day in the life

Friday, November 13, 2015

5:50 am – Middle school son’s alarm goes off. Continue to try to sleep.

6:30 am – Hear first toddler’s rumblings. Lay there anyway.

6:45 am – Wake up elementary kids. Endure both school girls’ loud stomping.

7 am – All children awake. Half of them are crying.

7:23 am – Yell at children to get out the door to the bus because no one happened to listen when I said “Watch for the bus” and so it’s waiting on them. One leaves without glasses. All leave without coats. 

7:25 am – Feed Bonnie and Clyde breakfast. They stand at the kitchen door like the goats at our local dairy waiting for the tourists to feed them their pellets. They scream at each other because they cannot be bothered to eat their own food from their own bowls even though both have been served exactly the same thing.

7:45 am – I try to consume some coffee. Two sips.

8 am – I try to interest Bonnie and Clyde in toys. They refuse. Running on the top of the table wins out. In between scolding, bribing, and time outs, I have to forcibly remove them from the top of the table approximately 85 times in the next 20 minutes.

8:25 am – Someone forgot to shut the eldest son’s door completely. I replace his belongings, I climb up into the loft to remove the child who thinks if they just crawl to the back corner that I will let them remain up there. I shut the door.

8:27 am – I realize that when I shut the door, I only managed to actually remove one toddler from the room. The other commences loud banging and MAMAMAMAMMA from the other side until I retrieve them.

8:30 am – I find the eldest daughter’s glasses in her room. I spend several minutes deciding whether or not I should take them to her. I decide to do it, if only because it means the toddlers will be strapped into their carseats for a half hour.

8:40 am –While I’m getting dressed, the toddlers find my laptop and change the screen orientation. Something they often do and something that I yet to figure out how it happens and exactly how to fix it without twenty minutes of four hundred steps and restarts.

9 am – I load Bonnie and Clyde in the van. I leave them in there for a bit so I can brush my teeth, pick up some toys, and drink a half-cup of coffee.

9:30 am – We return from the school, and I lock Bonnie and Clyde in the kitchen with me so I can work on dinner. I decide to try to save pennies by using a bunch of stuff we already have in the fridge. While I’m layering up what I’ve decided to call enchilada casserole, Clyde grabs the sour cream off of the counter, goes through the gate that apparently I did not latch tight enough, and proceeds to eat it in the dining room, on the carpet, by the fistful. I find him and the carpet and the dog covered in sour cream moments later.

9:47 am – After mess clean-up, I return to the kitchen, making sure the gate is securely shut behind me. While I’m chopping something on the cutting board, Bonnie and Clyde open the fridge, pull out a dozen eggs, and proceed to smash three on the floor and one on the dog’s head.

10 am – The dog and I have successfully cleaned up the raw egg mess AND prevented the toddlers from consuming raw egg in the process. I stick the dinner in the fridge for later, and we move on to the living room.

10:10 am – Is it naptime? I give Bonnie and Clyde a snack which only succeeds in kicking off thirty solid minutes of crying for lunch.

10:40 am – I try to distract them with toys. I try to distract them with books. We end up ‘playing the piano’ together.

10:55 am – I stick the popcorn chicken (non-hormone, non-antibiotic popcorn chicken, obvs) in the oven. Bonnie and Clyde get out their plates, cry for water, cry because their plates are empty, cry because I won’t give them candy before lunch, cry, cry, cry until the timer rings upon which they commence dancing and jumping “FOOD IS DONE! FOOD IS DONE!”

11:15 – Lunch is over. That was a short reprieve.

11:30 – Diapers changed, lunch cleaned up, and I sit down with Clyde to put him to sleep. Bonnie sits beside us with her binkie and blanket. 

11:45 – Clyde is asleep and in bed. I put Bonnie to sleep in her bed. 

12 noon – Here’s where I should accomplish adult tasks. Instead I find the rest of my cup of coffee, and I’m not proud of this next fact, but I drink it anyway. Then I nap.

I’d write about the afternoon too, but I’m too tired.
Blessed are you, mamas of multiple toddlers, for one day, they shall grow up and then you can rest.

photo credit: via photopin (license)


Friday, November 6, 2015

This afternoon, I was sitting in my living room, watching two toddlers, who finally seem to have found their groove, chat and play. One without words, one with more words than a two-and-a-half year old should rightfully have, one with a strong biting habit, one who is so used to being the adored baby of the family that it’s been a rough transition to sharing, one who has pain that we can’t begin to understand right now…these two are bridging that barriers and learning to be friends. Little Man wants to show affection; Mira is cautious. Mira wants to play ball; Little Man can only throw straight up in the air and bonk himself in the head. It’s been joy and delight to watch these two find their way in this transitional duet. It’s been pain and fighting and household destruction as well. It’s been hard.

A couple hours later, we drove to our run-down city to drop Little Man off to see his mama and siblings for the first time since he came. Four weeks to the day from when he arrived at our home. This is not at all typical for placements in our county. Usually, we begin visits within a week of placement. They don’t want to keep parents and children apart. I’m not quite sure what the delay was, but I do know our county is overwhelmed with kids this year. Foster care rates are once again rising, and there are still not enough homes.

The visitation center is packed full when we drove in. It’s been years since we’ve had to do visits at the visitation center. Our last two placements both had home visits with parent aides, so there was no need for the scheduling chaos that working with the visitation center requires. The snapshot of that visitation center on a packed full night is one of trauma and pain. Parents are crying, children are crying, foster parents and social workers are trying to wrangle children in and out of vehicles, trying to force them to stay in the rooms where they don’t even want to be, trying to drag them back to cars to go back to homes where they don’t want to be living. Fast food, sugary drinks, dye-laden cupcakes are on the menu for these supper-hour visits.

There’s a smell to this particular building. Not really a bad smell, just a very particular smell. Despite changes to the interior and a turnover in management, this building smells the same as it did the first time I walked into it more than six years ago. I wonder if someday these children will remember this smell – one of those trauma triggers that hold over from this part of their childhood. I wonder if Little Man will forever associate Happy Meals, this smell, and the sound of children crying for their daddy with this time in his life.

He took it all in suspicious stride. No visible reactions, as is his typical way. He keeps things tight to his chest, even at 18 months. There are a lot of people; it’s overwhelming, I’m sure. His lack of emotion saddened his mom, I’m sure. I wanted to make it better for her. I wanted her to look at his curly hair and feel like it’s well-taken of. Did she feel it, I wonder? Did you notice how well I’m keeping it moisturized? I hoped she liked his shoes. Name-brand on purpose, because sometimes those things are really important to people. The irony inherent in my desire to please birth families with how well I’m caring for their children is not lost on me, but the minute I start thinking of myself of better than and above ‘these people’ is the minute that I need to quit doing this job altogether. These families and parents are every bit as worthy of respect and dignity as anyone else on this earth, most especially me.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about visits. I have a lot of mixed feelings about foster care in general. Now we’re full into the middle of this case with visits and team meetings and all that goes with it, the familiar confusing emotions come back. Conflicting desires to reunite and to protect, to love and to keep distance come rushing all back. Most of my days are spent just living life normally, but in foster care, there is a constant weekly (or twice weekly, in our case) reminder that these children are not your own. No matter the groove you find yourself in, there’s a consistent off-beat because it’s not a completely harmonious normal life. Trying to keep our own beat steady with that conflicting rhythm will be a challenge during the next long while. We’ll just keep on singing our song of love and peace and safety, praying that those notes sound forth from our lives, not only into Little Man’s life, but also in the lives of his family as well. 

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