Things I have actually had to say

I used to read all those blog posts about “things you learn when you have boys“, and laugh. I enjoyed them, but surely children who do and say those things are the exception rather than the rule, right?

HA! No. Here is my list of things I have actually heard come out of my mouth. You can imagine all the fun that preceeded me needing to say these things.

Take your bottom out of your brother’s face.
Do not use your brother for a chair.
Please do not fart in the bathwater.
Keep your poop to yourself.
No, you may not pee on your brother.

Stop playing with your penis and finish your bath.
Farts are not supposed to be funny.
Poop belongs in the toilet.
No, you may not both pee in the toilet at the same time.

Did you wipe?
Did you wipe?
Did you wipe?
Go back and wipe.

Do not climb the curtains.
Do not use the window frame to do pull-ups.
Punching the window is not a good idea.
Get off the top of the dresser.
Beds are not to be used as bumper cars.

No wrestling.
No wrestling.
No wrestling.
Stop touching each other.

Do not use your brother for target practice.
Books are not frisbees.
You may not bite people, not even when you are playing dinosaur.

Do not spit at your brother.
Do not spit at me.
Do not spit.
Keep your spit in your mouth.

And this list is not exhaustive! And it represents only 6 weeks with two preschoolers. I’m sure the coming weeks will have many more unexpected things coming out of my mouth. Stay tuned!

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Foster parenting is complicated

Sometimes I just don’t know what to do.  When a child’s behavior is unacceptable… do I allow natural consequences to happen? Do I assign a punishment for the behavior? Do I write it down to address with the counselor because the behavior is based in past trauma? Do I let it pass without comment because in the larger scheme of things it not something I choose to address right now? Do I pull the child in for a long hug because the behavior is based in past hurt and shame and a need for appropriate attention from an adult? Do I do several of those choices?

And it is complicated even further by the sheer number of unacceptable behaviors that sometimes happen one right after the other. Before I have fully recognized the first and decided how to respond to it, there is a second. And a third. And sometimes a fourth. Sometimes they are an escalation of the first one, sometimes they are unrelated behaviors.

For instance, the boys may be eating breakfast cereal. One will spit a mouthful at his brother (or the cat, the dog, or the curtains). Obviously this means he isn’t hungry anymore, right? As I put down the milk and approach the table to calmly enforce the natural consequence of removing the cereal, the preschooler says “it’s YUCKY. Brother, you’re eating POOP cereal!”. Brother starts to cry and says “No, I’m not!”  OK, this is no longer a kid spitting out food because he’s not hungry, this is upsetting brother on purpose. But do I comfort brother and ignore the instigator? Or do I remove instigator from the table, and if I remove him do I simply send him to get dressed or do I send him to time-out for saying what he did? In the process of removing the cereal bowl and getting instigator down from his booster seat, brother (still crying) throws his entire bowl of cereal at the instigator, covering him, me, and the wall behind us. So now, do I continue with removing the original instigator, do I switch to comforting the brother who was obviously upset by the idea of eating poop, or do I now address the throwing of the cereal bowl?

You can see how things stack up quickly. What I just described can easily happen start to finish in 10 seconds or less. (And of course it isn’t finished.) And for those who are curious, the day I attended to the crying brother instead of the instigating brother did not help diffuse the situation any faster – it was just the instigating brother who got angry and threw the cereal bowl rather than the crying brother.

This is what foster parenting to children who have experienced WAY TOO MUCH TRAUMA in their lives is like. Every hour is a new crisis. Sometimes every 10 minutes is a new crisis. And sometimes they can go on for hours before I can break through and get a handle on just one little part of the crisis and defuse the situation.

Unfortunately, that handle that is available for me to grab on to might be different on different days. One day a child might hit his brother because he thinks he’s going to be hit first. Another day he might hit his brother because he is angry they are not playing the game he wanted to play. Another day he might hit his brother because he’s tired and grouchy and the brother happened to be the one there. And sometimes the way to grab the handle is laughter. Other times it is a quick reminder that the behavior will not be tolerated here. And still other times extending some grace and ignoring the behavior is the handle.

Preventing every possible reason for unacceptable behavior just isn’t possible. And neither is interrupting all unacceptable behavior. All that is left is finding how to respond to it – and realizing that responding in the exact right way every time isn’t possible either. It takes a mixture of all of these.

