The cure for too much noise is chocolate

I have a large bag of fun-size 3 Musketeers bars. A very large bag. I got it Thursday and ate one or two. But since FRIDAY, well, let’s just say that was only two days ago and the bag is now almost empty. There is a reason.

Most of you have been in an airport. You know those magazine stores that sell aspirin, bottled water, and chocolate bars? There is a reason they don’t sell vegetables – nobody would buy them. The people are running around in a building designed after a rat’s maze, with loudspeakers and jet engines in their ears. A jet engine at takeoff usually registers about 105 decibels.

Or take professional sports. The concession stands there sell hot dogs, wings, french fries, and ice cream. All greasy, fat-laden foods. Again, no vegetables. After all, a professional sports arena is one of the loudest places to be. A recently played football game had a crowd roar that reached 136.6 decibels! Definitely far exceeding eat-your-vegetables levels.

Which brings me to this weekend. One of my children might have chicken pox and definitely has a very high fever, which results in loud, round the clock sobbing because the poor kid is uncomfortable in his own skin. Baths, Tylenol, and anti-itch medications only work so far. He’s far too young to understand why he feels so bad, so sobbing in my arms is the only outlet he feels he has. In my arms, his mouth is less than a foot from my ear.

And my other child is teething, he has two molars coming in at the same time. His crying is more indicative of actual pain, rather than generalized discomfort. And it comes out in shrieks, rather than sobbing. Tylenol and Orajel help, but they don’t take the pain away completely. He feels his outlet is generalized anger, so he has begun to hit the cat and throw his toys. Picking him up calms him for a moment, but brings his shrieks closer to my ears. He soon continues his anger and pushes me away.

Researchers say that exposure to sounds louder than 85 decibels can contribute to hearing loss. Anecdotal stores from those researchers says that people experience pain in their ears when hearing sounds louder than 100 to 120 decibels (depending on the individual).

Are you ready to learn how many decibels are produced by a crying child?

115 – 136 decibels.

Now that is LOUD. The average jackhammer is only 105 decibels. And rock concerts average 120 decibels. A single shrieking child can be louder than either of those.

So taking my cue from airport kiosks and professional sports stadiums, I respond by eating fatty, sugary, delicious foods. Right now, that means fun-sized 3 Musketeers bars. Many, many fun-sized 3 Musketeers bars. It’s a stress response. And sounds this loud are definitely stressful. My ears rang tonight for about 30 minutes after the kids finally fell asleep.

Chocolate cures many things. It can not cure actual hearing loss from these loud noises, but they can make the sounds themselves much more bearable. I will be purchasing ear plugs this week, ones like contractors use at constructions sites. But until then, chocolate helps.

Please excuse me, I get to go hug one of my children; he woke up and is crying again… I think I’ll get another chocolate bar on the way.

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When it rains, it pours (aka: the week of teething, and chickenpox, and several other things)

Being a mom is lovely, absolutely lovely. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Keep your corporate job, keep your million dollars, I’ll keep my stay at home with two toddlers life. Seriously. I waited so long to be able to rock children to sleep that I’ll keep it and love it  even during the phases everyone dreads.

Have I mentioned on here that we have two toddlers now? Two boys, 17 days apart in age but worlds apart in development. One walks, runs, and climbs. The other is still cruising the furniture. One is trying out sign language and is very close to talking. The other has the Early Childhood Intervention people visiting because he is not making any strides toward communicating at all. One is 2’8″ and 30 lbs. The other is 2’3″ and 23 lbs. But both have light brown hair and blue eyes, and the most charming smiles!

If you know anything about adoption, you know that artificially twinning children is a bad idea. I would not have done it if this second child were not a short term placement. But he is – he has an adoptive family already identified! They just haven’t finished their training yet, but everyone is waiting for them because they already adopted two of this toddler’s siblings a couple years ago. So adopting him will bring the family of children together again. And that is worth a lot of waiting and a lot of bother. And because he has delays, having a same age sibling to identify with and to copy for a couple months just might help him out. So we agreed to do it.

The good news is the copying theory seems to be working out just fine. Our first child, DittoChild (DC), does something like take a toy and walk off with it, and our second child, Chipmunk, gets upset and starts cruising the furniture even faster in an attempt to catch up to DC and take the toy from him. Good workout for him.

