Friday, May 30, 2008

Problem Girl has a contest!

I have extended this contest through Saturday.

I need some guest content for my new blog Problem Girl Eats. You need some link love and an gift certificate. What to do, what to do? I know! We'll have a contest! Here's how it will work:

1. Email me ( content that you would like to have published on Problem Girl Eats. Content that I'll be accepting includes recipes (your own, not from a cookbook please!) cooking and baking tips, tips for saving money on groceries, ideas for getting kids into the kitchen or pretty much anything else related to food. Everyone may submit as many things as they like but there is a limit of two drawing entries per person.

2. Earn a third entry in the drawing! If you are a blogger and you blog about this contest I will give you a third entry in the drawing. Just let me know about your blog post when you email me your content.

3. Make sure you include all the right info in your email. I don't want to be a pain but I can only accept entries that have all of the following info:

  • A full, ready to publish blog entry (I reserve the right to edit for length or clarity but I'll leave the content alone.)
  • The name or online nickname that you would like associated with your content.
  • The link to your blog that you want me to use. If you don't want me to link to your blog (or you don't have one) then don't worry about this part.

4. I will be accepting entries until Friday June 6th at 11:59. I'll still accept content to be published after that but you won't receive a drawing entry for it.

5. Winner will be determined by random drawing. The winner will receive a $20 gift certificate PLUS a super secret sup rise from one of my very favorite Etsy shops. (For a clue on what you might win check out Problem Girl shops next week when I will be highlighting this Etsy shop.)

6. I will notify the winner via email at what point they will need to give me a valid mailing address so that I can send them their prize. I will also post the winners name here and their winning entry at Problem Girl Eats.

So get those blog posts and recipes into me! I'm looking forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions you can leave them in the comments or email me. I check both more than I care to admit.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Joseph, the incidental believer

Today Joseph brought a book that his class made home from school. Each child had to pick a word like "soft" and then draw something that was soft, softer and softest. Joseph's word was "large". Take a look at what he drew:
That would be Big Ben on the left, Earth on the right and God in the middle. "Oh Joseph" I said when I saw it "I'm surprised you drew God. I didn't think you believed in him."

"I don't usually." he replied. "Only when I'm trying to think of something bigger than Big Ben and smaller than the Earth."

Here are a couple of other highlights from the book. Here was have two deformed red-heads walking their dogs. And if it seems like I'm being mean it's only because I'm bitter that this kid can draw a better dog than I can.

Here's a kid riding a bike or a four wheeler or something. I don't know, something about this drawing makes me happy.

Here's a ...... You know what? I'm not actually real sure what's going on in this picture. And that caption doesn't help. Does "vesent" mean "explosive bleeding from the rear end"?

To end this on a happy note, here's a spider (or "spitre") saying "Oh snap". I've looked at that picture 100 times and each time it makes me giggle.

The Story of Joseph - Investigation and Vindication

The day after Jesse and I took Daniel back to the Children's home Dippy came by our apartment to pick up his clothes. When I gave her his things she was surprised at how much stuff there was. "I didn't know Angela brought you this much stuff" she said.


"Angela said she had to bring you stuff for Daniel to wear because you didn't have anything for him. That was one of her complaints when she kept calling me."

I knew there was no point in pointing out that she could have just asked me about this and gotten the real story so instead I just explained that no, Angela had never given us a single thing for Daniel and that everything he had we had bought for him. As Dippy left my apartment she had an odd look on her face and I would like to think that maybe she realized that she had made a mistake in the way that she had handled things. I'll never know though because I never spoke to her again.

Waiting for the investigation was odd. I wanted to get another placement but we couldn't do anything until the complaint against us (or rather, me) was checked out. On one had I was eager for the investigation because I was so sure that I had done nothing wrong and I wanted to tell people that and on the other hand I dreaded it because I didn't really have a lot of faith in the system working like it should.

About a week after Daniel left I got a phone call from a woman named Brenda. She told me she needed to come by my house and talk with me a bit about Daniel. She reassured me that it would only be a short visit and that even though she would have someone from the police department with her they would only be coming by to talk and nothing more. We set a time for them to come by the next afternoon.

When Brenda and the police woman showed up the next day I was a nervous wreck. I had been up very late the night before cleaning every square inch of the apartment. At 3 AM I had found myself thinking things like "If they look in my closets and see that my towels aren't folded neatly they'll think I'm a child abuser!"

I liked the two women right away. Something in their manner let me know that they knew what they were doing and that I was in good hands. I felt like they would listen to me. They asked me some questions and made some notes. I've forgotten a lot of what we talked about but what I do remember is that during our conversation the two women kept exchanging odd looks. I wondered what that was all about.

Brenda asked me to describe Daniel to her. I kind of laughed as I talked about how demanding he was and how he constantly had to be held and bounced. I said that in spite of how sick he was he was still a very happy baby. And then, stupidly, I started to cry. I don't even know why. As I sniffled and snorted Brenda reached over and gently put her hand on mine. "Jennifer" she said "we know those weren't bruises on Daniel's bottom. We're only here because we have to follow protocol but everyone involved with this case knows it's a waste of time."

She went on to explain how Angela had called countless people in Child Protective Services demanding that I be investigated and charged. (Just me, not Jesse. For some reason he was never involved in this whole things. As far as I can remember no one even asked him one question. Not that he would have ever hurt Daniel but it always seemed odd to me that everything was focused on me right from the start.) As Brenda explained it to me Dippy had set the wheels in motion when she had Daniel removed from our home. Once he was removed Angela had the ammunition she needed. She called higher ups in the CPS department and said that he child had been removed from his foster home and she wanted the foster mother investigated. The higher ups knew nothing about the case other than what she told them and eventually she came across someone who took her seriously and got the investigation going. It didn't even matter that a doctor who saw Daniel the day we took him to the Children's Home said that there was no way those marks were bruises. It was a great big circle on misinformation and Angela and Dippy were right in the center of it all.

I didn't even care. I was so relieved. The police woman told me that she dealt with cases all the time where terrible abuses by parents were ignored and that she felt so bad that I had been dragged into something so stupid. I didn't want her to feel bad for me but I was pleased to hear that she and Brenda recognized how stupid this whole situation was.