No parent is perfect. No parent can prevent everything. No parent can correctly respond to everything. And parenting kids exposed to trauma just makes the job exponentially harder, like a math equation. (Normal child behaviors) times (types and amounts of trauma experienced) times (siblings who feed off each others’ behavior) times (previous experiences where unacceptable behavior got good results for the child) = a crazy complicated time of trying to heal the children.

Internet privacy vs internet support

A month ago, I was grieving the loss of one of my foster children. Our foster home was empty. But foster homes rarely stay empty for long! We have two new boys, brothers, both preschoolers. We’ve had them for a couple weeks now, and I have delayed posting about them. Nicknames haven’t come easily for them. And I did not know how to post about the struggles I am having with them, while still respecting their privacy.

Things on the internet don’t disappear! Even if I deleted a post from here, or deleted my blog entirely, there are ways my posts could still be read. Perhaps someone copied it. Perhaps someone emailed it to themselves. Search engines keep copies of pages in their records for indeterminate amounts of time. For that matter, the beginning of each post is included in the email you receive if you subscribed to receive my posts by email.

Obviously, nothing I say about my foster children is in any way identifying. Unless you already know the child personally, nothing I say would enable you to pick the child out of a crowd.

But thinking 20 years down the line… adults who used to be children in foster care do know themselves personally, and it is entirely possible that one of my previous foster children may find my blog and … recognize themselves. The dates will line up. Ages will line up. Descriptions… positive or negative… will line up. What do I want my former foster children to read about themselves? What attitude toward them do I want to display for them to read later? What amount of information is fair for me to share about them in a public forum?

And yet, the internet is also a wonderful source of support! I love the comments of support that I get, the suggestions, the encouragement. And I don’t want to give that up. If I gave it up, I wouldn’t be as good of a foster mother. (“Put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you.”)

So, I am seeking a middle ground. My blog posts will have a different tone to them. Mostly, I will not be providing the details that I provided with the two toddler kids I had in months previous to this. The children I have now are … challenging … to say the least. Their stories are heartbreaking. Their family is shattered. Their behaviors reflect this. It’s their reality.

My reality right now is being punched. Kicked. Spit on. Called names. Sworn at. Replacing broken light fixtures.

But my reality is also holding a child while he sobs because he misses his family and is old enough to articulate that while seeking comfort from me. My reality is having a valentine heart made for me by one of them. My reality is wearing a pipecleaner “bow” in my hair all evening because one of the children made it for me. My reality is a child who never tried stir-fry declaring it “yum” and asking for seconds, please!

I will take extra precautions in safeguarding these children’s identities. I will still post about my home, and about the struggles my husband and I face being foster parents to them. But I won’t give nicknames for them, and I won’t even state their ages. They’ll be “the preschoolers” or “one of the preschoolers”. And in every post I will make it abundantly clear that I love them. I am an adult, and I can love who I choose to love. I choose to love these children, and to display that love through my actions.

Twenty years from now, I hope I can show these posts to the (former) preschoolers, and have them know that despite how they acted, they were loved, and no matter what they did, the love was stronger than their behaviors.

The end was like the beginning

The first month DC was with us, he couldn’t fall asleep. New place, new crib, new faces, it was all so unfamiliar to him that as soon as he relaxed enough that sleep was possible, all the strangeness rushed in and he’d wake up again, crying. I’d go to him, pat his back if that’s all he needed, or pick him up and rock him. Whatever it took to let him feel more secure and more love. Sometimes I’d be rocking and gently bouncing him, sitting on the corner of the guest room bed, for hours.

That was true the first month that DC was with us, back in July. I was up all hours of the night when he would wake up in a strange place and begin to cry.

And that was true again this past weekend, which was DC’s last weekend with us. I don’t know how he knew what was going on, but he was unsettled again, wanting to be held, and crying when he would not fall asleep instantly. Today he moves to live with his uncle, aunt, and cousins. They are the lucky ones who will get to cuddle him forever.

Maybe he knew *I* needed it. I needed those extra cuddles these last few days, too. I needed hours spent on the exercise ball, lights out, bouncing gently, whispering “I love you”. I needed those little arms reaching up out of the crib, asking for a hug.

I will miss being his mother.

God speed, little DC. May you grow strong in the house with your relatives. May you learn to trust them the way you trusted us. And may God bring us new children who need to be loved, rocked, hugged, and cuddled long into the night. You trained us well, and we’re ready for them.

 

When God says “Don’t do it”

I think that most of us have had the experience of doing or saying something and almost immediately having a realization of “I shouldn’t have done that”.