The downside is really just about me. Because having two children the same age means two children going through things at the same time – like teething. Oi! I hate teething. With a passion. One question I’ll definitely have for God when I get to heaven is why he invented it! I mean, our head produces strands of hair without pain, why can’t our gums produce teeth without pain??? I’m sure he has a reason, but sheesh – I do not know what it is! My mom laughs and says I get to experience all the typical parenting headaches on fast forward because of the ages of these two children.

And now it looks like I get to experience a child with chickenpox. It might be hand/foot/mouth, or some other blister-causing virus… but chickenpox is the leading theory. We’ll know more Monday, 3 days after the first of the high fever and spots. So far just two blisters, and a bunch of red pinpoint sized dots. You know, the doctor at Urgent Care hasn’t seen a case of chickenpox in YEARS – all because most children are vaccinated for it nowadays. We went to Urgent Care because Chipmunk got a fever that spiked very quickly to 105.5 degrees. Noticing the blisters was just icing on that cake. At least I left with doctor’s prescription for how to administer tylenol to a child too small for the smallest dosage on the package – stuff like that gets really sticky when dealing with foster children. It’s always best to just have a doctor write it down and then it’s suddenly OK to give it. A recommendation over the phone is not nearly as official.

So by Monday we’ll know for sure, supposedly. Which means Monday I get to call all the professionals we saw on Friday and tell them what they were exposed to – because Fridays around here are “professionals” days. This week we had the Early Childhood Intervention people out, and the CASA rep. I’m sure I’m not the only person to tell them they’ve been exposed to something, though! It’s probably a professional risk they know about all too well.

So Monday’s schedule includes:
calling for a doctor’s appointment,
going to the doctor’s appointment,
emailing Chipmunk’s worker to say what he has,
griping to Chipmunk’s worker about being told he was up to date on vaccinations when I was told at Urgent Care that he’s 6 months behind,
emailing DC’s worker to tell her what he’s been exposed to,
talking to the medical transportation reimbursement people,
calling the ECI and CASA to tell them what they were exposed to on Friday.
And oh yeah – calling my brother to tell him we probably won’t make it to HIS WEDDING this week. (Oi, that one’s gonna hurt. But if Chipmunk has chickenpox, then we can’t bring him and doubt we could find a babysitter OK with it. So it is what it is.)

I can’t find out until Monday whether DC is vaccinated for chickenpox. He should be, but then again Chipmunk should have been, too. I’m not a proponent of the chickenpox vaccine, in my opinion it is still too new to have documented all side effects so parents can make truly educated decisions for their children. But being in foster care, I am not given a choice about vaccines. I must have them done on schedule. MUST. So now we have to deal with a catch-up schedule for Chipmunk as soon as he’s over this illness.

So: Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
may my kids sleep through the night,
and wake up with fevers LIGHT.

Bless mommy, daddy, Chipmunk and DC.
May all involved adults make the decisions for these children that are in their best interests. And may they wake up healthier and happier than they went to sleep.

Amen

I love watching him learn

This little boy my husband and I are fostering is learning SO MUCH. It’s like his brain is full of little Christmas lights and every day we get to see more of them light up.

The other day I started sneezing…

Me: Achoo!
DC: (with a wondering look in his eyes) Hoo?
Me: ACHOO!
DC: (with more confidence) A-Hoo.
Me: ACHOO! ACHOO!
DC: A-KUU! A-KUU!  And he walked around for several minutes repeating A-KUU as hubby and I laughed.

He has a toy that sings. One of the songs is “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and when it plays I have always clapped my hands when the song tells me to. Now when it comes on he starts clapping his hands right away. Another song it sings is “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and while he is nowhere near coordinated enough to make the spider motions, he is used to seeing me do them and he immediately starts to try.

He and hubby have a game they play in the evenings that I call “in and out”. Hubby takes apart a chain of plastic rings, and sets up some containers. Then he starts putting the rings in the containers one at a time. DC comes over and joins him. Hubby puts in a ring, DC puts in a ring. Hubby puts in a ring, DC puts in a ring. When the rings are all in continers, they laugh and clap and proceed to take them out – hubby takes one out, DC takes one out, hubby takes one out, DC takes one out. And they repeat. (This is apparantly a males-only game. When I try to interest DC in it, I get covered by a shower of plastic rings that he throws out of the container by the handful.)