As they left my apartment Brenda promised me that she would be calling me very soon with the final results of the "investigation". When she called me two days later to inform me that the investigation was closed and they they had found no wrong doing I was on cloud nine. "You can get another placement now if you want." she said.

The second I got off the phone with Brenda I called our placement worker and said "Who have you got for me?" I could have never dreamt that making that phone call, at that very moment, would lead me to my son.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Too lazy to think of a clever title

Things I wanted to accomplish today:
2 loads of laundry
2 loads of dishes
work-out on WiiFit
write a blog post
write up an Etsy shop review
post some stuff on freecycle
read and comment on the blogs I'm so far behind on
make meatballs

Things I actually accomplished today:
worked out on WiiFit
sat around and though about eating cheese
ate cheese
got gas from eating too much cheese

Monday, May 26, 2008

A reminder to myself

This past weekend Jesse and I went to a wedding where the mother of the bride did something ...... interesting.

As everyone was eating the mother of the bride went up to the front of the room and got on the mic. She began telling this story about how when her daughter was a newborn and her umbilical cord stump fell off she (the mother) saved it. She went on to describe how this cord stump was a symbol of how she loved and cared for her daughter. And let me tell you, it was a real hit. There's nothing people enjoy hearing more when they're eating than a good story about a dried up stump.

She then went on to pull out the box that contained the very cord she had just described to us all. She called the groom up to her and then presented to him the box containing her daughter's dried up umbilical cord stump. She said it was a symbol that it was now his job to care for her daughter.

The groom was gracious and he smiled and hugged his new mother-in-law. He clutched the box tightly in his hand as walked back towards his seat. As he passed our table he paused for a fraction of a second and muttered "This is fucking disgusting."

I made of a note of that moment. I want to remember that story forever so that someday when my children are teenagers and they think I am the most embarrassing person on the planet I can say "At least I didn't save your dried up umbilical cord stump and keep it in a decorative box so that I could present it to your new spouse on your wedding day!"

The Story of Joseph - A Clarification

Two things I want to be sure are clear before I go any further with the story.

First off, I was not upset that Daniel was leaving because Jesse and I had wanted to keep him. We got into foster care with the clear intent to never adopt. In fact, I had told our placement worker to never send us a child who would need to be adopted because we would not do it. Foster care was supposed to be a temporary deal for us. We figured we would do it for a few years, take a couple of years off and then have some kids of our own. We were 100% prepared for Daniel to leave us one day. What was upsetting to us about Daniel's case was that he was not leaving us because he was going home or going to another home to be adopted. He was leaving us because his mother had manipulated the system and bullied an incompetent social worker into taking him away. To top it all off he was being taken to to a facility where he had gotten a very dangerous infection (which he had still not recovered from all the way!) and where he would not get the two on one attention he was getting with us. And on top of that I was being accused of abusing him!

Second, accusations of foster parents abusing their foster children are very common. A lot of the time it happens because parents cannot stand to see their children bonding with someone else and so they try to get the foster parent into trouble. It's unfortunate but it happens a lot. It happened to us and it happened to another set of wonderful foster parents that I know.

Even more unfortunate though is that sometimes the accusations are true. Sometimes the people who are supposed to be protecting the children most in need of protecting are the very ones hurting them. This makes me angry but it also makes me understand why every allegation of abuse must be taken seriously by social workers. If a social worker has any doubt at all about the safety of a child then he or she must act upon that doubt. I would learn that this was not the way things had gone in our case (I'll talk about that more next time) but I understand why that's the way it's supposed to work.

Sadly, the foster care system is so broken that it can be manipulated in so many ways by both bad parents and bad foster parents. The ones who will always be hurt the most when this manipulation occurs are the children in care. Yes, Jesse and I were hurt when Daniel was taken away but the person who suffered the most because of Angela's actions was Daniel. She had him taken out of a good and caring home because she couldn't stand to see him doing well with us. (I'll go into that more later too.) The fact that Dippy played a willing role in it? That's just flat out effed up.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Nashville, here he comes!

You can see his missing tooth on the bottom. How danged cute is that?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Story of Joseph - Taking Him Back

All the way home from the doctor's office I fumed. I was so angry at Angela for saying Daniel had bruises on him when I knew that she was just doing it to be spiteful and manipulative. I was angry at the doctor who said the marks were bruises. I was angry at Dippy for not taking control of the situation and instead choosing to sit back and let Angela run the show. The whole drive home I swung between being so mad I could spit to blinking back tears of frustration and sadness.

When I got home and walked into my apartment the phone was ringing. I figured it was Jesse wondering why I hadn't called him after the visit like I usually did. (This was back in the dark ages before I had a cell phone.) I picked up the phone and heard sobbing on the other end.

It was Angela. Before I even had a chance to say anything she blurted out "I know you didn't hurt him! I just got scared because I saw those marks and I didn't know what was going on! I was just so worried! And ..... and I just want him back so bad!"

For one very brief moment I felt sorry for Angela. She wasn't a good mother and not a very nice person but she was a human being and she had feelings and I couldn't imagine how hard it must have been on her having all of her children taken from her. (Angela was only a few years older than me but she already had five children.) I took pity on her. I felt bad for her because as cynical as I am I'm also a pretty nice person. And I'm a sucker.

I tried to reassure Angela that neither Jesse or I had hurt Daniel. I promised her that all I wanted to do was take care of him while he was with us. She cried and said that she knew that was true. It seemed like we understood each other but I was a little confused about why she kept telling me that she would do anything to get Daniel back. I mean, I didn't have any control over what happened to Daniel and certainly she realized that making me look like the bad guy wasn't going to help her get him back any sooner right?

The next couple of days were kind of odd. To be accused of hurting a child is stressful and painful but also sort of thought that the whole thing was over. Angela didn't call at all but looking back I'm sure it's because it was during the weekend and she very rarely called during times when Jesse was home. Dippy never called either so I assumed that she wasn't going to pursue her "information gathering". I thought the incident was just going to fade into the distance as a tiny bump in the road.

On Monday Jesse went to work just like usual and I took Daniel out to run some errands. I was gone all morning and when I got home there were several messages on the answering machine from Dippy. They all said the same thing: Call me right away!