For me, it’s almost always accompanied by a heavy sinking feeling in my stomach as I realize that whatever I just did or said was most definitely the wrong thing, and that it has implications and ripples far beyond what I had anticipated, and that it is not being received or understood in the way I had intended.  It was just flat-out the wrong thing for me to do.

In conversations with friends, I have sometimes commented that it would be nice if instead of that sinking feeling afterward, if I had some sort of early-warning system instead to PREVENT me from saying or doing the wrong thing.

Well, in God I do.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. And sometimes I ignore Him and plow ahead and do something dumb anyway. Sometimes I allow logic and good intentions to drown out His voice and end up astonished that things did not work well.

But when I’m quiet, and prayerful, and I listen for His still, small voice, I can save myself (and others) from my own bullheadedness.

God may prompt you to bake some cookies for a neighbor. Or drop a little-used coat off at a charity drive. Or put an extra $5 in the offering plate at church. Those are easy to understand, and in most cases easy to do, and they often come with a human reason as to why they are important. In my own life I have one wonderful story about a time God prompted me to do something, and showed me why. I was going to Ecuador on a sponsor tour/missions trip. We had been told to pack work gloves for a day we would spend working at one of the projects. And somehow to me it felt very important to find exactly the right kind of work gloves. I have hands that are difficult to fit with gloves. My palms are small, and my fingers long. I knew I wanted leather gloves, not stretchy fabric ones, and that made the hunt even harder. I probably spent 16 or more hours looking for just the right gloves. I visited every big box store and hardware/building store in my city. I felt driven to find exactly the right ones. Finally I settled on a pair. Solid leather, with fingers the right length, palms a little wide but that was OK, and a velcro wrap-around on the wrist so they would not slide off. They cost much more than I had wanted to pay, but they were wonderful and worth it.

I arrived in Ecuador, and enjoyed the trip very much. We arrived at our work day and I was shocked. I was not on the work crew at all. I was assigned to the CLEANING crew. A whole day working not with lumber and hammers, but with soap and water and mops. My leather work gloves were useless for working with water. Water would stretch the leather, keeping it from being able to protect my hands. The stretched out leather would rub, and leave me with blisters. I was disappointed, and irritated that I had thought buying those gloves was so important, and I stuck them back in my bag and went to work bare handed with the mop.

Fast forward a couple of days to the day I would meet my sponsored child. I was packing a backpack in my hotel room to give to her, and I came across my leather gloves in my luggage. I could not return them; I had removed all the labeling. So I tossed them into the backpack and hoped my sponsored child’s family would have a use for them. Meeting my sponsored child and her mother was WONDERFUL. Simply wonderful. After lunch we sat down at the park and I gave her the backpack of gifts for her and her family. She dug in to the backpack, exclaiming over the useful and girlish things I had packed – the school supplies, the hair accessories. She quickly handed over the kitchen utensils and leather gloves to her mother and continued exclaiming over the rest. After a moment I noticed that the mother was crying. I asked her why, and learned why I had felt it so important to purchase those leather gloves. Two months before, the family’s house had caught on fire and burned down. The family was OK, and they were staying in a tent on the property, still all together. The extended family had banded together and were slowly buying enough cinder blocks for the mother to rebuild her house, but the mother had been struggling because the work part of the project was up to her – and moving the cinderblocks by hand had been hurting her hands, leaving them abraded and with small cuts. She could not do much work with the cinderblocks at any one time, or she would put her job as washer woman and maid in jeopardy.

I had given her leather work gloves. Gloves that exactly fit her small Ecuadorian hands with exceptionally long fingers.

Sometimes God shows us in no uncertain terms that he knows exactly what he is doing.

I often hear sermons asking “What does God want you to do?” – I believe that it is just as important to ask “What does God NOT want you to do?” Sometimes it entails just listening to that voice that says “no” or “stop”, or “don’t say that” or “stop talking now”.

Just as easily as he can prompt us to do good, he can prompt us to avoid evil. He can prompt us not to share that gossip you heard about a neighbor. Or not to buy that oh-so-beautiful but out-of-budget item. Again, many of these are things that we can see the benefit in. That doesn’t make them always easy to do, but when we listen to God and choose to stop ourselves, we are aware that listening has benefitted us.

But sometimes what He tells us flies in the face of what we believe to be right. But which is ultimately “right” – God, who knows all and sees all, or us humans, who know little and see little? That is so hard to remember and to do in practice.

How experienced are you in listening for God’s voice? Can you discern what He is saying even when it does not align with what you believe is the “right” thing to do?