He had an assessment the other day. It was really cool watching a child development expert assess what DC knew how to do. When the Early Childhood people asked me if DC would pick up a string with his thumb and forefinger, I plopped a string in front of DC and watched him pick it up. When this assessor wanted to know the same thing, he got out a multicolored pull toy, and dangled the string to it in front of DC, swinging it slowly back and forth like a metronome until DC, fascinated, extended his hand and grasped it with his forefinger and thumb.

I have never taught a baby sign language before, although I’m familiar with it. DC doesn’t say any words yet, so baby sign language is helping a TON. I’m surprised at how well I’m remembering it, and how quickly he’s picking it up. “Milk” and “more” are the ones he uses most often, although “food” and “all done” get shown a decent amount too. He learns so quickly!

Parenting is using such different parts of my brain than anything else I’ve ever done. It’s rewarding, and frustrating, and enjoyable, and exhausting. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’m so tired that I…

This has been a crazy tiring few weeks. I was already exhausted from selling fireworks at my church’s fundraising stand when God blessed us with a new foster child. He’s an amazing child. He’s smiley, loves toys, and has a most contagious laugh. He eats, he plays. and he sleeps – sort of. It’s the “sort of” that gets to me!

This week I’ve become so tired that I:

Wore my socks inside out – and once I noticed it I put my shoes on them anyway!
Put my car keys in the refrigerator.
Lost my car keys four separate times.
Put a stick of butter into the dish cabinet.
Spent five minutes looking for my sunglasses that were already on my head.
Drove on autopilot to the wrong store. Twice.
Spent five minutes just standing in an aisle of WalMart – because I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to get there. It was diaper rash cream.
Put both my contacts into the same side of the case.
Forgot to eat at least seven meals.
I haven’t done any laundry except diapers (we cloth diaper) for two weeks.
Forgot to put a plastic bag in the diaper bag twice (and we’ve only been out in public twice – that means I forgot every time.)
Did not notice that new baby broke the cat door that we keep locked, and one of the indoor-only cats got outside (thankfully hubby noticed and we got him back in two minutes, but that one was scary!)
Forgot to lock the car doors – and we *always* lock the car doors.
Lost the tube of neosporin, found it in front of the TV. (Why there? I still have no idea.)
Forgot what day it was and just stared at the calendar wondering which appointment I was missing.
Neglected to look up directions to one of the appointments new baby needed to go to, until I was almost there and had to pull over to figure out where it was.

Have I mentioned I’ve never parented before? I think I’m as tired as any parent of a newborn. But my baby is 25 lbs and does not stay where he’s put! Baby gates are my friend. So is my Mai Tie baby wrap – a wonderful invention.

There have been no disasters. Lots of weirdness, of course! The cats took advantage of my distracted condition and stole chicken breasts straight from the frying pan. The dog is still scared of him, but has overcome it – for mealtimes at least, when she permits him to touch her while she eats the food on the floor around his high chair. My husband put a large roasting pan full of fresh eggs into the oven. It was intended for safekeeping, there wasn’t anywhere else to keep that many eggs away from the cats. And it was safe, until I preheated the oven. D’oh! So the house is chock-full of weirdness right now.

But that’s what makes life, right? And at our house right now, life is good.

life is good - simple as that

P.S. – Baby says afsdlmvpoj2419p8fmdvlknqw98AFDOIUGXD3!

My best day ever – and his worst

If any of you follow my husband’s blog, you know we have been in training to become foster parents. Well today, finally, after long months of preparation, we received our first child! I am over the moon I am so happy. He’s a healthy, active one-year-old boy. I absolutely could not be happier.

I have been wanting to be a mother for the past 14 years. I wanted it, I planned for it, I expected it. And it never happened. Not biologically. Not via adoption. Not even through foster care, although I have been certified before – there was a snafu in where my paperwork was sent and although I did babysitting for other foster parents, I never was placed with a child who was MY foster child. But today I am a mother, even though it has the societally-created word “foster” in front of it.

There is a cloud above Cloud Nine – I know, because I’m on it!

But as happy as I am, I acknowledge that my happiest day is this child’s worst. He was removed from his family – the people he knew and trusted. (Whether they deserved his trust or not.) He doesn’t have the food he’s accustomed to. He doesn’t have his lovey. I don’t know if he takes a pacifier, or what kind of bottle he’s used to. I don’t know his bath routine. I don’t know what he’s accustomed to at bedtime to help him relax and sleep.

