Hacked By XwoLfTn
Long life for Tunisia
long life to Palestine
Hacked By XwoLfTn
Long life for Tunisia
long life to Palestine
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The other night David and I had a hard talk.
It was about four kids, and how exhausting and hard and crazy it all was. How we were up before light, and exhausted and half asleep trying to binge watch something in the evening….remember when we got to binge watch TV, babe? And how we are fighting for moments alone together – when the walk-in bedroom closet is the only place – and struggling to connect, and struggling to finish a conversation, and struggling to meet the huge needs of all our kids, how our kids get so much needier when the foster kids come in, how they all need individual love, how we break apart and soothe them each individually to make sure everyone has enough.
We held hands across the pillow, a sick kid in between us, a metaphor, and wondered if we had enough, to keep us going, to keep or marriage from slowly, inching toward an abyss, and dropping off, without anyone really knowing why it slipped over the edge.
They seemed so happy…. the people would say.
We didn’t stop holding hands.
Two is easier than four. Maybe we should’ve just left well enough alone…WHAT THE HELL DID WE DO????
Then, unable to think about it anymore, we fell asleep. Nothing was parsed out. It was left hanging there between us.
The next day started with the usual business. No time to revisit feelings. There were lunches to pack, faces to wash, foreheads to kiss, problems to untangle. Work, writing, shopping, stacks of paperwork I’ve been putting off for weeks. Two ballet classes, an art class, the little ones’ visit with bio mom, lots of driving from here to there. Every section of the schedule fitting like a tight-ass puzzle of interlocking parts.
And then a call on the road. His bio mom wasn’t coming. He ran to me in the schoolyard, calling my name, hugging my legs. The next thing he said was, “Are we having a visit today?”
I told him no. Hugged him, and said I was sorry. He pretended it didn’t matter and changed the subject. We left it all to be unpacked for later, in the wee hours of the night, in the slanted quiet moments of the day, when he could hear it and speak it and move on from it.
Sigh. Sometimes being a foster parent makes you feel like a placeholder. Like the bio parents are taunting you, “Hey thanks for taking care of my kiddos, and dealing with a whole lotta shit, and creating a quagmire in your life, and fucking with your marriage, so I can do my thing in peace over here….” But sometimes it’s like this mission, where you see what it all really means – How you are the only people who are calm and predictable in a kid’s life. How you are the only ones who show up when you are expected to show up. How you are the people who do exactly as you say you will do and a kid starts to understand this is as normal. His normal. And you know, at seven months into this relationship with these kiddos, he is starting to expect that kind of normal, and he is already a less damaged person in the world because of it.
And you remember why there are so many reasons four is good.
These tiny little wins matter.
David and I are okay. Way better than okay. We make sure of it. This moment, the one in the bed with all the hand holding, happened two weeks ago, and we’ve talked it through, created a plan to make it easier on us, and burned through it to the other side. I found my description of it sitting on the computer this morning. I barely even remember the serious tones that I wrote here. It was 234 traumas and 3,000 feelings ago.
We move fast.
We make choices. Like adding more kids to the family. (Maybe we will even add more after this…There has been talk.) Sometimes these decisions feel like weights, and sometimes they set us free. Choosing to have these two join our older two feels sometimes like we threw ourselves into the eye of a tornado.
But mostly, it feels like we are all so good for each other.
We are at a pool party. Our lovely friends are there. There is laughing, and chatting and a clinging to the end of Summer.
Just a little longer. One more dive off the board.
A girl, about 7, is swimming with our foster son.
“Where is your Mom,”? I hear her ask.
He points to me, sitting on the edge, my feet dangling. The baby is between my knees, sitting on a shallow step, slapping the water.
“No, I mean, where is your Mom?…your real Mom?”
Our boy points again at me, as if she didn’t catch it the first time.
I know what’s going to happen next. First, because I’m adopted, and I’ve answered this line of questioning many times in my life. Also, because I have no idea what he will say, and I’m free-falling a bit, knowing I will simply back up whatever he says, but not knowing what to expect.
We’ll see how this goes…
This is the first time we have done this, answered these pointed, specific questions from a kid. Grown-ups are more coy. They want to hear the hardship tale and the happy ending. But they can handle a No or an “I’m sorry, I can’t.” Kids are different. If they want to know the nitty-gritty of your shit, they’ll keep on asking you until they drive you to your knees. They give zero fucks if they offend your sensibilities. So, I’m freakin’.
