huck's CW.

Huckle's CW has been to our house for one visit since February, when he became the CW after the old one left in December. He also met us to sign surgery permissions in June.

I have written at least 3 emails per month and left at least 1 voicemail per month regarding the casefile. None have been answered. Emails and phonecalls made to the CW's supervisor have not been answered, either.

Huckle's CW has told my SW that he's been here each month.

Getting three forms signed by the CW has taken five months. They magically appeared last week.

Huckle's file has not been redacted (EIGHT MONTHS!), and even though we are still foster parents and could see it without blackouts, we've been told we may not. We've now been told through the grapevine that if we want to adopt (ever? dunno), we should sign a waiver.

A few months ago, a garbageman found a dumpster full of foster kids' files thrown out behind CPS. Many were current cases.

Now, how about some "ability to sacrifice" and general misery? My hair isn't growing back, I still can't get health insurance, Hubs has postponed his PhD, we turned down promotions/transfers to both coasts and two large European cities since Hub's old position was phased out by Booz Allen last December (because his company was about to be purchased by Northrup ), I'm down to 15 hours of billable time per week from last year's 55, Huck has 4 appointments per week between docs and therapists, his LOC is still basic, our new SW (the agency one) can't even tell us the day of the week without asking her supervisor, the state is trying to shut down our agency (its the freaking agency of the year 3 years running), my in laws will be here for a month starting Sunday (remember how much fun they are?), my grandmother is in the hospital, Huck's peeing all over everything, I've had the same migrane for three weeks, and Huck's dad gets out of prison in a few months (still unknown as to how much of a problem he may be -- when he went in it was "I will kill anyone who gets between us" but then not a peep.).

There's more. There's always more, isn't there? But now I am going to sleep. I will dream of the antidepressants I will be able to afford after January first, I will dream of my old life, I will dream of a future with a fantastic kiddo (this future fantastic Huckle will be much the same, except that future fantastic Huckle doesn't chase the dog to piss all over her.)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

With Photographs

Almost done. Almosts done. Almost done.

All is fairly well. Huckle is with us, we're pressing the adoption, and once we're out from under the state's thumb, I'll feel a lot better.

I am very disappointed in our agency. We have another new SW (the third since Huck arrived and the sixth or so overall), and this one is a dingbat. She's just Shocked! By! Everything! And after (only!) a year, I'm not in the mood for wide-eyed optimism, total inexperience, and an affected baby-voice.

If you want to know how batshit crazy the state has gotten and/or why many families are being put under a microscope, I'll post links to a few articles from Texas newspapers once I re-find them. Or, you can search Texas Foster Care and the state's spokesman, Patr1ck Cr1mm1ns, in google or google news. Stuff from late last year to this year. Should you do that, you might notice there is one very outspoken critic of the state. Well, guess which agency she's from... And the state spokesman's responses are classic bullshit. At one point, in one article, he says that the placement department gets accurate information on all children to potential foster homes. Sure.



Did I ever mention that one of the reasons Huckle only lasted a week in one foster home was because the fparents had been told he was a 18 month old hispanic boy? And when Huck and his SW arrived, the fparents were very surprised to see a blonde haired, blue eyed three year old? And how, when they explained that they were only interested in hispanic children (as adoptive placements, which is what Huck's placement there was supposed to be), the SW called them racists?

Whatever. Almost done. Almost done. Almost done.

Anyhow. Once Huckle is adopted, I'll have a lot of things to say. For now, photos.





Halloween as Spidey





County Fair



Tuesday, August 28, 2007

First things first: Huck loves his new school. I've heard a detailed description of the playground and the snack, and he says that "The girls tell me to push my glasses up!" Right now I'm stalling him until noon as best I can, but he's ready to go go go go go go go.

Some of you may recall a difficult experience at Huck's other preschool last February, blogged on April 13th. Remember how the impetus for that exchange was my being ten minutes late because of a traffic accident?

Some of you may also recall that we were recently inspected by the state, and that things as silly as having fruit on the kitchen table was treated like physical abuse.

So my school anxiety is fairly high.

Enough preamble: Huck's school gets out at 3:15 for the preschoolers, and the rest of the school gets out at 3:30. Preschoolers are not able to take the bus, so parents have to pick up and drop off. There are two parking entrances in the school, one for bus and parent pickup, and another for faculty. The entrances are twenty feet apart on the same street, and preschoolers are the only ones that get picked up in the faculty lot. Yesterday morning, it took me six minutes from the time I got Huckle strapped into his car seat in our garage until we walked in the school.

I left the house at 3:00 to go pick my boy up, figuring I'd sit in the parking lot with the ten minutes to spare.

Half a mile from the school, traffic stops. There's a line of parents about 100 cars long waiting to pick up their kids. And the line isn't going to move because 1. No kids other than preschoolers are out of class yet, and 2. Cars aren't allowed into the bus + pickup lot until the buses are gone, which means 3:45. 3. The bus/pickup lot line is only one lane.

