Wednesday, April 24, 2013

....and just like that, he was gone

Yesterday Leo left our family via voicemail.

The social worker's message thanked me for all I do, and told me not to bother picking him up at the appointed time. So I picked up a burger and fries, instead. It's called eating my feelings, and I am not ashamed.

I knew it was going to be a short placement - seeing Leo and his mom together was heartwarming and beautiful. I was sad that we didn't get to say goodbye, but that was quickly over-ridden by the fact that I got 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep last night.

The whole voicemail thing really chapped my ass, though.

I mean, who the hell leaves voicemails these days? What are we, in the stone ages? Why don't you fax me the notification instead? Or maybe morse code is more your thing, you know, for confidentiality? Whatever, I shouldn't be surprised. Being a foster parent is sometimes like being a very poorly compensated on-call employee for a total asshole. I wish the social workers would stop behaving as though foster parents don't have any need for closure. It would be nice to know ahead of time that you will never see your foster child again. It's also nice to know that you don't need to buy another package of diapers, something I did a few hours before I knew he wasn't coming home with me.

Last night I sat in the living room and dismantled all of the baby stuff, packed up the clothes and formula, ate two popsicles and the rest of that container of cookies and cream ice cream the kids were looking for tonight, and passed out at 7:15 with a rim of chocolate around my mouth and a burp cloth on my pillow.

I am over it. And by "it", I mean the last two weeks/ What the actual fuck is going on around here?

Between hosting Lucy's birthday party, hearing about the bombing in our hometown and watching the  accompanying press coverage complete with lots of gory images that I don't think I want to look at any more (I mean, did you see the cowboy hat guy holding that man's femoral artery? Jesus H. Christ, that was some fucked up shit right there) and having a newborn dropped in my lap and then just as suddenly having that newborn yanked away, all I can say is THANK GOD I FOUND MY PROZAC PRESCRIPTION.

I had that refill in my hands in a hot fucking minute, let me tell you what. And some Xanax, too. Which totally got me through the shootout and subsequent manhunt on Friday which I followed via online police scanner in-between feedings and diaper changes. If you have to be awake all night long, a horrific incident of terrorism, accompanied by people live-tweeting the chaos from under their bed as it all goes down in their driveway can really help keep you alert. I couldn't have slept if I tried.

The good news is that it won't take much for next week to be better than this one.
In other news, I really, really miss drinking.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Another child, not my own.

Last week Thursday was Lucy's birthday, and on the same day that we were celebrating her birth, another baby was being born at the very same hospital she had been, under very different circumstances. On Friday, as we were loading up Lucy's friends in the car for a sleepover, my phone rang. 

Because my phone battery is always almost dead by dinnertime, it was plugged into the car charger, and I keep that charger's cord coiled and secured with Velcro so it doesn't get wrapped around the gear shift, or jammed in the tracks of the seat so that I can't move the seat closer to the steering wheel. (It is critically important that I be able to move the seat as close as physically possible to the steering wheel - so close that I can barely fit my knees under the dash - because when I drive at night I need to be able to clutch the steering wheel and peer over it through the dashboard like my 98 year old great grandmother Mabel who drove a Dodge Dart with 3 pillows and phone book under her ass so she could see where she was going. I am not 98, and I don't need the pillows - but I do have a tendency to get real close to the wheel and peer over it, because I never remember to bring my glasses with me in the car.

MY POINT IS, my phone was connected to the console by a short cord, and so to answer it Sam needed to bend forward with his forehead practically touching the dashboard. And because he is not 100% sure how to use my phone (because it is not a clamshell-style flip phone from 1998) he tends to press the touch screen a few times and then just sort of shout at it. 

So there he was, bent double in the front seat, shouting into a phone that was attached to the console by a wire about 6" long. Luckily he had managed to turn on the speakerphone during the course of his attempt to answer the call, so I could hear everything that was going on as I drove.

It was our social worker, and he was calling to make sure we were home, because he had a baby for us.

