Monday, June 30, 2008


I'm having fun looking back at the old pictures I discovered. And I'm deleting pretty much all of them that I'm in. Blech. Note to three months post-partum self - Would it kill you to put on a little powder? Also, BUY A BRUSH!

Oh, and don't worry about what my kids are up to while I'm doing all this picture stuff. For the last thirty minutes they've been playing happily with a piece of velvet. Yes, I'm raising village idiots. (Bonus points for anyone who gets that reference.)

Disney overload

You know how you can tell that you've stayed up too late looking at Disney World pictures on Flickr? You have dreams about looking at Disney World pictures on Flickr.

It was a pretty Disney-ish weekend for me all around. On Saturday Jesse and I took the kids to see Wall-E. It was Elle's first movie in a movie theater and she did really well. I was a little worried when we started to walk into the theater and Elle shrieked in terror because the room was so big and dark. Opps, guess I forgot to warn her about that part. Once we explained that it was just like watching a big tv screen she was cool. It's all good in Elle's book if tv is involved. We all really liked the movie a lot and I would recommend it to anyone (even if it did make Joseph cry twice). It's really good.

On Sunday Elle and I went to my parent's house and my dad and I worked for hours on Disney autograph books for the kids. Yes, I know you can just buy them but ours are going to be special and the kids are going to love them. At leas they better because we spent a lot of time on them. Ok, confession. As we were putting the book together my dad and I kept saying things like "Let's use this picture of Jasmine! She'll like that!" and "Sleeping Beauty will like it if we use a picture of her in this dress!" If you ever encounter someone talking like that, don't even bother trying to get them help. They're too far gone.

I was looking through some stuff on my computer and I came across a ton of Disney pictures that I totally forgot I had taken. I'm going to be throwing them up on Flickr so if you're the sort of person who likes to kill time looking at other people's vacation pictures then you can check it out. In the meantime here's a picture I took of Expedition Everest as it was still being built.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Random musings 47

I saw Sex and the City the other night. I know that I swore I wouldn't see it but I did. Still love Charlotte and and Samantha. Still kind of "meh" on Miranda. Still hate Carrie and Big. The movie wasn't awful but it's kind of hard to get too terribly into the story when every time you see the main character you think "I hope you choke on your $500 shoes, horse-face". You know what's really great though? Seeing a movie with graphic sex scenes with your Grandma. Awkward!

I can't believe I forgot "Oh fer cute!" in my Speaking Minnesotan post. (Thank you!) I think I just hear it so much that I kind of forget that everyone doesn't say it. I admit though that I do prefer "Oh fer gross!" And "hot dish". How could I forget "hot dish"? Hot dish is what you non-Minnesotans call casserole. That's one thing I refuse to give in on. I'm sorry but it just sounds so stupid to me. If anyone ever hears me say "hot dish" please slap me. I've already given in an stared referring to soda as pop. Isn't that enough?

One time in middle school I bought this t-shirt that had the names of every lake in Minnesota on it. (Why did people think I was such a dork?) I wore it proudly until the twelfth person asked me "Is that the name of every person in Minnesota?" Then I wore it ashamedly.

How do you feel when a blogger you really like likes a blogger that you just cannot stand? Do you ever want to leave a comment for them saying "It's either her or me! I DEMAND THAT YOU CHOSE!" or is that just me? It's probably just me. No one else is that neurotic.

I already twittered this but I'm going to go ahead and say it here too. The other day I said to Jesse "You're never romantic anymore!" and he said "What? Did you want to have sex last night or something?" Yeah. Because that's what I meant. Meathead.

76 days until we leave for Disney World. All of the sudden it seems like it's coming up fast. I better start packing. One thing I'll need to pack? Diapers. Potty training is not going well. For a couple of days we had a little success and now nothing. Maybe I should leave Elle with my mom for the weekend to see what she can do with her. Although, if I don't learn how to do it now then how will I someday potty train my own grandchildren?

Well, that's enough stupidity for now I guess.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Story of Joseph - Changing Strategy

Shortly after Christmas there was a shift in the way Joseph's case was being handled. Someone finally got a clue that Julie was not a good candidate to parent Joseph and the focus turned to Joey.

I had major apprehensions about this. I had always like Joey but I knew he wasn't going to be able to take care of Joseph. He didn't know how to do things like change a diaper or make a bottle. Despite the fact that he had been shown how to do these things repeatedly he just didn't get it.

Joseph's visitation schedule with Joey and Julie changed once again. Julie still had her two hour parent/child interaction with Joseph once a week but she no longer had the extra hour long joint visit with Joey. That didn't matter, she had long since stopped coming to them. Joey also lost the hour long visit and in it's place he started going to a two hour parent/child class once a week.

Ok, I'm just going to say this. I HATED taking Joseph to those classes. It was an hour long drive into a very yucky part of Minneapolis during the worst time of the year weather-wise. I would pack Joseph into the car and skid along the icy roads in the dark (because the class was held in the evening) as I clutched the steering wheel and prayed we didn't get into a horrible wreck. Once we actually got to the center I would have to take Joseph in and wait around with a big group of scuzzy looking dads who had all been court ordered to be there because they weren't able to parent their children. Joey was always late because he got picked up and brought to the visits by a van from the center and the van was always late. It was not unusual to have to wait half an hour or so for Joey to get there.

The good news was that once Joey got there he really seemed to enjoy his time with Joseph. Where Julie was passive and disinterested Joey was eager and involved. There was a lot he didn't know how to do for Joseph but he always tried. After each visit he would talk excitedly about his plans for what would happen once Joseph was living with him. And, as he always did, he thanked us for taking such good care of Joseph and for dressing him in such nice outfits.

During this time I had to take Joseph to several appointments where Joey's parenting skills were assessed. Basically they were put into a room together and people watched to see how well Joey did with it all. I never heard many details of how this all went but from the bits and pieces I overheard I knew it never went well. Obviously no one ever gave me a full report or anything but I would hear things like "We can tell he's trying but......" and "I can see that he loves Joseph but...." It was becoming clear that Joey was not a viable option for parenting Joseph.