So I could see the school, but didn't have any way to get there. Time passed, and between 3:03 and 3:30, I move about twenty feet forward.

In the take home packets we got at Meet the Teacher Night, it was written that at 3:30, preschoolers will be taken to the office and the school will begin calling the child's emergency contacts to make sure that someone will be arriving at school.

Anyhow, I sat in my immobile hunk of metal with tears streaming down my face, because really, if washcloths get me cited, then I may as well start packing Huckle's stuff if the emergency contacts are called on the first day of school because I didn't come get him.

Around 3:40, I pulled out of the line, parked illegally in front of a model house, and started walking to the school.

After crossing two large fields, a drainage ditch, and a softball field, I got to the school at 3:55. By then, I was sobbing. But I'd remembered to put the windshield pickup pass in my purse.

And out of the 40ish kids in the afternoon preK classes, about 25 were still sitting outside in their pickup lines with the teachers.

I swear, I'd never been so happy to see so many four year olds sitting on pavement. Huck ran to me and launched himself into my arms, I apologized to his teacher, told her how bad it was trying to get there, and waved happily to all the other kids as Huck and I set off for the car.

And together we crossed the parking lot, the softball field, the drainage ditch, a field, four lanes of traffic, another field, and the model home's backyard. Huck yammered the entire way, and we were eaten alive by mosquitoes.

We got home at 4:30. We both took a nap until 6.

I think I'll leave for school at 2:30 today and bring some knitting. And a few drinks. And this time, I won't wear my cute little kitten-heeled sandals.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Woohoo, Folks! We have PreSchool!

The Huckster is dropped off, with not a tear or fuss on his end (seriously, how can this be the same child that came to live with us? how?).

I think that now, and for the next three hours, I shall walk around my house naked, blast the stereo, uncoil all the cords on all the appliances, and put a container of blueberries on the counter.

Okay, actually, I'm kidding about the blueberries. Instead, I'm going to fire up the Xbox 360 and play Bioshock. I've been watching The Hub play it all weekend, now I get dibs as the only biped in the house.

I wonder if Huck will need a nap when I go get him at 3:30. You know, I might be able to parlay this "school" scheme into four or five hours on my own each day...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I started this as a comment on Baggage's post, but it got really long. Go there, then come back.



Yup. That about sums it up.

And while we're at it, we may as well remind people that the kids being taken away is what's first on your mind all day, every day. Bump on the head? Maybe he'll be taken away. Tantrum at the grocer? Maybe he'll be taken away. Fall asleep in his bed while you lie with him to soothe nightmares? Maybe he'll be taken away. One of your pets is two weeks past due on her rabies shot? Maybe he'll be taken away. Raining every day for a month and the grass looks like a jungle because it hasn't been dry enough to mow? Maybe he'll be taken away. Kid sees your pubic hair sticking out of your swimsuit? Maybe he'll be taken away.


I am not kidding when I say that I live in fear.


Ten months ago, we said yes to a barely-three year old little boy who was so shell shocked that we wondered if he might be autistic. This little boy couldn't walk more than a few steps at a time, all the veins in his body showed bright blue through his skin, he broke out in hives each time he ate, he'd had an ear infection for 3 years, and people lied to our faces when we asked about drug exposures and behavioral issues. He couldn't breath, he couldn't sleep, he couldn't see, he couldn't hold a goddamn fork, and each time he saw an african-american man or woman, he'd scream the N word. He hit and bit and kicked, he put a pillow over my face while I slept, he told me he'd "fuxking kill me," on my birthday he told me, "I hate you and I'm never (going to) love you," when my husband asked him to give me a hug and say Happy Birthday, and once I found him eating from his diaper.

And still, we kept with him, when half a dozen other families had thrown him out after a week. We were ready to love him before we met him, and even though most of my hair fell out from stress, even though I cried myself to sleep most nights for the first four months, and even though I wanted nothing more than to run away from home and never come back, I love him with every ounce of my being. I can't imagine my life without him, and when there was a chance he'd go back to his mother last December, just a month after he came to live with us, I felt like I might die.

And now? Now, Huckle still has some problems, he is still difficult to parent, but NOTHING I described above is present. Huck runs, jumps, and does the twist. His favorite YouTube video is "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" followed by "Fish Heads." He accentuates important points with musical-theater style flourishes. He's five inches taller. He considers broccoli to be his favorite veggie, he can recite a dozen books from memory, he hugs our dogs and protects the cat, he jumps into the pool, he can breathe and sleep and hear and see, and even though his head gets turned by the Blonde Posse that is my family, he is my shadow. He gives hugs and kisses, and he means them, and his body relaxes when I hold him.

