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Did ya miss me?

I can’t believe I haven’t updated in 3 whole (eventful) days. I blame it on the new job. And the eventfulness.

Our visit from the SWs was a nice check in, and offered us some additional information about the case. First of all, we found out that Monica’s mom actually did not attend the visit. Her dad (and one of his other children) did. We also found out that Monica’s mom has other children who have been adopted (her parental rights having been terminated) in that other state. Fascinating new information. That info doesn’t affect us at all because Monica has a different father, but interesting (and sad) nonetheless. It was nice to see our family resource worker. She informed us that only 2 other people from our MAPP class (remember how there were like 30 of us?) have had their home studies completed and now have placements. She also said that multiple times over the past 6 weeks they’ve had kids come into care and she’s wanted to call us and stopped herself. As in, there is a chance in a parallel universe that we would have multiple children here right now.

As far as the actual case, nothing is any more clear. The inter-state work that has to happen is just a big unknown. It doesn’t happen often enough (and is apparently different every time), so no one really knows what will happen, how quickly it will happen, and generally how things will go. Ah well.

In other news, E and I had our first date night. Cousins S and C came over to baby (and doggie) sit. I was much more anxious than I thought I would be! I definitely micromanaged with the instructions (sorry guys), and needlessly worried about her ability to fall asleep without me (ha). She, of course, was a champ, despite deciding that while we were out was a good time to develop a cold. The evening went off without a hitch (except maybe a backwards diaper … but it still held!), and E and I got a much needed night to focus only on each other.

Today we took Monica to the zoo for the (probably) first time. She was so attentive and absolutely loved it! She took every single thing in and didn’t skip a beat. I loved seeing her little face as she saw each animal. She would get entranced and stare, then look at us and point. Adorable. As if she could be anything else.

E and Monica enjoying one of the free-roaming peacocks.

E and Monica enjoying one of the free-roaming peacocks.

Monica showing me where the gorillas are hanging out.

Monica showing me where the gorillas are hanging out.

She was mesmerized by the fish.

She was mesmerized by the fish.

 

Showing E the giraffes and zebra.

Showing E the giraffes and zebra.

L was thrilled to show Monica how the bouncing bug worked.

L was thrilled to show Monica how the bouncing bug worked.

Checking out the goats! Monica showed this goat her supreme skill of knowing where his (her?) nose was. Glad she still has all of her fingers.

Checking out the goats! Monica showed this goat her supreme skill of knowing where his (her?) nose was. Glad she still has all of her fingers.

 

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Opinions

Pre-Monica, I had a lot of opinions. Okay, I still have a lot of opinions. The ones I am referring to here are about parenting. Now, I am actually a very tolerant and inclusive person. I am all about different parenting styles. No mommy wars over here. Anyway, I used to have all of these opinions about how was going to parent. And I no longer have so many. Examples:

dreamland soother
These ridiculous things that you strap onto a crib that play music and project light shows on the ceiling. Ew. What’s the point of distracting your baby while they’re trying to sleep? My new opinion: Aahh, this is the magical thing that makes that terrible “I’m dying” noise stop. Okay. Love it.

Gerber meal

Microwave dinners for babies. Okay I am kind of steadfast in my opinion that these are no good. If your kid can eat these, they can eat whatever you’re eating. The old K says, “WHO WOULD BUY THESE?” The new me? Ah, this baby goes to sleep before I eat dinner … soooo … sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

And there are more. The list goes on (leaving babies in clothes with food all over them, diapers visibly sticking out …). It’s amazing how quickly things change when practicality is the guiding force.

