Day -1 (One Day Before FS3 is Set to Arrive)
Since we found out about our upcoming foster placement (FS3) through a friend of a friend and he was already in a foster home, we actually got to have a say in the date he would be placed with us. This has been great from a planning perspective, but we learned today that because some approvals still hadn't happened, he may not actually be coming tomorrow. I am so thankful he is in a safe place with his current foster family, but I want him here so badly at this point. The anticipation is killing me.
Also, in a complete coincidence, our agency reached out to us today saying that the state licensing department was going to do a random visit at our house TODAY. Fortunately, the house was in a surprisingly good place from a cleanliness perspective, but I did run around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to make sure everything was in the exact right spot. Of course, about an hour later, our agency called to let us know that since we had a random licensing visit back in February, they didn’t need to visit today. Wow! But I will say, it helped me do some quick organizing of things that I kept putting off.
To add on to the stress, earlier in the day, we found out our 6-year-old foster son (FS6) who has been with us a year will need a minor procedure in the next 6 weeks. And randomly, BS3 got an infection on his toe (thankfully, Blueberry Pediatrics helped with that).
It's hard to say if today will be Day 1 since it's noon and we still don't have the approvals to have him placed with us. But I guess I'll adjust as we know more. I am trying to remember if he happens to not be placed with us today, it will give us a few more days to get things set up, but... honestly, that's no consolation to having him here. This is eating up all my mental energy today when I have so many other things to get done.
UPDATE! We found out at around 3 p.m. that things were approved. I yelled the news at my husband who thankfully was home from work early. I texted my boss and coworker the news (since we did have knowledge of the timeline prior, I did have a plan for work in place so it was a quick text thankfully). Despite having more time to get everything set up over the past few weeks for him (and despite our almost surprise licensing visit yesterday), I still spent the next hour running around like crazy making sure the house was in as perfect condition as possible.
Around 4 p.m., the chaos began. FS3’s CPS worker got here a little ahead of FS3 and his now-former foster family. She started going over the paperwork but not in too much detail because my husband had left to pick up the kids from school so we figured we'd wait for him. It took him forever because he apparently stopped at the store to buy each of our kids new toys and me flowers (SO sweet of him but also, no time for that!). He got home around 4:30 with our two other kids, and then probably no later than 4:35 the former foster parents arrived with our new foster son. They also arrived with all of his belongings (which they were so kind to bring!). In the chaos of our new placement arriving, CPS being on site with paperwork, news toys, and people moving in boxes/bags of clothes and toys, our 3-year-old bio (BS3) absolutely lost it. He was crying and yelling about EVERYTHING. It is actually so unlike him, but I don't blame him one bit given the situation. So my husband went to try to soothe him while I tried to get FS3 settled who was also skittish given the transition and the excitement.
As if this wasn’t enough chaos, every Friday at 5 p.m., we have a virtual call with FS6’s bio parent and of course, it was Friday. We try our best to never cancel and respect their time together and this was no exception; I’ll admit that I did briefly think about rescheduling except that FS6’s ad litem told me she’d be on the call… Since that wasn’t a common occurrence, there was no way we could reschedule it.
FS3’s former foster parents were so sweet to bring his things to his room and say a quick and simple goodbye to him. I don't even know where I was when they left but I did not get to say goodbye to them (thankfully, we're staying in touch). So at that point, I had FS3, who of course is a bit nervous AND BS3 who is screaming, while my husband is upstairs helping our FS6 with the virtual call. Our poor CPS worker was so kind to hang out and even help with the boys a bit totally acknowledging paperwork was not going to happen in that second. Fortunately, by 5:30 or so our bio had calmed down enough for us to take turns signing while we switched out with the call. I don’t know if our CPS worker ran out of here as fast as she could or questioned what kind of craziness she just brought a kid into. Ha!
We watched a movie, had dinner in front of the TV, and played with all the new toys (both the ones my husband just bought AND the ones FS3 brought that were new to the other kiddos). My sister stopped by to meet the new little guy and fortunately our niece (her daughter) helped to entertain the boys.
After some coaxing, everyone finally got in bed. We're exhausted. This is foster life. Sometimes so chaotic it's hilarious.
There were lots of errands to run today. My husband took one kid and I took two and we split up getting all the last-minute things we needed for FS3 plus all the standard weekly groceries.
We went to the park and played for a while to let everyone get their energy out.