Now, in our family we get these calls on a semi-regular basis. We have been foster parents for the state for over 10 years, and that's how this happens - you get a call, and if you are lucky about 24 hours notice to get your life in order. Because at that moment we were about to host a sleepover, I didn't have a lot of time to chat. 

Sam, meanwhile, was trying to convince the worker that they didn't want us to take the baby because I was too busy. I put a stop to that nonsense. 

Yes, we would take the baby. Yes, we knew the social worker who would be calling us over the weekend. Yes, of course. Yes, no problem. Yes, absolutely. The worker hung up and without even looking at Sam, I said "It's fine. Hang up the phone."

He looked at me from between the seats, where he was still holding the phone to his head - even though it was on speaker phone. He sat up and looked over his shoulder at the six girls shrieking and giggling in the back of the Suburban we had rented for the occasion. And he shook his head and sighed, and started pressing on the touch screen trying to hang up the call.

Friday night passed in a whirlwind of top 40 singalongs, ice cream sundaes and late night whispers. In the morning the girls were collected by their parents, and headed home exhausted and strung out on bacon and red velvet tea. Saturday afternoon we took Lucy to lunch and bought the elusive bath bomb, and I had pretty much forgotten that we were waiting for a phone call. But as we headed home the phone rang. The social worker was heading to the hospital, were we ready? All I wanted to know was if I had time to go to Costco. Because chances were very good I wasn't going to get there again for a while.

Guys, meet Leo.

I'll write more when I have the chance, but just know that with all of the craziness in the world this past week, my craziness quotient was once again dialed up to an 11.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Someone gave me a baby, the 2013 edition

Yesterday morning, I realized that I was out of time. I kept thinking I had another day - but then the day filled up in a flash and there I was. Out of time.

I know it shouldn't matter. Lucy knows she is loved and doesn't measure our love for her in gifts received, and all of those other things people say to make themselves feel better about giving shitty gifts or forgetting altogether. She deserves more than a random selection of stuff (none of which she had asked for) and a half-assed attempt at wrapping. It could have been so easy.

You know what she loves? What she always asks for, every time she sees them?
Bath Bombs.

She is so easy to please - it wouldn't have taken much. I let her down. I let myself down.

As I slowly wrapped the display box I had bought because I thought it would be perfect for her miniature glass animal collection, I realized that it was really not as exciting as it had seemed in the store. I fought the urge to just stuff my tips from the weekend in there, and tie it with a bow: "I couldn't decide what to get you, so I thought we would go shopping together!"

No. Lame. This isn't about the money. "It's the thought that counts...." my grandmother's voice echoes in my ears. This is about making some effort, and maybe planning a little further in advance. I wrack my brain, trying to figure out how to make it all work.

Or I can stop worrying about the gifts, and just plan an amazing day for her.
Live in the moment.
I'll give her memories for her birthday.
They will last a lifetime.

Who am I kidding. What a fucking cop-out. She's 8. She wants a big pile of boxes wrapped in pretty paper full of things she has been dreaming about. And I got her a stupid display box.

I am an asshole.

By 5 o'clock I was in a serious funk. We were at a friend's house for dinner, and as I stirred the tomato sauce I leaned over the counter and muttered under my breath "I totally forgot that her birthday was tomorrow. I mean, I knew it was her birthday, I didn't forget, but I just..... I didn't realize it was TOMORROW. I ran out of time. I am *so* not prepared."

He looked at me with a furrowed brow and muttered back "How could you forget? You were there."


Yes and no. And that may be the root of the problem. Of my guilt. Of my need to do more.

The call came in just after 8am. We got to the hospital by 9, breathless and sweaty and tear-stained.
We were late to the party. The nurse said she had been born at 2. Or maybe it was 2:30. I wasn't really paying attention, because I was staring at the tiny bundle in the bassinet, as we stood in the hallway of the maternity ward just inside the security door she had buzzed us through.