Joey didn't seem to realize the direction things were moving in. At the end of one weekly visit Joey broke my heart a little bit when he said "I just moved into a big house with my friend. It will be a great place for Joseph to grow up!"

You can imagine how surprised we were when Joey didn't show up for his next visit. Or his next one. On the third missed visit I tracked down the van driver and asked him what was going on. He said that each week he had been going to pick up Joey and for the past three weeks Joey had waved him on and said he wasn't going to his visits.

We never saw Joey again. We wouldn't learn this till later on but apparently Julie and Joey had broken up and Julie's family (who had never done anything to help Joseph or Julie throughout all of this) went to Joey and told him that "the judge" had decided that Joey wasn't allowed to go to visits anymore and that if he did show up he would be arrested. Joey, not understanding how things really worked assumed that they were telling him the truth and stopped going to visits. I somehow ended up talking to Vera about this and she said "It doesn't matter. He wasn't going to get Joseph back anyway."

But it did matter! I didn't know how she could say that. Someone who loved Joseph, who cared about him, who liked to see him wear a baseball cap had been bullied into never seeing him again when he had every right to see him. No, Joey wasn't going to end up raising Joseph but what Julie's family did to him was wrong.

By the time any one got around to trying to correct the situation Joey had left town. No one knew where he had gone or how to get ahold of him.

With Joey out of the picture there was still the question of what to do with Joseph. As Joseph's "really short placement" moved into it's seventh month the decision was made to work on having Joseph live with Julie again. We were told that Joseph would start having weekend long visits with Julie at her new group home. I had thought things had been bad before. They were about to get much worse.

Speaking Minnesotan

I think it's time for me to face the facts. I speak Minnesotan. I never wanted to do it but it was pointless to resist. I was born into it, there was no escape.

Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes and 14,000 odd pronunciations.

I only lived in Minnesota for a couple of years before moving away but apparently the dialect made a big impression on me. No matter where I lived as I was growing up people would say "You're from Minnesota aren't you?" Depending on my mood I would respond with "Yah, sure! You betcha!" or "Nuhooooo!" (That's "no" to you non-Minnesotan speakers.)

The Minnesota dialect is a powerful thing but it's not the only influence on my speech. The six years that I lived in California did a number on the way I talk. My conversations skills have been seriously dumbed down by the fact that I can't get through two sentences in a row without throwing in a "you know" or "like" or "whatever". Here's a hint for all of you unfamiliar with the West coast. Californians aren't all stupid. They just sound that way.

I've also been effected by living on various Air Force bases for many of my formative years. I think of Jesse's boss as his "first shirt". I want things done asap. Not ASAP, asap. I sometimes think that I need to stop at the BX for something or other.

I don't think my time in Colorado had any effect on my accent at all. Colorado, like much of the middle of he country is kind of vanilla when it comes to accents. Why is that do you suppose? Why is it that the north, south, east and west have such strong, recognizable dialects while the middle of the country doesn't? How do they speak so normally with stupid speech patterns invading them from every side?

But I digress. The point is that I've finally come to accept my Minnesota dialect. It took living here for 11+ years but I've finally embraced my Minnesota speech. The other day I picked up something heavy and said "Oof-duh" without a hint of irony. I think I've fully assimilated.

Oh, one more thing. A quick tip for those of you non-Minnesotans who may someday find yourselves within our borders: If someone offers you a "salad" be prepared for the fact that whatever they give you will most likely contain jell-o and/or mini marshmallows.

I hope you've entered dat dere popcorn giveaway I've got going on right now. It ain't too bad a deal but it's endin' tonight.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Because seven year olds love crackhouses

Behind the grocery store where we do a lot of our shopping is an old abandoned farm. It has a couple of cool looking buildings that I've been dying to get a closer look at for a while. Yesterday evening Joseph and I headed out there with the camera and the intention of snapping some neat pictures. Once we got a little ways down the dirt road though I started to get a little freaked out.The entire place is surrounded by tall grass, overgrown bushes and thick trees. I nearly peed my pants when a rabbit jumped across the dirt road in front of us. I started to get worried. What if someone was out there?Joseph started to sense my nervousness. "What if there are ghosts out here?" he asked nervously. "It's the middle of the day!" I replied. "No ghosts come out during the day!" Good one mom. The truth is that I was less worried about ghosts and more worried about maybe running into a group of crackheads. Because there's nothing crackheads love more than hanging out in abandoned barns. My knowledge of drug culture is astounding.Then Joseph said "What if an old man died here and no one ever knew and he's still laying out here dead?" That imagery was just a little too much for me so we turned around and headed back down the dirt road.On the way out Joseph found a big hunk of white quartz. "Look Mommy!" he exclaimed. "I found a diamond!" We also saw some really neat patterns in the ground where mud had dried up.We got back in the car and drove to a park where we saw some baby ducks and this bumper sticker. It made Joseph giggle for two solid minutes.As we were driving home Joseph said "I love having adventures with you mommy! Think of more places we can explore together!" He's so cute. I might just have to take him to more abandoned barns sometimes. After I've made Jesse check them out thoroughly first of course.

Monday, June 23, 2008

What are you hanging around here for?

Why aren't you over at Problem Girl Shops trying to win yourself some popcorn? Think you don't need to win some popcorn? Then you've obviously never tried making Popcorn Salad. It's much tastier than it sounds. Seriously.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Matt Harding does it again

You know I loves me some Matt Harding. Why do these videos make me cry? Because I'm a total sap? Oh yeah, that's it. Watch this and try not to smile. I bet you can't do it. (It's even better when you switch it to full screen and high def mode.)

I love how many of the people are doing his signature dance. I also love the guy in LA in a wheelchair. He's totally into it. (He's on the lower right hand side.) Come on, that's some heart warming stuff right there!