So back to foster care …

Monica has had a busy week. Her first EI visit was on Tuesday (we were just meeting her permanent provider and signing things), she had her one-year check up yesterday, and her lawyer visited again tonight. In terms of updates – she is still a healthy happy little nugget, making excellent developmental gains (crawling, pulling herself up, more and varied babbling, increased self-feeding and helping with dressing …). I learned a little something about the court system – apparently (in MA), the child’s attorney represent’s the child’s desires. If a Guardian ad Litem was assigned, they would represent their best interests (remember that often their desires do not align with their best interests – I know mine never did growing up). When the child in question is so young, the attorney has to take in all of the information they have and make an assumption as to what the child would want – which can be different from the child’s best interests (or the birth parents’ best interests). It’s good that Monica has someone advocating for her. The whole system is set up to advocate for her parents (while simultaneously ensuring her safety) – every piece of the plan that is made must be with the end goal of reunification (until the court moves to terminate parental rights).

Anyway, her visit tonight was helpful. She let us know that the plan set in place at the last court date was still in motion – that our state and the other state are in the process of doing home studies on one of Monica’s out of state relatives with the intention of transferring the case. I believe that the hope is that that will happen at the next court date (late September). I know that her lawyer will advocate for Monica’s perceived desires – and she made it seem like she sees our home as preferable to Monica (considering the only information she has to go on is the reason for removal from her family, their behavior thus far, and what she has seen of Monica’s progress and happiness in our home). Of course, her lawyer is just one of many involved in this case, all in a system that aims to keep birth families together at all costs. But it is nice to know that (and how) her interests will be advocated for independent of her parents.

Speaking of her parents, Monica’s 6th family visit was scheduled for today. Drumroll please … they showed up! We don’t really know how it went yet, since her SW picked her up and dropped her off at daycare, but our SWs will be visiting tomorrow evening and hopefully will let us know how things played out. I’m happy to hear that they were able to have a family visit. I am really looking forward to hearing how it went. It’s so easy to build fictional ideas of who they are and how they would be with Monica when they are completely absent from our lives. We signed up for this – to be foster parents, to parent and fall in love with children who will be with us for just a little while, but also to work with, get to know, and hopefully support birth parents. It just makes it difficult when you fall in love with the child and so easily lose sight of the part where they are going to go home. I have mantras – I constantly remind myself that Monica is our beautiful, happy, and charming child for a little while, and then she will go home to her family to be their beautiful, happy, and charming little girl. But I do believe that foster parents need more than just will power and mantras – we need to be included as a part of this system, reminded not just that our children’s biological parents exist, but also who they are and how hard they are trying to get their kiddos back. Even supported and encouraged to work with them and be ongoing parenting supports. I know that this also causes infuriating situations when the families are not working hard to get their kids back – but that’s part of all of this too. The more we, as foster parents, are kept on the outside, the harder it is for us to buy into, work with, work around, and exist as a part of the system.

So that’s my opinion on that.

I have one more opinion, and that is that this little ball of sweetness is far too adorable for words (recognize that bedtime soother thing and the sticking out diaper?):

sleeping

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Whadda Weekend

E and I continue to be insane people masquerading as calm, cool, collected, no-big-deal-we-got-this type ladies. After our awesome partay on Friday, we headed to Connecticut to our engagement party. Lucky for us, we learned a thing or two on the last road trip and I think this one went much better. It helped that we were going about half as far. Some highlights:

Hey, look at that! That's a sleeping baby thank you very much. She took nice long naps each way and barely complained for the parts she was awake. We didn't even have to pull over once.

Hey, look at that! That’s a sleeping baby thank you very much. She took nice long naps each way and barely complained for the parts she was awake. We didn’t even have to pull over once.

All three of my girls, relaxing at the hotel.

All three of my girls, relaxing at the hotel.

Seriously, this is the life. Can we do this every weekend? (hint: no)

Seriously, this is the life. Can we do this every weekend? (hint: no)

The engagement party was really lovely – and the first (and only other than the wedding) time all sides of our families were together. It was an odd clash of worlds, but in a great way. Who wouldn’t want to see everyone they love in one place, right?! And Monica was a hit (duh).

Monica entertaining Cousin C by trying to grab the flowers off the wallpaper (it's the small things).

Monica entertaining Cousin C by trying to grab the flowers off the wallpaper (it’s the small things).