And that's the thing. The Now with Huck is worth all the Then. I look at him and think, "We did this. The three of us did this," and I am amazed at the difference that ten months with us, therapists, and doctors can make. We've already been through our own little version of hell, so as furious as I am over the banana thing, the handtowels, and all that other stuff, I can't do anything about it, because the only thing that I could do to remove that stressor is to quit, and there's no fucking way that's going to happen. We will never abandon Huck, we will never throw him back.


So there's the rub.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Here's a photograph, taken a few weeks ago, of us trying to take pictures of Huck's sprouting molars. He moved around a lot.

I can't sleep. I am so scared that the things from my last post might get our house closed down and Huckle moved somewhere else.

I've been crying on and off for about 12 hours now. A bowl of fruit? Terrycloth hand towels? A fridge with a thermometer built in?

I understand that standards have to be maintained. I understand that a lot of terrible things can happen to a child in foster care. If there were rotten bananas in the fruit bowl, I could understand. Or if the cake weren't still kind of warm from the oven, if it were covered in ants or flies or whatever. But partly frosted with a picture of half a donkey? WTF. Every time we've had social workers, fire inspectors, or the health department out here, there's been a bowl of fresh fruit, or at least a few lemons, out in the open. Everything that we were cited for this time around was in the same state the last time we were inspected, and back then the evaluator told me a nightlight in the hall was burnt out, but he didn't write it down, I think he was just letting me know.
After the first thing was noted, I started following the evaluator around with our digital camera. I have photographs of the evaluator with almost everything mentioned in frame. They were all covert hip-shots without flash, but you can still make out the towels, the vacuum, the fruit, the digital display on the fridge.

My lawyer is out of town until Tuesday, and although I know a lot of real estate, divorce, tax, estate, and corporate lawyers, I can't find anyone in my book that could advise me on this.

I do have one "in" that, should we need it, could prove useful.

I started the adoption paperwork. We'll get through this, hell or high water, adopt the Huckster, and keep our license for when/if a biological sibling is born and brought into care. If we have a license but we don't have foster kids in the home, no one comes around, not even our agency.

It also looks like Huck's grandmother just moved to a house five miles away from us.

Here's Huckle's cake, chocolate fudge with cream cheese frosting:

Cake based on Huck's current favorite book, Donkey-Donkey. I had a bunch of leftover red frosting, so, yay, flowers. Last week I made a blue colored cake with blue frosting, and Huck pooed blue for a week, so I went for a white background so as not to freak out his new teacher on Monday...
This book now beats out The Owl and The Pussycat, which he's been able to recite for about five months. The moon, the moon, the moon...This was my all time favorite book, my mom tells me. She says she read it to me six times a day from 2 to 4, when I started to read it myself. The photographs are wonderful. I still love to look at it. We've got a lot of books that used to be mine. There's a shelf of "Fragile" books in my room that Only Mommy holds.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Frakktastic.

Cindy just posted here about higher standards for adoptive parents.

(Not that what went down here is in the same league as what Cindy goes through, of course.)

I was recently surprise-inspected by the state and had the following infractions noted.

1. Uncovered/unrefrigerated food: A) Bowl of (unpeeled) bananas and apples on kitchen table. Bananas and apples purchased the day before yesterday-- they are not rotten or nasty or buggy. B) The cake I was in the middle of frosting when the doorbell rang: I did not put the cake or frosting back in the refrigerator before I answered the door.

2. No thermometer inside the fridge. (There's a digital display on the outside of the fridge that shows the inside temperatures of both the freezer and refrigerator.)

3. No safety lock on vacuum cord. (Cord was coiled and snapped in place, and the vacuum was in the garage.)

4. Licence not posted out in the open. (It is taped on the inside of a cupboard door next to the emergency numbers.)

5. Unsanitary Conditions: No paper towels in bathrooms. (We use fabric towels, and have many hand towels next to and under the sinks.)

I think there was another one, but I'm so mad right now that I don't even want to look at the forms. This is the second time we've been inspected by the state in nine months, though we had warning for the first. The visits are supposed to be random, spit out by some computer program. The insane thing is that having a bowl of fresh fruit on the table, a modern fridge, not advertising to everyone who walks in that Huck is our fosterkid, and washcloths are as big a deal (number-of-infraction-wise) as if the inspector had witnessed me slapping Huckle across the face five times. I am so angry that I am shaking.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Huckle: Mommy, can you give me some dinner so I can finish it up and then you can give me dessert and then I can watch Cars and then I can go to bed and then I can go to the pool and the park and the icecream store? Dinner first, though.

The adorable, it is overwhelming.
My life just got ten kinds of easier. And not a moment too soon...

Huckle's been approved for pre-k through the school district (cutting it close, aren't they? six days until the year starts they tell us). AND..........

He's in the afternoon class!!!

I swear, I would have kissed the mail carrier if she'd been there.