The best thing I've read all day

Read this! If it's the only thing you do today, read it. I promise it's a lot more cheerful than the last link I posted here. I promise. Now go!

Oh wait, before you go, let me ask you this. Do you like popcorn? Do you like free stuff? Do you like free popcorn? Then you're going to want to come back on Monday when I start a contest where not one, but TWO people will win free popcorn!

Friday, June 20, 2008


I've got to clean up my craphole of a kitchen. I'll let you know if I make it out alive.

Edited - Now I can breath again. I think I'll treat myself and open one of my 20 bottles of wine tonight. (See them back there in the corner?) Now that I can actually get to them and all it seems like a shame not to open them.

The Story of Joseph - The First Christmas

Christmas was coming up quickly and Julie's social worker was really pushing for Joseph to be "home" by then. The big problem with that was that Julie really didn't have a place to call home. Julie's social worker Vera had tried to set Julie up in several different places but Julie had turned them all down.

In fact, Julie has still not done any of the basic things required of her to get Joseph back. Of course I was concerned and Sabrina was too. She put in a request for Joseph to have a a guardian ad litum assigned to him. (A guardian ad litum is someone who represents a foster child in court and speaks for their best interest es.) Thankfully Joseph was assigned a guardian who saw right away that going back with Julie would not be in Joseph's best interests. I was hopeful that her input would be helpful.

Three weeks before Christmas someone from the parenting classes that Julie took called me to ask what sort of things Joseph needed. This is how I go the news that Joseph was going to be leaving us right before Christmas. Apparently Julie had finally been set up in a group home and the plan was for Joseph to join her there in less than two weeks. The parenting program that she was a part of was going to buy her everything she needed to get set up. I was sad that it was going to go this way but I listed everything I could think of that Joseph would need in his new home. I told myself to be happy that Joseph would be spending his first Christmas with his mother and not "just" his foster parents.

The next week was the court date where we were supposed to hear that Julie was going to get Joseph back. We decided to go to the hearing. I wondered if we would have to hand him over right there at the courthouse. The thought freaked me out a little bit and I started to wish we hadn't decided to go. When we got to the courthouse we saw Julie standing in the lobby. She was surrounded by Vera, a couple of women from the parenting program and a couple of other women I didn't know. (I would later find out that they were from the new group home Julie was moving into.)

My intention had been to take Joseph over to Julie but for some reason when I saw her standing there I just couldn't. Instead I walked right past her and stood as far away from her as I could. That probably wasn't right and I still feel weird about it to this day but I just couldn't make myself hand Joseph over to her.

We were called into the courtroom to wait for the hearing to start. Jesse and I sat in the back and I held Joseph. Julie sat at one table with her large group surrounding her. At the other side of the courtroom sat Sabrina and Joseph's guardian. Right before the judge came in someone noticed that Julie's shirt was buttoned up wrong and they quickly fixed it for her. Julie sat there passively and started off into space.

I remember very little about the hearing because it all seemed to happen so quickly. What I do remember is that Sabrina and the guardian both stated that they did not believe Joseph should go back with Julie and gave a long list of reasons why. Vera countered that he should go back and said that Julie had demonstrated her ability to parent Joseph. How had she done that? She had "learned to navigate the bus system". I kid you not. That was the best she could come up with.

Thank goodness the judge wasn't bowled over by the whole "she can ride a bus therefor she can parent an infant" argument and he decided that Julie was not ready to have Joseph back. He scheduled another hearing in thirty days. As everything was wrapping up Vera said "Can we have a condition placed on the foster parents that they have to call before every scheduled visit to confirm that they're going to show up? They've missed several visits and it's impeding on Julie's ability to bond with Joseph."

You know what? I get what she was trying to do. She needed someone to blame for why Julie was acting the way she was and we were the logical target. The fact was though that Joseph had never missed a scheduled visit, ever. Thankfully Sabrina quickly pointed that out to the judge and said some very nice things in our defense. Vera responded that the records showed that several visits had been missed and Sabrina shot that down by telling the judged that if you actually looked at the records you would see that the reason those visits had been missed was because Julie had not shown up for them.

The judge agreed that there was no reason for the phone calls and the hearing was over. Jesse ushered me out of the courtroom as quickly as he could. I think he was worried that I was going to say something to Vera but he didn't need to worry about that. As we were leaving the room I saw Sabrina and the guardian ad litum whispering angrily to Vera. I had to chuckle a little bit.

So it turned out Joseph would be with us for Christmas after all. I told talked to someone from Julie's parenting program and they said they would encourage Julie to give Joseph some of the things that were being bought for him as Christmas presents. She told me that at the last visit before Christmas they would have Julie give Joseph his presents so that he could have some things at our house that were from her.

For some reason I wasn't shocked on the day of the visit when I saw Julie leaving the center with two large garbage bags full of baby supplies. She had taken everything with her and left nothing for Joseph. I would later find out from the guardian that Julie had given away everything that had been given to her that day. On Christmas day the only presents that Joseph got were from Jesse and I (and our families). His own parents didn't give him a single thing.

When I put Joseph to bed on Christmas day I wondered what would happen to him at the next hearing. I hoped that by then someone would come up with a way to give him a home. Would anyone ever see that wasn't willing and able to parent him?

What I didn't know at the time was that there were already big plans being made for Joseph.

I know this is tacky to ask but if you're reading this through a feed could you please (just this once!) click through to my actual blog? And if you're so inclined could you please (just this once) click on either of the two Project Wonderful ads on the way top right of the page? It would be so super cool if you did and I would love you forever and I promise to never ask again.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I don't know if I would have the strength

You must watch this series of photographs. Be prepared, if you have a heart at all you will cry. Be sure to turn on the captions (on the bottom left) so that you can really understand what each picture is about. Painful, thought-provoking and moving.

Princesses don't wear diapers!

Bribery with jelly beans hasn't worked. Promises of painted toenails hasn't worked. Asking my mom to do it hasn't worked. It's time to take drastic measures to get Elle potty trained.

