Published by PaintingChef on 30 May 2014

Getting ready to say goodbye.

My heart is shattered. There is no other way to put it. I feel like I am standing in a field watching a train wreck happen (not even in slow motion anymore) with my hands tied behind my back and duct tape over my mouth. Never in my entire life have I felt this level of helplessness. Irrelevance. I’m drowning. I love this little girl with everything I have. She is my heart. And in July, we have to pack her little life that she’s built while she has been with us and tell her good bye.

What do I say to her? What piece of wisdom do I try to leave her with? Is it more important that she know how much I love her, that I would do anything in the entire world for her? Or do I remind her, one more time, that she is smart and strong and capable and that her dreams are never too large, no matter what anyone tells her or what she sees around her every single day? How do you leave that with a four year old?

The child welfare system is broken. When I compare the hoops that Patrick and I had to jump through to become foster parents with the very few boxes that birth parents have to check to get their children back, my head hurts. I don’t understand. The rights of birth parents are sacred. They are placed above even the welfare of the child. No. They are not physically abusing her. I don’t think that they ever have and I pray (in my own way) that they never would. But isn’t there more than that? Shouldn’t there be more than “are you PHYSICALLY safe?” How about are you providing a nurturing home? A place for her to grow and learn and explore her potential? Are you feeding her healthy food and letting her run and play outside every chance she gets? Do you read to her and play games with her and sing silly songs? Do you let her mind grow in every direction and build her self-confidence at every opportunity? Are you moving heaven and earth in every way that YOU are able to give her a better life? How are these not questions that every parent should say yes to? And how are these not things that are factored into the decision to return a child to the home they were removed from?

You, my dear friends, have seen every bit of this motherhood journey. From day one. In July, when my sweet girl leaves us, that journey will be over. We are done. Our hearts are tired. Yes there are other options. More fostering. Adoption. But I don’t want another child. She is mine. She was the child the universe meant for me to have, for however brief that time was. I desperately hope that we have made some difference in her life, shown her that there are other ways to live. That someday she will remember something about being with us and it will encourage her to keep striving to break the cycle that she will grow up among.

I’m not sure what is next. For us. For this corner of the internet. For anything. I don’t know how to describe it other than I’m walking in a cloud of nothingness right now. I am so very numb and in other ways, every second is excruciating. God… that’s so fucking melodramatic. I have to keep reminding myself that we knew what we were signing up for but I’ve learned that we had no idea. DCS is a nightmare. This whole experience hasn’t made me want to keep fostering and helping these kids. It’s made me want to go to law school. The only way these children can be helped is if the SYSTEM is changed. These children deserve so much better.

She deserves better. I Love you chicken little. With all of my heart. And I will always be cheering for you and wishing good things for you.

pc.com Abi Beach

Published by PaintingChef on 05 May 2014

On inadvertant life skills and why sometimes Michael’s trumps Lowe’s.

We remodeled our kitchen. It’s almost done. We didn’t kill each other.

Yet.

But that’s where I’ve been.

Such a lie… I’m a lazy and terrible blogger and just between you and me… I’m a little sick of being like “parenting is hard and four year olds are assholes and seriously… what did I used to DO with all the time I wasn’t putting someone in time out?”

Pictures of the kitchen to come, I promise but first, let’s talk about tile and why I can’t lift my arms above my shoulders anymore.

Out of the two of us, in our little world, Patrick is by far the handy one. He can build shit. Whatever I need, he can build it. He knows how to do things like change out sinks (which he did) and convert a can light to a gorgeous pendant light (which he is about to do) and install a garbage disposal (check). He can do wiring and plumbing and carpentry and painting and installing wood floors. He can change the size of a gorgeous built-in entertainment center so that it never stops looking like a gorgeous built-in. He can do all these things and I’m really damn lucky.

But this weekend? We learned that he cannot tile a backsplash. I’m not sure who was more shocked by this revelation. Him, when he realized that there was something seemingly simple that he was just struggling with or me when I put two and two together and came to the conclusion that I was going to tile the backsplash.