I was a little nervous as I dialed Dippy's number but I was never expecting her to say what she said. I can so clearly recall the conversation

"Jennifer, I need you to take Daniel back to the Children's Home."


"I need you to take him back. He's not going to be in your care anymore."

"Why? What's going on? Angela and I talked, I thought this was all taken care or!"

"Well, she just keeps calling me and she won't leave me alone. She's insisting that we remove him from your home and I don't really know what else to do."

"How about telling her no? I don't understand how you can just take him without even giving me a change to say my side!"

"You're just a foster parent, you don't get a say in what happens to Daniel."

"I know that! I just mean that you're taking Daniel out of a very good home without even trying to find out what's actually going on! Listen, Angela told me several times that she would do anything to get Daniel back and I think this is just her way of trying to do that."

"That doesn't make any sense. Having him taken from you wouldn't get him back to her any sooner."

"I know that and you know that but I don't think Angela knows what. She never wanted us to take him in the first place and I think she sees us as somehow keeping him from her. I just don't understand why you're saying we have to take him back."

"Angela just keeps calling me over and over and I don't know what else to do! I need you to bring Daniel and his things to the Children's home immediately."

"His blanky and a bunch of his clothes are dirty, can I at least run them through the wash?"

"No. Pack up whatever is clean and I'll come and get the rest tomorrow."

"So you think I'm taking such bad care of him that he has to be removed from my home yet you're asking me to drive him over to the Children's Home myself? That's just screwed up."

"They're expecting you. I'll be by tomorrow for the rest of his stuff. Someone from CPS will be calling you later this week. There's going to be in investigation into the complaints of abuse." *click*

I called Jesse at work. Now it was my turn to sob over the phone. "They're making us take him back and now I'm being accused of child abuse!" Jesse flew home at about 90 miles an hour and I packed up Daniel's clothes and medications.

The drive to the Children's Home was awful. I cried and Jesse clutched my hand tightly. I just kept saying "I just don't understand!" We had all the best intentions and now our first foster child was being taken away from us in such a cruel way and we under suspicion of child abuse. How was that even possible?

When we got the the Children's Home I forced myself to calm down and stop crying. I took Daniel out of his car seat and snuggled him tight. I buried my face into his sweet, fat neck and inhaled deeply. He smelled like spit up and diaper rash cream and peaches. Jesse got Daniel's stuff all together and we went inside.

The inside of the home was - to put it mildly - depressing. It was poorly light and smelled kind of musty. Two boys who looked like they were about ten screamed obscenities at each other in the lobby. We took him in to the intake office and signed a couple of papers. All in all it was less complicated than dropping a dog off at a shelter. The people in the intake office were very kind and turned away and busied themselves when it came time for us to say goodbye. I chocked back a sob and kissed Daniel very quickly. I didn't want to cry again so I handed him over, walked away and didn't look back.

As we walked out I whispered angrily " I can't believe she would rather have him here than with us! I hope she's happy now."

Then we went home to do laundry and wait for the investigation to start.

Pumpkin head

See, I wasn't lying about how gorgeous those curls are.

"I can haz giant pumkin head?"

Poor kid.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I have three children now

Today I took the kids to Toys R Us to pick up the WiiFit I had on reserve. Frankly I don't know why I ever take my little hooligans to toy stores because getting them to leave always involves melt-downs, hissy fits and temper tantrums. And that's just from me.

Today was no different. Joseph started up the second we walked into the store. I was standing near something pink and freaked out and said all his friends were going to come into the store and see me standing by that pink thing and think I was going to buy it for him and then they would laugh at him. Yeah, because that's logical and likely.

Elle was no better. Oh sure, she started out all cute as she ran for the Barbie aisle yelling "Come on everybody! Come on brother! Look at the dollies!" But within two minutes she was trying to run away from me and stomping her feet and yelling "NO MAMA!" at the top of her lungs.

By the time we went up to pay for the new WiiFit both of them were whining and crying. I calmly told Joseph that I was not pleased with his behavior and he fell to the floor and yelled "Stop insulting me!" The entire time I was paying I kept getting "you're not a very good mom are you?" looks from everyone in the store.

As we walked out the door Elle decided it would be a really great idea to bolt into the parking lot at breakneck speed. Luckily she's got small, stumpy legs so I was able to catch her by the collar of her shirt. So she flopped to the ground. I pulled her up and sort of dragged her along as she fought to free her hand. With my other hand I was hanging on to Joseph who was now screaming "I'm not going with you until you say that you're sorry!"

So there I am, walking out of Toys R Us with a screaming, flopping kid on each side of me. The worse they behaved the tighter I clutched my WiiFit. If someone had come up right then and tried to snatch one of the kids I probably would have let them but that WiiFit was going home with me.

All's well that ends well I guess. The kids are in bed and I got to spend some real quality time with my WiiFit. And oh, I love it so. I love it even though it insulted me a couple of times, like when I stumbled off the platform and the Wii said "Your legs are pretty shaky aren't they?" Thankfully the WiiFit didn't seem to mind all that much when I called it a motherfucker. Which is good. Because I may have said that more than once during the strengthening exercises.

So I love my WiiFit even though it insulted me a little bit. And don't tell my kids this but if you asked me who I would rather spend time with right now I would probably have to pick my WiiFit. It may make me do push-ups but at least it's never screamed "I wish you didn't adopt me!" in the middle of a Toys R Us parking lot.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Joseph tries to raise his eyebrows

It's a struggle. Sorry about the chocolate all over his face.

Pardon my dorky laugh.

The Story of Joseph - Doctors, Social Workers and Other Idiots

"Jennifer, Angela has found some bruising on Daniel and she wants to have him go checked out by a doctor."

I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. All I could do was sputter out a response. "Bruises? Wha... Where? How did she...? I don't know what.... How did ...? What? Bruises?"

What I was thinking was that I knew that Daniel didn't have a single bruise anywhere on his body. I had given him a bath that morning and I knew that the only "injuries" he had were a tiny, tiny scratch near his ear and then the area of discoloration on his bottom from the severe diaper rash. "Oh my god" I thought to myself "She's not saying that's a bruise is she?"