What if you had a coat in your car you intended to drop off at a charity on your way home from work, and you had a strange moment where you thought maybe God did not want you to do that. Which would win – the logic of dropping off a coat here you knew it could be used for good, or the belief that God wanted you to do something else? How long would you spend arguing in your head between the logic you believed and the voice you thought you heard, before picking one?

I’ve been working on this a lot lately. There are so many “good” things that I can do, but which are the things I am *supposed* to do? Knowing that there are only some that I am supposed to do means that there are some that I am being told not to do. Sometimes God does tell us not to do something we believe to be good. He has something better in mind, but we have to believe Him, and obey Him by not doing that thing we think is good, before we can get to it. If we stay too busy doing things that “we think” are good, we can miss the things that “He KNOWS” are right. In the example of the coat, perhaps if you listen and hold on to it for just a day or two longer, you may have the privilege of handing it directly to a person who needs it. Who knows? Only God.

God is never taken by surprise. He knows all the possibilities, all the implications, and all the ripples. He KNOWS what is best. But are we listening to him?

That still, small voice of God can be hard to hear in our busy world. What do you do to ensure that you can hear Him? What has He told you to do? What has He told you NOT to do? Have you been blessed with knowing the reason for his instructions, like I was in Ecuador? Or are you still just trusting Him, knowing that He knows best?

Why does Santa treat different families differently?

I have heard this question, in all its forms, so many times. A child whose family can barely put food on the table wonders why she received a hat and scarf from Santa when her schoolmate received a most-coveted Rainbow Loom and dozens of packets of circlets. Another family wonders why Santa skips his house, not understanding the differences between his Christian neighbors’ celebration of Christmas complete with Santa, and his on Jewish family’s decision to celebrate only Hanukkah. Another family struggles to explain how Santa left footprints on their friends’ fireplace and reindeer poop in their yard, while leaving no sign of his presence at their house besides the presents.

All parents must decide how to explain Santa, at some point. The man in the red suit who shows up in the mall, on decorations, and in movies must somehow be explained to little ears who want to know who he is. This post is for those families who are willing for their children to believe in Santa, whether you include him in your celebrations or not.

In the world of adoption and foster care, the questions are sometimes even harder.

A child who was abused by her babysitter’s boyfriend might say: “NOOOOOO! I don’t WANT a strange man to come into my house. MOMMY NO! You said this house was SAFE and noone could get me!”

A 3rd grade boy struggling with ADHD and low self-esteem might say: “Dad, I’m sorry. I forgot my homework at school. I’m so stupid! I can’t remember anything right! I’m gonna get coal in my stocking.”

A child in foster care for the first time might burst into tears at the sight of Santa in a book and sob “Why couldn’t Santa find me last year? Mommy said he couldn’t find us so couldn’t give me my presents. Why couldn’t he find me? Will he find me this year?”

Or on the other hand, a child who was in foster care last year, who you have adopted might wonder: “Why didn’t Santa bring presents this year? Why do I have to write thank-you notes to grandparents? Santa brought all the gifts when I lived in my other home!”

The stakes are so much higher when you are parenting abused or neglected children, or ones who have memories of different homes and different parents in years past. Regardless of your personal beliefs about Santa and how much “reality” to use when explaining him, sometimes children arrive in our homes with opinions and past experiences that have shaped how they already think about him.

Noone reading this blog is going to insist to that abused child that Santa will come down the chimney, unknown to even the adults, in the face of such “stranger in my home” fear. But especially if there are other children in the home who expect Santa’s visit, just how do you handle it? Or the child who was accustomed to Santa before, if you do not celebrate him in your house? Or the child to whom you have to explain Santa’s absence and the parent’s fib last year, whether or not you have him at your house?

Many years ago I read a story about one little girl’s fear of the Tooth Fairy. She desperately wanted the dollar the Tooth Fairy would leave if she put her tooth under her pillow, but equally desperately she wanted to save her tooth to show her mom at next week’s visit. Her dad was a smart one, and said he’d talk to the Tooth Fairy and make a deal with her so that his little girl got her dollar AND got to show her mom the tooth. And suddenly, peace reigned at their house.

Can we do that with Santa Claus? Can we, as parents, decide that not only do we each get to celebrate Santa (or not) in our own way, but also explain to our children that it is the parents’ decision that makes Santa do what he does?

I propose a Santa Contract. Each family makes their own, and takes ownership of it. In one family the contract can state that Santa brings the most wished-for items. In another family, it may state that Santa brings the most needed items. When I was growing up, our family’s contract would have stated that Santa would bring identical items for each of the children, since that is what we received each year. Another family’s contract may state that Santa not leave presents at their home, because they choose to give gifts to each other themselves.