Life skills translate in funny ways. Patrick had all the right tools and followed the direction exactly on how to spread that tile glue gunk but it just wasn’t happening. It was clumpy and awkward and he was getting really frustrated… really fast. But the more I looked at it, the more it looked familiar to me and then it dawned on me…

Dude. This shit was just like icing a cake. I took a look at all the tools he’d gathered, laughed my ass off, and dug through the boxes that have become our kitchen over the past couple of weeks and found my favorite icing spatulas. Yup. Offset icing spatulas. You can do Lowe’s and Home Depot all you want baby… my tools of choice? Fucking Wilton.

wilton

**Image stolen from www.wilton.com

We managed the project with only one really big fight and nobody broke anything. I only dropped tile mastic on the dog once, we made 5 trips to Lowe’s (I only forgot to change out of my pajama pants for one of them) and had hamburger helper for dinner at 11:30 Saturday night.

You’re jealous. I know you are. Sometimes I can’t believe that nobody has wanted to make a movie out of my super exciting life yet.

Published by PaintingChef on 31 Mar 2014

On popping my cherry and why mother isn’t currently speaking to me…

Today I am a mother. I don’t know for how long. But today I am a mother to an amazing little girl. She is smart and strong. She is funny and stubborn and she is oh so wise beyond her years. That part breaks my heart every day but every now and then it will produce a moment that kick me in the ass and the gut at the same time.

I was helping her get dressed for the bed the other night and she reached down and stroked my hip and said “I love these bumps mama. You’re so pretty and you give such good hugs.”

Oof. Gut. Kick. Heart. Bursting.

She loves those bumps. The ones that I spend way too much time trying to camouflage with just the right clothing and shapewear. They are pretty and they help me give good hugs.

That’s when I realized that, for now, it’s up to me. I am her female role model right now and what am I teaching her if I can’t show her that I love myself and think I’m pretty too? Just the way I am. I can’t wait to love myself, to embrace my body. This is me, today. Curves, bumps and all.

If DCS has their way, I may be the only positive female role model she ever gets. Yes, she is only four years old but SURELY I can instill something in her that will last. If I’m going to do that though, I have to first love the woman that I am right now. Inside AND out. It feels like a new beginning that I hadn’t expected. I want so desperately for her to blossom with confidence in herself. Her intelligence. Her kindness and the gentleness that she is capable of when she’s not trying to destroy the world… because she has that side too… She needs to know that she is worthy of a good life, of happiness and respect and fulfillment and love. I learned those things from the women in my life. My mother, sister, grandmother, great grandmother, aunts, cousins and friends. But somewhere along the way I think I forgot about it.

Until now. And I don’t want to ever forget it again nor do I ever want to forget who reminded me and how much she needs me. That’s where this comes in…

Tattoo

Published by PaintingChef on 07 Mar 2014

Today was a bad day.

Unsupervised Visitation. That phrase was in my email this morning and now I can’t breathe. I can’t look away from it. I cannot wrap my head around it.

I look into that girl’s big blue eyes (oh how I want to show them to you all. She has the biggest, bluest eves I’ve ever seen) and I know, in a place in my heart that I didn’t even know existed, that she is supposed to be mine. It took me some time to get here, to realize that I could carve out a spot for her. But I want her to be mine so desperately.

She is not mine. It doesn’t look like she will be mine. And it feels like someone has kicked me in the gut with steel toes boots. But my anger and frustration isn’t at her parents… I think that on some level they are trying. Maybe…?

Patrick and I felt like we went into this with our eyes as opened as they could be. We were under the impression that we understood the challenges of foster parenting. What we were completely misled on was the absolute pain in the ass and waste of government money (and I’m a tree hugging, universal healthcare supporting, recycled paper card carrying liberal) that DCS would turn out to be. Broken doesn’t even begin to describe the child welfare system.

Her social worker has admitted that she prioritizes reunification above A’s well being and comfort level with this whole situation. In my eyes, that is unforgiveable. It is heartbreaking. And it is completely fucking backwards. Patrick and I are treated as the villains on a nearly daily basis. Never had anyone made me feel as… marginal? Irrelevant? Unwelcome? As A’s social worker. We are the ones who are trying to help her. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here but I’m pretty sure we are the best thing that’s ever happened to her (In all honesty though, I imagine that was a pretty low bar) and we really do want nothing but the best for her.