She's giving me signs that she's ready but so far we're not having much luck. Or rather, any luck. So a couple of days ago I came up with a new potty training tactic that Nell would never approve of so let's just not tell her ok? (Nell has a really cute potty training story here that you should read.)

I told Elle that princesses do not wear diapers, that they go in the toilet. Then I promised her a phone call from a princess if she went potty in the toilet. She squealed with delight and chose .... um, Mickey Mouse. Not really a princess but ok, I can work with that. Then we had the following conversation:

Me: Where does Cinderella go potty?
Elle: In da toilet?
Me: Right! And where does Jasmine go potty?
Elle: In da toilet!
Me: Right! And where does Sleeping Beauty go potty?
Elle: Seeping Dooty goes potty in da toilet!
Me: That's right! Where does Ariel go potty?
Joseph: In the ocean!
Elle: In da ocean!
Me: Bad example. Where do all the other princesses go potty?
Elle: In da potty!
Joseph: Unless you're Ariel! Then you go in the ocean!
Me: Is Elle a beautiful princess?
Elle: I a beauuuuutiful princess!
Me: So where do you need to go potty?
Elle: In the toilet!
Me: Good girl!

Two minutes later.....

Elle: Uh oh! I go potty in my diaper!

The next step is to go and buy her a Disney Princess potty chair. Because of course there's such a thing. And I'll be damned if I'm taking this kid to Disney World still in diapers. That gives us nearly four months to get this potty training thing down. Can it be done? Will the pretty princess potty training method work? Probably not.

Monday, June 16, 2008

One of a kind

Today at soccer practice Joseph was being ..... well, Joseph and one of the kids on his team sneered at him and said "Why do you act so weird?"

Without missing a beat Joseph smiled and hopped from foot to foot and said "I act this way because I am showcasing my talent which, as you know, is being goofy."

Dear world,
Please be gentle with my sweet and special boy. He deserves it. And please be patient with him as we help him learn to fit in without blending in.

The story of Joseph - New and Unwanted Help

After about four months of Julie doing absolutely nothing to regain custody of Joseph someone in the system finally figured out that she wasn't going to do anything on her own. Now to me this was a big clue that she really did have any interest in getting Joseph back. To the system if just meant that she needed someone to push her a little harder.

Since Julie was only seventeen it was decided that she would have a social worker of her own assigned to her. For a very brief time the idea was that Julie would go into foster care too and that she and Joseph would live in a foster home together. This was the idea of Julie's social worker Vera and thankfully it was nixed almost right away.

What Vera did succeed in doing was getting changes made to Joseph's visitation schedule. He still had the joint visit with Julie and Joey once a week but now instead of his additional one hour visit with Julie he would have to go to a weekly two hour parenting class with her. Vera's thinking was that getting a chance to "parent" Joseph would restore her interest in him. I was instructed to send him to the visits "hungry and in need of a diaper change". Because that's not screwed up at all.

Julie didn't show up for her first parenting class so Vera arranged for a van to pick her up after that. This really irritated me. One of the conditions of Julie regaining custody was that she had to go to her scheduled visitation. This seemed like a pretty bare minimum thing to me but now Very had arranged it so that Julie didn't even have to be responsible for getting herself to visits. She just had to shuffle onto a can once a week and that was seen as fulfilling her obligation.

For me these new visits were always very uncomfortable. I would get there with Joseph and then he and I would go sit in the room with a bunch of mothers who had been ordered by the court to be there and their snotty faced kids. The staff seemed to have given up on teaching any kind of parenting skills and instead would spend the class standing in the corners gossiping and eating grahm crackers.

I got to see all of this because in spite of being picked up for her visits Julie would often be up to a half hour late. The van driver told me that he would sometimes have to knock on her door or call her for 10 minutes before she would come out and even then she would delay and stall.

When Julie would finally show up she would do everything she could to avoid taking Joseph right away. She would talk to the other moms, slooooowly take her coat off and put it away, get a drink of water, retie her shoes, stare off into space, anything to to put off having to take her wet and hungry son out of my arms.

Sabrina came to a couple of the classed to observe Julie's interactions with Joseph. She would come to me afterwards and say "She's obviously either unwilling or unable to parent that child." Vera came to a class once too and afterwards gushed to me "Julie just loves this time with Joseph! She's so great with him!" I wondered if she was trying to fool me or herself.

Christmas was coming up soon and Vera was pushing to have Joseph back with Julie by then. I was worried for Joseph but as a foster parent there was really nothing I could do. I expressed my concerns to Sabrina (who agreed with me totally) and then sat back and watched Vera try to push Julie into being a mother.

I didn't know it at the time but Christmas was going to bring with it big changes in Joseph's situation.

Toddler blood is like sweet, sweet wine to them

I can never let Elle outside again. It turns out the that mosquitoes think she's as deliciously sweet as I do.

This is about 1/10th of the bites she got yesterday. Stupid Minnesota and it's giant baby-eating mosquitoes. It does have it's moments though*.

*It's best moments do not include the one's where we have to sit in out dark basement for half an hour while a small tornado touches down half a mile from our house and my boy cries out things like "Promise me that if our house starts to fall down you'll lay on top of me so that you die and I don't because it's sad when kids die because they haven't even had a chance to grow up yet!"

Edited to add: This is what your knee looks like when you are a toddler and you take two big falls in three days, the second one occurring after your uncle encourages you to run after your mother who is biking past you on a roughly paved road. Thanks for asking Uncle Ben!

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Story of Joseph - Visitation

Shortly after we got Joseph Sabrina let us know that his one month placement was going to be extended a bit. "Two months, three at the most" we were told. I was surprised to hear this because I knew what requirements Julie had to fulfill in order to get Joseph back and they were pretty simple. I didn't see how anything on that list could have taken longer than a couple of weeks.

I wondered if Julie developmental delays were causing some of the problems. I thought that maybe she was having a hard time doing what was expected of her and I wondered if anyone was helping her through the system. I also wondered if she was really capable of caring for a baby if she couldn't even manage the simple things she needed to do in order to get her child back.