But the boy has no idea what the girl is talking about.
“That’s my Mom,” he says, and kind of blows her off, blowing bubbles into the water. He gets she is getting at something, but he isn’t quite sure what.
“That’s not your Mom,” the girls says with so much clarity and confidence in her voice.
“You are a foster kid.”
Boom. She said the words.
I take a breath and hold it. But I let it go when I see his blank stare, and I realize he has no idea he is a foster kid, or even what a foster kid is. And since our last name is Foster, this also confuses the issue altogether. Like, maybe he is a Foster kid, like all of my kids.
This makes me smile.
I step in then. I say to the little girl, “I’m his Mommy.” I say it loud and strong so he hears, and he looks at me like, “duh”.
“The rest is hard to explain,” I say to her gently, when she looks like she might challenge me.
“He has a lot of people who love him.”
This seems to satisfy her and she swims away, the boy after her.
There. That’s settled. For now.
Our family exists in the undefinable in-between – until some court makes it permanent, or doesn’t. Until then, these two are ours and not ours. Someone else’s, but not theirs either. We plan as if every plan will come to fruition. We push them, support them, challenge them, heal them, soothe them, cuddle the hell out of them, as if we will see the results of this work. We might. We might not. We love like it’s always, in the most brazen, in-your-face, I-don’t-give-a-flying-fuck-about-the-future-and-how-it-will-crush-us-way.
We do. Because foster parents do. It’s the job.
They tell you this going in, of course, but you don’t get it until you realize it’s a one-way street, and there are no brakes on your go-cart, and you are barreling ahead 100 MPH. You are just in it, clutching the wheel and screaming your lungs out for dear fucking life, while the wind rips at your face. That’s the emotional side of foster parenting. All in. 100 MPH.
So this is how I explain us – maybe not to kids in pools, but to myself – I’m the Mom. So is she. It’s complicated. Love is big enough to include all of us. The future is uncertain and scary and unknowable. And full of amazing possibilities. This is family. Crazy, messed up, weird family. But still family. And it’s all worth it.
These kids, all of my kids, are worth it.
Love – even love that comes from loss – is magic.
David just came back from Edinburgh. The kids and I had five days alone together.
Let me just say that when you have a great partner, you do feel their absence. There is a space that goes unfilled, not just emotionally, like, “I miss you,” but in all the areas. At first, it seems fine they are gone. We eat easy dinners of frozen food. There are no dishes to be done. Yay! We stay up a little later. We read one more book at bedtime.
It’s fine, we all say to ourselves.
But then the new normal seeps in, and it isn’t as good. It doesn’t run as smoothly. There are cracks and fissures. We hate the frozen food, and we long for a roast chicken dinner. We are tired and need our old sleep rituals. We feel cranky and we don’t now why.
Then, by day four, its friggin’ clear that something is amiss, and the rhythms are off, and there is baby-wailing for no reason and boy-acting-out for no reason, and the voices are louder, and the confusion is greater, we are losing things and the older girls are having tantrums about it. The children need a lot more attention, but I’m just struggling to cook the damned chicken, and I can’t hold them all in my arms and love them all while I cut vegetables, and do dishes and pack lunches, and I need some time to myself, that would be nice, to have a complete uninterrupted thought, but we are in triage mode, so I’m not even thinking about that, that’s laying on a beach in the sun on a far off tropical island fantasy shit.
Okay, so maybe I’m not as patient as I usually am, because everyone is mad. Mad. Mad. Mad.
Just fucking mad.
I control the mood in the house, I know that. So, I change it up. I stop everything that is practical and efficient. I corral them there all there on the couch, and we lay around feet over feet, legs over legs, watching Sharknado for the 3rd time because it’s stupid and awesome and it makes everyone happy. We laugh. We scream. We hide our eyes when the sharks eat the bad guys in lots of tacky, bloody, glorious bits. I let the dishes curdle in the sink. I let the leftover food sit out on the kitchen counter.
This helps. Me giving them all my attention, but I grumble in my head about having to do the dishes at 10 o’clock tonight. Then, I let it go. I smile at them. I kiss their little heads. I rub their little feet. I make fun of Ian Ziering in my head.
And David is on a plane, oh yes he is, somewhere over Greenland, he tells me on International Wi-Fi. But he cannot get here soon enough. For all of us.