Can you imagine leaving your one year old child with a babysitter, and not telling her these things? Leaving her to figure out the questions of bed time, what to feed and when, and even what lovey he neeeeeds to have before he’ll go to sleep? I can’t either.

But that is the life of children in foster care. Most of their parents aren’t together enough to communicate that sort of thing to the police and caseworkers who remove the child from the home. If the child is lucky, the workers have enough time to grab things that look like the child’s and put them in a bag or pillowcase to bring with the child – but sometimes the situation at the time precludes that from happening.

The child is scared. Confused. Lonely for his loved ones. Missing his lovey. Missing the sounds and smells of his home.

I made our new foster son a bottle earlier. He cried and reached for it when he saw it, so I knew I’d done something right. He tried to feed himself, but I took it out of his hands and insisted on doing the feeding with him in my lap. As I looked down at him, I remembered how hard I’d fought to have this precious boy in my lap, and my eyes teared up. He lay there drinking his bottle and stubbornly refusing to look at me, and I suddenly realized and remembered all that I wrote on here and more. I started to rock him and sing to him, willing him to relax and look at me, to start the process of learning that he was safe here and would be cared for, even if I stumbled a lot while doing so. Praying that he could leave the damage that had been done to him in the past, and move forward, and open his heart to new people, regardless of what may happen with his parent’s court case.

After half an hour, he finally looked at me, and I smiled at him through my tears. He kept the eye contact for the rest of his bottle while I rocked and sang to him. His recovery will take a while, and will take specific interventions, but I’d say his willingness to do that means that in spite of this being his worst day ever, he is off to a fine start.

Whatever you did for one of the least of these …

Hubby and I have entered the world of foster care. We will be working with at-risk infants. That will be the ones born with drugs in their systems, or ones who aren’t gaining weight appropriately, or have feeding tubes, or need apnea monitors, or have broken bones, or are living with other similar issues.

We have not chosen an easy road, but rather one offered to us by God.

We are currently in training/licensing classes. We’ve taken three of the required eight, so far. Each is three hours long, so nine hours of training completed so far.  After those classes we go on to have classes in CPR, First Aid, Child Restraints in Vehicles (car seats), and special training for the medical issues we’ll experience once children are in our home.  With those things being extra classes after the training ones, you may be asking “what are in the training classes?”

From our training manual:
Voices of Youth video – actual people who were in foster care as children, talking about how many foster homes they had, why they moved so much, and what stuck out in their minds about certain caregivers.
The legal process – from the first phone call from someone reporting an abused or neglected child, through the child entering foster care, the court hearings that happens while the child is recovering in the foster home, through the child either returning home or being adopted. It’s a process which can take several months to several years.
Explaining that all foster parents are mandated reporters – what that means, what we report, and a reminder of what happens when we do.
Explanations of what tends to bring children into foster care.
Information about addictions and family systems that lead to children being removed.
How a child learns to communicate their needs, and what happens to that child if his/her needs are not met, and the larger impact if a child never forms a healthy attachment to a caregiver.
The impacts on a child’s development when he/she is placed into foster care. A reminder that the child’s first day in care is likely the worst day of that child’s life. (We expect it to be the best day, but from a child’s viewpoint it usually is not.)
Ways we as caregivers can minimize those traumas and help children develop attachment.
Types of development – physical, cognitive, emotional, social. How a child can be a different “age” in each area.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and the ways it impacts a child’s development.

And that’s just what we covered in the first three classes!

The classes are pretty intense. Lots of videos, lots of explanations being given by people personally impacted by what we’re studying.

A video of an adorable girl whose biological mother drank alcohol to excess during her pregnancy – resulting in this seven year old girl being unable to hear the instruction “touch the red circle and the blue square” and follow it correctly. She was cheerful, she wanted to follow the instructions, but she could not hold them in her mind long enough to do them.

Photos of typical bruise and burn patterns we may see in the children when they arrive in our homes. I couldn’t watch all of that one.

This is not going to be an easy road. My heart already hurts for these children, and I find myself reading books and internet postings to be sure that I know a multitude of ways to help the chlidren we’ll have with us, for as long as they stay with us.

I’m excited about this opportunity. I’m nervous about this opportunity. I’m definitely praying about this opportunity. And we’d appreciate your prayers as well. I’ll keep you posted!