Before the question could make it's way down to my mouth Carol said "She thinks there's some bruising on his bottom. She wants to take him to his regular doctor to have him checked out. Dippy is on her way to escort you all over there right now."

I almost laughed with relief. It was Daniel's regular doctor who only days before had reassured me that the marks on Daniel's bottom were discoloration from the diaper rash and that they would go away on their own. Certainly she would clear things up.

Dippy arrived moments later to take us all to the crack house clinic. She actually suggested that we all take one car (mine) to get to the clinic. Ha! I said absolutely not and it was decided that I would drive with Daniel in my car (because I was the only person with a car seat) and Dippy would follow with Angela in her car. Every time I would look in the rear view mirror during the drive over I would see Angela gesturing angrily. She didn't let up for the entire 30 minute drive.

When we got to the clinic we were called back pretty much right away. I stood up to walk back to the office but Dippy held her hand out and said "No Jennifer, you're not allowed to come back there." Excuse me? I was around Daniel 24 hours a day. Might I not be able to offer some kind of insight into how those marks might have gotten there? But you know what? I was cool with it. I totally expected them to come back out having been told that the "bruises" were just left over discoloration from the diaper rash.

That's not what happened though. When Dippy and Angela came out of the doctor's office Dippy had a dark look on her face and Angela looked triumphant. For the second time that day I felt like I had been punched. What could that doctor have said? Dippy gestured for me to follow them out to the lobby. All the way out to the lobby Daniel was reaching for me despite Angela's best attempts to keep him still.

When we got to the lobby Dippy turned to me and in a low voice said "The doctor feels that the marks on Daniel's bottom are bruises consistent with intentional injury. We need to decide what we're going to do about this."

"I think we need to go back and talk to that doctor again" I said. "Just a couple of days ago I talked to her about those marks. She obviously doesn't remember that she told me exactly what those marks were and that they were NOT bruises."

Dippy, the absolute fucking moron that she was responded "No, we're not going to do that. This isn't an investigation, we're just gathering information right now so that we can decide what to do."

The blood was pounding in my ears. "But you're getting the wrong information! Those aren't bruises!" I guess I thought if I kept repeating it that they would somehow realize how insane it was to suggest that I had taken this six month old and bruised him all along his butt crack. I honestly couldn't even think how you would give an injury like that to a child.

The Dippy admitted that she didn't really know what to do next. She rather sheepishly said that Daniel was her very first case ever and that she didn't know what steps to take in a situation like this. Then she said we should all just go home and wait for her to figure it out over the weekend.

I was confused. Now I knew that I had never hurt Daniel but the doctor had just said he had bruises consistent with intentional injury. I wasn't sure why she was letting Daniel go back home with me. If she really thought I hurt Daniel then why was she letting me take him back home with me? If she didn't think I hurt him then why didn't she let me talk to the doctor?

I wouldn't learn until later that this wishy washy non-decision-making way of doing things was pretty much Dippy's entire approach to her role as a social worker. As we were getting ready to leave the clinic I overheard her telling Angela not to worry, that she would take care of everything. Then she came over tome and said pretty much the same thing. To say I was confused was an understatement.

I would be even more confused by the phone call I got when I got home from the doctor's office.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The best thing on I've ever seen on a kid's show

If you can get through this without tapping your feet or bopping your head around then you are made of stone.

The kid's dance moves kill me. It's stuff like this that makes Jack's Big Music Show a big hit in our house.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Story of Joseph - We Have A Problem

Once Angela got my phone number she used it all the time. She would often call twice a day just to check in. On hot days she would call and tell me to take Daniel to the lake. She would call and remind me to give Daniel his juice. She would call for any little reason that popped into her head.

If this were happening today I would put my foot down and refuse to take her calls. It was unacceptable that Dippy gave Angela our home number and I should have stood up for myself at the time. I guess there must have been a part of me that wanted Angela to like me though. I think I thought we had to get along. So I took her phone calls and I was friendly towards her in spite of her general contempt for me.

Even more uncomfortable than the phone calls were my face to face encounters with Angela. Every time I saw her she would tell me I was doing something wrong. How I dressed Daniel was a frequent topic. Daniel was living with us right in the middle of a very hot and humid summer. Often times when I would take him to visits I didn't put socks or shoes on him. After all, he was just a baby and he didn't walk or crawl so it seemed pointless to me to put socks on him and make his feet sweaty. Angela didn't like this. So then on the next visit I would have socks on him and she would complain that his feet were too hot. Then I would put sandals on him and she would complain that they pinched his feet. All of this was just the tip of the iceberg and she complained to both me and Dippy about almost everything I did.

It was always hard for me to not remind Angela that she wasn't exactly a model parents herself. I won't go into specifics but I will say that Angela had her children removed from her care for a reason. This was not a case of a good mom wronged by an over-zealous system. This was a woman who really needed to not be responsible for the well being of children.

Angela only saw Daniel for a couple of hours a week but she still made a lot of the decisions affecting his day to day life. Daniel spit up more than any baby I've ever known. If you fed him a six ounce bottle it was not unusual for him to spit up at least 4 ounces. I was pretty sure he had reflux but Angela refused to let us get him checked out for that by a doctor. We were pretty much stuck with Daniel spitting up all over us and himself all the time.

In the county we were licenced in there was a rule that when he had a child below the age of 5 in your care you had to get them a well baby screening within 15 days of them coming to you. I scheduled Daniels screening and then was told by Dippy to cancel it because Angela didn't want him to have it. I told her that I didn't want to cancel it and that I worried that if someone ever discovered that he had never had his screening then I would be blamed for it. Dippy assured me that it would not be a problem.

It was a problem though. In addition to the spitting up, I had concerns about Daniels development. At six months old he didn't really do a lot of the typical stuff for kids his age. If you laid him on the floor he would pretty much just lay there like a slug. He didn't try to roll over or move at all. He just laid there.

My hands were tied though. Angela was still the one making the decisions. Why didn't she want Daniel to get medical attention? She actually told me that other parents who had lost their children told her that if a doctor discovered a long neglected medical condition in Daniel that it would look bad and maybe affect her chances of getting him back. She was willing to let Daniel go without medical care so that she would look better as a parent. It boggles my mind to this day.

