The best for last

Our little foster baby is almost 6 months old, where has the time gone?! Of course anything can happen in the foster care world, but at this point we are tentatively thinking that she will be our keeper baby, which also means that she is our last baby we will have. I’m finding myself feeling a lot more sentimental about the material parts of babyhood as she outgrows them, putting those premie/newborn/0-3 clothes in the donate pile may or may not have brought a couple tears. That’s big stuff for me since I’m usually the heart of stone type person! I suppose the flip side of this is that I’m content to let the slow snuggly days pass as they are without wishing she’d hit whatever milestone I think would make the days easier. I definitely cheered and took a video, or tried to, at the first laugh, the first roll, etc., but I’m not rushing it like I did with Ali. She’s the best baby ever, so enjoying these baby days are easy. With Ali, there was a lot of hormonal and first time mom stuff going on. The baby days were precious, but not very enjoyable. There was so much anxiety about everything from the simple stuff like leaving the house to the hard stuff like sleep. The boys were older when they came to live with us. 13 and 26 months is still babyish, but they weren’t babies. Plus they had some serious physical and emotional stuff that impacted that whole first year they were with us that typical children don’t have.

This baby though…she’s perfection. She’s eating and pooping and growing like a champ. She rides in the car without screaming. She’s smiley and happy most of the time. She is content to play with toys or coo and babble with her best friend the ceiling fan. And, brace yourself people, she sleeps through the night! I guess I paid my no sleep dues with the other three, the universe must have taken pity on me and granted me one of those unicorn sleeping babies. Or, it was all the pot mom smoked while pregnant and she’s not sober yet. Either way I’ll take it.

The other three are doing well. The boys still aren’t fully adopted, that probably won’t happen until next fall-ish. Parent’s rights were recently terminated, which is good at least! The department of children’s services here in Indiana has been on the news quite a bit recently, some shakeups at the top with leadership and some scrutiny from the media on the huge number of kids in foster care, well above regional and national averages. The opioid crisis has hit us hard, lots of addicts having babies and all the complications and misery that comes with that. But, a big factor is how the courts drag their feet with bio parents. The boys’ case is a prime example. Every service provider from about 4 months in has been adamantly against reunification. Bio parents have not done their services, have had criminal involvement, have had very few clean drug screens, haven’t had visits in over a year and a half. Case will still be active for about 3 years, it’s crazy. Oh well. Even though the legal piece isn’t in place yet, they are our boys, our sons, our daughter’s brothers. The legal part is important, but not (usually) relevant in our daily life.

Ali is still equal parts awesome and naughty. I get that her strong will and stubbornness will make her a total boss-lady someday, but I wish she’d just fucking calm down and follow the rules sometimes. Kurt, the older boy hates being in trouble so he doesn’t push the limits very often. Kasey, the younger boy, does crazy stuff like get up and make toast at 3am, stuff that you’re not sure whether to praise or scold him. Seriously, his midnight snacking was crazy for a minute. He’s a sneaky little ninja so I’m sure there was a lot we didn’t know about, but the smell of toast alerted us to that one, and a falling box of macaroni alerted us to the time we found him in the pantry scarfing down twinkies. He earned himself an alarm on the door, seems to have stopped it all. Ali though? She’s just plain naughty. ‘No’ is her word of choice these days. She balances it out with saying ‘I love you mommy’ just as much, which is her saving grace. That and how damn cute she is, who can stay mad at a face like this?

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Sweet spot

Hi guys! As usual, I have several half started posts in my drafts that have been interrupted for one reason or another, and never finished. Right now is one of the sweet spots in the day, so let’s see what happens!

I think a lot of you follow me on one social media platform or another, so you know we have had a baby the last month or so. She was placed with us at 5 days old, right out of the hospital. Parenting a newborn the second time around has been infinitely easier, but harder in some ways, than the first time. Taking the hormones and the exhaustion from the birth itself and breastfeeding out of the picture has made this sooooo much more enjoyable. I’m not gripped with anxiety and on edge about everything, which is more comfortable for everyone including the baby, I think. I know every baby has a different personality, but man. She sleeps, she eats, she stares at things, she rarely fusses or cries, all a far cry from Ali’s babyhood personality. Overall she’s just a little dream baby, such a wonderful little addition to our family.