Monica couldn't get enough of Uncle T's antics.

Monica couldn’t get enough of Uncle T’s antics.

E and I cherish the time we get with our families, since they are out of state. While we always wish there was more time to go around (and I’m sure now everyone wishes there was more Monica to go around!), it was a lovely 24 hour trip and we made it back in one (well, three) piece(s).

Monica enjoying a bottle (okay, me enjoying giving Monica a bottle) at breakfast with the immediate families.

Monica enjoying a bottle (okay, me enjoying giving Monica a bottle) at breakfast with the immediate families. Sorry for the creepy face blurring … but love that you can see her little wisps of hair! It’s growing!

Just to keep things spicy, I’m going to start my new job tomorrow. Good vibes appreciated.

Sneak peek: Monica has her one-year well visit this week (still can’t believe she’s one, even though she’s only been around for 5 and a half weeks), her first EI visit, and we have a visit from both SWs (hers and ours). Hopefully updates to come. We’ll just keep loving on her and watching her grow for now! Not too bad a deal.

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High / Low

Have you ever played high/low? I’m playing for Monica today. Here were her highs and lows for the day. I’m thinking let’s start with the low:

Low

Monica woke up with a junky-looking ear. She has been kind of irritable the past couple of days – a little bit of trouble going to sleep and much less of an appetite than we’ve come to expect. Anyway, this morning I kind of decided it just looked like extra earwax, but by the afternoon it was actively oozing so I called the doctor. Just in case she hasn’t had to deal with doctors enough recently, I thought we’d throw in an extra experience for good measure. Her new doctor’s office (right down the road with free parking instead of in the city with expensive parking) was able to get her in within a half hour, and we only had to wait like 10 minutes once we were there to see a nurse practitioner. Monica did not enjoy getting her ear looked at. It was not a fun first birthday kind of activity. Apparently she has swimmer’s ear (riddle me that one?!), and now we get to put drops in her ear twice a day for a week. Ergh. The bright side? We were there for less than a half hour and hopefully she is now on the mend.

While it isn’t a low per se, I unfortunately had to drag Monica to my new place of employment for a few hours today so that I could unpack my office before I have to be in and seeing patients. She honestly had a blast – she loves having new people love on her (no shortage of that), and she got to play with all of my therapy toys. Aunt S came by to help keep her entertained, so that was good fun as well. Again, just not the most fun birthday activity.

Barney and office chairs ... good stuff

Barney and office chairs … good stuff

High

E, Monica, and I all had a blast celebrating her first birthday today! We had a very small, rather last minute gathering of some neighbors and a couple of friends. There was pizza, cake, and presents – all of the fixins of a raging party! Given how much Monica enjoys ripping paper and napkins, she didn’t love unwrapping presents as much as I thought she would. She went along with it long enough for us to feel satisfied and get pictures though (honestly, first birthday parties are way more for parents than they are for the kiddos, right?). She humored us with the hat too – I was shocked at how long she kept it on, given her history of ripping off all hats as soon as they touch her head.

birthday hat

She wore the birthday girl hat for at least a minute!

We had heard early on from her mother (via a SW) that Monica’s favorite food is cheese pizza. Now, we haven’t ever actually fed her pizza, but we went for it for her birthday, and her mom was not lying. She ate a whole slice of pizza along with some veggies. When we gave her a piece of cake, she was pretty hesitant. She certainly has never been given that much food in one piece before. After a few minutes of timid poking and licking her fingers, she went for the gusto. It was classic and perfect. She also fed a good amount of cake to Sheba so we’ll see how that shakes out tomorrow.

Before:

Sorry my editing skills are not cool enough to make it say "Monica" instead of her real name

Sorry my editing skills are not cool enough to make it say “Monica” instead of her real name

After:

I wish you could see her face. This doesn't even do it justice.

I wish you could see her face. This doesn’t even do it justice.

She literally licked the plate.

She literally licked the plate.