Daniel was getting some medical care though. Since his visit to the ER Daniel's infection had to be monitored fairly closely by doctors. Angela wanted Daniel to see a very specific doctor in a clinic that looked more like a crack house than a doctor's office. She would come to all of his appointments and it was always really uncomfortable. She never wanted me to tell anyone that I was Daniel's foster parent so she would tell everyone I was her friend. Her friend that she glared at and muttered about under her breath.

All the medication that Daniel was on gave him a terrible diaper rash. We changed him frequently and used diaper rash cream but the rash was still really bad. When you went to change him he would cry and cry, you could tell it made him really uncomfortable. Finally the rash started to get a little bit better but the weeks of irritation had caused a little discoloration all along his little butt crack. I pointed it out to the doctor at the crack house clinic and she said it would fade away soon.

One very hot afternoon I took Daniel to the visitation center to see Angela. Our usual routine was that I would try to get there a little bit early so that I could bring Daniel in to the visitation room, leave him with the visit supervisor and be our of the room before Angela got there. On this particular day we got there a couple of minutes later than usual and I was just getting Daniel situated in the room when Angela came in.

"Daniel!" Angela called.

He didn't look at her at all. He kept looking at me and smiling and reaching out to me. I got up to leave the room and he continued to watch me and and smile at me. Angela kept calling to him but he never even acknowledged her. When I left the room Daniel started to cry.

I went to the waiting area and started to read my book. I could hear Daniel still crying. At one point his cries became more frantic. I recognized it as his usual diaper change cry. Except it didn't stop. He just kept crying and crying and I wondered what in the heck was going on. After a little while his crying stopped and then I could hear Angela speaking angrily. I couldn't hear what she was saying but I could tell she was upset. A moment later Angela walked into the waiting room holding Daniel. Her eyes were red and swollen. As they passed me Daniel reached for me and Angela roughly switched him to her other side so that he couldn't see me. She walked across the waiting room and and into the office area of the visitation center. She crossed back again, this time followed by a woman I had never seen before.

When it was time for the visit to end Angela didn't come out. The people at the visitation center had always been good about ending visits on time before so I wasn't sure what to do when it appeared the the visit was running long. I just sat there waiting for someone to let me know what was going on. About 20 minutes after the visit was supposed to end the woman who had walked out of the office with Angela came in. She came towards me and said "I'm Carol, I'm the supervisor for this center."

"Hi Carol!" I said brightly. "Where's Daniel?"

She paused for a moment then looked me right in the eye and said "Jennifer, we have a problem."

Childhood is Calling

Childhood is Calling is the official Rice Krispies Web site that I was asked to do a review for. I'll admit that I was pretty cynical as I set out to review this site as I HATE the Rice Krispies commercial. True, I hate about 99% of the commercials on TV but there's something about the woman Ohhhhhhh ohhhhhing in the background as they try to promote eating Rice Kripsies as a family bonding activity that really grates on my nerves.

But, being the fair person that I am I decided to put aside my dislike for the commercial and give the website an unbiased review. Joseph helped me out and gave me his opinions.

It's actually a pretty cute site. It has games for kids, recipes, nutritional information, music and more. Joseph tried out several of the games and liked most of them. His favorite was the one where you could decorate your own virtual rice krispie treat, as strange as that sounds. One feature that he really like about the games was that a lot of them could be played with two people. Joseph is still small enough to sit on my lap so we sat together and played some of the turn based games several times.

In addition to the recipes from the good folks at Kellogg's, you can find recipes submitted by "people like you". I guess people like you like a lot of dessert because that's what all the recipes are. I'm seriously considering trying to come up with a dinner recipe using Rice Krispies and seeing if they'll put it on the site. (Baked chicken with a rice Krispie coating perhaps?)

Like all websites that are designed to promote a specific product, the marketing is pretty heavy handed. I mean, a game where you decorate a Rice Krispie treat? Not exactly subtle. Still, Joseph enjoyed the games (in fact, he asked me to mark the site as one of his favorites) and it's totally child-safe so I would feel ok with him visiting it without me hovering over his shoulder. If nothing else it's a good way to kill 15 minutes or so. And if there's one thing that kids need, it's a way to spend more time on the Internet (says the lady who just let her kids spend time on the site so that he could help her with a review.)

A final note, right now on the site you can get a coupon for $1 off Rice Krispies with Strawberries. Not a bad deal.

This compensated (yet entirely honest) review has been cross posted at Problem Girl Shops. That's where posts of this nature will usually go from here on out.

Kellog's Frosted Flakes Gold

I am a cold cereal junkie. Before I started eating oatmeal every single fricken day for breakfast I would have cold cereal most mornings. Nowadays it's not unusual for me to have a bowl of cereal for lunch or for a night time snack.

When I was in the hospital for a week with a collapsed lung (I am the only person in history of the world to get a collapsed lung while sitting on couch and watching TV) I would get a menu every day so that I could pick what I wanted for each meal. Every single morning I picked Frosted Flakes for breakfast. I don't know why exactly but I just loved opening that little box of cereal every morning. I think it might have been because as a kid we were never allowed to get the variety packs of cereal at the grocery store because they're such a big waste of money. Now, for me, little boxes of cereal = extreme luxury.

If you're a Frosted Flakes fan like I am then you might want to consider trying Frosted Flakes Gold. I think Frosted Flakes Gold are a little bit sweeter than regular Frosted Flakes. It's a honey sweetness though so it's not sickeningly sweet like so many other sugary cold cereals are. Frosted Flakes Gold score pretty well nutritionally too. A serving has only 1/2 gram of fat and 110 calories. It's also got a quarter of your daily recommended amount of several vitamins including iron and folic acid. Each serving has 3 grams of fiber. That's not terrible but it's not great either. Eating oatmeal with flax seed added to it has made me biased about fiber content. I'm a fiber snob.

One final note, I would probably not give this cereal to my kids. I don't let them eat any cereal that has sugar in the first three ingredients. Hey, they're my kids and I an impose arbitrary rules on them it I want to. Kellogg's Frosted Flakes Gold lists sugar as the second ingredient. Eek. To be fair though this is the case with most cereals. It's hard to find many that don't have a high sugar content. That's why my kids have toast most mornings. Well, that and I'm lazy.