The hard things revolve around us not having any maternity leave. When she first came to us, I was finishing up the on boarding process for the hospital I work at, so had lots of extra hours I had to work. At one point I averaged 60 hrs per week while taking care of a 2-3 week old. It sucked, and there was a lot of guilt around leaving her with a sitter that young. Thankfully that’s over, and I’m doing my normal amount of hours. We struck gold with our sitter, she’s amazing, so I feel a lot more comfortable with sending the baby. Plus she’s a little bit older which makes a difference.

So, about the baby’s case. Is she going be a keeper? Who knows. The mom is pretty low functioning MR, so she won’t be placed back with her mother. Side note, what kind of man has sex with a low functioning MR woman? A piece of shit rapist, that’s who. The family knows who he is, but isn’t giving up the name to social services. (I get a bit of the inside scoop from a coworker who is a distant relative.) Anyway… mom isn’t an option, dad apparently isn’t interested. There’s a great aunt who said she would take the baby ‘someday when she’s a little older’. So, I guess maybe someday she will go back to family? Who knows. I just try to live in the moment and enjoy the snuggles while she’s here.

The other kids are doing well. Ali turned 4 last week, I can hardly believe it! She seems so big, and mature these days. Well, she is objectively big, it’s true. She wears size 5/6 in clothing, and the 5s are pretty much too small after this most recent growth spurt. Man, keeping this kid clothed is expensive! Once you get out of the toddler section, the prices really jump up!

Thankfully, Ali seems to be pulling out of the horror show of three year old emotions. The adjectives angry, mean, and defiant apply to her less and less these days. I’m seeing a lot more cheerful, easygoing, and sassy. I like it. I feel like she’s going through a lot of emotional and academic leaps right now. She’s still Ali. She’s still strong willed and wants things a certain way, but she’s more open to reason and logic now. She can wait for whatever it is she’s trying to get/do and it’s ok. She’s a lot more compassionate towards her siblings, and I willing to slow down and help them if they need it. She often helps Kasey put his shoes on, and will feed the baby when we are rushing around in the morning. And she seems to like being a helper, that’s the most surprising part! Academically, she’s doing some cool stuff too. She knows all of her letters and their sounds, and is working on sight words. The Montessori model offers work/lessons in all the areas, but let’s the kid choose where they focus their energy depending on their interests at that time. Right now she’s interested in words and language, so she’s doing some amazing things with it! Kurt, on the other hand, is more interested in the hands on, mechanics of things, so he’s working on handwriting. It’s cool to see how the Montessori stuff plays out now that they are doing more academics and less play. I mean, I get that play is super important, all that pouring and scribbling strengthens muscles and promotes hand/eye coordination, etc, but as a trained elementary teacher I like seeing how the reading/writing/arithmetic are built.

Kurt continues to be the easiest and the hardest kid out of the bunch. He’s super compliant, he will do whatever you tell him to do pretty much right away. He’s a follower by nature, so it all depends on who he’s following at the moment. Last school year there were some wild, rowdy boys in his class, so he fell in step with them. There were lots of meetings with teachers about aggression and rudeness. It got to the point where I would go in and sit in the classroom occasionally when he was acting out a lot. We also got a behavior specialist to work with him as well. This year, things are 1000% better. Maybe because he is with older kids who aren’t as wild? Maybe because there aren’t many boys in his class? Maybe the specialist is working? Maybe he’s just grown out of it? Whatever the reason is, I’m thankful. The trade off is that he’s become majorly whiny. Like, whoa. It’s to the point where I tell him not to talk to me until he can use his normal voice. That probably doesn’t go very well with the compassionate parenting thing, but I don’t care. I hate whining. Here’s hoping this phase won’t last too long!

What can I say about Kasey? He’s still just the cutest damn thing. He’s friendly and affectionate, loves helping with the baby, loves wearing dress up heels, loves pretend play, and loves all the animals. He’s very concerned with justice and fairness, wants things just a certain way (maybe even more so than Ali!), and loves antagonizing the older kids. I often find little scenes he’s set up with his toys around the house.

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4 under 4

I remember this time last year when we were saying we had 3 kids under 3, and how crazy it all felt. This time, with 4 under 4, everything just feels so much more doable. Part of it is that 3 year olds are way more reasonable than 2 year olds, and part of it is that after a certain point adding a kid isn’t such a shock to the family, and part of it is that I’m a different mom than I was a few years ago. With Ali I completely pushed my needs aside to tend to her, now I’m more likely to look for a balance. Like, if I’m in the middle of dinner and the baby starts crying, I don’t pick her up and walk around bouncing and shushing like I used to do. I pat her, tell her she’s ok, and pick her up when I’m done eating. Little things like that help keep me a much more pleasant mom. 