Obviously it was overall a wonderful day and celebration for the little one. She didn’t let the ear infection get her down one bit! And she went down without a peep (I’ll admit I was pretty nervous after all of the sugar…). I just hope she stores up enough energy for the weekend – we are headed out of town for an engagement party that my aunt is throwing for us tomorrow. We’re going to need all of the luck and good vibes you’ve got out there. Another road trip but this time post-birthday celebration and with an ear infection …

Regardless of what happens, at least this picture exists:

Sheba at her happiest (anytime food is involved)

Sheba at her happiest (anytime food is involved)

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Life Goes On

The scheduled visit with Monica’s parents today didn’t happen (again). All of the missed visits make me feel really sad for Monica, and for her parents. I don’t want to assume the circumstances or pass judgement on people I don’t know. All I can say is that it must be very difficult for them that they haven’t seen their daughter. It must be hard to now have missed the visit that would have been closest to her first birthday. I can’t imagine the pain of missing your child’s first birthday … or missing all of the milestones that she has met in just the past 5 weeks. The last time they saw her she wasn’t crawling, wasn’t pulling herself up, wasn’t holding her own bottle … It must be hard.

Lucky for us, Monica isn’t old enough to be aware of the missed visits. So life moves on. Our play time today included:

book box
Playing her favorite game of “take all of the things out of whatever they are in” – today it was the books. Luckily we wised up about the book box and took all paper page books out, leaving only the durable board books in there for the taking. Phew.

books
At least today’s game progressed into interest in the discarded books.

reading
Reading (also known as, “Oh hey! These aren’t just for throwing!”).

E nose
Showing off her genius baby skills – she now knows the answer to, “Where’s my nose?” (Of note – she also knows the answer to, “Where’s Monica’s nose?”) (Also of note, she is hugely proud of herself and gives a big toothy grin and giggle every time she does it).

Sheba mess
I’m not even cleaning this up. (Sheba? Little help?) Those of you who know me know that means I’m exhausted.

**Update – E is the best and she cleaned it up for me

So despite the missed visit, we salvaged the day. The night, unfortunately, was not so much salvageable. Monica was super tired but refused to go to sleep. If we were holding her, she was squirming. If we put her in her crib, she was doing the crazy death scream. If we brought her out to the living room, she was fussing. I’m reasonably certain that it was teething-related. She finally went down after sucking on/biting her stuffed dog’s ear for like 20 minutes. And our daycare provider literally just texted that she has an appointment tomorrow so her back-up provider will be there to watch the kids from 11-5 (seriously?! good thing I’m off tomorrow).

On the docket for next week: I start my new job, we have a visit with both SWs (Monica’s and ours) where we hopefully get more details, another doctor’s appointment (of course), and possibly her first EI visit. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure.

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Busy Busy

OK I know I didn’t post yesterday … things have been busy busy around here! I know I’ve hinted at other big changes here at Chez K and E. For those of you who don’t know, we’re freaking insane. You see, E got a job offer the morning of the day Monica came to us. And the next day? Oh, no big deal, I got one too. So over the past month, we’ve not only been adjusting to parenthood, but also making huge changes in our lives – resigning from our jobs (a first for both of us), transitioning to new schedules, starting new jobs, meeting new coworkers, learning new commutes … it hasn’t been the quietest of months. Well, you can’t say no when life rains blessings on you! Onward and upward.

E and I are really enjoying some of the “normal” parenthood things (read: things that are not related to figuring out what to refer to each other as, when visits will take place and whether they’ll be canceled, court dates, length of placement, permission to travel …) like buying birthday presents and celebrating milestones. And we haven’t even had too much to deal with from DCF (still on the “no news is good news” kick).

Monica has a visit scheduled for tomorrow, and her SW sounds confident that her parents will attend. I’m hopeful that this is the case, and that they are able to celebrate her first birthday with her despite the circumstances.

Given how disjointed this post is, I don’t even feel bad about ending with a picture from Saturday. How great is the placement of L’s cone? Perfectly unintentional privacy protection.

Image