Finally he comes. And just stepping through the door, they all run to him, and grab him around the waist, the legs, and the baby toddles over and falls on his feet. It isn’t that second, but maybe an hour or two later – after the hugs and cuddles on the couch that happen before he has even taken off his jacket, that twilight time where they fill him in on everything, their voices and stories overlapping, and gifts, bought at the airport, get handed out and unwrapped – that the normal comes back.
There is dinner, and he and I debrief quickly in the kitchen between quick, the-children-are-watching kisses, and there are baths, and the readying for school, and the uniform that needs to have an emergency washing or else the universe will crack into millions of pieces and the girl-child will explode from embarrassment, and all the other completely essential routines of the night.
He takes a shower to wash off the plane. I make us a cocktail. We hold hands and binge-watch some show we are addicted to. He is jet-lagged, part of his body still lingering in Britain, but most of him is here.
Most of him is here.
And the normal seeps back in. Everything calms down.
I will be able to sleep tonight. First time I’ll get a sound sleep for four nights.
We go back to the way we were, all together. I see our children breathe again, their anxiety quiets like shallow, unmoving puddles of water.
We are okay, put back together.
Back to normal.
I’m trying to write this while Lucy is blaring Hamilton, making me listen to particularly genius lyrics and riffs, ones that speak to
her so personally she must listen to them over and over, as I did when I was her age, with Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt
Cowboy, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and Honky Chateau, singing those lyrics over and over, like they were some kind of
other-worldly manual for the life I wanted to have. I, with my ear to the big speaker. Her, with her ear to the phone.
Edie is clinging to my waist, she is bored so bored so bored, and now they are fighting, screaming at each other, but then again,
they aren’t. Now they are talking in soft tones, talking about how they are going to punch each other, and puke on each other’s
hair, and they laugh, so I know they are not serious, and they tell me they enjoy trash talking each other, the crueler
the better…”You’re so ugly even Hello Kitty said ‘goodbye’ to you,” Edie says, and Lucy responds, “I love your hair. It’s just like
Rapunzel’s….except she has fewer dreads.” They love twisting the words into something nefarious and still coming out of the loop
fine and whole and together. I wonder who I trashed talked as a kid?….No one, only children don’t trash talk the shadows on
the walls. Or did I? And did they respond back? Maybe, so much going on in my head back then, in my room, being the only one.
They are watching something on TV now and they turn to tell me various things happening in the storyline. I don’t care about the
details, but I love being in the room with them, hearing their chatter, their constant love – almost addiction for – each other’s
attention, so much reaching out to each other, so much slapping and soothing, slapping and soothing, slapping and soothing.
At the same time, I want to flee this room, with them in it, and be alone in silence and quiet and my own thoughts, and words, my
own shadows, dark and looming as they may be. Burr is getting on my last wired nerve, playin’ over and friggin’ over. Edie, she
plops down on top of me – a loving, longing hug that stops my freedom to move, and smothers me in her deep, limitless heart –
and pins my right arm down, underneath her, and I cannot bang out another word.
The words simply stop.
They stop because I am surrounded by my people. I am not an only anymore. Nothing is just mine. Thank God my tolerance for
aloneness has been loosened and un-cinched by their insistence.
They do not care that I write, as long as I write about them, as if my quiet time, any time I have, is still also theirs.
And Edie is reading this over my shoulder.
Last night we went to a birthday party.
It was one of those wonderful parties, thrown by a wonderful family, with swimming, and tea parties and a bedlam of kids, big and small, clamoring through the house, with their still wet feet and just out of floaties.
Exactly how you want to celebrate a two-year-olds birthday.
David was there for the first hour, and there weren’t many kids, so our foster son was pretty good in the pool. But then David went to a meeting, and throngs of kids came and the atmosphere turned happily chaotic and crazy. All in a good way, but for a kid who can’t navigate chaos, who thrives on structure, who loses his mind in a playroom full of guns and arrows, and toys that that can be crafted into guns and arrows, which is like every toy on earth, it was brain scrambling.
He ran away from me. He stomped his feet. He refused any and all requests. If I touched him, he shook me off. We were a parenting spectacle.
Normally, we have one parent on him and one on the baby, and both of us manage any issues with Lucy and Edie, even though there are rarely issues. So I was basically running through groups of kids, happily crawling, playing, running, holding the baby like a football and chasing a child who wanted none of my balls and chains.
I decided no yelling at him. I did not need to be the parent at the party who screamed at their kid. Also, a parenting spectacle.