I think we are paying for getting cocky about how good Ali has been doing. She’s currently sliding into this alarmingly sassy, super emotional phase. For the first time ever, she’s saying no to us! She’s stomping her foot and crying real tears over weird things! Somehow she’s surviving on a diet consisting entirely of lucky charms, fruit snacks, and fig bars! Keeping her busy and making sure to put aside some special Ali/mommy time is helping ease it, and hopefully her moodiness won’t last long. She’s not all bad though, there’s a lot of good stuff too. She’s still really affectionate, she’s finally interested in books (and learning to read!) and can follow pretty long stories. Her attention span is awesome, she will spend an hour or more doing puzzles or building stuff. She’s still fearless and has the scrapes and bruises that prove it. I was actually a little alarmed at how beat up she was when I gave her a bath, but I suppose that’s just a childhood rite of passage. ​

One of the saving graces for us is that when Ali is ina difficult phase, Kurt tends to be more even keeled, and vice versa. Kurt is in one of those awesome sweet spots, which is more rare for him. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Kurt has quite a few mental health diagnoses which manifest themselves as aggression with peers, lying and manipulation, and defiance of authority figures. We found this program that specializes in working with kids his age and got him into it (it really pays off when your wife is a well known social worker around town, and can expedite things because she’s friends with everyone’s bosses…), and man it’s made a world of difference! His teachers now talk about what a fun, interesting kid he is instead of giving me yet another report of how he hurt a peer and/or threw a giant tantrum. He actually has friends, and 3 moms gave me their numbers to set up play dates on the last day of school! Now that the more difficult behaviors are lessened, what’s left are behaviors that seem to be signs of anxiety and low self esteem. I’ve never been a big fan of having kids on medications, I think we tend to go overboard with the ADD/ADHD stuff, but I’m pretty sure Kurt will end up on something when he enters elementary school. His mind skitters from topic to topic, he talks and talks and talks but it’s mostly a circular conversation that barely makes sense, he absolutely cannot focus on something if that’s not where his mind is at already. Right now that’s all ok when he’s in the Montessori model of learning, but public school will eat him alive if he still displays those traits. Aside from all that, he has some really great stuff going on too. He can totally dress himself independently, including shoes, which is really nice. Sometimes he’s the only person that can get Ali out of a funk, she will put her head in his lap and he will pet her hair and tell her everything will be ok. He’s also really good at taking things apart, putting them together, and figuring out how stuff works, it’s kind of amazing sometimes how easily he understands mechanical and coding toys. 

Kasey is just so very two. He twos hard all day every day. You’re equally likely to see him streaking past in a mish mash of dress up outfits, throwing himself on the floor crying about the latest injustice done to him, poking bugs with sticks, or carrying the cat around. He loves animals of all kinds-especially sharks, eating all the food, and swimming in the pool whether it’s 70 or 90 degrees outside. Really, being outside in general is his thing, it’s totally his happy place. He’s also at that phase where they put together words kind of funny, with some hilarious results. Like that one time when he somehow dropped a french fry down his pant leg (I have no idea how that’s even possible), and he was yelling ‘hot leg, hot leg!’ until we figured out what he did. Or how he calls swimming ‘puddle jumping’ because he wears a puddle jumper. I was most worried about how he would react when accepting a baby because he’s very much the baby of the family. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that he is actually the one that is most interested in her, and the one that always tries to entertain and soothe her when needed. He’s almost as into the baby as he is the cat, which is really saying something! 

We sometimes talk about what kind of adults we think the kids will be based on their current personalities. We think Ali will be some sort of type A high achieving person, she craves excitement and praise, she’s definitely a boss lady. Kurt craves stability and predictability, he will be the steady eddy, who will work the same job for 40 years and live in the same house forever. Kasey though, Kasey is my hedonistic one who craves the physical pleasures. He’s going to be my hippy child who spends some time blowing in the wind, traveling the country in his shitty car, playing guitar different places and drinking expensive craft beers. 