The Santa Contract can also state where the gifts may be left. Sure, it’s often fun to think of Santa sliding down the chimney, but it is no less wonderful to receive gifts discovered on the back porch if that is where your contract said to look! (And this eases the fears of children who do not want strangers in their home while they are sleeping.)

A contract with Santa can also take care of “mistakes” he made in the past. I know of one family who adopted two little girls from Tanzania, who were sad that this Santa they had heard of had never visited their orphanage – that they had been so “forgotten”. On their first Christmas, under the tree Christmas morning were multiple presents for each girl – one for each year of their lives. They were labeled with their names, and the year they would have received them. So in the package marked “first year” each girl received a rattle. In the one marked “second year” each received a pair of baby shoes. And so on. Santa also left a note that explained that houses in Tanzania don’t have numbers or names on them, so he couldn’t know where each girl lived. That he loves everyone, and now that they have parents and now that he does know where they live, he wanted them to know that he had always remembered and never forgotten them. What a boost to a little child’s way of thinking about their worth!

This little idea can not fix everything. No single idea can. But if you are struggling with your child’s questions about Santa and the different treatment they notice around them, it may be something to consider. Because we each want our children to feel loved, and valued, and keep them from unnecessary trauma, don’t we? And even if Santa is just a game in your home, it’s never fun to miss your turn in a game, so this Santa Contract idea may be one way to make past hurts feel a little less sharp.

I hope this helps someone, in at least some small way.

You have a child – you will never sleep again!

I know that children, eventually, grow out of a need to know exactly where their mother is at all times of the day and night. Eventually. But mine aren’t there yet.

It’s 3:13 in the morning, and I am just now able to leave their room without one of them shrieking.

We don’t do “cry it out” here. Nuh-uh. Not gonna happen. These kids have had everything taken away from them, literally. I am not going to make them cry their grief, disappointment, anger, whatever it is they’re feeling, alone. Sometimes I have to leave the room to refill cups, dispose of dirty diapers, wash my hands, get spitup rags, use the bathroom, or even take a sanity break… but I always come back. I rock them, rub tummies, pat backs, or sometimes just sit there if that’s what they need. When I think they’re asleep, I leave. And then sometimes I have to come back because one wasn’t really asleep – either that, or they have baby radar that says I’m not close enough – and their fear returns and the crying begins again.

Sure I’m tired. But it’s helping them adjust. And that’s what they need right now – help. Help from an adult who is trustworthy. Help from an adult who won’t get angry at the crying and hit them. Help from an adult who says “I love you” and who sings in a quiet voice, the same songs over and over, until the very consistency of it allows them to relax enough to sleep.

Sometimes one wakes the other up with his crying. And those times I wish I had separate rooms for them. But other times they’re both upset for their own reasons, and I can haul one crib over toward the other, and sit in the middle with one hand patting each little boy. And those are the times I’m glad they sleep together.

I’m sure I’ll catch up on my sleep some time. Like maybe when they’re in college.

 

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.

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

When did I become a male chicken?

 

“Chick, chick, chick, chick.”

Silence.

“CHICK, CHICK, CHICK, CHICK, CHICK!”

Little red hen heads pop up from the brush on the side of the yard, and fat hen bodies start waddling their way over to where I am. When I step forward, the hens turn in unison and head into the chicken run.

I push the door open further to allow my much larger human body into the run with them, and I distribute whatever treat I brought for them. It might be leftover pizza crust, or some apple cores, or mac and cheese. In a fit of largesse, I may have picked some blackberries especially for them, or the heads of wild grass that are heavy with seed. Whatever I bring, they scarf up like they haven’t eaten in a week, despite the fact they’ve been loose all day pecking at anything that moved.

And then it hits me – I’m a male chicken.

My hens trust me. Like any good rooster, I call the hens when there is something especially good available to eat. I create a safe place for them to be. When they call out in distress, I come quickly to deal with whatever intruder is bothering them. If one is missing at evening, I walk around looking and calling until she is found and rounded up where it is safe with the others. When a falcon decided my yard was a good place to perch, I stood outside between it and my hens until it decided there was no free meal here and it left.

I have sharp eyes, quick feet, and a call my hens recognize and respond to. My “spurs” are a pitchfork, my powerful “wings” are the back of a shovel, and I have a long-lived dedication to my flock of hens.

No matter that I’m a female human, to them I am their very own rooster.