I must’ve looked desperate because people jumped in to help. (Thank you, Village.) But help sometimes doesn’t help. Several people tried to get him to settle down and eat like the other kids. They got him food. They were sweet. But I knew he could never sit and eat at this party, we had plied him with grilled salmon (AKA pink chicken) and vegetables before the party so we didn’t have this argument.
Eating at the party was never going to happen.
An older woman was listening to us when I told him he didn’t have to eat his pulled pork sandwich. I know this sounded like submission, bad parenting, not staying strong, whatever you want to call it, but we cannot have stand-offs while children stampede around us, knocking back cupcakes and capri suns. It doesn’t work.
It is, again, a parenting spectacle I didn’t want to have.
But with everyone of these fails, we learn our limits. Like maybe we can’t take him to parties when the child to adult ratio is 4:1. Maybe we can come early, and leave early. Maybe he can go a little wild and be a little disobedient sometimes, as long as he doesn’t hurt himself or someone else. Maybe we celebrate on another day with the family, something more low key and manageable for him. Maybe next time, he will get it, and he’ll relax and be okay.
Maybe someday not every new thing will make him anxious and act out because he can’t control it.
Maybe someday he will have friends who he doesn’t push away.
Maybe he will be able to shake off all the foster homes, and the early neglect, and the changes, and the flimsy foundations built for him.
Maybe someday he will stop fighting everyone and everything.
Maybe he won’t blow everything up that’s good because he distrusts it.
Maybe he can relax, and know he’ll be just fine.
This is a letter I’m writing to the bio mom of our last foster son, C.
After C went back to live with his mom, she sent me photos of what her face looked like after her boyfriend beat her up. I went to see her and brought her groceries. The conversation we had there freaked me out, and after thinking about it, I called her caseworker, M, to ask whether there is anything I should be doing.
This started a formal abuse report with CPS. A caseworker came to her house. Mom called me right after, and screamed at me for making a report, for betraying her confidence. She said she never wanted to talk to me again, and hung up.
She blocked me from all social media and I have not spoken to her since.
The whole thing has been weighing on me. Did I do the right thing? Did I make the victim of domestic abuse pay the price for being the victim of domestic violence? Did I make things worse? Is she now even more alienated with her abuser now that she doesn’t have us as friends and support. Were my motivations clean? What could I do differently?
I wrote this letter to her to figure it out. I haven’t sent it. I might never send it. I’m still thinking it through.
The players are as follows:
C – our foster son
M – caseworker
D – boyfriend
R – our current foster son
Dear Mom –
I hope you and C are well. It goes without saying I miss you both. I know you are mad at me. It is completely understandable. I think talking to M about what D did to you was both the right thing and the wrong thing to do.
It was the wrong thing because I didn’t talk to you first. We had become friends, and by reporting you to CPS – something I wouldn’t have done to a friend – I treated you like a case, like a bio mom, like a part of the system. At the very least, I should’ve talked to you first and let you know I was freaking out inside for you and C.
Most importantly, I know you feel betrayed, and I know you often have been betrayed by family and friends, and that as a foster kid yourself, trust comes hard. So I know I did some damage here, and that is the thing I am most sorry for. You do not deserve to feel betrayed be people who care about you.
And I should’ve considered that, because I wanted to set a good example of trust for you, and be a constant friend as you raise your son on your own.
I think about how I could’ve done this better every day.
That said, in other ways, talking to M was exactly the right thing to do. First, if D had put you in the hospital or hurt C the following week, an even larger regret would’ve been not telling your caseworker, not stopping it. That mistake would’ve been unmanageable. If I had to make an error, I didn’t want to choose silence.
What made the violence impossible to ignore – more than the bruises and swollen muscle on your face, more than your eye closed shut around your contact lens, for days – was when you told me, that day at your house, that C had asked what happened to your face and D said: “That’s what happens when your mother can’t keep her mouth shut.”
Something about that response chilled me more than even seeing what he had done to your face, or hearing what you had done back to him. Because it was then I knew for sure, C’s was living in a home with a man who he knew beat the shit out of the person he loves most in the world. And whatever you think about me, I know in your heart, you agree that this is not good enough for that special kid of yours.
He deserves better. He deserves to fall asleep at night knowing you and he are safe. Can you imagine what it felt like for him to know D had hurt you in his own home? How powerless that must make him feel? And what is he learning? – that being a victim of violence is normal, that being a perpetrator of violence is normal? Did you see how he was when we came to visit you?