Lucy's birth parents were in a different wing. They had already said goodbye and sent her to the nursery to wait for us. The nurses had taken turns holding her and crooning to her, comforting this baby who was between mothers, as they gave her a bath and put her in a tiny striped hat and pricked her heel before swaddling her and laying her down under the warming lamps.

I don't know how long she had been there waiting for us - not more than a few hours - but the thought of her being alone that morning for even a few moments makes my stomach churn.

The thought of her lying on another woman's chest is unbearable.

And the thought of a mother kissing her newborn baby goodbye and handing her to a nurse, knowing she would never see her again?


I am just so grateful. Grateful to them. Grateful for her.
I want to do a good job, because they trusted me to.

When someone gives you a baby, how can you possibly do enough to show your gratitude? How can you prove yourself worthy of such a priceless treasure? Today, when I realized that I could have done better, my heart broke a little. Those people gave me a baby, and that baby is turning 8, and dammit if she wants one of those bath bombs, I should be driving where ever I need to, to get her one. And I will. But not in time for her birthday. In the meantime, what can I do?

Bake a cake? Check. Homemade lasagna? Check. After school outing for a cake pop at Starbucks and her first ever pedicure? Check. Streamers and candles? Check.

Tomorrow is the much-anticipated, long-awaited, carefully planned party - a sleepover for 6, with a sundae bar before bed and bacon in the morning. And then, I want to get her one of those damn bath bombs, so that I can sleep at night.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Giving Up: the things I am learning to live without

First, let me say right from the outset that this has nothing to do with lent. I am not even capitalizing "lent", so complete is my disassociation from all things relating to church and religion in general.

No, I have been giving things up because I am a cheap, lazy bastard who has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. (If there is such a thing as a healthy relationship with alcohol, I have not been able to develop one). In a burst of self-righteousness when yet another enormously inflated bill for a basic service came through our door, I called it quits. I cancelled, reduced, changed and otherwise adjusted memberships and utilities - and in the process I learned to live without a lot of things I thought of as "necessities".

Here, in brief (or not so brief) is a list of things I have been living without lately:

1. A second car. People still look at us incredulously when we say that we only have one car. They ask about it sympathetically, as though we must have fallen on the hardest of hard times: "You guys still down to one car?" I prefer to think of it as a positive change we have made in our lives - we spend more time together, plan our trips to town more carefully, and most importantly we save money on insurance and maintenance. Would it be easier to have 2 cars? Absolutely. Do we wish we had two cars? Rarely. I'll tell you what I wish for on a regular basis: public transportation that is actually timely and comprehensive. Public transportation on Maui is in its very early stages - which is to say inconvenient at best, and almost nonexistent the rest of the time. We currently live a block from the bus route that goes to our island's main town - but that is the only place it goes. The buses drive in big fucking circles, over and over again, with only one overlapping central bus stop for all the routes. So if I want to go to the village just down the road, I have to ride the bus into town first - which takes an hour. Wait to catch another bus, pay the $2 fare for a second time, and then ride that bus for another hour. A trip that requires a ten minute drive and half a gallon of gas in my own car, costs $8 round trip and takes 4 hours on the bus. So we have to have at least one car because obviously we cannot rely solely on public transportation. And every morning I drag my sorry ass out of bed and drive my husband to the van pool cheerfully in silence. I drive home and crawl back into bed for another hour, where I lie miserable and cold, wondering if it's worth it. I pick him up every evening as well: sometimes alone, sometimes with a screaming baby and an assortment of kids hanging out the windows greeting him enthusiastically. We didn't make this decision because we couldn't afford a second car. We didn't make the decision for environmental reasons. We just decided that we really didn't need two cars. For the most part, this has held true - there have been very few times when we actually needed a second car, and at those rare times (I can count them on one hand) a friend has offered to lend us a car, or we have rented one. It's been fine. Will we get a second vehicle again in the future? I don't know. Maybe?