When I would take Joseph for visits I would always stay and wait in the lobby while he was with Julie and Joey. I always enjoyed the quiet time to just sit and read a book. A bonus was all the people watching I would get to do as other foster parents and parents would come for their scheduled visits. That was always interesting. Another interesting thing was that from the lobby where I sat I could overhear a lot of what was being said in the office. I would often hear bits and pieces of information that the visitation supervisor would give to her boss about Julie and Joey. I would overhear things like "Julie looks like she hasn't showered in a week" and "She gets so flustered after 10 minutes with him. She just doesn't know what to do." and "No matter how many times I show her how to do it she just can't fix him a bottle."

I seriously began it doubt Julie's interest in or ability to raise a child. I tried to remain neutral on the whole situation though. After all, my job as a foster parent was to take care of Joseph, bring him to visits, keep my mouth shut and hope like heck that he never got a diaper rash that looked like a bruise. (Spoiler alert! He didn't.) Anyway, it was hard for me to get a read on Julie. She showed up for visits late and often left early. It was not unusual for visits that were supposed to be an hour long to be chopped down to half an hour. She never talked to me or even looked at me. In fact, I bet it was a good two months before I heard her speak at all and even then it was only to mutter a word or two to Joey.

Joey was on the opposite end of the spectrum. I liked him right away. He was friendly and talkative with everyone. He showed up for visits early (the site staff told me he sometimes came an hour early) and didn't leave until the very last second. He often carried Joseph back to the car for me, chattering all the way. "You guys are taking such good care of him!" he would say. "I like the outfits you dress him in!"

Joey always got a big kick out of it when Joseph wore clothes with Twins or Vikings logos on them so on I made a point to dress Joseph in sports-themed outfits on days he had visits with Joey. The day I sent Joseph to a visit wearing a tiny little baseball cap Joey just about died laughing. He took Joseph around to everyone he could find in the building showing him off.

As much as I liked Joey I also wondered about his ability to care for a baby. His developmental delays were so significant that he couldn't hold a job and lived off of social security. He told me he didn't really have a place to live and couldn't get a driver's licence. I overheard the visitation staff saying that Joey didn't understand how to change a diaper. As much as I liked Joey? I just didn't see him taking care of Joseph.

For one month and then two and then three and then four the routine continued. We would go to visits and Julie would be late or sometimes not show up at all. Joey would be early and eager to see Joseph. I would sometimes bring them both pictures of Joseph. Joey always liked that. Julie never seemed to care one way or the other.

In a lot of ways Joseph was the ideal placement. He was the easiest baby on the face of the planet and my relationship with him parents was totally drama-free. I never complained but at some point I did start to wonder what in the heck was going to happen with Joseph. It was very clear to me that Julie had no interest in parenting Joseph and that Joey had no ability to parent him. When was someone going to do something to find this child a home?

Luckily the foster care system had a brilliant plan! Or did they? (Hint - No, they didn't.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What Joseph just said to me

I swear to god that this is 100% true. One minute he's eating his lunch of applesauce and a peanut butter sandwich and the next he looks up at me and says:

"If I want to attract a mate when I grow up then I'm going to have to get a wig."

<---- Is concerned that his short hair will leave him lonely in his adulthood.

Wordless Wednesday - At the scene of the crime

No matter how many times she says she didn't eat that chocolate cupcake, somehow I don't believe her.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Aspie honesty

Joseph really doesn't understand the concept of white lies. Lying is a pretty black and white issue for him. To him not telling the complete and total truth about EVERYTHING is a lie.

We went out to eat the other night and as we were looking at the menu I remarked to Jesse that I was totally going to blow my diet with what I wanted to order. When the waitress came Joseph waited until I placed my order and blurted out "My Mommy is trying to lose weight!"

After the waitress left I asked him why he said that and he looked at me with eyes wide as dinner plates and said "I didn't want to lie! You are trying to lose weight!"

This past school year a lot of kids were playing Transformers on the playground and Joseph wanted to play too but he couldn't because he had never seen the movie (and why had all those other kids seen it when they're in first grade and it's a PG-13 movie?) and he didn't know what to do. This was a cause of a lot of stress for him so Jesse offered to tell him about Transformers so that he could play too. We then told him that if anyone asked he could just say he had seen the movie so that they would let him play along. Joseph was dead set against this. That would be lying and it didn't matter that it was a tiny, harmless lie. A lie is a lie is a lie and Joseph will not lie.

Now don't get me wrong. Joseph is like any seven year old and occasionally he'll fib a little bit to get out of trouble. Where he differs from other kids is in how he lies. For example, if he goes to the bathroom and doesn't wash his hands I'll say "Did you wash your hands?" and 90% of the time he won't say anything, he'll just turn around and go back into the bathroom to wash his hands. The other 10% of the time he might try to lie. His mouth will scrunch up and he'll look off to the side and say "Yeeeeees. Yes. Yes I did. I mean, yes. I did wash my hands." and then he'll run off to avoid further questioning. If for some reason I don't call him on his lie he'll eventually confess to it anyway. Two hours later we'll be sitting on the couch together and he'll suddenly cry out "I admit it! I didn't wash my hands that time!"

It's like this with everything. He simply cannot lie. I'll probably be thankful for that as he gets older. I just hope that eventually I'm able to teach him that we don't need to tell everyone everything there is to know about his mother's weight loss attempts.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Story of Joseph - The First Days

I'm going to backtrack for a minute here. Last time I talked about the terrible home Joseph was in before ours but I want to talk about what it was first like when we got Joseph.

Our first few days with Joseph were a real learning experience. He never cried, even if he was hungry so we learned to feed him every three hours. We learned that in addition to never spitting up he also never burped. You could pound on his little back half an hour after giving him a bottle and you wouldn't produce a single air bubble.

