This is war

Another successful meeting with our social worker. Successful because this past month we’ve survived the dentist, the doctor’s office, vaccinations, Kindergarten registration for Big J, Head Start registration for Little J, meetings with teachers and counselors and our Licensor. Check ins with our CASA (Court Approved Special Advocate), our Family Liaison at school, and our social worker.

Nobody warned me that I’d have to put on armor and fight for just about everything. It’s maddening. There is so much bureaucracy, a result of DSHS being ruled by a budget. And I get it, I really do. If it wasn’t that way, everyone would have a Massage Envy subscription for stress management and a pantry full of Le Creuset. It’s the same reason we don’t go out to eat every night – it’s not a necessary expense. But ensuring that you both are healthy, and happy and THRIVING, that you have the means to be resilient — everything related to that goal is necessary. Everything.

Back in December a woman from DSHS called me and asked me a series of questions from a pre-printed questionnaire, twice – for both of you. It was maybe 7 minutes of dialogue each time and at the end of this approximate 15 minute phone call the lady determined that Little J was not in need of any sort of  Mental Health Counseling or evaluation. I was stunned. Livid. I mean how can someone who has never met you, who hasn’t heard your full story, who can’t even begin to comprehend the depth of what you’ve experienced determine that after a brief phone call? How does she have that kind of authority? She isn’t a licensed mental health practitioner… given her job title, she may have a bachelor’s degree, and that’s a coin toss. Come on, she reads from a script all day. And the decisions she has the authority to make are life altering. It’s scary. Her reasoning was that you were probably young enough that your memories of any trauma, any neglect would be low. You are 3 years old and scientifically there is probably some truth to that. You don’t remember much about your biological parents – in fact, you recently saw your biological mother at your maternal grandma’s funeral and you didn’t know who you were looking at when she asked to take a photo with you and Big J. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need any help or services. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need play therapy or a safe neutral place to talk to a professional and process what you’ve experienced. I wanted you to be assessed by someone possessing the appropriate qualifications to make that judgment. And your teachers and family liaison at school were 100% on board, they even prepared documentation of behaviors and concerns for you. So at our court date, I asked the judge to please order at the very least an assessment. And he graciously agreed, stating “I order that Little J be given an assessment…” That day I messaged our CASA, our social worker, the counseling team, and let them know. We should have had you in your initial intake for counseling the very next day… but the counseling team and DSHS would not allow it as the judge had not created a written order. They said this order was purely verbal and would not count. I sat in court with both the AAG and DSHS Supervisor, and it’s egregious that they didn’t have record of this order – someone could have pushed this through. So we pressed on with our CASA and about a week – week and a half later we had the written order for treatment. And, within an hour of receiving that news, I had you scheduled for a 2 hour intake appointment where we’d later meet your counselor and play with a PT Cruiser Barbie car together on her office floor.

… what about the kids in foster care that don’t have someone to negotiate for them, to fight these battles? God only knows, there’s a million+ What happens to them? Or the kids whose foster parents don’t have the time and energy to advocate for these necessities? It’s a FIGHT for just about everything. I have the freedom of being my own boss and setting my work hours around your agenda and needs. That’s a luxury most foster parents don’t have. We are so fortunate, I can’t even begin to express  how lucky we are. To have you in our lives. To make ends meet. To advocate for you. The system is broken in more ways than I can count. But you will always have people on your team that will go to bat for you any day of the week.

Love you,
Nikki

 

Oh to be young again

IMG_7057

Big J, Little J,

These are the moments I will miss when I’m old and you’ve flown the coop. The joyful laughter, giggles and squeals as you run through the sprinklers on an 84 degree day (we get like 4 of these in Seattle…). Not a care in the world. Bliss. This was a good reminder for me to relax a little and not take life so seriously. Put the phone down. Close the iPad. If that client’s deal is meant to be, it’ll be. There’s nothing that needs your immediate attention in this moment, so don’t miss it. 

We have a home visit early tomorrow morning with our social worker; our 3rd social worker in the 6 months we’ve had you. It’s not you, it’s their job. The job of a social worker is intense and requires that they see and handle some extremely difficult situations, while carrying an impossible caseload. There’s a high burn out rate. I should be picking up the 52 pairs of shoes scattered through the house or folding the 12 loads of laundry waiting for me. But I’m not motivated to do either- partly due to the hellish work life balance of today and partly due to the fact that I know this lady walks through 40+ homes a month and there’s gotta be a hoarder in there somewhere to make me look good. (Please God, please let there be a hoarder or two on this lady’s caseload so that my house doesn’t look so bad. I’m so tired.)