No waking Huck up at 6 AM to let him roll around on the ground and cry for an hour.
No forcing him to eat.
No worrying about traffic.
Plus, I'll be able to run errands while he's in school, which was the biggest pain in my behind last year, when places didn't open for another two hours past his drop-off time.
And seriously, everyone knows that the hours between 2 and 5 are the worst of the day, unless your kids are sleeping. I feel like I just got a get out of jail free card in the mail.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I am furious.

Because of a mixup with Hub's work, I'm without health insurance. His company was purchased for the third time in as many years, and the insurer changed for a fifth time, and somehow I didn't make it onto our policy with Cigna. I can't get on it until the open enrollment in January, so I need health insurance for the next 3 months, just in case something happens.

I have now been declined for individual policies by two companies.

Aetna (who was our last insurance company before the switch) declined me because I twisted my foot two months ago (while on Aetna's insurance!), hurt a tendon, and went to the doctor, who prescribed Vicodin. No broken bones, nothing turned up on the xray, just swelling and mucho pain, followed by Aleve and painkillers. Declined.

Unicare declined me because I AM A FOSTER PARENT WHO PLANS ON ADOPTING HER FOSTER CHILD. No matter that he will not be put on my (temporary until January) insurance, I'm automatically declined for being "in the process" of adoption, even though we've not got a court date scheduled, nor has official paperwork has been completed. I'm automatically declined because HUCKLE IS LIVING IN MY HOME and he'll be adopted someday. Declined.

Fury. Aetna and Unicare, Suck It. Cigna and Northrop Grumman, Suck It.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hi! We're still here. We're chilling out. Things are pretty good.

Hubbers is working out of offices for the next few months, so I'm much more frazzled.

Huckle went swimming yesterday, and for the first time went past his waist in water. He even jumped off the side of the pool to me, while holding my hands. Amazing what a little swimming peer pressure from kids half his age will make him want to try.

I've been working like a madwoman any chance I get. My productivity stinks, I'm cranky, and behind, but that's been the case since November, so I'm sure I'll be fine.

Glad y'all would have been alarmed by the boss's call, too. I'm usually quite rational, but even I thought that there was some sort of EVP strangeness going on.

Huckle was recognized by one of his grandmother's friends the other day. It was out in a very public place, nothing wild happened, but it was strange. That was the first time something like that has happened.

More later. Have a good day!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Today, I decided to buckle down and find out the who/how/why/what of Huck's dad's murder conviction. It took a few hours to get anywhere, since I only knew the when-ish, but I did, and about thirty seconds after I found the victim's name, we'll call him Devon Davis, the phone rang.

"Hi, Maerlowe," the man on the line said, "This is Devon Davis. Is The Hub there?"

Stomach dropped, cause there's a dead man on the phone, and he wants my soul. Or my kid. But first he wants to know if my husband's home?

So, silence on my end of the phone.

"Maerlowe? This is Devon Davis, is The Hub available?"

Brain starts working again. Devon Davis is also my husband's boss's name. No beyond the grave phone calls today!

I'm still shaking, though.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Huck is riding my ass.

We're one week removed from a long vacation with tons of family, and he's making me pay for taking him away from all the out-of-state relatives, racking up dozens of losses for him in one swoop.

There are tantrums because he can't join Great Grandpa in picking up sticks and putting them in the wheelbarrow, because Great Grandma's pink cake isn't in our kitchen, because we don't have a garden he can check for green beans and raspberries, because there isn't a lake and a boat in our backyard, because we "took his birthday party away" (we left the decorations up for days after the party so he could see them each morning, it wasn't until we left that they came down, and half of them came home with us and are in his bedroom), because Great Grandpa Josh isn't stealing his nose, because (my cousin) Claire can't read him a book. The list goes on, and is added to, twenty times a day.

In so many ways, this vacation was a wonderful thing for him. He met so much of my family, did so many things, and had so much time to become a part of the clan. But it was hard on him, too. He was homesick. The night of his birthday party he sobbed for two hours, saying that "the girls are going to take my party away" (which is why the decorations stayed for almost a week), that he hated himself, that he didn't want to be himself, that he was bad, that he was mean, that our dogs were dead at home, and that all his presents would be gone in the morning because we hate him.* We pulled shifts staying with him from 9 PM to 3AM because he woke up every ten or twenty minutes crying. First me, then The Hub, then my mom, then my grandmother, then my cousin. He got up at 7 AM, ran out to the courtyard, and started screaming and laughing because (some of) the balloons, streamers, banners, and decorations were still up (the majority survived the elements and the wildlife), there were still about 15 relatives in the houses, and all his toys were still there.

So, there was massive heartbreak, both for him and us, up there, and back down here, too. And I'm tired. And I just wanted to mention that.