Our agency social worker came for a visit. I requested we go ahead and get play therapy referrals going, knowing what a tough road this is going to be for him to transition from a home he was in more than a year, along with the previous trauma he had. We also used it as our monthly visit for FS6. I kept having to reorganize my thoughts because I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to be talking about when. “Which ad litem had told me what? Who needed what doctor’s appointment?” My mind is definitely full of a lot of information. It will be interesting reporting regularly on two fosters with totally separate cases and needs.
Oh AND we got ready for a party tomorrow because, despite knowing that we would likely get our placement yesterday, I invited our family over tomorrow to celebrate my husband's birthday (his birthday was earlier in the week). Could I have rescheduled or cancelled this? Yes, totally. But also... last year, we got a foster placement 2 days before my husband’s birthday and didn't do much to celebrate then so I'm really trying to still acknowledge I like my husband and am glad he was born. Ha!
I had to run FS6 to choir rehearsal but we found out after getting ready and making the drive in the rain there that it was canceled at the last minute. Other parents looked so annoyed, but I really laughed because... of course it was! I guess one of the benefits of your life being pretty chaotic already is that minor inconveniences don't phase you.
Our new placement asked to tag along on the trip, which I welcomed. It also gave my husband some time with our bio. Unfortunately, on the way home, our new placement had a fairly good meltdown. Poor guy. I can only imagine how tough this is on him.
Our families arrived in the afternoon for some pizza and cake to celebrate my husband's birthday and, of course, to meet our new little guy. Since Halloween is just around the corner, the kids put on their costumes and the cousins had the time of their life building forts and running around. It was awesome to see them, particularly FS3, BS3, and FS6, all having so much fun!
We sent BS3 and FS6 to daycare and school this morning. I let their teachers each know about our new placement to prepare them for any irregular behavior.
This was my first official day of the mini-leave I had planned. For each foster we get, I do my best to take 1-2 weeks off work to help with the bonding and getting all the appointments done. We spent the morning and early afternoon playing games, going to the park and being silly. He calls me "mama" already which is so sweet!
After school, the kids definitely struggled with playing nicely together. I tried to be close to them, (enacting my sibling plan) or playing directly with them but even then there was toy snatching, yelling and hitting. It was loud but what did I expect with 3 kids?
What I am slightly surprised by is the mess and in particular, the laundry? How can one little person add on so much to the laundry load that it now feels unbearable? No really, HOW?!
I am seeing short glimpses of the boys getting along, but there’s still so much chaos and yelling. It’s so hard to witness because I constantly worry that none of them has a chance for peace right now. We try to separate them but they (particularly the three-year-olds) don’t like to be alone so that doesn’t last long. It’s amazing how whenever Kid A is playing with a toy, suddenly that is the only toy in the house that Kid B has any interest in. BS3 has always been such a good sharer… I know I’m biased, so I’ll even mention his teachers have pointed this out too. But BS3 sharing with FS3?… all bets are off. BS3 really doesn’t seem phased when we give FS3 any affection, but with toys it’s almost like he’s saying, “I already have to share my parents with you… I am not sharing my dinosaur too.” I type this with a chuckle but also with some guilt. Hopefully they can start to find more joy in each other.
While it wasn't required since FS3 had a recent physical, I did want to take him to see our preferred doctor to get a baseline for us. He was definitely skittish of everything but fortunately (and as expected) he is overall in great health.
He has also had additional meltdowns that involved hitting or throwing things. We're encouraging him to talk about his feelings and reminding him that it's not okay to hurt people.
After the kids went to sleep, my husband and I had a fairly intense argument today. We've since apologized and realized nothing is really wrong. We are both just unbelievably stressed and are not getting enough time to decompress so we're taking it out on each other. And it’s hard to find time to have a conversation with each other. We've made a commitment to be a little more intentional about our relationship and managing our stress in healthy ways.
FS3 has so much energy and it makes for lots of silly and fun moments for the boys. They all took turns playing in some of empty giant cardboard boxes and thought it was absolutely hilarious. We also got some time for some backyard baseball which the boys loved. Seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter gives me so much joy, especially knowing the circumstances.
FS3’s CASA came for her first visit with us. She has been with him throughout his case so helped us understand his background a bit more. We’re definitely thankful for that.