He was punching the walls. And you. He was so angry.
He punished himself. He put himself in the corner again. He used to that all the time when he first came to live with us. It tears me up when he does that. He was not okay.
And if we are being honest, haven’t you been slipping since you accepted D back into your life? The spotlight on him, his constant, never-ending family drama (like, keeping you and C in California under false pretenses, with no money and no way to leave), his flirtations with other women, the controlling successions of phone calls when you pull away and take care of yourself. There’s the way he moved you away from your support system, the people who wanted you to win after you got out of jail, who babysat for you and picked up your kid from school, and away from C’s school, a private school paid by the state of Nevada, where they adored him and slathered him with constancy and love, where he felt safe? And your job at the show – Absinthe – the super-cool one David got you, the one you got fired from. I know you came in late, came in stoned, forgot your uniform so you had to be sent home leaving the team short, started a fight at a club with the cast present, fell asleep in the aisle of the show while the show was on.
Was this the best you could do for your son?
What about the nights he was still in our home and you went out with D, instead of tucking him in? Know how many bio moms would die for anytime-access to their kids in foster care?
So maybe this was a long time coming. Maybe I’ve been angry with you for awhile. And even though I don’t want to blame the victim of violence, and punish you and C for D’s violence, I know that you are violent too, and fighting, and getting in fights, is a part of your life, and as long as you are raising C, violence will be a part of his life. And maybe that pisses me off, and maybe that’s why I talked to M.
Maybe I haven’t put that all together until now.
There is so much good in you and your parenting. You are so kind, loving, and sweet with him. And he is such a good boy, and you are a huge part of him becoming that amazing kid. You said on the phone that the caseworker said I thought you were abusive to C. That’s not true. At all. I told M you were loving with him. I told M you should have C. That you are a good mother who is making some crummy choices, because maybe you don’t know what good choices are, or how to make them. I told M you could pull this out, and that everything and anything that happens should be about supporting you as a parent to C.
I wanted eyes on the situation, so it didn’t get worse. So, you wouldn’t lose him for good. I don’t want to be C’s foster parent again. He needs you.
Know that no matter what you think of me, I was trying to do the right thing by you and C. I care about you both. Maybe we can talk? I’m going to bet you still need a friend here in Vegas. And I promise, I will talk to you about everything, so that you know how I feel, so it won’t build up.
No CPS surprises. I promise.
Just real truth, as I know it.
Also, R misses C terribly. He keeps a photo of him in his room.
(The photo above is not of my former foster son, but my current. I didn’t want to put up any photo of C that would identify him or his family. I like how carefree this photo is. Kids should be care-free.)
Two weeks ago, he had a tough week at school. Acting out. Not telling the truth. Not listening. Aggressive. He hit a teacher. He shook his finger at me and screamed in my face. He lost his IPad and his Zombie Water Shooter, two things that mean a great deal to him. No was, like, his favorite word. He said it so much, it was like he was an 80-year-old guy who screams at little kids to get off his lawn. He was a kill-joy. He was – he is – a grumpy old man.
When he throws his arms in the air and complains about everyone drinking milk, because he worries there might not be any left for him, we remind him about being a “Grumpy Old Man” and he laughs now. Puts his arms down and lowers his voice from a shout. Progress. We remind him – there is enough for everyone.
We will not run out of milk, and if we do, we will get more.
This is the effect of five foster homes before the age of five, and two stints at Child Haven, an emergency shelter for children here in Las Vegas. This is what growing up uncertain will do for you. With your life always changing and slippery, you must be in control at all time. You must be boss. You must make the decisions. You control because no one has been in control on your behalf.
But this week, we had a great week. Some kind of break through. He wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t hit. He didn’t run away from teachers. He didn’t push other kids for touching his Leggo tower. He just had fun. He relaxed. Five whole days of good problem solving, kindness and sharing. Like a regular kid.
Like a regular kid.
Our success is measured in inches, not miles. Inches rule.
We get placement requests from CPS nearly every day by email. We still have a bed available, even though we aren’t taking on any new ones right now.
The list is heartbreak.
The email lists the name of the kid, the kid’s case number, their age, gender, strengths – she is outgoing, he likes to draw, 16-year-old mom is good with the baby, he thrives on praise and rewards. It includes placement considerations, which means the things that make the kid a challenge in a home – he is a perpetual runaway, she has tantrums and breaks household objects, he has fondled his last foster parent’s daughter in her sleep, etc.