We learned a lot about how Joseph came to be in foster care too. We had originally been told that both his parents were eager to get him back but that didn't exactly mesh with what we were seeing first hand.

A couple of days after we got Joseph I had to take him to his first visit with his mother. He was supposed to have one visit a week with his mother and one visit a week with his mother and his father. We were also told that his maternal grandmother would be coming to the visits sometimes. The first time I took Joseph to a visit I pulled into the visitation center (a different one than the one we used to take Daniel to) I saw a woman and a teenage girl standing in the parking lot. I wondered if it was Joseph's mother and grandmother but neither of them approached me as I was getting Joseph out of the car so I just assumed that they weren't. As I was walking in to the center I heard the woman say "I'll pick you up in an hour Julie."

Julie? That was Joseph's mothers name. I was confused about why neither of them had approached me as I walked by with Joseph. If someone walked by with my child (or grandchild) that I hadn't seen in a week I might say something or at least interested.

This visitation center was set up differently than the one I was used to. Here I just had to pass Joseph off to a visitation supervisor and then wait in the lobby for them to bring him back out at the end of the visit. I signed Joseph in and sat down to read my book. Ten minutes later the girl I had seen in that parking lot shuffled in. Her head was down and her hair hung in her face. Her clothes were large and baggy but I could see that she was very slender. I realized that I had been staring at her when I heard the visitation supervisor loudly call out "Julie! Joseph's back here waiting for you!" Julie's shuffle slowed even further.

So this was Julie. The Julie who was supposed to be so eager to get back her son looked like she would rather be anywhere else in the world than were she was. I watched her slooooowly shuffle back towards the room where Joseph was and I wondered where her mother was and why she hadn't come with.

I was curious about Joseph's grandmother. Why hadn't she come to the visit? Why wasn't she helping her daughter care for Joseph? How could she not have seen that her child was pregnant? Why didn't she look at Joseph at all when I carried him past her? Even if I had the chance to sit down and talk to her those weren't exactly the sort of questions I could have asked her. In the end I guess none of that matters. I would never again see Joseph's grandmother.

When the visit ended Julie tore out of the building leaving a visitation worker to hand Joseph off to me. Again I was confused. This just didn't seem like the way a person who was so interested in her baby would behave. I walked out to find Julie sitting on the front steps of the building and smoking a cigarette. Next to her was a man with dark hair and dark eyes. As I walked by he smiled broadly at Joseph but Julie paid him no attention. I would learn at the next visit that this dark haired man was Joseph's father Joey.*

As I drove home I thought about Julie and the way she had acted. She certainly didn't act like she was interested in Joseph. She had been late to the visit in spite of the fact that she was actually at the building before me. As soon as the visit was up she ran out of there without looking back. She didn't' look at Joseph at all when we passed by her. I thought maybe I was being to hard on her. Maybe she was just shy or embarrassed about having her child in foster care. Maybe she was angry or had been having ad day. After all, it had been stressed to me over and over that she wanted Joseph back so that had to be true, right?

Didn't it?

*Other than Joseph, Joey is the only person in this story that I am referring to by their real name. Joseph is named after him and that comes up later in the story so it would be silly for me to give him a fake name.

We have a winner!

Thank you to everyone who entered my contest. I have picked a winner (at random) and I've posted all the details at Problem Girl Eats. Thank you so much to everyone who entered! You guys are the best!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Blogs that you might not read but you should

I was de-cluttering my reader today and I was amazed at how many dead blogs I had on there. I was sad to delete some of them but I'm guessing that after six months? Some of them just aren't coming back. As I was organizing some of my new reads into folders (cleaning my reader is easier and more fun than cleaning my house) I kept thinking "This is such a good blog! I should share this with someone!" So that's what I'm going to do. Do yourself a favor and check out the following blogs. If you're running short on time just pick one. I promise you that you'll be pleasantly surprised.

matt, liz and madeline - The tag line for this blog is "life and death. all in a 27 hour period. what you read here is what follows." That pretty much says it all. You may want to start here to get a feel for what this blog is about. Be prepared to cry. The writing style was a little hard for me to get into at first but once I did I was glad I stuck with it.

The Wind in Your Vagina - Yes, that's really what it's called. Even stranger, it's written by a man. This is daddy-blogging with a twist. Be prepared to laugh.

Mara Triangle - This blog is written by a man named Joseph who is "the head of tourism and anti-animal harassment for the Mara Conservancy" in Kenya. This isn't updated very often but it's a fascinating read. Joseph is also on Twitter and Flickr. Be prepared to be educated and to see some gory animal pictures. It's gore with a purpose though.

Fat Cyclist - This is written by a man who um, rides a bike. A lot. So he's not really fat at all. He blogs about biking a little but he blogs more about his wife and her battle with cancer. Be prepared to laugh and cry and discover a long dormant desire to take up biking. At least that's what happened to me.

Ok, I've shared with you some of my new finds, now it's your turn! Tell me who else I should be reading. Also, let me know if you checked out any of the above and what you thought of them.

The Story of Joseph - The Shelter Care Situation

In the foster care system there are homes that are licensed as emergency shelter homes. They are the homes that kids are taken too right after being put into foster care. The placements are usually short term with the child staying there only long enough for their needs and situation to be assessed and to wait for a more permanent, suitable placement. It takes a special kind of person to be an emergency shelter foster parent. It's a lot to handle, having a constant flow of traumatized and abused children coming in and out of your home and not everyone can or should do it. Unfortunately since this type of foster care pays more than regular foster care it sometimes attracts the wrong type of people.

Joseph came to us from a shelter home that was run by the wrong type of people. He had been in the shelter home for longer than the usual amount of time. This was because there had been some back and forth about if he should even be in foster care at all. No one would make a final decision on what should happen to him so he was just left hanging out there. In the meantime the people at the shelter home applied for and received his clothing allowance, enough to buy a good sized wardrobe for an infant. They also asked for his WIC voucher and got that, no small deal since the special formula Joseph was on cost about $15 a day. All of this, the clothes and the formula was supposed to come with him. Guess what happened?