2. Cable TV. When we had cable, Max watched SpongeBob every time my back was turned. In a remarkable freak of television programming, that show is on 24/7. You might have to change the channel, but you can always find an episode of that sodden yellow moron with his dopey pink friend playing somewhere. To this day, every time I hear the theme song I cringe. I thought that was as bad as it got - but then after we enrolled her in the local church's preschool, Lucy developed an interest in Veggie Tales. To get an idea of how I felt about that development, please see above re: lent. It's not just SpongeBob and Veggie Tales - I am not a fan of cartoons in general. I watch the Food Network almost exclusively, and life without Food Network was no kind of life at all, but I was surviving - barely. Yesterday I was very pleased to discover that Hulu Plus offers lots of programs from Food Network along with all of my other favorites like SNL and The Daily Show. We don't get local channels - even with an antenna on the roof - but we could get what we needed via the radio and the internet. Sure, I miss watching the evening news, and when something newsworthy is going on I have a momentary desire for CNN - but for the most part I have been able to keep us entertained with Netflix and Hulu. Now that we have Hulu Plus I am pretty sure cable - and that asshole Spongebob - will  never be a part of our life again.

3. Trash pick up. When we moved to Maui in 2002, trash pickup was once a week, and cost about $75 a year. Every Christmas we left a case of beer next to our trash can, and every year the crew of guys hanging off the side of the truck cheered and waved, and threw it in the cab. Then the price went up to $140 a year, and we cut the trash guys back to a six-pack. It's now $270 a year for trash service. A huge roaring truck comes twice a week at dawn with a single guy in the driver seat. The truck has an enormous automated arm and everyone has to use one of those huge county-issued rolling bins with a heavy lid so unwieldy that it precludes my daughter from being able to take the trash out. The whole thing is a total racket.and as far as I can tell this new system doesn't benefit anyone. We don't even have curbside recycling. Since we had to continue to drive to the dump with recycling and greenwaste, we just decided to skip trash collection altogether. Instead, we partner up with our neighbors and throw our stinky trash in their can, in exchange for mowing the strip of grass between our properties. And we'll probably give them a case of beer for Christmas. Speaking of which:

4. Booze. I haven't had a drink since December. Not even a sip of wine. Nothing. Nada. While there have been a few times that I have stared longingly at a bottle, or watched someone enjoy a cold, frosty beverage - and one particular afternoon where I went so far as to pull a nip of vodka out of the freezer - I have so far managed to avoid consuming any alcohol in 2013. It's been a huge adjustment for me - not drinking at all is much, much different then drinking less, or drinking just on special occasions. I can't drink less, and I sure can't drink on special occasions - the last time I got drunk was at a work party, which is the sort of special occasion that I should definitely have been drinking less at. I had to be helped to the car after dinner, and ended up with my dress around my head, peeing on the side of the road while my husband held me upright and tried to keep the passerby from getting a clear view of my naked ass. After all, it was only 8pm - can you imagine what kind of trouble I would have caused if I had not been too drunk to stand up? Then I went home and threw up all over our bed. Alcohol and I do not work well together. I don't judge others for drinking - I just prefer to keep my head on straight and my pants, well, on, for starters.

5. Walmart. A place where even a drunk woman with her dress over her head can feel at home. Though I fit right in with their crowd, I am trying to break up with Walmart. We don't have a Target, our KMart is kind of sketchy, and Costco - as much as I love it - doesn't have everything I need. Our grocery stores are not supercenters, our mall has as many empty storefronts as stores, and dammit, sometimes I just want to get all the stuff I need in one place without having to pay a premium. Which is why I am still finding my way on this one. I hate everything about Walmart, and I am looking forward to never shopping there again. Whenever I walk under that horrible blast of air and through the automatic door to hell I grit my teeth and vow that this will be the last time. It never is.