*Huckle used to say things like this all the time, but it happens very rarely now. I'm so used to it that when I had him asleep and I rejoined the group (Huck slept from 7:30 to 9 without incident), I recounted the bedtime upset, didn't varnish it, and had 6 women in tears before I was done. And it surprised me that other people don't realize that an almost-four year old can have all those feelings inside of him, not to mention be articulate enough to express himself. I am still shocked that this is my life, if that makes sense.

Monday, July 23, 2007

M: Does that water hit the spot?

H: No, because I didn't have surgery today.
So what do you get when you cross a Maerlowe in the shower, a Huckle who's shoved his hand down his throat "because he's sleepy," and a missed appointment for a bikini wax?

Yup, questions about pubic hair!


At Huckle's nap time today, I read him a book, scratched his back, and snuggled him up. He promptly stuck his nose in my armpit and said, "Peee-Yooo, you're stinky, Mommy."

Yeah, I was. He beat me waking up this morning, so I hadn't made it into the shower yet. I asked him if he'd be okay falling asleep by himself, he said yes, so I went off to my bathroom.

A few minutes later and with a headful of shampoo, I heard yelling from the other side of the door. "Mommy, I'm DIRTY!"

That is never a good sign. Water off, hunt for towel...

"How are you dirty?"

"With the brown stuff in my bed!"

"Where did it come from?"

"My mouth and it was nasty!"

Great. "Did it come out of your mouth?"

"Yeah."

Find a towel, cover up, open door. "How did it happen?"

"I spilled it when I put my hand in my mouth."

He's covered in semi-digested raisin, broccoli, grilled cheese, and milk. There is a trail of semi-digested raisin, broccoli, grilled cheese, and milk as far behind him as I can see. I put him in the shower, told him to take his clothes off, hunted for a bathing suit for myself and for him, stripped the bed, picked up the solids from the carpet, sprayed the stains with pre-treater, put on my swimsuit, noted the "underbrush" but decided Huckster was getting a shower anyhow, since I wasn't about to make Vomit Soup in the tub.

I helped him into a swimsuit, too, and turned on the water. Turns out he's a bit phobic of the shower. Didn't like it at all. Ran face first into the glass wall. Stunned him a bit. Gave me time to soap him up without his wiggling.

Rinsed him off in spite of his protests, then told him to stay where he was while I got the shampoo out of my own hair, then told him many many times how much I like showers while I conditioned my hair. I thought he was starting to buy it, but instead, "How come you have hair there?" and a swift grab to my ladybits.

My turn to be a little stunned, no? I told him that when you grow up and get older, you start to grow hair in different places than before. Safe, maybe?

Not so much.

For the last half hour, he's either been saying, "I'm old, I have hair on my peepee," or "Show me your front butt hair!" or "Can I pet you?"

Maybe he'll forget after his nap. Nap time, take two.

For the love of pancakes.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Yay! I finished the new Harry Potter book around 3 this afternoon (I did sleep for 6 hours last night, so no crazy readathon here), so now it can't be spoiled for me. When I woke up this morning on page 500ish, my husband took a look at me and my bookmark, and much smirking took place.

At the moment, we're trying to explain to Huckle that cats don't wear boots. Or sandals. Or sneakers. Or flip flops. Or water shoes. Or socks. We've been at it about fifteen minutes, and every so often he pauses and comes back with another type of shoe to ask us about.

Ah. Now, galoshes. Not those either, kiddo.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Huck ate about seven meals a day while we were on vacation. Mostly this was the fault of the Blonde Posse (my mother, sisters, grandmother, aunt, and cousins) that he had wrapped around his little finger (seriously, they're all platinum blonde at darkest), but he was asking for food, and larger amounts of food, much more often than at home.

Kinda obvious what the problem was, right?

Here at home, we have a large mudroom/laundry room/pantry off the kitchen. I watched Huckle wander in and out of there no less than twenty times today, take a look around, and then continue with whatever he'd been doing.

No pantry in the vacation houses, just cabinets above the counters. No way to survey the supply, no way to know that there'd be more, no way for him to reassure himself that he'd be fed.

Next time, the pots and pans get moved out of one lower cabinet and it gets restocked with applesauce, granola bars, bananas, all his snacks.

Silly adults.
Just before leaving for vacation, I had my hair colored and cut for the first time since November. My roots were about five inches long, not a look I recommend, but oh well.

Turns out, half of my hair fell out sometime in the last 8 months, and it started to grow back around May or June. Not bald patches that would mean alopecia, but a mass exodus from my scalp, every other hair (or so) abandoning ship, deciding it would have a better life down the shower drain or in the carpet. "You out of here?"

It might be a thyroid condition, but since it is growing back, it is most likely from stress.