We headed to a fall festival as a family today. The boys each dressed in their adorable costumes. I know without a doubt that these sensory-loaded events are major triggers for meltdowns but I went in thinking I was totally equipped and ready and had adequately prepared the kids. So about an hour (and so much candy) in, when I told FS3 it was time to get off the jump house, he got angry with me and tried to run away. I swooped him up ready to comfort him the way I am confident every little kid likes to be... ha... I was wrong and got bit several times and hit even more while he screamed bloody murder throughout the festival. I walked him to a quiet space, and we calmed down together. It's clear he's struggling.
Also, as I have two big bruises on my arm because of the bites, I'll finally admit, this is hard!
Did I mention that FS6’s CASA joined us for the festival so got to experience most of the above. Thankfully, she was gracious, kind and helpful which is really all I ask for right now.
We have a fairly set bedtime routine of family book time, brushing teeth, a prayer then lights out. It’s always been a calm time but with FS3's high energy, this time has gotten a bit more challenging. He can’t sit still which means the other two don’t like to sit still. He can’t use a quiet/calm voice, which means the other two don’t want to use a quiet/calm voice. Cognitively, I know that our routines are going to change with the addition of another child, especially one with a fully developed personality… but in practice, it’s hard. We’re tweaking things here and there to continue to make sure everyone’s needs are met.
FS3 needed some baseline blood work. I was putting off this appointment knowing full well how intense his meltdowns can be. Couple that with a painful experience AND FS3 not fulling trusting me yet, and I knew it had the potential to bring some intense feelings and… (since I do still have bruises on my arms from the last incident)… biting. But it needed to be done before I officially went back to work later this week.
I put my problem-solving skills to work. Before we left, I spent a good 30 minutes being silly with him while I prepped him for the event. I told him it would hurt, but only for a few second. I had him practice sitting in my lap, rolling up his sleeve and seeing where he would be poked. When we arrived, I went to the front desk to request a Child Life Specialist be present. The front-desk lady looked a bit annoyed since this was a standard blood draw with a seemingly typical child. She told me I'd have to wait longer, but I didn't care. The Child Life Specialist arrived with two giant superhero books and a squeeze toy about 15 minutes later. We walked back to the room and FS3 sat in my lap. I quickly pulled out a sucker (which I think was what really what sealed the deal) and popped it into his mouth. I held one of his arms, while the phlebotomist grabbed the other. The Child Life Specialist opened the book and started describing it and blocking his view from the actual blood draw. He started crying a bit but kept sucking on that lollipop! And then we were done! It was miraculously not a traumatizing experience... (and I say selfishly) for anyone!
I went back to work today. I work from home so it fortunately wasn’t super stressful from a getting-ready-in-the-morning and commute perspective. But it is interesting being a working mom of three including two with high needs; I’m constantly having to remind myself to focus on my work. My mom took FS3 for a few hours so I could get work done… which resulted in a major meltdown. I kept just telling him I would pick him up in a few hours but he acted like he was never going to see me again… but given his situation, he has every reason to be scared of that.
Later this evening, I did something absolutely crazy and decided to take the three kids to a fall festival at one of their schools without my husband (since he had to work late). I was sort of dreading it all week but kept just thinking, if this goes south, no one can really blame me, right?! And if one of the kids decides to take off running, surely one of those teachers will help me run after them-- I'm pretty sure that's part of what my tax dollars pay for! Ha!
By some great miracle, all three kids kept it together with zero tantrums, no running off, and no fighting. And they looked pretty cute in their costumes! Maybe I paid my karmic dues during Day -1 through 13 to get this miracle!
Our new placement had a meltdown today that takes the cake from the others he has had. It was bigger and literally messier than all those before. We have been trying so much to support him, build attachments, create connections, etc. etc. But by the end of his tantrum today, I'll be honest, I was going through the motions because I was shaken. I know I shouldn't but it's hard not to take it personally in the moment. I'm definitely feeling like maybe I'm not enough. Like maybe I don't have what it takes to help this sweet but struggling child. What will his future look like? My mind is filled with so many what-ifs. I refuse to waver on him though. And fortunately, my husband reminded me that it will get better. Oh I hope so. With all of my heart, I hope so.
Read Day 15-31 Here
I'm a foster mom, bio mom, working mom, special needs mom, busy mom. I'm also married to my high school sweetheart, I'm a proud 23-year childhood cancer survivor, and I'm passionate about serving my community.
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