When Sabrina dropped Joseph off he was wearing the same way too big sleeper he had been wearing the day before. Sabrina had a small cloth bag with her that had everything in it that these people had seen fit to send with him. Inside it was a filthy, size 12 month sleeper, a rag doll with marker all over it, a rubber tube (?), a bib from the hospital where he was born and three ounces of spoiled formula. That's it.

Sabrina was livid. "You see!" she said "This is why I wanted him out of that home! These people should not be taking care of kids!"

Sabrina was angry but she was not one to stand around and shrug her shoulders like Dippy had been. Before the day was out Sabrina had done all the paperwork to get us a new clothing allowance and WIC voucher for Joseph. This would not be the first time I would think how lucky Joseph was to have Sabrina on his side.

We had been warned that Joseph had a huge spitting up problem. I gave him his first bottle and prepared myself for a mess. It never came though. A few hours later I gave him another bottle and again, prepared for the deluge of spit-up I was promised would follow. Again, it never came. Every time I would feel him I would think that certainly this would be the time he would spit up but it just never happened. In fact, he probably spit up less than any other baby I had ever taken care of.

Three days after Joseph came to us he had his visit with the home health care nurse. One of the first things she said to me was "I'm so glad he's out of that home!" It didn't look like anyone had been too impressed with these people. The nurse weighed Joseph and much to her delight (and mine) he had actually gained weight. She remarked that his eyes looked brighter and that he seemed more alert. Then she said something that gave me goosebumps. "I've got to tell you, this is not was I was expecting to see with this visit. I really wondered if this little guy was going to make it at all." (We would later hear the same thing from the people at the WIC office and both times it just made me so angry that no on in this kid's life had given a damn about him other than the people that were paid too.)

I explained to the nurse about how I had never seen Joseph spit up. She got a grim look on her face. She told me she had always suspected that Joseph's spitting up had less to do with him and more to do with the way he was being cared for. She thought that he was probably not being fed until he was ravenously hungry and then when he did eat he would eat too much, too quickly and would swallow a lot of air and then spit up. He was probably never fed unless he was screaming.

I can't imagine how hungry Joseph must have been allowed to get. He never cried with us. Never. Not if he was hungry, not if he was wet, never. I think in his very short life he had already learned that crying did no good so he just didn't do it. Thankfully he did eventually learn to cry when he needed something but it would take a long time.

Another odd thing about when Joseph first came to us was how he didn't like to be held. He was ok with us holding him if he was eating or falling asleep but other times he would stiffen up when we would hold him. His little back would arch and his face would turn away from you. I don't think he was held a lot (or at all) before we got him so the sensation was just too much for him.

What Joseph did like was to be wrapped up really tight. I would swaddle him snugly and then put him in a little bed I made for him in laundry basket. Then I would pull him around to where ever I was so even though he didn't want to be held he could at least be near me and get used to contact that way. I talked to him all the time so that he would get used to me voice and start to feel more comfortable around me.

When the home health care nurse came for her second visit she was amazed at how well Joseph was doing. Thanks to the feeding schedule we had him on he was no longer spitting up and was gaining weight quickly. She was so pleased with his progress that she said she was going to call Sabrina and ask that we be allowed to cancel the surgery Joseph was supposed to have to "fix" his "reflux". Sabrina, of course, agreed right away. She also filed a complaint against Joseph's former shelter care parents. She told me "It won't make any difference. No one ever takes action against the shelter homes. We need them to much. They know it too so and that's why they keep pulling this stuff."

I will admit that I was a little bitter that we had been investigated for what happened to Daniel while everyone just looked away from what happened to Joseph. I tried to be zen about the whole thing though. I knew that if Daniel had not been taken when we was we would have never gotten Joseph and he may have ended up in yet another bad foster home. I thought that maybe there was some big reason why things worked out the way they did. I knew that we would only have Joseph for a month or so but I thought that in that month I could do my best to make a real difference in his life.

"You can squeeze an awful lot of love into one month." I thought. And what would happene to him after that one month? I couldn't think about that. I was just glad he was out of that shelter home.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The sort of thing women love to hear

I slept on the couch last night because I was so irritated at Jesse.*

Hey guys, here's a fun experiment. The next time your wife wants to discuss something important with you get pissy with her and refuse to talk about it. When she asks why say "Because you only want to talk about this when you have your period!" See how far that gets you.

*In the spirit of full disclosure I'll admit that a teeny part of why I slept down stairs was because Joseph was a little stuffy last night and whenever he's congested he spends the night coming into our room and grinding his teeth louder than what seems humanly possible.

Also in the spirit of full disclosure, some crazy person posted a challenge for people to take a picture of themselves as they looked at that very moment and post it. Because I'm also crazy I decided to take part. Here is mine. And yes, I really am that pale. I glow like that even without the benefit of a computer monitor shining on my face.

Don't forget to enter my contest! There are only a couple of days left and I don't have many entries so your chances of winning are high! Plus, it would make me really, really happy. And don't you want the woman with the tooth-grinding kid and the not-so-sensitive husband to be happy?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The only meme I'll ever do

... and I wasn't even tagged for it. I snagged this clever idea from Schmutzie. Here's how it works:
1. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
2. Using only the first page of results, and pick one image.
3. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into Big Huge Lab's Mosaic Maker to create a mosaic of the picture answers.

The questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food? right now?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. What is your favourite drink?
7. What is your dream vacation?
8. What is your favourite dessert?
9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. What is one word that describes you?
12. What is your flickr name?

Here's mine! Let me know if you do one so that I can see it too!

The Story of Joseph - Meeting Joseph

"So who have you got for me?" I asked our placement worker.

It was the same as it was the last time I talked to her. She Jesse and I to take on cases that Jesse and I were really not prepared to deal with. I said no to case after case that she told me about. Let me tell you, some of the cases she described to me broke my heart and it was hard to say no but I knew we needed something easy and straight forward to ease us back into foster care.