Imagine that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I think that was the longest vacation I've ever taken. 19 days in Montana. The three of us, my parents, my siblings and their hubs/girlfriend, my grandparents, my aunt and uncle and their kids and bf/gf. 17 of us in all. Nearest source for dialup was a bar 30 miles away, nearest cell reception was a twenty minute drive. We had a great time, but we're all happy to be home. Four days ago homesickness really started hitting Huck, which we were kinda happy to see. He's rolling around on the floor with the dogs now and demanding a taco, so I'll be back later. In order, he missed his dogs, daddy's office, the family room, and tacos.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Ridiculous amounts of rain down here. We're safe, our house remains unflooded, and we're staying close to home so as not to tempt the low water crossings that seem to spring up at a moment's notice. Hard thing, living on topsoil-free land that's been saturated by 10 days of downpour. Add to that our area's lack of sewer drainage (because of the rock 3 inches underground), and there are quite a few people who are downright hosed.

All we're really dealing with is a massive influx of ants. When it rains, they come inside. Yuck.

Huck's well, we're well. I'm bugging Huck's SW for access to his file. He's readjusting to us just fine, the first few days there was a lot of boundary testing, but nothing too terrible. He was confused as to why we weren't running out and buying him cupcakes and creme sodas whenever he asked for them, as my mother did, but by now he's just about back to how he was before surgery. My mom wasn't just feeding him crap for the fun of it, for a while there Huck refused to eat or drink anything, and he was a few hours away from being admitted to the hospital for lots of IVs. A mix of pedialyte and creme soda was just fine with all of us.

So, if your kids go in for surgery, make sure the nurse weighs your kid correctly. When I talked to the surgeon, he told me that Huck had weighed in at 55 pounds. I refused to believe it, insisted that he be reweighed, and as the nurse rolled her eyes at me, I explained that a month ago Huck weighed 39 pounds, and his clothes still fit him just fine, and yes, I'd been fattening him up the last week preparing for surgery, but no way was I that good at it. When he was weighed a second time, he measured 41.3 pounds. I'm not really sure what a 25% difference in weight would have meant as far as anesthesia administration, and it didn't happen, so I've not investigated it, but, you know, make sure the nurse that weighs your kid has had her morning coffee.

Thanks for all your comments on the last post. I got all misty. So glad to know there are people out there. Sometimes I just feel like I'm throwing this all out into the void.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

From the Other Side

We've put a lot in our past. There've been surgeries, evaluations, therapies, and hydrocodone out my ass, but we've made it past a lot of the big stuff, and I really only lost my mind once, last night, as our plane touched down at home after a few days' vacation with The Hub. The thought of coming home to a child who has so many physical, emotional, and developmental problems and needs, and who doesn't like me all that much anyhow, well it was enough to have me sobbing from the time we started our descent until we picked up our luggage.

Yeah, I'm having a hard time with everything. If you hadn't noticed by now, I tend to withdraw when I'm unhappy or depressed or whatever. There's really only so much maintaining I can do, and times have been rough. I think it is time for mommy to get some antidepressants.

But here's a rundown.

No heart surgery needed, woohoo.

Eyeglasses are correcting Huck's vision to 20/70-ish.

The tonsils and adenoids that were taken out of his throat were the size of a grapefruit all together.

The ear tubes are holding in place just fine, even with two nights of slasher-movie amounts of blood pouring out of the ear he sleeps on.

The psych evaluation revealed even more fun areas of improvement, and a whole new layer of needed therapists and services.

We won't know for a little while longer how bad his ears are. Hopefully, they'll improve past the 60% hearing loss now that the ear tubes are in and once he heals.

Huck's voice is totally different now.

In news that hasn't surprised anyone around here, Huck tested at the 97th percentile in verbal communication, one wrong answer away from genius level.

Meanwhile, he's at the 43rd percentile for nonverbal communication, which is just fine. However, probably because he's blind as a bat, he's at the 8th percentile for motor skills, which means that he's about a year delayed. So now we get to add an occupational therapist to our ever-expanding list of regularly visited professionals.

There's more, but it is snacktime. Anyone still out there?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Well.

When last we parted, it had been confirmed that Huckle couldn't breathe, sleep, or hear.

Now, turns out he can't see. When his glasses get here in two weeks, they might be able to correct to 20/100. He needs a prescription for +8 and +8.5, but first we're making a stop at +6 and +6.5 to get him accustomed to the corrections.

"How many weeks premature was he?" asked the doc.

Still no clue.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Highlights of our new SW's first visit:

Huck's LOC is going to be changed from basic (none/none/none) to moderate.

He's being classified as a Special Needs adoption (even before we find out the extent of his heart problem).

Free college is not just 4 years. So long as Huckle passes ONE college class by the time he's 21, he has free tuition/books/fees (to a state-funded school) for LIFE, including graduate work, technical school, whatever. We'd thought it was four years max, undergraduate college or technical only. While it may be premature to start ordering embroidered labcoats for the Huckster, it wasn't too soon for me to inform the SW that the local community college offers Summer courses that give college credit to high school students for taking a 4 week class in art subjects. So, yup, we now know how Huck will be spending the Summer after 9th grade, just to make sure we lock that puppy in.
One of the best parts of the DTV is that I got to call my mother and tell her that The Good Therapist instructed me to use it.

