Friday, November 15, 2013

Can we do 5 kids?

When Child D and Child E first came to our home I realized that if this was our first placement we'd be in a very different place. Child B and Child C prepared us well - while we may have felt overwhelmed by Child D and Child E had they been our first placement - as it is, life is so NORMAL.
There is a baby that wakes up in the night, a toddler who is now almost-potty trained, a 5.5 year old who always wishes her big-sister role entailed more responsibilities than it does, and a 7.5 year old who is grumbling about emptying the dishwasher. There's a 7.5 year old who will stop at nothing to get a giggle from a sibling, a 5.5 year old who shows utmost patience for a toddler's antics and even more for a baby's, a toddler who says: "done?" as she's learning to wait for a sibling to be done with whatever object she covets and not forcibly remove it from their hand, and a baby who has found her laugh.


It's been 8 weeks since the two younger children joined our family and mostly it shocks me to realize it's ONLY been 8 weeks. It feels SO much longer than that.
I'm not sure if that's a positive or not.
It just feels like Child D and Child E have been here forever.
We have routines that include them and my love for them deepens intensely.
My chest hurts when I look at them to think of how much I care for them.
Particularly Child D. Child E is younger and I think my feelings for her have grown in a similar way to the children I've birthed.
With Child D, it's been a speedy catch-up period - I think the speed is what makes my chest hurt. She's older and my heart was in a quick hurry to make up for lost time.

About a year ago I stumbled across a pin on pinterest for cold process soap making.
I was intrigued and as a last minute Christmas gift request, asked for a stick blender.
I didn't pursue soap making - we were a little busy this summer.
Feeling determined, I have started soap making -!
The hardest part for me - the one who likes quick projects that can be finished in a day - is the curing time.
Soap needs 4-6 weeks to cure and the longer the better.
So I haven't actually TRIED any of the soaps I've made yet ... but I just want to make more and more and more.
So far I've made 3 batches - two with lard Ren Man rendered from our own piggy back fat - as well as milk from our farm.
Very cool.
All this to say: this is a GOOD sign.
We're parenting four kids while still able to pursue non-parenting interests.


We're still working on creamery plans.
It's one snag after another which I find very frustrating (remember? I like projects I can finish in a day).
The snags mostly center around frustrations that require more funding before going ahead.
This is sort of like Ren Man's dissertation - I just want it DONE - he wants to make sure he doesn't put one single letter on the paper before researching to make sure every decision is the "right" decision.
He's researched extensively projected expenses, profits, losses, risks, various creamery styles, equipment options, animal housing options, etc, etc.
Just when it feels like we're settled on the "best" option - we've found THE answer - Ren Man sleeps on it and realizes there might be an issue with THE answer ... so we start again.
So right now we think we have the ideal plan (after hashing many many alternatives) and it's a matter of conveying our vision to a lender.
I would LOVE to do a crowd sourcing funding option but based on Ren Man's research, something like kickstarter is perfect for a project that is $10k or less. That's about 20% of the total cost of the project (if I'm doing my math right).

Photography is going so awesome and I'm so thankful for the creative outlet. We live in the most beautiful place.
It's stunning.
Every day.
So I love being able to capture the beauty in the seasons and landscape and humans in our community! It's so rewarding. We've been here about a year and a half and word-of-mouth and google are on fire in terms the interest in our photography services. Exciting!


Child D and Child E don't seem to be going any where soon. We've been told that their parents have a long difficult road ahead and it's not promising. I cringe to think of the time they are separated from their parents. I'm so sad for the loss this family is suffering. I hate that they are missing out on such a large portion of a shared life - especially relative to the children's ages. But I remind myself that it's better to miss out on 6mos or a year with your parents than to miss out on life with them forever.
So I hope very much that Child D and Child E's parents will be able to access the resources they need within themselves and the community to continue to parent their children. And every night when I get a sweet passionate kiss from a toddler and an enthusiastic open mouthed embrace from a baby, I'm a little sad that their parents are missing this.
But I also consciously enjoy these moments because Child D needs to feel welcomed, loved, wanted when she asks to be carried. Child E needs to learn that the world is a safe place where a grownup is always ready to scoop you up and nuzzle your neck. And while their parents would be the perfect people for this role, we can do our best to fill in for as long as needed.


As the case moves forward at a sludgy pace, it feels, I noticed that Child D was pointing at a family picture that included "Mommy, Daddy, Del, Noah" ... and two random children (Child B and Child C). I also knew that we needed a picture for this year's holiday card. So on a balmy afternoon we brought out the camera and tripod and rather miraculously (but not too stressfully) managed to capture our family as it stands today.