But what I can’t understand is why nobody seems to even be willing to consider that what is best for her might be NOT being sent back to her birth parents. I am yelling so hard that I am going hoarse and nobody is listening.

People keep telling me that they don’t know how we are doing this. But the truth is this… we have chosen this. I keep telling myself that. When we were doing all those fertility treatments, I became ridiculously adept at compartmentalizing. Step, by step, left foot, right foot, this is what we are doing today. Take a deep breath; get through it and we can cry later. My entire psyche was rewired. I don’t know that that is a good thing. But it is me. The last 8 years have been a war and these are my scars.

Published by PaintingChef on 10 Jan 2014

Somehow I had managed to ignore the part where she isn’t actually mine.

Going into this fostering process, we knew that there was a better than 50% chance that every child that came to our home would, eventually, be returned to their birth parents. As a foster parent, my job is to be A’s port in the storm. A calm place for her to be safe and happy while her parents get the help that they need. And they are doing just that. According to the letter of the law and the standards set forth by DCS, they are making progress.

We learned last night that it is expected that A will, indeed, go home this year. The timeline is uncertain right now and it is probably several months, at least, out in the future. We still have time to do fun things. Maybe take another trip to the beach in the spring. Have a birthday party. But in the coming months, the line between our family and the parents she is returning to will become more and more blurred. She will not always know for sure where she is resting her head at night. She may spend part of a week at their house and the rest with us.

Despite the fact that we KNEW this, that this is exactly what we signed up for, my heart is breaking in places that I didn’t know existed. I want her to be mine. I want someone to acknowledge that her life, her future, would be better and brighter with us. I want to not feel like I am losing to them. To her parents who lost her in the first place. I want to not feel like someone is putting the two sets of parents side by side and pointing to them and saying “Yes! Them! We pick YOU!” And I lose yet another baby. Numero eight if you are playing along at home.

I, of all people, should believe in the value of second, third, fourth and fifteenth chances. In the power of redemption and the fact that there is good in people if you just look hard enough. But I’ve never looked at it from the angle of a three year old. Sure. She’s three. And let me tell you one thing about her… she is GOOD at being three. She pushes me to limits that I’ve never seen before. The number of times I have to just get up, walk away, shut myself in the bathroom for a few minutes and fake explosive diarrhea have increased exponentially (from zero… which… if my vague math memory serves me, I think isn’t possible in the first place but whatever math police… it’s more than pre-kid, okay? Jesus.)

And yet… I have a hard time believing that her parents can change. There is a very definitive process for A to return to them. Step A then B then C and so on and so forth until the court and DCS decide that her parents have met whatever minimum threshold of competency they have established and boom… A goes home to them. And this is supposed to be a good thing. This is something that, allegedly, we are all wanting.

I call bullshit. I think. But maybe not? Maybe I miss my life sometimes. Maybe I enjoy no pants Thursday and all ice cream for dinner Tuesday. And wine for breakfast Saturday. And then also “Let’s spend all day going to open houses of places we can’t ever afford and then drink a late lunch at the Mexican restaurant” Sunday. I love that day most of all. And yet there is this little girl who I’m so afraid will have nobody is she doesn’t have me and Patrick. Do I cheer for her parents to succeed? Do I hope they fail miserably so she can come back to us? I sort of love when we cuddle on my bed and watch a movie while we brush each other’s hair and kiss each other’s cheeks. Patrick NEVER lets me braid his hair.

Or, when the time comes, do I wash all her little clothes, pack them in a suitcase (newly purchased, probably one of the worst purchases I’ll ever have to make), give her so many hugs and try to hide the fact that part of me is dying as I whisper in her ear that I will always, always be on her team and that I will always love the little person who taught me to be mama.

This isn’t even on the immediate horizon. It isn’t even decided. But yesterday was the first time someone looked at me and said “Yes, she will be going home. I am certain.” And I just wasn’t there yet and didn’t realize that anyone else was either.

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