Way back in November, back in the days when I couldn't be closer than a foot or further than five feet from Huck without neighborhood-alerting screams, back when I would lock myself in the bathroom and cry while he threw his whole body against the door and screamed, I used the DTV. And Huck didn't bond with me. He began bonding to The Hub, so maybe it was women. Then he adored my mother and my sisters, so maybe he liked blonds, so I took the purple and red and brown out of my hair in a marathon dye-lifting session. And the rejection kept on coming. Then at Thanksgiving, he took to my in-laws (this was such a knife in the gut for me, his ease with them when days before they'd walked out of the room instead of be in it with him [However, Huckle has always gone straight for the person in the room who is least-engaged with him and clamored for attention, whether someone is on the phone or attempting to ignore the facts of his existence. Only people he knows, though, not with strangers.]) and my grandparents. Somewhere around there, my mom admonished me for using the same tone with Huck as I use with the dogs and advised me to be "sweet, happy, and fun," with Huck, and somewhere around there the DTV was abandoned.

I wanted Huck to like me. I wanted to be fun and happy with him. I wanted (and still do want all these things, of course) to cuddle him up and sing songs and make him like me, make him trust me, make him take to me just like everyone else. Didn't quite work out that way, but it came from a desire to soothe and comfort, after all he's been through.

Anyhow, I feel kinda vindicated.

[We're big fans of The Dog Whisperer, by the way. It is totally about letting the dogs be dogs in safe ways, just like we have to let Huck be Huck. Our big dog used to freak out when people came into our house, but now a subtle hand cue tells her to calm down. Think it would be too much to teach Huck hand cues? And I don't feel too strange about applying dog training logic to this kind of remedial parenting -- at the basic levels they're similar. If we were talking about a well-parented, confident child, it might be a different story.]
I'm feeling better. I've stopped willing the ground to open up and swallow me whole. But, you know, it isn't as if I'm going to start researching heart defects now, embrace the horrible with gusto. I'll just wait and see, those medical texts will still exist after we get into the cardiologist and figure out what's the what.

Huckle's Good Therapist has me using my Dog Training Voice when asking Huck for compliance. She wants me to "teach him how to be parented properly." The last session made a lot of light bulbs go off -- even though I knew what we wanted to accomplish, the getting there, even the direction, was hard to figure out. So now, I am to be authoritative, clear, loud, firm, and kind. GT thinks that commanding respect will bond him to me more effectively -- he trusts Dog Training Voice, the DTV is consistent and dependable and might be worth believing in and handing over control to, whereas the Nice Mommy isn't trustworthy, can't be counted on, is easily manipulated, etc. (Not just me, though I do let him slide on some things because at times I may as well be begging him to be nice to me, but his mom fell into the same pattern of letting him run the show during their last reunification.) Dog Training Voice is good, so far. 36 hours into it, I'm going to consider putting this in the "breakthrough" category. Yay for observant GT, who also talked me through my fear of sounding mean while using DTV.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

We've already got one surgery lined up. Sadly, the ear-tube-placing, tonsil-and-adenoid-removing procedure may be the least of our worries once this month is up. Most likely it will be put off, should they eyes or heart take precedence over the breathing or the hearing. That's okay, though.
Look where we're going, come hell or high water.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I don't have any references or papers on hand regarding the information I got from our developmental evaluation. Some of what she told us was prefaced with, "We've been seeing a lot of...", the "we" meaning her group of colleagues in our area that see mostly foster kids and many meth kids. For example, she said, "I'm going to listen to his heart for a while. I'm seeing heart murmurs and problems in meth kids as old as ten that have gone undiagnosed because no one is listening long enough." Even if she only had her personal observations from the last 10 years during the emergence of widespread mainland meth use, she was more accurate than I would have liked.

For the most part, she only mentioned things that worried her about Huck. After the first few biggies, I didn't retain much. She comes highly recommended because she's thorough and because she tells parents what she knows -- she takes the attitude that she may as well be as helpful as possible, even without the 15 years of data collection and a published study, on the off chance that what she sees in one meth-exposed kid out of ten/twenty/thirty might apply to the next kid she sees.

I'll try to get more information from her the next time we talk to her, after we figure out how bad the valve defect is, the level of blindness in his left eye, and once he can sleep and breathe at the same time, sans tonsils and adenoids.

Have you seen the article Atlasien linked? My First Lesson in Motherhood by Elizabeth Fitzsimons, from the NYT. One of the things I miss is being able to spend hours with the Sunday Times. I needed that article this weekend. That article, the zoo, and a couple Sapporos made mothers' day okay, made denial a sustainable worldview. I'll just stay there a bit longer.