This compensated (but entirely honest) review has been cross posted at Problem Girl Shops. That's where product reviews will usually appear from here on out.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The forecast

The forecast for this blog includes occasional patches of blog wonkiness followed by the extended periods of bloggy loveliness. Be sure to bring your blogbrella.....

Ok, that went nowhere. The point is that you may experience some weirdness with this blog for a little while as my redesign is almost done. Stick with me.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Story of Joseph - Adventures in Babysitting

If you really want to do something fun and exciting take a very sick infant to the ER on a Friday night. For added fun make it an infant who you don't even really know so that you have to explain over and over to multiple doctors and nurses that no, you don't know the baby's medical history and no, you don't know what he's been exposed to and no, we don't have his insurance information. Good times.

Taking Daniel to the ER was nerve wracking. I knew that we were supposed to call social services and let them know there was a medical emergency but I didn't know who to call at 11:30 on a Friday night. I was thinking less "find the emergency contact number" and more "let's not kill the baby we were just put in charge of".

So there we were in the ER without authorization (how effed up is it that a foster parent has to get authorization to take a kid to the ER?) and telling doctors "Yes, go ahead and do that barbaric sounding test on this kid who's not even mine."

The worst part of the ER visit was when they did a chest x-ray on Daniel. Have you ever seen an infant get a chest x-ray? It was awful to watch. They had Jesse hold him out in front of him and then sort of encased him (Daniel) in the plastic tube thingie (that's the technical name) that held him in place. Then they had Jesse hold Daniel's arms up in the air so that they wouldn't interfere with the x-ray. So there's Daniel kind of hanging there in midair, squished into this tube and screaming bloody murder. I watched from the little radiation protection area and tried not to cry. It was awful.

After all the tests results came back we were told that Daniel had some kind of strange infection (that I had never even heard of before) that he most likely picked up at the Children's home. Fan-fricken-tastic. Daniel was given a mega-dose of antibiotics in the ER and we were sent home with prescriptions for more antibiotics and nebulizer treatments. I couldn't help but think about Angela and how strongly of smoke she had smelled when I met her. I was thinking that Daniel had probably been around second-hand smoke his whole life.

As soon as we got home I called Dippy and let her know what happened. I explained why I hadn't called sooner and promised to follow up with her soon. I was more than a little surprised when I got a call the following morning from Dippy. Before I could even give her any details about when happened she started to lay into me about not calling anyone before going to the ER. As she was talking to me I kept thinking that she sounded like she was talking into a barrel and I wondered if there was something wrong with my phone. Turns out there wasn't anything wrong with my phone, Dippy had chosen to three-way Angela into our phone conversation. Without telling me. Letting her listen in as I was reprimanded.

Needless to say I was not pleased. With Dippy having firmly establishing me as an incompetent boob, Angela was now free to jump all over for letting Daniel get sick. I tried explaining that we were told he had gotten sick at the Children's home and that it wasn't anything we had done but Angela wasn't having it. She even said to Dippy "I knew they shouldn't have taken him". And what did Dippy do during all of this? Not much.

When the conversation was over I was pissed. I was pissed that Dippy had reprimanded me the way she did when frankly, I thought we had handled the situation pretty well. I was pissed that I was never allowed to really explain what was going on. I was pissed that the conversation ended with Dippy telling me that from here on out it was my responsibility to make sure that Angela knew about all of Daniel's appointments from here on out. (As if I had left her out of this one on purpose.) I was most pissed off though about the three-way ambush. It was way out of line to a) come down on me in front of Angela and b) not let me know Angela was on the other line.

Unfortunately this came to be a pretty common thing with Dippy throughout Daniel's placement with us. Three times out of four that she would call me Angela would be on the line. Dippy would never tell me if she was or wasn't, I would only know it was a three way call if Angela said something. I never trusted that I could speak freely to Dippy. I came out of a lot of phone calls with Dippy feeling angry and frustrated and, as dramatic as it sounds, violated. When I finally got up the nerve to complain Dippy went ahead and made one of her trademark boneheaded moves. She gave Angela my home phone number so that she could call me directly whenever she wanted to.

The situation was about to get a whole lot worse.

The Story of Joseph - Baptism By Fire

I remember the day that Jesse and I got our foster care license. The extra room in our apartment was all set up with a crib, a couple of baby toys and a bookshelf with board books. We had a stroller, a car seat and a high chair. All we needed now was the baby.

I called our case worker Carol* to let her know we were ready for our first placement. She gave me kind of a hard time when I said I only wanted kids who were under the age of two. She was really pushy and I think she thought she could bully me into taking on some more difficult cases. I stood firm though. Jesse had almost no experience with kids and I wasn't going to have him start out with a set of 5 year old twins who set fires (yes, that really was a case she wanted to give us.)

"Ok" Carol finally relented. "I think I might have a good placement here for you. Daniel** is six months old. He'll probably only need to be in care for about a month while his mother gets some stuff in orer. He's in the Children's Home so the sooner you can get him the better."

We went to pick up Daniel the very next day.

The place we had to pick Daniel up was in a really bad part of town. The social worker who met us at the door told me that I would have to bring Daniel there twice a week for visitation with his mother. She led us into a room and told us to wait while she let Angela*** (Daniel's mother) know we were there to get him. Then we were taken into the room where Angela was having her visit.

I don't know exactly what I was expecting to happen when we first met Daniel and Angela but I know it didn't go exactly as I had hoped it might. Sitting on the floor in the middle of the room was a thin woman with long hair. I could tell she had been crying. I could also smell the stale cigarette smell coming off of her from across the room. In her arms was the sweetest, plumpest little baby I had ever seen. His eyes were huge and brown and he had a wild little clump of curls on the top of his head. I gave Angela my best friendly smile. She shot me a look that made my heart skip a beat. It was clear that this woman hated me. It didn't matter that she didn't even know me. She hated me.

The social worker quickly hurried Jesse and I out of the room so that Angela could say goodbye to Daniel. The second he and I were out of the room Angela started to shout about how she didn't want us taking her kid. We didn't have any other kids, Daniel would be lonely, we were too young (why did everyone make such an issue out of that?!?!) we were just all wrong. Daniel's social worker (from here on known as Dippy****) just stood there and let her berate us. Finally someone from the visitation center calmed her down.