Celebrating the little wins

family outing to HD

This. All of this. Never in my wildest dreams did I envision having a family before 30. And I love it. Big J, Little J, you bring so much joy to our lives. I am convinced that the sun and the moon rise and set with you.

Today upon picking you up from school, your teachers mentioned that you both had wonderful days. I even got a note from Teacher R on purple construction paper that read, [Big] J had an AWESOME day! He helped rub kids’ backs during nap time, was kind to others, and read books to the younger kids. I want to celebrate every step toward progress that you make while boosting your self esteem so we celebrated with Starbucks frappuccinos (I had an iced americano), and cheers-ed each other in the drive thru before heading off to show houses to our newest client. You’re the best little real estate agents!

After showing homes to our client, we went out to dinner with Mauricio to celebrate you (you’ve both had a great week) – at a little hole in the wall Mexican restaurant that you enjoy. Big J calls it his favorite rice and bean place, which we think is hilarious. And now everyone is calling it that. Afterwards we picked up the puppy and headed to Home Depot, which as of this month happens to be your favorite store – we got really lucky with that one since we are in the middle of a full house remodel and practically live at Home Depot.

Anyways, this snapshot above is glimpse into our crazy-wonderful-chaotic-hilarious life. Love you,

Nikki

Fix You

Little J, Big J, I just found out that a friend of mine from elementary school and junior high committed suicide. It’s devastating. I should be looking at photos of a wedding, work achievements, travel, goofing off with friends, a couple of awkward selfies, photos of family, etc… not an obituary.

It’s important to me that you never wonder your worth. Always know that you are loved.

You are valuable. You bring so much to this world. Don’t for one second buy into the lie that you are not enough or that this world or your family or your friends or your peers would be better off without you. You are exactly what this world needs. All of you. Everyday. No matter how messy life gets, no matter how bad you think you may have messed up, no matter how scared or hurt or angry or sad or betrayed or whatever you feel, keep on swimming. YOU MATTER. I know life can be exhausting; I’ve been there. Just keep on keepin’ on. It won’t always be this hard. Trust me. Please, ask for help. You don’t have to go down this road alone. You are worth more than gold. Your future is bright. You are loved and this will pass.

Let me be there for you if you ever find yourself wondering. If you ever find yourself broken. I will fix you.

Love you,

Nikki

I. Don’t. Like. You.

Four words. Who knew that a 3 year old could bring me to my knees with these four simple words. Uncle!” my heart cried, holding up the white flag. Nearly 90 minutes later and the sting is there. You didn’t mean it though, Little J. I know you don’t. I love you, I’m here for you, and nothing is going to change that.

… dinner tonight was a complete fail… you were mad at me for making you sit at the table and try something new. Stuffed peppers. “It’s Mexican pizza,” I lied, trying to convince you this would be your next favorite meal. After watching you poke at it with a fork, I stuffed some of the ground beef and seasoned rice filling into a tortilla along with slices of the bell pepper so that you could eat it like a taco. And you did… but you were suddenly filled with anger when it came time to finish dinner. So we gave you a time out to calm yourself down. You started shoving chairs, slamming cabinets and yelling. This is the first time I’ve seen you so angry. You were sent to bed for the rest of the night. At the top of your lungs you screamed “I don’t like you!!!” and stomped your feet down on each stair as you went up to your bedroom. Clenching my chest from the slide jab you delivered, I half whispered “You don’t mean it.” Oh my heart.

This became a teachable moment for your brother, Big J, who is 5 years old and remembers and relives the traumas you both have experienced. Life has been confusing for him as many changes have taken place. All you need to know is that you have a biological Mom and Dad that love you very much – they can’t make safe and healthy choices – so your family gave us you.

Life is messy and confusing, and things happen to us that we have no control over. But what we do have control over is how we react. Big J was just diagnosed with anxiety. When we first got you boys, Big J would clench his fist, his jaw, turn red in the face and shake with anger at the smallest changes / inconveniences for him; then he’d fall into a ball and cry hysterically. Over the past 6 months that we’ve had you, it’s been at least a month since his last meltdown (a huge increase from the early days when it happened several times a day). That’s progress.

Here are four words for you: I’M. NOT. LEAVING. YOU. I’m not leaving you. There’s nothing you can do to make my love for you disappear. So push boundaries my little dove. Raise hell. Get mad. Process your emotions. There is so much good ahead of you, I promise it won’t be this hard all the time. The future is bright!

Love you,

Nikki