The day after the print arrived and I carefully put it in the frame, hung against the red walls of the dining room, the placement coordinator from dss came to inspect our house. Her job is to determine which child should be placed in which home, coordinate all paperwork of foster parents (and there is a TON), facilitate foster care trainings, and inspect all foster homes - including annual re-checks, among other things. It's been a year since our initial certification, so she was back. She updated our paperwork, including asking what age ranges we were interested in. I explained that if we still had Child D and Child E we would want to wait at least a year, preferably two and then only babies under a year - a number that would increase as Child E aged. However, if Child D and Child E return home, then we'd be back to our original preference of at least a year younger than Del.
The placement coordinator said: "just a heads up, we just finished a training for new foster parents. There is a family willing to take all three kids, so we'll probably be moving these two and their older sister to that home."
We've had these two for 8 weeks with NO mention of potentially moving them or that it was a priority of DSS to keep siblings together.
Moving the kids to a family member? Back to their parents?
I was prepared for that.
This move that isn't mandated by a judge but just decided by dss!??!

"So we either figure out a way to also parent their older sister, or they are moving?" I asked to clarify.
"Yep," was the response.

She needed to leave.
I needed to process with Ren Man.
I was panicking.
It was so unexpected and felt like a slam out of nowhere.
Not only the message that the kids were likely moving but also my deep shock and panic at the news.
My gut fight-or-flight response.

When she finally made her exit I was reeling.
"Are you sad?" I asked Ren Man.
"Yeah!" he replied, "but what can we do? Let's just talk to the caseworker and see what's really going on before we panic."
I read and read in to the night the benefit of siblings staying together (Ren Man isn't the only one who researches).
So yes, we realized begrudgingly - the siblings should be together EVEN at the cost of another transition.
To imagine Child D and Child E moving after all the progress they had made, the routines they were comfortable with ... unfathomable.
But it's not in our control, I kept reminding myself.
So many questions.
Who was initiating this?
Was it really happening, or just a pressure tactic to get us to take the older child?
What if she was as impossible as Child B and Child C? We couldn't do that again.
I left a message with the caseworker but didn't hear back.
I finally got up the courage to talk to the other foster family, having already made plans to take the older sister with us on an outing and then to their visit with their parents.
The other foster family, who are more experienced in the world of foster care, already knew about this potential change.
They were sad but knew they didn't have a say.
They also didn't seem surprised that DSS would place kids wherever initially, and then move them to more ideal situation once things had settled down and the kids were definitely staying in care for the near future and beyond.
They mentioned that they would happily take Child D as she and the older sister are more bonded and the baby isn't (in theory.
I was sad at this thought - I didn't want to move Child D! She's already settled here! And the baby DOES care - and even if she doesn't, the older girls care!

The next day I finally (FINALLY!) got in touch with the caseworker.
She was initiating the move. She didn't feel comfortable with the siblings separated and wanted to find a place for them to be together. She hadn't asked us because she knew we'd said we didn't want any kids that close in age to Del, given our experience with Child D and Child E. She said it was nothing personal and there are SO MANY kids right now in our county, we'd get another placement soon. (This felt like almost saying: "oh, don't worry about your child who just died - you have another!") She said she completely respected our decision and didn't want us to take on more than we could handle. She said if we knew we couldn't, we could say "no". If we thought we could, then we could try having the older sister for a day, a night, etc to see how things went. BUT she didn't want us to feel pressured. BUT that would be ideal, because two kids were already settled here and it would just be a matter of moving one - and not having to find a family that could take all three.

(Side note: I LOVE this caseworker so far, she's been authentic, honest, compassionate, level-headed, etc)

So this is what it came down to: try taking on Child F and there's a small chance it could work .... or say goodbye to Child D and Child E at some point in the near-ish future.
And the potential family that would be willing to take on 3 kids could jump at the chance ... and then find it's too much and the kids have to be split any way at some point in the future.

It feels like a rock and hard place.
But if we don't KNOW that it definitely wouldn't work with Child F, then we're tossing out Child D and Child E on a fear, not on facts. And we're pretty invested in Child D and Child E.
So we had Child F for the day.
We've invited her back for an overnight next week.
Then hopefully a few overnights over Thanksgiving.
I'm not sure how long this trial period can or should go.
So far so good.
Great, even.
But I'm still holding my breath.

In theory, I'm good with 5 kids - I've always wanted 6. They are a little close age-wise ... but so am I with my siblings. (The age gaps for these 5 is 23mos, 9.5mos, 27mos, and 21mos - for those that need to know ;) )

And now we may need to re-do our family picture before Christmas.

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