Dippy let Angela walk out to our car so that she could put Daniel in the car seat. We later found out this is a HUGE no-no and she should have not allowed it. This would not be her last mistake. Then Angela asked us to call her every night and morning. Dippy assured her that she would call to check in on Daniel and that she would three way her into the call. We finally got to leave. We drove off a little bit shell shocked but happy. Our very first foster child gurgled happily in the backseat.

Daniel came to us from an emergency shelter so he had NOTHING with him. Before we could even take him home we had to stop and get him diaper, formula and a couple of outfits. I loved that first shopping trip with Daniel. He fell asleep in my arms and drooled all over my shoulder. Everyone we passed looked at Daniel and smiled. Then they would look at Jesse and I with confusion. I'm sure they were wondering how it came to be that the two whitest people on the planet came to have this sweet caramel colored baby.

By the time we got home Daniel had started to cry. And fuss. And crab. And then cry some more. The only way I could get him to be quiet was to hold him and bounce him on my hip. (Luckily I have hips built for baby bouncing.) I tried changing and and feeding him even bathing him. Nothing made him happy. The bouncing kept him quiet but I could see that he was still unhappy.

None of us got any sleep that first night. Jesse and I spent the night passing Daniel back and forth and saying things like "What's wrong with him?" and "I don't know, what do you think is wrong with him?" and "I'm getting a bruise on my hip from all this bouncing!"

Morning came and Jesse headed to work. I envied him. And I bounced. Around noon I called my mom. "Mom!" I cried. "There's something wrong with this baby! I can't even put him down!"

She laughed. "That's how babies are, they need a lot of attention."

She was wrong though. I had cared for a lot of babies and I had never come across one like this. By the time Jesse got home from work that night the bouncing had stopped working and Daniels cries had turned to full on screams. At one point he fell asleep (I think it was from pure exhaustion) and he started to get a fever. When I took his temp it was nearly 104. We took off the the ER right away.

Not even two days into foster parenting and we were rushing our now lethargic foster child to the ER. As scary as it was Jesse and I laughed about how if we could handle this then we would be able to handle anything else foster care threw at us. If I had known the chain of events this ER visit would set off, I don't think I would have found it so funny.

*not her real name
** not his real name
*** do I even need to tell you that's not her real name?
**** not her real name but far, far kinder than the other things I would like to call her

I swear that all of this eventually leads up to Joseph. Stick with me. Unless this is boring you then don't. And drop me a line so that I know this is boring and I won't keep telling it.

I can spell bananas now (thanks to Gwen stefani)

I have a little word problem for you. If there is a family of four and only three of the people in that family of four eat bananas (and one of them is a toddler) how many bananas should that family have in their house at any given time? The answer, according to Jesse is:

Is it just me or is that a lot of bananas? Do you really need that many of a thing that goes bad about 14 seconds after you get it home from the store?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Story of Joseph - Before The Boys

One day shortly before Jesse and I were married we had gone out to dinner and I looked at him and said "How about when we get married I don't get a job but instead we get licenced to do foster care and I stay home and take care of the babies?"

Jesse's eyes bugged out at the suggestion. "Huh? What? Foster care? Wha.... why? What are you even talking about?"

It was a fair response. I was 22, Jesse was 23. We didn't have our own children, we weren't even married yet, and I here I was suggesting that we take in other people's children. Looking back on it, it sounds crazy. Out of the blue I was asking Jesse to take on the role of the sole breadwinner of the family while I stayed home and played Mommy.

Thankfully Jesse has always been very supportive of my crazy ideas. (If as if the whole surrogacy wasn't proof enough.) Once he had a little more information about what foster care would involve he was totally on board. He's a good guy like that.

Almost immediately after Jesse and I got married we started the process towards becoming licenced foster parents. I spent the first couple months of married life in domestic bliss. I cooked, I cleaned, I did my hair and make-up every day, I watched talk shows, I waited for my criminal background check to be completed. I was so thrilled the day I got the phone call telling me that our background checks had been competed and that we would now be able to take the training classed required to become foster parents.

Oh, how excited I was the first day of training. I insisted on showing up 15 minutes early. I carried with me a brand new notebook, a pen and a newly sharpened pencil. I had bought a new shirt for the occasion. We were the first ones in the room. As more and more people came in I started to wonder if we were in the wrong room. A lot of the people that came into the class looked kind of out of it and grungy and ..... well, not like the sort of people that should be taking in kids in need of care. I don't think any of them were wearing new shirts. I was the only one who had brought my own notebook.

The training lasted six weeks with sessions each Friday night and Saturday afternoon. I wish I could say that my first impressions of my classmates were wrong but they weren't. A lot of those people in that class needed to have their own children taken away from them, never mind having more children put in their care. In the first class there was a discussion broke out about how some kids "just need to be beat". I was aghast. Words that I was unable to stop poured angrily from my mouth. "It really upsets me that people who are supposed to be protecting kids think it's ok to just haul off and smack kids when they do something wrong."

That didn't go over too well. Nearly everyone in the room jumped all over me telling me that I didn't know what I was talking about because I was too young and never had kids who the hell did I think I was and yes, some kids need to be beat. The training coordinator (who I really liked) just stood there and looked sad and overwhelmed. It occurred to me that she probably saw a lot of not-fit-to-parent people going through this process. Minnesota is woefully in need of foster parents and since the system is so overloaded they'll take just about anyone.

Things didn't get better as the class went on but I was determined to get through it. We were the only ones in our class who made it to every single training session and didn't have to take one over. I think some little part of me thought that if I could just get licenced fast enough then I could take on some kids really in need and keep these other people from getting them. Ok, I was a little naive but I really did have good intentions.

While we were doing our training we also had to have a home study done and interviews with our case worker. She didn't mince words with us. She told me that she thought we were too young to be foster parents and that we wouldn't be able to hack it. She told me that she had never come across anyone as young as us wanting to be foster parents (in fact she told us that no one she worked with had ever dealt with foster parents as young as us). But that pesky pressing need for foster parents came into play and she approved us.

In one of our training sessions we were warned that parents with children in foster care with often resent the foster parents. They warned us that sooner or later, if you did foster care long enough you would have a parent accuse you of hurting or mistreating their child.