That brings us to Z, our newest addition. A week and a half in and I can say, she’s a dream baby. She sleeps 12+ hrs a night, goes down for naps easy peasy, doesn’t cry very much, usually just during the nightmare diaper changes and cast care routine. She is just as content having her bottles being held or being put down on her own. She’s a cheerful little thing that’s always smiling and screeching that baby pterodactyl sound they all make when they find their voices. I bet she was a busy baby, crawling and getting into everything before her accident and the cast, so I might change my tune about her being a dream baby once it’s off and she has more freedom. We aren’t that far from the baby days with the other kids, so the house is still fairly baby proofed, but I’m sure she will surprise me when she gets mobile again. 

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Three things on a Thursday. 

  1. It feels weird to be back in baby land again. It’s been so long since I’ve thought about all those tense baby issues like breastfeeding, co-sleeping, sleep issues, strollers vs. carriers, purées vs. whatever that’s called where you just give them pieces of regular food, etc. I decided long ago to stop caring about what the internet thinks and to do my own thing, sometimes my own thing fell along with the internet crowd and sometimes my own thing fell along with the old school way of parenting. Obviously quite a few of these parenting choices are not choices for me, it’s not like I can breastfeed this kid and co-sleeping is absolutely not allowed. Poor thing has a giant cast with a bar connecting each leg, so I can’t put her in a carrier, she has to go in a stroller. It’s an interesting position to be in, raising someone else’s baby under strict rules set forth by other people. 
  2. My grandpa died a little over a week ago, which has been super sad but also sort of a relief. He’s been sick and miserable for more than a year, and my poor grandma has taken care of him this whole time. The funeral left me with a few things to think about, mainly my role? duty? I’m not sure what to call it, as a wife as well as what kind of an impression I want to leave behind. My grandparents were married for 64 years, with all of the ups and downs you could imagine would happen in that long of a time. Jen and I probably won’t make it to 64 years, we met too late in life, but it’s possible to make it to 50. The question is, what do I want those 50 years to look like? We have both agreed that we are ok with putting our relationship on the back burner while the kids are young, something had to give and that’s what was sacrificed. I guess my thought now is to make sure we don’t push our relationship so far back that we lose sight of it completely. When you look at the whole arc of your married life, only 10-15ish years out of 50 are spent with little kids, the rest of the time is just the two of you. The other thing that I’ve been thinking about is my legacy. My grandpa gave the impression of a lot of regrets. He felt like providing for the family was more important than enjoying it. He was a man of few words, getting to know him was difficult. Those aren’t the kinds of things that I want highlighted at my funeral, which means I should be who I want people to see me as. But who exactly do I want people to see me as? I think that question is what I need to keep in mind during my everyday interactions with family and friends. 
  3. Omg, are you all watching the handmaidens tale? If you’re not, you should be!
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Tasty Tuesday 

Here’s another writing prompt post, this one about one of my favorite things, food! I love everything about food; growing it, cooking it, preserving it, and best of all, eating it!

Most of last year was kind of a whirlwind. I had so much going on with school, starting a new job that’s third shift, and adding kids to the family, that food is one of the things that got pushed aside. I tried different variations of meal planning that helped sometimes, but more often than not take-out or frozen chicken nuggets made it onto our plates. I suppose the silver lining here is that I’ve finally embraced my love of frozen tater tots, and I’ve discovered that the kids’ favorite place to eat out is this tiny Vietnamese hole in the wall which makes my foodie heart pretty happy. Weird fish cakes, Kim chi, and seaweed for the win!

Now though? Now that I have more time, I’m finding myself leafing through my cookbooks and cooking magazines, excited again to plan and put together meals. I’m anxiously awaiting the strawberry picking schedule so I can take the kids picking and make jam. I’ve ordered a few mason jar airlocks for some small batch fermented things. I’ve made a couple cakes that didn’t come from a box. I feel myself settling back into one of my most favorite hobbies, and I’m excited for the return to normal. 

Now for the tasty part. This is the latest recipe that has made it into my recipe book. It’s a quick and easy dish, as most of the additions over the last few years have been, but it’s pretty good and kid approved. 

Chicken & Goat Cheese Skillet

  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tomatoes, puréed 
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp oil

Salt and pepper chicken, cook in oil. Remove from pan and set aside. Sautée asparagus for a couple minutes. Add tomato purée and garlic powder, cook until softened. Add chicken, goat cheese, and milk,  stir until heated through and cheese is melted. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice. 

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Microblog Monday

Hi people! 