6. A clothes dryer. Even a cheap bastard has their limit. I tried. I really, really tried. And I failed. My underwear was scratchy and my jeans were stiff as cardboard. I felt like I was literally wearing a hair shirt - and since lent and Veggie Tales aren't on my radar, you can be damn sure I wasn't going to make myself suffer unnecessarily. Fuck THAT, man. No amount of fabric softener and sunshine can beat the results of laundry dried at a high speed tumble on hot. It's the American way.

There are lots of other things I have cut down - or cut out - but these are the biggies. We still eat fast food occasionally, and I have an Amazon problem. There is no way I am giving up internet at home, and I tried to live without a smartphone but failed miserably. I did drop the gym membership - that's because I never went - and maybe someday I will draw up a budget and actually stick to it. Not holding my breath on that one, either.

Five years ago, the idea of life without cable, a second car, alcohol, booze, Walmart, and a clothes dryer was just unthinkable. I truly was the ultimate consumer. And now, now that I have tried (and sometimes failed) to live without "necessities" I am learning that I had so much more than I - than anyone, really - needed. It is nice to know that I can rough it. Just as long as I have access to a functioning clothes dryer.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

When is it time to think about medicating a kid?

I have 2 children. Both are silly, sweet, smart, mature kids - but my son has always been a handful.

My son was the kid who taught me why the child harness was invented, after he twisted away from me and darted out into traffic - twice. After he jumped out of his stroller and disappeared while I was standing next to him buying a shirt at Sears. After he ran ahead of us, rounded a corner, and was gone before we could catch up - only to be spotted a few frantic minutes later being led down the escalator by a stranger who was "taking him to security".

Impulse control is not his strong suit.

But lately, as he has gotten older, there has been a certain expectation of age-appropriate behavior that he is not reaching. At least, not according to some people.

But how do I know? How do I know whether my child - a child who, like every child is unlike anyone else - is struggling more than any other pre-teen in the early throes of adolescence? According to the other mothers I speak to, kids this age are some combination of defiant, impulsive, angry, emotional, confused, combative, aggressive, withdrawn, sad, scared and lonely. They struggle to follow directions, to pay attention, to stay awake, to remember their manners, to complete tasks. All of them. Each child is different, but they are the same in that they all appear to be struggling as their bodies and minds are both racing.

Is there some universal sign, some checklist to figure out if my kid needs medication? How will I know? And what if the medication crushes his spirit, instead of just calming his mind?

Buying a harness when he was 18 months old was hard for me to do, but it ended up being a last resort that I felt I needed to explore. I was embarrassed and uncomfortable - but I was also desperate to keep him safe. And so I reluctantly put it in my shopping cart, among the organic produce and free range eggs. Irony.

I knew the harness wouldn't change him - but it might help him to learn boundaries. Strapping it on a 12 year old won't work, unfortunately - and the boundaries are far less obvious than mere physical safety. But strangely enough, his physical safety and behavior in public is what prompted me to make a doctor's appointment for my son, to have him assessed. A few days ago, he ran into the drugstore to return a DVD. When he came out, he almost darted into traffic - but then he stopped just short of the crosswalk, remembering to look first. And when the oncoming car stopped and waved him across, he waved back, and dashed across the street.

Without looking the other way.

He stopped - thank goodness - in the middle of the road, and waited for the other car (who was not planning on stopping for my child even though they were approaching a stop sign and going over a speed bump).

But he came very, very close to being hit.

I sat in the car, screaming "NO! as I watched the car approach, and then pass him by. As he crossed the rest of the street and climbed in my car he was already apologizing. "I looked ONE way, mom." he said sheepishly.

But in life, you have to look both ways.

So while I still hope that this is just another phase, that his behavior is normal and par for the pre-teen course, I am going to look both ways as well. I am going to talk to the doctor, and ask them for their professional opinion. Whether I take their advice or not remains to be seen.

This is another post for Yeah, Write's 500 words or less series. Working within that limitation is a good exercise - you should submit your own writing! It's open to writers who blog, and bloggers who write. Tell them Daffodil sent you xo