Oh my god, I was so naive. I thought that if I just did a really good job no parent could ever possibly accuse me of any wrong doing. And anyway, I was only going to take in babies. Certainly no one would accuse me of hurting a baby. Right?

I was about to be proven very wrong.

The Story of Joseph - A Preface

I've been working on Joseph's adoption story for a while now but I kept running into a couple of roadblocks.

First, it was getting so long. I just kept thinking of more and more details that I wanted to add and it was kind of getting out of control. I decided to remedy that by breaking the story up into chapters. I hope that doesn't seem really obnoxious and self-important. It just seemed like the best way to get it all out there without having a one blog post that took 4 hours to read.

Second, I was starting to worry about some of the stuff I wrote about. I wondered if I was crossing some lines when it came to respecting other people's privacy. I wondered if I wrote about the difficulty Joseph's birth mother went through that I might be saying more than I should. I finally decided to just write what feels right to me and to write it from my own perspective. I'm not trying to tell any one's innermost secrets here. I'm just writing about the events from my own personal point of view. Other people's version of events may differ from mine but in the end this is my story, the story of how I became Joseph's mother and I feel like the events leading up to it are mine to share or not share as I see fit.

That brings me to the last issue. I'm going to try to keep in mind how Joseph might feel if he were some someday stumble across this account. I don't want anything I write to be hurtful to him. Therefor everything I write here will be stuff that Joseph already knows or will know someday (when he's the right age). I've been very honest with him about how he became our son and I don't think there's anything in this story that would too surprising to him. I just hope I'm able to do justice to the crazy series of events that went into making my son, my son.

Thanks for sticking with me. Very soon I'll be getting to the good stuff. And the bad and the ugly and the crazy and the wonderful.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

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Friday, May 09, 2008

The great pumpkin

Yesterday for the first time ever I tried pulling all of Elle's hair back into a ponytail. She stood so nice and still as I brushed her hair back and secured it with a rubber band.

That ponytail was really something to behold. It was a small cluster of gently cascading golden red curls. Beautiful. Then she turned around.

And her face looked like a pumpkin.

Sigh. My poor giant headed girl.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

How many of your friends have seen your vagina?

I sent my friend Jen a text today that said "can you call me when you get a chance? I have a question about my period" Before I even had a chance to think about how lame/weird it is that I'm 31 years old and I still have questions about my period, my phone rang. It took her about four seconds to call me back after getting my text. In addition to being a nurse/midwife she really enjoys answering people's stupid questions about their periods. And she's just a really good friend.

After answering my period question (which I will not be going into here because I like to be able to pretend that there's a line I won't cross when it comes to revealing every little thing about my body functions) she said "If you're still concerned about it you can come in. I've got a couple of open spots tomorrow."

Uh. No. Thank you, but no.

See, I first met Jen when she was covering OB appointments for my regular doctor when he was off delivering a baby. I saw her a few times throughout my pregnancy so of course at some point along the way she saw my lady bits. When she was my doula as I delivered Little A she got to see my lady bits in glorious, vivid detail. I never felt weird about it because at that point, even though I liked her a great deal, I still saw her as a medical professional.

Since A was born Jen and I have become really good friends. My family has gone over to her house for dinner. We've had Game Night together. We've gone out to drink wine and eat fancy food. She went rock climbing with me.

And now that we're such good friends I feel weird about having her see me "down there". I know it's just a stupid hang up on my part but it still feels weird. Maybe that's just me. Or is it? Would you feel the same way about it? Let's have a poll shall we? We shall.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The horror

I guess I can't watch my kids watch Nickelodeon anymore. If I do I risk seeing one of their new ads about how they're going to be playing ET coming on some date coming soon but I can't even pay attention because I'm too busy silently screaming in terror.

Some people think ET is "lovable" or "cute". I think he's "the stuff nightmares are made of". My parents tell me that after I saw ET (as a wee tyke of 5) I cried all the way out of the theater. They probably thought that was because I was sad ET went home. They were wrong. I was crying because I knew that creepy, bug-eyed little monster was going to haunt me for the rest of my life.

For the past 26 years I have lived with the fear that ET is hiding under my bed. Yes, I still have that fear today. I'm convinced that if I leave any part of my body hanging over or off the bed at night ET will reach up and touch me with his glowing finger. And if I look to see what touched me he'll be right there, inches away from me, staring at me with his big, googly eyes.

Now I've freaked myself out so much that I had to check and make sure he wasn't under the desk while I was typing this. I can't be the only person who finds ET scary can I? Come on, someone else admit it. Or at the very least tell me something else that you're afraid of that everyone else considers cute and non-threatening.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Crazy, party of one

Have I completely and totally lost my mind? I think I have. I am seriously considering getting licensed to do foster care again. I told myself after we adopted Joseph that I was done with foster care, that I didn't want to deal with the screwy system and the whacked out parents ever again. So why am I feeling this pull to do it again? Because I'm crazy?

Speaking of crazy and foster care and all that jazz, I have been playing with the idea of typing up the story of how Joseph came to be with us and sharing it here on my blog. Is that the sort of thing anyone would be interested in hearing?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Chocolate haze

If you were to offer me chocolate right now I would turn it down. I know! How crazy is that? But it's true.

My mom and I went to a chocolate/wine/food tasting thingie last night and ate more chocolate than should be allowed by law. It was like something out of a dream. A beautiful chocolate dream. You didn't even know where to start because everywhere you looked there were plates of chocolate cake, brownies, fudge, truffles, cookies, pies, chocolate covered fruit and more. When you got tired of chocolate there were stuffed mushrooms (for people who enjoy eating fungus) bacon wrapped shrimp (for people who enjoy eating pure heaven on a toothpick) meat and cheese trays, huge blocks of gourmet cheese and more. Plus, there was wine.

It was insane.

So I got my fill of chocolate. I think I'm still crashing from a major sugar buzz. I'm also dealing with a wicked cold so all I really want to do today is crawl back into bad and sleep. No luck for me though because very shortly Joseph has a concert at school and then tonight we have to drive 2 hours to a wedding. And it's supposed to snow tonight. Ugh. Oh well. At least I have my memories of a happy chocolate haze to keep me company.