I keep thinking I want to pick this blog back up again, and have started and deleted quite a few times. It’s been so long that it’s hard to know where to start, so maybe just quick little thoughts will help me get back into the flow of things. So here are a few things that have been going on around here:

  • I finished nursing school. That was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, thank god that’s over! I’m so glad to just work and go home, no more classes/homework/papers. 
  • The boys are doing well, still plugging away at the adoption process. Their mom has decided to dig her heels in and fight which has been interesting. It’s interesting because her version of getting her shit together involves things like stalking the kids’ therapists, threatening to shoot the caseworker, getting beaten up and put in the hospital by yet another boyfriend, things like that. 
  • We got another baby! A 6 month old little girl with a couple broken legs, in this shit show of a cast called a hip spica cast. This thing goes from a little under her armpits to her ankle on one side and her toes on the other. It’s been a crazy couple days trying to remember how to take care of a baby that age and learning how to finangle the diapering situation, the learning curve is steep my friends. 
  • All three of the kids have been surprisingly awesome with the baby. All of them are doing everything they can to help out, it’s so cute! Whenever she cries at least one of them comes running and tries to soothe her. 
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3 little piggies

The kids are eating us out of house and home! Seriously, where do they even put it all? A costco sized flat of apples, gone in two days. A 24 pack of hotdogs, gone in a week. A box of teddy grahams, gone in an afternoon. A dozen eggs, barely enough for a meal. A clamshell of strawberries, just enough for a light snack between second breakfast and first lunch. Good thing Jen got a raise this year, hehe. 

Of course the natural consequence of all that eating is that all three are growing out of their clothes, darn it. On the bright side, little Kasey can wear all the stuff Kurt grows out of, on the not so bright side we still have to get stuff for two of them. I’ve been looking at clothes online and in different stores, trying to catch some deals on spring and summer stuff, and let me tell you the selection for girls is just awful! The boys are easy, there are trucks and dinosaurs and outer space aplenty, all cute things. Or you can go the classic polo shirt and khaki style if you don’t want all that, still plenty of options. Now girls, they currently have shirts that have emojis all over them, or say stuff like #weekend or #selfie or #beachlyfe. The new style is also to have bare shoulders, even with sweaters! There’s like, a neck area and some sleeves connected at the armpit, but nothing in the shoulder area. Maybe (probably) im just an old lady with no style, but I think it looks super weird. Shopping in the girl section really makes me miss toddler clothes! Where are the unicorns and zebras in tutus and kittens covered in glitter? Sigh…

The boys are both doing well, nothing really going on with their case to talk about. We are still looking at terminating parental rights this summer, and still don’t have to do visits with either parent which is nice. Little Kasey has made so much progress verbally that he will just finish out the quarter and be done with speech therapy. He’s hilarious, he makes me remember how much I love the stage when they first learn to talk. He’s really a great kid, he’s everything you want a 2 year old to be. He’s always chugging trains or chasing his siblings with a plastic snake or singing majorly off key versions of songs or putting on crazy dress up outfits. He’s pretty much always wearing either his ninja turtle snow boots or these god awful high heel princess shoes. He wears the heels so much he’s a pro in them. He can run, jump, go down stairs, he’s better in heels than I ever have been that’s for sure! Silly guy. 

Kurt and Ali are just plugging along, being awesome. I’ve noticed a big shift in maturity lately, it’s nice. They don’t fight nearly as much as before and are much more tolerant of Kasey’s snatching and stuff. It really struck me how different life is the other day when we were riding bikes on one of the local bike paths. Well, Kurt and Ali were riding anyway, Kasey isn’t quite there yet with the bike situation. At one point Jen and I were trying to hurry Kasey up while he was busy peering into yet another street drain, and we realized that Kurt and Ali were up ahead just chatting and waiting for us, and I wasn’t freaked out that one would run off into traffic or fall into the river or something equally disastrous. What a change from the constant vigilance and major stress from last summer! It made me realize how hard it will be to go back to that if/when we have another baby. 

Speaking of babies, we got a call a few days or a week ago to take a 3 month old. It killed me to say no, but we just can’t take anything else on until may when I’m done with school. Between work, clinical, and class I’m gone about 50 hours a week, plus I have homework and all the wife and mom duties. This situation is a role reversal for Jen and I, and neither of us likes it. She goes stir crazy spending so much time at home and interacting mostly with the kids, I love that shit. The end is near though, then we can get back to our regular routine and I’ll make halfway decent money instead of the peanuts I currently make. 

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