Carol gave a big sigh (she did that a lot when she talked to me) and said "I just don't think I've got anything for you right now. You're really going to need to consider ..... hang on a second. Ok, I just this second had a file sent to me that might be right for you. It's a three week old boy who will probably only need to be in care for a month or so. He's in emergency shelter care right now but his social worker is pushing for a quick placement. Both parents are involved and working towards getting him back. His name is Joseph"

"We'll take him!" I said.

Not 15 minutes later I got a call from a woman named Sabrina. She introduced herself as Joseph's social worker and explained that Joseph had some health issues that made her want to find a home for him quickly. She further explained that she wanted to be sure she found him the right home so she was going to be meeting with me and two other foster parents to decide what was the best place for him. I loved Sabrina right away for being so involved. We arranged for her to bring Joseph by the next day so that he and I could "meet" each other. I have to admit that I was excited.

That next day I was a bundle of nerves. A few minutes after the time Sabrina was scheduled to be at our house she called me to tell me she was lost. She was close but she kept missing my apartment for some reason. I went out into the parking lot so that I could look for her car and wave her over. Two minutes later Sabrina pulled. I waited on pins and needles as she maneuvered a battered looking baby carrier out of her car. I couldn't wait to get a look at Joseph.

As Sabrina walked over to me she said "You must be Jennifer! It's so nice to meet you! This is Joseph!" When she got over to me she held the baby carrier out for me to take and I got my first look at the Joseph. He was tiny. His little arms and legs were lost inside a sleeper that was about six sizes too large. All I could think when I looked at him was "I can't take care of a baby this small! I'll break him!"

Once Sabrina and I got inside she began to fill me in on Joseph's story. His mother was 17 and she had not know that she was pregnant until she had gone to the ER for sever stomach pains and she was told "Surprise! You're in labor!" Both of Joseph's parents were considered to be mentally retarded, his father more severely so. Joseph was in care because a week after he was born his mother took him to the hospital because he wouldn't stop spitting up. He was severely dehydrated and admitted to the hospital. His mother never came to get him and CPS took over. In spite of this the social worker who was handling Joseph's case before it was turned over to Sabrina assured her that not both of Joseph's parents wanted him back and were working hard to make that happen.

The difficulties in Joseph's case were that first off, he suffered from severe reflux. It was so bad in fact that there was a surgery scheduled for two weeks from that day to try to fix whatever it was that was making him spit up so much. Second, as a result of his inability to keep formula down and the complete lack of attention that had been paid to him for HIS ENTIRE LIFE he had been diagnosed with failure to thrive. A home health car nurse would need to visit him three times a week to weigh him and monitor his general condition.

As we wrapped up the meeting Sabrina told me that she was going to meet with the other foster families and would let me know the next day which one she had chosen for Joseph.

I looked at Joseph. He turned his head and I could see that the back of his head was totally flat. My heart broke thinking that this poor baby had probably spent his entire life laying flat on his back. Joseph's eyes were serious and dark. They looked like they belonged in a little old man and not a three week old infant. I wanted to cry when I looked at Joseph but instead I blurted out "Sabrina, don't take him to those other families! We'll take him! I don't have any other kids so I can give him complete and undivided attention. I don't work so it will be easy to schedule nurse visits and doctor appointments. I think we would be such a good foster home for him!"

Sabrina looked surprised but after a moment she laughed and agreed. The plan was set then. She would take Joseph back to the emergency shelter home for that night and she would get all the proper paperwork done so that Joseph could come to our home the next day. I was excited that Joseph would be coming to us but I was bummed out that he had to spend another night with the people who couldn't even find something better fitting than a 6-9 month sleeper for an infant who weighed only six pounds.

As soon as Sabrina left with Joseph I called Jesse to tell him the news. "It's a just a short-term placement" I said "but I think it's going o work out really well." Recalling that phone call now makes me laugh. There's no such thing as "short-term" when it comes to foster care and I didn't know it then but this time? We were in it for the long haul.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Totally random crap that you just can't wait to hear about

How many tea parties do you have every day? Elle and I have about 14. We sip our tea and then say "Oh! It's still hot!" Then we eat "chicken" and proclaim it to be "spicy". Then we eat "corn" and say it's "delicious". And it just never gets old. EVER!

Day 13 of WiiFit: I haven't lost any weight, my thighs and chest hurts and yoga often leaves me feeling like I'm going to hurl. Hooray for fitness!

This morning I was sitting on the toilet doing what one does while sitting on the toilet when I realized the bathroom window was open. How did I realize that? A big gust of wind came along and blew the curtain aside leaving me and all my pants-around-the-ankles glory exposed to the 3 roofers working on the house next door. I hope they enjoyed the show. And by "show" I mean the slapstick comedy that occurred when I sprang up from the toilet, lunged towards the window, tripped over my own pants and nearly crashed through the screen. All without actually managing to close the curtain so that it was just me and my naked ass pressed up against the window.

The other night I had a dream that I was visiting Pioneer Woman. It started out great. She made a bunch of great food for me to eat. Then it took a turn. I spilled a bunch of food on myself and had to go take a bath to clean up. As I was bathing all the cowboys came in and started laughing at me. I woke up feeling depressed but soothed myself by eating some chocolate sheet cake.

I wonder why I'm not losing any weight?

Elle is playing with Play-Doh right now and she's mixing up colors and it is KILLING ME because I am far to anal retentive and I prefer that the Play-Doh in my house not be mixed up. It's taking everything I've got in me right now to not go and knock her off her little chair so that I stop the maddness. YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW!

Please, please, please enter my contest. No one has so far and that is the sort of thing that has the potential to damage my very fragile self-esteem. And then I'll be forced to eat more chocolate cake. Yes, forced. So please, if you won't do it for me and you won't do it for yourself (because for some reason you don't want to win a fabulous prize) then do it for the poor chocolate sheet cakes of the world. Because without your help? I'm totally going to eat them all.