PS: I'm not looking for cheering up, I'm not ready to look on any bright side, and I already know that things will work out the way they work out. Platitude free zone here, please.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dr. Google fails miserably with regards to trying to find out the current thinking on the effects of prenatal meth exposure. You get lots of studies about underweight rats and warnings about behavior and attention disorders and learning disabilities, but that's pretty much it.

Our developmental evaluation was yesterday. We were lucky enough to get in with one of the best in the state. I'm still fairly shellshocked from all that we were told, and I don't want to get into Huck's specifics, but I do want to tell y'all some of what we learned. (Edited to add: these things represent what we're dealing with now, and of course Yondalla's caveat applies.)

Even though meth hasn't been around long enough for there to be an accurate pathology for the meth-exposed child, there's still more known than "underweight and hyper."

The majority of exposed kids can either be characterized as either hummingbirds or snails.

Meth has more of an effect on the right brain as opposed to the left brain. This can result in subtle physical deformities on the left side of the body, such as reduced ear size, abnormal hair whorls on the head, reduced dexterity in the left hand, and a smaller left eye. In the case of a smaller left eye, the eyelid will appear to droop (think Paris Hilton), and the vision is often compromised. Often, the two eyes aren't weakened in the same way -- one is nearsighted and the other farsighted. With the smaller ear, it isn't just the visible ear, but all the working parts, too, and kids are much more prone to ear infections, effusions, and compromised hearing.

Heart defects, especially valve defects, are appearing more and more.

Sleep apnea is big. I also learned that sleep apnea causes brain damage to the tune of 1-2 IQ points per month. First step are meds like Singulair and Flonase. If those don't work, the tonsils and adenoids are the best next step.

Meth kids are about 3x more likely to have brain scans like those of kids with ADHD. (Did you know that ADHD meds can rebuild pathways in the brain?)

Pot-exposed kids have trouble, too. I can't recall the name of the stuff that gets blocked in their brains, and I'm just trying to get this out, but it results in not understanding (their own or others') personal space. There's other stuff, too, but that information is probably widely available.

And I'm probably the last person on earth to know this, but it turns out there's a really big staph infection problem going on. Because of that, we're supposed to keep Huck off Z-packs, just in case he gets one, and just in case he gets a resistant strain, lest he have to spend weeks in the hospital. Old school antibiotics are the new black.

In addition to all the stuff we learned above, Huck is now eligible for special ed. In the fall, he'll be going to the public school's pre-K (the state-sponsored early intervention program) five days a week, with at least an hour a day with one-on-one attention. (As testament to my "new normal," I am overjoyed that my baby qualifies for special ed...)

Huck's test scores weren't too bad at all, actually. He tested 7 months behind on his Leiter nonverbal and 6 months behind on the picture vocabulary. Unfortunately, he could have tested much higher, but 1/4 through each test he announced that he was done, and from then on just pointed at the same square over and over again (for the ppvt), and slid the blocks into the spaces in whatever order they were handed to him on the Leiter. I was so frustrated. On the verbal, one of the earlier words was "delivering," which he got right, but then he missed "fountain" toward the end. He knows what a fountain is. For both tests, he aced the first 3 minutes, then crashed and burned.

If I thought we had a lot of appointments when I wrote the last post, then I suppose we have an assload of appointments lined up now. Cardiologist, opthamologist, audiologist, ear-nose-thoat, psychiatrist, psychologist, school district, radiology, blahbedy blahbedy.

Something else we learned was that, if you're able to get medicaid after adoption, don't put the child on your health insurance at all. If doctors are working with two insurance companies, it is two sets of paperwork to fill out, and the extra $20 they'd get from your insurance costs them about $10 in wages or time, so very few docs (those that have their own practice and do the majority of paperwork themselves, that is) want to mess around with it. Doctors that are part of a medical group probably don't care as much.

In all, I'm feeling like someone worked me over with a bag of oranges, Grifters-style.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

We had another therapy appointment yesterday. It went fine, involving mostly kicking Hub out of the room and the therapist watching how Huck and I interact. Nothing earth-shattering. Of course, he was sweeter and kinder than he is at home, so whatever. Only toward the end did he show a bit of his normal behavior. He exhibited about half of the "invitations to play" that she would expect from the average child. But these were new toys and games, so he did a lot of asking what things were for, then going to the other side of the room.

We've now got all sorts of appointments lined up. Developmental and psych evaluations, three months of therapist appointments.

I think Huck has pretty much broken me in. Except for while Hub is out of town for more than 4 days, or when we tried to explain adoption, the things he does don't hit me that much. It doesn't even suprise me anymore that such a little child can have so much anger and pain inside of him. When the local news runs stories about how judges and the public are outraged that children are sleeping in their SWs' offices, I get confused, because where else would they sleep if they can't find a foster home?

My new normal is ... well, it just is. It isn't bad, it just isn't always good.